Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Michigan: Just Watch

26BY REBEKAH GLUPKER (Grand Valley State University)

This is the first place winner in the 2017 Narrative Map College Student Writing Contest. 

I settle down on the beach near the Old Mackinaw Point Lighthouse and take my camera out of its protective case. The sun has just begun to set over Lake Michigan, the first tendrils of pink reaching across the sky, and I want to capture the moment.

I stand for a better angle and take a couple photos, then sit back down to make sure I’ve gotten the lighting right. I adjust the camera settings and stand to try again. This quickly becomes a pattern; I want to get the perfect picture, but each new one is better than the last. After a few minutes, an elderly man shuffles up to me. He is wearing worn suspenders over his faded plaid shirt, and he adjusts them before lowering himself to the sand with a grunt.

“You can’t get the sunset with that thing,” he says, gesturing to my camera.

I clutch it protectively to my chest to shield it from his criticism. It’s old, sure, but it still works just fine.

The man grins. “I mean the sunset’s not just about the colors,” he says. “Sunsets are experiences. To see a sunset, truly see it, you’ve got to put the camera down and just watch.”

I can’t stop the skeptical look that spreads over my face, and he chuckles.

“Trust me, it’s worth it,” he says.

I shrug. Why not? I think. I’ll have other chances to take pictures.

“Okay,” I tell him and lower my camera. I dig my feet into the sand to feel the cool grains between my toes, and I watch the sun set.

The soft pink gradually expands to fill the whole sky, bleeding into the streaks of brilliant orange that appear. Then the clouds ignite, a slow burn that begins at the horizon and spreads to the nearby sky until it is blazing red, silhouetting the Mackinac Bridge in front of it. The waves beat rhythmically against the shore and a sudden gust of wind whips at my hair. All the sensations build in my chest, creating an urgency I don’t quite understand.

The sun begins to disappear below the horizon, slipping lower with every passing minute. The sky softens, and the world begins to calm. The waves lap more gently at the shore and a soft breeze kisses my skin, bringing with it the comforting scent of the lake.

My hands lie slack in my lap, and the camera has slipped off to the side, forgotten. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. A sense of peace replaces the urgency, as though I’ve found the answer to a question I don’t remember asking.

The elderly man nudges my arm with his elbow. “Yeah,” he says, “you get it now.”

And so I sit on the beach while the sky fades to deep blue, then black, until the mosquitos start biting and the water sparkles with the reflection of the lights on the bridge.

Often sunsets make me feel tiny and insignificant, unworthy to witness their glory; but tonight I feel like I’m part of something amazing.

My camera beeps nearby, reminding me of its presence.

Power off? the screen asks.

Yes, I confirm, and smile.

Rebekah Glupker is a Writing major at Grand Valley State University. She has spent a week in the Mackinaw City area with her family every summer for as long as she can remember, and its beauty inspires much of her writing. She has not yet been published, but is currently readying several pieces for submission to school publications. 

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Michigan Bestseller Lists for March 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 12.51.50 PM MICHIGAN BESTSELLER LIST FOR MARCH 2017
1) Michael Eric Dyson, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America” (St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan)
2) viola shipman, “the hope chest: A Novel” (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan)
3) Danny Schnitzlein, “The Monster Who Ate My Peas” (Peachtree Publishers)
4) Jack Cheng, “See You in the Cosmos” (Dial Books for Young Readers)
5) Michael Eric Dyson, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
6) W. Bruce Cameron, “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans” (Forge Books)
7) Leslie Helakoski, “Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep” (Sterling Children’s Books)
8) Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” (W. W. Norton & Company)
9) Jim Harrison, “A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand” (Grove Press)
10) Karen Jo Shapiro, “Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems” (Charlesbridge)

1) Leslie Helakoski, “Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep” (Sterling Children’s Books)
2) Dan Egan, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” (W. W. Norton & Company)
3) Jim Harrison, “A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand” (Grove Press)
4) Stan Tekiela, “Birds of Michigan Field Guide” (Adventure Publications)
5) Leslie Helakoski, “Big Pigs” (Boyds Mills Press)
6) John Smolens, “Wolf’s Mouth: A Novel” (Michigan State University Press)
7) Jim Harrison, “Republican Wives: A Novella” (Atlantic Monthly Press)
8) Ernest Hemingway, “The Sun Also Rises” (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
9) Jim Harrison, “True North” (Grove Press)
10) Roxane Gay, “Bad Feminist” (Harper Perennial)

The Michigan Bestseller List for March 2017 lists books about Michigan topics, written by Michigan authors, and/or published by Michigan publishers, compiled by from thirteen Michigan bookstores: The Book Beat in Oak Park, www.thebookbeat.com; Bookbug in Kalamazoo, www.bookbugkalamazoo.com; Dog Ears Books in Northport, www.dogearsbooks.net/; Great Lakes Books & Supply in Big Rapids, greatlakesbook.com; Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, 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; and Schuler Books & Music in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Okemos, schulerbooks.com. These stores support Michigan books, authors, and publishers.

Cardinal Call



This afternoon we hung a bird feeder
in our back yard to be more neighborly
with feathered friends, especially the cardinal
we’ve glimpsed.  This evening, in the after dinner calm,
I googled “cardinal call” to learn what song
these brilliant birds could play.  Before the first
recorded clip was through, we heard its echo
from a distant corner of our neighborhood,
and as we played another variation,
the original answered from some closer perch.
At the third or fourth iteration, we saw
the curious red speck in the neighbor’s tree,
still calling, searching for this oddly insistent
intruder.  He finally flew to our back yard
and perched on the tree by our screened-in porch, then cocked
his head and peered toward the sound he’d surely heard.
He flew from branch to branch, then bush to bush,
foiled by this noisy but absent bird.  And when
he flew into a higher tree, one song
from my computer brought him back to the edge
of our porch to peer again, seeking out
the source of this mysterious voice.  Feeling cruel
to frustrate him, we stopped replaying the computer’s
call, and he flew to a high branch to sing
his repertoire again and again: to challenge
this hidden foe? to search for a companion?
merely to do what he did every night?
In all his baffled frantic flying he
did not once notice our proffered seed.


Jeffrey Bilbro grew up in the Pacific Northwest and recently moved to southern Michigan, where he’s an Assistant Professor of English at Spring Arbor University. His poetry has appeared in several journals, including The Clarion Review, The Anglican Theological Review, Radix, Windhover, and Christianity and Literature.

GLR contributors read at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor

We had a great time at our Ann Arbor reading to celebrate Issue 7 of the Great Lakes Review last night. Thanks to contributors Justin Longacre,  Jessica Walsh, and Philip Sterling for reading – taking us all over this region from the smoky mysteries of the adult room at Major Magic’s to “rural Gothic feminist narrative poems,” and into the snowy woods where a crow’s wing resembles the ponytail of a friend killed before his time. Additional thanks to Literati Bookstore for hosting our third GLR reading – and congrats to them, on Independent Bookstore Day, for being profiled as one of the U.S.’ fifty best indie booksellers!

God Hates Cleveland

By Frank J. Aleksandrowicz, via Wikimedia Commons

By Frank J. Aleksandrowicz, via Wikimedia Commons


It was still an hour until tip-off and Dad was already ashing his cigarette into his coffee. This was the moment he’d waited his entire life for, he said. The moment that his father had waited his entire life for—may God rest his soul—and goddamn it, he would’ve deserved it, he said. We were born and bred and exiled in Cleveland and we deserved this. It was game seven. The Cavs and the Warriors. The blue collar versus the Silicon Valley yuppies. LeBron James had come home. Cleveland deserved this. I know we deserved this, and Dad didn’t need to tell me that.

“Where’s Joe?” I asked.

“He’s on his way, Jerry,” Dad said.

“He better be,” I said. “If he ain’t here and we lose because he had to get his nuts licked, this is on him.”

“He’ll be here,” Dad said.

We’d watched every game of the Finals together. Me, Dad, and Joe. Joe was Dad’s childhood friend. He’d started coming around more when Mom died six years ago when I was eleven. Occasionally Dad’s whores from earlier in the day would stay for a little bit and watch the beginning of the games, but Dad always kicked them out. Dad didn’t want commitment. He just wanted someone to make him a sandwich and suck his dick every now and then.

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Winners of the Narrative Map College Student Writing Contest

screenshot-2016-12-21-16-28-12We had a lot of great entries in our first ever Narrative Map College Student Writing Contest that took us all the way from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula.
We’re happy to announce the winners, all of which will be published on this website in the coming weeks and in our print issue at the end of the year.
First Place: “Just Watch” by Rebekah Glupker (Grand Valley State University)
Second Place: ”A Journey North. Some Things Can’t be Undone” by Benjamin Kaufman (Hope College)
Third Place: ”The Smell of Cereal” by April Kragt (Spring Arbor University)
Honorable Mentions:
“Sweet Beginning at the Bitter End Coffeehouse” by Sydney Shanley (Grand Valley State University)
“First Lesson on Lost Things” by Patricia Schlutt (Aquinas College)
“The Rose Room” by Carly Shisler (Grand Valley State University)
We thank all of those who submitted. 
Keep an eye on the website in the coming weeks for the essays.

Landscape with a Bell Shaped Pond

Crab Apple.
You stayed limp, the year your trunk split from
bearing too much fruit. I think you were tired &
sore & wanted to make it easier for deer to eat from
you. My mother insisted on saving you, but your
flesh grew around the screws my father used to
mend your spine & they’ve become rusted, bruised
lungs. At night, I hear you whispering to the ground
– lovely thing, you must smell of warm petrichor.
Willow tree.
Your branches, eaten away by beavers, littered the
beaches for weeks. It wasn’t ideal, but you were
happy in this place. Little water bugs & tadpoles
lived on your fingers & arms, you gave them names
& miniature pools. In this small world, you didn’t
mind the lake slime on your body or the holes eaten
away from your fingers. In this small world, these
were kisses.
Yellow Perch.
Hooked through the eye, you flared your gills & cut
my hand open. In my mind, you were dangerous,
even though in the sun your jade scales glittered &
relaxed when my father released you back into the
Somewhere, deep in the cold winter of Lake Superior, water is
smoothing the large basalt slabs into pebbles &
if you dip your head under the ice, you can hear these dark
hellebore pebbles softly & quietly clicking.

Mary Maroste is a junior at Western Michigan University. She is majoring in Creative Writing and Communication Studies. She has been previously published in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Mochica Review, 3288 Review, 30 N, Winter Tangerine, Sink Hollow, and Jabberwock.

Her chapbook Blueprint for a Home Without Tampons is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in 2017. She is from Houghton, Michigan, but currently resides and studies in Kalamazoo.

Swap Shop


Swap Big screen TV for moped. Small wooden antique
ladder, trade for police scanner. 96 Ford Windstar minivan
for small motorhome, bread truck or Ford Ranger pickup.
Antique Kenmore port-able washer, trade for 30.30
Winchester. 715-392-2722.

Swap 2-3 young roosters for 2 male kittens. 218-834-2399.

Swap water heater 40 gallon, gas, less than 1 year old & 4
burner gas range, both almost new and converted to natural
gas. Trade for plane tickets to Philipines or ? (715) 392-

Swap 5 3 x 8 inch pieces of metalbestos chimney pipe for
firearm or whatever. Swap never used foosball table, was a gift,
for firearm or whatever 218-451-0341.

Michelle Matthees lives in Duluth, Minnesota. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Memorious, PANK, The Prose Poem Project, HAL, and the Baltimore Review. Last October, she published her first book-length book of poetry with New Rivers Press, titled Flucht.

A Dam Is a Promise

Courtesy Ohio DNR

Courtesy Ohio DNR


Before Buckeye Lake dam failed, Noah’s Ark was a Little Golden Book on Jon Fortner’s daughter’s bookshelf.

Before Buckeye Lake dam failed, it had gone by other names. In 1750, the area that would become Buckeye Lake was described as a great swamp known as “Buffalo Lick.” When filled in 1830, the lake was known as “Licking Summit Reservoir.” And in May 1894, the lake was repurposed for recreation, the area being dedicated as a public park and renamed “Buckeye Lake.”

Before Buckeye Lake dam failed, engineers from the U.S. Army Corps said there was a high likelihood of a dam failure and the safest measure would be to drain the lake permanently. The cause of concern stemmed from the homes, which began sprouting up about a century ago, after the state’s approval, as well as the docks placed into the lakeside of the dam that have now “displaced or disrupted large portions of the embankment, significantly weakened by the more than 370 homes and other structures that have been sunk into the 4.1-mile earthen dam.” The 177-year-old dam no longer met current safety requirements.

Before Buckeye Lake dam failed, recommendations were made for immediately replacing the dam to prevent a ” catastrophic failure.”

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“Tangents Are The Point” Q & A with Milwaukee author Todd Lazarski

Todd at a Dunkirk social club

Todd at a Dunkirk social club

Q&A with Milwaukee author Todd Lazarski as he romanticizes and sometimes denigrates: Chris Paul; sarcasm’s hidden kindness; self-destruction as research; necessary meanness in food writing; and thoughts of his father, dead at 39


Todd Lazarski, 33, quietly compartmentalizes his obsessions, sort of shadowboxes that he knows have to see sun, even if it’s when they’re getting tossed. Inside-turned-out, Todd found relief in the release of his first novel, “Make the Road by Walking” (June 2016, on Cleveland’s Red Giant Books), a familiar-feeling journal across the Midwest, New Orleans and California. He has realized personal space as a “fat guy” – pretend or otherwise – devouring the world 10 dinners at a time, in Rio de Janeiro, Buffalo and Milwaukee, in pieces for Paste, TimeOut, Shepherd Express and Milwaukee Record. His next exposition will be a second novel, “Spend It All”, a reckoning of idiotic youth with whatever the hell it is that compels us to trudge ahead and try into near adulthood, chicken finger sub in hand (you can read an excerpt here; he’s currently playing matchmaker with a publisher).

I met Todd a few years ago due to the Buffalo Bills, the team of our respective home fields in western New York though we had both been transplanted to Milwaukee. Along with the yeoman’s bliss from running back Fred Jackson, we shared Jim Harrison and Stanley Elkin books, and realized it’d be easier to be friends than to tough it out as isolated fans. This past December, we went on a road trip for readings at the marvelous Mac’s Books in Cleveland and a book release in Buffalo. These acts pulled Todd further from internalized roiling over writing and out into its small but not-always-wretched public aspects. The following unabashedly long-form Q&A is an extrapolation on that tangent – a dialogue of poignancy and personal jabs, edited (honestly!) for flow, from two nights in early March in Milwaukee.

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