For our Spring 2019 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by artist Delano Dunn) there is a special section that presents collaborative writing, which is writing that multiple artist’s crafted. As a way to celebrate the successful launch of our 17th issue, we’ve asked some of students, faculty, and alumni to join in and construct a piece, or multiple, that they created with their peers.
Presented below is a segment of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, and a collection of fantastic collaboratively written pieces by some of our very own editors of Jet Fuel Review as well as some members of the Lewis University community. In summation, each of these pieces remain as a showcase of the bridge of collaboration and we are excited to present this talent.
Inside our new Spring 2018 issue of Jet Fuel Review (with cover art by Australian artist Jim Tsinganos), you will find a special section that specifically highlights a particular style of poem known as the cento, which is a unique form in which an author creates a piece by stitching together lines borrowed only from the works of others. To help kick-off the launch celebration of our 15th issue, we’ve asked some of our own to join in on the fun and construct a piece or two themselves.
Presented below is a portion of the Special Section’s introduction as written by JFR Assistant Managing Editor, Zakiya Cowan, followed by a collection of wonderful centos written by not only the editors of Jet Fuel Review but also some members of the Lewis University community at large. A few of the writers included here are experienced veterans of the genre, others are amateurs, and some have never written a poem in their adult life. However, each piece remains a showcase of talent and form that we are incredibly excited to share with you.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor
The Jet Fuel Review editors are excited to share with you the noteworthy gem of Issue 15, our cento collection. “Cento” is Latin for “patchwork,” and in terms of poetic form, a cento is a “patchwork” of lines taken from various works. According to the introduction of Hosidius Geta’s “Medea:” A Virgilian Cento, by Joseph J. Mooney, Geta’s “Medea” is the first recorded cento, dating back between 200 C.E. and 300 A.D. Classified as a Virgilian cento, “Medea” is composed of lines from works by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. A Frankenstein-like composition, each line is carefully sutured to the next in order to create thought-provoking images and metaphors that seamlessly weld with one another, and ultimately crafts a piece that pays homage to other’s work while creating a new text.
We hope you both enjoy and appreciate the thoughtful artistry that is involved when constructing the cento, and hopefully discover a newfound love for this longstanding, intricate form.
An introductory note on the story “Four Points and a Necklace” by Sharon Houk
For me, the genre of flash fiction is a delicious combination of poetry and storytelling. In China, this type of miniature story is called “smoke long,” meaning you can read it in the same amount of time it takes to smoke a cigarette. You can’t waste time. Every word counts. It reaches beyond itself.
“Four Points and a Necklace” was inspired by an x-ray. I was told to get dressed after four injections were fluoroscopically guided into my neck vertebrae, but instead I snapped a photo of the image remaining on the monitor. My neck: with four points and a necklace. Inspiration can come from anywhere: a picture, a phrase, a hat. Frankly, I have about five lifetimes of inspiration already backlogged. I’m never at a loss when I need a catalyst for writing.
The thing that tips inspiration into an actual piece of writing is some problem. I never write just to write. I write to solve problems. I write to understand something that is, for me, just beyond language. I mix fiction and experience and comedy and I don’t stop until I’ve said, “That’s it!” That was the thing. That thing. And sometimes other people find it entertaining, too, and all in the time it takes them to smoke a cigarette.
Sharon Houk is Adjunct Faculty in the department of Math & Computer Science.
An introductory note on ekphrastic poetry (“Artists at Their Easels” ) by Dr. Michael Cunningham:
I have been interested in portraiture, artists’ renderings of the human face and figure. And I am interested in self representation, especially in the two forms where it is commonly found: the memoir/autobiography and in paint.
My “Artists at Their Easels” project is a result of the convergence of these two interests. At first the subjects came to me; for a long time I have been familiar with and provoked by the mischievous Rene Magritte’s “Clairvoyance.” The same is true for Jan Vermeer’s “The Artist in His Studio.” I have been fascinated by the photography of Vivian Maier, the North Shore nanny who shot thousands of street scenes in Chicago at the middle of the 20th century, none of which were reproduced until her negatives and proof sheets were discovered at a garage sale in the last decade. I was delight to find that, in some cases, Maier had turned the camera on herself, capturing her fleeting image in a huge department store window.
In other cases, I have deliberately looked for self-portraits in studio settings. I was familiar with the work of British avant-gardist Lucian Freud, but didn’t know that he had done self-portraits until I investigated.
If the limited number of poems that comprise this project can be classified, it would be in this way: poems in which the artist speaks and those in which an observer speaks. In the first category, I am challenged to be a good mind reader, that is, to take what information I may gather about the artist and imagine what he or she might be thinking. The poem about the Frida Kahlo painting shown here is such an instance. My research is not extensive. Though I have seen and enjoyed “Frida,” the 2002 biopic, and have seen a number of exhibits of her work and that of her contemporaries at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, I have not read Hayden Herrara’s biography. I suppose that this leaves me open to the charge of “historical error,” but then complete fidelity is not my goal. The Frida who speaks in this poem is the Frida that I imagine.
In fashioning poems in the second category –- those about viewer responses – I rely on my own engagement with the poems. The speaker in these poems is some version of myself. The voice found in the poem about Vermeer is close to my own. It’s me that finds something intriguing about the use of red, an unusual color in the painter’s palette. The voice that you hear in the poem about the naked and aging Lucian Freud is my own; in the painting I find an image of my own increasingly decrepit form.
Dr. Michael Cunningham is the Director of the Lewis University Arts & Ideas program.
An introductory note on the poem “After the dishes are done” by Harold McCay
The spilling of wine has a proud history as a metaphor going back at least as far as Euripides. Medea refers to the stain on her hand as the crushed grapes of the wine she has prepared for Jason. And, there is, of course, the wine of the sacrament. And on and on. This is not in that vein. Here, the cigar may just be a cigar. This once had a working title of “In Lieu of the Evening News.” But I felt it imposed. Like an attempt to compete with Dover Beach. Ignorant armies abound, for sure. And they can’t be ignored. But neither can trivialities. Trivialities may be trivial, but that doesn’t mean they’re insignificant. Perhaps.
Harold McCay is a professor in the Theater Department at Lewis University.
If you could travel anywhere, where would your destination be?
I have longed to travel to China for thirty years because of the amazing arts, history, beauty, and my curiosity regarding Chinese literature. Ten years ago, I was so fortunate to travel to both China and Hong Kong. I accompanied some of the Lewis University Business Department faculty members and their students, who were studying international business there.
While in Hong Kong, we all took a river cruise, which was the inspiration for the poem below.