“All My Pretty Hates: Reconsidering Charles Baudelaire,” an essay and winter residency lecture by faculty member Daisy Fried, appears online at Poetry.
I’m writing this in Paris, so, from my many poetic aversions (“all my pretty hates,” to quote Dorothy Parker): Charles Baudelaire, oozing with decay, pestilence, and death. Baudelaire, tireless invoker of muses, classical figures, goddesses, personifications: O Nature!…Cybele!… Sisyphe … O muse de mon coeur! Baudelaire, who makes an old perfume bottle an invocation of the soul wherein
A thousand thoughts were sleeping, deathly chrysalids,
trembling gently in the heavy darkness,
which now unfold their wings and take flight,
tinged with azure, glazed with pink, shot with gold*
— From The Phial
Anyone ever counted how many times “azure” shows up in Les Fleurs du Mal?
When she had sucked all the marrow from my bones
And I languidly turned to her
To give back an amorous kiss, I saw no more.
She seemed a gluey wine-skin full of pus.
— The Vampire’s Metamorphosis
I’m not one to criticize poems about blowjobs but Really, Charles? My fourteen-year-old self might have been impressed. Ew, gross. Then again, shouldn’t one be aware of not reading through one’s fourteen-year-old eyes? After all, he and Poe invented poetic goth. It’s not Baudelaire’s fault his modern-day followers are goofballs. And not their fault I’m a boring middle-aged American...[Keep Reading]…
Alumna Angela Narciso Torres (poetry, ’09) has been named a finalist for the Willow Books Literature Award for her book, Night Jasmine.
The Willow Books Literature Awards recognize literary excellence in prose and poetry by writers from culturally diverse backgrounds. A Finalists’ Reading & Awards Ceremony will be held April 6, 2013 in Chicago at Chicago State University during the 2nd Annual Willow Books LifFest. The Grand Prize winners’ books will be published by Willow Book, along with an ebook anthology of selections by Finalists.
Visit the Willow Books website for more information.
Three poems by alumni Matt Hart (poetry, ’02) appear online at The Good Men Project.
The sound of the train and the breeze
take me whistling. I walk down the street
and greenish light floods the world,
but only for a second. I am wrestling
with how green isn’t really green here,
and wondering if green is ever really green
anywhere? And could this line of thinking,
by virtue of its subject, be pastoral?
“Blow the house down!” Tommy says. He’s in his pajamas, thin at the knees, too short. His ankles and wrists jut, pale angles. Her brother drops onto the couch beside Shelly, bounces up and down, his cropped hair sticking up every which way, mouth stretched wide.
Sounds good to her. She’s in. She doesn’t know what it means.
“Wait,” he says and goes into the kitchen.
The only light is the TV, flickering shadows on the walls.
He comes back with the carton of chocolate-covered malt balls, his cheeks gorged already.
“What to Do When It Happens,” a poem by alumni Erick Piller (poetry, ’12) appears online at TriQuarterly.
Let’s leave our living rooms for the wolves.
When the sky opens into whiteness
and comes down over us, why not go out into it?
Why not go out into that Great Change?
We’ll leave our houses. Why stay?
The world outside will lope and gallop
indoors at the first opportunity...[Keep Reading]…
Listen to Erick read “What to Do When It Happens” at TriQuarterly.org
Failing to Fall
Midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1973 turning 1974, I stand in an open window on the top floor of a small hotel in Heidelberg, Germany, assessing whether and how to kill myself. The window stretches floor to ceiling: French doors, flung wide, with long dusty curtains swept aside to let in the frigid, gusting night air, and a cacophony of pealing church bells. In the room behind me are some number of my college student companions—I have no memory of how many or which ones—on this winter-break junket to Europe.
My boy husband Hen is surely among them. It’s inarguable that much hashish is being smoked to see in the New Year. We’ve all been toking as often as possible for five or six days, ever since some daredevil cool-fool among us scored big in our port of entry, Amsterdam. I am eighteen, almost nineteen, a stoner among stoners to whom I have no other connection. I’ve had great affection since high school for any form of downer drug, but I’ve never had hash before this trip, and instantly I am enamored of the aromatic honey taste on my palate, and the sticky-sweet resinous smoke in my hair, and the languorous drone to which it reduces my twitchy consciousness...[Keep Reading]…
“Dumb Animals,” a short story by alumni Ryan Burden (fiction, ’13) appears online at Gulf Stream Magazine.
The March house sits on a rise at the head of the nameless peninsula that lifts the towns of Cavalcade, Mania, and Oshokten from the sea. It’s a Victorian, tall, with a wrap-around porch and seven peaked slate roofs. No effort was spared in its construction. Joints and joists were painstakingly squared until they were considered unassailable. It’s a house tight as a ship. In life, March’s father cared for it as for a living thing, painting and shingling, clipping and mowing, until it seemed a sleek breathing consciousness on the rise, watching the land dispassionately and pondering the sea beyond. He built it with the money from his factory, which made nails. He was a man who knew nails – those with strong steel and heads that won’t buckle, those thin enough to finish fine wood and those heavy enough to run through anything.
Behind the house runs a deep bend of the Oshokten River, where March’s father loved to fish for the dark, bullet-headed trout that laze year-round, gorged on minnows and eel. This is where he drowned, drunk, trying to clear a snagged line during one of the river’s frequent floods...[Keep Reading]…
“Swing Low Sweet Chicken Baby,” a short story by alumni Nathan Poole (fiction, ’11) appears online at Nat. Brut.
When one of the summer hands let a bucket of roofing nails get away—not yet learned enough to yell out as it hissed down the rake and disappeared over the collar beam—Bates was standing directly beneath, thinking about his sperm count and how he might get his wife to move back in.
The impact brought him down hard to his knees and left the taste of iron in his mouth. He moved his fingers gently up his bald scalp, creeping along the gash. It started at the very top of his head and widened in the center as it slanted towards his right eye. He brought the hand back in front of his face and rubbed the blood between his thumb and forefinger like he would anti-freeze, testing the viscosity. The blood went thin with sweat and ran off the tip of his nose into the dust where each drop formed a small crater between his knees. Bates wondered if he could form his initials. He aimed the drops into the dirt with one eye closed, sighting off the end of his nose. He formed the L quickly, almost effortlessly, but found the B more difficult. The curves, they would be harder to get right...[Keep Reading]…
I’ve been trying to lie about this story for years. As a fiction writer, I feel an almost righteous obligation to the untruth. Fabrication is my livelihood, and so telling something straight, for me, is the mark of failure. Yet in many attempts over the years I’ve not been able to make out of this tiny — but weirdly soul-defining — episode in my life anything more than a plain recounting of the facts, as best as I can remember them. Dressing them up into fiction, in this case, wrecked what is essentially a long overdue confession.
Here’s the nonfiction version.
I watched my father in the front hall putting on his new, lambskin leather gloves. It was a sort of private ceremony. This was in early November, 1982, in Highland Park, Ill., a town north of Chicago along Lake Michigan. My father had just returned from a business trip to Paris. He’d bought the gloves at a place called Hermès, a mythical wonderland of a store. He pulled one on slowly, then the other, and held them up in the mirror to see how his hands looked in such gloves.
A week later, I stole them...[Keep Reading]…
Peter is the author of the novel Love and Shame and Love (Back Bay Books, 2012).