Wherefore Negative Capability: Vol. III, Number II, Spring 1983 ~ In Remembrance ~
July 8, 2014
A Spring 1983 issue of Negative Capability turned up on my desk – Vol III, Number II, no less. As I pick it up and peruse its pages, I find myself thinking about the writers who appeared in the pages of this issue.
On the cover is a sinister drawing of a little girl with a fork in her hand. The shadow of a man lurks in the background. Tom Woodward is the artist who illustrated this cover, front and back. His work often appeared in the pages of Negative Capability. Tom was a quadriplegic – but he never let disability deter him. He illustrated Sue Walker’s first book of poetry, Traveling My Shadow. Sadly Tom Woodward passed away not too long ago. He left his mark on the world, and this morning, as I write at 2:49 in the morning, I bow my head and honor Tom.
The first poem is by Blanch Woodbury – a nom de plume because of the sensitive nature of “My Brother,” and it is this poem that Tom illustrated for the cover. I remember sending him the poems that were to be in this particular 1983 issue and telling him to pick one to illustrate. This is a excerpt from the poem – lines about the brother:
Long ago he spent years committing incest.
I survived but we never mention it.
He’s thirty-five now and still lives with our mother.
My favorite joke when I visit is to talk
of the time I stabbed his thigh with a fork
and send him screeching around the table
for ruining my first perfect crayoned picture.
Oh my gosh – what powerful poems appeared in this issue of the journal. The second poem is by Ben Satterfield – entitled “Rejection.” This is the opening:
I was born unfortunately.
My mother, after trying for more than a year
To get my father to marry her . . .
The journal’s biographies, called “Reaching After Fact” – from the John Keats’ quote that gave the journal its name. Ben Satterfield (Austin, Tx) wrote: “Like Robert Graves, I have never starved, committed civil murder, or found buried treasure . . . but I’ve work different colored collars through a range of jobs from day worker to social worker. What I am is a writer, but earlier I went the vole: bookkeeper, stevedore, night watchman, business manager, poll-taker, private detective, radio operator, teacher, probation officer, et cetera. Ben Satterfield, where are you? If this blog reaches you, get in touch.
And where are you Harold Lee Fleming? Jim Peterson? Jan Villarrubia? Where are you Marilyn Krysl?
In this issue were two of Richard Kostelanetz’s “Single Sentence Stories.” They run on for a page and are quite amazing.
Also in this issue are four poems by Miller Williams. I love this title: “Some Lines Finished Just Before Dawn At The Bedside Of a Dying Student It Has Snowed All Night.” And from a poem called “People,” Miller writes:
When people are born
we lift them like little heroes
as if what they have done
is a thing to be proud of.
When people die
we cover their faces
as if dying were something
to be ashamed of. . . .
Andrew Glaze is the current Poet Laureate of Alabama – and his poem “Someone Will Go On Owing” is a part of this collection of Negative Capability poems.
Nancy Weber, where are you? Your “A Letter To Rene Descartes” is signed “Gratefully, A Most Humble and Perplexed Student.” And you say: “I am a mere student, and apparently not a very good one at that. To be perfectly honest, I have only the most rudimentary understanding of metaphysics” . . . . Get in touch and write Descartes response to this letter.
Would love to hear from Martha McFerren – whose poems “Sola” and “Daphne Rerun” appear in Vol III, Number II. Martha, are you still in New Orleans? I remember the time you were scheduled to read poetry in Mobile, Alabama. Somehow, the night before, you broke a tooth – a front tooth – but you came and read nevertheless.
Jane Mayhall’s story, “Carlin” is a part of this issue. Jane a poet who gained prominence late in life and whose work was informed by the unhurried rhythms of her Kentucky girlhood, the bustle of her Manhattan adulthood and the abiding grief of her years of widowhood, died in 2009 at her home in Manhattan. She was 90. How wonderful it is – to have this work of yours.
William Walter De Bold, where are you?
And yes, Lori Jo Oswald, “It’s Hard Being Married.” That title gets a reader’s attention. Are you still in Anchorage, Alaska?
Dana Ridgeway, where are you? You were a student at the University of South Alabama in 1983? Are you still in Mobile, Alabama?
Nelson Richards wrote “In Defense Of Marriage” – Three marriage poems in this issue, no less. Nelson, are you still in Mobile, Alabama? I see you said that you enjoyed the New Orleans Symphony, fried snapper, and Rubik’s cube. Richards is an Air Force veteran
Ruth F. Eisenberg, Linda Allardt, John Currie, Robert Gibbons, John D. Douglas, Michael Hayes, where are you?
Alabama’s Emily Dickinson, Vivian Smallwood, is not longer with us. Negative Capability Press published her book: And Finding No Mouse There. The following poem is in this noted volume:
Adam At The Gate
Perhaps it was too soon to stand erect,
To claim dominion over land and sea
And name the beasts and give myself a name.
Perhaps I was not ready, after all,
To bear the strange, new burden
And held it in of a soul.
Yet who would think a soul could weigh so much?
I pulled it from the green, forbidden bough
And held it in the hollow of my hand,
So small a thing, but heavy even then
And heavier with every passing year.
Perhaps I should have dropped it where I stood
And sought again the safety of the brush,
The dark, accustomed shelter of the wood.
Now at the gate of Eden, looking back,
I see the fields and flowers forever lost,
I hear the lean snake hissing in the weeds,
And in my hand I hold the bitter fruit
I picked too soon and cannot put aside.
Always, dear Vivian Smallwood, always – your wonderful words.
And where are you David Hall, Fran Barst, Linda Peavy, Constance Pultz, Clarisse Perkins, Mike Moyle, Ben Norwood, Ellen Tosh Benneyworth, Alice Briley, Tessa Tilden-Smith, Susan Hodge Shores, Rachael Norton, Jim Huskey,
And you, J.R. LeMaster –writing the poem entitled “William Stafford,” saying that yes,
We all must travel
through the dark.
We all must swerve . . .
Where are you Jim Daniels, Grace Bauer, -- and no, Grace, “It Ain’t Love, It’s Just Country And Western,” and
Where are you John H. Irsfeld and Frederick A. Raborg, Jr.?
Fleda Brown Jackson, please get it touch . . . how I love your “How Kate Chopin Can Keep Her Heroine From Suicide.”
Jo-Anne Cappeluti, where are you?
And it with regret that we say that Harry Myers, too has passed away. Thank you for your poem, “Rockpile” – and true,
The devil was mad –
to vent his ire . . .
And lo, where are you Daniel W. Rasmus, Ramona Weeks, David Spicer, Jay S. Paul, and James Blacksher? Last time I heard from you Jim, you were in Birmingham, Alabama. Remember when we used to go to Vivian Smallwood’s house and she would critique our poetry? She was a hard taskmaster – but oh to be in her presence and share poetry.
Enid S. Shomer, get in touch. Your poem “The Moment” indicates that at this time, this moment, we would like for you to connect with Negative Capability Press: negativecapabilitypress.org.
Where are you L. Brian Stephanie von Lackum Henkel, Byrd, and where are you Mary Jo Pride?
Lowery Varnado passed away in May of this year. Negative Capability Press loved his poetry and prose. Always and ever Lowery was a gentleman, a scholar, a fine writer.
Ann Leatherwood conducted a splendid interview with Judith Richards, wife of the late Terry Cline. Judith lives in Fairhope, Alabama. Her latest novel, Thelonious Rising was released just a few weeks ago. It is about nine-year-old Thelonious Monk DeCay who lives in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward with his grandmother. His mother is dead, and his father is missing. This is a story of heartbreak, hope, and the strength of the human spirit – set in New Orleans in the days leading up to and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kudos, Judith. Negative Capability Press loves this book. Ann Leatherwood lives in Mobile, Alabama and used to teach at the University of South Alabama.
Negative Capability Press would like to hear from our writers – and from our readers as well. Thank you for being a part of our literary family.
Sue Walker, Publisher
Negative Capability Press