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

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: The Halo Benders’ “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain”

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Our Wordsmith Wednesday this week are from The Halo Benders‘ song “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain” off their album The Rebels Not In, released on K Records in 1998.
 
The lyrics are,
 
“I still confide in you almost every day,
Even though you’re not around”
 
Doug Martsch’s delivery of these lines pulls at my stomach strings, filling me with nostalgia and longing for formless memories. For anyone that has been separated from someone they love, whether through distance or death, these words articulate emotions simultaneously intangible and engulfing. They remind me of people I miss, some of which I know I’ll never speak to again. Thanks to everybody that talks to me, even if it’s only in my head.
– NR
The Halo Benders

Editors’ Note for Issue 3

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 3:

“Anxiety can either cripple or drive you.

It can drag you down like a stone, trapping you on the murky psychic riverbed to choke on seaweed and self-critique. It can be the palm that holds you underwater, screaming bubbles and scratching at the invisible force. It is the sound in the distance, the figure in the dark, the uncertainty of the answer to a difficult question. It is the thing that stops you from enjoying any taste of success by planting the thought of a more satisfying success just ahead yet unseen. It is FOMO and the neighborhood watch and small town racism and narrow-mindedness in all forms. It is the smoke break and the bitten-up fingertips and standing on the back porch at 4 am.

It can also be the motivation that forces you back to the surface, making you flap your arms until you figure out how to turn slapping hands into a doggy paddle into smooth strokes propelling you for as long as your mind muscles allow. Anxiety can feed off fear, turn frustration into fuel. It can be the foundation for great innovations, inspired music, transcendent literature. It is that thing that must be alleviated through expression, the need to take some internal pressure and spit it out into the world so that somebody else can chew on the idea for a while. It is the desire to find solutions.

The tricky conundrum is that anxiety can also suppress that expression, trapping everything inside your skull. What if what I think is stupid? What if what I made isn’t good? What if what I did isn’t important? What if people laugh in my face? What if they laugh behind my back? What if they laugh in the comments? What if nobody cares at all? Anxiety can be completely paralyzing to creativity, killing all motivation before the process has even begun. The effect can be especially fatal if the primary motivation is to create something impressive or cool in the eyes of others instead of trying to give a voice to that gnawing thought in your frontal lobe.

The real trap is allowing anxiety to breed off itself, choosing activities and developing habits that perpetuate rather than alleviate that stress weighing on your brain and strengthening that pressure pushing down from a place unseen. This seems to be the elemental basis for addiction, whether it be to drugs or beauty or success or anything else. They all appear born of the idea that acquisition or achievement of some formless, yet theoretically attainable, thing will take away the “bad stuff” i.e. the generalized anxiety associated with just being alive.

The catch of course is that if a little is good, then more must be better. And so we overdose. We want so desperately to relieve that near constant anxiety associated with not feeling good that we cease to even let the uncertainty enter our lives by developing habitual coping mechanisms. We get high. We apply makeup. We work to exhaustion. We check our phones incessantly, hoping for communication from a friend/acquaintance/news source/etc. We make sure the boogiemen of doubt and depression don’t creep into our minds by making sure every crevice is filled with entertainment or consumption or communication. We are constantly doing regardless of what is being done. Some may say we do these things to feel good, but it seems more likely we do them to not feel so bad. And there is a difference.

This magazine itself probably started as a way to relieve some anxieties we hadn’t wanted to face yet. Anxieties about achievement and value and creativity and success and death. The fear that we were just floating through life thoughtlessly, consuming without creating and, thus, feeling empty and unsatisfied. A looming uneasiness that we were stagnant, being pushed in directions we didn’t want to go because we were ourselves directionless. Neither of us had dreams of starting a literary magazine. This isn’t a career move or a resume builder. This isn’t about social capital or appearing intelligent to our peers. This isn’t self-worship. This is two lost people on a park bench. This is sure why not. This is screaming into the void.  This is the need to do something.

The pieces of writing included in this issue are great examples of why we chose literature as our something rather than another medium. They make us feel connected to the authors, the world around us, and ourselves. They are nuanced and subtle yet moving, just as the more vivid parts of life often are. They relieve some of our own existential anxieties by giving us proof that people are finding ways to live despite the ever-present pressures. They inspire us to try and do the same.

Above all, they make us feel human and unalone. We hope they do the same for you.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Chicago/Nashville, October 2015″

Sobotka Issue 3 Editors' Note

Wordsmith Wednesday: Lupe Fiasco’s “Intruder Alert”

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This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday is a verse from Lupe Fiasco‘s “Intruder Alert” off his 2007 album, “The Cool,” and reads:

“Famine striking his homeland/
and no social standing/
in the economic pecking order/
emergency relief distribution systems is in disorder/
he’s checking water/
making sure it’s safe enough for his daughter/
to float across in the boat he built/
hopefully strong enough to support her/
praying border patrols don’t catch her/
and process and deport her/
before she reach the shore of the land of the free/
where they feed you/
treat you like equals/
deceive you/
stamp you and call you illegal”

In one verse, Wasalu Jaco (aka Lupe Fiasco) concentrates a complex sociopolitical issue down to its human core. Some of the children I teach now are refugees from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, but I have this song to thank for helping me empathize with those in this situation years before I’d met anyone who’d lived through it. As the debate about immigration policy remains a staple of U.S. presidential platforms, I continue to come back to these words for a personal perspective rather than political posturing.

– NR

Lupe Fiasco

Issue 2 Available Now

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Issue 2 of Sobotka Literary Magazine is available now at:

http://sobotkaliterarymagazine.bigcartel.com/product/issue-2

Sincere thanks to everyone for the overwhelming support during the process of putting this issue together. We can’t tell you how much it means to us.

Issue2FrontCoverFinal

Editors’ Note for Issue 2

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 2:

“At the time this note is being written, spring has officially sprung.

As the sun begins to hang a bit longer in the sky each evening, melting the snow and seasonal depression into the softening earth, we again find ourselves tempted out of our apartments, houses, and other human habitats back into the world, moving among and around each other on city streets and country roads like ants in sidewalk cracks.

It’s been a long winter since we published our first issue, characteristically cold and grey, with plenty of time spent looking at the skeletons of trees through thick panes of glass. After months of struggling against the stir crazy, alone in our apartments in separate cities, this spring seems to serve as the type of rebirth for the two of us that it so commonly does in literature. Whether it’s the sounds of life floating in through an open window, the relief a warm weekend provides from the pressures of full-time employment, or the vitality that comes from soaking up some Vitamin D, this season teems with a sense of rediscovery and renewal that is much welcome after the duotone days of winter. We want to be back out among the other ants in our shorts and sunglasses, gathering around barbeques, back alleys, and bonfires.

It is often in these moments of human convergence and conversation that we find meaning. Not the type of meaning that comes from buying a new t-shirt or double-tapping a phone screen. The type of meaning that makes you stop looking and actually see the people around you, to move past the point of distant empathy to that of dirty, direct connection.

Curating that connection can sometimes be difficult because it can remind us of one the most basic yet buried understandings that we have as sentient animals: we as individuals are not special. We do not have Ultimate Purpose. We are not “chosen” in any celestial sense. Our lives do not inherently possess any more value than that of the dogs at our feet or the trees on our lawn. We will exist, just as the leaves on that oak, for a limited time, branching out, becoming strong, supple yet green with youth. And just as variation in nature, both inherent and external, transforms each leaf as it ages, we too take on a reddish hue or tones of yellow until finally we fall down among the others to be raked and bagged into a twenty gallon black garbage bag. The universe will not be deeply affected by our Instagram posts or our new haircuts. We are not important to the gas on a planet revolving around a distant star.

This should not depress us.

Our inherent insignificance in relation to the whole of the never-ending blackness that surrounds us is OK. Just because we haven’t been delicately painted into the scene by an Almighty artist does not mean that the piece does not possess beauty or, at very least, the possibility of such. Once we realize that our actions and reactions are not part of a predetermined final product, designed and developed towards some Higher Purpose, we are free to be inspired to pick up the brush and use our experiential palette to add a bit of our own color to the small world constantly being reworked around us. The pleasure cannot come from our product, since it will undoubtedly be amended or painted over by the next person. It is possible, however, to take pride in the idea that our addition to the mural in our tiny spinning corner of the universe may inspire a fellow or future human to connect with our experience and create their own mark alongside ours, unified yet unique.

The authors featured on the following pages used their palettes to produce pieces that vary in style and substance, but their coalescence lies in the fact that they provide distinct and deft voices to a literary conversation without end. The stories, poems, and essay included in this issue all made us feel as though we were gaining perspective into another person’s creation or conceptualization of meaning; thus, the compilation and facilitation of conversation between these works helped us construct meaning for ourselves through the minds of others.

We thank you for choosing to spend some money and time on this collection of written words. We’d like to remind you that you likely won’t find your purpose in a cereal box, your bank account, or a bottle, but you might just find it in a conversation with a friend, whether across a bonfire or in the pages of a book.

As always, we hope this makes you feel human and unalone.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Urbana/Nashville, March 2015″

We send our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in the making of this magazine, whether directly or indirectly. The submissions, support, and encouragement we have received through this project has truly inspired us. We hope Issue 2 can return the favor soon. Thank you.

Editor's Note Issue 2