by Shelly Lowenkopf
I jumped at the opportunity to curate the poetry section for volume 5 of The Santa Barbara Literary Journal the way any writer would grasp at a lifeline. Reality often extends lifelines. From what, you ask? From the mad buzz of creation, of course. Creation makes no sense while one is in the midst of one’s own process. Poetry makes sense the same way life makes sense, a dactyl or iamb here, a trochee there, an idea buzzing about like a hungry mosquito. Only later do the themes and intentions of creation become clear.
From my early days of fascination with playground jump rope rimes and the holler-response of work songs, poetry nudged me away from the ordinary the same way Tom and Huck seduced their contemporaries away from routine, into a world of pirates, buried treasures, knights errant, and questing beasties.
Whatever fiction, review, or essay I had on my plate vanished at the time of the offer to continue curating for Lit Jo, in comfortable knowledge that the story or review or essay would return enhanced by the association of soliciting work from poets known to me through some lovely past experience or brought to my attention by a respected influence.
I first looked at Santa Barbara, where I have lived these past forty-six years, aware of being in what one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yeats referred to for his purposes as “the bee-loud glade,” and for my purposes a hive of poetic excitement. What better place to begin, with the likes of Emma Trelles, Raven Wilde, not to forget Laure-Anne Bosselaar, who stopped me in my tracks three times with her own works, then compounded the effect when she called my attention to Gudrun Bortman.
"Past my city’s shackles
vast web of harbor bays—
the river exhales
toward the wide horizon
swift and treacherous
in her rush to the sea the tides
her only master."
---Gudrun Bortman, "Die Elbe" Volume 5
Second stop, ninety some odd miles south to my old stomping grounds at the University of Southern California’s Masters in Professional Writing Program, where I saw students such as Millicent Borges and faculty mates such as the protean Aram Saroyan.
"We say a few words,
Half-remembering what the last
Life of words should be, and we name
Off the flavor of our grief, all
Emotional and shaken, fingertips
---Millicent Borges, "Of a Verbal Silence" Volume 5
To add yet other flavors, I reached beyond California to Wang Ping, whose poetry exerts a chiropractic wrench on me. Not to forget Doug “Uncle Duggo” Anderson, who can spot the one leprechaun in a room of Elks or Shriners, the one Medusa among the ladies in a beauty salon, their heads under dryers.
What’s coming in Vol. 6, you ask?
Looking for stuff of the sort Sharon Olds read off the back of an envelope, one rainy ago in my classroom, or the incredible energy from that afternoon in Dudes’ the beer parlor of my undergrad days, getting drunk on 3.2 beer and the improv of W.H. Auden, “out West” for a reading tour. Not to forget the vibe from picnicking with Christopher Isherwood on hamburgers made to his taste by Hindu nuns, listening to him deconstruct Auden’s poetry, called him Wystan, he did.
Looking for more stuff such as the poems I got from Alexis Rhone Fancher, who always stops me dead in my tracks with her exquisite visions, and in the bargain turned me on to one of the great all-time commercial salad dressings.
Vol. 6 offerings and visions should be exotic, eclectic, and, pardon the Italian, show effing bravura.
Shelly Lowenkopf. Emeritus from the graduate-level Professional Writing Program at USC, where he taught fiction, humor, and editing courses for thirty-four years, Shelly recently completed a visiting professorship at UCSB’s College of Creative Studies. He’s held executive editorial positions with five different book publishers, including two in Santa Barbara. He’s also put in time with literary, mystery, and science fiction magazines.His latest book, Love Will Make You Drink and Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night, is a collection of recent short fiction. He’s currently balancing a revised second edition of The Fiction Writer’s Handbook with a collection of stories about the protagonist of the actor featured in this volume, and Santa Barbara Sleep, a mystery novel set in a local retirement complex.
*Volume 5 is available for purchase in our store! And we will be accepting submissions for Volume 6 starting January 1.