Here at december we are grateful for all our contributors. When Pushcart time comes it’s never easy to select our Pushcart nominations because we love everything we print. After much deliberation between our editors and staff we finally chose our nominees for 2016. Major congratulations to these writers and major thanks to everyone who is part of the december community.
Kendra Allen – When You Learn the Alphabet (Non fiction – Vol. 27.1)
José Angel Araguz – Cazar Means to Hunt Not to Marry (Poetry – Vol. 27.1)
Jeff Ewing – On the Death, by Trampling, of a Man in Modoc County (Poetry – Vol. 27.2)
Maura Pellettieri – Whale (Fiction – Vol. 27.2)
Adam Schwartz – Pavane for a Dead Princess (Fiction – Vol. 27.1)
Cocoa M. Williams – Leda on a Stoop in St. Bernard Projects (1974) (Poetry Vol. 27.1)
Don’t miss our event at the Prospero’s Books in Kansas City. Celebrate the release of Vol. 27.2 with excellent poetry by Albert Goldbarth and prose from Thomas Atkinson the winner of the 2016 Curt Johnson Prose Awards (fiction). We hope to see you there. This event is open to the public.
Don’t miss our event at the World Chess Hall of Fame! Celebrate the release of Vol. 27.2 with great poetry and prose by Jen Logan Meyer, Allison Funk, and Travis Mossotti. A wine and cheese reception will follow the reading. We hope to see you there. This event is open to the public. Complimentary valet parking provided.
We just received our copy of the 2016 Best American Essays and were excited to see four essays we published last year made their notable essay list. A big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to the writers whose essays were included. We’re thrilled to publish exciting work that garners attention and grateful for all the contributors who trust us with their work and the readers who enjoy our pages.
We are excited to announce Adrian Matejka as the judge of our 2017 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Mr. Matejka was born in Germany and grew up in California and Indiana. His second collection of poems, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for a NAACP Image Award. The Big Smoke was awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was also a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He is the Lily Professor/Poet-in-Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington. His new book of poems, Map to the Stars, is forthcoming from Penguin Random House in April 2017.
2017 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize submissions open October 1st. For more information and contest guidelines click here.
We were fortunate to spend a whole afternoon and evening with poet/essayist Albert Goldbarth a few months ago. It was a great day with passionate talk across a wide spectrum of subjects. We decided to share his views on a variety of topics, excerpted from the recording of a long, informal conversation. We hope you enjoy his insights as much as we enjoyed the time we spent with him. The same day, he came to our studio (aka the office) and recorded the work he has published in december from 1971 to now. You can listen to him read his poems here.
On living in Wichita: Wichita is a blue-collar town. In the old days, it was an important city on the cattle drive; it used to be a rip-roaring, shoot-’em-up, bordello kind of town. Eventually, the cattle began going around Wichita, and Kansas City picked up all the cattle-drive business, and Wichita started to die until a stroke of good luck – World War II – came along, and Beechcraft and Boeing made a new economic life for the city. They’re still major players on the Wichita economic scene. Wichita State University is the largest university in the largest city in the state, and Friends University and Newman University are located there as well, but it doesn’t have the feel of a college town. Still books can be bought (I live near the locally owned Watermark Books) and microbreweries serve up their product, and a writer’s life can be made here. At least, mine can.
On shopping: I understand the politics of commerce. I could happily browse at Walmart at 2 in the morning and immerse myself in the real America.
On reading: I read all sorts of nonfiction, from physics to celebrity bios. I do read genre fiction, a lot of science fiction, mysteries, but literary fiction, too. I’m rereading some Bellow and George Eliot right now. I pick up magazines all the time, an occasional issue of Discover, National Geographic, anything from Biblical Archeology to Hustler, if it calls out to me. Also an occasional Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories. Nothing wrong with the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories. I just joined the Carl Barks Fan Club – he’s a true American popular culture genius, and he created Uncle Scrooge.
On poetry readings: Readings are not a good index of the quality of anybody’s work. Why should a writer have to be a good reader of his or her own work? Some people simply aren’t. I think I give a good reading, but the human voice is a very limited medium. Words done well on the literary page are larger than anything the human voice can give utterance to. Plenty of poems almost by definition can’t be read well out loud for any number of reasons. And, of course, inferior writing projected by a good performer can be very misleading. Literary talent and theatrical talent are two different things.
On a favorite assignment: A number of years ago, as Halloween was approaching, I told my undergraduate class to dress up as a poet or a poem for Halloween. Two people in unison dressed up as Wordsworth’s Daffodils poem (I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud), one guy was a daffodil and a woman was a cloud with a little sun breaking overhead. And one woman dressed up as Sylvia Plath, by which I mean she brought into the room an entire, full-size, three-dimensional cardboard stove she had made, with foil burners and actual dials that could turn and a door that could open. When I came into the room, there was a complete tableau. She was on the floor with her head in the oven, one shoe off, one shoe on, a vial of pills on the floor, carefully spilled out, with a prescription label on it for an anti-depressant popular in Plath’s time. It was extraordinary. Did it help her grade? Hey, I’m only human.
On collecting: I could talk in a loving manner about the kinds of things I like to collect – the vintage outer space toys, the manual typewriters, and more. I suppose you could psychoanalyze some writers by their collections – all the more reason for me to clam up now.
On book recommendations: A few weeks ago I recommended to a few friends a new book by Sven Birkerts called Changing the Subject. It’s a soulfully deep, richly written book that is not only a very eloquent questioning of where technology is taking us and of how internet reading affects our lives, but besides being just cautionary, it is a lovely paean to the life of reading traditionally – slowly, deeply, undistractedly, and understanding the pleasures of narrative.
On interviews: I’ve rarely read an interview that didn’t make me cringe. Whether I live in Kansas or Paris, whether I collect ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals or old Pepsi bottles…none of it matters, including what I’ve said here. The poem is the poem, the essay is the essay, and, to slightly paraphrase Keats (who never gave an interview in his life), “That’s all you need to know.”
We were fortunate to have an entire day with Albert Goldbarth. While he was visiting with us, we asked him to do us the honor of reading all the work he has published in december from 1971 until now. Click below to hear the poems and read along. To read more about Albert Goldbarth’s views on poetry, life and more check out our interview here.
Vol. 26.1 & 27.1 are available for purchase in our bookstore.
december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 27.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.
Jim Dwyer – 2016 Winner Enlightenment
there’s nothing more real
than all these clouds
& how they keep changing
all that restless energy
with no source or solution
the relentless transformations
the almost perpetual motion
like the ordinary happenstance parade
of our works & days
this time let’s make it
an average August afternoon in 1982
there we are
driving south down Salem Avenue
in your silver 74 Monte Carlo
the one with the bald tires
the dangerous brakes
the barely automatic transmission
& the killer stereo system
& right now we’re listening to Chuck Berry
singing & dancing along
in those gold upholstered bucket seats
& even tho the man from St. Louis
is one of the eight or nine
most important human beings
of the 20th century
he still feels like our brother
because despite his genius his brilliance
he too is baffled to the bone
the three of us cry
from the amen corner of the blues
why can’t you be true?
& there’s the smell of approaching
rain & exhausted fossil fuel in the air
& a pair of winos in the Kwik-Stop parking lot
arguing about who found it first
a flattened out
but still smokeable Camel filter
& if you multiply the number of stars
in the Milky Way by 5
that’s how many human dreams & desires there are
& a few of them wake you up & set you free
but most of them just break your fucking heart
which isn’t i understand
the latest news
& neither is the abandoned steel foundry
over on Springfield Street
the boarded up stores
the slum landlord housing
the final surviving Tool & Dye shop
that long row of empty redbrick warehouses
the smashed & shattered windows
like the bullet riddled body
of the socialist candidate
for president of El Salvador
or Guatemala or somewhere equally
south of the border
they murdered him
that gang of ultramontane fascist thugs
because he kept talking about justice
because he took Jesus seriously
because we trained them & paid them to do it
like we always have
& neither of us wants to think too much
or talk too long
about that kind of misery & crime
so i light up a joint
& pass it on
& we make our aimless way
down the North Dixie strip
sailing past the tittie bars
& the Sip ’n’ Nip & Eisenhauer’s Café
& you toss me a can of Strohs
at the red light at Leo & Keowee
& you laugh & say look at it this way, jim
we might be getting older
but at least god dammit
we’re not getting any wiser
& the next thing i remember in this poem
on your first try
somehow squeezing that epic of a Chevy
into the one spot left
across from that yellow house
on Green Street
some party you heard about last night
at another party
& after we kill off the rest of the twelve pack
& smoke what’s turned into
the smallest roach
in the history of western civilization
we head inside
where we both hope to find
a woman so good
it won’t matter how bad
she one day becomes
the best thing about beauty
is that it doesn’t last
the best thing about you & me
is that we’re never right
for very long…
Kate Gray – 2016 Honorable Mention For Every Girl
FOR EVERY GIRL
after Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”
This is how you break a heart slowly:
Avert your eyes when she asks
about your day. Say,
ask about her day. Don’t
buy the dry white wine or pick sunflowers
or caramelize onions for her meat.
This is how you break a heart fast:
This is how you break a heart completely:
and lie about it
and blame her.
This is how the heart eats itself:
It beats with hope
and is beaten.
This is how a heart learns to beat again:
You say, “Please,” and she says,
“Possibly,” and you say,
“Thank you,” and she says,
“You’re welcome,” and you
get out of the way.
This is how you bear her broken heart:
Look in her eyes, confess everything,
claim the pain you put there,
and choose her. Choose her
over you and your sorry excuses.
If the heart learns to beat again,
then offer to walk on your knees for as long
and as far as she wants you to, offer
to hold her with open hands,
palm up, and offer your eyes, the way
clear water cannot lie.
Kate Gray – 2016 Honorable Mention Reassurance
In late March the river smells
of cottonwoods, their blossoms
hanging down and dropping, catkins
purple-gray and sodden
on the ground. Under the Sellwood Bridge
fishermen gather in boats, like geese
pointing into wind.
In this part of spring, forsythia
and cherry and pear bloom,
and the streets snow with petals.
This is the time of year I fall for you
all over again, your arms
holding me like rivers taking islands,
your eyes the sky around the moon,
the nights so still we know
that more will come
and we can bear it.
Vol. 27.1 is coming in May! You don’t want to miss new poems from Albert Goldbarth, Jennifer Atkinson, David Wagoner, and Eric Pankey. This issue includes excellent fiction from Adam Schwartz in his near novella length story “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” and compelling nonfiction from new contributors. We also have to mention the section of ekphrastic writing and accompanying art. This is sure to be one of the best issues yet. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can subscribe now by clicking here and you won’t miss a single thing.