Poem for Wine
We’re all emerging from whatever reclusive hole we burrowed into after the end of our Writer’s Workshop, facing the light of day with bleary eyes, wondering who these strangers are who walk the streets. When we close our eyes, though, we still see visions of debauchery and beauty in equal measure. We’ll let workshop faculty member Matthew Zapruder explain it, with his poem “Poem for Wine” from Issue 49, The Ecstatic.
Rumpus Interview with Lacy Johnson
Fantastic interview with Lacy Johnson and Melissa Chadburn!
"Johnson’s memoir is an extraordinary document, and she herself holds an important place in a movement to stop violence against women."
Alphas & Omegas, Fathers & Sons: A Conversation with Scott Cheshire
I first became familiar with Scott Cheshire’s writing through a very funny essay he’d written called “The Good, the Bad and Bumping Uglys”the tagline for which read: “Some thoughts on masturbation, Norman Mailer, and the Good Book.” Everything you ever wanted to know about Scott but were afraid to ask might well be contained in it. Which is to say that I was somewhat familiar with the basics of Scott’s biography—being raised in a Jehovah’s Witness household, his time spent giving sermons as an adolescent—when his galley arrived last fall. Unlike that essay, however, the novel seemed so serious, dark and full of apocalyptic wonder—just consider the cover itself, the flames!—a contrast to what I’d read earlier. And I slowly came to realize that this is one Scott’s strengths as writer, and as a person: the balancing act between the light and the dark.
Remember maps? A lot of these writers do. They use them to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (Fear and Loathing), Tangier to Cape Town (Looking for Lovedu), and Xinjiang, China, to New Delhi (From Heaven Lake), among other places.
Photo credit: Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress
One of the things I’m trying to do with this column is talk about process and presentation. I’m still a little conflicted about explaining things, as if I’m ruining your interpretation. Maybe I should be using more passive descriptions: This image could mean that…The words could possibly describe… The mood of this piece is maybe about… Instead of telling you what something means, maybe I should be more open. Maybe I should be asking you questions. Who is your sad nuisance, your enemy? When you faint does it feel like you’re falling through a ceiling?”
"How many hours to go, before the next silence, they are not hours, it will not be silence, how many hours still, before the next silence?"
The recent release of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" reminded me of one of my favorite ape vs. man films – this 1932 video that shows a baby chimpanzee and a baby human undergoing the same basic psychological tests.
Its gets weirder – the human baby (Donald) and the chimpanzee baby (Gua) were both raised as humans by their biological/adopted father Winthrop Niles Kellogg. Kellogg was a comparative psychologist fascinated by the interplay between nature and nurture, and he devised a fascinating (and questionably ethical) experiment to study it:
Suppose an anthropoid were taken into a typical human family at the day of birth and reared as a child. Suppose he were fed upon a bottle, clothed, washed, bathed, fondled, and given a characteristically human environment; that he were spoken to like the human infant from the moment of parturition; that he had an adopted human mother and an adopted human father.
First, Kellogg had to convince his pregnant wife he wasn’t crazy:
…the enthusiasm of one of us met with so much resistance from the other that it appeared likely we could never come to an agreement upon whether or not we should even attempt such an undertaking.
She apparently gave in, because Donald and Gua were raised, for nine months, as brother and sister. Much like Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” movies, Gua developed faster than her “brother,” and often outperformed him in tasks. But she soon hit a cognitive wall, and the experiment came to an end. (Probably for the best, as Donald had begun to speak chimpanzee.)
Eudora Welty died in her family house in Jackson, MS on this day in 2001 (aged 92). She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson.
On her headstone is a quote from The Optimist’s Daughter: “For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love.”
The Keeper of Secrets on the Field
A couple weeks ago I got into a cab (grey 2008 Toyota, three hubcaps, broken air conditioning) and the radio was on and it was the World Cup match between Germany and Portugal and the commentators were commenting as fast as they could in French about the defense strategy of the Germans when, twelve minutes into the first half, forward Thomas Müller scored a penalty against Portugal’s goalkeeper Rui Patricio and the cab veered toward the sidewalk (to the right like Müller’s penalty kick) and I told the cabbie where I had to go, (“Don’t know it. You sure?” he said. “Can you check?”), but there was nothing to check, I knew the address was right and he was talking in a low voice to himself and “grumpy” wasn’t really strong enough to describe what he was acting like and I said, “So who’s the favorite?” And he looked up in the rearview mirror at me like, “Really, lady?” and I knew (thought I knew?) that these two teams were from what had been called by some the “Group of Death” along with the US and Ghana who were playing later tonight and so far between me and the cabbie it had just been a couple words but he could see that I was serious, but maybe what he couldn’t see was that I knew who was favored and what some of the odds were, that the German lineup included Khedira and Boateng and Lahm, but the cabbie was riveted to the voices of the commentators in a way that wasn’t “grumpy” at all but more enchanted and he said, “Germany’s favored, Germany,” and we were rolling (barreling?) through the streetsplacedelaBastilleruedelaRoquette dodging pedestrians (pedestrians dodging us?) because there had been some train strikes and plane delays and then a taxi strike (yesterday? tomorrow?) and construction work going in all directions, that starts in the summer here, like every summer in France.
I’ve been reading this amazing essay collection for Tin House, one essay, titled Salinger and Sobs, is riveting:
"The ability to detect authenticity is a critical faculty, something all of us develop, more or less."
"There’s a love and warmth and security to the way Salinger writes about family, a kind of bulwarked intimacy most readers respond to, that sits in contrast to the false, unfriendly, wolfish world huffing and puffing right outside the door. What I feel reading Salinger is an emotional power that comes from the writer’s ingrained assumption of the value and integrity of family, in particular the idea of family defined by siblings. Family is worthy of trust. The siblings in Salinger’s work are fiercely loyal and extremely close to one another." -Charles D’Ambrosio