Author Archives: exangel

Looking Back to Look Forward.

Happy 2017. I know a lot of us put a pillow over our head and howled during 2016…but after that, I sincerely hope, we decorously put the pillow aside, ran fingers through our collective hair, and got up, determined to move forward as kindly and creatively as our collective DNA allows.

So with that in mind, we present: Ta Ta! THE PAST. Because we here at EAP are really tired of continual predictions of the future which scorn our collective past, which treat it as something old grandpa did in his tired old way. The past—our past—is a treasure house of stored values, human values, that we need to take out and refresh with a loving look from time to time…if our future life is to have real human value.

Beware, beware, oh beware the pundit who tells you that there are no such thing as ‘human’ values, that we’re ‘post-humanity’, that we’re all becoming immortal cyborgs just as soon as…well, as soon as we get the bugs worked out.

Immortal cyborgs? Are they kidding? Anyone stood out in the rain swallowing rain drops lately? Been walking in the woods on a winter’s day on crackling snow? Sat in a sunny window? You telling me we’re giving up that?

And on Mars no less. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, EAPers have looked at the past in this issue, and they like what they see, as the past transmutes itself, as in a fairy story, into the future. We have a lot of poets weighing in on various aspects of the whole—Simon Widdop, Marissa Bell Toffoli, Guinotte Wise, and perennial EAP favorite Charles S. Kraszewski. And why not? They don’t call it poetic vision for nothing. In other visions, Casey Orr looks at how cutting edge young fashion in the north of England builds on a time that was pretty cutting edge itself when it came to preserving human values. Boff Whalley looks at music from the same direction, and as a founding member of the punk band Chumbawamba, he can be said to know what he’s talking about. Josh Sutton’s passion is a future overhaul of our food distribution system, and his looking back at the past shows some surprising ways forward for the future. Brian Griffith wants to know why people don’t see the strength of Iranian women is nothing new, but old as time. And Bruce E. R. Thompson, a new contributor to EAP, says you really ought to go see a puppet show, you adults out there. His explanation of why is one of my favorites this issue, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from him on similar subjects in the future.

A good future. We can all agree on that as a goal. My own feeling is that there is no good future without a good understanding and sharing of the past. And that it always, every time, has got to be rooted in the deepest values that we share as human beings.

Remember the Arcadian motto: “Looking Back to Look Forward.”

What do you think?

Welcome back.

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In Memory of David Budbill.

We talk a lot about what it means to be human, here at EAP—and on The Arcadia Project Facebook page, too. And there was much to meditate upon when we heard last week of the death of the poet David Budbill, who has written so much and so eloquently on our animal species’ painful attempts to evolve.

EAP published David’s last book before his death, Park Songs, a half poem/half play, all lyric on the struggles of every day life in America. I loved that manuscript from the moment I read it: so full it was with hopeful compassion, and painful hope.

David Budbill was a poet who celebrated, in the deepest way, everyday life—the meaning of everyday life: more, the importance of everyday life. He underlined at all times the connection of man to nature, and nature to man—and the tragedy when that connection is broken, by vanity, by ignorance, by pride. I still remember how the hair stood up on the back of my arms when I read my first Budbill poem, sent by then EAP poetry editor Harvey Lillywhite, “The Subway Philanthropist.” I immediately shot off an email, “Who is this guy? I want him for EAP!” So ignorant was I of his already almost legendary career.

But he forgave me my ignorance, pleased at my enthusiasm, and sent me, from time to time, poems that he thought might be, as we call it around here, ‘very EAP’.

And they always were. More than that, of course. Very universal indeed.

We’re reposted that first poem David graciously allowed us to use for the original version of EAP: The Magazine: “The Subway Philanthropist.” Reading it again, I see (alas!) it speaks even deeper truth today than it did in 2007, when I first took it in with such amazed attention.

We’ll miss him terribly. But we still have the work. Poems never go away.

Welcome back.

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The World We Want.

Our world is changing. I don’t think there is any doubt anywhere about that. So the obvious question is: what do we want it to change to? The Arcadia Project on Facebook has some interesting conversations going about that very question, and two of the articles in this issue come directly from there. Tamra Spivey and Ronnie Pontiac contribute The Utopia File, which includes a perfectly stellar warning that there is no Utopia without Dystopia—something good to remember. Probably why the one rule on the Project page is that posts need to suggest alternatives, constructive possibilities for transformation of present worn out cultural stories. And that’s it.

Rustin Wright got going one day on The Arcadia Project imagining his ideal public transit service (which he called, blush, ‘Daviesville’), and gave gracious permission for us to put it up here: A Fantasy of a Sane Transit System, Parts I to V. More than worth a look for a map of the kind of community thinking that can go into making one’s immediate locale a nicer, more comfortable place to live. It always surprises me when someone says something like, “But happiness isn’t the goal of humanity.” No? Then what is? And WHO SAYS?

Speaking of happiness, you have to read the piece that contributed hugely to mine this issue: Marie Davis and Margaret Hultz’s Feet. Also poetry editor Marissa Bell Toffoli’s poignant words about the joy and sorrow mingled in living in this, and any other, world, Too Much To Ask. And Marvin Bruce surprised me. I thought his Prom Night was going to be a trashing of small town America…but it turned out otherwise. It ended by being about what happens when you don’t believe another world is possible.

Come on over to the The Arcadia Project and join in. We need your help imagining…well, imagining another world. One where happiness for all is the evolving goal. And transformation is a way of life.

Welcome back.

 

 

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So THAT’S the Question.

I think we’re all agreed that another world isn’t just possible, it’s imperative. So what is that other world to be? That’s the main question, damn it. And there are flickers of light all over our world as people ask that question and try to answer it in their own, creative way.

That’s what we’re doing here. One more little flicker of light to add to the others, in hope that something catches and the entire landscape gets suddenly illuminated in a blaze of transformation.

So one question leads to another. We’re asking questions here in the quarterly magazine, and we’re inviting anyone who asks an imaginative question to join in.

Also, we’ve started a Facebook page, The Arcadia Project, where anyone can play with any kind of transformative idea. Or share an idea they’ve found somewhere else, from a light that maybe shines a little brighter than the ones surrounding it.

For example, Rose Jermusyk, who this issue shared “The Question and The Answer,” also contributed to the Facebook page an article from Medium, an important look at how visionary fishermen are changing our relationship to the sea.

It’s a story. It’s a real story, but I think it’s important that we all remember that real stories start with stories of the imagination. If it can’t be imagined, it can’t happen. And that is where we come in.

It’s never ‘just’ imagination. Imagination forms our reality; we forget that, we have forgotten that, to our immense cost. We have built ourselves a little over rational cage, and then bricked in the walls, and we wonder—where is the door? And where, once we find the door, is the Key?

We’re joining in searching for them both, because if there’s one thing everyone who ever joined in the EAP conversation believes, it’s that there’s a whole unexplored world out there, one where we can become something rich and strange.

In this issue, don’t miss my interview with social activist and poet Walidah Imarisha, about the function of visionary fiction in that process of Becoming.

As usual, Brian Griffith imagines a better world is possible—with animals, our partners on the planet.

Ellen Morris Prewitt wrestles with the question of Death and finds another kind of partner there, as well.

I do some wrestling on my own, about why Fantasy is truly important—being tired of hearing from so many unthinking people that ‘fantasy’ is so boring, so ‘not real life’. Fantasy is where our lives begin, and should we not be careful of that beginning?

Start fantasizing. And welcome back.

(PS: For you married cooks, if you want to read about how another world is actually possible, check out how my Dear Husband has, after 25 years, suddenly shown an interest in cooking mussels. You see—miracles do happen…)

 

 

 

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What’s the Question, Damn it.

When “EAP: The Magazine” first started up, I had this kind of selfish idea. The idea was the space would attract like minds…the kind of minds that worked a bit, well, differently. My idea was that real creativity happens on the margins, where people try out different ways of seeing and being, and it was those surprises I was on the look out for.

It was content I was looking for, not literary perfection, since my theory was that perfection too often conceals a lack of content, or, as we say around here, “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.” (And we mean it, too.) I was kind of right about that, although, to my surprise, not always: as it happened, a lot of content came my way, along with a good whacking lot of near perfection. From writers like Brian Griffith. Tim Myers. Charles S, Kraszewski. David Budbill. Margaret Hultz and Marie Davis. Marissa Bell Toffoli. Ronnie Pontiac. David D. Horowitz. Debbie Naples. And of course, always, Mike Madrid.

So that all worked, using the magazine for my own fiendish ends of making stimulating connections far and wide with people of like, if differently tilted, mind. And mining those thoughts (the more tilted the better) for those same fiendish ends. Selfish, like I said.

Meanwhile, it was bubbling up, the way these things do before they burst into sight, that there was something more (still thinking those selfish thoughts) that “EAP: The Magazine” could be useful for…some trick I was missing. I’ve been keeping that question mark in the back of my mind, checking in with it once in awhile, trying to see if it’s developed into anything more. Then Marissa Bell Toffoli sent in her contribution to this issue, “Turkish Coffee.” There it was in the poem: “What use the answer for the wrong question.” And I realized what I want to know now is just that: what are the questions we’re trying to answer in groping around in the fertile dark the way we do? What questions are grabbing us right now, taking us by surprise in that dark, at this point in time? We, and the world around us, are sure as hell groping for answers. But answers to what exactly?

That’s what I want to know now.

What question is it that you most want answered? If the fairy godmother appeared right now, or the magic nightingale, or the gnome, or the genie, or the demon, or even the god, what would be the one query that would leap passionately to your tongue, straight from your heart?

I repeat: that’s what I want to know now. That’s what I’m interested in most of all. So if you feel like indulging my selfish wish, or even if it goes to grant some selfish wish of your own, let “EAP: The Magazine” know what question most disturbs…or confounds…or enlightens…you.

Or even—best of all—all three at the same time.

Welcome back.

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I Wonder.

I wonder where all this is heading.

When I started on the EAP journey, what I really wanted was to explore what effect story has on our world…what place stories inhabit in it, what they say about it, whether changing stories changes how we see it.

So I noticed a lot of possibilities were going, not just unnoticed or ignored, but literally unseen. I realized that story about possibility is the building block of our human world, that we are the story making animal in the same way that bees are the honey making animal…that we interact with reality to actually form it, in a kind of dance. And that we can only see what our stories tell us is there.

Of course, that means we can’t see what our stories tell us is not there. Worse, we can’t see beyond what they do tell us. No matter how vast the landscape on the other side.

So what happens when we tell stories about what might be there, on the other side of that borderland? Or even of what we would want to be there? Or what, looking backward at our dearest desires, what we might once have seen from a different view point…and then, with no stories to remember it by, to hold it, just up and forgot.

Those types of stories are usually sort of dissed as fairy tales. Wonder tales. Fantasy. Yeah. I never quite got what was supposed to be the ‘lowly’ thing about those kinds of stories. My own experience has been that when I reach a dead end of some kind—when the joy just leached out of my life and I didn’t know what direction to go in next—the solution was to look at the things I’d ignored, or even scornfully thought beneath me. Because just about every time, that was where I found my new energy to go on.

I suspect that’s true in the larger world as well. Probably when a living thing of any kind, a person or a culture, starts to grind in on itself and run down, where it pays it most to look is at the areas once ignored. Or thought of as ‘lowly’. Beneath notice. Because usually that’s where the green sprouts have grown without anyone paying much attention.

So I have the vague (as of yet) idea to propose a little experiment. I’m thinking of making a private space somewhere for the kinds of writers I’ve found in the last few years on this online magazine to play with those ideas about what might be, about what might have been, without us noticing. Ideas we might have scorned as ‘childish’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘just plain bad’. You’ll see a few of those ideas in this issue, as a matter of fact. (Ronnie Pontiac, I’m looking at you.) Ideas that we’ve rejected, or even just plain forgot. About what might become possible without us believing, up till now, it is possible. I’m thinking of emailing a few of you and asking if you’d like to play in that experiment. Maybe on “EAP: The Magazine.” Maybe somewhere else online. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on that.

Which is as far as I’ve gotten. This is my experiment in virtual thinking out loud. In imagining it’s possible to dream in a group.

Mind you, most sensible would be an inclusive, not an exclusive experiment, so anyone who wants to join in, just let me know. My point isn’t to exclude, it’s just to not bother those who aren’t interested in the idea of stretching these kinds of borders.

When I say ‘these kinds of borders’, I mean the borders of where the discourse presently stops. I’d especially like to see some definitions of where that boundary lies, and then I’d like to get in a conversation about how to cross over it into something different.

Mainly I’d like a conversation about it.

Does this all sound too odd? Well, I think it’s good if it does. If it sounds too odd to you, just ignore, please.

But if there is something in what I’m saying that interests you, do let me hear from you.

And we’ll see where we get to from there.

What would a world that met real human needs look like? That’s what I wonder.

So that’s what I’m calling #TheArcadiaProject.

And in the meantime, welcome back, whether this little experiment is for you or even if it’s not.

 

 

 

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Wonder Stories.

I love what Maria Tatar, the Harvard professor of folklore and fairy tales, says about the latter: that they’re really misnamed. They should by right be called “Wonder Tales.” Because what they do is express our wonder at our inner landscape as humans, rather than our outer. Wonder Tales bring out to view what’s inside us all, which is (so it seems) an infinite amount of different ways of looking at ourselves and our world. But with some bedrock values that never change: the importance of partnering with Nature. The value of what appears to be worthless. The ability to change a life, or even a world, by taking action in the right way. The great reward of Love.

All those things. And all those things are filled with a sense of wonder, at wonder that we are here and living our own stories, which can be changed in ways we sometimes have yet to imagine.

There are a few Wonder Tales of this sort in the present issue. I’m not sure what I had in mind in naming it “This May Be The Last Time,” though I wasn’t imagining this would be the last issue…I had noted the many apocalyptic strains I keep seeing in stories that come to me, and pondering what that meant about how we’re seeing the world these days. Two stories in particular, by writers EAP always loves, were about this. As We Know It, by Erin Trampler Bell, is an active imagining of how our present world might dangerously come to an end through a well-meaning arrogance. Gulfs, by Tim Myers, murmurs how the story of our world would look to someone with a story from another.

Then there is One Wrong Step and You’ve Brought on the Last Days, by Ellen Morris Prewitt—the title says it all, I think.

And my favorite this month, from a new contributor to EAP, Psyche’s Sisters, by Ed Taylor. I’m always a sucker for pieces that take the old stories from a different point of view, and by doing that, point up the danger of a narrow reading of the world.

Wonder should expand, not narrow, especially in these days, don’t we think? Because, as Paul Simon so rightly sings, “These are the days of miracles and wonder/So don’t cry, baby, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

Okay then. I’ll look for more Wonder Tales in the FALL 2015: WE WONDER issue. Meanwhile, thanks to Robert Markland Smith this issue, for imagining Then Suddenly War Ended. And to Robin Suzanne for cooking up The Center of the Universe Omelet.

Welcome back.

 

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