Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Monday, April 30, 2012

No News Today - Guest Post - Lauren Wallach

Dear R—

You said: First it was me, then it was you, then it was both of us. It seemed important to make the distinctions, of whose fault it was first, and whose fault second. Important to blame each of us almost equally, and then to tie it up neatly in the end. Though it is not the end.

Last night we spoke again. You agreed with me about the male writers—certain ones—their “misogyny” we agreed to call it. With Thais over brunch, coffee and Bloody Mary, against dark wood benches and cold winter sun, we inquired about where you stand, R. We were talking about you. Thais said, your eyes, (or was it your head?) must be clear to see that thing in others, causing you to not be one yourself. How can he be when he can see it in others? At the very least, he is aware. Awareness, Thais and I always agree, is the key. Awareness is also a form of denial. As long as you are aware, that is the first step. As long as you are aware, accept yourself, the rest will follow, or it won’t. Must we worry? Be aware and forget. It’s like the morning. They say, do it in the morning, then you don’t have to worry again until tomorrow. Can it all be done in the morning? Tell me R, can it all be done in the morning?

I told you about the poetry book I’ve been carrying around with me like a bible, and you told me that writer is a sexist. This was ironic because the book, in my mind, opposed a man (a writer) who I thought was the sexist. And this book proved that sexist wrong. But now this man was a sexist too. Were they all? Were they all? R—I looked into your eyes for the answer, but they were looking over at someone else. I watched her go by. Red lips lighting up the room as red lips do.

You told me you didn’t write every day, that psychologist who wrote that article was wrong, it’s not the only way, and you eased me, in that moment, I was glad to have gone out, amidst the rain and the cold of the night. You asked me where I had been earlier, why I had missed the entire event, and this time I had a good reason, but wouldn’t tell you—now I will tell you. I was putting my make up on in the psychologist’s bathroom. And let me tell you how exhilarating that was. It felt like I was really about to step out into the world and would find some people who would want me too much, I’d have to push them away, and then give in. Like I’d go with someone. Like one of those nights I used to have. Nights that only feel like you’re really living in retrospect. How wild of me! you’ll recall. It wasn’t one of those nights, but I shouldn’t have to say. We all watched all of us exit the van at our respective homes, like a class trip, like we couldn’t take care of ourselves, like we only knew about a very small part of the city, and of course, each other.

Sometimes we don’t need to distinguish between the two. But I’ll be distinguished when I say: once there were two types of nights. They came together in one evening, or on different days. Then I carried a particular book of poetry around with me like a bible. It was always a way to know.

Lauren Wallach is a writer from Brooklyn. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, where she is the creative director of LUMINA, the graduate literary journal. Her work has appeared in The Collagist.

Monday, April 23, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Jeff Simpson


I read all about it and still felt the same
whateverness of a Sunday in Nebraska,
corn cobbed in my teeth, fields waving like a blaze.
Sit by the pool and still I feel capped
with an empty head, watching the bottom
marble like a good steak, the sun singing hosannas
through a backyard sprinkler.
Whatever rainbow. Whatever light waves.
The day unspools, and I want for a cherry
cola to ease me back into submission.
The Paper says Exploding wellheads
and oceans of goo. Paper says Lover immolates
himself in the shape of a valentine,
Dachshund rescued from sewer.
In the early days of refrigeration, ice ruled
the economy—acres of men sawing blocks
from frozen lakes. I wish it could be as simple
as a wood box and tongs, a mini glacier
keeping the meat cool. I wish rickshaws
and happy peasants soldering gadgets.
I wish the edifice not to crumble.
The flight attendant asks if I want ice
with my drink. I say I used to feel safe in the air.
I use to feel something like bliss watching
the city fall from the window, the houses
like specks on a robin’s egg, streets running
arterially from their respective hearts.
Whatever gridlock. Whatever stasis.
I forget combustion and debris fields.
I forget sparrows destroy the eggs of other nests.
I know water evaporates before falling
as rain. I know the sun will burn out
and collapse into a diamond.
I know and forget and feel the surprise
as a piñata stuffed with machetes.
If I can’t escape the coffin while handcuffed,
if I can’t twist out of the shark’s mouth,
if I can’t land softly and catch a little shuteye,
then I want the rubble like I secretly want
the beach oil-soaked and ruined. In its wasting
I can finally see it for what it really is.

Jeff Simpson grew up in southwest Oklahoma and now lives in New York. He is the author of Vertical Hold (Steel Toe Books, 2011), which was a finalist for The National Poetry Series. He is the founding editor of The Fiddleback. His poems have recently appeared in Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, Blip Magazine, and others. Visit him at jeffsimpson.org

Monday, April 16, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Robin Grearson

7.2 Miles

On those days when I wake up and feel like I'm falling, I walk the city. I cross the Williamsburg bridge on foot, imagining each step makes the distance between us literal. I stop at a café to collect my thoughts, but I know I should have left them in Brooklyn. As if you were chasing me, I check to see if you are there while I drink, and of course you are.

I keep walking, trying to find the city I knew before you. Before I didn’t know you. When I watch my feet I am alone with you again, so I look at faces instead. But I am still too shy to be naked in front of so many strangers, so finally I look up.

I turn the skyscrapers into my canopy of trees and let the dappled light hit my face like a splash of cool water and redemption. By the time I see the Flatiron, my mind is like a fist finally becoming a hand again. My legs are tired and I’m no longer aware of the effort, only the feeling of motion. I understand that I’m walking but it feels like swimming, like I could reach up and pull myself out of this place by grabbing a windowsill as though it’s the side of a pool.

Do you feel guilty about something, you asked, and repeated, stunning me and leveling your gaze, lowering your head like a bull preparing his charge, no matter my answer.
No, I whispered, rising inside myself, taller and defiant but confused and falling, hearing things inside me already breaking, a pile of china I know I cannot catch in time.

When I wake up and feel like I’m falling, I walk the city. I look up. The question is still there, but I make a new answer. Do you?

There are so many cities here, nesting inside this one. Maybe a million, but probably more. Someday with my feet I will swim into another New York that has forgotten the black in your eyes that day. There must be at least one.

Robin Grearson is an essayist, teacher and curator who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been published in The New York Times and The Brooklyn Rail, among other publications. This story originally appeared as part of the Notwork project, which installed a pirate Wi-Fi intranet on the L-Train. She is a member of Bushwick’s 1441 writers collective. www.robingrearson.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Jac Jemc

Excerpt from My Only Wife

I asked the question, sure of the answer, but my wife said, “Deaf.” I was certain she’d rather be blind.
“Really?” I asked, confused. Maybe she was being contrary.

The question surfaced after we had seen a woman in the art museum with her Seeing-Eye dog. We wondered how and why a blind person would go to an art museum, whether they might be allowed special privileges or something, like running their hands over the statues. We wondered whether there were floor plans printed in Braille. We were on a schedule, though, and we were polite, so we didn’t follow her around to figure out what was happening.

In the gift shop at the end of the day we saw the woman flipping through a row of art calendars priced at half-off because it was already the middle of January. Her dog was seated contentedly at her feet.

“She must be only partially blind,” my wife said.
“Or maybe she just wanted to bring her dog to the museum,” I replied, in good humor.

My wife seemed to consider this for a moment before moving on. We paid for a handful of postcards and an art book. On our way out the huge glass doors I asked the question.
I heard my wife’s answer and distrusted it.

“But you listen to your records every night. You record stories on cassette tapes instead of writing them down. You’re saying that if tomorrow you had to choose between being blind or deaf, you would be deaf? I don’t believe it for a second.”

She sighed. “The situation is ridiculous in and of itself. I’m never going to be given that choice. If either of those unfortunate events should occur, I would, of course, learn to deal with it, but if I had to choose right this moment, especially after that afternoon we just spent seeing beauty, I would say I would rather be deaf. I don’t care if I ever listen to those tapes again. I would rather spend my time gathering more stories than being nostalgic for the past or listening to them and thinking about what a wonderful storyteller I am.”

“But, why, then, do you record the stories at all?”
“For the sake of time. They need to go somewhere. I need somewhere to store them so I can start over again.”
“What does that mean?”

My wife stopped walking. The sidewalk was crowded. People bumped into us. My wife looked at
me like I had offended her deeply.

“Well, come on!” I said. “That was so cryptic. You can’t say something like that and expect me to roll with it. Did that mean anything? Did you want to avoid answering my question?”

My wife was furious. “Let’s hear your answer to the question. Would you rather be blind or deaf?”
“Deaf, but I don’t focus my life around listening to people’s stories, and recording them on cassette tapes!”

My wife’s expression shifted to one of triumph, “You’re right about that. You most certainly do not listen. I’m sure it would be quite easy for you to give that up. I’m not saying I want to be deaf. You made me choose; I chose. You can’t tell me my choice is not my choice. It’s mine. Does it drive you crazy that you have no control over that?” My wife broke through the crowd of people passing us, to get to the staircase leading down to the el station.

I stood for a moment, watching her, astonished. When my wife had disappeared out of my sight, I started after her, pushing through the sidewalk traffic. I tried to race down the stairs, but I got caught behind a slow, elderly woman. By the time I had scanned my card, I heard a train pulling up and raced toward the track down another staircase. As I arrived on the platform, the train was already pulling away.

My wife was gone.

Jac Jemc's first novel, My Only Wife, will be released from Dzanc Books in April 2012. Jac is also the author of a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She'd Invited In, that sold out at Greying Ghost Press last year and the poetry editor of decomP Magazine. She blogs her rejections at jacjemc.com.

Monday, April 2, 2012

No news today - Guest Post - Tom Laverty

The True Story of Captain Tobias Hume

The legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel. Neither of them in liege with a cover of ferns that mimicked the wind.

The maple told the squirrel:

A man with a black feather on his hat crossed the Thames River in search of gold, only to find long stretches of land barren and lifeless.

The squirrel said the story was about:

a man in a black-feathered hat, but instead of crossing a river he crossed a sea in a wooden ship, and took swords up in a foreign army.

The maple rustled his bough at the squirrel and continued with his story:

After crossing the wide river, the man in the black-feathered cap came upon a stand of spruce during his walk across the dry, barren land, and from the spruce the man made a large, hollow sculpture in the shape of a woman. And the man sat looking at the wood, wondering what to do with it. He held it up, spoke to it, placed things on it, tapped it, and shook it; but when the man tapped it, he was the most happy because it made a deep, round boom!

Wait, wait! said the squirrel:

The man, after fighting many battles in a frozen country, was taken aside by his general, and the general said, “I make you Captain, Tobias Hume, for your bravery on the field of battle and your camaraderie with the soldiers deserve it of you. You have fooled our enemies with your tactics. Now take this command and lead our men to victory.”

The maple, now upset, continued his telling:

No, no no. Now, as I was saying, the man was most pleased when he tapped the wooden thing he made. Many weeks passed while the man tapped and tapped, making unique sounds with each spot he tapped. Then, one day, a four-legged beast came laboring across the wasteland, and after many minutes, the beast stopped, standing in front of the man, and died with a deep gasp. So, the man cut the beast open and from its entrails he made long, taut strings. He put the strings on the womanly wooden thing, and he strung the strings from her neck to her bottom. Then the man took some strands of the beast’s hair and attached them to a thin piece of wood.

The squirrel had moved to another bough, and was loyally chipping away at a nut, but he'd heard enough of the maple’s story. He stood on his hind legs, spit out a seed and said:

And so the man, now Captain of the strange army, truly missed his homeland and so he set forth with his sword across the lands he’d conquered, and the river he’d crossed. But before he reached his home, he was confronted by a cast of soldiers who offered to pay him to lead their troupe into battle against the very same army he was captain of! The man, poor, hungry and lonely, decided to lead the army. So, he set forth with his new soldiers, to fight his old army. And that is how the legend goes, said the squirrel, putting another nut in his mouth.

The maple, looking at the squirrel with a long eye, said:

And so the man took the piece of wood with hair on it and ran it along the strings he had put on the wooden sculpture. The sound it made pleased the man like he had never been pleased before, and soon, it was all the man could do - make these woody womanly sounds. It consumed him. The empty land around him sprouted trees and animals, and roads; even cities sprouted up, and the people came forth from their houses just to hear him run the hairs against the strings of his wooden sculpture.

And so the legend of Captain Tobias Hume is told, as a series of arguments between a maple and a squirrel.

Tom Laverty's work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Passages North and Unsaid vols 4-6. He lives in Detroit and is editor of Pigeon Town.