Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What Is (If There Is) Midwest Poetry?

In QAE 16, John Bradley offered this piece of is-it-a-poem-or-is-it-literary-criticism, in which he asks “What is (if there is) Midwest poetry?” Whatever it is, it’s provocative and it’s beautiful. But QAE lives in the Midwest, so we may be biased.

“If I Say It Is”: An Unscientific Survey in Response to the Question “What Is (If There Is) Midwest Poetry?”
John Bradley

Carl Sandburg: “I asked the professors who teach the meaning of meaning and they told me about their lawns.”

Lorine Niedecker: “I was born where I was born water borne.”

Jeff Tweady: Who gave you my e-mail address?”
Former Illinois Governor George Ryan: “You won’t believe all the poems I’ve been writing since I got here.”

Lisel Mueller: “It must have a belly button and an anus.”

Arielle Greenberg: “Did you know that Kafka washed his hands before he went to the bathroom?”

Nin Andrews: “An orgasm knows no east or west.”

Vachel Lindsay: “Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom.”

Edgar Lee Masters: “They still read Spoon River? Really?”

James Tate: “I think it’s now made in China.”

Lucien Stryk (Or Possibly Shinkichi Takahashi): “Don’t wear argyle socks at a convention of arsonists.”

Lorine Niedecker: “In a spoon in a church in a janitor’s closet in a spool of thread on the edge of a hospital bed on the spine of a book of do-it-yourself plumbing repair.”

Robert Bly: “Wasn’t that you  in the hammock on Duffy’s farm?”

Meridel LeSeuer: “Ask the corn. Ask the milkweed. Ask the idiot who keeps asking the same thing over and over.”

Bob Dylan: “A democracy of the tired.”

Jim Harrison: “I dreamed that I dreamed I was giving birth to a crow who asked me what I was doing dreaming this dream.”

Ted Kooser: “You’re asking the wrong geranium.”

Oprah: “Who gave you my email address?”

Jesse Ventura: “You should ask the Dalai Lama.”

The Dalai Lama: “You ask funny questions.”

Vachel Lindsay: “Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom.”

Donald Hall: “I once put together an anthology of Midwest poetry. But no one wanted to publish it. Not even publishers in the Midwest.”

Gwendolyn Brooks: “Articulated, syncopated silence.”

Leon Kottke: “I never heard that played on a lead-pipe flute before.”

George Kalamaras: “Wash your Ganges every day.”

Laura Bush: “All poetry is American poetry.”

Bucky Halker: “It sounds so much better on steel guitar.”

Mary Bradley: “I don’t know anything about poetry, John. You know I prefer crossword puzzles.”

Lorine Niedecker: “In the tiny spider dangling from the tip of this pen.”

Kent Johnson: “Who can say what’s poetry and what’s not?”

Joan Cusack: “Who gave you my cell number?”

Billy Corgan: “Are you still trying to figure that out?”

Garrison Keillor: “There was a young poet from Winona, who was always composing a sestina, wherever he went, he added its scent, and now he delivers pizza.”

Liz Phair: “You never know what you’ll find in the dumpster.”

Catfish Keith: “The Washed Out, Blown Away, Dried Out, What’s That Smell Midwest Blues.”

Maria Sabina: “Place a pinch between your cheek and gum.”

John Prine: “Just cuz.”

Georgia O’Keeffe: “Watch your top knot.”

Ernest Hemingway: “And you yourn.”

Sandra Cisneros: “The Midwest is every place. There is no such place as the Midwest.”

Mavis Staple: “Honey, if I say it is, it is.”

Vachel Lindsay: “Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom.”

Your answer in the comments space below...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Flash Interview with Jaswinder Bolina

This is the first of what we hope will be a series of very short interviews with writers. Jaswinder Bolina is the author of Carrier Wave, winner of the 2006 Colorado Prize for Poetry. His poem "Apologia Matilde" appears in QAE 17.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Review of Annie's Ghosts

A review from Brittany Claytor:
The Steve Luxenberg's Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret starts with simple things, a phone call and a letter about flowers on a grave. Steve Luxenberg discovers through a series of accidental occurrences that his mother, Beth, was not the only child she claimed to be but had an institutionalized younger sister, Annie. In his nonfiction work Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret, Luxenberg takes a leave from his job as a journalist for the Washington Post to discover what he can about this mysterious younger sister, who suffered from both physical and mental disabilities. His mission becomes not only uncovering who Annie was and why she was physically sequestered in various mental institutions for thirty-two years, but also learning why her memory was suppressed.
Luxenberg’s search takes him from the steerage berths of early 1900s trans-Atlantic ships to Holocaust-era Ukraine to the overcrowded corridors and rooms of Eloise Hospital, home of Detroit’s mentally ill, disabled, and indigent in the later half of the nineteenth century, during institutionalism’s waning years in America. Negotiating medical privacy and records laws that resemble Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Dicken’s Bleak House, Luxenberg struggles with his own imperfect memories and the imperfect memories of those who knew about Annie:
Just as secrets have a way of breaking loose, memories often have a way of breaking down. They elude us, or aren’t quite sharp enough, or fool us into remembering things that didn’t quite happen that way. Yet much as a family inhabits a house, memories inhabit our stories, make them breath, give them life. So we learn to live with the reality that what we remember is an imperfect vision of what we know to be true. (10)
One of the book’s particular strengths is Luxenberg’s ability to look at the broader historical context of the events and time periods that affect his individual family’s story. Annie’s Ghosts is also a story of what might have been. Luxenberg investigates how Annie’s diagnosis, her treatment, and her place in the family and their Detroit neighborhood would be different had she been born today.
As he attempts to synthesize new knowledge about his family’s past, Luxenberg realizes that, while the desire for freedom in life may be rational, it is “rarely uncomplicated, in desire or reality” (316). Everyone involved in Annie’s life desires freedom--from physical and mental disabilities; from poverty and ignorance; from shame, stigma, and the past--and the family’s collective desires for freedom intersect to institutionalize Annie and her memory. Luxenberg’s desire for freedom from ignorance about his family and his past motivate his own search, but many of his questions lack definitive answers. While both Luxenberg and the reader emerge from the story with a clearer, deeper understanding of the forces--societal and familial--that buried Annie and her memory, the understanding remains imperfect. In the end, both Luxenberg and the reader are left with an understanding built from flawed memories and the anguished decisions made by flawed yet empathetically human, individuals.