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Pattison 1The characters of all your novels are driven to find justice for horrible crimes with no help, and often outright opposition, from their government. Why have you chosen this dynamic for your books?

There is almost never justice in my books except for the makeshift justice wrought by people who have been abandoned by their societies. With my characters forced to navigate by their own innate sense of right and wrong I can explore justice in broader dimensions, including its spiritual and cultural context. The actors in these dramas come from sharply different cultures, with markedly different perspectives and motivations, but they are joined by the common goal of resolving terrible injustice. I have worked in many diverse cultures around the globe and am convinced there is a sense of justice ingrained in the human DNA — it is this instinct that drives my plots and empowers my characters.

Trusting only in

my legions of cats and piles of
                    sweaters, holy tights
          and wool dresses.

Oh, to be more than a hand-
                              stringing-out words
on a clothesline,

          like a bad joke for no audience.

          No one
at the bus stop.

                    Unemployed
                         in the
          afternoon.

Susan Lindheim photoSouthwestern Arkansas, 1934

Lily peeked out the bathroom window and saw that nothing had changed: her mother Rose — wedding band hidden in her purse — was still flirting with the filling station attendant while her grandmother Miriam paced circles around the pale yellow Dodge sedan with the Chihuahua at her heels. One day Miriam’s jitteriness would give them all away, Lily was sure of it. One day they’d all get arrested because Miriam couldn’t just flat out pretend.

Edgar was already gone.

Like the Moon

By John Mortara

Poem

like the moon / i once collided with something much larger than myself / and then refused to leave / like the moon i turn everyone around me / into wolves / salivating at the night / teething on the dark / just like the moon i can churn an ocean into an angry stomach / sick of itself / was pledged to the earth / but can’t / stop talking / about the sun / like the moon / now you see me / and now you can fuck off / i used to be your distant dream / turned stupid success / so quickly i became a bored routine / claimed / and then absently abandoned when the future suddenly seemed / too expensive / admit it / the only reason you ever wanted me was war / you have everything you could ever need below your feet / and you stare up at me with all that lonely / i am like the moon / all the myth / the legend / the religion / the complete and absolute human delusion / all of it / countless wistful longing poems later / and you still / don’t get it / the future / is too / expensive / i am like the moon and it’s daytime and i’m still here so deal with it / i am like the moon and it has been so / so long / that people just stopped believing we even happened / i am like the moon / and you’re right / there are no men here anymore / i am killing each one of them / with time.

Photo+Credit-+Anna+BeekeKate Axelrod’s debut novel The Law of Loving Others is about a high school student dealing with her mother’s recent schizophrenic break. The title was taken from a quote in Anna Karenina that reads: The law of loving others could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable. This story is NOT autobiographical. Kate’s mother Marian Thurm was my workshop teacher at the Yale Writers’ Conference 2014. Marian and I chatted for hours in and out of class. She told me that the first story she sent out got published by The New Yorker when she was only twenty-five years old. Marian’s daughter Kate isn’t much older than that. She’s right on track. She holds a BA in creative writing from Oberlin College, a master’s in social work from Columbia University, and splits her time and efforts to satisfy both passions. When she flew out west this summer, I whipped up a batch of raw vegan pecan truffle bars and asked Kate over to my place in Santa Monica to get raw and candid about mental illness. We discussed her day job as an advocate in the criminal justice system, what it’s like to hail from New York literati and how she came to the story.

the black mouth empty
and quivering, and where there should be that shape,
that almost leggy, round-eyed jump, there is only space.
The doctor purses his lips, as he pursed them at the foot of my birth bed
where he delivered my first son. He was tired then, three in the morning
bleary Christmas Eve.  Now, he stands at the foot of this table and delivers
as kindly as he can: “This looks very early” and “there is no heartbeat.”
His eyes are smeared with sympathy as his hands and the cold instrument
probe me. Once those hands issued out my son, rich with birth blood
and cries. Now they search my womb, an open sarcophagus. Not death;
this is an un-being: life tentative as seed that doesn’t take root.
I think of my son, wanting pictures of the “tiny baby” and hope
he will forget, that we will rip out this idea as stitches in a project started
but abandoned, a mouth that opened to speak but aborted its idea.
The screen stays black and true, the doctor apologetic. My body:
exposed as fraud, made promises it can’t or won’t deliver.
The probe retracts; the doctor and I, bereft of purpose.
Time has lost its shape. There is nothing to hand over.

DAL Young012I seem to forget how much my oldest brother hates the way I reminisce about the past because I continue to try to engage him.

He’s sitting in my den watching basketball on TV, the sound turned down out of deference to me. He’s twirling a toothpick in his cheek, a habit he’s had since adolescence.

“Remember when you and the boys in the neighborhood turned our backyard patio into a roller skating rink so you could play roller derby?”

He doesn’t respond.

“And you were always the fastest skater.” My brother was fearless in those days. I can still see him, jeans cuffed at the ankles, flannel shirt fanned out with the wind he created as he skated by. “And Princess used to nip at your pant legs while you skated? Remember?”

“Princess? We never had a dog named Princess.”

unnamed

Anthony: The official occasion of this psychotic public conversation is our new book—Thing Music—so let’s begin this disarticulation of our so-called self with that book: what’s it been like having this one out in the world?

Anthony: As we’ve experienced now a number of times the release of a book primarily seems to amplify the need—it feels physical—to get going on another one—this despite the fact—and I think you would agree with me here—that we feel richly satisfied with Thing Music. I can actually read it for pleasure—all the way through. Maybe we’ve felt that way after every book? I can’t remember… This one feels different though—like it’s still a little out in front of us, still teaching us about itself, or better put, has just begun to do so. But that only complicates the problem of where to go next. What’s been your experience: have you been enjoying giving readings from the book?

The Nouns

By Anthony McCann

Poem

But I’m a plant
                      you said

           bedewed
        in object drool

                Sometimes
                                 I was shoes

                      I looked down
                      into the earth
                  I saw

                            the feathered clouds

                                 I saw
                                 a rash of light:
                                       Heads ‘n’ Things,
                                                       The Nouns

                                      like when a head comes off
                             and light spreads across the room

kristina-in-edinburgh

Tell us about Fortress. Describe its architecture.

Fortress is my newest book, which was just released by Sundress Publications.  It’s a book-length engagement with Elaine Scarry’s classic work, The Body in Pain.  Fortress begins with an erasure/excavation/rewriting of the first chapter, in which I erase pain from the book.  What’s left?  The small blue thread, the fragile arc, and faint music.

The collection also contains several prose sequences, which engage with the work Romantic poets who experimented with opium.  These “painkiller poems” depict a landscape filled with dead poppies, and consider what it would look like if seen through the eyes of a female speaker.  Underneath all of the dead flowers and burned meadows, though, Fortress is really a love poem.

There are also housefires, red lilies, and a spooky house.  I hope you’ll check it out!

Minor Plot (I)

He hired a woman to look after the garden.  Not the dead poppies, but another garden on a separate piece of land.  They planted seeds in neat little rows . Days passed. When she gaped at the enormous primroses, he began tearing them from the ground.

Bad Directions

By Nina Puro

Poem

i.
the last patients
leave the hospital
through a curtain
of marigolds. the hospital
closes like an eye

ii.
the prairie boys
in john deere hats
and burger king crowns
run through
all the meadows

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Hi.

Hi.

 

I’m not sure what to ask you. What question do you always want to be asked that no one ever does?

I’ll answer with the question I often ask writers and performers, which is: How do you enter the outside world and exist after writing/performing such intense pulled-apart language? For me, it’s difficult. I am still figuring that out.

Do not catalogue, organize or nickname the stone. The stone has been shoved into fires of coordinates that stretch beyond state lines, territories and provinces. The stone has been used as a weapon; it has deflated bone. Notice the blood stains against its minerals. The stone cannot keep a lover; its historical uprooting disallows dialogues on monogamy or the existence of marriage. The stone has been a perch for others, glued into walls, walked over by callused feet, and licked by ocean. Call the stone androgynous, but it refuses to pick a side or stagnant approach to infrastructure. The stone is a danger to itself and others; it has seen too much. Never mention the time the stone ********. Just do not mention that, please. The stone suffers from phantom limb syndrome, even though legs have never existed nor arms or approachable neck. The stone has no womb, yet yearns to publicize fertility. The stone is still in search of its god. The stone does not conform to any political party and yet this stone is queer. And yet this stone marches for the freedom of others and yet this stone is still. And the stone meditates. And the stone chants. And the stone crawls toward a ceremonious existence within its scarred and scared packaging.

And every brittle bone
shivered like an oak leaf
caught in spring thunder,

and each blind eye
glistened with white film
opaque as the sealing wax
on beans jarred in the cellar,

and mud seeped more tar than earth
around the ankles of scuffed
sneakers, their tongues wagging
like dogs panting in summer heat,