Windmill: Spring 2017, Vol 2

IMG_0277
Click on the cover to view our Spring 2017 issue on ISSUU

Editor’s note

4.19.2017
Hempstead, NY

Welcome back to Windmill! We’ve been extremely busy here at Hofstra this semester, from celebrating the launch of our first issue at AWP 2017 in Washington, DC, to enjoying campus visits through the Great Writers, Great Readings series from A. Van Jordan and Susan Orlean. The redoubtable Rebecca Solnit also came as a guest of the Hofstra Cultural Center for Women’s History Month and agreed to be interviewed for the literary magazine. In her interview, she asked, “If we want the world to be better, do we have to wait until everything’s perfect before there’s pleasure?”

We feel this issue of Windmill responds with a resounding “no.” There is much work to be done in the world, as well as in the classroom, but what we hope this issue of Windmill puts forth is the suggestion that the pleasure of beauty, sound, and strong narrative is not to be shelved. From Jenny Bhatt’s masterfully sensorial short story “Life Spring” to Jericho Parms’s achingly stunning essay “A Theory of Substance” from her new book Lost Wax (University of Georgia Press, 2017), we hope to underscore the idea that taking pleasure—in the mundane and the mystical, the disturbing and the decadent, the silly and the strange—is, ultimately, a worthy practice, even as the world shifts unsettlingly under our feet.

Although this is our second issue, in many ways this is an edition of firsts. When we initially dreamt of Windmill, our publisher, Melissa Connolly, and I imagined an entirely student-run publication, and this issue is the first to be produced along with the undergraduate Publishing Studies practicum. The class used our first issue (Winter 2017, Volume 1) as a textbook, keeping what worked and refining what didn’t. The junior and senior students had a hand in building the book from the ground up, helping our MFA students choose the work, and then editing, copyediting, and even, in some cases, writing the pieces. Undergraduate Gary Duff interviewed critic Margo Jefferson, and MFA students Dayna Troisi and Lily Vu profiled powerhouse poets Liv Mammone, our selection for Windmill’s signature mini-chapbook, and professor Phillis Levin, for our Faculty Spotlight.

This is also the first time the issue was designed on campus; with the convivial guidance of undergraduate phenom Keaton Ramjit, who has seen us through two issue cycles as Managing Editor now, the class talked margins and fit, kerning and four-color process. The students looked at budgets, retooled our digital presence, built a social media platform, and considered web content accessibility standards like section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Much consideration was given to the visual construction of the issue, as Emily Nguyen writes about in her Art Editor’s letter. Featured artist Timna Tarr’s quiltwork rests on color and small compositions; this issue of Windmill is like one of Tarr’s quilts in that way, with each block constructed as its own independent element, coming together as a whole to tell a multi-faceted story. Along with having a hand in all parts of putting this book together, each student took ownership of a web series, exploring current literary considerations from the state of creative nonfiction to the way social media is joyfully disrupting the status quo of the publishing pipeline. Many of our print stories have digital components; we hope you check out these additional layers at HofstraWindmill.com.

In closing, I return to Solnit, who says, “I think pleasure can be very subversive and it can also have a kind of depth to affirm the value of some- thing like autonomy, solitude, and wild landscape.” Cover artist Laura McManus’s painting Strawberry Moon Riverside captures perfectly this sentiment, and what we hope is the small gesture of the book as a whole. The mix of movement and isolation, the tumble of clouds in the sky against the darkness of that wild landscape, the way moonlight changes the way we see the world: this is what we hope to give to you with our second issue, and all those to come.

Kelly McMasters
Editor

Photographer: Jonathan Heisler, Hofstra University Photographer
Clockwise from upper left: Gary Duff, Courtney Zanosky, Kelly McMasters, Rachel Moskowitz, Keaton Ramjit, Nicole Anania, Alyssa Ennis, Lindsay DeMarco, Emily Nguyen

Click here to view our Spring 2017 issue on ISSUU!

On Creative Nonfiction and The Faraway Nearby

By Courtney Zanosky

“What’s your story?” This is the question that Rebecca Solnit uses to thread together her narrative in the genre-refuting memoir The Faraway Nearby. Ultimately, she brings to light that your story is my story is her story is Frankenstein’s story is a Buddhist’s story is her mother’s story—annihilating the notion that memoir is inherently self-absorbed.

“One of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you…to tell stories rather than be told by them.” As our stories weave like threads into quilts coming together and coming undone, Solnit shows how the story of the world is told. The Faraway Nearby is a masterpiece in storytelling as it illuminates seemingly strange connections; how a pile of apricots rotting on Solnit’s floor is also the story of Leprosy, slowly numbing and alienating a person’s own body like a bad spot spreading across raw apricots. From a journey to Iceland to diving into fairytales, Solnit shows the fluidity of stories—how we make them and how we use them to define ourselves—and how they are not all as disconnected as we may think.

Creative nonfiction, as a genre, is often overlooked—receiving hardly one bookcase of attention at book retailers. A common misconception of the genre is that it is memoir-based, too personal, and unrelatable—as though the story you’ve created for your life is not going to match or be enhanced by the story that the creative nonfiction author has created for her life. Solnit not only pushes against this wall, but she completely dismantles it with this book that is simultaneously memoir, history, and geography—that brings faraway stories nearby. In order to do this, she plays with form in a way that arguably only creative nonfiction can do.

Her narrative is told in chapters, but the chapters progress forward and then move backward in parallel form—creating a mirror image, a portrait, of her story. Moving from the chapter titles of Apricots to Mirrors to Ice to Flight to Breath to Wound to Knot to Unwound to Breath to Flight to Ice to Mirrors to Apricots, her narrative breaths like a wave as it charges forward and then softly recoils. There is movement in the chapters—literally and figuratively—as the title of each starts far left on the page and moves more to the right as you read farther into the narrative. Once you hit Knot, however, the farthest right on the page, she unwinds you with Unwound as she also unwinds the chapters, and they start to literally recoil back to the physical left side of the page as the narrative starts to recoil back to the stories she’s already told. She brings you with her on a journey that starts at a heap of apricots and ends at a heap of apricots—with Iceland, Mary Shelley, Buddhist monks, Leprosy patients, her mother, and Wu Daozi filling in the middle. This use of physical form to reflect narrative meaning is both innovative and effective—demonstrating that stories don’t have a clear beginning or end, but that they are forever wrapped around a history that is almost impossible to pin down.

If that were not enough, Solnit also uses a story of a moth feeding on the tears of a sleeping bird as the physical thread that holds the pages of her memoir together. Running across the bottom of each page is this new, yet same, story that she is telling below the paragraphs and words above. You almost have to read the body of the book in its entirety and then go back and read the entirely new story that is told across the footer space. In the new story, you will find that moths that feed on sleeping birds’ tears are still part of the old story because just as the moth feeds on the sleeping bird, so does Solnit’s mother on her. There is nothing separate. As Solnit writes, “I sometimes imagine my whole life that way, as though each step was a stitch, as though I was a needle leaving a trail of thread that sewed together the world as I went by, crisscrossing others’ paths, quilting it all together in some way that matters even though it can hardly be traced.” In the end, this is not just the story of Solnit and her mother; The Faraway Nearby is the gorgeous nonfiction portrait of us all.

On “The Sparkling-Eyed Boy”

By Courtney Zanosky

 

While Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby exemplified how creative nonfiction is able to reach outside of an author and into the world, connecting together the personal and the universal; the human and the world, Amy Benson’s The Sparkling-Eyed Boy is a lyrical masterpiece that demonstrates how the lines between fiction and nonfiction are fluid—how memoir is based in memory, but how memory is not always exact. In this book that takes the question “What If?” to new boundaries, Benson remembers her first love as he was, as she remembers him being, and how she imagines and wishes they could have been. While many authors turn to fiction in order to work out the “What If?” in their own lives, Benson constantly plays with the border of truth and fiction in a wholly honest memoir that does not make her story better, but just shows the lengths of human wishing, the tendency to imagine that we would have acted in a certain way, and the way we deal with regrets.

I had the humbling opportunity to speak with Benson through email, and while I fangirled for quite a bit, Benson had some interesting points to offer regarding the creation of The Sparkling-Eyed Boy and her personal draw to creative nonfiction. As a recent MFA in poetry graduate who found herself lost and miserable in a Ph.D program, she turned to writing narratives in paragraph form that allowed her to hone the voice that would eventually run throughout this book. Perhaps that is one of the beautiful things about creative nonfiction; it is a form that allows an author to work through emotional turmoil and to explore the past, present, and future in such a way that enables one to see what has profoundly affected the path up to the present. For Benson, that was the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Sparkling-Eyed Boy. The emotions aren’t imagined, but rather they are inherently a part of who Benson is and will be. Nonfiction helped lead Benson through a miserable point in her life and into a deeper understanding of how the past is inseparable from the present. She untangles a part of her life that at the time she didn’t understand—“It’s so unfair that we live what we don’t understand, and then we understand when we can no longer live it.”

In doing so, Benson asks the reader to trust her and to follow her as she reaches out and says, “Imagine this with me, will you?” and, “Here’s an invention that springs to mind… what’s yours?” While an imagined life with the Sparkling-Eyed Boy may seem like it would be a romance novel, it is far from that. Benson doesn’t imagine fireworks and happiness, but she instead takes her own faults and uses them to demonstrate why their lives would have never been able to merge. He belonged to his land in the Upper Peninsula, and she didn’t belong to a land—always seeking the elsewhere. She imagines a love affair in which they are together, but he always returns to his wife. In these honest ways of framing herself, she is true to reality even in the deep scenes that are anything but fact, because, as she admits to herself: “you have no right to imagine, the impulses of his brain, which you will never ­rightly imagine.”

Benson wrote me in an email that she is interested in all of the things that go into the human experience— “the concrete and actual and verifiable” to the “wholesale inventions or experiences rife with the problems of perception and memory.” It is fact that Benson knew a Sparkling-Eyed Boy. It is fact that she visited the Upper Peninsula each summer with her family. It is fact that she left him behind. It is fact that she has encountered him again in their adult lives. But the way she experienced that—the way she perceives and remembers all of those childhood and adult memories—are all rooted in her own human experience. Her experience is an experience that is entirely different than one that you or I may have had in the same situations. She writes, “I am still willing myself to unknown what I know: people grow up; one identity disintegrates as another is forged; people don’t love each other forever; just because I write doesn’t make it so. I am creating the most elaborate shrine to unknowing that I can imagine.” And that is what makes creative nonfiction beautiful and honest, even when it plays with the boundaries of fiction, because there is no concrete formula for life or remembering or erasing the lies we tell ourselves—perception and memory is fluid and ever-changing. Our experiences are always changing. The memory of the Sparkling-Eyed Boy is always changing. We are always changing.

Dear Betsy Part 3

By Rachel Moskowitz

Betsy DeVos is currently the United States Secretary of Education.  Ms. DeVos has no government experience and none of her children went through the public school system. In the past 5 years she has given 5.3 million dollars in political donations, specifically contributing to presidential candidates. In her proposed Bill 610 she suggests the abolishment of the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act), which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For many students, this may be the only meal they have that day, and especially one with nutritional value.

 

Dear Betsy,

How was your lunch? Did you have a nice balanced plate, some fruits and vegetables? Must be nice because one of your bills would eliminate the Nutritional Act of 2012, or the No Hungry Kids Act as many know it. This act provides thousands with breakfast and lunch daily. Without proper nutrition it makes it very difficult for children to focus in school. If a parent cannot provide for their child this child is going to be at a disadvantage before they even get into the classroom. While other students will have had breakfast and are ready for the day this child has not eaten anything and is already behind his fellow classmates.

I believe that schools in underserved neighborhoods should provide breakfast, lunch and a snack to their students that need it. A breakfast as simple as a box of cereal and an apple can change that child’s day. Having the proper nutrition will give them that energy they need for their classes.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is in place to make sure that to children have nutritious school meals every day. NSLP provides funding that makes it possible for schools to offer a nutritious school lunch. Schools receive Federal funds for each breakfast and lunch served, provided that the meal meets established nutrition standards. Programs like this make it possible for a child to succeed, please don’t take this away from them.

I understand that you and your family have never had to go through this and I am glad that you didn’t. But for a large group of families this is a real concern and issue they face every day. I urge you to consider everyone when you propose these bills. All I ask is that you think about those with much less and what we can do to help them succeed not hold them back.

 

From,

A student who was lucky enough to eat breakfast this morning

 

Dear Betsy Part 2

By Rachel Moskowitz

Betsy DeVos is currently the United States Secretary of Education.  Ms. DeVos has no government experience and none of her children went through the public school system. In the past 5 years she has given 5.3 million dollars in political donations, specifically contributing to presidential candidates. If her proposed bills get passed and public schools begin to be defunded many families will not know what to do for their children and how to get them the best education. Defunding public schools would also mean the loss of many jobs for those that work in public schools, teachers, custodians, secretaries, hundreds of thousands of jobs.

 

Dear Betsy,

How have you been sleeping? Are you having trouble falling asleep at night? Or when you finally fall asleep are you having nightmares? I am, and it is all thanks to you. Your proposed program for school vouchers is going to demolish the public education program. I am so happy that your children were able to attend a private school and could graduate college with no loans. Unfortunately, private school isn’t an option for most people, considering it costs about as much as college is. If we can’t pay for private school you bet we can’t cover college. An equal and decent education should be given to every child. We need public schools for those families that cannot afford private schools. Children need that socialization inside and outside of the classroom. They need math class and recess and if they do not receive this they are not going to thrive in the future. By demolishing the public education program you are demolishing these children’s futures.

Private school is not a feasible option for the majority of people. Many people pay their college loans off well into our 30’s maybe even 40’s. While I write a check for my daughters sweet 16 I may also be sending a check to finish up paying my student loans. I am sure it is nice going to sleep at night knowing that you don’t have money owed to the government. You are the minority here and you are about to become even more of a minority in the coming years if your proposal goes through. If children cannot go to a public elementary school in the neighborhood they are starting life out at a severe disadvantage.

You also are getting rid of thousands of jobs if there are no more public school teachers. Private schools and charter schools do not provide the same salary or benefit as a public school does. These jobs are very different and they are not for everyone. I personally want to work in a public school and not in a charter school. Getting rid of public schools hurts the children’s future lives as well as a teacher’s present life. Please think about the majority of society and think hard before you try and defund public education.

From,

A struggling college student