The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

February 26th, 2015

Diminished

If she comes back from Disneyland,
I want to tell her that desire
is ninety percent of the crime.

If she comes back from Disneyland,
I want to tell her that desire
is ninety percent of the crime.
That we’re both guilty
for not staying madly in love
with each other.
It’s not too late to read old love letters.
How the heart swells to the size of the sorrow.
That you can bleed or burn or fall
when you wish upon the wrong star.

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Keven McGowan was born and raised in the Plot section of Scranton, PA, he has two chapbooks, Rubric and No Passengers.

What motivates him to create:
“I write for fun and sport. It’s a hunger.”

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February 18th, 2015

Recipe for Death

Breathe
as much
as possible.

Breathe
as much
as possible.

 

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David James has published two books and five chapbooks (most recently, No Way to Stop the Bleeding, Finishing Line Press, 2014). More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced from New York to California. He teaches at Oakland Community College in Michigan.

 

What motivates him to create:

“Writing is a way to make sense of what’s happening around me, to try to create some order from the blizzard of events, emotions, and time. I agree with Wallace Stevens who said, ‘Poetry is the daily necessity of getting the world right.’ To be truthful, I’d have to change the quote to read ‘weekly necessity’ since I don’t write every day. But it is safe to say if I didn’t write, my life would be messier and more confusing than it is…”

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February 2nd, 2015

Widow’s Mites

She was standing outside Del Taco, asking for money, assuming I had plenty, one look at my car producing the understandable assumption that I might have resources to share. I glanced sideways at my purse, flung across the passenger’s seat. She was close enough to see the look, and thus started thanking me before I’d …

She was standing outside Del Taco,
asking for money, assuming I had
plenty, one look at my car producing
the understandable assumption that
I might have resources to share.

I glanced sideways at my purse,
flung across the passenger’s seat.
She was close enough to see the look,
and thus started thanking me before
I’d even said a single word in response.

I wanted to help, but had nothing substantial
to give, recently unemployed, bills piling up.
I smiled and told her I’d fallen on hard times too,
then opened my change purse and dumped
all the coins I had into her outstretched hand.

She smiled a near-toothless grin
and called me honey, before thanking
me repeatedly for the handful of change
that amounted to no more than a mere
two dollars and seventeen cents.

We finished the conversation
with a round of God bless you,
before she departed with her grocery cart
and I drove on home, no longer needing to pull into
the drive-thru, having adequately given her all that I had.

 

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Cristine A. Gruber, a Southern California native, is a registered caregiver and a full-time author/poet. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines, including: North American Review, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak, Full of Crow, Leaves of Ink, The Old Red Kimono, The Penwood Review, Poetry Now, The Poet’s Haven, and The Tule Review. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Lifeline, was released by Infinity Publishing and is available from Amazon.com.

 

What motivates her to create:
“I write from a place of holistic wellbeing. That’s not to say I don’t touch upon difficult topics; I do. But I create from a place of peace, a wellspring of joy that continually overflows with feelings of universal connectedness and spiritual affinity. Poetry is in everything and everyone, in every moment of every day. I can write a poem about an apple as easily as I can write an ode about the homeless folks I chat with on a regular basis. The words are already there, imbedded in the moment, whatever the moment might happen to be. All I do is bring the words to light, let them come out and play for a while.
 
“If I’m exceedingly lucky, I may have another thirty or forty years to enjoy life on this planet. But that which I’ve created through my poetry can potentially live on forever through those whom I’ve touched with my words. The art of creation connects us all.”

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January 28th, 2015

in conversation with my art

In Conversation With My Art Ernest Williamson III

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Dr. Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 450 national and international online and print journals. Some of Dr. Williamson’s visual art and/or poetry has been published in journals representing over 50 colleges and universities around the world. Dr. Williamson is an Assistant Professor of English at Allen University, self-taught pianist, editor, poet, singer, composer, social scientist, private tutor, and a self-taught painter. His poetry has been nominated three times for the Best of the Net Anthology.

 

What motivates him to create:
“Politics, nature, good and bad experiences, and the possibilities of creating something truly novel all inspire me. The works of Picasso and Dali still inspire me today and my creative efforts inspire me as well. The value of art is the value of life and the value of life is realizing that beauty, joy, sadness, ugliness all contribute to process and process at times can emit transcendental experiences. For me, God is the at the center of overt and covert realities and art can be experienced on a supernatural plane via delving into the metaphorical mimetic signs evinced in color, composition, relevancy, and memory.”

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January 22nd, 2015

Vulnerability

What are you afraid of,
so tremulous you dance
in the doorway of expression,
a butterfly in love

What are you afraid of,
so tremulous you dance
in the doorway of expression,
a butterfly in love
yet so unsure of its feet
that presses lover-like
on the blossom beneath it.

Where do the words go,
when your eyes
speak volumes despite
the unconscious muteness
that seals your lips closed,
lips just before so open
and warm upon my own.

Why does your heart hide,
when it knows only
the obvious comfort
of a love fully returned,
so beautiful it renders
the world tearful…
and I, as silent as you.

 

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Amalie Howard is the author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, PW, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddes, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Magazine Summer Read. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in New York with her husband and three children.

 
 
What motivates her to create:
“For me, creative inspiration comes from reading great books. There’s nothing like reading something amazing to get you fired up to write something equally brilliant. My love affair with fantasy and science fiction began with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and continued with books like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. Given that, it’s really no surprise that that’s where I feel most comfortable exploring my own writing voice. With fantasy and scifi, I love creating whole worlds with elements that may not exist in real society, and the only limits are the ones that I set. I like being able to create interesting multi-layered characters, and I especially like redefining myself in those characters. They are all different versions of me in different worlds with infinite possibility at their fingertips. There’s something exceedingly powerful about that. Lastly, I’m motivated by how my work has impacted my readers—it’s incredibly humbling to get letters, tweets, and Facebook messages from fans about how much they have enjoyed my books. Readers are an essential building block to the creative process–I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their enthusiastic and generous support. I’m very grateful for that.”

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January 8th, 2015

Last Patch

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale …

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale bread, and hair pomade. I can’t exactly tell which one of them is helping the other, bolstered by arms and time. They seem to know one another as well as two people can. Both painful and beautiful to take in, I refocus on my own task of getting us in the door of the clinic. But I am drawn to them once more, momentarily as I hear his nearly inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

We enter the cool dark of the red brick building, which is always a relief from the blistering New Mexico sun. But once inside, it’s all bad here. A toxic mix of bleach, rubbing alcohol, and old carpet hits me like ton of bricks. I’ve got my ibuprofen just in case a headache seeps in. People of all ages clog the waiting room. Most of them are older. My guess is sixty-five and up. Walkers, electric power chairs, and a few regular wheelchairs hold geriatrics lining the far wall of the waiting room. With the frail and hunched are their upright, adult children who push, wipe, fill out forms, and play on their phones. All there to assist their parents and loved ones more comfortably maneuver toward death.

I sign us in at the desk and we take our seats. Rebecca is dwarfed among them. I see a few folks who have noticed us pull their lips in toward their teeth and look down with an I’m-so-sorry face. Most look away except one who frowns as she shamelessly examines Becca’s soupy brown patch of hair, the rest of her head now nearly baby-bald where falls of once-glistening, penny-tinted locks framed her peachy cheeks. Only the sun truly knew the depth of that red. But my Becca does not care if people stare. She says she is a duck as she lets it roll off her back. She smiles at them. Always on the high road, that girl, making me proud.

It’s our turn now. The young aide makes a grand gesture that we should follow her. She’s new, but we’re not. We know the way to the infusion room where twice already this month the nurses have celebrated two patients’ last chemotherapy treatment with bells and clappers. Becca loves it when that happens. She thinks it’s a good omen. It might be my imagination, but it seems like it’s been happening more often. It’s happening again as we enter the room.

“Mommy! They are going to do that for me one day!” I force a smile, a nod, and a “Yes.” I do this because I have to, not because I believe it. There goes another patient set free. Becca runs up and hugs the elderly gentleman who’s surprised but is genuinely grateful. He smiles and pats her on the back with the side of his arthritically bent hand.

Shelly, one of Becca’s favorite nurses, is on duty. We are escorted to the large, sand-colored, reclining medical chair that my little girl will spend the next four hours in. Shelly and Becca chatter about fun, normal things, kid things. Shelly works while she talks and removes the small piece of plastic wrap where Becca smeared on the lidocaine cream more than an hour ago. Running smoothly and on time, as things always do when Shelly administers what could be life or death, the clear poison begins to drip.

Juice box on the side, blankets tucked in tightly, remote in hand, my only child fully reclines and turns her full attention to the wall-mounted TV that she takes complete control of. Flipping through a few soaps, a special on Egypt, and Judge Judy, she deftly lands on the cartoon channel where Spongebob and Patrick are singing something silly in front of The Krusty Krab. She’s already laughing and I can’t help but smile with her. I watch the underwater shenanigans for a few minutes. I’m pulling a book I’ve brought out of my bag as I hear her mumble something. I look at my baby. I am surprised to find that she has fallen asleep so quickly. It usually takes her at least a half hour to doze off. As I study her small features she stirs again. The dull patch of brown so proudly displayed a mere fifteen minutes ago fails to follow as she moves her head. I freeze, witnessing the last little patch lose its hold and slide down the pillow to her shoulder. Heart in my throat, eyes glued to her, she moves her dry lips just enough to eek out an early inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

 

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Bleuzette La Feir was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater. Her work has appeared in Blood Lotus, Blue Lake Review, decomP, Descant, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Forge, Lindenwood Review and Storyscape. Her flash fiction piece, “Bangs,” was nominated for the Best of the Net 2012 anthology.

 

What motivates her to create:

“Putting words on the page is magical. Remembering the childhood books I read such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, gave me my first taste of the bittersweet world of storytelling. Bittersweet because once I began reading a wonderful new story I knew that it would end. I never wanted the story to end.

“I lose myself as I let rise then begin to knead a new story. I press and fold words together that create rich environments that paint luminous images and birth multi-dimensional, relatable characters. It is the way for the story to live on. Now that I create the stories they have lost the bitter and are just sweet. I am stuffed full and satisfied.”

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December 17th, 2014

Two Poems

Keep my journal short.
Just review January through March.
Life is a dig deep snow on my sorrow.
Bare bones of naked sparrows,
beneath my balcony, lie lifeless.
The few survivors huddle in bushes.

 
Missing of the Birds

Keep my journal short.
Just review January through March.
Life is a dig deep snow on my sorrow.
Bare bones of naked sparrows,
beneath my balcony, lie lifeless.
The few survivors huddle in bushes.
Gone, gone is kitchen bowl that holds the seeds.
Sparrows cannot get inside my refrigerator door
nor shop late at Wal-Mart during winter hours−
get away with it.
I drink dated milk. I host rehearsals of childhood.
Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with Diet 7Up.
Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.
I give in to condominium Polish demands.
My neighbor’s parties, loud blast language.
I am weak in the Jesus feeding of the poor.
I now merge day with night and sleep
avoid my shame and guilt.
I try clean, my thoughts of shell spotted snow.
I see fragments, no more feeding of the birds.
 
 
Chicago Street Preacher

Street preacher
server of the Word,
pamphlet whore, hand out
delivery boy,
fanatic of sidewalk vocals,
banjo strummer, seeker of coins,
crack cocaine and salvation within notes.
Camper on 47th from Ashland
to California promoting his
penniless life, gospel forever
Kingdom here it comes.

 

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Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 750 small press magazines in twenty-seven countries, and he edits eight poetry sites. Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom, and several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises, Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.

 
 

What motivates him to create:
“To begin with, I’m prolific in thought and number of poems. At 67, I’m like a young women running out of time to have a child. I do not do poetry for profit, rather a hobby and hopefully a legacy after I’m gone. I also think the rugged life I lived in exile and difficult times I had in my youth lead to many attempts at poetry, many of which have been successful.”

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December 11th, 2014

Mothers of Suicides

The mothers of the suicides
wear downcast looks years later.
The skin of their faces sag,
the corners of their mouths are etched
in expressions of permanent discontent,
hollows of sadness form around their eyes.

The mothers of the suicides
wear downcast looks years later.
The skin of their faces sag,
the corners of their mouths are etched
in expressions of permanent discontent,
hollows of sadness form around their eyes.

Their sons took their lives at home,
in early manhood. One hung himself
in the garage; his sister found him.
The other waited till the family left
for a reunion he’d refused to attend,
arranged himself in an armchair,
and slit his wrists. It was a hot week,
and the smell from the apartment
alerted the neighbors.

Worse than the dread were the discoveries.
The nightmares have never gone away.

What do you want from me?
You were the one who left—
Why won’t you let me go?
Whatever I did that was wrong,
I’m still paying for it.

 

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Anne Whitehouse is a poet, fiction, and non-fiction writer who was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and lives in New York City. She is the author of five collections of poetry: The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, One Sunday Morning, and The Refrain, as well as a novel, Fall Love.

 
 

What motivates her to create:
“Writing is a matter of intuition and paying attention. It begins in desire and need. I write because I feel incomplete without writing. I write out of a love for literature, reading, language. I write to convey what is authentically mine—my own experiences and my observations of others. I write because of a wish to create something durable and permanent from evanescent experience.”

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December 1st, 2014

lake

Lake by Andrew J Khaled

Lake by Andrew J Khaled

 

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Andrew J. Khaled Madigan is a writer and photographer. He spent 20 years traveling in the Middle East and Far East. His first novel, Khawla’s Wall, will be published by Second Wind later this year.

 

What motivates him to create:

“I don’t know what leads me to create things. I feel compelled, and then do it right away without thinking. There’s no waiting room or limbo during which I think about it or consider why. It’s possible that nostalgia for everything that has gone before, for all the many deaths that make up a life, and every moment, is behind this, for all of us. We create as a bulwark against the inevitable demise of everything that we have ever loved and will ever admire. Perhaps we create as a rebellion or making-do because we have no real control over all of this death; we want to put something in its place, a placard to mark what has passed. Sorry I can’t be more definitive or eloquent.”

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November 19th, 2014

The ladies laughed darkly

Five harpies converge
Their barman must emerge
Ice cubes hide submerged
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Five harpies converge
Their barman must emerge
Ice cubes hide submerged
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Eyebrows drawn, mouths cuss
Cloudy tattoos subcutaneous
Their alcoholic rage is just
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Giggles conceal secrets within
Abyssal midnight, howling
Deep in drink, prayers hidden
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

Whispered plans of attack
Each, a wicked pyromaniac
Ember eyes, shades of not black
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

These scorned flowers
With fathomless powers
Mankind cowers
In the late hours
The ladies laughed darkly

 

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Jake Tringali was born in Boston and has lived in LA for 8 years. Currently, he is living back in his home city where he runs rad restaurants. He is surrounded by artists and the occasional physicist.

 
 

What motivates him to create:
“Girls, mainly.”

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