Recording of “Matthew in the Fountain”

In the Fountain 1999
Matthew, age 14 months
Matthew in the Fountain

(Recorded by Matthew Harper, April 17, 2018)

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Inspired by my beautiful son (who’ll be turning 20 years old in June!), “Matthew in the Fountain” appears in my new chapbook, This Being Done — a culmination of years of work, and featuring Matthew’s gorgeous photo (below) on the cover — available for preorder purchase NOW and for the next 10 days from Finishing Line Press:

This Being Done, by Stephanie L. Harper 

This Being Done is scheduled for June 2018 release, but please consider ordering your copy before the April 27, 2018 preorder deadline, as my print-run will depend on the number of copies ordered during the preorder sales period. Your timely support will be crucial to my book’s successful release, and means more to me than I could ever hope to express!

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Q&A with Poet Stephanie L. Harper (Part 2)

Thank you, Sir Robert, for your generosity and insightfulness in this interview, and for everything you do in general to promote a sense of authentic connectedness that’s so vital to poetry and Poetkind!

O at the Edges

I’m pleased to present part 2 of the Q&A with poet Stephanie L. Harper:

If you were a poetic form, which would you be?

I would be a poetic form that could seep down into darkness, molecule by molecule, through miles of porous rock, to return to the wellspring, then rise again to the surface, and wash over the grief-stricken with the all immensity of love and joy in my depths. I’m pretty sure that would make me an elegy.

What themes or traits will readers find in your work? What will they not find?

My work is chock full of mythological creatures, archetypal symbolism, and nature imagery (i.e., birds, seascapes, wolves, forests, volcanoes). It touches often on spirituality (and/or religiosity), sometimes alludes to current events (and associated dismay), and has an overall feminist and philosophical bent. My love for and awe of my children shows up a lot, too…

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Brave

towering pine

Brave

Some things leave no room for misunderstanding,
like your climbs to the tops of towering pines,
and your belief that you can never cry.

At age five, you dream of a woman
with wings like a bat dressed all in black.
She swoops down, grabs you, pins you in her lap,
and while hitting you over and over, she’s whispering
that it will end when you stop struggling;
so you pretend to relax until her grip loosens
and then you fight to escape, but each time
her strength overwhelms you. It takes
several beatings before you realize
she is trying to help you, she is teaching you
how to be brave—
how to be so still
that you can let yourself have no feeling
when the scratchy hands are pressing into you,
like the night lets itself be swallowed by darkness.

An eight-year-old now, you’re standing
outside their locked bedroom door, waiting
for your mother to call to you
as he yells his nonsense, rips out drawers,
and slams the walls with his fists.
When something made of glass shatters
against the vanity, her cry of surprise
convinces you to call the police.
They come and go in a flash—
barely pausing to ruffle your hair
and chuckle
that it was all “just a misunderstanding”—
and they leave you there,
to keep being unseen.

For most of the schoolyear,
at age eleven, you are chronically ill:
the oozing, itching, gray-swollen chickenpox lesions
that make you potently untouchable,
lead to an infiltration of fevers, flooded lungs,
and inflamed tonsils and ears
that hold you prisoner from the inside,
but soon you come to know your captors
as the oddly loyal, untiring allies
who keep you warded at night, for months.
Your classmates are jealous, though,
that you still make passing grades
in your constant absence from school—
on the phone, they accuse you of faking,
and you can’t help the feeling, either,
that being sick really is a kind of cheating,
like getting something you want
without doing anything to earn it.

Mom is taking you to open a bank account
with your own passbook, though you’re just twelve
(her eyes are still swollen from crying yesterday),
so you can sign for the money you’ll need to get
yourself and your little brother to the airport
to fly to an uncle you barely know in New York,
if she either goes missing, or you find her dead,
because, as she’s confided to you—
and you have no reason not to believe it—
your father vowed to kill her.
For the next three years, then (she doesn’t know),
you skip lunch at school and save the money
to deposit into the “plane ticket” account.
No, she never gets murdered,
maybe even because you always keep watch,
like the kind of parent you’d want to be would,
even after your father finally moves out
during the same summer you get your tonsils
(and the disease they harbored) removed.

You’re now proving to be a picture of health
(though you bear the hunger of indignity, standing
in lines in the school gym for government hand-outs
of peanut butter, processed cheese and expired bread),
because you can run like no one else.
You are your soccer coach’s favorite, you believe,
because you are tough, and you work the hardest.
He makes a fuss over you like you are special,
takes you out for ice cream, has you come along
on fishing trips with his sons, and invites
you over for dinner, or to stay the night,
and you never consider he’ll expect you to repay him
for these casual, kind gestures, until
he’s suddenly always touching and hugging you
as if it is his right, and even though you make sure
only to be in public places with him,
in plain sight of your teammates’ parents,
you can’t discourage his lewd hovering,
or his propositions (which he thinks are charming)
for you to fuck him in the back of his van.
Somebody should be watching!
Somebody should be watching!
People are watching, but they only see
the things that have no need
for invisibility, like the crude posturing
of a man just being a man—

just someone who reserves
the Scouts’ clubhouse through Parks and Rec
for a “team meeting” that you feel obligated to attend;
someone who waits on a weekday evening
in a prefab aluminum building
with the lights dimmed
for a fifteen-year-old girl to enter alone,
while, at home, his own kids watch T.V.,
and his wife keeps his dinner warm.

Some things leave no room for misunderstanding—

like the lust throbbing in a man’s neck,
the presumption gleaming in his eyes,
and the fact that wrongs always pile upon wrongs
in the same way he now heaps this assault from behind,
with his thick hands fumbling for your breasts,
on top of his preposterous lie;

and so when he leans in with his belly
and his cock stiffens against the small of your back,
a scream gets trapped in your throat,
and you find yourself struggling wildly—
you elbow him hard in the ribs,
then rear up and ram your head into his chin,
and somehow stun him long enough
to get away—

you get away,
but leaving yourself there
unseen in the dark
doesn’t ever feel brave.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Brave” was first published in the TulipTree Publications, LLC 2016 anthology, Stories That Need to Be Told, which was a Colorado Book Award nominee. This poem also appears in my chapbook, This Being Done, NOW AVAILABLE for advance copy purchase at Finishing Line Press: RESERVE YOUR COPY HERE! – OR – use the form below as a guide for placing orders via post:

I’m deeply grateful for your orders! Thank you! Thank you! If you haven’t done so already, but are considering purchasing a copy, I ask that you please do so as soon as possible, as my print-run will be contingent upon the number of copies sold (for which there is a minimum quota) during the pre-publication period, which ends on April 27, 2018.

This Being Done_promo flyer

Lynne Burnette’s New Poetry Chapbook!

Congratulations, Lynne!

I’m so pleased for poetess extraordinaire, Lynne Burnette, that her poetry chapbook, Irresistible, is now available for pre-publication order at Finishing Line Press! Check out Lynne’s gorgeous poetry on her blog, HERE, and please consider ordering your very own copy of her book!

#PoetryLives!

Lynne Burnett

Now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/
As the pressrun is determined by advance sales, reserving your copy between now and January 12, 2018 would make a huge difference! My book’s actual release date is March 9, 2018.

What they’re saying:

Lynne Burnett is astonishing. I cannot think of another poet who writes with more humanity. Wisdom is a word we seldom associate with poetry, but she reminds us that simply seeing the world the way it is can be a profoundly moral and life affirming act.  It’s what happens when compassion marries irony. The love child is this wondrous little book.” —D.G Geis, author Fire Sale (Tupelo Press/Leapfolio) and Mockumentary (Main Street Rag).

The poems inside Lynne Burnett’s chapbook live up to the collection title. Irresistible. Here is a poet demonstrating her considerable talents. There is much music and rhythm in these…

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Last Day of Pre-Publication Sales for Robert Okaji’s Chapbook

Don’t get left in the cold as Robert Okaji’s wondrous poetry takes the literary world by storm! 🌩 Let’s celebrate the difference that Bob’s vital words have made in so many lives, and take today’s last opportunity to make a difference for him! 😊

O at the Edges

From Every Moment a Second

Today is the final day of the pre-publication sales period for my new chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. If you intended to order a copy but haven’t yet (the dog ate your homework, you had to wash your hair, poetry? you’re kidding, right?), time’s running out. Order here.

Many, many thanks to the members of this blog community for supporting my writing.  I am truly grateful for your wisdom, advice, humor and willingness to help me traverse the strange and wonderful worlds of poetry and publication.

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How to Take an Amazing Photo of a Solar Eclipse

Eclipse.PNG

“Solar Eclipse with Sunspots” by Matthew Harper

 

First,
get knocked up,
plan a wedding in three months
and waddle down the aisle in white pumps
that fit you when you bought them. 

Gain a total of forty-eight pounds
while throwing up for forty weeks,
and give birth to a nine-pound baby boy,
who is bigger and cries louder than any other
newborn in the maternity ward. 

After you blink once or twice,
find yourself moving across the country
for your husband’s engineering job,
with three cats, the six-week old baby,
and all of their respective paraphernalia
crammed into a purple minivan. 

Critical Step: Raising Your Boy
To do this, start learning more about more things than you knew existed;
begin appreciating that this cherubic, gorgeous,
but almost alien issue of your loins
sees individual ice crystals in distant clouds,
hears crickets chirping at dusk
over the sound of rush-hour traffic,
plays the piano with no lessons better than you ever will. 

Have conversations with your boy (that he begins)
about the waxing gibbous moon
when he is still in diapers.

Don’t freak out when he runs to the garage to feel the water main
every time someone flushes the toilet
for an entire year. 

Realize that this otherworldly child means no slight
when the Valentine’s Day card he makes for you in first grade says,
“Dear Mom, I love the plants from Chris Tuffli’s science project.”

Scoop your bottom jaw off the floor
when he inquires about how nerve impulses
not only respond to, but initiate thoughts
(you will have had about seven years
to prepare for this moment,
but your heart will still flutter dangerously). 

Believe that you are the only one who notices
that he has decided not to “turn left”
during the ages of eight and nine.

Get comfortable slinging around terms
like high-functioning autism, echolalia,
sensory integration dysfunction, perfect pitch
and freaking genius.

Find a place deep in your understanding that “gets”
how he is not unloving, ungrateful, or deliberately obtuse,
but admirably, unprecedentedly honest and real.
Become very angry when his teachers and coaches
try to justify being put-out
and dare to assign blame to a child,
rather than consider how they, being the adults,
might assume responsibility
for their interactions with him. 

Fall fiercely in love with your magnificent boy,
so that your heart screams, your scalp hurts,
and your vision blurs
in this unsympathetic, simple-minded world’s injustice.
It will then be easy for you
to put aside your concerns about ruffling feathers,
making waves, and rocking boats.
You will do anything necessary
to arm your son to thrive, shine,
and find his own joy.

Trust in his gift of seeing every moment
in terms of geological time––
of constantly holding the cycles of mountains
rising up and eroding away in his mind’s eye––
and strain in your every breath, step, and toss in your sleep
to grasp
how his world is wholly un-glossed over
by super-imposed paradigms. 

Never try to propagandize him
into a semblance of societal expectation.

Never believe for an instant that you
should temper your awe of him. 

When he is a teenager,
endure an epic tongue-lashing
from your superego,
then fork out the dough,
anyway,
for the camera of his dreams.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Thank you to Editor Dave Essinger for publishing “How to Take an Amazing Photo of a Solar Eclipse” alongside Matthew’s amazing photo (above) in the 2016 edition of Slippery Elm Literary Journal. This piece is also included in my new chapbook, This Being Done, now available for pre-publication order from Finishing Line Press HERE!

Matthew Harper is an avid photographer and videographer of wildlife, weather, and astronomical phenomena, the more extreme—i.e., skunks and coyotes, thunderstorms, meteor showers and solar eclipses—the better. He is also an accomplished digital artist and musician. Matthew recently completed his high school studies as a home schooler, and earned a Certificate in Audio Technology from the Oregon School of Music Technology. He currently lives with his family in Hillsboro, OR.

Oh, yeah, he’s a gymnast, too! “Intense Matthew!”

Cover Art for Robert Okaji’s New Chapbook!

Cover_Okaji

Not only was I deeply honored when Robert Okaji enlisted me to be the cover artist for his new chapbook, From Every Moment A Second, but the task proved to be one of the most inspiring and rewarding creative endeavors of my life.

I call this piece, “Dream of Flight,” after a line from a poem in Bob’s stunning collection, entitled, “Mayflies.” I hope it offers readers a small sense of the ways in which my life will never again be the same for having read this magnificent little collection of poetry!

Click HERE to order Robert Okaji’s beautiful new chapbook:

FEMAS Mock cover

available for pre-publication purchase from Finishing Line Press between now and August 11, 2017, and scheduled to ship on October 6, 2017!