Introducing “At the Cultural Ephemera Association National Conference” by Robert Olen Butler

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Last week I did an exercise in the poetry class I teach: we came up with ten lists of ten words that could fall under the category of love. In the first column, we started with some familiar images, like “heart-shaped boxes of chocolates” and “roses,” but by the tenth column we had images like “garlic” and “spider webs.” In the wake of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be useful for my students to remember that love can be “butterflies” or “light,” but it can also extend into stranger, more complex notions, ranging from “cold potato soup” to “stretch marks” (their suggestions, not mine).

When I think of uniquely expressed love, I think of Robert Olen Butler’s short story, “At The Cultural Ephemera Association National Conference.” The story explores the familiar concept of love, but does so in an unfamiliar way. Butler details the meeting of the two main characters, Bill and Cleo, alternating between their voices to create a complete narrative. Each character is at the conference referred to in the title to present on a piece of paper ephemera—Bill’s is an advertising card featuring a caricature of nineteenth-century actress Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, Cleo’s is a Bourneville cocoa trading card depicting the Titanic. Upon my first reading, I was immediately struck by how the story made the delicate moment of connecting with another person so personal, yet accessible. The language, characters, and emotional impact are spot-on, and while it’s technically fiction, this four-and-a-half-page piece has the linguistic punch of a finely tuned poem.

I’ve never read a piece of short fiction that creates such a full love story in such a short space, and one that so richly suggests the transcendence of personal connection in the context of what is unexpected, how things are created and forgotten, and the smallest details—the Cadbury Titanic in the Bournville cocoa tin. Instead of picking up yet another Hallmark card, next time you want to write your love, think of sending a lasting bit of cultural ephemera.

Laurel Louise Jones,
Ecotone Poetry Editor

John Rybicki Begins North Carolina Book Tour

Lookout is proud to announce that poet and Lookout author John Rybicki will be heading out on a North Carolina tour this coming week. The tour, made possible with generous support from the North Carolina Arts Council, will include stops at oncology centers, a library, and a bookstore.

Planning this tour for John has been such a pleasure, and we are so excited about creating some new platforms for him to read his incredible work and to share his powerful messages of grief, hope, and healing.

(For the full tour details, including venue addresses, please go to http://www.lookout.org/Rybickireadings.html.)

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Above: Tour kits sent to reading venues

On the evening of Sunday, April 7, John will be a guest on “That Cancer Show,” which airs from 8 – 9 p.m. on WPTF 680 AM in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and WSJS 600 AM in the Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point area. You can listen to the program on the “That Cancer Show” website: http://www.cancersupport4u.org/that-cancer-showtrade.html. “That Cancer Show” is a program from Cornucopia Cancer Support Center in Durham.

On Monday, April 8, John will be offering a 6 p.m. workshop/poetry discussion and 7 p.m. reading at the Morrison Regional Library in Charlotte.

John will stay in Charlotte for the night of Tuesday, April 9, too, with an appearance at Levine Cancer Institute. This reading and program will be focused on the healing arts, and nurses, doctors, patients, families, and anyone whose life has been impacted by cancer are encouraged to attend. (Like the other stops on the tour, this event is also open to the public.)

On Wednesday, John will head to the Triangle. On the evening of Wednesday, April 10, he’ll be giving a reading at Cornucopia Cancer Support Center in Durham.

On Thursday, April 11, he’ll be reading alongside former NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer and the poet John Amen at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. Feel free to join the poets for an informal discussion at Foster’s Market, next door to the bookstore, at 6 p.m. The official program at Flyleaf will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Each of the above events is open to the public. John’s Lookout title, the poetry collection When All the World Is Old, is will be available for sale at each event, and you’ll have the option to get your book signed.

John’s tour will conclude on Saturday, April 13, when he gives a presentation at the North Carolina Writers’ Network Conference at University of North Carolina Greensboro. Pre-registration is required for this event.

If you’re able to attend any of these events, please let us know what you think. We can’t wait for the tour to begin. Many thanks to the wonderful staff members at Morrison, Levine, Cornucopia, and Flyleaf for generously hosting us. See you on the road!

from When All the World is Old, from Lookout Books

Type treatment by Eric Tran, Lookout intern

from When All the World is Old, from Lookout Books

Type treatment by Eric Tran, Lookout intern

Lookout Books’ Guide to Valentine’s Day Pt 3

Write them a beautiful line, like John Rybicki. (Hey, it won’t cost you anything!)

(Type treatment by Lookout intern Eric Tran)

Lookout Books’ Guide to Valentine’s Day Pt 3

Write them a beautiful line, like John Rybicki. (Hey, it won’t cost you anything!)

(Type treatment by Lookout intern Eric Tran)

from When All the World is Old, by John Rybicki
published by Lookout Books
—Anna Sutton, Lookout Intern

from When All the World is Old, by John Rybicki

published by Lookout Books

—Anna Sutton, Lookout Intern

Best of luck to our MFA students as they raise money for travel and outreach programs! Check out *Share the Word and help them reach their goal.

Lookout Books poet John Rybicki will be doing a reading and workshop at Haverford College next week.

Lookout Books poet John Rybicki will be doing a reading and workshop at Haverford College next week.

John Keats’s Porridge: The Favorite Recipes of Beloved Poets
(via Brain Pickings)
In late April of 1973, poet and self-taught chef Victoria McCabe decided to formalize the relationship and mailed form letter requests to 250 of the era’s leading poets, asking them to share their favorite recipes.
Allen Ginsberg offers his uncompromising Borsch recipe:

Boil 2 big bunches of chopped beets and beet greens for one hour in two quarts of water with a little salt and a bay leaf, an one cup of sugar as for lemonade. When cooked, add enough lemon to balance the sugar, as for lemonade (4 or 5 lemons or more).
Icy chill; serve with hot boiled potatoes on side and a dollop of sour cream in the middle of red cold beet soup. On side also: spring salad (tomatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers).

John Keats’s Porridge: The Favorite Recipes of Beloved Poets

(via Brain Pickings)

In late April of 1973, poet and self-taught chef Victoria McCabe decided to formalize the relationship and mailed form letter requests to 250 of the era’s leading poets, asking them to share their favorite recipes.

Allen Ginsberg offers his uncompromising Borsch recipe:

Boil 2 big bunches of chopped beets and beet greens for one hour in two quarts of water with a little salt and a bay leaf, an one cup of sugar as for lemonade. When cooked, add enough lemon to balance the sugar, as for lemonade (4 or 5 lemons or more).

Icy chill; serve with hot boiled potatoes on side and a dollop of sour cream in the middle of red cold beet soup. On side also: spring salad (tomatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers).

(Source: our-vernacular)

4 Poets I Would Elect to Be President of the United States and the Subsequent Consequences of Their Presidency - John Mortara, Lookout Intern

(1) : After many accusations that Frank O’Hara’s campaign had been secretly funded by The Coca-Cola Company, he wins by a landslide. The entire nation celebrates, and I with it. The first three years of his term are filled with pleasantly casual but deeply-nuanced press conferences concerning café napkins. In his final year President O’Hara completes his goal of rebuilding American infrastructure. A high-speed rail system is constructed across the entire country in no particular direction at all, and for the express purpose of Americans reminiscing about other Americans whilst riding it.
 

(2) : In a surprise upset (and possible transcription error), Emily Dickinson is elected President of the Free World. With her administration comes a return to good-old-fashioned American isolationism. Countless letters are posted, begging the newly minted Commander-in-Chief to join us outside of the White House. Meanwhile, war breaks out in the Middle East. President Dickinson issues the following statement via her sister:

                        What’s a state without borders?
                        What’s a war that can’t be won?
                        Quit your fighting—your killing
                        And shh, Jersey shore is on.
 

(3) : In keeping with his campaign promises, William Carlos Williams repeals Obamacare on Day One. The seat of the Republic is immediately moved to Patterson, New Jersey. Each American is evaluated personally by W. C. W. and his “Willycare” specialists at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic. My heart palpitations, the pain in my left arm, and my inability to breathe are diagnosed as both "so sweet" and "so cold."


(4) : Tracy K. Smith is sworn-in as Head of State on January 21, 2013, much to my inner-boyhood-astronaut-wannabe delight. The poet promptly funnels all federal funding into NASA’s budget, despite Neil deGrasse Tyson only asking for "a penny on the dollar." Hyperdrive is completed instantly. The little dreamer inside of me volunteers to leave Earth and travel the far reaches of the galaxy in search of life “out there.” Unfortunately, it’s crickets. In the end, we realize meeting aliens isn’t important at all. Our new universal perspective that we are “all one” as a global society turns out being kind of great, and then, kind of “mushy” and “gross.”