Exploring the Universe by Howie Good

Issue 13

Do I believe the Earth
is shaped like a Frisbee?
I believe it is.
Do I know for sure?

I’m not a robot.
I’m just a guy looking around.
It’ll kill you.
It’ll scald you to death.
It’ll blow the skin
and muscle off your bones.
I’ll feel it in the morning.

At least I can go home
and have dinner
and see my cats tonight.

Source: npr.org, One Giant Leap for a Man One Small Step Toward Proving the Earth is a Frisbee, March 26th, 2018

Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. 

Cause of Death by Brenda Birenbaum

Issue 13

I just moved into a house
and they are all dying
every day for a few minutes
from the inside out
you wonder how this disease
in its virulent form
suddenly appears

we continue to see
wildfires along the roads
beginning in autumn
near motorways
anywhere you live

the roads in winter
when there’s snow or heavy frost
huge swaths turning brown
starting at the bottom
spreading to the top

death along with disappearance
the biggest I have seen
as the drought continues
a growing wasteland
this vernal time of year

we live in the country
summer progresses
along the roadways
it is a slow death
from the top down
We refer to this situation as decline
for want of an exact cause of death

Source & Method: DuckDuckGo search engine results for the term “dying pines”, using odds and ends from the blurbs in the results page. Not always in order and some slightly revised.

Brenda Birenbaum writes things. Her work has appeared in Low Light Magazine, The Vignette Review, Random Sample Review and elsewhere. Find her @brbirenbaum.

O Poetry by Ronnie Sirmans

Issue 13

There is always hope
always tomorrow
the way a great poem can move you.
You’ll detect a woodsy bouquet
of jasmine, rose, and oak
as delicate as can be
without ink soaking through.

Source: O, The Oprah Magazine, April 2011 issue

Method: For National Poetry Month 2011, Oprah’s magazine featured poems and poets, with help from guest editor Maria Shriver. Seeking to find inspiration from the special issue, I created a poem in which each line came from pieces that weren’t poems.

Ronnie Sirmans is a metro Atlanta newspaper journalist whose poetry has appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, The Museum of Americana, Britain-based Blackbox Manifold, and elsewhere.

Like Any Good Son by Kathy Douglas

Issue 13

Open this when you need me most
Don’t you know? A mother’s love can’t sleep
Instead, let it be the echo to every footstep

Suppose you do change your life
Tell me it was for hunger, a finger’s worth
of dark from daybreak behind the fallen oak,

a scar’s width of warmth on a worn man’s neck
where everything has a price afterward.
I woke into the red dark.  There was a door

& then a door
a b c   a b c a b c   Red
is only black remembering we made it

Don’t be afraid
I approach a field
I pull into the field

& cut the engine
& close his eyes
& this is how we danced

Source: First lines. Vuong, Ocean. Night Sky With Exit Wounds.  Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2016.

Method: Selected first lines are transcribed in list form, and the poem is written using the list as a basis (including title).  No words are added.  Not all lines are used.  Lines are moved, blended, restructured, and truncated (at end only). All words are kept in the order in which they appear in the original line of text. 

Kathy Douglas is writing a series of centos on estrangement using first lines from individual books of poetry. Kathy has three poems forthcoming in an anthology of found poetry, and her work can be found in Right Hand Pointing, After The Pause, shufpoetry, Unlost Journal, Calyx, Drunken Boat, The Cafe Review, Noctua, and Poetry WTF?! She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College.

Lost Child by Emily McAvan

Issue 13

To write,
you have to do,
and then suddenly undo,

You have to live,
fragments of yourself
exploded to splinters,
you have to want
something to survive.

I was so afraid that I thought
in the disquiet of my mind,
the fear and disgust,
that one writes to inflict pain.

But where is it written that you have to be unhappy?


Source: Story of a Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

Method: I wrote this poem with the aid of a Markov text generator, which feeds in prose as an input and generates an output randomly. I grabbed the best bits of random prose, repeating the process until I got something I liked, and then edited for sense from there. I worked using material from the pseudonymous Italian writer Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels are some of the best literature of the last decade.

Emily McAvan is a Jewish Australian poet whose work sits at the intersection between sacred and profane.

21st Century Old Money by Thomas Fahey

Issue 13

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water…Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor, and women’s voices scolding, and high over the confusion a long broken wail of pain

I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, I don’t even wait.  And when you’re a star…you can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything

Civilization’s going to pieces. I’ve grown to be a terrible pessimist about things.  The is if we don’t look out the white race will be-will be utterly submerged … we’ve produce all the things that go to make civilization-oh science and art and all that

They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people…I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for the wall.  Mark my words

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since “ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone” he told me ‘ just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”

Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on….so we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past

Source: F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and actual speeches by President Donald Trump.

Method: I took passages from the easily quotable novel, and tied them in the following passage to some of the monstrous things (about sexual assault and overt racism) actually said by the president.  The last passage combines his fascistic call for an end to Muslim immigration with Gatsby’s most famous line, trying to evoke a sense of futility but a need for resistance.

Thomas Fahey is a 31 year old graduate student living alone in Columbia, South Carolina.  He is intensely bored by his day to day life, but creative writing is providing an emerging escape from the mundane.  He is influenced by authors ranging from Hunter Thompson and Jack Kerouac to Rimbaud and Artaud. He is originally from New York City but has lived all across the United States, and is fascinated by the absurdity of modern American society.  He is genuinely frightened by the idea of settling down with a wife to raise two kids in SUV’s behind white picket fences, and in general hopes for his life to take a more interesting path.