Monday, October 29, 2007

IR Bluecast: Amanda Fields

Amanda Fields reads and discusses an excerpt from her story, "Boiler Room," featured in our 29.1 summer issue. Remember, if you'd like to hear previous entries (from Sherman Alexie, Stuart Dybek, Wendy Rawlings, Crystal Wilkinson, and others), just press "posts" and select the entry you want.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Editors on Parade

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Probably because the idea of coming up with a costume, putting it together, and parading it around is such a radically different creative outlet compared to writing. And the visual aspect offers something inherently immediate that language doesn't.

Anyways, enough of this quasi-deep thought. Let's find out what the staff here has dressed up as over the years.

What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child? As a teenager/young adult? Recently?


Childhood: I was always mismatched. We would go shopping on Halloween night, so I would have on a Spiderman mask with some kind of cape. I must have been 10-11.

Teendom: After football practice I would go dressed as a football player.

Recently: I can't even remember the last time I dressed up. But interesting fact though: for Halloween my father would actually buy me eggs so that we could throw them. Peer pressure man.


Childhood: As a Cowperson! I had boots and overalls and a red handkerchief, and an awesome hat (a real cowboy hat!). Later on, I'd try to balance that same hat on my big teenage head.

Teendom: I didn't dress up much, except for the Halloween dance. I made this kind of shroud-ish looking dress. So, I guess I was some kind of dead person. It was inspired by the Dracula movie that had just come out, starring Winona Ryder.

Recently: In college I generally dressed like a disaffected youth. So I pretty much wore black boots, black pants, black turtle, and black makeup. I guess that's a Halloween costume.


Childhood: I was a dinosaur. Had this green and yellow suit with a huge tail and a hood for my head that had little spikes on it.

Teendom: Regan from The Excorcist. I went to my high school in a ratted out wig, nightgown. I even put a can of peas on the blender that morning just to splosh the goop on my chest.

Recently: It's too offensive to write out. But I will say it involved the Virgin Mary.

and introducing... Stephen!!! (our editorial intern)

Childhood: I was the X-Men's Wolverine all the time. At the time I kinda wanted to be Wolverine everyday. I had on a plastic mask, this blue and yellow fabric suit, and gloves with plastic nubs that were suppose to be claws.

Teendom: I was The Highlander. Trench coat with a giant sword. Tied back my long hair. I carried around a real sword too, which I got from Spain.

Recently: Recently I was a Jedi knight. (I have to make up for the dullness of my real life by dressing up as fictional male heroes). Wore a Jedi robe and a light saber that I had long before I even put the costume together. I felt like Obi-Wan.

Happy Halloween ya'all! Please post favorite costumes that you've donned in the past.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Book Hog

I am very greedy with my books. I hog. I hoard. This is my nest building activity. If ever I run out of furniture, I can build furniture out of my books. Though it won’t be nearly as comfy.

Years ago, when I got my first apartment, I neglected to get insurance, and I knew that I really, really should get it, but I didn’t. And whenever I would leave the apartment, especially for extended periods, I would worry and worry about my babies back home. Were they all right? Had my neighbors set the whole building on fire? Had a tornado popped open my windows and sucked the books out into a whipping funnel of pages and wood pulp?

I have insurance now. So if any tragedy should befall my books, I can at least get them replaced. Except for the signed copies. But I’m still more the kind of person who’d put a bookplate on my book (mine! mine!) than the kind of person who’d open the cage and set a volume free. And I maintain that there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I do admire those generous catch-and-release readers, those book lovers who let their babies loose in the wild. Maybe someday I can be like them. Book Crossing is a collection of such folks, and the books shared by such folks. They’ve been around for awhile, and you may have already heard of them, but I’m not sure just how long they’ve been around. Their Website content is copyrighted from 2001 to present, if that’s any clue. Anyhow, it’s a really fun project, and sometime real soon, I’m going to try to pry some books out of my fingers to take part in it. (I can’t tell you how much easier typing will be then.)

And other groups of folks have taken the model on, too, like the kids at the Newark Center for Creative Learning, with their Leave Your Book project. (When I was in grade school, the closest thing I had to this was when my Girl Scout troop tied messages to balloons and waited for replies. I can tell you none of our balloons made it to Germany or New Zealand.)

I’ve still always got my eye open for a great bookplate, though.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Moments in Funk history

Having James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince together in the same space makes this one of the Funkiest moments in Funk history. Prince's performance, beginning with him riding to the stage on a man dressed like a zebra/wildebeest, also makes this one of the most awkward.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

another one bites the dust

Literary magazine distributor Bernhard DeBoer announced it was shutting down this August, affecting some great magazines like Lyric and Jubilat...

Last winter, Publishers Group West went under, filing for bankruptcy and putting some fine magazines, McSweeney's and Punk Planet (completely ruined by their distributor's failure) among them, into financial crisis. This useful feature from Salon gives more background...

With this kind of financial craziness, how are little magazines supposed to get into bookstores?

This article from Publisher's Weekly offers a little hope, but not much.

It seems there is a fine business opportunity for a group of people with a little start-up capital, a good website, some financial know-how, and some connections in New York City to provide this service for magazines.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Getting to know your editors

We here at IR just received the latest issue of Slab, another literary magazine. Very cute, sexy, and fun.

Along with bios, the staff of Slab asked their contributors to answer this cool 8 piece Q&A list below. I thought it would be fun to interrogate our editors with it. Thank you so very much Slab!
Me love you long time.

1. What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Abdel: Black jelly beans

Jenny: (For the record, I don't think pleasure should be guilty.) Terrible MTV shows, like Next and Parental Control

Danny: Fried food (but only as long as I don't get sick)


2. How do you take your coffee?

A: With cream
J: Lots of sugar, lots of cream -- as far from coffee as possible. Prefer Tea
D: Condensed milk (Vietnamese style!)
H: Black or with a little cream, depending on the time of day

3. Who were you in a previous life?

A: Joan of Arc
J: Mira Bai
D: A farmer
H: probably not a writer

4. Who or what is your greatest influence?

A: James Baldwin
J: Poverty
D: Marilyn Manson
H: ?

5. What is the worst film you ever paid to see?

A: Soul Plane
J: Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
D: Showgirls (But then again, I bought it on dvd, as well as the special edition box set.)
H: Deep Blue Sea. Samuel L. Jackson getting eaten by a shark in the middle of an inspirational monologue...well, you don't see that every day.

6. What is the best thing you can buy for a dollar?

A: Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie Sandwich
J: Sour Patch Kids
D: Firecrackers
H: A really good bagel

7. What is the worst present you ever received?

A: I once received the presence of Rutherford B. Hayes. Terrible presence
J: ?
D: Tighty-whites for Christmas
H: Probably some kind of inspirational decorative object

8. What is your favorite word?

A: Circuitous
J: Cup
D: #$@*
H: Gravitas


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Review of Dark Familiar from 29.1

Aleda Shirley. Dark Familiar. Louisville, Kentucky: Sarabande, 2006. $13.95 paper (ISBN 1-932511-36-9) 88 pages.

Reviewed by Hannah Faith Notess

Dark Familiar is Aleda Shirley’s third full-length collection of poems, following Chinese Architecture in 1986 and Long Distance in 1996. The world of Dark Familiar is haunted, and not just by the usual ghosts. Haunted by the living, the absent, and the dead, in a landscape washed in the saturated colors of Mark Rothko’s paintings, the speaker of these poems vacillates between addressing the haunting figures and a more general reader, exploring all the ways a voice and a landscape can be haunted.

Shirley takes her epigraph from Rothko: “Silence is too accurate.” Devoid of context, this statement could either mean “Silence is also accurate, along with speech” or “Silence is more accurate than speech.” Both meanings fit the poems here, which return repeatedly to silent moments—particularly unnatural silences: a busy casino floor seen through glass that mutes the sound, a mysteriously noiseless helicopter seen by an abducted child from her hotel window, or “silence, like a mirror / where the silver’s gone completely opaque.” Shirley’s poems speak into these silent moments to address the bigger silence of the dead, and the silence of God.

What I find particularly interesting about Dark Familiar is the way that Shirley’s layering of cosmic significance over earthly landscapes invests those landscapes with significance and trivializes them at the same time. In the book’s first poem, “The Star’s Etruscan Argument,” a casino floor becomes a microcosm of the universe, and the speaker of the poem, watching from above, becomes a God-like figure:

How quickly
smoke swirling from a hundred cigarettes dissolves

above their heads: invisible systems at work, & God
not looking out for any of us from the inverted
domes in the ceiling that watch & record everything.

A few poems later, in “Phantom Pain,” the casino is refigured metaphorically as a gathering place for the dead:

…my dead
must have their own dead to find & so must disperse,
unable to remain in an assembly of my devising.
I wonder if they gather, seasonally, in a vast hall,
the air filtered into fake euphoria, like a casino’s,
a serried music of wealth urging them to wager more,
& on the great window a pale outline of bones.

The speaker’s ability to shift in and out of the land of the dead recalls other famous underworld visitors—Orpheus, Odysseus, Dante—only Shirley’s underworld is not a place to which the poet travels and returns. Rather, this underworld exists in and around the daylight world, haunting the speaker in the most banal of settings.

In addition to the epigraph from Rothko, many of the poems in the book bear titles from Rothko paintings, such as “Brown, Black on Maroon,” “Blue Over Orange,” and “Purple, White and Red.” Although these poems could be read as ekphrastic responses to Rothko’s work, only one of them, “Four Darks in Red” overtly references a painting: “Along the top of the canvas a band of anthracene / that is God or the absence of God / or someone’s ingenuous belief in him.” Like Rothko’s paintings, Shirley’s poems work with color emotionally, sometimes assigning a narrative to the colors, other times setting a scene infused with an emotional approach to the color. The ekphrastic poems feel haunted, too, by beauty and by its absence. Shirley’s fresh approach to color as emotion unifies the book’s voice, making it a compelling address to the Dark Familiar, the haunting presence found in everyday life.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

So, do you come here often?

A while ago I got hooked on the techno crack that is googleanalytics. The site allows you to track your web traffic in frighteningly precise ways. I can see how many page views we've had so far, where in the world they're coming from, how long people have stuck around, even what kind of web browsers you're using. So, since we've talked about ourselves so much, let's talk about you.

-There are around 2,000 of you out there and you've visited somewhere around 3,500 times since we started the blog in March 2007. I'm not sure how you do it, but you usually look at 1.62 pages during your stop under the blue light.

-You lead very important and busy lives, and thus only have an average of 1 minute and 54 seconds to stick around.

- 60% of you are new here (Welcome! You can put your shoes near the door. No, the dog will not chew on them. Much.)

- 294 of you were quite fond of our Funk post. Also, Laura van den berg is a fave with 132 of you listening to her bluecast. 99 of you wanted to get your smoking hot poetry.

- You seem to be particularly interested in coming by on Mondays, especially in the morning. This suggests that you are all independently wealthy or are running the blue light on the company dime (We don't judge!).

- Most of the time you are in America, but you visit from 70 other countries on six continents. Canada, UK, Egypt, India, Australia, and France are your more popular points of origin.
- In the States, your favorite location is in good ole' Bloomington, IN (Ahh, the phone call is coming from INSIDE the house!), Louisville second, NYC third, San Fran fourth.

As an editor, it seems useful to have access to this type of information about our readership. Unless we meet people at AWP or get the occasional email, many times it can feel like you're producing the magazine in a vacuum, setting it out into a void. The statistics give some proof that we're not all alone, there are a great deal of people out there interested in the production and dissemination of quality literature. So, thank God for computers, right?

Well, I'm not so sure about that. Although it's cool to look at the numbers, how much can you really tell about a person by their web browser? As we delve further and further into the digital age, there's a temptation to act like we know someone just because we know what they look at on their computer. And I don't know about you, but I consider myself to much more profound than my browsing habits. That's not saying much since 90% of what I look at on the computer is actually pretty stupid.

I guess my point is that we started Under the Blue Light in order to give our readers and writers insight into the individuals who put IR together, but also to allow us to find out more about the people who are looking through our pages. Posting interesting material is not easy (Lord knows!) but besides providing you insight into fascinating world of IR, we're also trying to make this blog a forum for our readers and writers to interact (with us and each other) on a more organic level. There's a lot of people who care about literature and writing and the magazine, and the more connections those people could make, the better. So, if you see us offering writing exercises or asking questions, we're just interested in getting to know you beyond your pageview. So don't be shy, leave a comment. We promise to respect you in the morning.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

hey poets, you don't have to just read poetry!

Sometimes it seems like poets just don't have enough to write about. We get so many poems about sitting in one's room, looking out one's window, or washing dishes and looking out the kitchen window...And then I find myself sitting at home, trying to write and looking out the window!

Rather than suggest, as John Barr has unhelpfully suggested, that we all run off to Africa and shoot big game to have something to write about, I'm going to suggest that poets in search of material can start by expanding their reading.

I'm thinking here of Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska's newspaper columns, which have been collected and translated into English by Clare Cavanagh in the wonderful book Nonrequired Reading. Szymborska clearly brings her poetic intelligence to bear on reading such titles as When Your Dog Gets Sick, Giants and Dwarves of the Animal Kingdom, Wallpapering Your Home, and The Encyclopedia of Assassinations.

So here's your exercise: take the title of a thoroughly unpoetic book, and use it as a title for your poem. Here are some examples from Szymborska's book to get you started:

Accidents in the Home

Repairing and Redecorating Your Apartment

Wall Calendar for 1973

Heat Waves and Fevers

The History of the Near East in Antiquity.

Post your attempts here if you wish!


Monday, October 1, 2007

Hang in there little tomato

I have an ever-growing collection of rejection slips spilling out the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet at home. Its weight threatens the stability of the rickety wood floor of my apartment.

Yes, rejection sucks. As writers, we set ourselves up for disappointment every time we send out our work. And if/when rejected, it's easy to become discouraged. Even worst, it's easy to question your worth as a writer. Am I good enough? Am I just wasting my time? Do I even have anything to say that people would be interested in hearing?

The short answer is: Yes, you are good enough. No, you're not wasting your time. Of course you have something to say that's worth an audience. And this is how I know:

Every time my "writerly" faith wavers, I watch a selection from my bad movie list. I have a catalog of Lifetime channel originals and made-for-TV mellow-dramas, B-movies and after-school specials, films starting Jennifer Lopez -- some of these greatest celluloid travesties of all time. These movies, for me, offer more than just a sense of comic relief. Beyond camp value -- the aesthetic of "It's so bad, it's good!" -- terrible movies provide me with, dare I say, feelings of superiority. Their scripts, so poorly conceived, suggest that if people can get paid for writing such crap, surely any of us can find success as well.

Don't believe me? Try renting a few of the following selections and you're sure to have an ego boost. Enjoy!

The Apple (1980): In the future (the 1994 future!) a young folk-duo, presented as a quickly over-killed metaphor for Adam and Eve, are tempted with the dirty apple of musical success by the industry giant Mr. Boogalow. Their love is tested by the draws of glamor, excess, and lots of ugly musical numbers. The Apple was made too early for New Wave, but too late for Disco -- so what we are left with is lots of ratted hair in a roller derby fantasia!

Showgirls (1995): From the creative team that brought us Basic Instinct comes this sad number: a look behind Las Vegas' entertainment industry, where stage dancers can't stop clawing at and squirting lotion on one another. It watches less like a drama, and more like a pubescent boy's mistaken fantasies of who women are. Dialogue includes one whole conversation where two characters express their love of eating Doggie Chow. A true fiction writer's nightmare.

Over the Top (1987): Made back when Sylvester Stallone was a sex god (it's so gross to actually acknowledge that -- what were people thinking back then?). A nomadic big-rig driver must win the love and trust of his astranged son through the awesome power of truck-stop arm wrestling! Most memorable line, and heart-piercing words of wisdom: "The world doesn't meet you halfway," spoken by our hero. This, followed by an 80's power ballad titled 'Meet Me Halfway.'

Boxing Helena (1993): Boy loves girl. Girl doesn’t love boy. Boy proceeds to amputate all of girl’s limbs. He tries to make her love and depend upon him, but she just spits back emasculating insults. Which looks odd when you’re a strangely attractive talking head (literally). Includes a sex scene that is so drenched (no pun intended) with 90's-ism that it's soundtrack is none other than Enigma. Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch, directed this and no one has trusted her with a camera ever since.