Author Archives:

Sculptural and Spatial Practices

Screenshot 2017-11-18 12.53.24BY AMELIA HAWKINS

I come from flyover country. That’s what people here call it. My grandparents slaughtered pigs. Strung porkers and sucklings up by the feet to bleed out, collected the blood in mason jars that I carried from slaughter shed to my grandmother’s kitchen for Sunday blood sausage. Mitch likes this part of me best—little girl holding jars of black blood, warm in her hands. My gritty farm girl, he murmurs. With hair the color of straw. I like when he calls me his.

I don’t tell Mitch that my dad is a dentist. That my mom drove me forty-five minutes into Omaha to go to a private girls’ school on partial scholarship. Checkered pinafores and white bobby socks. Parties at friends’ parents’ lake houses and bumps of cocaine on granite countertop. That, in biology class, I liked slicing through cat belly, pulling out uterus and pink clump of intestines, inhaling formaldehyde. That my family took vacations to Branson every year, and that, for fun, I stole refrigerator magnets and shot glasses from the hotel gift shop. That I am so terribly unremarkable.

I want Mitch to think I’m special. Any version of me. Milk and corn fed farm girl. Good girl. Middle American beauty.

Mitch has a condo in Park Slope that I’ve never seen. He lives there Thursday through Sunday with his wife, a visual artist, whom he doesn’t talk about, at least not with me. I Googled her, and found out she’s known for a critically acclaimed series of videos she took of herself visiting the homes of old men, stripping down to her underwear, then watching them do the same. Belts unbuckled and pleated pants pulled down to reveal sagging folds of pale skin, faded boxers with tears in the waistband. You think they’re about to have sex, but they don’t. She just stands there, staring at them, like she’s fascinated by how ordinary they are. She has the kind of body people like to call unrealistic to feel better about themselves—curving hips and full breasts, but petite, tight, contained. Almost like a teenager. There are pictures of them on the internet—Mitch and The Wife. At her art shows, at her gallery talks, at her book party. Mitch looks old standing next to her.

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Life is Unbearably Vivid: An Essay on Sundog by Jim Harrison and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

sundogBY PAUL DOTY

In a 2016 New York Times Book Review interview Jim Harrison responded to a question about his favorite fictional heroes and villains with, “My original favorite fictional hero was Heathcliff in Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights.’”[1] In Heathcliff Bronte creates one of literature’s quintessential Byronic heroes, unique among Byronic heroes in that his mystery derives from his locale: he embodies the tumultuous remoteness of Wuthering Heights.  Thinking over the corpus of Jim Harrison stories, especially those stories set in wintery brooding Northern Michigan, place becomes persona in characters actively trying to lose themselves in their surroundings pursuing what Anthony Doerr characterized as “unencumbered-ness.”[2]  This unencumbered-ness invokes an aura of Heathcliff.  This essay will argue that Jim Harrison’s Sundog clearly has a relationship to Wuthering Heights, and while it is by no means a retelling of that story, a reading of Sundog through Wuthering Heights enables an exploration of locale and the charismatic hero.

Jumping out from the two books is the parallel in the narrative scaffolding.  In Wuthering Heights Mr. Lockwood is a first person narrator, who retells Nelly Dean’s account of Wuthering Heights, that itself relays accounts of events told in detail by the story’s characters.  In Sundog Jim Harrison is a first person narrator, there are interviews with Robert Corvus Strang, and the “verbatim” transcriptions of tapes the Narrator makes as he comes to grips with how Strang’s story intersects with the transition he needs to make to keep his life from coming unglued.  The different narrative modes and moods create a push and pull tension within both novels–moods that for Harrison create a structure for the Narrator to internalize Strang’s story, to let the story under his skin, and for Bronte a space for the competing scenes of passion and/or ferocity.

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Sitting Guard

Screenshot 2017-11-01 07.15.47BY VICTOR WALKER

Some days are better than others,

some days are worse than others,

some days just are.

 

This was going to be one of those better days, I hoped.

Did I resent my mother’s remarrying?

It was Dr. Runner who suggested that I write down my feelings between sessions.  So that’s what I’ve done:

I was happy for her.  I even gave her away at the wedding.  She made a beautiful bride.

I showed Dr. Runner the pictures I had taken on my cellphone.

He’s a year younger than she is, I told him.

Does that bother me?  Not really.

My dad had been almost ten years older, however.  That can be quite a lot when a couple gets up in age.  Personally, I don’t think most people can stay married for more than seven years before serious problems begin to appear.  It’s like owning a car.  After seven years you get another one.

Your first car is just about speed and fun and driving with the top down.  You’re not thinking about the long haul—the countless errands, the endless lines of traffic, the forty dollar fill-ups at the gas pump.

Where the highway was once a chance to air her out, that open road is now just a place to close the windows, turn on the air, and hit the cruise control.  Seven years is all any car really has in her.  And maybe only two really good ones at that.  The way I look at it, my mom and dad were way ahead of the game.

Next week would have been their ruby anniversary.  I looked it up.  That’s almost six new car lives.  Ruby is also my birthstone.  I’ll be forty this July.

Does that bother me?  Not really.

Anyway, I’m very happy for her.  For both of them.  It’s no good getting old by yourself.

They’re going to Costa Rica for their honeymoon.  You know, my mom’s sixty-one—no, sixty-two—and this’ll be the first time she’s ever really been anywhere outside of the country.  I had to drive her down to our post office to help her apply for a passport.  She refused to wear her glasses.  She wouldn’t wear them to the wedding either.  To tell the truth, I was a little afraid that she might trip when I walked her down the aisle, but she didn’t.

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Ashtabula, Ohio: The Biker

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BY ELIZABETH DEVORE

This poem is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

The bike wobbles as he turns his head
to say hello to the girl and her dog
and the handlebars swerve the way they do
the first time the training wheels come off, but
he’s been riding for seventy years now.

Once, he could throw a paper and hit
the front door of every customer on his route,
one hand on the bars, the other swinging up
over his head, fingers following the paper
towards the stoop, but now
he must keep both hands gripped firm
just to stay upright.

Once, he could ride to the lake with a pretty girl
perched on the front, her auburn hair blowing
into his eyes, her giggles filling the air
as they coasted down the hill, but now
he has to concentrate on lifting his own heavy knees
with each rotation of the pedals.

Once, he could ride on the road with cars whizzing
while his children weaved down the walk beside him
on their way to the Squire Shoppe Bakery
for donuts each Saturday, but now
the cars threaten his stability and he must shift
back to the spot his children vacated years ago.

Elizabeth Devore teaches English at Kent State University at Ashtabula. She loves exploring her harbor neighborhood with her dog and meeting the retirees who have spent their lives making this city a place she has come to love.

Marquette, Michigan: Pristine Inland Sea

Courtesy of author

Courtesy of author

BY JENNIFER STANLEY

This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project. 

As a lifelong resident of Marquette, Michigan, located on the south shore of Lake Superior, I consider myself fortunate. Wherever I have lived in the city, I have been only moments from the lake, able to see it from outside my front door

Throughout my life, the lake and I have harmonized. As a child, I mimicked its spontaneity, dove in to dodge waves, oblivious to its cold temps. As a teen, I became intimate with its passionate pulse, perfect background for young romance. As an adult, I relived the intoxication of its danger, its wonder, watching over my own child’s fear and wild delight at the force of its storms. As I grow older, I find reliable companionship, the comfort of lifelong friendship in its rhythmic accompaniment during contemplative walks.

Recently, I realized how I have taken this relationship for granted as the result of a trip to the Atlantic coast.

When I first viewed the Atlantic Ocean from a New Jersey boardwalk, I said “It looks like Lake Superior.” This seemed to disappoint my host who knew I’d never seen the ocean, and I think felt deprived of the vicarious experience of my amazement. I explained that it appeared to be not so different from something I see nearly every day. However, as I spent more time getting to know the ocean, I realized the difference.

True, there are obvious similarities between the two bodies, which share vast breadth, unending horizons, but each has unique aspects, better appreciated after experience of the other. The fact that the sea is salt water, the lake fresh, is a difference which is a source of many others, for example, scent. Superior, though it has its own fishy ambience, does not overpower with pungent brine. To the panoramic view, colors differ, the sea being more aqua green than Superior’s robin egg or cobalt blue.

The large turbulent waves of the Atlantic make Superior’s seem clear and hard by contrast.  Under similar weather conditions, breaking waves of the ocean are foamier, spread and hiss a greater distance up the sand, while the sharper-edged waves of Superior seem to shatter and scatter. Because the lake is a smaller body of water, it feels more dense, compact. Ocean water has more space to stretch out, travels a greater distance, seems more diffuse. I hear this in the sounds of surf. While the ocean roars and pounds, the lake glugs, dunks, and gulps. Superior has less predictable shifts in water level, and where the regular tides of the sea litter the beach with shellfish, shells, and sharp mosaic fragments of shells, Lake Superior beaches are awash with pebbles, and agates, and driftwood.

Risks to the swimmer also differ.  There is no danger of jellyfish or shark attacks in fresh water, the most threatening creature likely to be found in the lake a transplant lamprey eel.  More remarkable is the difference in shoreline water temperature. Compared to the oceans moderate temps, Superior’s unmatched frigid bite is a nerve-numbing awakening not for the timid heart. This ultimately protects Superior’s purity, and primarily, it is this characteristic I have most taken for granted.

Marquette may be the most populated area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but even so, its beaches, for the most part, in contrast to those I visited on the Atlantic, are generally open to the public at no cost. No purchased pass is required to spend a day or season of days on Superior’s convenient sands.  Yet, on most of those days, one will not find huge concentrated crowds taking advantage of that. In contrast to the popular East Coast beaches I visited on the Atlantic, the public beaches around Marquette are not massed with people, packed like cliché sardines under miles of striped umbrellas.  There are no troupes of solicitous hot-dog vendors, armed patrol guards, enormous bulldozers at daybreak, turning over yesterday’s garbage strewn surface, no airplanes with flying billboards urging the purchase of dinner reservations, no blocks upon blocks of full parking lots, no rows of expensive clubs playing conflicting raucous music.

On the shores of Lake Superior, one is more likely to find a bike path winding through stretches of sparsely populated beachfront pine forest than commercialized entertainment. Even on the most popular Superior beaches, one can easily wander only a short distance to find solitude, privacy, peace.

Certainly, both the northern “Inland Sea” and the Atlantic Ocean are lovely at sunrise, or under the full moon of a July night. Still I have to admit, my visit to the East Coast of the great Atlantic only deepened my preference for the Great Lake above the Mackinac Bridge. I now more fully understand its unique beauty, and more greatly appreciate the privilege of living with it daily.

Jennifer Stanley is a native of upper Michigan, and has an MA in writing from Northern Michigan University. She has contributed to a variety of publications, including The Marquette Monthly, The Great Lakes Poetry Project Anthology, Above the Bridge Magazine, Country Woman, and The American Poetry Review.

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Squelch

Photo by David Anstiss, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Photo by David Anstiss, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

BY ATHENA DIXON

Last night, I remembered playing pitch dark hide and seek in a muddy field, a ruined pair of Air Max 95s, and the joy of black college freshmen running fearless through the night.

I am certain I will never again find that exact pair of sneakers. I’ve seen the blue, orange, and white colorway in stores, but something about them is never quite right. Maybe I’m holding onto a twenty-year-old memory that’s fuzzy at the edges. Or maybe they are the shoes, but now they aren’t as magical.

What is magical was that night, a crisp fall midnight after a day of heavy rain. In one of the many open fields dotting the campus of Kent State University, we ran with reckless abandon, shoes squelching and sticking in the thick mud. We’d congregated in the courtyard of the freshman dorms, dressed in black, our key cards and IDs slung beneath our shirts on lanyards.

Trekking from the lighted pathways of Stewart Hall, we’d unplugged ourselves from the lure of Yahoo! chat rooms and the newness of an Internet we had never experienced at home. What wonder and joy was a 24/7 computer lab? The lot of us would line the far wall four at a time and slip on the masks of usernames and ask A/S/L?

But that night, when the tentative cross country flirting had died down, we chose to retreat to our individual rooms to change into black t-shirts, sweatpants, and beanies. What a sight we must have been, a bevy of black kids marching across the field to a set of low bleachers. There is no recollection of how we chose teams or what exactly the rules were, but I do remember the sound of our laughter pealing out across the night and the chill that pressed down from above.

We sprinted and dove and rolled in a field torn up by intramural leagues, oblivious to the mud and the wetness seeping into our skin. Sometimes, we tackled each other into the juicier plots of grass and lay there backs flush against the earth, staring up into the Ohio sky. And soon, the group of us were side by side in the night, chests rising and breath clouding above our heads.

We rested there until oxygen pushed back into our lungs and then it was time for another sprint across the field, another squelch of shoes in the mud. We tore through the darkness until there was no more energy to pick up the heaviness of our feet or our bodies from the ground. So we found ourselves on the low bleachers again, the steam rising from our shoulders like spirits to heaven. The laughter still pealing out across the distance bounced back to us from the brick dormitories.

Save the bobbing beam of an officer’s flashlight, we would have stayed there throughout the night, a collection of newly minted clay statues set out to dry. In the morning there were Sunday breakfast buffets at one of the food halls. Monday would bring class and campus jobs. That Saturday night, however, was an endless stream of thighs pressed together, shoulders bumping, the splitting of groups until two figures walked towards the dorms alone.  What was left of that magic was a muddy pair of Air Max 95s, coated to the ankles, left drying next a door and a memory twenty years later whispering Ready. Set. Go. 

Athena Dixon is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared in various journals both online and in print. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and is a Callaloo fellow. Her chapbook, Way Station, is forthcoming from Winged City Press. Athena is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Linden Avenue Literary Journal. Originally from Northeast Ohio, she now writes, edits, and resides in Philadelphia. 

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Michigan Bestseller list for July 2017

ALL BOOKS FOR JULY 2017

1) Daniel Silva, “House of Spies” (HarperCollins Publishers)

2) Patricia Polacco, “The Blessing Cup: A Companion to The Keeping Quilt” (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster)

3) Karen Dionne, “The Marsh King’s Daughter: A Novel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

4) Patricia Polacco, “Meteor!” (Puffin Books/Penguin Books)

5) Patricia Polacco, “The Keeping Quilt” (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster)

6) Patricia Polacco, “Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln: A chilling journey through time to the Civil War” (Puffin Books/Simon & Schuster)

7) Ann Patchett, “Commonwealth: A Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers)

8) Patricia Polacco, “Thank You, Mr. Falker” (Philomel Books/Penguin Books)

9) Julie Buntin, “Marlena: A Novel” (Henry Holt and Co./Macmillan)

10) Colleen Coble, “Beneath Copper Falls: A Rock Harbor Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers)Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 11.18.54 AM

U.P. FOR JULY 2017

1) Karen Dionne, “The Marsh King’s Daughter: A Novel” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

2) Colleen Coble, “Beneath Copper Falls: A Rock Harbor Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers)

3) Roxane Gay, “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” (HarperCollins Publishers)

4) Kath Usitalo, “100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die” (Reedy Press)

5) Adam Schuitema, “The Things We Do That Make No Sense: Stories” (Switchgrass Books)

6) John Smolens, “Wolf’s Mouth: A Novel” (Michigan State University Press)

7) Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” (W.W. Norton & Company)

8) Louise Erdrich,  “LaRose: A Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers)

9) Russell M. Magnaghi, “Prohibition in the Upper Peninsula: Booze & Bootleggers on the Border” (The History Press)

10) Charlie LeDuff, “Detroit: An American Autopsy” (Penguin Books) [tie]

10) Ronald Riekki, “And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017” (Michigan State University Press) [tie]

The Michigan Bestseller List for July 2017 lists books about Michigan topics, written by Michigan authors, and/or published by Michigan publishers, compiled by Ron Riekki from fifteen Michigan bookstores: Bookbug in Kalamazoo, www.bookbugkalamazoo.com; Brilliant Books in Traverse City, http://www.brilliant-books.net/; Dog Ears Books in Northport,www.dogearsbooks.net/; Island Bookstore in Mackinaw City and on Mackinac Island, http://www.islandbookstore.com/; Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo,http://www.kazoobooks.com/; Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, www.michigannews.biz/; Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, nicolasbooks.com; North Wind Books in Hancock, https://bookstore.finlandia.edu/; Pages Bookshop in Detroit, www.pagesbkshop.com/; Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, www.saturnbooksellers.com; Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos, schulerbooks.com; and Snowbound Books in Marquette, http://www.snowboundbooks.com/.

Windsor, Ontario: Mount Francis

Windsor Star Demo (2013)BY CASSANDRA CAVERHILL

This poem is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

For fourteen weeks
the grasses grew
so high they turned
to accidental prairies.

The union tossed bottles
and wire hangers
into the parks
to stop residents
from mowing down
their wages, confronting
scabs in the fields
as they pushed
through the tangles.

The artists threw
seed bombs
into empty lots and
erected official-looking
habitat signs along the edges,
hoping that the wildflowers
would stay once
the dust of
mediation settled.

On Central Ave
the picketers chain-smoked
along a trash heap
dubbed Mount Francis,
after the mayor—
a businessman

balancing budgets
post-recession—
while squawking seagulls
circled above signs sporting
“No 2-tiers!”
“No takeaways!”

As the auto factories
hemorrhaged jobs,
folks flocked west
to the oil sands,
leaving those who remained
to undercut each other
for what was left of
the middle,
collecting garbage
for a dollar per bag.

It took a hundred-and-one days
for resentments to peak,
for the divisions sown
to overrun the parks,
the pools, the pavement.

It took a hundred-and-two-days
for the politicians
to trim the wilderness
back into a shape
that could be
controlled;

for the workers
to take their concessions
and clear the streets
of rot and rats; and

for the pundits
to market our descent
as a model for cities
being bled dry.

Cassandra Caverhill is a poet from Windsor, Ontario. She currently lives and writes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

EARRINGS

Earrings by Leslie Brown imageBY LESLIE BROWN

I never been on this part of Hastings Street. This part is not like Grandma’s street. Maybe it’s different here cause all the buildings come up to the sidewalk, and the street starts right next to the sidewalk, so the only place that grass has to grow is between the sidewalk’s cracks.

Even in this heat, there are a lot of people on the street around here: People are standing in front of buildings fanning themselves, playing checkers, or just standing around and gossiping. Ladies and girls standing on the street, all made-up red lips, like the ladies in the movies, fixed-up for a party. There was one lady who didn’t have on make-up. Her hair was messed up, and her face was puffy; she looked sad.

Sometimes Grandma and me have to step into the street to get around the people. I don’t think they were trying to keep us off their street. They just didn’t have no other place to be, the sidewalks around here is just too skinny for people to be sitting and for people to be walking.

Even the cars on the street act funny, the people driving them didn’t seem in a hurry. I saw a car stop near the ladies and the sad looking lady went over to the car and lean against its door, and talked to the person inside. Then she opened the door and got into it.

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Dear Ms. Ainsley

BY JOEL STREICKER

April 2, 2003

Ms. Wendy Ainsley

Greenmoor Country Club

Winnetka, Ill.

Dear Ms. Ainsley,

I wanted to phone you after receiving your voice message last Thursday but thought it would be better if I wrote as I can put my feelings down better on paper. I purposely didn’t call either because of the guilt I felt for leaving such a rude message on your voice mail. I sincerely hope you can forgive me ‘cause I’m not a bad guy. I’ve been married for almost 56 years to the same blond girl I met after I got out of the Navy in 1946; I helped raise three great children the oldest just retired from Warner Brothers record Co. as their Senior VP, in charge of business and legal affairs; A Cum Laude student at Harvard University; a daughter who was rated the best attorney at the U.S. Government Legal Office in Portland, Oregon; the youngest son an anthropologist and an instructor at Stanford University. So what I’m saying is, I must of done something right although they didn’t get the brains from me; they all came from the blonde. I majored in football, baseball, and tennis in high school and college.

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