Posts Tagged ‘Magnolia: Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature’

Karen Connelly and The Lizard Cage

July 21, 2012

Why hadn’t I known about Karen Connelly and her novel before? With my involvement in the anti-torture movement and with exiles and refugees, how on earth did I miss such a powerful novel about a political prisoner in Burma? I only learned about it after Connelly chose a story of mine for Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature. I figured then I should find out about her.

The Lizard Cage stunned me: its language, its knowledge and depth of understanding. It’s the sort of book that always makes me wonder how a mere human being could have written it. I immediately ordered a copy for Duc Ta. This is what we’ve talked about in the past: how to survive in prison, not just physically, but psychologically and spiritually. He–the essence of him–survives as Connelly’s protagonist Teza does: through meditation and Buddhist practice, his commitment to feeling compassion and forgiveness for those who put him where he is and who commit brutality around him, his attempts to find meaning in his life by bringing whatever help he can to others.

Duc, facing a life sentence, has spent only one year in solitary in a California prison. Connelly’s protagonist, Teza, faces twenty years in solitary confinement. During that one year, Duc was forbidden to have books, magazines, newspapers. He could receive letters and the wonderful Leslie Neale photocopied whole novels a few double-sided pages at a time, and mailed an installment every day. He says that’s what kept him sane (along with origami paper she sent. Believe me, he made a lot of cranes.) In Connelly’s novel, Teza’s situation is more extreme in every way. Possession of pen or paper is a crime. He treasures and reads scraps of newsprint he finds inside cheroot filters.

Connelly doesn’t spare the reader any of the brutality suffered by her characters and yet she’s written a book of grace and singular beauty.

In the mail!

May 4, 2012

For a change, no junk mail, political flyers, or bills but instead Yalobusha Review: 17 containing “Sweet City,” about my days dancing inside a giant puppet in NYC, (and what a disturbing and wonderful cover)

and also the 2012 issue of Bacopa, with my poem “en mis brazos.”

It’s amazing to me how much is finding its way into print now and this summer:

Nobody Wakes Up Pretty will be available for pre-order any day now from Rainstorm Press. And Eloise J. Knapp‘s terrific cover is almost finalized. Stories coming out this summer: “Beyond the Rembrandt,” in June in Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature; “Jonathan’s Wake,” in July in upstreet (and especially glad that Jodi Paloni will be in the same issue); “Cybercat” in the Summerguide 2012 issues of Portland Monthly(and I’m looking forward to reading Editor/Publisher Colin Sargent’s novel, Museum of Human Beings, about Sacagawea’s son. Accepted but unscheduled: “True Love” in You, Me, and a Bit of We, an anthology from Chuffed Buff Books in the U.K. and “Two Bucks,” an essay inspired by two wildlife encounters during my time at the Orcas Island Writers Festival will be in the Winter Solstice issue of Kudzu Review next year.

But for me the biggest news was that Aqueous Books accepted my novel The Still Point. (Gotta love Aqueous for publishing Thomas Balazs.) It won’t be published till September 2014, but that’s no big deal when you consider it’s been making the rounds of publishers since 1978. I’m letting all my writer friends (and writers I don’t even know): Never give up!