An Artist’s Perspective on the Literature of Passion: White Heat

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Under tan, stained skin
This blood screams for it
Like the whistle from your teapot
Taste me you’ll taste the truth

Wasn’t made to wait
I was made to make
Take, tear, sigh, leak for this
Drip Drip
Lips pulling my skin inside

You – me – him – you too
None of us matter
So what does it matter
We all look alike
We all stretch with impoverish
Touch me

Bind my body crush my spine
Choke my thirst with each finger tip
Tremble with each and every
Thrust
Controlled. Practiced and disciplined

Now leave don’t look back
You, you stay
Console me
I just died so good
Hurts and I love it

You do too.
I love you
But not here
You’re a means to an end
Because it’s always gonna end

But you – are everything
Devouring glances
Inhale me like life
We smell sinful
Take me again

 

****

Artist Statement: 

Write what scares you. This is the mantra I’ve been reciting and dodging for over a year. If I wrote the truth – then I’d have to relive it – and even scarier than that – I’d finally have to let it go.  So here are my baby steps. Time to look into the mirror and recognizing who I really am – now – after. Love lost left me sinking into a quicksand I like to call “identity crisis”. The transition of living as a “we” to an “I” is daunting and unfulfilled. Coping soon became realizing all the parts of myself I’d been ashamed of and snuffed out over time.  All those things I’d been told I wasn’t supposed to be. Too dominant, too sexual, too sad, too emotional, too sensitive.

As a direct result of not becoming Mrs. (insert ex’s name here) – I became another me. The complex, often dark, insatiable force who bores easily and plays frequently. Perhaps I should be grateful? Say thank you?  But I don’t think I will . . .

So here are the thoughts of a modern coping woman. A blend of tears and savagery

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Jey Aida: Writing and film have always been my greatest passions and outlets. I started dabbling in poetry in high school and went on to study English Literature in college and minored in Film. After I graduated college, I moved to New York to study screenwriting. This was without a doubt the best year of my life – exposing me to a great city and many writing opportunities. That year I wrote/directed/cast/and shot my first short film. I created my own sitcom and had the chance to work on and edit/act in the short films of my colleges. I then went on to freelance and write film reviews/blogs/video blogs for production companies based out of California. During that time I was also fortunate to work with TWIFF on their press releases and film festival marketing and coordination. It’s only recently that I have turned my attention back to poetry and I’m in the process of working on poetry exploring race and sexuality.

Overcoming Your Internal Critic

art-for-dirks-pieceI’ve been thinking a lot about writing and wondering whether I have anything worthwhile to say about it.

There’s always that same element of self-doubt when you’re about to embark on any writing project: “Is this going to be good enough? Am I going to be good enough?” You can read what others have written and try to do as they do. You can call on someone for advice or a helpful push in the right direction. In the end, as with few other things in life, it comes down to you and you alone.

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” That’s from Ernest Hemingway, and he would certainly know. I couldn’t come up with anything nearly as good to say about writing; the best I could manage was a phrase that seems lifted out of a comic book speech bubble.

“Writing is the ultimate challenge.”
It really is.

No other pursuit faces such a daunting task with such a limited number of tools – to transcribe your limitless imagination and your innermost feelings onto a blank page, using only the words you know. The writer faces an eternal battle, with you on one side and a featureless void on the other. Everyone who views your work is a judge and every judge has his own set of criteria for whether it’s good or bad.

In a Rod Serling-like twist, your most vicious and inimical judge is always yourself.

I don’t write with publication in mind; I’ve never submitted my work to magazines; my “circulation” is usually my family and a few friends. Yet I’ve lost count of the stories I’ve abandoned because that internal critic was whispering in my ear, telling me that I just didn’t have it, that it wasn’t good enough, that I just needed to scrap it all. At those times, the ultimate challenge of writing becomes an ultimate defeat.

But by the same token… is there anything more satisfying than writing something that you like? Even if you finish it, file it away, and never share it with another living soul, you’ve joined the ranks of the storytellers. You can rub elbows (in spirit) with the authors of the Viking sagas, with the traveling bards, and with whoever that guy was that wrote Beowulf.

So maybe that’s my piece of writing advice (and I don’t feel bad giving it because I still make the same mistake myself): don’t hesitate. Just tell your stories, because every piece you complete is a victory over the void. That story didn’t exist until you wrote it. The only obstacle was the thought that you couldn’t tell it. You’ve scribbled, or typed, a whole little world into existence.

It’s the ultimate challenge, the ultimate test of our own resources.
We let the blank page win far too often.

***

dirk-headshot-for-hootFrom an undisclosed location in southeastern Pennsylvania, Dirk Linthicum spends as much of his free time as possible laboring away on short stories, plays, scripts, and a seldom-updated, viciously contrarian movie and television blog at ltgsabm.wordpress.com.

The morning after

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we emerge scorched earth
chap-lipped rye ringing
in our ears a four year
dissonance
we do not      understand
our brows     furrowed
in disappointment
we gather
share   parka
share      hijab
against cold new wind
pass the conch
our mouths agape
a joint or three
between fingers
raised in mock peace
we yell a chasm
in unison hoping
it will erase the night
but it comes anyway
so we learn to operate
without light or air
hold our gasps

we take our spades
and dig
and dig
in threes
we replace every crater
with a spruce
a woman is not asked
to mend
every hopelessness
but she does anyway
crouched against the fire
our hands create
a pantomime on cave wall
shadows cast
by Golden Idols
they carted in
from the heartland—

whose heart
we wonder
whose land
whose limber limbic
hatred flows
through its rivers
poisoned caustic red
nerve pinch
vein bulge
eye twitch
anger so thorough
your father would be ashamed
how do we drink
from the same stream
as a demon?

tomorrow we will awake
the apocalypse will fade
a preexisting condition
we cannot shake
so we learn to watch
for boulders
and tumbling
and unkind words
and open carry
venom
from pale strangers
whose only fear
is us
so we huddle together
and stare at them
while they rattle together
and stare at us
from the empty altar
they’ve built

tomorrow we will empty
ourselves in a circle
the sculptors
the artists
the poets
the proud     kooks
gather our morsels
under the rising
Yellow Star
pins in our lapels
drops of water
in a quiet undertow
and resist
and resist

 

****

Artist’s Statement

We feel broken.

We feel broken.

We feel like records someone forgot to flip, playing that raspy melody we’re not even sure means anything anymore. The others aren’t listening.

We feel impotent: unable to fix ourselves, to protect the vulnerable, to grieve with any meaning. Still. After the apocalypse, we must awaken. While we draw breath we must rail and resist and pour ourselves into creative endeavors because the river of knowledge will never stop flowing, not until the last human draws her breath, not until thought itself lays discarded on the highway. What we pour into the river is not for us, but for those who come after to sip at its shores before returning with a brimming bucket like we have.

Despair, but not for too long. Grieve, but be aware. Come back; Trump cannot halt us, though he might censor our words. Knit a blanket. Cook a hearty meal. Be kind to a fault.

And fight like hell.

 

SimandAlex Simand holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. He writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. His work has appeared in Red Fez, Mudseason Review, Five2One Magazine, Angel City Review, Drunk Monkeys, and others. Alex is the former Blog Editor for Lunch Ticket and past Editor of Creative Nonfiction and Diana Woods Memorial Prize. Find him online at www.alexsimand.com or on Twitter at @AlexSimand.

a millennial prayer

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may our grams be insta-liked,
our fingers knuckle crack scrolling
scrolling our eyes seeing
everything and nothing, may
our texts be addressed promptly,
no three mean dots stuck between
I love you (or whatever)
and
I’ve already forgotten
where your birthmarks live, may
we find purpose
on a park bench
overlooking a city
we’ve barely seen
but someone told us
we should crowd like crickets, may
our headphones remain
untangled, looped through
our shirts or bras
a steady beat
a steady beat
a steady beat in our ears
the cadence for a march
we were wound up for
at birth by our mothers, may
we be ever grateful
for poetry that surrounds us,
like ocean—live open & #nofilter
may we learn
to drink salt water without
gasping and not resent laughter
from women on trains, may
our tweets be clever, may
our blogs be read, may
our love for social justice
be a loaf of bread, may
we lose our gluten allergies, may
we never drive cars again
and wear those shoes that make us
look like Roman prefects
and discover the perfect hashtag
(and use it only once), may
we discover radical self love
is the circus of our generation
without using the words
radical, self, or love, may
we find slow in our motion,
yearning for open windows we scrape
the frost off with our fingernails, may
we discover colors without name, may
we pause to have original thought
(just one)
may we avoid all manner
of what Monopoly taught us was evil, may
we grow bloated and happy
just like our parents
but without falling asleep.

 

***

Artist Statement:

What does it even mean to be a millennial? I think we’re still trying to figure out. In the meantime, we seem to have no end to the distractions that perpetually clutter our psyches. Maybe that’s why we’re still casting about. We care about things, of course. Too many things. Social justice. Cat videos. Literature, sometimes. Community, or whatever we think community is supposed to be. Nothing is neat. Nothing is obvious. And maybe that’s okay. I hope that’s okay. I hope we’ll be okay. Amen.

 

SimandAlex Simand holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. He writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. His work has appeared in Red Fez, Mudseason Review, Five2One Magazine, Angel City Review, Drunk Monkeys, and others. Alex is the former Blog Editor for Lunch Ticket and past Editor of Creative Nonfiction and Diana Woods Memorial Prize. Find him online at www.alexsimand.com or on Twitter at @AlexSimand.

Focusing on Writing

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What I’ve learned about writing productively is it all comes down to focusing on my goals, and writers can’t possibly do that effectively without actually being aware of what their goals actually are.  Think of it like trying to stuff an arrow down the barrel of a gun and then trying to shoot at a target that’s not just moving but camouflaged.  And invisible.  With feathers.

I spent about 6 years working on three different novels that never went anywhere, largely because I wasn’t focusing on what it takes to get a novel published.  I wasn’t making regular efforts to revise, edit, sift through a list of agents who represent what I write, or build an effective query.  Instead, I was making regular efforts to hit about three blog posts a week, participate in a weekly online flash fiction group, and stay up to date with regular blog/comment debates on topics including current film, reincarnation, life after death, and how strongly I believe that The Great Gatsby is overrated.

Writing, for me, largely comes down to immediate versus delayed gratification. Do I want to make it from 4,000 to 5,000 blog followers or 100 likes on my next post? Do I want to stay current with political debates with idiots from my Class of ’80 in hopes I can convince them which way to lean in November? Do I want to spend an hour carving out the perfect 100 words for a picture prompt? Do I want the accolades of how perfectly the dialogue in my 100 words showed fear in the hearts of villagers who find a blood-stained canoe on an empty beach?

Or, do I want my daughter, who works at Barnes and Noble, to tell me how a customer brought a book to the register, handed it to her, and she said, “Oh, my father wrote that”?

For the past four weeks I’ve been revising one novel while an agent crawls through a different one in order to give me some valuable feedback in order to improve the novel she accepted. Eight weeks ago she said she’d get back to me in six weeks, which is why I’ve been on edge for the past two weeks.  I haven’t written a blog post in two months, and only today did I take another shot at flash fiction, which I hadn’t done in over a year.  I haven’t had over ten views a day on my blog this past year, even though a few years ago I averaged ten views an hour and once had over 700 in one day.

But if I’m going to finally get a novel published, then this is exactly where I want to be.

BTW – the Barnes and Noble thing actually happened.

 

 

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After spending over 25 years teaching literature and writing, Rich Voza now writes for himself. Publishing credits include one novel and 13 short stories published through Whiskey Creek Press. Two novels are in revision and one is somewhere on an agent’s desk. On a good day, he’s listening to baseball on the radio while emptying a cooler of beer on the beach. On a bad day, his kids are bugging him to pick up sushi.