POEM WEDNESDAY – from Boomerangs in the Living Room by Rex Wilder

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From the Fall, 2013 issue of The Antioch Review

from Boomerangs in the Living Room


PIGEON)

Pigeon,
poor pigeon, trying to kill
himself by jumping off
the bridge.


FORCED)

Forced on her
like a pickle by Sandwich Sam (not
his name): leaky promises.
Divorced.


WILDER)

Wilder,
Rex. Mature poet (tweak
of nature). Man-
child.


WERE)

Were you
mine? Faded birds in
the bindweed
stir.

 

****

 

Rex WilderRex Wilder’s new volume, Boomerangs in the Living Room, has just been released by Red Hen Press. He is currently editing There & Back: A Boomerang Anthology. Both feature a form he invented, a four-line poem in which the last word must rhyme with the first and be able to be recited in a single breath.

 

 

©2014 The Antioch Review

 

 

POEM WEDNESDAY – Uplands, Winter by Emily Rosko

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From the Fall, 2012 issue of The Antioch Review

Uplands, Winter

Catch: the morning’s sky went
falling, crystalline clumps
snowheaped.

Firs coated white. In between,
gray. In between the stillness
that might be time

measured for sight. I was quiet most
hours. Heart’s pulse. A certain
nothing to mind.

Rabbit tracks print
the yard. Buried woodpile.
Each shiver

and shrink of an old house has been
felt. Mice nesting in
the walls. Some shuffler

boots his way to some car. Some
dour face. Some of
a heaviness.

Could the day change, it won’t.
Minus the blue, the gold the sky
a solid permanence.

At noon, the bell out on the hill
snuffed under
a train whistle.

No other sounds
to startle. No startling thought
but here and here and here.

***

 

Emily_Rosko_APEmily Rosko’s two poetry collections include: Prop Rockery, awarded the 2011 University of Akron Poetry Prize and Raw Goods Inventory, winner of the 2005 Iowa Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in AGNI, Anti-, The Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Laurel Review, New Orleans Review, and Sycamore Review. She is the editor of A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press, 2011), and the poetry editor for Crazyhorse literary journal. A former Stegner, Ruth Lilly, and Javits fellow, she earned an MFA at Cornell and a PhD at the University of Missouri. She now is assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the College of Charleston.

 

©2014 The Antioch Review

 

 

Our Doppelganger Moment

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The following editorial ran in the Winter 2013 issue of The Antioch Review introducing the journal’s electronic subscription option through JSTOR. Robert S. Fogarty, editor, introduces our approach of moving into the digital age by making available to our readers, an electronic version. You can learn more about how to subscribe to it by going to the subscription page. It’s a smart way to always have available, not a pared-down version, but rather a full digital replication of The Antioch Review on any electronic device you use.

***

Our Doppelganger Moment

Antioch Review editor, Robert Fogarty

Antioch Review editor, Robert S. Fogarty

With this issue we enter into our doppelganger phase with an electronic version available through JSTOR, the highly regarded nonprofit organization headquartered in New York that has specialized in providing libraries all over the world with digitized versions of periodicals (particularly those with long runs like the Antioch Review). Recently they have branched out and now provide digital editions to individuals, corporations, and other entities that want an electronic version of a current magazine.

In recent years numerous publications have eliminated their print editions in favor of a single electronically formatted version appropriate for tablets, Kindles, Nooks, personal computers, and other devices. Newsweek is now available only online and a year ago The Wilson Quarterly asked their readers to accompany them on what they referred to as a “digital journey.” They both went solo. Unlike these two distinguished publications we have opted to go down the doppelganger road with our print version as before, but now our shadow will be available for those of you (libraries and individuals) who prefer to get your Antioch Review that way. We are now “double walkers.”

It is just common sense for us to continue with the print tradition and make the necessary adjustment to the times. It will be the same magazine in both forms, and included in both will be a four-color version of our handsome covers. The digital shadow version will not be a minor league publication with also-ran authors appearing (those who could not make the cut for the hard-copy print edition). They will be separate and equal.

For a number of years our good friend in London, James Campbell, an editor at the TLS and Review author, has been publishing in his book column, N B, the results of his Christmas used-book perambulations when he goes in search of books to give as Yuletide gifts. He usually comes up with an interesting and assorted batch of titles gleaned from shops near Charing Cross and Hampstead, spending a modest five pounds per book.

In a recent issue of TLS (October 5, 2012) he describes at some length his autumnal trek that sums up our sentiments about our desire to keep the old and embrace the new: “Second-hand bookshops have been assumed to be in danger for several years now, with reason. New York friends lament the disappearance of neighborhood favourites. Abebooks can supply most things at the click of a mouse. Many people find convenience in ebooks and e-readers, and if they are happy, we’re happy too. It makes us even happier to report that all the shops we mentioned last year (sixteen) are still in business. A book is a book is a book. You cannot own an ebook. It has no aesthetic properties, no ornamentation, no weight, no smell, in short, no character. It offers no choice between nice to handle and that experience’s opposite. It does not furnish a room.”

Our “product” line for this number leads off with an essay by one of our regulars, Bruce Fleming, who—appropriately enough for a premier electronic issue—deals with the question of obsolescence (e.g., the videocassette) and how its disappearance raises questions about the nature of progress. Marcia Cavell’s memoir about her mother (“Trains”) is about a transient life during a period when locomotives meant freedom. Curious, of course, from the point of progress that they are still around both above and even beneath the waters like in a Jules Verne story. Anis Shivani, a bold critic, explores the characters that abound in contemporary novels inspired by cosmopolitan urban life on several continents where multicultural values have seemingly won the literary day while “bad” Muslims grab the headlines.

Jeffrey Meyers is back here once again with an assessment of Ted Hughes as a war poet writing in the aftermath of “the war to end all wars” so evocatively presented in Adam Hochchilds’s recent work. And finally our essay section concludes with a grisly account of lion hunting by a young essayist and a sensitive look at both personal and recent history.

Our short fiction is both serious and comic, with Paul Christensen and Robert Ready on the dark side and Rick DeMarinis on the light side. Our poetry section has a long poem by Richard Howard that explores the world of the Fifth Grade and our Continental poetry expert John Taylor explores Florence and the ”inner world” poetry of the neglected Italian modernist, Lorenzo Calogero (1910-1961).

We have taken the plunge into the electronic world and so far it has gone well. We hope to see new subscribers and reach our older established audience. Whether you are a flaneur or a double walker let us know your thoughts about this issue and the progress we are making.

©2014 The Antioch Review

POEM WEDNESDAY – “Once Upon a Time in Monterey Hills” by Alex M. Frankel

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From the Winter, 2013 issue of The Antioch Review

Once Upon a Time in Monterey Hills

That summer of spaghetti westerns
it felt all right to be forty-seven:
nights on the terrace with a laptop,
some mosquito spray and bossa nova,
until a lifeguard broke through the walls
of cyberspace, became flesh,
smelling of hip hop, beach volleyball,
naïve, hungry,
body brown, rich with barrio.
He waited like a waif in Mother’s armchair,
waited to teach me,
pry me open to his teenage music:
Chuy Barajas
all lean, brown, glorious,
thirty-four minutes, maybe thirty-five,
the way his mouth eagerly took over,
fed me all the apathy of the world
before he shook my hand, shut the door.
A day went by
of just listening to a simple harmonica
and weeks and weeks
of a simple worthless tune.
Body brown, thirty-three minutes,
it shouldn’t be allowed, to vanish like that,
it shouldn’t be allowed,
the stiff bird I found one night
lying on the living room floor
folded-up, worthless.
A year and years, decades, a lifetime
of Sundays and big-box stores,
pop stars sneering from their billboards,
buses burdened with the numb and the dead.
Why do I try to book a flight to Martinique?
Why do I hand a hundred dollars to a homeless man?
Why do I spend nights roaming around a drugstore?
A store that sank to the seafloor years ago
with its load of musak and champagne.

***

AlexMFrankelAlex M. Frankel’s first full-length poetry collection, Birth Mother Mercy, was published by Lummox Press in November, 2013.  He also has a chapbook called My Father’s Lady, Wearing Black (Conflux Press). Besides poetry, he writes short stories, book reviews, and essays; recently his essay “Cycles of Rejection: An Elegy for My Four Parents,” appeared in the online journal Switchback. His website is www.alexmfrankel.com.

©2014 The Antioch Review

Backstory—“Deep Springs College Cowboy Lunch” by Bruce Fleming

The Antioch Review first ran Bruce Fleming’s essay, “The Deep Springs College Cowboy Lunch” in the spring of 2009, and featured it again in its 70th Year Anniversary Issue in the Fall of 2011. In it, long-time professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, Fleming describes his experience while teaching for a term at Deep Springs. Deep Springs is located on a working ranch off State Route 168 in central California just miles from the Nevada border in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Fleming tells how the school was founded in 1917 by a wealthy utilities tycoon, Lucien L. Nunn, who based his educational concept on three pillars: academics, labor and self-governance. Fleming focuses on a number of aspects of the Deep Springs experience and raises questions about the manner in which these specific principles are employed. He describes trying unsuccessfully to get the students to articulate how and why these particular concepts would be the best foundationally viable ones to be considered. For example, he questions the pillar of labor, or more specifically, the amount of labor each student is required to do as a part of the Deep Springs College experience.

. . . So, over the seven weeks, I asked as many of the students as I could about their views of the labor “pillar.”  What did they think its purpose was?  Why this much labor rather than less?  What I was finding was that they dragged into class having read the text once, over 7 a.m. coffee in the BH [Boarding House]. I thought they might be well served by pipes that didn’t break, and work that didn’t leave them drained and sleepy.

In this article, Fleming provides backstory to his essay.

***

Deep Springs was quite an experience for me and my family, and the institution where I taught had only a small amount to do with that experience. Easterners (I’m a native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and have ended up teaching for the last 27 years at the US Naval Academy in our state capital Annapolis, after five years teaching in Europe and Africa, Rwanda before the civil war), we knew only the California that most Easterners—or for that matter Californians—know: the coast. Inyo County, where Deep Springs is located, has as its Web site a moniker aimed at the coastal Californians too: www.theothersideofcalifornia.com. Most Californians don’t know that there is part of California that’s east of the Sierras; neither did we.

Deep Springs valley, and its larger cousin the Owens Valley to the West, are part of the Great Basin that fills the area of the Great Inland Sea of prehistoric times from the Sierras to the Rockies.

The culture isn’t what most people think of as California at all, but the desert of Nevada of which it’s culturally part, albeit high: the elevation of Deep Springs is almost a mile—I had to wear gloves and a knit hat to go running in the morning. To get to Deep Springs, you fly to Vegas, itself in the lower and hotter desert, and then drive up and around Death Valley, entering California at an invisible line in the sand on the two-lane highway going west that is marked only by a sign, pock-marked by bullets, saying “Welcome to California.”

Driving over this arbitrary border (it’s a straight line between California and Nevada) that first time on May 4, 2008, we stopped the rented truck and got out to video my wife singing “California Here I Come” by the sign—something of a joke, as the song speaks of “bowers of flowers” that “bloom in the sun.” Here, there was only desert, a deserted highway, some far-off cattle, the great plains behind us dotted with the rubbery stalks of Joshua Trees, and near the sign the remains of a one of the dozens of ghost towns with which this part of the country is dotted—this one called Palmetto, because the Southerners who came thought the Joshua trees they found were a variety of the South Carolina Palmetto they had left at home, albeit a variety with only a few rubbery leaves as if afflicted with a strange plant mange.

DeepSpringsCattleDrive

Inyo County, which contains Deep Springs Valley and hence Deep Springs College (actually its official name lacks the “college” part, just Deep Springs—but usually it’s added as an identifier), has both the lowest and the highest points in the continental US: the lowest is in Death Valley, where we went our first weekend in mid-May (and a good thing it was too that we went that early, as the temperatures get up to 130F and beyond in the really hot months), and the highest is Mount Whitney, outside of Lone Pine, where most of the John Wayne Westerns were shot. (The draw for the movies isn’t the chichi small town for movie folks and now tourists, but the strange landscape at the foot of the Sierras outside the town, strewn with huge boulders larger than people: the Alabama Hills, they’re called, named by another group of Southerners who settled here during the Civil War.)

With two small children—Owen was almost 6 and Teddy had turned 4 on the plane to Vegas, so everybody in the plane sang “Happy Birthday” to him—he still remembers this—going too far up the Mount Whitney trail wasn’t feasible, but we did a couple hundred yards to say we had, and took family pictures with the sign. We met a group of hikers going up (signs said, bag your excrement and bring it down, so these were like the suburbanites around us who walk their dogs with a white plastic bag tied to the leash) and I asked when they’d reach the summit. “About tomorrow noon,” said the guide cheerfully. In the East, where you can climb virtually any Adirondack peak near my mother’s vacation house in an afternoon, that seemed incomprehensible to me.

For us Deep Springs—aside from the disappointment of the not-college itself—was the discovery of the West. (It’s hilarious to me that Deep Springs is the left-wing and equally rigid counterpart to my own right-wing and absolutely rigid institution, the Naval Academy, which puts out sweatshirts saying “Not College”: both proclaim their principles at every turn, and neither ever seems to stop to ask whether these principles are at all productive, or for that matter whether they are even being adhered to. Pragmatism and accountability have been abandoned at both.) Ghost towns now seem mundane to me: of course when you exhaust the silver mine that brought you to nowhere to begin with, you walk away from the four walls that have sheltered you, taking only movables on the horse-drawn cart. And in the desert, these four walls stay around for a while. At Bodie, the most famous of the ghost towns in the mountains north of Deep Springs, they maintain the town’s remnants in a state of what they call “arrested decay”: its decrepitude is the point, so they want to preserve it just that way but no more decayed than it is. Elsewhere, the lone and level sands stretch far away.  For Easterners, with the notion that towns grow up around natural features or trade routes based on them, the idea of these transitory settlements that are meant to last only for a decade or so and then be abandoned seem odd; here in the endless waste of the Great Basin, they are banal.

Here too I became aware of the related phenomenon that shocks Easterners and fills our museums with great lovingly crafted objects that seem like discarded factory parts: that human beings use machines larger than they, which break and can’t be fixed, and so are abandoned.  Right here, where people live. In museums, these pieces are constructed so as to be useless so we appreciate them as objects; in the West, they’ve become useless, but nobody sees them as art because everybody can identify them as a Broken X or the Front Part of a Y. In the desert, there’s no place to cart them to. Every ranch (and a “ranch” isn’t something exotic, out of Bonanza, but merely the Western word for a farm—George W. Bush’s poetic-sounding “ranch” where he invited visiting heads of state to bond with him by “clearing brush” was a pig farm before he bought it) has a dump at its end, full of great abandoned machines and their fragments among which those addicted to decay and destruction can wander at will and, in Keatsian fashion, can glut their sorrow by taking a walk around, here where these incongruous objects get so slowly older they seem arrested in time, without the relentless kudzu and Virginia creeper of the East that smooths out their sharp edges in a seamless green blanket. Only here nobody would be daft enough to go to the dump except to take more junk. It may be out of mind that way, but, unlike the East with its invisible rendering plants and dirt-covered waste disposal locations, it isn’t out of sight. When you’re done with it you just take it to the edge of the property. It’s a more pragmatic world here in the West, and hence one that may not need our strange museums for people who have forgotten that what we build turns useless and so suddenly looks odd. Perhaps it’s a world that is more in tune with the fact of age than the East—like a world of Russian peasants where there is no place to cart Grandma off to, so that it’s accepted that she spends the day sleeping behind the stove. Decrepitude and uselessness are part of life, the West teaches.

So some of our fascination was based on the fundamental newness to us of what, for the locals, was mundane. I found it amazing that I could drive the several miles across dusty flatland to the Deep Springs Lake, home of the Deep Springs Black Toad—mostly sand flats—and find arrowheads in the sand dunes.  I found it amazing—something all Israelis who have “made the desert bloom” know, and Central Valley Californians—that if you put water on the dry sand, it turns green with lush vegetation. The Deep Springs ranch had clearly defined right-angle plots of crops that ended with a neat jointure to desert where the irrigation stopped. And what an odd and somewhat guilty pleasure it was to go to the larger pond that was a stopping place for migratory birds in the desert and be surrounded by lush grasses and reeds, chirping and slurping birds, and the buzz of insects—and then walk away and within a few paces be back in the desert. It’s the springs that made the ranch, of course, and when L.L. Nunn bought it, it was at the end of its useful life as a food  producer for the very ghost town we stopped at back in Nevada, Palmetto.

So some of this time in the West was only exotic as seen by us outsiders, and it too had begun to fade as a source of interest by the time we left. One grows accustomed soon enough to the desiccation, and to the ranch culture, as well as to the fundamental fact that cowboys are like the tattooed laborers back East, stringy, with a cigarette in their mouth, who move from job to job—not an icon of manhood, sad rather than aspirational.

But some things are exotic even for people who know there is an “other side of California.” A few miles away from our house were and are the oldest living organisms on the planet, the bristlecone pines, that we went to see up on the Westgard Pass into the Owens Valley, in a raging snowstorm—on Memorial Day. They’re scrubby and ugly. But how astonishing to see the cross-section of one that died naturally (you can’t of course cut off souvenirs or touch them): here, at this ring about halfway through the concentric circles, the wise informational arrow informed us, Julius Caesar was assassinated.  And here, further toward the center, the Pharaoh Akhenaten died. And here, almost at the outside edge, occurred the American Revolution.

We circled the salt flats of the Owens Valley Dry Lake, as it’s called on maps—the once-lake that the Angelinos desiccated to give water to their city, and tried to find where the ferry service from the days of silver mining up in the hills would have been.  I drove the back way into Death Valley, from the north, rather than going over to Nevada and taking the paved roads—the most hair-pinned, built-on-shifting-sands, potentially lethal drive (with my wife and two small boys!) I have ever taken—it’s only because I’d driven a similar twisty-windy down the mountain into the Burundian capital of Bujumbura, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, that I felt even as secure as I did. We discovered Yosemite—and what to do if you meet a mountain lion (I was jogging early in the morning from our place at the Curry Cabins, where months later pieces of Halfdome split off and crushed thankfully empty cabins): you open your arms and make wings with your coat to look larger than you are to scare them. I turned around at the sign and headed back.

So for us it this time meant the discovery of  a world, bracketed by the discovery of Vegas, itself a world—neither of them worlds we’d ever known, or to some degree ever known existed. The college was incidental, and a big disappointment. The students (like Naval Academy students) don’t know much, by design rarely get out (like my students at Annapolis), are (like my students “back East”—as everyone says, even those who have never gone East, as if all were living the “go West, young man” culture of a century and more ago) told they’re the cat’s meow and have no sense of insufficiency that would drive them to try and improve, and are so exhausted by their work (as my Annapolis students are by the Mickey-Mouse watch-standing and playing at being military that the Academy fills their time with) that they have a hard time focusing on academics, and, finally, like my own students, are so busy Being At the Strange Institution Where They Are that it’s difficult for them to see the value of the world outside that literature offers to show them. Instead their life is all about their experience as teen-agers here in this spot rather than anywhere else, encouraging the very narcissism of the young college ought to minimize rather than maximize.  And they all, whether at Deep Springs or the Naval Academy, say “like” every second word. At least the students at the Naval Academy stand up straight, and have better workout rooms than the litter-strewn dusty collection of a few high school barbells in the basement of the main building at Deep Springs.

So that was the college. Dusty, isolated, self-involved. But what was all that compared to the rattlesnakes, the bobcats, the scrubby desert flora that seems invisible to the Eastern eye until you bend down and it springs to multicolored if miniature life under the gaze, the peaks of the Sierras covered with snow looming over the valley, the descent from the Westgard Pass with the view of the Sierra glacier, where the road gets so narrow you have to go single-file? How to tell a gopher snake from the rattler it mimics? Where to sit in the truck so you don’t have to open the farm gate? What an amazing world.

***

carphoto Bruce Fleming (2)Bruce Fleming has written books on dance criticism, aesthetics, philosophy, and creative nonfiction, as well as, short fiction and a novel. He’s won an O. Henry short story award and The Antioch Review Award for Distinguished Prose. A graduate of Haverford College, he’s taught at universities in Germany and Rwanda, and for more than two decades at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  His most recent book is What Literary Studies Could Be and What It Is.

© 2014 The Antioch Review

POEM WEDNESDAY- Of Your Poem – By Scott Withiam

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From the Winter, 2012 issue of The Antioch Review

Of Your Poem

How you use the I to step away and go on and on about yourself without offering much but language, distance, and futility is way too close to the way I feel when talking on the phone all day to people losing their homes to banks, who ask, “Should I just walk away, start all over again?” “Yes, go ahead,” I today said to a caller, while thinking of your poem, and then I really took off: “Go ahead, just float as you already are, without a real or final answer, like a haunted spirit (very tired image, I know, very, i.e. Sting, but then given a very tired situation, why not Sting?). Yes, if your house is, then all our houses are haunted. Don’t walk away, run.” Click. But then in terms of Americans going dead, my mind ran to The Night of the Living Dead or The Dawn of. When listening, reading, or watching, as I’d done, as I was doing, it was the victims which worried me most. They deep down knew the answers to the tragedy forming before them, but looked for someone else for an answer. They trusted no one they knew or saw, but wanted to trust anybody and everything they couldn’t see to offer a solution. The former job of poetry! The company I work for now making a business of it. I know, you merely asked what I think of your poem. These were not the intended results. That’s what listeners are hoping for.

***

Scott_Withiam_002_(2)_portrait_for_book

Scott Withiam’s first book, Arson & Prophets, is published by Ashland Poetry Press. His poems are recently out in Agni, Antioch Review, AscentBoston Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Diagram, and Salamander. Poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street and Beloit Poetry Journal. He works for a non-profit in the Boston area. 

 

© 2014 The Antioch Review

Backstory—Driving, by Kenneth A. McClane

Kenneth McClane shares the backstory of his essay, “Driving,” that first appeared in The Antioch Review in the Fall of 2006. The piece was reprinted in the Seventieth Year Anniversary issue, published in the Fall of 2011.

I thought for a second about my father’s proposition. I could, of course, remind him that there was no automobile, that we were in a Massachusetts nursing home, and that he was near the end of his days—I could tell him that. But is was driving with my father, the car was slowly snaking from our Harlem brownstone, down Riverside Drive…

“Driving” was a difficult essay to write because I needed to keep many things in my mind, all equally compelling. First, Alzheimer’s is a horrific disease: it cannot be described in any other terms. And yet I had two parents both of whom died from Alzheimer’s, and both who, in their healthy life, and in their diseased life, loved me. Whatever their predicament, they remained generous, and, very often in spirit, the people they always were. So I wanted to write something that honored my parents, was not dishonest, and would permit the reader to see how wonderful my parents were to me, warts and all, even in the most difficult of situations. Secondly, I wanted to show how I developed a way to have my parents with me a little longer—how I learned, and it was truly a work-in-progress, that Alzheimer’s is simply another way of seeing the world. Yet let me be very specific here. I am not stating that Alzheimer’s creates some romantic new reality, or that my parents were involved in a reinvisioning of the world—I am just stating that I realized, particularly with my father, that if I entered into his way of seeing things when he told me something, however improbable the narrative, I could still encounter the sense of him, his joys, unhappiness, struggles. When I first began to contemplate this, I was on very shaky terrain: I had no idea of where I was or where my father might take me. But after a time, I learned to associate large swaths of his narrative with other in-the-world details. When, for example, my father didn’t recall that I had invited many family members to visit him in the nursing home, he quickly began a story about how he had gone to a “grand” party and there were “ heaping mounds of shrimp,” a detail that resonated with him, a child of the Depression. My father did not recall that Warren, his brother, or Farrell, his niece, had come to visit; he did know, however, that something clearly momentous had occurred. Again, this was not my father—the doctor—who had lived mightily in Harlem and in our home. But it was a clear shadow of my father—an inkling of his generosity and character.

By the same token, I did not want to write an essay that would further wound others who had loved ones with Alzheimer’s, for it is a ghastly disease, something that no narrative can adequately convey.  Luckily, my parents remained largely the people they had always been. My mother remained gentle, full of love for dogs and the natural world: she had been a painter and many other things—a writer, a stockbroker, and a pharmacist. Although she no longer painted, when I asked her if she’d like me to buy her paint materials she told me she didn’t need to do it anymore, that the world “was full of trees with dogs laughing.”  Here my mother, like my dad, was creating a counter-narrative: it wasn’t true, but it expressed two of her great loves—dogs and flora, and, just as powerfully, her indomitable conviviality.

My, father, too, of course, somehow found ways to show his true character whatever the disease demanded. He had been a doctor—a very good one—and I never remember him failing to honor any responsibility. If he said he’d be somewhere, he’d be there. But one day he told me that he’d “lost the children.” I, of course, was one of those, so I felt directly involved, and then he began to chart the ways in which he had lost us—loaning us to a woman somewhere, who had simply absconded with us. “Can you imagine losing my children?” he asked, laughing.

The mixture of the surreal and the real; the true moments of connection and disconnection—this is what the essay needed to convey. And the horrors, too, of the disease. My brother Paul had died of alcoholism many years before, a fact that started me to abandon poetry and turn to the essay. One day in the nursing home my father asked me about him. I reminded him that Paul had died and my father started to cry uncontrollably, his thin ribs moving like an addled accordion. “Paul’s dead, Paul’s dead,” he kept uttering, as if he had just learned of his son’s demise. At the time I worried that my father might confront this horrific predicament each new day, that to his compromised mind this might become, day in and day out, a new visitation, but my father never again asked about Paul.  Indeed, this was always the reality with the disease: one was always confronting an ill-explored psychic landscape.

In many of my essays, I try to give voice to how well my parents handled the vexations of a very difficult time: they were both African American professionals, they were both New Englanders, and as most members of their generation, they didn’t complain much—they simply hoped that their children would have better lives. Both of my parents were born a generation too early. My father, though brilliant, never received his due, largely because of racial prejudice in the 1930s, although he did teach at Columbia Medical School for 40 years, and was honored as one of Boston University’s 100 Most Distinguished Alumni. My mother, the Salutatorian at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, could never practice her pharmaceutical profession because of her gender. To this day, this still angers me. Yet my parents never uttered a word. In fact, it was I who had to unearth much of this history—my parents never dwelled on it.

“Driving,” at its best, simply celebrates two human beings who met life with great courage, generosity, and grace. The essay, I’m certain, has moments of being Pollyannaish. And I certainly included instances of humor, because there were truly many such moments, and both the reader and I needed the reprieve. And I also included moments of poetic, near-Whitmanic rhapsody, because I felt the essay needed it, and because, at bottom, lyricism matters to me—it is, at times, its own great blessing.

My essay, sadly, fails to covey much of my parents’ true spirit; but it, in a very difficult time, allowed me to share some of their luminosity—and I had them, if only in language, a little longer.

***

???????????Kenneth McClane is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature at Cornell Emeritus. He has published seven poetry collections and two volumes of personal essays, Walls: Essays 1985-1990 (Wayne State University Press) and Color: Essays on Race, Family, and History (University of Notre Dame Press). In 2010 The University of Notre Dame Press reprinted his collection, Walls: Essays 1985-1990 in paperback.

McClane’s essays have appeared in many anthologies, including The Best African American EssaysThe Art of the Essay; Bearing Witness: Selections from African-American Autobiography in the Twentieth Century; The Anatomy of MemoryYou’ve Got to Read This; and Literature for Life. His essay “Walls” was selected for The Best American Essays 1988 and The Best American Essays (college edition) volumes. In 2002 he received the Distinguished Prose Award from The Antioch Review.

© 2014 The Antioch Review

 

POEM WEDNESDAY- Snowy Day – By Alpay Ulku

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From the Summer, 2013 issue of The Antioch Review

Snowy Day

The wind moves in three dimensions, it has height and breadth. It is snowing. Crows ride the updrafts step off glide back to the tree line where are they going what are they looking for up the elevator down the escalator back and forth across the tollway something to eat something with which to build a nest what else would they be looking for it is spring a wall of windows blazes orange-red then all of us are carried away from the sun the earth between us and into the night the morning one calls the other answers idle talk to ease the solitude to fill the waiting a few new faces here and there a few of us missing a few of us mourned.

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Alpay Ulku ALPAY ULKU‘s first book, Meteorology (BOA Editions) was selected as a “Notable Debut,” by the Academy of American Poet’s Book Club. Poems for his second collection have appeared in APR, Boulevard, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Grain. His website is www.alpayulku.com.

© 2014 The Antioch Review

Jane Satterfield’s Poem, Last Dinner at Louie’s with Levis, Featured on Poetry Daily

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Jane Satterfield’s poem from the Winter issue, “Last Dinner at Louie’s with Levis,” is featured on Poetry Daily. You can read her complete poem here. The Antioch Review is the featured journal.

Jane Satterfield

JaneSatterfieldJane Satterfield is the author of three books of poems: Her Familiars (Elixir, 2013), Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press Book Award, 2003), and Shepherdess with an Automatic (Towson University Prize for Literature), as well as Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond (Demeter, 2009). Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and three Maryland Arts Council grants, the William Faulkner Society’s Gold Medal for the Essay, first prize in the Mslexia women’s poetry competition, and the 49th Parallel Prize in Poetry from The Bellingham Review.

© 2014 The Antioch Review

POEM WEDNESDAY–Narcissus and Echo by Valerie Wohlfeld

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From the Winter, 2013 issue of The Antioch Review

Narcissus and Echo

The water had no pulse until his pulse.
Sudden stammer summoned: vowels
like the sparrow’s lost muse.  Narcissus
holding in his arms his reflection in the pool.

Image to image he floated on the water.
Too much beauty becomes another death.
Between mimic and music his bloodless slaughter.
Little chill kiss to fix the kill—no dread

sinking face-down drowned among the lilies.
Soon he turned to pollen and petal for the wind.
A shadow on the rocks still replies,
come, come, here, here: like a widow

or a sparrow she pined and sang her verse.
The water had no pulse until his pulse.

 

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Wohlfeld PhotoValerie Wohlfeld’s most recent book of poetry is Woman with Wing Removed (Truman State University Press, 2010). Her first collection, Thinking the World Visible, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize (Yale University Press, 1994).  She holds an MFA from VermontCollege.  She recently moved to Annapolis, Maryland.

© 2014 The Antioch Review

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