An Indian in Yoga Class

January 17, 2019 § Leave a comment

heir-300x202In Brevity‘s January 2019 issue, Rajpreet Heir takes us along as she visits a yoga class, because, “As an Indian from Indiana who has never been to India, I want to get in touch with my roots, and doing yoga seems like a fun way to do that. ”

Here’s a brief sample:

Kyle opens the door and walks down the center of the room. He announces, “Yoga—it’s a way of life” then throws clouds of turmeric into the air. People around me raise their hands to it in devotion, swaying side to side on their sitz bones, while other yogis start snorting it off the hardwood floor. #bliss

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

“Rameshwaria, move your hands closer to the backs of your heels.” “My name is actually Rajpreet,” I reply. “It’s Rameshwaria since I knew a Rameshwaria once.” “But my name is Rajpreet.” “No.”

Shavasana 

Brittany explains this is the hardest pose and it really does feel like it. I don’t feel relaxed, in fact, I feel more stressed than when I arrived. A white woman is teaching me about yoga, an ancient Indian practice, and she thinks she’s an expert on Indian culture too, but I don’t know exactly which ways I can be mad because I don’t know enough about India or yoga myself, partly because I feel a pressure to assimilate. But darn it if Brittany’s playlist isn’t fun.

Namaste

(The cultural appropriation in me bows to the Indian in you.)

Read the rest of Heir’s wonderful essay here, and enjoy all our newest issue.

 

Dustin Parsons is Very Apologetic

January 16, 2019 § 3 Comments

517902079For instance:

Apology to the Fish

If I’d known how poorly I keep fish, I’d never have allowed such a large tank.

Apology to the Dog

You have a dog bed in nearly every room, and I’m not sure what you think we are trying to tell you. I will try to walk you more often, but you’ll only be searching for my wife—giver of treats and scratches.

Apology to the Monarch Caterpillar

You couldn’t have known our porch was so rife with danger for a chrysalis. We planted the milkweed too close to the direct morning sun.

Apology to the Ghosts

When I walked through that cold spot in the living room, I thought you were speaking to me…

Read the rest of Dustin’s wonderful flash essay in our brand new January 2019 issue of Brevity.  And then please stay a while and read all of our fine new work.

Brevity’s First 2019 Issue Falls From the Sky Like Snow

January 14, 2019 § 1 Comment

sqwortOur January 2019 Issue contains brilliant, powerful, surprising flash nonfiction from John Skoyles, Richard Hoffman, Abby Mims, Dustin Parsons, Susan Jackson Rodgers, Rajpreet Heir, Sam Kiss, Amy Stonestrom, Rebecca McClanahan, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Bryn Chancellor, Niya Marie, Jennifer Wortman, Lisa Fay Coutley, and Harrison Candelaria Fletcher. You’ll never look at yoga, string, or constellations the same again.

In our Craft Section, Nicole Breit reveals the power of the literary diptych (with writing prompts), Susan Bruns Rowe considers the elusiveness of voice, and Michael Downs shows how “a single sentence or detail or image – even a particular word – can act as a ‘vein of jade’ that makes the whole work glisten.”

And stunning artwork by Dev Murphy.

Come have a look: https://brevitymag.com

Brevity’s 2018 Pushcart and Best American Nominees

November 12, 2018 § 5 Comments

ppWe are proud to announce our nominees for the 2018 Pushcart Prize anthology and Best American Essays.  The choice wasn’t easy in any way, because we’ve once again been blessed with so many talented writers and outstanding essays, but we’ve narrowed it down and sent off our nomination packets to the editors of the Pushcart and BAE anthologies. You can read the nominated essays by following the links just below. Congratulations everyone, and thanks to everyone for sending us your stellar work.

Our 2018 Pushcart nominees:

Solving for X
by PAM DURBAN

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/solving-for-x/

Aphorisms for a Lonely Planet
by LANCE LARSEN 

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/aphorisms-for-a-lonely-planet/

Women These Days
by AMY BUTCHER 

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/women-these-days/

The Farmers’ Almanac Best Days for Breeding
by JOHN A. MCDERMOTT 

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/best-days-for-breeding/

Ace of Spades
by JULIE MARIE WADE 

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/ace-of-spades/

The Cremation
by XUJUN EBERLEIN 

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/the-cremation/

 

BAEOur 2018 Best American Essays nominees:

The six essays listed above, as well as:

Meanness
by BEVERLY DONOFRIO

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/meanness/

Survival
by FLEDA BROWN

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/survival/

What I Took
by HEATHER SELLERS

https://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/what-i-took/

 

On Polyester Maternity Dresses Posing as Essay Collections

October 18, 2018 § 4 Comments

dewittIt is easy to hate Amazon, but they do sell a lot of books for us, don’t they?

Well maybe not. DeWitt Henry,  founding editor of Ploughshares literary magazine, waited expectantly for his latest book to show up on the popular, monopolistic bookseller’s pages only to surf through two nights ago to encounter a rather peculiar surprise. He writes about it here:

For weeks I’ve been anticipating my launch on Amazon for SWEET MARJORAM: NOTES AND ESSAYS.  The release date was 10-15, and I kept checking obsessively, but only found my earlier title, SWEET DREAMS.  The night of 10-16, I typed in the product search, and there it was at last!

I called my wife away from CNN: “Hey, look at this!”

But when we clicked for the order page what came up was a large pic of the cover alongside ordering information for “Keaac Womens Chiffon Print Sleeveless Irregular Hem A Line Top Dress,” a maternity dress from China, available in “Small=China X-Large: Length:25.59″ (65cm), Bust:42.52″ (108cm); Medium=China 2X-Large: Length:25.98″ (66cm), Bust:44.09″ (112cm);” and other sizes that seemed nothing like the essay collection I have worked on for years.

Meanwhile the “real” book is available from www.MadHat-Press.com and I hope happy readers will spread the word and even leave reviews on Amazon.

Explaining Pain: How I Wrote “A Murder of Crows”

October 12, 2018 § 5 Comments

elvis

Elvis

by Jan Priddy

To understand how I wrote “A Murder of Crows,” my essay in Brevity‘s September 2018 issue, you must first understand why.

My husband and I feel a connection to crows, more as family than foreigners. About twenty-five years ago my husband came home from work with a baby crow in a paper sack. He had found “Elvis” beside his squashed brother on the shoulder of highway 101. Elvis was not yet fledged—that is, he had quills but not quite feathers and could not fly. His beak and legs were partly pink. His eyes were still blue. We rescued him but deliberately made no effort to tame him. Elvis lived in an enclosed garden for a few weeks. Local crows arrived to speak to him through the window. When he could fly, we let him go. Friends who rehabilitated birds in another state assured us that he would likely fare well as a juvenile, even re-released outside his original range. That proved true. For years we saw Elvis hanging with the local murder.

Since then I have read a good deal about ravens and crows. We talk to the crows during our beach walks, often engaging in lengthy exchanges of clicks and caws. When a raven pair moved into our community, we celebrated.

The story of the murder came from our eldest son who had attended and then worked as a  counselor in a local children’s camp. One of his last summers, perhaps even the last, he came home from the first week with a terrible story.

*

So why use the form of a fable to recount this true event? I have taught fables as a narrative form. I once began my school year with “Blue Donkey Fable” by Suniti Namjoshi. Fables teach lessons. The boy who cried wolf. Fox’s sour grapes. Animals are often used as characters because they come prepackaged with known personalities and powers in the same way King might be a character or Farmer or Cook. Fables are told in past tense and third person. They are short. They are “once upon a time” and never intended to be believed as literally true. The author is not an actor in the story.

Since I always write the assignments I give my students, I have several conventional fables with crow characters. A crow plays with an abandoned garden glove. A young crow refuses to take practical advice from her elders. Each of my crow fables ends with a stated moral.

One wrinkle I add to my students’ assignment is to require revision to a different verb tense and using a different point of view. I tell students this is a “sneaky writer’s trick,” which it is. Choosing another perspective, even in nonfiction, may reveal deeper understanding and detail, though here my purpose is to help students develop control of rhetoric.

My fable about the summer camp murder violates the rules of a fable because it is a story about violation. The fabulist voice distances that pain while direct address and present tense intrude on the narrative. I ask questions. I include scientific facts. It is not a general tale set anywhere, but a specific event set somewhere. It is not a conventional fable with a stated moral. It is not a koan meant to twirl around forever. But even my fable is intended to warn while pushing the creative nonfiction envelope.

I do not believe in being sentimental about animals, but this brutal reaction to an ordinary annoyance still shocks me. The story of hubris outlives the event.

*

The life expectancy of an American crow is only seven or eight years. Elvis is long gone by now, but for some time my husband would spot “our crow,” the only local bird with white on his flight feathers, perched overhead on a cable line. The bird and my husband would call to one another. Gary would announce when he came home for lunch, “I saw Elvis!”
__

Jan Priddy’s writing has earned an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship, Arts & Letters fellowship, Pushcart nomination, MFA, and publication in journals such as CALYXThe HumanistLiminal StoriesNorth American Review, and nonfiction anthologies on running and race. She is currently struggling with a utopian science fiction story in which nearly everyone dies. She loves birds.

On Writing “Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did”

October 11, 2018 § 4 Comments

Shuly Cawood author picby Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

I grew up in Yellow Springs, a village in Ohio, and I return to it several times throughout the year to see my parents and to be in a place I still love and that most feels like home to me. I live in a city now, not a very big one—population 65,000—but large compared to the town in which I grew up with a population of under 4,000.

You want to know what it’s like to grow up in that small of a town? One Saturday afternoon, many years ago, our German Shepherd, named Sable, jumped our picket fence and ran to the school grounds a block away, as there was a festival happening there, and my sister and I, likely early teens at the time, had gone to it. Because Yellow Springs is a small town, the news traveled fast to us. People recognized her as our dog, but they didn’t just tell us, “Your dog is loose.” We were told, “Sable’s on the hayride.” (And yes, she was.)

My high school graduating class had 69 students (and we had a big class), so at YSHS we didn’t just know everyone in our grade: we knew everyone a year below and a year above, and most of the students from two years below and two years above, and on and on. We only had so many people to know, and this made the business of knowing easier. Even today, I am always struck by the number of people I know and who know me when I go anywhere in Yellow Springs, even though I have not lived there for twenty years.

The piece, “Katy Perry Is Crooning and Won’t Stop Just Because I Did,” is about one day in my small town, a day when I was there a few months ago. On the morning of that day, while out and about in Yellow Springs, I talked to a villager (a person I have known for decades) who told me of the unexpected death of a man earlier that same morning, someone who is a few years younger than I am. This villager told me about the death of the person not just because it was sad and jarring—his being under fifty and, from outward appearances, in seemingly good health—but also because there was an assumption I would know him. And I did.

These are the kinds of assumptions you can make, though, in a small town. Later that same day, while I was taking a walk, I ran into the brother of the man who died. Only in a small town can you hear terrible news about a person and then a few hours later happen to run into the family bearing the weight of that news. Only in a small town can you also know the brother, even if you have not lived there for twenty years.

In my small town, I didn’t feel right about not saying anything, not stopping to offer my condolences to the brother. Perhaps I would have felt or acted differently had I been somewhere else. Perhaps the news might not have seemed as sad and awful had I not known who they were, had the news been that of complete strangers.

I realize I have used the words know, known, knowing so many times in trying to tell you how all of this began.

I started writing down snippets that night (more a listing of details) and then wrote the piece fully while in a coffee shop in downtown Yellow Springs. I was finishing up a full-length poetry manuscript the week of my visit, so this piece’s first incarnation was as a poem. The poem became an essay only after I decided to submit it to Brevity. I write very prose-like poems anyway, so all I needed to do was take out the line breaks. Oh, and I also had to change one detail—I had taken some creative license with the placement of the car since poems don’t have to adhere to the truth, but for this to be a creative nonfiction essay, the car needed to be where it actually was in “real life,” as they say.

I miss living in a small town. I miss my village. I miss knowing so many people and being known the way I am known there—not because I am famous but because I grew up there and have a history there, a history I am still building, even though I don’t live there anymore.
___

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of the memoir, The Going and Goodbye (Platypus Press). She has an MFA from Queens University, and her writing has been published in The Rumpus, Zone 3, Santa Clara Review, New Madrid Journal, and Cider Press Review, among others.

 

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