“The Future is Throttling Towards Us and It’s Loud and Reckless” – An Interview with Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner’s Holy Moly Carry Me, her poetry collection published just last week by BOA Editions, has been described by Ada Limón as “stunning, exact, and haunting…with a complex empathy for the violent, messed-up world.” sam sax says, “In this necessary unprecedented book Meitner has assembled the materials of our apocalyptic present & past and invites us in to revel & quake with her.”  Carmen Giménez Smith calls it “an urgent document of our complex ties with the past, and the dangers of letting histories, private and public, repeat themselves.”

Our Senior Editorial Consultant Maria Pinto recently spoke with Meitner about her book, as well as strip malls, Frank O’Hara, and America’s ideological bifurcation.

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MP: Holy Moly Carry Me took me road tripping across America, just before the apocalypse, now and yesterday, towards another fraught family holiday. Why does so much of the moment you captured, that the poems continue to capture long after we put down the book, take place on the road and in the parking lots of strip malls?

EM: Part of this has to do with the weird logistics of my writing life. Since I’m an academic, I write most of my poems during breaks between semesters. Much of Holy Moly Carry Me was written with an online writing group I’m a part of, where we convene for two or four weeks at a time and write a poem a day, then post our poems in a Google group for accountability. We often do this over winter break and in the summer months when I’m usually road-tripping to see family, so many of the poems were written while I was in the car, on my iPhone notepad. But also, I live in a semi-rural college town where most of our landscape (aside from mountains and farmland) is made up of strip malls and big box stores—like most of America. And I was tired of ironing out these landscapes from my poems because they seem “unpoetic” (whatever that means).

MP: All of these scenes and themes recall the idiosyncratic ways we, as citizens of this America, are called to remember and forget: a frustrating and omnipresent blankness, stuttering to a stop and getting picked back up again in the next installment (at one point, the first poem in the collection gets picked up halfway through the book), erasures that you can still see, tattoos and tattoos, reality show templates that get reused, messy forensics and the burden of proof, a cop waving us past today’s tragedy with light batons, towards the next. What is the poet’s role in preserving our collective memory?

EM: One of the poems I love teaching is Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died,” which—in addition to being an elegy for Billie Holiday—is a general recounting of O’Hara’s errands through Manhattan over the course of one day. He goes to the bank! He buys a hostess gift! He gets a shoeshine! It’s pretty quotidian stuff, but nearly all the places he stops at are gone now, so the poem creates a sort of ghost map of Manhattan’s streetscapes and storefronts in 1964. The poem ends with him passing a newsstand and seeing that Lady Day has died—and the poem closes like this:

“and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing”

That ability to create a lyric moment and bring readers backwards and forwards in time at once, and then stop it—that’s what I love about poems. Poets preserve the collective memory of emotions, and emotions are messy—they repeat and repeat on us, get erased and recast by narrative and image, and they’re imprinted on us indelibly and shiftily.
Continue reading “The Future is Throttling Towards Us and It’s Loud and Reckless” – An Interview with Erika Meitner

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“A Tad of Advice with Chad Vice” – Vol. 2, September 2018

Neighbourly Advice – Leonora Carrington, 1947

In these bewildering, tumultuous, often terrifying times, we all could use some extra helpings of unbiased guidance and compassion. With that in mind, we present the second installment of our new contributor Chad Vice‘s monthly advice column, “A Tad of Advice with Chad Vice.” 

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Dear Chad Vice, 
How do you deal with success? I feel like if I want to succeed in any significant way, I have to make sacrifices elsewhere. Sacrifices that, over time, seem to take away from my initial (financial) experience of success. I don’t see my family or friends as much. I’m saving for the future, but I suffer from fomo. 
Yours,
Mick A. Rust 

Hi Icarus

Success is a slippery word. It could mean making it rain in this day and age, it could mean slaughtering infidels like pigs during the crusades. 

What makes you feel good? 
Flying high, on your own, sure.  But also family. If you feel like you have leaned into one more than the other, valence it out. 

But remember, nothing is eternal. 
Even,
Chad


Dear Chad,
I was born with certain superhuman abilities, kind of like the Precogs in “Minority Report,” but instead of having psychic visions of crimes that will occur in the future, I am able to predict, with my sense of smell, who in my vicinity is about to pass gas. Usually I don’t identify the flatulent culprits publicly– but should I? Do my powers carry any ethical responsibilities?
Percy R in Phoenix, AZ

Dear percy(us) 


That is a complicated gift. Don’t let it make you feel isolated. 

I think you have to learn to trust yourself. You have this gift for a reason. 

If sweet Sharon from accounting is about to break wind, maybe give her a break? She’s so sweet. She bakes cookies! 

But if you know big Don is about to cheese spray all over the white walls and you know he won’t feel remorse for it, you finger him like a confident witness in a murder trial. 
Chad.

Dear Chad,
In 2011, I got a tattoo on the side of my neck of Louis CK’s face, and for nearly a year now I’ve been covering it up with silk scarves and/or feather boas. Will my tattoo ever be cool again, or should I just go ahead and get it removed? Or maybe altered to look more like a less controversial celebrity, such as “Throw Momma from the Train” star Anne Ramsey?
Aleesha Y in Miami, FL

Dearest Aleesha, 

You cannot go wrong with Anne Ramsey. Just watch the classic horror film deadly friend. She is always an ace.

That said, it’s sad but, Louis’s biggest joke is on himself. You can’t stand up on film and speak insightfully of (among other things) the danger men pose to women and then get away with sexual misconduct. It cheapens all your future “insights”. 
I don’t know what you have to do, maybe ask a woman who inexplicably stopped getting work in Hollywood, despite not abusing anyone. 
Fuck,
Chad. 

Dear Chad,
Like many Americans today, I’ve been experiencing a great deal of conflict with certain family members because of our country’s current political climate. Over the past few years, for instance, my daddy has turned from a fiscal conservative with moderately liberal social values, into what you might call an amoral neo-fascist. To make matters worse, he was recently elected into a very high-ranking government position. At times I’ve tried to reason with him and temper his alarming behavior, but he always responds by saying things like, “You’re a lot less pretty when you criticize me, and it makes me not love you anymore.” While I’ve been able to channel my frustrations in a few productive ways, such as publishing anonymous op-eds about him in the New York Times, I still feel like I’m flying full-speed ahead toward a psychotic breakdown if I can’t resolve all this inner turmoil. Help me, Chad! How can I properly atone for being such a bad girl, while ensuring that my daddy will never ever stop loving me?
Ivanka T in Washington, DC

Wow. 


Vankie. That’s a lot. 

I’ve been waiting for your email. Do you remember that night we watched Showgirls, ate cheese fries, and finger banged each other? #magicjohnson 

Where you are has worried me. Emotionally. Politically. Geographically. You are being honest. 

Like when you beat me, 
One on one. 

But also:
I mean, with yourself boo. 

That was a great basketball game. We both dunked! 😉 

There is something wrong with your sense of security. 

Dear Chad,
Breakfast isn’t just the most important  meal of my day, it’s the most important PART of my LIFE. Problem is, I’m so bored with all the classic cereals. Raisin Bran? More like Raisin BLAND! Cheerios? More like Cheeri-NOs! Count Chocula? More like LAME Chocula! You catch my drift, right? So what are some exciting new under-the-radar, not-your-grandma’s breakfast cereals I should be eating?
Trayvis D in Portland, OR

Trayvis, 

When was the last time you watched the sunrise? And I mean not in the: “I am gonna write a song on my guitar and watch the sun rise to get pussy” kind of watch the sunrise from college? 

1) Fast for a day. 
2) Go to every religious event you can in that time
3) Break fast in the morning 
4) Record your FEELINGS! 
5) eat a bagel 
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CHAD VICE first identified with Play-Doh.  He is a nut in a nutcrackers world. He prefers bold musical choices and sitting all the way through movies’ credits. He is here to hear you. He has studied under Merlin and your Mom.

Do you need some advice from Chad Vice? Email your questions & quandaries to FLAPPERHOUSE at gmail dot com, then pray to Athena and blow a kiss to the cosmos…

Flapping for RAICES

This month, your patronage of FLAPPERHOUSE will do even more than just support indie lit weirdos… throughout September 2018, we’ll be donating 50% of our sales to RAICES, to help provide legal assistance to underserved immigrant families.

So if you buy any subscriptions or books or zines (like our forthcoming Fall 2018 issue, currently available for pre-order), we’ll donate half that money to RAICES. (To learn more about the cause, check out RAICESTexas.org.)

In addition, we’ll be taking donations for RAICES at our September 26 reading, which is part of Reading for RAICES, a collaborative fundraiser of over 20 NYC-area reading series:

  

Thanks to Katie Rainey & Devin Kelly of the Dead Rabbits, and everyone else who’s been organizing Reading for RAICES– and we hope you’ll help us all help some folks who’ll really need it this Fall…

“Bodega Cat” – Fiction by Tabitha Laffernis

Cats – Otto Dix, 1920

The grand finale of our Summer 2018 issue is “Bodega Cat,” Tabitha Laffernis‘ fantastically frisky tale of a young woman seeking companionship & discovering primal urges in New York City.

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THE BODEGA AT NIGHT IS LIT UP WITH AN ACID BRIGHTNESS.

She smells freshly juiced. “That’s a real injustice of a person,” the cat said, whiskers twitching. “Exquisite face and dimensions. Sharp as a tack,” still talking, like it was normal. “But the real injustice is how they treat her. See how they’re complimenting her lip color instead of asking what her book is about? She comes in here, nearly every day, and they don’t know what she’s studying at grad school. They’ve never asked.” He looked at me. “She’s just the pretty girl, to them. Not like you. You’re not pretty enough to be distracting. They asked you.”

He was right, and as I started to ask why on earth he’d be qualified to say this, the answer made itself known. He was shaggily handsome, but not awww-inducing, nice eyes, slightly scrawny limbs, a shiny, healthy coat. Not the best looking cat I’d ever seen, but well-cared for with an inquisitive stare. You, it said. Yes, you.

“Are you negging me?” I asked.

“No,” he said, and I believed him.

“What’s your name?” he asked me.

“Kayla,” I said. “What’s yours? I should’ve asked first.”

“Gus,” he replied. “You’re interesting, Kayla.”

“Thanks.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a physician’s assistant,” I replied. “Derm.”

“Derm. Which one’s that again?”

“Dermatology. Skin.” Cancer and vanity, I sometimes say, but of course that’s reductive and I don’t want to seem petty. I flushed at the thought.

“Skin. Right. I wouldn’t know.”

The joke melts the ice a little.

As the girl walked past I saw a textbook sticking out of her bag. Aleinikoff, Martin, Motomura, Fullerton and Stumpf, Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy. “That looks intense,” I told her, and she gave a half-smile. “Yeah,” she replied. “I’ve barely slept this semester.” The shadows under her eyes looked Sphinxy instead of tired. Her other hand held a plastic bag of potato chips, mac and cheese, frozen burritos. My moment of investigating her as a person immediately dissolved. Idiot bitch, I think. It just popped into my head, no warning. She’s skinny as a rake, except where it counts. My own basket contained some yellowing broccoli, corn popped in coconut oil, a sad but large carrot. This bodega is convenient; the produce is lousy.

“Come visit me again tomorrow?” the cat asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I will.” And I felt something I hadn’t felt in a while.

{ X }

It was innocent enough, to start. It was so hot. That night I’d lain on top of sweat-damp linens, sprawled so that each joint of my body hung as if off ball bearings. I lay there waiting for the man on the news that had been breaking into houses to steal money and stroke women, unable to sleep a wink, though I was so, so tired. I was tired because it was in my bones, that exhaustion of having to explain myself, of having to check myself at every second-guess. I was tired because I walked everywhere, a remnant from the days when I said I walked because I wanted fresh air, but really the air was fetid and I couldn’t afford a subway ticket.

I wondered if the man who was breaking into houses was maybe a nice guy. If he was just looking for something. He was just running his fingers through women’s hair; I wanted to run mine along the cat’s flexed spine, and I’m a good person, I thought.

Before he started breaking into houses my greatest fear was waking up with a mouse between my legs. Mouse shit appeared on the kitchen mantel, the vanity where my hair dryer sat, even on fresh sheets. I wondered where the cat was, slinking along a roof or a fire escape. Or if he was keeping the bodega clear of rodents, protecting it in the night, a service he hadn’t even thought to offer me.

That night, my torn underwear looked like an invitation. Not for vermin, I reminded myself. Not for the man pushing in A/C units to find sleeping beauties. And slid a hand into my knickers.

Continue reading “Bodega Cat” – Fiction by Tabitha Laffernis

“We Have Always…” – Poetry by John J. Trause

Still Life with Skull, Candle, and Book – Paul Cezanne, 1866

“We Have Always…” is John J. Trause‘s mysterious and musical poem from our Summer 2018 isssue.

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NAIL A BOOK ONTO A TREE
Memorize a word or three
Bury coins and golden watches,
Curios and witchy swatches.

Run around the yard and garden
Let your heart and feelings harden
Tidy up the little hollow
By the creek, both deep and shallow.

Put the sugar in the cupboard
Hide the watch behind the floorboard
Entertain the guests at tea
Memorize a word or three.

Store the books and don’t return them
Someday you will have to burn them
Memorize a word or three
Someday you’ll live merrily.

And remember, come September,
To be kind in May, November,
Even when the world’s an ember
And you are its only member.

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photo by Jill Greenberg

JOHN J. TRAUSE, Director of Oradell Public Library, is the author of six books of poetry and one of parody, Latter-Day Litany, the latter staged Off Broadway.  His translations, writing, and visual work appear internationally in many journals and anthologies, and Marymark Press has published his visual poetry and art as broadsides and sheets.  He is a founder of the W.C.W. Poetry Cooperative in Rutherford, N.J., and the former host/curator of its reading series. For the sake of art Trause hung naked for one whole month in the summer of 2007 on the Art Wall of the Bowery Poetry Club.  He is fond of cunning acrostics and color-coded chiasmus.

“Loveless” – Fiction by AJ Ogundimu

The Lovers – Rene Magritte, 1928

This modern romance may start with a “classic meet-cute,” but things soon get all too real in “Loveless,” AJ Ogundimu‘s subversive anti-romcom from our Summer 2018 issue.

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WHEN HE TELLS HIS BIG EX THAT HE MET SOMEONE, SHE LAUGHS.

It doesn’t matter where in New York they meet, but they don’t meet on Tinder. This is a classic meet-cute.

She is 22, he is almost 30. He is skinny-fat and probably white but doesn’t have to be. He is a poet or photographer who studied English or Music. She is a metalworker or essayist who studied Comparative Lit or Gender Studies. They have mutual friends, but never go to the same bars.

He has an appeal, not ugly but not Hollywood or even Sundance. He doesn’t go to the gym, but if he does he’s not a protein powder, stock-option, Alpha Male. He wears graphic tees and his hair is messy, unlike everyone else’s.

She is not conventionally attractive, but (this is important!) she is not conventionally unattractive either. She has an undercut, bangs or a half-shaved head and she wears a lot of dark colors. She is not a gym-goer. She is white, and if not she’s Korean, and if not then Lebanese, but he makes an effort not to ask or comment about her ethnicity even though he wants to know. He wanted to talk to Blonde Friend or Leggy and European. He will tell himself that it’s because he likes quirky, not because he is settling. She talked to him because of his funny and nonspecific sexual charisma.

She wears Forever 21. He shops at thrift stores. She drinks chai lattes, he drinks black coffee, she drinks cider, he drinks whiskey. He asks if she likes Edith Wharton, she says yeah. He says he’s a feminist. He won’t say he wants to fuck her. She kind of wishes he’d get it over with.

They will hang out, at parks or museums, but they won’t go on dates. They will hash out the usual questions of family and occupation, while laughing at how typical these questions are. They are unconventional people doing conventional things.

When he tells his Big Ex that he is seeing someone, she says, That’s not a good idea.

During his worn and shiny monologue, he says marriage is a capitalist institution designed to keep women in bondage by treating them as property, wherein domesticity and child-rearing are handled while the man is left free to pursue career and conquest, relegating women to second-class citizens. He says all of this in a copious breath while she tries to eat a Japanese-fusion quiche with nori and raw salmon he insisted they try.

She wants to get married, but ignores his conversation and refuses a green tea mochi ice cream taco.

He shows her his vinyl collection so she fucks him to make him stop talking. He’s goofy but earnest and book smart, and if she never fucked anyone goofy she’d never fuck anyone. His breathing is too heavy and his head game is sloppy but he’s good enough. He doesn’t kick her out even though she leaves. He makes sure to say he wants to see her again. He texts to make sure she got home alright.

When he tells his Big Ex that he fucked someone she says, Well, that’s too bad.

When he talks about her she’s beautiful, never hot. He will not give sexual specifics. I really like her, he says. I think this might be something.

She talks to friends about Shakira and Roxane Gay. She demands her life pass the Bechdel test. She throws herself into work, eats croissants or berries, and drinks kombucha.

When they ask about him, she says he doesn’t seem like a creep. She describes his dick when they ask, in detail. Critiques his sexual performance. She defends his awful text messages. He’s kind of an underachiever, she says. I still like him though…

She shows up at his job and brings him a donut. They kiss in public now. They stay over. She is emotionally unavailable and has trust issues. He is unsure of his future and willing to take it slow.

They have a soundtrack. They have a favorite restaurant (It’s not the fusion place.) They compromise on the cider/beer question by always keeping wine around. They go clubbing, or eat brunch and walk around Central Park on Sundays. They take road trips. They smoke American Spirits even though they don’t smoke.

When he tells his Big Ex that he has a new girlfriend, she asks, Does she know what you’re like?

Continue reading “Loveless” – Fiction by AJ Ogundimu

“Knock Knock” – Poetry by Todd Dillard

Laughing Boy – Steve Wheeler, 1949

“Knock Knock” is one of three vivid & tender poems of love, parenthood, and mortality by Todd Dillard in our Summer 2018 issue.

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YOU WILL LAUGH
after I am dead

today I laugh knowing
after I am dead
we will laugh together

today you laugh
and do not know
one day I will not
be there to answer the door

I have a secret: I laugh especially
when things are not funny

a mouth without laughter
is a river that’s lost
its water

I laugh to forget
I laugh too to remember

the autumn air saddles the tree
and the tree whinnies with laughter

I laugh for the times
I could have laughed
but didn’t

I laugh for the times
I would laugh
but will not

my laughs love and mourn and see
they are like living that way

just now your tiny finger
touched my nose
and you laughed

and when tears
tripped down my cheek
that same finger
touched their snail-shine

you said, No cry

and I laughed

you are
so young and wise

I will take
your advice
to my grave

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TODD DILLARD ‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including Barrelhouse, Nimrod, Superstition Review, Crab Creek Review, and Split Lip Magazine. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter. You can find him on twitter via @toddedillard.