Synchronized Chaos November 2016: Resilience in a Capricious Universe

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Synchronized Chaos November 2016: Resilience in a Capricious Universe

Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

Welcome, family and friends, to November’s issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Sending honor and respect to the departed for those who celebrate Day of the Dead or Samhain, and prayers for abundance for those marking American Thanksgiving.

This month we acknowledge the unpredictable nature of our lives, and our world, and honor our ability to survive within it by toughening up or adapting to change.

Vijay Nair’s poetry shows us how friendship is not always true, as people can betray us. We can gain strength and learn from all experiences, and some lessons are best learned in solitude.

M. Spear’s poems form wry critiques of the ways we ignore and exploit each other and express personal determination to move forward as an individual.

Poetry from Michael Marrotti deals with learning to manage others’ self-absorbed behavior by recognizing it and distancing oneself.

Jenny Santellano gives a visual portrayal of depression and mania as a mental prison, trapping the speaker within the bars of fluctuating energy and moods.

Suvojit Banerjee offers up colorful imagery of poverty, violence, nuclear war, and slum life. The radiance and liveliness of Banerjee’s work contrasts with the shortened, limited existences of the people he mentions, highlighting the tragedies he depicts.

A short story from Michael Robinson, also set within a poor and rough neighborhood, illustrates how men and boys can also experience sexual confusion, feelings of lost innocence, and body shame.

Mahbub celebrates natural life and growth and human love, as we see through his gentle metaphor how these qualities persist through periods of loneliness and struggle.

Lewis Mark Grimes reviews Stephen Nawotniak’s children’s book Mubu the Morph, which encourages patience and tolerance by showing an anthropomorphized creature trying various activities and roles. Grimes, an admirer of children’s literature, sees this concept as a metaphor for sentient life in general.

Art from Rui Carvalho also plays with the idea of childhood, with an intricate black and white rendition of a fairy with a child’s face. Childhood is full of rapid change and events outside of the young person’s control, but also the capacity to adapt to new circumstances.

A poem from Christopher Bernard brings Dr. Seuss-like political humor to the American election landscape.

An essay from Donal Mahoney points out that plants we consider useless can be crucial for preserving life, such as the monarch butterflies who lay their eggs on the milkweed of Maplewood, Missouri.

Poetry from Mark Schwartz, replete with intellectual and literary references, depicts the author’s active mental life while his body is confined in a nursing home recovering from an injury. He advocates a kinder society where we nurture and take care of everyone, no matter how useful, or not, they may seem to those in charge.

Elizabeth Hughes reviews Rita D’Orazio’s novel Legend of the Coco Palms Resort, a tale of ghosts, memory, romance and suspense set on a Hawaiian vacation lodge, in her monthly Book Periscope column.

Joan Beebe showcases the intricate majesty of a wooden clock her husband carved. Time reminds us of the sorrows of impermanence and mortality, but can also be marked in style.

A short story from JD DeHart renders of the Biblical story of Job in a country farm town, from the point of view of Satan, the innocent man’s tormenter and accuser. In DeHart’s piece, the Devil inflicts great suffering out of curiosity and gives up out of boredom, reflecting a capricious universe.

Writing, creating art and communicating can be a means of resilience, of understanding and making something out of random or challenging circumstances. We thank you for reading the words of our contributors and allowing their stories to last and be heard.

 

Review by Christopher Bernard

avantgardarama

Striking a Nerve

Review by Christopher Bernard

AvantgardARAMA!
The Cutting Ball Theater
The EXIT on Taylor
San Francisco

The Cutting Ball Theater, one of San Francisco’s most interesting companies, opened its eighteenth season this fall by resuscitating its old AvantgardARAMA series, quiet since 2008, with an anthology of seven short pieces, some of them more or less “plays,” in the traditional sense, some of them more akin to performance art or the kinetic theater explored by such groups as foolsFURY.

As we have come to expect from Cutting Ball, the evening was stimulating even in pieces that only half-worked. There were no masterpieces but also no flops. There was the usual air of over-earnestness and political correctness that mars so much of San Francisco performance, as though art in itself were never quite enough, it always must always prove its virtue (no doubt a cross between the curse of foundation grants, the eternal American Puritanism even among the promiscuous atheists of the left, and the political hysteria that lies like a perpetual fogbank over the City by the Bay); nevertheless, the production is a must-see for anyone curious about the local theatrical avant-garde.

Cutting Ball advertises these pieces as showcasing the directors – which is fine, for the direction generally worked, sometimes keenly so, and in two of the pieces, the directors were either creators or co-creators. But I was a little puzzled. The essence of theater is not the director, as such – it is, of course, the writer (I use this term, in the abstract, to mean any theatrical creator whose work is basically off the stage). Without a writer, there is no theater – and in experimental theater, it is the writer who gives everybody else something to play with in the first place. The director (whose fundamental work takes place on the stage) is essential for any performance. But a director can do nothing with a bad or nonexistent script – that “something” which was created off the stage, however tenuous it may be – even if it was something he or she created.

And when theatrical works are being premiered – or when it can be fairly certain that the audience, for the most part, has never seen other versions of these works – it is the writers (the “creators”) who are being showcased.

That said, the direction was, as we have come to expect from Cutting Ball, energetic and adroit, though it could have made some of the pieces’ points clearer.

Of the seven pieces on show this season, the strongest, arguably, was the third: “An Evening with Activists,” written by Yussef El Guindi and directed by Rem Myers. Guindi is a past recipient of the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright Award, and it’s clear why.

His piece is an absurdist descent into a dysfunctional marriage between a baffled, spineless but well-meaning Arab named Kamal (according to the script, this means “perfection” in Arabic), played  by Kunal Prasad, and a lily-white, self-righteous, overbearing, entitled left-wing activist (but is there any other kind?), played by Michelle Drexler, with the late addition of a smug, manipulative, soul-destroying right-wing neocon (played, with convincing malice, by Kevin Glass) and a deus ex machina in the form of a mindful, mind-melding sock-puppet dolphin who, for all his compassion, effectively shows Kamal what having a spine means when you are playing politics (there will be no spoilers here).

Despite an early descent into tastelessness (disappointing husband as convenient vomitorium does not a vital coup de théâtre make) it was the most memorable work of the evening, particularly as it worked most effectively as a play.

This was one of two half-hourish pieces; the other, called “The Wasps” (written by Guy Zimmerman and directed by Paige Rogers), is about Jenna and Barbara Bush, daughters of the opprobrious W. (performed with overbearing accents and white trash panache by Melanie DuPuy and Danielle O’Hare), who are awaiting experimental termination by unknown forces in a laboratory after the world has finally been devastated by climate change.

They chatter absurdities, by turn delirious, lyrical, witty, catty, cold, prideful, sexy, and paranoid, careening between the wise and the bizarre, and dance, dance, dance – as though their dancing is all that still keeps the world alive. A cleverly conceived, sometimes brilliantly written piece (though unnecessarily opaque – I didn’t really get what it was all about till I read the press release later – and the program notes provide no help whatsoever), it goes on too long: from mid-point onward, having made its basic philosophical and poetic points, it doesn’t seem to know where to go, so it repeats itself and ends, as T.S. Eliot predicted the world would, with a whimper. But there is many a bright moment along the way.

The shorter pieces contained some of the evening’s most memorable moments. The evening opened with a duet between the two halves of Virginia Woolf’s divided self (this was written by Susan Terris, directed by Carlos Mendoza and performed by Melanie DuPuy and Danielle O’Hare, who didn’t inhabit British mannerisms as comfortably as the dusty, waspish Texas poses of Zimmerman’s piece).

This was followed by a fascinating if not exactly transparent solo piece (created by performer Valentina Ermeri and director Beatrice Basso), written in English and Italian, that seemed to be about a childhood rape and the breaking of the protagonist’s self into “pezzeti” – fragments that may nevcr be pieced back together. It features a long, thick rope (probably a more germane prop than the teddy bear promised in the press release) that the soloist drags about with her and hugs, as she babbles with a kind of insatiable and insane lyricism – the rope ominously suggesting both a horrifically serpentine phallus and a noose from which the splintered protagonist may one day hang.

A contemporary evening of experimental plays would be incomplete without a satire on the breathtaking crudities of our political moment, in this case woven together in a polyphony of internet videos and voiceovers and performed in dance and oratory by Hillary and Donald surrogates, Louis Acquisto and Suzy Myre, who collaborated with choreographer and directer Katerina Wong. “Crooked and Dangerous” was the evening’s bon-bon.

One of the pieces was written in Spanish (with English supertitles): a lyrical exposition (based partly on Francisco Garcia Lorca’s notorious work of “impossible theater,” “An Audience”) of the vagaries of love between a straight Spanish woman who is infatuated with him and the gay poet, and the terrible way he died, during the Spanish Civil War, not only for his politics, but above all and most brutally for his homosexuality. Maria Velasco wrote (Daniel Sullivan translated for the supertitles) and Sonia Sebastian directed “Lorca al vacio”; Xavier Galando played Lorca and Erika Yanin Peréz played his frustrated paramour.

A charming surprise was “Inkwell,” which in four satisfying minutes gives us a writer who escapes into the rhetoric of the past while his muse – and a crocodile – keep trying to drag him back (in one case, literally) into the flatness, blankness, and integrity of the reality about which he must write. This was written by sixteen-year-old Isaac Schott-Rosenfield and directed by his teacher, Isaiah Dufort. I look forward to more plays from Mr. Schott-Rosenfield. The lesson of his play struck a nerve.

All of the plays in this anthology struck a nerve, some more effectively, some less so. But they all left us something to take home with them, think about and argue over. I can’t think of a better reason to go to the theater.

_____

Christopher Bernard is author of two novels, A Spy in the Ruins and Voyage to a Phantom City, and of the play “The Beast & Mr. James.” His new collection of poems, Chien Lunatique, is forthcoming from Regent Press. Mr. Bernard is also co-editor of the webzine Caveat Lector.

Synchronized Chaos September 2016: Sidewalk Literature

little free library 3

Sidewalk literature is what I call my habit of reading whatever I find lying on the sidewalk in my frequent walks about the city & its purlieus.

Among my recent finds & reads are a biography of Henry VIII, father of Queen Elizabeth I (Henry’s ambivalent response to Martin Luther’s more radical break from the Catholic church makes an interesting study); a hilarious & peculiar novel-in-cheek reportedly by Tom Robbins under a pseudonym called Fuck Yes!: A Guide to the Happy Acceptance of Everything; Cliff’s Notes to The Brother’s Karamazov (Dostoyevsky’s father was murdered in an uprising by the serfs on his estate!); Deutsche für Ausländer, which is helping improve my entry-level German; a book on how to build your own house in the woods, which is something I would like to do soon; & a bunch of stuff that didn’t look good enough to read. I don’t read everything I find—what torture that would be!—but I do go with the flow to a certain extent, within the bounds of taste of course.

This slapdash, serendipitous reading program reminds me somewhat of the “synchronized chaos” of submissions we receive here each month & the process of delineating a theme therefrom.

Our editrix-in-chief drew attention the fact my themes so far since tentatively stepping into the editorial shoes have been a bit of the dismal & dejected side. So this time around we tried to be a little less lugubrious… without dodging the dark realities around us, which would surely be un-writerly.

Some pieces strewn along this issue’s ‘sidewalk’ stand out for their color and design, catching our attention with their style, like artful magazines.

A charming essay from Pushcart Prize nominee & previous Synch Chaos contributor introduces us to an elder poet from the Beatnik generation, who “usually stays home with his African Grey parrots and Scarlet macaws,” who decides to dress up to the nines, or at least to the sevens or eights, one night & participate in a poetry reading for the first time. Read “A Gathering of Generations” & tell Donal that you love it.

William Blome evokes sexuality and heartbreak through plenty of local color and flights of fancy, with images ranging from flying a Cessna through clouds to an alligator at a wine tasting. While he seems to objectify his sexual conquests, Blome’s speaker also writes in such an outlandish, over-the-top way that he becomes almost self-mocking, implicitly laughing at himself.

Italian poet Gabriella Garofalo claims to have ‘fallen in love with the English language at six years old’ when she began writing poetry. Her ornate work revels in classical, natural and real-life imagery, conveying blue-dark winter and unfulfilled human desires through pieces that reveal more facets of detail after close readings.

Other contributions are more somber, like wet newspapers clumped together after a rain. Yet, even these express a bit of hope, even if only the possibility of surviving through endurance.

Laura Kaminski & Siraj Sabuke have given us a series of dialogic poems in which each poem responds to the one before it, between a mother on the verge of collapse who offers herself as a sacrifice to “ungrateful flesh-eating” vultures, and her reproachful son who urges her to hold on since he still needs her wisdom. The set of interwoven poems asks how we are “to stay sane & sober / after being intoxicated / by the fluids / of this oppressive darkness,” & finds our best hope is stoic patience. Emerging from the lachrymose mood & semi-apocalyptic imagery, from vultures & “termites of fear,” it seems the best hope we have is to “wait & stay wakeful” & try to stay alive.

Our friend Michael Robinson returns with a set of poems that evoke the imagery of shooting stars, a ticking time bomb, memories of being beaten with a switch “fresh from the tree” by his single mother as a child, and waking with a sense of grief for  those who have died
Without ceremony or fanfare.” He yearns for a home out of the endemic violence of the ghetto, asks how to become a kind & gentle soul when surrounded by “all of its shootings & stabbings,” but ends likewise on a hopeful note, clinging to faith in this universe whose inscrutable luck has spared him thus far & feeling “lucky to be alive.”

Patrick Ward comments on the plight of a tender soul caught up in the commotion of a public crowd, while another of the poems from this set revels in the joy of being mud.

Former literary agent turned fashion designer Lewis Mark Grimes comments on Linda and Charles Katz’ elementary school children’s book Peter and Lisa. The book, intended for parents with mental health conditions to share with their children, shows these illnesses as like any other chronic condition, manageable with care and treatment. A caring neighbor, along with doctors and medicine, helps Peter and Lisa to stabilize enough to care for their child and dog. Although there is no magic cure, this social support system enables the family to endure.

Jaylan Salah reviews Janine Canan’s new poetry collection Mystic Bliss, which celebrates womanhood and nature and laments violence done to women and to the Earth. Jaylan makes a point to say that Janine’s work ‘ends on a high note’ and points as much to the beauty of expanding compassion and consciousness as it acknowledges power, violence, domination and suffering.

Elizabeth Hughes, in her monthly Book Periscope column, encourages people to read Dr. Mary Mackey’s prehistoric adventure novel Village of Bones, which celebrates the survival and motherhood of a woman within a relatively peaceful, egalitarian Neolithic society under invasion from warriors on horseback.

Still more pieces convey unease, self-consciousness deflected through humor or other ambiguous coping mechanisms. These writings are like personal notes or shopping lists that have fallen out of someone’s pocket or been used as a bookmark and now left behind by mistake within a box of titles offered up for free to passersby. These stand out in the space between comedy and tragedy, which likely reflects much of the human condition.

A poem by Michael Marrotti that seems to hint at the feeling (or illusion?) of security conferred by carrying a concealed weapon, or otherwise escaping into one’s own consciousness rather than engaging with the world’s uncomfortable vulnerabilities and power relationships.

Poems by J. K. Durick satirize our obsessions with overanalyzing matters: political horse races, philosophical questions that get down to the minute details of our environments, even sinkholes in the road that at least look cool on television when the news anchors have to go on about them.

A short story by Wayne H. W. Wolfson captures the awkwardness of traveling abroad and working with one’s head when the locals carry out more understandable occupations on a regular schedule. His piece gets at the unease of seeming to have leisure time while others are busy, and ends with the speaker finding a small bit of companionship in the passing glance of a young child.

So, after reading this issue, perhaps go outside and take a walk down your own sidewalk. See what you can find in the way of free reading material from the universe.

Fiction by Wayne H. W. Wolfson

Melancholy Mystery of a Street

Wayne H.W Wolfson

 

Overseas, by the time my life was ordered enough that I could afford the comfort of a good hotel, that was not what I wanted.

I do not want to be a tourist. I want to become immersed in the local color, swim in the daily life of the neighborhood. If it were a short trip, four days or less, then I would capitulate to staying in a hotel; wistfully walking through the marketplace knowing that I had no kitchen to fill. Anything longer and I sublet an apartment.

The few cities that I always returned to, the same ones year after year. I had my near on permanent spots which were only slightly tinged with sadness as I did not own them.

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Poetry from J. K. Durick

               Skin Deep

 

There should be a zipper in the back
So on days like this we could unzip
Step out of it, fold it carefully, then
Leave it on the kitchen counter, and
Out we go, without beauty, without
Race, just crisscrosses of pink and
Shades of red, some off whites, and
Greys, fat and bones, some muscles
And all those veins and arteries that
Keep us going; it’s easy enough to
Imagine, we’d go around like one of
Those biology class torsos, visible man
Visible woman, all our working parts
Exposed, ready to be pointed out, or
Pulled out and examined if need be;
There would be equality in all this
A new nakedness, a different sense of
Ourselves and others, of how we move

And how we should fill our space and time.

*****’

 

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Poetry from Michael Marrotti

Whiteness Without The Guilt

Symmetrical
perfection
easily
concealed

Tranquility
in my
pocket
whiteness
without
the guilt

A bitter
taste that
contradicts
the bitterness
of the past

It lasts long
enough to
make it stop

For once
the clock
is my friend

 Michael Marrotti is an author from Pittsburgh, using words instead of violence to mitigate the suffering of life in a callous world of redundancy. His primary goal is to help other people. He considers poetry to be a form of philanthropy. When he’s not writing, he’s volunteering at the Light Of Life homeless shelter on a weekly basis. If you appreciate the man’s work, please check out his his book, F.D.A. Approved Poetry, available on Amazon.

Poetry from Michael Robinson

Tick; Tick; Tick,

That when the bomb inside of me was set.
At any time it may go off,
And then at that moment,
I would commit my suicide.
It’s been ticking for years,
It started in 1964,
Inside my mind is the bomb from 64.
Will someone defuse it?
Can it be defused?
Time is running out for me.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

*****

 

Star Night Star Bright

Shooting stars shooting past me,
Shooting guns shooting at me,
Shooting stars shooting past shooting guns,
A soul shooting past shooting stars,

There’s hope!

*****

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