FALL 2016 POETRY AWARD: Why We Picked “Edit”

Lauren Palmbach, Section Editor for Poetry

Lauren Palmbach, Section Editor for Poetry

While the competition amongst submissions for this contest was particularly tough, we are delighted to announce “Edit” by Emma Bolden as the winner of our Fall 2016 Poetry Contest.

Emma Bolden is a profound poet with a visionary sense for the art form of writing in its truest sense. Her poem, “Edit”, earned First Place in this contest due to its mastery of language and poetic craft. With grandiose restraint and creativity, “Edit”embodies the power of the fragile balance between the precise and the lyrical. The poem exhibits an element of risk taking that challenges and inspires the future ofpoetry, while remaining founded in consistent control of form, meter, pace, rhythm and the acoustic qualities and limitlessness of words themselves.

“Edit” is a poem that exhibits a passion for language and inspires the reality that poetry is a boundless form. The winning poem itself, in addition to Bolden’s other work, was proudly selected unanimously by the Editorial Staff at CausewayLit who found it to be consistent with the quality of poetry written by only the very best of writers. “Edit” is a poem that carves a new road, for the reader as well as for the aspiring writer, and which we are honored to be able to award and present with the recognition of First Place in our Fall 2016 Poetry Contest.

As the author of two books of poetry and five chapbooks, we would encourage you to read Emma Bolden’s additional work. Her work has been featured in countless magazines and journals, and she currently sits as the Senior Reviews Editor at Tupelo Quarterly. Do keep your eyes out, also, for her debut on our CausewayLit social media pages!

On behalf of the Editorial Staff at CausewayLit, we would like to congratulate Emma Bolden on her winning poem, “Edit”, as well as all of the other well-deserving winners of this contest and those who submitted. We encourage you to take this opportunity to read her work, and to submit your own to our upcoming contests in the future.

We look forward to reading your submissions for our Spring 2016 Poetry Contest, which will open on November 25, 2016. We wish you all the very best of luck!

 

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Am I in the Kool-Aid?

by ERIC MAYRHOFER, fiction reader

I had to attend a new employee orientation recently. Having started almost nine months ago, though, I’m not new to the job. That would be like a pregnant lady with her big balloon belly and a whole nursery painted and furnished going to her partner, as if for the first time, and saying, “I’m expecting, can you even?!” Nothing about this scenario is a surprise at this point. Almost a year in, I have a pretty good idea of what I signed up for. Call me new-ish instead.

When I attended, I was surprised. In other jobs I’ve had, orientation has been a no-frills, no-fun affair. Sign here, you agree to this, thus, and such; and did you know we have matching? In other words, I’m used to HR sweeping all the boring paperwork under the umbrella of “orientation” and stupid-1245103_1920saving the jugs of culture Kool-Aid for a little meeting here, an after-hours outing there, an email reminder about the non-negotiable corporate values that make you cock your head and say, “They made those up with Scrabble tiles, didn’t they?” This was weird, though. There wasn’t any paperwork to sign. Not anywhere. It was Kool-Aid concentrate, a day-long session all about the corporate culture, the historic traditions upon which my organization is built, and how I and my people, the tribe of the New or Gently Used, could participate in it.

Then, partway through the day, as if to add to my disconcerted feeling, a colleague approached a podium to speak about the organization’s mission, and said, “As an employee, you have to ask yourself: ‘Am I in?’”

The question struck me on a level I didn’t expect. My need to create is something that I always carry with me, and which I interrogate myself about often. Are you doing enough to be a writer? Are you? That’s why, when my colleague posed that question, I immediately associated it with my writing.

explosion-600477_1920The thing is, I want my fiction to be as surprising as my Kool-Aid day at the office. I want to start out with an ordinary story idea, hold it like an ordinary wine glass in the sun, and crack it. I want to find a shard that doesn’t look like anything else. I want to refract a light through it. I want to see the demented rainbow on the other side, and make that my story.

That can be frightening, though. Sometimes I sit down to write, and five pages in I start thinking, Is this the right adjective? If I don’t explain this eight times, will readers get it? This format is strangling my voice. It’s strangling me. It’s like I’m wearing a glittery feather boa, and I kept walking, and it got stuck in a door, and now it’s strangling me. My editor brain takes over, and rationalizes against an idea that had previously lit me up inside. Fear motivates that. Fear that I’m not good enough, or that I’m going to fail to realize the potential of an idea I love.

I may be striving for originality, but my insecurities are not.

The danger of following that thinking, I’ve found, is stagnation. Not long ago, for example, I took one idea and created six different beginnings of stories—just beginnings! No middles, no stabs at an ending—because I was too uncertain with any of them to move forward. Soon after, though, I had that Kool-Aid day, and that person said I had to ask myself, “Am I in?” It took me back to something a writing professor told me in my undergrad days. He said, “You just keep going to the next sentence, the next word, even. You keep going until you have a story to work with, and then you keep going from there.”

Together in my head, this all means that I have to commit when writing, and that commitment is multifaceted. First, I have to trust that when I pick up my strange idea, whatever shiny boa I sling around my neck, that what I’ve thought of is worth pursuing, and won’t turn on me. Second, I have to accept that what I pursue isn’t great all the time, but with work can lead to something better. strauss-spring-1458012_1920Third, I have to realize that even commitment to craft isn’t constant. There will always be little lapses, small panics—Am I doing this the right way? Am I doing enough to be a writer? If I keep going forward with trust, though, and commit to seeing my ideas through, I will always be able to say, “I’m in,” in the creative sense, whenever I lift my hands to write.

Summer 2016 Fiction Award: Why We Picked “Suddenly On Air”

 

Today, we have the pleasure of announcing the winner of our first-ever fiction contest. For weeks our team of sparkling and voracious readers sorted through almost one hundred submissions. In the end, we selected “Suddenly on Air,” by Edward Raso.”Suddenly on Air” is a classic coming of age tale about a kid who starts work at the radio station where his jazz talk show idol, Teddy Roe, DJ’s. With its nonchalance and playful tone, the voice in “Suddenly On Air” immediately pulls in the reader.

The story features a seventeen-year-old, in that hazy space between high school and college, who tells us he needs a job to afford textbooks. We’ve all stood at the start of the semester, totally unprepared for the shock at how much textbooks cost. Textbooks that might not even be read, that can be sold back at the end of the year, but only for a tiny fraction of the price you paid.

I digress – as this is not a story about textbook prices. It is a story about one adolescent’s journey to find himself. What those textbooks represent is the relatability that can be found in the actions and circumstances of this short story. There were moments of giggles, with the distinction that “it was the early nineties, when majoring in communications was still a somewhat viable thing to do,” and the description that “Wolfe looked at my hand as if I were holding a turd.” There were moments of mystery to go with the clever, quick inner monologue of the unnamed narrator – a sort of everyteen — who is searching to find his own voice.

Quietly weaved through the fraction of a lifetime that we spend with this young man, “Suddenly On Air” ends with a world of options that reminds us how very rarely people find themselves before spending time marinading in their inspirations, solidifying their philosophies on life, and garnering the kind of experience that only years can proffer.

Read it, enjoy it. If you feel like joining Edward in the sure-to-be stellar list of writers part of our new and burgeoning Causeway family, submit to our Fall 2016 Fiction Contest which opened this Sunday, September 25th.

How Poetry Helps Prose Writers

by Muddy Kinzer 

Karen Osborn is an award-winning novelist and writer of short stories. Booklist regards her writing as “…lyrical, focused, enchanting,” and Jodi Picoult admires how, “With grace and poetry, Osborn explores how the biggest emotions are sometimes found in the smallest seconds…” It’s true:

“There was a small light over the phone booth, but other than that, the street was dark. I couldn’t figure out where the river was. David was swimming toward the shore. I was thinking how he was there now, how I would go to him and put my body with his body, the body of the river, how I would make love to the river. And then I looked at the car where Michael was bent over the dash, and it cut through me like the acid was gone, exploding as if there were this second again where I could keep him back. David had jumped off the bridge.”

–The River Road by Karen Osborn

How does she write like this, with lyricism and concision in a dramatic emotional moment?

Karen Osborn is a poet—she received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Arkansas. She didn’t intend to: Osborn entered the program as a dual Poetry/Fiction writer. But because of the lyrical nature of her writing voice and possibly because she was one of just several women in the program, she was steered toward poetry. Osborn loves both genres, and took as many fiction classes as she could along with her coursework in poetry. When she finished her program, she said “…the first thing I’m going to do is write a novel.” But she did more than that. She carried the tools she had acquired as a poet over to her prose writing, resulting in a singular lyrical, poetic voice in prose.kosborn1244kb

I asked Osborn what lessons prose writers could learn from poetry, and she identified four different poetic techniques, sound, imagery, compression and endings, that could be translated to prose to great effect.

Sound:

The “basis of language is sound,” Osborn says. “Sound carries often the emotion,” and you “can’t break that apart from meaning—that is meaning.” It’s been this way from the beginning. In the “development of literature historically, poetry came first by its form.” Stories were passed on orally, through song,  and it’s that rhythm and rhyme and repetition that lent to stories being remembered. This is where prose comes from, from song and the poetry of early literature, such as Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. But rhythm applies to prose too, on the level of the sentence and its syntax. How sentences work is “important in fiction. It’s the base unit of all our writing,” and playing with sound and rhythm “can only make your language stronger as a writer today if you return to these roots.”

Reading poetry “…makes you read word by word…makes you slow down” to appreciate each word choice and its rhythm. Osborn recommends not only reading poetry but memorizing it to assimilate its sound and rhythm. “Poetry lends itself to memory,” Osborn says, and when you memorize a poem, “you own it in a way that’s different than if you read it.” Another suggestion to further study syntax is to read Ellen Bryant Voigt’s The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song, which explores how specific poets compose the order of their words to evoke meaning and musicality.

Imagery:

 Poets render powerful imagery with a well-chosen word or phrase; prose writers rely heavily on imagery as well. For Osborn, it’s the foundation of her writing. Whether the imagery is suggestive or figurative, it can be used to “suggest a bigger reality.” A simple image can be more evocative and impactful that a scene or an action can be, or it can make “an action resonate in a different way.” Exploring how poets use imagery can only deepen our own use of it in prose.

Compression:

In poetry, “every word’s got to count,” Osborn says. When you have too many extra words in a line, she explains, “they have no weight,” and “language works best when compressed.” Poetry, with its brevity and concision at the level of the word, is an excellent tool for studying how language can be compressed, making it more powerful and clear. As prose writers in the long form, we have more room for words, but that does not mean we have the luxury of adding unnecessary words. Our prose, like poetry, carries more weight when each word is carefully chosen to evoke an emotion, paint an image, or reflect a character.

Endings:

Particularly in short stories, there is much to learn from regarding endings. The narrative technique in both poetry and short stories works similarly. There is a resonance between the beginning and the ending of a poem, with a “leaning backwards to the beginning of the story for the…ending,” Osborn says. When done well, this resonance can be powerful in prose as well. Osborn’s novel The River Road begins and ends with the river, with the consequences and ramifications of a single moment in time. There’s a feeling of coming full circle, for both the reader and the protagonist, and yet the protagonist will continue to relive that moment again and again. She will never be free of the river and what happened there. It’s this hearkening back to the beginning that creates the resonance.

Prose writers can study fellow prose writers for techniques such as shaping a scene, structuring a plot, and developing a character, but it’s to poetry we can turn to study the sound and rhythm of word choice and syntax, the rendering of imagery, the compression of language, and the resonance of endings with beginnings.

Karen Osborn is a member of the faculty at Fairfield University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. She’s the author of four novels and numerous short stories and poems. Visit her website here.

The Writer-Blocking Boogeyman

Written By: Yavaria Ryan, Poetry Reader

When I was younger, I had frequent bad dreams of bad people wanting to hurt me. I would wake in shivers, run to my mother’s room, shake her awake, and beg to crawl into her bed because that was the only place that ever felt safe. At the time, we were forbidden to tell stories about our nightmares before dawn because my great-grandmother warned us that it would come true; therefore, I fell into a nightly routine of sleeping, waking in terror, and running to my mother for solace.

bogeyman

Nigel Pennick

I believe I was five when my mother told me to stop it all. Stop the bad dreams, the waking in terror, the running from room to room. She told me the truth about our minds and our imaginations. She looked me in my teary eyes and said, “You know you can change your dreams, right?”

Of course I had no idea what she was talking about. I was five, and the boogeyman was trying to get me. My mother took my hands and said, “When the boogey man appears, turn him into Santa Claus. Make him give you gifts. These are your dreams. You control them, remember?”

I knew she was right about me being able to control my dreams and emotions, but I had no clue how this way of thinking would help shape the way I face my writer’s block.

For me, writer’s block is the boogeyman, and he is one frightening creature. I say, “I am going to write a poem today.” He approaches me with a stern, “No,” and snatches my pencil out of my hand. Sometimes, my writer-blocking boogeyman haunts me for months, forcing me to throw in the towel on whatever poem or story I have been working on. How on earth do I escape this ferocious beast?

Well, I do not escape. I do not run and hide. I do not let my frustrations take over. I do exactly what my mother told me to do when I was five and the boogeyman would chase me in my dreams. I change my course of thinking. I change my plan of action. I go through the backdoor and imagine how funny the boogeyman would be in his underwear.  I write around writer’s block.

paperflyingfromtypewriter

Deviantart: Lunagraph

My writer’s block occurs when I have to say something that I do not want to say. Whether it is a personal event or a situation that hits too close to home, writer’s block has found a way to build a wall that makes me say, “I can’t write this. I have writer’s block. I’ll figure something out later,” but later never comes, and that’s the problem.

In order to combat this situation, journaling has been my best tool. Journaling every day, even when I feel there is nothing to journal about, has helped me overcome writer’s block by showing myself that there is always writing to be done and things to be said. We can always write through writer’s block.

Some of my favorite journaling exercises for writer’s block include beginning sentences with I remember when, I almost forgot the time, and One day I will. These generative sentences provide facile topics that push me to write words, even when my mind staunchly refuses.  

Of course, there are many articles with exercises that speak about how to combat our writer-blocking nemesis by changing the scenery, cutting our papers to tiny bits and rearranging them, switching from digital to paper, or simply walking away for a moment, but everyone’s story and writing practice is different.

All I can say for certain is this: my writer’s block is a ferocious boogeyman whom I keep writing around on dirty napkins, over-used notebooks, biology textbooks I have no use for, and limbs I keep scrubbing things off of. Instead of caving into writer’s block, tackle him head on. Show him you are not scared to keep writing and dreaming. Show him you are fearless.

Why You Write

Written by: Loan Le – Fiction Section Editor

So, here you are. You have turned down invitations to parties and happy hours, because you cannot socialize when you have a character in your mind, her voice echoing like a message over a PA system in an empty hallway. You have endured strangers’ tilted heads, the sardonic curl of their lips, the upspeak “Oh, really?” when you explain that you are a writer. Your worth has been challenged and measured against already established writers. Your work is “not the right fit” for this journal or that magazine. All of this has left you despairing, wondering why you have chosen this particular way of being, which lately brings much more pain than reward.

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Credit: John Liu

Step back. Somewhere, find a pocket of peace where your thoughts are your own, where you hear only yourself. Recognize, first, that by writing, you have created a record of metamorphosis. As a child, you started out with the alphabet, tracing lines and curves of letters with a No. 2 pencil and combining them to make things called words. And then you strung them together like beads on thread to form a necklace, and another, and another, until you found it: your voice. You. My name is . . .  I am . . .  My mother and father are . . . You came to know yourself through writing. 

But who are you in this world? You are not alone. You have spent so many years pressing yourself against the wall, content to be unseen. Writing constructs the bridge between you and them. Through writing, you see that the world is much more—ever-shifting kaleidoscopic colors everywhere you look. What you see is what you get? No, you are greedy. You want to find that gesture that dispels what you think you know. Maybe, that businessman with bags under his eyes hasn’t been working out of selfishness, but for his wife who’s dying of cancer; working makes money to buy the meds, and working keeps time away, and that is salvation for him. Maybe, that girl wearing Beats headphones is not drowning out the world, but is building a new one that brims with harmonies, melodies, and delicious rhythms. You imagine all the potential of strangers in your coffee shop, at the gym, and on the subway. You play out their life stories, their hopes and fears, their triumphs and demise. You walk among them, but do not merely pass them. You understand—or at least try to.

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Credit: Liz West

Writing is proof. You are a keeper of time and existence. You recognize something precious, distill it, and make it sempiternal. Your words ring on. In the future, you will read your writing to remember what once was.

You write to lift others, penning sentences that begin with a mourning cry, offering teardrops of ink, which eventually dry. Soon enough, your writing bellows. You wield your pen, like many masters before you, to protect and unite. Your writing is a burden, but you cannot deny the light it brings.

So, here you are. Your pen hovers over your notepad as you let glimpses and sounds trickle through your mind. Outside it is morning, the blurry haze of things beginning—or night, the darkness soliciting you, beckoning you to indulge. The world moves but you choose to be still. You are present. You are here. And you are writing.

 

Welcome to Our Blank Slate

by Rachel Lauren Bean

Here we are – the first Causeway Lit blog post. First off, thanks for coming to Causeway Lit, and welcome to our online literary space. We are a group of graduate students writing our way through Fairfield University’s MFA program. We are happy to meet you.

Enders Island, where Causeway Lit began (2016)

The first blog post of any website, let alone an online journal, comes with some pressure, like it has so much to live up to. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to actually get something down. Causeway Literary Magazine isn’t technically a thing yet. We’re accepting submissions and our readers are diligently reading but, for now, we’re a blank slate, a tabula rasa. I like that phrase, but I don’t. People see it as an intimidating open space of nothingness. But, to recall what a tabula rasa was from Roman times, it was wax that was heated until it became “blank” for note-taking. I like that image better: a slick, waxy surface that slowly warms, emanates heat, and erases the previous notes into something almost blank.

It’s incredibly fitting for Causeway Lit, considering we’re the second online literary magazine offshoot from Dogwood, Fairfield University’s literary magazine. Mason’s Road came first, and was swept away to have Causeway Lit built in its place, which is as unintentionally symbolic as names go. We’re comprised of many faces with diverse backgrounds who bring a slew of talents, from Haiku to fiction novels, from memoir to journalism. We are grateful to the students who came before us, who offered advice, and for the Fairfield MFA professors who are always more than happy to let us bounce our ideas off them.

Seen on Ender's Island

Seen on Enders Island (2016)

With all of that so readily within reach, we will hold contests once a month, alternatively for Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. Each winner, as well as 2nd and 3rd place winners and potential honorable mentions, will be announced on the 25th of the following month. Our first Fiction contest winners will be posted on August 25th and, currently, we’re open for non-fiction submissions, with a winner to be announced on October 25th. Words of advice: follow the guidelines presented under the submit tab, avoid pesky problems like typos, and be fearless.

Our tabula rasa is tinged with the soft yellow leftovers of the ink that’s been here before, but we’re a bright-eyed bunch, with a world of words in a certain order left to experience. And that’s what we’re all about: creating a causeway between the artists we present in our online magazine and readers who will truly appreciate their work. Whether you’ve landed on this page out of mild curiosity, because you’re looking for somewhere to submit to add to your CV, or because you truly just love words and everything that comes with them, every visitor is such an integral cog in the machinery we’re trying to jolt to life.

Finally, the causeway

Finally, the causeway (2016)

Twice a year we meet on Enders Island; a small island off the coast of Mystic, CT. In order to get to the island, one must drive over a one-way causeway surrounded by the calm blue of the Long Island Sound. This causeway has become symbolic to us. We’re excited to begin this long, swaying journey across the waters, and we hope that you’ll join us as we find our footing, and, of course, begin the laborious journey of making our very first marks on our tabula rasa.