Welcome to the second round of the Summer Flash Showdown, a series by none other than Sundress Publications! While our audience is likely chomping at the bit to hear our two winners from last week’s challenge, the running is too close. We’ll need some more time to make the many difficult decisions to come. For the remainder of this ongoing saga of flash fiction, tune in to The Wardrobe every Wednesday to find out who came out on top.
As you may know, all finalists will have the opportunity to write for the Grand Prize Round, in which the supreme victor could walk away with endless boasting privileges, publication of their story on The Wardrobe, and FIVE FREE SUNDRESS TITLES OF YOUR CHOOSING!!!
Also, round two’s winner will receive an Outspoken Tank (as well as publication on the blog.) The runner-up will also receive publication right here on The Wardrobe.
Without further adieu, this week’s honored judge is…
APRIL MICHELLE BRATTEN!!!
April Michelle Bratten was born in Marrero, Louisiana. The daughter of an USAF active duty father, April grew up traveling and living across the United States and abroad. Her travels have greatly influenced her writing over the years, particularly her three year residency at Incirlik Air Force Base, Turkey. She currently lives in Minot, North Dakota, where she received her BA in English from Minot State University. You can find her poetry in decomP, Southeast Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and others. April has been the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly since 2008 and she is also a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing, where she writes the article Three to Read. Three to Read highlights recent poetry and poets in online journals around the web. Aside from reading, editing, and writing, April loves beer, art, libraries, sports, camping, and bunny rabbits. You can find her on twitter: @aprilmbratten
THE CHALLENGE: Get Your Jersey On!
All submitted stories in this round must take place at a sporting event, whether it’s a grizzly tee ball match or a Stanley Cup Playoff. The conflict can hover in the stands or be slugged out on the field, but the setting must be at and during the game.
It must also be told from a second person p.o.v. We want your use of this perspective to immerse readers in the action with a unique abruptness. Command your readers to feel the sand on their soles mid-volley ball match or harness the crack of a bat in their palms.
For example, you might write as your first line, “Rise to pass 100 people for more $9 nachos for your gurgling belly. You trip and spill beer into the perm of the woman in front of you who has been on her smartphone for half the game.”
And no Mighty Ducks, tearful sentiments on the “love of the game.” Be a good sport and serve us lit that taps into deeper realities than a team winning a preconceived stand-off. Make the odds higher than the scoreboard.
Word limit is 450 for this round. Send all stories to email@example.com. RTF or DOCX file format preferred. Stories must be submitted by Friday, July 24th at midnight EST! [EDIT: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MONDAY, JULY 27TH AT MIDNIGHT]
We hope you knock this one out of…we’ll spare you any more sports puns. Go get em!
Sundress Publications is proud to announce the first installment of the Summer Flash Showdown. We hope to evoke your spontaneity, bend your imagination, and test your craft chops with the following five weeks of fiction. Tune in every Friday as we post the winning and runner-up stories respectively, decided by an all-star cast of judges from around the country. All finalists will have the opportunity to write for the Grand Prize Round, in which the supreme victor could walk away with endless boasting privileges, publication of their story on The Wardrobe, and FIVE FREE SUNDRESS TITLES OF YOUR CHOOSING!!!The prizes don’t begin and end there however. The first All-Star to write the most compelling interpretation of the following prompt will receive a free Sundress book, also of their choosing.This week’s honored judge will be…
Meagan Cass is the author of Range of Motion (Magic Helicopter Press). Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, DIAGRAM, Washington Square, and Puerto del Sol, among other places. Meagan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, publishing, literature, and composition. She founded and is a curator of the Shelterbelt Reading Series at UIS and serves as an assistant editor at Sundress Publications, coordinating fiction for the Best of the Net anthology. Over the last ten years, she has done editorial work for a range of national literary journals, including Stirring, Harpur Palate, and Rougarou, of which she is a founding editor.
THE CHALLENGE: Attack of the Picnic Ants!
The fine china pictured above is the work of German innovator and artist Eveyln Bracklow. One may be quick to assume the china has some tiny arthropod companions. Look closer.
Like the meticulously drawn bugs on the serving ware, we want you to defamiliarize and thereby revitalize the dilemma of ants at a picnic. In as many ways as a colony has legs, the ants of the story can be the kick-starters for a plot gone awry. Or maybe the ants could serve as a collective pivot into a flashback? Who knows?
What can you do with such an old issue? Will you skirt it and/or use it to add tension in subtext? How will you evolve the cute old problem and surprise us? Will you offer up magical realism or just the same old, pissed off couples on red checkerboard blankets? Don’t bore us with missing butter and carrion crumbs. Give us the goods. Give us characters to take back to our underground queen and cherish.
And in honor of the world’s smallest, yet mightiest heroes, all submitted stories should be no longer than 350 words. Make the microscopic details resonate in macroscopic ways.
Send all stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. RTF or DOCX file format preferred. Stories must be submitted by Friday, July 17th at midnight EST!
I find starting a poem within a traditional form constricting at times. How about you? This is why I love creating nonce forms. I often craft my own forms after I’ve written free verse drafts. Each poem contains the school that teaches me how to write it, and here are a couple of forms my revisions have taught me. They both effort to create symmetry and a structure throughout the poem, something I am preoccupied with in my work.
Dickinson’s Sashay, or Put on Your Syntax Hat!
This first one is a shout out to my lady, Emily Dickinson—it’s all about the dash. The stanzas alternate between tercets and couplets and each tercet contains a sentence with a non-essential clause demarcated by dashes. The non-essential clause begins after the first word of second line in each tercet, and the non-essential clauses end rhyming with each other. (Slant rhymes work great for this, too.) The dash is the end stop for that same line.
The two couplets contain one end rhyme each for the non-essential clauses as well, which creates an outward reverberation—the first couplet’s first line ends in a rhyme for the non-essential clauses, and the second couplet’s second line rhymes with those same clauses. The ending couplet also rhymes on the same scheme, thus lines 2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13 should be slant or traditionally rhymed. If you want to create a mood of misgiving, sidestepping, or interjection in your poem, this is an excellent form. Here’s my example:
The bluest feathers lie in my husband’s
eyes—bespeckled gold and green—
furrowing back young yet astigmatic.
His lashes flick as I preen
the gray at his temples.
What wisdom he has to grow old
now—for his aging to be seen—
like my grandfather who combed snow
at thirty, skipped dinners
to hum the microchip into being.
My husband opens each
lid—these, carrots now steamed—
aware of each meal and its meaning.
The Haunted Metronome, or It Won’t Go Away!
This second symmetrical form requires a poem drafted in two movements, with words that can be “borrowed” from one movement for the next. Sonnets or fractured sonnet forms work very well. Like a sonnet, this form works best if the poem takes on two different moods/voices in the two movements, which will ensure the repetition does not become overplayed. (A combination that works well is the speaker first observing and then acting, etc.)
When crafting your first movement, you will want to create many options for words that can be repeated later. The first movement of my sample poem below contains a bunch of rhyming words (though yours need not rhyme): “wind,” “behind,” “mine,” “brine,” “vine,” “time,” and “line.” Then, the second movement repeats only three of these: “time,” “vine,” “behind.” This also functions as a sort of inverse palindrome in that “behind” is mentioned in stanzas 1 and 6, “vine” in stanzas 2 and 5, and “time” in stanzas 3 and 4. You could also repeat this strategy to create a much longer poem, or even a sonnet-like crown. Here is my example:
Spiders wind behind limestone
at heights twice mine.
A black beach brines
the vine-choked wall,
times my dizzied pull
at the horizon line.
I tell you this time I am not afraid.
I click the teeth of seven gods,
catch vines in my throat
and spit them to the sea.
I tell you I spark into fire
the grass behind my strides.
Sandra Marchetti is the author of Confluence, a debut full-length poetry collection forthcoming from Sundress Publications, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from George Mason University. Eating Dog Press also published an illustrated edition of her essays and poetry, A Detail in the Landscape, and her first volume, The Canopy, won Midwest Writing Center’s Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest. Her work appears in The Journal, Subtropics, The Hollins Critic, Sugar House Review, Mid-American Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, Green Mountains Review, South Dakota Review, Phoebe, and elsewhere. She currently works as a writing teacher and freelance creative manuscript editor in her hometown of Chicago.
This essay was adapted from a presentation given at the 4th Annual Midyear Conference for Fulbright Students and Scholars in Southeast Asia; March 2012 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
I want to introduce a type of poem from Thailand’s classical theater, give an example of one in translation, and then encourage the other writers and poets here to see what they can do with it.
First of all, Thai classical theater is, like ballet, a dance-drama; for the most part, performers do not speak (in some forms of such theater, most are even masked), but rather enact myths and courtly romances through an intricate language of mime and gesture. The chui chai or transformation song is a set piece in these dramas, a demanding solo performance in which the actor portrays a character who has just changed his or her physical appearance, either cosmetically—into a superlative form of him or herself—or magically, into another figure altogether. The piece comes in two movements, first slow and then fast, and the accompanying lyrics, sung by a chorus offstage, describe the successful metamorphosis.
My favorite chui chai comes from the Ramakien, the Thai adaptation of the Ramayana, that 2,500-year old bull elephant of South and Southeast Asian literature. In one of the Ramakien‘s most popular episodes, the young Benyakai—her name suggests “of five forms”—is ordered by her uncle, the ten-headed ogre king, to assume the form of Sita, the most beautiful woman in the world. The uncle has abducted Sita from her rightful husband, the hero Rama, who is even then preparing an army to win her return. Benyakai, in the form of Sita, is to be found floating on the river that waters Rama’s camp, apparently dead, and thus fool Rama into quitting the siege.
The translator of a chui chai must solve several problems, not least of all how to start. Each transformation song begins with the words “chui chai,” which mean nothing on their own but serve only to announce that a chui chai is about to take place. Benyakai’s chui chai then goes on to make a declarative statement: “To go into audience with the King, you krid krai” (krid means “to cut” and refers to a graceful movement of the arm in which the hand is flat, fingers bent towards the wrist, and thus seems to “cut” the air. ) I was stumped how to render this until I decided to turn “Chui chai!” into a vocative—Oh, you who have transformed yourself—and the next line into a question. This was not a terrible stretch of my source material, for one of the most interesting features of the chui chai is that it allows the chorus, who otherwise have no part in the action of the drama, to directly address the character onstage, like a Greek chorus. In this way, transformation songs are very conscious of their own artificiality; a performer has assumed a persona that is assuming a third persona, and everyone is in on the illusion.
From there, after allowing myself the use of rhyme and meter to suggest a songlike quality (even though I knew I was transforming a text meant to be performed into one that would be primarily read) and a touch of archaic language to lend the right mood to the piece, the chui chai of Benyakai almost translated itself:
Thus transfigured, where are you going?
To seek the king.—Your each movement flowing,
you have so disguised your body
that you’ve become, for all the world,
like Lady Sita, the great beauty.
If Prince Rama sees you, this form taking,
you will wring his heart into breaking.
Such loveliness is yours, such grace,
whoever sees the beauty of your face
will dream it sleeping, and desire awake
to glimpse it again (his longing to slake!):
keen as an arrowhead against the skin
that grazes without, then pierces within
to make the whole chest ache.
Splendid lady, born of royalty:
how you have transformed your body
into the splendid Lady Sita!
If you the ten-faced king espies
a frenzy in his heart will rise
until he pining for you lies,
oh, splendid lady.
[This and the following stanza are set to a melody called “splendid lady,” and the lyrics thus address her as such or a variation thereof. This is true in all chui chai where the transforming character is female; when the character is male, he is inevitably on his way to court a splendid lady. Notice, too, that the two latter stanzas are shorter-lined than the first; this is also a feature of the Thai.]
Maiden, oh maiden tender,
your waist, your legs, your arms as slender
as an angel’s in their grace.
So lithe of limb within
a figure not your own
to the jeweled palace you pace
and your uncle’s throne.
Unfortunately, this and other chui chai must be accompanied with rather copious contextual notes when introduced to an audience unfamiliar with the characters and stories they originate from. I don’t suppose I’ll ever publish the “Chui Chai of Benyakai” in any medium on its own; it will have to be contained in an essay of some sort.
However, transformation is part and parcel of fabulous tales from around the world; Thailand by no means has monopoly over them. Can you imagine the chui chai of Snow White’s stepmother into an old hag peddling apples? Or of Cinderella as she leaves her sooty fireplace for the ball? (This fairy tale, I’m glad to report, has been adapted into a bawdy, all-male dance-drama by some students at Thailand’s College of Dramatic Arts—complete with glass slippers.) Or of the little mermaid into a human girl who, we recall, not only has her tongue cut out, but feels as if each step she takes is on a knifesblade? Thai chui chai are almost one-dimensional in their praise of beautiful transformations, but there is no reason that an adapted chui chai cannot be dark, even subversive. And how about the chui chai of Daphne into a laurel tree? Transformations into inanimate objects have never before been treated in Thai theater. Or Rosalind into Ganymede? Hera, when she borrows Aphrodite’s girdle to seduce Zeus? Jekyll into Hyde? Frankenstein’s monster out of miscellaneous body parts?
And there is no reason that, taken out of the Thai language, an English chui chai has to follow Thai metrical conventions, since it won’t be set to music anyway (or will it?). How about a chui chai in free verse? As a sonnet? A villanelle? The possibilities are endless.
For me, the chui chai of Benyakai will remain a favorite, mostly because in her story I find a most compelling metaphor for the act of poetic translation. Benyakai is tasked with turning herself into the mirror image of Sita, whose beauty, like Helen’s, ignited a war. How does one body, one text, rise to reflect the proportions, the contours, and the nuances, of another? How does it stretch, compress, contort itself into another living body? Chui chai! The translator of poetry deserves a transformation song, too.
Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation from 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. The winner of Lunch Ticket’s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts in 2014, Noh has work published or forthcoming in Structo, Pilgrimage, RHINO, Unsplendid, and others. He’d love to see your chui chai poems at email@example.com.