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Table of Contents
5. From the Editor’s Desk
8. Cameron Morse – “Lightening,” “Moorings,” “I Know a Seat For Me Is Waiting”
18. Len Krisak – “Elegy”
22. Sprout Foster-Goodrich – “look at my laughably small fists: tell me i’m gentle,” “how do you catch a cloud & pin it down,” “my bleeding boy”
36. Lauren K. Carlson – “Mayfly,” “Lord Make Me a River,” “Farmer’s Market After Dark,” “They Called it Good Fruit”
39. Brett Cortelletti – “The Illuminatus Hangs Its Robe,” “Narcissus on Solitude”
47. Robert Knox – “For the Art of It Alone (After Reading Philip Larkin),” “Resignation at Dusk”
57. Kimberly Ann Priest – “Cake,” “If We Burn the Seeds,” “What it Holds,” “After the Stroke My Mother Never Calls Me By Name”
11. Erika Murdey – “The Sixth Date”
19. Maribeth Van Hecke – “The Silent Hike”
26. Nic Kanaar – “Tooth Fairy”
41. Gary James Erwin – “The Monthly Rent”
49. Jeff Maehre – “The Real Faun”
63. Claire Oleson – “Driving Home”
66. Contributor Information
69. Submission Guidelines
“Garden of Contemporary Delights (detail)” (front cover) and “Horizon” (back cover) courtesy of Jon McAfee.
Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve spent countless hours ruminating on the role of community within a fulfilling and successful writing life. Writing can become a solitary act; in seeking purity of focus, we enshrine our spare time in reclusive confrontation of the blinking cursor. We worry we can’t embrace the vulnerability necessary to offer our work for peer critique. We fear the inevitable comparisons that come of placing our work alongside another’s. But the more I grow, both as writer and as an individual, the more certain I become that community is the single most important factor in building not only a healthy life, but also a thriving writing practice.
In late June of last year, after living in the area for seven years, I left Grand Rapids to move to New York for the daunting prospect of a two-year graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Last March, after getting off the phone with the program director, I ran screaming with glee from the room. At first, I was afire with fierce joy. Then, I hemmed and hawed.
I indulged in ferocious doubt. I paced floors, chewed fingernails, and went back over my list of programs, certain I’d applied to the wrong places. Surely, if they’d accepted me, they must be a sub-par institution. I was elated, terrified, and incredulous at having been offered such an opportunity. And I was simultaneously devastated to leave behind a community of writers with whom I felt I was only just finding my place. Furthermore, underpinning all of this was the certainty that, upon my arrival in the vast literary ocean of the New York scene, my small pond skills would be awash among schools upon schools of more
I had spent the eleven years since receiving my B.A. in English exercising varying degrees of devotion to my writing. For a few of those years, I wrote scarcely a single poem. I was immersed, during some of this time, in a musical community, and felt drawn more strongly to songwriting and performance than to poetry. I loved the collaborative nature that made up the bedrock of music circles in which I moved, and found that camaraderie intoxicating. And yet, some part of me also knew that at the root of this departure from poetry was a sense of being somehow unworthy of the art. It seemed impossible that I would ever possess the gravitas and talent necessary to succeed in the writing world.
Then, in early 2014, I discovered a small, poetry-inclusive open mic in downtown Grand Rapids called the Drunken Retort, and my relationship to poetry began to change once more. It was no longer something I could only do in the comfortable yet solitary confines of my own apartment. All at once I found myself surrounded by a young, boisterous, utterly lively cohort of poets and artists who took in each vulnerable, imperfect offering of verse and responded, Yes, yes; more, more.
The effect was that whatever in me had shied away from or feared engaging with poetry through a perceived lack of some ineffable quality began to evaporate in the face of encouragement and mutual celebration. We called out to our friends as they advanced to the mic, saying, Go in, poet. Saying, Remember why you wrote it. Within two years, I was bringing new poems to share each week. Within two more, I was sending out applications to MFA programs.
The Ancient Greeks understood this power of celebrating poetry together. I was reminded of this anew during my craft class this semester, when I signed up to give a presentation on the ode. Today, poets are writing odes of all kinds, on a broad range of subjects, and in myriad forms. But the earliest odes were designed to be performed — often in song — by an entire chorus of entertainers who moved their bodies and their voices in praise together. This instinct toward collective joy has begun to center itself within my understanding of the work which poetry, and writing in general, can do in the world.
In reading submissions for this issue, I was carried back into that liminal space of belonging, of togetherness. I sat with each poem and offered it my companionship. I read the words aloud to myself, so that they would have life in the air beyond the page. I am so honored to be given the gift of curating this collection of work, and so grateful for how it leads me into retrospection and appreciation for the community from which I’ve come.
In May of 2020, when I graduate, I will have consumed a wealth of knowledge. I will have written well over sixty pages of thematically-unified poetry and essays, the sum of which will constitute my graduate thesis. I will have read more than one hundred poetry collections, craft books, and supplemental texts, as well as numerous individual poems and essays. But more importantly, I will have broadened and strengthened my writing community; both by forming new bonds with writers in New York, and by marveling at the way my Michigan connections have deepened, even across widening gulfs of time and space.
So let this letter be my poem-as-prose to you; my Ode to West Michigan and her formidable cadre of writers. On your waters, I rose above the meager tide my doubt forecasted for me; and on those waters, we shall all continue to rise. Keep writing, keep believing, and keep sharing that belief with your community. I’ll be cheering
Poetry Editor, The 3288 Review