NO SHOES BY LEAH GRACE O’BRIEN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 57
WHAT LIES AT THE CORE BY MEIRA BIENSTOCK 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 57
The closest analogy to the composition process used to create these texts is an odd kind of sausage making machine, where the raw materials are constantly being churned up someplace inside or perhaps outside (some mysterious place called “imagination” I guess) of what’s called an “author”. After the pressure rises to the point where it must be released in some manner, the act of the “author” sitting down to “write” (hate that word) takes place. This is a process of hitting the keys releasing the churn that extrudes out and takes the form of a text in the computer, which gets managed and controlled and molded and formed according to some on-the-spot improvised assortment of structural rules, as it flows into the text line by line, until the author “feels” the time is right to lop it off, shut down the flow, leaving a more or less “readable” text solidified in the computer. Then this text gets massaged and tweaked and all into a somewhat “readable” “finished product” that then gets categorized as a “story”, or a “chapter”, or something like that—it becomes a work of “fiction”, which is the general term agreed to across the board. This is one way to conceptualize a “writing process” (hate that term). Of course, I may read this over in the next five minutes and realize this whole writeup is “fiction” as well. After all, the entire notion of there being absolutes in life is a “fiction”. But in this moment we consider it true as anything else on the table where we’re sitting.
CLARA B JONES
My son Luke reminds me that my grandchildren are growing up with bots. In the past couple of years I have written several poems about non-biological entities that have obtained or that are attempting to obtain human rights. As expressed in the two poems published in this issue, I often envision non-biological devices that experience challenges similar to those faced by the typical human being including the same range of emotions and life events. In my mind I often imagine machines that have been programmed to suffer, characterized by the singular trait that the philosopher Peter Singer argues is necessary and sufficient for a claim of “rights” in the legal domain. Sometimes I take Singer’s argument a step further by suggesting that non-biological entities are comparable to marginalized humans. Indeed, I construct a world in which the taxonomic classification, hominids, would include all machines modeled on a human template and programmed to suffer. Thus, humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orang’utans, and non-biological machines that suffer would be classified together—an expansion of the late Colin Groves’ phylogeny.
Perhaps, in future, Multicultural Studies will be re-named, Multi-entity Studies, and the fundamental humanity of all entities—biological or non-biological—will be recognized in a single academic field. Of course, non-biological machines will be marginalized, treated as “others” like all subordinated groups. Systemic discrimination and “unconscious bias” are certain to restrict their social, cultural, and economic options, a condition sure to create a cadre of activists laboring in their defense. My thinking and writing along these lines have, recently, taken another turn. I have “invented” a bot, dna001, whose wires have been infused with human DNA. Clearly, writing allows me to explore what Marie-Laure Ryan calls, “unnatural” or “impossible” worlds. Perhaps, the permutations and innovations on my themes are limited; however, from where I sit at this moment, that does not seem to be the case.
I also conduct research on experimental literature and radical publishing. My exploratory poetry includes internet publishing as well as creative use of mathematical notation, science, and technology. Sometimes my topics relate to identity, culture, and society. I am the author of three paper chapbooks, one weblog book of poems (afrobotspoems.blogspot.com), as well as one full-length collection of poetry (/feminine nature/, 2017, Gauss PDF), and my poems, reviews, essays, and interviews have been published in Mathematical Poetry, Entropy, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Zoomoozophone, Otoliths, The Review Review, Transnational, and 34thParallel.
LEAH GRACE O’BRIEN
For as long as I can remember I have always felt compelled to write. Both Kerouac and Fante’s work influenced my decision to leave home at a young age and travel across the country. No Shoes is a narrative essay that I wrote about traveling in the Deep South at the age of 17. I wrote the story as a way to convey the freedom I felt, as well as the harsh reality of living on the streets. My hope is that this piece resonates with those who have struggled with homelessness and the uncertainty of an unknown future. I am living in New Orleans after travelling in South America for the past five years. New Orleans has inspired me to keep writing. There is a strong sense of place here. I am active in local poetry slams and attend as many literary events as possible. My hope is to write about my travels in a way that is both genuine and compelling.
All I ever wanted to do was tell stories and live in NYC. I moved to NYC right after I graduated to intern with ELLE magazine. My work has been published in The Huff Post, The Jerusalem Post, New York Dreaming Literary Magazine, The Herald Bulletin, and more. I went on to work for Time Inc, all while writing a dark fantasy novel. That’s my story.
In the past 40 years, my wife and I have attended baseball games—major and minor-league—in about 25 States, four Canadian provinces, plus Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, England, and the Czech Republic.
In recent years independent leagues have sprung up around the US and Canada. That means they aren’t affiliated with organized baseball. They generally operate on a shoestring, paying players very low wages for the chance of being discovered. Many of these leagues move teams from city to city, largely for financial reasons, and several no longer exist, among them the Victoria Seals (British Columbia), the Lubbock Crickets (Texas) and the London Werewolves (Ontario).
There’s no question that you’ll see better baseball in Boston and New York than in the minors or the independent leagues. The players in the minors—those affiliated with major-league baseball—are trying to work their way up the ladder. In the independent leagues, things are different. We once saw the San Rafael Pacifics (California) make 10 errors in one game—and win. It’s not uncommon to see a 45-year-old pitcher trying to make his way back to the majors after years in retirement. A better example: Rafael Palmeiro, who last played in the majors in 2005, signed with an independent team in Cleburne, Texas, in 2018—and hit .301. He was 53 years old.
Ever since my mother went into labor with me in a movie theater I’ve been a film fanatic. My story is my love letter to the cathartic power of horror movies. During my father’s battle with cancer horror movies helped us to embrace our vulnerability and be open about our fears. Throughout this time I was writing movie reviews and local entertainment coverage for the Indianapolis publication, NUVO Newsweekly. Watching movies and attending horror conventions was partly an escape from the harsh realities of the cancer. These days I’m trying to stop escaping my pain and start exploring it more in my writing. In addition to NUVO Newsweekly, my writing is published in Memoir Magazine, Midwest Film Journal, The Polk Street Review and THiNK Magazine.
Image by Jenn Marie.
The story behind #10 is I was stuck at a retail job for almost 12 years while trying to pay for my BA in English Literature. I felt stuck and unable to leave my job even though it was slowly killing my drive to try anything else. My job created a false security, a mental block about trying anything new in life. I knew that this was a poisonous setting but I was scared to try anything else. You should write poetry only if it does something great for YOU, for me it is almost meditative. The advice that has always helped me when writing is when Bukowski said “don’t try”. I believe this in a sense, not that you shouldn’t be putting forth an effort, but that what you’re trying to emote should just come on to the page, whatever feeling you have should come onto the page and it should not be forced. I did finally quit that job, and now I am happily making creative cocktails with wonderful, creative people, and after almost 10 years I finally got my BA in English Literature. Never give up.
I started writing poetry in high school after participating in a hip-hop workshop. We soaked in instrumentals, wrote a few verses, and got around to writing our own spoken-word pieces. For me, the verses were my gondola on the river’s melodic beat, and I had never before felt this degree of freedom with words, how grammar and words weren’t any more a source of confinement but an avenue of expression. I found poetry as an escape from school work. Hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole and Chance the Rapper became sources of inspiration to me with their music styles and lyrical flow.