Good Writing Break: In Memory of Michael Brown (and Justice)

For everyone sickened by the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there’s a powerful and poignant poem by Jason McCall up on Rattle‘s Poets Respond page. Here’s a taste:

It will happen,
an honest mistake
in a hot August classroom.
Someone will blink
at the name and swear this
“Michael Brown” can’t be
that “Michael Brown.” Or someone
will be too busy with her head down
finishing syllabi to look up and see the flash
grenades and tear
This piece was written the week that Michael Brown was killed, but it still resonates today when Brown’s absence–and the absence of justice in Ferguson–is so keenly felt.

Haiku Hope: For the 98% Who Didn’t Get into Rattle

Hey, all you Fickle Haiku Writers Who Didn’t Get into Rattle Magazine’s Special Haiku Issue! Do you still have your four pages of Japanese-form verse? Then I have a few markets for you to try! I happen to have a contact in the haiku world (she, by the way, got four haiku into Rattle; want to know how many I got? It rhymes with “dear-o”) who gave me links for a few haiku pubs that are accepting submissions until December 15: The Heron’s Nest and A Hundred Gourds (NOTE: A Hundred Gourds is an Australian journal, so if you don’t live down under or thereabouts, you’ll want to get your material there by December 14th.)  There’s also bottle rockets and Modern Haiku, both of which accept submissions year round but have very specific requirements, so read all guidelines carefully.

If your four pages aren’t burning a hole in your pocket and you can wait until 2015 to send them out, here are some other haiku journals of note:

Acorn (accepts submissions January-February and July-August only)

Frogpond (accepts submissions February 15- April 15, June 1-August 1, and September 15-November 15; full disclosure: I’ve had one modest haiku published in Frogpond–really nice publication from the Haiku Society of America)

So there you have it: multiple places to send your Japanese formal poetry and mend your broken haiku heart. Also, this bit of news might help: my contact says that Timothy Green, the editor of Rattle, said he only had room for 40 contributors. Know how many of us submitted? Over 2000. A 2% acceptance rate is pretty much a lotto drawing. So don’t sweat the rejection and keep writing and submitting!




Calls for Submissions: Roxane Gay and The Butter

Oh, yes! Roxane Gay now has her very own editorial venture, a sister site to The Toast called The Butter. This seems appropriate, since Gay’s own writing is like buttah. (Yeah, okay, half of you Fickle Readers probably don’t know what I’m referring to. I’m old, okay? Shut up.)

Gay herself explains the project and her interests and quirks here. Of note is a long rationale about her fascination with Ina Garten. Some of you might remember that I posted a little confession a while back about how I unfollowed Gay because I couldn’t take another tweet about Ms. Garten. Well, miracle of miracles, Gay’s rapturous description on the FAQ page for The Butter actually made me understand why Ina Garten is so alluring. Seriously. Gay’s list of the battery of Ina’s rhetorical questions is a thing of beauty in and of itself.

Don’t misunderstand. I still wouldn’t give two pounds of goat butter for Ina Garten or to participate in endless discussions about her. But I get the attraction now. Thanks, Roxane!

Shakespeare Is Everywhere: The Daily Show Edition

Jon Stewart to Steve Carell, during their “fawn-off” on last night’s Daily Show. Stewart is talking about Carell’s performance in his new movie “Foxcatcher.”

Your acting…Shakespeare, from the grave, got an erection watching your movie.

Didn’t realize the Telluride Film Festival provides live-streaming services to seventeenth-century gravesites. I guess you learn something new every day.

Mighty Tiny Bill adds, “Gentlemen, kindly restrain yourselves from surveying the contents of my codpiece.”

The Simpsons Called It: Historic Homes Edition

By the way, in the midst of the sadness and tragedy in the Eaton article on L’Wren Scott I posted the other day, did anyone notice something a little…creepy? Not as in morbid-creepy or tasteless-creepy, but creepy as in something we astute pop culturists on the Interwebs might have heard of before? Describing Scott’s relationship with Mick Jagger, Eaton writes:

Nobody has a cooler life and friends than Mick Jagger, who had plenty of time to trot the globe as the Stones really weren’t touring much. In the Loire Valley, [Scott] and Jagger, a history buff, would roll up strangers’ driveways, browsing stately homes.

Anybody catch that? Mick Jagger as a “history buff”? Spending his time looking at “stately homes”? Any fans of The Simpsons out there do a double-take when they read this?

Have a look at this run of dialogue from “Lisa’s Wedding,” which first appeared in 1996:

Hugh Parkfield (Mandy Patinkin): I can’t believe how much we have in common. We’re both studying the environment, we’re both utterly humorless about our vegetarianism, and we both love the Rolling Stones.
Lisa: Yes. Not for their music, but for their tireless efforts to preserve historic buildings.

Holy God, Simpsons writers! What sort of magic Portal of Futuristic Accuracy did you have in your clubhouse back in the 1990s???

Okay, maybe it wasn’t so accurate. Note the poster behind Lisa’s fiance, Hugh.


Fickle as a Simile

From A Dictionary of Similes, compiled by Frank J. Wilstach, 1916. Not sure if my favorite is one by Scott or Holmes. (Okay, the Beaumont and Fletcher is good, too.)

Fickle as friends.


Fickle as the lightning.


Fickle as the weather.


Fickle as love.

–Honore de Balzac

Fickle as the flying air.

–Beaumont and Fletcher

Fickle…as the winds.

–Aphra Behn

Fickle as a feather.

–Alexander Brome

Fickle as the sea.

–William Cullen Bryant

Fickle and bright as a fairy throng.

–Eliza Cook

Fickle as the sky.

–James Graeme

Fickle as a female in hysterics.

 –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Fickle as the flood.

–William King

Fickle as the breezes blow.

–Joseph B. Ladd

Fickle as a changeful dream.

–Walter Scott

Shakespeare Is Everywhere: Wear Your Rue with a Difference

The casket appeared to be weeping roses, as if sweet Ophelia herself were inside.

–Phoebe Eaton, “Unraveling the Mystery Behind L’Wren Scott’s Path to Self-Destruction

Whenever a woman dies of suicide, someone inevitably rolls out poor, soggy Ophelia. Never mind that the surviving characters in Hamlet make it a point to argue about whether she killed herself or simply sank to her death under the weight of her own derangement. Never mind that there are plenty of other women suicides in Shakespeare. Juliet. Goneril. Cleopatra. Brutus’s Portia. Lady Macbeth (although you could make a case that her madness seals her fate, the same way that Ophelia might not have been aware that if she floated in the brook and did nothing, her clothes would drag her under).

Maybe the clothes made Phoebe Eaton think of Ophelia when Eaton wrote this article on L’Wren Scott, former model, fashion designer, and partner to Mick Jagger. Scott hanged herself from the knob on her balcony door on March 17, 2014. I mention this detail because Eaton mentions a “Juliet balcony” that decorated the living room of a different Scott residence, one that Jagger nicknamed the “Barbie house.” Interesting that to Jagger, the trappings of a Juliet were associated with dolls and girlie things, while to Scott all of her belongings conveyed special meanings. (Phillip Bloch, one of Scott’s colleages, said of her “Barbie” cottage and its contents, “‘Everything had been somebody’s something-something. Everything had a provenance, a story.'”)

More to the point, though, isn’t there something odd about associating grown women, however troubled, with these teenage Shakespearean heroines? According to Shakespeare’s own words, Juliet is only supposed to be 13. Ophelia’s age isn’t mentioned directly, but most Shakespeare discussion on the Internet (which you just know has to be reliable, since so many college freshmen are copying essays from it) agrees that she’s around 15 or 16. L’Wren Scott was almost 50 when she died. Also, she clearly meant to die–her autopsy confirmed that. And even though she may have had a mental illness, she was not so far gone that people around her noticed her suffering. So why exactly is Eaton so quick to compare Scott to Shakespeare’s frail, manipulated maiden who crumples under the pressure of having to live life without her father’s iron-clad authority? Eaton herself describes how Scott grew up in small-town Utah, how she didn’t go to college, how she went from working retail jobs to modeling to fashion designing and jet-setting around the world with her rock-star-legend long-term boyfriend. Are we as a society so bereft of metaphors for women’s lives that, when faced with one so powerful, whose death was so tragic, we have to grab yet again for flimsy Ophelia? After 400+ years, is that what women of all ages boil down to–youth and dresses and pretty flowers?

Arthur Hughes, “Ophelia,” c. 1863

L’Wren Scott