Interview with Domenico Starnone

TRANSLATED BY DEVANSHI KHETARPAL

Devanshi Khetarpal: When I think of language, I often think of place, and of the place of time. For me, it seems that language is married to both things. In the short story, specifically, what is the element or affect that is the closest to language, according to you?

Domenico Starnone: If I understood your question correctly, I would say that in short prose you have a contraction of space and time, and the language points to an effect of density, as when, at the point of embarking on a journey with three suitcases, we discover that if we choose only the essential, if we arrange it properly, only one suitcase is enough.

DK: I like the expression of journeying you mentioned. It is common to think of reading as a journey. But for me, as an Indian girl in the United States who studies Italian literature, a journey also signifies the abandon of one’s own home. So I usually read every story for the experience that I cannot touch, that is lost, that is abandoned. Every story becomes more about abandoning than journeying. However, I desire to know if you, in fact, think of stories in a similar way?

DS: The story is movement. I move from the point at which I find myself, from the moment that I am living: I go back, forward, before, after. If you decide to re-invoke the world that you left behind, keep in mind that you always do it from the now, from where you find yourself. It is important, because it is here and now that you decide how you want to narrate: with nostalgia, with detachment, with a rebellious tone of clear refusal. Our stories of the past, of the lost, of the abandoned, are always planted in our present. The past travels with us, it does not let itself be abandoned.

DK: I would like to talk about movement in a sense. Because now in Italy, in Europe, in the whole world, xenophobia is a predominant force. It is a force that is opposed to movement, to the stories of movements. But how do you think these stories of different movements, of different aspects of movements from various places of the world, participate in varying political discourses? Do you think they suspend disbelief, in one way or another, of people who do not believe or underestimate the immigration crises or their burdens?

DS: The narratives of pain, fatigue, otherness, nostalgia, death on land and at sea can certainly lead to identification. I read a story and thanks to the skill of its writer I feel inside me, in my home, among the few or many comforts with which I live, the reasons that push a growing number of people to migrate to the richest areas of the planet (hunger, poverty, the ravages of war, the hope of a better life, the escape from political or religious persecution). I feel the sentiments of the migrants— despair, fear, humiliation— and I live them as if they were mine, as if they were sentiments my own body feels. A well-made story can surely change my gaze, pushing me to look at the other with other eyes. But can a book today cause walls to fall, preventing new ones from being built? No, if it remains a book. Yes, if the energy released by the story becomes a political action that fights xenophobia and racism.

DK: Certainly. I felt similarly when I read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante for the first time. For some reason, I still feel that Ferrante has narrated my story, the story of my childhood and adolescence. Sure, it is a bit different, it is also universal, it is a story of Naples and not of Bhopal. I have seen other things, different things. But when I read Ferrante, I felt that some words, some narratives are difficult to read. I already realized, at that point, that some stories are difficult to write, to narrate or translate. But the difficulty and discomfort of reading something, for me, has proved to be more revealing. Is there a book that makes you feel similarly?

DS: The books that move us deeply are not easy to read. Since they put into words parts of our experience that we do not (yet) know to formulate, that we do not want to formulate, that we do not dare to formulate, those books strain us, they give us anxiety, they hurt us. And nevertheless we feel that we can never do without them. To me, around the age of seventeen, ‘Letter to the father’ by Franza Kafka, had such a devastating and electrifying effect.

DK: And what is the book that you find most difficult to teach? Specifically, during our course or during your time in New York, do you find that your thoughts on certain books have changed?

DS: It is difficult to teach reading. Creative writing schools, rightly, have become extremely important. But just as necessary and urgent are schools of ‘creative’ reading.  A story has its full realization only when it encounters a passionate and competent reader, a reader who is not only able to abandon oneself to a story, but is also able to take pleasure in exploring it in order to try to understand the construct. I would therefore say that there is no book that is not difficult if there is no passion for reading, if the passionate reader is not  even a competent reader. Passion is not taught, but a teacher can seek to give birth to it. Competence instead can be taught, schools are purposely made to transmit skills. 

As for my experience here, as a teacher, well, I am an old man, for me it is now difficult to change. But teaching is always a very stimulating activity, it pushes one to reread, to reflect, to confront oneself with those who are younger. It is an activity which I have always loved.

DK:  My last question is this: Do you write to answer or ask or attempt to know something that you don’t know? And when you read any book, how does it become a part of your story?

DS: I write that which I know, but the story becomes interesting only if it captures something that I don’t know or that I don’t know I know. As for books, all of us have our own story of readers, it is made of the texts that have helped us construct ourselves and orient ourselves in the world in which we have fallen. If we write, those books also become the ground on which our vocation is implanted and grows. The problem, however, is to emerge out of the circle of books that we like because they resemble us, because they give to us again and again that which we already know. We need to learn early to look for texts that provide to us what we don’t know, that show us ways of telling which we are not acquainted with. It is the confrontation with others that enriches our life story, in addition to that of readers and writers.


INTERVISTA CON DOMENICO STARNONE

Devanshi Khetarpal: Quando penso di linguaggio, penso spessissimo di posto, e del posto di tempo. Per me, sembra che linguaggio si sposi con tutte due cose. Nel racconto breve, specificamente, qual é l’elemento o l’affetto che é il più vicino del linguaggio, secondo te?

Domenico Starnone: Se ho capito bene la domanda, direi che nella prosa breve hai una contrazione degli spazi e dei tempi e il linguaggio punta a un effetto di densità, come quando, sul punto di metterci in viaggio con tre valigie, scopriamo che se scegliamo solo l’essenziale, se lo sistemiamo per bene, è sufficiente una valigia sola.

DK: Mi piace l’espressione di viaggiare che hai menzionato. È comune di pensare dell’azione di leggere come un viaggio. Ma per me, come una ragazza Indiana negli Stati Uniti che studia letteratura italiana, un viaggio significa anche il abbandono della casa propria. Quindi di solito leggo ogni storia per l’esperienza che non posso toccare, che è perso, che è abbandonato. Ogni storia diventa più di abbandonare che di viaggiare. Però, desidero di sapere se pensi dei racconti in modo simile affatto?

DS: Il racconto è movimento. Mi muovo dal  punto in cui mi trovo, dal  momento che sto vivendo: vado indietro, avanti, prima, dopo. Se decidi di rievocare il mondo che ti sei lasciata alle spalle, tieni conto che lo fai sempre a partire da adesso, da dove ti trovi. E’ importante, perché è qui e ora che tu decidi come vuoi raccontare: con nostalgia, con distacco, con un tono ribelle di netto rifiuto. I nostri racconti del passato, del perduto, dell’abbandonato, sono sempre piantati nel nostro presente. Il passato viaggia con noi, non si fa abbandonare.

DK: Vorrei parlare di movimento in un senso. Perché ora nell’Italia, nell’Europea, nel tutto del mondo, xenofobia è una forza predominante. È una forza che opposto a movimento, ai racconti di movimenti. Ma come pensi che questi racconti di movimenti diversi, di diversi aspetti di movimenti da diversi luoghi del mondo participano nelle vari discorsi politici? Pensi che loro sospendono incredulità,  in un modo o l’altro, di persone che non credono o sottostimano crisi immigrazione o i loro pesi?

DS: Le narrazioni dei dolori, delle fatiche, del disadattamento, delle nostalgie, della morte per terra e per mare può  indurre  certo  all’immedesimazione. Io leggo un racconto  e grazie alla bravura di chi l’ha scritto sento dentro di me, nella mia casa, tra i pochi o i molti agi con cui vivo,  le ragioni che spingono un numero crescente di persone a migrare verso le aree più ricche del pianeta (la fame, la miseria, le devastazioni della guerra, la speranza di una vita migliore, la fuga da persecuzioni politiche o religiose). Avverto i sentiment del migranti – disperazione, paura, umiliazione –  e li vivo come se fossero miei, sentimenti che prova il mio stesso corpo. Un racconto ben fatto può sicuramente cambiare il mio sguardo, spingermi a guardare l’altro con altri occhi. Ma un libro oggi può far cadere i muri,  impedire che se ne costruiscano sempre di nuovi? No, se resta un libro. Sì, se l’energia sprigionata dal racconto diventa azione politica che combatte xenofobia e razzismo.   

DK: Certamente. Sentivo similmente quando ho letto ‘L’amica geniale’ da Elena Ferrante per la prima volta. Per qualche ragione, sento ancora che Ferrante abbia raccontato mia storia, la storia della mia infanzia e adolescenza. Certo, è un po’ diverso, è universale anche, è una storia di Napoli e non di Bhopal. Ho visto altre cose, diverse cose. Ma quando ho letto Ferrante, sentivo che qualche parole, qualche narrativi è difficile di leggere. Avevo già realizzato, a quel punto, che qualche storie sono difficile di scrivere, di raccontare o tradurre. Ma la difficoltà e il disagio di leggere qualcosa, per me, ha provato di essere più rivelatore. C’è un libro che ti faccia sentire similmente?

DS: I libri che ci colpiscono in profondità non sono facili da leggere. Poiché mettono in parole  cose della nostra esperienza che noi non sappiamo (ancora) formulare, non vogliamo formulare, non osiamo formulare, quei libri ci affaticano, ci mettono ansia, ci fanno male. E tuttavia sentiamo che non ne potremo mai più fare a meno. A me, intorno ai diciassette anni, fece un effetto tanto devastante quanto elettrizzante ‘Lettera al padre’ di Franz Kafka.

DK: E qual è il libro che trovi il più difficile di insegnare? Specificamente, durante il nostro corso o il tuo tempo a Nuovo York, trovi che i tuoi pensieri di libri specifici hanno cambiato?

DS: E’ difficile insegnare a leggere. Sono diventate importantissime, giustamente, le scuole di scrittura creativa. Ma altrettanto necessarie e urgenti sono le scuole di lettura ‘creativa’. Un racconto ha la sua piena realizzazione solo quando incontra un lettore appassionato e  competente, un lettore che sia in grado non solo di abbandonarsi a una storia, ma di provare piacere a esplorarla per cercare di capirne il congegno. Direi quindi che non c’è libro che non sia difficile, se non c’è passione per la lettura, se il lettore appassionato non è anche un lettore competente. La passione non si insegna, ma un insegnante può cercare di farla nascere. La competenza invece la si può insegnare, le scuole sono fatte apposta per trasmettere competenze.

Quanto alla mia esperienza qui, come docente, mah, sono un uomo anziano, per me ormai è difficile cambiare. Ma insegnare è sempre un’attività molto stimolante, spinge a rileggere, a riflettere, a confrontarsi con i più giovani. E’ un’attività che ho sempre amato.

DK: La mia ultima domanda è questo: Scrivi a rispondere o chiedere o provare di sapere qualcosa che non sai? E quando leggi qualsiasi libro, come lo diventa una parte della tua storia?

DS: Scrivo quello che so, ma il racconto diventa interessante solo se cattura qualcosa che non so o che non so di sapere. Quanto ai libri, abbiamo tutti una nostra storia di lettori, è fatta dei testi che ci hanno aiutato a costruire noi stessi e a orientarci nel mondo in cui siamo precipitati. Se po scriviamo, quei libri diventano anche il terreno su cui si impianta e cresce la nostra vocazione. Il problema però è uscire poi fuori dal cerchio dei libri che ci piacciono perché ci assomigliano, perché ci danno ancora e ancora ciò che già sappiamo. Bisogna imparare presto  a cercare testi che ci diano ciò che non sappiamo, che ci mostrino modi di raccontare che non conosciamo. E’ il confronto con gli altri che arricchisce la nostra storia di vita, oltre che di lettori e scrittori.


155876879487664518.gifDOMENICO STARNONE is an Italian writer, journalist and screenwriter, His books, Tie(Europa Editions, 2017) and Trick (Europa Editions, 2018), were translated into English by Jhumpa Lahiri. Trick was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Translated Literature. Starnone’s book, Via Gemito, won the Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, in 2001. He was born in Naples and lives in Rome.

Staff Recommendations: Short Stories

If you happen to be looking for some good reads to browse through as the days lengthen, perhaps on your porch or at the beach, look no further. The Inklette team has compiled a list of beloved short stories and short story collections for you to peruse at your leisure.

  1. Jagannath (Karin Tidbeck)

51R2HDz9hfL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

This collection of short stories, covering narratives from people falling in love with machines to a girl following vittra in the woods, explores how disorienting, beautiful, and downright absurd our reality is when observed through different lenses. I’d recommend this collection to anyone interested in science fiction and fantasy with an intimate streak of psychological realism.  

–Joanna Cleary, Blog Editor  

 

  1. The Dead Go to Seattle (Vivian Faith Prescott)

511wRxVnmzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This collection is made up of 43 linked stories that take place in Wrangell, Alaska and are told by a young woman named Tova. Through the stories Tove tells, she reveals elements of herself, her hometown, the people with whom she grew up, the history and even the myths from her small town. I’d recommend this collection to anyone who loves stories centered around place and how place shapes identity, and to anyone who loves cultural mythology.   

–Lisa Stice, Poetry Editor

 

  1. Her Body and Other Parties (Carmen Maria Machado)

41N7lsvNg2L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Women begin to physically fade away during the Great Recession. Bodies respond to weight loss attempts in a terrifying manner. In this collection, readers will find stories that combine horror, fairy tales, queer love, and all manner of darkness and light. Machado’s writing defies categorization, and her deft exploration of the meaning of women’s bodies through gorgeous prose will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman and Helen Oyeyemi.

–Sophie Panzer, Prose Editor

 

  1. Dove mi trovo (Jhumpa Lahiri)

411j4O8mOvL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis might seem like a strange choice. Lahiri’s second book written in Italian is a romanzo, a novel. But every chapter of the books reads like a short story, a very short story story, and some chapters even read like microfiction. Although only available in Italian currently, the book is extremely different from anything Lahiri has ever written. There is something dialogic about her work– the way the narrator speaks with isolation, the isolation of places around her and the isolation of time. Everything is fused closely within the scope of her minute, razor-edged words, and yet everything seems dispersed. The close of every chapter leaves you with a gasp. Instead of folding close, every chapter folds in on itself as most endings in the form of the short story do.

–Devanshi Khetarpal, Editor-in-Chief

 

  1. Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit (Aisha Sabatini Sloan)

513CkfAho0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Race, sexuality, youth, memory, family, art, violence, pop culture and more all intersect in Sloan’s collection of essays. All twelve pieces read as separate stories within the continuum of her life. Sloan plays with form, teaching the reader how to read the page which shape-shifts throughout each story. Somehow we find intimacy in the moments of ambiguity and concern in her profound critique over what it means to be a living, breathing, complex human of right now.

–Maria Prudente, Blog Editor

 

  1. Thirteen Ways of Looking (Colum McCann)

51jkI9h7e1L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_McCann’s novella-length piece, the first narrative in his eponymous collection of tales about empathy, is, at heart, an experimental inspection of male aging. Peter Mendelssohn’s story of growing old is elegantly woven into a detective frame and contemplates the many losses that old age provokes. It’s an angry piece that reeks of bodily inabilities and slow decay—but reads as a poetic exploration of words, language, and life. McCann’s story is thus a painful read with some unexpected twists and turns, but more importantly, one that cautions us to be patient with each other.

-Stela Dujakovic, Prose Editor

To view staff bios, please visit our Masthead page.

Interview with Cow Tipping Press

To me, Inklette has always seemed a truly cosmopolitan online writing community. A quick glance at our staff page shows an international group of writers, and in my time as a prose editor, I’ve encountered submissions from middle schoolers to seasoned professional writers, and from all six inhabited continents (I’m still holding out for a submission from Antartica). It wasn’t until this summer that I noticed that there was one community that none of the writing in our seven issues had focused on: people with disabilities. I probably wasn’t the only one to forget about this group; they are often ignored in diversity initiatives, at least in part because it is hard to fit them under the argument of “We are all the same on the inside” when, by definition, they have minds and bodies that work differently from neurotypical people. Different, however, does not mean deficient, as I learned this summer working as a volunteer at Cow Tipping Press, an organization that cultivates and publishes the writing of adults with disabilities. I was amazed in my teaching at the new perspectives that the students in my creative writing class offered, using their neurological differences that have so often been deemed a disability to offer a unique perspective on so many topics. I’d love to delve into my ideas about how and why disabled adults offer these perspectives. But, in keeping with the Cow Tipping Press rule that disabled adults should always have the opportunity to tell their own story, I’ll shut up and let the students and teachers of Cow Tipping Press take it from here.

– JOHN S. OSLER III, Prose Editor



NICK COCCHIARELLA (Volunteer and Student)

 

This Way

 

Your hand is not a helping one

It’s dirty, clammy, feels weird on my skin—

Don’t touch me! Go away!

 

“Stay with us,” you plead, your voice an ill-disguised command

“Let us lure you in with proactive promises you know we won’t keep.”

“No,” I silently scream, “Pictures of hands don’t help.”

 

“This way – no, sir, this way! That way!”

Here, hang on, let me—

“No!” I shout with body language. “Don’t do that! Don’t touch me!”

 

“Hi, how’s it going? I’m Jim, what’s your name?”

“I’m Nick,” My voice is a mockery of a mumble.

You extend a hand; we shake; and yet, I can’t help it

 

Your kindness is suspicious, Your friendliness belittling – why can’t I trust you?

Oh yeah, right… Y. The chromosome.

I shake your hand, but I can’t help it.

Just go away, I sigh in my scrambled egg mind. I can’t be saved.

 

Note: Nick Cocchiarella said that his poem is about his experience as “a person who is blind and autistic trying to figure out how to deal with people being helpful to the point of sometimes being invasive.”


Interview with NICK COCCHIARELLA

John: Was this poem based on any personal experience?

Nick: Yes. Particularly walking out in public. I have to walk around a lot if I want to travel and don’t want to expend exorbitant amounts of money on ubers and lyfts, and the amount of well- meaning “helpful Henrys” who “only want to help” tend to jump in and steer me around are staggering. And when that happens, I lock up. I can’t speak. I either let them do it or pull away, and I look rude. Also there is a line that refers me from coming home from a training program and my parents were trying to talk me into staying at home for a while until I save money, and all I could think while they were trying to convince me – that they’d actually build me an apartment downstairs, that they’d get me set up with a system to organize my stuff etc – is that they have been making my siblings and I similar promises since we were kids, and nothing ever came of them.

And because of all that, it’s hard to have conversations with people in public sometimes, and doubly so with guys.

John: Why did you choose to write the poem with the Helpful Henrys in second person?

Nick: I honestly didn’t think about it too much. It was just the tense that sounded right to me as I wrote it.



THOMAS ROBINSON (student)

 

Advice to Daughter

Be nice to people. Don’t be mean to people. Be nice to your elders. Be nice to people with disabilities. Be an advocate for yourself. Always be on time. Sometimes be late. Always hold your hand when you cross the street. Don’t jaywalk. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t hurt yourself. Be positive. Don’t let the evil beast destroy you.


INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS ROBINSON

John: This seems like very helpful advice for everyone, so why did you choose to write it to your daughter in particular?

Thomas: I wrote this poem to teach people about what how to treat people with different values and views.

John: Who or what do you mean by “the evil beast”?

Thomas: The beast is the a thing I dreamt about long time. The beast is the evil in everybody’s life that you should not do bad things. The beast looks like things with wings and stuff.



Shinoa Kaprice Makinen (student)

 

Love One at Heart

I have a friend who loved to hangout play with kids, I have a friend who loved us all so much it hurts our family how he served this country he loved and gave up to fight the ones who attacked our United States who sacrificed his life to serve for peace on this earth

I have a friend who took care of our family when not sick

I have a friend who would do it all over again if he didn’t pass unexpected fish, camp and sleep in our camper beds

I have a friend who took care of me like a dad when young

I have a friend my mom who’s in tears a lot wish never ended soon

You might think I have many friends but I have one this is called a loved one at heart

I have a friend who’s going to welcome our family when we get to where we’re going there someday to have happy tears no pain or struggles anymore those who love him don’t cry for him up there he is resting in his place where soldiers are at peace and angels sing amazing grace he is happy you let him free no trying to wake him from his sleep

I have a friend who loves the green grass and trees and works his life until it was over he loved to ride his corvette back and forth I call the country living life he lived

I have a friend who’s waiting to say welcome you home to the family when it’s our end but for now he’s waiting at the heaven’s doors when it’s my turn I be laying my body to the ground and be back to ash and dust again

I have a friend who be missed by all but glad he’s in lord’s hands now and have angel wings

I have a friend who loved his pet’s brows and ford

I have a friend who would be happy if he had seen how deep I write so much I can’t finish my poem until it’s done he would say thank you for the love you gave me when I was here

I have a friend who we all should tribute for his passing and give his wish where he wanted to lay to rest but sad he won’t be back to camp and fish over and over again but glad he served his life he lived back in the days he served for peace

I have a friend a loved one country living kind hunting fishing life I am going to miss but for now we are taking care of his pets until it’s their end

I have a friend who loved his friend Bev next door neighbor who she called him hugging friend and had coffee and breakfast sometimes

I have a friend a loved one who lived on the dirt road the countryside he took me every summer to spend some fun with him

I have a friend who cooked for family when we visit Menahga, MN up north breakfast lunch and dinner and baked as well

I have a friend who came to every event I did choir concerts and holiday traditions like Christmas or Thanksgiving and or birthday parties, funerals and wedding he was in

You might think this special someone might be a friend, son, husband, nephew, or dad or cousin but this friend a loved one we all knew is gone this love one I am referring to is grandpa Roland.


Interview with Shinoa Kaprice Makinen

John: You talk about your friend as if he were still alive (saying “I have a friend” rather than “I had a friend”). Is this because you feel like your grandpa Roland is still with you, or another reason?

Shinoa: Yes.

John: How did you feel to write this story?

Shinoa: I felt sad.

John: Is there anything else you would like others to know about you?

Shinoa: I would like to to write that I am also a songwriter.



Kelly McNamara (student)

 

Story of My Life

Dear Kelly,

I wish I had a boyfriend when I was younger. I wish I had dated AJ. I wish I was his wife when I was younger because he is cute. I wish I could ride limos all the time. They are awesome and feel like I was rich. I used to be in choir. I enjoyed it. It was in school. AJ was in the choir. I loved school. I know I’m not going to be part of AJ’s life. He has a wife and kids. I feel bad that I won’t be married to him as an adult.

Love, Kelly


INTERVIEW WITH Kelly McNamara

John: In your writing, you talk about both AJ and limos. Is there a connection between the feeling of being with AJ and riding in a limo.

Kelly: Well, I was going to go to a Backstreet Boys concert, but I never had a chance to. So I never got a chance to ride in limos and get spoiled by him and, um, AJ was a big part of my life before God took him away from me and I was really sad and lonely and depressed.

Mary (Kelly’s caregiver): AJ is a signer from the Backstreet Boys that she likes. She never really knew him as a person.

John: Why did you choose to write this as a letter to yourself?

Kelly: Um, it just reminded me of AJ and I felt right writing this story about myself because I would never see AJ in real life and it’s making me sad and lonely because every day he gets to ride in limos with his wife and his kids and every day he gets to ride on a private plane and go places, but I’m just very sad…and that’s my way to say goodbye to AJ.



Sarah Debbins (student)

 

I would like to give some advice to my guardians, my house staff, and to Lifeworks staff. I have problems with stealing or lying, especially telling the truth given advice from my therapists and counselors, to help me and the answer my questions about my own problems on my meds throughout my depressions and let my anger out with my OCD and Down Syndrome to really cut down on paxil meds, because my body usually gave me headache, dizzy spells and nerves breakdown, but I need more help giving more advice, it really help me in God’s prayer for hope turned it around to have faith in me to be strong and very last. “I can do it, just do it.”


Interview with Sarah Debbins (conducted by Miranda Cross)

Miranda: Why do you like writing stories? How does writing/ telling stories help you?

Sarah: It is a lot of fun for me to write stories, and I think I am good at it. It also helps me share experiences that I have in my life.

Miranda: What do you like to write about?

Sarah: The weather, stories about myself.

Miranda: What about yourself do you like to write?

Sarah: I like to write about my health, the disabilities I have, and experiences that I have had (jobs, vacations, memories).



Interview with Miriam Tibbets (teacher)

John: Has working at Cow Tipping Press affected the way you think about writing or your own writing?

Miriam: Absolutely it has. Working at Cow Tipping has remoulded the thinking patterns I have created when editing writing. Working with my students (who often write in impulsive, uncalculated ways) has shown me that the raw stuff— tapping into one’s own stream of consciousness— is just as valuable as a good edit. When I write and edit, I no longer sift out everything and reconstruct something completely new. I look at the essence of what I have written, and consider its value before tweaking and chopping.

John: You only had two students in your class this year. How was it teaching such a small class?

Miriam: At first I was very worried about teaching a small class. Quite honestly, I felt even more pressure to make the class perfect for Vince and Nick. However, this pressure was beneficial— having two students made it so that I could get to know and understand the both of them perfectly. In this way, I could customize lessons to appeal to their interests, while simultaneously pushing them to their healthy limits. Knowing Nick and Vince so well made the class tight-knit, created a safe space for all voices, and indulged all three of us with a slow pace and equal amounts of sharing. I loved being able to hear both Vince’s and Nick’s voices after each writing session (something that might not have been possible with a larger class), and was so grateful that I could give both of them individual attention when they needed it most. It was really a wonderful experience.



About Cow Tipping Press

Welcome to Cow Tipping Press! We create writing by people with developmental disabilities, giving audiences a new way to think about this rich form of human diversity.”

MODEL

“Cow Tipping Press applies lean startup principles to create just that—an opportunity to relish assets rather than pity deficits of our peers with disabilities through the unique lens of creative writing.

We teach inclusive writing classes for adults with developmental disabilities (over 400 alums and counting), a radical chance to speak for themselves in a medium usually used to speak about them. Students then share these distinct voices with audiences across time and place, in person and in print. 85% of audiences cite that Cow Tipping authors change their fundamental perspective on disability. That’s even true of our pool of college-aged teachers, a number of whom we’ve pipelined into full-time work in this important field.

Cow Tipping Press has won awards from Grinnell College, Teach For America, and 4.0 Schools. Our books have been used as diversity education tools in classrooms across the country. And our authors have parlayed their skills into blogging and public speaking opportunities, a scholarship to the Aspen Ideas Festival, inclusion in national publications, a spinoff podcast, and teaching and leadership roles within our program (nothing about us without us!).

You can take on a part of this important work by referring a partner organization or individual to Cow Tipping Press or making a donation of any amount. Even better, take a minute to consider the dynamism and assets of that neighbor, coworker, or classmate with a developmental disability. In the words of one advocate, “So much of the battle with inclusion involves rethinking what is possible.””

Source: Website- Cow Tipping Press



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JOHN S. OSLER III is a sophomore at Grinnell College. He attended both the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio and the New York Writer’s Institute. In middle school and high school he wrote over two hundred satirical articles for The Southern View. His short stories have been published in Sprout Magazine, The Phosphene Journal, Random Sample Review, Zephyrus, and The Grinnell Underground Magazine.

 

The Evolution of Wings

Years ago, when we got bored during study hall and Googled “Thayer Stokes,” we discovered his dad was a rich-ass tech entrepreneur with his own Wikipedia page. We all found that to be varying degrees of completely hilarious, since Thayer made the local news in ninth grade for getting high as a kite and crashing Daddy’s BMW into a stoplight. I let him cheat off me in Geometry because his hands were big enough to cleave me in half. When, one night, he slipped Xanax into a girl’s cheap beer, the rumors ricocheted into our collective consciousness and lodged somewhere between our knife-thin ribs. Our entire grade held our breaths, waiting for the cops to show up with handcuffs so shiny and stiff they’d hurt our teeth.

So when Thayer disappeared for days, we thought he’d for sure gotten his ass hauled to the Rosendale Youth Center, a pretty name for juvie. All of us except one agreed. Sammy Holwell, whom we called “dumbass” affectionately, swore that he one-hundred-percent-for-sure saw Thayer turn into a bird. We just laughed at him and figured he must’ve been tripping too hard.

****

 A few weeks after Thayer’s disappearance, Charlotte Beryl’s cluster of church choir friends came in all frantic with dangling tongues and mascara oozing down their cheeks. Their voices dovetailed into one story: they’d been eating lunch on the front lawn when Charlotte’s face twisted in a way faces shouldn’t. She fell to the ground as her hair sizzled into wreaths of rose-gold smoke. Brown mottled feathers julienned her skin into shreds.

The one stupid thing they couldn’t agree upon was the goddamn species. One girl thought sparrow. Another insisted finch. Maybe wren, someone else said.

Afterwards, I couldn’t get this grotesque image of Charlotte out of my head. I kept thinking of feathers unfurling from her eye sockets. Her painted lips puckering and pulling into a beak. A mesh of honey-blonde corkscrew curls, ripping out by the roots. Her French manicure calcifying, claw-like. An eternal scream of horror caught in her throat, languageless.

****

This is what I remember most about Charlotte Beryl: In seventh grade, Charlotte came over because we had to write a report on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and since I still spoke with misplaced emphases and thickened syllables, nostalgia for home as a slipstream of wine-red silk, she decided I was yellow enough to be her essay partner.

When we finished, we were about half a page too short, so I showed her how to Ctrl+H to replace all of the size-twelve punctuation with size-fourteen. “You are such a supergenius,” she kept repeating, and even though I shrugged my shoulders in modesty, her words made me feel like I was a Pretty Big Deal.

Somehow, I got it in my dumbass head that we were friends after this, so the next Monday lunch, I walked over to her table, a cluster of white girls with matching sparkly barrettes, and summoned up the bravery to ask, “Can I sit here?”

A few of Charlotte’s friends eyed me and giggled. Their laughter jangled and clinked.

Charlotte couldn’t, wouldn’t look at my face; just dipped her fork into ranch dressing and shoved iceberg lettuce into her mouth.

Nobody said anything. I wanted to leave except I couldn’t. Couldn’t do anything except stand there, wishing to puncture and deflate like an abandoned balloon. I felt less real than these girls who had mothers and church on Sundays and last names that teachers could pronounce. I was a silkscreen silhouette with an accent I couldn’t unhook from my teeth.

“Ummm,” Charlotte finally said, which was somehow worse than saying nothing at all.

I laughed with my eyes wide open and said never mind.

****

In Mama’s urn, I store all my Beijing memories. A lightning storm with teeth. Afterwards, the sky wrung itself out, dripped peroxide. The Communist Youth League named me a Youth Pioneer so I wore my honglingjin, red scarf, to school daily. Sticker advertisements enameled over whitewashed apartment walls. Knotty sidewalks, knottier fruit. Mama’s lullabies until her throat ripped out of her voice. In the ocean-belly of summer, the cicadas sang instead, in oscillating chirps. Mosquito kisses. Shards of afternoon light winnowing through Mama’s jade pendant when she died. Later, Baba walked in on me blue and spasming, my honglingjin cradling my neck too tightly.

****

Afterwards, I dreamed of funeral pyres, a heaven I didn’t believe in. Sometimes rosary beads strangled me instead. Even when I was awake, swirling angels and paper corpses drifted past my eyes like mirages. I stopped wearing my honglingjin to school and got kicked out of the Young Pioneer battalion. Whatever–they were smarmy boot-licking motherfuckers, anyways.

In the days before Baba and I left for the United States, I spent hours practicing English, searching for the words to describe a longing for beak-faced boys with zits, or skies that swung open like switchblades, or myths where everything incinerated to bone. Anything to preserve the laws of gravity.

****

After Charlotte Beryl’s metamorphosis, the inevitable exodus swept through and left only  air so quiet it choked on its own silence. Shop owners boarded up their windows and skipped town without retrieving their security deposits. Before they sped off, our neighbors gave me their daughter’s pink Barbie bike, even though I was about a decade too old for such a thing.

Only children and adolescents turned into birds. Half of my history class was gone by spring break. In the early mornings, the sky a milky rose, mothers tiptoed in the lonely streets, desperately searching for the children they’d lost to the skies and the trees.

Finally, we reached a consensus on the breed: song sparrow.

During gym class, Sammy Holwell collapsed on the basketball court, spine convulsing into a question mark. Someone muttered “fucking dumbass” and usually that’d be a riot, but this time nobody could muster a chuckle.

An entire sixth grade class went on a field trip and never came back. Our schools slowly emptied until they shut down altogether.

I held my breath for years, waiting, always waiting, but never felt bright crackling underneath my skin, never woke up with a mouth filled with feathers. Our town became a suburban conglomerate of guano and fading memories. I couldn’t remember if I wore a fire-embroidered cheongsam on my twelfth birthday. Eventually, I could no longer hum the melodies of Mama’s lullabies, the jasmine-tea songs that made me yearn for places I’d never been and people I’d never met. Even Mandarin bled off my tongue. When I said home in English, I felt the word reverberate on my lips, but it clattered like all hollow things do.

Every so often, I would see a bird soar over a sprawling orchard or plunge through the foaming twilight sky, and I was almost certain it had Thayer Stokes’s stocky body, or Sammy Holwell’s nervous twitch.

I wondered if the sparrows had forgotten their names, their families, their past lives. I wondered if they still remembered how to speak in their first languages, or if those words had been etched away by the incessant chirping and cawing. I wondered if they still searched for home, a light smudged on the endless horizon.


RONA WANG is an eighteen-year-old freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying mathematics with computer science. She has won five Scholastic national medals and was published in The Best Teen Writing of 2016 and 2014. Her writing has also been recognized by the Sierra Nevada Review, the Claremont Review, and the Adroit Prizes. When not writing, she is involved with activism and the art of cat video appreciation. She is originally from Portland, Oregon.

Letter from Art

BY SUDHANSHU CHOPRA

In Midnight in Paris, when Gil Pender, a present-day, successful but creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, travels back to the 1920’s for the first time to a party for Jean Cocteau, I’m amused by the presence of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: my dear authors speaking as if they are writing: Zelda, “missing the bathtub gin,” is high on adjectives, and Scott, well he never misses out on a chance to say “old sport.”In the background, Cole Porter sings a Cole Porter song. Everyone looks neat and shiny; cigarette puffs punctuate sophisticated sips of wine. The person I’m looking for is not there.

Another scene, another bar, though plain and quieter, Gil meets Hemingway: unkempt hair and fairly under-dressed as compared to the people in the situation earlier described. I get hopeful. But later in the movie he, too, is shown getting drunk at what seems to be an invite-only party. He is also associated with a woman—a stunning fashion model conveniently out of an ordinary man’s reach (unless the man is an anti-hero, whose lack of sweeping ability only makes him all the more attractive, and who, of course, is not fictional.) With these steps, Hemingway bluntly walks out of the shadow I had initially thought he might be sitting comfortably in. He, too, turns out to be part of yet another literary circle: the circles capable of only producing revolution, and failing to open up to freedom and diversity (whichthey apparently advocate), mostly because of their closeness, their circularity.

I wonder if all this was being watched from a dark corner by someone like the anonymous master who wrote the very fine Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Also, a ballad singer comes to mind, one having no idea of the privilege he could have achieved by asserting his ownership over the invaluable lyrics he so nonchalantly scattered at curbs going around towns. Maybe if by wearing a certain sort of trinket he had shone like radium, people would have thought of him as a finer man. He would have inspired awe—in place of homeliness—amongst his ragged listeners who would have spotted him from a distance, thus in a way bringing him closer to them than his words ever could.

I, Art, have always been the field of the elite. The part of me that has not been so is unknown, mainly because it could not fit the social construct of popularity.And I do not speak just of kings and nobles, but of every era that has been doing the same: a handful of erudite gathering in groups, leaving out millions whose stake in me is no lesser. A bird’s eye view would show separate, distant dots—formless on the body of time—rather than a uniform veneer that covers all nakedness.

Since my inception, perhaps even before—when my idea was being conceived in black holes—I was meant to be imbibed, not made. I had smooth, flexible ends, not the stiffness of unwritten rules and tacit protocols which were forced upon me by every movement no matter how much liberal and anti-establishment it called itself to be. And these limitations have not been so much in the works than in the interaction of people producing those works, because wherever humans are involved there is always preference and dislike, clash of thought, and intervention of ego.On these factors is decided what and who deserves tobe in the group—who is capable of being an artist. Therefore, every age has had its artists, and the commonplace folks—the ones who can’t comprehend me.

At this point, I’m inclined to wonder if I’ve always been just another societal norm, away from the universality I stand for. Sometimes they try to adapt, the non-artists— they spend evenings watching intense theatre, or standing in front of confusing brush strokes on canvas, and after getting home, try to convince themselves of the beauty of what they just witnessed.They are ready to change, rather than contribute with their originality. Would I ever be able to purge myself of promoting this pretence?

How would I know? I’m too old and fraught now to pine for a perfect past. I can only ask you to write prose poetry or poetry prose, or any third form that you can conjure, maybe even go directly to a fifth, or simply come back to the classic iambic pentameter couplet if that is your dark corner where you can sit secluded from ideology and relationship to the external, offering your blank mind to my once free, independent and all-pervading body.

It is then that I hope to find you, my elusive person. And I hope to find you before Liam Neeson does.

Best,
Art


149738016536773SUDHANSHU CHOPRA hails from India. He draws inspiration to write from observation, memories, subconscious, books he reads, movies he watches, and music he listens to. Sometimes a phrase or simply a word is enough. Some of his poetry has been published in In Between Hangovers, Anti Heroin Chic, Calamus Journal, Wordweavers, FIVE:2:ONE, and Right Hand Pointing. Some more of his poems/thoughts could be found on his blog, The Bard.

Editors’ Note

Over the past few months, both of us have come to realize that home is more than a place where one belongs. It is an embodiment of the self, and its true nature surfaces only when one believes in it. This issue, in a way, brought us closer to ourselves, closer to home. It was going back home that made us believe and find strength in our vulnerability and imperfection.

***

When we started Inklette, we hoped to invite more people into this landscape. We knew that being a mere literary publication would not suffice. We wanted to be a community, an oasis for everyone who could see the desert.

We are ever so thankful to the masthead for the same. In the past four months, we have developed an even stronger sense of home. From reading submissions to editing the pieces you will read in this issue, we cultivated an even greater belief in being unafraid. In fact, we work, not as editors, but as a family. We admit to our insecurities, we anchor each other.

***

We are pleased to feature Akhil Katyal and Vikram Kushwah in this issue. Akhil Katyal’s revealing poetry on topics ranging from the vividly personal to the conspicuously collective, took us by surprise. Vikram Kushwah, on the other hand, courageously combines and portrays the dynamic nature of the human mind in his spell-binding photographs.

While Katyal’s poetry sharpens the conscious dimension of our mind, Kushwah’s photographs integrate that very space into an altogether movingly subconscious landscape. Both of them are accomplished artists, uniquely subtle with a remarkable body of work.

***

Needless to say, Issue II is bold and eclectic. During our submissions period, we received four times the number of submissions we received for our first issue, whereas the acceptance rate in every genre witnessed a significant decline. This amplified expectations, but we have tried our best to deliver what we believed we ought to.

Our contributors belong to several countries and come from different backgrounds. For some, it is their first publication! When you click to read different pieces, you will find yourself in varying landscapes, in the spirit of stunning identities and hopefully, at home.

***

Dear readers and contributors, you brought us here. You motivate us, the Inklette team, each day to make Inklette an experience, relying solely on true creation.

You are the energy that drives us and we, as usual, are infinitely thankful. We do hope you enjoy reading Issue II.

 

Trivarna Hariharan and Devanshi Khetarpal

Editors-in-Chief

Inklette Magazine 

Warren Read reads ‘On the Edge of Black Lake’

December 4, 2015


This November, we asked a few of our Issue 1 contributors to send us videos of them reading their work. Here is Warren Read reading from his novel excerpt, On the Edge of Black Lake.