, , , , , , , ,

What were the most-read stories/poems/essays/reviews on Cleaver during 2015? We checked our stats and found an eclectic and healthy mix of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, craft essays, and visual narrative! Dip in an enjoy!

shitty first drafts1. RE-THINKING THE SHITTY FIRST DRAFT, craft essay by George Dila (published January 7, 2015)
I do not write shitty first drafts. In fact, that phrase, inspired by Ernest Hemingway, popularized by Anne Lamott, offends me—both the idea of thinking of my own work this way, and also that word itself, shitty, to my ear an ugly and repellent adjective. What does the phrase mean, though? To quote the wonderful Miss Lamott, from her book-that-everyone-has-read, Bird by Bird, “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”  read more…

My-Persona2. MY PERSONA, poem by Cynthia Atkins (from Issue 11, September 2015)
I carried my persona
in a brown paper bag. It held
shreds of lint and one hair
that the comb forgot—My persona
has a pecking order. Its first name
rhymes with self—Always the last in line.
My persona is filled with
yearning. It shipped off on a garbage
of barge, and landed with a din in
the Witness Protection Program.
My persona hid under a shamrock
in DUMBO—My mural penned
by a black-gloved hand. It lay chalk flat
on a red brick building…read more…

3. THE EMPATHY MACHINEThe Empathy Machine, visual narrative by Kelly McQuain (from Issue 11, September 2015)
“How did you spend your summer?” is the theme my schoolteachers used to ask us to write on when September came and we shuffled into our wooden desks with new lunchboxes and freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils. As summer 2015 winds to a close, I’m reflecting on the what’s preoccupied me for so much of it: the purpose I find in art making, and the specters of poets like Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place, whose recent projects have cast a pall over the field of poetics this year due to their clumsy handling of identity politics—at a time when the country is still smarting from recent wounds and suffering new traumas on what feels like a daily basis….read more…

Undoing-the-Demos4. UNDOING THE DEMOS: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution by Wendy Brown, book review by Irami Osei-Frimpong (published March 16, 2015)…Those of us who care about democracy wonder if democratic self-determination—whether defined minimally as self-rule, or, more robustly, as participating in popular sovereignty—is extinguished when one’s vote is determined by the bond market and its assessments. This is the question U.C. Berkeley Professor Wendy Brown explores in her latest book, Undoing the Demos. Moody’s does not have a citizen’s concern for public schools, parks, museums, local ecology, or Chicago’s other common institutions. Yet these are the political conditions through which citizens find meaning in their lives. For those of us who care about democracy, the worry is whether the authority of finance capital on our political imagination relegates democratic citizenship to being simply the medium through which the investment market controls public life…read more…

Touched-by-the-Sky-ovid5. TOUCHED FROM THE SKY, creative nonfiction by Shannon Viola (from Issue 11, September 2015)
Whenever I read Tacitus in the Latin, I want to crawl underneath my bed with twelve cupcakes and curse myself to Dis and back. He’s a sassy Roman author. One time, Tacitus used an ablative absolute to lead into a result clause. You might not know what either an ablative absolute or a result clause is, and I wouldn’t expect you to, but trust me. Connecting those two grammatical constructions in Latin is mental. But Tacitus did it anyway. If you haven’t already guessed, I am a Classics major. If you don’t know what a Classics major is, that’s okay too. My roommate, Erica, has known my major since we moved in. One day in October, however, I was lounging on my bed, translating some Tacitus, when I peered up to Erica and said: “You know, I just really love Latin. Translating just makes me happy.”…read more…

Why-I-Write-unsplash6. WHY I WRITE Or, It’s The End of the World as We Know It and I Feel (Sorta) Fine, essay by J.G. McClure (published August 13, 2015)
I remember as a kid going to a science museum somewhere in Missouri. They had an exhibit—basically a rickety computer with MS Paint hooked up to a radio transmitter. The idea was this: you’d draw a picture, the transmitter would transmit it upward, and voila, your masterpiece would travel out among the stars, waiting for distant life-forms to receive it. Whether this actually happened or whether it’s merely a cocktail of youthful misunderstanding and nostalgia is beside the point. I remember it, and I remember the conviction that aliens would discover my rudimentary stick figure family and feel a pang of pathos for life on our little rock. This was a great deal of pressure. If the drawing was bad, what would that say about our society? The aliens who found my little sketch—the lines rough, the colors off—might decide not to visit us after all. Or worse, they might rain fiery death down on us all for my grave sins against representational art. (My sketches were not good. If that turns out to be what dooms our world, I apologize.)…read more…

women-and-losers-coffee-shop7. WOMEN AND LOSERS, creative nonfiction by Jessi Terson (from Issue 10, June 2015)
My dad always jokes that I can walk into a bar filled with ninety-nine decent men and one scumbag, and I’ll walk straight up to the scumbag. Call it my one magic power. If there’s a loser in the room, I will find him. And even worse, I’ll probably fall madly in love with him. Most of my ex-boyfriends have been reduced to anecdotes over the years. Bitter stories told over too many beers at closing time. Like my very first boyfriend—now universally known as the “two-stroker.” Because two strokes into losing our virginity to each other, he had a vision of Christ. And, of course, immediately dumped my Jewish ass. Mid-coitus. Then there’s my physically abusive upstairs neighbor who still likes to flush his toilet when I’m taking a shower. As well as the homeless guy who spent all my money. There’s the gambler who started dating my best friend one week after I got out of the hospital. And the the one who told me he wanted to marry me when we were seventeen….read more…

Alina-Svetlana8. ALINA, short story by Svetlana Beggs (from Issue 10, June 2015)
When I was young and living in San Francisco’s Sunset District with a roommate, I had a job selling underwear at Neiman Marcus. If I were to speak of this job with more reverence I would say that I sold “intimate apparel.” But “underwear” is more honest and also closer to “undercover,” because that’s what I was, an incognito undergraduate philosophy major, covered up by a lot of expensive underwear. I had to be a good salesperson to an occasional businessman who came in to grope La Perla panties (at $130 apiece). These men would ask, in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, “Where is the nearest restroom?” And I would say, “Straight and then left, next to the children’s department.” One late night I was working alone and had to close the register. I was putting bras back on their hangers. When I looked up, I saw a very attractive woman who dared to examine underwear a few minutes before the store had to close….read more

God-User-Reviews_Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam9. GOD: USER REVIEWS, fiction by Diane Arieff (from Issue 11, September 2015)
Contact Information: Reachable via lamentation, group prayer, rhythmic chant, written appeal, liturgical recitation, meditative outreach, dance, selected hallucinogens and dark night of the soul.
Note: In some markets, DBA as Allah, Krishna, Christ, Nyame, Ein Sof, Shiva, Jehovah, Yahweh, Creator, Brahma, HaShem, Shakti, et al. For a complete list, visit our website:www.AllKnowing1.com
Business Description: As humankind’s premier incorporeal source for moral guidance and answers to your ontological questions, God has provided supplicants with top-quality service for millennia. Equally at home with small-scale projects or massive upheavals, God combines the omniscience you’ve come to expect with an awe-inspiring arbitrariness you’ve learned to appreciate. Loyal adherents enjoy the peace of mind that comes with access to a broad range of services and a set of ritual practices tailored to your family, cultural heritage, lifestyle, region, and aesthetic sensibilities. Crews of God’s highly trained professionals are prepared to answer your questions and assist you in accomplishing your desired result. So whether you’re a neophyte, reformer, scholar, mystic, traditionalist, weekend dabbler, zealot or curious skeptic, find out today why God is the industry leader in Divine Wisdom. God is Holy, Perfect, Just, Merciful, Indivisible, Genderless and Eternal. Accept no substitutes. Family owned and operated….read more…

The-Scapegoat10. THE SCAPEGOAT by Sophia Nikolaideou, book review by Nathaniel Popkin, (published January 27, 2015) As I begin to write this on January 20, 2015, the news from Buenos Aires isn’t good. Albert Nisman, the federal prosecutor assigned to finally uncover the truth about the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, a Jewish community center, was found dead in his apartment. Nisman was about to reveal a high-level government conspiracy to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing, which killed 85 people. Argentina has long struggled with corruption and politicization of its government institutions, making it almost impossible for the nation to confront its demons—from sheltering Nazis to the 1970s/1980s rounding up and killing of leftists, communists, intellectuals, and Jews who became known as the desaparecidos opposed to the ruling right wing Junto. The powerful are usually protected….read more…