Wordsmith Wednesday: Octavio Paz’ “Although it is night”

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Our words this week come from the second and third sections of Octavio Paz’ poem “Although it is night” from his 1988 collection, A Tree Within.

The words are:

II

While I’m reading in Mexico City,
what time is it now in Moscow?
It’s late, it’s always late,
in history it is always night,
always the wrong time.
Solzhenitsyn writes,
the paper is burning, his writing goes on,
cruel dawn on a plain of bones.

I was a coward, I did not face evil,
and now the century confirms the philosopher:
Evil? A pair of eyes with no face,
an abundant void.
Evil:
a nobody somebody, a nothing something.

Did Stalin have a face?
Suspicion
ate his face and soul and will.
Fear populated his soulless night,
his insomnia decimated Russia.

III

The party is always right
Leon Trotsky

Stalin had no soul:
he had history.
Uninhabited Marshal without a face,
servant of nothing. Evil unmasked:
the maggot becomes Caesar. A ghost’s
triumph: his memorial marks a pit.
Nothingness is the great harder of nobodies.
And as for the others: evil takes away their faces
in the same unreal game that shuffles us all.
Circular suffering, circular guilt: the spool,
unwound, history relieves their pain
by killing them off. Discourse in a frozen knife:

Dialectic, the bloody solipsism
that invented the enemy from itself.

In a political era in which facts seem every day to be consciously ignored or subverted by superstition, it’s important to remember the lesson of history that blind faith in an authority, even of your flavor, is dangerous for the average person. Paranoia, suspicion, threats. Isolation and insolation. All common attributes for a brutal, detached dictator such as Stalin, the maggot become marshal, but not normal in a nation that prides itself on the ideals of freedom of speech, information, and thought. As partisanship further dominates political discourse, be careful to pledge allegiance to the president or the party rather than the people. Truth is more synthesis than genesis. We must resist the urge to invent reality from within ourselves rather than around ourselves. History and poetry may have some answers on how to do that.

– NR

opaz

Submissions for Issue 5

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Submissions for Issue 5 are open until October 16th!

Send us your poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction!

Find full submission guidelines here!

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Wordsmith Wednesday: Nas’ “One Love”

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Our words this week come from Nas’ track “One Love” off of his 1994 classic, Illmatic.

The lines are:

“But, yo, guess who got shot in the dome piece?
Jerome’s niece on her way home from Jones Beach
It’s bugged, plus Little Rob is selling drugs on the dime
Hanging out with young thugs that all carry 9s
And night time is more trife than ever
What up with Cormega? Did you see him? Are y’all together?”

The textual cadence of these words is only a shadow of the spoken delivery, but the internal rhymes and crisp colloquiality of Nas’ lyrics are undeniable. Illmatic is full of dense, image intensive verses but the stylized envisioning of letters to jailed friends found on “One Love” has always stood out to me. The conversational relation of urban tragedy/reality is presented with such familiarity and frankness that I instantly relate to the unnamed recipient of Nas’ news. I feel the sadness of a little girl from the neighborhood being shot dead while walking home. I feel the anger of knowing another young kid from the block is getting involved in the same nonsense that killed that innocent child. I feel the guarded closeness between separated male friends, the commrodary of shared struggle. The clear-eyed bitterness and empathetic realism in Nas’ lyrics on Illmatic is part of the reason the record is a masterpiece, but the unique creative vision and flawless execution on “One Love” make it a touchstone for urban storytelling in my eyes/ears/mind.

– NR

Nas

Issue 4 Available Now

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Issue 4 of Sobotka Literary Magazine is available now here!

Sincerest thanks to everyone who was made this issue possible, especially the writers. We’re excited for people to read some amazing work. Feel lit in your bones!

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Wordsmith Wednesday: Quarterbacks’ “Center”

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In anticipation of his forthcoming essays in Issue 4, we are proud to have our words this week provided by David Bersell.

For Wordsmith Wednesday, I’m looking at “Center,” from Quarterbacks’ self-titled album.

An excerpt:

“The night I first met you
We were dancing in the living room
And we kissed in front of everyone
I had waited two years to talk to you
I helped you move to your new house
We left handprints in the closet before we moved you out
I’m looking up at that room now
So I’m hoping that you come down

Because there’s such relief in coincidence
A universe that finally works out the way you always suspected
With yourself near the center”

After reading Amos Barshad’s fantastic profile of the band, I started listening to Quarterbacks songs before bed.

Like much of their work, “Center” describes a coming of age romance, balancing detail and brevity. It’s a story I’ve lived, have written too many times, am walking further away from the older I get—my first kiss was while slow dancing at a birthday party; I helped a girl pack and leave home every August until we weren’t kids anymore.

I listen for my favorite lines, after the narrative. “A universe that finally works out the way you’ve always suspected/with yourself near the center.” It’s a young hopeful thought that the speaker can’t resist. I hear the lyrics as a sustained note, a positive reflection of the Yeats lines Didion references in Slouching Towards Bethlehem: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

Before The Fader published Barshad’s article, Quarterbacks broke up. The band knew it would happen eventually. The bass player wanted to live with his girlfriend and play his own songs. The drummer’s anxiety made touring unbearable. The frontman was ready for a change, moved to Brooklyn, is looking for a teaching job, pays his bills delivering booze. There’s something beautiful about that, too.

– DB

qbs

Wordsmith Wednesday: Cursive’s “The Great Decay”

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday is an excerpt from Cursive’s song “The Great Decay” off their album Burst and Bloom.

It goes,

“This is the bed I’ve made/
This is the grave where I will lay/
These are the hands where I will bury my face.
I don’t believe in wasting time/
Searching for truth you never find/
Nobody moves we live in the great decay.
All these ghost towns share a name/
Anywhere, USA.
All these strangers look the same/
Day after day after day.”

Tim Kasher grasps at the mundane and uneventfulness that often encompasses life. The sameness that we experience and feel everywhere we go. Through these lyrics he points directly, with his index finger, at the parts of life that can tear us down and waste our time. This pointedness acts as a calling to break the cycle of monotony and progress forward toward a world, or even just a life, more exciting and different. To push past the tedium that wears one down and create a place unique from all the rest.

Cursive

Wordsmith Wednesday: Lorrie Moore’s “How to Talk to Your Mother”

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday comes from the short story “How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)” from Lorrie Moore​’s collection of short stories, Self-Help.

“1982. Without her, for years now, murmur at the defrosting refrigerator, “What?” “Huh?” “Shush now,” as it creaks, aches, groans, until the final ice block drops from the ceiling of the freezer like something vanquished.

Dream, and in your dreams babies with the personalities of dachshunds, fat as Macy balloons, float by the treetops.

The first permanent polyurethane heart is surgically implanted.

Someone upstairs is playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on the recorder. Now it’s “Oklahoma!” They must have a Rogers and Hammerstein book.”

Lorrie Moore taught me how to put you into a story. Not how to just create a character that you feel close to, but actually place the reader within the narrative. Make these memories their memories and these actions ones that they have chosen to make. You don’t just attempt to feel for a character, you feel for the situation that you have been placed in. She redefined writing for me.

– KK

Lorrie Moore