This issue includes new poems and flash fiction from Maya Janson, Mark Terrill, Fred Muratori, Gary Fincke, Nancy Keating, and many others, as well as reviews of No Day at the Beach by John Brehm and Long Voyage Gathering Light by John Kooistra.
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Issue introduction by Michael Malan
Le beau temps
For many, 2020 was The Year of the Pandemic. For others it was a year of peace, contemplation, and freedom from anxiety. As Charles Bukowski said, “It’s not that I don’t like people; it’s just that I feel better when they aren’t around.”
For introspective writers and artists, 2020 was a banner year. No in-person parties, poetry readings, weddings, and funerals. No face-to-face uncomfortable social interactions. “No more teachers’ dirty looks.” Refugees from Facebook and other social media could spend their time reading, writing, and “counting flowers on the wall.”
“Every cloud has a silver lining” or, as they might say in France, Après la pluie, le beau temps! What a blessing it’s been to be in touch with so many people via Zoom and email. Over the years, Cloudbank has been assisted (and nourished) by bright young poetry students enrolled in Oregon State University’s MFA in Poetry program. They stayed with us for a year and then, after graduation, they drifted away and we never heard from them again.
Now, thanks to Zoom, all that has changed. Every other week I meet online with former Cloudbank interns who live in North Dakota, Alaska, and Portland, Oregon, (as well as seasoned veteran poets here in Corvallis and Eugene). We share poems, offer helpful comments, and chat about the weather. You know, heaven on earth. And Linnea Nelson, Karah Kemmerly, and Ben Swimm, all OSU MFA graduates, are continuing to support the press as associate editors.
I’ll mention three other people who have been instrumental in the growth and flourishing of Cloudbank. My co-editor Peter Sears, who started the press with me in 1999. We published several books, and then in 2008, I decided to start a journal. At first he was hesitant; he said he didn’t want to read a lot of “unaccomplished” (or something like that) poetry. But when I told him I would go it alone, he was all in.
One fine day, Peter and I were eating lunch at the Valley Restaurant (now Evergreen Restaurant) and we made up a list of possible names for the press. He suggested Cloudbank. I liked it and we were off and running.
The first issue stumbled out of the starting gate. It didn’t look as though we would have a enough good poetry and flash fiction to put together a quality journal. I held all the checks that people had sent with their submissions for several months so that I could easily refund their money if we decided not to launch the magazine.
And then we got a submission from Christopher Buckley. He was always drawn to cloud imagery, he said, and liked the title of our magazine. We accepted “In Memory of the Winos at the Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Santa Barbara CA” and “New Clouds,” in which he wrote:
Here they are again, wadded across the length of the washboard blue, napkins flung from the afterlife. . . . How open to suggestion they have always been, carrying nothing with them of the past, content to leave almost everything behind. . . .
I cashed the checks and Cloudbank 1 was published a few months later.
And then there was Dennis Schmitz. Back in the day, long before Peter and I started the press, I had enrolled in a poetry workshop with Dennis at Cal State Sacramento (then affectionately known as “Sac State”). Shortly after the workshop was concluded, I moved to New York, and Dennis and I corresponded a few times, then we lost touch.
Flash forward to 2010. While I was working on Cloudbank 3, I wrote Dennis and said, “You probably don’t remember me but . . .” He wrote back and said, “Of course, I remember you. The picture comes in, but it’s a bit fuzzy around the edges. I last heard from you when you were doing the Cornell workshops with [A.R.] Ammons and Robert Morgan. I’m glad that you’re Westcoast and back to poetry. Cloudbank is a handsome magazine—I enjoyed the poems. Peter Sears I know from FIELD poems—good writer—say ‘hello.’” Dennis submitted several poems—we accepted “Bad Dog!” for Cloudbank 3 and he judged the first two Vern Rutsala Book Prizes (2015 and 2016).
And now here we are in 2021 and the dark clouds of the pandemic are beginning to lift. Are we looking to a brighter future, “carrying nothing / . . . of the past, content to leave almost / everything behind. . . ”?
Perchakucha Divided by Four by David James
Note: A Perchakucha presentation is a format that uses 20 slides or images that are displayed for 20 seconds each.
- This day is made from hope, light, wind and a blue sky swirling around a few clouds traveling east. The cedars shake up and down, waving to me, so I wave back. I blow a kiss in their direction and they blush, not pink, but a lighter green. I love their smiles.
- My four-year old grandson, Henry, is having a meltdown because he doesn’t want to go home for dinner. His mother says, “Watch your attitude.” His younger brother, Simon, announces, “I’m watching my attitude.” Then this sweet boy looks up to me, straight-faced, and asks, “What’s an attitude?”
- It’s hard to believe it was 65 degrees today, March 27. T-shirt weather for Michiganders. But snow is predicted for the weekend, shocking the hell out of the robins. I opened the windows to let spring in. We had some tea and biscuits and then she begged off, you know, buds to create, flowers to make.
- Smoked two cigars today as I cut wood for shelves in the basement, stained the mailbox for the first time in twenty years. Finished a poem, revised another. Mahi-mahi for dinner with a baked potato. Sometimes I forget where I live and how blessed I am.
- Half-moon up there, peeking behind wisps of clouds. A train barrels through town, on schedule, its horn echoing off stars. It’s good to be in love after forty years, three kids, six grands, and three parents still walking the earth. This day goes down and, with luck, another will be born into my open arms.
Poets and writers in Cloudbank 15
R. A. Allen
Deborah H. Doolittle
Kamal E. Kimball
Katharyn Howd Machan
Marc J. Sheehan