Synchronized Chaos June 2014: Experience Distilled


Welcome to another month’s issue – and Happy Father’s Day to those who wish to celebrate!

This month, the submissions hone in on a particular slice of life: a social group or subculture, or an intense experience, or a singular line of thought. The creators then draw broader observations using that as a starting point.

We begin with Janine Canan’s piece, which invites us to awaken to the experience of life, to become fully present and compassionate.

In her monthly Book Periscope column, Elizabeth Hughes shares three novels that bring us to colorful new worlds while urging us to look inward as well. Joe Klingler’s action thriller RATS explores the lingering consequences of war and the landmines and trauma left behind. William Jefferson’s Messages from Estillyen offers a sanctuary for characters and readers, a forested enclave where monks illuminate old manuscripts, time slows down and people can think. Adam Brown’s Astral Dawn transports readers to a fantastical realm, where good must be defended from camouflaged, vividly terrifying embodiments of evil, into which we can transform when we choose negative thoughts and behavior.

Ayokunle Adeleye, in his monthly column Minding Your Own Business, and his essay “Youths, Save Nigeria,” looks once again at how character and wisdom can guide our personal and commercial ventures. He encourages us to start while young, or bring the purpose and energy of youth to our goals and enterprises.

Several Georgia Southern students bring academic analysis to American subcultures, creating formal social science essays about people who could live next door to them. Moon McCroskey gets to know visiting international students at her university, while Mary Dunaway samples the world of Latin dance. Andrew Perry describes the hidden universe of software engineers, and Chris Kerrigan feels for the beat of hip hop dance. Eleanor Ferrara puts her hand to the keyboard for a game of League of Legends, a popular online roleplaying game, while Anne de Lua sneaks across campus to avoid zombies hiding in plain sight during a round of extreme tag. Kayleigh Hunter visits an elementary school to job-shadow a teacher for a day, and interviews her about what she likes, and doesn’t appreciate, about the classroom.

The topics of some of these essays seem earnest but whimsical, yet hidden meaning lies beneath the descriptions. Anne de Lua points out that Humans vs Zombies: Extreme Tag reminds us not to stop living, even in the face of small and large dangers, and Mary Dunaway and Chris Kerrigan comment on the balance of curiosity and respect necessary to enter into others’ cultures and activities. Eleanor Ferrara looks into concerns about gender and harassment as a female entering a stereotypically male space, and is pleased to find a polite and welcoming environment. Moon McCroskey and Andrew Perry uncover plenty of practicalities driving the decisions people make, in the tech and the educational world. Each essay contributes something to a larger question, of how to create spaces that are both safe and open, where curious newcomers and diverse participants can be accepted, yet the unique character of the space and its culture can remain.

Kayleigh Hunter finds teachers who care about their jobs and students, but who struggle when kids and others disrespect them, and when they end up having to take on roles that others in society used to play, and are not supported in that. Pauline Pang, an immigrant to the USA from Shanghai, also looks into teaching and learning, and the awkwardness that can ensue with changing roles. Her essay is more hopeful overall, but brings up the alienation she felt in China and in the USA, as she never completely fit either culture.

Jordan Taylor writes extensively about her father’s funeral, using the event as a starting point to portray a complex man who drank too much and made plenty of mistakes, but who also stayed married for nearly sixty years and created distinctive memories with his children. The piece conveys how the father and his family journeyed together towards redemption and forgiveness.

Elsie Augustave’s novel The Roving Tree, as reviewed by Susan Maciak, also highlights the strong pull of heritage, whether personal or cultural. The heroine, a young woman of Haitian descent adopted by an American family, finds herself seeking her complex past through volunteer work and personal growth.

Susan Maciak’s own work, Add to Your Edge: 12 Ways to Excel in the 21st Century, focuses on our own ability to take initiative and shape our own destinies. We are influenced by our pasts, but still retain some level of ability to differentiate ourselves as individuals by choosing our own actions and attitudes.

A scattering of poetic selections look deeply into events, and slices of life. John Grey shows us the precarious excitement of a duck hunt, climbing the Rockies by car, and following the call of creativity. John Wesick offers a blend of cleverness, nostalgia and subtle ennui, gently lamenting the departure of aging actresses from the screen, non-wealthy people from San Francisco, and his weekends on Sunday nights.

Stephen Prime peers into a conflicted and complex relationship. Then, he looks at the precarious balance between possessing confidence in ourselves and in our ability to live on through building legacies greater than our own lives, and avoiding hubris so great that we literally outshine the stars with our vanity. Christa Ward’s work crystallizes a moment of intense emotion, where we can empathize with the physical sensations of her speaker even without knowing the situation. Peter Jacob Streitz illustrates an imperfect, broken man enjoying a moment of intimacy, then gives a commentary on the ugliness and classlessness of racism.

John Middlebrook looks at the experience, aural, aesthetic and visceral, of words and paintings, and then imagines a comforting, embryonic realm of silence inside a black hole. In a similar vein, Christopher Bernard elucidates the details of Ivan Arguelles’ new work Ars Poetica, describing how this modern poet can draw upon the finer points of traditional writing craft while still expressing original ideas and personal emotions.

Thank you for taking the time to savor this issue and become aware of the worlds and ideas evoked by small groups and single moments. Many thoughts to ponder lie within the pages of this issue.

Ruins of an old temple against a landscape at sunset or sunrise

Landscape by Frederic Edwin Church

Susan Maciak reviews Elsie Augustave’s novel The Roving Tree

The Roving Tree

Reviewed by Susan K. Maciak,

Book cover - Elsie Augustave's The Roving Tree

Elsie Augustave‘s novel The Roving Tree contrasts black and white cultures in several countries through a riveting story based on reality for many African Americans. It starts with a young girl’s struggle between two completely different worlds. Adopted at age 5 by a white family, Iris tries to reconcile her past as a poor, black child from Haiti, with her present. The story starts while she’s growing up in an affluent Anglo-American household in New York.

Her new family treats her with love and respect, but she soon faces taunts at school where many fellow students muttered when they saw her: “That nigger better not sit here” or “Go back to Africa.” After tossing out in shame her only photo of her birth mother, pinching her nose together with a clothespin to alter her Afro appearance and begging her American family for skin-lightening cream, Iris realizes that she can’t change who she is.

Despite rampant racial discrimination of the Sixties, Iris adjusts to her new life, excelling in school and in dance. In college, she accidentally meets her half-sister Pepe who also lives in the U.S. Both girls travel to Haiti when Iris’s mother dies in the same village where Pepe was raised. When Iris meets Pepe’s father, she finds out that he was also her own father, a wealthy Mulatto who had raped her mother while she worked as a maid for his family.

In Haiti, Iris reconnects with her relatives and experiences their culture, a mix of French and African tradition, Catholicism and voodoo magic of zombies and spirits. She sees discrimination among the natives based on the darkness of their skin, and she realizes that her mother had given her up for adoption to escape poverty and desperation to live a better life in America.

After graduating from college, Iris wants to return to her roots in Haiti, but decides to accept an offer to lead a dance troupe at the Institute of the Arts in Zaire, Africa. There she discovers the same rigid class structure, corruption, greed, poverty and illiteracy that marks her native Haiti. She confronts yet another culture shock – the practice of polygamy. Despite warnings of deprivation and despair for women in 1960s-Zaire, Iris’s friends there were unable to convince her to leave the place of her ethnic origins.

Her story astonishes readers when they realize that finding one’s heritage can compel someone to give up comfort, convenience and culture of the developing world to live in a country that offers much less. Iris’s story opens eyes to the deep yearning of all people to learn and appreciate their cultural backgrounds. The Roving Tree is a must-read for anyone who needs to understand and accept their fellow citizens who came here from the continent of Africa.   

Susan Maciak may be reached at


Book announcement: Susan Maciak’s Add To Your Edge



Book Review: Add to Your Edge: 12 Ways to Excel in the 21st Century If earning a living seems more daunting these days, you’ll find a few coping clues in Add to Your Edge:12 Ways to Excel in the 21st Century.This recently released book guides readers through a dozen changes in direction that have turned the business world upside down and changed the job market forever.


Small business owners, CEOs of large corporations, seasoned employees and recent graduates all will find out how the game has changed. This book covers new rules for everything from career advancement to customer service. It helps readers climb today’s unsteady career ladder, control inevitable crises, compete in the global marketplace and cope with intense 21st century competition.


Add to Your Edge, by Susan K. Maciak, career coach and corporate trainer, could be called a survival guide for navigating today’s world. This book shows nervous employers, frustrated job-seekers and troubled work teams how to take advantage of current trends rather than be crippled by them. Hints can be found in every chapter, including:


Re-Train Your Brain You ‘Gotta’ Have a Gimmick Stand Out from the Crowd Crack into Your Creativity Be Your Own Teacher Articulate Your Strengths Update Customer Service Control Crises and Conundrums Take Personal Interest in People Think speed . . . and Convenience Understand Added Value Re-Imagine the Road to Success


Add to Your Edge is now available in paperback and eBook on,, and other online booksellers, along with Maciak’s four previous books: What Are People Skills, Anyway?, First Job Jitters, Job Shopping and The Monster Show.


Contact the author at Author owns rights and consents to use of photo.




Christopher Bernard reviews poet Ivan Arguelles’ Ars Poetica



Photo of poet Ivan Arguelles

Ivan Arguelles

Ivan Argüelles


Ecstasies in a Great Darkness


Ars Poetica

Poems 2006−2013

Poetry Hotel Press

320 pages, $24.95

By Ivan Argüelles


A review by Christopher Bernard


“Dazzling, brilliant, inspiring, eloquent, demanding, confusing, chaotic, flummoxing, the work of a mad genius, the work of a genius madman” are some of the things that may come to mind as one reads the work of Ivan Argüelles. And this is what one might expect of someone whose dense and difficult poetry is some of the most vital literary work by a contemporary American writer. Dark, lyrical, intense, and at its best of a deep, if at times willful brilliance, Argüelles’ writing shows little patience with the flippant ironies of the postmodernists, yet he takes the modern skepticism of any metaphysical certainty seriously and uses his work to probe some of its darker implications. His work has long been a Commedia of our nihilism.
And yet he is a natural ecstatic, which gives his writing a profound poignancy. He subscribes to a kind of maximalist Augustan modernism, seized with prophecy and the divine afflatus, though fully capable of dips into the slangy and demotic; he is, refreshingly, a master of that rarest of literary voices, the contemporary high style, a style unafraid to assert and insist, yet that, at every step, undermines its own insistence:

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Poetry from Janine Canan


Mother Earth, it is not you

who need to be invoked—

for you are always here!

But we your human children

who today must be invoked—

who have abandoned you, forgotten

to call upon you, neglected to care for you,

failed to serve you and disregarded your needs.

Help us now to awaken and remember

our obligations to you and all Earth’s beings.

Let your spirit fill us with love, appreciation and joy

and overwhelming desire to serve you in all that we do.

May we think and speak and act as one family of one Mother

who gives life to all and when it is time, takes it away.

Guide us, Great Mother, in every decision we make,

every habit we develop, every action we undertake.

May we never forget you again, beloved Mother Earth,

beautiful and bountiful source and resting place and wonder.


FROM CONSCIOUSNESS: NEW & SELECTED POEMS 1971—2014 (Regent Press, Oakland, Fall 2014)

Visit Janine from more information.


Essay from Ayokunle Adeleye


I have since heard many a youth lament about how our grandfathers
continue to ruin the country in the name of ruling it, about how the
rulers of yesteryears are yet the leaders of tomorrow, about how these
grandfathers themselves were youths when they set out but now detest
our youth and our entitlement, about how the affairs of the youth are
left for our gramps (and grannies) to ru(i)n.

I had therefore asserted that anyone older than the republic Nigeria
has no business whatsoever ruling in whatever capacity, that we, the
youth of this country, have had enough of them, that they have failed
to solve even issues that their wantonness created lest we talk of the
challenges of our time, that they have over-stayed their (stolen)
welcome being antiquated and obsolete in all their ways.

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Poetry from John Grey




Due west, as we drive,

mountains, colored mostly from the red spectrum,

rise up in a line.

I feel a little like the captain

of a charging army.

The enemy won’t shoot

until they see the whites of my eyes.


The land’s been so flat until now

but, ahead of us,

the world no longer adheres to that lie.

My wife turns down the radio.

It’s like she wants to be able to hear

what she’s seeing.

Even in the back seat, boredom gives way to awe.


“Those are the Rockies,” I proclaim.

So I’m the head of an expedition now.

Once again, my team fail to recognize their leader’s genius.

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