Some poems percolate for decades, waiting to be born. My friend and baritone sax player Rick Countryman tells a story about working in a band that played behind an Elvis impersonator. When I heard this story, Rick and I were sharing a tumbledown house in Seattle that had no heat. In the winter, I’d open the stove and stand in front of it for warmth. This was the beginning of the presidencies of Reagan and then G.H.W Bush. Once I remember watching some African-American kids playing hoops. One...
Our first interview went something like this.
“So, what can you tell me about being a dog?”
Cici, my 14-pound mutt, remained mum.
“Not talking, eh?”
She cocked her head in confirmation.
It was a rare moment for us, not the “me-talking-to-a-dog”part (that’s standard practice these days), but her refusal to offer so much as a bark in reply. For the eight years we’ve known each other, my Chihuahua/spaniel/[insert your best guess here] mix-breed had always excelled...
One of the first pieces I accepted when I became nonfiction editor for NAR in 2008 was “The Malignancy of Beginnings” by Rafael Torch. I fell in love with this dark and gorgeous memoir of a man fighting abdominal cancer while his wife fought against, not a tumor, but an unwanted fetus growing in her abdomen. The parallels frightened me when I first noticed them: the husband fingering the lumps in his belly, moving them from side to side like golf balls. The wife...
COURAGE, CLARITY, TRUTH, UNCERTAINTY
Sympathetic and unsympathetic voice is about intent: whom and what one is writing for. It is what separates the likably mediocre from the uncomfortably moving.