All posts filed under: Essays

Featured poems, essays and interviews.

“Dismal Situations”: Loneliness, Racism, and Knowing the Present Through Verse

By Jack Chelgren | Special Projects Intern and Contributing Writer   As a word is mostly connotation,  matter is mostly aura?  Halo? (The same loneliness that separates me  from what I call “the world.”) — Rae Armantrout, “A Resemblance”   I. It’s afternoon not long ago. I’m listening to music in my apartment, and “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” the closer from Joni Mitchell’s Blue, comes on. The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68 And he told me, “All romantics meet the same fate someday: Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café.”

Zach Savich: “Easy, Durable Dreams: Notes on Poetry and Social Media”

In June 2014, poet Mathias Svalina promises to operate a Dream Delivery Service. “I will write the dreams, without consultation with the dreamer, & deliver them daily,” Svalina writes. “Each dream is unique to the dreamer/subscriber.” Subscriptions cost $40 if you live within three miles of Svalina’s house, $55 for everyone else. Dream Delivery Service as social media. * Svalina is an editor with Octopus Books. A while ago, another Octopus editor, Zachary Schomburg, started posting portraits of his friends on his blog, The Lovely Arc. He’d honor each as “Person of the Week” and write a brief profile. “Jesse got Clyde Drexler’s autograph three times between fifth and seventh grade,” Schomburg wrote. “He went to a Waldorf school from kindergarten through third grade, so he learned to knit, crochet, paint with watercolor, sculpt beeswax, play the recorder, and count in German before he learned arithmetic.” “Person of the Week” as social media. * Discussions of social media and poetry often focus on poetry’s absorption of—or reduction to—familiar virtual modes.

Wendy Willis: “A Million People On One String – Notes on Poetry and Social Media”

These days, it’s all big data all the time. Over the past few months, I’ve seen headlines ranging from “Big Data or Big Brother?” to “Big Data’s Little Brother” to “Big Data at the Oscars.” Just today, I was solicited for a webinar entitled “Big Data is a Big Deal!”(exclamation point theirs). As Duke psychologist and behavioral economist Don Ariely recently quipped on his Facebook page:  “Big data is like teenage sex:  everyone talks about it, nobody knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” But the big data debate is not entirely made up of cutesy wordplay. Ever since Edward Snowden first started leaking information about the massive U.S. government spying operation, Americans—for the first time in over a decade—started kicking up some real, honest-to-goodness dust about whether the government can do whatever it pleases if it claims to be protecting us from terrorists. And then there’s the “creepy” index that seems to be the new—if somewhat ephemeral—standard for just how far the …

Kate Lebo: “Fishing for Icarus”

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.  – Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, Almost Famous But Phil, our Phil, was so cool, in that stylish, cipher-ish, miserable way that makes a man handsome, impossible, unforgettable and rich, no matter what face he was born with, no matter what was in his pockets when he died. He used English like an invented language. When we first met, he drove me to Squalicum Beach and bantered about the moon until I ran out of jokes. We sat on a log to watch the night, swimming distance from a rotten pier whose final job was to touch all the water we wouldn’t reach. Annie Dillard set her historical epic, The Living, in Bellingham. This pier could be home to one of the book’s best cruelties. Phil hadn’t yet read it. I leaned into him, studious. Later, a year after our paths stopped crossing, we shared a booth in a Bellingham bar, the one tucked into a …

Andrew Zornoza: “Mirrors in the City of the Dead”

When I began to write my first book, Where I Stay, I was trying to erase the memory of certain photographs that had followed me my whole life.  I think everyone has objects like that — letters from lost friends, dried flowers, old keychains — these objects stay in some box at the back of a dusty drawer.  After years of struggling with the form of the book, I decided to just paste these photographs into the novel.  But putting photographs with text is problematic — it disrupts the suspension of disbelief that is critical to any viewing experience.  I came to an uneasy peace with this disruption — and learned to work with the space between the photographs and the sentences.  This was important to me, a type of absence.  I couldn’t have articulated that back then: I was just a kid. I had never been to Paris.  Rodenbach, I would have thought, a type of malt liquor; Levy-Dhurmer, a jeans store at the mall.  But, now, even after I’ve long retired Where I …

Allen Frost: “Robert Huff in Bellingham”

Birds carried fifteen years away Like an abandoned nest, put them To rest somewhere I couldn’t see —Robert Huff, from “Traditional Red.” Twenty years is a lot of birds passing overhead and almost enough time to wear away the memory of one who watched below. There is scant mention of Robert Huff in Contemporary Authors which is also out of date. It doesn’t even mention his death two decades ago. The four books published during his life are long out of print. It’s as if he’s been left in a state of limbo. For weeks, I’ve tried to track down information on him, writing to artists, professors and students who knew him here in Bellingham, Washington. There are people who helped immeasurably in the making of this. Filling in the rest of the details I had to rely on my own detective work. In the summer of 1964, Robert Huff arrived in Bellingham, hired by then-Western Washington State College as an associate professor of English. He filled out a mimeograph Thumbnail Sketch form for recent …