Letter From the Editor - We'll Be Right Back

Dear Friends of Crack the Spine,

It's that time again. CTS will be taking a little break for the next two weeks while we catch a collective breath and recharge a bit. Stay tuned, as we'll be back and at it again on April 21st. I want to thank all of our readers and contributors for making the first part of 2014 our most successful season ever. As many of you may know, there are several amazing friends and colleagues who assist me in the management and operation of CTS and I owe them all a very great debt of gratitude. And don't worry, I may be stepping away from my never-ending duties at CTS for a brief spell, but I'll still be thinking about ways to make our publications better and better. Granted, I'll be doing that thinking on a beach far, far away, but still... 

Thanks again!

- Kerri Farrell Foley
Managing Editor, Crack the Spine

Wordsmith Interview - Judith Cody

Judith Cody, poet and composer
Los Altos, California
Education: Foothill College and
University of California at Berkeley writing program

The Writer

How long have you been writing?
I started writing poetry early, around 10 years old but the usual life interruptions happened (marriage, needing a paying job, heartbreak, etc.) subtracting many years when I didn’t write but secretly dreamed of when I could. Now I am happy to say that I’ve been devoted to writing steadily for about fifteen years. But this means time for writing my music is sacrificed. (Something is always sacrificed.)

Do you have a specific writing style? 
I believe that my writing should bring a sense of openness and authenticity to my readers; as if I were simply talking to them without artifice or pretensions about something meaningful to me and hopefully, interesting to them as well. It is, of course, the writer’s sworn duty to make the poem or prose interesting. 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer? 
One non-fiction work that I am deeply proud of is my book on the great American woman composer, Vivian Fine (1913 to 2000). It was an exhilarating honor to work closely with her and be the first author to research her humongous personal archives, then to be able to intimately discuss her music and life with her. This book took over ten years of dedicated labor to complete, but it has achieved international status as the critical reference on Vivian Fine and this early new music period in American history. It is a thrill to see that my book is in most of the world’s great university and music libraries including in China and in Japan. It makes me feel that the hard work was all worthwhile when I find my book cited in a doctoral thesis.  The title is “Vivian Fine: a Bio-Bibliography,” Greenwood Press, 2002. You can get free downloads and read excerpts from “Vivian Fine…” on my website.

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
It’s more of a fantasy! It would be wonderful to read my poetry and other works and to bring along my music, while traveling through the states, meeting the people and seeing America at the same time. But perhaps it could actually happen…

The Work

“Life is Good Except for the Eternal Flames” is a prose poem about actual events; therefore I wanted it to be story line driven with a beginning, middle and a conclusive ending―not just visual or emotive poetics.

Is there a main theme or message in "Life is Good Except for the Eternal Flames?" 
During the usual, yearly fire seasons, here in the West, I am overcome with awe that we humans can build quite good lives smack in the center of nature’s most terrifying chaos. Strangely and paradoxically from the great jumble of consumer products we collect to fill our lives, there is very, very little that we need or love were everything to be lost. Perhaps, besides our loved ones, just items in the “little box by the door” are all we would truly miss, as the survivor says in the poem. What would you put in your “box by the door”?

How long did it take you to complete this piece? 
I worked on it on and off for about two years.

Tell us about another project you have published or are currently working on.
I’m beginning a series of shorter poems about the heroes who were crews and pilots on the famous B-17 Flying Fortress planes that helped end World War Two. These poems will accompany my “B-17 Photo Essays.”  The photos are now finished. Over a four year period I photographed an intact B-17 in exhaustive detail as I attempted to get views that helped the viewer have a sense of actually touching surfaces of the cramped, innermost areas of the kind of plane where 12 men fought heroically and thousands died. Writing these poems is some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done, but we are losing this history at a fast clip which made me want to record some of it, and pay my poetry tribute to it, while it is still with us.
What inspired this work?
I have an avid interest in American history; learning of the amazing flights of the B-17 made me want to photograph one of them. After one trip to the airport show, I was hooked! My “B-17 photo essays” went up on my website and I was incredibly astounded when my photo essays reached number one on a Google search out of almost sixty million other sites. Then the photos reached number one on Yahoo out of one hundred-thirteen million sites. At this point I thought that it should become a new photo book along with my poetry.
Where can we find this work?
The book is not yet published. It still awaits the poems. The title is B-17 PHOTO ESSAYS. You can view the “B-17 photo essays” hereYou can read a few of the poems that will go in the book here.

The Methods

How often do you write? 
I make a big effort to write for a few hours every single day no matter what else is going on. (Uh huh. That means 24/7.)

How many drafts do you generally go through before you consider a piece to be complete? 
On the average five to ten drafts seem to work, though on certain poems with intense themes there have been dozens and dozens of drafts! Oddly, my prose works don’t seem to need nearly as many drafts as my poetry needs. (Or do I only think so?)

What are your thoughts on writing at a computer vs. writing longhand? 
Love the computer, but I’m trying to get back to a little longhand so that I have the freedom to write anywhere at all, even in the bathtub or with dying batteries in a tent somewhere extreme.

How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication? 
I always, always celebrate with someone I love!

What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer?
Always be cautious about which advice you take on your writing.

The Madness

What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer? 
When the going gets tough with your writing, because you are the boss you can be tempted to grant yourself a hiatus, but then it may be almost impossible to get started writing again. 

What is your favorite word? 

What makes you laugh? 
I love how a great comedian surprises with witty, clever words; a little like some poetry does.

What makes you cry? 
The frightening fact that we will all live to see many animal species go extinct.

What’s in that cup on your desk? 
Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee...

Cats or Dogs? 
Both love writers!

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
The Rolling Stones

Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams? 
Tennessee Williams, ultimate Americana

Additional Reading on Judith

Issue 109

this is the dress
you filled

this is the tune’s
generic response

this is the gift
offered as illusion

- From "To Turn From Beauty" by Dan Sicoli

We would love to hear your opinions about our digital magazine issues! Please use the comment form found a the bottom of this page.

Contributors: A.J. Huffman, Zoltán Komor, Dean Kritikos, Lucille Lang Day, Brent Lucia, Stanley Noah, Rosalia Scalia, Dan Sicoli, Marguerite Weisman

Spring 2014 Anthology

We are pleased to present our latest anthology featuring the stand-out poetry and prose from our weekly digital publications!

Issue 109 Contributors

Marguerite Weisman was born in Los Angeles. She's an editor at HarperCollins and has her MFA from The New School. She now lives in Brooklyn. 

Brent is currently an adjunct lecturer at City College of New York and has been teaching both literature and writing courses for the past four years. Brent's poetry and short stories have appeared in such literary journals as BlazeVox12, Five Quarterly, The Promethean and Shot Glass Journal.

Rosalia Scalia writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay; The Baltimore Review; North Atlantic Review; Pebble Lake; Pennsylvania English; The Portland Review; Quercus Review; Smile, Hon, You’re In Baltimore; South Asian Ensemble; Spout Magazine; Taproot; Blue Lake Review, and Willow Review, among others. The story that appears in Taproot won first prize in its annual literary fiction competition for 2007, and “Uncharted Steps” merited a 2010 Individual Artist Grant from the Maryland State Art Council.“Sister Rafaele Heals the Sick,” first published by Pebble Lake Review and nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, appeared again in an anthology titled "City Sages: Baltimore" (CityLit Press, May 1, 2010), a collection of stories by 32 Baltimore writers, including Poe, Anne Tyler, and Alice McDermott, among others. Her story, “You’ll Do Fine,” was a recipient of the Willow Review Award for the Spring 2011 issue. Her story, “Henry’s Fall,” was a finalist in the Gival Press Short Story competition and her short story collection was selected as one of eleven finalists for the Sante Fe Writers Project Literary Award. Scalia earned a. master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University in May 2003. She lives in Baltimore, Md with her family.

Dan Sicoli is a co-editor with Slipstream Magazine. Bent fenders, broken guitar strings, second-hand dresses, and three-legged dogs have often made their way into his so-called poetry. He lives in Niagara Falls, NY where he can often be found banging a old Gibson in local dives, gin mills, and barrelhouses with an area rock'n'roll band. Pudding House Publications (Columbus, OH) released two of his chapbooks, "Pagan Supper" and "the allegories." He also oven dries his own garden tomatoes.

Zoltán, 27 years old and from Hungary, writes surreal short stories. His first book, a novel titled "Mesék Kaptárvárosból" (Tales from Hive City) was published in 2010. He is the editor of Katapult Kortárs Alkotói Oldal a site that focuses on neoavantgarde and postmodern literature, abstract paintings and electronic, mostly experimental music. Zoltán is published in Caliban Online, Thrice Fiction, The Phantom Drift, Gone Lawn, Exit Strata

Lucille Lang Day has published a children’s book, "Chain Letter," and eight poetry collections and chapbooks, including "The Curvature of Blue," "Infinities," and "The Book of Answers." Her first poetry collection, "Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope," was selected by Robert Pinsky for the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature. She is also the author of a memoir, "Married at Fourteen: A True Story," which received a 2013 PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Literary Award and was a finalist for the 2013 Northern California Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in more than one hundred literary journals, such as Atlanta Review, The Chattahoochee Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Hudson Review, The MacGuffin, Nimrod International Journal, Passages North, and The Threepenny Review. Visit Lucille's website or Twitter.

Dean is a full-time student at St. John's University, where he works in the Office of Sustainability and the Writing Center. He is Assistant Editor of the school's literary and Arts publication, Sequoya, and has been published in it, as well as the school's Humanities Review. Dean has presented work in featured performances with The Epic 12 Collective, The Inspired Word, and Poetry Teachers NYC, and will feature at an event hosted by Great Weather for MEDIA later in 2014. 

Stanley has a BGS degree  from The University of Texas at Dallas and has been published in the  following: Wisconsin Review, Nexus, Main Street Rag, South Carolina Review, Poetry Nottingham and other publications in the U.S.A.,Britain,Canada and New Zealand. He was the winner of The Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, 2006 and  Full of Crow Poet of the month,Sept., 2009.

A.J. Huffman has published seven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her eighth solo chapbook, "Drippings from a Painted Mind," won the 2013 Two Wolves Chapbook Contest. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press

Wordsmith Interview - Meryl McQueen

Meryl McQueen
Age 41
Sydney, Australia
Ph.D. in socio-linguistics. 

The Writer

How long have you been writing? 
I started seriously writing novels, poetry & short fiction about 10 years ago, after a long hiatus away from creative work.

Do you have a specific writing style?
For novels, I prefer writing literary fiction dense with evocative descriptions of place and space. My poetic bent has become more formalist over time, and I enjoy the challenge of combining tight structure with lyrical words and rhythm over the flow of free verse.

Do you see writing as a career? 
Yes, although not a lucrative one! 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer? 
To have my novella about Asperger’s, "A Close Approximation of an Ordinary Life," used in a master’s level class for teachers in special education for the past several years. 

The Work

"Debris," a poem in formal verse.

What inspired "Debris?"
Exploring a neighborhood forest with my infant son, watching him trail his fingers along the bark of a tree and try to touch the sky. I wanted to set up a contradictory story between the constant press of artificial production leading to over-consumption and the simplicity of our deep pre-disposition for taking comfort in the natural world. Debris grew out of that.

How long did it take you to complete this piece? 
Overall I probably worked on Debris for 12-15 hours in bursts of an hour at a time over many months. The first draft spun out like thread, smooth and easy, but the craft of snipping and sewing it into shape took a lot longer. This is how it usually goes when I write poetry.

Tell us about another project you are currently working on. 
I’ve been working on a poem, "Was," for the better part of eight years. My latest revision finally felt submission-worthy, and it was accepted for publication late last year.

What inspired this poem? 
Like a lot of my work, this poem takes as its central premise the juxtaposition of home and away, of here and there, of apart and together. As a lifelong global nomad, I am in constant flux between restlessness and the lure of putting down roots. Was sets up this dynamic in the broader context of humanity’s place in nature, and our desire to both subjugate and be subject to the world in which we live. It’s also a love story,  a narrative of being too far away, and of transforming to become part of a changed reality.

Where can we find "Was?"
In the latest issue of Town Creek Poetry

The Methods

Where do you write? 
Home, with the curtains mostly drawn against the piercing Southern Hemisphere sunshine, and earplugs in. Any noise is an unwelcome disruption.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing? 
Six or seven years ago I had an agent for two of my novels, but nothing came of it. A few years after that, I decided to self-publish twelve of my books on Amazon, and I haven’t looked back. I still focus on traditional publishing outlets for my poetry, but I am so glad that I went down the self-publishing road for the novels. I’ve sold thousands of books, and reached many more people than I would have with the full scope of my work, from middle grade books though to young adult and literary fiction. 

How many drafts do you generally go through before you consider a piece to be complete? Anywhere from 7 to 37. Some poems that ultimately find a publication home have been crashing like cymbals in my head for a decade or more.

What are your thoughts on writing at a computer vs. writing longhand? 
Whatever gets the words out. For poetry, I often start with scribbles in the margins of anything at hand, and then move to my laptop. Because much of my work is highly structured, it helps to have the standardization of a screen while I mold the piece.

The Madness

Who is your favorite author? 
Emily Dickinson for her incredible inner life and her gift of insight into human struggles with the big questions. My contemporary favorite is the Australian poet Stephen Edgar. He writes rich, precise, dense poetry that arcs across ancient mythology and modern angst with equal skill. 

What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer? 
Becoming a recluse—although arguably, that could be the greatest occupational reward for a writer as well! There is such joy, power, and energy in solitude that sometimes I have to drag myself back into the world.

What is your favorite word? 
‘Scintillate,’ though I’d never use it in a poem because it has an (undeserved) reputation for being both sentimental and pretentious.

Rain or Sunshine? 
Damp, still, gray.

Beach or Mountains? 

Pen or Pencil? 
Pistachio green pen.

Additional Reading on Meryl

Australian DIR/Floortime Research Network—in one of my other lives, I’m the founder and director of this network dedicated to research into developmental approaches to treating autism spectrum disorders.
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