A rosy infant once crawled upon a barren Earth,
tread a well-worn path of hackneyed poetry;
yet preserved in that nebulous memory
was a lone amber honeysuckle
by a motionless pond in a verdant carpet meadow
where the eternal thought of Spring
is timelessly encapsulated in stale air.
A silver toddler once traversed the gilded threads of this Earth,
balanced on a precarious tightrope
weaving fine gossamer webs
and slippery satin miracles
and a trail of ashen snowdrops bloomed in her wake;
A milky girl once walked this Earth
and sugared cherub hands close by plucked stars from the night:
twisted them into wistful notes
strung into a honeyed lamentation on the lyre
more intoxicating than love itself.
In memory of her
they brewed a pungent weedy tea;
In memory of her they grew a swollen peach;
In memory of her
they hung a twisting diamond shard,
suspended it beside the quarter moon
and called it their masterpiece–
and so it seized the light at a scintillating crescent angle
and yet it was
a little too sharp, a little too adamantine
whose reflection will never be quite right;
not for an effervescent being.
There once was an earthly girl glowed just a little too bright
so they burned her down, like a brilliant star,
with the tip of a searing flame
and ignited her soul,
and it caught aflame;
a white, warm light that was a sea of milk-threads–
woven into the frangible tapestry
of a tangible life.
There once was a phantom girl who was the dangling pear
on the branch of the dreamy willow
that exists in the poem only
a fragile image given too much power;
then one day she was stripped raw,
smoldered in molasses sunlight
submerged in incandescent dew: silent pleas that might have
fractured heretic hearts
if only their timbre wasn’t a silver-lined metaphor.
Time moved like a ghost
And in their remorse
they plucked a delicate plum for her
and it was wonderful in Spring–in the idyllic garden they made–
but when Summer came,
it was singed white cheeks
and charred pale lips, preserved forever in amber:
There once was a girl released into a cruel world by eager hands
when all she knew was love and caress–
so she never could have lived past Spring
not even in the poem: but instead
surrendered to the first stroke of Summer sun
in that transcendent way
of melting stars like butter
or withering skin like prunes
and lost youth like love
So when the tidal wave came just for her
(the rosy infant, the silver toddler, the milky girl)
she was not afraid,
felt nothing at all when she leapt off the crumbling surface of this barren Earth:
caught her soul of light in a guileless Mother Sea embrace
that swathed her in a starry quilt
and shuttled her home at last.
In the epilogue, we can only ever dwell on younger days
the flimsy, flinty promise of a brighter day
that lingers in still air like the perfumed sizzle of Spring:
exists in a memory, or was it the poem?
In the afterlife, it was an eternal dream from which she never could wake,
in which little honeysuckles grew, amber and lonely;
when the weathered Maker and the rosy-lipped Doll
and everyone who once
crawled tread walked this bitter barren Earth
could whisper pretty things and sing lush songs
about a girl who burned–forever.
Avery Lin is a 10th grade student and Balanchine ballet dancer. She lives in New York City with her mom and her younger brother. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, watching the Noggin channel and staying up late reading all kinds of fantasy.
Art by Dawn Jooste
Gabbie Hanna, Adultolescence, $16.99, ISBN 978-5011-7832-0
Adultolescence by Gabbie Hanna is a playful and childish book of poetry, paired with Hanna’s own simple and beautiful artwork. It explores the mentality and struggles of the new adult generation, as well as the influence of social media on mental health and real life relationships.
The book depicts grueling subjects such as breakups, the struggle to find oneself, and even depression and suicide. However, despite the subjects, Adultolescence remains sarcastic and immature. The childishness of Hanna’s poetry has its charm, and follows the newly developed “Twitter-speak” form of poetry which derives its language and audience from the short, cynical style of the new social-media-crazed population. However, this style does not serve the subject matter in an effective way.
Some of the poems follow a rhyme scheme, yet are too short to fully carry it out. The poem HIDE (15) for example, follows an AA rhyme scheme, and explores the effects of hiding depression and other mental health issues. But this poem is too short to have an important or influential message of any kind. It seems that these subjects, which are common topics among teens and young adults today, are only there for the reader to relate to. In addition to falling short in the linguistic department, the shorter poems deal with heavier topics like mental health issues, even addressing death and the desire to die, or wanting someone else to die; yet the poems seem to trivialize these issues. For example, POUT examines these issues in an immature way, saying, “life sucks. be grateful, you woke up this morning. that’s the worst part.” (8-9) This type of language is often used by teenagers today; they joke about these feelings in conversation in order to mask them, using humor as a coping mechanism, which is not often a positive message for someone to be promoting. These short anecdotes are paralleled by longer poems and anecdotes which seem repetitive and dry, devoid of the sarcasm and wit that is present, albeit misused, in the shorter poems.
The art is interactive, often incorporating the poem into the drawing in one way or another. At times the art pairs well with the pieces, but ultimately does not help readers obtain a meaningful takeaway. Hanna is clearly artistically inclined, as her drawings are impressively detailed, while still sticking to a line art style. The realism of the drawings may take readers by surprise, as the people in them are easily recognisable, and often appear with Gabbie in her YouTube videos. All of these positive traits, however, do not make up for the writing, some of which is worked into the drawings in rather disappointing ways. One example of this is a poem titled “K,” which is an blank page, except for a text bubble with the letter “K” inside and a read receipt underneath.
Adultolescence follows a common thread, which seems to have stemmed from the Milk and Honey phenomenon, and follows the same pattern of good artwork paired with–at best–mediocre writing. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur was one of the highest grossing poetry books of 2017, and was Number Two on Amazon’s Best Seller list. It is widely loved and cited as an aesthetically pleasing and relatable work by many teen readers. That being said, Milk and Honey shows a pop-culture side of poetry, rather than the traditional style which uses beautiful language, and images found in the work of poets like Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. This new and vulgar style is now simply being accepted by readers without much thought, due to its easily interpreted, relatable content.
Adultolescence–along with Milk and Honey–represents a new idea of “money grab” poetry, which stems from social media influencers, and the new Internet-focused generation. These influencers write books in the anecdotal style of Twitter and other word-space-limited social media platforms, and then claim them to be artistic and poetic, when really it is a way for an already well known celebrity to make even more money. People like Gabbie Hanna, who could be considered second tier influencers, and have a smaller audience than other big-name YouTubers, often share their financial situation with their fans and may have a lower income than larger influencers. This somewhat justifies the “easy money” of writing and selling books, as it pulls in readers from a smaller fan base, and expands the writer’s brand.
However, this does not justify the claim of “art.” Adultolescence does not represent what poetry really is to most published poets. The claim of poetry and art should be reserved for beautiful, intelligent, and playful works, and should not be applied to collections of on-trend, relatable, and sarcastic content, which sells more copies than authentic art, due to the popularity of the writer rather than the quality of the work.
By Delany Burk
It’ll bubble up,
And smashed against the cafe floor,
— Would you like to schedule an appointment?
Would you like an Email alert when it returns? —
PURE is this sweet, and pure confection
Powdery, spongy untainted white
Blissful bundle, and now finger’d fare,
Ah, this tasty marshmallow square.
Thou know’st that this cannot last
A form reformed by fingers without a past;
How this heat changes you
And swelling, insides oozing goo;
And this, alas! chang’d through and through.
O dark unsightly, unwelcome crust,
Coating caked, white, no more.
This marshmallow harm’d and, I am changed
Our skin scarred, jutting bones rearranged.
Crying uncontroll’d, as I bear witness
And the creepy black brown crust of this.
Now burnt, scathed and impure,
Misshapen sweetness now obscur’d,
And life and death and pain endur’d
Cruel cancer, hast tumors multiforme
Glioblastoma, mass surgery deformed?
Wherein could this marshmallow be,
Except in this molten middle that comes from thee?
Now finish’d, consum’d, no more blacken’d crust
Not pure sweet, but bittersweet, chalky remains and dust.
Memories of her without tumors last;
Just good and bad, now chang’d, time pass’d,
Sweet tastes of life, pure and innocent, burnt and beautiful.
Halsey Lilac Hutchinson was born in June 1999 on a cold, windy evening as the fog crept across the Golden Gate bridge along the corridors of California Street. Soothing her mother’s cries, the room smelled of lilacs, delivered by the hour from a fearful father to whom women still seemed to be a mystery. Now at the age of sixteen, Halsey is a junior at the acclaimed San Francisco University High School, known for its unique interdisciplinary approach to art, history and music. She spends weekends at SF Botanical gardens finding creative inspiration among the vibrant purple hydrangeas and never misses her annual trips to Pacific Grove to observe the colorful orange and black monarch butterflies in the shimmering eucalyptus trees.
Art by: Sterling Butler
In Nairobi, we let in the lions and take up fear—
and now the river welcomes the lunge
and cut and danger and spilling.
You need to learn how quickly the distance vanishes
between the men and the lions. I am the ticket buyer; “Lion,
give me two pounds of human carcass.” Hesitate—
death awaits. On the sidelines, a woman drinks bloody sangria,
suddenly her eyes stumble open, her limbs compressed to fractions
by the beasts in a pool of red meat, the stitches of her bones untangled.
Somewhere, the lion sees the tremble and chases.
Somewhere, the handsome man mourns the name
of his lover and the sky wears grey a shade darker
than the hair of the clapping audience. We watch the lions attack
the fighters, pouncing upon a hungry crowd, twisting their spines,
stroking the desert terrain awaiting their next targets.
You cannot go; you need to remain abstinent from violence,
sweep the remnants of lost martyrs, forgive the lion who swallowed
your sister’s fiancé, as he cried out “They have made lions’ meat of me.”
We stood silent as small children with smaller hands
offered water from the curve of their palms and
a new peace swept through the lions, their tongues parched.
You need to learn how quickly the lions
hunted those human beasts in Nairobi,
how the lions gulped the water, drop by drop.
By Lisa Zou
Lisa Zou is a Mesa Community College Student in Chandler, AZ. She is the winner of the Mount Mercy Creative Writing Contest and has been published in the National Poetry Quarterly, the Paha Review, and Canvas. She enjoys reading short stories in her free time.
Artwork by Yiting Ruan
On stage, NELLIE, a dead woman in her early twenties, is lying on an examination table covered, all except for her face, by a white sheet. The sheet acts as a dress, not coming off when she sits up, which she will do in the play. There is a table about 5-10 feet away that mirrors hers. It is empty and the light over it is off. NELLIE is made up to look very dead and cold. She does not appear mutilated; just embalmed. The man standing over her- CALVIN- is a coroner in his early fifties. He looks tired and bored. He is holding a clipboard. Next to him is a tray on wheels that holds his clean dissection tools. There is a spotlight focused on him the whole time. It partially shines on NELLIE and when she is “alive”, she gets her own spotlight. CALVIN’s light does not turn off until the end. CALVIN is looking at the clipboard, walking over to the examination table. He squints his eyes at the name on the clipboard, thinking he recognizes it.
CALVIN looks up at the corpse, scared. He lifts up the sheet, sees the woman, and looks back at the clipboard, relaxing at her face and the name it says.
Oh, no. Nellie.
He starts paraphrasing what’s written on the page on his clipboard, shaking his head at what it says. He is reading from behind the table.
Nellie. Hm. (beat) Died from a heroin overdose at only twenty-three. Parties, drugs, sex; you probably thought you had everything. Too bad you died so young.
He leans in to start the autopsy while saying this. NELLIE’s eyes pop open. She sits up on the table as her light turns on, almost as if she has been pretending to be asleep and listening to CALVIN without his knowing. She is energetic and happy. She looks at CALVIN and starts talking while she adjusts to hang her feet off the side of the examination table. As soon as she sits up and starts talking, CALVIN jumps back, stumbling over his tray and letting out a yelp, startled by her charisma and the fact that she’s talking. He raises an eyebrow and his eyes widen when she addresses him by name.
Oh, it’s been loads of fun, Doctor Calvin. (Sitting up) It sucks that you didn’t take the chance to party when you were young. You’re right: the drugs and the sex are awesome. And with crazy friends, it’s even better.
She says this with an almost sly smile. He looks at her, incredulous, and is unable to say anything. NELLIE waits for a response and, when CALVIN is finally able to talk (after 5-10 seconds of silence), he stutters.
Uh- But you’re-
NELLIE smiles, laughing at CALVIN.
Yeah, I know. I’m dead.
NELLIE cuts him off. She pretends not to understand what he’s talking about.
How did die? Ha. Let’s just say the heroin was free and leave it at that.
Wha-? No, I mean how are you talking?
She rolls her eyes, speaking as if she’s stating the obvious.
It’s your imagination, Calvin. No living friends, remember? When people get too lonely, they create imaginary friends.
He is confused at first, then offended. He stands up straight again, adjusting to the situation.
Wha- Hey! I have friends!
You do now.
She smiles, laughing at him as he realizes that what she’s saying is true. He looks away, growing more depressed at the realization.
Aside from you, I mean.
I don’t recall any.
Well, I have…
He pauses to think.
Oh. I guess you’re right.
NELLIE laughs again. He looks back at her, narrowing his eyes.
Well, what about your friends?
What about them?
Crosses around the table to down-stage right.
It’s just that you were saying how great your life was. Why did you give it all up just for some free heroin?
I don’t know. I got crazy. I had a good time! You can’t live your whole life without risk; risk promises excitement.
CALVIN looks at her skeptically.
Don’t be so sure.
Why do you say?
CALVIN does a sort of body scan and looks at his coroner’s report.
Well, it says here you were 23. That’s a pretty young age to die. I’ve avoided high risk practically all my life and my clock’s still tickin’ at 52 years old.
She stands up and walks towards him, stage right. He walks away, stage left.
Okay, sure. So you’re still alive. But it’s not worth it.
NELLIE gets up and approaches CALVIN. He tries to walk behind the table upstage right, but she blocks him. He tries instead to walk downstage but she grabs him.
What do you mean?
NELLIE puts her arm around him, but he rejects it, trying to move away from her. She takes control by moving closer to him and keeping him in place.
Oh, please. I bet you never have any fun. Your life is so boring that you actually had to imagine a friend for some entertainment.
My life is not boring.
Oh? What kinds of things do you do for enjoyment, then?
CALVIN smirks and looks at NELLIE’s torso.
You don’t want to know.
I’m curious. Tell me anyways.
If you’re sure…
NELLIE looks at him expectantly.
(Slightly ashamed) Alright. Sometimes I reorganize peoples’ organs in order of importance.
NELLIE’s eyes go really wide and she leans back a little bit in shock. She steps back.
You do what?
I told you you didn’t want to know. It’s relaxing, though.
CALVIN goes to the front of the table.
(Reassuringly) And I put them back afterwards. Plus, you’re the corpse in the situation, so I’m pretty normal compared to you.
NELLIE gets defensive, leaning forward.
Hey, you’re talking to me.
Angry and pointing a stern finger at CALVIN.
(Approaching CALVIN)You’re fucking weird, man. You need to get a life.
You think it’s so great to live like you did?
But it ends so fast!
So? At least I had fun!
CALVIN looks slightly annoyed.
Even if it were better to take the kind of risks you did, what would I do for fun? I’m an old man for god’s sake.
NELLIE sits on the end of the table.
(Laughing) Well, I guess it can be a bit hard to have fun if you’re just hanging around… (looks at him weird) and cutting up… dead people all day, especially since it looks like you’ll be joining them yourself pretty soon.
She smiles at her joke. CALVIN glares at her.
Oh, I don’t know. Don’t just focus on work all the time. It’s depressing lurking around a big pile of bodies 24/7. It’s going to get to you. Hell, it already has! You’re talking to a dead drug-addict. Go out and meet living people. Have fun. Form real relationships with functioning life forms.
She spots the wedding ring he still wears and motions to it with her hand. She becomes more encouraging and hopeful.
Oh, or take your wife to dinner or go on a date with her or something.
CALVIN sits on the end of the table with NELLIE, twisting his ring around. He talks quieter.
I can’t do that.
Sure you can. It would be healthy to go out with your family.
Do you have any other suggestions?
If it’s because you’re not on good terms, this could be a chance to make it better. Maybe you’re at work too often or-
(Sparsely) They’re dead.
NELLIE slouches a little more.
Three weeks ago. (beat) My two daughters were with my wife, Ellie… (beat)They were on a plane to visit her parents on the West coast. They’re big on holidays. I had to stay for work; it’s always a bit busier around Halloween.
NELLIE cautiously scoots closer to CALVIN and lays a hand on his shoulder.
I’m sorry. I didn’t know.
It’s fine. You’re probably the part of my imagination I kept that detail from.
So, any other recommendations on how a lonely old guy can have fun?
CALVIN gets up and crosses to stage left. He chuckles a little, trying to use humor to cover up his pain. It’s awkward for a few moments.NELLIE is grateful for the change of topic. She responds as if their conversation hasn’t just happened.
(Excitedly) Well, you could try meeting new people. (beat) Go to parties! Maybe you can find a girlfriend or-
You want me to replace my wife? And then die from overdosing with some skank, right? That’s how I’m supposed enjoy life? By screwing it up? I’ve seen tons of people like you, dead and alive. You’re all the same. You’re given a good life and then you waste it. You don’t appreciate the people you have, or you just don’t get close to anyone. My family isn’t something I can replace. Maybe you had disposable friends- an expendable life- but…
She cuts him off.
(Defensively) Hey, I enjoyed my life.
Yes, I did!
Well… don’t you miss it?
CALVIN turns away while she’s talking, not wanting to listen to her criticize the way he lives.
That’s the whole point! I lived a life that I could miss. I don’t miss my beating heart; I miss the way I lived while it was still beating. At least my life was worth something to me.
CALVIN snaps his head at her and glares, resenting what she has just said.
What is that supposed to mean?
You don’t have any meaningful relationships anymore, you don’t know anyone, nobody knows you, you haven’t done anything with your life other than dissect people… You’re worthless without your family. There’s no point in living now that they’re gone.
(Quietly angry) Shut up.
You don’t make a difference to anyone anymore.
It’s not worth living! You’re better off dead! It’s not worth living!
CALVIN yells at NELLIE, shoving her. As he slams his fist down and yells, NELLIE passes out again, going back to her dead state. He checks her pulse.
CALVIN is shaking from anger by this point, but now he’s alone in a silent room with a corpse, where he has time to contemplate what NELLIE has said. He backs away slowly from the table and talks to the audience.
(Slowly) It’s not worth living. (Beat)
CALVIN backs towards the other table, running into it and sitting down. He takes his ring off.
It’s not worth living.
He lays down on the table. Nellie’s light turns off at the same time the light over the table CALVIN is now laying on turns on. Lights out.
END OF PLAY
By Hannah Phillips
Art by Greg Ballenger
He noticed that the salmon took a moment
to breathe a sigh of relief when he tore them from the water
(am I god? he asked)
and thought he heard a wheeze of joy
from the snap of bones between his teeth.
The bear has prophetic dreams on nights
that are so hot that
he cannot swallow water. He sees a beer can
bent in half like a man shot in the stomach. The bear
becomes a vegetarian; he wakes in the morning to find
feathers stuck and bent between his claws.
There has been a question swinging in his ears like frayed rope.
He moves towards a nursery that pools
beneath the rocks a mile downstream. The bear reminds
himself to pray and thanks his mother and father for allowing
death a place to sleep at the dinner table.
By Sofia Haines
Sofia Haines is a senior Creative Writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts.
Emily Cameron: In your book, Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death, there’s a lot of discussion about spirits and connecting to the spirit/spiritual world. A lot of people consider this a pseudoscience; do you believe it is science or pseudoscience?
Caryl Pagel: I’ll separate my answer into two different things that I think: One is that I don’t believe in cliché ideas of ghosts or apparitions. I don’t not believe in them either, it’s just that I would not testify to any of that. But, I do believe that anything can be approached using scientific method. People still call things like psychology pseudoscience. A lot of these ideas and the people I talk about and researched in the book, like William James, were kind of on the forefront of psychological practice. So, yes, I do believe that it’s science, and I believe you can use science to approach things that aren’t measurable or possible to even know about. In the same way that scientists can study dream activity, and we might not ever have any solutions, we can study the idea of what happens to the soul after death. Those might be impossible things to ever figure out, but I think that they can still be approached using the same techniques of questioning and measuring and gathering evidence. It’s proof one way, proof the other way.
EC: How did you become interested in the subjects of clairvoyance and clairaudience, like the ones in your book?
CP: I was always interested in that kind of thing, but I became obsessed with it when I encountered a group of texts which were these scientific journals from the late 1800s. They were the proceedings for the Society for Psychical Research, which was this group of scientists who gathered all of these stories about clairvoyance and telepathic activity and apparitions, and all this sort of unknown phenomena. Their goal was not to say, “This exists” or “This doesn’t exist,” but to just gather all the stories from the people that they could and try to figure out if there were patterns, and which testimonies seemed to be familiar to other testimonies. They were trying to collect evidence. And so I read these journals, these scientific texts, and I became really interested in these ideas. I became interested in them as this subject matter that is unknown, and the stories and people’s accounts are what were interesting to me. It’s a great party trick to ask people if they’ve ever seen a ghost, or even asking people about things like coincidence, or if they’ve ever had a near death experience. People have great stories about that. It was the content that drew me in, but it was the form, the act of storytelling around it, that kept me there.
EC: In your book, you have the “Botched Bestiary” poems, which are similar to accrual poems; do you think this form of hybrid literature disrespects or defaces the original work(s) like some people do? Do you think it adds more to the original(s)?
CP: I don’t know if I have a general opinion on that. I know for me, with those particular pieces, they came from a place where I was doing a lot of research on writing about animals and animal artwork. There are a lot of artists who are interested in the animal body and the human body, and the human as a machine or hybrid bodies with medical technology, and people living longer. There’s so much nowadays, that our bodies are changing in response to our environment, and a lot of that comes across in the visual art that I was looking at, at the time. I was thinking of some of these ideas that the artists were using, like collage, and a goat’s head stuck on a collage like Rauschenberg does, or different shapes on imagined animal bodies. Even things such as taxidermy where it’s half one creature, half another creature. This has always been in our imaginations. That’s where I started to write like that. I started thinking of the text as a body, and something that could be manipulated and rearranged and sort of refocused. So I think that there is a certain manipulation, or botching, or re-stitching something together. I also think of it things like heart transplants; these things in which we are taking pieces, not just in the art world, but also in the physical world. There’s hybridity to our contemporary lives in some way. These are the ideas that were swirling in my mind when I started to take parts of texts. That’s why the quotes are still in there, because I wanted it to be obvious. I thought of those quotes as a surgeon leaving a scar of where the surgery was done. In terms of general erasure projects and collage projects, sometimes you can abuse the original text by doing projects like that. Just like you can originally write a really bad poem on your own, you can also ruin other people’s things. There’s a million ways for it to go wrong, but there’s also a million ways for it to go right. A lot of my book was thinking of writing as an experiment.
EC: Could you break down what the editing process at Rescue Press is like, and describe how it might be different from other presses?
CP: I don’t know exactly how other presses work, but for us we basically collaborate with each author on the terms of their own piece. So, with the novella, Penny, n., we got the manuscript, and I read through it and made notes, I would call the author and we would have these long conversations about certain scenes or certain sentences, which was fun. We’d talk about these characters as if they were really alive, and we’d wonder, “What would Penny really do in this scene?” or we would ask, “Is that the right word?” It was a lot of conversations and dialogues, and some of the suggestions I made ended up in the final piece and some of them didn’t, depending on what the author felt like was right for the work. To contrast that with our newer novella, which is called Last Word, this piece came to us very polished and the author had spent a long time with it over the course of time. So, I didn’t have as many edits on that and he didn’t have as many edits on his own work either because he had already done all of that work and had a lot of other readers. It just depends on the project and what the author is up for, which means for some of them we go back and forth on all these different drafts and some of them we don’t do that much with. We think of editing as a service we can offer to people, which a lot of middle level presses or even other small presses don’t do anymore. They just publish your book. They don’t read it a bunch of times or help you edit it at all. And a lot of the bigger publishing houses will edit it without consulting the author, and they’ll just say, “You have to make these changes.” We try to offer ourselves to the authors and say, “What can we help you with?” or “What do you want to do with this?” It is very much a collaboration.
Ana Garcia: You must receive many manuscripts from authors who want to be published. What is the voice you want to give to them? What are you particularly looking for when you consider work for publication?
CP: It depends on a bunch of different things. It depends on what genre I’m reading, so in poetry sometimes I –at least, lately- am prone to writings that are more adventurous, wild or strange. In fiction, lately I am in a mood for traditional things. What I’m looking for on a manuscript changes depending on what I am interested in at the time, but also really strong writing, regardless of genre or style, can tell me the intention behind it and keeps me interested while reading it. When Rescue Press started, I was interested in hybrid genres, which I still am, but that was one of the reasons why we started, like one of our books To Be Human Is to Be a Conversation, is a piece that is part memoir and part poetry, there are photographs and questions, so it is a documentary text that is very interesting. I’m interested when people are mixing mediums and playing around.
AG: What is the most challenging part of editing an author’s piece? Are there any aspects in particular that you get tired of?
CP: That is one of the qualities I look for before I accept something. We publish about 5 books every year, which is kind of a lot for a small press, but also it’s not that many books. When I decide we are going to publish something, one of the things I think about is “Is this a book that I want to read one hundred times?” Because that is the editing process: you read it over and over again, and you collaborate with the author. In the process, sometimes your life changes or sometimes you’re reordering everything, or cutting huge parts or encouraging people to write more into it, so there are many things that can happen. Some manuscripts don’t need much work at all, but I pick things I know I won’t get tired of, which is hard because there’s a lot of good work out there and it’s quality writing, but I know I can’t read it a hundred times. However, this helps me to read out what I want to publish, too.
AG: Does the writing change a lot when it falls into the editors hands?
CP: It depends a lot on the book project, so some of them we’ve done massive amounts of work in collaboration with the author, and some of them we’ve changed one word. A lot of it depends on how much the author is willing to work with us and hear our opinion. So I would say that it is very different for different books.
AG: Rescue Press varies a lot on the aesthetics they choose for their books. What do you take into account in a book to choose how it should look like?
CP: One of the things that we do, but not all small presses do, is that we really try to make a physical object that fits the content, the style of the work and the author’s vision of it. That’s why all of our books look really different, a lot of small presses will use the same size, the same type of pattern for their covers, but we work very closely in collaboration with the author. Sometimes they’ll say: “I just envisioned sort of a big book for mine,” so we’ll try to make them interesting, trying to use the content to suggest other artistic representations for it, while keeping the author’s vision of it at all times.
AG: After reading so many manuscripts, do you think they have influenced/inspired your own writing?
CP: Definitely yes! I don’t know if I could say how, though. I think just the more you read, the more influence you get. The work that I publish, that I read, influences me a lot. I just read Frankenstein for the first time, and I thought: “Wow, this book is awesome!” So all you read starts layering in your head, and there’s more like available sort of models that you can do.
AG: Now that you went to the publishing companies as a writer and not as an editor, how did this experience make you feel? Do you think that your experience as an editor prepared you for the editing process?
CP: It did. I knew what to expect and the editors for my book were great. Factory Hollow Press is the press that put out my book, and they are the amazing in every single aspect. It was such a gift to work with them, and I felt so honored that they wanted to publish my book. My editor, Emily Petit, spent so much time with my work, and gave me a million bizarre ideas for the cover. She was very patient for editing, and gave me great advice in reordering the poems. So yes, being an editor prepared me, but I was still very lucky with the people I worked with.
AG: What made you decide you wanted to become an editor? What do you enjoy the most about your work?
CP: I enjoy reading all of that work. Basically I just have been a huge reader since I was a little kid and I’ve always been a writer, too. I could not get enough reading while I was growing up. I read every single book in my house, and visited the library very often. That’s still what I do, I mean, part of my job is to read which is what I love to do. Even more than writing.
I whisper at the growing spring,
where she was talking to a garden dog
and were she was seen wearing a blue hat,
when butterflies cried,
and one by one,
fell to the ground.
No joy is in this high western skies,
where the glowing blue moon went,
leaving us in darkness,
as the morning sun sparkles upon I,
who never more thought of time,
thoughts flood my mind,
of the moments when I was restrained
by the unbeatable fact of death.
how the summer noon star fast grows-up
as love flies in a little girl’s heart
like twirling music
that lives in the silent rain.
The rain that falls lightly on the blue hat;
that lays beside the owner
of the garden dog
in this whispering spring.
By: Eleonora Beran-Jahn