Peacock Journal – Anthology:
[Volume I, Number 2]— Jul 2017.
Edited by W.F. Lantry.
[Cover image by author Chuka Susan Chesney.]
($9.95, paperback, 122 pages, with 74 photographs, including one for every poet and author)
($5.00 One copy each contributor)
We Are Called Upon to Co-Create the World
Everything is everything, and all is one. I know you don’t believe me, and that’s OK. Sometimes I don’t even believe myself. Which only goes to prove…
We’re busily building a deck. It is not done with ease. There are so many stages, so many steps to preparation; I’m beginning to lose count. First, there’s the desire itself. Where does that come from? Why would we want to do such a thing? After all, a hundred years from now, the deck will have long ceased to exist. Horace said he made monuments more lasting than those made of bronze… which is good, because all the bronze statues of his day got melted down for use as cannons long ago. Shouldn’t we be doing something similar, given the direction the world seems to be heading?
But everything has a cause, and this project has several causes. The primary cause? The old deck threatened to collapse at any moment. I loved the ancient thing, built of redwood fifty years ago, it reminded me of my youth among the Sequoias in my distant homeland, my little kingdom by the sea. Or a few moments in early adulthood in Mendocino, centered around the semperviren fairy rings. All those memories are turned to dust now, just as the redwood of the beams was becoming evanescent. There were even woodbees drilling into them. This hardened arm will drag no more cherished images.
But the proximate cause was the stairs. I did my best to shore them up, just as I’d buttressed the rest of the deck. But neither the stringers nor the treads would take a screw any longer. If there had ever been any risers, they were long gone, and the handrail, fabricated from trees hundreds of years old, approached the consistency of smoke.
But Kate needs a place to serve summer dinners, and James needs a place to hang out in the long afternoons. We needed to create an environment where unexpected things could happen, where unimaginable possibilities could be fulfilled. And none of this old stuff: it had to be absolutely modern.
The first thing required was to clean up the yard. It was a mess: denuded by the claws of numerous chickens, pockmarked with holes dug by recalcitrant dogs, and then there was the mess I’d personally made of things over the years. Best not to get into all that, for there was a dying birch.
Birches are short lived, river birches especially. Some California poet, transplanted to New England, ignored all that so he could write a poem. But I couldn’t ignore this one: there it was, in all its nearly dead standing glory, higher than the roof of the three story house.
I’ll spare you the tale of its felling: the broken chainsaws, the curses, the come-a-long pulling a steel rope so its widowmakers fell away from the house, the immense struggle with the remaining trunk, the labor required to clear the remnants away. We worked for a week, and were finally ready to deconstruct the withered deck.
There’s an old Kinks song called “Demolition,” with the refrain: “We’ll knock it all down, and build a brand new world of our own.” It went through my mind several times as that old deck came apart in our hands. I wish I could say we took it down piece-by-piece, but each joist crumbled as I pulled on it. We barely needed any implements of destruction. A twelve year old’s strength was enough to break the stair supports. We’re lucky it didn’t collapse beneath us between dinner and dessert.
So now we have a chance to build something new, something beautiful. I’ve often talked about the journal as an immense garden, where we invite others to come and creatively cultivate. After all, ‘anthology’ literally means a gathering of flowers. But now I think a deck will serve just as well for metaphor, a place to gather and converse and write, to create art and music, and maybe even dance. Kate is a remarkable dancer.
Yes, it’s work. There’s a reason most people don’t start journals. I was warned by an old hand not to do it, just as some suggested I hire the deck work out. And yes, the miters never quite fit, the joists curve and twist. It’s in the nature of things. But there’s an unsubdued elation in crafting a place where others may wander.
We look out on a forest, and in the distance there’s a river. Deer walk upon our meadows, and the birds whistle around us their spontaneous cries. It’s almost miraculous we’ve been handed this task. And we do it with continual joy.
It was winter: a cold day with light snow. Sometimes the buildings sheltered us from the wind, and sometimes they channeled it. Kate didn’t mind, she’s from Connecticut, after all, and used to teach skiing in Vermont. To her, this was nothing. But I’m from San Diego, and prefer tropical blossoms or cool La Jolla breezes. I shivered. I desired only to fly south, on any available wings, viewless or not, as quickly as possible. I may even have said so. Aloud.
“Too bad!” Kate said. “Toughen up, California. You’re likely to live, and we’ve got work to do. Our table at the conference has to be set up by five this afternoon.”
As you may have guessed, this is Washington, DC, a town too cold for westerners and too warm for New Englanders. Kennedy called it a place of southern efficiency and northern charm, and he had a point. What’s more, it changes every eight years. I arrived in the 90’s, to an atmosphere of productive promise and substantial enthusiasm for the future. I still remember how shocked I was when the whole city changed on January 20, 2001. I was out for dinner in Bethesda that evening. The quiet, civilized atmosphere had been swept away on a tide of raucous, unseemly currents. It stayed that way for eight years, through snipers and anthrax, jetliners as guided missiles, and the fallout from Katrina, all capped off by economic collapse.
But everything changed again on January 20, 2009. Most of us wept while we watched and listened. Such joy, such elation! This was finally the place we’d always believed in, but hardly dared to dream. There was audacious hope suddenly, in spite of the difficulties. And even through all the adversity of the next eight years, the deadlocks and exigencies, the hope remained.
But now it was February 2017. I don’t want to remind you, you don’t want to be reminded. It was 20 degrees, and snowing. A guard waved us forward past the barriers.
We pulled up to the loading dock. If you want to survive an authoritarian regime, you need someone like Kate. She got out of the car, and went over to talk to the officials, who grumbled and shook their heads but finally bent to her will. She could talk a pitchfork out of the hands of an angry villager. They let us unload.
And what were we unloading? Banners and tablecloths. Peacock feathers. All manner of hammered brass peacock figurines. And books. So many books. Among them, dozens of copies of the first Peacock Journal Anthology.
For this was AWP, the annual conference of the Associated Writing Programs, and half the writers and poets in the country were going to be walking through that convention center over the next several days. Fifteen thousand writers, all in one place. If anyone ever tells you writing feels like a lost art, it’s proof they’ve never been to AWP.
We had a table reserved for the journal in the book fair area, and Kate had prepared so many accoutrements it took a couple hours to set up. Even though the conference hadn’t started yet, people were dropping by. Old friends were already finding us, and wanted to talk art and politics. We responded while arranging peacock plumes. One had worked in the White House under different regimes, and stood there, shaking his head at the latest news. But he was also a contributor, and he brightened when he saw the anthology, which had arrived in boxes that very morning.
“But it’s gorgeous,” he said. “Michael Linnard does beautiful work,” I replied. Those sets of words would be repeated many times over the next several days. He was still standing there when Kate got an excited message from Michael himself. The anthology had just become the best selling poetry anthology on Amazon. And it was #1 in “Hot New Releases.” I took a screenshot of the Amazon page, because I figured that wouldn’t last more than an hour or two, and I wanted to remember the moment.
I needn’t have bothered. It kept that position for the entire conference. For the next four days, even though our table was far from central, people kept dropping by. Was it the anthology? Was it the gorgeous setting Kate had created? Was it Kate herself?
I don’t know. But it was wonderful, and gratifying. So much of the work of editing a journal, especially a daily journal of poetry, fiction, translation and art, gets done in private silence. You never know how you’ll be received in public.
We met so many contributors, the famous and the infamous, locals and people who’d come all the way from other continents, poets and artists and essayists and fiction writers and photographers. They all wanted to chat with Kate, since she does the correspondence. Several of them had built personal relationships with her by email. I was just the blond on her arm. Well, OK: the bearded guy with the long white hair. But you get the picture.
One evening, the contributor I’d known the longest, Clarence Major, invited us to a reading he was giving. Clarence and I had taught together at the Université de Nice many and many a year ago, and he still remembered some readings we’d done in the South of France. Another evening, the editor of Gargoyle invited us to read at an event he sponsored. I read a few poems, Kate sang “Annachie Gordon.” Then she found out it was the editor’s birthday, and she sang the “Baroque Happy Birthday.” You need to get her to sing it for your birthday someday.
A few days later, Michael started pressing us to bring out a quarterly anthology. He brought it up again at the start of April, and then at another conference in May. We could hardly disappoint him. And now, with the first ever Peacock Journal reading coming up later this month in NYC, we’re once again rushing to get the journal out.
It’s an old story, and you already know it. I was just sitting in front of my monitor, happily reading. And Kate came in and said, “William, you have to write an Introduction.” “OK, tomorrow.” “No. Right now!” She’s sitting in a chair watching me as I type, making sure I get to a thousand words. It’s one of the many reasons I love her.
Katherine E. Young : Translation of Aleksei Khomiakov (1804-1860), Kremlin Easter Vigil
Robert Eastwood : Bull, In a Field Below Ben Nevis, Scotland”
Bill Yarrow : Language Out of Water
Nikoletta Nousiopoulos : the oracle
Michael Achile Umameh : Flaming Feet Of Reed
Lisa Marie Brodsky : The Offering
Tom Kirlin : Marriage Song
Taunja Thomson : Opulent Favors
Katherine Hoerth : The Geography of Eden
Ferral Willcox : Glossary of Snow, Starswan
Laura Madeline Wiseman :The Terrific, Demon-like Inhabitants of the Valley
Elizabeth Kerlikowske : Introductions
Silva Zanoyan Merjanian : Writer’s Block
Kathleen McClung : A Broken World
LindaAnn Lo Schiavo : Romance Attacks My Dance Card
K.B. Ballentine : Tree, Singing
Joey Nicoletti : Silo City
Mark J. Mitchell : Spirit Level
Donna Pucciani : First Night, Capodarco
Ann E. Michael : Imagined Painting of St. Mary Magdalene Bathing
G. Timothy Gordon : Begins the Begonia
Anwer Ghani : Light Wings
Pui Ying Wong : The Dogs
Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll : Allegro molto e vivace
Lorraine Caputo : Traversing The Night
Tobi Alfier : She was Always in Blue
Clif Mason : Selfie with Jorge Luis Borges
Rachel Dacus : To Be Espoused
Paul Ilechko : Story of the Lightning Bugs
Deborah Gang : The Short Lifespan of Everything Alive
Celia Drill : Open Fields, Singing with the Moon, Night House
Louis Faber : Cartography
Tammy Ho Lai-Ming : Leftovers : Distraction
Yvette Neisser : Tea
Martin Willitts, Jr : Star Charts
Grace Marie Grafton : Trumpet Flower
Anna M. Evans : Casualties of Fast Living
Ruth Asch : A Walk in Charpentier
James Owens (translation of Rilke) : “But it is purer to die”
Beth Copeland : Dime-Store Mirror
Erin Wilson : Spiderwebs in Twilight
C.J. Muchhala : Selene
Peggy R. Ellsberg : Blue
Matthew Friday : Swallowtails
Sneha Subramanian Kanta : Sunset Chronicle
Kim Whysall-Hammond : Only Exmoor
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins : Kindling, Siege, Chamber Music, Mirage, Coveted
Chris Hardy : Naming the Rain
Kelly Cherry : Birds On The Patio Feeders
Richard Peabody : Pages from the Purple Book
Jean-Yves Solinga : Birth of a Muse
Don Mager : March Journal, Thursday, March 28, 2013
Laura M. Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) : An-Nur, Why Are You With Me?
Kelvin Kellman : Oracle God-diviner
Mary Jane White : White Buffalo
Alec Solomita : The Red Lights of Needham
Jo-Anne Rosen : Chins Up
James Robison : Less
Susan Tepper : Wandered
Elaine Chiew : The Suitcase
Nina R. Alonso : Double Rainbows, Translation for Mortals
Kate Lemery : Cecilia and the Seurat
Eva Wong Nava : The Everlasting Face
Wong Wen Pu : To Marie, With Love
Kaori Fujimoto : Pints of Beer