Rob Carney Tomorrow!

Hello, Internet. It feels like it’s been a while since Helicon West.

That’s because the events are on second and fourth Thursdays of a month, so–surprise! We didn’t have one last week. Very sad and all. And discombobulating for those of us who didn’t notice the pattern.

That’s me. I was really confused last week.

But that’s okay, and tomorrow, we DO have Helicon West. Here, have a fancy flyer to pique your interest.

Rob Carney Nov2015

If you are too lazy to look at the flyer, or you want to hear some carney puns, read on. The featured reader at the November 12th Helicon West will be Rob Carney (see now, I’m really funny). He’s a renowned Utah author and UVU professor with youth appeal and WEB PRESENCE. Just like this blog! Except for with, you know, more of it. Using my internet search skills, I’ve determined that Rob writes poetry and likes the American West. We’ll meet in the Logan Library (255 North Main) Bridger Room at 7 pm.

Using my internet search weaknesses, I’ve also discovered an international realtor and this guy who does his own mix tapes, also by the name of Rob Carney.

Anyways. Come to Helicon West. Listen to Rob. Drink free coffee. Eat free cookies. Read your own work up to seven minutes long at Open Mic, the part of the show where you come out and say your fancy poem or what-have-you. We’re uncensored so you can say anything you like, any thought you want to share with people, as long as you can do it before the passage of four hundred twenty seconds.

And now I owe you some puns.

I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.

Going vegetarian is a missed steak. A steak pun is a rare medium well done.

…..Why did no one like the last two puns? Because they were too Carney.

And why did everyone like the previous pun? Because it was just the right amount of Carney.

I’m sorry.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger

There’s Just a Lot of “Paradise Lost” References in My Poem

There’s a thing about Helicon West: you can read people’s poetry and you can read their stories and that’s great, but to see actual people holding their work out in their mouths and showing it as they want it to be seen–there’s something special about that.

Also, it allows for a lot of funny one liners.

This fortnight’s edition of Who-Wants-To-Have-A-Blog-Post goes to Teresa Dyer for her poem “On the Noises in the Office, Late Nights,” assuming I’ve punctuated that title correctly. You can hear her and her funny spiel about Milton starting at 21:30 of the video (which is just a lovely video; go ahead and watch the whole thing and get yourself some culture).

This’ll learn you some history about the English Building at USU, which, by rights, is old enough to be haunted. Here’s our story: Once, the Ray B West building was a military training barracks. It housed soldiers who would fight in World War One, killing and dying and perhaps…returning to the training ground to watch the students writing in the dark.

The more I think about it, the more I think this poem is true. It just…makes…sense.

Teresa has some neat tricks up her sleeves. First, all this assonance! You know, the repetition of vowel sounds. We’ve got fright/ nights/ wise and vets/ reject–both of these in the first segment of poem–and throughout the piece, a repetition of the O sound: intoned/ you know/ alone, alone, alone/ home, which is particularly clever because O sounds like ghosts without saying ghosts. The poem never says ghosts. They are implied (good gravy, subtext is just the best). I don’t know how well subliminal messaging works…but hey, even if it doesn’t, the repeated O adds a nice cohesion.

In any case, all these assonant words string together because they are very close. Spoken out loud, you can hear the emphasis Teresa gives her vowels. Similarly, the past of the English building and its present and strung together by ghosts (maybe). I love how tight Teresa’s poem is. Everything contributes.

Another cool trick: we’ve got some crazy wordplay from Part Two. “…neither yet named so nor yet part of…” Say it out loud. It’s not a tongue twister. It’s a mind-bender. This is good because the piece is about mind-bending. Is Ray B West haunted? Maybe. Also see this trick in the line “I heard someone call down the upstairs hall.” Down the upstairs hall. It’s just disorienting enough that you want to check it twice, just like you might if perhaps you saw something out of the corner of your eye.

Now, internet, muse on some of my favorite lines.

“They meant to quake our hearts and prick our necks.” Oh, I am a sucker for excellent backwards active voice. Teresa could’ve written “Our hearts quaked and our necks pricked because of them” but thank goodness, she didn’t, and the line she’s got absolutely gushes power for “them.”

“We ate gummy worms under florescent lights, graded papers, and wrote them, in a cycle that made our eyes see things we dared not report to each other.” That ambiance. Could there be a more perfect setup for a ghost story? It’s got the right people, the right lightning, the right sense of things not being quite as they seem…

So. Who’s excited to go to class tomorrow?

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger


Flash fiction: extremely short stories, usually 500 words or less–on occasion you may find one at 750 words, or with only 50.

The challenge: tell a convincing and intriguing story with knowable characters, change worth hearing about, a setting to sink into, and an interesting plot in an extremely limited space.

The contender: Bull Pen Flash (and Gary Dop…but, my dear internet, I do not know if he’s with the Bull Pen Flash or if he’s doing his own thing).

The place to go: Logan Library Bridger Room. Arrive at seven…or fashionably early.

Will they be up to the challenge? Can these really cool people from Utah State take the pressure? Is Gary Dop part of Bull Pen Flash? Will you read your own piece  (seven minutes or less) at Open Mic after the featured readers? Will the audience love and support you? Just kidding. That’s not a question. They totally will love and support you. Come read.

And what is the very super exciting surprise that I’m not going to tell you about here?

Find out tomorrow at Helicon West as Bull Pen Flash students present their projects. There will be free coffee from Cafe Ibis. And a surprise joyful thing!

Hint: If I were you…I’d come hungry.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger

UPDATE: Gary Dop was not part of Bull Pen. He came all the way from the middle of the United States and read us some hilarious poetry…and some poems that were so sad that it would have been wrong to clap. So we all just sat in silence and felt the emotions. Helicon West was AWESOME.

Eat Your Heart Out

So I’ve got here a segment from Dianne Hardy’s memoir “For Crying Out Loud.”

In the clip (her’s starts at 4:30) Dianne reads the first few pages of her book. She starts with a flow of anecdotes melting into each other, and I mean gracefully; each one sinks into the next so you’re always immersed in a moment that joins with two others, and you don’t notice the transition.

And in the moments you get a flavor for a world. Dianne does such a beautiful job setting it up. Since it’s nonfiction, she must choose retroactively the best details from what really happened to give us the tang we need. Call it ambiance or atmosphere, zeitgeist or narrative voice, but if you read enough you’ll get it ingrained in your mind and spend the rest of your day in a world not-your-own. That’s awesome, and it’s not so easy to pull off. See some specific places where the feeling manifests:

While the bread was baking, I helped church the butter. Loaves came out of the oven and Grandma hacked of a big chunk for me. The hot bread melted the fresh butter, which swam on the top like liquid gold.

I’ve read this like sixteen times now and I think I might cry. So much ambiance. I can smell the bread and the butter and the nostalgia. I can feel it all warm on my fingers, hear the summer bugs outside, Dianne doesn’t even need to mention them because her story just carries them implicitly…

So here’s how I deal with all these feelings: I rewrite Dianne’s words and absorb them. I swallow Grandma puckering up her thigh for insulin. I devour the elementary school across the street. I masticate the sound of a western meadowlark. It’s all these beautiful little stories like liquid gold butter on bread…Until the GOOSEBERRY PIE BIT.

I don’t know where to begin about the gooseberry pie: the vulnerability of human relationships, how one person’s bad day can translate to loss and misery for everyone else, how someone can be so kind when they’re brave and so cruel when they’re afraid…or maybe I could just stand in shock and the loss of a perfectly scrumptious dessert. It makes me want to turn into a velociraptor. It makes me want to go outside snarling. It makes me want to rip up leaves in my raptor claws, giving passersby a wicked stare just in case they’ve ever thrown away good food.

Fortunately, Dianne was a clever enough kid to figure out that “there are parts of that pie that are still good.” And you hear the audience chuckle because first, eating garbage is funny, and second, because they are all vicariously so frustrated about the untimely death of pie that they are laughing in relief at its revival.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger

PS: Want to hear a Western Meadowlark? Follow this link!

This title is a haiku. It’s not very good. Love it anyways.

I have a beautiful broadside for your viewing/ reading pleasure! This time it features some angry, sensual poems by Lori Lee and Marianne Hales Harding. Angry and sensual you say? Yeah, they’re both angry and sensual and some other things at the same time. Have a look!

October Broadside

Do you know what ‘broadside’ means? says that a broadside is a piece of paper printed on one side. It also says a broadside is the whole side of a ship that is above water. Just thought you ought to know.

BUT it really means that Lori Lee and Marianne Hales Harding are published authors, and they may now brag about their accomplishment whenever they have the occasion. They can impress skeptical friends, stave off annoying relatives, and woo other publishers who require proof that you are for real.

If you would like to get your work on a broadside, then step one is to come to Helicon West tomorrow (October 8) at 7:00 pm in Logan Library’s Bridger Room. We’ll be hearing from Amanda Luzzader, K. Scott Forman, and Michael Darling. We’re in line for a horror/ Halloween themed Helicon West (I think), so bring someone along whose hand you’d like to hold.

Want more information? Look here: Helicon Oct 8

Step two to getting on a broadside is to bring your own creative work seven minutes or less and read it at Open Mic, the part of the show where you come out and show everyone how wonderful you are! After our featured readers, you have an opportunity to dazzle us all with your talents. Repeat this step as necessary, which is to say, read often. Getting your work out in front of a small supportive audience is a great practice for bigger things–and by itself, it’s still a worthy goal. Share often. Come drink free coffee from Cafe Ibis to pep yourself up.

Step three is to submit your piece to star.coulbrooke@ for consideration. You may also ask her questions, or you can go to USU’s writing center site for more information.

This is another haiku. I’m afraid it’s no better than my first.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger

The River Offers No Explanation

Okay, internet friends: water is important. Not just for drinking, but for minds. At Helicon West last Thursday quite a few people spoke about their connection with rivers and other bodies of water.

Also, we watched an interpretive fly tying demonstration. What is Helicon West? Basically, it’s a community of creative people who want to laugh and gasp and see the whole world. So we write stories and watch fly tying. Did you know flies are beautiful, works of art?

Today’s post will focus on one particular set of river poems: Star Coulbrooke’s. Go to 5:45 to start her segment.

My favorite line from her first poem, “River in the Night,” is somewhat clipped out of the middle of another phrase. It says “those who dam our history with their thirst, who never understand water, the need for rivers to carry it, to carry us…”

Internet friends, listen to how the poetry wends and flows. Phrases sink into each other, which is why I had to snatch a segment from a larger sentence; they flow and move and join up, each thought hinging on the next and previous thoughts. This poem is fluid. The whole thing makes up a river.

Which is wonderful, because Utah is a dry, dry state. Go spend some time away from air conditioning and faucets, and I guarantee you will crave water that flows and moves on and on and on.

The next poem is called “Snag.” Again, Star has this great strength of making the structure of her descriptions match the thing being described: this one starts out chaotic, a bit messy, objects following one after the other describing the mess around the river…and it ends similarly, but with a gentler touch. People connect with the water. And it is passion for them. I hear an environmental theme in Star’s poems that is more than just “don’t break nature.” She focuses on people’s connection to the environment. It’s for the benefit of our hearts to have a healthy and available outdoors to run to.

The last poem is “Rock Beach,” and I think it’s a gospel hymn. This time the river is “essential as breathing, as sleeping, the river is food for the soul.” And this poem comes with a solution to the previously posed environmental problems. “Innovation: don your swimsuit, go to the river, get in, and float.”

In essence, go out and learn to love what’s there. If people care about something, if you care about something, the you’ll protect it. And if you want to care about something you must know it.

Unintentionally, Star’s poems contrast Justin’s piece (go to 12:45; it’s laugh-out-loud funny…and kind of gross) about his disturbing experience on a cruise ship. Even though he was on a boat, the only water he touched was the community hot tub. I don’t think it healed his soul and mind and heart…at all.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger

Want Some Dubious Advice?

I have high hopes for a raucous good time tomorrow–because tomorrow, of course, is Helicon West, and authors Chadd VanZanten and Russ Beck are coming. And their flyer–see below–is hilarious (as a side note, Russ Beck’s blog is also hilarious and worth a visit). It looks like we’re going to get some funny stories and bad fishing advice. What more could you want out of life…other than tiny gummy bears? Therefore, I am excited and you should be too. Because if Chadd and Russ say really funny things I won’t have to work hard to think of a title for the next post.


Helicon Sept 24 small

We’ll hold Helicon West in the Logan Library Bridger Room–that’s 255 North Main. It’ll be at 7 pm. There will be free coffee.

Also note that YOU might speak too! If you’ve got a creative piece under seven minutes that you would like to share, we would love to have you sign up for open mic and perform it. It’s your chance to shine, and shine you shall.

…Disclaimer: Perhaps dubious advice about fishing is really, really serious business. I cannot personally guarantee the hilarity of bad fishing advice.

-Jessica, your friendly neighborhood Helicon Blogger