Dhanurāsana (Bow Pose) by Joseph Harker from Issue 24

Dhanurāsana (Bow Pose)

We are balanced on our stomachs with our legs bent,
feet pushing forward as we reach back and grab our ankles and
the yogi tell us to lift our chests and we will hold it for ten,

ten infinitely long breaths as we come into this position.
Eyes closed, but we can still feel the crispness of a March evening
fresh-picked and arranged at the market, with its subtle stars,

nine, and the last breaths of winter still clinging to its hair.
Collarbones creak. We draw our shoulder blades together. We feel
the tension of heartwood, running from the knots of the crown,

eight, crossing the ribs like xylophones, coiling down the spine
and through the legs: we become density. Blood turns to sap. And
arms are straining to be bowstrings, stretching back until,

seven, our heels are cupped in our palms and the body is one
united mass of tension. We rock back and forth slightly, more like
boats than bows, inhaling, dipping our sterns, exhaling,

six, letting our breaths touch the breath that comes in through
one open window. Somewhere there is a change. Some
divine archer is reaching through the roof and plucking our elbows,

five, saying more pull, still more, and he speaks through
the yogi who says open your heart. This is the contradiction:
drawn so taut that you think everything will snap, and at the same time,

four, surrender as the ribs yawn and the ankles grow sweaty.
Open your heart. The chakra shifts. We can tell that they are stirring
behind sternums, heavy-headed nodules of green, waiting to,

three, burst. They dip and nod like the capsules of opium poppies,
swollen as cartoon bombs. Anahata, uninjured, unjammed,
hoping to open and spread a bit of its color. We are almost there,

two, we feel ourselves quiver with the strain and the release.
We are full of these deep, primal body messages that we can’t call
thoughts. It is knowing. When fingers slip from ankles, everything,

one, snaps loose. Heart gone nova. Bow fired. The whole spirit
turned into an arrow, shooting upward through an open window, where
it will pierce the sky and drown in the first rain of the season.

An interview with poet Kristin Garth

kristin

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. In addition to Chantarelle’s Notebook, her sonnets have stalked the pages of Luna Luna, Mookychick, Anti-Heroin Chic, Drunk Monkeys Occulum, Rag Queen Perodical and many other publications. Her chapbook is available through maverickduckpress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie and her website: kristingarth.wordpress.com

 

1. Your poetry is extremely sex positive in a landscape where many would hold back, or be less likely to be as bold. What most informs (or has informed) your poetic voice?

They say write what you know. This is definitely why my writing is as sex positive — and perhaps even sex-obsessed at times — as it is. The details of my own life, even my body, I would say, drive this theme in my work.

I grew up in an extremely religious household. I was also abused. It’s a bizarre, though not unique, set of circumstances to feel both like a sex object in your upbringing and also that sex is terrible and illicit and ruinous to you. You’re in an untenable situation — because of your abuse and abuser, you are a bad person.

I was also made to feel that my body was a sinful, terrible thing that marked me as a certain type of woman. I developed early and had large breasts that were a trouble source in my home. They made me attractive to my abuser and also a threat. It escalated to a point that my mother actually wanted my breasts reduced — attempted to make this happen which was felt like a genital mutilation horror in the making.

It didn’t happen because my father interceded and stopped this, but it was a real epiphany in my life. I realized how little power I had over my body — and also that my body was a very powerful thing. It scared my mother.

I was on the cusp of adulthood when all this happened, and it shaped a lot of my attitudes. Made me angry at the puritanical nature of my family and some people. I saw how far they could take this madness to disfigurement. It made me determined to be different.

I certainly became different — eventually became a stripper. I went to a strip club with some men I knew, my hair in braids, and I got recruited to work there. I had always had a fascination with strip clubs. The Atom Egoyan movie Exotica is one of my favorites. I wanted to try it. So like the actress in Exotica, I did it costumed as a womanchild because that is my personality, my sexuality, for five years. This time period informs so much of my writing.

My life has always been rich with these highly sexually charged environments and themes. It is just simply what I know. I have made a conscious decision to be very blunt and straightforward about it. I feel like I have seen the results of people being hypocritical about sex, and I associate that with secrecy, hypocrisy and abuse — simply because my abuser was like this.

Believe it or not, sometimes I write something and feel great shame about it. Usually in this case, I will send it to someone I trust and say: is this good? Am I just being a puritan that it embarrasses me and I don’t want to send it out? If a person I trust tells me that it is good writing, I send it anyway because I know that I have some residual religious shame built inside me — though many people might be surprised to hear that. My goal is to be truthful and bold. I’m not perfect or a robot. I’m still on the journey and sort of faking a confidence at times that isn’t completely there. it’s not always easy.

2. Conversely, there is a sense of empowerment that is gained from reading your work. Do you feel like you’ve intentionally written poems that compel others to be more open about their wants and desires?

Oh my goodness, gee — I hope so. I hope I’m an example of honesty. I know that I have written abuse poems that inspire others to write about their abuse. That makes me so proud and happy. No abuse victim should ever feel silenced about what has happened to them. They own the experience but not any guilt. They did not make these choices but they have to live with the consequences of someone else’s. So it’s wonderful to have the therapy of putting that down to paper and getting a piece of it outside your body, and I wish for any abuse survivor that opportunity.

I haven’t really had people tell me that they wrote a sexual poem because of me. I hope they have and do. I think sex positive writing gets a bad name. There are many magazines that won’t publish it. To me as an abuse survivor, I see my sex positivity as a triumph. I know many people — and I feel such pain for them — that cannot enjoy sex because of abuse. I am luckily not this way. I am the opposite. I celebrate that about myself, and I love to write about it when the mood strikes. I love people to read it and see something that gives me such joy.

3. What made you choose the sonnet as your form of choice, and do you feel that more traditional forms of poetry have a place in a state of literature where instant gratification seems more and more prevalent?

I was assigned to write a sonnet in high school. I thought I would hate it. I really instantly fell in love with the puzzle of it — the terse nature, the rules. I’m a long-winded person, and the structure made me be bold and decisive. I liked that.

After a while I began to internalize the structure, out of routine. It makes my poetry really focused on content because the form is routine and I just sort of feel it without worrying. Recently I wrote a free verse poem and I was so consumed with structure — how is this supposed to look? All of these questions I never think about. Ironically, being a formal poet, I believe I consider form less than if I wrote free verse.

Likewise, I don’t think writing sonnets takes me more time than a free verse poet. Maybe it would to a person who is writing one as a lark or a first-timer, but the form doesn’t slow me down. I get stuck on lines but I think any poet does. I love free verse poetry and formal, and I think there is no reason why any person can’t do both — try both or the one of their preference.

Honestly, if I have a goal in poetry in general, it is to help remove these distinctions between formal poetry and free verse. I like to be in magazines where both are represented. I don’t really try for venues that are form specific much. I just don’t feel that way about poetry in my heart. I write poems. A lot of them are sonnets, but I want them in the company of good poems of any form. I love poetry.

4. How has living in Pensacola, Florida influenced your poetry, if at all?

I love Pensacola for its geography — Snow white beaches and dense woods. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and wild and just being on the beach or lost in its trees makes me feel instantly free and calm. My mental state is not always serene. I get caught up in a lot of dark memories and thoughts sometimes. There is something very healing about living in a pristine, beautiful natural landscapes. It feels pure and primitive.

I also feel very strongly influenced by the southern gothic tradition living in Pensacola. Pensacola is very southern. The state of Florida is a very diverse state. South Florida is very populated by transplants and retirees. It has a lot of northern accents and affectations like unsweet tea.

Pensacola is very sweet tea. We are one hour from Mobile, Alabama, three hours from New Orleans. I wrote a sonnet called Southern Gothic Ghosts. It’s about a guy who gave me a copy of the book Sanctuary by William Faulkner. Part of the plot of that book is that a very nefarious figure Popeye rapes a girl with a corncob. Well the poem starts out with a reference to the fact that this nefarious corncob rapist is going to visit his mother in Pensacola. We are the home of infamous southern gothic Faulkner villains.

Something about this resonated with me. I love where I am from and still live. Having said that, as wild and rural as the geography is, the people can be very wild and complicated creatures as well. Faulkner could have made that character be from anywhere but as a Pensacola girl, I absolutely believed this character would be in my hometown.

There is a lot of gentility and southern charm in my town. There is a darkness too. My true crime interest, I believe, is greatly informed by living in this place with its disproportionate amount of crime. There is a joke here when Pensacola makes the national news, you know it’s some terrible crime. It’s a Florida thing I think. There is a beauty, a charm and a roughness to this place and the people that works it’s way into my writing.

5. You’ve shared much of your work on the website Medium. Was posting there a positive experience, and did you gain a following there? What do you credit for your ascension in the poetry community?

Medium, for me, was an experiment in a lot of ways. I had been very active in publishing in traditional literature journals. I had some friends on Medium in the Partner Program. They told me about it and how they were publishing so quickly and making money, encouraged me to try it.

I joined in the Partner Program l, and it was a great experience. I did gain an audience that had some overlap with my indie lit mag audience, but there were new people I met, too. I was making money, and it was all very exciting.

The problem, for me, is that I do things full out. I’m a Capricorn, and I like to achieve and to work. I wrote a sonnet every day on that site. Unfortunately, many literary magazines do not want work that has been on Medium. So I was unable to publish in the literary magazine world as much as I wanted.

I was very conflicted by this. It was thrilling being paid to write, but I enjoy the audience in the literary magazine world. I love this community, and I felt less engaged because I simply could not write equally to both.

The money was the tipping point towards Medium. The money at Medium in the Partner Program is calculated by claps of Medium members. Every member pays $5 a month and claps for pieces they like. I always got a lot of claps, and my audience was on the rise.

However, the money that the writers were paid started to go dramatically down. I should have been making more and suddenly I was making three quarters what I was. Then I made half. When it dipped below that, I decided that no longer having the monetary incentive to stay, I wanted to be more active in the literary magazine world.

I have never once regretted that decision. I love the literary magazine world. I love submitting work often and engaging with editors. I realized from that experience that I am not a self publisher. I enjoy the process of working with a press on a book and talking about my work in all stages. Love to hear insights on my work, suggestions and cover ideas. I love the editorial mind, and I missed out on that immensely.

As far as my ascension in the poetry world, wow, that is a hard question to answer. I feel lucky to have more opportunities now. I could say that my Capricorn work ethic has something to do with the number of publications I have, but I know that there are a lot of hard workers out there.

I am one of those people who writes every day, submits something almost every day. I’ve made good habits for myself that way. I don’t believe any one method is perfect for everyone. I wouldn’t tell other people: do this. Maybe writing every day is not good for you. I don’t always finish a poem. But I think it helps my particular brain to stay active and on a schedule. I also suffer from depression, and activity helps me.

I think there is a degree of luck. I also think that if I had any advice for a writer out there that I would give anyone is: be yourself. Whoever that is. I’m a former stripper, abuse survivor, who likes kneesocks and sonnets and hard nerdy work. I showcase all these things about myself on social media. People get to know you and root for you because they sense the genuineness. Identify those things about you that are truly intrinsically you and share them with your audience in the ways you are comfortable. I feel that people root for me in this community, and I am honored by that. I think they root for me because they know me and know I root for them. I want to see their truest self, the kneesock, the skinned knee with a pink Barbie BAND-AID on top — wait, no that’s me. What is your BAND-AID? Let people know.

 

Elm Tree Statistics by Caitlin Crowley, from Issue #10

Elm Tree Statistics

Four letters were
Carved into the trunk of the elm
A scraggly, narrow heart
Closed around them like a cupped palm
Other calligraphy seems to blossom
When the sun
Shines on the page
And soaks in each teardrop
Of rain
I slam the weeping door,
Barefoot walk across
The grass
To the trunk of the elm
Until the old promise seems
Like a statistic
When a couple became a crowd
When the letters spread
Into a page

My toes are soundless against the night by Raina Masters

My toes are soundless against the night

My heels never touch the hardwood floor,
the quietest tap dance across a room to
sneak a glass of water, a small snack from
a foreign kitchen. Open cabinets to look
for a glass and find a shelf of wallets,
a lazy susan with keychains jingling softly
as I turn it. The fridge is barren, save
an orange and a container of milk. The freezer
holds white paper wrapped slabs of meat
stickered with names in a red marker:
Natalie, 3/11. Kendra, 12/11. Audrey, 7/12.
You want me to find these. You want me to run.
I want to piece these girls back together,
want to know what you did with their faces.
I will not be your next meal, your next deer
to chase through the wooded acres behind your
house. This isn’t a movie and I’m proficient
with knives. I light a candle and set your
dining room table, fold napkins with precision,
pour two glasses of wine. I slip your necktie
around my neck, sit bare on the cold wooden
chair and wait for you, cleaver in hand.

 

Raina Masters has been published online in a few places, and that is pretty cool to her. Her chapbook, Cautionary Tales, is available through Maverick Duck Press, if you like what you see. She likes to read, garden, listen to music and daydream.

Looking for Vermeer by Ruth Mark, from Issue #1

Looking for Vermeer

In search of Vermeer
they pointed the car in the
direction of Delft, got out
after finally finding
a parking place – right beside
the windmill, under the
bridge, and walked
following the drums and
caterwauling of the street
music – an organized, yet
chaotic gathering of Heineken-
swilling kids in t-shirts
and grown-out fringes, men
with goatees and shorts.

Periwinkle blue sky
softened with pink and
grey and green clouds –
clouds were never
white, not if you looked
at them properly, not if
you studied them with
a painter’s eyes, not when
the paints were expensive
the white formed from ground
bone, linseed oil and a
great deal of elbow grease.
Not when you had a family
to feed that was growing
almost by the year
and the house was almost
coming apart at the seams.

They turned a corner
just by the church and
came to the first canal –
a disappointing mud-colored
strip of sorry-looking
dishwater, slop-water,
shit and grit and
not blue. In no way
was the water blue,
yet it was glassy, mirror-like
not a ripple, no barges,
boats, or any manner of
water traffic on it
no source of ripples
no kids to throw stones
in, no milk maids or
girls with earrings
to dip pails into, draw
water to wash clothes in;
your clothes and theirs.

A line of Delft pottery
tile of all hues, blue on white
of course but some more
modern than others in
their gloss, their brightness
their uniformity. They
could tell which ones
had been hand-painted,
which ones pressed on
pictures reproduced in
their hundreds, thousands
perhaps. They wondered if
you ever stopped to
admire the tiles or if
they were below you,
you, the master painter
who painted to order
for all your rich neighbors
a slave to their whims
a whipping boy or a
shrewd businessman
looking to make a quick buck?

And then they saw
A plaque declaring you
existed. That you had lived here
high up on a wall embedded.
They’d have missed it had
they not stopped for coffee.
Delft remembers you in a
plaque, countless reproductions
of your more famous paintings
found these days on everything
from t-shirts, to mugs to
toilet lids. Would you have
approved? Seen the profit
margin, the investment? Or
would you have despaired,
felt you’d sold yourself
to the people, diluted
your talent somehow?

They’d come looking for
Vermeer and found him –
in the colors of the sky,
the clouds, the cobbled
streets, the very air,
tangible, yet elusive
but there just the same
in Delft that water washed day.

Smell a Book by Joseph Quiroz

Joseph Quiroz is a 29 year old male from North Arlington, NJ who has been performing at poetry slams and open mics all throughout the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania areas since Dec of 2013. He represented Rock Slam out of Nyack, NY at the National Poetry Slam in 2016. His work has been published in Degenerate Literature, TL;DR Magazine, Horror, Sleaze and Trash, Philosophical Idiot, Gimmick Press, Blue Mountain Review and The Platform Review: Arts By The People. He can be found on Instagram at JosephAndrew27, on Youtube at J Andrew and on Twitter at JoeWritesPoetry.

Telling You Everything by Cindy Hochman

Telling You Everything

“Be brief and tell us everything.” —Charles Simic

I am all moan and bone and dangling participles. My body is hamstrung and jagged. I am a bellyful of barren. I am all chocolate bars and razor blades.

 

Telling You Everything (political version)

I am all moan and bone and dangling participles. My body is hamstrung and jagged. I am a bellyful of barren. I am all chocolate bars and razor blades. There was no collusion.

 

Cindy Hochman is the president of “100 Proof” Copyediting Service and the editor-in-chief of the online poetry journal First Literary Review-East. She is on the book review staffs of Pedestal magazine and Clockwise Cat. Her most recent chapbook is Habeas Corpus (Glass Lyre Press).