Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stoneboat & Pebblebrook Need Your Help

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, our co-editors in chief, Rob Pockat and Signe Jorgenson, have taken part in the Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser at Sheboygan's lake front for the last three years, jumping into the lake in sub-zero temperatures on New Year's Day to solicit your support for Stoneboat literary journal and its imprint Pebblebrook Press.

What began as a wacky fundraising stunt in 2014 has grown into one of the largest inflows of cash that Stoneboat and Pebblebrook receive each year. The Plunge also gives our editors-in-chief ear infections, coughs, and, last year, epic colds that verged on pneumonia. We have been wracking our brains all year to come up with new ways to expand our revenue streams without courting serious illness.

We recently held a launch reading in Milwaukee to work on expanding our audience and subscriber base. We are also applying for a grant that is specifically designed to help emerging small presses grow into self-sustaining operations. Furthermore, we are investigating becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit because this would allow us to seek other grant funding as well as make your future donations tax deductible. We are so proud of Stoneboat, our contributors, and the sweat equity we have put in over the last seven years to find and deliver great fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic literature, and black and white art twice a year through the journal and intermittently through Pebblebrook Press.

Bottom line: we will not have Signe and Rob jump into the lake on January 1, 2017. We ask, however, that you look into your pocketbook, wallet, bank account or under the mattress and continue to support us with a donation. Any amount helps the journal, from $5 to $500. (As a "thank you," we will offer a complimentary 1-year subscription, subscription extension, or Pebblebrook title of choice to donors that contribute $50+.) 

One last pitch. In response to the 2016 election, we have put out a call for submissions to create a special section within Stoneboat 7.2, "Beyond Red and Blue: Voices for America." We are seeking poetry, prose, and artwork from all perspectives and hope to receive work that digs deep while providing timeless reflection on this turbulent time in which we find ourselves. If you donate by February 1, we will include your name in a "donor thank you list" that will introduce this feature. (Of course, you can remain anonymous if you prefer.)

We create Stoneboat and Pebblebrook Press for you, really, and we trust that you are with us for the long haul, sans pneumonia.

Thank you,
The Stoneboat Team

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Introducing our newest INTERNal recruit

Hello! My name is Brittany Beckmann—avid coffee drinker, reader, and writer. I will be interning with Stoneboat over the next several months. I graduated from Lakeland in May of 2015, earning a degree in both creative writing and vocal performance. Like so many who frequent this blog or follow Stoneboat, I also have a passion for writing—mostly nonfiction—and reading. During my undergrad, I had the opportunity to intern with Seems under the direction of Karl Elder and am looking forward to working alongside editors and publishers once again. In my free time, you can find me singing with the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, tutoring at the Mead Public Library, or playing piano for a church somewhere out in the boonies. I’m excited to work with Stoneboat and to learn more about the inner-workings of literary journals.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Call for Submissions: “Beyond Red and Blue: Voices for America”

Stoneboat Literary Journal seeks submissions of poetry, literary prose, cartoons, b&w artwork, graphic literature, and photo essays for a special section of the Spring 2017 issue, tentatively titled “Beyond Red and Blue: Voices for America.”

The recent presidential election has revealed a deep divide in the American political and cultural landscapes. Also emerging in the wake of the election is a clear need for conversation among Americans on all sides of this divide. We are excited to facilitate this discourse by providing a space for all people to express their views, not only about the election outcome but also about what it means to be an American in 2017 and what it means to make America great again. (Or, what already makes America great.)

We are not interested in ranting, name calling, finger pointing, gloating, or shouting into the void. We are interested in dialogue, critical reflection, deep examination, and genuine attempts at understanding. We will select pieces that are fresh, concise, and image-driven. We want work that digs deep and embodies a timeless quality. We seek thoughtful, new insights from ALL points of view—Democrat and Republican, conservative and liberal, rural and urban, popular and unpopular, and everything between and outside of these limiting labels. We also welcome work from contributors around the world because we feel that a layered portrait of “America” and an exploration of what it means to be “American” can (and should) include an international perspective.

After careful consideration, we have chosen to suspend two of our long-held traditions for this special section only. Although we do not generally publish a writer or artist in back-to-back issues, we feel that it’s important to open submission to all voices. Therefore, we welcome submissions from contributors who appear in our Fall 2016 issue. Furthermore, we typically limit submitters to one submission per issue; however, for Spring 2017 only, we will allow submitters to submit work for both the special section and for general consideration.

When submitting, please include:
·         3-5 unpublished poems in a single document OR unpublished fiction/nonfiction up to 5,000 words OR 3-5 pieces of visual artwork (color or b&w) OR a b&w  photo essay with 5-10 photographs OR a b&w comic OR b&w graphic literature of up to 20 pages
·         Cover letter
·         Brief bio (3-4 sentences max; can be included in cover letter)

We look forward to creating this literary and artistic snapshot of the American landscape. It is our intent to put forth a layered conversation that represents a wide array of voices and views. Please submit your work no later than February 1, 2017.

Submit your work, via Submittable, here.
Subscribe to Stoneboat here.
Donate to Stoneboat here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Remembering the Vineyard

Listen to the voice
of each dead poet
as if it were yours.
It is.

Philip Dacey
From Mosquito Operas, 2010

The sad news came today that a poet and good friend to Stoneboat, Philip Dacey, has died after struggling with leukemia for quite a while. I only met Philip in person on one occasion, and that was at the Great Lakes Writers Festival at Lakeland College back in 2007. At the time, I had not tried to write a poem for many years. I was on major hiatus as far as poetry was concerned. But meeting Philip and hearing his work, I was impressed by his poems and by his welcoming nature. He was not snobbish about poetry. He did not make it seem like an enterprise for only some special sect of people. He helped me see that poetry is there for anyone who wants to partake of it. He was a true mentor in that regard.

Later on, when we became email correspondents, he wrote to me often about "the vineyard." This was the place that he designated as the ground where all poetry comes from, and he believed that anyone who was willing to do the work of caring for the roots, fertilizing the soil, and tending to the vines would be able to enjoy the wine, eventually. He never said it was easy, but he also did not say it was impossible. The work was there to be done, if one so wished to engage in the endeavor. He always made poetry look like a vocation worth having.

Philip was clearly generous with his time and talent. He did not make distinctions, I think, between "high end" and "low end." For example, when we were in the process of devising our first issue of Stoneboat, I wrote to him and asked if he would be so kind as to send us some poems. He immediately sent six. He did not say, "Oh, you are below me, little upstart literary journal." He simply sent some work. It was quite a boost to my editorial ego to be given the opportunity to select three poems from a repeat Pushcart Prize-winning poet and include them in our debut effort.

Many years later, when Stoneboat celebrated its fifth anniversary, he submitted some poems to us without being asked. We were so happy to include them. His presence in our anniversary issue reminded us of how we had grown. Philip seemed to take pleasure in reminding poets (and editors) about what they were doing right. This kind of encouragement was part of his generosity of spirit.

I learned a lot from Philip over the years, even though our only contact was via email. It was Philip who told me that a poem could be just as fictional as any story. In other words, that a poem could tell a story that was not necessarily true. That was a new one for me! He also taught me that the "negative spaces" of a poem—what is not said in words—are as important, maybe more important, than the text. He got me to think about how creating a poem is like carving a sculpture, releasing the poem from its block of marble. He also admonished me to always take criticism as a kind of "structural stress test." To look at the suggestion, weigh its merit, and make a decision based on what felt right to me, the poet.

Philip taught me not to worry about rejections from editors. He said, "I get them still, all the time. No editor is obliged to take my work." He taught me to roll with the punches and keep trying. I remember one of his favorite encouraging phrases was "Go, go, go!" I use it now myself when I feel excited about what a fellow poet is up to. Philip taught me to be excited about the success of others, not envious. He taught me to trust my own voice, and to feel confident in what makes me unique as a writer. Keep doing the work. Visit the vineyard.

As for his poems, I was always so enamored of the way he could make use of forms (sonnets, triolets, pantoums, and more) and make them very readable, using common language, but taking its use to new heights. Together with David Jauss, he created the book Strong Measures (HarperCollins, 1986). This is a book that explains many, many poetic forms by providing real-life manifestations of these forms from poets across the spectrum. It remains a great repository of helpful examples to both the budding and the seasoned poet.

My favorite Dacey collections are all the ones I have read: The Boy Under the Bed, The Deathbed Playboy, Vertebrae Rosaries, Night Shift at the Crucifix Factory, Mosquito Operas, and Gimme Five. I must admit, I have not read his collections of poems about Walt Whitman or Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I'm quite sure I would love those, too. There are fourteenbooks in all, and I know now that I need to fill in the ones I have missed.

In one of his last emails to me at the end of April, he told me he was weakening, and that walking was getting hard. He wrote, "[I'm] working on three posthumous collections—last poems, selected poems, and selected essays." I was very sad knowing that he was preparing to go. But this is what happens, right? Philip knew he was dying, and he knew he wanted to leave us gifts to continue to inspire us.

And so, we have things to look forward to. There is much to learn from the life and poetry of Philip Dacey. He may be gone from this physical plane, but his poems will nourish the vineyard that all of us will be invited to visit for a long, long time to come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Break Out Your Dancing Shoes, Poetic Pairings Are Coming

Lisa Vihos, Stoneboat's poetry and arts editor, reporting here:

I have been long fascinated by the way in which poetry, when spoken aloud (as opposed to read in silence from the printed page) is in fact a form of theater. This hit me upside the head a few years back when I staged a reading from my then-new chapbook, The Accidental Present, and instead of me droning on reading poem after poem, I had my friends and neighbors read the majority of poems in my stead. I cast my poems in the voices of people of all ages and walks of life, and the result was pretty nearly breathtaking. Seriously, it was very cool. Even people who had not come to Paradigm coffeehouse that night for poetry looked up from their laptops to listen.

Poetry is drama, comedy, and tragedy all rolled into one. They don't call it the "oral tradition" for nuthin'. You know, "spoken word." We must speak it, share it, converse it. We should do more to raise our voices together more often to explore and unravel what poetry has to tell us.

Hence, the idea was born to create "Poetic Pairings: How Poetry Speaks," in celebration of National Poetry Month.

Come to the Rocca Meeting Room at Mead Public Library in Sheboygan on Monday, April 25 for an evening of engaging poetic pairings. We'll gather at 6:15 for refreshments and then the reading will begin promptly at 6:30. Think of it as "Dancing with the Stars," but without the glittery, low-necked dresses and high-heeled dance shoes.

You will hear from ten different members of the community, including a pastor, a professor, a peace and justice activist, several teachers, and Sheboygan's own mayor, Mike Vandersteen. These individuals will be paired with ten local poets. And the pairs are:

Corey Andreasen and Leighanne Metter-Jensen
Janet Ross and John Sierpinski
Leslie Laster and Sylvia Cavanaugh
Jim Kettler and Jean Biegun (read by Lisa Vihos)
Jim Hollister and Karl Elder
Romy Uceda and Gerald Bertsch
Carol Dussault and Maryann Hurtt
Xia Vue Yang and Jean Tobin

Tricia Marton and Marilyn Zelke-Windau
Mike Vandersteen and Kathryn Gahl. 

Poems by Maya Angelou,
Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Marge Piercy, Gary Snyder, and others will be read by the community members in tandem with a local poet, highlighting the ways that poetry allows us to enter into a greater conversation about our place in the world.

Do not, I repeat, do not miss this!

The event is free and refreshments will be served. Oh, I already mentioned refreshments. Anyway, see you next Monday at Mead Public Library. Bring dancing shoes. You know, just in case you feel so good from the poetry that you end up dancing. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Forthcoming from Pebblebrook Press

Pebblebrook Press, an imprint of Stoneboat Literary Journal, is proud to announce the forthcoming release of its fifth poetry collection, Thomas J. Erickson's The Biology of Consciousness. The book is scheduled for release on May 1st, 2016.

Erickson’s poems exhibit a wide variety of voices: the child, the lawyer, the father, the teenager, the philosopher, the dreamer, the lover. In The Biology of Consciousness, the reader journeys with the poet to the heart of chaos, emerging on the other side with new (alleged) clarity regarding the way things are, or the way they might be.

Poet Michael Dennis, author of Coming Ashore on Fire and The Uncertainty of Everything, praises Erickson's work by saying, "Erickson is the first lawyer who has written a book of poetry I’ve read. More importantly, he is the first lawyer to write a book of poetry I love."

Ordering information for The Biology of Consciousness will be available soon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Elder talks craft, inspiration of Earth as It Is in Heaven

By Gina Covelli

Photo by Benjamin Wilks
It was like old times, sitting in the yellow vinyl chair across from Karl Elder in his Lakeland College office, which was lit only by the late afternoon sun. The standard can of cola in a faded coozie sat to the right of his computer keyboard, hidden among the stacks of books and papers littering his desk. And like I had done so many times before, when I was Karl’s poetry student, I took a casual glance over my left shoulder to see the beautifully classic and complex poster-sized portrait of Anne Sexton before beginning the conversation.

I’ve interviewed Karl Elder, Fessler Professor of Creative Writing and poet in residence at Lakeland, many times in the past as a student journalist. But this time was different. I didn’t sit down with a prepared list of who, what, when, where questions that would become my interpretation of Karl’s story of how he wrote his debut novel Earth as It Is in Heaven. I went in hoping to have a candid conversation that would allow Karl to tell his own story.

For the first time in my experience of meeting with Karl, I was a little nervous about how the interview would go. But it really was like old times, and the conversation took off.

G: You speak of some books that I happen to have read, the 30 books listed on the back of your novel that in some way inspired yours.

K: To the best of my recollection.

G: Can you elaborate on how some of those books inspired you?

K: It almost always had something to do with craft. In the case of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut—that’s the only novel he gave himself an A for, by the way; he graded all his novels—I was so taken by the refrain that occurred in the novel, “So it goes. So it goes.” You see it every 500 words or something like that, “So it goes.” He used it in such a way that it suggested the mindset of the characters so that I just started using devices like it. Every once in a while, the main character will say, “That’s another story, although it ain’t really.” And there are other phrases like that.

G: Every time [the protagonist] Stick mentions Digger, he says “Bless him.” He had certain phrases for certain people.

K: Yeah. But like I say, those things are craft. I was so taken by the book Riddley Walker, which I had read in the early ’80s. It just blew my mind because it was the greatest example of manufacturing a language that I had ever seen. I was inspired to do that, even though what I do is a pittance relative to what Russell Hoban does. It’s just fantastic. There’s a book in the list that I’m sure nobody around [the Sheboygan, Wisconsin area] has read before called Loony. It appeared as a special issue of Apple, a magazine that came out of Champaign-Urbana. The book of poems was authored by William Kloefkorn, a poet from Nebraska, and Loony is about a guy who just does not have his act together. He’s intellectually challenged, so it was on my mind that I could have a character that was intellectually challenged. Again, it’s a matter of craft.

G: As far as process goes, you have all these books that inspired you, but how did you put this together?

K: There’s not much that changed from the first draft. Not much at all. [The changes] had to do with making the language consistent afterwards. The storyline itself has seen very little change from the ’80s. I found, completely by accident, the first note I took—what I believe to be the germ of Earth as It Is in Heaven. It’s on the back of a small piece of letterhead from my first job in Missouri in the late ’70s, which probably means I had been kicking the novel around in my head for five or six years before I began it in earnest. I can only remember one change. I added a joke. I thought of it when I was reading a passage to a class one day. For me, it’s the funniest line in the whole damn novel. I prefer not to say what that is. But for me, personally, it was, “Why didn’t I think of this earlier!”

G: Was it a story line you mapped out, or was it something that came very organically?

K: Organic. The underpinnings of the story involve life experiences that are like little platforms, and I jump off of that platform onto another thing. I’ll give you an example. When I was twelve years old, I spent a lot of time in the summer riding my bicycle around town. The town was only 650 people and I know all the streets, and one day I’m about two blocks from my house. I see a car I’ve never seen before and the car is moving, not parking. And a few minutes later, I see the car again, and it’s still moving. That’s the impetus for the Corvair the narrator sketches [in the novel]. Because there was, in this little town, a bank robbery. So I hear about the bank robbery, and of course I’m like every other kid, I don’t have anything else to do, so I go to see what’s going on at the bank. In fact I may have heard the alarm, but I can’t say for sure, because with this particular bank, the alarm was known to go off on its own. But I’m standing there with a bunch of other people outside the bank, and all of a sudden this guy comes out of the bank.  He’s wearing a three-piece suit, and he wants to know if anyone’s seen a strange car. He’s the FBI. So they took me into the bank and they had paint samples of cars and he wanted me to pick it out. I picked it out even though I’m somewhat color blind. But back then, there weren’t that many shades of silver. It’s little things like that in my experience. I do know this, though: it was my dream to create a story with a female Christ figure.

G: So, going into the novel, when you developed the Schoolteacher’s character, did you go into it knowing she was going to have this message [as the female Christ figure], or was that discovered along the way?

K: Discovered. I didn’t know how I was going to do it when I started. And you know what, there’s not much that I discarded. It’s pretty much like one sentence led into another. I wasn’t pulling out whole sections and rewriting. I spent a lot of time on individual sentences and went from one sentence to another.

G: Do you think that you went with that approach because of your background in poetry?

K: Certainly I have a great deal of difficulty abandoning sentences. I can’t get to the next sentence easily. I’ve spent an awful lot of time on lines. I’ve never been able to live up to the advice I give my students—write it all out first. Oh, I take that back. I’ve been able to do that with flash fiction about ten times.

G: You had mentioned in a Sheboygan Press article that writing this manuscript helped you to write poetry. How did that happen?

K: I don’t know how it happened, but I know what the effect was. I know that, for example, shortly thereafter, I was able to write a fairly long poem that was one sentence. I found there was more music in the line than previously. I would love to know, but I have no way of knowing how, unless I were to be hypnotized or something.  You know, I wrote the novel in this room. I wrote it from eight in the morning until noon.  I had a sign on the door, “Stay Away”—or something to that effect—because I wrote it while on sabbatical. I’d read in the afternoon, and I’d go home at night and get the kids supper and get them to bed, but then, later that night, I was writing poems. I’d be exhausted by the time noon rolled around, and the rest of the day would go by and then I was writing poems. I bet I wrote in the neighborhood of a dozen poems while I was writing the novel. I’m not one who dates the stuff, so I don’t know what poems I actually wrote then. I just wonder if that contributed to the transition in some way, from a style that was much more stark to one that was much more…. This is funny, I haven’t thought of this. It was that the stanzas, shall we say, subsequent to the novel, weren’t as heavily edited. They were longer. Before this novel, they were not heavily edited, trying to get all the stanza out. Previously, they were heavily—I mean, initially I was working with lines instead of stanzas. And afterwards, it was more like I was working with stanzas instead of lines. That’s a crude way to describe it, but that’s the only way I can put my finger on it now.

G: The novel is set in Freeland, and there’s the nearby town of Lawless, but you don’t really see the world that they’re set in. Is there a reason why you chose not to have that in there?

K: If I could have done it without Lawless, I would have done it without Lawless. But I figured I had to have Lawless for a very practical reason. I had to have something to bounce this community off of so it would make it its own. If it was just there by itself, it wouldn’t have seemed as real. But the thing that led me to keep it as confined as I did was the first sentence: “It were the Schoolteacher come to call it such as Anarchtopia what with all the goings-on.” A utopia is a confined thing. It has to happen outside the context of the rest of the world, it seems to me. And another thing, this being only my second novel [first published novel], I needed to help myself maintain control over it because I knew it wasn’t going to be realism. I had to put some kind of fence around it, and, thus, to make it more credible. If these weird things are going to happen, it seemed to me, it would be more believable if they happened in a place and not any other place.

G: Did the voice of the narrator come to you pretty easily? You just spoke that first sentence of the story.  Did the dialect and the voice just come out of thin air to you, or was it something you had to find?

K: I loved the way my mother-in-law says certain words. And I love that I have a brother-in-law who, out of jest, plays with pronouns. He’ll use what for that. I love that there are sayings that seemed almost indigenous to the community I grew up in. And that led me to give a more southern tinge to the language. The voice came pretty easily, and I can remember being pissed off when I saw Forrest Gump, because I said, “Oh, shit, he’s stealing what I’ve already done.” I had written the novel before the film appeared.  I’m taken by the colorfulness of certain southern dialects, too.

G: I suspected you either had a lot of fun throwing everything in there or gave yourself a lot of headaches trying to make them all connect.

K: It was a lot of both. It was a huge puzzle. But I went with it because I had the strangest experience with the first novel. Maybe it wasn’t a strange experience because I think everyone has it, who writes fiction. I threw in as a detail a pocket watch into the first novel, and I don’t know why I did it. And it turns out, it’s the pivotal thing, it’s the answer to everything in the mystery.

G: Were there other knots you had to untangle?

K: Oh, yeah. The “incest.”

G: Yes, I was going to ask you about the relationship between Stick and the Schoolteacher, because “she is but she isn’t.”

K: And then the vehicle to convey that, it seemed to me, was Floyd. Floyd knew her. I’m not as close to the story as I once was, and I can’t tell you that what I’m about to say is accurate, but what I believe is that I got away with it by simply saying, she was getting younger every day. Or “ever day,” as the speaker says. So her body is changing. She’s not the same person, literally. And I can imagine someone potentially being offended by what they perceive to be incest, but on the other hand, I can imagine that reader worming out of the problem by saying, it is miraculous. She’s physically not the same person.

G: I suspected, as I read it, that something was going to happen with the two of them. There was always a connection. In the beginning it was the Schoolteacher’s eyes and the focus on her, and then as she got younger every day and [she and Stick] kept interacting, something was going to happen. And then you find out who she is, and it takes your mind a little bit to piece it together.  “She is but she isn’t.”  It was interesting.

K: I’m glad you say so.

G: Which character did you resonate with the most, or have the strongest connection to, as you were writing?

K: It’s hard to leave any of them behind; they’re all my children. I don’t tend to see people as schizoids. I think of people as their minds being complex. There are a lot of influences that go into the making of a personality. In order to answer your question, I think I have to say the main character. He wonders things that I wonder, like when he’s talking about Cromangon Man for example. Cromangon Man might have the right idea, but it seems to the narrator, if he keeps thinking that way, it’s going to be a hell of a life—he’s going to have a lot of conflict. There are things I’ve wondered in my life that I put into the mind of the main character.  I have affection for nearly all of [the characters], except for Termite and the Banker and Pyro. I don’t have much affection for them. I have a lot of sympathy for the Banker’s wife. It’s real easy to identify with Luda, also. She’s got some great motherly advice. I don’t know. But I love Little Ludy. Love Little Ludy. You know what my thought was when I finished the book? Little Ludy will be in the sequel. It didn’t happen. I started writing poems again.

G: One thing I wondered as I read the novel was about the term gink. What does that look like to you? I kept trying to picture what it meant. There’s a very distinct difference in the narrator’s mind of who’s a gink and who isn’t, and that’s the way it is. It didn’t appear his own father was classified as a gink with the rest of them. I’m curious what that means.

K: Had I apprised you earlier of the fact that gink is an actual word? I was shocked when I looked it up to find out it was a real word. But I heard my mother-in-law use it. And what she was talking about was a weird kid. So if you look it up, you see definitions like this: a peculiar boy, an odd boy. It’s always a male.

G: What’s one thing you hope readers will take away from your book?

K: Just joy. Have a good time with it. But when you produce something like this, you say to yourself, wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody came along and made a movie out of it?

G: One final question—on the novel’s back cover, you mention a thank-you to Mark Strand for his question. Can you tell me the question?

K: Nope.