Allen Porter Mendenhall

Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

Avelino

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Literature on April 15, 2015 at 8:45 am

Hugo Santos

Hugo Santos é professor de Literatura no Brasil e possui os cursos de Graduação e Mestrado em Literatura Brasileira, ambos conseguidos pela Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, no estado de Pernambuco, cuja capital é Recife – sua cidade natal (e de acordo com ele mesmo, uma das mais belas cidades do país). Atualmente, ele está frequentando o Programa de Doutorado em Educação de Adultos, na Universidade de Auburn, onde também é professor de Língua Portuguesa e Cultura Brasileira. Além disso, ele está representando o Governo de Pernambuco na iniciativa de se estabelecer uma parceria entre a UA e a Universidade do Estado de Pernambuco, através do estabelecimento, troca e ampliação de pesquisas que permitirão a alunos e professores das duas instituições explorarem o que cada uma tem para oferecer. É autor de “Um Céu Imenso.”

Hugo Santos is a Professor of Literature in Brazil and received both his undergraduate and master’s degree in Brazilian Literature from the Federal University of Pernambuco, in the state of Pernambuco, located in the Northeast of Brazil, whose capital is Recife—his hometown (according to himself, one of the most beautiful cities in the country). Currently, he is enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Adult Education at Auburn University and teaches classes in Portuguese and Brazilian Culture. He is linked to the Auburn University Office of the International Programs as a representative of the Government of Pernambuco and is establishing a partnership between Auburn University and the Pernambuco State University, where he worked in Brazil. The research exchange and extension program enables the students and teachers of both institutions to explore what each university has to offer. He is the author of Um Céu Imenso (“An Immense Sky”).

Já fazia parte da rotina dele sentar-se no tronco em frente à casa, olhando aquela terra árida que não tinha cheiro de nada, contemplando uma estrada barrenta, sem outras casas além da dele e sem visões de um tempo bom e de boas lembranças.

A imersão naqueles pensamentos era diária, assim como eram diários os sonhos de uma vida sem aquele sofrimento todo. Não era nada físico. Ele nunca fora castigado pela mãe, que além de saber do empenho dele na organização dos plantios e no trato com os animais, reconhecia os valores de um filho bondoso e preocupado com os seus.

O sonho era o de deixar todo aquele cenário seco e sem vida, com uma sede eterna de tudo o que refrigera a alma e alenta um semblante entristecido. Dona Maria da Luz, a mãe, já tinha notado aquele olhar, e também já tinha imaginado que uma partida dele não era algo remoto, ao contrário, considerando que todos daquela idade já tinham partido dali, ficando apenas os mais velhos e as crianças. Ela sabia que isso era possível, mas rezava pra que não se concretizasse, afinal eram somente eles dois naquela casa, além da irmã menor, que por razões óbvias não daria conta de tantas responsabilidades naquele sítio.

Ele avaliava tudo e sabia bem o que representaria uma partida, deixando as duas com toda aquela carga de coisas, mas muito mais com a impressão de que ele estaria fugindo de algo que não poderia vencer. E de fato ele não conseguiria jamais. Como superar tanta seca, tanta fome, tanto sol, tanta solidão e abandono? Ele não conseguiria jamais. E além do mais, agora estava mais focado do que nunca, principalmente depois da conversa com José Pedro, amigo de infância, que retornara da capital e estava ali por aquelas bandas visitando parentes, e que também lhe fizera ver que a única alternativa era o êxodo, a saída, a fuga, se assim entendesse. Mas não uma retirada desesperada e sem propósito; não um rompimento com suas raízes e história, com sua família e passado. Seria uma saída estratégica, momentânea, apenas o tempo necessário para uma conquista de vida, de posses e de solidez, após o que retornaria e resgataria os que ficaram.

– Mas Zé… como eu poderia deixar minha mãe e minha irmã aqui, assim?

– Avelino, rapaz… ficando aqui é que você vai ajudar menos ainda, homem. Vai ficar nessa vida sofrida, sem esperança e sem futuro. Lá, pelo menos, você vai ter uma garantia, um emprego e uma moradia, até poder se arranjar sozinho.

Era algo em que ele não conseguia parar de pensar. Os últimos anos tinham sido duríssimos, sem perspectiva alguma do que pudesse trazer qualquer mudança, porém ele também sabia que havia algo além da sofreguidão. Havia uma certa sensação nostálgica em ser o arrimo da casa e a pessoa em cujos ombros pesavam todas as dependências. Era uma sensação incoerente, ele sabia. Como sabia também que coerência era um artigo extremamente raro naquele lugar, especialmente naqueles dias. E naquelas horas ele se sentia resoluto.

Partiu, enfim, na lua cheia de dezembro, querendo acreditar que olhando pra ela teria alguém com quem conversar e com quem se ressentir. Saiu enquanto todos dormiam, obedecendo ao que a mãe dissera, ela que não suportaria abraçá-lo na despedida e nem olhá-lo nos olhos pra desejar-lhe sorte. Nesse pedido, ele sabia bem, estavam todos os clamores calados e todos os choros contidos que lhe seriam ditos se ela o visse partir. Embora forte, a tez enrugada da velha sempre estremecia quando o assunto envolvia partidas, com os olhos lacrimejando e o olhar cabisbaixo, sem qualquer palavra, apenas soluços compassados e a respiração perturbada. Não era a primeira vez que ela passava por aquilo. O marido, muitos anos antes, tomara a mesma decisão, e com o mesmo ímpeto buscou uma fuga ensandecida, deixando todos aos cuidados de Dona Maria da Luz e de um futuro incerto, ou certo, já que, conforme ela previu, ele não mais voltou.

Agora, porém, o quadro era outro e a saída do filho soava como algo apocalíptico. Como, afinal, iriam sobreviver? Como suportariam, sem a força, a perseverança e a solicitude do jovem, àqueles tempos de penúria? Mas em momento algum qualquer palavra foi proferida. Nada foi dito. Nenhum lamento saiu dela, além do lamento de uma mãe pela perda do filho. Um filho que não voltaria, envolvido que seria por um mundo grotesco. Um mundo novo e feroz, que de tanto açoitar-lhe com maldade e sofrimento, apagaria de sua memória as lembranças de vida e os laços com o passado, e apagando o passado, apagaria o futuro delas.

E foi nesse embaço de coisas que ela levantou de manhã, sentando no tronco em que o filho sempre sentava e olhou aquele risco de nuvem que mais lembrava um galho de aveloz. Contemplando uma estrada barrenta e olhando aquela terra árida que não tinha cheiro de nada, ela sentiu que o sol estava mais quente do que de costume e o som do silêncio era ainda mais triste que outrora.

 

 

 

Um Céu Imenso

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Literature on April 8, 2015 at 8:45 am

Hugo Santos

Hugo Santos é professor de Literatura no Brasil e possui os cursos de Graduação e Mestrado em Literatura Brasileira, ambos conseguidos pela Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, no estado de Pernambuco, cuja capital é Recife – sua cidade natal (e de acordo com ele mesmo, uma das mais belas cidades do país). Atualmente, ele está frequentando o Programa de Doutorado em Educação de Adultos, na Universidade de Auburn, onde também é professor de Língua Portuguesa e Cultura Brasileira. Além disso, ele está representando o Governo de Pernambuco na iniciativa de se estabelecer uma parceria entre a UA e a Universidade do Estado de Pernambuco, através do estabelecimento, troca e ampliação de pesquisas que permitirão a alunos e professores das duas instituições explorarem o que cada uma tem para oferecer. É autor de “Um Céu Imenso.”

Hugo Santos is a Professor of Literature in Brazil and received both his undergraduate and master’s degree in Brazilian Literature from the Federal University of Pernambuco, in the state of Pernambuco, located in the Northeast of Brazil, whose capital is Recife—his hometown (according to himself, one of the most beautiful cities in the country). Currently, he is enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Adult Education at Auburn University and teaches classes in Portuguese and Brazilian Culture. He is linked to the Auburn University Office of the International Programs as a representative of the Government of Pernambuco and is establishing a partnership between Auburn University and the Pernambuco State University, where he worked in Brazil. The research exchange and extension program enables the students and teachers of both institutions to explore what each university has to offer. He is the author of Um Céu Imenso (“An Immense Sky”).

A cadeira se encontrava exatamente no mesmo local. As teias que a recobriam davam-lhe um contorno sutil, de modo que o quadro de abandono do quarto era encoberto por aquele manto prateado, luzindo ao abrir da janela e mantendo intocáveis as lembranças há muito guardadas de uma época de alegria, dor e tristeza.

Remanescendo de uma turva lembrança, que embora agora estranha, era ainda uma visão que me enternecia muito, vi tomarem forma as estantes de livros, a cortina cinza que combinava com aquela extensão de céu sempre chuvoso, e que me trazia, junto com as gotas, o toque mágico do horizonte, quando estendia o rosto pela janela e permitia à chuva desempenhar o papel de confidente e mensageira de uma embalada esperança. Senti a mesma brisa daquelas noites solitárias, daqueles momentos de intangível leveza, em que me sentia num vôo silencioso, rasgando ares sem fim e tendo a minha frente apenas o infinito, irretocável e belo, chamando-me a um mundo desconhecido do meu e a uma vida desconhecida da minha.

Senti o mesmo tremor no assoalho do quarto, de quando ouvia os passos na escada e num rasgo impetuoso de agonia gelava-me o sangue, sufocava-me o peito e eriçava-me o coração, num batimento louco arritmado, vendo surgir, gigantesco e enfurecido, a imagem de meu pai.

– Moleque! Eu disse que não queria você com aquela vadia.

– Ela não é vadia. Só está querendo me ajudar.

– Ajudar a tirar você dessa família, de junto dos seus irmãos.

Meu pai jamais imaginaria o que era estar ao lado da Dona Mariana. Impossível também para um menino de doze anos pensar nela como um ser humano normal. Impossível não ser hipnotizado por uma profunda sensação de êxtase quando a via, em qualquer que fosse o momento, especialmente no primeiro cumprimento do dia.

– Tudo bem, Vitinho? Hoje você parece muito mais encantador e sorridente do que da última vez. Andou ganhando algum presente?

– Não, senhora. Só tô feliz porque tô mesmo.

Hoje eu vejo, sentindo ainda o veludo daquela voz, que aquele jeito cândido, aquela beleza sublime de quem transpirava ternura, era única e simplesmente o que ela era. O seu tom e o seu toque, o rosto delineado lembrando a face do bem, e um sorriso angelical que irradiava pura compaixão, deixaram-me instintivamente apaixonado no primeiro segundo que a vi.

Eu a havia conhecido no mesmo dia em que minha mãe morrera. Ao ver-me chorando no corredor do hospital, sem jamais termos-nos falado antes, ela me deu um abraço afetuoso e alisando minha cabeça e limpando minhas lágrimas, teceu-me os mais belos comentários a respeito de minha mãe que ninguém jamais dissera. Citou frases que ela havia dito, pessoas que havia ajudado e fez-me ver, da maneira mais cristalina possível, que o fazer o bem era o valor mais inalienável que poderíamos ter e repassar.

Minha cabeça girava feito um carrossel. Muito mais pela apaixonante presença daquela diva, do que pelo enredo de dor pelo qual passava naquele dia. Na ocasião não entendi muito bem a iniciativa de Dona Mariana e perguntava-me, a todo momento, o que a movia a tamanho gesto.

Muito mais complicado era tentar entender a reação negativa de meu pai àquela amizade. A fúria que o tomava à simples citação do nome dela deixava-o de tal modo possesso que seus olhos esbugalhavam, a ponto das veias do globo ocular ficarem à vista, a veia da garganta inchar e, a cada berro, chuvas de saliva respingarem em quem o cercasse. Era completamente incompreensível tanta ira por alguém tão infinitamente amável como Dona Mariana.

De toda sorte, e por força de um impulso sempre incontido, jamais deixei de ir aos encontros com aquela minha musa. Apesar do medo das surras prometidas e do calafrio no momento do retorno pra casa, a necessidade de falar-lhe, de ouvir-lhe e de olhar-lhe se sobrepunha a quaisquer sentimentos humanamente conhecidos. O bombeamento do meu sangue aguçava toda a eletrização do meu corpo, e um misto de letargia e ligeireza, de estupidez e genialidade tomavam conta de minhas ações, gestos e sorrisos.

Como era de se esperar, um dia fiz-lhe referência ao ódio nutrido por meu pai, incluindo os detalhes mais constrangedores, à mínima referência a seu nome e, para minha surpresa, absolutamente nada lhe soou estranho. A impressão, inclusive, foi de uma fina dor na confirmação daquelas palavras, no marejamento daqueles olhos e naquele único sorriso, que não foi de um anjo, mas de uma alma ferida por uma estocada, direto no coração, da adaga da amargura.

– E você tem idéia do por quê dessa raiva?

– Não tenho, não. Mas é algo importante, não é?

– Eu já não falo disso há muitos anos. Nesse tempo todo, sempre imaginei que retomar a vida fosse fácil, depois de um duro golpe dado pelo destino. O fato, meu querido, é que os golpes só aumentam de intervalo, mas estão sempre presentes em nossos desígnios, turvando nossa mente e obrigando-nos a trincar nossos risos e enterrar nossos sonhos de felicidade.

Era sem dúvida uma hora difícil para ela, e meio que imaginando algo que pudesse afastá-la de mim a partir daquele momento, senti o meu sangue gelar e a chegada de um medo inapelável incorporou-se às minhas sensações, de modo que fechei os olhos e apenas escutei-a, calmamente.

– Meu amado Vitinho… eu conheci o seu pai muito antes d’ele se casar com a sua mãe. Nós nos amamos muito, mas por uma ironia do destino eu engravidei e tive de sair dessa cidade porque meus pais ficaram inconformados com aquilo. Seu pai nunca me perdoou, embora até hoje não saiba que quando o deixei carregava um filho dele no ventre.

– E onde está ele, agora?

– Infelizmente ele está morto. Ainda bebê, após as complicações do parto, ele não resistiu e os recursos médicos da época não ajudaram. Meu filho morreu aos dois dias de nascido. Se ele estivesse vivo hoje, teria exatamente o dobro da sua idade.

Aquela revelação esclareceu cada ponto nebuloso surgido em minhas indagações internas, e embora ela tivesse divagado por outros assuntos mais amenos, minha mente apenas resgatava aquelas palavras:”(…) os golpes só aumentam de intervalo, mas estão sempre presentes em nossos desígnios(…)”, e por mais que aqueles olhos tristes me chamassem a atenção, eu pensava tão somente na dor daquela mulher, na sua tão contida angústia, embora ninguém pudesse duvidar da alegria que ela sempre nos demonstrava.

Como eu amei aquela mulher! E amei-a muito mais após aquela tarde. Após sentir que apesar de tanta dor, desesperança e eventualmente castigo, seu semblante era do mais sereno amor e enternecimento.

Para minha dor, porém, perdi, naquele instante, minha amada. Ao sair novamente da cidade, dessa vez para não mais voltar, e a exemplo do que ocorrera com meu pai, ela levou consigo, sem perceber, uma parte de mim, a parte que mais me era imprescindível – a alegria de minh’alma.

Tocando agora a janela, onde ao longo dos anos me debrucei, viajo junto daquele meu eu e, planando por um céu imenso, ensaio um contato com Dona Mariana, ícone de meus sonhos e senhora dos meus pensamentos, com quem vivi, cresci e amei, numa vida sem desígnios, sem golpes e sem dores. Numa vida onde ainda era-nos permitido sonhar.

“Excerpt from the last scene of the Mortal Lopez, part two,” by F L Light

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Literature, Shakespeare on March 11, 2015 at 8:45 am

F L Light

A Shakespearean proficiency in meter and rhetoric may to F L Light be ascribed. Nearly forty of his dramas are now available on Amazon, and twenty have been produced for Audible. His Gouldium is a series of twenty four dramas on the life and times of Jay Gould which he followed with six plays on Henry Clay Frick. The whole first book of his translation of The Iliad was published serially in Sonnetto Poesia. He has also appeared in Classical Outlook and The Raintown Review. Most of his thirty five books of couplets are on economics, such as Shakespeare Versus Keynes and Upwards to Emptiness the State Expands.

Excerpt from the last scene of the Mortal Lopez, part two.

Hampton Court. The Queen, Essex and Francis Bacon.

Essex: On matrimonial fortune he’s composed
An essay, which your Majesty may wish
To hear.

The Queen:     How married happenings could mar
My house in horror I have known. O what
A procreant consequence my sire pursued!
Now your unmarried rumination I
Will hear, comparing what I’ve learned so long.

Bacon: In costly hostage, captive usage, are
One’s wife and children all by fortune held,
Being clogs to our contentions for success.
The vigor of attainment is avowed
Without them, and the manliest hunt for fame
Is found in childless hunters for the chance
Of quests. The brightest consummations, sought
With brains, and labored greatnesses, fulfilled
Protractedly with grief, have been pursued
By the unmarried. But no dim incitement,
Concerning readiness for all the cares
Of growth, constrains a house of parents, who
Of future requisites would not be short.
Yet there are some, though for expedience
All unespoused, who hold all future causes as
But futile thoughts. And in unwedded thrift
Some hold that wife and children are at length
Too chargeable. And some immodest opulence
In household ostentation manifest,
Who’d seem most rich without the charge of children.
But motive freedom is the cause for most
Unmarried, who’d for expeditiousness
Be free, remaining self-productively
Resolved, apt to accomplish thoughts of wealth
Or wit. Such fellows think their ruffs and girdles
No less than yokes and subjugative ropes.
No better friends than those unmarried will
You find. As masters, servants or advisers
I see them best, but not as subjects, being
From burdens of the crown inclined to shift
In paced escapes, incumbencies eschewing.
But single days befit a churchman, who,
To no parental charity obliged,
May play the father to his faithful pews.
Yet soldiers matrimonial loyalty
Should have, whose generals, addressing them,
Exhorting furtherance in courage, will
Adduce their wives and children as the troops
Come forth. And Turkish soldiers to extremes
Of baseness run who marriage cruelly scorn.
But to compel humanity what else
But families should be first? And single men,
Though with the means for charity unused,
Are oft unsparing in their spurns of love
Because no wife or child has ever moved
Their mercy. I’ve known women, chastely single,
Who prideful, wrathful, and pretentious were,
As if their chastity permitted them
To chastise all. And wives are likelier apt
For loyalty who know their spouses trust them.
But jealous men incite disloyal wrath.
Wives are concubines in youth, companions
For intact maturity and nurses when
Debilitated weariness declines.
No dubious protest thus a man might bring
To marry at whatever age. But one
Of philosophic name believed there was
No timeliness in marriage for the young
Or old. And all observers have averred
That kindly wives have often churlish men
Of faultiest cruelty, waiting on their spite
Either to savor patience or to raise
In long probation the true worth of kindness.
But of all husbands none was kinder than
Odysseus who preferred his homely crone
To the insatiate immortality
Provided on the island of Calypso.

The Queen: Pangs of unwedded disappointment it
Bestirs in us who’d never grief admit.

Excerpts from “The Trial of Lopez,” by F L Light

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Law, Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare, Writing on March 4, 2015 at 8:45 am

F L Light

A Shakespearean proficiency in meter and rhetoric may to F L Light be ascribed. Nearly forty of his dramas are now available on Amazon, and twenty have been produced for Audible. His Gouldium is a series of twenty four dramas on the life and times of Jay Gould which he followed with six plays on Henry Clay Frick. The whole first book of his translation of The Iliad was published serially in Sonnetto Poesia. He has also appeared in Classical Outlook and The Raintown Review. Most of his thirty five books of couplets are on economics, such as Shakespeare Versus Keynes and Upwards to Emptiness the State Expands.

Excerpt from the trial of Lopez in the Guildhall, London. Behind Lopez and Sir Edward Coke sits a commission of fifteen jurors, including Sir Robert Cecil.

Lopez:      A tortured oneness you demand
In all your towns. This nation’s consonance
Upon tormented uniformity
Depends. Invariable ignorance,
As constant as oblivion, is coerced
Forever, as incarcerated shocks
For all dissenters you account deserved.
Whoever is untortured will be tamed
Erelong. Minacious penalties, immense
In deprivation, mean no differers
Are free. What sanctimonious calumnies
You cast at them, for blank monotony
Suppressing faces.

Coke:                    Lopez, what pertains
To this? Vociferating mutiny
Condemns you, so against the crown you seem.

Lopez: I in the Tower was a tamed attester.
The threatful rack my truthfulness repressed.
I saw my menacers decisive. What
Lord Burghley wished he meant to wrench, as did
Sir Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex
And William Wade. To them I lied of guilt.
Not striving with their threat, no torture I’d
Endure, too haplessly exposed to speak
My mind.

Cecil:      Thou Hebrew, vilest impotence
Befall you! Liar, be hapless on the block!

Lopez: Cecil, you deceitful statuette,
What can you state but a resentful threat?

Cecil: Asseveration soulful I believe
That says thou liest, in this assemblage blurting.

Lopez: Your crooking of my cause befits a crossed
Deformity whose manliness is lost.

Cecil: Corrupted pest! As deathful as your care
A traitor is with all the tricks you bear!

Lopez: You queenish midget, whom gigantic mocks
Should judge, be found a proditory fox!

Coke: Leave insultation, losel! Who are you
To counter Robert Cecil with contempt?
Now you commissioners, your votes in sums
Of guilt or innocence discover here.
Either of treason to her Majesty
Or for acquittal in this case hold forth.

 

Excerpts from “The Mortal Lopez,” by F L Light

In Arts & Letters, British Literature, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare on February 25, 2015 at 8:45 am

F L Light

A Shakespearean proficiency in meter and rhetoric may to F L Light be ascribed. Nearly forty of his dramas are now available on Amazon, and twenty have been produced for Audible. His Gouldium is a series of twenty four dramas on the life and times of Jay Gould which he followed with six plays on Henry Clay Frick. The whole first book of his translation of The Iliad was published serially in Sonnetto Poesia. He has also appeared in Classical Outlook  and The Raintown Review. Most of his thirty five books of couplets are on economics, such as Shakespeare Versus Keynes and Upwards to Emptiness the State Expands.

Speech of the Inquisitor

Scene: The Tower of London. William Wade the Inquisitor comes forth. Ferreira lies on a pallet in background.

Wade: Jailers are omnipotent in England.
Imprisoned alteration of the truth
We proffer. Catholic prisoners to warped
Incarceration of their words submit,
A tortured metamorphosis enduring.
In twisted transmutations they must truth
Convey or harsher twists will set them right.
What may be realized here will suit the realm,
Where racked distortions may seem right to all.
Whatever tidings we allow may not
Be true. Incarcerated verities
Are kept from view. We are the jailers of
Particulars, the keepers of events,
Who keep them in the Tower hid from England.
Our willful falsehoods shall not be unwarped,
As factious propagations verily
Prevail, annunciated oneness on
This land annealing. Fiction is the fountainhead
Of sovereign force. As omnipresent as
Obscurity or too pervasive for
Dissent by sight the Crown’s pronouncements are.
Our words dissimulate our works. We own
The light immured in these affairs. What we
Suppress remains in prison. Keeping vision to
Ourselves and giving darkness out, we can
The foisted preference of fraud provide.

 

The Queen’s Announcement

The Earl of Essex and Francis Bacon have been conversing.
Enter Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Edward Coke.

Essex: Sirs, may my present greetings pleasure you.

Cecil: A pleasant cause, my lord, your presence carries.

Bacon: My hopeful salutation, sirs, although
Your hopes should meet no hap.

Coke: Where hope
Is meritorious rightful haps pertain.

Bacon: No hapless merits have been manifest
In you, Sir Edward.

Coke: All my haps are fit
To raise my hopes.

Bacon: Eristic jurists, as
We are, would in juristic emulation rise.

Coke: My ripened erudition is more right
For office than your own as neophyte.

Bacon: I see unequal precedents in all
The convoluted chronicles of law.

Coke: And you in my Reports and Institutes
Have learned how common law no tyranny
Allows. Enter guards, Maids of Honor and trumpeters. Fanfare for the Queen. Enter Elizabeth.

The Queen: By counted estimation of concerns
And seasoned inference from sums of thought,
Upon decisive maturation not misled,
I will the next Attorney General
Announce. For scholarly prodigiousness
No legal connoisseur is like to Coke,
A lawyer scrutinizingly discreet.
Of expert opposition, apt for trials
Of contradiction, legal excellence
In suits confirming, breathful wisdom not
Abating, Edward Coke immediate comeliness
In speech maintains. As loud as Cicero,
Tonitruous his knowledge is, expounding what
Was never reached before. He pierces far
What is perceivable by rational
Pursuits, and by experienced aptitude
Sir Edward will expose injustice to
The law. We think ingenious gratitude
In him will never pall the crown. Wilt thou
Maintain this place, Sir Edward, or forbear
Promotion?

Coke: For judicial decency
In England and the undistorted wealth
Of order in this strenuous place my strength
I’d prove.

Three Poems by Kevin Heaton

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Poetry, Writing on January 21, 2015 at 8:45 am

Kevin Heaton

Kevin Heaton lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including Guernica, The Freeman, Raleigh Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Adroit Journal, and The Monarch Review. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.  Visit his website.

Political Correctness

I found myself left behind in a redwood
cathedral, super glued at the hip to a silenced

pleader clenching an empty gel pen between
two toes; signing to a songless nuthatch

like a near-quit fetus, hoping for hearsay
about supposed things. Alongside a burl altar:

Sadducees, Pharisees, and tax collecting
Publicans were soothsinging psalms,

and casting the bejesus out of daylily shadows.
Seems the pendulum always swings too far

the other way from splintered klaverns.
All I’d really hoped for was to remain—
sincerely me.

Combovers

Am I being candled for a more elevated
pigeon hole? One where all the double yolks
have been sifted?

That bushel of premium persimmons
I canned last October puckered, turned
festy, and burped their lids.

Or, perhaps I belong down here in this din,
among the wig hats drying out around
this old country store potbellied stove.

With the vichyssoise leeks and alimony
dads moving towards less eccentric
complexities; no longer in denial

about penetrating sources of light. Among
counselors readying their toupees
with that spotless, store bought pomade.

The Senate Has No Clothes

From across the Rappahannock, on the fulcrum
of lint-filled fault lines, the last massas rime into
the chalcedony recesses of their waxing dementia.
Perhaps you’ve seen them there: naked, unpolled,

grazing in full ungabled sun, mazing postbellum cane
fields for locoweed and orphaned sugar tit, crazing
hardscrabble, clogging to the cracked-cowbell jingle
of a sharecropper’s pocket change. Or at night,

nosing through deer droppings for musk covered
persimmon pits, rooting through lichen-labeled rows
of weeviled cotton stubble for plowed under overseer
dollars—swapping them to carpetbaggers for peonage

and jiggers of snake oil in those folded Nebuchadnezzar
poker faces like fourth kings in the second dynasty
of Isin—their puckered pie-gaffers papping out old banjo
tunes in the garbled pig latin of piney truffle tubers.

 

Interview with Robert J. Ernst, author of “The Inside War”

In America, American History, American Literature, Arts & Letters, Books, Creative Writing, Fiction, History, Humanities, Nineteenth-Century America, Novels, Southern History, Southern Literary Review, Southern Literature, The Novel, The South, Writing on December 4, 2014 at 8:45 am

This interview originally appeared here in Southern Literary Review.

Robert Ernst

Robert Ernst

APM: Thanks for taking the time to sit down for this interview, Bob. Your novel The Inside War is about an Appalachian mountain family during the Civil War. How long have you been interested in the Civil War?

RJE: I have had an interest in the Civil War for many years. Specifically, the effect of the war on Appalachia became an interest as I researched family history, now more than a decade ago. I realized that not much had been written, outside of academic treatises, on this aspect of the war. Bushwhacking ambushes, bands of roving deserters, intensely opposed partisan factions, and a breakdown in civil society befell western North Carolina. Of course, much study had been given to the poverty of the area during the twentieth century, but not much, save bluegrass music, about its culture. What I discovered was a vibrant pre-war society thoroughly rent by the war. And, the area did not recover.

APM: The story of Will Roberts, your novel’s protagonist, is similar to that of many actual soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. How much historical research went into this book? It seems as if there are a number of events in your story—Sammy Palmer’s shooting of the sheriff, for instance—that track historical occurrences.

RJE: Much of the story is based on historical events. In fact, Will Roberts was a real person, as was his brother, Edwin. I traced their wartime adventures, researched the battles and conditions of their captivity and wove a fictional story around them. Likewise their wives, as portrayed in the story, were based on real people, although their story is more fictionalized. The novel does incorporate many historical characters and events that occurred in the vicinity of Marshall, North Carolina, by which I attempt to portray a picture of the character of the area and the severe impact of the war on it.

APM: There are some themes in the book that cover an aspect of the Civil War that is not often covered. Tell us about those.

RJE: The tactic of bushwhacking, or ambushing mountain patrols, is one. Guerrilla warfare as a matter of accepted tactics was new and was a terrifying degradation of the morality of warfare. There was a real cultural divide among the citizens of western North Carolina between those who supported the North, the “tories,” and those who supported the Confederacy. These divisions played out in many ways, most notably in atrocities like the Shelton Laurel massacre, but more subtly in familial and neighbor relationships. I doubt many women suffered as did those in Appalachia, from the depredations, theft and physical threat of the men who populated the mountains during the war. I was surprised to learn of the inhumane prison conditions at Ft. Delaware. Everyone knows of Andersonville, but not many are aware of Ft. Delaware. We know of the great Civil War battles, but there were scores of skirmishes every week that terrified the contestants and shaped their perceptions. Certainly, Roberts’s family suffered greatly, even though their war happened in the background to better known events.

APM: You seem careful not to glorify war but to present it as the complex tragedy that it is. The book’s epigraph states, “For those who have suffered war.” I wonder if the process of writing this book taught you anything about war itself. What do you think?

Allen Mendenhall

Allen Mendenhall

RJE: The grand histories of the conflicts, eulogizing the fallen and celebrating the victorious are all necessary parts of our remembrance of a terrible, national conflict. What I found in researching this story was intense personal suffering, unnoted except at the basic unit of society, the family, and rippling out to the church, neighborhood and town. Why would a woman abandon her children? What would drive a member of the home guard to massacre captives – mere boys? How could people, so crushed, hope? And, of course, the main theme of The Inside War is hope; hope after, and despite the loss and suffering. As we deal with the veterans of the conflict with radical Islamists we need to surround them with a culture of hope.

APM: From one attorney to another, do you think being a lawyer affects your writing in any way—from the preparation to the organization to the style?

RJE: That’s interesting. Certainly the actual practice of law involves clear writing. I have a hard time reading novels written in stream of consciousness or in rambling, shuffling styles. So, hopefully this book will be understandable and clear to the reader. I like the process of legal research and enjoyed the process of researching this book. However, the characters, though based on historical figures, came about from my imagination, which is why the book is a novel and not a history.

APM: It’s been said that the Revolutionary War produced political philosophy in America whereas the Civil War produced literature. Do you agree with this, and if so, why?

RJE: Perhaps the truth in that statement devolves from the Revolutionary War defining the creation of a nation, the Civil War defining its character. The revolution tested the theories of individual liberty and melded them, free of sovereign control, imperfectly into a new nation. The Civil War represents a gigantic challenge to the notion that a nation of citizens can be free. Millions were intimately involved in the latter conflict and the upheaval and changes were intensely felt and recorded in innumerable books. But the fundamental story of both wars is ongoing, in my view, and that is America must re-experience, “a new birth of freedom,” with regularity if America is to retain her vibrancy and hope.

APM: Thanks, Bob, for taking the time. I appreciate it, and I know our readers do, too.

Red Birds at Law Building, A Poem by Jason Morgan

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Poetry, Writing on October 15, 2014 at 8:45 am

Jason Morgan is a New Orleans native and grew up mostly in Louisiana and Tennessee. He attended the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (BA, History and International Studies) and the University of Hawai’i-Manoa (MA, Asian Studies: China focus), and is now ABD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Japanese history). He has attended or conducted research at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, Nagoya University, Yunnan University in Kunming, PRC, and the University of Texas-San Antonio. He’s currently on a Fulbright grant researching Japanese legal history at Waseda University in Tokyo. His topics include case law during the Taishou Period, and the broad contexualization of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial.  His scholarly work has appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in Modern Age (on American labor history), Japan Review (two reviews of Japanese history monographs), Education About Asia (two reviews of Japanese history textbooks), Human Life Review (on Griswold v. Connecticut; review of book on Catholics and abortion), Metamorphoses (translation of Tanizaki Jun’ichirou’s Randa no Setsu), Southeast Review of Asian Studies (on Japanese translation work), and in book form (two translations of Mizoguchi Yuuzou on Chinese intellectual history; translation of Ono Keishi on Japanese military financing in WWI and during the Siberian Intervention). He has also written for the College Fix and College Insurrection.

Red Birds at Law Building

It is astonishing that we
live in the same world, yet in two
I see the same things that they see,
do (almost) everything they do

but they sit on a sill and sing
outside today’s exam in law:
these are two very different things,
two very different kinds of awe

Troy Camplin Reviews “Napoleon in America,” a Novel by Shannon Selin

In America, American History, Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Books, Creative Writing, History, Humanities, Novels, The Novel, Writing on August 20, 2014 at 8:45 am
Shannon Selin

Shannon Selin

Napoleon in America is a “what-if” historical novel that combines a variety of styles – epistolary, newspaper article, and regular novelistic narrative – to create a work that reads like a very well-written narrative of history. Given that the author is necessarily working with an entirely fictional world – one in which Napoleon escapes from St. Helena to the United States – the fact that she can create such an effect is quite remarkable. The reader is made to feel as if he or she is reading about actual historical events. Of particular note is the fact that Selin creates the impression that we are reading a Great Men History book, which makes it rather distinctive. As such, it is going against the direction in which historical studies have, themselves, gone.

Much contemporary history deals with everyday life, local histories, etc. But given that the protagonist of this novel, Napoleon, is the kind of person who is distinctly bored with everyday life – is too big for everyday life – we should not be surprised to find a story dominated by the overwhelming presence of the personality of Napoleon. It is perhaps for this very reason that the novel becomes involved in the great movements of Napoleon rather than the intimate details of his life. These aspects are touched on here and there, of course, but in the end, we remember Napoleon the Conquerer, not Napoleon the almost-died-when-he-got-to-America. Napoleon quickly recovers to dominate the novel with his personality. But this personality is not one changed by circumstances. He is the Napoleon we all love and loathe. He cannot settle down. He has to conquer.

Thus, with Selin’s novel, we have a complete inversion. The novel has, historically, dealt with everyday people in their everyday lives. The actions of most novelistic characters do not have a major impact on historical events. If we look at the way histories are written over the same time period of the rise of the European novel (which includes American and Canadian literature and, stylistically, much literature written in the rest of the world during the 20th century), we primarily see the complete opposite: an interest in major figures and their major effects on history dominate most historical narratives over this same time period. However, we see a shift within history toward the same kinds of concerns we see in novels: everyday peoples, the histories of institutions, local histories, etc. Thus, we should not be surprised to find novels picking up the kinds of narratives we once found in histories.

Along with the Big Men of the time, Selin deals with the Big Ideas of the time; of course, the Big Men are often the Big Men precisely because they discuss and try to enact the Big Ideas of their time. Liberalism and dictatorship and whether Napoleon is really a liberal or little better than the kings he likes to depose are discussed – as no doubt they were, in fact, discussed historically. We see some of the conflicts within French Liberalism – and some of the contradictions. Was it a mere coincidence that French Liberalism led to the Terror and to the Empire under Napoleon? Or was it simply bad luck? Pro- and anti-Napoleon liberals are unified in their opposition to the Bourbons, but the question is raised as to whether replacing one monarch with another is really an improvement. Yet, there seems a willingness, even among those who oppose Napoleon, to support revolution against the Bourbons, even if it results in another Napoleon (literally or figuratively). Along these lines, Selin does a magnificent job of showing how blinding the opposition to the Bourbons is in the decision by the French government to invade Spain. The King in fact opposes the invasion, but ends up being talked into it; the liberals believe the invasion is a Bourbon plot and evidence of his being a cruel dictator. The reality is more humdrum than the conspiracy theory the liberals are desperate to believe.

Overall, Selin’s book goes beyond what we would expect to find in a historical novel whose main character is a major historical figure. A traditional historical novel would have the characters doing all the major, public actions the history books tell us happened. Selin has to do something quite different. She has to first know what did in fact happen during the historical period in question; she then has to understand Napoleon well enough to understand what he might do in circumstances other than those in which he did, in fact, find himself; and then she has to create a realistic alternative to what did in fact happen, understanding the butterfly effects of a Napoleon in America. It is a garden of forking paths, and one can go in any number of directions. To this end, Selin is certainly effective in her choice of direction. The great uncertainty created by Napoleon’s presence in America is well demonstrated. The U.S. government does not seem to know what to do with him. We are, after all, talking about a young country still learning where it fits in the world. It has the benefit of being separated from Europe – where all the action lies – by a large ocean. But the action has come to America’s shores when Napoleon escapes St. Helena. The uncertainty that leaves Napoleon free to raise an army and wander into Texas is well within the realm of possibilities. As is the naïve belief by some – such as James Bowie – that Napoleon can be “handled.”

The majority of the novel is dominated by the spirit of uncertainty and worry. All the action comes in at the end of the novel, when Napoleon finally does invade Texas. And even then, we are left with a great deal of uncertainty. Napoleon has won a battle and established himself in San Antonio; however, we are left with the question of what will happen next. Napoleon in America has the feeling of the first novel in a sequel. It would not surprise me if Napoleon in Texas were to follow. There is a great deal more to this story that could be explored. Will Napoleon be able to create a long-term presence in Texas? What will be the response of Mexico? What will be the response of the American government? What will be the response of the American settlers? Will the people of Kentucky and Tennessee volunteer to fight for Texas independence under Napoleon as they did for its independence under Austin? Is Napoleon just preparing the way for the Americans to take over, making it a bit easier than it was historically? Or is he perhaps making it a bit harder, since a Mexican government may take Napoleon as a much more serious threat to the government of Mexico than those who only wanted an independent Texas?

For those who enjoy the What-If History genre, these are fun questions to consider. I find it hard to imagine that anyone who reads Napoleon in America – which should include most of those who enjoy historical fiction – would fail to want these questions answered in a sequel.

Troy CamplinTroy Camplin holds a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has taught English in middle school, high school, and college, and is currently taking care of his children at home. He is the author of Diaphysics, an interdisciplinary work on systems philosophy; other projects include the application of F.A. Hayek’s spontaneous order theory to ethics, the arts, and literature. His play “Almost Ithacad” won the PIA Award from the Cyberfest at Dallas Hub Theater.

Pantry, 1982

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Poetry, Writing on July 30, 2014 at 8:45 am

Allen 2

 

This poem first appeared in The Echo.

 

A box of cereal, stale, ants running

Up the side, two brown bananas that

 

He says cleanse the pores

(If rubbed thoroughly),

 

An unwrapped chocolate bar

And a plethora of cans, unopened:

 

In a locked pantry, Little Maddy sits

Plucking the stems

 

Off Granny-Smiths. Just ten more

Minutes. Maddy, weary, wondering

 

Just when daddy would come home.

Time: the pantry is unlocked

 

And out comes light

And apples and, lastly, Maddy.

 

Daddy reaches

For the two rotting bananas,

 

Notes can upon unopened can,

Unwraps the chocolate bar,

 

Smears chocolate on his fingers,

Stops, thinks how unlikely it is

 

For apples to lose their stems.



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