"there are lots of yous in this poem and one of them is you," by john mortara, published in Shabby Doll House.
Watch this poem & perhaps feel that thin-stringed connectedness that technology gives us & remember the text messages you were happy to get but didn’t think to remember them then & tell the people that love you that you are thankful they love you & just keep going.
Pop Serial V, by Lots of People (including ME although I’m not on the cover but I AM in the table of contents, believe in yourself and dreams do come true)
The latest Pop Serial, curated by Stephen Tully Dierks (with a cover by Tao Lin), is so much fun to read. It’s a really cool collection with something for everyone. Well, maybe not everyone. If you’re into, idk, 19th century French literature, this might not capture your fancy. But if you like poetry, prose, images, or uncategorized material, you should find something to get excited about in here.
Now, here’s the story of how I semi-accidentally wound up in Pop Serial: my boyfriend was asked to do something for the journal (zine? magazine? idk) and decided to publish our text messages. I said I wanted to be credited, because I was upset at the prospect of not being credited for my own texts, so Stephen put me in the table of contents and was super nice about it, too. So, there you go, now I can say I’m in one of the most popular alt lit publications. All because I asked for what I wanted. Always ask for what you want. You’ll be happier that way.
First, I’m going to briefly go through each piece, so buckle up. Then I’ll give some general thoughts and impressions.
Ready? Here we go!
Tao Lin: kind of a cute and funny cover, I like the little creatures and the speech bubbles
Cassandra Gillig: Gillig really understands poetry, and gives us some cool fucking lines
Crispin Best: kind of romantic in a strange way
Marshall Mallicoat: he chose some really unusual words and I like that
Dave Shaw: love the starfish!
Steve Roggenbuck: starts out like “oh god this is obviously Steve Roggenbuck” but winds up simply delightful
Brad Troemel: I’m kind of obsessed with furries. I saw a guy on a bus once with a dolphin tale. It was plush.
Growing up, I didn’t read novels by women. It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s almost like I didn’t think that I needed to or, I guess, I didn’t know that I needed to. I was perfectly happy in a world contained by men. I adopted the posture of the brooding male as my own. I was Salinger, I was Kerouac, I was any male protagonist in a novel that one of my boyfriends recommended. I didn’t know that there was a specific female sadness so I was content with relating to a generalized one. And in a way, reading these novels was less of a way to relate and more of a way to learn how to be the type of girl that these male novelists liked. One of my first ambitions wasn’t to be a writer – it was to be a writer’s muse.
Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.
Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I’ll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.
Horse Girl by Kalliopi MathiosHorse Girl (I’m on my phone and can’t italicize the title, just believe that I know MLA format, okay?) by Kalliopi Mathios is a tiny book from Plain Wrap Press. It is about a lot of things. It’s about people and Wal-Mart and thrift stores and the internet and even, as the title suggests, horses. Each page is a new little treasure, with one or more sentences illuminating something absurd, near-surreal, and poetic. This book is unpredictable; you never know what connections Mathios will make, and this is why the book succeeds. It feels like how when your dreams flow together at night and you’re not sure how it all fits together, but it just does. Mathios says at one point, “If you can’t connect with your own species, try horses.” I don’t know if the author has trouble connecting to people. I know that I do, though, and that’s why that line resonated with me. It’s hard to be a person, and it’s hard to talk to people. They can be fickle and they can be boring and they can be confusing, often all at once. But this book is never boring. Even the confusing parts work; there’s a cohesion to the randomness. If you want a small book to read with your morning coffee, this is a good book to consider. You can buy it here:http://plainwrappress.com/store/16033029
Anecdotes taken from five Japanese Zen masters’ Wikipedia entries, presented without comment
Kodo Sawaki (1880-1965)
"Sawaki was raised by a gambler. […] He later became a Zen teacher, and is known for his rigorous emphasis on zazen, in particular the practice of shikantaza, or ‘just sitting.’ He often called Zen ‘wonderfully useless.’”
Taisen Deshimaru (1914 - 1982)
“Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Deshimaru’s master (Kodo Sawaki) predicted that Japan would lose the war. When Deshimaru departed from his Master, Kodo said ‘Our homeland will be destroyed, our people annihilated, and this may be the last time we see one another. Nevertheless, love all mankind regardless of race or creed.’”
"One evening, a thief visited Ryōkan’s hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryōkan returned and caught him. ‘You have come a long way to visit me,’ he told the prowler, ‘and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.’ The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryōkan sat naked, watching the moon. ‘Poor fellow,’ he mused, ‘I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.’"
Hakuin Ekaku (1686 - 1768)
"[A beautiful Japanese girl’s] parents discovered that she was pregnant. She would not confess who the father was, but after much harassment named Hakuin. In great anger, the parents went to the master. ‘Is that so?’ was all the master would say. After the child was born, it was brought to Hakuin. He had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child.
A year later, the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth: the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness and to get the child back. Hakuin willingly yielded the child, saying only: ‘Is that so?’”
Masao Abe (1915 - 2006)
"Abe’s profound quest continued. In December 1951, during a group Zen sitting at the Reiun Temple in Kyoto, Abe personally challenged Hisamatsu, screaming to him, ‘Is that the True Self?’ Hisamatsu replied, ‘That’s the True Self.’ Abe entered an intense phase and struggled with the view that ‘It’s all a lie’ (which he cried out while dousing himself with a bucket of ice water at a subsequent group sitting). Finally, Abe told Hisamatsu, ‘I just cannot find any place where I can stand.’ Hisamatsu told him, ‘Stand right at that place where there is nowhere to stand.’”