Issue 5 Guest Editor Announcement

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We here at Sobotka are excited to announce that Grant Garland will be joining us to help edit our fifth issue this winter. Grant is a graduate of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, former editor of Montage, founder of literary podcast Middle Literate, and contributed to our first issue back in 2014. We’re proud to have him on board as our first guest editor and can’t wait to see what lands in our submission pile for Issue 5!

GrantBW

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Wordsmith Wednesday: Wallace Stevens’ “Gubbinal”

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We are proud to have our words this week come from friend and Issue 4 contributor, Raul Clement.

“Gubbinal” by Wallace Stevens, is exactly the sort of poem I love – one whose surface simplicity gives way, on closer examination, to a great complexity of content and possible interpretations. Here is the poem in full:

“That strange flower, the sun,
 Is just what you say.
 Have it your way.
The world is ugly,
 And the people are sad.
That tuft of jungle feathers,
 That animal eye,
 Is just what you say.
That savage of fire,
 That seed,
 Have it your way.

The world is ugly, 
And the people are sad.”

I read this as a poem about how a certain pessimistic and unimaginative outlook fails to see the wonder of the world—and in doing so, actually diminishes that wonder.

The speaker of the poem sees the sun poetically, as a “strange flower.” But at the same time, with a bitter and sarcastic resignation, he tells the unnamed “you” to “have it your way.” In other words, according to the “you,” the sun is just the sun and nothing more.

The famous second stanza, repeated at the end of the poem, should not be interpreted literally—or at least not with a singular meaning. It does not represent the attitude of the speaker, but the attitude of the “you” he addresses. Stevens might have punctuated the poem like this:

That strange flower, the sun,
Is just what you say.
Have it your way:

“The world is ugly,
And the people are sad.”

To do so, however, would have reduced the secondary meaning. The world is indeed ugly, and the people are sad—but only because of people claiming this is the case. By leaving out quotation marks, Stevens allows for this double meaning.

There is so much more to analyze—the title, the rhyme and meter, etc.—but that could turn into a ten-page essay. That Stevens manages to pack so much into so few words, and with such simplicity, is a reminder of the great power of poetic compression.

– RC

Profile of Wallace Stevens Smiling

This is a portrait of the American poet Wallace Stevens, (1879-1955). He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for his in 1954. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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

Wordsmith Wednesday: Elliott Smith’s “Ballad of Big Nothing”

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Our words this Wednesday come from Elliott Smith’s song “Ballad of Big Nothing” off his record Either/Or (Kill Rock Stars, 1997).

The lyrics are:

“Do what you want to whenever you want to/
though it doesn’t mean a thing/
Big Nothing”

Smith is undoubtedly a master of commonplace melancholy, but these words speak to a ever-present psychic thread that pulls at my mind: life is inherently meaningless. All your desires and dreads are transient. Every personal triumph or tragedy only has as much importance as you ascribe to it. These lines always sound like a smirk in the face of people so bent on having what they perceive as freedom that they lose sight of the fact that your ability to do what you want doesn’t necessarily fulfill any ultimate end, but rather just gives you access to a million new beginnings. Real freedom probably lies somewhere between realizing there is no perfect, achievable end and being able to consciously choose which beginnings to ascribe meaning to. Oh, and I love the way he sings it.

– NR

ElliottSmith

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

Submissions for Issue 4

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Submissions for Issue 4 are open until February 14th, 2016!

Please send us your poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction!

Find full submission guidelines here!

Sobotka Issue 4 Submissions

Wordsmith Wednesday: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman”

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday comes from Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman.

It reads,

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

As much as we do learn at school, there is still infinite daily territory that education does not cover. Most of these things we learn how to deal with in other ways. Through viewing other people’s actions, through movies, or through the stories that we read. These are the places that we see other characters love, understand one another, and grow. These are the places where the guidelines of life are shown to us. These are the things that end up shaping us.

– KK

Gaiman