Contributor Spotlight: Efi Theodoropoulou

Efi Theodoropoulou on “Utility

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As a comic artist and an illustrator, I am used to collaborating with writers and other comic artists often. The collaboration with Ivan was something different because it was the first time I did something based on a script by a foreign writer (by ‘foreign’ I mean that I didn’t know him in person and had met him almost a year later). It was very interesting and we managed to cooperate easily, chatting via email and Messenger. Ivan gave me the option to choose among some scripts, and so I did.

I chose “Utility” because at that time it was one of my forthcoming plans to make an illustration which had something to do with a story taking part in the woods. It was a challenge for me to see what drawing style I would use to design the scenery of a thick forest and the characters of an explorative teen girl and her loyal dog. In my mind I had set it up as more of a children’s book illustration, giving color and some kind of child-friendly style to the scenes and characters. I also appreciate it when the people I collaborate with give me the freedom to improvise and bring their work closer to my style and taste. Ivan asked me only for a few changes that would look better to the eye of a reader.

It was very interesting to finally meet Ivan a year later, after our first digital acquaintance, getting to know the person behind the script I worked on and talk about it and all the creative process behind it, but do it in person this time. I think that this collaboration was fun for both of us, for him to get to see his script and characters coming to life and for me to experiment with different drawing styles and techniques.

Contributor Spotlight: Alison Palmer

Alison Palmer on “Last Line Storm Song

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In my poem, “Last Line Storm Song,” I immediately begin to construct my central questions: what can be stolen from us and who or what has the power to steal? While in the Bahamas for my brother’s wedding in August 2017, my father’s life is stolen from him, and in turn, the rest of my family’s lives are taken, as well. A set of stairs outside our beach-front cottage collapses with my father on them—he becomes paralyzed from the shoulders down. This tragic accident begs all the questions of nature, fate, coincidence and God. No matter who or what is responsible though, these catastrophes occur every day. As you sit with this poem, my hope is that you’ll begin to hate this thief as much as I.

In Eleuthera, after the fall, it takes island EMTs what seems like an hour to arrive because they have to be woken from their homes. Then, the airport has to be opened, all the lights turned on, in order to airlift my father first to Nassau late that night and then to Miami the next morning. However, once my father lands in Miami, a whole team of doctors are ready and waiting for him at the Ryder Trauma Center, a world-renowned adult and pediatric Level 1 facility. Not long after we find out Miami will be our nightmarish second home for months to come, Hurricane Irma heads straight for Florida, and we have to evacuate, leaving my father behind. “Holding our faces against this hurricane, / we never speak / again,” and no, after that, we never speak in the same way.

Using a storm both literally and metaphorically for my family’s situation helps me with another metaphor: “the tree should bend through / the gusts, surrender / auspiciously . . . .” My father becomes the idea of something refusing to uproot. Even though he will never again move his arms or legs, and even though it takes months for him to be able to speak again, my father’s mental toughness constantly reminds me, “even as I take the saw / to deeply, wistfully, cut / at a slight angle: my heart,” it would be like cutting my father down too. So, I decide to live inside my best memories of him.

The final what I’ll call two stanzas, really exemplify what I feel white space and enjambment can achieve—if the devices are successful, the reader lingers on each line because it’s a complete thought. Then, the thought continues into the following line, another world but invariably linked to the previous one. I literally describe the aftermath of the hurricane, but I also attach the idea to my family’s situation, for “We haven’t the ability / to estimate the death toll, / yet. So far I count five of us,” my father, me, my twin brothers and my mother.

I also highlight the idea of “voice” in the face of tragedy: losing it, chasing it and gaining it back. I want the reader to notice that as conversational a poem as this may seem, I create a motif of silence and reference silence several times. After the fall, my family must re-focus, and all that matters is caring for my father to give him a voice again. We do this with absolute commitment and tenderness, even though we are part of “[t]he most severe casualties in my father’s war . . . . ” Our voices, although seemingly returned, are invariably tremulous from this trauma.

My father passed away in February 2019 due to complications from the fall. The closing willow tree image represents the end of his life. With my father’s legs thinned down to almost nothing, he’ll remain like the tree, “the more slender / its trunk, the more graceful / in the wind.”

Contributor Spotlight: Michael Garrigan

Michael Garrigan on “Deer Mountain

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We were camped right along the Canadian border of New Hampshire when a wicked lightning storm charged through. We could hear the rolling thunder for a good few hours before we felt any raindrops or saw any lightning. There was this anticipation of something brewing, about to be created as the storm got louder, got closer. At one point, we ran down the dirt road from our camp to the main road where we could see the horizon out past the forest and mountains just to see what we could see and to maybe prove that what we were hearing actually existed.

The storm came and drenched the woods all night. There’s something incredibly intimate and immediate about camping out in the rain in the middle of nowhere. All night we laid there, with our dog at our legs, listening to the torrential rain and thunder. Nothing else existed. The next morning was cloudless, the ground of pine needles was saturated and the creek behind our camp was loud, running high. I sat by its side and watched the caddis flutter off the alder and tap the water, laying their eggs, and slowly “Deer Mountain” wrote itself.

I’m always amazed at how many lives a river has. Just yesterday, it was a creek that I could easily rock jump across. But today after the storms, those rocks are gone under the runoff and it’s a raging stream. However, those rocks still existed and still held power over that water. Yesterday they were creating eddies in the water, today, they are creating rapids. I think that’s one thread I was following as I wrote “Deer Mountain” — what we don’t see, or what we only hear off in the distance, still has incredible power and influence on us.

Award Nominations

It’s that time of year again when we nominate poems and stories for awards!

We love ALL our contributors and wish we could nominate every piece we publish. Here is a list of the nominations for the 2019 Best of the Net and the 2020 Orison Anthology from Split Rock Review!

Congratulations and best of luck to all the nominees!

BEST OF THE NET NOMINATIONS

Heaves — Louella Bryant

No Tongue Can Tell — Brian Czyzyk

Maria Carson to Her Daughter, Rachel, Who Attends the Pennsylvania College for Women, 1925 — Donelle Dreese

The Shew Ash — Isabel Duarte-Gray

After Florence, Roof-top Stigmata — Dina Greenberg

Shithawk Eggs — Sherryl Melnyk

After Daphne Ran Away — Roberta Senechal de la Roche

Dials — Connor Yeck

ORISON ANTHOLOGY NOMINATIONS

What’s Left of Us is Shaken — Sarah Carey

Ground Truthing After the Great Fires — Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Mary in the Glass — Arielle Hebert

From Water, Road and Rock — Kelly Lenox