1985 Issue Highlight, New Call for Thematic Submissions, and The Tulsa Voice Flash/Poetry Announcement

by Cassidy McCants

You might have seen our recent call for submissions for next spring’s thematic issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, inspired by an effort in Tulsa to bring together diverse groups at a new public park called A Gathering Place. In the call we’ve quoted John Dewey: “The local is the only universal, upon that all art builds.” It’s true, isn’t it?

We at Nimrod agree­—and, in connection with this theme and a new partnership with The Tulsa Voice, recently in the office we’ve gone back to the Spring/Summer 1985 issue of Nimrod, Tulsa/Tbilisi (28.2), which includes poetry and fiction by writers from Tulsa and from Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia. The issue is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts (it’s a fitting time to return to this issue, I think, as NEA funding is being threatened today) and the 25th anniversary of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, two organizations that have shown Nimrod support and encouragement throughout the years. (We were housed at the Council for many years before returning to TU.)

Tbilisi Cover

In the issue’s Editor’s Note, Francine Ringold offers some connections between Tulsa and Tbilisi: both are warm most of the year; both deserve to be “recognized on their own merit”; and the past and the present are uniquely important in these cities—“In Tulsa and Tbilisi we peer down through the years, from modern to historic in architecture, language and literature, and witness an enduring core of cultural pride.”

Some highlights by Tulsa natives and locals in Tulsa/Tbilisi:

Ivy Dempsey’s “Remembering Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor
Carol Haralson’s “Anna John Counts out the Biscuit Flour”
Manly Johnson’s “The Dream”
Markham Johnson’s “On the Road” (Mark went on to win the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, judged by Robin Coste Lewis, in 2016)
Daniel Marder’s “Valia”
Mary McAnally’s “Our Work”
Alice L. Price’s “Twice-Born”
Renata Treitel’s “Brides of Bohemia”
Winston Weathers’s “Little Boy Lost”
Ruth D. Weston’s “The Mark of the Plow”
Ann Zoller’s “The Privacy of Corn”

Mary McAnally

Our Work

            “Mother of God, Dushenka / I tell you
             this / you work your life / you have
                                               —Carolyn Forché

The story had been told of this man
who walked on water, a cat
that crouched and sprang 15 feet straight up,
an old woman who levitated.
John said he’d have to see it to believe it.
I said he’d have to believe it to see it.

Jorge painted a picture
of an old man whose flesh fell off in folds,
like molten wax or icing on a cake.
He called it “age”
and claims it’s very real.

I read John a poem about the Indian belief
that our souls enter and leave our bodies
through a hole in the top of our heads.

John asked how we could support ourselves
doing that kind of art.

We have nothing but our work.

We have nothing but our work
and each other
and the holes in the tops of our heads,
John, the holes in the tops of our heads.

The issue also features an interview by Julie Christensen with Georgian film directors Lana Gogoberidze, Georgi Shengelaya, Eldar Shengelaya, and Rezo Chkeidze; “The ‘Knight’ Goes English,” an article by Venera Urushadze originally published in Soviet Literature; “The Culinary Art of Georgia: Sour Plums, Poetry, and an Open Flame” by Darra Goldstein (with Georgian recipes!); poetry and fiction by Georgian authors—Liana Sturua, Lia Sturua, Jansug Tcharkviani, Murman Lebanidze, Nomar Dumbadze—with translations by Shota Nishnianidze, Vladimir Babishvili, Peter Tempest, and Valentina Jacque; and more.


Jansug Tcharkviani

            Betania¹—the house of virtue and the
            house of obedience and the house of
            glory . . .

You haven’t seen my hands,
My eyes and my shoulders—
Crazy about white horses
And the far-away sound of bells.

You haven’t seen my fogs,
Brought from the mountains on hawks’ wings,
How filled with the white winds
Are the days, blue like the body of the Christ.

You haven’t seen the remoteness of the fresco,
Color of the fire-bird, color of wild pigeons,
How the scent of chrism is absorbing
The old walls of my body.

You haven’t seen—come and see!—
That this temple is my body, that my body is this temple!
I am your house of virtue,
I am your house of obedience,
I am the Betania of your body . . .

                  Translated by Shota Nishnianidze with Manly Johnson

¹Betania—a church near Tbilisi, built in the XII century with XIII century frescoes.
²Saba—Saba-Sulhan Orbeliani, a prominent writer and public figure of XVIII century in Georgia.

The local is the only universal—recently Nimrod has teamed up with The Tulsa Voice in a search for flash fiction and poetry by Tulsa-area (or Tulsa-connected) writers. We’ll select flash fiction of up to 500 words and poetry of no more than 40 lines in length to be shared in the pages of The Tulsa Voice. After going back to the Tulsa/Tbilisi issue and seeing notable work by numerous Tulsa writers, I’m especially eager to see what we receive for consideration in this category. I know Tulsans have a lot to say—Fran also celebrates in her Editor’s Note from 1985 that Tulsa writers “seem to demonstrate, like the Georgians, an openness, a desire to speak out.”

Let us gather; let us speak out.

Order past issues of Nimrod here. Limited copies of Tulsa/Tbilisi (28.2) available. (Select “Single Issue” and type in the title and/or volume number of the issue you’d like.)

More information about spring/summer 2018’s Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, including instructions for submission, can be found here.

Guidelines for The Tulsa Voice flash fiction and poetry submissions can be found here. (Writers must be living in Tulsa or the surrounding area or have strong emotional ties to Tulsa to submit.)

Cassidy McCants, an Associate Editor of Nimrod, is an M.F.A. candidate in fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Contributor Interview: Gail Peck


Nimrod has published quite a few of your poems, and many of those are ekphrastic or use art as a frame for the poem. What is it about visual art that so often draws you back to it as inspiration?

Art and photography are my second loves, next to poetry and prose. The colors, the texture, the juxtaposition, the intricacy. When I see how the Old Masters could paint lace, I am in awe. I’m not a nature poet, but I am able to get some nature in my poems when I write about the Impressionists. I never thought I could write about lilacs, roses, numerous flowers. Their beauty inspires me. I knew why they inspired Monet when I went to Giverny. As for photography, I am most fond of the human face, and all it tells about joy, sadness, hard work, grief, war.

Do you have favorite artists or artistic periods when it comes to finding inspiration for poetry?

I love the Impressionists most of all, but I also like the Post-Impressionists, the Old Masters, and the Abstract Expressionists. My last full-length poetry book was about the work and lives of Van Gogh and Monet, titled The Braided Light. I did extensive research. Earlier on, I was happy to come across a book of children’s art titled “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” with drawings and paintings by the children who were interned at Terezin Concentration Camp. I did a chapbook based on that artwork, and those poems were later included in a full-length collection with poems about art, sculpture, and photo-journalism.

What’s your writing process like?

I tend to carry ideas in my head for a while, rather than rush to write them down. At times, I have whole poems in my head, which is scary now as I age. I do first drafts in longhand, and then head to the computer. I look at the poem daily for a while to see what might need to be changed. When I am satisfied, I take copies to my workshop group. At times I’ve nailed it, but often, not. I rely on the group’s knowledge.

What is your tactic for revising and refining a poem, usually?

I don’t usually do numerous revisions. There are times my group has suggested minor word changes, and sometimes the poem doesn’t work at all. I haven’t gotten to the heart of what I wanted to say, a lack of focus. Some poems I try not to give up on, but this may mean placing them in a drawer for a long time. I may be able to salvage the entire poem, or only a line or two. The more emotion I have invested in the poem, the harder I work to save it. And I just finished a poem I worked on for forty years! For whatever reason, I decided to title it “Aubade,” and then things fell into place. It was about the day my husband left for Vietnam.

What tips would you give to aspiring writers?

Read constantly. Take some classes in creative writing, perhaps Adult Education. Be willing to have your work critiqued by people you trust. Be willing to revise. If you  read your work in public, practice reading, have your work organized before you start reading. If you take your reading seriously, others will.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Big question. Some of the poets I return to over and over are Stanley Kunitz, Linda Gregg, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Alberto Rios, Sherod Santos, and Claudia Emerson. I like to support alumni from the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program, so I buy their books.

What are you working on now?

My past few books have been ekphrastic except for a chapbook about my mother’s life and her death. It has been strange to wait for a bit of inspiration rather than have a book on my coffee table I can go to and find an image I can write about. I did some work on family photographs but got stuck. I plan to go back to that, as there’s a built-in narrative, but I’m trying not to repeat myself. I am stubborn and don’t give up easily—being a Capricorn helps.

Postcard, France, 1960 (Circulatory Systems: Current and Connection, Spring 2015)

One cat plays a harp,
another holds the music.
Cat 3 has died of happiness
stretched across the floor.
I name him Champagne.

Diana writes to Courtney—
“Thank you much Christmas,
fair, foul weather love,”
as if a cost for every word.
“Don’t leave Tangier without
giving me a chance of impeding
you with a hat I must have repeat of.”

I color the hat green,
attach three ostrich feathers.
It will sit atop Courtney’s
satin hair she brushes daily.
In Tangier it’s one of a kind,
but more suited to Diana
whose face she sees
each time she sticks
the hatpin in. Then
it all comes back—
the wound they never speak of.

Gail Peck is an award-winning poet who has published eight books of poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals.

Of Past and Prologue

by Jeff Martin


More often than not, when I read something that leaves a mark, it also leaves a trail. It takes me back to something that paved the way for me to get to that place at that moment—the arc of the reading life. When I was a teenager in the mid ’90s, just starting to come into my own in terms of my artistic interests, poetry was everything to me—reading it, writing it (badly, very badly), and naively thinking that it could change the world. There were later moments when I lost that feeling, hardened by the cold facts of the real world. But as with most things, the pendulum swung back in the other direction, and I found a middle place. Poetry can’t change the world, but it was enough that it could change my world.

The first time I picked up a copy of Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology (1915), I didn’t really know what to make of it. The book was in the poetry section at my local library, but it was different from what I’d been reading throughout my tween and early teen years (Frost, Dickinson, the usual suspects). The first thing that came to mind was a play, dialogue. The book contains just over 200 short verse pieces, each one in the voice of a separate character. But here’s the thing: they’re dead, speaking from the grave, epitaphs of a sort.


The whole conceit is set up in the opening poem:

“The Hill”

Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One passed in a fever,
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in a jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in the search for hearts desire;
One after life in far-away London and Paris
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. 

Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,
And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,
And Major Walker who had talked
With venerable men of the revolution?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

They brought them dead sons from the war,
And daughters whom life had crushed,
And their children fatherless, crying
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

Where is Old Fiddler Jones
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,
Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary’s Grove,
Of what Abe Lincoln said
One time at Springfield.

From here we switch to the people. They confess, they gossip, they clear the air, they tell their stories from their own subjective point of view. When I try to convey what Spoon River Anthology is to the uninitiated, I often say it’s like a mashup of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, which tells one story from four very different perspectives. But that somewhat highfalutin explanation doesn’t really do it justice. Wouldn’t it be great to have a more contemporary reference?

Few novels have had as much buzz lately as short-story master George Saunders’s debut, Lincoln in the Bardo. From page one, it became evident to me that Saunders, a favorite of mine, is also a lover of Spoon River Anthology. The novel revolves around the story of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his son, Willie, age 11. Years ago, Saunders heard that Lincoln used to go into Willie’s crypt and hold the boy’s body. The image never left his mind. Written in short vignettes, in the voices of over 150 different characters, it speaks not from the grave exactly, but from the “bardo,” a sort of Tibetan purgatory. The book is an obvious homage to Masters. As you may have noticed, Lincoln makes a brief cameo at the end of “The Hill.” As if that’s not enough of a connection, Masters also wrote a major biography of Lincoln in 1931.


I write all this to say that with all the deserved praise Saunders is enjoying (we rarely see true literary novels become #1 bestsellers), take time to read both of these texts. In no specific order. I wonder what Spoon River Anthology would mean to me if I came to it after Bardo? It’s damn near impossible to untangle the love of some books from teenage nostalgia. And thank goodness for that.


Jeff Martin, Nimrod Advisor, is the founder of the Tulsa Literary Coalition’s BookSmart Tulsa, an organization that brings numerous acclaimed authors to Tulsa every year.