Poetry Friday: “Creed in the Santa Ana Winds”

Bronwen Poetry Friday Pic 2Growing up in southern California, I experienced the uneasy allure of the Santa Ana’s hot fall and winter winds that swept down from Nevada’s Great Basin. They whipped up the dust and screamed against the windowpanes. In the drier mountain areas, they ignited fires; in my coastal town, they seemed to blow the stars through the air. As legendary as the full moon, the winds sparked dangers physical and fantastical. Did the fault lines lose their grip in the heat of these gales? Did we? In “Creed in the Santa Ana Winds,” Bronwen Butter Newcott captures—or, shall I say, chases—the fury of the Santa Ana’s in the shadow of an even more powerful, and incalculable, Creator. Her exacting imagery blows those winds through my soul again, two decades after I left.

—Tania Runyan


Creed in the Santa Ana Winds by Bronwen Butter Newcott

You believe He’s stronger than the desert wind
butting against the fence, wind that ignites sagebrush,
tears through the hills and strips the houses to ash.

Despite your lips that crack till blood comes,
skin that grows rough between your fingers,
you believe He will be solid to your touch

the way the bay is slate each dusk, broken only by fish
that hurl themselves toward the pearling sky.
The wind that takes a voice in the night

makes the house uneasy, shouts as the fence flattens.
You stand watching the junipers thrash and knit pleas
into the darkness; you believe He hears. In the morning,

there are six dead kittens on the driveway, a cat
moaning beneath the house. You pick them up by the neck
and put them in the trash. One day, you believe,

God will blow this all down, skin the world
to dust and water and make something new, but for now,
the noise of trees thrashed and cracked covers the ground.

 

Bronwen Butter Newcott grew up in Washington, DC. After completing her MFA, she moved to southern California with her husband where she taught high school, art journal workshops, and had her first two children. She now lives in the DC area with her family. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Smartish Pace, Poet Lore, and other publications.

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Detroit: The Reality of Death and the Reality of Life

Street lightsAt night, through the mottled glass of a door that leads out onto the roof of the building, a red light flashes on, then off, on, then off. It is like a scene from an early fifties’ noir movie. A seedy part of town. A motel. A neon sign flashing with an advertisement for “Girls, Girls, Girls” or “Booze, Booze, Booze.”

In fact, the flashing red light isn’t from a sign. It is a streetlight. It is flashing red because this is Detroit, and in Detroit there isn’t enough traffic in many parts of town to warrant the full traffic light cycle of green to yellow to red.

Why sit there in your car, at an empty intersection, staring at the abandoned buildings all around you, waiting for the light to change from red to green? No reason to do it. So the city started switching some of the lights to flashing red or yellow, effectively turning them into stop signs, or caution markers. [Read more…]

My Soul Thirsts

10935610953_ecff276a2d_zMy children’s Michigan fact book says you can’t go more than eight miles without hitting water in this state, but it must be less this far north. I imagine the land shifting and disappearing beneath my feet as it does at the shoreline, except I’m standing in my kitchen.

“You’re basically living on a big dune,” a woman says when I mention my back pain. I thought I’d pulled something lifting moving boxes, but she says transplants often complain of chronic pain. We go rigid trying to find our sea legs. [Read more…]

The Affair and the End of It

By Alissa Wilkinson

SHOW_42_34_35_1.epsThe second season of Showtime’s The Affair premiered at the beginning of October. In the show, Noah, a forty-something apparently-happily-married novelist, goes to Montauk for the summer with his wife and kids. He meets Alison, who is also married, about ten years his junior, and still grieving the tragic death of her young son years earlier.

You can gather from the title where it goes from there.

Nothing innovative about this plot, but each episode is split into two halves—one from Noah’s perspective and one from Alison’s. Often both halves retell the same events but with subtle changes to account for differing recollections. In Noah’s memory, Alison is seductive and playful: In Alison’s, Noah is swaggeringly confident. Noah’s wife is much more attractive in Alison’s memory than in Noah’s. Events happen in different orders; people speak with different tones of voice. And so it goes. [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Not Kill Time: The Ethics of Storytelling

9109573902_47916587a7_zBy Daniel Taylor

Is The Great Gatsby a crime novel? (There’s a murder.) Crime and Punishment? (It’s in the title.) Moby Dick? (Oh the whales!) People like to make distinctions between mystery, crime, and detective fiction. But what’s the essence of a good mystery? What are the boundaries of what constitutes a crime? How narrowly professional or intentional does a character have to be to be considered a detective? And how do any of the novels in this loose genre relate to literary fiction?

I ask these questions because I have published a novel this year (Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Slant) that finds itself located in a genre that I do not myself read or know much about. It makes me a bit uneasy.

I spent much of my life reading and teaching literary fiction. My most significant exposure to genre fiction was traipsing around small English bookshops with John Wilson (Books and Culture) many years ago looking for used copies of Georges Simenon novels.

Have I written a mystery/crime/detective novel? Can it make any claims to being literary? Does it matter? [Read more…]


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