Bramble Winter 2019 print issue now available.
From the Editors
“Memory filters feelings, purifies them, and transmutes even painfully realistic memories into poetry,” wrote Constantin Stanislavki in his classic acting text An Actor Prepares (1936, p.173). He added that Time intensifies good and bad memories, but allows the commonplace to disappear. These observations reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister years ago. We were excited about an upcoming family vacation, and she said that when she told my niece Marie we were going to the lake again, Marie replied, “Will Grandpa bring Snickers?” My sister and I were struck by the fact that we had forgotten that our dad had, indeed, brought Snickers bars, but Marie, who had only been 18 months old on that previous vacation, had filed that memory and remembered it for a year! The candy bars were ordinary enough to disappear from our adult minds, but to Marie a bag of Snickers bars qualified as a good memory that became even better filtered by time.
Now I picture her holding a candy bar twice the size of her little hands, her hair blonder than it ever was, and her eyes impossibly blue! As I read and reread the many poems submitted in response to this prompt, the poets’ ability to bring commonplace, Snickers bar memories to life made the task a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. I identified with little girls irritating their teacher by punctuating with circles and with the danger inherent in the knowledge that this dark March morning brings the black ice. I also connected with lines that every nurturing person will understand, a warning that there will come a day
When screams no longer ring
like church bells from the holiest of instruments.
A child’s voice, begging me to join them
in worship of a fleeting summer’s day.
The only negative part of reading the submissions was that Jeffrey and I were unable to fit as many of them as we would have liked into this issue of Bramble.
When I think about memory, I am amazed at the fact that my sister’s memory and my memory of the same events are totally different or that one of us remembers an event vividly and the other does not recall it at all. A few years ago, my sister told me that when the two of us were a bit much, Mom would hop in the car, back down the drive-way, and pretend she was leaving us. According to my sister, she and I would stand in the living room helplessly watching through the picture window. Yes, I know this sounds like a crazy child-rearing technique, but the thing is, I have no recollection of it! Maybe, since I was older than my sister, I wasn’t traumatized because I didn’t take it seriously and knew Mom was just being Mom! Anyway, the experience was never stored in my memory, but there might be the potential for a poem anyway since I now have the memory of the conversation
with my sister.
It makes me wonder, however, about how many poems will never be written because a memory slipped through the cracks in time. Never the less, the extremes of memory that provide fodder for the creative mind filled the submissions for this issue of Bramble: juice dribbles warm from chins/we laugh, and I sniff my sleeves at bedtime/pressing my nose into my pajama cuffs. These are hunky-dory, blue ribbon memories in contrast to, A girl bursts into our room/Joanie’s house is burning and I hear their screams from behind me,/high-pitched and breathless, lines that capture jolting and disturbing memories.
All of these memories contributed to the creation of good poems, which is why I enjoyed reading the submissions and choosing the ones that best captured those memories. The hardest part was deciding which poems would make the final cut. Thank you for sharing your poems. I hope you enjoy reading this issue of Bramble as much as Joan and I enjoyed creating it for you.
Guest Editors, Joan & Jeffrey Johannes
Jeffrey and Joan Wiese Johannes have been active in Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets for many years and were the co-editors of the 2012 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. Jeffrey has a chapbook, Ritual for Beginning Again, and poems in numerous anthologies and journals, including Nimrod, Modern Haiku, English Journal, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendars, Simul: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, Poems of the Night Sky, Allegro & Adagio Dance Anthology, and Bramble. He won the Hal Grutzmacher Poetry Award sponsored by Peninsula Pulse and Triad contests sponsored by WFOP. Joan has also won Triad contests and the Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest. Her third chapbook, Sensible Shoes, was the winner of the John and Miriam Morris Chapbook Contest sponsored by the Mississippi Valley Poetry Society, and her fourth chapbook He Thought the Periodic Table Was a Portrait of God was published by Finishing Line Press. After teaching high school for 34 years, they are enjoying retirement in Port Edwards where they live with their golden retriever Sophie and too many collections to dust, but as Picasso said, “Dust is God’s way of protecting things!”
Joan & Jeffrey Johannes
Cover Art is Leah Fargo’s Birthday Presence. It is a 4’ x 3’ oil on wood.
You were mistaken when you believed there is no Santa Claus.
He is a metaphor for light.
But the existential dread is always the same; Google told me Jesus would have his birthday party in May.
I stuffed anxiety into a party hat and thought my professor was a liar because His lectures rang like sermons on reality.
He made me evangelize a vegetable, so I asked Google which one is God’s favorite.
I received 100 million correct responses, so I asked God, and He declared, "THE SWEET POTATO."
Of course, I thought. So rich in Potassium.
And I received a "B minus" for my revelation.
Maybe Jane Goodall is the star in the East we should follow.
She's made of Hydrogen and Oxygen and is totally omniscient.
She knows when you are sleeping, and why.
Jane showed me a magic trick: she poured water into a hat, and it fermented.
I never doubted that a Sweet Potato was God
because I could hold it in my hand like a lump of coal.
You were mistaken when you believed there is no Santa Claus.
Jane Goodall is a metaphor for light.
Leah Fargo graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2015 and has since devoted her time to painting absurdist mindscapes out of her apartment in Minneapolis. Some of her work will be on display February 1st - March 15th for the show Give the Best That You Have In You: A UWEC Alumni Show at the James W. Hanson Gallery at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Her paintings can also be found online at www.leahfargo.com