Deconstructing “Call Me Maybe” Lyrics (aka Sisters are Doing it To Themselves) by Laurie Frankel

Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen


I threw a wish in the well,

Don’t ask me, I’ll never tell

I looked to you as it fell,

And now you’re in my way

Many cultures throughout history have regarded water, because of its vital necessity to human existence, as a sacred gift from the gods. The idea of a wishing well, a body of water which will grant wishes, comes from this tradition.


I’d trade my soul for a wish,

Pennies and dimes for a kiss

I wasn’t looking for this,

Continue reading


Exploding Narrative by Brian Fitch

I took a job for a year on Shemya, a small remote island at the end of the Aleutian chain 1,500 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska, an area familiar to some of you from the series Deadliest Catch. The job, cleaning and general maintenance, with its twelve hour days and seven day weeks, was ordinary enough for me, barely out of my teens. The place, its mission, and the people working there were not. The island supported several organizations: a Strategic Air Command base, an Army Security Agency field station, and the Air Force’s 16th Surveillance Squadron.

fitch post Continue reading

Paley and I by Mike Antosia

I’m a miserable person. Not even a grump, grump towing the curmudgeonly cutesiness line, and that’s a line I haven’t even approached, too cuddly dwarfish for my taste. It’s just that I dislike people. Not people personally, or not initially, but in their proximity to me, even sometimes just the fact that they’re breathing. I realize this is my problem and not their’s.

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For example: the supermarket is a nightmare. So too is any store on a Saturday. The pharmacy, 95 during rush hour, used book sales at the public library? FML, all of them. Continue reading

Throwback Saturday featuring Melissa Stein with “Our Campaign for Her World” from issue 295.2


Melissa Stein‘s poem, “Our Campaign for Her World” was a Finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in issue 295.2, Spring 2010.

Our Campaign for Her World

I’m aching my way up back road, the long steep
low-gear bit that kills me every time,

when a red car goes by, slow, the driver
turning his head then moving on.

I’m not much nearer the top
when he comes by again and stops

and mumbles something . . . college . . .
Sweet Briar? “Yep, right across the highway,”

I reply, though who could be on this excuse
for a road and not a know where the college is—

in a town that is the college—
is beyond me. He drives off and his words

go up and down with the pedals until it’s clear
he’d asked me if I went to college there. Maybe

he’s some wealthy daddy champing at the bit
to scold the campus cops for letting its well-bred girls

so far off rein? Maybe. I coast past spindly brambles
bent beneath wild blackberries’ promise,

ditches spiked with thistle, padded in pink clover
blossom. On both sides, towering crazy and triumphant,

kudzu topiary bathes in golden light. I stop to watch
a stopped train chug beneath the wooden bridge

—each time I cross this bridge I wish for trains—
and in the heat, the cadence of the interrupted

train, I hear a gravel-scrape beside me
and it’s his red Chevrolet. I get a good eyeful:

moustached and balding, maybe 50, so fat he’s melting
into the seat of his red Chevrolet.

After a long moment he drawls
you wanna make you some money? Continue reading

On “Visitation” by Jimmie Cumbie from issue 299.4

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I wrote the poem “Visitation” in the year following my father’s death. I’d written several somewhat wild and whirling elegies about him during this period, but after a sustained stretch of reading, where I’d been trying to come to terms with the magical understatement of both David Ferry and Richard Hugo, I decided to set aside (for a moment!) my abiding love for the inimitable Lucie Brock-Broido and attempt something plainer—in both diction and syntax. Once I made the decision to write in a plain-style mode, the poem, pretty much as you see it, came together in one three-hour session—all while sitting on the back steps of my third floor porch (“porch” might be an overstatement, more of a shared plank perch, I’d say) overlooking an alley, a weedy, abandoned lot, and the constant traffic snarl of Ashland Avenue (I live in Chicago). I’ve thought about this, and I cannot recall ever having written a finished poem that came together for me that quickly. Continue reading

Dissecting the Gimmick by Brooke Wonders from issue 299.4

I’m fascinated by gimmick memoirs—what’s sometimes referred to as “schtick” lit. You know the kind of book I’m talking about: Julie & Julia, Nickel and Dimed, everything by Kevin Roose, or—at essay length—David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” I only recently discovered the endless catalog of A. J. Jacobs, whose schtick-y memoirs are each subtitled “One Man’s Humble Quest to [  ],” where the blank contains everything from “follow the Bible as literally as possible” to “become the smartest person in the world.” The best of these—and of this litany, I’d count Wallace’s essay as a particular success—transcend gimmick and rise to the status of art object. It’s a rocky and treacherous climb when working within such a maligned form, though. Perhaps it’s this difficulty, which arises out of the very pandering popularity of the schtick, that appeals to me.

Continue reading

Jared Rogness: Owning it

So, let’s be frank—I am a hypocrite creatively.  If I could paint the content of my stories a color it would most likely be gray.

tucker boys NAR illustration

I grew up like most of my friends in Iowa in the ‘80s and ‘90s with a steady stream of depictions of violence and aggression in cinema, TV, video games, comics, music, and yes—sports. Blood thirst is indiscriminate. It all fuels the same ticking cultural time bomb.

It was for me and for many of my suburban white friends a chance to live dangerously… but now that I’m a father and I’ve tested limits and lived with the consequences, I’ve seen what misdirected passion can result in.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and so much gun violence before and since then—I looked back at the body of my creative work, haunted. Continue reading

On Donation by Emily Schulten from issue 299.4

It is not a quick and dramatic emergency room reveal; it a process of many tests and scans, after each of which you may get the phone call that interrupts your day: you cannot save your sibling’s life. In this fall’s issue of the North American Review, my poem, “Love Poem to my Kidney,” will appear. It is a poem about the time about a year after my brother’s kidney transplant, for which I was the donor. What many don’t know is how very many steps there are to become a donor.Joseph_Daniel_Fiedler-big-17

With such buildup, in such a sterile, halogen medical environment, there’s plenty of time to ponder why we try so hard to be in control of our lives, despite knowing we ultimately have little control. It is from this thought that I reached out to ancient Egyptian burial customs. (I’m quite sure this is what the graying man having blood drawn next to me for the glucose test was thinking.) After all, these folks mastered holding onto life. They had a system. If they had to leave, they were going to take it with them when they were gone. Whether they succeeded or failed, the attempt at controlling the continuation of life drove them, and the mythology and ritual involved, handed down, provided them the ability to feel some sense of taking action. Continue reading

Distant Yet Personal by Julia Lynn Rubin from issue 299.4

Throughout middle school, I was bullied by multiple people. The bullying wasn’t physical in nature, but emotional and social, which perhaps made it all the more traumatizing. Even today, at age twenty-four, I still feel its lasting effects in my most vulnerable moments. I tried to capture that intensity, pain, and hyper self-awareness in “Like Snowflakes,” a story that is at once distant from my own specific memories yet intimately personal—and intimately adolescent.


Writing has always been a way for me to contain and eradicate pain and trauma, while also honoring the associated feelings and experiences. My characters are purposefully morally vague and contradictory and confusing because I think people are often morally vague and contradictory and confusing.

This story came rather naturally to me; I wrote with an intimate intensity as well as a purposeful detachment from my characters, not always fully understanding them and their motives, but always accepting them.

Julia Lynn Rubin is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and has written for a variety of digital publications, including The Content Strategist and Wetpaint Entertainment. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she is working on her first novel. She will be featured in the upcoming 299.4 Fall 2014 issue of the North American Review.

This illustration accompanied “Like Snowflakes” in the 299.4 print issue of the North American Review. The artist, Catherine Byun, is a freelance illustrator based in San Francisco. She spends her time drawing, watching movies, and hiking around California.

Throwback Saturday featuring Rebecca Foust with “Pulled Plug” from issue 295.2

Rebecca Foust was a James Hearst Poetry Prize Finalist in 2010. 

I wrote this poem sometime in 2008, not long after I first returned to writing after a 35-year hiatus, and so it was an early experiment in sustaining a longish poem (anything over a page was long for me then) and one made of short lines organized into tercets. The length was dictated by the length of the story I wanted to tell, for this is a narrative poem based, as many of my poems are, on an experience from life.


My mother’s second husband was a “Full Bird” army colonel who earned his promotions through battlefield commissions on multiple tours in Korea and Vietnam. The Colonel was fiercely proud of having come up this way and scornful of “college boys” who, when they got into real battle situations, did not, he said, know their ass from their weapon. An intelligent man, he escaped a poor, rural upbringing on a Pennsylvania farm by joining the army, and it was the army that paid for his college, graduate school, and the PhD in military history. After retirement, the Colonel lectured at war colleges and published two books in his field. He was an ambitious man, torn between disdain and admiration for higher institutions of earning, and a voracious reader. But all the reading I saw him do was through the narrow lens of his obsession with military tactics and history, and the only poet I ever heard him recite was Rudyard Kipling.

Before he married my mother, the Colonel fathered one child, DeeDee, a daughter who shared her father’s ambition and strong sense of grand destiny, but lacked the critical ingredient of his iron will. During her childhood, her father was mostly gone on military business and tours of duty. When he came home, he showered her with gifts and attention, and then went off again to drink with his men. The Colonel’s dream was to send DeeDee to West Point, and he pursued it even in the face of mounting evidence that she would not have the requisite test scores and grades.

Deedee did get admitted to West Point, presumably because her father had “pulled” strings, and she lasted less than a year before flunking out. Always an indifferent student, Deedee fell in with a bad crowd. We began to hear rumors about drugs—pot, cocaine, speed. All to which her father, rabidly anti-any-drug besides gin, turned a resolutely blind eye.

“Screw the sumbitches,” the Colonel said after Deedee got kicked out.  “We’ll send her to Harvard, or Wharton,” and he began to write away for the applications. Deedee came back home and began spending time with another West Point dropout, a young man who, the time I met him was as close to being in uniform as you can get in civilian clothes: pressed black pants, white button down shirt, and spit-shined oxford shoes. The news of his death from a morphine overdose sent shock waves through the family, and it was shortly afterwards that Deedee got into the car her father had bought her and drove across the county to San Diego where, she announced, she intended to live.

For a few years, nobody talked much about Deedee. By then, I was living in San Francisco and so was the closest family member when the call came. “Deedee’s been in a car accident,” Mom told me. “Can you go? No one else can get there before tomorrow.” So I packed an overnight bag and caught a flight to a San Diego, then went straight to the hospital where this poem opens, to find Deedee was on life support. I sat with her until her mother arrived, followed a few hours later by the Colonel and my mother. We stayed for three days, shuttling back and forth between the hospital and the dank motel where the four of us shared one room. The poem is in that room, with its cinderblock deck overlooking the ocean, in the ICU, and in the hospital’s chapel where the Colonel, an avowed atheist since childhood, went every day to pray.

When we returned to the motel room it was to collapse on one of its two beds or fold-out couch to wait for the return of the Colonel, always the last to leave Deedee’s side. Just before making the trip from Pennsylvania he’d gone to the local thrift store to buy a suit for his book readings, and that was what he wore—all he wore—while in San Diego: a three-piece navy-with-pinstripe, tight across the chest and made of a wool much too heavy for a southern California climate. He began drinking on the plane and did not stop, so that the sweet smell of ferment oozing from his neck and palms made the doctors step back and roll their eyes when he pressed them with his urgent questions. On the last night, it began to rain, and the Colonel force-marched the four miles back from the hospital to the motel. When he opened the door, the room filled with the smell of sweat, mothballs, wet wool, and gin, and we asked him to go outside on the deck to air out. He stayed there all night, pacing back and forth, back and forth and reciting “Gunga Din.” The next morning he walked back to the hospital alone to sign the papers to disconnect his daughter’s life support.

Return to San Pietro

Since the story inspiring this poem was already so heavy and fraught, I wanted a form that could hold it without collapsing under its own weight; that’s why I settled on short-line tercets, after experimenting first with longer lines and blockier stanza structures. The Colonel represented so many things I reflexively loathed: the military, war, alcoholism, misogyny, racism—all that. And yet there was something delicate and piercing in his fierce loyalty to and grief for his lost-in-the-woods daughter. As for Deedee, I sensed and feared her dark side and was put off by her coarseness and swaggering braggadocio. So I gave her a wide berth at family gatherings and did not look her up when she moved to CA.

In the ICU I saw a different Deedee, a more vulnerable, childlike creature, something feral and shy. She lay on the gurney, nude, covered only by a light blanket. Her face was unmarked except that her eyes, closed and hugely swollen, looked like ripe plums. I had plenty of time waiting in that room to notice her glossy black hair, and smooth, freckled skin. And, when the nurse came to take her vaginal temperature (brusquely it seemed to me) I saw the rest of Deedee’s young strong, and curiously unmarred body as well. Yes, except for those eyes she looked exactly like she was sleeping, and for the first time, I thought her beautiful, too.

Frost Place photo_8-18-14Rebecca Foust’s books include All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song and God, Seed. Foust is the recent recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place and the MacDowell Colony. New work is in Hudson Review, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Narrative, Sewanee Review, and other journals. Since 2007, Foust’s poem’s have appeared in 7 issues (the most current will be featured in the next issue 300.1) of the North American Review, she won second place for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2012, and was also a James Hearst Poetry Prize Finalist in 2013.

Photo Credit: Maudelle Driskell, she is the director of the Frost Place, at

Illustrator Clay Rodery lives in Houston, Texas just down the road from NASA Mission Control (which accounts for a lot). Clay is featured in issue 299.3, Summer 2014.

Rich Ives: Searching the Boundaries by Anita Endrezze

Flashback to 1973. Rich Ives is a young student in the Creative Writing program at Eastern Washington University. He has stacks of photos he’s taken of various subjects (coeds, mainly, in abstract postures) and a freezer full of cheap corn dogs.  He plays keyboard in a rock blues band. We share an office as teaching assistants and travel the road with Professor Jim McAuley and Dick Hugo in the Poets in the Schools program. We are lean, mean, writing machines.

Rich Ives

Now flash forward 40 years. He wears a cowboy hat and one earring and teaches creative writing and composition at Everett Community College (WA) as a tenured professor. His interest has grown to include visual art. I asked him how art and music cross over to each other and to his writing: “My written forms are not so much the usually named ones, but a searching at the boundaries of these elements applied in different contexts. In art, for example, I do collage and assemblage, which is associational to me, much as my writing is.”

He adds, “I am very texture oriented but not literal minded. I let the associations of objects in color, shape, touch, and mood guide me, with much experimentation and often with the happy discovery that there was a reason I wasn’t aware of for choosing a relationship until it has already led me to a second or third association. The art is about making discoveries and using the physicality of words, which have different, if related, textures to what they name, to create suggestions and associations, especially context and emotional implications.”

His writing has been strongly influenced by “foreign imagery-based poets who are very tactile, and it has spread in what might seem like diverse directions, which are really related by voice, style, visual and symbolic focus, and point of view. I am as interested in what is implied in my work as what is said,” he clarifies.

He has over sixty musical instruments, currently concentrating on the fiddle, dobro, cittern, octave mandolin, and keyboards (piano, clavinet, organ, synthesized sounds, etc.). His style is from another era, notably old-time country music. “With the keyboards there’s a lot of variety, but I especially like jazz, blues, and ragtime.”

Rich Ives playing

“In music I focus on expression and improvisation to imply parts of the ‘extended story,’” he explains. “I write in a similar manner, not primarily from ideas or plots, although these often emerge, but by letting tentative possibilities create and extend themselves by implication rather than explanation from combinations of words and images, and their creation of often unexpected contexts, into a larger series of implications. I often work episodically and focus on what I may be able to suggest “happens” between the episodes. Part of the art is trying to comprehend and extend what has been suggested beyond what has been said, to create a second story line. The art and music I work with approaches the same intention from an opposite direction, and these areas are overlapping more often now.”

He works a lot in flash fiction. This term is somewhat elastic but he describes it carefully: “Flash fiction started from an attempt to notice and separate what had started to establish itself as the prose poem in my writing from work based more on plot and character than language manipulations. I found the line between very difficult to locate, and I am often in the middle. I’ve adopted the term, used by Gunter Eich and Michael Benedikt, ‘mole’ for the hybrid forms I often create.”


“Story Too Short for Its Box”

Something was singing. I suspected my grocery bag. I suspected my tomato. It was the kind of song you hear the heroine singing when she’s in trouble on a mountaintop. Accompanied by a flinging of capes and two or three plain looking sisters with amazing harmony.

I tried on a different four-cornered hat.

My comedy shoes were bleeding. It was not quite ironic but leading to, and distended and hooked and intimated. It was the space above yesterday that I was missing, but today was filling it in. It was beautiful and it was an army training ground, and I was qualified. I didn’t want to have to kill anyone, but I knew for that kind of beauty I should.

(from Alice Blue online lit mag)

When asked about his current project, he answered, “After finishing a long three-volume novel, I’ve turned to researching insects for a book that keeps growing, tentatively titled People You Thought You Knew: an Entomologist’s Guidebook to Human Behavior.”

He describes his reason for writing:  “I write to find out who I am, to discover pieces of myself I didn’t know were there. In a sense, I write to become a bigger person. I try not to rely too much on what I know, but explore what I want to know and especially to find out why those particular things are the ones that draw me. I allow myself to become other people who have been hiding inside me as I do this. I’ve probably even dragged a few there that would have resisted if they realized what I was doing. I lose myself in them to find out what they’re doing there.”

And lastly, he has some words for young writers: “Most young writers don’t seem to be reading widely enough, especially in alternative forms and foreign writers, to break the stranglehold of the preconceptions so dominant in mainstream publishing and genre writing. The answers to questions a writer has about the work should mostly not be known before the work is in motion. It’s the excitement of following unknowns to potential knowns that creates the deeper thrust and surprising power of working your way out of the dark and into that particular work’s own best form.”

Rich Ives creates worlds of complexity and texture. His forthcoming books include: Sharpen (fiction chapbook), The Newer York Press, Tunneling to the Moon (short prose forms), Silenced Press; and Light from a Small Brown Bird (poetry), Bitter Oleander Press.

Anita Endrezze is a writer and artist. Her next book is a chapbook, “A Thousand Branches” (Red Bird Press, 2014), a book of poems and art. She was featured in issue 297.4 of the North American Review.