Category: Blog (Page 1 of 4)

Two Poems by Alexander Radison

I Cannot Dwell in Possibility

There is a theory that states
there are an infinite number
of parallel universes, each a mirror
of our own, but slightly different.
Each choice made creates another universe:
In this one, I went back to college,
in another, I stayed in the army.
Here, my mother picked up her first cigarette at 14
in the bitter cold, December 1975.
In another, she politely declined.
There is a world where she never worried
that she may have to bury her first son.
The version of me that she deserved
lives in that one.
There’s one where I could call her, right now.
Hear her voice, her laugh.
Tell her I love her. Tell her
Everything, anything at all.

 

Semantic Satiation

The first time I said it, it was as if I was speaking some foreign tongue that was similar to my own but different in one small way that made it so completely wrong, so alien, that it warped my sense of reality like a black hole. She was. I said it three more times: Was. Was. Was. Say a word enough times and your brain loses the ability to process it. It starts to lose its meaning, becomes an abstract concept, just letters with no real value: Was. Was. W / A / S. Originally wæs, past tense singular of wesan in Old English—to remain. Also derived from bēon— to be, from the Proto-Germanic biju. Was. The past tense of the most common yet irregular verb in the English language, described as a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments. Or, an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dialects. 53 years on this Earth reduced to an accidental conglomeration of sounds. Sounds that clump deep in my throat before dripping from my lips like molasses, thick and slow and sticky. Sugar boiled bitter.

 

Alexander Radison is an MFA candidate in poetry at Queens College (CUNY), where he also teaches creative writing. His work has been previously published in Utopia Parkway Literary Magazine, Newtown Literary Journal, The Violet Hour, and was awarded the Making Work Visible poetry prize at www.laborarts.org.

 

Book Review: Jeremy Robert Johnson’s “Entropy In Bloom”

BY ELI RYDER

If this were a typical review of a typical book, it’d start with a few catchy lines, maybe a summary of the text, providing skim-reading literati enough information to decide whether the review, and by extension, the text being reviewed, is their cuppa or not. Genre words like horror, bizarro, surreal, and suspense would attempt to box this book into some convenient framework by which it might be pre-judged.

Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Entropy In Bloom isn’t a typical book, so it won’t be getting a typical review.

Sure, there’s a summary that can be expressed. The underlying theme driving the collection is, well, entropy—the degradation of a system from a state of order to a state of chaos—and the beauty that can sometimes be found therein. Johnson’s characters are on the precipice of destruction, and we fall over that precipice with them into chaos—or redemption. It’d be easy to categorize a text whose unifying theme is descent into disorder as an exploration in loss—and some of these stories certainly open those kinds of wounds—but in this collection, there’s hope in oblivion.

The Tech Specs: sixteen stories, all previously published save the last, “The Sleep of Judges,” a sweat-inducing novella chronicling a desperate husband and father’s quest for revenge. One Pushcart-nominated short, heartbreaking in its shouldn’t-be-a-surprise ending: “Snowfall.” Gut-punches of emotion, not only in “Snowfall,” but also “Luminaries” and “The Gravity of Benham Falls.” And, so that no twisted appetite is left unsatisfied, sharp body-horror in “The League of Zeroes” and “When Susurrus Stirs,” two grisly tales of metamorphosis.

In another story of metamorphosis, “Dissociative Skills,” Johnson provides one of the most intriguing where-do-we-go-from-here opening lines a vignette about escalation could have: “Curt Lawson felt like a surgeon right up to the moment he snorted the horse tranquilizer.” The next few lines reveal a surgical kit set up in a decidedly non-surgical setting, and we realize that the teenage Curt is about to undertake an act of Special K-fueled rebellion against his alcoholic father and apathetic mother. Interestingly, using the horse tranquilizer in partial response to his father’s substance abuse creates an ironic disjunction that pervades not just this story, but the collection in general, in that Curt eventually becomes something more than he was through his destruction: a proud achiever, of sorts.

That story also contains what might be considered the collection’s thesis: “Her laugh seemed to Curt like the sound of a zoo animal finding the humor in its cage.” This is Curt’s mother surrendering to her circumstances and finding joy, however dysfunctional, in the horror of it all. Characters in the collection, whether due to societal pressures, psychological fracture, or plain bad luck, find themselves in horrific situations and still discover some glimmer of light, achieve some kind of enlightenment as a result of those circumstances. That’s the human experience. Our moments of highest potential occur when we are broken. We become something new in the repair, so new that repair may not even be the right word.

In a typical review, this conclusion would list a few writers that Johnson emulates/is reminiscent of/is influenced by. Again, Entropy in Bloom is ill-represented by the tropes of a typical review. There are clear ties to Palahniuk’s “Guts” and Choke, connections to Stephen King’s emotional symphony in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and even loose ties to the sliver of positivity spiked at the end of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Where Entropy in Bloom separates itself is in the “bloom:” the beauty in all that horror is the point here, and not a side effect. As a result, this is a many-tentacled beast of its own family, genre, and species.

TL;DR: This is your cuppa. In political landscapes that include terms like “Mother Of All Bombs,” “Alternative Facts,” and “Nuclear Solutions,” it’s comforting to be reminded of a fundamental human truth: we are, to the last, capable of finding humor in our cage.

Here, a typical review would end with a neat little wrap-up line that puts a bow on the whole thing. Instead, I’ll just tell you that the last line of the review doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t be reading it anyway. You should be reading Entropy in Bloom. You have great things to look forward to.

 

Eli Ryder writes fiction and drama, teaches literature and composition, and abhors maple bars that dare to parade around without bacon. He is the Drama Editor of The Coachella Review.

Escape From Delhi

by scott morris

I am at the exact furthest point from home possible—zenith or nadir, depending on perspective—standing at the immigration counter at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, body wracked with some stewing South Asian pestilence stirring up the worst kind of hallucinations, trying to get the fuck out of India.

Earlier that night the proprietress of the hostel had given me some expired medication. She assured me it would fix me right up, quiet the internal motion of unwell, that she had seen all this before, but the only difference it made was that I had started passing out periodically, the first time while walking into the train station. I had to lie on a bench for a while to regain enough strength to get through security, all while a circle of Indian men crowded around, shouting offers of every type of service imaginable at this prone and seemingly dead American man. The modern train was built for western tourists, and I was the only passenger, thankfully alone to save myself the embarrassment of having others watch me vomit into a plastic bag.

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Two Poems by Breeann Kyte

Translation

in the close dark causes tongues to catch
on knobbed spines. Unzippering
mouthfuls along the length of secret

sentences. One language to another
opens in a grin, a stutter
to a tentative translation
of this alphabet of four.

Now see,
her jaw lit.
Why sew ivy
cut for the sun? Let

barrel-folded fingers wring the kinks straight:
Staircased helices, the hidden yes.

 

Phages in Love 

Infection
Separates fuse in this commitment
to kill unless a mad moron. No dead
end here: pressure, coiled tight, crushed
in corners, quiet until now. When God
says to count stars, he has no idea
the amplitude of the viral flood.
Their collars fringed with feelers, pulsing
signals as legs snap to attention—
rapt in another—stories thrusted, spill,
remake cytosolic space.

Lysis
Replicate: this urge, primordial
code to send snipped ends in embrace;
tongues alter to single tale. Houdini
never vanished so completely, never
resurrected as a multitude.
No magic in heedless need stripping
away sense of self until a ripple,
a shiver through lipid walls—the hijack
fills to burst, seams split wide.

Lysogeny
A more temperate path: long life
shrunk small, tucked into, integrated—
part of the spiraled ladder of years.
The Cumean Sybil’s voice was not so
soft, not so persuasive, hushing. Replicate
with each divided daughter further
doubled, further repressed, suppressed
and snugged in cell. They looped through
wiry helix until induced to excise.

Annul this union.

 

 

Breeann Kyte is a research biologist, creative writer, and facilitates collaborations between scientists, writers and visual artists. She writes poetry as a fresh way to use language and images for her research and writing. Both poems are on the life cycles of viruses. Her creative work has been published in The Scientist, Sunshine Noir, the Eeel, Orion (online blog), Serving House Journal, and City Creatures (Center for Humans & Nature).

 

TCR talks with Zoe Zolbrod

BY tracy granzyk

Zoe Zolbrod’s memoir, The Telling, was published in May of 2016, and it will undoubtedly remain a “go to” book for both survivors and family members of those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. In The Telling, Zolbrod comes to understand and accept the grey her own experiences have equated to within, while at the same time gives readers an example of how trauma and tragedy might be assimilated and used to empower one’s self. Especially poignant and game-changing in the memoir are her experiences as “Mama Bear”; a new parent with an immediate need to protect not only her children, but all kids from suffering the same experience she did. While Zolbrod never takes refuge in the title of victim, her honest pain exposes the depth to which she is still able to feel, never seeming to shut off and others out as a result of what was done to her.

As a writer, Zolbrod’s voice is both authoritative and accessible, and the narrative flows smoothly through different time periods of her life. She serves as both teacher of topic and craft by threading four Research Shows chapters within the story’s framework, allowing her to break off from the narrative, which she described during our conversation as a respite from the emotion inherent in diving back into such a painful experience. As a person, Zolbrod’s warmth and kind soul are what I was first drawn to during the interview that follows.

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Sonic Horror Geographies: “Hush,” Gender, and Disability

By Geneveive Newman
A Note from the Editors

This week, The Coachella Review presents a stand-alone episode of the podcast Open Ivory Tower, written and produced by Geneveive Newman. In this episode, Newman looks at Mike Flanagan’s 2016 film Hush, a horror film about Maddie, a young writer who is deaf and mute and who has recently moved to a secluded cabin in the woods. The film details one harrowing night when a serial killer arrives at her home. The episode is a critical examination instead of a review, looking at the ways the film conforms to and subverts common horror tropes. We are excited to present it here.

Content Notice: This podcast contains discussions of rape, gendered violence, graphic depictions of injury and physical/mental harm, ableism, and imprisonment, as well as audio clips from the film. Some listeners may find it disturbing.

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On Austerity

by F. C. Brown Cloud

Despite his $90k/year coding gig in Silicon Valley, Nate dressed for work in the dark.

This was Classic Nate, mind you. Pre-sex-cult, depressed and reckless and bizarre. Always more than a little tense because, like most of us, he wanted to be loved, but lamented that he’d gotten laid only twice in the last five years. Once by Angela, bipolar friend of a friend who seemed to be bedding somebody almost every night during her episodes. And once by a visiting Israeli his parents arranged for him to meet. He drove her around aimlessly through night, punched the roof of his car when she asked for a cigarette (his pack fell from its perch above the passenger-side sun visor to land in her lap), and regaled her with stories about the United States. I like to imagine that some of those stories were about me. Then, in a parking lot alongside Half Moon Bay, he was shocked to find her climbing over the central console to unbutton his jeans and straddle him. Shafts of sunlight stabbed over the bluffs behind them.

A few hours later, Nate dropped her off at the airport. His life was back to nothing.

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Two Poems by Natalie Crick

BY Natalie Crick

See

The moon hangs in utter darkness,
A smoldering black,

A crack of light
Disappearing almost,
The world paused outside.

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Book Review: Nick Cutter’s “Little Heaven”

By eli ryder

New Mexico, 1965. Three seasoned killers converge on each other, then on a cult leader and a consuming force of darkness that threatens to overtake the world. Fresh, unflinching horror ensues. This is Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven. New Mexico is the perfect sparse setting for this modern take on classic westerns; outlaws, revenge, a maiden in distress, and a reverend that makes the most unhinged Pentecostal tongue-speaker feel perfectly sane all combine in a series of story beats Louis L’Amour would have found comfortably familiar, if he could stomach the visceral punches Cutter weaves throughout, a la Cormac McCarthy. Little Heaven’s New Mexico has “scratch-ass” towns with “straggle-ass” streets in which hired guns ask their targets, “Are you square with your creator?” before dispatching them to what lies beyond.

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TCR Talks with T. Greenwood

By Chih Wang

T. Greenwood’s new novel, The Golden Hour, is a beautiful, haunting mystery folded into the personal drama of a woman finding her artistic truth. When she was thirteen, Wyn took a shortcut through the woods on her way home. What happened there would send Robby Rousseau to jail and forever mark her as a cautionary tale to other girls. Twenty years later, living next door to her ex-husband, Wyn is unhappily painting generic landscapes to pay the bills when she learns that new DNA evidence might set Robby free.

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