August 21, 2013

The Symphony and the Sorrow: A Review of Julie Marie Wade's Postage Due by Hillary Katz

cover credit: White Pine Press
Postage Due by Julie Marie Wade
White Pine Press (2013)

Review by Hillary Katz

Julie Marie Wade’s Postage Due is a familiar yet unique coming-of-age journey through prose poetry. By using varying form and perspective, Wade chronicles her girlhood with the masked but overriding wisdom of adult experience. She heavily references a number of literary, movie, and television characters and actors, including the disgraced Hester Prynne, the naïve Dorothy Gale, and the independent Mary Tyler Moore, as well as real-life people such as the author’s mother and despised dermatologist. Wade connects all of these people to her personal oppression, confusion, and maturation that follow central themes of burgeoning self-discovery and sexuality.

Much of the book consists of direct letters and postcards. Although these forms are effective in portraying the struggle and angst of the speaker, they often lack the linguistic musicality and surprise that separates poetry from prose. In fact, many of the direct letter poems, such as “Dear Mary Tyler Moore:” seem to be better suited for a young adult novel than a poetry collection due to their juvenile tone and sentiment. For example, Wade writes:
Well, I like to swear sometimes. It’s liberating. And I’ve sampled cigarettes, & I’ve gotten high a few times, & I don’t think it’s such a crime. (I certainly don’t think it’s evil.) And even though I’m probably never going to be a true bad-ass like Rizzo, I’m already way past Sandra Dee. Does that make sense? It’s like I just haven’t been able to experience so many things, & now I’m hungry (starving, actually) to get out & try everything.
Although the self-realization here is one that many people can relate to, the writing’s literal nature relates more to Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret than to a serious book of poetry.

This is not to say that the author is incapable of musicality and surprising language. More “grown-up” poems are interspersed throughout the book, including several religion-themed ones and a few ekphrastic poems. These sparser, “older” poems are a welcomed relief to the dominant teenage-torment-themed pieces. The uses of memory and seeing the self from an outsider’s perspective are well placed and presented in a lyrical, subtle way that creates mystery and intrigue for readers. For example, the book’s opening poem, “Aubade,” paints an imagistic picture of summer in Pittsburgh with an interestingly weighty tone. The speaker states, “I remember being born,” and ends with “Stay close. The earth is shaking / (or) / I see you, / even when / you’re hidden.”

A successful direct reference poem is “This Thing I Want, I Know Not What (A Correspondence with Mick Kelly).” The speaker’s imagined conversation with the protagonist of Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter cuts to the loneliness and confusion of adolescence in a refreshingly understated way. Wade writes, “Difference is the darkest word in this whole / hard language,” to explain the isolation felt by her younger self. In an exploration of her sexuality, the speaker reveals a surprising and intimate (presumably first-time) scene:
Under the pelt of his skin, I was hiding. I still
remember how heavy he was, rocking
from side to side. I didn’t want to be that kind of woman,
the kind that turns to sawdust in their hands.
The animalistic “pelt of his skin” portrays the rawness of inexperience, and the reflection of wanting something different than the stereotypical submissive female norm is important to the book’s central ideas—both for readers and for humanity as a progressive species steering away from gender rules.

The poem ends with the resonating line, “So this is the symphony then, this is the sorrow.” Truly, this line embodies the heart of Postage Due—the ongoing, essential process of discovering one’s self, and the strange juxtaposition of pain and beauty that inherently comes with it.

August 19, 2013

Weave Issue 09 Has Arrived!

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Weave Issue 09 is here! And we couldn't be more excited to share one of our best issues yet! I've been reading Weave for many years now, but this issue is particularly exciting for me because it's the first issue I actually helped make happen as Managing Editor. I'm so proud of the result and inspired by everyone at Weave who came together to create such a beautiful issue.

The striking cover by Jason John presupposes what Issue 09 is all about: harmony and disharmony, strength versus weakness, and beauty and aggression. Throughout, these authors and artists imagine and explore life before birth all the way through adolescence, sexual exploration, romantic entanglements, and growing old. Gender is torn apart and put back together in ways that are surprising and thought-provoking, asking in many different ways, what does it mean to be me, us, them?

These stories, poems, drawings, and photographs are at once haunting, gorgeous, grotesque, funny, and always engaging. I am truly in awe of the talent held within theses pages, and I can't wait to see what these established and emerging writers and artists do next.

We hope you love Issue 09 as much as we do. You can buy this issue or subscribe to Weave here.

August 17, 2013

Issue 01 Redux: Making Weight by Jared Ward

When Weave opened for submissions for our first issue, we had no idea what kind of work the slush pile would yield. We knew whose writing we admired, and we solicited a good part of that first issue. We were trying to establish Weave’s aesthetic, which was something I believed we could define. So when we read Jared Ward’s flash fiction submission “Making Weight,” I was surprised by how it delighted me. A story about wrestling? I wasn't an athlete, nor was my former co-editor, but she and I both found ourselves giddy over this intensely focused glimpse into an unfamiliar world. I was able to enter this story, which, at its core reveals the unique bond between teammates and friends, and in there I found kinship with the characters.

I could not have predicted wanting to publish a story about wrestling, however, when we accepted Jared’s piece I started to become the editor I am today: one who is willing to see the common thread that ties together a well-crafted story or poem, no matter the world in which it takes place. The voice of Weave is the voice of many, and it's redefined with each issue. I believe the last line of “Making Weight” really encapsulates this broad aesthetic; ‘Anywhere there’s everything...” That’s Weave. Enjoy.

Laura E. Davis
founding editor, Weave Magazine


Making Weight by Jared Ward

     My draws hit the floor, taking a quarter pound with them. I stepped naked onto the beam scale, cold metal under my feet. Slid the big weight to the right, clicking it into the hundred notch, then flicked the smaller one to 18, 19, 20.
     One pound over. One hour til weigh-in.
     I stepped off as Eddie slipped out of his boxers.
     Not yet.
     He laughed like a young Tone-Loc, a six a.m. laugh, his white teeth gleaming, always gleaming in his black cantaloupe head, teeth I’d ask him to show in the dark of the bus coming home from a meet in Derby or Wichita, Ark City or Winfield.
     Eddie, where are you? Smile so we can all see you.
     He’d sock my arm, flash me those pearlies, and turn up Too Short, Geto Boys, or whatever rap he had in his Walkman.
     Teammate. Friend.
     I layered two pairs of warm-ups over illegal plastic, the suit trapping heat so I’d sweat like a hydrant. Pulled on my Asics and laced them up tight, always tight.
     If you’re gonna die, die with your boots on, coach always said.
     Eddie, skin and bones, a shadow in the dim locker room light, stepped off.
     How much?
     I’m under.
     He grinned. Half.
     See you upstairs.
     I stopped at the fountain, letting the cold fill my mouth, swishing it twice before spitting it back. I’d taken three swallows for lunch eighteen hours before, not nearly enough to drive away dreams of pizza and milk and medium ribeyes.
     The thermostat was on the far side of the room. I cranked it to ninety, high as it went, and stood under the vent. Heat, when cutting fifteen pounds every week, is a wrestler’s best friend. The night before I ran three miles after practice, then drove to the health club and jumped in the sauna, pounding out push-ups and sit-ups on steamed wooden benches. The air got too hot to breathe and I crawled to the floor, pressed my face hard to the doorway crack, and sucked the cool air from outside.
     Fifteen pounds was almost too much.
Waiting for Eddie, I crouched in front of the mirrors on the wall, shot imaginary doubles and popped to my feet. Singles and arm drags and fireman’s carries.
     He was buttoning his headgear, the old school ones shaped like big headphones. I grabbed my new triangles whose front strap always fell over my eyes. Snapped it.
Let’s go.
     After some hand-checking, he caught an underhook, stepped deep with his right foot and snagged my left heel. Had to give him the takedown, twisting to save back points. Caught a wicked crossface on the bridge of my nose and he drove my face to the mat. I could feel the burn as the top layers of skin disappeared from the left side of my forehead.
I cussed him and drove my head back, fought to my knees, feet, then broke his grip to escape. Turned and faced him.
     He smiled.
     Lucky, I said, and we circled, probing for weakness.
     My legs felt too worn to be weary. It was Thursday morning, because meets were always on Thursday, and it’d been Sunday since my last meal of more than a Powerbar and a couple of kiwis, or a cup of plain noodles and a few leaves of lettuce. By Wednesday morning, it was just a sugarless grapefruit for breakfast, then nothing until after weigh-ins. I hated grapefruit, but they took the longest to eat.
     The running, though, hit me the hardest. Three miles before school, stair laps at lunchtime, two miles before practice, a mile at the start, and three miles after. Monday through Wednesday, usually Friday. Toss in practice with two pairs of sweats, sometimes the plastic, an extra two hundred push-ups and sit-ups at home, and by Thursday, fatigue was more of a concept than anything tangible.
     Eddie’s dark hands trying to tear me apart, that was tangible.
     Our heads came together, ear to ear, my right hand clenching his neck, his right curled around mine, and our lefts grabbing and pulling whatever they could. Locked in those tight circles, his breath was the loudest sound I could hear, smooth exhales surrounded by dull thuds of our warring bodies and the plastic clap of our headgear colliding.
     He tried again for the underhook. I caught it this time, pushed his arm inside and clamped a front headlock. I sprawled back, forcing him to the mat, and as I cranked his neck to the side a river of sweat poured out hidden plastic, onto his head.
     Shrieked like a girl. You wearing the Hefties?
     Gotta. No time.
     Bastard, he said, wiping himself. Come on.
     We went twenty more minutes, wrenching each other down to the ground, trying to squeeze out the air, inflict enough pain so the other would quit. Sometimes we’d careen out of bounds and lie side by side, lungs sucking the heat. One would get up, offer a hand, and head back to the center.
     I’d just escaped and turned towards him. He was hunched over, hands on his knees, looking at me.
     Under yet?
     I shrugged. We’ll see.
     On the stairs his arm slung over my shoulder. I won, he said, and I thought for a moment.
     Tied, I said, and he knew he was right.
     Pushed me into the wall and took off. I call first.
     I stripped by my locker while Eddie toweled off, weighed, and sighed in relief. Left my clothes in a puddle and stepped on.
     Under. Fifteen minutes to spare.
     Lying on the bench he asked, where we eating?
     Anywhere there’s everything, I said, closing my eyes.


Jared Ward has had work accepted by West Branch, Santa Clara Review, New Delta Review, and others. More importantly, he never missed weight... even if he sometimes wanted to.

This story originally appeared in Weave Magazine Issue 01, October 2008

August 10, 2013

Synesthetic Repast: A Review of Katherine Rauk's Basil by Mindy Kronenberg

cover credit: Black Lawrence Press
Basil by Katharine Rauk
Black Lawrence Press (2011)

Review by Mindy Kronenberg

There is a clever sort of alchemy at work in the poems in Basil, Katharine Rauk’s poetry chapbook. These thirty-one oddly compelling and challenging poems emerge as collective parables that, taken together, form a surreal, spiritual, and sensual guide to this and the next life.

Some poems combine prose and poetry narrative formats, transitioning between exterior and interior events, creating an effect of guided dreaming. For example, in “Suicide Rates Spike Near High Voltage Power Lines,” we meet a woman who knew “the metal switchbox outside her apartment window… was the very voice box of God,” and “ …felt God’s voice thrum around the rims of teacups, pulse along the floorboards’ crease.” As she lies on her bed awaiting her reward, the story breaks from prose into stanza, and the narrative distills into electrified testimony: [She felt]
God’s voice
sizzle in her teeth, she felt
God’s voice surge
down the wire
of her spine, and
God’s voice gather
in the satellite
saucers of her knees…
Rauk uses the same split in “Heartbone (I),” this time in the form of a wistful reverie, a poetic escape amidst a meal with repellent company. She has the ability to create micro-dramas with minimal context but tremendous tension, maintaining a visceral connection to the human dynamic in its many guises.

There are startling transitions in poems with such concrete titles as “Blood Orange,” “Basil,” and “After Cooking with Turmeric.” Each encounter is a journey that transcends culinary expectations. In the first, the poet asks: “Is this a fruit, / a wound, a lover?” In the last, an act of intimacy is savored as a synesthetic repast: “Now / we are opening / vaulted windows / to a sunlight of bees, / a thousand burnished / throats.”

Ultimately, there is a great deal of longing in the poems in Basil, desire entwining with ambiguity, seeking reason or redemption. In “Vignette,” enchantment and superstition take hold in a ritual for a woman wishing for motherhood. Rauk writes, “…so she tied a cucumber to her waist. // Cucumber vines crept beyond / the edges of the garden plot / like sticky fingers swiping from the sweet jar.” In “Heartbone II,” the poet/narrator seeks discovery in the intricate parts of herself—“My nub, my sweetness, my buried / bruise. My blue note and knotted / fruit stone, my blood knocking at the edge / of known…” By presenting an inventory of tactile and temporal elements (“root bits and flesh / snips, snarls of hair that won’t let loose. Made of loss, made of juice…”), she wonders if her own personhood will fully emerge among the sum of her parts. This speaks to the poet’s earnest process in each work in Basil, a hunt for the self within the confounding yet comforting sensory-tangled world.