I want to thank every writer who contributes to Fictionaut’s story page. I commend you for your bravery. I know each of us posts work with the hope that it will be read and appreciated. Some writers submit a piece, and in what seems like minutes, it shoots to the recommended list like a comet trailing stars. For those lucky writers, it is the validation that, yes, the time they spent editing their poems, or tightening an ending was worth the effort.
For reasons I don’t always understand, a piece with merit may garner many readers, yet few or no stars. Sometimes a story plummets to the bottom of the page with only a handful of glances. For those under-starred and under-read writers, who may have received little or no feedback, it’s not a great feeling.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve read everything posted on the story page. Every piece had a bit of fresh language, a quirky plot twist, or something worth a reader’s attention. The four writers I’ve chosen for “Editor’s Eye” — Con Chapman, John Olson, Glynnis Eldridge and Darryl Price –brought me into their worlds and held me there with style and heart.
For me, humor works best when there’s a twinge of pain beneath its surface: some need unmet, an insecurity confirmed. There’s enough pain in Con Chapman’s “One Hurt in Collision at Intersection of Art and Commerce,” to make its wincing, can’t-help-but-laugh ending satisfying.
Con, who illustrates his story with photographs, has a great eye for the telling detail: The logo of his protagonist’s art gallery, in an affluent suburb, is written “bEth uPshaw sTudios”. Chapman let’s us know early on that she suspects her artwork is a fraud, by allowing us to eavesdrop on a bit of nasty business with her boyfriend, the onerous Kurt Mergen. Over a disagreement about wine not meeting his exacting standards, Mergen tells Upshaw she produces “…the kind of art that wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a bank lobby.”
So we’re hopeful that when she sells a piece of her work to a couple for a hefty $5,000, telling herself, “I am an artist, dammit!”… “And I deserve to be paid what I’m worth!” she’ll be validated with an encouraging comment from the buyers. Con is too good a writer to give us an easy ending.
John Olson begins each line in “The World Explained,” with “This is why”. He then subverts expectations by explaining his assertions in unexpected, sometimes unfathomable ways. There’s so much delight here. Each declaration is worth pondering, but below are a few of the reasons why “The World Explained” is on my list:
“This is why the caged bird sings: the blind games of your hands.”
“This is why poets never seem to make much money at their craft: vulgarly ornamental finery.”
“This is why UFOs never land and introduce themselves the way a normal creature of intelligence would be inclined to do after traveling billions of light years through space: insufficient cosmetic for the cheeks.”
And this concluding bit of brilliance:
“This is why nothing can ever be fully explained by science: thongs.”
Maybe it’s the blocky look of the letter on the page, or its disturbing subject that kept readers from bestowing stars, but Glynnis Eldridge’s “Dear Andreas,” deserves more attention. In this epistolary piece, Andreas, the narrator’s childhood friend, drowned himself. The narrator travels back and forth in time, happy to evoke memories of shared bus rides, and then, as if plunging deep into an ocean’s center, touching on painful truths:
“Andreas I think about your voice and I can’t think about how it sounds underwater.”
References to ferries, swimming pools, and floating, touch on the way water exhilarates or sooths. But water has a darker pull, too. At the end, the metaphor Glynnis employs conveys not just Andreas’ death, but the way her character contemplates her own:
“Andreas, what happened? Sometimes my friends talk about going away like you, and their talk makes me think about it too, but I think about the black hole that formed when you vanished, and it’s been growing and pulling everything into itself. I try to look at it objectively. It only comes into focus when I see it peripherally.”
Darryl Price begins his poem with an epigraph from William Carlos Williams: “Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of the angels.”
In his poem “Flower Power,” Darryl sees the sky, the moon and right into the heart of the “you” he speaks to with such adoration. There’s power in love, and power in words, especially when they’re conveyed with such freshness:
“…than not words, but more like what you
might expect me to grunt or groan up
real close–stuck on or against almost–to
a huge sky full of clearly ripened opening
stars. I’ve been there before you see, so
the whole thing is neatly tattooed in my
invisible head at all times, like a benevolent
trauma. It has already become me. What that…”
The poem goes on revealing more of what it means to be a poet, to struggle to find words expressive enough, rich enough to continue to open and bloom as a flower would.
I hope you enjoy these pieces as much as I do. Please give them a read, and if they resonate for you, tell the writer. We’re all hungry for feedback. And stars. No one has ever said no to a star.
Tina Barry writes fashion, food and relationships articles for newspapers and magazines. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various anthologies and literary magazines, including Drunken Boat, Lost in Thought, Inch Magazine, The Camroc Press Review, Elimae, and Exposure, an anthology of microfiction from Cinnamon Press (2010). She completed her MFA in creative writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY, in 2014.