A curated literary guide

Week #46 / 13th – 19th November, 2017

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Essential Needlework Advice for Shadows, Spectres, and other Ethereal Beings

a story from Rachel Linn​

Melding attitudes of do-it-yourself with self-made, Linn’s flash story is a build yourself into being through needlework. Focused so intimately on the body, certain moments, read on their own, lean towards allegory; building skin suddenly becomes about how to be a mentally healthy person in the world: “Choose a thick yarn for this part, worsted weight or larger, to avoid thinness of skin, and knit using small needles to create a tight stitch that will allow nothing to come through.” Even taken as a whole, there’s room to read the story as commentary on physical strength, emotional growth, illness, or motherhood. But the most interesting way is to read her story is as a true missive on how to build a body. Linn is also an illustrator, and she paired the story with an uncanny set of illustrations that on first blush appear to be straight out of a classic needlework book, but a deeper look suggests a literal interpretation of the text in the weirdest way. The net result is interesting, unsettling, and above all, charming.

Visit bracken to read the story.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

How I became fatherless

a poem from Kristin Chang

I drive
across two states, counting roadkill, recording
my speed in miles
per dead thing.

Today I have this beautiful poem by Kristin Chang that does what I always imagined good poetry should; skirt the line between beautiful and painful, the vivid and uncertain. There are too many moments in this poem I want to share with you that I could come near enough to reciting the entire thing back to you.

He smiles with rubbled
teeth, cavities clean as bulletholes. Asleep, he’s still as a shot
& skinned animal.

There’s something about retracing difficult moments, conflicting or painful memories, laying recollection down on the dissection table, that doesn’t always translate perfectly to poetry. This is a perfect example of the opposite. It begins to feel like poetry is the only way to remember, to work backwards in a way that shapes sense from circumstance, if that’s at all possible. The language and imagery is crisp and rich, evoking a juxtaposition of sensory input that leaves a negative afterimage lingering when you shut your eyes; the sensation of something alive, something bright and breathing and sweet, something waiting to be unspooled.

In California, my first fatherless
home is infested with beehives
vibrating walls into muscle.

Visit Frontier Poetry to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong

My Body Is a Destroyer

a story from Hannah Gordon

A friend sent me Hannah Gordon’s story ‘My Body Is a Destroyer’ over Gchat with the words “this is upsetting” preceding the link, and I wasn’t sure what to do with that sort of preface.

This story is upsetting—and it’s upsetting in such a profound and resonant way that I scarcely know how to speak to its power.

Craftwise, the decision to space the text out in extremely short paragraphs gives the narrative a terrifying amount of speed. A woman and her boyfriend are trying to get pregnant—though we know from the beginning the woman attempted to self-sabotage the process—and along the way the surrounding world slips into something resembling apocalyptic ruin. Or maybe it’s the interior emotional strife of the narrator made manifest. Regardless, it works, it gives voice a multilayered conflict of maternity, biology, relationships, and existential dread.

It’s the best kind of upsetting, because it gives you the chance to resettle anew.

Visit (b)OINK to read the story.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

Under Discussion

visual art from Allora & Calzadilla

In ‘Under Discussion’, we’re given an unlikely scene: a flipped dinner table that acts similarly to a boat. The table speeding along water is so compelling in its ability to succinctly express diaspora. In some shots, parts of the table are spliced out; I shifted in my seat repeatedly to see what this fisherman was atop. Because this is an object that is usually at the center of a room, communities gather around to eat, discuss, and/or commune with each other. Yet when it’s stripped of context, we aren’t allowed to linger in the room it came from. We aren’t invited into the party, but into this singular view of the surrounding island instead. When we go “under the discussion”, we only experience forward movement into the sea.

In their ART21 interview, the creators Calzadilla and Allora explained that after Puerto Rico was demilitarized, the conversation about how the island’s future development was stuck because “the very people who had been involved in the popular resistance to the Navy’s bombing range were among those who were excluded from the conversation.” So, to take the table is to reclaim your voice, to remind others of just how barren a room can be without its nucleus.

The rev of the attached motor cuts through the shhhing sound of the waves, adding to the permeating sense of anxiety. Each pan away from the water unveils a new trauma. The beautiful shots of the seascape contrast starkly with bomb craters, tanks, a sign that says “Unexploded Bombs.” We get a sense that even though violence has already been enacted, the capacity for violence remains intact. Have the bombs been lifted from their previous site? Where could they be housed safely? How can they rebuild/enhance the landscape that’s fallen ruin? The table is constantly exposed to the elements, even as it glides through waterways. It’s always in conversation because it's never not touching its surroundings. Truly surveying is one of the first steps towards having a worthy conversation, and situating the table amidst the topic makes that possible.

View a snippet on YouTube & the ART21 interview’s photogallery

Contributing Editor / Nix Thérèse