Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia

Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia


A Hike

Two Israeli soldiers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning, while on vacation.

“Hikers,” then.

Say: “hikers,” then. No uniforms. Civilian clothes—jeans in fact—standard M-16s slung over their shoulders, resting on their backs, for protection—a concession to safe hiking protocol.

Say: Two Israeli hikers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning—one aged twenty, the other, nineteen. They were shot by sniper fire from the window of a car, speeding down the stretch of road—

In the Spotlight: Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia

“I believe that my writing, be it scholarly, fiction, narrative non-fiction, or poetry, comes from a deep need to make a difference, to offer a lens that is not being appreciated.” Here, Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia discusses her explorations through writing. You can read her experimental story, “A Hike,” in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review.

First of all, what got you into writing?

Well, if I think back, I suppose I can trace this to several things. For one thing, my home was one of storytelling. My grandparents were partisans in the woods of Belarus during the Holocaust, and I grew up on their war stories as well as their pre-war stories, told to me again and again in their melodious Yiddish, which was my first language. I also have strong memories of falling asleep to the sound of my father typing his doctoral thesis in Jewish philosophy on his old typewriter. I guess you could say that writing was like a lullaby to me in that way. Also, my parents both loved poetry. They both wrote poetry, and I remember reading poetry of many different kinds with them.

I wrote my first poem when I was ten. We had just moved to Israel from New York, and I felt torn between homes. So I wrote about it. I should say that while I wrote informally over the years, it was Paul Harding who first taught me how to write fiction.

Could you discuss how Paul Harding influenced you as a writer?

One summer, I think it was 2007, here in Newton, Massachusetts, where I've lived for years now, I decided to try my hand at a fiction writing course at Harvard Summer School. To my delight, my professor Paul really loved my writing and helped mold me as a writer. Paul embraced my style of writing, which can be rather associative. (By associative, I mean non-linear.) He helped me to stay in touch with my writerly instincts and let my writing flow with the characters’ voices leading the way. He also taught me the value of close attention to descriptive detail. He would often caution me that a good writer writes simply and precisely and that from such vivid description of what is, the deeper ideas emerge. Paul also assuaged my fear of allowing religion and political strife to enter my writing. He encouraged me to write from empathy no matter what I write about—which I like to think I do anyway—in which case, everything is allowed as long as it comes from empathy and human truth. I love that I am Orthodox Jewish and that I call him Rebbe. He us very much my rabbi.

A year or two later, John Canaday helped mold me as a poet. His award-winning book of poetry, The Invisible World, written based on his time living in Jordan and teaching the children of the king and queen, taught me a lot about empathy and the imbibing of a new culture. John also taught me a lot about different poetic styles with which he urged me to experiment. I credit him with teaching me that form need not hamper creative expression but can, in fact, deepen its effect.

The greatly political poet Pablo Neruda once said, "Poetry is an act of peace." What is your response to this? Considering your genre-bending piece in TWR and your other writings, do you consider yourself a political poet? What do you believe poetry's role in politics is?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by Frank Scozzari

Frank Scozzari


Two Men and a Gun



It’s hard to say exactly how I ended up in this dreadful situation, although I could easily put all the blame on the Thomas-Cook train schedule. If they had made their timetables a little easier to read, and their columns more evenly aligned, I may have never ended up on this midnight train to Athens. Yet there I was, sandwiched in among all the dissolute of Southern Europe in a third-class train compartment, trying to figure out how I was going to get some sleep.

It was bench seating only, benches that faced one another with such little space between them that one had to sit straddling the knees of the person opposite you. There were smells of human body odor and of middle-eastern cooking, zeera and black cumin, the mixture of which was not a pleasant thing. I couldn’t imagine someone cooking in such confined quarters. I looked around but couldn’t make out where the smell was coming from.

In the Spotlight: Frank Scozzari

Frank Scozzari here shares his experience traveling and writing. You can read his story, “Two Men and a Gun,” in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 

You have noted that you love traveling. What are the three most interesting places you have visited? Do your travels often find their way into your work?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to three–there are so many amazing places–but, if I had to pick, I’d say East Africa, Morocco, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Often, places I’ve visited find their way into my stories. An example is that I once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the experience was so exhilarating it fueled a story idea which, after a few rewrites, got published in The Pacific Review.

How do you believe traveling and experiencing different cultures has influenced your work?

As writers, I think it’s life’s grand experiences that influence us, and travel often brings new impressions that stick with us. Almost always, as I’m traveling, I’m taking mental notes or jotting onto a notepad. So often, I encounter interesting characters or new emotions that feed my imagination.

“Two Men and a Gun” has a captivating hook: “It’s hard to say exactly how I ended up in this dreadful situation, although I could easily put all the blame on the Thomas-Cook train schedule.” How do you go about creating an interesting first sentence to hook readers? What advice do you have for writers struggling to create gripping openings?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Jackie Anne Morrill

Jackie Anne Morrill


Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother



When the bones settle

these metals we are made of

finally loosen


I long to untie

the velvet bag

of river stones

residing in her back

In the Spotlight: Jackie Anne Morrill

In the following Q&A, Jackie Anne Morrill—writer, performer, and teacher—discusses poetry readings in the Worcester area, performance poetry, and publishing, as well as her own works. You can read Jackie Anne Morrill’s two poems, “Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother” and “Letter from a Barn Burner,” in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 

Can you discuss The Round Room Women’s Writing Series and what makes it unique? What advice do you have for students and faculty wanting to follow in your footsteps on their own campuses?

The Round Room Women's Writing Series was an idea that my wife had actually come up with. It was, I think, fifty percent an excuse to have people over for food and drink and poetry, and the other half was to create a space inspired by, hosted by, created by, and performed in by women. There are so many incredible women writers in the Worcester area and, yet, it is most definitely a male-dominated scene. This was a chance for all of us girls to come together. The requirements for a reader started out very simple: you must be a woman or identify as a woman somehow. This requirement quickly changed after there was quite a bit of interest from men to read at the open mike. So, we tweaked the reading just a little and, as long as the male reader first read a piece by a woman, he could perform whatever else after that. The first year was a blast. My wife is a fantastic organizer and host—she has a lot of spunk, a ton of personality, and I think that is what kept it going even in the very slow winter months. This year has been tough. We've had a few really great performers, two of whom were musicians, but it has been so busy, and it is tricky trying to keep an audience going if you're not one hundred percent in it from the beginning. As the host and booker this year, I've put the reading on hiatus for the rest of the summer just to try and catch up on other things.

My best advice for those students and faculty wanting to put something like this together in their own homes would be to just have fun with it. When it becomes too serious, when you reach a point at which you don't want to hold the reading anymore, take a break. Having a reading in your home is different from holding it at a bar or coffee shop in that you have so much more to prepare for: cleaning the whole space, chair set-up, food, drink, trying to scrounge up enough cash to please the feature, booking the feature. The list goes on. Be prepared to work for it.

Can you discuss the relationship between sound and sense as it pertains to  “Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother?”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From Volume 35: A poem by Kevin Pilkington

Kevin Pilkington

Flu Shot

I try not to look at the woman

walking towards me but her skirt

is no bigger than a bandage and

her heels are so high she might need

an oxygen tank rather than the suitcase

on wheels she pulls behind her.

I just hope the two assholes she

is walking next to aren’t with her.

The guy on her right is in a suit

and wears a toupee that looks

like a black squirrel fell off a tree,