Content Tagged ‘Ecotone’

The Starving Artist: A Thanksgiving Meditation on Food and Literary Fuel

by Anna Montgomery Patton

There is a strange ache that comes with hunger.  One must take inventory of one’s body, locate the source of the hunger. Stomach? Brain? In fact, the feeling of hunger is not a message delivered to the brain from the stomach. It turns out that Neuropeptide not only communicates a desire for food to the brain, it also reduces pain, stress, anxiety, and blood pressure. Sometimes when I feel hungry I automatically assume my body is telling me it wants food. Perhaps it is simply wanting some sort of nourishment. And what I, and many others, find satiating is reading. Words are delicious.

It is no surprise, then, that an incredible amount of restaurants all over the world share names with well-regarded literary magazines and journals. During a meeting of the Ecotone practicum last semester, we discovered Prairie Schooner. No, not the noted literary journal of the University of Nebraska, which has been in circulation since 1926. This was Prairie Schooner of Ogden, Utah, a Wild West–themed restaurant where one can “dine in a covered wagon next to an open prairie fire while enjoying our delicious hand cut steaks, fresh seafood, and signature desserts.” I have not had the opportunity to dine at Prairie Schooner, but my experience reading an issue of Prairie Schooner was similar to enjoying a satisfying meal. And should that not be the goal of successful writing? If nothing else, a writer strives to leave a reader full, if not a little uncomfortable.

The discovery of Prairie Schooner (the restaurant) led me down a rabbit hole of dining opportunities linked to the literary, some more “fine” than others. Ploughshare Brewing Company in Lincoln, Nebraska (“Share the Bounty! Get Behind the Plough!”) was named best new restaurant in 2014, and boasts original brews and brats among its vittles. Wellington, England, is home to Tin House, a Cantonese restaurant with an overpriced (in my humble opinion) chow mein takeaway. McSweeney’s serves up twenty-one pieces of shrimp for a reasonable $4.50 in Pittsburgh. They are better known for their $1.95 red hots: hot dogs in steamed buns with McSweeney’s meat sauce and onions. The website warns, “onions buried, may cause sauce to fall off hot dog due to bun crisis of 2002.” I am uncertain about what this means, but it seems of a piece with the quirkiness and “daily laffs” of McSweeney’s.

Threepenny Cafe in Charlottesville, Virginia, not only won the OpenTable 2015 Diner’s Choice Award, and serves a $33 three-course prix fixe menu that sounds delectable (think charred romaine salad, pan roasted rockfish with champagne sauce, pecan bread budding with bourbon creme anglaise), but they have a lovely outdoor patio and live music. Back in the United Kingdom, the Granta has a mouthwatering menu of modern spins on British pub classics. Every Sunday they have a home-cooked roast along with seasonal vegetables, and Yorkies, also home-cooked. The literary Granta is similarly classic and attuned to long-time traditions.

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Save Your Place: A Rickety, Kaleidoscopic Feeling

Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this department, Save Your Place, we highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.

This place is from “What Looks Like Mad Disorder: The Sarah Winchester House” by Joni Tevis in Ecotone 17.

“But for the kitchen, the Grand Ballroom, and the séance room, it’s hard to tell what most of the rooms were used for, and that’s not the only thing that gives the Winchester House a rickety, kaleidoscopic feeling. There are shallow cabinets an inch deep, and others large as generous rooms; one door opens onto a one-story drop, another onto slats instead of flooring. One staircase ends in a ceiling, and another forks into a Y, eleven steps up and seven steps down. Despite the fortune Sarah spent, the house feels temporary as a badly pitched tent.”

House Guest: Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck’s poems, “The Woman in Our House,” “Asmahan,” and “Listen” appear in Ecotone 21. In the piece below, Zeina tells us about the process of writing 3arabi Song, using a glossary of some of the Arabic words in the chapbook.

3arabiCovWriting 3arabi Song: A Glossary of Arabic Terms

Tarab: a kind of Arabic music. The word is also used to describe the emotional effect of this music on the listener, who is almost in a state of trance.

Tarab: When Mom began an Umm Kulthum song in the kitchen, Dad replied from the corridor. When my parents’ friends came over, everyone sang. The only video footage my parents have of me as a toddler is me singing in the middle of a living room, surrounded by clapping adults. This was Lebanon in the ’80s, during the civil war. Every day at lunch or dinner, Dad made the same joke about a line from a famous Abdel Halim song – a line about how time was coming to heal us.

Ya’aburnee: literally means “you bury me.” A term of endearment, often used by Arab mothers, expressing their desire to die before their children, rather than live without them. Can’t be translated in one word.

Ya’aburnee: Three summers ago, my cousin was shot dead on the street in Tripoli, Lebanon. My aunt sat in her living room, crying and singing about her asmar, her dark-skinned boy. That same summer, two Tripoli mosques were bombed. I don’t know how many people have buried loved ones in Syria, in Iraq, in Palestine. How to write the untranslatable?

3arabi: the Arabizi way of writing “Arabic.” Arabizi” comes from the combination of “Arabic” and “Englizi” (English); it uses numbers to represent sounds that are specifically Arabic, and has become well-known among Arabic speakers (especially online and in texting).

3arabi: One of the books we had in our house in Tripoli was a big, blue, French-Arabic/Arabic-French dictionary. It’s one of the earliest books I remember going through; I liked its thick cover, its smell, its thin pages, its weight. Looking back now, I find it interesting that, like me, it was bilingual. Like many Lebanese, I attended a French school then an American University. I feel I live in many languages, and so does 3arabi Song. But living in many languages means using the language of the colonizer, the Empire – do I forgive myself? And how do I break English to create a space for my 3arabi self inside it?

Ra7eel: departure | 3awda: returning

Ra7eel | 3awda: In one of the first stories I wrote as a little girl, I gave my character a very Western name: Grace. I remember struggling to come up with it because, in my little girl’s mind, I probably thought, Who names their characters Zeina or Ahmad? Who sets a story in Tripoli? One thing 3arabi Song says is, Oh for God’s sake, who the hell is Grace?

Bahr: the sea. Also means “meter” in Arabic poetry.

Bahr: The sea isn’t always merciful. Refugees keep drowning in the Mediterranean. And poetry seems simultaneously useles and powerful. But language is what I do, so I do it.

Habibi: my love.

Habibi: I lose count of how many times a day I use the word habibi. I lose count of Allah too.

Allahu Akbar: God is greater.

Allahu Akbar: These words didn’t use to invoke fear, or beheadings. When I visited the US for the first time last year, I wanted to read the poem “Adhan,” which contains the words Allahu Akbar. My husband worried some people in the audience might not get it, might be scared. He also worried some people in the Arab world might be offended. This is what happens when you live in the liminal. I read the poem.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet. Her first collection, To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize. Her second collection, Louder than Hearts, has won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in April 2017. She’s also the author of two chapbooks: 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize, and There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 smith|doorstop Laureate’s Choice, selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Forward Prize, and has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and The Rialto, among others. She lives in Dubai, where she has founded and runs PUNCH, a poetry and open mic collective. Zeina’s readings often have a strong performative quality, and she has participated in literary festivals in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

News Roundup: Launch Week!

It was an especially exciting week at Lookout HQ with the launch of Clare Beams’s story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, on Tuesday. The Lookout team has been hard at work on this amazing book for quite some time, and it’s been fun to see it getting the attention it so deserves. Here are a few of the special places you can read more about it.

14725637_1265480910169567_3165786101765082538_nThe story “All the Keys to All the Doors” was featured in Electric Literature‘s Recommended Reading this week, with a fantastic introduction from Megan Mayhew Bergman: “Upon reading her, you make it to the third or fourth paragraph and realize this is not the restrained narrative you expected, that there is a cutting strangeness and profundity afoot.”

Clare got a bunch of love in Pittsburgh, the town she calls home, including this interview in the Pittsburgh City Paper, this review in the Pittsburgh Tribune, and a packed release party at the White Whale Bookstore.

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And if you haven’t heard by now, she also got love from O, The Oprah Magazine, where it was featured as one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.”

This coming week, Wilmington will host its own special launch party for Clare as part of Writers’ Week on Monday night. To read more about it–and the other fabulous writers coming to Wilmington including Mei Fong, Maurice Manning, and Chinelo Okparanta–check out this article from Encore.

Speaking of hometown love, Wilmington’s Salt Magazine did a fabulous profile on Lookout and Honey from the Lion, saying, “The care and adoration 14711067_1260597560657902_1981140058012777635_olavished on a Lookout book is obvious…. French flaps, beautiful graphic design, and tailored page layouts are the hallmarks of a book that someone cares about…. At Lookout, each book radiates that level of care.” And Parnassus Books created this roundup of “Small Presses: Little Gems With Big Impact,” calling out Lookout books by Clare Beams, Edith Pearlman, and Matthew Neill Null. (Thanks, you guys!)

There’s good news for other Lookout authors, too! Matthew Neill Null’s novel, Honey from the Lion, has been named a fiction finalist in the 2016 Massachusetts Book Awards from the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and has sold to Albin Michel for publication in France in 2018. Oui oui!

And Ben Miller, author of the memoir River Bend Chronicle, accepted the Cornell College Leadership & Service Award for “contributions to American literature.” Ben’s acceptance speech is funny and inspiring, and we’re so happy for him.

And there are book launches in the world of Ecotone contributors to boot! Melissa Range’s new poetry collection, Scriptorium, hit the shelves this month. Chosen by Tracy K. Smith for the 2015 National Poetry Series, it’s now available from Beacon Press.

Issue 21 contributor Safiya Sinclair’s book of poetry, Cannibal, which came out last month, got a shout out on Lenny: “Her stanzas will revive you and leave you transformed.”

This is the post that nearly launched a thousand books. We hope your reading all the great new literature you can handle–thanks for checking out ours!

Save Your Place: No Limit, No Shade

Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this department, Save Your Place, we highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.

This place is from the poem “Muybridge’s Clouds” by Joshua Rivkin  in Ecotone 17.

“His lens opens and the sky burns away. No limit, no shade. Just the color of the crater left by footprints in mountain snow or the bright blindness of a just-fired gun, the sky in early photographs appears white. In his darkroom, a library of negatives, he matches the right shape for the right sky.”

Ecotone + Lookout Deal, Plus Clare Beams in O, the Oprah Magazine!

We’re getting closer and closer to publication day for We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams! If you’re a fan of Lookout and  (and we hope you are), we’ve got a great special going on. Receive a one-year subscription to Ecotone and a copy of We Show What We Have Learned  for over 25 percent off the cover price. For just $25, you’ll receive two issues of Ecotone as well as Beams’s collection, due out in October 2016.
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In other exciting news, O, the Oprah Magazine, has named We Show What We Have Learned one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.” In their micro-review, the magazine’s editors write, “This debut collection is full of promise and surreal delight. In the shocking title tale, a teacher falls to pieces in front of her class, not emotionally or metaphorically, but literally. We hope there’s much more to come from this writer.” Subscribe to the November iPad edition to read the first ten pages of the collection, or check out the full list of books in this month’s print issue.

News Roundup: Not Feeling Listless

Fall is finally here, and along with it–and pumpkin spicing and starting to wear socks and breaking out the cardigans–comes lists of what to read this fall. We’re thrilled to find Ecotone and Lookout mentioned in a bunch of different lists. (And, for one more list, check back to the blog Monday to see the full roundup of Ecotone‘s Best American reprints and notables!)

Matt Broderick, the Review Review Reviews Editor (say that five times fast) introduced his list of lit mag journal editors sharing love, with this lovely thought, “One of my favorite things about this community of writers and editors is our willingness to give each other pats on the back and high fives for work well done.” He talked to a few editors he admires to find out which journals are on their radar, and we were excited that Chicago Review of Books Editor-in-Chief, Adam Morgan, mentioned Ecotone as one of his favorite lit mags.

national-reading-group-month-selections-400x600Over at Book Riot, Aram Mrjoian rounds up a list of  “5 Lit Journals for Readers Who Love a Sense of Place,” and Ecotone tops the list. Aram says, “We naturally expect and desire for stories to transport us, to teach us about the specifics of an unfamiliar environment, and that our preconceived notions of the physical world will automatically skew our perception of what we read on the page.” We love the idea that Ecotone helps readers grapple with that kind of transportation and perception, and are so grateful to make the list.

On the site My Booket List, they’re kicking off their book club to celebrate National Reading Group Month by partnering with the Women’s National Book Association (Greater Philadelphia Chapter) to suggest a list of “fun, inspirational, and page-turning books” including Lookout’s We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams. Check out these other three books on the list, and head on over to their site if you want to join in the conversations.

The Masters Review has a fantastic list of seven upcoming fall titles they’re excited about, including our very own Clare Beams yet again. Clare joins other debuts from Anne Valente and Derek Palacio, along with Zadie Smith’s wildly anticipated new novel. We love the succinct plug in their description. “We love Lookout Books, and we love a good debut collection.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

We hope this list of lists has helped cure any listlessness or even any listing to the right or left. There are so many good things coming for you to read. Ge thee to a list and start making your way through it!

“Happiness” in this year’s O. Henry Prize Stories

-1The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 was released this week, and we’re thrilled that Ron Carlson’s story “Happiness” is included. And we were even, ahem, happier to see the attention the story got in editor Laura Furman’s introduction.

“This year, as always, when the reading got under way for The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016, the stories in the just-published 2015 collection whispered in my ear that this would be the year when I wouldn’t find another twenty worthy of succeeding them. The haunting prediction held for a while, and then the first right one appeared. This year, Ron Carlson’s “Happiness” reassured me that once again there were more wonderful stories to discover.”

She goes on, we gleefully note, for several paragraphs about the story, including this one:

“The unhurried pace of the narration speaks of happiness as the narrator luxuriates in his modest way. He isn’t about to rush anything, not his descriptions of the weather, land, trees, water, trout, or deer. Even the cabin’s copper Levelor blinds have their moment. Happiness might glow and inspire, in memory and in its presence, but it doesn’t last, a truth here not stated but implied.”

We’re also proud to congratulate other Ecotone contributors for their inclusion: Charles Haverty for his story “Storm Windows” from One Story, Adrienne Celt for her story “Temples” from Epoch, and Wendell Berry for his story “Dismemberment” from The Threepenny Review.

Seven Questions for Erik Reece

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we feature Erik Reece, whose story, “A Week on the Kentucky River: Reading Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Which Nobody Reads Anymore (But Should)“ appears in Ecotone’s tenth anniversary issue. Reece’s work also appears in Harper’s magazine, the Nation, and Orion. He is the author of two books of nonfiction and one collection of poetry. His book Utopia Drive, about the promise, failure, and enduring visions of utopian communities throughout U.S. history, is forthcoming form Farrar, Straus and Giroux in August.

Erik Reece - photo - taken by Lee Thomas

(photo by Lee Thomas)

What books are open on your desk right now?

Thomas More’s Utopia, because this year is its five-hundredth anniversary and I’m supposed to write something about that. Joseph Stroud’s excellent collected poems, Of This World. Robert Bullard’s Dumping In Dixie. A few old notebooks.

Apart from the week you spent on the Kentucky River and the boat you built, are there other ways you have attempted to bring aspects of Thoreau’s life into your own?

I raise a large garden and I know how to make raisin bread.

Where did the idea for your essay in Ecotone come from?

Honestly, I just wanted to find a way to get more people to read that book. And I think I was looking for a way to write about the poetry of wooden boats, and wooden boat-making. I was rereading A Week when I was building my boat, and I’m sure the idea for the essay took root then. Plus, I just love to read in my boat (I’m not much of a fisherman; I don’t like the hours).

But to float and loaf, Whitman-style, that’s my jam. So I wanted to communicate that satisfaction of reading an “unroofed book” in an unroofed place where the kingfishers of the text found their counterparts in the kingfishers alighting around me on the river. Each amplified the other to make both the experience of reading and the experience of floating much more intense.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. All Syrian refugees would be welcomed, and given ample water and provisions. Who knows, perhaps we would try to enact the blueprint of Plato’s Republic. But with poets. Our constitution and national anthem would be Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone.”

Name a book you bought for its cover.

Probably Edward Weston’s Book of Nudes. And not just for the cover.

alimon_brightdeadthingsWhat emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

Ada Limón’s book of poems, Bright Dead Things. It is an incredibly big-hearted collection that will—should—establish her as a major American poet. And it also have a very cool cover.

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? Longhand in the morning, typing in the afternoon—and at night if necessary.

Whitewater or flat water? Since I almost drowned on whitewater last year, flat water for a while.

Morning or night? See above.

E-reader or print? As John McEnroe would say, you can’t be serious.

Vowel or consonant? Ohio is the most beautiful word in the American language. Draw your own conclusions.

Canoe or kayak? Whichever has the most beer in it. So, canoe.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark, usually a parking ticket from the intolerant campus police where I teach.

Cake or pie? Ice cream.

Mountains or sea? If I decide, mountains; if my wife decides, sea.