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In principio erat Verbum

By | Prose

  There’s a blaze of light In every word, It doesn’t matter which you heard, The holy or the broken – Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen Not long ago, a student asked, “Dr. Tieman, when you were a kid, which poet influenced you the most?” I was surprised by my own answer: St. Thomas Aquinas. I’ve heard …

A Vietnam Sonnet

By | Poetry

What would you do to live tonight? Surrounded by enemy kids, would you shoot anything that’s yellow? And when the enemy kids try to overrun you, would you have the guts to rain-down napalm like the monsoon? And when you go home and go to work, your medals yellowing in the drawer, would you tell …

I Saved the Ragu

By | Prose

Today is my father’s 35th birthday and I am sitting on the edge of the white porcelain tub in our upstairs bathroom, while my mother swabs cotton puffs soaked in hydrogen peroxide on my road-burned knees. The clear liquid hits my raw skin and immediately foams up, white and stinging as it pulls dirt, gravel …

Book Review: The Devil’s Snake Curve
by Josh Ostergaard

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Prose

The Devil’s Snake Curve by Josh Ostergaard Coffee House Press, 2014 $16.00 At first glance, former urban anthropologist Josh Ostergaard has written a love story. There’s nostalgia, great passion, cheating, impenetrable beauty, and remorse. There’s reunion, resignation, and heroic angels. And lots of hot dogs. Ostergaard comfortably puts down six in a nine inning span. …

Why I’m Catholic

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

First, a confession. I am, after all, Catholic. I watch EWTN, the Catholic TV station. In any case, I was flipping through the channels, and came across a Mass on EWTN. It was being said by a Passionist. I have a fondness for Passionists, for their combination of the contemplative and the active. The guy …

Grains of Dust

By | Blog Archives, Poetics, Prose

“My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk.” – Keats to Shelley * For me writing is the closest thing I have to religious experience. Whether it’s because, through the act, I open a trapdoor into some Jungian subconscious, or it speaks to the transcendental nature of words themselves, or it’s something else …

Greeting Cards

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I remember how difficult it was in China to find a greeting card for my friends. There were holiday cards for the Chinese New Year and for occasions like weddings and birthdays in stationery shops, but no card to send to a friend just to say hi. On the other hand, I’m thrilled and stunned …

Publius Moves On

Prose, Publius

I always wondered what it would be like on my last day of work. I thought I would be sentimental. I didn’t think the feeling would be relief. There are many other things I didn’t think. I didn’t think that the fun bits of my career would be the early parts. I used to think …

Food Safety

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Recently, a giant Chinese meat company, Shuanghui International, has bought the world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, at the price of US $4.7 billion. The news immediately went viral on the internet in China probably because the Chinese people are very concerned about food safety. The food safety scandal in China has been going on …

Book Review: Riceland by C.L. Bledsoe

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Riceland Poems by C.L. Bledsoe Unbound Content, 2013 $15.00 Immersive travel writer Joseph Hone wrote a million words, but I only remember a handful: ninety percent of love is tact, and ninety percent of writing is tactless. Put another way: reviewing a book I love is one thing; reviewing a book I love written by …

Wherefore Art Thou

Prose, Publius

And the best comment of the week comes from the young lady, who calls the play I’m teaching “Roosevelt And Juliet”. She says, “Why do adults want us to admire them? I mean, he’s cute, so I can see doing him. But I’m not going to kill myself for his dumb ass. I mean, really—Off …

A New Left?

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I asked a buddy, a fellow social science teacher, his opinion about joining a third party. “Is there a reason for joining any party?” I’m not quite that skeptical, but I get it. I generally vote Democrat, but, were I a card carrying member, I’d resign. Folks call Barrack Obama “a socialist.” I want to …

Bonsai Garden

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

On a recent weekend I visited the national arboretum in Washington and marveled at the exquisite bonsai trees on display. The Bonsai Garden inside the arboretum—a huge botanical garden containing a variety of woody plants intended partly for scientific study—is divided into three parts: the Chinese pavilion, the Japanese pavilion and the North American pavilion. …

Book Review: Sorrow by Catherine Gammon

By | Book Review, Prose

Sorrow by Catherine Gammon Braddock Avenue Books, 2013 $16.00 For years she had kept herself alive by working out the details. What was left to imagine? She knew everything except which of them it would be. Necessity was what she understood: When? Now. Why? Because. But Who? always eluded her. Choose me, the little voice …

Memo (I Couldn’t Make This Up)

Prose, Publius

by Publius   Dear Colleagues, Please note that, for the rest of the academic year, if you need anything printed, you need to go to the men’s bathroom. As you know, our departmental printer broke. And, as you may also know, as a cost-cutting measure, the district fired all but one printer repair person. Which …

Book Review: How Blasphemy Sounds to God by Gary Fincke

By | Book Review, Prose

How Blasphemy Sounds to God by Gary Fincke Braddock Avenue Books, 2014 $16.95 “Shaken, I stared at myself in the mirror above the dresser. At twenty-three, I looked old enough to appear ordinary in a coffin.” Striking sentences like these remained with me long after finishing Gary Fincke’s How Blasphemy Sounds to God. The book’s …

Stolen Eggplant

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I cannot think of another better title for this piece than “Stolen Eggplant” to express my anger and regret. This summer I planted a box of Japanese eggplants. Just as they were bearing fruits and I was receiving praises from a neighbor, one of the biggest eggplants was gone overnight! The day before I had …

On Catholic Anti-Semitism

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Perhaps the greatest challenge for anyone religious is to consider The Answer, but hold off on The Rule. Not long ago, I wrote an essay about growing up Catholic. It was generally sentimental. Among other things, I wrote about the comfort I took from the Church during an emotionally turbulent childhood. Comfort. Stability. When I …

Book Review: Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold by Tim Chapman

By | Book Review, Prose

Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold by Tim Chapman Allium Press, 2014 $14.99 Tim Chapman’s Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold is a fresh take on the typical crime thriller. Chapman distances his work from the simple, run-of-the-mill, “who done it,” adding complexity by incorporating historical fiction and knowledge of forensic science. Set in both …

Reenactment: A War Story

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

A friend invited me to a Civil War reenactment. He was well meaning enough, although why he’d think I, a Vietnam veteran, would enjoy such a thing, who knows? Then he said, “It’s realistic.” To which I replied, “You want realistic? Here’s realistic. Fill their rifles with real bullets. But the blood and the gore, …

June 20th

Prose

June, this year has been rainy and unsettling for me here in the condo. June 2nd, I signed the closing mortgage refinance papers into my name here on my dining room table, and I have dwelled for ten days surrounded by The Three Rivers Arts Festival.  Living in the midst of the Arts Festival sometimes …

Professional Development

Prose, Publius

by Publius As a former acid freak, I’m trained to handle extraneous bullshit. My dead pet schnauzer humping my leg while he lights the fuse to a dynamite stick he’s crammed up his ass for example. Stuff like that. But today? No one is trained for today. We just went to an all day professional …

On Nothing: A Summer Essay

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I love being alone. I love staring out my window at nothing, and sitting here thinking of nothing. This is an essay about nothing at all, an essay addressed to the whole world, which is to say no one in particular. The world is a nice, but you just can’t hang out with the world. …

Book Review: The Complete Kobzar by Taras Shevchenko, trans. Peter Fedynsky

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Prose

The Complete Kobzar: The Poetry of Taras Shevchenko Translated by Peter Fedynsky Glagoslav Publications, 2013 €20.90 Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar is perhaps the greatest—or at least best-known—work of Ukrainian literature from the classic period of romantic, independent, native Ukrainian writing. Yet despite that, it has been—in full, and not as a poem or two selected into some anthology …

Greek Yogurt

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

These days I have a penchant for Greek yogurt. Claimed to be one of the healthiest food products with low fat and high protein, Greek yogurt is not only my favorite but an increasing number of Americans’ favorite. One statistic shows a total of 35% of all yogurt Americans buy today is Greek, up from …

Book Review: The Heart of June by Mason Radkoff

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Heart of June by Mason Radkoff Braddock Avenue Books, 2014 $16.95 The Heart of June by Mason Radkoff is Pittsburgh, from its industrial laborers to its old money societies. Pittsburghers will enjoy mapping the story through their city, writers will appreciate the painstaking craft, hopeless romantics will cheer for the various couples, and laborers …

Life in Missouri

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Here, in Missouri, I live in a fairly liberal enclave within a larger, stupider state. I really should say a stupider state and a half, since southern Illinois is really us, and it’s the stupider half of that state. Even within relatively liberal St. Louis, I live in University City, the most liberal bit. We …

Book Review: Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, 2004-2014 by David Mason

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, 2004-2014 Poems by David Mason Red Hen Press, 2014 $18.95 On a breezy evening in early April, Colorado’s Poet Laureate David Mason gave a reading from his latest collection, Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, at Boulder’s Innisfree Bookstore and Café. During a question and answer session after the …

Small Talk

By | Nola Garrett, Prose

I’m not good at organized small talk. I dread cocktail parties, church suppers, Christmas parties, big birthday parties, even poets’ wine receptions. I seem never to have anything to say face to face with half drunk strangers wearing name tags. Once at an apartment house cocktail party, I asked the landlord a too obvious question, …

Book Review: The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

By | Book Review, Dakota Garilli, Poetics, Prose

The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog Poems by Alicia Suskin Ostriker University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014 $15.95 “A very important thing is not to make up your mind that you are any one thing,” said Gertrude Stein. Alicia Suskin Ostriker borrows those words for the epigraph of her newest poetry collection The Old …

On Leadership, Empathy And Final Exams

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

The schedule for final exams was just posted. We will spend three and a half hours each day with the two classes taking the exam each day. Two classes per day, one on Friday, three and a half hours with each class. Make-ups Friday afternoon. All this to give high school finals, each of which …

American Films

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I must confess I am a movie buff through and through. Since I came to America, the only entertainment I cannot live without is movies, either at home or at theaters. Now I understand why years ago some Americans in China told me what they missed most from their home country was watching movies. On …

What Is Socialism?

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

When I hear, “Obama is a socialist”, I want to hand that person a dictionary. I am a democratic socialist. When I say that here, in St. Louis, folks are mystified. Were I to say to someone in Europe, “My mother supported us on her secretary’s salary — I’m Catholic — I teach in an …

Book Review: Bloom in Reverse by Teresa Leo

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Bloom in Reverse Poems by Teresa Leo University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014 $15.95 One of Immanuel Kant’s philosophical musings stands as such: it is not how we bring ourselves to understand the world, but how the world comes to be understood by us. In the aftermath of a friend’s suicide, Teresa Leo’s speaker mourns, while …

Book Review: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer HarperCollins, 2013 Hardback: $26.99 Many people have thought: What would my life be like if I were born in a different era? Andrew Sean Greer answers that question and takes it a step further in his recent novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. The …

The Trouble With Numbers

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I recently read a scholarly article by the principal of a public high school in New York, which in part addressed “data dysentery”, the countless reams of data we educators collect for, well, for what? The collection of data for the sake of the collection of data? I mentioned this at lunch to a friend, …

Book Review: Starlight Taxi by Roy Bentley

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Starlight Taxi Poems by Roy Bentley Lynx House Press, 2013 $15.95 “The hardest part is when someone tells you about America and defines promise as hope, and a love for the truth pushes you to give the raised middle finger to what you hear. The hardest part is living without hope.” – Roy Bentley, from …

Elegy for Rudy

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

This morning, as I left for work, after all these terrible storms we’ve had, I noticed the tiniest of my wife’s daffodils are starting to bloom. As cliched as it may sound, I felt like Rudy was saying, “It’s OK, John. Storms will pass. And, as always, life will continue.” ______

A Publisher’s Story

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking. Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give …

Meeting the First Dog and Other Adventures in the White House

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

After a couple of hours waiting for a free ticket, I finally had a closer look at the White House. Along with the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, the White House is one of the few American icons that Chinese people recognize, so I was excited to see it. The garden of …

Book Review: Talisman by Lisa C. Krueger

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Talisman Poems by Lisa C. Krueger Red Hen Press, 2014 $17.95 A few summers ago, the Saratoga Racing Tip Sheet on Lisa Krueger noted: “Goes a few places. Moves away from the obvious. Sometimes needs to look back over her shoulder to make sure the reader is following.” Big bettors may wish to read Krueger’s …

Please

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

There is an inter-office memo. “Staff, there is no other system. I hope this answers the question.” Thus are we given the choice between being computer programmers, or being a vice-president for programming. Naturally, since we need the dental plan, we choose to be programmers and vice-presidents. Soon, we run out of programs to program. …

Vicarious Gardening

By | Nola Garrett, Prose

  Cuttings Sticks-in-a-drowse droop over sugary loam, Their intricate stem-fur dries; But still the delicate slips keep coaxing up water; The small cells bulge; One nub of growth Nudges a sand-crumb loose, Pokes through a musty sheath Its pale tendrilous horn. from Theodore Roethke’s COLLECTED POEMS, 1948 Besides giving up my pinball machine, the hardest …

Retirement Planning

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Having newly stepped into the American labor force, I’ve had to navigate the byzantine process of planning for retirement. Unlike in China where municipal governments control retirement funds, Americans rely on the financial markets to invest their retirement money. Instead of letting your money accumulate over a period of time, the American investment companies put …

How To Tell A War Story

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I remember the day Senior Drill Sergeant Rose lined us up in squads of eight. It was the first week of Basic Training. “Every single one of you is going to The Nam. Consider yourselves officially dipped in shit. Now look up and down your squad. There’s eight of you. This time next year, one …

American Caricature

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I like reading caricatures. The exaggeration of a celebrity in a drawing makes the hidden satire much more lively and unforgettable. I appreciate the artwork as much as the message conveyed through the image. I once subscribed to the New Yorker magazine. In the end, I was more interested in the humor and cartoon section …

Dance Review: Just Us…The Journey Continues by Reed Dance

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Over the weekend, Reed Dance premiered Just Us…The Journey Continues. The show was their first since leaving the August Wilson Center. Despite the group’s makeover (several new company members and a smaller performing venue), they emerged as bold and fiery as ever. The Alloy Studios was a great place to see the dancers up close …

The Next Renaissance or The Conjectures of a Reluctant Optimist

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Y si he de dar un testimonio sobre mi época es éste: Fue bárbara y primitiva pero poética. And if I have to give witness to my era it’s this: It was barbarous and primitive yet poetic.     -Ernesto Cardinal / John Samuel Tieman I: The Madonna My wife and I spent a couple of weeks …

Memorable Porridges

By | Nola Garrett, Poetics, Prose

  I have a low pleasure threshold.  I suppose another way to say this would be that I’m easily amused, as if I were living my life as a playful cat.  This winter I’ve especially enjoyed watching falling snow here from the condo’s windows when the air currents surrounding this building caused the flakes to …

Highet’s Law and a Pirate of the Caribbean

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose

When I was an undergraduate at Barnard College, we were allowed to take graduate courses at Columbia University. I took a class in, I think, “The Classical Tradition,” with Gilbert Highet. Highet was quite well known. He was on the board of the Book of the Month Club, had written a book called The Art …

Book Review: Imperial by George Bilgere

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Imperial Poems by George Bilgere University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014 $15.95 The world George Bilgere represents in his sixth collection, Imperial, tight-ropes the simple with the complex. Bilgere’s voice—casual, matter-of-fact, and vaguely amused—edges at the last second with anxiety and denial. His poems, an empire of “Yard Sale,” “Fly Balls,” “Prostate Exam,” simultaneously mix with …

The Guest Lecture

By | John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

  Settling on the screen Of the crowded movie house, A white butterfly. — Richard Wright Thank you for that kind and generous introduction. I am really looking forward to meeting whomever it was you were talking about. I may well be the least likely poet in the world to give a lecture on composition. …

Migrant Workers

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Immigration has always been a national issue in the United States. Recently, this issue returns to the spotlight among the American lawmakers. Immigration reform will definitely affect millions of illegal immigrants in America. However, many of them have contributed a great deal of this country’s labor force, especially in areas that are dangerous, dirty, or …

Book Review: The River Underneath the City by Scott Silsbe

By | Book Review, Dakota Garilli, Poetics, Prose

The River Underneath the City Poems by Scott Silsbe Low Ghost Press, 2013 $10.00 In August of 2012, my mother drove me across the state of Pennsylvania from Bergen County, New Jersey. We were headed for my new apartment in Pittsburgh. Mom had no clue what to expect. What would this timeworn city have to …

A World As It Still Is

By | Prose

I like to keep in touch with the poems of friends who have died. Because death is the unknown galaxy separating (linking) us, I want to infuse myself with the still-living light of their words. And so I returned again to Walter Pavlich’s Spirit of Blue Ink (published by Swan Scythe Press in 2001.) I …

Book Review: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett Viking, 2013 Hardcover: $27.95   What would you do if you found the Holy Grail of books? In Charlie Lovett’s, The Bookman’s Tale, such a book is called Pandosto. On its title page is the name of W. Shakespeare from Stratford, and in its margins are notes linking this …

Book Review: Pennsylvania Welcomes You by Kristofer Collins

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Pennsylvania Welcomes You Poems by Kristofer Collins CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013 $12.00 As a Boston native living in Pittsburgh for the past five years, I’m sympathetic to the belief that a city produces hypnotic powers on the psyche, charms us, provides a geographical ‘tribe’ that continues, no matter where we’ve been, to call us to …

Lenny Gates or One Morning In The Life

By | Prose, Publius

There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like this in his sentence. …The three extra days were for leap years. from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn As I park my car this morning, I notice some guys working in the football field, and others carrying bricks to …

Dyeing

By | Nola Garrett, Poetics, Prose

1. I never saw my grandmother twice with the same colored hair. Instead of the world, she traveled the spectrum— Tahitian Brown, Romanian Gold, Irish Red— without even the pretense of reclaiming tints once hers. I was so embarrassed, my teenaged self was mortified. My grandmother after years of misdagnosis died. Rather than her liver, …

Poetry Out Loud

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

Next month, I will be judging the State Finals for Poetry Out Loud in Iowa. Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest where high schoolers choose a selection of canonical poems to perform from the stage to a live audience. I’ve done judging and coaching for POL in several states, and I’ve given most …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Nine

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Nine – Reflections I sometimes consider how small the weapon is, and compare that to how much it can destroy. I loaded the weapon just once, just to see what it feels like. It felt heavier than I expected. Then I unloaded it. Now, the Smith And Wesson sits under a hat across …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Eight

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Eight Janet gives me the address of a gun smith, who specializes in antiques. I drive over after work. Surprisingly, the place is more like a museum than what I expect, a gun-nut hobby shop. And the owners are well educated and articulate. One guy went to my high school, a private Catholic …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Seven

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Seven I ask a neighbor if he thinks I should register this pistol. “No, no, no! The only thing registration will do is help the government find you when they come to take our guns away.” I don’t know what to say. But I think to myself, “Isn’t there about 17,000 societal things …

Dance Review: Recipes our Mothers Gave Us by Corningworks

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

A cheery voice boomed through the speakers at the New Hazlett Theater’s Saturday performance of Recipes Our Mothers Gave Us. “You have thirty seconds to choose your ingredients to make a happy life!” Beth Corning, director of Corningworks, and her dancing partners, Maria Cheng and Francoise Fournier, all rushed to the back of the stage …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Six

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Six I want to speak to someone about gun safety, and about registering my weapon. So I call the police. A secretary answers. She is quite helpful, cheery, almost ebullient. She tells me of the “gun safety officer,” who can visit my home. I find such community outreach comforting. I’m told to call …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Five

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Five I’ve thought a lot about masculinity. One thing Vietnam taught me is that sometimes masculinity is simply too high a price to pay for being male. Is owning a gun about being masculine? _____

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Four

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Four I need a haircut. I tell my barber, and the barber shop gang, about my weapon. Here for the first time, I get camaraderie. Wistful memories about youthful hunting. Several good tips on safety. _____

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Three

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Three I think this weapon is making me mildly hysterical, presuming one can be just a bit hysterical. This pistol is all I think about. I note that I never fantasize about what can go wrong with this weapon. That said, it’s not like what can go right is soothing. I go to …

The Education of a Gun Owner — Day Two

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day Two I’m surprised at how small the gun seems. I looked up my state’s gun regulations online. It was a quick read. As near as I can tell, I can buy, carry and conceal everything up to and including a Light Anti-Tank Weapon. Phoebe went to visit her father today. She asked him …

The Education Of A Gun Owner

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gun Day One Actually, I am not a gun owner. I am half a gun owner. The revolver is right here, in front of my keyboard. I never thought I’d say that. With the exception of one drunken New Year’s at John McGoogan’s, I haven’t fired a weapon since I was in Vietnam. I’m surprised …

Book Review: Gospel of Dust by Joseph Ross

By | Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Gospel of Dust Poems by Joseph Ross Main Street Rag, 2013 $15 There are a lot of people out there writing poetry, and most of it will be forgotten tomorrow, or maybe even later today. But just a handful of poets might be remembered. Joseph Ross should be one of those poets. Ross writes the …

Volume 14: Excerpts from The Welter of Me & You

By | Poetry

Flight Plan Let’s speak to each other in the language of paper airplanes, bend our edges in to meet and fold the quiet into shapes, mold our wings according to the soft geometry of handmade things. Let’s use our time aloft to catch our breath and clear the air before we yaw, pamper back the …

Today is Records Keeping Day

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I just get back from Christmas Vacation and walk in, when I see Dr. Galvin running down the hall swinging a broom over his head. Literally. Running down the hall swinging a broom. Later I learn that a bat got in the school. Later. But since I didn’t see the bat — the bat was …

Book Review: Now, Now by Jennifer Maier

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Now, Now Poems by Jennifer Maier University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013 $15.95 If Jennifer Maier’s second full-length collection, Now, Now, was likened to a type of candy it would be a Hershey’s Special Dark. I say this based on accurate metaphor, not hunger. On first chew, Maier’s poems are delicate, quiet, deliberately fond with a …

Weeble Christmas, 1973

By | Prose

Since Pittsburgh’s Light up Night (the beginning of Christmas shopping season) began in mid-November, from my condo’s windows each evening I can see Point State Park’s stylized versions of huge white-lit snowflakes and blue-lit Christmas trees. I suppose the blue-lit trees are meant to be a secular compromise or maybe a nod to both Hanukkah …

Professional Development

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I asked Andrew how he felt after yesterday’s professional development. “It wasn’t epically soul crushing.” Andrew is a nice guy. This, it must be noted, was his idea of something good to say. That said, we spent the entire day at a faculty meeting pondering the following question. “How does the ability to read complex …

The Night Before Christmas…

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse When Clement Clarke Moore wrote this poem in 1823—a poem once called “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American1”—he published it anonymously. “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the versified story of Christmas that gave …

Book Review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2013 $16.00   Unreliable narrators cause readers to question their own methods of perceptions, particularly when recognizing logical cause and effect. As if to prove this, in Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel, The Other Typist, she takes a character with untapped potential for mental instability and places …

Dance Review: Objects of Desire By Continuum Dance Theater

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

For the past nine months, Sarah Parker, Artistic Director of Continuum Dance Theater, has been working on her latest evening length work, as part of the New Hazlett’s CSA (Community Supported Art) series. Saturday night, for one show only, “Objects of Desire” premiered at the theater. The choreography came from Parker’s musing on the subject …

The Unfairness of Life

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Best quote of the day from a high school kid: “I don’t know why she gave me an F. She got nothin’ to complain about. I never do nothin’ in that class.” _____

Book Review: The Old Priest: Stories by Anthony Wallace

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Prose

The Old Priest: Stories by Anthony Wallace University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013 Hardback: $24.95   The work of a critic—be it one of literature, visual art, dance, or music or anything creative—is vexing in the sense that you have to so often set aside to a degree personal opinion while fully retaining your command of …

The New Kid

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

There’s a rule. Whatever goes on the very first form of the very first day, that’s what you’re stuck with all year long. Misspell your first name, and that’s who you are all year. 4th period and I have my really bright kids, my honors class. I’m in Room 205, but, right at the beginning …

Book Review: Written on Water: Writings about the Allegheny River and The Allegheny River: Watershed of the Nation

By | Book Review, Nature, Nola Garrett, Prose

Written on Water: Writings about the Allegheny River, Edited by Helen Ruggieri & Linda Underhill, Mayapple Press, 2013, $19.95. The Allegheny River: Watershed of the Nation, Photographs by Jim Schafer, Text by Mike Sajna, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, $90.00. Every morning from my condo’s dining room window, the Allegheny River looks different. Not …

Angelus

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

in a parking lot I spot an acorn falling from nothing at all I used to live in Mexico City. About 1984 or 1985, I went to Tepeyac on December the 12th, the Feast Of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Tepeyac, which is now a part of Mexico City, is the hill where Our Lady appeared …

C-Melody Sax

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove says, “The older the violin, the sweeter the music.” But I like to think of myself as an old C-melody sax. That’s an actual name, by the way, C-melody saxophone. A lovely name, when I think of it, with a lovely sound. _____

Book Review: Chapel of Inadvertent Joy by Jeffrey McDaniel

By | Book Review, Dakota Garilli, Poetics, Prose

The Chapel of Inadvertent Joy Poems by Jeffery McDaniel University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013 $15.95   The first Jeffrey McDaniel poem I ever read was “The Quiet World,” originally published in his 1998 collection The Forgiveness Parade. I found it in the Poetry Foundation’s archive and only read it in isolation—appropriate, perhaps, since silence and …

On J.F.K., Memory and the Nuns

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. “And I will go to the altar of God, to God, the joy of my youth.” As I began 8th grade, my greatest existential conundrum revolved around whether nuns wore brassieres. And, if so, why? When I was a boy, I attended a small, …

Book Review: The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers The Viking Press, 2013 Hardcover: $26.95   Everyone has a story. For The Cleaner of Chartres, Salley Vickers chose the one belonging to a quiet cleaner in Notre Dame, the famous cathedral in Chartres, France. Vickers’s problem with this choice, however, is the style with which she began …

Labor Unions in U.S. and China

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

My first understanding of a union strike in the United States came last year when I flipped on the TV station and saw dozens of public school teachers in Chicago picketing their school. Later, a hundred or so Walmart employees went on strike outside Washington, DC, dodging cars and shopping trolleys until they stood face-to-face …

Dance Review: See What I Hear by Murphy/Smith Dance Collective

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

For the choreographic duo, Jamie Murphy and Renee Smith, sound matters. Murphy deals with hearing loss in her left ear. And Smith’s grandfather has suffered from hearing damage since serving in the war. In the dance collective’s latest piece, See What I Hear, the two explored ways in which we are affected by sound or …

So You Want to be a Writer…

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

At least once a month—and just about every time I do a reading—someone asks me for advice on publishing, getting a job, getting into an MFA program, etc. Most of the time this person is already a writer, and when I see their work it’s usually pretty good, but they also always seem to be …

Old Soldiers

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Many years ago, I made the acquaintance of Howard Nemerov. I don’t want this to sound any larger than it was — acquaintance is just the right word. He lived down the street from me here, in St. Louis. Sometimes we’d talk of war, World War II for him, Vietnam for me. I remember once …

Smoking

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

When I first arrived in America, I noticed a lot of teenagers smoking. On campus I was shocked to see girls in their late teens and early twenties smoking outside the buildings. Rain or shine or even snow, these smokers were adamant about their addictive love for cigarettes. In China, a majority of smokers are …

Book Review: Girl at the Watershed by Nicola Waldron

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Girl at the Watershed Poems by Nicola Waldron Stepping Stone Press $12 You’d expect a little vertigo from a poet who migrated from the berries and cream at Cambridge to the red eye gravy of South Carolina. The speaker in Nicola Waldron’s poems in Girl at the Watershed is ever on the move, but even …

Condo

By | Nola Garrett, Prose

It was a Tuesday morning, my favorite day of the week because it’s so ordinary. Not yet dressed, I was eating my breakfast, reading the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when I noticed a couple of thick cords drop past my corner window. Window washer I thought and returned to another bite of toast, another front page article. …

The Party of “No!”

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

If Democrats want an emotionally charged, yet meaningful bumper sticker, I suggest, “Republican = Anarchy + Nihilism.” I am not anti-Republican. Nor am I anti-conservative. I am anti-anarchy. I am anti-nihilism. Our republic is based upon dialogue and compromise among groups committed to loyal opposition. In other words, I am fond of the African poet, …

Voices from a Conversation

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

Gretel Ehrlich writes, “A writer makes a pact with loneliness. It is her, or his, beach on which waves of desire, wild mind, speculation break. In my work, in my life, I am always moving toward and away from aloneness. To write is to refuse to cover up the rawness of being alive, of facing …

Theater Review: The Zero Hour

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

The Zero Hour. By Madeleine George. Directed by Robyne Parrish. Off the Wall Productions, Main Street, Carnegie, PA. October 25–November 9. At Off the Wall Theater currently, Erika Cuenca and Daina Michelle Griffith are giving virtuoso performances as multiple characters. Their principal roles are the enmeshed lovers Rebecca (Cuenca) and O (Griffith). Cuenca’s Rebecca is …

Theater Review: Oklahoma!

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Oklahoma! Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs. Directed by Patrick Cassidy. Point Park Conservatory Theater. October 18-27. It was morning in America on the stage at Point Park’s Rockwell Theater. I wasn’t eager to see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, set in …

Book Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler St. Martins’ Press, 2013 Hardback: $25.99   The Golden Couple of the Roaring ’20s was actually tarnished pyrite. This is revealed in Therese Anne Fowler’s recent novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Its overall message seems to be that reputations lie; it shatters any …

Book Review: The Philosopher’s Daughter by Lori Desrosiers

By | Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

The Philosopher’s Daughter Poems by Lori Desrosiers Salmon Poetry, 2013 €12.00   Lori Desrosiers first came to my attention as the editor of the Naugatuck River Review: A Journal of Narrative Poetry, a journal, similar to Rattle or Flint Hills, and many of the better, though lesser-known journals, that carry the torch of well-crafted poetry …

Dead White Males, and Other Truish Stereotypes of Canon

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

I’m writing this blog on Columbus Day. Because I am an American of Euro and Indian heritage, this is not one of those days I can ignore race. I actually think about race quite a bit these days. Because I teach both literature and creative writing, from both mainstream and American Indian Studies perspectives, and …

Keeping Secrets

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I’m sworn to secrecy on this, so I just had to tell everyone. Some secrets are just too good not to share. So I ask a colleague about my old school, Metropolitan Middle. Her lover works there. She tells me that, thus far this year, they’ve had three principals. “The one they got now, and …

Book Review: Drift by Alan King

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Drift Poems by Alan King Willow Books, 2012 $15.00   The acknowledgments page is standing room only in Alan King’s debut collection of poems, Drift. In fact it’s two pages long, which might say a lot about King’s gratitude, but climbing aboard these poems (each one is a train car) the first thing I noticed …

What’s the Most Important Sound?

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

Sound may be our deepest and most instinctive connection to poetry, not only as individuals but also as members of the human community and inheritors of its ancient traditions. “The hearing knowledge we bring to a line of poetry,” writes Robert Pinsky, “is a knowledge of patterns of speech we have known to hear since …

The Hum of Music Beneath the Traffic

By | Prose

11:06 a.m. A daytime blog, at last…but something doesn’t feel right, though it’s beautiful outside. What feels off, I wonder? I stop and use my ears. I hear the ubiquitous traffic noises, the sounds of humans doing human things outside, and the calls of birds, all mingled together. I realize that what I need today …

Elizabeth’s Brilliant Career in Psychotherapy

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I. But I want a brilliant career as a poet. II. May, 1995: I get a brilliant career in psychotherapy. I’m also put on Zoloft. (The playing field is temporarily leveled.) III. May, 1996: I have my first seizure. I’m taken off Zoloft, put on Clonapin, then Neurontin, then med, med, med ad nauseam. I …

Book Review: Proving Nothing to Anyone by Matt Cook

By | Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Proving Nothing to Anyone Poems by Matt Cook Publishing Genius Press, 2013 $14.95   Funny is hard. For some reason I’ve never understood, there’s a popular attitude that funny is somehow easier than serious, that comedy takes less skill to write than tragedy. I would say that they are equally difficult in many ways—both (when …

Writing a Personal Literary Essay

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

Early in this book I mentioned how common, almost ubiquitous, the I point of view has become in poetry. So often our poems are outlets for the personal, the private, the spoken secret. Even when it is an outright fiction, a first-person poem can feel as raw as a diary entry. Literary essays are a …

Small Print

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

The other day when I dropped by a local CVS store for errands, I thought I could get my shopping done in minutes. No chance. It wasn’t that my list too long but I had to wait for the cashier to print out a longgggggg receipt—so much longer than my arm. How long is it …

Still Cooking

By | Nola Garrett, Prose

I live in downtown Pittsburgh alone. And, the two questions I’m asked nearly every day are “Where do you grocery shop?” & “What do you eat?” Always in that order. I don’t know if Manhattan or Tampa Bay single residents get these questions often, but I do know that Pittsburghers believe eating, family, and neighborhood …

Slam

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

I wanna hear a poem about revolution about fists raised high and hips twisting in a rumble like a rhumba I wanna follow the footsteps of Che and hear the truth about the day the CIA killed Lumumba -from Steve Coleman, “I Wanna Hear a Poem” I’m waiting just offstage, two hours after the plane …

Capital Metro

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I am a commuter to the national capital of the United States. I don’t know if I should feel good or bad about this. In China, if you get a job opportunity in Beijing, many people will look up to you. After all, it’s an international metropolis where a good living is guaranteed. I remember …

Book Review: What Things are Made Of by Charles Harper Webb

By | Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

What Things Are Made Of Poems by Charles Harper Webb University of Pittsburgh Press: Pitt Poetry Series, 2013 $15.95   Webb’s title implies a certain amount of realism, an engineer’s approach, and his poems certainly follow through with this idea, though frequently with a philosophical bent. His weapon of choice is humor. The collection opens …

Defense of Poetry

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry” makes me proud to be a person who tries to write poems. Language, colour, and religious and civil habits of action, are all the instruments and materials of poetry; they may be called poetry by that figure of speech which considers the effect as a synonyme of the cause. But poetry …

The Joke, The Tense, The Stare

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I’ve given more thought to a psychiatrist, whose work I’ve always admired, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I’d like to add three stages of recovery to her five stages of grief. My father-in-law just died. Phoebe’s father, Mario Cirio, died peacefully in his sleep. He was 93. I am not being clichéd, as one often is at these …

Book Review: Night Moves by Stephanie Barber

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Night Moves by Stephanie Barber Publishing Genius Press, 2013 $10.00   We’re a nation of critics and deciders—folks hired for their opinions rather than physical labor. One of the pleasures of nonobjective painting is that the role of the critic in defining contemporary art becomes obsolete. The artist—photographer Linda Conner in the Seventies, or painter …

Boneless

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Lately when I chew on fish and chicken, I suddenly realize neither of them have bones. Yes, it’s a good reminder that I am in America, where bones are disliked. I’m afraid someday in the near future I will take boneless meat for granted. And I won’t enjoy authentic Chinese dishes as much as I …

Book Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Hogarth, 2013 $26.00 A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is depressing darkness filled with war-torn horrors and punctuated by bright moments of fragile tenderness. Individual points of light converge to create a story—to convey connected lives. To view a constellation is to see each star’s past during the …

Book Review: Birth Marks by Jim Daniels

By | Prose

Birth Marks Poems by Jim Daniels BOA Editions, 2013 $16.00   “a tiny yellow leaf falls on to my red kitchen table” And with that line, I wish to open my review of the book from which it comes, Jim Daniels’ Birth Marks. This book came to me for review as part of BOA’s new …

Can a person be taught to be a poet?

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

Or can she only be taught to appreciate poetry? In other words, are all poets actually self-taught? And are writing workshops essentially useless–either “warm and fuzzy” or “butcher block”? If you read the exchange here, and can manage to overlook the bad manners, you may find yourself pondering the questions the disputants bring up, questions …

Book Review: The Beds by Martha Rhodes

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

The Beds Poems by Martha Rhodes Autumn House Press, 2012 $14.95   In her fourth collection of poems, Martha Rhodes examines illness, love, the infidelity of the body, and “The pleasures and inconveniences of being detested.” This, the title of the twelfth poem in her collection The Beds, begins with frailty, meanders through the doctor’s …

DANCE REVIEW: GIA T. PRESENTS AT THE WOOD STREET GALLERIES

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Gia Cacalano and her multimedia ensemble brought new work to the Wood Street Galleries this past weekend. The show was a continuation of a piece they presented last March called “The Frequency of Structure and Flow Part 2.” The piece was created as a deliberately pared down version of the first. Or, what one of …

Pictures, Big and Small: Some Possibly Feminist Thoughts from a Borough in Pittsburgh

| Prose

by Brigette Bernagozzi Spring 2013   I. Pictures, Big and Small Thinking about the world specifically from the framework of being a woman always gets me thinking of the bigger picture. Lately, I have been following the disturbing events of the Ohio rape case. Also, I have had a few run-ins with misogynist characters this …

My Father

By | Prose, Publius

He wasn’t much of a father, but he was the family lyricist. He once described himself as sitting beneath “the dangling dick of destiny.” Another time, speaking of my mother, he said, “The problem with Catholic women is that, when they get old, they become all priest infested.” This was followed by a shudder that, …

Book Review: Why We Never Talk About Sugar by Aubrey Hirsch

By | Book Review, Prose

One of the early stories in Aubrey Hirsch’s collection Why We Never Talk About Sugar (Braddock Avenue Books 2013) begins with, “Right from the start, Cris was pretty certain she could get me pregnant.” It’s an ambitious first line, one that is both intriguing and bizarre. While the story’s introduction seems odd (let alone physically …

in my Nam dream

By | John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

the army drafts me back to the war I’m the oldest corporal in the 4th Infantry I curse my neighbors who are all my father the barracks is French I beg my wife not to leave me the Red Alert siren turns to an alarm Phoebe is surprised I would ask —– Allowing for a …

Book Review: Trace by Eric Pankey

By | Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Trace Poems by Eric Pankey Milkweed Editions, 2013 $16.00   Pankey explores the idea of traces in several ways throughout this collection. One version is as traces of religious faith or traces of evidence supporting that faith. Another is traces of memory, specifically memories of Pankey’s deceased father. And finally, there are traces of meaning …

How Ralph Vaughn Williams Saved My Life

By | Nola Garrett, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Driving my 2010 orange Honda Fit, I was on my way to the University of Tampa’s inaugural concert of their new pipe organ. I was stopped for the red light at the six lane intersection of Sunset and McMullan Booth Road. I had just slipped in my new CD of Williams “Fantasia on a Theme …

Scriptorium

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

My grandmother used to turn off her hearing aids at what seemed like the oddest times. There are those in my family who considered this an act of passive aggression. The more of herself she lost to dementia, though, the more striking the difference became between those moments the hearing aids were on, and she …

Ann Richards

By | Humor, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I’ve never understood how the people of Texas could have elected George W. Bush over Ann Richards for governor back in the 90’s. Perhaps they got tired of her rancorous wit and wanted to have a simpleton instead. I remember Michael Moore made a film called “TV Nation” in which he went around to all …

Molly’s Idea Garden

By | Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

It’s quite nice to be out here in one of Molly’s innovative “cottages,” listening to the sound of the wind, shrubberies brushing the outside walls, branches doing arabesques; feeling a bit like Dorothy just before she’s transported to Oz. There are some garden tools within sight—rakes, a shovel, hoes, crowded into a Wilson golf bag …

Why Are Writers Such Idiots When They’re Writing?

By | Dawn Potter, Prose

Last night Tom was asking me questions about my western Pennsylvania history-in-verse project–my illogical research; my imaginative process; worst of all, my definition of precision–and all I could do was stammer out inanities. Although he was friendly and interested and ready to have an artist-to-artist conversation, I could not give him any coherent explanation for …

Book Review: Electrico W by Herve Le Tellier

By | Book Review, Prose

Electrico W Herve le Tellier Other Books, 2013 Writing about love inadvertently teeters on the edge of cliché. Typically, the subject is treated as a plot-point, a simple development for the many romance movies that spring up every summer. Herve Le Tellier’s Electrico W (Other Books 2013) is a resounding rebuke to this formula. In …

Returning to the Crazy Ward

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I enter a psych ward, one of the ones I’m so good at staying out of these days and cross the red line. The walls are yellow, like old cellophane, and the floor tiles are gray as dull nail heads. The air smells of old tears, tears that have scabbed over. I walk into the …

Two Theater Reviews: Scarcity by Lucy Thurber and Oedipus and the Foul Mess in Thebes by Sean Graney

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Scarcity. By Lucy Thurber. Directed by Justin Zeno. Organic Theater Pittsburgh http://www.organictheaterpgh.org/ in the Studio Theater at the University of Pittsburgh. With Matt Bonacci, Bridget Carey, Hanna. Hannah McGee, Michael Moats, Meagen Reagle, Jaime Slavinsky, and Michael Young. August 8-18th. Oedipus and the Foul Mess in Thebes. No Name Players, http://nonameplayers.org at Off the Wall …

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce Random House, 2012 When he woke up, retired 65-year-old Harold Fry probably didn’t know that he would be the man who would walk 500 miles to see a dying friend. Yet that is exactly what happens in Rachel Joyce’s national bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold …

Dance Review: Sidra Bell Dance New York In ‘Garment”

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Sidra Bell is more than a choreographer; she is a philosopher who thinks deeply about life and art. In addition to her MFA in choreography, she holds a degree in history from Yale, lectures at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was an adjunct professor at Barnard College. Her smarts come through in …

What’s the Most Important Punctuation?

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

It’s so easy to overlook punctuation. Our eyes are trained to glide past it, automatically registering the marks as pauses or sentence endings but not otherwise lingering over them. As Baron Wormser and David Cappella note in Teaching the Art of Poetry, “punctuation makes necessary distinctions so that things don’t blur and tangle and confuse.” …

Book Review: Puerto Rico By Alejandro Ventura

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Prose

Puerto Rico By Alejandro Ventura Brooklyn Arts Press, 60 pages, $15 ISBN-13: 978-1-936767-15-1 When it comes to oceanic feelings, novelists reach for fishing poles and poets reach for binoculars. Being the latter, I’ve spent my life trying to find a pile of dirt in the high seas. I want to build a fire on it. …

Young and Cheery

By | Prose, Publius

So I say to my student teacher, ‘I know what my teaching looks like compared to the other teachers in my building. I see Art The Art Teacher and Mr. North and the others in these halls. But how do I compare to other supervising teachers? They’re like in other buildings, other school districts. I’m …

Teaching my Son Magic

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I am cooking, cutting potatoes for kale soup as my little family loves kale soup. I am cutting potatoes for kale soup, the peels slick, wet autumn leaves, their meat white as cornstarch when, suddenly, the knife flies out of my hand. It flies out of my hand while a strange wizardry fires up my …

Waking Up To my Sister

By | Prose

My 18-year-old sister and I recently had our wisdom teeth removed, both of us receiving general anesthesia almost simultaneously. With only three years between us, she and I have shared the majority of our experiences, some of which have not necessarily fostered our relationship. At an early age she played the victim while I remained …

Book Review: The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood is a quiet exploration of womanhood within the confines of damaged relationships. Readers are rocked between eras as they learn about love and grief throughout the novel’s parallel plotlines, which interchange between chapters. In 1919, Vivien is a “spinster” mistress who believes that her married lover, David, suffered from …

Book Review: Any Deadly Thing by Roy Kesey

By | Book Review, Prose

Any Deadly Thing by Roy Kesey From its first lines, Kesey’s collection paints an unforgiving, even cruel, portrait of the world. A father attempts to cut his daughter’s hair. She screams, he grabs her, she bites him and runs off. As an opening sequence, it’s far from inviting, but Kesey’s keen sense of immediacy gives …

Education And The Politics Of Shaming

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

A fellow teacher, a friend from California, asked a question of a workshop presenter. The teacher began in a self-deprecating manner, but the presenter immediately interrupted, saying, “There are no stupid questions, only stupid teachers.” An art teacher, in rural Missouri, was told at a faculty meeting that her subject was not important, because art …

Book Review: Without a Net by Ana Maria Shua

By | Prose

The circus is a place of both wonder and terror; the audience is simultaneously amazed and frightened by the performances. We hold our breath while the trapeze artist flips through the air and gasp in amazement when the lion tamer sticks his head in his beast’s mouth. In the circus, humans can fly, and animals …

The 400-pound Nutritionist

By | Jim Danger Coppoc, Prose

I have a friend. One of those friends. The type who goes to parties intent on sharing her personal life with anyone who will listen, hoping to get some sort of support/advice/sympathy. She’s tragic and gorgeous, so of course a good chunk of the party is always willing to comply. I can remember clearly a …

Directives from Downtown

By | Prose, Publius

The following directives have come from the head office, known to all of us simply as “downtown”. 1. Downtown has mandated that 70% of all English lessons involve the teaching of non-fiction. 2. We are not to use our textbooks for the teaching of non-fiction. We are to xerox everything. 3. We need to cut …

Unsolicited Advice

By | Nola Garrett, Prose

I like riding Pittsburgh’s T. I especially like riding it on Steelers’ game days late Sunday mornings when the cars are packed with anticipation and good will. I’ve heard Steeler jersey-clad fans welcome opposing jersey-clad fans to Pittsburgh, give them directions, suggest good places to eat, and even wish their team good luck. Makes me …

Ode to My Son’s Audiobooks

By | Dawn Potter, Prose

My younger son, Paul, is an eighth grader at Harmony Elementary School, a down-at-heels K–8 building in rural central Maine that houses about ninety students and a handful of underpaid staff members. So a few weeks ago, when he carelessly remarked, as he was pacing around the kitchen gobbling a pastrami sandwich, “You know, Mom, …

Book Review: Big Ray

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Prose

Big Ray By Michael Kimball Bloomsbury, 185 pages, $23, ISBN: 978-1-60819-854-2 Most metaphors weigh a few ounces. Big Ray weighs five hundred pounds. He isn’t the sort of metaphor that fits through a window. Think grand piano. And we’re talking dead weight, not live weight, so right away we know that all of Michael Kimball’s …

Data Driven Research

By | Prose, Publius

In education, we are fond of data. Data driven instruction. Data based results. So here is a bit of data. I have 160 students, seven classes. And counting. This is only the first week. But let’s say I stay at 160 students. And let’s say I give each student a few paragraphs to write. And …

Top Secrets

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

On the day when the US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden announced to the world how the US has been spying on its competitors as well as its allies through traditional and modern technology, everyone – the media pundits in this country as well as diplomats from other countries — acted astounded and perhaps …

What’s the Most Important Detail?

By | Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

“We know there must be consciousness in things,” writes Mark Jarman: In bits of gravel pecked up by a hen To grind inside her crop, and spider silk Just as it hardens stickily in air. Many poets might just as easily say, “We know there must be consciousness in words.” By fitting together individual bits …

People First

By | Prose

Early this year, the news about the Boston bombing shook the world. The tragedy not only injured over 250 innocent lives, but also killed three others, including a Chinese student. Perhaps because the victim is a Chinese—the only foreigner in the death toll, Chinese at home and abroad are paying attention to the incident. Now …

Book Review: The Polish Boxer

By | Book Review, Prose

The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon Bellevue Literary Press 2012 The line between fiction and nonfiction is strangely, sometimes frustratingly, blurred in Eduardo Halfon’s newest book, The Polish Boxer. The novel begins in a Guatemalan college classroom with a narrator also named Eduardo Halfon. This presumably fictionalized characterization of the author is the narrator for …

My First Girlfriend

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius The other day, all the teachers had to put security checks on our payroll accounts. So there’s ten questions. Your mother’s maiden name. Your high school. Like that. Then there’s, “What was your first girlfriend’s name?” Three of us are doing it together, so North says, “Sally.” And Art says, “My first girlfriend …

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

| Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker HarperCollins, 2013 Reviewed by Nicole Bartley In the beginning, a sickly Jewish man breathes an incantation on a ship destined for New York City, and his golem wakes. And he saw that the creation was good. Then he dies and severs the master-servant connection with the golem, …

Book Review: Could You Be with Her Now by Jen Michalski

| Barrett Warner, Book Review, Prose

Could You Be with Her Now Jen Michalski Dzanc, 2013 Reviewed by Barrett Warner Jen Michalski may have been listening when Nikki Giovanni spoke how the internet—how social media—was turning us into extroverted hermits. The shy Maryland author runs the biggy-sized literary platform JMWW. The site totes some 1,000 hits a day thanks to Michalski’s …

Book Review: City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

By | Book Review, Prose

Something is rotten in the city of Bohane. From the lines of hoor houses and dream pipe saloons in Smoketown to the bloodthirsty Cusacks in the Northside Rises to the head of the Hartnett Fancy, Logan Hartnett himself, brooding with his wife Macu in his Beauvista manse—it is troubled times in Bohane when Kevin Barry’s …

Elegy for an Age

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman I almost did my dissertation on post-modernism, but in the end decided to opt for a Ph. D. rather than a bullet in my head. But one thesis I had was that post-modernism is a critique rather than a fixed position. And it is a critique of Romanticism, Modernism being redefined …

A Purification Ceremony

| Prose

A letter from our friend Lorrie Carter who, with her husband Bob, is serving as a medical missionary in the mountains of Guatamala: Nine days seemed like a good number of days to accomplish this mission, and this number is the most important to the Mayan calendar. We climbed many mountains, and four teams of …

Thinking of my Father

By | Book Review, Prose

I read a piece more than a month ago that appears in the Best American Short Stories series for 2012, and I’ve been thinking about it since. Whenever I finish something I’ve read, whether it be a short story, a novel or a poem, I struggle to explain my exact feelings after the fact, but …

Poetry is Dead… Again

| Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

by Jim Danger Coppoc So apparently, poetry is dead. I know this because I hear it at parties. I know this because all my poet friends are terrified of their own irrelevance. I know this because Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia—in the latest installment of a centuries long tradition of replaying again and …

Retrospective: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

By | Book Review, Prose

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Vladimir Nabokov While it can be relaxing to read a book that doesn’t require a tableside dictionary, often more challenging books allow a reader to engage fully with the text, even if we feel that the author is trying to parse out uncommitted readers. Vladimir Nabokov’s The Real …

On Cunnilingus And Psychiatry: In Memorium, James Gandolfini

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art

By John Samuel Tieman Why did my wife and I fall in love with James Gandolfini and his Tony Soprano? Because art speaks in ways that are at once both clear and unconscious. We missed the first episode or two. But we heard from buddies that “The Sopranos” is a good show. We’d also heard …

Theater Review: The Tempest by Unseam’d Shakespeare

| Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle. By William Shakespeare, John Dryden, and William Davenant, adapted by Scott Palmer. Directed by Michael Hood. With Ron Siebert, Colleen Pulawski, Claire Chapelli, Nicholas Browne, Nick Benninger, Thomas Constantine Moore, Jennifer Tober, Kevin Donohue, Brett Sullivan Santry, Charles Beikert, Michael Perrotta, Marc Epstein, Connor McCanlus, Andrew Miller. Unseam’d Shakespeare …

The Guest Critic

| Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

by Jim Danger Coppoc So there’s this setup I keep walking into. I get invited to be a guest critic (and sometimes even a “celebrity” guest critic!) for workshops run by various poetry and arts organizations. At least half the time, I’m the youngest person in the room—sometimes by several decades. There’s always a wide …

The North Pond Hermit

| Dawn Potter, Prose

by Dawn Potter This week, the big news around here is the North Pond hermit. You can read all about him in the papers, but the essence of the tale is this: 27 years ago a recent high school graduate vanished from his home in central Maine. His family thought he’d gone to New York …

Book Review: Landscape with Female Figure

| Book Review, Nola Garrett, Prose

by Nola Garrett It has been a little more than two months since an underground fire forced Consol Energy to shut down its Blacksville No. 2 deep mine along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border, and neither the company nor the federal agency in charge of mine safety oversight knows what caused it. And they may never …

Dance Review: Continuum Dance Theater at the Three Rivers Arts Festival

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino After a week of on and off rain that is typical for Pittsburgh’s annual Three Rivers Arts Festival, the sun shone brightly on Point State Park for Saturday’s activities. As one of the final dance performances of the week, Continuum Dance Theater hit the Second Stage at Gateway Center to perform …

Miss Freud Returns To The Classroom

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Miss Freud Returns To The Classroom: Toward A Psychoanalytic Literacy Among Educators by John Samuel Tieman I am a teacher. The other day, I mentioned to an educational consultant that many of my students were feeling anxiety about the state exams. “You’re a psychologist,” she said, “so give the kids pieces of candy, and just …

Book Review: A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind

| Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton Alfred Starr Hamilton, Edited by Ben Estes and Alan Felsenthal. Song Cave, 2013 reviewed by Mike Walker A poet, perhaps more than any other type of artist, can toil in total obscurity. He doesn’t need a band or a pianist to back his …

Theater Review: Radio Golf by August Wilson

| Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Radio Golf. By August Wilson. June 8-June 29, 2013. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. 937 Liberty Avenue. [http://www.pghplaywrights.com/] Directed by Eileen J. Morris. With Chrystal Bates, Kevin Brown, Wali Jamal, Mark Clayton Southers, and Art Terry. Reviewed by Arlene Weiner August Wilson undertook the ambitious project of writing a play reflecting African-American life for each decade …

The Craft of Poetry

| Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

by Dawn Potter It’s so easy to overlook punctuation. Our eyes are trained to glide past it, automatically registering the marks as pauses or sentence endings but not otherwise lingering over them. As Baron Wormser and David Cappella note in Teaching the Art of Poetry, “punctuation makes necessary distinctions so that things don’t blur and …

a note to poets growing older

| John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman the words we didn’t say I take a bite of my lunch silence sour and salt This afternoon I sit on my porch, proud of all I’ve won, thinking of my poor days and how, at my age, the middle class doesn’t look as bad from the inside as it does …

Not Asking for It

| Arlene Weiner, Prose

by Arlene Weiner According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a Steelers offensive tackle was slashed on the South Side of Pittsburgh on a recent weekend. The police report and the man’s account tell the following story: Mike Adams gave the keys to his truck to a valet for a South Side restaurant on a Saturday night. …

Book Review: Scent of Darkness

| Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin Pantheon Books, 2013 Review by Nicole Bartley The Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin dabs a touch of exotic into the readers’ lives but, in the end, is just a cheap perfume. It explores glamorous, romantic dreams that many women have—dreams that those same women would not want to …

A Young Woman’s Manifesto

By | Prose

Far too often among my peers have I witnessed a dangerous language emerge in regard to the topic of feminism. Those who have openly denounced its value equate the word’s connotations to the confines of the unfavorable and unattractive. Their notions align dangerously with the misconception that we have achieved equality — that those who …

Where White People Come From

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius My student teacher is answering questions, explaining where his people come from. “I’m 100% European,” he says. A young lady who’s black says, “You come from England or some such?” “Oh, no, I mean you have to go back generations …”. “Oh, I get it,” she says. “You mean your family comes from …

The Unspoken

By | Prose

12:00 a.m. There is a tiny cut on my hand, a spot I must have missed with the moisturizer a while back, which becomes irritated whenever the weather gets colder. It is a small but insistent kind of pain, and as I sit in my green chair contemplating my backyard in the dark once again, …

Run Did I

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius In the parking lot, maybe a half-hour before first period, just as I pull-up I see our crazed educational consultant pull-up in the parking lot. She has this way of hovering around the door, and, without so much as a “Good Morning”, just goes some onerous task she wants the teacher to complete. …

Who’s the Most Important Character?

| Dawn Potter, Poetics, Prose

by Dawn Potter Today, most of us automatically equate narrative with prose: stories, novels, memoirs, plays, and biographies that depend on skillful narrative control. This is understandable because many successful poems ride on the strength of their word choice, imagery, or cadence rather than their superior character development or plot construction. Nonetheless, as a narrative …

Dance Review: ( ) by The Pillow Project

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino In the dark quiet of late Saturday night, The Pillow Project welcomed an intimate crowd for their latest work, a study about distance and connection titled: ( ). Director of the Project, Pearlann Porter, has always been curious about a relationship quality she refers to as “the space between us.” Her …

War Story

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

By John Samuel Tieman It’s official — I am an American hero. Not long ago, an R. O. T. C. outfit wanted to make a display featuring local veterans. I can’t turn down fellow teachers – that and I just like these folks – so I gave them my photo and my medals, my “rack”, …

La Vie

| Jim Danger Coppoc, Poetics, Prose

by Jim Danger Coppoc If you want to view paradise Simply look around and view it Anything you want to, do it Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it -Willy Wonka “In this class, and in the literary life in general, there are two rules, and two rules only—one, have something to say; …

A Parable about Publishing

| Humor, Michael Simms, Prose

Adapted by Michael Simms A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He yelled: “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am!” The woman below replied: “You are …

Speedy Care

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Songyi Zhang My husband had a medical emergency last week. Thank goodness the episode is over and we’ve returned to a normal life. But this incident taught me a lot about health care in America, and I have to say I was impressed. The story began on Tuesday when my husband was scheduled to …

Book Review: Blowout by Denise Duhamel

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Blowout, poems by Denise Duhamel. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press Pitt Poetry Series, 2012. $15.95. Reviewed by CL Bledsoe Duhamel charts the rise and fall and aftermath of a relationship in these poems, from the first real sparks to the warning signs to the realization it’s over, the divorce, and the settling of ashes. Her …

Fanglu

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Songyi Zhang If you ask a Chinese in his twenties or thirties—are you a fanglu? you’ll be very likely to get a positive answer. These days the number of Chinese fanglu (literally, house slaves) grows as quickly as the domestic economy. They have to work even harder than most people to pay their huge …

Book Review: Three New Chapbooks

By | Book Review, Prose

Marrowbone (Beetnik Press) Relic (Appaloosa Press) Unbridaled (Valium Vixen Press) Several new chapbooks and independent literary presses have made their way into the world this week, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading three of them in particular. All three have been penned by women and all three relate to the natural world in mysterious …

The Millardians

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius It’s Senior Prank Season. This year’s Best In Show goes to the kid who snuck out of class, and put lubricated condoms on each of the outer third floor doorknobs. I don’t approve of this, which is not the same as saying that it doesn’t garner a certain perverse respect on my part. …

I scorn to change my state with kings

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius There’s an announcement, an “emergency faculty meeting” immediately after school. On the way, North mumbles something like, “Somebody better be having sex with a student, because I was planning a barbeque.” It turns out that we, the district, need to spend half a million dollars by Friday. Someone downtown didn’t read the bit …

Engaging in Life: An Interview with Barrett Warner

| Barrett Warner, Book Review, Prose

Engaging in Life with Barrett Warner, Associate Editor of Free State Review By Nicole Bartley At first glance, you may not believe that a man who raises horses at his farm in Maryland’s Gunpowder watershed is also a poetry editor for a literary magazine. Yet Maryland’s new biannual literary magazine, Free State Review, saw both …

Meeting Margaret Thatcher

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman Did I ever tell you about the time I met Margaret Thatcher? Harold Wilson arranged for me to do an interview at 10 Downing Street. I was researching my master’s thesis in British history at Oxford in 1978. I really had no idea what to expect. Compared to the White House, …

The Why Jar

| Prose, Publius

by Publius Debbie came to work with her sweater tied around her waist. For that, she got a letter of reprimand from the principal. Debbie is beautiful, Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern, and extraordinarily competent after only two years on this job. So, of course, the principal hates her. But she doesn’t ask why. I …

Dance Review: Mash Up Body by Anonymous Bodies

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Janera Solomon, met Kate Watson-Wallace eight years ago at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. Solomon was impressed with her creative idea for a dance trilogy called “American Spaces,” where she would create work in a house, a car, and a store. The two developed a …

Theater Review: City of Asylum

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

City of Asylum. Conceived of and directed by Cynthia Croot. Henry Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. April 4-14, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM, Sunday Matinees at 2PM, ASL Interpretation Performance Saturday, April 6th at 8PM. For the first time in the long history of our species—the first to …

Book Review: A Mountain City of Toad Splendor

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

A Mountain City of Toad Splendor, poems and prose by Megan McShea. Baltimore: Publishing Genius Press, 2012. Reviewed by C.L. Bedsoe When I read collections like this, I’m frequently reminded of the excellent poem (and song) “It’s Saturday” by John S. Hall which contains one of my favorite lines: “Sense cannot be made. It must …

Why We Have War

| Prose, Publius

by Publius This afternoon, we had a faculty meeting, during which the vice-principal explained that we need to be nice to foreigners. This is because, “When Ho Chi Minh was in Wisconsin, he hated it. They weren’t nice to him. And that’s why we had the Vietnam War.” I found this weirdly inspiring. For decades, …

Book Review: Interstitial by Sean Patrick Hill

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

reviewed by CL Bledsoe Interstitial by Sean Patrick Hill Buffalo, NY: BlazeVox Books, 2011. BlazeVox poetry collections tend to have three things in common: physically, they tend to be oversized (not necessarily thick, but wide or tall) and very attractive; stylistically, they tend to be experimental (whatever that means – so basically, they don’t usually …

2013 Runner-up Sentence of the Year Award

By | Prose, Sentence of the Year Awards

“A certain ruthlessness and a sense of alienation from society is as essential to creative writing as it is to armed robbery.” — Nelson Algren (quoted by Garrison Keillor) _____

Letter to Ada Limon

| John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman Dear Ada, Years ago, when I was young, I taught school on the island of Dominica. One day, I read to the students Alan Dugan’s “Love Song: I And Thou”. Immediately after class, a student asked me to recite the ending of the poem for him — I can nail my …

The Vice-Principal

| Prose, Publius

by Publius Over the years, I’ve had several principals and vice-principals who were truly mentally ill. A drug addict. A sadist. Tons of narcissists. I’m no diagnostician, but I believe my current vice-principal had brain damage a few years ago, when she had two severe back-to-back falls. Some days, that makes me sad. But it …

The Hauberg: A commons that has avoided the tragedy for centuries

| Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

By Eva-Maria Simms Hardin, in The Tragedy of the Commons (1968) has argued that free, common spaces will inevitably be ruined by the selfish greed of the members of the commons. “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of …

Theater Review: Looking for the Pony

| Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Looking for the Pony by Andrea Lepcio. Off the Wall Theater, 25 West Main Street, Carnegie, PA. Directed by Robyne Parrish. With Daina Michelle Griffith, Karen Baum, Theo Allyn, and Cameron Knight. Music by EMay. March 1–2, 7–9, 14–16 at 8:00 p.m. March 3 & 10 at 3:00 p.m. . Before the performance of Looking …

Book Review: The Switching/Yard by Jan Beatty

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

reviewed by CL Bledsoe The Switching/Yard, poems by Jan Beatty. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Anyone who’s ever ridden on a train has found himself staring out the window and wondering at what he saw. The landscape, the towns we pass, the people; all evoke stories. In her most recent collection, Beatty has written …

Bullet-Points

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius We had “an emergency faculty meeting”. So I took these notes. “– The state test is coming up. Get worried. — Teach the test and nothing else. — We need everyone to pass the state test. So don’t give it to any kids who won’t pass. — According to a new state regulation, …

Dance Review: Black Grace at the Byham Theater

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino With all the American contemporary dance happening in Pittsburgh lately, New Zealand company, Black Grace, came as a welcome surprise Saturday night. Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer, Neil Ieremia, was born and raised in New Zealand, but attributes his signature style to his Samoan heritage. Growing up, singing and dancing were …

Book Review: The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson

| Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson Soho Press, 2012 Reviewed by Nicole Bartley Readers already know the ending of The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson when they begin the story. That’s what happens when it’s based off historical events, the back summary describes those events, and the prologue reveals too much. We know the main …

A Dream

| Prose, Publius

by Publius In the dream. I work in an office. The company has something to do with aerospace inventions, which I know nothing about. In any case, it is my job to meet with clients, who are satisfied with my work. I have an elaborate office with a living room and a dining room. I …

Book Review:The History of Permanence by Gary Fincke

| Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

The History of Permanence by Gary Fincke Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2011 Reviewed by Barrett Warner The Susquehanna is an old river. Kerouac called it “the mighty ghost of the East.” At 440 miles, it’s the longest river to drain into the Atlantic Ocean. That’s a lot of haunt, but author Gary Fincke doesn’t …

Book Review: The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

| Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

Reviewed by Nicole Bartley “The Sheltering Sky” by Paul Bowles is an agonizing 10.5-hours-long piece of existentialist fiction. Most literature doesn’t evoke the rage in me that resulted from this book; I’d consider burning it if I hadn’t only listened to its audiobook. According to the blurb, “Paul Bowles’s writing is so extraordinary, so special. …

Dance Review: On Being by Staycee Pearl Dance Project

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino Staycee Pearl’s latest evening length work, “…on being…” began as an exploration of post-blackness in America, a concept even Pearl had trouble defining because of its broad meaning. She and her company spent months researching black art, music, literature, dance and more. While they gained insight and inspiration, none of them …

Perky

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius My student teacher gets back from a meeting at his university. So I say to him, “I see other teachers in this building teach all the time. So I know what I look like compared to Mr. North, say, or this one and that. But I have no idea how I compare to …

Book Review: Salt Pier by Dore Kiesselbach

| Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Salt Pier (Pitt Poetry Series) by Dore Kiesselbach University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012 ISBN: 978-0822962175 reviewed by Mike Walker Dore Kiesselbach brings forth in this slim volume a true, robust, and fully novel burst of poetry—an outpouring that appears like a new crop, with a lot of little things to find in the market-sized assortment …

Theater Review: Zanna, Don’t!

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

  Zanna, Don’t!. By Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris. Directed by Robert C.T. Steele. Musical Direction by Harry Jamison. A production of the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre. Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, Univeristy of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. February 14 through March 3, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM. Sunday Matinees at 2PM. Pittsburgh …

The Inspection

| Prose, Publius

by Publius On Fridays, it is my custom to do a reading for my students. I’ve done this for years. I am on the state arts council, which means that I get free subscriptions to great literary magazine published in the area. I also subscribe to several national journals, and am familiar with the production …

Book Review: Simic and Gaspar Twenty Years Apart

| Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

by Susan Kelly-DeWitt 1. I recently read two books, published twenty years apart, and both are works of genius. My first question to myself: How did I miss the one published in 1992, by an author whose work I have loved since the beginning? Somehow I did miss it— and then, after buying it, even …

Local Colors II

| Arlene Weiner, Prose

by Arlene Weiner My travels for the past few years have been bipolar. I’ve gone north for happiness, to see my young grandchildren, and south for sad duty, to see my cousin, who has had heart problems and was diagnosed a little more than two years ago with ovarian cancer. My cousin lives south of …

Eye Surgery

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Songyi Zhang  A week ago, I accompanied my husband for cataract surgery. At seven o’clock the waiting room of the surgery center was filled with patients and their families. A nurse came in the waiting room to call the patients’ names. On the other side, two receptionists were helping the patients register while a …

Looking for Inspiration

| John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman I sometimes think I wasted a lot of years looking for inspiration, when all I needed to do was simply open my eyes. mother and suckling boy at the bus stop on Pine she notes the dawn and wonders what the day will bring besides milk and sleep and light I …

Book Review: In the Company of Spirits by Carmen Calatayud

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

In the Company of Spirits poems by Carmen Calatayud Winston-Salem, NC: Press 53. 2012 $12.95. reviewed by C.L. Bledsoe Calatayud is a DC poet, and like many in the DC scene, she understandably focuses on social issues, questions of involvement and public policy. This is the poetry of witness. She slips between potent scenes of …

fade to white

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman my oldest old pal pulls out a photo album ripples in a lake “He was 72. He lived a good, long life,” says a young colleague. I’m 62. I shudder. Folks have been on Death Row longer than 10 years. I’m not aging gracefully. I’d like to “rage against the dying …

Dance Review: Backlit in a Whole New D by The Pillow Project

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino There’s just something about Pearlann Porter. Her company, The Pillow Project, presents work unlike anything else on the Pittsburgh dance scene. Her latest evening length show was the product of a 16 year work in progress. The result was hypnotic. “Backlit in a Whole New D” premiered this past weekend, and …

Book Review: The Imagined Field by Sean Patrick Hill

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

The Imagined Field, poems by Sean Patrick Hill. Paper Kite Press, 2010. reviewed by C.L. Bledsoe Hill’s collection begins with “When You Hardly Knew Your Fingers,” a surreal portrait of a struggling spiritual life. “It’s an old story, need.” he begins (line 1). He continues with images of alienation and loneliness: “Wind in trees, gaunt …

Birds N’at

By | Prose

In the three years since moving to Pittsburgh to pursue a graduate degree and begin a career, learning Pittsburghese has been a fun and effective way to set down roots and learn the local culture. Now, I work dahntahn Mondee through Fridee and watch the Stillers on Sundee while the warsh runs. And for a …

The Woodcarver

| Michael Simms, Prose

A Fable by Michael Simms There was once a young woodcarver who loved to walk through the forest. One day in a part of the forest where he had never been before, he came to a house in a clearing. There were people working on the house carving beautiful scenes into the doors and lintels. …

Sometimes The Kursk

| John Samuel Tieman, Prose

by John Samuel Tieman lonelier I thought than a frozen ocean’s wharf a young widow’s moan Sometimes I love a good disaster story. The noble hero rescues the helpless. The survivor who, against all odds, comes away unscathed. The stoic victims remembered annually. Then sometimes it’s the Kursk. Capt. Lieut. Dmitri Kolesnikov wasn’t a hero. …

Volume 12: Rooms of the Living

Poetry

by Paul Martin (co-winner of the 2012 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Prize) For my family, the seen and the unseen   The Regulator Its long, brown wooden case hung on the kitchen wall in the first house, the heavy, brass pendulum moving deliberately above my grandmother standing over the coal stove stuffing pork with garlic …

Book Review: Between Gods by Donna Lewis Cowan

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Between Gods, poems by Donna Lewis Cowan. Cincinnati: Cherry Grove Collections, 2012 reviewed by C.L. Bledsoe Cowan’s debut collection begins with “Thaw,” a beautiful meditation on the changing of the seasons, played out through ice skaters: At the pond’s edge, the skaters steer from the etched-out hollows, speed toward the marrow mapped tight. We are …

Hurricane Sandy

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Karen Zhang Coming from a southern Chinese city that has weathered numerous tropical storms over the years, I took little concern about the hurricane warnings in America. In fact, the American weathermen seem to be a little too melodramatic about the sudden change of weather. In the Washington D.C. region for instance, when the …

Student Teachers

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius I love working with student teachers. Perhaps, in part, it’s a way of revisiting my youth. Perhaps, in part, it’s an act of hope. Today, Mr. Palmer, my student teacher, made one of those mistakes we all make when we are young teachers. My students, his students now, are writing non-fiction. So Mr. …

Book Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

| Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks St. Martin’s Press, 2012 Reviewed by Nicole Bartley Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks is the kind of book you recommend with a one-line explanation: It’s amazing. This story absorbs readers so thoroughly that they won’t realize 50 pages have been read. It’s as if …

When to Run and When to Hide

| Humor, Prose, Publius

by Publius On Monday, the faculty of the Social Studies Department was informed that they wouldn’t need to teach for the next three days. Instead, they are to give a test. A standardized language test. The students will be shunted into the music rooms, because those rooms are big. There aren’t enough chairs, but there …

Book Review: Injecting Dreams Into Cows by Jessy Randall

| Book Review, C.L. Bledsoe, Poetics, Prose

Injecting Dreams Into Cows, poems by Jessy Randall. Pasadena: Red Hen Press, 2012. $17.95. ISBN: 1597092304. 104 pgs. reviewed by CL Bledsoe Randall’s collection begins with “Metaphors,” a clever, playful piece that bucks preconceptions, “A duck is like the moon/because a kid can point at both. A house/is like the sky: both hold things…” (lines …

Book Review: The Geese at the Gates by Drucilla Wall

| Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Drucilla Wall, The Geese at the Gates Salmon Poetry, December, 2011 ISBN 978-1-907056-59-8 Reviewed by Barrett Warner The search for truth and beauty is a panic for dreamers. Try heading north from native Creek country, turn left at Philadelphia. Keep more or less straight to Wyoming, then dog-leg back to Nebraska. Pick up the big …

Potato Chips

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Songyi Zhang These days I crave Lay’s wavy chips. I’m surprised at myself. In China, potato chips are considered junk food. And of course, kids love junk food. Who doesn’t? But parents go nuts if they see their kids munching too many potato chips. In Southern China where I grew up, deep fried food …

Book Review: Sense by Arslan Khasavov

| Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Sense by Arslan Khasavov translated from the Russian by Arch Tait Moscow: GLAS Publishers, 2012 reviewed by Mike Walker The reputation of Russian literature in the West has long centered around the greats of the distant past—Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy—with little thought given, it seems, to the writers of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras. Certainly, …

USPS

| Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

By Songyi Zhang When I first came to America, the small white U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivery van caught my attention. Its steering wheel is on the right like the vehicles in Britain. At the time I was learning to drive in Pittsburgh, I thought to myself that the cute little delivery van is my …

Dance Review: Private Places by IdiosynCrazy Productions

| Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino Philadelphia based dance company, IdiosynCrazy, shook up the local contemporary dance scene this past weekend in their hilarious and haunting new work, “Private Places.” Audience members gathered in the lobby of the Alloy Studios, much like travelers huddled around the entrance gate to an airplane. The piece was inspired by just …

Obama and the Leftists

| Michael Simms, Prose

by Michael Simms Obama was the better candidate for lots of reasons, but leftists and liberals shouldn’t see him as their savior. He’s a fiscal conservative, a militarist who is trying to save the American empire, and a tepid supporter of social reform. I volunteered for his campaign, and I’m very relieved that he won …

Book Review: Meat Heart by Melissa Broder

By | Barrett Warner, Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Melissa Broder Meat Heart Publishing Genius Press, 2012 There are only eighty-eight keys on a piano and the best of us only have three simple chords to our lives—work, love, and play—but music is not made of math. Neither is poetry. Still we take some risk in making art from our confessions. The narrative that …

Rules and Procedures

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

There are rules and procedures. Whenever something is confiscated, say a cell phone, we’re required to tape it to the referral form, make a xerox copy, then send said form, said contraband, and said kid to the in-house suspension room. So this morning a wet kid showed up to the in-house suspension room with his …

Garbage in the Woods

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

In our work of reclaiming the green spaces of Emerald View Park, over the past 6 years, over a thousand volunteers have removed more than 80 tons of garbage from the 275 acres of our urban forest. I have seen rusted cars, refrigerators, and bedsprings. Rubber tires, plastic toys, plastic bags, glass bottles, ceramic tiles, …

Fuck Us! A Public School Teacher’s Rant

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Christine got called downtown for a disciplinary hearing. The central office was looking to fire her. Her offence? An email which reads, “I hear you. I’ve also got a class of 42. Fuck us!” Apparently, there is some policy somewhere someplace against saying “fuck”, although there doesn’t seem to be any policy against getting fucked. …

Theater Review: Columbinus by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Columbinus by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli. Directed by Ben Kaye. Dramaturgy by Patricia Hersch. Conceived by PJ Paparelli. Presented by the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre. Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Learning, Univeristy of Pittsburgh Oakland Campus. November 28th through December 7th, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., High …

Public Library

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Last month I attended an annual literary festival co-sponsored by the county public library. The event lasted a week, offering face-to-face meetings between the authors and the readers. As a reader and writer, I benefit a great deal from free events like this. Since I came to America two years ago I have become an …

Good Golly, Miss Molly

By | Humor, Michael Simms, Prose

I’m a seventh generation Texan, and I’d like to offer an apology to the people of the United States for all the crooks and nitwits we’ve sent to Washington. On the other hand, we also gave you Molly Ivins who famously said, “I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat …

Dance Review: Drenched by Luke Murphy

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

“There is something about when you are soaked by a heavy rain. You give in…realize that sunshine is not coming. There is an empowerment that comes with it. I think of passion that way,” says dancer and choreographer, Luke Murphy. The Ireland native and Point Park graduate brought his latest duet, Drenched, to the Kelly-Strayhorn …

Book Review: The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 Edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser Introduction by Toni Morrison BOA Editions, 2012 ISBN: 978-1934414903 More often than not, when BOA Editions sends me a book for review it comes in a modest package as it is commonly a small book—a single monograph of new poetry …

Lengthy Waits

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

A few weeks ago after pressing the doctor to give him eye surgery, my husband could finally mark his calendar for a specific date, which is in three months. When we returned to the doctor’s office recently for a pre-operation meeting, we suggested the doctor operate on my husband’s other eye three weeks after his …

Theater Review: Compleat Female Beauty by Jeffrey Hatcher

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Compleat Female Beauty. By Jeffrey Hatcher. Directed by Dave Bisaha. A production of the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre. Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, University of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. November 8-18. “Change your life, Neddy, change what you do. What we do is what we are.” So we hear from the half-naked Duke …

Race and the Progressive Agenda

By | Michael Simms, Prose

It’s unfortunate that Fox News framed the recent presidential election as a referendum on race, and it’s equally unfortunate that NPR is continuing that narrative by running stories on drunken frat boys at the University of Mississippi shouting racial epithets about the president. Mainstream media prefer simple stories that can be captured with a few …

The Good News about Public Schools

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

The school district asked us to propose a slogan for its letterhead. I emailed — The Metropolitan Public Schools Standardizing The Future One Test At A Time _____

Smart Touch

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

A few days ago I found a pair of gloves labeled “Smart Touch” in the store. Out of curiosity, I tried them on and showed to my husband who sat at a corner patiently waiting while I shopped. “What do you think?” I asked, raising my gloved hand. On the tip of my thumb and …

Travels: Empty Places in the Heart

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

A few years ago I walked with a group of older neighbors through the inner city neighborhood of the Hill District in Pittsburgh. The Hill was once a thriving African American quarter, but has fallen on hard times since a large section was razed during “Urban Renewal” in the late 50’s and destroyed during the …

Tomyko

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

My kids are so tired of taking standardized tests. Tomyko, a kid in my Advanced Placement class, devised a strategy to entertain himself. Tomyko noticed that, on this computerized test, every time he answered a question right, the next question was harder. And the reverse if he got the question wrong. He did excellently the …

Travels: The Unforgettable Place

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

My home in Pittsburgh lies now 3000 miles across the ocean. Siegen, the German city of my childhood, surrounds me, and I walk the places that are inscribed into my memories. I have always loved the trek up the steep hill into the upper city, even though it does not have much beauty: just a …

And look upon myself, and curse my fate

By | Prose, Publius

I have 177 students. I’d like my reader to pause for that number. 177. I am an English teacher, and sometimes a history teacher. I teach seven periods. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have no planning periods. I get about 30 minutes for lunch, 20 minutes of real time. Sometimes, when I have to meet …

Nobel Prize

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

There is a well-known lyric in China: “The east is red, the sun rises. From China arises Mao Zedong.” On October 11, 2012, when the Swedish Academy announced that the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature is Chinese writer Mo Yan, my mind immediately brought up the tune. Yet, we should change the …

Dance Preview: Twenty Eighty-Four by the Pillow Project

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

“No matter how much we seem to annihilate ourselves, there is always a rebirth,” says Pearlann Porter, Artistic Director of the Pillow Project. Her latest work is, in fact, a revival. The piece, “Twenty Eighty-Four,” was originally created in 2008, but will premiere in its newest incarnation for six more shows this week. The evening …

Book Review: Blood Honey by Chana Bloch

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Blood Honey Poems by Chana Bloch Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2009, 85 pages, $14.95 paper Blood Honey is a book filled with moving poems by a poet who has been a translator of important poets since she was a young woman. Her own poems are lush and vivid. One never finishes a poem wishing …

Sharks

By | Prose, Publius

I spent the morning watching genetically enhanced sharks. I came a little late, so I never did get the explanation about why it’s a good idea to make sharks bigger, faster and hungrier. That said, I spent the morning watching genetically enhanced sharks. Freshmen (or, as my principal says, “freshmens”) and sophomores had to take …

Big Bird

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Alert! The much-loved Big Bird is under attack by none other than this year’s U.S. presidential candidates. Oh, poor bird! I feel sorry that Big Bird cannot escape the same rhetorical fate as China — which has become an American political campaign target. In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney apologized to Big Bird after …

Theater Review: The Other Place

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

The Other Place. By Sharr White. Off the Wall Theater, 26 Main Street, Carnegie, PA. October 12 -27, 2012. Directed by: Melissa Hill Grande. With Erika Cuenca, Virginia Wall Gruenert, Mark Conway Thompson, Ricardo Vila Roger. Off the Wall Theater’s production of The Other Place is a double Pittsburgh premiere: a play we haven’t seen, …

Book Review: Party Girls by Diane Goodman

By | Book Review, Prose

One of the great joys and struggles in writing fiction is the process of developing characters. The word here is, indeed, “developing” and not “creating.” Many fictitious character are an assemblage of parts: a boss’s arrogance here, a neighbor’s laziness there—and in Party Girls, Diane Goodman’s 2011 collection of short stories, the delicate crafting and …

Local Color(s)

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose

I’ve been spending time in the Old North End of a northern town, near the intersection of North Avenue and North Street. Really, literally. It’s Burlington, Vermont, near the shore of Lake Champlain. Depot Street runs steeply down to the lakeshore, once a busy port, now an attractive park with a bike trail, swinging benches, …

Bonjour, Montreal

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I don’t speak French, but when I visited Montreal for the first time this summer, I was completely immersed in a French-speaking environment. I couldn’t tell the difference between tourists or local people because the only language I heard on the street was French. Montreal’s cityscape – with its old sandstone churches, Victorian buildings and …

Theater Review: Her Hamlet

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Her Hamlet. By Lisa Jackson-Schebetta and Theo Allyn. Directed by Lisa Schebetta-Jackson. With Theo Allyn and Robert Frankenberry. Joint production from the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre with Shakespeare-in-the-Schools. Henry Heymann Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial Hall, Univeristy of Pittsburgh Oakland campus. October 5-13, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM, Sunday Matinees at 2PM, ASL Interpretation Performance …

The New Normal

By | Nature, Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

These days I’ve frequently heard the phrase “new normal” particularly after the wildfires in Colorado neighborhood that swallowed hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of trees, after the record-breaking drought in the Midwest that killed crops, and after the unusual weekend floods in Northeast China affected hundreds of local lives. It’s inevitable that global …

The Order of Things: Housework

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

Anyone who lives in a house or an apartment for a period of time knows how quickly human living spaces deteriorate if we neglect our things and fail to vacuum the carpet, do the dishes, pick up our dirty clothes of the floor. The lovely, orderly, well designed room turns into a dirty cave within …

After Martial

By | Book Review, Humor, Poetics, Prose, Publius

We no longer love you, boss, but the reason – it’s just hard to tell; though there’s one thing we know, and we can tell this full well – we’d all love to smash your ass, boss. _____

The Answer

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

When I awoke Saturday, the first thought was, ‘Today is the day that Ruth dies.’ Ruth is my mother-in-law. Thursday, she had a heart attack. Friday, my wife, her daughter, Phoebe, put her in a hospice. Her hospice is in the country, in southern Illinois, an hour outside St. Louis. The old folks home, where …

Campaign Ads

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I’m very annoyed with the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign. I live in the Washington D.C. region—I couldn’t be any closer to the spotlight. The campaign for the GOP is such a long haul, starting more than a year ago. Local TV stations have never missed a day since April 2011 to report on the Republican …

The Order of Things: Home Design

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

I have not been outside in four days. Thursday I started renovating my entry hall, and the detail mania took over: no sooner did I take out the curtains, they needed to be washed; the curtain rods needed cleaning, the casement needed to be painted, the windows needed to be windexed, the screens scrubbed of …

Samantha

By | Prose, Publius

So I say to the kids, ‘Write three paragraphs about your favorite vacation. Introductory paragraph, development, conclusion …’. An assignment teachers have been giving since time immemorial. Samantha raises her hand. “What if I’ve never been on a vacation? Never left the city?” ‘Ah, well, if you’ve never been on vacation, never left town, then …

Book Review: Home

By | Book Review, Nicole Bartley, Prose

Toni Morrison’s novels are rarely quick reads, even the short ones take time to absorb. It’s not the pacing that slows the reader, but the fact that Morrison deserves time and thought. She always includes profound and sometimes unsettling themes within simple plots, and Home is no different. It is a story about co-dependent siblings. …

Art, Politics And Aztecs

By & | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Nothing feels benign anymore. That’s the lesson of terrorism. Planes used to be safe — flying used to be fun! So were movies and restaurants. Everything feels wrong. We can land a rover on Mars, but our kids can’t pass math. We esteem yesterday over today and tomorrow. Major religions seem rigid. Many folks find …

Dance Review: Camille A. Brown & Dancers in Mr. Tol E. Rance at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater welcomed Camille A. Brown back to the Pittsburgh stage for the world premiere of her latest work, “Mr. TOL E. RAncE.” Brown says her relationship with the theater happened “very organically,” when she first performed a solo in 2009 for the newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. This past Friday and Saturday night, Brown …

Distracted Walkers

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

If you are talking on the phone while crossing a busy street in China, the likelihood of your getting hit by a car is close to a hundred percent. Thanks to the sign of “Yield to the Pedestrians” or simply the value of “people foremost” in the U.S., pedestrians who are engaged in their smartphones …

At the End of the Day

By | Prose, Publius

The kid at the front of the class asks, “Do you love us?” I’m really caught off-guard by this. I want to say yes, but I don’t, because I’m afraid of how the word will get misinterpreted. So I say something positive. Then I‘m really caught off-guard. “Do you hate us?” Again I say something …

Loggerhead Hatchlings on the Way to the Sargassum Fields

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

Hatchling loggerhead turtles dig themselves out of the sand on the beaches of Florida and hurl themselves into the Atlantic Ocean in search of the North Atlantic Gyre, a circular current, which takes them to the undersea meadows of the seaweed sargassum. There they hide and eat and grow until they are big enough to …

On Eagle’s Wings

By | Prose

After a confused and slightly panicked phone call from my husband on September 11, 2001, I turned on CNN and didn’t turn it off for the next three weeks. I was alone and watching live when the plane went into the second building. While thousands streamed on foot away from the unfolding disaster, thousands more …

9/11

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Everyone has a 9/11 story. To tell the truth, I don’t have a story. I have a record of feelings. I was teaching 7th grade in St. Louis when The World Trade Center and Pentagon were bombed. Apparently, our administrators had some debate about whether or not to show this over our TVs. But how …

School Bus

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

As the new school year starts, yellow school buses appear on roads across America. I was on a yellow school bus only once — when I joined the undergraduates from Chatham University on a field trip. The inside of the bus is as sturdy as its exterior impression. Hand bars are visible and accessible. Seat …

Animal Eye by Paisley Rekdal

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Animal Eye by Paisley Rekdal University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012 ISBN: 978-0822961796 Paisley Rekdal’s Animal Eye has been described as “pastoral” by a literary critic in the press release that came along with my review copy of the book, and while that’s a very good place to start with this volume it’s not an all-encompassing …

The Spirit of the Other Landscape

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

When I was a young woman, I traveled with friends across the Southwest from Texas to California. My boyfriend at the time had dumped me the day before we left, and I struggled with heart-break and grief for the two days and nights it took us to drive through West Texas and New Mexico. After …

Donnell

By | Prose, Publius

Donnell gets kicked out of another class. He’s on his way to the office, when he spies me in my room during my planning period. So he stops by my room to see what I can offer by way of avoidance. I say, “Let’s talk, but just for a few minutes. Consequences are consequences.” That …

Televised Olympics

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Although London Olympics has ended in a full stop, I still have regrets about this year’s games. This is the first time I’ve watched the Olympics outside of China, yet it’s also the first time I’m full of disappointment. It’s not because my mother country China did not top the gold medal count as she …

Magnus Rex

By | Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art

When I was six, I dashed through the house with a beach towel draped across my shoulders, a scarf wrapped around my kinky braids like a bandit. I wanted to be Batman, a part of some imagined dimension, as my brothers and I skidded across the linoleum floor, humming theme songs and fake punching the …

Sex and the City

By | Prose, Publius

Together with his parents, Malcolm watches reruns of “Sex And The City.” He comes-in talking about how “the girls” last night did this and that. Though I don’t say it, of course, I know that show. I love it. I remember the very scenes he’s discussing. These scenes were quite stimulating and, indeed, arousing. But …

Genius Loci

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

The bluff on which my neighborhood sits is surrounded and carved up by water: the great streams of Ohio and Monongahela Rivers, Saw Mill Run, and a multitude of creeks and runoffs. For eons they ate away at the rock. Water created passages through the wilderness, and when people settled here they used the watersheds …

Mr. Thomas

By | Prose, Publius

Mr. Thomas died last night. Shot dead in the alley behind his house. He was out for his customary evening walk, and some punks robbed him and shot him. He had taught here for sixteen years, and in the school system for, as I recall, close to thirty years. He was a painter. He was …

Dance Review: Youth Moves at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Friday night at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) came as a wonderful and relieving surprise. It had been a long time since I’d seen anyone under twenty take the dance stage. In the day and age of Dance Moms and So You Think You Can Dance, watching children and teens perform has become an all …

Sweet Talk

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Often, I’m greeted endearingly at an American restaurant. The minute I sit down, a middle-aged Caucasian woman comes to me, menu in hand and says, “How’re you today, honey?” The first time I heard it, it caught me off guard. Why would a stranger call me “honey”? My Chinese parents would hardly call me “honey.” …

Live Music

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Summer has arrived! From Bangor, Maine to Austin, Texas, from Berkley, California to Asheville, North Carolina, outdoor musical scenes spring up everywhere across the country. No kidding. Americans enjoy outdoor activities in summer. Attending live performances in the open air seems to be a favorite American pastime. I had never been to a live outdoor …

Virgin territory

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

As soon as a path has been built, the natural landscape changes. The path creates the kind of forest that is accessible and friendly to humans. Someone prepared this landscape by choosing the easiest passage and by clearing and widening the walkable surfaces. No tangled roots or fallen trees impede our progress. The runnels and …

Hershey Park

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

When I studied in Pittsburgh, I had heard of Hershey Park in eastern Pennsylvania. I had always wondered what a theme park looked like in America. This early summer my dream finally came true. I went with family to Hershey Park—my first theme park experience in America. We were greeted with a parking lot so …

Kevin

By | Prose, Publius

This week we’re giving yet another standardized test, one of many. Kevin can’t stay awake. He’s angry when I force him awake again and again. Finally, he gets rude, disrespectful. So I keep him after class. I want to talk with him, because this rudeness, this disrespect, this sleepiness is becoming more frequent. Indeed, there’s …

The Path — Animal and Human Bodies

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

The paths that we walk or ride or drive have a history. They were made because someone found the easiest way to move human bodies through the landscape, and other bodies have followed and widened the path or built it into a road. A paper street, on the other hand, was designed in a completely …

Bingo!

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Who doesn’t know bingo? But this word is known to Chinese as an English idiom—an exclamation of sudden realization about something right. Few English learners in China would know bingo was originated from a game of chance. A few weeks ago I participated in a local bingo game for the first time. It was held …

Robert

By | Prose, Publius

My kids and their abandonment issues. When I discipline a kid, I always make it clear that I like the kid but dislike the behavior. And I always make clear that I won’t abandon the kid, despite the behavior. Some kids will go out of their way to have time with me. Once a day, …

The Path – History and Landscape

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

Since my harrowing experience in the “forest savage, rough and stern” a few weeks ago I have been wondering about the difference between built and natural landscape. Most of us humans take the paths and trails, the roads and highways for granted, and we usually do not think about them. But the landscape we experience …

Dance Review: The Pillow Project’s Second Saturday Speak Eazy

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

“Second Saturday” at the Pillow Project keeps getting better and better. To call it a “happening,” rather than a performance or show, is right on target. Who else in the city combines the most happening art, dance, music and culture, and turns it into something that feels like the hottest underground club in town? Pearlann …

Ghetto Hawk

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Today, after school, I stood by a yellow bus. I looked up and saw a broad wing hawk swooping down on some pigeons. Poor pigeons, I thought. But as the hawk narrowed on a single pigeon, it turned abruptly. The hawk overshoots. Then the pigeons begin to swirl around the hawk, swirl in such a …

The Path

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

The new trail behind Olympia Park snakes through the wooded landscape in switchbacks, over suddenly erupting water runs, and along blackberry brambles and elderberry bushes which are seeing full sunlight for the first time ever. We take trails for granted, but I have walked the same landscape before and after the trail has been built, …

Cousins

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I once taught in an inner-city middle school, in which I was one of only two white people, both of us teachers. A student once asked me, “Hey, cous’, what page we on?” I run a rather formal classroom. So I turned to him and said, “Mr. Knight, I’m white and you’re black. Do I …

Dr. Dog

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Black folks use the word “dog” in the same way white folks use “pal” or “buddy.” It’s familiar. It’s friendly. But it’s not suited to formal discourse. So Victorio says to me, “What page we on, dog?” Then gapes at me, knowing he’s crossed a line. ‘That’s Dr. Dog to you, sir!’ We pause. Then …

Danny

By | Prose, Publius

Danny. Danny. Danny. To borrow a line from my favorite show, The Sopranos, “Between [his] brain and [his] mouth, there is no interlocutor. “ He’s a good spirited kid. He’s not mean. We’ve grown fond of each other. But he just does what he does and says what he says. And the school system offers …

Danny, The End

By | Prose, Publius

The paperwork has finally arrived for Danny to be sent to special ed., or what now goes by the current cliché, a “resource room.” We first put-in for his transfer back in August, as I recall. If I were to count all the time the 7th grade team has taken from instruction, this to attend …

Gardening Frantic

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

These days I have been practicing the known tagline—“More saving, more doing. That’s the power of the Home Depot.” As summer is around the corner, I spend more time outdoors—not working out but gardening. I till, I dig, I shovel, I mow, I plant, I water, I bend down on my knees and stoop a …

Paper Streets

By | Eva-Maria Simms, Nature, Prose

Most streets in my neighborhood end either at the cliff with its spectacular view of the Ohio River valley or, at the other end of the mountain, in the woods. They peter out into crumbling asphalt and are choked down by Japanese knotweed before losing themselves – as what is called a “paper street” hereabouts …

Occasionally I have parents

By | Prose, Publius

Occasionally I have parents who offer to beat their kids in front of my class. I politely decline, like I do again today with Samantha‘s dad. Last semester, Samantha’s father was the first parent to make such an offer. At that very moment in my classroom there were medical students from the nearby university. They …

Work

By | Prose

As soon as my thesis defense was over, post-graduate panic swept over me like chicken pox. What to do? How to make money? Get a job, get one no matter what it is, and fast. So I did it. Part-time, local café. The late shift. How bad could it be? Sure, the place closed at …

Medication Nation

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

While flipping channels on TV, I see American pharmaceutical companies put out a barrage of ads for their new drugs. These commercials seem to highly focus on its side effects. (I know the ads are required by law to mention side effects.) The key point is consumers should consult their doctors before using these medications. …

Book Review: Poet in Andalucía by Nathalie Handal

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Poet in Andalucía by Nathalie Handal University of Pittsburgh Press 2012 The concept of a volume of poetry transporting its reader to a far-off locale is not a new one. Given the constant tropes of how poetry is supposedly an emotional, romantic, art, the idea of remote vistas and escape almost too-easily fits into the …

Sam, the end

By | Prose, Publius

I just found out that Sam got busted for stealing a car. He is to be suspended for 180 days. I call this ‘the death sentence‘. On an impulse, the other night he goes out and steals a Mercedes. (Why bother with a Toyota, right?) Then he goes home. After a hard night of ripping …

Book Review: Farang by Peter Blair

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

To read Peter Blair’s Farang is to find oneself in a lucid dream. Set in Thailand and wavering between Bangkok, the “Up-country” and Pittsburgh, Blair’s language moves readers through scenes with the elegance of a foreign dancer: the rhythms are mesmerizing, the experience transcendent. Having spent three years in Thailand in the Peace Corps, Blair …

Drinking Age

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

When I first came to the U.S., I had to be asked the question of “How old are you” for the first time when I checked out at a supermarket. It never occurred to me that I had to bring my ID to a store. I had been in America only about two weeks. I …

Dance Review: Art and Style Studio Annual Showcase

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

The Art and Style Dance Studio might be tucked away from the bustle of Pittsburgh’s South Side, but inside the nondescript building on Jane Street is a sense of liveliness unique to ballroom dance. Terry and Rozana Sweeney, the owners, hold classes and performances in latin and ballroom styles, for students of all ages and …

Writing A Haibun

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I belong to a Poet’s Club (as we have chosen to call ourselves, and which I have written about here before.) Each time we meet, the host-poet hands out a writing assignment for the next time; our most recent assignment was a haibun. Haibun is traditionally a prose/haiku set having to do with travel. American …

I Held Sam after Class Today

By | Prose, Publius

I held Sam after class today. He stared out the window and cried. He tells me that he just wants to go home. We discuss his behavior. Sam knows his behavior is disruptive, but he hates his Ritalin because it “flattens his affective range” — in other words, the pills keep him from feeling anything. …

Book Review: Miraculum by Ruth L. Schwartz

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2012 ISBN: 978-1932870596 112 pages Ruth Schwartz’s new book of poems starts off with a quote on poetry as an art by Pablo Neruda and this seems like a most-apt and fitting introit to the poetry that follows. Schwartz, as well as being an established and accomplished poet, is a psychologist …

A Hearing

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I thought it was a unique Chinese way to assemble a homeowners association, especially since disputes between Chinese homeowners and developers have increased exponentially in Chinese cities. I’ve now discovered homeowners associations in America have great supervising power over any individual household. I realized this after my Virginia home received a notice that was more …

Jonah

By | Prose, Publius

Jonah and I chat. Jonah is another kid who is constantly disruptive. He says, “I know what I need to do. I just wish I knew how to do it.” My wife would say that Jonah is a perfect candidate for psychodynamic psychotherapy. He’s bright. He understands the effects his actions have upon others and …

Book Review: Bread of Tears by Nathaniel K. Rounds

By | Prose

Bread of Tears is at once engaging and unsettling. It’s not a “one read and done” collection. On my first pass through Nathaniel K. Rounds’ work, I found myself wondering just what had happened to Rounds to make him create such disjointed, almost crestfallen characters and imagery. It was like someone woke up Ezra Pound, …

Be Cool

By | Prose, Publius

There’s a side of me that my friends never see, and that is the strict disciplinarian. I’m actually considered one of the stricter teachers in the building, someone who is perfectly capable of holding down a class full of Crips. I’m perfectly capable of giving a kid three days suspension for not calling me “Sir” …

The Roll Call Of Sorrow

By | Prose, Publius

When I first walk-in around 6:30 AM, I’m always struck by that institutional smell. It’s not a bad smell; it’s just, well, a school smell. I like to get to work early. But this is not out of any ambition, any work ethic. My day is long; my work is hard. I like to begin …

Tyranny of Cheer

By | Prose

When and why do you smile? And how often? Do you ever feel pressured to smile? And do you ever wonder why that is? Recently, I’ve been pondering the issue of false cheer in our society—how and why it’s promoted, and its potentially negative influence. Perhaps you’re wondering how smiling can be bad—after all, the …

Book Review: Attention Please Now by Matthew Pitt

By | Book Review, Prose

Baseball has been a fixation in all aspects of American culture, perhaps most potently in literature. There is something deeply poetic about the stop-and-go momentum of baseball games and the romanticized innocence of childhood that comes with it. Matthew Pitt, in his collection’s title story, essentially bucks any of this childish romanticism. The story is …

Just a Short

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Yesterday at the faculty meeting, folks complained that the announcements are way too long, and that many, delivered to the whole school, only pertain to a few. The principal promised to think about it. Thus it is that, today, we have had the following announcements: “Just a short announcement to those for whom this announcement …

Metrobus Parking

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Recently, I have found a new alternative way to get to Washington D.C. without driving. I can take a bus not far from home to the closest metro station, and from there I can reach anywhere in the capital by subway. I am thrilled about my discovery. After all, public transportation is poor where I …

Dance Review: New Moves Contemporary Dance Festival, Program B

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Modern dance devotees flooded The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater over the weekend for the 4th annual newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival. The three day long celebration brought sixteen choreographers and over 40 dancers to the bustling East Liberty sprawl. Program B took place on Friday, and hosted a range of national and international performers and companies from Pittsburgh, …

Book Review: The Book of Ten by Susan Wood

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

The Book of Ten by Susan Wood University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011 Susan Wood brings us this new collection of her poems and a steadfast intent to write with courage of history and contemporary American life. She is able—adept, even—to make things mundane seem complex and worthy of her pen while in due contrast illuminating …

A Haiku

By | Prose, Publius

a balmy spring breeze flutters the freshly starched blouse of the corner whore Which is exactly what happens as I look out my window on a pretty, if balmy, spring day in the ghetto. _____  

Medical Tourists

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

A few years ago, an American friend told me she had her eye surgery in Thailand. I asked her why she chose Thailand. She said the medical technology was sufficient and the cost was reasonable. She spent a couple hundred US dollars on her eyesight correction. It would definitely cost more in the U.S.. Now …

Theatre Review: A Blonde Gets on a Train, Another Gets Off a Bus. Trouble Ensues.

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Dutchman. By LeRoi Jones. Directed by Mark Clayton Southers. Starring Jonathan Berry and Tami Dixon. Bricolage Theater, 937 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh. Through May 12. http://www.bricolagepgh.org/ Bus Stop. By William Inge. Directed by Gregory Lehane. Philip Chosky Thearer, Purnell Center for the Arts. Carnegie Mellon University. Through May 5. http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?organ_val=21675&schedule=list At times I feel the phrase …

Mr. Riddlesinger

By | Prose, Publius

I have to run some paperwork over to the old Southtown Middle School.   We’re coordinating some middle school to high school curricula.   Southtown is a venerable, late 19th century building.   Right on the river.   A lovely place, except when it rains. I figure I’ll drop in on Arthur Riddlesinger.   I taught middle school with him …

Geek Squad

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Geek squad—what a funny name! When I first encountered the name three years ago, I thought to myself who were these geeks driving a black-and-white Volkswagen Bug on the street. I was attracted by the cute car as much as the name. When it comes to repairing computers, America is nowhere as convenient as in …

Effects of Online Schooling on Educational Productivity

By | Prose

The ability to leverage the internet for classroom learning has had a marked effect on education, but in most cases the technology is growing faster than results can be collected or aggregated. The popularity of online schooling, be it for a high school language course or an entire college degree, is very clearly on the …

Book Review: True Faith by Ira Sadoff

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

True Faith: Poems Ira Sadoff BOA Editions. 2012 In Ira Sadoff’s new book of poetry, the title poem starts “true faith belongs to the truly unstable”, and from there, it’s a rolling ride through the American landscape, language, the questions of faith and what that word “faith” even means. Sadoff, a veteran American poet of …

Pearl’s Harbor

By | Prose, Publius

The high stakes state test, known as the End Of Course Test, was given a month before the end of the courses. Now students pretty much figure that school is over. Teachers, who bore the burden of testing, and all the threats and humiliation that went with it, also figure that school is over. So, …

Carry-on Bags

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Today, when you are about to board an American airliner, it may not be news to you that you have to prepare for two possibilities: one, the overhead bin above your seat is full and you have to stow your carry-on bag elsewhere. (Good luck if you can find room on the plane.) Two, the …

The Geriatric Jews and My Colonoscopy Fantasy

By | Nature, Prose

A lot happened to me this past year. I suffered from a distressing medical symptom, which meant I needed a colonoscopy. I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Part of my colon was removed and stapled back together. But I’m excited because here in Pittsburgh May is coming. It’s the month when I go to Frick …

State Test

By | Prose, Publius

the kids just flunked the state education test a small flood runs down a gutter to Walnut Street the kids make boats from worksheets _____

Rubik’s Final

By | Prose, Publius

My kids are all playing with Rubik’s Cubes, practicing for their final exam. To make the school look good — since we probably won’t pass the state test — the school has decided to set the new world’s record for the most number of folks solving, within five minutes, Rubik’s Cube. So all the kids …

Breaths: Poems by Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz with prints by Yoshiko Shimano

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Breaths Poems by Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz with prints by Yoshiko Shimano Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 2012 A difficult yet rewarding book, this. Breaths, I will simply state at the onset, was a difficult book to read and review. Not “difficult” in the sense that the poetry was obtuse, long, or overtly complex—as is, in …

Dance Review: Blink by Gia T. Presents

By | Adrienne Totino, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

It might be an oxymoron to say that Gia Cacalano is both a throwback and an innovator, quietly claiming her place on the Pittsburgh dance scene. But part of me was transported to Greenwich Village circa 1963 Saturday night, where the Judson Dance Theater met in rejection of modern dance restrictions of the time. “BLINK,” …

A Mechanic Named Rusty

By | Humor, Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Now I understand why the car owners from my hometown, Guangzhou, whine and complain. They’re worried when they don’t have cars, but after they have cars, they’re even more worried. Living in a populated city, they think owning a car makes their lives more convenient than having to take the sardine-can buses, but in fact …

Book Review: Closer by Christopher Soden

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

Closer by Christopher Soden QUEERMOJO/A Rebel Sartori Imprint, 2011 ISBN 978-1-60864-045-4 Closer, Christopher Soden’s first full length poetry collection, published by Queermojo/Rebel Sartori Press, is a rich and provocative collection that circles and re-circles human experience, honing in on sex, love, self, loss, memory, regret, and place. Soden’s voice is expansive–in turn pensive, tender, vehement, …

Dos & Don’ts

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

From the day I first stepped on American soil, a series of comparisons have been in my head. What do Chinese do, what do Americans do, what things that Chinese do would not be accepted in America and vice versa. I always hope someday these impressions about America from a Chinese perspective will be published …

Cherry Blossoms

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Last week I went to D.C. for the annual cherry blossom festival. I arrived just in time. It’s the first day of the Festival and most trees were in bloom. The capital was festooned with ribbons of pink and white flowering trees, absolutely photogenic. Plus, the weather was agreeable. I could still feel the late …

Lent

By | Prose

desire after work I caress my wife’s brown hair this is how I pray as the clouds evaporate I stroke the length of her thigh Friday and Phoebe and I watch “The Newshour”, largely for the pleasure of hollering at Republicans. After that, we turn to “The Office” or some such, because, as Phoebe says, …

Book Review: Madbooks

By | Poetics, Prose

MadBooks is an imprint of Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic Program. The brainchild of Professor Jan Beatty, head of Carlow’s writing program and instructor of several Madwomen in the Attic courses (for non-matriculated students) during the regular school year, MadBooks has now published eight collections of poetry, the first in 2008, the most recent …

Death and Taxes

By | Humor, Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

This is the second year I’ve lived in Pittsburgh. Just as the Chinese New Year arrived in early February, I received two magazine-size tax return manuals—one from Pennsylvania, the other from the city of Pittsburgh. I guess once you have an identity in the U.S., (for a foreigner, it’d be your residential address, phone number …

Book Review: Mine by Susan Sailer

By | Book Review, Prose

Mine by Susan Sailer Finishing Line Press 2012. $14 Is it presumptuous for a woman poet, also a retired Professor of Irish and British literature, to speak in the voices of West Virginia miners, their wives and children? Susan Sailer, in her new chapbook, Mine, is anything but presumptuous. She has done voluminous research into …

Once Again Publius Finds Himself the Recording Secretary for Insanity

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

Brittany has been sent to the re-education camps. That’s what we’re calling professional development these days. It seems that some people have objected to the way the state is running the schools, the state test, dozens of standardized tests, class sizes, one free period every other day. And on and on. These folks, in the …

Book Review: Windows & Stones by Tomas Tranströmer

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Windows & Stones: Poems by Tomas Tranströmer translations from the Swedish by May Swenson and Leif Sjöberg Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972; reprint, 2011 Tomas Tranströmer, with his reception of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011, has gained something close to celebrity status in Europe and even the United States in the sense …

The Meeting

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I couldn’t come up with any actual reason why I shouldn’t go to the faculty meeting. I’m healthy, of sound mind, and have no pressing engagements. The only serious agenda, at least at my table, was why Mr. Gates has a bra hanging in a tree just outside his classroom’s window. It’s just out of …

Book Review: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

By | Book Review, Prose

The exclamation mark that punctuates the title of Karen Russell’s debut novel Swamplandia! (Random House, 2011) tells you a lot about the run-down alligator park the book is named after. The cheesy excitement of that exclamation mark, a draw for “mainlanders,” as the book’s precocious young narrator Ava Bigtree calls them, is brought to ecstatic …

The Vice-Principal

By | Prose, Publius

My department chair calls me. “The vice-principal will lead the 7:30 meeting.” Bad news. The vice-principal is a narcissist given to dazzlingly incomprehensible rambles. Much of what went on during the first hour was lost on me. I did catch her reminiscences of New Orleans, as well as her vacation in Vermont. That’s the part …

Globalization

By | Prose

During the recent State of the Union Address, while President Obama was talking about the need to bring more and better jobs to America, in the background one of the reporters talked about a rumored conversation between the President and Steve Jobs, in which Jobs was quoted as saying offshore jobs “aren’t coming back.” Later …

Push the Poem: An Interview with Martha Collins

By | Book Review, Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Martha Collins is the author of several poetry collections, including White Papers recently released from the University of Pittsburgh Press and the book-length poem Blue Front, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and chosen as one of “25 Books to Remember from 2006” by the New York Public Library. Her other awards include fellowships from …

On Rejection

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

I’ve got a bit of free time between classes, such as it is … Speaking of Publius, I think he’s a devout follower of Thomas Merton, who once said, “In this era, it is no longer necessary to parody. it’s sufficient to simply quote.” University of California Press just sent me a Class A Rejection. …

Be the Donkey

By | Humor, Michael Simms, Prose

Recently I heard someone say that when he stopped drinking, his life changed so quickly it was like being “rocketed into a new dimension”, and I remembered when I got sober a number of years ago, I had the same experience. During the first two years of sobriety, my health, my friendships, and my family …

Celebration as Protest

By | Book Review, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

In California the state fiscal crisis has resulted in the scheduled closure of seventy state parks (25% of the total number) by July of 2012. The majority of the parks scheduled for closure are in Northern California where the poet Katherine Hastings lives. Hastings, who runs a well-respected reading series in Santa Rosa, CA, called …

Letter to a Teacher

By | Prose, Publius

Metropolitan High School

A True Story

By | Prose, Publius

I’m writing a syllabus for an English course I’ll never teach. That and I’ve got to teach algebra. I’ve been given eleven points to revise on a syllabus, a syllabus I’ve been using now for six months. Otherwise, the class will not be approved for instruction. I’ve got to bring my syllabus up to the …

Volume 10: Bathhouse Betty

Poetry

by Matt Terhune (co-winner of the 2011 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Prize)   1987 There was always one girl who got too drunk in Lisa’s backyard that summer, face down on the cement lawn that circled the pool like the gravelly mineral clasp around a bead of turquoise on a necklace, mumbling a whiskeyed rasp …

Book Review: The Human Line by Ellen Bass

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

The Human Line by Ellen Bass Copper Canyon Press 2007 In this powerful collection of poetry, Ellen Bass invites the reader to participate in a reawakening of sentience, a renewal of seraphic credentials. How often we hear religious leaders deal in perfunctory, enigmatic, clandestine phrases and homilies that carry very little meaning, if any, for …

An Octave above a Scream

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I begin with a sentence: “And the mist has salt in it that burns as it heals, burns as it heals.” This sentence has circled and circled in the aviary of my brain for days on end, will wing its way into a poem. I live on the water, the water lives in me, swamping …

Book Review: The Water Books by Judith Vollmer

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

The Water Books: Poems Judith Vollmer Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press 2012 Sometimes it’s hard to know how to introduce a poet, or even a review of her book. Where do you start? The first poem in the volume, the biography of the poet who wrote it? Most of the time, I would consider the book …

Panels

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I no longer know the Vietnam War.   I only feel it. I am in D. C. for a conference.   I’m staying at the Renaissance Hotel on 9th.   But I am drawn to Panel 49W, Line 035.   Robert O. Bumiller.   The Vietnam Memorial. I walk the length of the Mall from east to west.   I’m only …

Book Review: The Beds by Martha Rhodes

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Prose

The Beds by Martha Rhodes Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2012 ISBN-13: 9781932870534 This slim volume by poet Martha Rhodes gained my interest for several reasons but none as immediate as the titles of the poems it contains, titles like “Who’s Ill Now?” and “The Pleasures and Inconveniences of Being Detested”. Sure, many a contemporary poet …

A Kirschnerian Howl

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

In me is a howler, screeching, half-mad, possessed. Her screams are lightning bolts exploding in my spine. She is shrieking louder than a cacophony of crows, very black rapacious crows. Still young, she wants to kill me, bludgeon me with a meat hammer, pound flesh till it thins, spurts blood which spatters my walls. A …

Restaurant Review: 1947 Tavern

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

Despite his devotion to a healthy lifestyle (and vegetarianism), my father occasionally craves a Burger King Whopper.  I have been known to go to ridiculous lengths for an order of fries from the O, only to collapse into hibernation post-fries.  Tavern 1947 takes these unhealthy cravings and compiles them into one menu: short ribs, pulled …

OWS

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

OWS is an abbreviation for Occupy Wall Street. If you google the acronym, you’ll find it has its own page on Wikipedia. The movement is so well-known that my dad in Guangzhou was concerned two months ago about my safety in the U.S.. In one of our phone conversations, he even gave out a precise …

War Heroes

By | Prose

When El Exilio found out Fidel might finally be dead there was a party out on La Calle. The Cubans came out dancing and waving banners because they thought they had finally won the war. La Guerra Fría may have ended twenty years ago for everyone else, but not the Miami Cubans. Mami and I …

The Orchards of Syon a Decade Later

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Geoffrey Hill is one of those names in contemporary English-language poetry that passes our lips without thinking when we consider our current poetry that has ample roots in historical forms and scholarship. He is one of those rare poets today who, whether we like him or not, read him or not, is carrying forth not …

The American Brand

By | Arlene Weiner, Poetics, Prose

My talented and savvy cousin Bob says I ought to think about my brand. He’s an artist and artisan, and part of his business (Fahrenheit.com) is rebranding companies. He suggests “That New York poet.” It’s too hard to think about defining myself, performing myself, so instead I start thinking about women with instantly recognizable brands: …

Revision

By | John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

One of the mysteries of marriage is watching Phoebe revise. I’ve seen her take a thirty page draft and just throw the whole thing out. All of it. And start over. The ideas are all there and greatly clarified. But the words she throws out. What she keeps is the clarity of thought. For my …

Charlie The Building Checker

By | Prose, Publius

The governor is making a surprise visit tomorrow.   We just found out at 2 PM. In anticipation of this surprise, the students are called down to the auditorium, and told to be nice, cheery, surprised of course and, above all else, quiet, lest they spend the remainder of their formative years in a re-education camp. …

The Guv

By | Prose, Publius

The governor came and went in a half hour or so.   He visited one classroom.   Never even got to the second or third floor.   It turns out he just wanted a backdrop for a press conference on why he’s The Education Governor.   Walked into a classroom, leaned over a student, pointed to something, and, a …

For A War Buddy

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

7 December St. Louis, 8:00 AM Dear Dick, It occurs to me that I got home from Vietnam, and out of the army, forty years ago today. Indeed, at this very hour. My major sensation is not so much sadness or nostalgia as much as — forty years! Forty years. My God, I was only …

Three Poems by Leonard Gontarek

By | Prose

Love Poem I erase the penciled name on the front page of the book. I can still see the ghost image of the letters, can trace the shape pressed into the paper. Tell me again why you left me. * Homage The last time I read this poem publicly, I was drunk, standing on a …

Why I Do What I Do

By | Poetics, Prose

My poems have become shorter. Nine lines and less. What do I hope to achieve? An initial answer is that in this way they contain only what is essential, they cut to the chase. I think, too, they may appear to be only the endings of poems, or something in the manner of a pitch …

Black Friday

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

“Do you know about Black Friday?” my American friend asked me last year. “No,” I said but I was not content to wait for an answer. “Isn’t it when 13th of the month falls on Friday?” “No, no,” my friend explained. “Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Stores usually give the greatest discounts of …

And Trouble Deaf Heaven with my Bootless Cries

By | Prose, Publius

When I got back to school, everyone congratulated me on my standardized test scores. I had never taught Advanced Placement before – I’d taught college, college credit courses, but never A. P. per se. So, when most of my kids scored low, I was pretty much “oh well, fuck all”. It turns out that more …

A Conversation in Poetry

By | John Samuel Tieman, Poetics, Prose

Walter Bargen, Missouri’s first Poet Laureate, is the author of five books of poetry. I met Walter when we served on the Literature Panel of the Missouri Arts Council. This exchange happened over the internet from 20 – 22 October 2011. jst after making love by a small and nameless stream she misses Pine Street …

Refusing to Diminish Others

By | Prose

Traditionally the busiest time of the year for most retail businesses is the Christmas season. Generally speaking, it’s chaos. Or at least it was when I still worked at Taylors and Borders Books. I was at Taylors from 1983 to 1990. One Christmas we were really in the thick of it. Phones were ringing nonstop. …

Book Review: The Hands of Strangers

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home Janice N. Harrington Rochester: BOA Editions, 2011 ISBN: 9781934414545 Janice Harrington, an accomplished poet and author of children’s books, takes on a difficult, deep, yet rewarding topic in this collection of poems regarding life in a nursing home. It would be all too easy to approach …

Codgers Talk!

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Through my godfather Frank in upstate New York, I met several interesting American “codgers” – as they call themselves. They’re Frank’s buddies. Every weekday morning, these guys in their sixties and seventies sit in a local diner, Jodee’s, sipping coffee, having a calorie-rich American breakfast and shooting the breeze. Among them the frequent patrons are …

To Celebrate The Sacrifice Of The Hero

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I guarantee that this week, the week of Veteran’s Day, someone someplace will say, “We celebrate the sacrifice made by the hero in uniform.” This is an essay about language, especially the words celebrate, sacrifice and hero. Ironically, the very terms Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are confused. Veteran’s Day is for all those who …

Restaurant Review: Pusadee’s Garden

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

With smartphones virtually universal, it is difficult to find any time in the day free from the ring of incoming emails or text messages.  More than just offering a night out from cooking, restaurants offer refuge from the stress of everyday responsibilities.  Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville, away from most other shops on Butler Street, is …

A Glimpse of Ghana

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

There are no manicured roadside lawns but torn plastic bags strewn on the dusty ground. There are no skyscrapers like the Empire State Building, but clusters of tin-roofed cottages are painted the lime green, red and yellow of competing phone companies that use the buildings as ads. There are no empty sidewalks but pathways filled …

An Interview with Chana Bloch

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose

(first published in San Francisco Book Review) Chana Bloch has published four books of poetry — The Secrets of the Tribe, The Past Keeps Changing, Mrs. Dumpty, and Blood Honey. She is the co-translator of The Song of Songs (with Ariel Bloch) and The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (with Stephen Mitchell), as well as …

Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by C. Waldrep and John Gallaher

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Your Father on the Train of Ghosts C. Waldrep and John Gallaher Rochester, NY: BOA Editions Ltd. 2011 ISBN: 9781934414484 G.C. Waldrep is one of my favorite contemporary poets and his 2008 book Disclamor is to me a masterwork in short form of geographical and political observation alike. Taking grand inspiration from his personal experiences …

Roll Call

By | Prose, Publius

This is not the poorest school I’ve ever taught in. Nor the most disorganized. Nor my first all Black school — I taught in the West Indies. But it is poor, disorganized, and located in my hometown. By far, these are not the worst discipline problems I’ve encountered. (I taught in a school for the …

Trick or Treat?

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

If you ask an American what are the most celebrated holidays in the US, Halloween must be one of the top answers. I’ve been told that this pumpkin-and-ghost themed holiday has become in recent years more and more popular and that celebrations start earlier and earlier. Look, in mid-August you can see some stores in …

Julia Kristeva’s Abjection: a Lecture on the Powers of Horror

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

Every year around Halloween—near the first of October, really, as I like to have a whole month for this—I tend to re-read old ghost stories by the like of M.R. James, folk tales of British corpse ways, and historical non-fiction about vampires from the Balkans. Halloween makes for a grand excuse for becoming immersed in …

How To Make A Zombie

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Why zombies? Why now? Zombies are everywhere. Wikipedia lists fourteen comic books, eight nonfiction books, over thirty novels and anthologies devoted to zombies. I won’t even count the movies and TV shows. My favorite is AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, which begins in post-zombie-apocalypse Atlanta. Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln, awakens from a …

Superfoods

By | Michael Simms, Prose

About six months ago, trying to solve a number of serious health problems including Crohn’s disease and asthma, I became a vegan. I cut out all meat, dairy, and processed foods. I also began reading extensively about nutrition. Two books I highly recommend are Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and The China Study …

Book Review: Farang by Peter Blair

By | Book Review, Prose

Farang: Poems by Peter Blair Autumn House Press, 2009, 64 pages, paper, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-932870-34-3 “Farang,” we quickly learn in Peter Blair’s book about his years in the Peace Corps, means “foreigner” in Thai. The clear images of these melodic narrative poems evoke the legacy of the Vietnam War years, the tensions between Thais and …

A Story To Occupy The Mind

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Between me and my God There are only eleven commandments; The eleventh says: Thou shalt not Bury thy brother alive — Atukwei Okai Like many Americans, perhaps most Americans, I watch with keen interest the Occupy Wall Street movement and its affiliates, in my case Occupy St. Louis. Like many Americans, perhaps most Americans, I …

Dialects of Driving

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose

On September 21 a blog post here by Songyi Zhang complained of the habits of American (that is, U.S.) drivers, and contrasted them with Chinese and Canadian drivers. What Songyi Zhang doesn’t know is that there are considerable local differences in driving habits: dialects. Pittsburgh, where I live, has been called “The city that lets …

Elegy

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Last week my mother died in Texas. Today in Pittsburgh, Eva and I and our two grown children Nicholas and Lea went to the Monongahela River. We carried a wreath Eva had woven of wisteria, roses, and lilies to a place where a willow leans over the water. I read a poem by Naomi Shihab …

Schizo-writerac

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I just finished reading a review of mine, published only recently though I wrote it quite some time ago. It surprised me. Why? Because it’s a pretty decent piece of writing, and I have absolutely no sense of being the person who wrote it. Okay, I know I wrote it—I remember working on it–and it’s …

Victims of Victims VI

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

In the morning, my father makes runny, scrambled eggs, limp bacon. His eyes are bloodshot as he stares at my mother as she eats her half of a banana, her standard breakfast. I want to play musical spoons, or telephone, but just what message would I broadcast? Love me like there’s no tomorrow? Love me …

Restaurant Review: Root 174

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

Billing itself as a “neighborhood bistro” and drawing its name from Regent Square’s area code, Root 174 hopes to establish itself as a neighborhood favorite. Pledging to do a movie night with a Star Wars themed meal, chef and owner Keith Fuller is full of ambitious ideas, and Root 174’s eclectic, wild menu effectively displays …

Very Lucky Indeed: An Interview with Dinty Moore

By | Book Review, Prose

Dinty W. Moore is the author of the memoir Between Panic & Desire (University of Nebraska), winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2008. He also has written two other creative nonfiction books, The Accidental Buddhist and The Emperor’s Virtual Clothes, a collection of short stories, Toothpick Men, and the writing guide, Crafting …

Book Review: Between Panic and Desire by Dinty W. Moore

By | Book Review, Prose

With subtle wit and outright humor, Dinty W. Moore takes the reader on a journey like no other in his latest memoir, Between Panic and Desire (2008 – University of Nebraska Press). From the outset it is clear that our author, a seasoned writer of creative nonfiction, is on a quest of discovery, understanding and …

Book Review: Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Prose

Transfer: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye Rochester, NY: BOA Editions September, 2011 ISBN: 978-1934414644 The argument is often made that poetry holds great social value beyond its aesthetic merits, that it can teach useful lessons and communicate in difficult emotional regions where plain prose would be lost or even give over to a physical fight. …

Victims of Victims V

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

“Bedtime girls,” says my father who is tall, lean, elegant and ugly, a stranger to my heart. Because I am a dutiful daughter, I have already taken on the vocation of devotion, want to light votive candles for both my parents, there on the breakfast bar where the liquor bottles glint like idols. “Yes, I’m …

Passenger Rage

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Americans’ driving behavior has gotten on my nerves. We were on a road trip for the past four weeks, touring a couple of places including Montreal and the Maine coast. My husband did the driving while I sat in the passenger seat navigating like a co-pilot. Countless cars sped along on the freeways as if …

Book review: When She Named Fire

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women edited by Andrea Hollander Budy Autumn House Press Pittsburgh, 2008 ISBN: 978-1932870268 Most of us who enjoy poetry—who enjoy reading—know about collections and thematic anthologies mainly from our seminars and other literature courses: most classes that are topical will include an anthology as a text, be it …

Victims of Victims IV

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I waltz over to the black upright piano, the one I played while singing to my mother so she could nap. She never thanked me, but that I could deliver her onto the peace of sleep was the gift God gave me to give to her. I touch the keys, start to sing, “Silent Night” …

veins

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

still it’s strange – autumn longing for a crisp winter Sunday after church On my desk is a picture of two Japanese screens I saw last year at the art museum.   On these screens are paintings of poems hung first from a cherry tree in spring, then from a maple tree in autumn.   The petals, …

Film Review: The Art of Flight

By | Mike Walker, Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art

Brain Farm Digital Cinema/Red Bull Media House Directed by Curt Morgan; produced by Curt Morgan and Travis Rice Released in 2011 The Art of Flight, within its home-world of snowboarding, has built up more hype than any other snowboarding film ever and probably also cost more to produce and promote than any other snowboarding film. …

Victims of Victims III

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

My father answers the door. “Come in,” he says, like an invitation to a formal dance. “I lead, you follow,” he then commands as we walk across the foyer where slates have been randomly set, like book covers in Storyland. What story am I entering? Will there be witches and goblins, or a barroom brawl? …

Restaurant Review: Alma

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

One of my most potent memories of South America is the food. Whether it was Carne Asado, Lomo Saltado, or good old Ceviche, the flavors were always distinctive and bold . While I’m still waiting for a Pittsburgh restaurant to offer alpaca, South American food is making an appearance around the city. With a new …

Notes on 9/11

By | Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Visiting My Daughter In Manhattan, October, 2001 A child’s laugh shatters the glass we call rue while a ruckus of sirens jams the neighborhoods. Everywhere we walk the wind frisks us, the brisk autumn air pats us down. -=- In a cramped noodle shop a whole roast pig blurs by, burnt velvet. The harried waiter …

Book Review: The Book of What Stays by James Crews

By | Book Review, Mike Walker, Poetics, Prose

The Book of What Stays James Crews Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press 2011 The Book of What Stays, the winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, is a slim yet intellectually weighty volume that at once makes apparent how it would claim so serious a prize as it has: from the opening …

Victims of Victims II

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

We pull into the bus station and my memory chugs in, too. I decide to walk home, know that my mother and father are too drunk to navigate their boat of a car down the town’s melancholy boulevards. I walk by old factories that are behemoths with shattered windows like punched-out eyes. Finally, I come …

Virginia Earthquake

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

On August 23, 2011 a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Virginia. The quake caught me off guard. I was at home in northern Virginia watching TV. Just after I got comfy with my legs crossed on the coffee table, I felt a sudden horizontal shake as if I were a wobble doll being mishandled by a …

Publius’s 100 Books — For My Students

By | Book Review, Prose, Publius

A word about my prejudices.   I’m a teacher of history and English; I know little about math and science; therefore, my list is geared toward the humanities.     Many works are chosen as representative of an entire class of literature.   Only one work is given for each author.   For the sake of brevity, these works are entirely …

Victims of Victims

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

A room blooms in memory, in my infernal memory. It leads me to a trip down Tawdry Lane and my consciousness drifts back, in wonder, to a hotel depot where I wait as though I were a nameless figure in a 19th century novel. Snow comes streaming down, howling with the manifest destiny of misery. …

Grief Was a Stone

By | Poetry

My grandfather never told me about his life before he came to America; instead, we watched boxing matches, cartoons, and cowboys & Indians on a b & w TV; he taught me how to play cards and crack walnuts, how to hammer a nail and saw wood; summers, he showed me how to pick grape …

Witness

By | Poetry

for JB At the rhododendron garden she shows me her wrist with its pale white scar. The blooms bleed behind us in red, white and pink. It’s not muggy yet, but soon the air will grow heavy like the dark can do, moving over you so much so that the blade or the gun (which …

Visitation

By | Poetry

All the pretty girls wear dresses in the summer— round, white shoulders. A small, blue scarf tied just so. But even in your infinite beauty, how could you leave me? And no, I don’t mean how could you take that job in New York I mean how could you leave me? I remember my own …

Self Portrait at Navy Pier

By | Poetry

I noticed, as I always do, only the unintentional things: a half-eaten plate of franks & beans; a dipshit kid teasing his brother; a portrait of the water looking more solid than land on display in the museum & everyone musing O, what expression of self. I couldn’t leave you any more than I could …

Whatever the Past Is

By | Poetry

Some nights, my girls circle him, glitter wands poised like spears. They dance around their papa like a small pajamaed tribe, throw their heads back laughing at their genius, giddy. He is twice their size and he will kneel in front of them, carry them on his shoulders, suspend them in his arms just so …

The Hold Up

By | Poetry

There you were collecting the week’s money from the cigarette machine at Lenny’s when he put the gun to your head. Sharp, but quiet. And you, knowing this was the finale, invited him to drink. Pulled a new bottle of Seagrams and two shot glasses from the gold Impala. Both of you sitting in darkness, …

Firestarters

By | Poetry

The South that spring was as hot as the tropics. At dusk, mosquitoes swarmed the lit porch lights Attached to the little houses bordering the train tracks. With the slightest breeze, boxcar dust clung to skin. In heat like that, during times like those, There was no telling what anyone would do for relief. Victoria …

Lost in Translation

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

With the suggestion of our hostess Irene, we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner after we arrived in Lexington, Massachusetts. It has been always a headache for me to have Mexican food. Not because that I don’t like the taste but because I can never understand the menus. What are the differences among tacos, …

The Season of Saintly Sorrow

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Robert and I are walking and our footfalls are so quiet, we might as well be barefoot. We are walking among a black gallery of trees, which are metamorphic with mystery. The bare, sibilant branches are tuning forks misted by the celestial. We brush hands, pause, brush lips, then bend over rain-tingled twigs cast down …

Russell Thorburn

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I can’t remember how many years ago I first “met” Russ Thorburn (ten maybe?) but it was after I saw his ad for manuscript editing in Poets & Writers. At that time I had a collection I had loosely titled “Eden Street” and, after some emails back and forth, I decided to send him a …

I Got a Call from the Office

By | Prose, Publius

     I got a call from the school’s front office.   I haven’t fed the box. Actually, to be exact, I haven’t fed the box the right pieces of paper.   How did I know anyone would read the box? The box is the storage bin for our lesson plans.   These lesson plans take hours to create.   …

Edward Scissorhands

By | Prose, Publius

I couldn’t make this up.              I love this job.   At the end of work on Monday, we’re told that “there will be a faculty meeting after school for fifteen minutes.”   True to their word, it only took fifteen minutes to tell us that downtown just mandated yet another standardized test.   This one test will …

Tipping like an American

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

“Gosh,” I cried after I left a restaurant, “I forgot to pay tips!” Being a Chinese, I take it for granted that I don’t need to tip for service. In fact, my first tip to my non-Chinese friends when they visit China is “You don’t need to tip the bell boy or the waitress,” I …

Smart, Charming, and Crazy

By | Prose, Publius

My vice-principal is smart, charming and crazy. She’s pretty in that southern big haired sort of way. I have on any number of occasions found her helpful and insightful. Those would be the times I don’t want to strangle her. I am no diagnostician, but I believe her to be both narcissistic and borderline. She …

Do You Have Health Insurance?

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Last winter was brutal for me. I wasn’t quite ill, but I did have to battle a persistent rash on my lips, making them sore, red, swollen. For the first time, I consulted with doctors outside the university clinic. As soon as I stepped up to the reception desk at a walk-in clinic, I’m asked, …

Toward Educational Reform: Being A Dissertation On Cost-Cutting, Time Management And Broken Locks

By | Prose, Publius

Samantha got locked in her classroom with thirty-three students. Since most of the janitors have been laid off as a cost-saving device, it was hard to find anyone who knew what to do. Aside from that thirty-four folks instantly needing to pee, Samantha’s problem was that her class was like an annual plenary session of …

The Last Supper

By | Prose, Publius

Today is the last day of school. I planned on getting some pizzas delivered to my classroom. A gift for my students. But not a single pizza place will deliver to our neighborhood. Not one. I really feel bad about this. I explain it to the kids. They understand. But I’m still hurt. I say, …

The News

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Two days ago I was at a local coffee house replenishing our supply of dark roast. I placed the order and handed my empty bag to the young woman behind the counter. She handed it back to me a few minutes later; as she tapped the bag, then folded and smoothed the worn paper, we …

No Money, No Talk

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Recently before the arrival of the notorious tax deadline—April 15—in America, when I tuned in to Pittsburgh’s WDUQ and WQED radio stations, I heard the announcers keep asking audience to make a pledge for the stations. It was their winter membership campaign. So instead of the daily non-stop music and news on the radio, the …

Owning our Words

By | Prose, Publius

Not long ago, my student teacher asked me, “What is the greatest change you’ve seen in the last ten or fifteen years?” My answer surprised me as much as it surprised her. I answered with a question. ‘When did testing become morally ambiguous?’ What follows is a small tract from an educator to my fellow …

Homage to the Wolf

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I am shopping, as shopping is my forte, more so than writing, or so I think. I work the shop I’m in the way a criminal works a crime scene, the way my cousin, Gil, a three times felon, knows how to rob a bank, is behind bars, incarcerated, as I have been incarcerated, will …

Cutbacks

By | Prose, Publius

The big honker STATE TEST is coming up. So today, we had a brief meeting in which we were told, “Oh, and don’t worry about writing.” To which the English Department collectively responded, “Huh?” “Yea, don’t worry about writing.” “I know I’m going regret asking,” I say, “But, ah, why?” “The state is making a …

Weather Forecast

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Whether in China or America, people care about the weather, and they talk about it endlessly . But what amazes me is how sophisticated the weather forecast is on the American TV news. With high technology, the background behind the meteorologist is far from a still picture. Just with a tip of a finger, the …

Meet this Walmart Greeter

By | Humor, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at Wal-Mart, just couldn’t seem to get to work on time. Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their “Older Person Friendly” policies. One day the boss called him …

Honest!

By | Prose, Publius

I’ve been reviewing my standardized testing scores. They suck. Thank you, Sweet Jesus. By every indication, I teach in a low performing, ghetto school filled with poor whites, poor Blacks and dozens of disadvantaged immigrants. So my scores suck. My scores from my regular classes suck, and even my college credit kids did poorly. I’m …

Tornado Country

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

My mother is on the sofa, arrayed on the sofa like a wretched lady-in-waiting, she has beached herself on the sofa for years and she is waiting for me, her daughter, to pay her homage, speak in psalms, bless her with my beauty, the very beauty she detests. The heavy curtains, like those in a …

Restaurant Review: Park Bruges

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

Just as independent stores and architecture make communities unique, neighborhood restaurants are essential for local flavor. These restaurants must not only offer likeable food, but also a homey and friendly ambiance. I grew up with a strong tradition of frequenting favorite restaurants, and their food gained a comforting familiarity, even an emotional attachment; my love …

Trash

By | Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art

I hate taking out the trash. Not in the same way that I hate doing a sink full of hot dishes on a stifling summer afternoon. It makes me sick—literally sick. Smells of rotting meat and coffee grounds are no match for the odor reducing garbage bags. At the smell, I can feel my face …

Letter from Publius

By | Prose, Publius

Hey Simms, I know what you mean about my painting a terrifying picture of teaching in a public school. I’m mindful of how, when he was on his deathbed, Marco Polo was asked if all those stories were true. “I haven’t written down half of what I’ve seen,” he said. I’ve written what is entertaining …

Banking

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

In most cases, I find the customer service in America to be way behind China. Many stores here are understaffed; which means customers have to depend on themselves. While I was frustrated about whom to ask for help at Macy’s, I got marvelous service at American banks. As soon as I walk into a branch, …

Theatre Review: King Hedley II by August Wilson

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

King Hedley II. By August Wilson. Directed by Eileen J. Morris. With Ben Cain, Tyla Abercrumbie, Chrystal Bates, Kevin Brown, Jonas Chaney, and Leslie “Ezra” Smith. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company in association with August Wilson Center for African American Culture. 980 Liberty Avenue Pittsburgh, PA. Often described as the darkest play of Wilson’s twentieth-century cycle, …

Sailing While Anchored

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Robert and I are at Cold Spring Park. November has stepped into the dressing rooms of the poor, their cold parlors, cold hearths which are cathedrals for the dispossessed. The sky, hard as a chestnut, is one such cathedral and my lips silently move in prayer to the small god of my misunderstanding. The only …

Theatre Review: House & Garden by Alan Ayckbourn

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Alan Ayckbourn’s “House & Garden,” is held together on a fairly incredible concept: two separate plays with the same cast going on at the exact same time. Characters run in and out, often screaming, complaining, or mumbling. Plates are shattered, marriages crumble, copious amounts of alcohol are consumed; essentially it is standard dark comedy. Yet …

Art and Soul

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

As soon as I came up with that title I realized I just can’t help myself—I am an ad man’s daughter after all; I come by the glib and the slick naturally. That said (and perhaps as a counter to the genetic link!), I also put my heart and soul into most of the works …

Your Huddled Masses Yearning

By | Prose, Publius

Majeed is an immigrant.   He speaks five languages, and is illiterate in four of them.   He learned Afghani at home, and the other three languages in refugee camps throughout Europe. He never attended school, not one, until, at fourteen or fifteen, he enrolled in this high school.   He spoke no English.   I know he flunked …

Joggers

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

One thing I notice in the U.S. is that Americans care about their workouts. Some people spend thousands of dollars buying exercise machines—exercise bike, treadmill, dumbbells, yoga mat, yoga ball, you name it—and make one of their family rooms into a gym. Some people like to run or jog outdoors regardless of weather. Rain or …

Poetry Reading at the Circus

By | Humor, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

It was really interesting being backstage, as it were, at a working circus. The gathering audience is getting ready to play. The circus folks are getting ready to go to work. It’s a bit tense, actually. It’s not play to them. The folks are warming up their acts, which means also warming up the animals, …

Opera Review: Euridice and Orpheus by Ricky Ian Gordon

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts, Rita Malikonyte Mockus

Only from the Greek worldview has the genuine artwork of drama been able as yet to blossom forth. — Wagner Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, founded around the time when Europe was enthralled by the poetic frenzy of Romanticism, was a fitting location for the three summer evenings (June 9-11) of theatrical lamentation for love lost …

The Ultra Magic Classified Decoder Ring Secret Handshake News

By | Humor, Prose, Publius

So this morning, the assistant principal takes me aside like we’re plotting an overthrow of the government. She actually clears out a room of the library, locks the door behind us. She jokes about what folks might think, B.C.I., as my students would say, booty call implications for those of us of a certain age. …

A Day in Colonial Time

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

There is so much to learn about American history in colonial times. Our whirlwind visit to the prestigious town of Williamsburg, Virginia, on a breezy December afternoon was like galloping on a horse through a beautiful garden too swiftly to appreciate the details. Williamsburg is largely a recreation of the town as it existed in …

Theatre Review: The Book of Liz by Amy & David Sedaris

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Directed by Don DiGiulio. No Name Players, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. June 10 through June 25, 2011. Featuring Allison Fatla, John Feightner, Kelly Marie McKenna, Jody O’Donnell, and Gayle Pazerski. Stage Managing by Dave Ranallo. Technical Direction by Nick Coppula. Scenic Design by Alanna James. Sound Design by Brad Stephenson. Costume Design by Mandi Fisher. The …

Book Review : The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart

By | Book Review, Prose

North Dakota, with its lack of elevation, vegetation, and rain along with the demands of the farming life, provide the fertile ground from which the luscious layers of desire and longing in our author and protagonist develop. Debra Marquart’s memoir, The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere, for those who enjoy …

Graduation Celebration

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I’d heard about graduation proms before I came to America. I was shocked at first to see beautiful and expensive gowns for teenagers in Seventeen magazine. Why would parents allow their kids to spend extravagantly just for an evening ball? I can’t find any similar tradition for Chinese graduates. A class trip is probably the …

The Hardness Factor

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I open the red door. It gives way with a dispassionate heave, a dry suck. Winter moths, clustered on the glass skull of the outdoor lamp, scatter like tiny dunces or the chaotic snow falling, hither-thither, inside me. I step into the foyer with its jagged pieces of slate cemented to the floor and think …

The Rootless Tree of Imagination

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

It’s a bright sunny January day and I’m cold—freezing actually—even though the frost on the lawn melted hours ago, wafting up in ghostly drifts—even though I’m wearing several layers of clothes, like Heidi when she arrived at her grandfather’s house in the Alps. The poet in me paces, turns the heat to 68 (a rare …

Good News from the Ghetto

By | Prose, Publius

So the first burst of celebration at our school is over, and now the reality of having done well on the state test sets in. The good news is that the Obama Dash For The Cash has passed us by. My school was to be reorganized, which most of us viewed akin to the sentencing …

Restaurant Review: Thai Gourmet

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

Restaurants have an unfortunate habit of hyperbolizing their significance. With countless claims of “Best Pizza,” and “Artisan Sandwiches,” it is easy to be skeptical of restaurants’ claims. At first glance, Thai Gourmet may seem to be another mediocre restaurant with an ego problem. While the ambiance is more Pamela’s than Per Se, the food is …

The Other Side

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Yesterday for one still moment in a still point in time, a hummingbird hovered so close, I could have plucked her out of the air, let my fingers be nipples so she could feed, feed. Tempting hummingbirds into gardens, plotted here, plotted there has been a lifelong quest of mine and now I am aging, …

Gallery Review: 10″ x 10″ x 10″

By | Prose, Reviews: Film and Visual Art

When encountering a blown glass piece, even the novice viewer can’t help but think about process. This is partly because the act of blowing glass seems daunting and intriguing. Looking at a good sketch, one might think, wow, I would never be able to do that— but it’s still easy to imagine a row of …

American Classroom

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Recently while chatting with friends and families from China, I’m often asked about my student life in America. I respond that it’s beyond belief how casual American students and professors are. You can sit Indian style with your legs tucked close to your body or with one foot propped on the chair. Some professors don’t …

Rule # 37. If you want to be a better teacher, be a better person.

By | Prose, Publius

I was just asked to teach a methods course at a local college, one that is historically this city’s normal school. I said no for three reasons. First, I don’t teach 16th grade. Second, I consider methods courses inane. Third, I don’t need the money – in fact, even if I was that desperate for …

The World of Ten Thousand Poems

By | Humor, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

If you walked into my kitchen right now you’d see the cartoon I snipped from a December 2006 New Yorker posted on a cupboard door beside one of Snoopy typing away on the roof of his doghouse, and a photograph of our now not-so-new new president signing something into law. In the New Yorker cartoon …

Limerick

By | Humor, Prose

There once was a man named Osama Who got shot in his pajamas. The lesson to tell: Unless you’re Michelle You don’t fuck with Obama. _____

Theatre Review: Shining City by Conor McPherson

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Shining City. By Conor McPherson. Directed by John Shepherd. With Dennis Schebetta, F.J. Hartland, Karen Baum, and James Maschiovecchio. Off the Wall Productions. 147 N. Main Street, Washington, PA. How come Shakespeare wasn’t Irish? So many of the classical English-language playwrights were: Congreve (though born English), Sheridan, Wilde, Shaw—not to mention those who took Ireland …

Fleeting Pages

By | Book Review, Prose

I confess: I grew up in big-box bookstores.  In New Jersey in the 1990’s, monolithic Barnes & Nobles and Borders Books had already bought out most local bookworm haunts.  When I had extra pocket money I would take a ride to the mall and lose myself in a veritable labyrinth of discount bestsellers.  I loved …

The Price

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

When I think of Vietnam, I think of Joe Cocker. Of course, I remember M-16s, bunkers and Claymore mines. But I think of Joe Cocker singing “Delta Lady”. Why? Because I was 19. Because he sang – Please don’t ask how many times I found you Standing wet and naked in the garden And I …

My Mother Died at 101

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

When I was a kid, I used to think that faith was about knowing stuff. Today, I think that faith is about wishing that life taught us something. My mother died at 101, almost 102, years of age. Her memorial service was last weekend. These days, it’s called the Mass Of The Resurrection. In the …

Interview with Poet Jacqueline Berger

By | Book Review, Prose

First published in San Francisco Review of Books Berger is the author of three prize-winning books: The Mythologies of Danger (the 1997 Bluestem Award and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award); Things That Burn, (Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry); and The Gift That Arrives Broken, (Autumn House Poetry Prize). Garrison Keillor recently read …

My First Sonnet

By | Arlene Weiner, Book Review, Prose

I must have been eight or ten when my mother’s friend Sally died, and Sally must have been in her thirties or at most early forties. After Sally died, my mother cut a poem out of “The Ladies’ Home Journal” and tacked it to the cabinet over our kitchen sink where she could see it …

Restaurant Review: Yo Rita

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

The first thing one sees at Yo Rita is a large cartoon picture of a scantily clad female that adorns the window. At first glance it looks more like a tattoo parlor than a gourmet taco shop. And one look at the menu, and it’s clear this isn’t your mama’s Mexican restaurant: “Vietnamese styled” tacos, …

The Snows of Bygone Years

By | Book Review, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I often wonder what ever happened to Francois Villon? I am an historian, as well as a writer of mostly poems and essays. I have a great love for history’s rascals, especially if they are poets. Especially if they’re late medieval poets, since I’m a bit of a medievalist. Francois Villon is best known for …

Opera Review: Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts, Rita Malikonyte Mockus

“I do not despise the world. I simply don’t know how to live in it,” sings religiously apprehensive Blanche (performed by Amanda Majeski) to her affectionate father, Marquis de la Force (James Maddalena) in the last Pittsburgh opera of the season. In this opera by the 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc, every encounter with …

Theatre Review: Superior Donuts

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Superior Donuts. By Tracy Letts. Directed by Ted Pappas. Pittsburgh Public Theater, O’Reilly Theater. April 14 through May 15, 2011. With David Agranov, Sharon Brady, Donald Corren, Brandon Gill, Daryll Heysham, Joe Jackson, Wali Jamal, Antoinette LaVecchia, Anderson Mathews. Scenic Design by Michael Swhweikardt. Costume design by Amy Clark. Lighting design by Phil Monat. Sound …

Sex in America

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Never have I read such a large quantity of English books than during these two years when I am pursuing my master’s degree in creative writing. While I’m exposed to all sorts of media—TV, print publications, the Internet and others—in America, I’m shocked to learn that sex is openly discussed in this country. Compared to …

Theatre Review: Gift to America – A Celebration of the Murals of Maxo Vanka

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

First things first: The Maxo Vanka murals at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale, Pennsylvania are impressive and emotionally compelling. A crucifixion with WWI bayonet in lieu of the piercing Roman spear. An avenging angel wearing gas mask and holding imbalanced scales. Ordinary working folks – in mourning, adoration and celebration of traditional religious …

Book Review: Burning of the Three Fires by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

By | Arlene Weiner, Book Review, Prose

Burning of the Three Fires Jeanne Marie Beaumont BOA Editions 2010. 96 pp. $16.00 Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s previous collection (BOA 2004) was called Curious Conduct, and curious this poet and her poetry are, in several senses. First, Beaumont is alert to various and sometimes obscure aspects of the world: arcane information from Wikipedia, art, etymologies, …

Dive Deep Shallow Out

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

It is dark and I am driving down the highway under a sky full of crows caterwauling, cawing, a crazed crowd of crows in their black priestly robes with their flawed claws and I think, yes, there is a flawed, black claw in my flawed, black heart. In the distance, my husband has closed the …

Magic Words

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Among many English words I learned as a beginner, the polite expressions, such as thank you, excuse me and I’m sorry, are used most often in my life and are also the most well-known to Chinese; even my father who doesn’t speak a word of English would say “Saw-ly” or “Fan-Q” to my English-speaking friends. …

On Nothing: An Essay

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I love being alone. I love staring out my window at nothing, and sitting here thinking of nothing. This is an essay about nothing at all, an essay addressed to the whole world, which is to say no one in particular. The world is a nice place, but you can’t just hang out with the …

The White Book

By | Arlene Weiner, Book Review, Prose

Somewhere among my effects—my stuff, my junk—there is a small book with a white cover, stiff and warped. It’s not a Bible, and I’ve not read it very much. It’s a copy of poems by Tennyson. For the first twenty years of my life I lived in an apartment house in Manhattan, a five-story L-shaped …

Book Review: The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

By | Book Review, Prose

Subtly rendered with glimpses of brilliance, we can only hope that Matthew Gallaway’s first novel, The Metropolis Case, is not his last and indeed bears no similarity to the opera at the heart of its plot. Tristan and Isolde, notorious for its tendency to claim lives and careers because of its length and difficulty, acts …

The Minority

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Can you believe an Asian woman like me with dark hair, dark eyes and round face is considered an Englishman? Or can you believe as a tourist you cannot openly take photos of where you are or stare at the local riders in the horse and buggy? On one of my visits to the Amish …

Theatre Review: Mercy and the Firefly by Amy Hartman

By | Michael Simms, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

Lucy Clark, a nun who teaches in East Los Angeles, returns to Homestead, Pennsylvania, having kidnapped fifteen year-old Mercy Rivera whom she believes is in danger after witnessing a murder. Lucy’s old boyfriend Oliver and her mother Vivian reluctantly take in the girl. What ensues is a four-way struggle for power in an upside-down world …

grunt

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

as I drive to work the dawn light right in my face there’s the threat of rain So I’m looking at one of these TV clips with the good hearted GI giving candy to this kid.   An uplifting story.   So let me tell a little war story about why I don’t do uplifting. Early December …

Restaurant Review: BRGR

By | Prose, Reviews: Restaurant

Burgers and milkshakes. The phrase itself elicits glossy-eyed nostalgia, memories of backyard lunches in the summer, the smoky scent of the grill and the crack of a wiffle bat. BRGR — in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood — strives to transport cold-hearted foodies back to simpler times. Embracing a compromise between highbrow and lowbrow cuisine, BRGR …

A Season in Hell XII

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

3:44. I can tell time. I have been able to tell time for a long, long time. Time will tell, they say, time will tell—just what? I want to know just what. Will it tell me I am just a passing phenomenon? That I’m suffering from deeds done in a past life? And that’s exactly …

Border Town Blues

By | Prose

The first portion of this saga described my youth circa the 1950’s, in a California border town called El Centro. The story continues but is only the beginning of life as we knew it in this cozy agricultural oasis. At some point in the late 1950’s, a feeling of foreboding came over me and our …

Book Review: Sasha Sings The Laundry On The Line by Sean Thomas Dougherty

By | Book Review, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Sasha Sings The Laundry On The Line by Sean Thomas Dougherty BOA Editions Paperback, $16.00 ISBN 9781934414392 Published September 2010 Many years ago, I was driving down a street with a friend, a geneticist who used to play cello in a symphony. It was spring. I mentioned how beautiful the blossoming pear trees were. He …

Theatre Review: SWAN Day 2011 — A Celebration of Pittsburgh’s Women Artists

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

On March 24 and 25, No Name Players presented SWAN Day 2011: A Celebration of Pittsburgh’s Women Artists, a multimedia, multigenre event, at the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s Northside. The Hazlett, one of a growing number of artistic and cultural venues on the Northside, is located inside an historic gray stone building with graceful …

Book Review: Riding the Capitol Corridor Line

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I’m on the train to my home city, traveling east rather unsteadily through the flooded marshlands. I’m reading a strange little book I found on my daughter’s shelf a few hours ago—Soulstorm, a collection of short stories by Clarice Lispector (1925-1977), translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin, and first published in 1974. I’ve never …

A Season in Hell XI

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

3:31. It is Sunday and I still know my date of birth: 7/3/55. And the D.O.D? Tomorrow, a month, a decade away? My shadow is giving off black reflections and my words are just black reflections. Create scenes, one friend advised. Scene I. Being Choked to Death. Scene II. The Body Bag, nails driven into …

Theatre Review: Maria de Buenos Aires

By | Reviews: Performing Arts

You wouldn’t normally compare Pittsburgh’s East Liberty to Buenos Aires. But, if you imagine a Buenos Aires whose magnificence was marred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries by struggles for independence, changing demographics (due to massive immigration) and corruption, you can begin to see the ties between them. The East Liberty YMCA, a near-derelict building …

The Sacred Heart

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

a maroon leaf drops stem to stem with a yellow an autumn death pact My mother is 101.   She lives in a home.   She had a private room until last month.   Until her privacy didn’t matter because reality doesn’t matter.   Because I live half-a-country away, I never met the new roommate.   Until my visit last …

Basho

By | Book Review, John Samuel Tieman, Prose

By the way, when Basho takes his Narrow Road to The Deep North, he is walking a path that leads him to, through, and around the very area in Japan that is suffering the nuclear disaster. Asaka, now Fukushima, he describes as wooded. It is here, if I recall correctly, that he searches in vain …

A Season in Hell X

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Gradually the meds start to work. Now there’s the sobbing to do, barfing out the pain. Merciless, God is merciless, has eyes in the back of his head just like Mother did. She was always watching me with the eyes in the back of her head and now the back of my head is riddled …

Dad’s Rhymes

By | Humor, Prose

My dad, Frank Roper, was a caterer and a versifier of sorts. Here’s my dad’s rhyme to my sister Debbie on the topic of defensive driving: Here lies Debbie, who died one day, While trying to maintain the right-of-way. She was right, dead right, as she drove along, But she’s just as dead as if …

Acceptance

By | Prose, Publius

A decade or so ago ago, I was teaching in an all female, Catholic high school.   A few weeks before graduation, two female students were caught kissing in the bathroom.   One student, Marla, was a current student of mine.   The other, Diane, I had taught a few years before.   Both were very good, serious students, …

A Season in Hell IX

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Stop, I scream, stop! I’m clutching the door handle to the fridge. Is it time for the deep freeze? Husband who gave me the silent treatment, again, again, is now going to give me the deep freeze. He’s giving me the deep freeze by staring into my black, beady eyes with a frozen stare. He’s …

Theatre Review: Voodoo Trilogy

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

If you’ve never been to the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, you may find yourself wondering whether you are going to see a show or are on your way to pay for parking. Sharing its site with a garage, the theatre is situated across from Six Penn in the heart of the Cultural District. A placard directs …

Theatre Review: The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage

By | Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

It is said that great things come in small packages. If this is so, then Pittsburgh’s quaint Future Tenant’s art space offered a gift of gigantic proportions. With its walls adorned in maps from various European locations and the stage a mere wooden shelf and lounge chair, one would wonder what entertainment could be provided …

A Season in Hell VIII

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Suddenly—how does this happen?—I’m out of the black body sack and oh my God, husband is driving nails into the back of my head. His face looks chalky, grey stubble on his cheeks and he is way taller than me. Has he had a growth spurt since I moved away? He’s got bulging muscles, like …

Book Review: Diwata by Barbara Jane Reyes

By | Book Review, Prose

Diwata Barbara Jane Reyes BOA Editions Paperback, $16.00 ISBN 9781934414378 Published September, 2010 A Diwata, in Philippine culture, is a guardian spirit of nature similar to a nymph or elf who resides in large trees and is capable of delivering both fortune and misfortune. They are called upon ritually to bring a fruitful harvest, health, …

A Season in Hell VII

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Twenty-four hours. It takes twenty-four hours for my diamond mind to reset itself. Or so says Doctor Susan and Doctor Susan knows best. I feel like some strange nocturnal animal being shocked by the light stalking through the windows. There’s water out there. There’s sky out there and a very bald sun. I’m trying to …

4th Period, Metropolitan High

By | Prose

4th period and I have my really bright kids, my honors class. I’m in Room 205, but, right at the beginning of the year, the very first form of the year put me down as Room 206. That’s Bob Spire’s room, a nice guy, special ed., went to Northwestern. I know where my classroom is, …

A Season in Hell VI

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I am fathomless under the fathoms. My body parts—an arm here, a leg there—are going numb. It’s cold in here, but I’m not sure where here is. How could that be? How can I exist if I don’t know where here is? Give me back my house. Give me back my seasick mind. Enough dying …

This Afternoon, Metropolitan High

By | Prose, Publius

I have a long afternoon grammar class. It begins with Tom being called a “fat ass” by Tanya, to whom Tom in turn says, “Suck my dick, bitch.” Then it starts to get ugly. By the time I settle this nonsense down, I’m summoned to go to a mystery meeting that was just called. I …

A Season in Hell V

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Something is happening with time. It’s frozen solid or is a rock face and me without toeholds or footholds to cling to. What does one do without any sense of time? I am begging time to come back while I wait, wait, wait for me to come back. I see myself in a heap on …

A Season in Hell IV

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Words are turds so I don’t say a thing. I crawl back to my study, try to write Doctor Susan. I’m dying. Robert is at my throat. The word are misspelled, me on my knees using only one finger. Now the floor is sweeping me away, a magic carpet. Now I go limp, my head …

An Hour In The Life of a Public School Teacher

By | Prose, Publius

7 and I sign-in. I smile at the new secretary, Mrs. Dexter. She’s nice in a vacant sort of way. She’s got an IQ best described as unpretentious. I watch her type a letter. “deAr Msr. evans.” She has never used a computer, never even turned one on. She doesn’t answer the phone very well …

A Season in Hell III

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I’m crawling all over the house searching for my meds, still screaming like a child in a burning building. My brain is on fire. I can smell its stinky smoke like seared meat. Where are the firemen? Who’s going to save the very life my husband wants to kill? Should I call 911? No, too …

The Mandatory Lesson Plan

By | Prose, Publius

I have to turn in the weekly lesson plan that nobody reads, the one everybody knows nobody reads.   But I got to do it anyway even though the district office hasn’t hired anyone to read lesson plans, and, even if they did, I don’t give a wank.   It’s mandated.   So I pretty much copy word-for-word the …

Volume 08: Shelter

Poetry

by Gigi Marks (winner of the 2010 Coal Hill Review Chapbook Prize)   A Welcome I like the look of sadness on a face because I know it, can welcome its shape against my hand and feel its smoothness. I like the way my fingers can knead its doughy cheeks and softened jaw, the way …

A Season in Hell II

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

His hands are at my throat, choking me, slowly choking me to death. He’s squeezing me so hard I can hear my neck break–snap, snap, like a chicken bone. Will he pluck me, too? I see feathers, many bloody feathers on the ratty grey rug. Each of them has a bone in it, this I …

These Self-Same Keys

By | Arlene Weiner, Book Review, Prose

Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination. — Ludwig Wittgenstein In the early 1980s I went to the Third Annual Conference on Computers and Writing. A well-known computer guru—can his name really have been Chip?—was the keynote speaker. Against expectation, he told us that across town they were …

A Courtship Dance with Damnation

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Bones. Decapitations. The tip of the knife running down my jugular vein as if de-veining a shrimp. Bones, my bones, delicate as the spines of feathers, taped to paper, hung in old musty museums. The decapitation of my beloved, his face like that of an elephant gouged of its tusk, my fingers dabbing the blood …

A Season in Hell

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

The floor is exploding and I’m on it, hiding beneath my writing desk. Scraps of brain scattered everywhere, chunks of meat for vultures. The sunlight is scared, also hiding, everyone is hiding, terrified by my terror. I’m screaming really loud, the dog is barking also really loud. Screaming like an animal whose throat has been …

The Last Week Before Finals

By | Prose, Publius

This week, the district is doing everything it forgot. For example, every school is to average six fire drills per academic year.   Which  someone forgot.   We’ve had five fire drills in two days, including two back-to-back in one period. Most of the teachers aren’t angry.   We’re dissociative. It’s Wednesday and first period my kids had …

The Sign

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I did not realize how often I had seen the parking sign for disabled people in America until I started driving around to look for a parking space. On a busy day, it’s not easy to find a parking space near my local library. Cars are parked back to back on the street and side …

The Animals in the Tank

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

The house I grew up in was a blue aquarium, my mother and father, the tanked up animals, and I was a child of the hinterlands where winter was always howling like a pack of hungry wolves. A baby veteran, I was always under siege, the attacks brutal and my screams from being beaten or …

Art-Poetica

By | Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I painted my first Emily Dickinson in 1992, probably as a kind of totem. I had spent my early childhood living in a cottage my parents rented on the property of a defunct artist’s colony in the hills outside Honolulu. Founded by artists Lillie Gay and George Burroughs Torrey after they eloped (with some scandal …

The Fall Of An Khe

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I never saw Saigon.   In 1970, I was stationed at Camp Radcliff next to the village of An Khe in the Central Highlands.   I was assigned to the army’s 4th Infantry Division.   The 4th lived way north of Saigon. But in March of 1975, a month before The Fall Of Saigon, I lived in Dallas …

Border Town Ballad

By | Prose

Growing up in a border town, California in the 1950’s was the best of times—and a time of great awakenings for all of us country folks as well as the nation. The town of my youth, El Centro, was a thriving hub of California’s agriculture that was often referred to as “The winter salad bowl.” …

The Cacophony of Dreams

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Not for me a garden of dreams. Instead mine rip into my delicate brain sac, tear its membranes as though it were a placenta. These dreams, after a decade of being knocked out by heavy duty sedatives, anti-psychotics, basically an arsenal of lethal, at times, tempting, alluring, let’s just do me in drugs. Now dreams …

Back to Basics

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

=I have an English-Chinese electronic dictionary. It’s as small as a lady’s powder box but contains English vocabulary and expressions as comprehensive as a cumbersome hardbound Oxford dictionary. I thank the inventor of the electronic dictionary for bringing immeasurable convenience to me. In fact, almost every Chinese, Korean and Japanese student that I’ve met on …

The Making of a School Teacher

By | Prose, Publius

There is today much hypothesizing about how to train teachers.   In my three decades in the classroom, I have supervised student teachers from a variety of universities.   I am certain that the qualities, which enable this career, at least in part are found in erudition, skill and emotional discern­ment.   Regardless of how teacher education is …

Driving in America

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Since I’ve been in America for a year, I am no longer considered a newcomer. I am supposed to know the society better, at least deeper, than a year ago. But if you ask me whether I am used to my American life, I’d say I am still adjusting. A year ago, I had no …

Of Cost-Cuts And Bosnians

By | Prose, Publius

8 AM             In order to save money, the school district is making bestial layoffs.   About one out of every four of the teachers will be fired by sundown.   Or so the rumor goes.   To deal with our anxieties, several schools of thought have developed.   Schools within this school, as it were. On my third …

My Life in the Theatre

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose, Reviews: Performing Arts

I’ve been trying to learn to write plays. It’s a craft, I know, not only an art. I’ve heard it said by someone in the theater that writing a play is like plumbing. I understood her to mean that things have to be connected up right or you have a spontaneous overflow of something you …

Shoot-out at the High School

By | Prose, Publius

There was a shoot-out — and I mean like a full gansta shoot-out — up the street at 6:30 AM.   Twenty or thirty or more shots fired.   It happened in the parking lot of the A.M.E. church.   The smell of cordite lingered for half an hour.   Sirens, sergeants and paddy-wagons for an hour.    Ghetto birds, police helicopters, off and on for two hours.   Now, …

Sex is Love is the Law I Live by

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Hugging myself as though kicked in the gut, wanting to turn the lights out and write in the dark because the bulbs are bald and their eerie brightness sears, tears, rips right through me. Even my eyes are aching, crazy eyes in their socked out sockets, my mouth a crater and how many times have …

Trivia Frenzy

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Over a period of a few weeks, my American friends took me to a weekly trivia game in a local restaurant in upstate New York. It drew a number of townspeople for the game every Wednesday. Teachers, lawyers, engineers, librarians wave to each other across the room before settling into the business at hand. The …

Multiple Choice Test

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Every time I chat with my family in China, they ask me how I’m adjusting to the American way of life.  My answer is always positive, but I have trouble explaining to them that I still stumble at the wealth of choices Americans take for granted. Not a single hour passes that I don’t need to make a choice. …

A Northeastern Rodeo

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Rodeo is a brand-new sport to me. Before I saw one in person, I had a vague memory about it through American movies. I’ve heard of American cowboys and cowgirls. They are supposedly from the western part of the country. However, my first experience with a rodeo happened in upstate New York last summer. The …

The Poem of the End

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Marina Tsvetayeva wrote it, a long poem titled The Poem of the End, a mini epic of a poem about the ending of a long love affair. I wrote about that poem while in graduate school, can see myself at my tiny desk before a dirty window, shabbily dressed in a shabby apartment. I see …

Big

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I’ve gained weight! Is this a sign that I live well in America? Unlike what my folks think, I’m not mal-nourished because I lack hometown food. In fact, in a local supermarket, I can find almost all the Chinese ingredients I need, plus food and beverages that I’ve never seen before. Big round cookies, seedless …

Wake and Wake

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Once, while searching for an old photo, my mother unearthed an envelope that contained: • My father’s obituary, dated 11/5/69 • A holy card (Saint Francis) from his funeral • A dried four-leaf clover in clear plastic wrap • A card with emergency air raid instructions • Another card with a list of emergency alerts …

Life As We Know It: What Is Nature?

By | Prose

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve found solace in the natural world. Maybe it’s because one of my first memories is climbing the eastern hemlock pine trees outside my house in Alabama, or maybe it’s because I spent every summer between a cabin on the Blue Ridge Mountains and one on a lake …

Jailhouse Journal XII

By | Prose

“Man, it’s hard finding things to write about in here,” Charles says to me during class. “I just keep writing about the same depressing stuff, ya know? It’s like there’s only so much good you can find to write about in a place like this. And somebody told me, you gotta get out and see …

The Crucible of Cruelty

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Stevenesque blackbirds, grey March sky, the starkness almost alarming and the buds are still tucked in their wintry hoods. Cold rains on the way, for days this time, a brew of broody weather. No moon in the sky, but there is one in my heart and it is setting, slowly setting. In that moony heart …

More Tomorrow Village II

By | Prose

from a memoir about growing up in Belize My mother sent my older brother and me to the village’s river to get water for cooking and drinking. She boiled the water until it tasted of charcoal, a smoky wetness. Ibrahim was an athlete, so he sprinted down to the river, his feet slapping against the …

What Makes a Good Teacher

By | Prose, Publius

One reason I’m grateful to my colleagues is that, occasionally, they provide clarity. So this morning I go to the weekly meeting.   The new department chair reminds us about student portfolios.   To which I reply, ‘Huh?   Is anyone keeping portfolios?’ “You remember, the one’s we’ve been keeping since Charlie was boss three years ago.” “You mean those …

War

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I don’t know why the young must die. I fought in a war, but I don’t understand war. I don’t understood why the memory of one war isn’t enough to horrify us when we hear the rumor of a second. I spent a week, ten days maybe, on a little island in the Outer Hebrides, …

More Tomorrow Village

By | Prose

In 1993, when my family moved from San Bernardino, California to More Tomorrow Village in Belize, it hadn’t occurred to me that this new place would allow me to deeply experience the rawness of the natural world. We moved to a village because my mother wanted to go to the most remote place and show …

To Give or Not to Give?

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I went to Radio Shack the other day for a can of dust removal spray. My purchase was smooth until I came to the cashier. The twenty-something-year-old sales guy who spoke nearly indecipherable English asked me, “What’s your last name?” What? I couldn’t figure out why my last name had to do with my payment. …

Jailhouse Journal XI

By | Prose

I started my first garden this summer. I finally have the space to grow one. I’ve always wanted to plant, always felt the need to produce. But mostly, I want to learn from the process of gardening. I want to know what needs more water, more sun, what survives cold nights, and what clings tight …

Denver Impressions

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Coming from China, a nation of 1.3 billion people, to the United States, which has a vast landscape, I’ve had many cultural shocks. Many are not only from the comparison with my homeland but also with the stark contrasts between the American states. Speaking of Denver, I immediately think of its NBA team, the Nuggets, …

Jailhouse Journal X

By | Prose

I gave the students a week off to revise their work. It was nice to have a break, but I found myself constantly thinking about the world around me in relation to the inmates at the jail. I watched Gasland the other night, a documentary about the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling that’s going on …

Where Does Poetry Come From? IV

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Many poets turn to the other arts for inspiration. For painters such as William Blake, Cezanne, and the contemporary Dutch painter Leo Klein, the challenge is to capture the sublime, to visually represent the invisible, so that the painting becomes more than itself, more than an object, more than a picture of what is seen. …

A Day in Lake Placid

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

We took a day trip to Lake Placid in upstate New York. Whenever we told people we were going to Lake Placid, they would immediately inform us the place was the two-time site of the Winter Olympics, in 1932 and 1980. Yes, I knew that. But really I just wanted to see the lake and the …

Jailhouse Journal IX

By | Prose

A quote opens our lesson for the week: The art of revision is the art of writing: It’s something I’ve heard before, but I don’t know who said it. The men choose a piece of work that they feel good about, one that they put up on the projector and read aloud to the class. …

Where Does Poetry Come From? III

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Perhaps the richest source of poetry can be found in the language of children. When my daughter was four years old, she experienced an airplane as big on the inside and little on the outside — which, incidentally, serves as a description of a lyric poem as well. She also says Ouch is me when she …

My First American Cold

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I have my first cold since my arrival in America ten months ago! I joked with my friends I couldn’t go back to China this summer because if I did, I would be considered a Swine Flu virus carrier. I remember last summer while H1N1 epidemic ran rampant around the world, the Chinese government authorities …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

The Jolly Tinker

By | Poetry

I build a rocket from beer bottles and rose petals – light the fuse – almost explode to the stratosphere – sputter out freefall – fireball into the Bronx on a 100° day when the streets smell like hot garbage in a stew of falafel; subway screeches are the upholstery needle fingers of a lover …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Wounded Horse

By | Prose

Mona lives in a trailer so she can keep her horse scoop his shit with her shovel, that’s love.  The railings of my fingers circle his nostrils as she thrusts the needle into his bleeding legs and I stroke his ears while white gauze is draped over his shins like I would caress the ears …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Hyacinth Girl

By | Poetry

From her mouth flow apple seeds & hyacinth blossoms. Her long legs bow when she climbs, maniacal— to the treetops. To us, she is so much longer up there. We fear her rough fall and we beg her to return. And she slinks down to earth from her treetop, past cups of sweet tea made …

Aunt Emily

| Poetry

Imagining Emily Dickinson in 1852    She’s thinking of song— dividing the day into eight juicy bits,   into sixty little books of six folded sheets, “always in ink,”   the worm of oblivion tucked neatly into one gnawed corner—   polishing some lapidary idea of a frayed eternity.   Her hair is red feathers—a …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Jubilate

By | Poetry

For I will consider the purest praise For the last hymned Amen to usher children running Forward towards the bell tower doors – ornate and heavy – To clog the entry – excitement keyed higher – To loosen the rope from its tethered position To grab all at once for the sturdy three-in-one – For …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

a modern haibun

By | Poetry

another Monday again I surrender to the whisper of snow My wife is reading Freud this evening. I sweep the fireplace, the ashes from Sunday more interesting for what they were. Phoebe says something I don’t quite catch, something about desire. I stare out our picture window. I inventory our yard. Pine, twilight, beast, leaf, …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

If my co-worker asked I’d answer

By | Poetry

No, I haven’t read the newspaper today, like most other days, I avoid licking the tips of my fingers to flip the print because who needs ink smudges on thumbs anyway? Reading the news almost guarantees performing the Rorschach inkblot test on myself. So I don’t. Because being your own doctor is hard: What do …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Downward

By | Poetry

Cold rain paves the path with gold leaves, calls to mind the future: fall of snow. Must every bright thing fall, all wither, freeze, erase our swept paths, our steps? How to become like the earth, that feels a fall as a drawing down, the way a lover’s face is drawn down? How to get …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Two Poems

By | Poetry

Offshore I wanted a ring with a carved Indian face, or a horse hair instrument that droned, but the Gulf was beaten with oil in its gills and feathers, a desperate mix, viscous and black. Give me the horse skull, keep the credit card. Give me a great blue adventure, I’ll just stand and stare. …

Waiting for Necessity to Speak V

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Sometimes we sense that even the dead are connected to the fabric of life. My wife tells me that a graduate student came to her office and told this story, which he claims is true. An old man died at 3:47 AM in Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh. His brother, who had had Alzheimer’s disease for …

Siobhan Casey

| Prose

Departure   Before my sister leaves I know that there is never a return   that there is nothing but a wooden vision of steps   leading out to road.   We talk inside the steam of coffee cups   inside the round chk chk chk of summer sprinkler   her wedding already a permanence …

Sarah Ansani

| Prose

Something has Happened to Me   and there are paths in fields to prove it. Bent blades of grass, monitored hills, cracked cords of wood from trees that ward me away with ivy. I envy the movement of their shadows. The outstanding height of their leaves, flatter than hands, they cannot even handle the weight …

Issue 7 | Summer 2010

Rhinestone Cowboy

By | Prose

as sung by Glen Campbell   He tells me he wants to be a Rhinestone Cowboy. He smells like stale Lucky Strikes, the Aegean, and boatwright’s sweat, I found this stupid ex-pat bar in a guidebook.   riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo.   Barely old enough to be his daughter, but …

Jailhouse Journal VIII

By | Prose

We make lists to organize our lives. Lists of food. Of errands. Of goals. “To Do.” They’re concrete things that measure our productivity, our ambition, sometimes even our feelings. This week for class, we focused on list making. The men had some experience making lists during our first class when they made lists of things …

Waiting for Necessity to Speak IV

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

I think it was the short-story writer Alice Munro who said that she is always looking for a place to hide in the house, a place away from children, the phone ringing, chores to be done, the sociability of neighbors, a place to sit and stare at a blank wall, a place to get on …

Jailhouse Journal VII

By | Prose

A colorful baby boy’s room. A quiet fishing lake. A tight-knit urban neighborhood. A woman’s steady arms. A lively street in NYC. These are the places where the inmates of ACJ want to be. Places they want to remember, places they choose to re-create. As each man reads his piece to the class, I start …

Back to School

By | Prose, Publius

Mr. Eagleton is scheduling his classes according to the National Weather Service. He’s not from here. So he comes into my room, and asks me about “the rainy season”. He doesn’t have any shades on his windows, so his plans to show movies on days when it’s overcast. Depending on where you are in the …

Where Does Poetry Come From? II

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

From the beginning of Western literature, there has been a dual attitude toward the source of poetry. The ancient Greeks saw the poet as a maker, and they also had the tradition of the poem being a gift from the muse. The poem is simultaneously made by the poet and it is given by a …

The Core of American Life

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

Just a couple of weeks ago my American friend AZ suggested we should go to a Pirates game. At first, the idea didn’t appeal to me. “The sport is like rocket science to me,” I said. “I don’t know how to watch a baseball game.” This is true. My American friends have tried to teach …

Jailhouse Journal VI

By | Prose

I taught my first creative writing class at the ACJ (Allegheny County Jail) this week. I thought I’d be nervous but the moment the fifteen male inmates walk into the room and sit in a circle, I feel calm, comfortable, eager. I suppose that’s how a teacher should feel approaching his/her first class. The inmates …

Where Does Poetry Come From?

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Let’s talk about where poetry comes from… or at least where one poem came from. I offer one of my own, not because it is an example of a great poem (it isn’t), but because I know the situation out of which it arose. For a period of time a few summers ago, I kept a notebook in …

Jailhouse Journal V

By | Prose

“I share a cell with another guy. It’s more like a bathroom. There’s a sink and a toilet, and where a bathtub would normally be is our bed. It’s horrible,” one of the inmates says. “Gosh” I say, eyes wide, trying to imagine living in such a small space. Big things come in small packages. …

Waiting for Necessity to Speak III

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Nowadays, many poets learn their craft in creative writing classes. We call them workshops in order, I suppose, to suggest a correlation with wood-carving or perhaps clock- making. And the best teachers do a great service to the students by emphasizing how a poem works, as well as how it could work better. As valuable …

A Poet’s Journey

By | Prose

My father was a farmer turned politician. It was from him that I learned about honoring the land coupled with a concomitant social conscience. My mother was both a painter and a sculptor and through her influence, I was drawn to the arts at an early age. She believed that all artistic pursuits were a …

Jailhouse Journal IV

By | Prose

Today during the men’s class, the teacher asked one of the inmates how his novel was going. He had been having writer’s block for a while, as he didn’t know what to do with the hero’s lady character. “So, how did you get over that writer’s block, Marcus?” “I killed her,” he said. Everyone laughed. …

Waiting for Necessity to Speak II

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

Tradition tells us that muses are angelic creatures who descend from clouds, or drift like smoke through an open window — while my muse is a guy who walks into a bar. But we take what we can get, right? The sources of poetry are too uncertain for me to refuse any gift, no matter how unlikely …

How Beautiful the Beloved

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I just came in from my evening seaside walk. Exotic black sand harvested by winter storms, heaps of seaweed with chartreuse and fuchsia tints, low, low tide, sun dousing itself in the marsh among cattails and red-winged blackbirds, moon rising on a quicksilver horizon. Such beauty, at its heart-wrenching heights, can be disarming, even alarming …

Jailhouse Journal III

By | Prose

They call it toilet talk. She kneels in front of the porcelain bowl, hands cupping the base like a man grabbing his lover’s hips on a dance floor. Her face dips down into the oval hole, calling his name, Marco. His name travels through pipe past grit and grime, coiling through the loops and turns …

Waiting for Necessity to Speak

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

 Notes toward an understanding of poetic imagination When I was a student in Iowa City, Stanley Bomgarten and I used to drink at a place called George’s a few blocks from campus. One morning we were celebrating Stanley getting fired from his job as assistant pastor at the local Baptist Church when a young man …

Jailhouse Journal II

By | Prose

“How was your writing week?” the teacher asks from the front of the classroom. We’re in a small circle, a ring of warm bodies surrounded by cold concrete walls. All women, all eager to share what’s resting inside. They do this at the beginning of every class. Talk about their writing weeks. The good. The …

Capturing the Rapture of Happiness

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

It can be done. We can capture the rapture of happiness, bring it home, feed it, love it like a stray animal till it’s named and tamed. Try this—think of the soul as a butterfly net, feel the wild flutterings within. When pregnant some seventeen years ago, my son’s first movements felt like a dancing …

What is Poetry For?

By | Michael Simms, Poetics, Prose

A few days ago, an old priest who was a colleague of my wife’s passed away, and my wife came home from work angry at the world. I was worried; Eva doesn’t anger often, and her grief seemed huge and unbearable. I couldn’t console her, so I asked Scott Staples, a friend who knew and …

Jail House Journal

By | Prose

It takes forever to get into the Allegheny County Jail. Between the four of us, we only have two quarters, which we stick in the parking meter out front. Once past the first set of doors, a police officer approaches us: “Ladies, you need to lock up all your stuff in the lockers, no keys, …

Lyn Lifshin: an Appreciation

By | Book Review, Michael Simms, Prose

For thirty years, I’ve been reading Lyn Lifshin’s poems in independent literary magazines across the country.  I admire her integrity as a poet — she’s always true to her voice and vision — she never sounds like anyone else.  Here are three of her recent poems: Salsa it’s the moves not the man. He could be the size of a …

A Cop was Shot near my School

By | Prose, Publius

Although the high school where I teach was locked down for an afternoon,  it turns out we were never in much danger.   They caught the right guy, the actual guy who shot the cop, a couple of miles north of here.   When they cordoned-off this neighborhood, they surrounded the house of the wrong guy.   He saw a bunch of cops, so …

Inner City Teacher

By | Prose, Publius

I am in awe of how little I actually exaggerate in these stories.   I tend to edit for continuity, so I will, for example, put two different events on the same day, and say they happened to just one teacher.   I’ll change a name and such for the sake of anonymity.   But, in truth, I …

The Carp by Yun Wang

By | Book Review, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Sometimes chance conspires and the laws of randomness cast good things in our direction at a time that seems exactly right. This is what happened to me this week, when I extracted from two giant reading piles—columns over four feet high, weaving even now a little precariously behind my desk—a thin chapbook by a poet …

How to Get some -que

By | Prose, Publius

Yesterday, the last day of classes, we get a “Faith Based Initiative”.   Some preacher from the neighborhood decides to take all the kids who have been suspended a bunch, and give them a barbeque over in the football field.   The end result is that all the nice kids are in class doing various onerous tasks, …

It’s All About China

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

I remember years ago when my American friend brought me a gift from Arizona, I accidentally spotted the “Made in China” label right away at the bottom of the item. I said to my friend that it was quite a trip for the present—going all the way to the U.S. and coming back home again. …

The Female Moratorium

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Everyone knows that the writing of poetry, of becoming a poet, entails a long apprenticeship. Mine began at age nineteen, which was when I wrote my first poem. Both an initiation and a damnation, it was Plathian and full of deep, female associations: mother, womb, kitchen knife. In the years to come, I would carve …

No Window: Poetry, Memory, History

By | Arlene Weiner, Book Review, Prose

I recently returned from a trip to Greece, which has me thinking about Homer. Years ago I was astonished but convinced by the argument that the Iliad was not originally written, but was composed orally. Part of the evidence was gathered by Albert Lord, who journeyed through the Balkans and found men singing long traditional …

The Courage of Li-Shen

By | Prose

a letter from our friend Rong-Bang Peng in Taiwan Dear Mike, Jamie, and Una, Thank you for the heart-warming email. Mike, don’t blame yourself for not knowing what to say; in face of the Real, no words really convey.  You know Li-Shen and I talk a lot, but in front of her suffering, I don’t …

The Wonder of Unexpected Supply

By | Book Review, Prose

Intertextuality, allusion, remembered scraps of poetry: all gifts we didn’t know we needed till they arrived.  Three recent and very different, but all happy, examples: 1)  Here in the country, I’m getting to spend some time with my 25 year-old son for the first time in many months. The other night, I said something to …

Dancing with Shadows

By | Prose

“Are you praying?” my mother asked, her voice quavering through the phone. She repeated it again and a sick silence followed. “No Maam…,” I stared at the floor and saw nothing. “Girl, you have to pray.” I nodded as if she could see me. In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful. But she …

Among the Dead, Prayer for Our Enemies

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Memorial Day: We should mourn for all who have died because of militarism. May 31, 1993 I remember the first time I prayed for an enemy. It was just outside An Khe, a village in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. A helicopter gunship rocketed some North Vietnamese regulars who were about to attack us. I …

Whitman in Sacramento

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

Last night I joined several other poets and an audience that crammed into an independent bookstore in my city. We were there to celebrate Uncle Walt—Whitman, that is. The host and organizer, a young poet who writes under the name of SliC (Stuart Livingston Canton), had assembled a range of readers from the poetry community, …

Al Naml: the Ants

By | Prose

On the weekends, my mother hand-washed our clothes at the river. Bending over and slapping the clothes into the water, she would occasionally look up to see us flap around. We children teased the slippery current with our bodies, playing with other children as their mothers sliced the water with heavy clothes as well. At …

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes

By | Prose, Publius

I have to interrupt a standardized test in order to give a standardized test. I am in the second week of giving a standardized test that isn’t a test, because nobody gives a wank about this test.   The only reason we’re giving this test is because the district paid millions for it.   We bought it, so …

Poetry journal: Car driven by ‘messiah’ hits synagogue

By | Prose

Yesterday I headed to Costco for apples, the oversized and spotless Granny Smiths that they sell so cheap, leaving from the Chatham campus and driving along Shady Avenue through Squirrel Hill to Homestead, and I passed this grand commotion (story, too-good-to-be-true, above), complete with TV newsvans, at Poale Zedeck synagogue, and I even rubbernecked, but I …

Morally Ambiguous Teaching

By | Prose, Publius

I have a student teacher this year. Her name is Chloe.   I also have to give a standardized test this week. So I’m stuck.   Do I give the test honestly?   Or do I do what I really do? As one administrator put it, “This test has no educational value.   Do as you will, as long …

The Birthday of the Red Baron

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

Perhaps the most memorable character from the First World War is “The Red Baron.” Manfred Von Richthofen died about 11 AM on Sunday, the 21st of April in 1918. There is almost nothing about his death that is not disputed, the exact time, the manner of death, even who shot him. But there is one …

Who Touches This Touches….an Algorithm

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose

Ray Kurzweil is an innovator and futurist. He developed a number of widely used innovations, notably the Kurzweil Reader, which uses pattern recognition to translate printed material into machine-readable text and the text into speech. In 1976! According to Wikipedia, the Kurzweil Reader project developed both the first flat-bed scanner and text-to-speech generation. Kurzweil’s interested …

The Mother of All Beauty

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

I have the hands of a writer—a callous on my right ring finger, arthritis in that wrist from holding a pen for decades. If I could, I’d be buried pen in hand, or perhaps my ashes should be scattered upon the white page. Musicians, singers need to take great care of their hands and voices. …

Romeo, Juliet, and the Koreans

By | Prose, Publius

The kids are reading Romeo and Juliet.   So my student teacher is fishing for the answer “dramatic irony”.   She asks, “What do you call this, when Juliet is speaking on the balcony, and she doesn’t know Romeo is down below listening?’ To which Marshay responds, “Stalking.” And then yesterday as I’m walking out of the building with …

Copyright Law and the English Teacher

By | Michael Simms, Prose

(The director of our graduate writing program recently asked me to write an explication of “fair use” of copyrighted materials.) Much of the great literature that we want our students to read, for example, Shakespeare, Milton, Emerson, and Twain, is in the public domain — that is, not protected by copyright.  Any work that was published before 1923 can legally be copied and …

DIY Frustration

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

The United States is a nation of freedom. Indeed. As I landed in Chicago O’Hare International Airport after a long distance flight from Tokyo, I learnt that from this moment on I had to depend on myself completely. There was no friendly airport staff like in China who could help me lift my heavy luggage …

On Love

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Today I was deposed by my husband’s lawyer as part of what has been a very painful and abusive divorce. The questioning was rigorous, required as much concentration as does writing. For once I felt that my long training in Flannery O’Connor’s notion of “the habit of art” was actually useful under totally different circumstances. …

Data Dysentery

By | Prose, Publius

I recently went to a lecture on “data dysentery”, the countless reams of data we educators collect for, well, for what? To this data, I would like to add the following, a record of the sheer number of observations I’ve had in one semester only, this last semester.   These observations were done by three administrators …

My Beautiful Twodiful Wounds

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

This spring, I’m gaining in altitude by humbling myself before brocades of seaweed, breathing in the glow echoed in broken seashells and by glorifying the tree rings inside me. I want to write sap. I want to write purple prose, embellish an altogether elegant alphabet. Pristine light stalks me. Clouds are full of rosy, soul …

Aliens Behind the Wheel

By | Prose, Songyi Zhang's America

“I passed my driver’s test!” I cried and jumped like a 5-year-old seeing pandas for the first time in the zoo. I got my temporary Pennsylvania driver’s license last weekend at Penn Hills Station, Pittsburgh, after four months’ constant practice behind the wheel. It was my belated rite of passage since I am ten years …

The Splendor of Letters

By | Book Review, Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I’ve been reading The Splendor of Letters by Nicholas Basbane, absorbed by his stories of poets and writers connecting through time—of literature saved from obscurity or rescued from oblivion by translators, by booklovers, by fellow writers. I’ve also been inhabiting all those terrible times he details, when an entire culture’s writings have been obliterated—deliberate attempts …

Biting off More Than I Can Eschew

By | Arlene Weiner, Prose

“The trouble with you, Arlene,” a friend said, “is you can’t stay mad.” How right she was. Too much negative capability, I suppose—I begin to put myself in someone else’s shoes, see there might be another side to the story. As soon as I make a sweeping generalization, I think of an exception. So though …

A Lesson In Voice And Tone

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

I generally share my poems with a few friends before I mail them out.   A sample audience, as it were.   Because of this, I’ve been asked how I came to write the enclosed, as the voice and tone are different from poems I’ve written lately.   Perhaps the following note, written to a friend and editor, …

The Mega-Attack of Pure Joy

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

It happens sometimes, quick as a wink and just in the nick of time—the mega-attack of pure joy. I never know when it’s coming, but when it does, as it did last night, I’m seized by joy, end up singing and dancing around the house just like a child, just like a very happy child, …

Fierce and Lonesome

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

These words—fierce and lonesome—hold hands, become mates. A dynamic combo, explosive ammo for the writer. I can’t help but think my lonesomeness makes me fierce. Out of hours and hours of being just one in a universe of many, there comes not a torch song, but torched words, each with its own touché. It has …

Slipping

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

My mother is slipping slowly now.   She has no sense of the real world around her.   Yesterday, she told my sister that she is flying.   When sis asked her where she’s flying to, Mother answered, “To heaven.” I find myself in this strange world that my wife Phoebe calls, simply, a death watch.   I’m …

The Scent of Music

By | Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose

Today a thought descended: language possesses a lost luminosity. It paired itself with a further one: language is the primitive refined by the writing that wrenches us into being. These two notions feel right to me, complete. Writing as quest, as a hunter going after the scent of music inside every word. Like wine tasters, …

Vinings

By | Poetics, Prose, Susan Kelly-DeWitt

I guess like most writers I’d like to defeat time. I’d like the dead to live on forever, along with some trees, flowers, birds and insects I’ve known. At some point a seed was planted, and it continues to sprout through my eyes, my ears, my mouth—even my nose (that bloodhound for the troubles of …

A Very Catholic Reformation

By | John Samuel Tieman, Prose

      I am a Roman Catholic.   I was not surprised last month when I read of yet another pedophile priest.   Nor was I surprised by the cover-up.   But I was shocked to hear that two boys, ten and fourteen, were administered a solemn oath, on peril of their immortal souls, not to reveal that they were …

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

The Woman in the Corner

By | Book Review

Susan Shaw Sailer reviews The Woman in the Corner by Nancy Krygowski (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

Via Negativa

By | Book Review

A review of July Westhale's newest poetry collection Via Negativa published by Kore Press, reviewed by Michael Mercurio

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

Xyliphius Sofiae

By | Poetry

Imagine the gall not to need light at all, as if you, blindcat, were not breaking the surface of a subterranean lake, but floating in outer space.

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

At Low Sun

By | Poetry

Tomorrow a soft rain will moisten the tangled peat gone dry and hard between flood tides and low water

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

Grammar

By | Poetry

Remember the time I rushed into the house and woke everyone, hurrying you and the kids to the jeep? Where, Daddy? I wouldn’t say. Are you sure? you asked. Just come quickly.

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

The Anesthesiologist

By | Poetry

But then what? Isn’t a little mystery the price we have to pay to see the magic? Yes, everything is a corrective to everything else.

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

Writing through the Work of Another Poet Named Stewart

By | Poetry

Hell flickers  in the throats of fallen birds. Dust on tongues,  how long must we wait for ashes? 

Issue 25 | Summer 2020

And Going Out in All Directions

By | Poetry

But consider the nests he made. They are like words shaped by the body which inhabits them, plaited with grass and twigs, with twine, blue ribbon, with shreds of paper.