Reviews: Over the Pachyderm Rainbow

Jennifer C. Wolfe’s Over the Pachyderm Rainbow: Living in an Elephant-Controlled 2010 Election Diorama is a liberal political commentary in stanza form. The work primarily functions as a satirical criticism of extremist right-wing views and references political figures, policies, and events from over the past decade. Wolfe covers healthcare issues, immigration policies, and the War on Terror, among other topics.

Wolfe’s poems read like borderline prose-poetry and describe her views on the Republican role in government using satire and political jargon that might go over the heads of readers who don’t pay attention to politics. This focus on content suggests that her goal is either to relay information or make a point, likening her work to a poetic form of journalism, where her poems function as conveyors of fact and opinion as well as manipulations of language and rhythm. “Recipe for Tea Party Iced Tea,” “The Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas Pledge of Allegiance,” and “Not Quite the Monkees” (a re-purposing of the song “Last Train to Clarksville”) particularly stand out for cleverness and creativity of concept.

Readers who intently follow the intricacies of current politics and agree with Wolfe’s portrayal of today’s Republican icons–such as George W. Bush, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin–as absurd, close-minded buffoons will revel in her biting debunkery of their empty-headed ravings and fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report will enjoy the way that Wolfe intelligently transcribes the feelings I’m sure that many Democrats and more liberal Republicans share.

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The Lot

When it hits ten-thirty, everyone disappears.

I’m not sure where they go, though I can guess to their homes with white clapboards, fridges that once-a-week run out of milk, household pets that have their own doors.

To stand on High Street around ten-thirty at night is to stand in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks only without the nighthawks. At that point, there are two types of cars: cars with teenagers, young adults; and the cop cars that circle after them, making the route from parking lot to parking lot.

The towns are fifteen minutes out of Boston and the main streets are routes: Route 16, Route 60, Route 38. Any right- or left-hand turn reveals houses nestled like ink pots. They rest with their heads against their chests, while out on the main roads tires murmur. We hear them when a cell phone rattles in the well of the door and someone lowers the radio volume. It’s usually a text: “Come to The Lot.”

The Lot. The Lot. There are three or more of them, actually. There’s the parking lot behind Medford Square’s ice-cream shop. There’s the Rite Aid parking lot in West Medford Square. Continuing west, just over the border into Arlington, there’s The Lot, the AC lot. So on a Friday, we convene where we hours ago left. The building, our high school, and the church next to it are darkened. It feels like a different place: without the teachers, without the chimes that signal the end and beginning of classes. Without the uniform pants, the students– no, the kids– seem different, too. It’s bizarre: the preponderance of jeans and Hollister t-shirts. Now I can really see who’s not quite sure, who has money, who doesn’t care. For the most part, what I’d always guessed is proven right. Cars pull up to each other side-by-side—boys in baseball hats. I will always remember them in baseball hats. “Hey.” “Yo.” Boys with Irish mothers and Italian last names.

What we do– nothing. It’s a meeting place, a stop-over, but we never actually leave. Though no one wants to admit it, it is the destination; we have no place else to go. So cars idle, headlights on. From our pockets and handbags we produce cigars, cigarillos, cigarettes and water-bottles of alcohol. You pass them along; you don’t really ask what’s inside. If you do, you do casually, as though you were thirty years older and trying to place the name of a wine whose year you have forgotten. “Mmm. That’s good, what is it again?”

Standing there, for the first time, I look around and feel grounded– just not to there. Everyone wears a look of malaise.

“Waiting for Eddie,” I say. “It feels like we’re waiting for Eddie,” thinking of that scene in Rocky Horror Picture Show, the moments just before Meatloaf crashes through a wall on a motorcycle and how, before that point in the movie, everyone is milling around, living, yes, and maybe aware of it or maybe not, but just waiting, anticipating the moment he crashes through, though they don’t know it will be him, don’t know it will be a motorcycle, but certain that at some point a wall is going to be crashed.

In a weird way, it’s like a cotillion. Being at The Lot is like announcing yourself as “out” in society. Some people are regulars. They lean against car doors and attract their usual group the way they do leaning against a locker during school hours. Others are clearly timid, unsure of their social status. Showing up with one friend or two, they step out of their cars peering, scanning for someone else to stand in their circle. Sometimes they sit in the car for a moment before emerging.

“Who’s here?”

“Is so-and-so coming?”

“Don’t like walk away from me, okay?”

Because if you are at The Lot on Friday or Saturday, come Monday you get the walk-by hit. It is exactly as it sounds. One person passes another in the hall as he crouches at his locker with back turned in conversation, and hits him– on the arm, back, head, sometimes softly, sometimes with force. It’s a small thing. Sometimes the other person continues walking; sometimes he turns around with a smile, a look. There are no words necessary because it’s just a gesture, a means of recognition or sign of existence. It says: even in the daytime, even in this uniform, in these hallways, as a functioning member of this other social system, even here I remember that not more than three days ago you and I sat on the hood of a car together. I remember.

And what is that really? It’s nothing. It’s a “Maybe I’ll see you around” at the end of the year, or a “He’s cool” when your name comes up in conversation. It’s also all we have. Everyone has their friends, the people who have seen their parents eating dinner in front of the TV, who know the name of their dog; but then there are the others, the tenuous holds. And the walk-by hit is one step closer to a friend to call in crisis.

To walk from English to calculus, from calculus to lunch, untouched– that’s loneliness.

The malaise extends further than it appears. What feels novel to us… isn’t. What we think are high stakes…aren’t. At some point in the evening, and I’m sure it happens every evening, the words will bubble up. “The cops are coming.” Some kids get outwardly irritated but all are anxious. The air changes. The sense of anxiety now has a target and can rise up unabashed. People start to shift on their feet and always, always look to someone else, to see how they’re reacting, if they believe it and how bad it could be.

“Are you staying?”

“Who said they were coming?”

“Where can we go?”

Where can we go? To one of the other two lots, really. So people climb back into cars and it starts again.

“So-and-so says to go to Rite Aid.”

“Is that where everyone’s going?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

But when the cops do show up, they drive through the lot with the fatigue of routine. I remember a young cop (probably a local, the odds of it are always high): “Just go somewhere else, guys. Go to the woods. We don’t want to be chasing you all night.”

“At least he was nice about it.” But the truth is disheartening. Even law enforcement can’t really bother. Even they seem to be waiting for something bigger.

It seems as though everyone knows this: give us four years, and then we’ll be done. It is so much more a role than a lifestyle. There is always one, though, for whom it’s not just a phase. And we all know, we all sense that, will talk around it. There is one for whom this is just a single Friday night in an ever-stretching string of Friday nights and Saturday dawns later and lonelier as the years pass. He stands out. He enjoys the drinking, the dash from the cops, in a more visceral way. It reaches deeper, while the rest of us just play at being high school kids.

My year, he was old before his time and that was how I knew. I knew from the hats he wore, Irish caps like my grandfather, and from the way he was on speaking terms with everyone but I couldn’t really say who his friends were. I wasn’t sure if there was anyone who would take him home and feel comfortable going inside, making sure he made it to his bed.

For everyone else, the ones who showed up at The Lot, there was a deadline but a sense of ownership. We owned those weekend nights; we owned the car interiors and the stomach swoops of danger. What would have been really sad, sadder than the reality that our nighttime selves were tied to the one location we had in common, sadder than the sham of rebellion, sadder than wearied cops like cowboys indulging Indians, sadder than the kids with real sadness, what would have been sadder than all of that would have been a Friday night, eleven o’clock, a police car coasting through the circle of parking lots and seeing nothing but parked empty cars. Then, when we no longer play, then there’s no more complicity, no more possibility of connection. And each goes off to make individual memories and, somewhere, Eddie sighs and turns around. He won’t show up at all.

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Street Art

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”
Banksy (Wall and Piece)

I was first introduced to Banksy, the England based graffiti artist, political activist, and film director, while walking on the streets on Bangkok. Khao San Road, a colorful strip featuring the city’s most most eclectic array of wares, vagabond faces, and seedy vendors; it was the perfect venue to encounter the grit and beauty of his uniquely rendered images.

What captured my attention, and has perhaps inspired international artists to illustrate their own expressions on brick walls around the world, is how vibrantly Banksy is able to portray contradictions–peace and warfare, innocence and corruption, love and emptiness–in a way that speaks to the invariable truths of human nature. Which, I believe, is one of art’s most noble goals.

Enjoy this month’s collection, a generous contribution from Street Art Utopia, and perhaps use it as inspiration to create a stencil of your own.

Truth and Art,
Photography & Arts Editor

“Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent, leave the house before you find something worth staying in for. ”- Banksy

“There are four basic human needs; food, sleep, sex and revenge.”- Bansky

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Travis Mossotti

“Rearranging a Few Molecules: Spotlight Author on Travis Mossotti”

Anyone who has been published in a literary journal will without a doubt thrill about their accomplishment, but there are few who would rather their work only reach a small circulation of readers. Enter Saxifrage Press, an online showcase of works from fresh young writers, most of whom who have already been published somewhere else. This online venue proved to be a great way to reach a much broader audience, according to the founder of Saxifrage Press, Travis Mossotti. Although the Press features writing ranging from fiction to poetry, as a poet himself, Travis finds himself drawn to the things in poetry “that can’t be duplicated elsewhere.” His fascination with the art of poetry has led him not only to pursue his MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but also become a published poet.

The way Travis Mossotti speaks about poetry is captivating even to those who favor more structured prose. When asked about his “calling” to poetry though, Travis is reminded of a fun quote from friend Robert Wrigley, “Priests and nuns have callings, but not poets.” However, poetry has without a doubt always had a particular allure over this writer, even the simple facets. In a section of Saxifrage Press called “The Mossotti Files”, Travis writes a prose essay about the intrigue of the line in poetry, perhaps hinting at his experience as a faculty lecturer. He says, “The line…has this old almost primal quality, which allows both writer and reader to intuit each step together.”

When you have this sort of passion for poetry, it is no surprise to find out that Travis has published his own books of poems, About the Dead. He refers to them as “lyrical stories”, and he explains that when compiling the works he “wanted to make my intentions clear with the title…to maintain a fair bit of gravity and youthful anger in the writing….and to (more times than not) leave the reader smiling.” His inspiration was far ranging, including James Wright, James Tate, Elizabeth Bishop, and others who were “set apart from their contemporaries” because of a “sense of humility, fearlessness, and discovery.” Travis certainly knows how to stand out as a poet.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing artistic ventures of Travis Mossotti is his collaboration with his brother, Josh. The Mossotti family was certainly blessed with an abundance of creative genes. The two brothers worked together starting from a draft of a poem which Travis had written and ended up turning it into a short film. “Decampment” took a lot of hours of hard work, not to mention quite a bit of finances. However, Travis seems to be very proud of this joint effort (which according to him is best viewed on the big screen) and mentions that “the scope of the scenes and landscapes is nothing short of awe-inspiring.” Even on a small computer screen the imagery is stunning, and combined with the power of the verses, the Mossotti brothers have assembled quite an impressive project.

With all of his experience with online publishing through Saxifrage Press and his own endeavors, it is interesting to know that Travis still prefers to publish his own work mostly in print. Like many old school writers out there, he seeks the “tactile experience” of reading a book of poetry. He draws a parallel to not really knowing someone until “I’ve heard his voice, looked into his eyes and shaken his hand.” It all ties in with Travis’ poetic advice: you must “consider the senses simultaneously.” Nothing evokes memories like these physical sensations, and good poetry relies on a complete sensory experience. Readers should reflect on times when poetry has really been particularly moving, and most likely it has a direct link to both physical and emotional sensations. From his own writing to his work on Saxifrage Press, Travis maintains an earnest attitude toward poetry.

He says, “I don’t care for camps, exclusivity, schools, ranking, snobbery, posterity, manifestoes, rules or doctrines.” Travis articulates his defining view on poetry through the words of his old professor, David Clewell. He says the goal of any good poet should be “to rearrange a few molecules in the reader.” Any professor of Travis Mossotti would certainly agree that this accomplished poet has done just that.

Travis Mossotti was awarded the 2011 May Swenson Poetry Award by contest judge Garrison Keillor for his first book, About the Dead (2011, USU Press). In 2009, he was awarded the James Hearst Poetry Prize from the North American Review by contest judge Robert Pinsky, his poem “Decampment” was adapted to screen as an animated short film in 2010, and more recently, his poem “Crossing the Gap” was featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. Mossotti resides in St. Louis with his wife Regina and daughter Cora.

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Editors’ Issue

Dearest Readers,

It is with much pleasure that I present to you our second Editors’ Issue. In honor of the tremendous support and submissions that we received over the course of the year, we felt the need to spread holiday cheer by showing our readers what we’ve been up to in the writing world.

We have a lot of heartfelt sentiments in this issue from poetry to a beautifully written lament on the loss of a loved one. With a stylistic analysis of poetry, well crafted fiction story, and a profile on one of the best handball athletes in the world, this issue is sure to surprise those new and familiar with the good folks at Write From Wrong.

This issue also features a new addition to the Write From Wrong Literary Family. Taylor DeBoer has given us his favorite music picks from the past year. He will be writing about music for us to add another element for our readers to enjoy.

So, enough of my words. Enjoy the brand new issue. Again, this is our gift to you our lovely readers and supporters.

Looking for a way to give us a gift? Follow, like, or simply visit our pages below. We’d appreciate it.


Donald Vincent

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