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This week, since the symbol for Passages North is a rocket, we asked: What fuels the Passages North crew?

John LaPine
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

Avocados.

Jacque Boucher
Spoken Word Poetry
Juneau, Alaska

Cats who think they’re people, people who think they’re cats, and the possibility that someone (maybe Robin) still has cookies stashed behind her desk.

Andrea Wuorenmaa
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

The hope that Timston Johnston will make us more cake.

Annie Bilancini
Associate Editor, Fiction
Cleveland, Ohio

Our weekly group worship of the God of Snow, Heikki Lunta, followed by a group jump into Lake Superior. The weak swimmers are left behind. It thins the herd.

Mike Berry
Associate Editor, Fiction
Troy, Michigan

Mamma Berry’s cookies, Stucko’s chicken wings, and a general fear of all things not words.

Amy Hansen
Associate Editor, Poetry
Sycamore, Illinois

I mean, I feel like the gas tank of the PN office is the Keurig.

James Dyer
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Lowell, Michigan

Wilton Silver Color Mist food coloring spray. Don’t get witnessed without it.

Matt Ftacek
Associate Editor, Poetry
Niles, Michigan

Free cookies left in the kitchenette.

Jason Teal
Associate Editor, Poetry
Sandusky, Ohio

An experimental formula, unregulated by the DOT, whose main components are unpublished collaborative manuscripts by the Beat Generation and inaugural poems by James Franco.

Hayley Fitz
Associate Editor, Fiction
North Ridgeville, Ohio

CATS!

 

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Vinyl Record Player

Photo by Nan Palmero


This week’s question: If Passages North had a theme song, what would it be?

Paige Frazier Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction Louisa, Kentucky
My first thought was Ready, Able by Grizzly Bear. I think because of the weird video:

Jason Teal Associate Editor, Poetry Sandusky, Ohio
“Space and the Woods,” by Late of the Pier, because PN is a composite of both.

James Dyer Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction Lowell, Michigan
… I do what I want.

Amy Hansen Associate Editor, Poetry Sycamore, Illinois
“Say Yes! to Michigan!” by ol’ Sufjan. Because everyone on staff did.

Jacque Boucher Spoken Word Poetry Juneau, Alaska
Passages North’s theme song should be Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” When people look at the title, they get certain idea of the journal, but when they look inside, BOOM. Something totally different. Surprising. Dynamic.

Ashely Adams Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction Watervliet, Michigan
“Planet Smasher” by Devin Townsend Project because some of our staff have been known to commit hostile, prog-metal backed takeovers of the planet for a good cup of coffee.

John LaPine Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction Ishpeming, Michigan
Not sure why I chose this song. Maybe the line “paperback dreams?”

 

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Finding Home: Jill Talbot’s The Way We Weren’t by Ryan Kauffman

My mom, sister, and I moved 21 times before my 18th birthday. We didn’t talk about it much, but we all knew why. Sometimes, the lease was up and we simply wanted something nicer. Others, there just wasn’t enough money to be able to stay. My mother supported two children with the child support payments for one. I know how this narrative plays out from a child’s point-of-view–shared toys and socks and microwaveable bacon. But what haunted my mother as she put on a smile and cracked jokes while our stuff was packed away in yet another U-Haul? Jill Talbot’s newest book offers such a perspective.

In The Way We Weren’t, Talbot delineates her story as a writer/professor, a single mother, and jilted lover by starting with a letter written by her daughter’s father arguing his right not to pay child support. The intimacy of the letter and its content–whether or not the “facts” presented in it are completely true–takes the reader by surprise.

The issue of child support that we both agreed upon has abruptly resurfaced and I am now $40,000 in debt to her, my driver’s license has been suspended, and I am entirely overwhelmed. Dealing with any of these issues could break a person and I need help rectifying this issue quickly so I may focus on my life before it falls apart.

Are we supposed to sympathize with the letter’s author? With Talbot? It’s uncertain at the close of this epistolary prologue, but this uncertainty works in Talbot’s favor. Beyond intriguing the reader, the letter sets up the remainder of the memoir with this question in mind: How does one get over the past before it wrecks the present?

The ways in which Talbot tries to answer that question–ranging from first- and then to third-person narration, to wine lists, to court transcripts–keeps the structure fresh and takes the reader through an off-balanced (in the best possible way) journey with Talbot as she interrogates memory, writing, identity, and how one, by necessity, dictates the others. Early and often, Talbot directs her readers with explicit questions and musings about this flawed aspect of human existence:

How long do we live in the fictions of our past? And how do we convince anyone that who we write is not necessarily who we are?

She stares at the man in the photograph, realizing it is not the man she has been writing for eight years.

Time has become a detail that can change with letters typed on a keyboard, with one click of the delete button.

As I read these lines, took in the philosophy of an author trying to get over something, I found myself tracing my own identity through memories of near countless apartments and houses. Am I the same person who moved, with my mom and sister, on a pouring day in June to a third-floor apartment at Hampton Hills? Was it even raining during that particular move?. No, no, it was raining when we moved to a little ranch-style house on Sylvan Road. My memories are jumbled and conflated. Talbot’s words suggest a deep human truth we might not otherwise consider. The best memoir usually does.

There’s another, more subtle thread to Talbot’s memoir: Finding home. I recognize the feeling of moving so much that the word “home” has become little more than a myth. My best friends spent their childhoods in the same houses, with the same unfinished basements and squeaking living room floors. They had homes. And yet, the more I moved, the more it seemed clear to me that a house is not what makes a home. The idea of home can be grounded by a particular chair or table or person. Talbot comes to this realization as well:

For so many years after Kenny left us, I saw Indie and I as living alone. In Chicago, I saw that we lived together. And that what we have is enough. Even with all we don’t have, with all we have lost, and with all we have had to lose along the way, what we have is each other, and where we have it best is at our kitchen table.

The Way We Weren’t is more than a straightforward memoir about writing, scorned love, and moving. It’s an intimate portrait of a person trying to find her way through the past, present, and future–through life. I don’t know whether any of my own mother’s thoughts correlate to those offered by Talbot, but I know that The Way We Weren’t gave me a deeper appreciation for the only constants in my memories of moving when I was younger–my mom and sister. The book also renewed my appreciation for the work of true memoir, for writers like Jill Talbot, fearless in their excavation of the past–as though the future depends on it.

 

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Crow

Photo by Claudio

Jason Teal on today’s bonus poem: We all have ghosts. Ghosts of memory and circumstance stuck on infinite repeat inside our cerebellums. We’re subject to their insistent lingering, the minute damages they visit on future exchanges—with colleagues, friends, family, &c. Revising itself with anaphora and expert repetition that rivals its best practitioners, “All Laments Are Circles” maps the trajectory of mourning and offers a sharp critique of the inescapable human condition.

All Laments are Circles

you arrive at my door
you arrive at my door in a suit
you arrive at my door in a suit holding flowers
in your right hand
pink orange carnations
that you thrust in my face like a pompom
like a one-armed cheerleader, cheering me on

***

in your sleeves whole gardens
of chicanery [you arrive at my door]
what kind of man [wearing a suit]
are you/could you/can you
be? [holding flowers] for me? are they?

***

[you arrive] all I can see
are these flowers in my face
full of carnations gardenias in various ghosts of white
you are a particular ghost at my doorstep and somewhere in front of me your voice
is an interruption, your face is nowhere your face/your voice/your face/your voice

***

you arrive at my door holding a gardenia dead crow:
it’s hurt you say
no, it’s dead I say
can you fix it? you say
no, it’s dead I say
do you want it? you say

***

here, give it here I say

***

here in my hand a crow all wet with rain
black /slick /quiet dead now in my hands

***

hands being the mistake hands being the plural hands becoming unhinged at the wrist, taking flight
across a night filled with moon
flinging birdlike shadows
all over the gorgeous grass

***

hands holding
hands handing over the empty vase [while outside
the crow’s caw
or the daisy’s slow decay]

***

today being just an anagram of another day

Catherine Bresner’s poetry has appeared in The Pinch, H_NGM_N, BOAAT, Cream City Review, Burntdistrict, Handsome, and Yemessee, She also has work forthcoming in InkBrick. She is the coordinating editor for The Seattle Review, the production editor for boaat Press and an intern at Wave Books.

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Closed red curtain at the Coolidge Corner Theatre - landscape

Photo by Ben Becker

Since summer is the time for blockbuster movies, the Passages North crew weighed in on the movies they think everybody should watch.

Rachael Belmore
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Marquette, Michigan

Everyone should watch *batteries not included at least once because Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are adorable.

Mike Berry
Associate Editor, Fiction
Troy, Michigan

As an avid fan of 1980′s cheeseball movies, it gets no better than Real Genius. I just want someone I can back-and-forth Val Kilmer one liners with because I’m pretty sure I’m the only living person left who enjoyed this movie.

Annie Bilancini
Associate Editor, Fiction
Cleveland, Ohio

I’ll tell them to watch Mermaids. Because it’s the best movie that was ever made. #CherandWinoforever

Jacque Boucher
Spoken Word Poetry
Juneau, Alaska

Everyone should watch the 1993 classic Demolition Man. It’s a must-see not only because it serves as a stark reminder for the importance of injecting humanity into sterile circumstances, but because it includes some of the best catchphrases of any action movie ever. Namely, “SIMON SAYS BLEED!”

James Dyer
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Lowell, Michigan

Battlefield Earth. Because while you were still learning how to spell your name, I was being trained to conquer galaxies.

Paige Frazier
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Louisa, Kentucky

A Trip to the Moon. It’s a 15 minute movie made in 1902. It’s on Netflix and has been colorized. It’s awesome to see what people imagined was on the moon in 1902. Plus it’s very trippy if you’re into that sorta thing.

Matt Ftacek
Associate Editor, Poetry
Niles, Michigan

I just watched Nightcrawler recently and thought it was fantastic. It offers a dark, critical look at American news media and what the camera isn’t showing you. It’s also a killer neo-noir flick.

Willow Grosz
Associate Editor, Fiction
Talkeetna, Alaska

Lo. a low budget romantic horror comedy filmed in 3 days.

Timston Johnston
Fiction Editor
Weidman, Michigan

Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin’s super-confident claim that speaking in movies is senseless, that body language is more effective at showing love than making it the climax of any you-had-me-at-hello dialogue.

John LaPine
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

Moon, for your independent outerspace fix.

Jason Teal
Associate Editor, Poetry
Sandusky, Ohio

Face-Off 2: The Facing Off. Shenanigans ensue once again over Nicolas Cage’s iconic mug in this 3-D rom com starring Reese Witherspoon. Produced by Adam Sandler and kickstarted by thousands of fans, this is a blockbuster that is guaranteed to break new cinematic ground. Or just read a book.

Matt Weinkam
Managing Editor
Cincinnati, Ohio

Snowpiercer: the best action-horror ecocritical allegory for capitalism set on a train since Thomas the Tank Engine.

Andrea Wuorenmaa
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

Watch Anatomy of a Murder for some scenes of Marquette County over fifty years ago. Then, come north to tour the set locations. (I’m just always trying to get people to come to the Upper Peninsula. I promise it’s a great film!)

 

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Dia de Los Muertos Figure in Chichicastenango

Photo by David Dennis

Associate poetry editor Kelsey Lueptow on today’s poem: Hilary S. Jacqmin’s “Day of the Dead” illuminates the eerie moment when one is forced to confront cultural interpretations and tributes. The poem’s liminal atmosphere seems to ask whether we are preserving history or suffocating it. The poem begs to know what happens when the boundaries aren’t so clear cut.

Day of the Dead

               –The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

On All Saints’ Day, when hammered darkness peels
the layers of the underworld
apart like gold, the corn-smut dead come back.
Parched cartoon bones, they scull Divinity
and scale the Peabody with chalkstick feet,

 

drawn in by desiccated sugar-skulls
and crumpled marigolds that glow like quince:
our Dia de los Muertos detritus.
Beneath papel picado skeletons,
they mill around the Hall of the Americas,

 

inspecting the pottery of their lost lives.
They miss mezcal. Like us, they love sweet bread
inlaid with sesamoids, and washed-out Polaroids
of relatives who drowned on honeymoon.
Abandoned by their dog’s-breath psychopomp,

 

their husked-tamale prayers go up in smoke.
They are the lonely dead, electric stiffs.
We living are the ones with second sight,
the seedbank in the locked Herbaria.
We give our mottled light to everything.

 

Hilary S. Jacqmin grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She earned her MA from the Johns Hopkins University and her MFA from the University of Florida. She lives in Baltimore, where she works at Johns Hopkins University Press.

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so there's this fire hydrant in kinvara

Photo by gilly youner

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson’s essay, “On Nostalgia,” was selected by guest judge Steven Church as the winner of Passages North’s 2015 Nonfiction prize. “‘On Nostalgia,’ says Church, “begins with a consideration of the Archimedes Palimpsest and becomes, itself, a palimpsest as the author scrapes away layers to reveal a family history that has been kept silent and covered up. The result is a layered and smartly digressive exploration of the author’s relationship to her father, and of her grandmother’s suicide, that both educates and surprises the reader.”

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson is an author and journalist whose writing has published or is forthcoming in The New York Times, PANK, Slate, TriQuarterly Review, Revolver, Post Road Magazine, and The Little Patuxent Review, among others. She’s earned an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council and was a Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She’s also been a resident at the Vermont Studio Center and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. You can read more of her work at eedickinson.com and follow her at @elizdickinson.

“On Nostalgia” will appear in Passages North #37, due out in early 2016.

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Antikythera Shipwreck, Athens, National Museum

Photo by Elisa Triolo

Guest judge Lynn Emanuel has chosen “Antikythera,” by poet Lindsay Means, as the winner of the 2015 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize. Lynn has the following to say about Means’ arresting poem:

On first reading, “Antikythera,” I admired the cadence, imagery, and mystery of it, but was unfamiliar with the title, so I became the reader that I exhort my students to be and looked it up. Antikythera, I discovered, is an island northwest of Crete, but nothing in the poem suggests why this particular island is significant:  no details of the island, no description of landscape, nothing to distinguish this island from any other.  Then I went a bit deeper. I found it was off the island of Antikythera that the wreck of a ship (dated to the 1st century BCE) was retrieved.  It contained not only the statuary wonderfully described in the poem (The statue of a boy…/held out his hand like someone waiting to be pulled onto a boat”), but also the “gears…encrusted with minerals” which were, in fact, the earliest astrolabe or mechanized clock, “the oldest known analog computer,” my computer informed me.

Now the poem had its full ironic impact on me, because “Antikythera” is a poem about losing time and place. Indeed, it is a poem about losing oneself.  “We forgot to look up.  We forgot about north and south…we didn’t know about seasons,” says one of the divers who discovers the wreck and is the narrator of the poem.  There is a marvelous telescoping of time in this poem.  It opens at the instant in which the divers discover the wreck.  It ends in a prolonged past tense in which humanity is now situated in a universe emptied of myth and filled with an unforeseeable future. The stars once represented tales of the gods, but now, in the poem’s final line, “the years wheeled overhead and the stars kept their silence.” In the form of the astrolabe, a new form of knowledge has arrived and with it a new narrative about the world and humanity’s place in it.  “Antikythera” is a wonderfully thoughtful and poignant poem.

Lindsay Means

Lindsay Means holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College and lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is her first published poem.

K.T. Landon

Lynn Emanuel also chose K.T. Landon’s poem, “The Dead Go Bowling” as first runner-up for the poetry prize. K. T. Landon is the 2013 winner of the Arts & Letters PRIME Poetry Prize, a finalist in Jabberwock Review‘s 2014 Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize for Poetry, and a two-time Pushcart nominee. She serves as a Poetry Reader for Muzzle, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FugueCALYX, and Ibbetson Street, among others.

Both poems will appear in Issue 37 of Passages North, and all contestants will receive a copy of the journal when it is published in Winter 2016.

Congratulations to Lindsay and K.T., and many thanks to all the fine poets who shared their best work with Passages North this year. It was a privilege to read your work.

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DSC03943

Photo by Łukasz Hejnak

Associate poetry editor Sarah Bates on today’s poem: Every line in Julie Swarstad Johnson’s “Self-Portrait with Tucson” has me believing in a body made of snow, rock and ponderosa pine, and sometimes empty. With language like landscape and images of what should have been, Johnson invites readers to ask themselves, what do you see when you make it up the mountain, when you see yourself for the first time? Between wash and memory, where do you find light? Will you let it in?

Self-portrait with Tucson

“This is the way we begin and end things.” –Ofelia Zepeda

One day I saw the mountain of God
descending across the valley. Sunlight alive

 

in the body of snow, stepping through the veins
of ponderosa and granite, cracking the air

 

balanced between. Valley in my mouth
when I mean city, when I should say

 

brick, tile, wash with abandoned couch,
ocean always just beyond sight, power

 

lines crossing between that mountain
and me. You should know I am a woman

 

who believes in visions. Un-curtained glass
after sunset, a mirror and the cooled, vast

 

ceilings it harbors, certainty of memory
that wakes me in the salt-light before daybreak.

 

By the road, a man shapes circles that connect
mouth and stomach, prophet’s unwashed

 

hair and empty bag. We are not coming
to a mountain of fear but a mountain

 

of joy, a place sweet and yellow as San Xavier
watermelon. I did not know myself

 

when I returned home from my long journey.
Sometimes I see the Lord’s mountain

 

electric pink and close in the rearview, and I know
there is still a little bit of night left in me.

 
 

Note: The phrase “There is still a little bit of night left” comes from Ofelia Zepeda’s “O’odham Dances.”

Julie Swarstad Johnson is the author of the chapbook Jumping the Pit, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in Bayou Magazine, the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing, Harvard Review Online, Poet Lore, and others. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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View from Sugarloaf Mountain

Photo by Frank Wulfers

Notes from Crew Quarters is back for the summer! In honor of the time off, Ben Kinney asked the crew to describe their ideal summer day.

Ashely Adams
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Watervliet, Michigan

My ideal summer day is just getting out and doing some birding. Waterfowl, warblers, shorebirds, whatever shows up. They’re all fantastic and just trying their best.

Annie Bilancini
Associate Editor, Fiction
Cleveland, Ohio

My ideal summer day is predictable: cold-brewed coffee, reading on a blanket in the grass, grilling out, IPAs, my dog, an unbreakable blood pact with a chaos demon. Typical stuff.

not pictured: chaos demon

John LaPine
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

Ore Dock, then Rice Paddy, then Frosty Treats. Sunshine and Lake Superior. And friends too.

Jacque Boucher
Spoken Word Poetry
Juneau, Alaska

My ideal summer day consists of the following: reading, writing, terrible Netflix horror movies, and pretending I’ll finally buy something at Target this time. Sometimes I switch up the order for a little flavor, or add in an impromptu adventure to find sunlight, but really, the terrible horror movies are non-negotiable.

Jill Harris
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Livingston, Alabama

Well, I took the summer off to explore Marquette, and every day brings something new to be grateful for. Like these baby geese and their parents coming in from Lake Superior.

goose babies

Robin McCarthy
Managing Editor
Belfast, Maine

This summer I’m working a couple part-time jobs and writing a bunch, so the ideal summer day is one in which I show up everywhere I’m supposed to at the right time in appropriate clothing.

Andrea Wuorenmaa
Associate Editor, Creative Nonfiction
Ishpeming, Michigan

My ideal summer day involves exploring the U.P. on foot, bike, or in a car. I’ve lived here for most of my life, but there are still new things to see. I just bought an elaborate Northern Michigan atlas and I plan on having great fun with it for the rest of the summer.

one of Andrea's discoveries

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