As It Ought To Be Magazine’s Nominees for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology

 

As It Ought To Be Magazine is proud to announce our nominees for Sundress Publications’ 2019 Best of the Net Anthology.

 

Poetry

Ruth Bavetta “A Murder”

John Dorsey “Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead”

Mike James “Grace”

Rebecca Schumejda “i don’t want this poem to be about the death penalty, but it is”

Bunkong Tuon “Gender Danger”

Kory Wells “Untold Story”

 

Nonfiction

Daniel Crocker “Mania Makes Me a Better Poet”

Nathan Graziano “The Misery of Fun”

 

Congratulations to our nominees and thank you to all of the writers and readers who have supported As It Ought To Be Magazine.

 

Image Credit: Henry Pointer “The Attentive Pupil” (1865) Digitally Enhanced. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Two Prose Poems by Mike James

 

 

Things I Hate

Things I hate mainly start with u. Things like newly upholstered umbrellas taking umbrage at the rain for doing what it does. Any ordinary person or day declaring herself unique. Special and different are matter-of-fact fine, but unique seems untucked from what is.

Of course, I make exceptions. I’m fine with whatever is ungainly. Even prefer it. And I have nothing against unicorns of saddled or unsaddled variety. If I were Ezra Pound, I would complain about usury. But I’m not. So I don’t. Borrowings don’t make me think of interest. Instead I think of theft. What starts as a favor, ends as a complaint. Such things don’t happen in utopias, but only princes live there. The plain world gets upturned more than twice a day. At any moment the sky might crack open with a new birth of tears.

 

 

Tribulations Down the Street From the Quickie Mart

So, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride into town and what are you doing, Mr. Sunshine, except licking a vanilla ice-cream cone and digging through your neighbor’s trash? Yesterday you were talking about all the things you wanted to do in the Falklands once winter vacation arrived. You planned to watch penguins and begin each day rousing your companion by singing God Save the Queen in the key of Sid Vicious. Now, all that will have to be postponed. And all the Horsemen have noisy and glittery spurs. It would be foolish to think they wouldn’t. And why is one playing a harmonica? And why does another have your name tattooed, with John Hancock style flourish, right above his heart? Each is busy doing what they came to do. And each is pretty good at it. Despite it all, that ice-cream is still delicious.

 

 

About the Author: Mike James has been widely published in magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His thirteen poetry collections include: Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has served as an associate editor for the Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press, as well as the publisher of the now defunct Yellow Pepper Press. He makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. More information can be found on his website at mikejamespoetry.com.

 

More By Mike James:

Grace

Paul Lynde

 

Image Credit:Heart of the Turbine” Lewis W. Hine (1930) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

 

“A Review of Mike James’ Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor” By Chase Dimock

 

 

In “My Wife’s Shoes,” the first poem of Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse Press), Mike James writes “some nights we turn the radio to ballroom music and I pretend to be Fred Astaire, led by Ginger Rogers for a change, and dance in high heels in reverse.” “High heels in reverse” is the essence of his book. Astaire and Rogers had to know the geometry of each other’s bodies and steps inside and out to perform their moves. A careful eye can spot the scenes where Rogers is actually leading. This is exactly what Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor achieves.

We’ve all heard the old adage about reserving judgement until we’ve walked a mile in a man’s shoes, but that always assumes a lack of empathy and the need for a radical thought experiment just to imagine outside the self. In reality, as Mike James reminds us, we are always wearing each others shoes, although sometimes we lack the insight to see them, or we keep our steps hidden. Just as the surrealists were not about random weird imagery, but about making the real experience of our psyches visible, so too does Mike James make the multiplicity of self and the malleability of the body legible in his prose poems.

Like in his previous collections, My Favorite Houseguest and First-Hand Accounts from Made Up Places, James populates some of his book with portraits of celebrities. Yet, these portraits are never about the celebrity him or herself so much as they are about the process of painting them and seeing the pigment of self in each brushstroke. In “The Films of Burt Reynolds” he begins with “not the films, but the books about the films…Someone loved Burt enough to watch each, then write descriptively.” While James writes about someone writing about Burt, he’s also writing about himself, and how his “mother said she’d marry him if he’d just stop by.” For men, Burt’s mustachioed masculinity is something we’re supposed to identify through as he “walked down the carpet with Dinah, Lauren, Sally and Loni.” Yet, when he is written about, he becomes an object of grammar. Straight, gay, or in between, all men must ask, do we want to be Burt, do we want Burt, do we want to be wanted by Burt, or is it all of the above? Continue reading

Two Prose Poems By Mike James

 

Moving Again

Not everything fits on the back of my motorcycle. For instance, neither my pet cactus nor my roommate cat travel well. Both claw me considerably in different ways. And my bike is not large. It’s the small engine type I never grew out of.

Thomas De Quincey knew it was time to move when no more books would fit on shelves and when bill collectors came more often than meals. I know it’s time when someone tells me. My jokes worn thinner than the cheapest tissue paper, which won’t absorb more than a shot glass of tears.

 

Gutter Angels

Identify not by wings, which mostly stay jacket-hidden, but by sadness which serves as eyeliner. Also, by any buffalo penny worn as a pendant. If wings are seen, feathers are frequently oily. Often a few lost on alley bets and during sidewalk waltzes. Be warned: when they crack their knuckles dreams escape. Mice can hear it. And dogs who so often come and happily lick their hands.

 

About the Author: Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: First-Hand Accounts From Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule Press) Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.

 

More By Mike James

“Grace”

“Two Ghazals”

“Two Prose Poems”

 

Image Credit: “Barrel Cactus” C.R. Savage. (1870s) Digital Image Courtesy of the Getty Digital Collection

First-Hand Accounts From Made-Up Places: An Interview With Poet Mike James

First-Hand Accounts From Made-Up Places:

An Interview With Poet Mike James

By Chase Dimock

When you read Mike James’ new book of poetry, you realize that the contradiction in the title is the intersection where his creativity dwells. For James, the most interesting subjects are those we either overlook and need to re-examine, or we deem impossible and thus need to invent. These are first-hand accounts, but Mike James has many hands. He is a cartographer of the margins, whether that means the almost-icons sitting just left of the spotlight, or the eccentricities in mainstream society you can only see if you look awry.

Take his series of poems on Grant Wood’s paintings for instance. In them, he teases out the subversive, frustrated eroticism embedded in the denim overalls of Americana. He writes about flamboyance and excess, but with an exactitude of language. At first, you think his ghazals and prose poems wander through their subjects, until you get to the destination, and then you realize he took you on a precisely planned path you had never seen on the maps. These are the made-up places we all live in, and Mike James knows the routes where the dirt roads glitter.

Chase Dimock: Anyone who has been following your work will notice that you have been extremely prolific lately with diverse interests in themes and forms. Last year, you published two books: My Favorite House Guest, a collection of prose poems about pop culture icons, and Crows in the Jukebox, which draws a lot on your family history with an almost minimalist use of language. Where does First-Hand Accounts From Made-Up Places fit into your evolution as a poet? How do its themes and forms reflect where you are as a writer and a man today?

Mike James: I have very broad tastes. I love jazz and disco, classical and country. I love action movies and documentaries. I mention this because it’s applicable in how I approach my writing. I’m always interested in what I haven’t done and I tend to really run with my passions. The musicians I truly love (Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Arthur Russell, David Bowie) all work/worked with a wide variety of styles. That’s how I approach my writing. So many of the poets who really interest me are ones who don’t have a settled “house style”, but instead work with an expansive scope.

The new collection is divided into three different sections. The first section is a sequence of ghazals. That’s a form I’ve tinkered with for years. The ghazals were the catalyst for this collection. I wrote the sequence in order, excluding the poems I discarded, with the idea that chronology would impose a structure.

The second section is mainly free verse, mostly centered on the work of Grant Wood. The final section is prose poems which are not, mainly, pop culture centered in the way that the poems in My Favorite Houseguest are.  Prose poems are wonderful because they are so liberating in regards to subject matter and expectations. I feel like I’m a different poet when I’m writing prose poems. My prose poems tend to be a more absurdist and chattily surreal.

The new collection provides an overview of my current interests in both subject matter and technique. These poems, I hope, show a comfort level with a wide variety of themes and with a wide range of technique. On a very personal level, the biggest difference between the work I’m doing now and the work I did ten years ago is that I’m much more willing to embrace failure and to follow any squirrel up any tree.  My subjects are more open and more varied now. I’ve let go of the old concepts of the kind of poet I want to be. These days, I enjoy writing more than ever before. I’m certainly much more relaxed about the wrong turns I take. I hope that joy transfers to the reader. Continue reading

“Grace” By Mike James

 

Grace

Before she chose her one new name, she trembled through a dozen baby books. Walked through library stacks and touched every Anna and Sylvia, all the Marianne’s, Eileen’s, and Audre’s. Said each in a slow whisper, elongating vowels into a wish. Now and then, imagined saying the name with a confident rasp. What she wanted was not a mark of winter, but spring’s first color and the alchemy of change.

Finally, the choice stood out as much as her dark over-tall frame, as much as her cliff-sharp cheek bones. Jacob, her former self, became a passenger on a bus headed to an endless west.

The directions were in the small compass of her hands.

.

About the Author:  Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle)and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.

 

Image Credit: “Blue and Green Music” By Georgia O’Keeffe (1921)

Two Ghazals

Two Ghazals

By Mike James

.

Cowboys & Cinderellas

I’m waiting for the apocalypse or the rapture. In the meantime, I’m reading Stein.
Also, growing cabbages, Watching John Wayne movies, while I paint my nails.

Some people pretend to live without shadows. Are always perfectly shaved.
Ignore salsa stains, flatulence. Expect worry to be, at least, three houses away.

The best we hope for are angels grown tired of heaven’s many perfections.
Who miss beer, sex, mascara. Who miss a world happy to wake from dreams.

On slow days, I work in the garden. The squirrels seem to like what I produce.
In good years I harvest peppers, cucumbers. Bad years, profanity and (yep) dust.

Art News tells us, second chances are no harder than the first. We just write
Songs about the second. We romanticize failure since we all have practice.

.

Ghazal

A garden doesn’t make you a farmer any more than boots make you a
Cowboy. Go on and play your make-believe. Go to your fashion show.

Appropriation is the least appreciated art. Going forward, we should
Only speak in quotes from Collete, Betty Boop, and her doe-eyed ilk.

If thievery was legal, where would the fun be? Cat burglars no more
Romantic than postman. Duchamp another man with an extra urinal.

Listen, the whole world practices make-believe. Have you ever seen
A President give an oath with fingers not crossed? That’s was a dream.

Matthew Broderick, once parroted the line, There’s a kind of freedom in
Being completely screwed. Let me an offer an agreement. Give an amen.

.

About the Author:  Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle)and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.