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Month: January 2020

Circus Payday: an ethnography

by Julia Lynn Offen

 

[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size.]

 

 

Julia Lynn Offen is a writer, anthropologist, and editor living in beautiful coastal California after years spent trotting across North America and Europe. She earned her M.F.A. in English from the University of California at Irvine, an M.A. in Sociology from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California at San Diego. Her creative prose has been published in Green Mountains Review, Ethnography, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rum Punch Press, and Anthropology and Humanism. Now, she is the fiction and creative nonfiction editor for the journal Anthropology and Humanism. She spent two years with her dog living and working with traveling circuses across Europe, which may perhaps explain some things.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Circus Payday: an ethnography”?

Readers can see my experience of surprise at the core of this piece (“Circus Payday” is nonfiction, after all). I knew timing was important when conducting a research visit to speak with circus workers – you especially don’t want to get in the way of work, and there is a lot of it. I followed the rules as I knew them from the European circuses I visited: you show up close to the beginning of a break (too late into it and there may be a bit too much drinking to be comfortable). But, oops, American circuses are not European circuses. Staff is different, the sociability of the local townies is different, and let’s just say that leisure activities seem to differ. In this piece, I try to expand upon the story of this brief incident by drawing some broad strokes of circus basics (my left panel), and offering some bits of personal experience from my time with circuses (my right panel). That is how ethnographic writing works: research and experience backing up stories of the meaningful moments where so much more becomes clear (to both the author and the reader).

CNF: Smelling Money

by Daniel Galef

 

Canadian $100 bills smell like maple syrup. The scent, impregnated into notes made of waterproof plastic, can be detected by anyone with enough money to sniff at, yet the Bank of Canada vehemently denies putting any scent into the bills during the manufacturing process.

*

In the reign of Antoninus (according to Cassius Dio in the Historiae), a knight was condemned for the crime of using a coin bearing the Emperor’s visage to purchase lewd services; there existed a sophisticated system of exchange and a special second money system known as spintriae to use in cases where it would be below the dignity of Roman money to spend it.

*

Yet only a few centuries before, Emperor Vespasian had imposed a tax on the urine scavenged from public toilets by leather-tanners. According to Suetonius in the De Vita Caesarum, when the prince Titus raised objections about the unsavory origins of the tax money, Vespasian dismissed his son’s concerns with the phrase pecunia non olet—“Money does not smell.”

*

Blood money or no, money does smell like blood. As any surgeon knows, blood smells sharp and metallic due to the iron content of hemoglobin. Gold, like all the noble metals, is unreactive and odorless, but base coinage smells like an open wound.

*

The most infamous blood money in history was not re-spent without scruple. The thirty pieces of silver paid to the apostle Judas for the betrayal of his Lord was put to use (by Judas himself, according to the Book of Acts; by the temple elders, according to the Gospel of Matthew) in purchasing Potter’s Field. It was considered too filthy a lucre even to give to the poor as alms.

*

Figuratively dirty money can be traced forensically and so ill-gotten gains are purified through “money laundering.”

*

Unrelated to financial money laundering, last year Dutch police discovered €350,000 in stolen bills hidden, aptly, in a washing machine. Conversely, counterfeiters have been known to run newly-printed fakes through a clothes dryer to give the appearance of age and wear.

*

Money is literally dirty, as well. Decades of studies by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have found that 90% of U.S. dollar bills are tainted with detectable quantities of cocaine, which binds to the green dye used in printing the bills.

*

I’m not sure whether to agree with Antoninus, who believed his coins were totems that carried their history with them, or with Vespasian, who saw his wealth as abstract and divorced from its origins. Guglielmo Marconi may have said that it only takes six handshakes to connect any two people in the world; the number of monetary transactions can’t be much greater.

 

Daniel Galef can be found in Webster’s Dictionary, where since last spring he has been living cozily as the official citation for the word “interfaculty.” His recent stories have appeared in the American Bystander, Juked, Rivet, Barnhouse, and Flash Fiction Magazine, and he also writes poems and plays.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Smelling Money”?

This piece of flash nonfiction owes a lot more to Jorge Luis Borges than I realized until looking back on the circumstances under which I wrote it. A passing reference to Ellus Lampridius in “The Lottery in Babylon” started me down a rabbit-hole of reading Roman historians (when I was supposed to be writing a final paper on medical ethics), and the subject may have been suggested by a passage in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” The final I was writing was on John Harris’s 1975 paper “The Survival Lottery,” and I’d been re-reading “The Lottery in Babylon” looking for an epigraph. Instead, I spent a few days in Dio Chrysostom, Cassius Dio, and Suetonius, who have done me a lot more good than medical ethics ever has—just ask my patients.

Pyre Derivative, 2 of 12

by Maureen Alsop

 

[Editor’s Note: Click on the image below to view it at full size.]  

 

Author’s Note

These drawings evolved from a meditative process in response to my most recent body of poems, Pyre. I began to write (in faded blue, lined notebook) the words and lines from poems in the collection. On several of the pages I re-wrote one or two lines repeatedly, or overlapped poems as writing. On several occasions I wrote from ‘stream of conscious’. As I wrote the words, I would return the pages over time and ‘doodle’ or cross-out or write more words over the first words I’d written. There was no formalised structure to the process other than the consistency of materials (pen, notebook, poems). Later I photographed the poems and created close-ups of the images with the intention of creating a limited edition chapbook of the visual images to accompany the poetry collection at some juncture in the future.

 

Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of Later, Knives & Trees; Mirror Inside Coffin; Mantic; Apparition Wren. She is the winner of several poetry prizes including the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award through the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. She teaches online with the Poetry Barn.

 

Bathsheba

by Meg Eden

 

When I was in high school, my mother offered to sew curtains for my windows.

Don’t you worry that some man will see you change?

We lived so far from the road, I didn’t worry—I could’ve danced naked on the front lawn.

I think of Bathsheba, bathing in the dimming evening light. She’d just finished her menses—maybe she was tired of being deemed unclean, of unclean meaning hidden away, wanted some fresh air. In my bathroom, the smell of my own blood lingers sticky-sweet like fruit rotting in heat.

Maybe she bathed, craving romance. Maybe she missed her husband. Maybe she despised him. Maybe sleeping with the king was the fulfilment of a long-kept secret dream. Maybe it was her greatest nightmare realized.

Did her mother also tell her to stay away from open windows? Did she, like me, perceive the thrill—the fear—of being seen so fully?

Or because this was war-time, did she not worry about men being around (let alone alive) to look?

Or did she not think much about men, one way or the other?

 

Meg Eden’s work is published or forthcoming in magazines including Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO and CV2. She teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020). She runs the Magfest MAGES Library blog, which posts accessible academic articles about video games. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “ Bathsheba”?

I’ve always been fascinated by the biblical character Bathsheba. We never hear her side of the story. When I was younger, I blamed her for her bath. I thought, what was she doing bathing on a roof? Exhibitionist much? But as I’ve become older, I’ve realized how easily I’ve fallen into victim blaming thought patterns, as if this somehow protects myself from being harmed (a topic I could write a whole series of poems on!). As I started to interrogate my own thinking, I began to see Bathsheba’s story in a much more complex and relatable way. I saw myself in her. Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t hear more about Bathsheba is because this isn’t a story about modesty. It’s a story about David’s sin, and how striving after his sin upended countless lives and modeled sinful patterns for generations to come. It’s not here to chastise Bathsheba for her bath; it’s here to condemn David.

Pyre Derivative (1 of 12)

by Maureen Alsop

 

[Editor’s Note: Click on the image below to view it at full size.]  

 

Author’s Note

These drawings evolved from a meditative process in response to my most recent body of poems, Pyre. I began to write (in faded blue, lined notebook) the words and lines from poems in the collection. On several of the pages I re-wrote one or two lines repeatedly, or overlapped poems as writing. On several occasions I wrote from ‘stream of conscious’. As I wrote the words, I would return the pages over time and ‘doodle’ or cross-out or write more words over the first words I’d written. There was no formalised structure to the process other than the consistency of materials (pen, notebook, poems). Later I photographed the poems and created close-ups of the images with the intention of creating a limited edition chapbook of the visual images to accompany the poetry collection at some juncture in the future.

 

Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of Later, Knives & Trees; Mirror Inside Coffin; Mantic; Apparition Wren. She is the winner of several poetry prizes including the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award through the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. She teaches online with the Poetry Barn.

 

News

Congrats to Christopher Allen for having a work from HOUSEHOLD TOXINS being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

New titles available from Robert McBrearty and Tori Bond.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period next opens March 15, 2020; submit here.

Upcoming

01/09 • Maureen Alsop (2 of 12)
01/13 • Daniel Galef
01/15 • Julia Lynn Offen
01/16 • Maureen Alsop (3 of 12)
01/20 • Francine Witte
01/22 • Jennifer Delisle
01/23 • Maureen Alsop (4 of 12)
01/27 • Abby Manzella
01/29 • Lynn Finger
01/30 • Maureen Alsop (5 of 12)
02/03 • James Ducat
02/05 • Kathleen Hellen
02/06 • Maureen Alsop (6 of 12)
02/10 • Nicole Hebdon
02/12 • Steve Cushman
02/13 • Maureen Alsop (7 of 12)
02/17 • Madison Frazier
02/19 • Gail Geopfert
02/20 • Maureen Alsop (8 of 12)
02/24 • Kenneth Pobo
02/26 • Miranda Campbell
02/27 • Maureen Alsop (9 of 12)
03/04 • John Meyers
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (10 of 12)
03/09 • TBD
03/11 • Maureen Alsop
03/12 • Maureen Alsop (11 of 12)
03/16 • TBD
03/05 • Maureen Alsop (12 of 12)
03/23 • TBD
03/25 • TBD