Roberta Olson published a chapbook of poems, Some Numerous Dwarf Rippings with Flash+Card. I was happy to read these poems becaue they made me happy to be reading. Sometimes I am reading something that makes me unhappy to be reading mostly because I understand too clearly what the writer is saying and because I am reading a book I cannot object. I can only read or not read but by this time it is too late and I have read what has made me unhappy to be reading and if I stop reading, then I will be not reading and not happy.
Archive | August, 2007
This is a story I wrote that appeared in a book hand-bound by Jennifer Borges Foster accompanying the ACT/Roethke Readings this month. The book includes work by Jonathan Crimmins, Rebecca Hoogs, John Olson, Trisha Ready, and others.
My first father worked as a mechanic on airplanes, but he couldn’t fix his own car, a 1939 Pontiac with secondhand wheels with wooden spokes. It had wheels like a Conestoga. He enforced his rules with a swift smack to my back. My second father worked in a bank and came home after six tired. He took off his jacket and lay on the couch where he snoozed until dinner. After dinner he had a glass of sweet wine that was as thick as molasses and the color of cola. That improved his mood for about half an hour so I could stand him. We played a game of chess. He always won, except for our last game. I started to study chess books and learned chess traps. We sat down to play, and within ten minutes I had him. “Checkmate,” I said. “Checkmate?” He repeated back to me. He sat looking at the board for a long time. “Well,” he finally said. “That settles that. “We didn’t play chess anymore. He never told me his rules, but I knew them.
My third father designed control panels for submarines. He talked with a slow, country drawl and always wore a felt hat. When it rained, which it always did in those days, the hat turned funny colors and all splotchy like a giraffe’s neck. He used to tickle me until the insides of my rib cage felt bruised. The muscles in my belly twitched. He hooked a finger, when I was paralyzed with laughter, under my bra, and peeled it back so that the cups squashed my boobs. He acted like he didn’t know what he was doing. When I squirmed away from him, he would walk slowly after me calling out in his country drawl. During his regime, I lived though an uneasy lawlessness.
The Roethke Readings, a new event inspired by the early 20th-century nightclub, Cabaret Voltaire. The readings took place after First Class on August 9, 16 and 23 at 9:00 p.m., and on August 3, 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 9:30 p.m. From Roethke-inspired compositions by Ken Benshoof, former UW faculty member and Kronos Quartet composer, to new poetry from Kary Wayson, Rebecca Hoogs, Jennifer Borges Foster, J. W. Marshall, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Vis-á-Vis Society and others, to prose by Rebecca Brown, Matt Briggs, Jonathan Crimmins and Trisha Ready, the cabaret will be an exuberant celebration of Roethke’s literary legacy.
The Sky is a Well won Rose Metals Press‘s first short short chapbook contest. The book is beautifully produced: letter press cover and amazingly sharp typesetting. Claudia Smith, who lived in Seattle briefly, has published a whole bunch of stories in mostly online mags, including two issues I’ve also been in, The Mississippi Review and The Steel City Review.
I haven’t read a collection of realistic stories since Christine Schutt’s A Day, A Night, Another Say, Summer, that I’ve enjoyed this much. I think part of this is that Claudia Smith’s characters don’t live in a kind of tangential world. Schutt’s novel, Florida, for instance is set in decrepit mansion of a wealthy family. Or Edisto by Padgett Powell has a professor mother named The Duchess. I have a completely unconfirmed theory that fiction about working class people, no matter how well done, if anyone will pay any attention to it has to have some kind of off-kilter angle — fallen aristocrats, boot-leggers, drug fiends, etc. How to explain the obscurity of Well by Matthew McIntosh?