For Ecotone’s fall 2019 Love Issue, on our fourteenth anniversary, we’re looking for fine poems in fourteen-line forms: sonnets of all kinds, rondels prime (aka rondels supreme), and brefs double. We’ll be open to poetry submissions all day on Valentine’s Day, on which date we will consider poems in these fourteen-line forms only.
Please send us your best of these, and help us spread the word!
Rondel prime (or supreme)
The rondel prime is a plain old rondel (though what rondel is plain old?) with an added final line. It goes like this—
ABba abAB abbaAB
—where initial-capped letters are refrain lines and lower-case letters are rhymes. Most meters work well for a rondel, we reckon.
The bref double consists of three quatrains and a final couplet, much like a Shakespearean sonnet. There are three rhymes, noted a, b, and c. The a and b rhymes each appear twice in each of the first three stanzas—not necessarily, per Lewis Turco’s A Book of Forms, at the end of a line—and once each in the final couplet. The last line of each quatrain ends with a c rhyme. Lines should be of (roughly) equal length, but there’s no set meter for the bref double.
The card shown above gives the basics for Petrarchan—often abba abba cdecde—and Shakespearean—abab cdcd efef gg—sonnets. There are so many resources for sonnet-writing that we won’t say more here, except that two sonnets we’ve loved recently are this one, from Anna Maria Hong, and this one, from Cortney Lamar Charleston; we are interested in terza rima sonnets, Sicilian sonnets, etc., along with the more usual varieties; and we’d love to read sonnets in any meter. Also, we sure would like to see a crown or two.
As always, we read submitted work with all upcoming issues in mind—so if you submit work with this theme issue in mind, if we love it but can’t fit it in Love, we’ll be in touch about publishing it in another of our upcoming issues.
As the holidays approach, so does the time to curl up with beautiful and necessary books like Honey from the Lion, Matthew Neil Null’s debut novel from Lookout Books. The book, about a rebellion at a logging company in the West Virginia Alleghenies, is both lyrical and suspenseful, an elegy to the ecological devastation and human tragedy behind the Gilded Age.
Our solstice gift to you is an annotated soundscape for the book, expertly produced by folklorist, writer, media producer, andEcotone contributor Emily Hilliard. Listen to the sounds of crows, trains, and fiddles and imagine yourself right into the world of Honey from the Lion.
0:00Environmental sounds: Crows, great blue herons, steam trains, crosscut saw, axes.
An overture to situate us in place aurally.
1:22“On Johnny Mitchell’s Train” by Jerry Byrne, recorded by George Gershon Korson at Buck Run, Pennsylvania, 1946. Song from the 1902 Anthracite miner strike. Via the Library of Congress.
The 1902 strike by the United Mine Workers of America in the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania was supported by nearly 80 percent of miners in the area, and it would have been fresh in the minds of the timber companies and loggers represented in Honey from the Lion. The character Judge Randolph is said to have studied the strike, fearing the power of unions: “There’s always a copperhead in the woodpile.”
The protagonist Cur makes reference to Frank and Jesse James to explain a “cowboy book” he’s reading. The notorious duo would have been something akin to pop-culture icons in the days of Cur’s youth.
7:09 “Old Greasy Coat” by Edden Hammons.
Edden Hammons, the fiddler of the famed Hammons family of West Virginia traditional musicians, makes a cameo in Null’s novel. A lyric from the popular fiddle tune “Greasy Coat” (or “Old Greasy Coat”) is also referenced (“Tell the preacher, tell the pulpit, I don’t wear no greasy coat”). It’s a fitting selection for the town of Helena’s Commercial Street with its brothels and taverns; a “greasy coat” was slang for a condom.
8:53 “Ughniyah li al-Atfal (Song for Children)” by Nicholas Debs, recorded in Jacksonville, Florida, 1940. Via the Library of Congress.
A song for Lis Grayab, the Syrian peddler.
11:38 “Nathan Killed the Bell Cow” by Phyllis Marks of Gilmer County, West Virginia. From Phyllis Marks: Old-time Songs of West Virginia, Augusta Heritage Recordings.
Phyllis Marks is, according to folklorist Gerry Milnes, the last active ballad singer left in West Virginia who learned “by heart,” via oral transmission from her family members. Her repertoire includes both English Child ballads and songs of the frontier, such as this one she got from her father-in-law. She says it is a play-party game from the Civil War era.
A puncheon floor, made of logs split with a broad ax, is one of the domestic elements of early West Virginia that has become embedded in my mind. This is probably attributable to the imagery in the song “Come All You Virginia Gals,” which warns of the rough ways of West Virginia boys and describes their frontier homes, “clapboard roof and an old slab door, sandstone chimney and a puncheon floor.” It turns out that the song appears in numerous regions of the country, always cautioning young women off Arkansas boys or Texas boys or Mormon boys, with the West Virginia iteration appearing in 1928. I chose the “Puncheon Floor” fiddle tune, which originates a little closer to home. This version of the popular West Virginia and Kentucky dance tune comes from Manon Campbell of Letcher County, Kentucky.
14:46 Little Pink by William May of Mingo County, West Virginia, recorded by Gerry Milnes in West Virginia, 1990–1991. From Folksongs & Ballads, Vol. 4, Augusta Heritage Recordings.
“I never will marry no logging man who drives a four-horse team.”
16:59 “Peg ’n Awl” by Melvin Wine of Braxton County, West Virginia, recorded at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music, 1989. Via the Digital Library of Appalachia.
This is another fiddle tune named after what would have been an everyday term in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in West Virginia. A peg and awl were tools used by a cordwainer, or leatherpunch, to make shoes. The tools appear as names to songs of the era—one with lyrics celebrating the mechanization of shoemaking, and the other being this fiddle tune, here played by legendary Braxton County fiddler Melvin Wine.
“Looking up, Cur waved lightly to a leatherpunch, who sat on a stoop working shoes with a peg and awl. The man was old enough for everyone to call him uncle.”
22:13 “#26BT Social Band,” Harmonia Sacra singing from Elkhart, Indiana, recorded 2006. From Joyfully Onward I Move.
Cur sorts through Grayab’s books—a Bible, Aesop’s fables, Greek myths, a Mennonite hymnal. At that time in West Virginia, that hymnal would likely have been the shape-note Genuine Church Music, published by Joseph Funk in Winchester, Virginia, in 1832. The form was subsequently renamed Harmonia Sacra and is seldom practiced today, save by a few Mennonite communities in Virginia and Indiana. This recording happens to be from a “sing” in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana.
24:19 Environmental sounds: storm, church bell, ax.
25:20 Thurmond drainpipe, recorded by Emily Hilliard in Thurmond, West Virginia, 2016.
I made this recording of a drainpipe in the circa-1920s rail and coal boom town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Much of this New River town is now owned by the National Park Service, and only a few homes are inhabited. The rest of the town—bank and store fronts, one-room schoolhouse, old hotel, and coal tipple—is a preserved shell of what it once was, bearing that certain eerie beauty that all ghost towns seem to share. As it goes, even the drainpipes are uncanny, wind and water echoing against the old brick facades, alluding to what once was.
“Viewed from that peak, the land was a mutilated sea. Naked Mount Spruce in the distance, biting clouds, highest in the state. They saw no deer, no livestock, not even a carrion crow. The horrible tranquility of it all. No birds sang. Nothing but the sound of their own voices, their own thoughts. They had emptied their world like a jug.”
Hurricane season for the Atlantic officially ended on Friday, November 30th, but the effects of Hurricanes Florence and Michael—and Matthew in 2016—on Wilmington and nearby communities are still ongoing.
Over the weekend of September 14, Hurricane Florence dumped nearly three feet of rain on our town. Our home institution, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, was closed for a month, the longest it has ever been closed for a weather event.
We were lucky: the extent of the damage for Ecotone and Lookout’s offices was a few leaky ceiling tiles, and many lost hours of reading, editing, and production. We’re grateful to the subscribers and submitters and contributors who supported us during that time, and who have been so patient as we’ve gotten back on our feet. We’re thrilled about the release of Trespass, the new Lookout Books anthology of essays from Ecotone, this month—and thrilled, too, about publishing our newest issue, the Body Issue.
So many in North Carolina and elsewhere suffered far more serious losses—of homes and livelihoods, of access to safe drinking water and mold-free living spaces. Thirty-seven people in North Carolina lost their lives to Florence. Rivers flooded to record-setting heights, and as the waters, polluted with hog waste and coal ash, receded, they left dead fish along I-40, millions of dollars of damage in their wake, and uncertainties about the health of the river and surrounding ecosystems.
Many good things come out of Split This Rock Festival interactions and panel discussions—we’re proud to celebrate the birth of one!Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthologywas conceived as a result of a panel Split This Rock Co-Founder Melissa Tuckey hosted on June Jordan and environmental justice poetry back in 2012. Many, many months later, this groundbreaking book is at last in print! Pushing back against colonizing ideas of nature as unpeopled wilderness, Ghost Fishing presents a rich terrain of culturally diverse perspectives on issues of environmental crisis and resistance. Grounded in social justice and the belief that all beings have the right to a healthy, safe environment and home, this culturally diverse collection engages with many of the most pressing issues of our time, while also offering hope around our shared future. Come celebrate this necessary and inspiring book and help us think about how to get it out in communities. Bring a copy and get it signed by poets and the editor!
In 1973, Ellen Bass co-edited, with Florence Howe, the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks!. Howe began her introduction, “This is not the last word on women poets. Indeed, in some respects it is more like the first word, since so little has been written about them as a group.” How far we’ve come! But in the moment of #MeToo and our often still-paltry representation in the ranks of publishing, how far we still have to go! Join a mutigenerational discussion as we honor our history and those who’ve gone before, celebrate successes, and rededicate ourselves to knocking down doors and building inclusive spaces that welcome all our many, varied, and glorious voices.
Does the poet-as-parent sometimes feel the joy and pain of a nation in turmoil more acutely than those without children? Whether that’s true, or even worth our time to debate in light of such great need, what is true is that some poets have children and some choose to speak to those children about the world through their poems. This themed reading explores the ways in which a diverse panel of contemporary poets speak to their children in their work. In a metaphor for vaccination–when a parent takes an infant to a clinic to receive a weakened virus in order to build immunity against it– we sometimes use the word “inoculate,” meaning to graft an “eye” (oculus) of one plant into another. Here “eye” stands in for “bud,” the new leaf forming, and thus, through the act of inoculation, we figuratively “give sight” to our children. We graft in the new eye. These poems are the new eye. This is the world we teach them to see.
7 – 8:30 p.m. | National Housing Center Auditorium | ASL interpretation provided. Reading followed by a book signing. Books will be available for sale by Split This Rock partner Busboys & Poets Books. Free & Open to the public.
Comedy has historically been a tool for social change, used to influence those in power and subvert the status quo. But how can humor be used to resist a regime whose leader is described as “satire-proof”? What powers and responsibilities do poetry and stand-up carry in times of political turmoil and repression? What does it mean to have an attitude of “No F*cks” while fighting forces that seek to keep us hopeless and inert? In this lively panel, five women poets will read from work that sits at the intersection of satire, performance, and social critique and that seeks to reclaim and disrupt dehumanizing rhetoric through an unapologetic, fierce poetics. They will discuss the influence of comedy on their craft, specifically the ways humor can upend and challenge systems of oppression. We hope this reading will generate robust discussion and audience participation on creating work that claims our humanity while exposing the absurd ineptitude and cowardly violence of the current regime.
Editing is an act of love—an effort to help writers find their work’s best form and to help readers discover that work. Two editors who work with poets for publication in national literary magazines will offer writers fresh strategies for revising their own work and for offering practical feedback on others’ work. With both existing examples and poems written during the workshop, we’ll practice using tools from the craft of editing, including the art of querying as well as considerations of syntax, rhetoric, grammar, usage, and more. We’ll explore strategies for providing feedback without furthering oppression around class, race, gender, place of origin, and sexuality. We’ll discuss ways to engage compassionately, openly, and truthfully with both our own identities and those of the writers we work with. We’ll consider the peculiar benefits and challenges of being a poet-editor, as well as ways to get started as an editor for those who wish to explore the field. Writers will leave the workshop with a packet of revision prompts and resources for editing.
Writing that emerges from place can reveal not only the effects of oppression but also the radical joy that can come from attempts to know a landscape well and live in right relation to it. The poets featured in this workshop and reading use diverse formal strategies to write from the Southern places they know, love, and struggle with. They explore ecological vibrancy and decline, historical erasure and resurrection, regional speech and song, gender, and the intersections between environmental and social justice. Each will read from recent work and then offer a prompt designed to inspire writing from place and aid poetic practice. A minibook containing the prompts will be offered to those in attendance, and the session will include time for conversation among readers and audience members about place-based practice.
At Ecotone, we carefully consider interior layout, text treatment, and design because we want the held object to be a pleasing vehicle for the written content. The Ecotone design team works to create an individualized design for each opening page of fiction and nonfiction. They are charged with creating a visual feel, considering images and type, to accompany and amplify the impact of the piece. In this blog department, staff designers highlight past Ecotone spread designs that inspire them, and discuss design principles they incorporate in their work.
The blend of hand-lettering and photography really draws me to this design. “What We Fed to the Manticore” is grounded in place, much like the spread is grounded by the mangrove roots. I love how the shape of the letterforms mimic the flow of water or silt while acknowledging the playfulness of the story’s animal first-person point of view. The mangrove roots were designed by taking the original image via Flickr and using the magnetic lasso in Photoshop to eliminate the background. This isolates the creeping roots of the tree while leaving plenty of white space for the text to live in. The image, title, attribution, and text work together to communicate a fantastical tone, perfectly complementing the story.
In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we interview Rachel Z. Arndt, whose essay “Wind” is forthcoming in Ecotone25. She received MFAs in nonfiction and poetry from the University of Iowa, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and nonfiction editor of the Iowa Review. Her writing appears in Popular Mechanics, Quartz, Pank, Fast Company, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago. Her essay collection Beyond Measure, comes out this week from Sarabande.
Your book, Beyond Measure, is an exploration of the rituals, routines, metrics, and expectations through which we attempt to quantify and ascribe value to our lives. Do you practice any rituals when it comes to your writing, and if so, what can you share with us about them?
I’m militant about the pens I write with: Uni-ball Vision Exact micro (in black). The problem is these pens were discontinued years ago, which I started to realize—and deny—the last year I lived in New York. Toward the tail end of that year, after I decided to move halfway across the country for grad school, I checked my Ziploc-bagged stash, saw I was running low, and went online. I scoured office supply stores, specialty writing utensil stores, and school supply stores. No dice. So I went to eBay and ordered maybe thirty of them. As long as they got me through school, I told myself, I’d be fine. They did.
I’m also pretty militant about my notebooks: blank 5-inch by 8.25-inch Moleskines. Lines distract me. Plus, I pride myself on being able to write in straight lines, a skill I’ve been perfecting since middle school math class. If the writing’s no good, at least it looks good.
These are, I realize, coping mechanisms for dealing with writers’ block and crankiness and off days when everything comes out clunky and abstract. They are coping mechanisms, that is, for the loss of control that’s inherently part of writing—a loss that’s strange, given nonfiction’s adherence to hard and fast facts, but a loss that makes sense when you think of writing less as translating the world to text and more as translating one’s experience of the world to text.
Where did you get the idea for your forthcoming Ecotone essay “Wind”?
I tend toward the abstract. So I made myself think of something tangible and, one afternoon after getting back from a windy Iowa bike-ride, stared out the window until a memory bubbled up that had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
The stuff about the weather came later. As I was writing—because I usually don’t know what I’m actually writing about until I see it on the page—I realized people who lived far away asked me about the weather either because they refused to ask what they really wanted to know—how I was doing—or because they refused to actually care. I suppose the essay idea came from my belligerent take on meteorological small talk; I was sick of talking about the weather. So I wrote a few thousand words about the weather.
Name a book you bought for its cover.
I wish I could say Future Sex, by Emily Witt, but that cover was just a bonus. More honestly, R.L. Stine’s Night in Werewolf Woods, which is one of those choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps books. Since coloring in Pharaoh’s dog in my coloring-book Haggadah, I’ve had a soft spot for dogs with big teeth (I’ll ignore that I didn’t realize, apparently, that that Goosebumps “dog” is actually a werewolf).
You have a superpower: you can immediately give to every person on earth one piece of information. What is it?
As my dad says: Everything is mostly space.
What emerging author are you most excited about?
A friend of mine from grad school, Chloe Livaudais, writes beautifully about motherhood and being a daughter. Her metaphors and similes are shockingly astute and make me see the world—and the women in it—in new ways.
When do you feel most confident as a writer?
After emerging from the fugue of feverishly writing by hand nonstop for an hour or two, while flipping back through the ink-soggy pages, looking at what I’ve done but not actually reading it. (Later, when I type those pages, that confidence will slither away.)
Highlight or underline? Underline. Ocean or mountains? Lake. Hardcover or paperback? Hardcover. Morning or night? Morning. Dogs or cats? Dogs. Text or call? Text. Future or nostalgia? Nostalgia for the time that doesn’t exist when I wasn’t so worried about the future.
Thank you to Ecotone staffer Alexis Olson for her contributions to this interview.
Whenever I walk through the convention-center doors on my first day at AWP—which is usually Saturday, the last day of the conference—I think of what August Kleinzahler says about the Grand Canyon: “Nothing quite prepares you for it. Terror, that’s what it’s about.” He also says the only reasonable response to the chasm is to back away slowly.
I wasn’t sure I was going to attend AWP in Tampa this year. I don’t think I’m ever sure I’m going to attend AWP. But, alas, I end up there most years to see old friends who are spread out across the country at various colleges and who converge on some unknowing city to add another tote to their collection.
Of course, I don’t want to sound like a total crank—I’ll leave that to professionals like Kleinzahler—so it’s worth saying I like to catch up with friends at these things. And I also decided to attend this year because I had an opportunity to give a reading to promote my book of poems. Elixir Press released Selected Proverbs in December, so it seemed like AWP was as good a place as any to get the word out.
I was about to spend way too much money on a hotel room when I went back to Airbnb one last time to see if I could find something cheaper and closer than Miami. And I did find something. I booked a yacht! That’s right, suckers. I stayed on a yacht while you stuffed yourselves into a Days Inn with a twin bed and a crusty bedspread between the six of you. I’m not usually one to rub it in, but a yacht is pretty freaking cool.
That is, it would have been cool if when I arrived the owners had evacuated all the sewage that’d accumulated in the boat’s tanks after the last group to stay there had a giant pizza party.
How do I know there was a giant pizza party? I had a long conversation with the owner and his wife about using some kind of odor-devouring yeasts in response to the devastation. And that’s not even the best part of the conversation. It turns out that boats have a mechanism called a masticator that chews boat waste into a kind of slurry when you’re out at sea so that you can dump it in the water behind you as you sail to Bora Bora. Not only had they forgotten to evacuate the tanks, but that mechanism was left on and my yacht was chumming the bay the afternoon before I arrived.
I couldn’t help but laugh when, the day after I learned about the boat’s ulterior propeller, I was greeted by a giant revolving door at the Marriott’s entrance. The door spun at a consistently slow RPM, chopping masses of conference goes into smaller and smaller groups, expelling them out of the hotel. I think all AWPs should have rotating doors of this magnitude. Maybe speed it up a little.
It rained and blew a little Saturday night, and I laid in the boat and watched Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition, which is really a pretty movie, even if it misses for the same reason, while the boat rocked and was sprinkled with light rain.
The neon hospital sign across the bay would appear and disappear in the front windows of the boat—I recorded a video of it because, next to the gangster Tom Hanks moving on the screen anchored within the boat, the sign seemed like a surreal floating advertisement that had become unmoored and was now lost in the night sky.
After the rain stopped, I stumbled off the boat onto the dock—it got tricky when the tide was out and the distance between the boat and the dock grew considerably—and I walked a short distance from the boat to a restaurant that had transformed into a nightclub the evening before, keeping me up most of the night with a strange mashup of hair metal and what I think was Gloria Estefan.
I took a seat at the bar next to a young woman who had also been attending the conference, and we effortlessly chatted about our impressions. I started to feel a little lightheaded as we talked. I was starving, so I chalked it up to low blood sugar, possibly a flashback to the panic from the book fair. But this was a little different. I started to feel a little nauseated too. The bar seemed to be on a fulcrum, listing from one side to the next. I was seasick!
And now on the flight back, I just realized the woman sitting in the aisle seat to my left and one row up is writing a poem on her computer as we fly. I only realized this when she started adding line breaks to the block of text she had just written, turning her prose into poetry with a click of the mouse. Frank O’Hara’s line, “It is even in / prose, I am a real poet,” came to mind.
I’m wondering how many conference goers are doing the same thing as I write this. The same thing I’m doing. All of us on our planes somehow excited by what we’ve just experienced. Maybe she learned this technique in a panel this week. Write a paragraph and then chop it up! Run it through the masticator! Chum the world with your poetry! She probably has a workshop tomorrow. Her classmates will love it. They all have the same poem. The one on the airplane. The one with the boat in it.
Michael Brooks Cryer teaches writing at Arizona State University. His poems and reviews have appeared in Quarterly West, Ecotone, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cortland Review and other journals. He is also an occasional freelance music critic for PhoenixNew Times. Four Chambers Press released his chapbook, Channels, Frequencies & Sequences, in the summer of 2017, and Michael’s collection, Selected Proverbs, won Elixir Press’2016 Antivenom Poetry Award.