Editors: Colin Meldrum, Michael James Wilson, Amanda DiSanto, Micah Unice
The hardcopy of A cappella Zoo Issue 5 for today’s review was provided by the editors at A cappella Zoo.
Read selections from A cappella Zoo 5 here.
(And for more fun, read an interview with Editor Colin Meldrum by Jim Harrington at the Six Questions For… blog.)
If I had to describe a theme or a common thread for A cappella Zoo (AZ) issue 5, it would be this: voids, and that which fills them. AZ5 reads like a volume of the Never-Never Encyclopedia of the Esoteric: pages of places both peopled and unpeopled, people without places, people displaced. The contributors for this issue ponder voids of unknown, and speculate on the voices heard within. The result is a collection of literature which ultimately places the sketchbook and pencils in my hand this week – these works are adequately vivid and tangible to fuel your own creative engine through those long, dark nights.
The curtain opens with Showtime by Nancy Gold, winner of the Apospecimen Award for Fiction. Gold’s piece sets the tone for subsequent selections by deftly weaving emotion and imagination with a spindle of belief – the belief that we can be more than the sum of our parts; that our hearts are vessels meant to be filled. This is the first of many pieces which playfully create images that are both impossible and perfectly conceivable. (Read Showtime and just try not to look at your ankles and ponder a few tiny wings about their knobbly bones.)
I never read journals front to back, which is why I next bounce forward to Movie Man by Melissa Ross, telling of “a boy born in the projection booth of a tower in the sky away from the Earth as we know it;” first we are cast into the sky, and next drawn into the intimacy of Earth’s shadows.
In Borges’ Bookstore by David Misialowski smacks of one of my favorite Burgess Meredith Twilight Zones: “Time Enough at Last” (see also Jorge Luis Borges). This maze, void of reason and physical law, wraps upon itself into a complete, neat package. Speaking of neat packages, poetry lovers might like to begin with : sign language : by Joseph A. W. Quintela (whose work I seem to find everywhere these days). The unique composition of this poem is a perfect complement to austere images of solitude, plains, and big, wide sky, cleft open by shared experience.
This completeness is a quality I appreciate throughout AZ5: stories which, while wildly catalyzed, still anchor themselves in some clearly-formed thought. No matter how outrageous our surroundings, each author still affords us a compass with which to navigate the realm. Pestilence by Jason Jordan is such an excellent example: a form of tethered madness.
Many of the AZ5 contributors counterbalance the darker shades of humanity with artful prose and poetry, or a bit of wicked humor. Perhaps the most disturbing yet effective piece is The Crushing by Phillip Neel, which I may have otherwise stopped reading because of the nastiness of the descriptions, had it not been for the clever and poignant entrance to this particular void: that dirty of dirties, the DMV. I’m glad I kept reading – the payoff of this piece is what ranks it among my favorites for this issue.
Similarly The Snake Charmer’s Teeth by Mike Meginnis still haunts me weeks after reading, wherein a cruel story is sculpted with both elegance and requisite gentleness. What the Calf Daughter Knows by Rob Cook is both brutal and beautiful. This persistent poem stands out bone white against the void: completely unignorable.
It’s tough to pick a favorite, especially when I find a journal like A cappella Zoo which is good enough to reread many times. However, the sentimentalist (or perhaps the Japanese lit lover) in me found the deepest connection in A Tale of a Snowy Night by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei. In this story, space is not a function of distance or time, but of empathy. Naoko grounds us in crisp imagery which is as familiar as it is fantastical. Aren’t we all, in some small way, a crate of hopeful apples?
Einstein Plays Guitar by Tania Hershman is also a rewarding read: a well-developed snapshot of those graceful and fleeting whispers of true knowledge. Birds Every Child Should Know by Kate Riedel is another of my favorites from AZ5. I wasn’t sure what to think of it at first; but the more I read Birds, the more I feel the weight of each angelic, warmly feathered lump. In this piece we glimpse the unknown aflutter with spirit, the glittering moments we share with others that spark us on an entirely new path.
Thank you, Theodore Carter, for the tears I cried upon reading the final lines of The Life Story of a Chilean Sea Blob. With much of speculative fiction favoring the apocalyptic, it’s always helpful to recall with specificity that which we might lose in the aftermath.
If you wish to truly be suspended in the void, begin your journey through AZ5 with Sleepmaps by Barry Napier tucked firmly in your back pocket. Personally, I love dream-inspired art; this poem spares no effort in reaching for the most tangible sensations of the dreaming world, such that I too “never want to wake.”
I want to thank the editors of A cappella Zoo for preparing such an effective cross-section of mind-opening literature for issue 5. Each piece is clearly selected for its creation of both precipice and foothold. What I like most about reading specfic – especially GOOD specfic – is that constant feeling of discovery in each page. I love experiments in literature which keep me guessing and thinking and unraveling, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in A cappella Zoo: a bit of the unknown, made knowable.
When: Opens July 19th, submissions accepted for 10 days
What: Write a short fiction piece (or a poem with narrative movement) in 250 words or less, using the contest photo as a starting point.
Who: Everyone is welcome to participate.
How: Learn more and read the full submission details at The Clarity of Night
Writers, don your thinking caps: it’s time for the 13th Clarity of Night “Uncovered” Short Fiction Contest, hosted this July by our friend Jason Evans and co-hosted by Stephen Parrish, author of the debut thriller THE TAVERNIER STONES.
If you’re a past participant of Jason Evans’ Short Fiction contests, you already know what a rewarding, supportive, fun experience they are: writers from across the blogosphere join in the celebration, offer supportive feedback, and share their creations inspired by a common photo. The “Uncovered” inspirational contest photo is shown here, created by Jason Evans, to offer a good challenge for seasoned and aspiring writers alike.
Among the benefits of participation are the great prizes which Jason has once again topped for contest #13: $290 in prize money will be awarded (Amazon gift certificates), including $100 for 1st Place, $50 for 2nd Place, and $35 for 3rd Place. Writers everywhere can appreciate this generous opportunity to share their work with an engaged audience and take a crack at a cash prize.
Reserve some time this month to write a new work of short fiction, and remember — don’t just write your story and run… you’ll have more fun if you make a little extra time to read through the entries, offer feedback to the other participants, and engage with Jason Evans’ generous writing community. You never know whom or what you’ll find lurking at The Clarity of Night… Read you there!
Deadline: July 28
Email to: trees [at] brainripples [dot] com (or use the BGR submission options here)
Themes: Stretch yourself – incorporate botanical observations with artistic reflections
Important! Put “Berry Go Round” in the subject line of your email
This July Issue #30 of the Berry Go Round blog carnival visits the Brainripples blog to celebrate all things green and growing (and fruiting).
Berry Go Round is a celebration of the plant world from a botanical perspective. What does that mean? For Berry Go Round, we want to know the juicy details about the plants you share with us – scientific name, growth habits, ecology, even cultural significance.
For Issue #30 (incidentally one of my favorite numbers), I’d like to invite all my garden-blogging, art-blogging, and tree-blogging friends to participate and share a little something extra from their usual backyard blogging fare.
Stretch yourself a little:
1) Pick a plant in your garden, or your local park, or your favorite walk of trail.
2) Look at where the plant is growing, what it’s growing with, and how it looks different right now compared with how it grows during other seasons.
3) Try to find the plant in an identification book, learn a little about its natural history and cultural significance.
4) Share your findings at your blog or website, and send me the link at trees [at] brainripples [dot] com
You don’t have you be a super-smarty-pants scientist to have fun with Berry Go Round. Gather a little info about a plant, and compose it with a song or a poem or a sketch. For example, my haiku for the banana slug:
Ariolimax columbianus poetess
sentences congeal in sticky opalescence
while she explores the shady sweetness
Even parents with kids at home for summer can use this event as a great excuse to get outside and put those kids to work learning about the plants, big and small, which quietly contribute to our lives.
And yes, to those brilliant researchers among us, I want to hear ALL the juiciness from your latest field work, your ongoing data analyses, and your newly identified flora. Tell us all, and with all the detail. I welcome your insights and look forward to sharing your discoveries here at Brainripples.