Tag Archives: Alice Blue Review

Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Elizabeth Savage

17 Mar

abrsplashEditor Amber Nelson has once again put together a fantastic installment of alice blue review. Issue twenty-two contains some wonderful poets, such as Alyse Knorr, Vouched Books’ own Tyler Gobble, Sarah Barlett, and several others. I recommend reading through the entire issue (even the prose, lol).

But, as much as I enjoyed the issue as a whole, I keep returning to the two poems by Elizabeth Savage. Here is one of them, “This Bucket of Yours,” in its entirety:

dropped as I carried
                the summer of white
pansies & wild blue

                lowlife in sunlight

bottomless as the months
I could not hold
like a world’s filthy hem

The poem—as with her other contribution, titled “Alter Egret”—is a short, image-based nature poem that, for a moment, allows me to forget that I’m in the “bottomless…months” of winter in Cleveland. Repeated readings of these two poems, to my mind, allow me to access the summer’s white “lowlife in sunlight” (at least secondhand), while the temperatures outside hover just below twenty degrees.

Take some time to read both of Savage’s poems and then purchase a copy of her full-length collection Grammar at Furniture Press Books’ website.

SSM: “i laughed so hard i fell down” by Sasha Fletcher

5 May

This post is bending the rules a little bit, I’ll admit right out of the gate (but honestly, the rules were already bent on day 1 of SSM when I posted a short story by Tobias Wolff that was collected in a book that was obviously not released on a small press, okay). “i laughed so hard i fell down” is not technically a short story, but an excerpt from Fletcher’s novella, When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets and We Will not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds, an exceptionally long title for an exceptionally good book.

But! I contend that “i laughed so hard i fell down” stands on its own as a short story, so I’m making it a part of SSM.

Like I said yesterday, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately, pretending to be a man of the earth. As of yesterday, I am now looking forward to the fruits of 4 strawberry plants, 4 raspberry bushes, tomatoes, red peppers, and a smattering of herbs.

After all the hard work I put into getting these plants into the earth, I do admit to feeling a sense of pride, a sense of having worked (Matt Bell and I were just talking about Denis Johnson’s story “Work,” another short story you need to read). I’ll fully admit to a perhaps misguided romanticism around gardening and other forms of simpler, hard labor, but there still exists something to it. Thinking about Fletcher’s story right now gets to something deep, something that sometimes eats at me, specifically in this passage:

I was up all night drawing pictures of plants. I cut them out of the paper and glued them to some cardboard. I glued the cardboard to some paint stirrers and I planted them in the yard. I tried to make sure that there were some pretty good plants in there.

I am building you a garden the best that I can. I built you a steamboat. I built you a window. I built you a river.

I built a ship out of the floorboards and I floated it on down the river.

I made the river out of what rivers have always been made out of.

I believed in tradition as much as I could for all the ways it could help me and all the ways that it would.

Sometimes I envy my brother, a steelworker. I know. If I spent a week doing his job, especially a week in the middle of January or August, I would absolutely hate it. But, what I envy about it is its tangibility. Take for instance the new Indianapolis Colts stadium.

My brother built this.

The Lucas is an engineering marvel. The structure itself is awe-inspiring and beautiful, which should be enough for my brother to take pride in being a major part of its building. What’s more, look how many people are there. At any given event, my brother can see 1,000s upon 1,000s of people enjoying this thing he helped create over the course of 3 years.

There is something there that I envy. Making a life of writing and art has little of such tangible acknowledgment. We are creating objects for which a greater portion of the world’s population has neither care nor use. This is not me bitching. It’s a simple fact, and I don’t think I know a single writer or artist who hasn’t had the same romanticized notions of a simpler, more laborious profession.

I often think of a line by one of my favorite bands, Waxwing, when I get into this line of thinking, from their song “What These Hands Have Grown,” that goes: “I wish I were a farmer to be satisfied with what these hands have grown, but no food of mine sits in the bellies of others.”

There’s a yearning there, in the song, in Fletcher’s story, in my chest, hopefully in yours too, to create something of real meaning and value to others, something as necessary to sustain life as food.

Just as my brother holds to his tradition of a hard day’s work for all the ways it can help him and all the ways it will, I hold to my tradition of art, of storytelling. Because just as structures are necessary for humans to have a home, stories are necessary for humans to have a history.

Buttons by Jessica Hollander

12 Nov

Over at Alice Blue Review, Jessica Hollander has this nice tale for us. At the end of the second paragraph, the mother says, “I don’t want any observations from you. She doesn’t need to hear it.” But we apparently need it, and IT WORKS, as the speaker tells us about the world of the story, from the lemon cleaner and wet band-aids smell of her grandma’s house to her mom’s movements. These details attach such a definite personality to the protagonist, one that is a melding of the actions and the speaker’s voice. I LIKE THE WAY THIS STORY CREEPS ME OUT A LITTLE BUT ALSO MAKES ME WANT TO BE THERE.

Before the trip to Grandma’s, I emptied my closet and cut the buttons from my clothes. I stuffed them in my pockets and ran my hands through the cold plastic discs the whole way to Lansing.

Mom said, “Be nice.” She had bologna and Miracle Whip and a tiny tin of caviar in the cooler between us. She had Wonder Bread and china cups in a plastic grocery bag. “I don’t want any observations from you. She doesn’t need to hear it.”

Grandma’s house smelled like lemon cleaner and wet band-aids. She had jars of buttons around her living room: a jar of blue, a jar of green, a jar of red. On her coffee table with the clawed feet, a half jar of pink. On her stained-black fireplace, a quarter jar of gray.