Borrowed Pages – Inauguration Day

Whirring blades of helicopter on the flat-screen darkened the diner counter, while I pulled my gloves off. I’d come straight from the protest rally on Main Street in Nyack, New York, where my inauguration-day mood had shifted from black to a mere dark gray. But, staring up at the event about to tumble into history, I recoiled, feeling grateful that the usual spot for our writing group is all the way in the back, next to the chalkboards announcing smoothie flavors and Nespresso options.

Writers arrived with muted greetings, spread themselves out at the long table. Some glanced over at me, probably wondering what might prompt creative writing in this dim light.

Editor’s Eye

At the risk of this blog post sounding something like a Dierks Bentley song, I can easily say what I was feeling in this set of poems featured in the fall issue of River River… but what was I thinking? Let me see if I can shoot some holes in the tailgate called editorial process.

My favorite aspect of this group of poems is the way it demands its freedom to demand, in a resonant voice of plaintive enjoyment. Un-untwistable metaphors entertain and delight me more than technique. The singularity of the Mobius strip, the endlessness of a mandala knot, the beginning and ending somehow different because of a slide down the curly slide all begin to describe the effect of these permanently kinked metaphor-strings.

Patience, clarity, and the “glimmer factor”

In anticipation of our upcoming 6-week workshop, “Step into Revision,” here’s a brief discussion on the topic. And, following typical revision advice (“Show, don’t tell”), our Fiction Editor, Donna Lee Miele, demonstrates the art of clarifying character motivation, improving syntax and word choices, and creating momentum in a scene.

Patience: First Draft and the Revision Persona

In prose or poetry, fiction or personal essay, revision begins in the first draft as the nagging, questioning voice of self-doubt. Most of us begin hearing that voice in the middle of the first paragraph! That voice is your revision persona. As you press forward, make note of that persona-non-grata’s questions and comments in a separate file or notebook. Then ask her to kindly get out of your way. Be determined, but don’t rush your first draft. The first principle of writing, and re-writing, is patience.

Editor’s Eye – Poems

A telescopic tour of the poetry featured in our inaugural issue–

A few steps into a poem and you know you’re in trouble. The sudden sweep of imagery or spare sounds, like a current across a shallow river’s-edge, knocks you down into the muddy silt of language. Soggily, you take a seat on a tree stump or bench, and the river poem reveals itself as galaxy pulsing with the competitive gravitational forces of supernovae verbs, dark-matter participles, and adjectives that act like binary star systems.

In “American God,” a sequence of kinetic verbs—strip, tear, attack, pull, throw, whisper—leads to shear, which explodes in multiple dimensions of suggested meaning. Shear the god’s beard, and the word suggests its homophone, sheer, which can mean diaphanous (as a fabric) or unmitigated (for emphasis) or precipitous (as a cliff).

As we fly off with the congealing debris of supernova elements, the poems “jumper” and “The Gargoyle” swallow us into dark, energetic descriptors. In “jumper,” the sequence builds from trembling, evolved, ascended, and aimed into pushed, compressed, distorted, and discarded. “The Gargoyle” is painted almost entirely in participles, until the end of the poem where watching unexpectedly twists up an actual verb with a verbal, or what happens when dark matter meets light.

Fields of oppositional forces pulse with nodes of intensity alternating with nodes of tranquility, and “42nd St-Times Square Subway” offers exactly that: a high-voltage, alternating-current experience. The binary sensibility of adjectives within a line’s-length of each other—concrete/natural, filthy/electric, muted/loud—pushes and pulls us aboard the train and its subterranean conduits. In “Wanting to Be,” the uncoupling of arid/swamp and small/long occurs because of the non-binary fallow/alluvial. Where we land—in muck or dreams—depends on the stream of the poem and how wet with starlight our boots have gotten.

A. Anupama