I wasn’t expecting my friend D to smash the green anole with a rock. But he did, and the lizard’s insides smeared red against the concrete driveway. Its eyes, black and bleeding, sunk into its tiny skull. We were nine.
I’d caught the green anole in the tree down the street. We caught brown ones all the time, and sometimes giant Cuban anoles, bumpy and long as our forearms. But the finger-length green anoles—those were something to celebrate. They were what we deemed rare. Before D smashed the lizard, we sat, he and my brother and I, passing the anole around, letting it slip over our browned knuckles. It was beautiful: bright green, white-bellied, soft. And then the rock came down. D broke the squirming lizard in one swift move.
Lucas Southworth’s short story collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun, the winner of the 2012 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, packs a similar punch. The stories are tense, gritty, and dark, full of sons raised to kill fathers and boys nailing chipmunks to walls. These characters hover at the edge of disaster. They exist in the unsettling shadows between innocence and violence.
On the other hand, Joan Naviyuk Kane’s poetry collection, Hyperboreal, winner of the 2012 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry is quieter. These are poems about change, heritage, and hope. It’s easy to sink into her language—language that grounds readers in the resilience of the natural world and the Inuit culture that inhabits her poems. If Southworth’s collection is the discovery of my childhood friend’s capability for violence, then Kane’s collection is the turning over of rocks in the backyard to find shiny beetles: surprising, mysterious, survivalists.
Though both books focus on change and survival (environmental, personal), tonally and texturally they are opposites. For that reason, this playlist includes songs that are surreal, sinister representations of childhood fantasies (“Pure Imagination”—Fiona Apple, “Little Red Riding Hood”—The Coasters); unsettling songs that blend traditional musical styles with unnerving lyrics (“Billy’s Got a Gun”—Miss Li); and songs that are loud and gritty and edged with disaster (“Big Long Now”—Nirvana, “I Sat By The Ocean”—Queens Of The Stone Age, “You Rascal You”—Hanni El Khatib).
In deference to Kane’s poetry, however, the playlist also includes quiet, layered songs full of hope (“Love Love Love”—Of Monsters And Men) and quiet (“Re: Stacks”—Bon Iver) and rich with story (“Sons and Daughters”—The Decemberists). These are songs in which the lyrics, rather than sitting on top of the music, sink into it, just as Kane’s words are the story and create the story.
The full song list is below; you can listen to the playlist on Spotify here. In October, I also published a playlist for the two other winners of the 2012 AWP Award Series, which you can find here.
Happy New Year, Happy Reading, and Happy Listening!
“Pure Imagination” by Fiona Apple
“Lazuli” by Beach House
“Little Red Riding Hood” by The Coasters
“Devil’s Got a Gun” by Whitehorse
“Wolf Mother” by The Mynabirds
“My Girls” by Animal Collective
“You Rascal You” by Hanni El Khatib
“I Sat By The Ocean” by Queens Of The Stone Age
“Is There A Ghost” by Band of Horses
“The Beast and Dragon, Adored” by Spoon
“Re: Stacks” by Bon Iver
“Love Love Love” by Of Monsters And Men
“Sons & Daughters” by The Decemberists
“Big Long Now” by Nirvana
“Billy’s Got A Gun” by Miss Li