WATCHING THE APOCALYPSE IN SLOW MOTION BY ISMAIL IBRAHIM 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 68
I imagined a future where I would be a father. In the intoxicating moments between being awake and asleep, I slipped into a fantasy rife with pastoral images. In the fantasy I’m sitting on a back porch watching my daughters play. Rosemary and Orchid run around the garden chasing each other, shrieking and laughing, muddying their clothes, playing games with rules inscrutable to parents. They radiate the joy of children, that silly, light kind of happiness, so immense that it makes the scene golden. The fantasy father version of me lies down to sleep and the me dreaming him goes out like a light. Now, my pre-sleep imagination takes me somewhere else. I’m in a car. It’s hot. There’s a fire sweeping towards me but there’s gridlock and I can’t go anywhere. The AC sucks smoke into the car. I’m choked to death by the ash or the car catches fire and I’m incinerated.
NJ LINE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR BY COOPER SY BLUMENTHAL 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 68
My poem is personal and political, inspired by a reckoning with unadorned truth. Like other people I fight to stay optimistic about democracy. I try to have faith that the freedoms guaranteed to citizens in the US Constitution will survive the impact of so many solid hits from a powerful corporate elite who have marshaled an army of followers without the benefits of wealth or understanding of what’s at stake.
UNA TRAGEDIA DOBLE BY JARED BERBERABE 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 68
Why does anyone bother writing poetry? It rarely brings you anything close to fame or fortune, and its impact on the reader (to say nothing of the world) is often unknown. And yet, poetry has the power to reach inside the sensitive places that the ego rarely allows to be touched. Poetry reminds us what it means to be human—to have a beating heart and pumping blood and aging bones—and not merely a statistic in an abstract economy. And on its best days, perhaps poetry can even crack the matrix so we can see a light shining in from another world.I have published a debut book of creative nonfiction, Sh#t Your Ego Says.
I have been writing and drawing for children and young adults for a while, and have, for a decade, tutored the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants. We have a history of making posters together. RUNNING TOGETHER began as an illustration for Élodie butseemed, in the end, to have a poster life of its own. Apart from drawing and writing—what do we do? Something else, most of us, most of the time. I repair old books by hand.
I wrote Rest Area as someone in middle age looking back at a simile of what he was like in his late twenties. At neither time was I able to have kids, so it interested me what might happen if that situation was to suddenly change. What kind of person would, upon discovering an abandoned child, drive off and keep that child? Of further interest was the type of person who would abandon a child in the first place. Eventually, I wondered what might happen to those two characters down the road. At which point Rest Area became the opening chapter of a novel, Blue Lake. In the novel I write about what transpires for those two people, as well as for wives, neighbors, and the child herself as the years pass by. Blue Lake is the first of six novels I’ve written. One of them, Bear Season, is published by a small press and is available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve also published more than a dozen short stories, a few of them in this magazine. My best advice for writers is to keep writing no matter what. I had an agent who shopped a novel for three years with zero success. Later, after I was dropped by that agent, I sold the novel on my own to a press in Oregon. That novel has since been optioned for a motion picture. So you never know what might happen. But if you stay engaged in the act of writing (and reading), rest assured, day by day, you’re getting better at your craft. Which has been a comfort to me more times than I like to admit.
I like to handwrite and I like to type. Sometimes I’ll end up writing a story half in a notebook and the other half on my laptop. Writing by hand gifts me the chance to be slow, to think the language through, and writing by keyboard enables me the ability to hasten the piece, to put down my thoughts as they come, until the end. I try both. If I get stuck one way, I try it out on the other, and it usually gets me through. But the point is I keep on writing, because I know if I stop, the words won’t come. I abide strongly by what Stephen King said in his forward to On Writing: books—and by extension, I reckon, simple statements—about writing are full of garbage. No one knows, really, where the words come from. They simply do, and it’s up to us to make it magical, to make it work, to refine it and sharpen it until it shines something fierce in the eternal dark of the soul everlasting. Something ludicrous, indeed.
I’m not a writer, I never set out to be a writer. But I happen to write. I write because I have to spend my time somehow. I wanted to front a punk band but I can’t sing, so now I scream in ink. Maybe it seeps into the things I do when I don’t write, maybe it’s a heightened awareness. I look around, and it’s so light, it’s so beautiful, and I want to try and catch it. Even if I never do, at least in the attempt I see it for what it is. So I write because I don’t want to fill out Excel sheets while I’m alive.
COOPER SY BLUMENTHAL
I studied poetry with Rachel Blau Du Plessis and thought that I would continue as a poet and Chaucerian scholar in graduate school. But I was seduced by the excitement and frenetic activity in Temple University’s Film Department. I was accepted as an MFA candidate with a specialty in documentary filmmaking. I was also a single mother of a seven-year old son which made working as a graduate assistant and learning the aesthetic and technical aspects of the medium, well…let’s just say it was a little more than a piece-of-cake. By the end of three years I was close to bankruptcy but was rescued at the 11th hour by ABC TV who hired me as an editor of a mini-documentary series, Prime Time. I edited, wrote narration, shot film, and occasionally produced mini-doc segments. Then I was accepted as a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute. In nine months at the Institute I wrote and directed three short student films. Surviving the criticism of the Director (the school’s head honcho) was a rite-of-passage into the overcrowded Hollywood job market which provided me with continual opportunities for rejection. It was also the beginning of a new life and school in Hollywood for my son. I needed a regular income and when I saw a job opening in the Daily Variety for a professor of film at San Diego State University I applied and was hired, once again at the 11th hour. After two years I transferred to Cal State University Long Beach, much closer to the Industry, and my son’s education and passion for flying airplanes. I wrote and directed movies including The Poet’s Wife and Walking to Waldheim. My first indie feature, Take Two, premiered at The American Film Institute and was distributed internationally. I wrote and directed three films for a Showtime Anthology series: As Always Madelaine, The Photographer, and Woman on a Train. More recently I directed and co-wrote a two-act play with Kathy Jones, Acts of Faith, based on short stories by Grace Paley. The play had its first three-week run at the 10th Street Theater in San Diego, California. The Leonard and Susan Nimoy Family Foundation funded my feature-length documentary, The Phoenix Effect, about the lives of second and third generation holocaust survivors. So I studied, taught, and made films, theater, and TV programs, but my first love and ultimate goal is to be recognized as a writer of poetry, short stories, and a novel or two. My poetry and short stories have been published in Battered Suitcase, Love Notes, an anthology of poetry published by Vagabondage Press, Montreal Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ray’s River Review, Steel House Review, Petrichor Review, and 34thParallel Magazine. Although I have a film waiting to be edited, I’m enveloped in the characters in two novels close to completion. Every day I ride my bike along the Pacific Ocean to a special café where I enter the lives of my flawed, complicated, troubled, mysterious, weathered, and wholly real men and women who I can count on to show up as soon as I’m sitting at a table with a cup of coffee, and turn on my computer. My son became a pilot and eventually a Captain at Frontier Airlines, and he’s living in Paris, France, of course.
ANDREA KARIN NELSON
I’ve always been captivated by stories about what lies beyond reality—a parallel universe, an alien society, undiscovered possibilities. There is something magical about the layering of other worlds on top of our own. In my writing, I tend to use imaginary—often fantastical—circumstances to shine a light on the realities of our world. My work is filtered through my own feminist lens, so the protagonists that naturally emerge are frequently subversive women who rebel in ways both big and small. As a playwright, my work has been produced and commissioned around the country and performed in both English and American Sign Language. My play, Rescued, a feminist fairytale for young performers is being developed with Youth Theatre Northwest for their 2020 season. I am working on my first novel, a middle-grade urban fantasy featuring a 10-year-old girl who is sucked into a parallel universe, only to discover she is the chosen leader of the peoples’ resistance against their evil dictator. I run a boutique developmental editing agency, Allegory Editing. My team and I work with writers of all experience levels to develop their work and help them prepare for the querying and submissions process. In my non-literary life, I am a Certified Sign Language Interpreter and theater teaching artist in Seattle, Washington.
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in one of those big, rollicking Catholic families so common in the 1960s. On any given day there might be games of pitch and catch in the hallway or tackle football in the back bedroom. I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas and have lived in Austin ever since. I have published two collections of short stories: Christmas Day on a City Bus, McKinney Press, 2011, and The Latin Sub, Impure Thoughts and One Man’s Definition of Mortal Sin, Adelaide Publishers, 2017, along with more than 40 short stories and humor pieces. This is my fifth publication in the 34thParallel Magazine.
ANNE LEIGH PARRISH
I’ve been writing forever. Until 2018, I wrote only fiction, but then branched out into poetry. Poetry magnifies the soul in a way prose doesn’t. I think one must look into the mirror. Often a monster looks back. I say stare it down, conquer it, make it serve you. Novels I’ve published: Maggie’s Ruse, The Amendment, Women Within, and What Is Found, What Is Lost; and short story collections: By The Wayside, Our Love Could Light The World, and All The Roads That Lead From Home.