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September

The breezes taste

Of apple peel.

The air is full

Of smells to feel –

Ripe fruit, old footballs,

Burning brush,

New books, erasers,

Chalk, and such.

The bee, his hive,

Well-honeyed hum,

And Mother cuts

Chrysanthemums.

Like plates washed clean

With suds, the days

Are polished with

A morning haze.

 

~ John Updike

 

"Chrysanthemums" by Daniel Ridgway Knight, circa 1898

“Chrysanthemums” by Daniel Ridgway Knight, circa 1898

Blackberry-Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking.  Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full,

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes.  Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

 

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too.  Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying.  It wasn’t fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

 

                         ~ Seamus Heaney, died on this day in 2013

 

"Blackberry Picking" by John George Brown, 1875

“Blackberry Picking” by John George Brown, 1875

It seems unfathomable to me that five years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally in 2009 to chronicle my academic journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also published original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”, “‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of back-to-school bliss.

362px-Th_Richter_Dame_in_der_BibliothekLike any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and soon reflected my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction and poetry readings and publication opportunities in those first years, I mined journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and Calls for Submissions were and are still posted regularly, as well.  In 2012, I added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work in the cybersphere.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer plum, each post, like a journal entry, suggests precisely where I am intellectually and emotionally.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly nineteenth century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do on literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and works of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde culminated in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)

Anichkov Palace Library in St. Petersburg, 1869

Anichkov Palace Library in St. Petersburg, 1869

My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “Genetics-Based Grammarianism,” “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “In conclusion…,” “A New Summer of Writing,” and “The Write Stuff” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton, 1904

Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton, 1904

With the MA in English attained two years ago, a few modest writing awards under my belt (“Praise for Time of Death,” “On the Write Track”), and conferral of the MFA degree scheduled for November, I’ve been in the process of considering what’s next these past few months – for me academically and literarily and for this site (“A Silent Abyss,” “A Beginning and an Ending,” “Writing in the Afterlife”).  As I’ve mentioned recently on Archetype (“Это правда?”) and in an interview on TreeHouse, I’m planning to apply to various Ph.D. programs in English, Comparative Literature, and/or Rhetoric; however, with applicant admission rates of approximately four to five percent at local universities, I’m keeping the likelihood of acceptance in perspective.  Nonetheless, the pursuit of admittance will be next year’s undertaking and will, of course, be recounted here.  For the immediate time being, my focus will remain on completing and defending my MFA thesis, a 150-page excerpt of Time of Death (twenty-six pages to write as of this post’s publication!); submitting my short fiction and nonfiction work to various conferences and journals; and preparing for both the General and Literature in English Graduate Record Examinations.  And there is still the full novel to finish and market (“This is the Year,” “This is That Summer”).

During the last sixty months, I have published 593 posts about literature, critical theory and writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestling.  Archetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and even gives the occasional nod to lunar activity.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary journey are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Pathetic Fallacy,” “Beyond Words”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.  The site maintains a small but seemingly loyal band of subscribers and blogroll partners, to whom I feel completely accountable and utterly grateful.  I hope you will all follow me as this final chapter at Chapman closes and a new narrative begins.

 

430PX-~1

 

Mark your calendar now for the prestigious Narrative Fall 2014 Story Contest, which is open to all fiction and nonfiction writers.  For this award, the journal is seeking short shorts, short stories, essays, memoirs, photo essays, graphic stories, all forms of literary nonfiction, and excerpts from longer works of both fiction and nonfiction.  Entries must be unpublished, not exceed 15,000 words, and not have been chosen previously as a winner, finalist, or honorable mention in another contest.  The online submission link will open on September 1, and the deadline for entries is November 30.

A prize of $2,500 will be awarded to the winner, with prizes of $1,000 and $500 awarded to the second and third place winners, respectively.  An additional ten finalists will receive $100 each, and all entries will be considered for publication.  All entries are also eligible for the $4,000 Narrative Prize for 2015 and acceptance as a Story of the Week.

Prior winners and finalists in Narrative contests have gone on to be recognized in prize collections, including The Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses series, The Best American Short Stories anthologies, the Atlantic Book Awards, and others.

For more information and to submit online, visit the website at http://www.narrativemagazine.com.

 

Fall14_258

Heavy Summer Rain

The grasses in the field have toppled,

and in places it seems that a large, now

absent, animal must have passed the night.

The hay will right itself if the day

 

turns dry.  I miss you steadily, painfully.

None of your blustering entrances

or exits, door swinging wildly

on their hinges, or your huge unconscious

sighs when you read something sad,

like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan,

where he traveled after Clover died.

 

Everything blooming bows down in the rain:

white irises, red peonies; and the poppies

with their black and secret centers

lie shattered on the lawn.

 

           ~ Jane Kenyon

 

"A Bed of Poppies" by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

“A Bed of Poppies” by Maria Oakey Dewing, 1909

Mid-August

Now the ridge

brooks

are

flue-dry, the rocks

parching hot &

where sluice

used

to clear roots &

break weeds down brambly,

light finds a luminous

sand-scar,

vertical: it will

go to a hundred

today: even the

zucchini vine has

rolled over

on its

side.

 

                                       ~ A. R. Ammons

 

"Sweet Repose" by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

“Sweet Repose” by Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838-1904)

Girl in a Library

I want to find my way back to her,

to help her, to grab her hand, pull her

up from the wooden floor of the stacks

where she’s reading accounts of the hatchet

murders of Lizzie Borden’s harsh parents

as if she could learn something about

life if she knew all the cuts and slashes;

 

her essay on Wordsworth or Keats

only a knot in her belly, a faint pressure

at her temples.  She’s pale, it’s five years

before the first migraine, but the dreamy

flush has already drained from her face.

I want to lead her out of the library,

to sit with her on a bench under a still

 

living elm tree, be one who understands,

but even today I don’t understand,

I want to shake her and want to assure her,

to hold her – but love’s not safe for her,

although she craves what she knows

of it, love’s a snare, a closed door,

a dank cell.  Maybe she should just leave

 

the campus, take a train to Fall River,

inspect Lizzie’s room, the rigid corsets

and buttoned shoes, the horsehair sofas,

the kitchen’s rank stew.  Hell.  Bleak

loyal judgmental journals of a next-door

neighbor – not a friend, Lizzie had no friend.

If only she could follow one trajectory

 

of thought, a plan, invent a journey

out of this place, a vocation –

but without me to guide her, where

would she go?

 

~ From “Girl in a Library” by Gail Mazur (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

 

Frederic Leighton, 1877

Frederic Leighton, 1877

 

 

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