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Indiana Review’s 2018 1/2 K Prize opens July 1st along with our Twitter contest, “GIF Us What You Got!” We’re looking for stories and poems, 280 characters or less, that can be supported by a related internet GIF to illustrate your work. Anything goes, so get GIF’n! Make sure to hashtag your tweet with #IRGIF. The contest is open until Tuesday, July 31st.
One GIF-savvy winner will receive a free submission to our 1/2 K Prize as well as a copy of Indiana Review’s 40.1 issue and Jennifer Givhan’s poetry collection Girl with Desk Mask.
Don’t forget to submit your 1/2 K piece by August 15th! Good Luck!
Illustration by Paul Blow
It starts with jubilance: swallowing a spider in her sleep. It starts
with failing insomniacs, a venus fly trap. When she wakes up
next to him: cotton-mouthed, dry eyed,
and the memory of a tongue.
There is a dove that eats arachnids and the mossy,
molasses-laden nature of a bug (more so, is a dove
like a plant bringing its jaws over flesh and blood?)
Silkworm bedsheet threads, she wakes him up
and asks if he kissed her while sleeping. He tells her “No,
but the dissent of a web is woven in your teeth.”
Chiefly British, it can mean delicious, as when Greg refers to a nice mince pie. He means the opposite of the awful pie in “Dockery and Son,” where Larkin says: life is first boredom, then fear—after changing trains in the furnace fumes of Sheffield, the city where I spent my “junior year abroad” and first met Greg, among the better men I know.
Greg used nice for the sauces, puddings, sausages, and peas hefted onto our plates at the trucker’s café three blocks from the University. It catered mainly to students who, said the women serving us, were ducks—as in: What you having, ducks?—and sometimes doves. From Greg I learned to use my knife to plow food onto the back of my fork—an English-style avidity Keats called gusto.
Visiting Keats’s Hampstead house with Greg two summers ago, apart from a twitch in my spine while staring at the lock of hair, what I remember best is how nicely London alerts you to speed bumps coming up: humps for half a mile, as well as the Yorkshire lorry driver who hoisted Greg and me out of the sooty Sheffield rain nearly three decades before, addressing each of us as luv, without embarrassment, all the way to London. Nice—
as in kind, considerate to others, like Dan and Isobel, Greg and Gill’s teenagers, playing the word game “sausages” with Charlotte and Ethan; the eight of us packed into their minivan; cows and full-grown lambs like sponged paint on the Kentish hillsides; Greg and I attempting “The General Prologue” and getting no further than from every shires ende / Of Engelond to Canterbury they wende; Hilary and Gill doing most of the driving. A day when almost every word, said or unsaid, seemed benign….
In Chaucer’s time, nice could also mean foolish. Which may be why, in our day, the tough-minded deplore it. If someone described a poem as nice, we’d think insipid, wouldn’t we?—as in: thin, like those astonishingly narrow English beds I never got used to sleeping in. This evening, though, with its summer air damp after rain; my back lawn and its bordering woods greening what’s left of the light, I’ll take nice. And I’ll take benign over malignant—because, once dying became more tedious than frightening, her hospice bed broadening as she shrank, my sister called the taste of tapioca nice, and nice the smell of the roast beef she couldn’t eat. Sometimes we ate her meals as she slept, so they wouldn’t go to waste.
Anni Liu (Poetry Editor): After my first reading of this capacious yet tightly braided prose poem, I immediately read it again. Larkin’s “life is first boredom, then fear” near the opening is reversed to devastating effect: “dying became more tedious than frightening.” By the end, through all its facets of meanings and associations, the word “nice” returns to us newly full of insatiable longing for all the benign yet essential details of life.
This poem appeared in Indiana Review 25.1, Summer 2003
Steven Cramer is the author of The Eye that Desires to Look Upward (1987), The World Book (1992), Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand (1997), Goodbye to the Orchard (2004)—winner the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club and an Honor Book in Poetry from the Massachusetts Center for the Book—and Clangings (2012). His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including AGNI, The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New England Review, The Paris Review, and Poetry. Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and two fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, he founded and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.
Siân Griffiths reads from “Cunt,” and we interview Creative Nonfiction Editor, Anna Cabe, on why she voted for the piece. Listen here for an glimpse of our latest issue and insight into our selection process.
“Cunt” was originally published in Indiana Review 39.2, Fall 2017.
Thanks to Youtube Audio Library and John Deley for letting us use “Beer Belly Blues.”