Slag from a Postcard from a Man Whose Heart Is on Fire for You

Kenneth Anderson, one of our Pushcart Prize nominees for his poem “Bastille Day Sale,” admits that he goes through little editing in his poems.

However, for his poem “Postcard from a Man Whose Heart Is on Fire for You,” he submitted one of his only Pieces of Slag: an old broadside, printed by himself as “The Slipshod Press” and a friend a few years ago for an art/poetry collaborative. The collage artwork was also made by Mr. Anderson.

anderson slag 2.jpg

Below is the edited version, much of which Anderson rejected in final drafts. When I asked him about his editing process, especially for this poem, he had this to share:

“My problem is that I tend to treat poetry like life. Nothing is settled. There is always room for improvement, bold change, or subtle alteration. This I balance with a natural laziness and the desire to preserve, in the language of its arrival, that spark or animus that makes the poem breathe. Also, as I get older, the years of practice and a hard-won trust of my own instincts conspire to create a kind of confidence that I prefer to leave mostly unexamined.”

anderson slag 1

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Review: Jack C. Buck’s “Deer Michigan”

Deer Michigan

A ragged yell into the void,

a poignant letter to the past, Jack C. Buck’s Deer Michigan is a surreal, sometimes startling collection of flash fiction wandering in an out of reality on a whim. His debut collection, which came out last November, 2016, is certainly a success.

Sometimes the world just ends, the birds disappear, or Mao shows up on a camping trip. From the post-apocalyptic society in “National Forest Health Monitoring Program,” to the strange everyday horror of “The History of Furniture and Wood Flooring in East Texas,” Buck uses this wildly shifting tone to his advantage. Set against the sometimes mysterious and fabulist stories like “Floorboards,” in which a man hides the relics of an old friend’s death in his house, causing it to sink further and further into the ground while he hopes no one will notice, a story titled “When the Cubs Win the World Series” seems just as impossible and magical.

More often than these bizarre, fabulist tales, however, the best of his work lies in the fractured realities of his more realistic fictions. They show characters sometimes broken, trying to heal and establish rules and order in their lives, such as “write talk-talk if you have no one to talk-talk with.”

Because I think they give a better picture of the book than anything I could write now, here are some notes I took while reading. Some of them are just quotes that stood out to me, some of them are my first impressions followed by thoughts after reading. I had notes for each of the stories, but here are the ones that I think help the most:

“For Matthew”

  • “I don’t think it was ever much about the whiskey, it was more about the walks to the store.”
  • “already missing one another”

“It’s as if we never left”

  • “Let’s walk backwards down those roads, let’s sleep in front lawns of the old houses you liked in particular–“
  • “Why didn’t you paint that wall?”

“Filling in”

  • Well, fuck.

“home”

  • A lonely love letter to everyone and everything. It perfectly captures not knowing where home is while wanting it so desperately.

“Deer Michigan”

  • Faygo! Dear Christ, I love this guy. That’s Michigan in a nutshell.
  • “Dear Van, is there a heaven?”
  • “Your protest always made sense to me”

“Grand Rapids, MI”

  • “We had to make sure the rest of the world hadn’t forgotten about us”
  • Reminds me of Torres’ We the Animals

“Mount Pleasant, MI”

  • A really interesting image and emotion-not telling you what happens, only letting you guess.

“A Reference to Weather”

  • REALLY GOOD. His voice is in here.

“How Hank Does It”

  • A longer story, and a good one. It establishes interesting characters, although I don’t know if I like the ending. I usually don’t like endings, though.

“Floorboards”

  • Another absurd story, and one of my favorites.
  • He has this almost fabulist way of framing what might be an otherwise ordinary interaction.

“The History of Furniture and Wood Flooring in East Texas”

  • Me at the Beginning: I already love the title
  • Me at the End: Well, that was interesting. I think he let the story get away from him a little bit there. His prose isn’t as tight as in the shorter ones. Need to read again.

“Self-Help”

  • It makes me wonder, does all flash fiction happen after the turn in the story? This one begins with “It occurred to him…” Or is that simply another example of an inciting incident? Doesn’t all fiction happen just after something has happened and you can no longer go back?

“Drinking Whisky with Leon Trotsky Trout”

  • I laughed out loud in public-this was absolutely phenomenal.

A small caveat with the book is that it was difficult to get through. Each story is well written and evocative, but when you read too many of them, as I wrote in a note above, they begin to have a self-erasing quality. There are moments where it feels like one story speaks for multiple, and the book overall was made weaker for the inclusion of multiple flash pieces when one would have been sufficient. Although “How to Organize a Neighborhood Block Party” and “Things to Do” have different conceits when read apart, they both deal enough with family and personal connections that you get the vague feeling you’ve read this before, or that this is another story from the same character’s point of view.

Overall, the collection was great, and I’m excited to read more of Jack C. Buck’s work.

Signed,

Your Editor In Chief

Postcard From a Man Whose Heart Is On Fire For You

Postcard From a Man Whose Heart Is On Fire For You

by Kenneth Anderson

 

Please write and let me know.

Or better, keep your secrets.

Believe me, time will tell

everything there is to tell about that day

 

under the bleachers. Then reliving it

will be all you’re about. So find someone

to mind the store, and we’ll stitch

our little sighs together deep in the Catskills

 

like so much bellybutton lint.

It serves one best that serves one least

to think on matters such as these.

Still, there is so much left over, so much

 

ensconced in the reminiscences of old fires,

games of whist, and the unexplained knock

you dreamt you heard at your bedroom door.

Go ahead and open it. See for yourself.

 

Before Breakfast

Before Breakfast

prose poem by Jerome Daly

 

It’s Wednesday, but that doesn’t matter. It’s maybe around 5:30, and I’ve already been up an hour. I walk a block down 7th for coffee from the 7-Eleven. There, some people are gathered at the bus stop, and the ill-lit streetlight casts heavy shadows over their quiet bodies. It’s the end of March. I’m jet lagged, but enjoy walking without a coat. In front of my hotel I light a cigarette, and a man with puffy eyes pushing a shopping cart tells me his store is closing—medical marijuana, kept in an old orange prescription bottle. The tents and sleeping bags under the bridge that were empty when I passed by last night are full, the smell of piss more intense. I take a sip of my coffee, think about giving him a couple of bucks, but I’m not in the mood for what he’s selling—so I politely refuse. A car pulls over and a pink haired girl in a black miniskirt gets out of the passenger side and asks if I have change for a hundred. I’m only halfway through my cigarette. Why do these songbirds stay in the city, why do they feel comfortable? A man emerges from the Mexican restaurant with a hose and starts to spray the sidewalks. The sun is starting to rise; in the shift to shadows, palm trees appear, tall and long. The doorman greets me with a smile. They’re serving continental breakfast—through a window I can see a family grabbing croissants and coffee, their youngest girl in pigtails drinking orange juice at a table. She plays with her doll, happy to be by herself.

 


Jerome Daly is an alumnus of UConn, a recent graduate of the MFA Program at the University of New Hampshire and 2017 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial prize in poetry. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gamut, Leveler Poetry, The Chaffey Review, and the Long River Review.

Dove and Menthol Pillows

Dove and Menthol Pillows

by Timmy Chong

 

You keep smokes in a soapbox. Past midnight

put a towel under the door and run warm water,

hold our cigarette up to the ceiling fan. Spit

and say the scent still sticks to the walls,

and ma doesn’t know, but she knows, you know?

 

Some nights you thunder like a storm

or stumble like a child.

 

You wonder aloud when the fuck you learned to sin

in stride. Chime it was sophomore year

you traded the Bible in your backpack for

a lighter in your pocket, you didn’t mind

aside from the youth group gossip.

 

Some nights you thunder like a storm.

 

You bristle no, that I don’t get it. That every boy

who’s laid in this bed has claimed common ground.

Flustered now, like there’s a line between us

in the ridges of the linen and the quiet

is crisp as shame.

 

Some nights you stumble like a child.

 

Dizzy off a trio of benzos though I pled, you press

all that is suppressed into shapes with soft edges.

Write wilderness, and wilderness, and love

‘til kingdom come, call it

modern gospel.

 

Some nights you stumble like a child

or rumble like a storm,

 

but in the mornings

you are unstrung out

and you, and

you are making toast,

singing in the slack.

 

The Question

The Question

by Ted McCarthy

 

Always, I see now,

I have been asking the wrong question:

not ‘Where are you?’ but ‘How did you get there?’

Dragged in a river I know to be the same,

whose course has shifted day by day,

I cannot bear to face the sea,

I stay afloat by looking back.

 


Ted Mc Carthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. His first collection ‘November Wedding’, won the Brendan Behan Award. He has also published a second, ‘Beverly Downs’ in the Moth ‘Some Poems’ series.

His work can be found on www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com