Three Poems By Caroline Rubin

Superstition

 

Because I am young

I secure a mirror tightly to my bedroom wall

 

But I still see shadows cut fragments,

Fractures form in the dark of twilight, where stars hide

 

Themselves beneath this cloth we call universe.

 

Through heavy eyes, the glass begins to sway like

A grandfather clock, my restless mind begs for sleep,

 

Or begs for dreams, or begs for dreams to bleed

Into reality, to wake once more in a better dream.

 

I’d like to say I trust the universe. I hold her hand

 

Like my own mother’s. My age holds no

Significance. I am afraid of separation, drifting

 

Somewhere lonely, in some empty sea.

Destiny is seductive.

 

It points to a place and commands you go there.

And so, you do.

 

My life-line diverts as I wake, wandering

Towards some heaven I can’t pronounce.

 

Illumination

 

Vermeer, did you fall in love with the woman or the painting of her?
Amongst your subjects’ delicate features lay softened shadows.

 

I see a spirit in every fierce brow, in every blotted complexion. An imprint:
your life in those malachite paints and burnt sienna shadows.

 

Your reflection mirrors in every brushstroke, every gentle unfurled curl.
Did you desire the sun for warmth or required light to erase the shadows?

 

We share common ground: art is our oxygen. Without it, we wither and wilt.
Teach me how to uncover the beauty of a world stained with shadows.

 

I wish you could paint me. I cannot think of a lovelier way to be memorialized
than living through a masterpiece. Fragment my soul, remnants of past lives shadowed.

 

If you could paint me, Vermeer, leave the title anonymous, I don’t want them to
know my name, but the woman I could have been.

 

The Poet Warrior
an ode to Garcilaso de la Vega

 

You listen to the music of your own beating heart underneath
medals and insignias. Hear the swelter of the lyre trapped in the heavy breath

 

of war, watch your men fall and pray for mercy.

 

Between the rush of blood and anguish,
you whisper verses
through
trembling lips
as you draw your sword.

 

A fragile balance between two souls:
grounded by the cold reality of death, eternalized by the fire of poetry.

 

There is a fiercer battle persisting in your heart.

 

Fate always seems to take the ones who
understand too much: the tapestry of the man you were,
unraveling at your feet as you fall into the arms of a saint.

 

Holy, holy like the strum of your lyre, silk chords settling

 

into your veins. They fade out into silence against the toll
of church bells.

 

Caroline Rubin is a 16-year-old poet from Naples, Florida who is currently attending the Community School of Naples. She has been published in the American High School Poets National Poetry Quarterly and has been recognized by the Scholastic National Art and Writing Awards. Through her poetry, Caroline aims to explore the existential questions that keep her awake at night.
Visual Art by: John Michael Dee
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Kido

First Encounter

 

That skinny boy darts through the hallways of our apartment, switches our intercom on and off,presses all the buttons in our elevator, circles about each floor until he has touched every doorknob, humming a single note throughout. Hooooooo. I follow close behind at the request of my mother, who doesn’t want him to get lost. Each time he peeks back at me to find that yes, I am still there, he giggles behind his palms. “He’s never been invited to another person’s home before,” his mother confesses. I am no less bewildered.

 

My Mother Says

 

He is ten years old, he is in my younger brother’s grade, his classmates pinch him until bruises bloom across his arms and legs, they tell him to go back to special ed, he considers them his friends, he is invited to our home to make real ones, his name is Kido. Not “kiddo,” but “kee-doh.”

 

Rain

 

The rain comes suddenly, spilling over the glass, blurring together the red tail lights and street signs and road ahead of us into indistinct shapes. Kido’s mother stiffens and asks Kido to bear what’s coming for just a little while, and when the window wipers start swishing back and forth, Kido shrieks and howls for so long that I cover his ears and eyes with my hands to blot the world out. He throws up.

 

Navigation

 

The second time they visit, my mother asks me to wait for them by the elevator–our hallways are a maze to navigate. Kido leads the way instead. “Over here,” he says and stops at each corner, making sure that we are still following him. Making sure we haven’t lost him. When he pushes the intercom, a familiar tone rings through the air. Hooooooo. Later I ask his mother if he has perfect pitch, and she is surprised that I noticed.

 

Beauty

 

Kido teaches me and my mother which jams to spread over the crackers and assures me that there is no sesame in anything, he has checked. I can’t recall telling him that I have a sesame allergy. As we eat in silence, his mother, winking at us first, asks him why he is acting shy.“It makes me nervous to be around beautiful people,” he says, then bites into his cracker. I laugh because the only other person who calls me beautiful is my grandmother.

 

His Name

 

When I tell Kido’s mother that I wish everyone else would hurry up and see what they were missing, a strange glimmer sets in her eyes–the expression of one remembering something forgotten long ago. Kido, she finally says, is a Korean name. And in Korean, his name means “prayer.”

 
 
 
 

Miye Sugino is a seventeen-year-old who grew up in Tokyo and now lives in LA. Her work is published or forthcoming in Parallax OnlineCathartic Youth Literary Magazine, and HS Insider, among others. She will be attending the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop this summer.
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Two Poems by Ellie Elrod

to myself, by well bucket. 

 

i want to be gentle right now,

coax the coal burning down your

throat out with sweet tasting bait,

words like “it’s okay that you didn’t

complete your assignment tonight,”

“it is fine to not have eaten today,”

“i don’t hold this against you,”

 

but please know, i do;

not like a knife to your neck,

but like my hand on your back,

because when hope seems out of

stock, locked tight behind the

confines of your body, 

i will build and be the factory, 

shipping straight to 

your fingertips’ home address, 

though i know they don’t hit like home right now, 

but trust me, they are, 

because they are my home 

too.

 

you are my blood, my best thing, 

i will stop what seeks to kill you, 

and that includes yourself.

 

so when every step towards the bathroom 

to shower feels like it’s ploughing 

through the thick mud of gutless life,

 

when the water in your eyes 

reflects off encouraging words like 

the ceiling of our atmosphere,

 

when you are too tired for poeticism, 

 

know that this is not the first time

you have met rock bottom, 

and that does not mean you are friends, 

but we both know the freeze of that floor

too well to sleep now.

 

i have been your mother and your father, 

tucked your body into the crook of my elbow, 

carried you out of caverns far sharper than this one,

and all you have to do for me, right now, 

is breathe.

 

fill both lungs with all you can take, 

and when it comes time to exhale, 

know it is only to make room for more.


portrait of a burning manufacturing plant, or a tribute to the trans women in my community

the woman swaying down the sidewalk

does not like to be stared at. she likes to be

known, and to be understood. in

the sunlight, you would know that eyeliner

is more golden than yellow and the tar

they tried to stick between her fingers

is thicker than any blood, but not thicker

than the skin she’s grown in the time since they left

her. they would say the womb has walls, not wings,

that the body has bounds it must fit in,

that she is anything but herself. yet there is

nothing permanent about the flesh, nothing

so lively about it but the sweat, the words.

the salt on body that comes from belief in action.

the syllables screamed over crowds of unbelievers until

someone heard. heard sylvia. heard danica.

heard a breath louder than the insults.

she stands out, her style a crown, a shield,

and a sword all in one. her flair, unlearned, is born

of things that predate and outsmart the old world

schema. she is the new world in a hot pink dress

and blue pumps, built from by-law breakers, makers

of space, long nights that seemed endless for people

with the wrong clothes and the wrong heart,

covenants of culture, painting the colors

flying above our heads, and when i look

between her smile and the flag,

i can see the resemblance.

 

Ellie Elrod is a Charleston-born poet and movie aficionado who’s currently attending Berkeley Center for the Arts as an 11th grade Creative Writing major. Their works have been published in The Post and Courier, The Maze 2020, and Desk Gum (Goose Creek High School’s Arts Magazine), as well as being awarded by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and MUSC. A lot of their time is spent attempting to learn French, Korean, and Guitar.

Visual art by: Sebastian Bateman 

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The Wrecked Classroom

They were on a field trip.

They sat still in the cabin as in the classroom.

‘Stay still, stay still’

 

The children were still as ordered,

like screws waiting to be assembled on a conveyor belt.

Wearing their life jackets, they waited.

But it was a factory form of capitalism.

‘Move, move, move’,

If someone had said this,

if only they had opened the doors and windows,

that classroom would not have become a grave.

 

They were on a field trip.

Name tags and bags,

floors of shattered classrooms

all floating in waves.

Each child had a beautiful name,

but for those who wanted to keep the ship,

it was a name of unknown existence.

They had parents who loved them,

but their ends were the same, all the same–

a cold, broken, dead body.

The three words they would have urgently

spat out, which became bubble letters.

“I’ll miss you.”

They were locked in the water jail,

wearing the shroud with a fake name;

‘life jacket.’

 

They were on a field trip.

But you taught them death

There are still children in the classroom.

The legs that cannot escape from

under the desk, under the chair.

Fingers found broken.

Nails scratching the window.

Now I wonder

Whose hand holds the axe to break the window?

 

I–Death

 

They ask children to stay still.

‘You’ll be safe,’

they reassure them.

Children joke

Titanic,

their final traces on this very world.

 

Laughter fades to uneasiness,

selfies become keepsakes,

phones record voicemails,

jokes give way to necessity,

fingers lock between hands,

teeth clench in silence,

water replaces air.

 

Waiting. Worrying. Confusing. Grasping. Fearing. Trembling. Panting. Shrieking. Struggling. Stumbling. Pushing. Hurting. Moaning. Groaning. Clutching. Choking. Shoving. Bellowing. Banging. Smashing. Scraping. Breaking. Wailing. Gasping, gasping, gasping for air,

then silence.

Stillness.

 

II–Rescue

 

Birds fly over the wreckage.

They send men on a mission–

to punish the sea with oxygen.

Underwater Santa Clauses

carry gifts of theurgical breaths,

and nectarous lullabies of singing bubbles

for lost children to follow in the dark,

and dive into the blue,

where the rampage of evils

has just ended.

The sea, frightened by the men

stops its singing of death’s prelude.

 

Hands seek hands.

Heavenly prayers–the luscious song of bubbles

flow through cabin and aisle mazes,

calling the lost souls of innocence.

Rooms camouflage into water jails,

souls forever to be imprisoned.

 

III–After

 

A sad butterfly sits on the chest of politicians,

a sad butterfly who has lost its place and cannot fly.

I cannot bear to place that ribbon on my chest. 

 

 

Yunseo Cho is a junior at Branksome Hall Asia, an international school in Jeju, South Korea. She has been previously awarded a Gold Key for her writing in Scholastic Art and Writing 2020. She wishes to further her passion for theatre and literature in the upcoming years. 

Visual Art By Rita Ruan 

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Two Poems by Mollie Schofer

2wice

So I’m looking at you and you seem like the kind of person that likes to do things twice. Your eyelashes furl like a shivering sundew–no, Sundew. Your Sundews furl then unfurl and catch only the flies low on serendipity, serendipitous–serendipitously they fly higher and higher, out of the reach of the sSundews feeding on the serendipidless.

 

There is a third kind of heartbeat, you know. It sounds like a terciopelo’s warning: do not sink your calves into my teeth. Unfortunately, people neither listen to terciopelos nor heartbeats. Only the hollow inhales of veins and fingers, and the subsequent feelings of vivacity.

 

So you turn to look at me, with those sunSundews. You turn to look at me and I see, through the curtainous coverings of your corneas (those capitalizing congregates of copious concealment), your reciprocals of light and not darkness. Your reciprocals of light and not darkness ask me: how do you feel about velvet. And I reply: it’s soft. And they say: thread some through your ears and let the rasps of rasping scales hide your heartbeat. So I threaded some velvet through my ears and let the rasps of rasping scales hide my heartbeat. But to my astonishment, the scales didn’t rasp one bit. They sounded like cotton, and I knew they were imposters. I must get them out, I must! So I ran to the water and dunked my head in. It soothed the rancid itches in my ears. It soothed the rancid itches in my head and throat and pupils.

 

My eyes filled with water and it backwashed through my tear ducts, and I was clean. Resurfacing, the velvet in my ears turned to seeds and I shook them out and I was free. Running, the water left my body and sweated down my cheeks and thighs and I was

empty.

Breathing, the beats in my heart rattled around my diaphragm and tendons and I was

full.

Stretching, the teeth in my calves fell into the mud and the core of the earth and I was

alone.

 

Honestly, it was energizing.

 

So you’re looking at me and I seem like the kind of person that comes out on top: clean, free, empty, full, alone, energized. But empty and full cancel each other out, and so do free and alone, and energy is null unless you have strength, so I’m just clean.

So you’re looking at me and I’m looking at you and we really don’t see each other at all,

do we?

No, I think we’re both wrong, in the end.

 

2 Much Toad

 

When I die, my body will be warm for just a few seconds

In that time, an old toad will lay her eggs in my mouth

And they will hatch into tadpoles

                and tadpoles

Which will swim in my saliva

And live off of the bacteria on my teeth

 

And reproduce, as toads do.

Generations will never know of a world without teeth, or esophaguses.

They will pass down the stories: first there was tongue, then there was wet

              Always tongue first, then wet.

After religion, they will create art

And paint the insides of my cheeks with the juice of the spinach stuck in my teeth

Soon, everything will be green.

 

Everything will be green, everything will be soft and salivating

They will write on my cheeks with spinach script:

               Don’t be such a stickinthemud

They are of course referring to me, their god

However it is inevitable that one young tadpole will get bored and curious

And stare into the depths of that cavern that always stares back

And dive in, down down down

 

It will boil in my stomach acid, but that is what martyrdom entails.

Others will follow, and they will succeed where the first did not

They will colonize my throat, my stomach, my intestines.

 

I will be thoroughly toaded.

And they will smile, and write on the lining of my gut:

               Tomorrow will be even better

And they will forget

That everything must end eventually

And they will be warm for just a few short seconds.

 

 

 

Mollie Schofer is a young writer from Southern California. Their poetry was most recently published in Inkblot Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, and Orange Cat Review. They are currently a student of creative writing at Orange County School of the Arts.

Visual Art By: Jiwon “Lily” Nam

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Aquarius Rising

Blades of grass douse your socks

in cold, mud-filled water

 

Moonlight pours over the sea,

waves dancing in the spotlight

 

Your eyes follow the moonbeam

up to its origin and you stare, bewildered

 

Arm stretched, you trace Orion’s belt,

Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor too

 

You become entranced as you

piece together the story of the stars

 

Lungs fill with air but you stop,

unable to articulate the sensation

 

Shocked by the familiarity

you immerse your senses once more

 

The reminiscent feeling permeates

it bathes in each crevice of your fist

 

You begin sinking, submerging yourself in

what was believed to be unknown

 

And as ambiguity saturates your soul

the droplets caress your skin

 

Strung together by magic, by history

a story told by time

 

Kaylee Morris is an 18-year-old senior in high school at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences who plans to study Environmental Analysis at Pitzer College next year. She is a passionate jazz vocalist, dancer, actress, and artist. Morris has always enjoyed creative writing but just began focusing on poetry this year while taking a Creative Writing class under the instruction of poet Lauri Conner.

Visual Art By: Cherry Guo 

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A Letter from Gloria

I can’t remember what I am doing here.

The flickering lights above me tell me they don’t either.

And the lady, whose eyes used to choke me with memories, is staring at the door,

mimicking the opening and closing of the past as she rocks back and forth.

I wonder if she hears the echo of footsteps

or the buzz of whispers stuck in my left ear.

Maybe not.

 

The door hasn’t opened in a long time

and the cold linoleum hallways swallow 

dust instead of tears now.

The shadows still come to shake my hand,

which is nice because the lady only stares.

 

The corners of the room are scorched from fires I don’t understand.

I find that peculiar because the saltwater has reached my ankles.

I kind of like the water. I can see my bones rocking back and forth,

and that’s how I know I’m still real.

 

But the lady in the window is crying so I yell for her light

but my yells turn into murmurs and the murmurs turn into shadows

that pulls me down into the water.

 

So I bang my fists on the window and so does she

and I guess she is strong because the mirror shattered.

The shards of my mistakes tickle my skin,

laughing blood,

as I wade in the water of my tears.

 

I still don’t remember why I am here

but I hope someone opens the door real soon.

Bless your heart,

Gloria

 

Laura Ospina is a sophomore at a boarding school in Massachusetts. In her writing, Laura likes to explore how her family and Colombian heritage have shaped her identity. Besides writing poetry, Laura enjoys reading and learning about constitutional law.

Visual Art By: Samantha Jui-Yun Su

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Undrawn Self Portrait

Undrawn Self Portrait

  1. The heart cracks into yellow yolk & white as it throbs through Instagram.
  2. The body walks to its reflection and squeezes itself shut.
  3. The ears tuned for sourness savor silence before they turn on & the mouth groans at
    the loudness of the world.
  4. The brain breathes out a sigh as yesterday’s burdens are borrowed again.
  5. She mumbles about the crumbling capitalist cycle, tasting silence in return.
  6. She peels the banana & she wonders if one day, she’ll shed her skin & be silent.
  7. She consumes Radiohead’s Nude & the heart shatters at “you paint yourself white, and fill up with noise” as she imagines herself with an invisible paintbrush.
  8. In a family of scientists, the creative one chokes on the wrong genes.
  9. In her skull, there’s no more space for the pulp of afterthoughts.
  10. In the dark, she silently cracks herself open until she’s all shell and no yolk, again & again & again.

 

Sara Cao is a junior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently involved in her school’s newspaper, literary magazine, and Science Olympiad team. Outside of school, she is passionate about social justice issues, writing, drawing, listening to music, and eating Shin Black Ramen. Through her poetry, Sara strives to heal and inspire people who relate to the overall messages of her poems. 

Art by: Diana Ryu

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Two Poems By Caroline Coleman

graduation

It’s summer now so the call of the trains
bounding in the distance is closer
and the loudspeaker of the neighborhood pool
drifts through my window in between dusty sun.
She comes to me, railroad irises, 9:30 air,
cigarette clouds shirking their celestial duties.
Her fingertips are wise where I am not,
but here she is, flush with hairpins and lips tangled.
Flyswatter dreams and basement couches
mark the precipice of our staged world;
stage left: she cut her window screen and rained
stage right: the subway blues, always running,
always late. They say all the world’s a stage,
but all the world’s a macabre diorama of
my childhood fantasies, home address laced
in tongues and her, hitched in outer space:
fleeing lines and a cast party queen.
I turn the light on and the fan sings spoiled,
so I keep and devour in the dark.
There’s a two-year warranty on the corpse
that keeps screaming the family dynamic
hearse. Keep me in mind at the fork in the road,
toss a coin in my sullen ear, say something
to smother these early morning fears of perpetuity.
The tracks in the woods are silent, but
you can hear her departure in the birdsong:
the wicked echo in the bones of the station,
our lonesome whistles in harmony;
you can hear it like an audition tape acting
as stitches, like the shrieks of a fallen dancer,
like the syncopated footsteps of the mailman
in his last throes of communication,
his final steps leaking from his honeyed throat
in perfect cordial dial tones.

party portraits

the honeyed rising fills the shutters in between measures
reaching us in our huddled gasping bedroom

stately shouts creep from the basement roughly
every hour or so, dancing with the kitchen timer

the thermostat grows jealous and forms hardwood volcanoes
my tears simmer on igneous cheeks and run back groundward

we play three-story merry-go-round on the railings
all sorts of vocal leaping into non-stick pans

the martyr is praying in the bathroom
later she will shotgun a beer in canonized ecstasy

but for now she asks god to pierce the holy clock hands
and shorten the pendulum so her beloved swings back faster

the nighttime zephyr uncurls all the windows
and whistles from the very heart of the matter

the house never fully sleeps nor fully swings
the door handles and sock drawers rattle into jitterbugs

while the clown in the attic composes a symphony
all in minor, locked out of the dance hall

or having misplaced the entrance for a tin of lemon squares
and the bodyguard for the soft-spoken summer spiders

there are no eyes here which see the color of rage
but just because it hibernates doesn’t mean it sleeps

still, we make merry, and I officiate in full gusts
the light of the morning too much for the feeble instrument

I call them out one by one to be wed on the porch
and in the meantime, the pancakes burn

a spell of damning truth, what can be understood and not said
and the reverse, and drive, and park, and forbearing neutral

all leading towards the endless conversation home
to swim for land or call a taxi? finish the sentence or jump the fence?

I murmur damp soliloquies into the shoulder of your sweater
unraveling the harness that keeps your name etched in mountains

and forging bronze apologies for mere identity theft
the arterial jailers fell upon their knees for forgiveness

which comes only after bottling the rest for later and much coaxing
the silver-laned queen drives her fur coat home

and sleeps upside down, toppled by worldliness
she knew every language except opening and closing

it is her birthday, which comes every other century
and with much paunch and circumference

she stands atop the rails and sees a tongue slinking
thick with turpentine and a thousand never-closing eyes

it cuts corners and divests lonely maidens of their wits
fast and painless as a hailstorm, musical as the belly of a snake

I am ears to the ground as the grass sings envy
drinking songs to the birds passed out in the bath

where does intimacy live if not here?
some country greenhouse lane, strolling 12 bar blues

you: in women’s clothing, me: a coroner
the windows shut with molasses and still frostbitten

party portraits bathed in dawn, pennies for the erratic painter
sparrow song for the sunken half-full mugs

they towed her car on her 17th birthday and now she wanders
the backstreets looking for candles to blow out

my bedroom is a pale anemic impression of the real thing
I’m a parlor dweller I guess, refusing pearls left and right

in between changing the record I hear the neighbors whispering
but my friends are floating countertop, sweeping the races

and now the record is spinning conquered heartbreak
well—it’s unreleased, this conquering

but I can march and form garden gnome ranks any old day
today is the hole in time’s second-hand pockets

the secret to spinning and keeping balance
to sit round robin and not demur, to chew and mean it

even if it requires a little manual loosening
twenty-dollar bills and terra incognita time of morning

I want to see my love taken apart so I can build for once
see how he works, see what ticks in him and why

he cancels lunch and walks too quickly and shows early
and maybe with the operating table bare I’ll see

what went wrong, and why my heart no longer beats in his jaws
the discord like a dead bee in a soda can

after they leave I hear my mother’s breathing again
from the middle-class freeway down the hall

my brow has gathered icicles overnight
to be melted with the intensity of her moderation

knowing what the headstone says doesn’t help with the dying
but the ambiguity elbow greases my strung-out reflection

the clocks are out on strike but there’s a sneaking
into my rusted liver via the closet door

there’s a suspicious lack of blood on the floor
but punchy bluntness litter the depth of every angle

every unused rich kid soapbox obstructing the exit
the backstage pass like the upstairs at a party

party’s got to end, like the failings of the decade
the shot glass is still warring with the highball

and the roads all look the same down here
mid-morning hinges on goodwill regardless of intention

I’ll remember their sleeping faces in celluloid for as long
as eyes read between the grain and find breakfast

I can see summer from the window facing the street
and spring with it, on bicycle, going out for the day

at the latest possible sunset, she’ll go home to mother
with bruises peaching her howled mouth

and make up excuses for why the sky is so green this year
and why the flowers two-step to jazz drizzles

whittle my prospects in a cradle downstream
for someone’s more loving hands with longer fingers

better for reaching heart-itches in the subcutaneous
do the seven rivers of hell really slink upstream?

and do I? I want to be better at cooking breakfast for two
and seeing the sun for each ray, infinite in an inconvenient direction

so even when I’m scrubbing ceaselessly and skipping lunch
my house holds more river water than I have to give

and was built on top of words laced the old-fashioned way
with more whole hands than fingers can count

Caroline Coleman is a student and writer in the DC area, interested primarily in poetry, theatre, and film. She has also published work in Haloscope Magazine.

Visual Art by: Anastasiia Terekhina

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A Conversation With Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is an Oregon-based freelance journalist and host of the National Magazine Award-nominated podcast, Bundyville. She has work featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Outside, Vice, The Atlantic, Playboy, California Sunday Magazine, and elsewhere. 

 

After a two-day masterclass with the Idyllwild Arts Creative Writing Department, packed with mystery postcards and research rabbit-holes, Bella Koschalk and Ryan French sat down to ask questions regarding journalism, politics, and investigative reporting. 

 

Q: You touch on a wide range of topics in your journalism. What draws you to the stories that you investigate and write? 

 

I think over time it has kind of changed. Where once I used to only write about music and counterculture things, now I think I look for stories that have compelling characters. It’s always weird to refer to real people as characters, but I think it’s someone who is interesting to interview or has something interesting to say. Or stories that have good scenes in them where I can do some kind of writing or reconstructing of an event that happened. But I think at the heart all the stories I write there is some kind of tension. So, like, someone struggling with something or a conflict and that maybe by understanding that person’s conflict or story, people can read it and come away with some clarity in their own lives. So I’ve started to look for things that could have a greater meaning for people. 

 

Q: Is it possible to remain completely unbiased in journalism, and should you?

 

I think that it is impossible to be unbiased. Journalists are real humans too and I think a lot of people in the industry talk about the rectification of the journalist. People talk about how maybe journalists shouldn’t even vote, or journalists shouldn’t participate in civic activities or that they should remove themselves in some way from society. I came up in alternative journalism and alt weeklies, and those platforms were taking a stand on something. So as far as my work is concerned, I approach subjects that I disagree with personally, but still try to understand their point of view. I think that you can hold an opinion but still fully investigate what someone else thinks. I think journalism has gotten into a lot of its problems now where people are trying to say that they aren’t biased. Journalism is undergoing a big change right now on how we cover things. At the end of the day, I think as unbiased as people can be, we do need that kind of journalism to just get to the facts. If the president holds a press conference, and it’s not televised and there are only print reporters there, they need to just get the facts and that’s it. And I think the industry ripples out from there and there are people like me who take a position on a certain thing. 

 

Q: How do you feel the platforms of journalism and podcasting interact and converse? How are they different? Do you prefer one over the other? 

 

The Bundyville project started as a print series. So there are nine written long-form print stories. At a certain point, my editor asked if I wanted to make a podcast and I was like, “Sure, I don’t know how to do that but I like podcasts so I’ll figure it out.” Now that I’m on the other side of that, it’s interesting to see that people who read the stories didn’t listen to the podcast and people who listened to the podcast didn’t read the stories. It’s a really effective way of getting the same information to two completely different audiences. It’s like meeting people where they’re at. Not everyone wants to read a long piece of journalism; that shouldn’t exclude them from the information. That kind of caters to my personality. I was never a traditional student. I’m not the kind of person that got amazing grades and could sit and listen to a lecture and absorb the information. I needed to digest information. I needed to hear it and touch it and see it. I think this is serving journalism to people who might feel excluded from it normally. 

 

Q: From the reporting side, do you have a preference for which medium you use? 

 

I do love writing, and I’m very familiar with the process of what it means to gather information for a print story. But podcasts are really evocative. I can interview someone who has experienced profound loss and write that they started crying. And it’s on my writing skills to really bring a reader into that moment. But hearing someone actually cry in your headphones is a totally different experience. Audio journalism is really exciting to me. It could be because it’s new. They are different in the way they’re reported. I can’t say I prefer one over the other. 

 

Q: Have you ever gone into a piece thinking you knew what the story/angle would be, only to uncover something during your research and refocus the piece?

 

Almost every story I started thinking I knew what the story was and then the more interviews I did, and the more reporting I did, it changed. Sometimes it drastically changed. Just recently, I wrote a story about a shipwreck that happened and a woman who discovered all this information about it. The story that I pitched ended up being completely different than the story that I ended up writing. It had similar threads, but because the reporting was so exciting and the things I was uncovering were so interesting and different, I had to follow that. I think also that I may come in with a subject that I think, “Oh, this person is going to be awful, and then I’ll meet them, and I’ll think okay, I definitely don’t agree with their view of the world, but people are not always as bad as we want to think.” After you meet them, and sit down and have a cup of coffee and shake their hand, sometimes I’ll really have a shift on how I feel about things. 

 

Q: Have there been any stand-out stories for you that completely flipped? 

 

Yeah. Last year I wrote a story about a man named David Matheson, who was a conversion therapist. He was someone who made his career by trying to convert someone away from their same-sex orientation. Which we know is impossible; it’s not scientifically proven, it’s pseudoscience. And all of a sudden, he stopped doing that therapy and he came out as gay. I went to meet him and was like this guy has damaged so many people’s lives. He was super remorseful of what he had done and he explained to me how he justified it in his mind. And by the end, I felt he was a friend, in a way. I really understood him and I felt a certain amount of empathy for him. That was really interesting. I didn’t think I could level with someone that I thought to be such a terrible person. So that was one example where I was really surprised. 

 

When I interviewed Cliven Bundy, I was really scared. I talked about it in the first season of Bundyville. I was like “I’m so afraid to meet this person.” And then he was like, “Come on in my ranch, sit down on the couch.” It smelled like barbecue and he was very kind. We sat down and talked for three hours. This man is supposedly one of the biggest domestic terrorists in America. I don’t think I changed my opinion at all about what he did. He represents a super dangerous arm of extremism. But, he was very easy to talk to, and that kind of surprised me. 

 

Q: How has being a journalist changed your lifestyle and your day-to-day life in general? 

 

I work from home. Sometimes I don’t take a shower until four or not at all. I wear pajamas a lot and I talk to people on the phone and I’m like, “Good thing they can’t see what I’m wearing.” I tend to take on stories and projects where I often say it’s feast or famine. I won’t have anything going on and then all of a sudden I’ve got a ton of work. When the time is right, I have to put the rest of my life on hold. I have to go on the road and interview people. It’s very long days and I have to hit deadlines. And then it’ll stop. I get published and then I’m done. Definitely, my career has been at the center of my life and I’ve set it up that way purposefully. I could work a nine-to-five reporting job or something like that, but to me journalism is a lot more of an art. I treat it like art. Nonfiction is a form of expression. It’s very important to me, so I set up a lot around my writing. If I’m not writing, then I’m reporting. If I’m not reporting, then I’m reading. If I’m not reading, then I’m making art. So I have this cycle that I’m living in. 

 

Q: You started out working for a newspaper. What made you decide to become a freelance journalist? 

 

I think it was that I didn’t want to write on just one beat. I had been writing about music for a really long time and it was ruining music for me. I like music a lot. I would be like, “Oh, I love this band,” and then I would interview them and they’d be lame and then I wouldn’t like their music anymore. I realized that eventually, I wanted to write for magazines and more national publications and the only way I could do that was to move to New York, which I was not interested in doing, or freelance. I was 32 probably and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger and this decision was going to seem like a really dumb thing to do once I got to a certain age. So I was like “I guess I’m going to try freelancing now.” And I did and I haven’t starved to death yet. I’ve come close. That’s not true, I have not come close to starving, but I’ve definitely come close to thinking this is a terrible idea and maybe I should do something else. 

 

Q: Have there been any situations where you feel really uncomfortable or unsafe when you’re reporting? How have you dealt with that? 

 

I feel uncomfortable a lot. I’m kind of an anxious person, and interviewing people can be kind of hard. But you have to just do it. Your job is gathering facts, so at the end of the day, you have to make someone feel comfortable and interview them. I have had several moments where I have felt really uncomfortable, mostly when I’m writing about extremism. I was at a gun rally in eastern Washington. There were a lot of people involved in anti-government militia groups there. It’s the era of Trump and him calling people fake news and I’m there as a reporter. The person I was trying to interview was a state representative, an elected official, and he got people to film me while I was interviewing him. It really put me off. I didn’t feel like I was doing my job very well because I was so uncomfortable. I was alone and surrounded by men with guns. That was a moment where I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. 

 

There’s some stuff in the second season of Bundyville—which is way better than the first season, FYI—where I go to this secretive religious community. Kind of a cult. That was a little scary. I always work myself to be a lot more scared and then it turns out to be fine. The gun rally was the most uncomfortable that I’ve been. I ask myself: what is my job here? I’m here to gather facts and not here to issue my opinions. There are times where I leave before other journalists would. I’ve also covered a lot of street protests that have turned into riots or just completely out-of-control chaos. There have been a few times where I’ve gotten tear gassed or things like that. As a reporter, I’m trying to gather facts and figure out how to stay safe while doing that. I don’t enjoy that. It’s funny, though, the most uncomfortable moments I’ve had have been in the last four years. The tenor of how people think of journalism and what’s going on in America has sort of created those situations. 

 

Q: Had you expected to have to deal with situations like that going into freelance journalism? 

 

No. Initially I wasn’t writing about politics. I was writing about culture and the funny little corner of the West. I was finding groups of people to write about. I never could have imagined I’d be writing about politics. I’m not explicitly writing about elections or things like that. I’m writing about the residuals of the political climate. It’s weird to be a freelance journalist. For example, when I’ve covered street protests, there are all these paid journalists like the Oregonian, the paper there, and the radio station. They all kind of clump together. You’ll see them in their Oregonian jackets. And the TV reporters in their clumps. And then there’s me. I don’t have a team jacket to wear. No one knows I’m actually a journalist. So that can be kind of weird. I hadn’t thought about that as a freelancer. Who am I going to call if I get arrested with a bunch of people? There’s no editor to call. Yeah, it’s weird. 

 

Q: Was there something significant that inspired you to start writing about politics? 

 

My major in college was journalism, but I minored in political science. I’ve just always been interested in politics, just as a person. But, I think it really was falling into this world of writing about extremism and anti-government groups in 2016 that really made me fall into a deep hole that I was not expecting. But who can expect that a group of armed men will take over a building in their state? It was just a very interesting story. Had that not happened, I don’t know if I would be writing about that stuff. Maybe I would have found my way to it eventually. 

 

Q: Bundyville is on NPR. What is that like? 

 

It’s really cool. It’s been much more successful than I could have ever imagined. We made the Apple top ten. This is the second year in a row that the podcast has been nominated for a National Magazine Award. That’s never happened before. I’ve never made radio before, except I used to host a show on the community radio station at midnight where I just played [heavy] metal. But that was just my thing. It’s been really cool. I feel very much like an underdog, as a freelancer. So, to see the work that I’ve done have a big platform is really pretty cool. 

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