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Month: November 2011

DAEDAL DOODLE, P

by Victor Stabin

[Editor’s Note: We will be publishing all 26 letters of Victor Stabin’s Daedal Doodle series, one each Wednesday for 26 weeks. Be sure to click on the picture for the FULL VIEW! Victor Stabin’s alphabet book is available here.]

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

Frosted Lucretius

by Nance Van Winckel

[Editor’s Note: Click on the picture to view it full size. Read more about Nance Van Winckel’s work as a graffiti-poet-photographer here.]


Nance Van Winckel’s fifth collection of poems is No Starling (2007, U. of Washington Press). She’s received two NEA Poetry Fellowships as well as awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner. New poems appear in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Field, and Gettysburg Review. She is also the author of three collections of short fiction and a recipient of a Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship. New fiction can be found in AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, and Kenyon Review. She lives near Spokane, Washington and teaches in the MFA Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Creative Nonfiction: River of Ghosts

by Curtis Smith

A department colleague retires, and when she cleans out her desk, she brings me a shoebox. For twenty-plus years we’ve taught special learning in a public high school. We share a history. We have, in the reticent vernacular of rural Pennsylvania, seen some things. In the box, hundreds of snapshots. Clowning boys. Girlfriends with arms draped over each other’s shoulders. The stiff poses of school-picture day. A few in their graduation gowns. The photos are ten, fifteen, twenty years old. There’s Joey and his mullet. There’s Sammy in her Frankie Says Relax T-shirt. As we sift, we exchange the fragments we know of their lives—the ones who’ve learned trades. The ones who have children of their own. The ones who’ve gone to jail. The ones who’ve died. (more…)

DAEDAL DOODLE, O

by Victor Stabin

[Editor’s Note: We will be publishing all 26 letters of Victor Stabin’s Daedal Doodle series, one each Wednesday for 26 weeks. Be sure to click on the picture for the FULL VIEW! Victor Stabin’s alphabet book is available here.]

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

That Long Evening on Our Balcony

by Nathan Long

Gabriella and I were throwing words off our balcony, watching them spin like maple seedlings or drop like unopened cans of beans, then split apart on the sidewalk. Sometimes a letter separated in midair turning ‘mugs’ into ‘mug’, the s floating freely by itself until it caught on the front side of the word, changing it into ‘smug’ a split second before it landed on the ground and shattered into gibberish.

Two little girls were playing hopscotch nearby and we threw them ‘daffodils’ and ‘candies’. To the man who spit on our hedge, we dropped ‘ink’. The three letters soaked into his hat, and he looked up bewildered.

“I’m no kin of yours,” he said, and we giggled, as we watched the liquid stain his hair. The poor man must have been dyslexic.

Gabriella and I drank gin and tea, a concoction her grandmother passed on to her, her secret recipe for surviving the long hours of afternoon bridge parties. Her grandmother would always bring a flask of gin mixed with a milk which would not curdle no matter what the proof, and claim it was her special creamer.

Here today, we use lowfat milk and only a drab of gin, but it takes to us. We pour ourselves another cup and salute Gabriella’s grandmother, then drop ‘cream’ over our balcony rail and watch the white letters of the word spill over the grasses.

Next, I throw over the word ‘rupture,’ and we laugh as we watch it do just that against the concrete.

The sun slips behind clouds, then buildings, then the immense curvature of the Earth, and all is orange and warm, as if only now to reveal that the sun is truly made of fire. I look at Gabriella and see her nose and cheeks glowing crimson and wonder if it is the sunlight or the tea that makes her shine.

She stands and laughs aloud. Then, without letting me see it, she tosses a word over the balcony she has had hidden in the pocket of her house dress.

“What was it? What was it?” I yell, bending over the rail to read the twirling thing. I should be able to make it out, for as it falls it grows larger and larger, longer and longer, but I can’t. By miracle, before the word lands, it straightens out for a moment, and I manage to read it: “Century” it says, then splinters into a hundred pieces.

“We’ve lost a whole century,” I cry and look up at Gabriella, only to see that she has grown quite old. The tea pot and cups are empty. The flask is dry. Then I feel it in my own bones, a wrinkled, crippling force, like gravity exponentialized.

Gabriella begins to shiver. The sun light is all but gone.

“Come on,” I say to her, “it’s time to go inside.”


Nathan Alling Long has stories and essays published in forty anthologies and literary journals, including Tin House, Glimmer Train, Story Quarterly, The Sun, and Indiana Review. His work has appeared on NPR and has won him a Truman Capote Fellowship, a Mellon Foundation Fellowship, and a Pushcart nomination. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Richard Stockton College of NJ. More information can be found at http://wp.stockton.edu/longn/.

What do words mean to you? What do you see as their power?

A word’s meaning, besides its denotation and connotation—the difference between ‘caviar’ and ‘fish eggs’—is shaped, it seems, by our personal experiences. ‘Dog’ feels drastically different, depending on whether you were just bitten by one, hope to be rescued by one, plan on eating one, or just lost the one you cared for for years. Beyond that though, I think we have personal relationship to words that have nothing to do with literal meaning. I savor the way ‘murmur’ rumbles in my mouth, I have a sense of pride at finally being able to properly pronounce the words ‘linoleum’ and ‘litigious’, and I draw anxious around ‘eschew’ and ‘officious,’ both of which I learned during volatile arguments years ago. But these feelings about certain words must shape their meaning as well.

About power: What first comes to mind is that story of two men walking down the street holding hands. A car drives by and the passenger shouts out “Faggots!” to which the men respond, “Really? So are we.” The story always reminds me that the most powerful words can still be altered, redirected—or in post-modern parlance, reclaimed. It reminds me that, ultimately, we can refuse(or maybe the better word is ‘defuse’ ) any emotional message offered to us. Lastly, the story reminds me that perhaps the most powerful force conducted through words is humor. A good pun or play on words disorients us momentarily, reminds us that the language we take so seriously is a made up system, not completely anchored to the real word. Maybe this is the real power of words—that they can mean so much and simultaneously mean nothing.

DAEDAL DOODLE, N

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

Creative Nonfiction: Accident

by Nate Liederbach

A late model Mercury strikes the biking wife. No concussion, no fractures, no internal bleeding. Thigh bruising, knee swelling, a bit of a limp. Within two days, plenty of egg-plant real estate and a hematoma lifts along the hipbone. (more…)

DAEDAL DOODLE, M

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight…


Born in New York City on March 5, 1954, Victor Stabin formally began his artistic journey studying at the Art Students League every summer from age 13 to 17. He graduated from the High School of Art and Design in 1972. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles from 1973 to 1975 before returning to the East Coast to continue his education at New York City’s School of Visual Arts from 1975 to 1976. A few years after finishing his education, he taught conceptual thinking for illustrators at the School of Visual Arts for five years as he continued his work as a professional illustrator.

His credits as an illustrator include creating nine stamps for the United States Postal Service’s Commemorative Postage Stamp program, a mural for RCA/BMG’s corporate headquarters in New York, and illustrations for The New York Times, Newsweek, Rolling Stone Magazine, and Time Magazine. Other works include an album cover for the rock band Kiss, and designs and illustrations for dozens of mass market books for publishers Random House, Penguin Books, and others. Twenty years of his favorite illustrations can be viewed in his illustration attic.

When he was 44, he was diagnosed with cancer and told he had a 50/50 chance of survival. Illustrations are predicated on phone calls; he had wells of his own ideas, and newly aware of the value of time, he no longer had the will to wait for the phone. Thus, he started to create a series of paintings that emanated from the personal.

The more recent works he’s created take on an otherworldly look of a fantasy land along the lines of works created by other surrealist artists. He considers himself an eco-surrealist artist. His paintings transport the viewer to unexpected environments through uncanny scenes that merge the realities of everyday life into the not-so-everyday life using other species as protagonists. This work can be viewed on his website at http://www.victorstabin.com/paintings/, and also the various essays he has written for that body of work are accessible through victorstabin.com.

He is the son of Jack Stabin, inventor of scientific instrumentation who received his technical training while working on the Manhattan Project and Florence Stabin, the piano teacher who knows the history of the world through the music of great European composers.

His influences are the 20th Century Surrealists, the 19th Century Japanese watercolor print artists, Advertising Art of the 20th Century, and the spirit of the Italian Renaissance. He is defined by his work; as you follow the path created by his paintings you’ll see other species stand in as protagonists, originally narrating the stories of his life and now lighting the path of his life. His goal is to create artwork that provokes empathy while creating visually tantalizing environments that take you to new places, with the intent of promoting awareness of and funding for the creatures that share our planet, with hope to create an enduring legacy for those living beings. Hence, Eco-Surrealist.

One of his favorite quotes (and he has many) is from Michaelangelo Buonarroti: “I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”

Victor has been creating storylines for the characters that he’s created (from the alliterations in the book) and calling them the NPR stories. He doesn’t consider himself a writer; however, he’s funny and says, “Sometimes funny saves the day.” You are welcome to read the stories at http://www.victorstabinprints.com/info/blog/.

Abundance, image 27

by Joseph Young

Editor’s Note: Each Monday we’ve been publishing individual pieces from Joseph Young’s Abundance. Abundance is 27 occurrences: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26.

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. His book of microfictions, Easter Rabbit, was released by Publishing Genius in December 2009; he is currently shopping out a second manuscript of microfiction. He also enjoys creating concrete representations of text, and this work has been included in a number of art shows in Baltimore. Some of this work can be found at TextShop.blogspot.com or www.verysmalldogs.blogspot.com.

Author’s Note. I was looking to do a project that would remind me of the abundance of my life, the many cool experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, and I was looking to do something in text and image. I wanted to do something I’d not done before, material and process wise, so I came up with the idea of using a stencil and Letraset letters. The figure is a rough stencil I made from a photo of myself, spray painted on cardstock. Over about a week, I wrote the various pieces of text based on my memories and applied them to the cards with Letraset.

Lap Lane

by Ross McMeekin

I tried to explain to Sammy that seventy-percent of beach drownings occurred within ten yards of a person who could help.

“Seems made up,” she said. The bottom of her chin looked turquoise from the reflection of the water.

“No, it’s true. I read it somewhere legitimate. I remember thinking this is actually true.”

Two women kickboarding side-by-side during adult swim probably sounds like it should be on the front cover of an AARP leaflet, but we liked the fact that we could get a low-impact workout and still talk the whole time. And I guess we weren’t really that young anymore.

“So what do you mean by the family was around,” she asked.

“That’s the thing. They were playing in the surf right next to him.”

“What?!”

Sammy had almost shouted. The echo of her voice slapped off the tile walls and the water. When I met her freshman year of college, she was a cheerleader. Being loud was nothing for her.

“I know,” I said. “It’s wild to think about.”

“They were there? That sounds…I don’t know how that sounds.”

I imagined she was thinking the same thing I was, that it sounded unthinkably sad. We kicked for a while in silence. I caught a strong scent of chlorine coming off the adjacent hot tub, where an older guy with an artificial tan and nose plugs was climbing in. I was thankful the whirlpool jets provided some white noise. Voices carry over water.

“Was a lifeguard around?” she asked. “God. If one was, save a spot under the bus.”

These were my neighbors we were talking about, the family. “I don’t think anyone deserves to be under the bus.”

“Well, it would be one thing if the kid ran away and you couldn’t find him and then he drowned.”

“How is that different? It’s not like they intended—”

“They were right there,” she said.

We reached the end of the pool, so we turned around and pushed off the side and continued kicking.

She said, “I have two kids. Sometimes they run off and things can happen. You can’t control everything. But if you’re there? It just seems like a whole other level.”

“It’s so tragic.”

“And that,” she said.

We kicked for a while in silence and talked about people we both knew, what they were doing, things that had happened to them. Then for some reason I told her something I’d never told anyone. I just felt like I had to say it, and she was there. So I told her how when I got home from work most nights Tom’s eyes already had that glossy film over them. How I appreciated that he pretended not to be drunk and asked me questions about my day, but then he sometimes ended up asking the same questions twice in the same conversation without realizing it. It was like he was there one minute then gone the next. This was most nights.

Sammy didn’t say anything. She kept looking straight ahead, kicking. Finally, she said, “I don’t know what to say.”

There were still fifteen minutes left of adult swim.

I said, “So tell me about Timothy. He’s starting Kindergarten next fall, right?” The conversation continued from there.

When I got home, I found that article I’d read. It was on some national lifeguard association website. I forwarded the link to Sammy. I was right; once your air supply gets below a certain level, your basic bodily functions take over and the only thing you can do is attempt to breathe. So it can look like someone swimming next to you is fine when in reality they are unable to say a word or stop themselves from dropping below the waves.


Ross McMeekin’s fiction has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Storyglossia, Connotation Press, Monkeybicycle, Necessary Fiction, and other fine journals. He is the assistant fiction editor at Hunger Mountain, a teacher at the Richard Hugo House, and has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives in Seattle and blogs at www.rossmcmeekin.com.

What drew you to compressed literature? And what is it about “compressed” fiction that continues to hold your attention? Other than power, money and fame, what drew me initially to compressed literature was how, in many stories, so much was left unsaid. It thrilled me when the implications of some thick, dark, underlying subtext would stick with me long after I finished reading. As I explored more authors and journals that featured this type of writing, I found that there was an acceptance of methods and techniques that I had heard were taboo—an example of this is second-person point of view, or rhyming. Hah! I also loved the wild experimentation embraced by the community that wrote and published short forms. It felt right that every aspect of the writing still answered to the imagination.

All of these I appreciate today, but I think ultimately what keeps me reading and writing are those individual compressed stories that have impacted me personally, those few that are so full and intense that I find myself holding my breath even when reading them for the fiftieth time.

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Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now open. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period closes December 15, 2108; submit here.

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09/17 • Nance Van Winckel
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