Literary Boroughs #25: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive and we encourage our readers to contribute in the comment section. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the twenty-fifth post on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Mollie Boutell. —Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

When most people think of Milwaukee, they think of beer, brats, and baseball. Maybe bowling. (And brr!) Rarely does anyone think books, but maybe they should. Milwaukee is home to outstanding independent bookstores (yes, plural), a great library system, and one of the country’s oldest Ph.D programs in creative writing. The winters are cruel, but summers offer nonstop excitement along the lakefront, and our beaches and parks (now with beer!) are perfect for writers and readers who like a little sunlight with their lit. On top of all this, Milwaukee is the birthplace of the typewriter.

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It’s Just Like TV, But Without the Bodies

“But,” I said, “I once heard something that I trust. Leontius, the son of Aglaion, was going up from the Piraeus under the outside of the North Wall when he noticed corpses lying by the public executioner. He desired to look, but at the same time was disgusted and made himself turn away; and for a while he struggled and covered his face. But finally overpowered by the desire, he opened his eyes wide, ran towards the corpses and said: ‘Look, you damned wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.’”

—Plato, The Republic 

In the spring of 2005, I was in Hikkaduwa, a beach town on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. I was working on building an IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camp for refugees fleeing the destruction caused by the December 24th, 2004 Tsunami. The crew of people building the temporary houses were a mix of Sri Lankans and westerners, financed by a former NFL offensive lineman, who also worked with us and who remains the largest man I’ve ever seen. We all were putting in absurd hours, all of us running on testosterone and machismo, daring each other to quit at the end of the day. Fourteen hour days were the norm and we’d been working over two weeks straight. International attention to the tsunami crisis was tapering off. Tourists were trickling back into Sri Lanka. Every once in while a bus filled with them would drive slowly by us. You couldn’t see a face as they drove by, but a little forest of hands balancing camcorders sprung out the tinted windows. Sometimes the NFL player and I would run at these buses swinging our hammers like Black Thor and his Tiny Caucasian Buddy.

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Roundup: Scary, Creepy, Dead, and Haunting Posts

As we look forward to updating the Ploughshares blog for the new year, we’re also looking back at all the great posts since the blog started in 2009.  Our roundups explore the archives and gather past posts around a certain theme to help you jump-start your week.  Since Halloween and Day of the Dead both take place this week, we’ve gathered posts that discuss that which is scary, creepy, grotesque, supernatural, dead, and “haunting.”

  • Tired of hearing books described as “haunting”?  Andrew Ladd takes on the misuse and overuse of this word in a “Blurbese” blog post.

 

 

New Ploughshares Solo Published: All of Us, We All Are Arameans by Eileen Pollack

We’re excited to announce the fourth addition to our innovative eBook series, Ploughshares Solos (formerly Pshares Singles): “All of Us, We All Are Arameans” by Eileen Pollack.  Our past Pshares Singles include “Lady of the Burlesque Ballet” by Timothy Schaffert, “Daydream Nation” by John Duncan Talbird, and “Phoenix” by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

Stuck with a plane ticket to Israel bought for her by a Polish Catholic ex-boyfriend, Eileen Pollack sets out on a hectic, solitary journey around the country, cataloging her responses to the region’s rich history, natural beauty, and troubled politics. In this darkly comic, incisive, and nuanced essay, Pollack upends the reader’s expectations as well as her own, exploring her conflicted feelings of gratitude, dismay, and reverence. A travel essay filled with bewilderment, outrage, humor, and faith, “All of Us, We All Are Arameans” takes us on a trip around Israel and the West Bank that few American tourists would have the chutzpah to attempt.

Available for $0.99 on Kindle and Nook  

An excerpt from the essay:

Exhausted by the long flight, I took a shared van—a sherut—from the airport in Tel Aviv to the neighborhood in Jerusalem where I would be renting my room.

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Fall Staff Round-Up: Now with 8.3% more beard

Happy Fall! The staff of Ploughshares has been busy frolicking in the beautiful autumnal weather, and collecting new staff members the way the Pied Piper collects children (but with 100% less missing children/interns).

Since we have a permanent office staff of about 2.5, we get a lot of newbies on a regular basis. As has become tradition, we’d like to introduce you to those new faces, and boast about the accomplishments of our continuing staff.

Here’s a quick recap of the upcoming post, to whet your appetite.

5: Staff members who live with cats
4: Staff members whose names begin with A
3: Staff members with recent book deals
2: Staff members who got/will soon get married
1: Staff members who grew a beard

Without further ado:

Abby Travis, Editorial Assistant: “I’m in my third year in Emerson’s MFA program, and I wouldn’t trade my time here and at Ploughshares for anything! I’m still working away at my thesis (on horse training and the pathology of miscommunication?) and other tangential projects, like studying lyric essays and researching early animal rights movements in the U.S. (many of which at first focused on the mistreatment of workhorses). I’m one of the curators of the Breakwater Reading Series, and I’m also co-teaching a hybrid genre creative writing class through emersonWRITES, a free program for Boston Public High School students, where we teach courses in creative writing to help students develop skills easily transferable to other forms of academic and intellectual writing and to give them a sense of what the college classroom is like. So it’s a busy time, but all of this work is incredibly rewarding! And, a small part of my life was made complete when Trish Hampl came to Emerson. I’ve admired her for a long time, and now she knows it. (See below, with me grinning like a fool.)”

Abby at Patricia Hampl’s reading, ecstatic to be in the presence of her hero.

Akshay’s Beard

Akshay Ahuja, Production Manager: “Well, I grew a beard, which it turns out is full of white hairs. As for my writing—just as musicians say that they are big in Japan, I can now say that I am of some modest size in England. My essays/reviews have been published by a British environmental group called Dark Mountain, and an interview that I did is available in their latest print anthology. One of the essays I wrote for them was republished by a magazine in India, where my parents live (they brought me a copy).

Finally, I am going to be helping to edit an unpublished manuscript by John Holt, one of my all-time favorite writers. I have been pushing his books on people in the office [Ed. note: Yes. He has.], and now I can push them on you, mysterious Internet audience! Anyone interested in education should pick up How Children Fail and Freedom and Beyond, and anyone who plays an instrument or has ever felt the urge to learn one should look up Never Too Late. I think he’s one of the most lucid and compassionate writers that America has ever produced.”Continue Reading

Dear Dr. Poetry

The Revolution Happened And You Didn’t Call Me
Maged Zaher
TinFish Press, September 2012
67 pages
$15.00

Dear Dr. Poetry,

I’ve been occupying Wall Street continuously since September 2011. Since we lost Zuccotti Park, I’ve been sneaking into Goldman Sachs’ offices at night to sleep standing up behind a filing cabinet or large ficus. I’m growing concerned that my twitter feed has not penetrated the social consciousness deeply enough. Is there anything poetry can do?

—Militant Anarcho-Communist Under Sachs’ Executive Regime

Actually, MAC USER, there’s nothing poetry can’t do, and your question is especially timely because I just finished reading its answer: Maged Zaher’s new book of experimental prose poems, The Revolution Happened And You Didn’t Call Me, which deals with the inadequacies of language in an unstable political and cultural landscape. Continue Reading

An Interview With Aurora Anaya-Cerda, Founder of La Casa Azul Bookstore

In an age where bookstores are closing, independent bookseller and former middle-school teacher Aurora Anaya-Cerda opened the doors of La Casa Azul Bookstore, in East Harlem, last June. I first heard about La Casa Azul through some of my online communities including Letras Latinas, VONA, and a small group called Facebook. At first it sounded too good to be true. Then, I read more about it and realized that it was too good not to be true. The Latino community of New York has been waiting for such a space and place and now it was here. Aurora was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about La Casa Azul.

What was the inspiration for opening La Casa Azul Bookstore?

As an artist and entrepreneur, La Casa Azul Bookstore is a reflection of who I am and the goals that I have to feature Latino/Chicano writers. One of the reasons why I am decided to open La Casa Azul Bookstore was because Chicana/o literature was critical in my own education and identity. Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes, to magazines and comics.

When I discovered Chicana/o writers like Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya, I connected to their stories and then began seeking out more books that reflected my identity and experience. By then I was already in high school and I wished I had read about them earlier!Continue Reading

Literary Boroughs #24: Richmond, Virginia

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive and we encourage our readers to contribute in the comment section. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the twenty-fourth post on Richmond, Virginia by Dave Sterner. —Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

It’s a city dissected from itself, a place of conflict and repurposing that accidently immolated half of its urban core rather than capitulate to Confederate defeat. This once mighty capital city has played host to innumerable events and memorable characters throughout history. Once solidly the cultural center of Virginia, if not the South, it has faltered and lost its way a bit, but continues to redefine its own expectations and is experiencing yet another resurgence. The most Southern of East Coast cities, it has been home and incubator for some of the more interesting voices in American letters since Patrick Henry called for Death over the repeal of liberty at the Virginia Convention.

Quick Info:

Richmond, Virginia (aka, Fist City, Cap City, RVA, Tha R.I.C, The River City)

Location: 

An hour from the mountains, an hour from the beach and maybe an hour and a half on a good day from D.C.—It’s smack in the middle of most everything Virginia has on offer.

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THAT LIT, LIT LIFE (with global characteristics) 8 (of 14)

My aspiration in life is to loaf. These days, life seems to be much ado about aspiration, or so the brand-marketing-image-makers would have us believe. We aspire to fame (and living forever, as that song goes) and wealth, stardom for a second on YouTube, regardless.

Me? I want, like Larry, an American character in The Razor’s Edge, to loaf.  A novel first read when I was maybe 15 or 16. If you grew up in Asia and aspired to write in English, the journey demanded W. Somerset Maugham as a fellow traveler. He was everything a lit, lit lifer (with global characteristics) wanted to be—sexually active and fraught, famous and egotistical, financially successful, an intrepid mind traveler who physically traveled (and lived) in luxury. Prolific, he penned some forgettable stories as well as incredible, literary gems. Could be worse. Plus he was an Aquarian, like me.

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Weekly Roundup: Revision

As we look forward to updating the Ploughshares blog for the new year, we’re also looking back at all the great posts since the blog started in 2009.  Our weekly roundups explore the archives and gather past posts around a certain theme to help you jump-start your week.  This week’s theme: revision.

If you are still a young writer, like me, revision may be intimidating.  More experienced writers may struggle with when to stop revising.  Fortunately, our guest bloggers are here to help!

  • For those just learning to revise or any who would would like to take a fresh look, Eric Weinstein posts about his introduction to revision (re-visioning a piece) and discusses the inherent pros and cons in “Which a Minute Will Reverse”.