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Month: January 2022

Autobiography of a Decade

by Diane LeBlanc

 

I am a secretary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I make lists: key, memo, flowers. On Monday, I file catalogs. On Tuesday, I type for bilingual nuns. On Wednesday, Marion mops. On Thursday, Marion waxes. On Friday, Marion tells me she was raped twenty years ago. The locks were weak. I develop tight hips from sitting all day. I have no sick days. So I quit. I say goodbye and leave Marion behind.

My love and I drive East for Christmas. In Pennsylvania, the grape vines grow wild. A man in a raincoat is cutting the vines on Christmas Eve. I meet my love’s family. Days blur like that yellow raincoat in the rearview mirror.

After a cold winter and a late spring, we move further west. Our first house comes with asparagus in the yard, a crumbling shed papered by wasps, a Boston pencil sharpener in the basement, and a black rotary phone. We bring our old stereo and tune the receiver to Wyoming public radio. I buy new banjo strings. A breast hickey means we’re engaged. What is marriage? What is tenure? I sew cotton dresses and hang them to dry on a rope clothesline. My father dies. The shed roof collapses under the weight of snow. I fly east.

I knit my curriculum vitae like a practice scarf. Row 1: A bookstore reading. Such calming poems. Row 2: compositioncompositioncompositioncomposition. Turn and repeat. I write about zone 4 gardening and my mother. I vow never to be alone in bed. I am thirty, always thirsty, and yellowing at the edges like pole beans in a drought. I decide to marry. I feed my heart bone meal dust. The bulbs are more faithful than I am. My life is a list. I pass each review by naming categories in bold letters and never straying from the categories. No place for my body in this text.

My sister dies. I fly east again. I learn to cry into the recess of airplane windows.

I think I will never leave Wyoming. On winter afternoons I drive 30 miles to Centennial to ski alone. Trails disappear into early darkness. On weekends, I ski with friends. We stop for dinner at The Old Corral. The menu includes a side order special: potato, bread, and peas. Hold the steak. I give myself away. I’m not from here. Three different men try to teach me to line dance. Each one tells me to loosen my hips. I add their advice to a list of things I will never do.

 

Diane LeBlanc is a writer, teacher, and book artist with roots in Vermont, Wyoming, and Minnesota. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection, The Feast Delayed (Terrapin Books, 2021). Poems, essays, and reviews appear in Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Green Mountains Review, Mid-American Review, Ruminate, Sweet Lit, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Diane is a professor of writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Read more at www.dianeleblancwriter.com.

 

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

As a writer and a teacher, I use and assign writing prompts. “Autobiography of a Decade” began as an uncensored response to a prompt in Abigail Thomas’s Thinking About Memoir. The exercise is to reduce a decade of your life to two pages, written with three-word sentences. She notes that the constraints force writers to choose what to include and what to leave out. Focusing on a transitional time of my life between the ages of 27 and 37, I wrote without stopping to edit. I wanted the piece to be unselfconscious. Then I stuck it in my exercises folder and left it for a while. When I came back to it, the editing seemed obvious. I dropped the three-word sentence constraint, deleted a few cliches about cowboys, and made final edits to maintain the pragmatic voice of the draft. I was most surprised at how clearly the original beginning and ending marked an arc that felt literally and emotionally true.

The Dream

by Roberta Allen

 

That first night on the Nile, sleeping on the deck of the felluca in the sweet-smelling air, under a sky full of stars, the water swaying gently beneath me, my tour mates beside me, I should have felt grateful. Indeed, I would have felt grateful, if not for the dream I had of my partner’s betrayal with a younger woman. It seemed so real when I awoke that despite wanting to see the Temple of Edfu and the tombs in the ancient Theban Necropolis, more than anything I wanted to go home.

 

Roberta Allen is the author of nine books, including three collections of micro/flash and short stories, a novel and a memoir. Her latest is The Princess of Herself, Stories. Her stories have been published in many journals, such as Conjunctions, Guernica, Open City and Bomb. She has been a Tennessee Williams Fellow in Fiction. Also a conceptual artist, her work is in the collections of The Met Museum and MoMA.

 

Completes, IV

by Richard Kostelantz

 

 

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Honoring two Jewish comedians: Mel Brooks (1926-) and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). These are what the title says they are–complete thoughts or complete fictions, as well as thoughts that might be fictions and fictions that might be thoughts. One writing goal for me has been creating within only a single sentence complete thoughts and stories that are sometimes funny, other times profound–sometimes fanciful and other times true.

A Place

by Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar

 

we fell in love with and made our home, a place where crabs crawled up to the porch as we sat in bamboo chairs, sipping our morning chai, inhaling the fragrance of frangipani, listening to the bulbul song we had come to expect, the first rays shining into our eyes, the clouds swarming in unannounced, the rush to draw plastic covers around the verandah where yesterday’s laundry was still drying, the palm fronds whispering some secrets long after the rain, the gray-green mold that covered our leather shoes and anything else left unattended for a while, the centipedes nesting by the sink in the kitchen, the geckos peeking in from net-lined windows, the sweetest bananas with a rare orange pulp hanging in bunches on the tree in the back, the creamiest coconuts we gathered and ground into chutneys, the sprigs of aromatic curry leaves from the neighbor’s tree that replaced cilantro in our soups, a place we thought knew everything about, the reef fragments we observed on our evening walks, the white sands, the crystal clear water, the sound of waves that lulled us to sleep, the hooting of an owl that sometimes woke us up, and yet we could not see the angst buried under the surface, the roar that emerged from the bosom of Earth early that morning, the tremors and gasps, the cracks and crevices, the screams and howls, the panic and prayer, then a wave rising taller than the palm trees, washing, erasing all we knew.

 

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. Born to a middle-class family in India, she later migrated to the USA. Now, she lives in Ohio with her husband and son. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications and in print anthologies. She has been highly commended in National Flash Microfiction Competition, shortlisted in SmokeLong Quarterly Micro Contest, shortlisted in Bath Flash Fiction Festival. She is currently an editor at Janus Literary and a Submissions Editor at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her debut flash fiction collection “Morsels of Purple” is available for purchase on Amazon.com. More at https://saraspunyfingers.com. Reach her @PunyFingers

 

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

I was thinking of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami when I wrote this story. My sister and her family used to live on the beautiful paradise-like island of Car Nicobar when the tsunami struck and obliterated homes, hopes, families. This story is a fictionalized version of the events of and preceding that fateful day as narrated by my sister. This piece was written in one sitting and completed in two drafts. The first version was four sentences long. I sent it to my friend and writer Sudha Balagopal to read and she suggested I make it a one-sentence story. I’m glad I took her advice; it always works for me.

Completes, III

by Richard Kostelantz

 

 

See what happens when you click below.

Honoring two Jewish comedians: Mel Brooks (1926-) and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). These are what the title says they are–complete thoughts or complete fictions, as well as thoughts that might be fictions and fictions that might be thoughts. One writing goal for me has been creating within only a single sentence complete thoughts and stories that are sometimes funny, other times profound–sometimes fanciful and other times true.

when maggie smiles

by Meredith Benjamin

 

maggie’s smile is a poem
about a balloon floating over Sedona.
it makes you want to learn the names of birds
— not just toucans and herons,
but quotidian finches who live in the yard.
when maggie smiles,
the war is over
and neil armstrong lands on the moon.
when maggie smiles, it pierces you;
maggie makes and unmakes my wounds with her mouth.
her smile is an ocean,
the light from the birthday candles,
the reason you don’t want the world to end.

 

Meredith H. Benjamin is a second-year Political Science student at Grinnell College. She is originally from the east coast, but has found herself in Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, and Iowa in recent years. She loves volleyball, curry dishes, The Ezra Klein Show, and anything Taylor Swift. Her work has been published in Polyphony Lit and the Grinnell Underground Magazine, and is forthcoming in Agapanthus Collective and the Grinnell Review.

 

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

“when maggie smiles” is a product of infatuation and distance. It is about a beautiful woman at whom I used to gaze and hear fully-formed lines of poetry suddenly crash into my head. I wrote these phrases down as they came, but when I actually tried stringing them together as a poem, I couldn’t get it right. I set the poem aside. Half a year later, I tried rewriting “when maggie smiles” and to my surprise, found success! No longer obsessed with capturing a feeling in its exactitude, I was able to focus instead on the process of writing. The experience highlighted the creative partnership between inspiration and its unsung sidekick: distance, without which, I suspect this piece would remain unfinished to this day.

Completes, II

by Richard Kostelantz

 

 

See what happens when you click below.

Honoring two Jewish comedians: Mel Brooks (1926-) and Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). These are what the title says they are–complete thoughts or complete fictions, as well as thoughts that might be fictions and fictions that might be thoughts. One writing goal for me has been creating within only a single sentence complete thoughts and stories that are sometimes funny, other times profound–sometimes fanciful and other times true.

On Loss

by Julie Benesh

 

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

 

Julie Benesh is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant. She has published stories, poems, and essays in Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Hobart, Cleaver and many other places, and she has poems forthcoming in JMWW and Proem. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Read more at juliebenesh.com.

 

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

We had an assignment for a poetry MOOC and I wrote two lipograms, “On Loss” and another called “Endlessness,” as well as a tautogram, “Acknowledgement (After Parker),” where every word included an A, and every line started with a different word beginning with A. I loved them all so much, but they didn’t fit with other poetry I wrote or journals with whom I was familiar. They almost came across as light verse, but the subject matter was quite serious and utterly sincere. I realized that I needed to incorporate some explanation, but the form could not accommodate an organic one within the poem itself …and the last thing most poets ever want to do is to feel a need to footnote a poem! So a triptych was the perfect solution for “On Loss.” I am still working out the means of adequately framing the other two unobtrusively while still maintaining the constraint of my chosen form, and feel confident some solution will emerge as it did with this one.

News

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

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again September 15, 2022. Submit here.

Upcoming

08/01 • Christina Cook
08/08 • Kim Chinquee
08/15 • Michael Czyzniejewski
08/22 • Len Kuntz
08/29 • Thaddeus Rutkowski
09/05 • Candice May
09/12 • Bonnie Jo Campbell
09/19 • TBD