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“Poetry is speech at its most personal, the most intimate of dialogues. A poem does not come to life until a reader makes his response to the words written by the poet.

“Propaganda is a monologue which seeks not a response but an echo. To recognize this is not to condemn all propaganda as such. Propaganda is a necessity of all human social life. But to fail to recognize the difference between poetry and propaganda does untold mischief to both: poetry loses its value and propaganda its effectiveness.

“Whatever real social evil exists, poetry, or any of the arts for that matter, is useless as a weapon. Aside from direct political action, the only weapon is factual reportage—photographs, statistics, eyewitness reports.”

—W.H. Auden, in “A Short Defense of Poetry,” an address given at the International PEN Conference in Budapest, October 1967

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Hey folks — This is brilliant:

Sherlocks Home

BattleoftheHamlets

Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. To mark the occasion, the BBC broadcast a live event from the Royal Shakespeare Company celebrating the Bard’s work. A highlight of the show saw several esteemed actors battle it out over the best way to deliver the famous “to be or not to be” speech from Hamlet. And guess who was amongst them…

Yes, following on from his box-office breaking run as the Prince of Denmark last year, Benedict Cumberbatch took to the stage alongside a whole host of thespians like David Tennant, Ian McKellen, Rory Kinnear, Judi Dench… Tim Minchin and, even stranger, Prince Charles himself! See the sketch below:

Shakespeare Live can be viewed online (for UK residents) over at BBC Iplayer.

Shakespeare and Sherlock fans might also be interested to know that TV movie The Hollow Crown:Richard III, which will feature Cumberbatch as the hunchbacked…

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Update on the Winter Edition

December 23, 2015

The Winter Edition has been delayed. Our web hosting service was split from its parent company and sold, so we have to make some changes to our infrastructure. Please check back soon — and if you haven’t already, take a look at the Autumn Edition.

After all, the weather feels more like autumn than winter.

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image

During our stay in London last month, we made a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon for two plays. Shakespeare is buried in Church of the Holy Trinity. Of course, in November, in England, the sun sets around 4:20 p.m. After the first play and an early dinner, the church was closed, and the sun had long set. But I walked with one of my daughters from the theater to the church, where I remembered, in a very dark churchyard full of tombstones, that Shakespeare’s grave is inside the church. I had been there, and made it inside, about two decades before. This time, locked out and sentimental, I was sure to put a hand on the church’s stone exterior. It was a good walk with my daughter from the theatre to the church and back—a good memory for us.

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LiturgicalCredo is accepting submissions for the Winter 2016 Edition through Dec. 2, 2015. The edition will be released on Dec. 15, 2015.

See the How To Submit page and About page for more details.

Interview With Tara L. Masih

November 17, 2015

The Best Small Fictions 2015I first became familiar with Tara L. Masih’s work when I read The Rose Metal Press Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction, which she edited and introduced. Each chapter had an essay about the craft of writing flash fiction followed by an exemplary text. During several weeks in 2013, I read the field guide each morning like a devotional.

As I later discovered, Masih also had written two chapbooks of flash fiction (Fragile Skins and Tall Grasses) and had edited The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays.

Now Masih is the Series Editor for a new annual collection, the first of which was released just last month: The Best Small Fictions 2015, published by Queen’s Ferry Press.

Guided by Guest Editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler, The Best Small Fictions 2015 holds 55 short-short fictions of 1,000 words or less, drawn from dozens of print and online literary journals.

The collection also includes a brief interview with Phong Nguyen, editor of Pleiades: Literature In Context, and another brief interview with Michael Martone, who has two small fictions in this inaugural edition.

I recently did my own brief interview with Masih via email.

Colin Foote Burch

I’m curious about how you became aware of flash fiction as a genre with its own essence and identity. I realize that awareness could have been an epiphany, or it could have been a process. Do you remember when you realized flash fiction was a unique literary form, perhaps unique from short fiction? When was that realization and how did it come about? Even considering all the elements that can be present within flash fiction, what was the first element or set of elements that struck you as a distinctive mark of the short-short story?

Tara L. Masih

It was more of a process. I began writing vignettes in high school in the early ’80s , under the guidance of writer Kathy Collins, who had been taught by Elizabeth Graves. Collins had us write brief scenes, scenes that had a large impact on us emotionally. Once I left high school, I didn’t personally know anyone else writing in this manner. Few journals took vignettes, and as I was at the beginner’s level, I didn’t see the scattered ones being published in, say, The New Yorker. In the late ’80s, I came across Irving Howe’s anthology of Short Shorts and was given a copy of Shapard and Thomas’s Sudden Fiction. I think those were aha! moments of recognition and excitement. What I was doing had more formal names, and there were quite a few writers out there experimenting with the form. I began to consciously shape smaller stories when I didn’t have enough material for a longer one. And instead of writing just a scene, the vignettes had more shape and structure. So the first element I began to work with was to have some sort of story structure in a small space. As I like to experiment, I can’t say all my flash has these elements. Some remain sketches or prose poems. And I think there is room in the flash world for different elements and styles.

Burch

Among those flash fiction pieces you discovered early on, what are some of the gems that remain your favorites? And what is it about those pieces that you especially like?

Masih

It’s been almost 30 years since I read those books cover to cover, but in looking at the contents, the stories I remember vividly and go back to are all very different. The Howes’ book introduced me to Sherwood Anderson. His “Paper Pills” to me is groundbreaking in its brevity and willingness to discuss sexuality. It’s a perfectly crafted mini story with memorable details and characters. In the Sudden anthology, Lydia Davis’s “The Sock” has become a contemporary classic. I love how this object story conveys in a small space the enormity of a marriage that’s unraveled, and its aftermath. I love her long, seductive, almost run-on sentences and her narrator’s ironic voice. Very different but just as memorable for me is Jayne Anne Phillips’s “Blind Girls.” Jayne’s lyricism is closer to my personal taste in prose, and her use of language and rhythm is unparalleled. It’s a sensual story and captures something special about youth and culture. I love how it circles in on itself, too. What all three have in common is the ability to capture moments with humanistic intensity and all were willing to experiment with the short-short form.

Burch

You have such a keen, holistic sense of these short-short stories; I wonder if you have a general sense of where beginning writers of flash fiction tend to get off track, at least in the context of the form. Maybe this is a better way to put it: Are there some common types of revisions for short-shorts written by beginners? Are there some familiar issues in, for example, a workshop setting? Or maybe familiar issues in an editor’s rejection letter? (And maybe those issues are the same for beginners and experts!)

Masih

Yes, this is an easy answer. Beginning writers, and as you note some more advanced writers new to flash or short-short stories, think that it’s just about writing short. They’ll take an idea, write in the usual narrative flow of a novel, and then end it abruptly. That’s not what the best brief stories are about. Compression is done in all the story moments. And in the language, characters, setting, plot, and even in the spaces of the plot. I’m not sure I can go into it more heavily here as there are different approaches and styles as those who work in the genre experiment with form and language and continually push the boundaries into hybrid fiction. So, authors are free to play around with the form, but they need to study it. Reading the best authors is a great way to start. Read Michael Martone, Stuart Dybek, Kathy Fish, to name a few contemporary authors, and go back and read Hemingway, Kawabata, and Sherwood Anderson, to name a few classic authors.

Burch

Let’s talk about The Best Small Fictions 2015, the series which is debuting October 6. As Series Editor, you probably have the best gig in flash-fiction publishing. Establishing an annual collection is, in popular understatement, kind of a big deal. With it, we also have the anticipation of a new Guest Editor each year. You could not have found a better debut Guest Editor than Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler (who wrote one of my favorite craft essays in another one of your projects, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction). How did you make the decision to choose Butler as your first guest editor? What did he contribute to the series?

Masih

I do feel like this is a dream job. It combines most of my interests: book production and design, reading, editing, and working with writers. I love having the opportunity to work with our best literary authors, and I also enjoy promoting them, especially their flash work because flash is still not widely respected in the lit community. Butler was our first choice to start the series. A combination of his international name recognition, his astute judgment of what constitutes a small fiction, and the fact that he and I had worked together on the Flash Field Guide. I knew his work ethic and that he is generous toward small presses. He brought a lot to the series in terms of sage advice on beginning one, as well as running one to best meet the needs of future Guest Editors. We are grateful for his support of this project, which he is just quoted as saying is an “extraordinarily important literary event.”

Burch

Thank you for your time and best wishes for the series.

Masih

And thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to ask me these questions.
 
 
 

INTERVIEWER

Are you still taping storytellers whom you meet in cafés?

BOWLES

There aren’t any more. All that’s completely changed. There’s a big difference just between the sixties and seventies. For instance, in the sixties people still sat in cafés with a sebsi [pipe] and told stories and occasionally plucked an oud or a guimbri. Now practically every café has television. The seats are arranged differently and no one tells any stories. They can’t because the television is going. No one thinks of stories. If the eye is going to be occupied by a flickering image, the brain doesn’t feel a lack. It’s a great cultural loss. It’s done away with both the oral tradition of storytelling and whatever café music there was.

Source: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 67, Paul Bowles

Public Work

From Act I, Scene III:

First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Yesterday, students were practicing that scene in the outdoor courtyard of the humanities building. I was grading papers and taking in the October air.

The scene’s prophecies tantalize Macbeth with the promise of future power. Of course, most of us know how the rest of the play unfolds. Macbeth accepts the prophecies as true, and then he can hardly avoid the temptation to make them quickly become reality. Macbeth ultimately dooms himself with his belief in the prophecies and with his actions to bring about the witches’ forecasts.

While I graded a paper, the undergrads acted out the scene and read the lines.

And I recalled my own reaction to a prophecy I…

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You really must read this:

In this nearly magical room, amid fire-crackle and clink of glass, you can hear them talking. Pipe smoke is in the air, and a certain boisterous chauvinism, and the wet-dog smell of recently rained-on tweed. You can hear the donnish mumbles of J. R. R. Tolkien as the slow coils of The Silmarillion glint and shift in his back-brain. Now he’s reading aloud from an interminable marmalade-stained manuscript, and his fellow academic Hugo Dyson, prone on the couch, is heckling him: “Oh God, not another fucking elf!” You can hear the challenging train-conductor baritone of C. S. Lewis, familiar to millions from his wartime radio broadcasts; hear the unstoppable spiel of the writer/hierophant Charles Williams, with his twitchy limbs and angel-monkey face; hear the silver stream of ideas and argumentation that is the philosopher Owen Barfield. They are intellectually bent upon one another, these men, but flesh-and-blood is the thing: conviviality is, for them, a kind of passion. The chairs are deep; the fire glows gold and extra fiery in the grate. Lewis’s brother, Warnie, rosy with booze and fellow feeling, serves the drinks. And the walls drop away, and the scene extends itself backwards and forward in time …

Philip and Carol Zaleski’s The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years, padding across the carpets with a Warnie-provided drink in hand, but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, the four among whom the invisible correspondences of thought and affection were strongest. Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call “a perfect compass rose of faith”: Barfield the proto–New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery.

Continue reading: How Tolkien and Lewis Revived Modern Myth-Telling | Book and Movie Reviews |Axisoflogic.com

Check out the “Almost an Inkling” Flash Fiction Contest, Week 1:

The Oddest Inkling

magical_door_by_danielgnomesClick over to the contest home page to watch a video in which I talk about the winners and to download a .pdf of the winning entries!

Week 1 was:

Through Mysterious Doors
This week, we entered the world of microfiction with stories of up to 333 words that involved portals into other realms. Our writers took a character through some kind of gateway or past some threshold into a secondary world unlike our own.

POPULAR RUNNER-UP:
Eugene Sullivan, “The Stairwell”

POPULAR WINNER (tied):
Brenton Dickieson, “One Step Into Dawn”

doorPOPULAR WINNER (tied):
Olivia Jakobitz, “Through the Porthole”

LITERARY WINNER Second Runner-Up:
Cheryl Cardoza, “Fairy Rings”

LITERARY WINNER First Runner-Up:
Anne Whitver, “Never Trust a Clock”

LITERARY PRIZE WINNER:
Laura Crouse, “Lot’s Wife”

Here are links to some other works that didn’t win, but you might enjoy reading them:

http://oliviasletters.blogspot.com/2015/10/microfiction.html

https://www.academia.edu/16457825/Tales_from_Underground_Gambit

http://alasnotme.blogspot.com/2015/10/by-waters-of-avalon.html

https://twilightswarden.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/mud-a-short-story/

http://oliviasletters.blogspot.com/2015/10/magical-portals-and-whatnot.html

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Playlist For The Ark, 2015

October 2, 2015

“Stormy Weather” — Etta James

“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” — Bob Dylan

“Let It Rain” — Eric Clapton

“I Love A Rainy Night” — Eddie Rabbit

“Let’s Spend the Day In Bed” — Over the Rhine

“Mandolin Rain” — Bruce Hornsby & the Range

“Rain King” — Counting Crows

“Rain” — The Cult

“Every Breaking Wave” — U2

“The Sky Is Broken” — Moby

“Purify” — Balligomingo

“Touch of Grey” — Grateful Dead

“The Rain Song” — Led Zeppelin

“The Ocean” — Led Zeppelin

“The Tide Will Rise” — Bruce Hornsby

“Who’ll Stop the Rain” — Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Running Down A Dream” — Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

“Keep the Car Running” — Arcade Fire

“The Well and the Lighthouse” — Arcade Fire

“Hurricane” — King’s X

“Knife-Grey Sea” — Pilot Speed

“Fields of Gray” — Bruce Hornsby

“When the Levee Breaks” — Led Zeppelin

“Underwater” — Vertical Horizon

“No Rain” — Blind Melon

Updated with two suggestions from friend and aunt, 9:06 p.m.

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