A FARTHER ROOM
Issue #1: February 2019
two poems by kelsey HOFF
gene TANTA's paintings
william ALLEGREZZA: five poems
a poem by kelsey marie HARRIS
stoic memes by jess WHITSON
"Niobe In Distress for her Children Slain" by phillis WHEATLEY
This issue is a SCROLL.
Images accompanying this issue details of paintings by Gene Tanta.
In the inside-out house, beams of afternoon light cut
through neat rows of glass tumblers where it had always
been night. The people my grandma saw in her houseplants
came out after her body was taken away to dismantle
her home, organize tangles of knickknacks that once
cozied the den with owls peeking between uglyish
dated patterns in black hills gold, unravel them into
rust & mustard. Or the dishes & rose embroidered linens
crawled out of their cupboards while I was at school;
clocks, ashtrays, emptied frames grew legs & lined up
on card tables where the hospice bed used to be. Or
my parents hired the ladies from the estate sale company
to help them sort her belongings into categories of
letting go. Separate art from wallpaper. Throw out
worthless things. Stick prices on every last item.
A gold chain with a rose pendant & shoe-shaped charm
is collapsed into my hand. My mother tells me
her Autumn Leaves china has been boxed up for me,
to choose what else I’d like to keep. I scan rows of
housewares for the round eyes of owls, but can’t
find many in the empty daylight. I try to imagine
their round, brown shapes in my pastel bedroom
& it doesn’t seem right. I let them all go, scatter them
into houses all over town. When I see a night bird
leering out from any ledge, I'll wonder if it was hers.
Prayer on the Edge of ‘17
Grandmother I could call
by your first name,
I call you Carol again
at your grave tonight.
A hollow space
between Christ’s birthday,
which you crossed out
with your own, &
the day everyone puts up
a new calendar.
Addressing you feels like
a spiritual test: defining the
grace you possessed to
mother so righteously,
discreetly break rules that
weren’t serving you. I never had
the chance to ask how you
translated unanswered prayers
into a language for talking
yourself through chemo,
raising boys in a man’s impatient
house, telling your mother
you’re getting divorced.
All our role models are dying.
It haunts me what I could have
learned from stars fallen out of
reach, the way we watched them
bake glamorously in the red carpet
lights before every awards show.
I’ve listened & heard nothing
but my own hum in the
Mausoleum, invoking each new
urn of stardust to warble with the
hard luck of its departed. Now
Carrie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds
have snuck out holding hands.
From where you sit, cigarette
glowing in the ashtray, could you
lick your finger & tear out the
remaining days of this unholy year?
I see no chance in January to cut
a crystal figure in the wake of
so many daughters twisted by fire.
My help comes from my own
mouth, which repeats your wisdom
in search of living women who
know: there’s no word too sacred
to be said, no lip too soft
for sharp language.
"You Only Ever See Your Assumptions"
I want to explore my daydreaming heart in order to conjugate the public/private images of what we are. This conjugation has taken a visual turn. When I paint, I know closure is a teleological illusion because my brush is dripping. Because the work is always done. Because the work is never done. I feel grateful for the opportunities I have had to publish poetry, to teach abroad as a Fulbright Fellow, and to exhibit because of the maturing effects these experiences have had on my work.
With support from the Decatur Area Arts Council and the Springfield Arts Association, I have been able to produce and exhibit visual work bridging the gulf between politics and beauty. For instance, my first solo exhibition included a series of poster-like paintings on paper of the public faces of assassinated figures with bittersweet words such as WAIT and DREA overwriting the faces of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.. Afterwards, during the 4 months of my Enos Park Visual Artists Residency, I immersed myself in color theory, taught a class called “Intro to Courage”, and attended Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association meetings while developing two new bodies of work. The first of which was a series of cairns allowing me to learn how colors behave next to other colors and to experiment with food dyes and squeegees. The second series I developed while in residence was a group of works exploring charcoal and wire-nib burners to create outlines alluding to the little folkloric wooden cabins of my childhood in Romania.
My most recent work explores how historical memory relates to my own private recall. With this body of work, I want to overwrite by paint those memories overwritten by the camera. I am interested in the imperfect past, in the romance of wear. As I am currently auditing a printmaking class, I plan to introduce transfer and printmaking techniques into my process as I pursue this series of photo-based biographical paintings.
I see nostalgia for my own youth and innocence as a trope for universal longing. I am not interested in 'restorative nostalgia' trying to return us to the past: rather, my work operates as objects eliciting 'reflective nostalgia' asking viewers to dwell on our longing for lost time, to use the comparative literature scholar Svetlana Boym's terms. For example: how do passport photos and social media posts relate to feelings of loss, beyond the sepia? What afterlives of photographs whir around us? What happens, I wonder, to my childhood memories as these images of my past are rehearsed into paintings and drawings, subject to incident and media? Politically, such mugshot iconography broaches questions of forced and paperless migration, data privacy, and the broader discourses of belonging.
Gene Tanta, b. 1974 in Timisoara, RO, lives in the Midwest making visual art. His work is tangled up in a single word whispered as a child growing up in communist Romania: artist. Thus, his studio practice manifests as a kind of lyrical brutalism, questioning even beauty's authority. Tanta earned his MFA in Poetry from The Iowa's Writers' Workshop (2000) and PhD in Creative Writing from UW-Milwaukee (2009). He has served as Senior Fulbright Scholar to Romania with the University of Bucharest and has recently completed the Enos Park Residency for Visual Artists. He lives with his partner, two children, and a deaf cat.
they are dislocated or
rehung as leaf on line
from a sentence that does
not follow. they are
placed on the news for us
to interpret as the bottom
around which we have
spun this life. they
have a larval stage through
which we would expect
to see them leave,
though they do not
without us. they are cups
half-filled, water stagnant,
cords in piles. our totems
have no names and thus we
leave them on blackboards
A collapsing of distractions
so that we can speak of ears
and voices and teeth and bone.
The corpses are walking
into a story that we do not
tell and, they have time
undo itself over and over so
that the sadness spreads,
and we begin to build murals
out of titles-- I was,
decadence, strange girl, buffalo,
a manual, and we think
to think and stop speaking.
a turn from the words
that have come before,
as a ray leading away into
something unknown, as arsenal
open with the impending violence
of compounds shifting
we picked 287 and headed north
towards a border,
the collapsing happening in ourselves
of ideals created for years.
our roads were left not leading,
and our teeth were cracking
The Government’s Purpose is to Understand the Meaning of the Tool
There is no problem offered
with sealed pictures
of ears or teeth
scratched into circles on a dark rink.
Without battery, like the monkey’s bell and the samurai hat,
I want to stay between your age, to
connect the fabric, teach space and become.
and around it, as a
door on hinge, or light
on pull string, we move
towards what we
believe is needed while
watching the air swirl
and water form hearts.
and outside, the words
are limping with wings
torn as we argue to
ourselves. the foam
settles along the edge
while we push back
into memory to virgins
dancing in circles before
William Allegrezza edits the e-zine Moria and teaches at Indiana University Northwest. He has previously published many poetry books, including In the Weaver's Valley, Ladders in July, Fragile Replacements, Collective Instant, Aquinas and the Mississippi (with Garin Cycholl), Covering Over, and Densities, Apparitions; two anthologies, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century and La Alteración del Silencio: Poesía Norteamericana Reciente; seven
Kelsey Marie HARRIS
It's one of those nights if you were dying on the side of the road someone would likely find you. If you were dying on the side of the road I'd find you and shame you for dying so publicly. Dying out in the open on a night like this as if nothing is sacred anymore. I die under the porch, or in the drawer, or under a rock the way death is intended. I die off the grid. You die on this busy road for prestige. How many likes will you get for dying this way? How viral will go your demise? How validated will you feel when your heart stops and everyones approved of its last beat? I'm looking down on you from my secret dying tree trolling you as if my death is more authentic. As if dead isn't dead.
Kelsey Marie Harris writes poetry, I guess. Her chapbook, The Jolly Queef, was recently published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. She has also had work published in The Rust Mill, TLDR magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Forklift Ohio. Kelsey writes poetry that usually makes everyone uncomfortable. Most of her work is fueled from self loathing, anxiety, filthy thoughts, and ironically, a secret kind of prudishness. Your mother probably won't be thrilled about any of it. But that's ok.
Why I Make Stoic Memes
I started making memes sort of by accident at the end of November of last year. I noticed that a lot of people had a lot of questions about Stoicism in Donald Robertson’s Facebook Stoic Group, so I thought, “well, how could I answer them succinctly and make those answers memorable and impactful?” And what came to mind was that one meme with the boyfriend who stares back at the other girl and offends his girlfriend by doing so. So I went where I could go to find a meme generator on google and found imgflip. And I’ve been using that place to make memes since then. I’ve also used mematic app on my iPhone.
What I try to do with the memes usually is find a common meme out there, put a Stoic idea in the proper formula, and make the content work in as much of a informative but comical fashion as I can. But I don’t always necessarily follow the formula of the meme completely. I’ll diverge a little when exceptions seem appropriate. Also, I like to make meta-memes, where I use the meme to promote a Stoic idea but also make fun of the meme’s formula and content while using the same formula of the meme itself. I’ve been writing comedy for years. I’ve been trying to be Stoic much less than that. But I think the two go together great.
One other thing I’d like to mention is I feel like Stoicism needs to get out there. Virtue ethics is coming back but virtue ethics is still identified with Aristotle. I’m just trying to change that. And I think I can maybe do a little of that with memes. I know everything out there in the Internet is way beyond my control but maybe I can exert some influence and have fun at the same time.
b. 1753, d. 1784
from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book VI. and from a view of the Painting of Mr. Richard Wilson.
APOLLO's wrath to man the dreadful spring
Of ills innum'rous, tuneful goddess, sing!
Thou who did'st first th' ideal pencil give,
And taught'st the painter in his works to live,
Inspire with glowing energy of thought,
What Wilson painted, and what Ovid wrote.
Muse! lend thy aid, nor let me sue in vain,
Tho' last and meanest of the rhyming train!
O guide my pen in lofty strains to show
The Phrygian queen, all beautiful in woe.
'Twas where Maeonia spreads her wide domain
Niobe dwelt, and held her potent reign:
See in her hand the regal sceptre shine,
The wealthy heir of Tantalus divine,
He most distinguish'd by Dodonean Jove,
To approach the tables of the gods above:
Her grandsire Atlas, who with mighty pains
Th' ethereal axis on his neck sustains:
Her other grandsire on the throne on high
Rolls the loud-pealing thunder thro' the sky.
Her spouse, Amphion, who from Jove too springs,
Divinely taught to sweep the sounding strings.
Seven sprightly sons the royal bed adorn,
Seven daughters beauteous as the op'ning morn,
As when Aurora fills the ravish'd sight,
And decks the orient realms with rosy light
From their bright eyes the living splendors play,
Nor can beholders bear the flashing ray.
Wherever, Niobe, thou turn'st thine eyes,
New beauties kindle, and new joys arise!
But thou had'st far the happier mother prov'd,
If this fair offspring had been less belov'd:
What if their charms exceed Aurora's teint.
No words could tell them, and no pencil paint,
Thy love too vehement hastens to destroy
Each blooming maid, and each celestial boy.
Now Manto comes, endu'd with mighty skill,
The past to explore, the future to reveal.
Thro' Thebes' wide streets Tiresia's daughter came,
Divine Latona's mandate to proclaim:
The Theban maids to hear the orders ran,
When thus Maeonia's prophetess began:
"Go, Thebans! great Latona's will obey,
"And pious tribute at her altars pay:
"With rights divine, the goddess be implor'd,
"Nor be her sacred offspring unador'd."
Thus Manto spoke. The Theban maids obey,
And pious tribute to the goddess pay.
The rich perfumes ascend in waving spires,
And altars blaze with consecrated fires;
The fair assembly moves with graceful air,
And leaves of laurel bind the flowing hair.
Niobe comes with all her royal race,
With charms unnumber'd, and superior grace:
Her Phrygian garments of delightful hue,
Inwove with gold, refulgent to the view,
Beyond description beautiful she moves
Like heav'nly Venus, 'midst her smiles and loves:
She views around the supplicating train,
And shakes her graceful head with stern disdain,
Proudly she turns around her lofty eyes,
And thus reviles celestial deities:
"What madness drives the Theban ladies fair
"To give their incense to surrounding air?
"Say why this new sprung deity preferr'd?
"Why vainly fancy your petitions heard?
"Or say why Caeus offspring is obey'd,
"While to my goddesship no tribute's paid?
"For me no altars blaze with living fires,
"No bullock bleeds, no frankincense transpires,
"Tho' Cadmus' palace, not unknown to fame,
"And Phrygian nations all revere my name.
"Where'er I turn my eyes vast wealth I find,
"Lo! here an empress with a goddess join'd.
"What, shall a Titaness be deify'd,
"To whom the spacious earth a couch deny'd!
"Nor heav'n, nor earth, nor sea receiv'd your queen,
"Till pitying Delos took the wand'rer in.
"Round me what a large progeny is spread!
"No frowns of fortune has my soul to dread.
"What if indignant she decrease my train
"More than Latona's number will remain;
"Then hence, ye Theban dames, hence haste away,
"Nor longer off'rings to Latona pay;
"Regard the orders of Amphion's spouse,
"And take the leaves of laurel from your brows."
Niobe spoke. The Theban maids obey'd,
Their brows unbound, and left the rights unpaid.
The angry goddess heard, then silence broke
On Cynthus' summit, and indignant spoke;
"Phoebus! behold, thy mother in disgrace,
"Who to no goddess yields the prior place
"Except to Juno's self, who reigns above,
"The spouse and sister of the thund'ring Jove.
"Niobe, sprung from Tantalus, inspires
"Each Theban bosom with rebellious fires;
"No reason her imperious temper quells,
"But all her father in her tongue rebels;
"Wrap her own sons for her blaspheming breath,
"Apollo! wrap them in the shades of death."
Latona ceas'd, and ardent thus replies
The God, whose glory decks th' expanded skies.
"Cease thy complaints, mine be the task assign'd
"To punish pride, and scourge the rebel mind."
This Phoebe join'd.—They wing their instant flight;
Thebes trembled as th' immortal pow'rs alight.
With clouds incompass'd glorious Phoebus stands;
The feather'd vengeance quiv'ring in his hands.
Near Cadmus' walls a plain extended lay,
Where Thebes' young princes pass'd in sport the day:
There the bold coursers bounded o'er the plains,
While their great masters held the golden reins.
Ismenus first the racing pastime led,
And rul'd the fury of his flying steed.
"Ah me," he sudden cries, with shrieking breath,
While in his breast he feels the shaft of death;
He drops the bridle on his courser's mane,
Before his eyes in shadows swims the plain,
He, the first-born of great Amphion's bed,
Was struck the first, first mingled with the dead.
Then didst thou, Sipylus, the language hear
Of fate portentous whistling in the air:
As when th' impending storm the sailor sees
He spreads his canvas to the fav'ring breeze,
So to thine horse thou gav'st the golden reins,
Gav'st him to rush impetuous o'er the plains:
But ah! a fatal shaft from Phoebus' hand
Smites thro' thy neck, and sinks thee on the sand.
Two other brothers were at wrestling found,
And in their pastime claspt each other round:
A shaft that instant from Apollo's hand
Transfixt them both, and stretcht them on the sand:
Together they their cruel fate bemoan'd,
Together languish'd, and together groan'd:
Together too th' unbodied spirits fled,
And sought the gloomy mansions of the dead.
Alphenor saw, and trembling at the view,
Beat his torn breast, that chang'd its snowy hue.
He flies to raise them in a kind embrace;
A brother's fondness triumphs in his face:
Alphenor fails in this fraternal deed,
A dart dispatch'd him (so the fates decreed:)
Soon as the arrow left the deadly wound,
His issuing entrails smoak'd upon the ground.
What woes on blooming Damasichon wait!
His sighs portend his near impending fate.
Just where the well-made leg begins to be,
And the soft sinews form the supple knee,
The youth sore wounded by the Delian god
Attempts t' extract the crime-avenging rod,
But, whilst he strives the will of fate t' avert,
Divine Apollo sends a second dart;
Swift thro' his throat the feather'd mischief flies,
Bereft of sense, he drops his head, and dies.
Young Ilioneus, the last, directs his pray'r,
And cries, "My life, ye gods celestial! spare."
Apollo heard, and pity touch'd his heart,
But ah! too late, for he had sent the dart:
Thou too, O Ilioneus, art doom'd to fall,
The fates refuse that arrow to recal.
On the swift wings of ever flying Fame
To Cadmus' palace soon the tidings came:
Niobe heard, and with indignant eyes
She thus express'd her anger and surprise:
"Why is such privilege to them allow'd?
"Why thus insulted by the Delian god?
"Dwells there such mischief in the pow'rs above?
"Why sleeps the vengeance of immortal Jove?"
For now Amphion too, with grief oppress'd,
Had plung'd the deadly dagger in his breast.
Niobe now, less haughty than before,
With lofty head directs her steps no more
She, who late told her pedigree divine,
And drove the Thebans from Latona's shrine,
How strangely chang'd!—yet beautiful in woe,
She weeps, nor weeps unpity'd by the foe.
On each pale corse the wretched mother spread
Lay overwhelm'd with grief, and kiss'd her dead,
Then rais'd her arms, and thus, in accents slow,
"Be sated cruel Goddess! with my woe;
"If I've offended, let these streaming eyes,
"And let this sev'nfold funeral suffice:
"Ah! take this wretched life you deign'd to save,
"With them I too am carried to the grave.
"Rejoice triumphant, my victorious foe,
"But show the cause from whence your triumphs flow?
"Tho' I unhappy mourn these children slain,
"Yet greater numbers to my lot remain."
She ceas'd, the bow string twang'd with awful sound,
Which struck with terror all th' assembly round,
Except the queen, who stood unmov'd alone,
By her distresses more presumptuous grown.
Near the pale corses stood their sisters fair
In sable vestures and dishevell'd hair;
One, while she draws the fatal shaft away,
Faints, falls, and sickens at the light of day.
To sooth her mother, lo! another flies,
And blames the fury of inclement skies,
And, while her words a filial pity show,
Struck dumb—indignant seeks the shades below.
Now from the fatal place another flies,
Falls in her flight, and languishes, and dies.
Another on her sister drops in death;
A fifth in trembling terrors yields her breath;
While the sixth seeks some gloomy cave in vain,
Struck with the rest, and mingled with the slain.
One only daughter lives, and she the least;
The queen close clasp'd the daughter to her breast:
"Ye heav'nly pow'rs, ah spare me one," she cry'd,
"Ah! spare me one," the vocal hills reply'd:
In vain she begs, the Fates her suit deny,
In her embrace she sees her daughter die.
* "The queen of all her family bereft,
"Without or husband, son, or daughter left,
"Grew stupid at the shock. The passing air
"Made no impression on her stiff'ning hair.
"The blood forsook her face: amidst the flood
"Pour'd from her cheeks, quite fix'd her eye-balls
"Her tongue, her palate both obdurate grew,
"Her curdled veins no longer motion knew;
"The use of neck, and arms, and feet was gone,
"And ev'n her bowels hard'ned into stone:
"A marble statue now the queen appears,
"But from the marble steal the silent tears."
* This Verse to the End is the Work of another Hand.