Category Archives: Uncategorized
The 2023 Unclassifiable Contest has ended, and a winner has been chosen by judge Michael Martone!
Winner: “Wreck Tangles of Désirée Acking” by Christy Sheffield Sanford
A fast-acting, highly combustible and comestible collage, “Wreck Tangles” invoked in me, with its dreadlocks of images and words, a kind of vasovagal syncope, a heady high, that such an arrangement of sight and sound could blow-up my blood pressure, make my heart trill, put me flat on the floor. This fibrillating fiction maps an anatomy of a new novel nerve, the 13th cranial nerve, a twisted caduceus indeed.Michael Martone
Kelly Houle “Alphabet Shell and Other Poems”
Tom Laichas “Four Pieces”
Ayesha Raees “CYCLE”
Julie Marie Wade “Healthcare Hopscotch: 2001-2011”
Thank you to all who submitted, for stretching our minds and engaging our imaginations! We hope to see your work again next year.
Digital Issue Forthcoming
UNCLASSIFIABLE PRIZE WINNER
Postcard of Delicate Arch
Erin Cecilia Thomas
A Rapture Coming
The Big Man
Dancing with Calypso
Book(s) of the Dead
After the Miscarriage
Jesse Lee Kercheval
Iowa City, Iowa
The New Cowboys
Samuel Beckett’s Tree
Kathryne David Gargano
The Way Waiting Becomes an Injury
from /The Vents/
Self-Portrait with a Cubano de Paso
Spencer Lane Jones
On Nodding Terms
Creative Nonfiction Editor
Kerry James Evans
Assistant Managing Editor
Digital Issue Forthcoming
ANNUAL PRIZE WINNERS
Jodie Noel Vinson
First Do No Harm
Journal of the Plague Year
The Birth of Venus
A Song for Mrs. Harris
The Sol Notes: Dead Reckoning
To Shuck Miracles
Are We Really Living in a Simulation
Lost the Signal
Petition for Naturalization
John Sibley Williams
Introduction to Safecracking for Transsexuals
Nobody Wants a Crying Stripper
A Recipe for Desire
Creative Nonfiction Editor
Kerry James Evans
Assistant Managing Editor
The 2022 Unclassifiable Contest has ended, and a winner has been chosen by judge, Michael Martone!
Winner: “Postcard of Delicate Arch” by Emily Farranto
I love the postcard as a form, and this fiction presents itself as a postcard diary (a collage of postcards) recording a trip west and return to the record of it in the delivered postcards, a scrapbook of postcard messages sent from the writer to the writer. Postcards, analogue tweets, inhabit a strange quasi-public, quasi-private space. They interact with the delivery system as well—postmarks, sorting barcodes, machinery damage, smears of ink—as if the transport itself is making a commentary on the text, aging the age. The text captures the sadness of postcards and the existential nature of the ephemera we all are constantly producing, the fictional residue of the vanished factual living. Publishing a story in a book or magazine creates the illusion of permanence—this will last, the type is set. But postcards (and this fiction) are about things disappearing before our eyes. Sublime evaporation. Sublime. Evaporation.Michael Martone
Tori Rego, “Erased Pink Eraser”
David McDannald, “Online Dating is the Devil Theorem”
Thank you to all who submitted, for stretching our minds and engaging our imaginations! We hope to see your work again next year!
In the latest Ampersand Interview, Assistant Managing Editor, Darian Araiza-Samples, spoke with Tara Westmor about the intersection of ethnography and poetry, poetic form, and her upcoming poetry collection, An Historic. You can read her poem in Issue 41 of Arts & Letters.
Darian Araiza-Samples: You call yourself an anthropologist poet- in what ways do you find that ethnography intersects with your poetry?
Tara Westmor: I think about this question often. Both as a current PhD student in anthropology and as a poetry MFA graduate. In many ways both poets and ethnographers are hyper attuned to observation and witness. And in this current political moment, both poetry and ethnography should be an act of care. In more specific terms, both genres endeavor to examine larger cultural themes, and shine a light on how those themes play out. For example, many of my poems are about female mental illness, particularly mine, in a world dominated by male historiographies (specifically in Dayton, Ohio where I am from). How do mid-western women grow up in worlds devised of these male industrious histories? Although my poems are a very specific example, other poets do an exceptional job of observation and highlighting in their poems. Jericho Brown’s debut collection Please is a witness of Blackness in academia, oh! or Bettina Judd’s critique of modern medicine built on Black female bodies in her gorgeous and devastating book patient. Documentary poets, Mark Nowak, Phillip Metres, and real-life anthropologist/poet Nomi Stone all do this similar work.
DAS: Your poem, “These I Remember Most:”, uses hanging indentation in an interesting way. When you are drafting poems, do you consider form early on in the process or does that come later as your poem reaches completion?
TW: Sometimes I do consider form and sometimes I don’t. You can’t force a form that won’t take. Sometimes, the form I start with, dictates the “aboutness” of The Poem. Other times, I write in thick blocks of prose and lineate later. “These I Remember Most:” actually started as a list (things I remembered from living in that strange house in the middle of Dayton), but what I remembered most, my sister’s beautiful eye, revealed itself on the page as I wrote it.
DAS: This poem is a beautiful intimation of childhood and sisterly love- do the complexities of family relationships find their way into your writing often?
TW: Thank you! I’m in a phase where I can’t write about much else. I’ll go to write a poem about the city, or about something I’ve read, and my sisters appear. Like many young and naïve poets, I started writing poems about my relationships with suitors or lovers. As I mature, my sisters enter the poem. A stronger love. Lately, I’ve been writing about my female relationships. I have three sisters and a mother who loves with such a deep well. And that well, the love between mothers and daughters is so complicated in a patriarchal world. The writing potential there is as deep as the love they give.
DAS: What/who inspires you most as a poet?
TW: My mother read to us a lot as a child. She also loved the city where she grew up. I think somewhere, I conflated the two. The city is a story. I’m very inspired by history, or more precisely, the stories we don’t include in that “history.”
DAS: When did you first consider yourself a poet?
TW: Haha, what a loaded question! I used to carry around a thick leather-bound notebook when I attended grade-school where I kept all my poems. I think I called myself a poet in secret then. Now, I call myself a poet in public, but don’t think it’s true in secret. My sister has the beautiful eyes, surely she’s the poet. My mother holds all the love, surely we should call her a poet.
DAS: What are you reading right now?
TW: I’m always reading several books at once. Currently, my bag contains poetry collections When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen Blue Guide by Lee Briccetti, and Bright Archive by Sarah Minor, I’m also reading Carole McGranahan curated essays called Writing Anthropology and Paisley Rekdal’s Appropriate: A Provocation. And lastly, a book about Dayton: David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers.
DAS: What is next for your writing? Is there anything you can share about forthcoming projects or poems?
TW: I am working on two projects. First, a poetry collection (of which “These I Remember Most:” is included) currently titled An Historic. And secondly, I am co-curating a collection of poetry called Anthro/Poetics, that explores the ways ethnography and poetry intersect.
Tara Westmor is an anthropologist poet, raised in Dayton, Ohio. She received her MFA in poetry from New Mexico State University and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of California-Riverside. She has work published and forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, Hunger Mountain, Prairie Schooner, The Sink Review, and elsewhere. She is co-curating an anthology, called Anthro/Poetrics, of the intersections between ethnography and poetry.
On George Looney:
George Looney’s recent books include Meditations Before the Windows Fail, the book-length poem Structures the Wind Sings Through, Monks Beginning to Waltz, and A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness. His novel Report from a Place of Burning will be published fall of 2018. He founded the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State Erie, where he is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Creative Writing and editor of the international literary journal Lake Effect. He is also translation editor of Mid-American Review, and co-founder of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.
It Isn’t Always Classical
It Isn’t Always Classical appeared in Issue 35
after Walker Evans’ New Orleans Houses, 1935
Waiting it out is what those who live here
would say they’re up to. Holding it in,
one woman who lives in a second-floor
apartment has put it. Others say
she used to be some kind of famous
ballerina, that classical music
can be heard from her room most nights.
The couple who live under her say
they can hear her feet touching the floor,
through their ceiling, in patterns so
perfectly aligned they can almost see
her dance, listening. It isn’t always
classical, they say. She dances some nights
to What a Little Moonlight Can Do.
Those nights it sounds like two people dancing,
they say. No one’s ever seen anyone
else going in her apartment. No one
talks to her enough to feel comfortable
asking. Rumor is those nights she dances
with the ghost of the man who used to live
where she does. He would stand almost naked
on the balcony now hers and holler
things that sounded Biblical till someone
would shout up to him to Go sleep it off.
Some nights in the midst of the archaic
languages folks would hear him shouting
about a flood coming. To wash away all
our sins, he’d shout. Those nights he’d go calm
and then start singing Billie Holliday
tunes in a sad but affecting voice,
pained to the core. Those who heard him sing
would dream the city underwater, all
the dead swimming up toward the light
as if resurrection were as simple
as breaking the surface. Tonight it’s My Blue
Heaven coming from her place and everyone
believes the ghost of a man is whispering
in her ear. You’re so light on your feet,
he says, the two of us could dance on water.
Our Unclassifiable Contest has ended, and a winner has been chosen by our judge, Michael Martone!
Jenni Moody, “The Sound of Her Voice”
Francisco González, “An Outline of Wellness”
Marya Hornbacher, “Excerpt from a Conversation on Metaphor/A Seduction”
Robert Solomon, “The Fog Is a Snow Leopard Eating Owslowski”
Martone writes of “The Sound of Her Voice,” this year’s winner, “Only now, after over forty years of using a computer (a high-powered typesetting machine) and thirty years since the computer has been attached to the internet, have writers begun to explore fully the expansion of their artistic role into areas we once ascribed to the ‘graphic designer’ or ‘illustrator.’ ‘The Sound of Her Voice’ marks a lovely debut of these new ‘writerly’ skills and, in form and content, explodes the notion that the writer’s task is only to transcribe an oral tale in a transparent way. Instead it is time to embrace and expand on the material nature of the art, its artifice, and create a style that is not the clear window but more the stained glass rosette of a cathedral. Insert your emojis of applause here!”
Thank you to all those who submitted, for stretching our minds and engaging our imaginations! We hope to see your work again next year!
On Emily Wolahan:
Emily Wolahan is the author of the poetry collection HINGE. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Georgia Review, DIAGRAM, Oversound, and many other publications. Her essay “The Drawn Word/The Disappearing Act” is anthologized in Among Margins. Other essays appear in The New Inquiry and Quarterly Conversation. She has served as Senior Editor at Two Lines Press and and is Founding Editor at Jerry Magazine. She won the The Georgia Review’s Loraine Williams Poetry Prize and Arts & Letters’ Unclassifiable Contest. She has been an Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts and received fellowships from the the Vermont Studio Center. She currently lives in San Francisco.
The Direct Account of Frank Thomas
The Direct Account of Frank Thomas appeared in Issue 34
“It’s funny about wars, they ought to be different by they are not.”
“But how intolerable bright the morning is where we who are alive and remain,
walk lifted up, carried forward by an effective word.”
“There’s no war without hard work.”
—Private Frank Thomas,
US Army, 10th Engineers Battalion, 1917
“I miss you, Frank. Come home.”
—Clarissa Mae Thomas, wife, 1917
Built a camp of tents on a sandy plain amid alfalfa-timothy—Pontnex-les-forges.
Put roof on barracks as it rained. Got wet again cleaning out drain ditches. Trenched officer’s tents. Cleared away fallen trees and debris to build a road to the corrals. Grubbed at pine stumps.
Peachy and me put at carpenter’s work. At sawmill, got some boards, fixed my bunk. Shelf and drawer in lower parts so I can keep things dry. We cut the deck of cards for places.
Pump finished today and made writing board. Sharpened tools. V-troughs, tent floors, ironing boards, and water troughs for the horses.
Fixed up the tool boxes, put together a barber chair. A floor in the officer’s tent, two-board walls, and a door. To my bed, added a clothes rack and shelf.
Down to the mill for boards, three francs. Ten bricks for a franc from Squad 2. Swiped five more and a length of pipe. All this for our new store shed.
Worked the bakery, mostly alone. After the bakery, started on wooden pump. After pump, a writing board for Tom Lommason. Pump needs an extension and valve. Also boards for walling the well at mill-site. Bakers wanted an oven shovel, cooks a stew-paddle.
Called it a day’s work.
Drilled with Company B and wrote to Mae. Back when I’d joined up, we’d killed time at Fort Douglas, write letters, rest.
Before Pontenx, we cleaned up, slept, shaved, wrote letters. Made medals. Drills and the remainder of the day to fill.
If we saw a US flag, the boys would cheer it.
This night is calm, no moon. Camp cleaned up, barracks scrubbed, boys at the Y writing letters. A card to Clarissa Mae, one to her father.
Each one says the same thing—a silhouette of the day imagined, the local lace strung together.
All that space between.
Mail today—a letter from Mother, Dad, Joe, Albert. None from Mae. Got Mother’s package of sugar and Postum, mailed to Washington DC, found me in Pontenx, France—a long time getting here. Many of the boys are worried. Chinwhiskers II says we’re going to the front soon—all they talk about the last few days, this latest line. Wrote Mae a letter—number eighteen, number nineteen. Lieutenant Sanford, Company mail censor, says, “Thomas writes the most legible letters of any man in the Company.” Got two letters from Mae, December 17–23. Finished one I started yesterday. To my wife-woman—
Friday on mill—cold and disagreeable. Spent noon-hour putting up rafter-trusses, laying sheet iron roofing. Floored tool-house, braced mill, built lumber car for yarding lumber. Took an hour off but Peachy and Captain real peeved. More work at mill. Store, supply room, Lieutenant Allen’s office. Window in and finished Allen’s desk. Ordered to build a balloon butterfly catcher for Captain Marbleheart.
Sanders and I on oil house, then hung meat house door. Weighs six hundred pounds, some time hanging it. Bennett had me fix the meat house for a prison—cold storage plan. Deserter Gillis of 503 Service Battalion sleeps there tonight. Sanders tried to saw off his thumb—only got half. I filed saws, ground chisels, hand axe. Marbleheart handed out another bouquet on the log haul. Been doing most the work myself. Fixed pile driver, used adze, ever the log haul.
Meat house letter shed
rifle boxes Meat
lumber for meat block
Dodged work and managed to keep out of it with no trouble.
Made sleeping bag out of my shelter half.
maybe sunshine tomorrow.
Last August, reported to Forest Services. Mr. Kneipp said no chance for me and Tom to get out of it. Enlistment papers for 10th Engineers made out. Wired Mae.
Reported to Fort Douglas but sent away until morning.
Instead, went to the Wilson and the Lodge with Tom, Laverne Rae, and her sister.
Salt Lake is a good city but not for me and Mae, maybe. Too many temples. Back up the mountain, sun blazing and fresh trout for dinner—I could call that a temple.
Returned to Fort Douglas where I was passed through by doctor—physically fit—ready to be shipped out.
Tried to get leave and go home to see Mae and Mother before I left for France but could not, so wrote letters home.
Been writing letters last two months since surveying the Sevier, grazing reconnaissance. Keeping lupine out of reach of cattle. Writing letters, getting mail whenever someone went to Sevey’s ranch. Surveying Kanab Creek, kept track of coyote.
Until it was time to enlist. Wrote a letter home all about it.
In Salt Lake City, issued travel rations, got second shot in the arm. Beat it downtown to collect lots of mail for Tom Lomasson and me. Been with Lomasson since Podunk Creek. We’ll stick together if we can. Left on berth in tourist car 1495. Some rough night.
SALT LAKE CITY
HOT COFFEE ON TRAIN IN JERSEY CITY TERMINAL SHEDS OF PENNSYLVANIA LINES.
Crossed Hudson River on steam ferry and embarked on RMS Carpathia.
In dock all day.
Sea breezes very cold.
Much seaweed in water off Nova Scotia—gulls and fish plentiful. Lots of fish smacks and larger vessels.
Cape Sable lighthouse about eight o’clock. Low, spruce-covered shores.
Dropped anchor in Bedford Bay Harbor full of jelly fish, small bowl-shaped, lace-like affairs—fringe around the edges. Drew a picture of them in my letter to Mae.
They make the water look thick.
Days warm, nights cold.
Passed a fleet of chasers today
—small and common to look at—
dangerous to Hun-ducks.
Stuck at bay and people eating rotten meat. Our destroyer now coming, now here, escort. Still—stuck at bay—drilling, washing clothes, learning two-arm semaphore code. Stuck seeking out our double-tank life raft lowered off davits B6. Failed every boat drill. We cross soon. Sticks float by moving faster than us—
Wilson died last night—ptomaine poisoning off meat. Struck by the silent force of capture.
No one knew code before we were stuck. Now it’s the only way we can talk.
The problem with crossing isn’t the ships we can see. Destroyer first, then a line of transport, us at the head.
Struck dumb, ordered to cross, stacks steaming up.
Long days so nights can’t compare.
Still, we go into town to see other people living, differently
from how I expected. No lights.
Low-lit signs read Open beside a dark doorway.
In the pub, as many women as men there. On the street, a pretty girl threw her arms around my neck, said Oh man, let’s. Let’s! Pushed her thin red belt into mine.
There are no headlights and no roads cross each other—
they go above or below.
Road beds kept in excellent condition.
Left Glasgow over Caledonian Railroad to Carlisle and on to Birmingham. Many women working.
Residences are named, have small yards brimming with flowers, ivy, shrub.
Bought a bag of apples, three and a half dollars. Rode on top of the street car—one penny, a soldier’s fare. Morning’s march
—garden, sun, garden.
Holly hedges, an American Mountain Ash.
Branches of old trees along the drive meet above us.
The petals off a hanging flower spell Idaho.
Marched down the Southampton docks, waited a while. Fell out, a chance to look around. Saw Eustace in dry dock, hole blown in her aft the smokestack, starboard side. Submarine. They loaded us on a double-stack, side-wheel French boat, La Margueritte. Packed in. Waited some more. Put on submarine guard with ten others. An Endfield rifle to share, plus fifty rounds.
Instructions: obey officer’s orders. In the dark, we crossed. Landed in Havre by early morning. Sent to wait. Rest camp No. 2, horse sheds, cobblestone floors. Clean, not uncomfortable.
Train in from the North, boys from the trenches laid out.
Rain fell hard.
Boarded 3rd class coach. Sat up all night.
Hard bread and canned meat for dinner, coffee twice. Train headed south. Arrangements for second night were two men in hat racks, two on each bench seat, two on floor. Drew a place on one of the benches—changed later with Erwin for a hat rack. Landed in Nevers to go downtown in morning with Erwin and Boatwright. Saw St. Cyr and found a Y. Met Tom Lommason at Y so stayed in town for a good French meal, 3 francs. The French shake hands only once and often across very narrow streets.
Traveled all day. Was fifteen kilometers from capital. Then turned south. Issued trenched tents and ticks. Filled those with hay. Turned rifles in—thirty to entire company—kept belts. This means we do not go to the front. Rumor is we go to the Spanish border on one of France’s slow trains. A small place stuck in the pines, on a flat and sandy plain.
- ST. FEYER,
LA JONCHERE, LIMOGES,
LAFARGE, BUSSIERE-GALANT, THIVIERS,
CHANCELADE, PERIQUEUX, RAZAC,
NEUVIS, MUSSIDAN, LAMPIESTIERE,
COUTRAS, LIBOURNE, BORDEAUX,
Built a camp of tents on a sandy plain amid alfalfa-timothy. Pontenx among the pines.
Trenched officers’ tents.
Grubbed at pine stumps.
Put at carpenter’s work, put at the mill:
build barracks, build a bakery.
Twelve bricks for a franc from Squad 3.
Build a camp of tents
on a sandy plain amid alfalfa-timothy.
Lavender and brome.
The pines planted in a row grown tall, lumber for the effort.
All day to set up a few tents.
Lines like they’d been done be a cross-eyed man.
Officers have no idea, yet remain in charge of all.
Speared logs, fished deadheads and sinkers out of reserve log pond. Once dry, good lumber. Learned several new ways of doing things less well from Lieutenant Burlow. Pulled a lot of lake bottom out of pond. Water-plant root masses, mud clinging to them, suspended under surface of lake. Hard to drag logs over, had to be taken out. Gas launch and two-prong hook did the business. Underneath the root mass, lake bottom was clean sand.
Three hydro-aeroplanes came down, took a spin on lake, returned to camp near Arcachon—finishing school for pilots, American and French. Men there go direct to the front. Loaded lumber. Waited two hours to get hair cut.
We walk. Four across, steps out of time. Trucks on roads are US Army. Farmers pass on foot in sack-cloth shoes. Soil grainy and packed, small white stones speckled, catch low light. Fields fallow, grown up with toadflax and something looks like wintergreen.
Forests planted in rows, makes a straight border between woods and the slight rise of a back dune. Bay of Gascogne.
Beach debris—a long American tallow candle, rolled in sand. Timber spars, planks, hatches. Lifebelt with strings snapped, ARTISAN lettered on the chest.
Flat bright grey sky branches. The sea, dank earth, proof at our feet. Pick it up, boys, keep looking. Cargo, crates, a good shoe, a sack of potatoes the farmer needs. Boot-print patterns ornate as field mice—
This is a very long day to me. Started another dock but busted my shin with adze—clear to the bone. Laid up for a while, lots of mail. No. 7 letter from Mae, plus two from Mother. Finished letter No. 31 to Mae. Doc made shin sore by dressing again, put me on wounded-in-action report. Had to stick around camp—still a crip. Read papers, magazine, cleaned up. March 9 Star-Mirror came. Wrote Dad since it rained hard all day. Signed pay roll. Pretty much disgusted with this country and “Tin Engineers.” At physical inspection, Doc put a new bandage on my cut. Papers very optimistic.
USS Tuscania disaster. A possibility Oscar Munson was on the boat. Papers say ship when down on same sea we crossed, standing guard with a rifle shared between two. That’s where the horizon breaks exposing the sky. Proof the sea and sky are not the same,
just look it in the dark.
The horizon breaks pushing the sea out one way, sky another. Like a movie starting up after the theater went dark.
The horizon breaks on a sea with no ship on it.
The horizon breaks and breaks. The sea is more likable when it seems granite.
In the pines, we continue to wait, hear about explosive devices that push a person through the air—an 18-pounder or 60-pounder.
Light might flash at a distance.
We lose track of how far.
There’s an explosion. A pattern that’s held for years.
Boys came in today—French Louis had seen the gas, tried to describe its color. Said, makes you lie down when you should rise.
We feel the compulsive force of machinery.
We use it. Where’s the next line of work coming from? We build in the valley, construct what aids the effort. Meat house, hay shed, barn, oil house. Our bodies construct the regular guard.
Nothing can defeat us, we think. Our bodies, throat-filled tongues. We watch, machines groan. Nothing can fill our heads, we think. In our bodies are spine ladders, a transportation. We move, we think. Nothing can receive us.
Oscar Munson and I went across the lake to the other camps. Visit the remainder “Palousers.” Nothing could destroy us. Munson told stories of the Tuscania shipwreck. Many killed by one lifeboat dropping on another loaded below. In our bodies, leaden kidneys wait to drop out. Livers shriveled. Muscles drawn tight. Nothing can betray us, we think.
Last night the sun reflected light across Kanab Creek. Close in, along the margin, a fisherman stood, silhouetted against the darkening waters, reeds, rushes. He’s welcome to them. Sunlight blew out wheat stalks as far as Paradise Ridge, rolling light in growth. We have to take the bad with the good. My wife beside me, dusk grey walls, white plastered ceiling. I want that. Where golden paths are slits of light under curtains, innocent as innocent.
We take the road they lead us down. Nothing to say in return. Go into town to spend some money.
Follow the local road and walk the shoulder. Saw a pretty French girl in a little grocery buying jelly. Followed the straight line back to camp.
Still on the mill. Not friends with enough non-coms to land the good jobs. I think of Sheriff Campbell of Moscow, Idaho, never drafted, still home.
Roads are built and put to immediate use.
The lumber we cut is taken out by road. Up to the little stream impassable since the bridge was bombed. Really is a little stream for such fuss.
Return to Pontenx after leave. Inventory found my fortune consists of twenty francs. Some drafted 503 Engineers pretended they were volunteers who had enlisted. We put a crimp in their game on the train home. They were a good bunch the rest of the way. Go to Pontenx-les-forges, a long walk back to camp. Good cold, some bum and blue.
Saw a girl in St. Eulalie looked just like Bessie Kesler. Dressed better than the other girls. Stared for a bit, thought it was her. Stopped at Forest Guard’s place and bought three bottles of white wine de cette année. Saw a pretty French girl in a grocery store buying jelly, looked just like Clarissa Mae. Could have sworn her brother Walter was serving in that group of medics we met headed to Spain. I stared a bit, thought it was him, but I know he’s back home. Letter from Walter, Nov. 9.
Handmade lace to send home. It’s all the same color in Mimizan. Wrote eight pages to Mae last night. Paulson tried to burn the tent up, using Mac’s new writing desk—got candle too close. Lace is clean and white. A dresser scarf, eight doilies. Gave Bascom Brown 5 francs for Flag of Our Union penny—1863. Tied up bundle to send home. Indignation Party.
Long time we’ve been going.
Empty like air with a few snowflakes drifting down.
How some appear with weight and others roll down the air like the side of a gentle hill.
Sun comes out, air mostly empty. Nothing feels right.
Lots of powder burnt at aviation camp
north of us. Bomb practice.
Long time been working Landes Forest—every tree in a row.
Spoons stacked in a drawer.
Think of a forest and I’m up near Sevier. Trout for dinner. Air filling up with snow too light to land but landing anyway.
Dec. 19 STAR-MIRROR. Dec. 4 STAR-MIRROR
Jan 22 STAR-MIRROR and there is not a bit of news of the war in it.
Also Jan 9-12-14-17 STAR-MIRROR.
Jan. 18 STAR-MIRROR,
Jan. 10 Inter-Mountain Ranger,
Jan. 3, 17, Feb 7 Washington Office Newsletter.
June 21-25-29-30-31, Feb. 1-2-5-8-9-11-13 STAR-MIRROR.
Also March 7-8-18 STAR-MIRROR.
March 30 Literary Digest and a couple of STAR-MIRROR.
A Nov. 14 STAR-MIRROR.
Feb. 6-7 S.M., Feb. 26-27-28 + Mar. 1 S.M.
March 9 Literary Digest, a bundle of The Argonauts from Walt and a S.M.
Three S.M.’s today and one Lit. Digest.
Drew in S.M.s May 17-18
No mail except Nov. 19 S.M.
Potage three times a day and a cord of wood on each foot. They leave these when they go inside and wear an inner moccasin. Saw French man today—no legs, body on a rocker, a grind-organ, wagon, donkey and four children. His two girls danced in costume on high stilts. Everyone used to be on stilts here before the marshland was planted in pines. Shepherds could see their sheep. Now stilts used for dancing, grandma’s starched lace perched on small heads. A land of sheep, stilts, bog. Customs that stretch through time with needlework to match.
Found life preservers and one life boat the BRITTIA. Also the SWINDON. Beaches washing stuff up every day. Pretty shells, brass lamp hoods, timber, spars, hutches. The Atlantic looks terrible from here. Beaches on the bay of Gascogne. Breakers coming in and wreckage strung along shore. Packed and unpacked my haver-sac, barely made it back to camp. Felt like the tail end of creation, if creation delivered itself piece by piece out of the waters. What comes to me—the remainder.
Raining and we are still working in the water. Lake has risen a foot last three days—that with a good-sized outlet. Stopped raining but lake still rising.
Captain Bedard keeps ruining the work we do. Tore up with incompetence what took two days to build. Got boat started and it has no power—good engine but toy propeller. Took thirty-three minutes to haul empty brail boom across lake, one hour ten minutes for next. Before, took fifteen minutes most.
Five hours for a boom with 1,500 logs halfway across the lake with a good wind.
There’s the joke propellor and then there’s what we’re dragging.
Tried boat out again this morning, busted shaft connection. Fixed her up so could pull raft of logs out of swamp in the east end of lake against a very strong headwind. Working better considering it’s a truck engine, not marine. Captain Bedard said, of course it’s a marine engine. There’s an anchor, isn’t there?
Hard luck with the boat last night. No boom of logs in, so had to break into reserves. All big logs, had hands full loading them on haul car—only ten inches water over car bunkers, when should be 2 feet—makes heavy work. Shallow because of hurry when they put it in, now losing time—may have to shut mill.
More of the tropical effect. Or il fait chaud. Cold foggy nights and very hot days. Some of the sick men are getting well. Spanish fever we have in our camp much lighter and mild in form than in any of the other camps, according to Lieutenant Medic. Still, advised not to visit Mimizan-les-bains. Over in the 20th Camps, several men have died. Others go out of their heads, some bleed at the mouth, nose, and ears. Some develop pneumonia. All cough and complain of sore lungs. Bad stuff—good to stay away from. Still hot.
Mill shut down at noon. Put a dam across lower end, used the big steam pump on it—a Big Jake. Work and more of it. Griswold held on to mail yesterday—too lazy to distribute it Sunday. Lied when I asked him about it.
Tom Lomasson transferred to St. Nazaire, presumably for dock construction. Hope it’s not permanent as we said we’d stay together. Mais, c’est la guerre.
New job now: general repair man—carpenter and utility—around the mill. Beats working pond anyway. Building a sawdust conveyor for the bolter mill.
Built a camp of tents—when? A while ago now. On a sandy plain amid alfalfa-timothy. Landes Forest, Pontenx les forges. Pontenx among the pines.
My fortune consists of 20 francs, sending most of my pay home.
Letters from Clarissa Mae, numbers 5–7 are my favorites.
They read like they’re written yesterday.
There’s the mill and the pond, the lumber dragged out.
Planes out of the aviation camp.
Hard luck for those sent forward.
New boys sent to us since so many camps quarantined.
They work the mill and the pond—count the rows of pines.
More rain, more work on friction, more work on our shanty this evening. Finished papering it with tar paper and Shelley, Frazier, and I moved in. Captain Eldredge ordered I put in his store—made one hurry-up job of it. Got the same spread he had last winter, store box and all. Finished our friction today and put it in this evening at supper hour. Greasy job. Sun shining, rain over. Have a prison camp at Aureilhan now. Converted the carpenter shop into quarters, built a stockade around it and sent eight incorrigibles down from Pontenx. Serving out sentences of hard labor doing work we’ve done ever since our mill got going. Good joke on us.
Thirteen men died of Spanish Influenza in the 20th camps. Captain sends them out to work as soon as they are able to wiggle. Men often work with high fevers until they break. Some go out of their minds, malaria fever, and on top of that contract pneumonia.
Wrote wifie letter No. 16.
Trucks from Bordeaux brought eight letters, one from Mae.
Wrote wife-woman No. 17.
Two letters from Mae, December 17-23.
Wrote Mae No. 20.
Letter from wife today, Dec. 28. Got letter No. 4 from Mae.
Wrote her letter No. 22.
Finished Mae’s letter No. 23.
Wrote letter No. 24.
Letter No. 25.
Got letter No. 5 from my woman today.
Wrote letter No. 27.
Got No. 11 letter from Mae, Feb. 13.
Wrote Mae No. 30.
Got No. 9. Got No. 13, March 4. Got No. 7, January 27 from Mae.
Wrote Mae No. 33.
St. Patrick’s Day card from Mae, letter No. 15.
Wrote No. 34.
Got letter, package, Feb. 21.
She’s changing. I see it in each letter. Doesn’t write, Your wifie anymore. Busy with her own days, her own signs of spring. Here, the wheat’s up and headed out, cherry and plum trees in bloom. That big oleander. Woods full of cuckoos, a few swallows that may have nested them. That cuckoo cry sounds good enough, but swallows sing like they lost everything.
Beacoup de travaille—the same old line. Gear wheel on sawdust conveyor broke. Took us an hour to put in a new one. Fixed up tools into good shape. Rained hard. Worked on bumping. Turn-down blocks were set on the carriage while trying out the mill. Put in conveyor for the bolter. We don’t have enough tools. Our captain tried to hog tools back at the start, now we don’t have enough. Department of Supplies handing him back one.
More women than men, and all French in black. A fine old church and nice altar. Will never forget figure of Jeanne d’Arc nor old man in red who marched up and down the aisles. They passed bread after communion. Noisy service. Four miles back to camp—a clean cold night.
Slept four hours on a tick without single blanket—colder than thunder. Got our coffee, prunes and beans and left plenty early next morning. Rode down to Midi Station on street cars, found we had a day’s wait. Cathedral in Bordeaux has mummies preserved in arsenate of lime for 400 years. Only a narrow vein of the mineral in catacombs. Some corpses missing feet—out of bounds.
Read that the ship that took us over—RMS Carpathia—was torpedoed off Irish Coast, US bound. Hit three times and took two hours to sink.
Started day standing reveille. Court marshall proceedings and order of execution of Claude Wilson, Company B, Service Battalion—Base Station No. 2. Hanged by the neck until dead this morning in Bordeaux. Raped a French girl. Better off without these men.
Returned to Pontenx among the pines, sawed out all my wood but did not get on to the paper on account of saw breaking. Hit me across the right ear and I thought for a minute the whole blamed ear was cut off. But it was not. Got No. 44 letter from Mae. Blue. Wasn’t for me she could love another. Al Taylor—or is it my imagination?
Started a new friction this morning—so far nearly all my time keeping up the frictions. Invented one to last four to six weeks, not seven to ten days—gives some relief.
All kids like fairytales but us lumberjacks may not be as simple as we seem. What is your real value? “Every man has a certain chemical value, a professional value. Most important are character and service.” Chaplain Williams is a fine fellow, but the more I hear him talk, the more I think his real purpose is not religious salvation, rather balm to soothe our injuries, kid us along. Make each unit believe it’s the most important in the service. Maybe we are like children—free, great-hearted, and hardworking. $9.50 per 200 lbs.
Cleared up today—sunshine with us. Peachy’s well is running 900 gallons per day—picked up from 300 yesterday. Fine cold artesian well but lots of sand coming up. He’s running round like a kid with new rubber boots.
Finished friction today. Our artesian well is now running about 1800 gallons per day and Captain Peachy in all his glory.
Did not work last night. Did not eat a bite of anything from Thursday noon until Saturday noon—very unusual for me. Got all ready for inspection this PM. Never had one. This has happened a number of times. Good way to get all tents cleaned up and camp in order. We did stand muster, though. I wished it was mustering out and we were given discharge papers. Holding down ossifer’s shanty this eve. Everyone is gone and I’m here by my lonesome spending the evening writing letters.
Wrote Frank Hartman, Sgt., 644 Aero Squadron, A.E.F, and ——
Announcing the Winner of the 2019 Arts & Letters Drama Prize!
Tha winner receives $500 and the play will be produced in the spring of 2020.
John Doble, “A Serious Person”
Judge: Iona Holder
“This year’s submissions ran the gamut in terms of subject matter and structure. The winning play provides a fast-paced whirlwind of action that is sure to leave the audience spinning. “A Serious Person” is a quick and clever play that reflects the deep desire many of us have to “connect” with another within the bindings of a blind date. Two people come together to find a way around the quirks and eccentricities we all recognize once a relationship moves beyond small talk.”
Finalist: D.L. Siegel, “Like the Last”
Looking for something to read on your vacation this summer? Know a friend who would love Arts & Letters? Check out our subscription and back issue sales. Buy a subscription to Arts & Letters for yourself, and receive a free gift subscription for a friend. Each subscription comes with the current issue, featuring the Unclassifiable Contest winner along with the upcoming fall issue when it’s released, which will include the A&L prize winners. When you order online, send us an email (at [email protected]) with your friend’s address and a personalized note to include.
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17th Annual Arts & Letters Prize Winners
Arts & Letters Fiction Prize (Judge: Kyle Minor)
WINNER: Michele Ruby
Finalists: Gregg Cusick, Robert Daseler, Dan Gemmer, Hannah Gildea, James Hall, Lynda Montgomery, Michael Pearce, August Tarrier, M.C. Torres.
Rumi Prize in Poetry (Judge: Stephen Dunn)
WINNER: Jeanne Wagner
Finalists: Christopher Citro, Jen DeGregorio, Sally Derringer, Kim Garcia, Julie Hanson, George Looney, Nancy Pearson, Katie Rogers, Ellen Seusy, Laurie Zimmerman,
Susan Atefat Prize in Creative Nonfiction (Judge: Barbara Hurd)
WINNER: Kristin Kostick
Finalists: Brenda Flanagan, Cate Hennessey, Margot Kelley, Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, Maria Manuccia, Nicole Miller, Elizabeth Mosier, Gregory Ormson, Riba Taylor.
Arts & Letters Drama Prize for One-Act Play (Judge: Iona Holder)
WINNER: Tess Light
Finalists: Daniel Guyton, Benjamin Gonzales, Bara Swain, Scott Sickles
About the Prizes
For each of the four major genres, we offer the winner a $1,000 prize. Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction winners are published in our Fall 2015 or Spring 2016 issue. The prize-winning one-act play is produced at the Georgia College campus (usually in March.) Our prizes are made possible through the following generous endowments: Dr. Barry Darugar, and Bahram and Fari Atefat.
Arts & Letters Fiction Prize
Rumi Prize in Poetry
Susan Atefat Prize in Creative Nonfiction
Drama Prize for One-Act Play.
Poetry: 4-6 poems per submission
Fiction: manuscripts up to 25 pages
Creative Nonfiction: manuscripts up to 25 pages
Drama: one act up to 25 pages
All prize submissions will be considered for publication at regular payment rates.
Please submit for the prizes during our prize submission period, February 1 – March 31. The entry fee is $20.
We are so thrilled to have Jericho Brown join us on campus this Monday, November 3, at 7:30 pm, as part of GCSU’s creative writing program’s Visiting Writers series. Jericho Brown is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry, and Nikki Giovanni’s 100 Best African American Poems.
Brown holds a PhD from the University of Houston, an MFA from the University of New Orleans, and a BA from Dillard University. His first book, Please, won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament, was published by Copper Canyon Press. He is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta. You can read more about Jericho and his works at his website.
It is a privilege to have Barbara Hurd as the judge for the Arts & Letters Journal nonfiction prize this year.
Barbara is the recipient of a 2002 NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, winner of the Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award and Pushcart Prizes in 2004 and 2007. She teaches creative writing in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.
Ms. Hurd has published several award-winning books, including: Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains, Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark, a Library Journal Best Natural History Book of the Year, Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2001, and The Singer’s Temple, winner of the Bright Hill Press Poetry Award.
We are honored to have an author as esteemed as Ms. Hurd serve as this year’s nonfiction judge. Read more about Barbara and her work on her website.
Arts & Letters Online
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