Thursday, January 26, 2012


I can see the scene already. The poet sits in the boat, and he's already recounting the recent battle, he adds it to the canon of other battles, those of their fathers, grandfathers. Yeah, whatever, right? I can see Rance Poole on the other side of the campfire as we sit on a high, dry, lonely plateau. In my memory, he's telling me a story with such power and accuracy that I'm unhinged, I'm no longer afraid of the darkness of night. Wrapped up in Rance's story, I want to know the end, yes, but it's the timbre of his voice, the cadence of the the words that has me so enthralled. He's a good storyteller, and even at this young age of his, he could rival any Viking poet.
I feel like we were focused on one another, all of us, just a few short analogue years ago. We were telling stories on stoops, stories which built from unlikely beginnings to surprising endings. We were laughing, we were laughing and we were laughing. “Then what happened?”

Nothing. People are still telling stories on stoops. People are still laughing and laughing and laughing. They're still recounting occurrences, fabricating lies, embellishing details and making fiction. It's fun, even in this digital age of HDTV, political warfare and professional sports welfare. There are still people talking when the sun goes down and the campfire ignites the primitive need in us to hear the word, the language and the song in a fellow human's voice. Tell a me a story.
Let me tell you a story of Chicago. The windy city. It was a particularly sunny afternoon in March. I'd been dosing on the sofa. My friend Mendy Evans had been putting me up. It was her sofa I'd had napped. In my dream I was standing at the mouth of a tunnel when all these bats began to fly at me. They were making a terrible sound. The sound grew and grew in intervals. The terrible roar began to sound like the ringing of a telephone. And as I awoke into the sunny glory and telephone's ringing of that March afternoon in 1995, my life would forever change. The caller, my friend Lynne Parkinson laughed when I told her about the bats. When I hung up the phone I saw the copy of Bleeping Sheep magazine. It was the only issue, to my knowledge, the magazine ever produced. I submitted a story that was ultimately accepted, but I don't think subsequent issues ever ran. Bleeding Sheep came out of Chicago.
Over the years, I have been impressed and delighted at the creativity, free expression and free press that Chicago has embraced, birthed and produced. For me, as a writer, Chicago has been kind. Victor David Giron's Curbside Splendor ran my story “Ocean into Cotton Candy” in 2010. And now, 2012, WordPlaySound (another Chicago original) has gracious hosted my short story “When It's Cold Out in December.”
WordPlaySound has got to be one of the most clever concepts I have ever seen in a literary magazine. Being in the digital age, as we are, and with literary magazines moving to online formats, WordPlaySound has thought about things differently. This magazine hosts writers who give “readers” so much more than mere words. This is an audio literary magazine. So, rather than reading, the “reader” can listen to the author read their story. This is a venue for storytellers, more than it is a venue for writers. Editor Ryan Singleton sums it up best in his welcome letter:

After all, that’s what WordPlaySound is all about: finding a deeper level of meaning in literature and sharing it with a larger community. Your work neither has to fuel a social movement that changes the world nor spawn drones of screaming fans that want your autograph; you just have to be honest and hit us with a load of passion.”

Being in the literary magazine movement myself, I appreciate new concepts and new approaches to the representation of literature in the modern world. What Mr. Singleton has done here is fit the primitive need and the human aspect of the oral tradition and blended seamlessly with this new digital medium of the Internet. I cannot foretell the future, but I suspect that WordPlaySound will reach a more varied and eclectic audience than a tradition journal or magazine. I suspect that this magazine will surpass the expectations of everyone involved: readers, writers and its own editors.
And as Mr. Singleton says, “Happy recording. Happy listening!”

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