Editorial: Naming names, claiming days.

These are the Supreme Court Justices of the United States of America who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

 

John Roberts

Samuel Alito

Clarence Thomas

Neil Gorsuch

Amy Coney Barrett

Brett Kavanaugh

 

Five Justices had stated publicly in the past—sometimes the very recent past—that they regarded Roe v. Wade as settled law. (The sixth never acknowledged this.)

The Dobbs decision directly impacts the right of any U.S.-resident person who can become pregnant to make decisions about their own body. It claims unjust authority over that body’s movement through our tired, contracting, beauty-veined world. And it compromises an individual’s ability to locate their own flourishing and happiness, which may stand single, among family, friends and partners, or eventually include the chosen addition of a child or children.

If you’re reading Our Beautiful Reward, you probably already agree with all of the above. You may also agree that the struggle for reproductive rights is linked to other contemporary struggles for bodily autonomy, including trans rights; disability rights; the right to be free of violence both institutional and private; the right to not have the environment damaged so deeply that you, an embodied person, can no longer take care of yourself and others within it. Many affiliated efforts in the direction of justice follow from these beliefs.

In some of the writing that follows you will find powerful evidence of shock, anger and grief at acts of reckless authoritarian intrusion including, but not limited to, the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Not every piece in this collection aims to be ‘constructive.’ We have held room for fury and disorientation. In other works, you will find speculative approaches to living fully, defiantly, within threatened contexts. A good number of these poems and stories acknowledge that for now, freedom—that difficult-to-quantify, wrestled-over term—is felt and found from moment to moment, day to day, rather than existing as a great and secure continuity of unquestioned fact.

What we hope we have done in bringing these authors and works together in this special issue of Reckoning is to confirm that many of us, across the world, are working wherever possible to extend those moments, those days. Join us. Read on.

Podcast Episode 23: Sold for Parts

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Today on the Reckoning Press podcast we have Catherine Rockwood reading Nicole Bade’s quiet flash story “Sold for Parts”, about surviving, coping, in a world of loss. This piece seems particularly relevant here in the U.S., after a series of Supreme Court decisions that signals a precipitous erosion of rights, hope for safety and well-being and progress towards justice of all kinds, for everyone.

I hope listening to it provides you some solace, a little peace.

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve just announced a new submission call for a special issue about bodily autonomy and environmental justice, Our Beautiful Reward, edited by none other than Catherine Rockwood. To read that call and submit, you can go to reckoning.press/submit.

We’re also running our first-ever fundraiser, with the goal of raising payrates for writers, staff, and podcast readers, potentially producing a print edition of Catherine’s special issue featuring cover art by Mona Robles, and including cool rewards like pins, t-shirts, personal story critiques from some of our editors past and present, and other weirder fun stuff. Go to reckoning.press/support-us for details.

Thank you for listening!

[Bios below.]

“Sold for Parts” by Nicole Bade

Podcast Episode 22: The Watcher on the Wall

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Hi everyone, I’m Catherine Rockwood, and today on the Reckoning Magazine Podcast I’m going to be reading “The Watcher on the Wall” by Rebecca Bratten Weiss. And this poem is featured in Reckoning 6, which we are very proud of and which hope you will pick up or survey.

So the way we’d like to order the podcast is, first I’m going to tell you a little bit about Rebecca, and then I’m going to say a few words about what we really loved about this poem when it came through in the submissions, and then I’m going to read you the poem. Okay, so here goes.

(Rebecca’s bio appears below.)

So on to some thoughts about the poem itself. Here I would just say that what we loved about Rebecca’s poem was its clarity and anger, its willingness to fully engage with difficult human relationships with which and by means of which we try to understand the enormous danger and uncertain outcomes of environmental destruction. When climate communicators talk about the need to face difficult things, well, you’ll see what this poem does with that. It embodies the process of facing difficult things in a way we found both grave and uncanny, disturbing and galvanizing. And we hope you agree.

“The Watcher on the Wall” by Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Special Submission Call: Our Beautiful Reward [Closed]

“…the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

The call for submissions for Our Beautiful Reward, a special online issue of Reckoning Magazine, is closed as of September 1, 2022.

The fall of Roe V Wade in the U.S. has codified dramatic restrictions on the right of pregnant individuals to make their own reproductive choices. In the U.S. and internationally, we are also witnessing an increase in already significant levels of hostility against trans and genderqueer bodily self-determination. These struggles for basic bodily autonomy are linked, and find common grounding in the pursuit of joy, flourishing, care and safety.

Likewise, the pursuit of joy, flourishing, care and safety requires that we fight for a sustainable world within which chosen families of all kinds can exist and tend to one another. With a deep sense of the urgency of the moment, Reckoning invites you to imagine this world, and the roles that bodily autonomy and bodily self-determination play in both creating and inhabiting it. We will read submissions of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction for the special online issue through the end of August 2022. Ebook release date will be October 16, 2022, with content appearing weekly online thereafter. Amazing cover artwork by Mona Robles (of Reckoning 1 and Creativity and Coronavirus fame) coming soon.

We’ll be paying professional rates as always, and the regular submission call for the ocean-themed Reckoning 7, edited by Octavia Cade, Tim Fab-Eme and Priya Chand, will remain open for the duration.

Submit your work here!     Read the full guidelines here.

Note: we previously had Moksha set to throttle so everyone could only have one submission at a time. I’ve relaxed that so folks can submit to Reckoning 7 and Our Beautiful Reward simultaneously! —Michael

Podcast Episode 17: Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse

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Hi everyone, my name’s Catherine, and today for the Reckoning Press Podcast I’m going to be reading you the poem “Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse”, which is a poem that appears in Reckoning 6, and it is by the author Avra Margariti.

This is a poem with particularly dark content, I don’t think Avra would argue with that—as you will see when we get to her bio, she is an author who works deeply in horror, and she has an entire collection of horror poetry which is now out from Weasel Press and is titled The Saint of Witches, and if you like what I’m about to read you, you should go check it out. I think one of the things that allows me to read this poem and not descend too far into the darkness (which is not my preferred location, because I’m kind of a scaredy-cat) is that it’s very cleverly structured to be understood as a self-contained short play, a tragedy: and that’s where we get the title, the dramatis personae or players of the play, who are going to take us into this content but then also let us go from it, when the action is over. And we can kind of imagine that the poem is, like, a short interlude: it’s really difficult stuff, but it’s also formal, stylized, there’s a sense that this is something—an entertainment, a frightening one—which is being set to the side of what we might call realism. So even for me, generally a non-horror-reader because I’m so good at freaking myself out without anybody else’s help, I can work with that: and I’m grateful for the vivid starkly lit scenes that Avra shows us here, their argument that in fact there are formal methods for talking about the things that frighten us.

I’m going to proceed to Avra’s bio and then I’ll read you the poem.

[Bio below.]

Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse by Avra Margariti

Podcast Episode 12: “The Loss of the Moon” and “Snuffing the Night Candles”

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood, I’m a staff member at Reckoning Magazine, and today I’ll be reading and discussing two poems from issue six: “The Loss of the Moon,” by Ken Poyner, and “Snuffing the Night Candles,” by Scott T. Hutchison. Ken Poyner’s poem is already up and free to read at https://reckoning.press, in case you want to follow along or go back to re-read it. Scott T. Hutchison’s “Snuffing the Night Candles” will be released on the website on May 8th. These poems speak so effectively to each other, and to the work of the magazine, that we decided to discuss them in the same episode.

I think probably the way this will work best is if I read you the poems first and then add some thoughts afterward. So, here goes, starting with author bios.

[Bios below.]

“The Loss of the Moon” by Ken Poyner

[“Snuffing the Night Candles” by Scott T. Hutchison will be available to read for free online on May 8th and in print on July 1st; if you’d rather not wait, get the ebook now.]

So, after listening to them, you probably have some thoughts about these poems: and the different levels of immediacy they bring to a shared consciousness of being present in a time of loss. “Snuffing the Night Candles” is more abstracted, its narrator’s depiction of his own experience more constrained by a sense of personal isolation, though the poem reaches out at the end for something I’ll talk more about in a minute.

In Ken Poyner’s poem, the narrator is always thinking about making it back home to his wife—temporarily isolated, but striving for connection. His habitual yet threatened return to his own home and partner is connected in the poem to the recurrence or return of things we depend on in the natural world: the changeful yet reliable moon, the changing yet predictable tides. So when the bottom falls out of all of it, in the poem, it’s a huge shock. It feels personal, as it’s meant to. “The Loss of the Moon” is so effective, I think, partly because it activates for the reader a lifetime of sense-memories of watching the moon from a moving car, or a moving vehicle of some kind. And in that scenario, you can’t fully keep track of what’s in the night sky, because your visual orientation changes all the time. The moon goes behind trees, you go behind a hill, there’s a truck—etc. But, we learn to live with this (mostly)—kids don’t like it, at first, but they get used to it: they (we) get to the point of yes, there’s the moon, (wow, the moon!) and I’m in a car again, and even if that means sometimes I can’t see her, I trust she’ll recur eventually.

Until she fucking doesn’t. Until it turns out her visual instability of presence, which we had accommodated ourselves to by constructing a faith in the eternal return of the moon, was a symptom of something that could really happen—we could really lose the moon. And I think Ken Poyner’s poem accesses, in a way many readers can understand partly through childhood sense-memories, the deep distress of trying to multitask your way through such a terrifying realization: which is, of course, also a realization about losing other things we had thought to be eternal, like the tides, the seasons, a functional biosphere; like the oceans’ thermohaline circulation system, and everything that depends on these things, including but not limited to ourselves.

Reckoning Magazine was created to make a space where readers and authors can come together in that moment of realization, and know we are not alone in it: that we can continue together as we work out next steps. So this was definitely a poem we responded to immediately, and we are so glad Ken sent it our way – and yours.

Scott T. Hutchison’s poem, “Snuffing the Night Candles,” has a clear thematic relation to Poyner’s poem through its focus on the night sky, but is wrapped further, deeper, in layers of an alienated, despairing self. I wonder, personally, if there’s a reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost in the lines “I’m anchor-chained on this stark lake/of arrogance and folly.” It could be just a really sad angry way of talking about taking a little boat out on a lake at night, when there’s heavy cloud-cover and the stars and moon can’t be seen: and casting your anchor and drifting for a while—unable to break out of your own heavy thoughts about the future. But poets are tricky, and like allusion, so this recalls, for me, Satan in book One of Paradise Lost, “chained on the burning lake,” a victim of his own overreach. The allusion is strengthened but also complicated and expanded by these lines in the last stanza of Hutchison’s poem:

…Something cheerlessly cast out
has happened here. What America
coughs up to heaven
might be what happened.

There’s been a Fall, like Satan’s—a casting out from a state where joy, cheer, health of many different kinds, can be accessed. And in a fascinating inversion of the Miltonic original (I’m just going to say I’m strongly attached to the idea that there’s a Miltonic original), evil has actually sort of ascended into the sky from the world instead of plummeting from heaven to hell—what is “cast out” and changes all cheer, or joy, is what “America/coughs up”. Anyone working on, or even aware of, global greenhouse gas emission-levels doesn’t have to work too hard to translate that content.

I wouldn’t say Hutchison’s poem leaves us in particularly awesome fettle, as readers. But one of the many things that makes “Snuffing the Night Candles” a poem we were moved to read, and wanted to include in the magazine, is its concluding gesture toward a community that may intercede for the poet in his “perfect night” and “wish for the future,/for [him.]” I think we can. We must wish, and work, for it.

Podcast Episode 10: Move, Mountain, Move

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone. My name is Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading “Move, Mountain, Move” by the author Russell Nichols.

So, I’ll begin with some commentary on the poem and then tell you a little bit more about Russell Nichols and then read you the poem itself.

What affects me when I read this poem is its insistence that we can make something new and better—something external to, and common to, all of us—from our climate grief. And Russell Nichols has used old images, Biblical images, to show us how to imagine this something better. You’ll notice there’s a mention of mustard seeds in the poem, confirming its close literary relationship with the Book of Matthew chapter 17:20, where Jesus says to his disciples “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

A mustard seed is proverbially tiny, and yet the plant that emerges from the seed is tall—so through this simile we understand, both in the Bible and in Nichols’s poem, that if you have even a little bit of germinal matter to start with, you can turn it into something very meaningful and expansive indeed. In the Bible, the germinal matter is faith; in Nichols’s poem, it is grief. We must start there, he argues, but we do not end there. If you’re a Reckoning reader and subscriber, you probably agree.

When Nichols writes, “there is no relief/ without release,” I think of how often the speaker (or singer) of the Psalms mentions weeping, and the necessity of weeping, in times of trouble. As the King James version of Psalm 6:6 has it: “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” And this is how we communicate our grief and make it manifest—but in Nichols’s poem, it is also how we build.

Here is a little more about the author.

[Bio below.]

Russell Nichols, “Move, Mountain, Move”

Podcast Episode 8: water-logged roots

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Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood and today on the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’ll be reading “water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith, which is a poem that’s featured in Reckoning 6.

We want to start a practice on the podcast of talking a little bit about what we loved about the pieces that are in the magazine. And so I’m just going to say a little bit about what particularly draws me to “water-logged roots” as a poem and how I see it applying to climate justice, which is our theme as a publication. When I first read “water-logged roots” when it came through in the submissions, one of the first things I was struck by is how skillfully it uses visual images of a world turned upside-down and then sort of enchants the images so they become part of a knowledge-gathering dialogue. And this is a dialogue with the dryad in the poem, which is just, like, it’s so wonderful! But this dialogue really moves the narrator from the place where she first stands, outside her family home in the aftermath of a hurricane, to a place where she can imagine taking a next step that doesn’t leave her as stuck in where she is and what she’s doing. And it’s not a decision without cost, but it’s an extremely pivotal moment and an adaptive moment. So again, personally speaking I loved the way Cislyn’s poem took an image of climate destruction and began to think about it in very compelling adaptive ways, tying all this to extremely striking imagery.

So here we go. We’ll start with Cislyn’s biography.

(Bio below.)

“water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith

Podcast Episode 7: Surprise

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone, my name’s Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading you “Surprise” by Tom Barlow, which is featured in Reckoning 6.

From the Embassy of Leaks to the Court of Cracks

We are sorry for the way this will arrive,

damp and damagesome. No doubt

the peculiar constitutions of our nations,

catastrophically susceptible to each other,

account for the long gap in correspondence

though here we find no record of any sort

to suggest a former, well-established channel.

That is, however, the way of our state;

we operate, as you can see, impromptu,

with agents very liable to defect.

Many have lived for a long time among you,

on a favorite shirt or as a way of thought

that landed on you suddenly and stayed.

 

Staying, as we hear, is something rare

within your fissured borders. Much tips out,

much topples. Much is built and clutches up

from treble-bound foundations, tenoned, splitting.

In your case, pride defers, takes second place

to the almighty fall. And how you love it!

The moment brickwork tears like rotten curtains;

the sound of earth exhaling after thunder

as brightness rushes back over downed walls.

For generations we’ve exploited this,

have learned both how to enter and to cling

to what you’re always opening. We stuck

and slurred your symmetries. It was enough.

 

But recent changes, so oppressive for

both you and us, have forced this Embassy

to use newfangledness. To be overt.

We’ll spell it in black mold, with feeling: PLEASE,

please tell us what would tempt you. Gasoline?

Redcurrant jam? A shattered whisky fifth,

muddled with builder’s earth? Take them. Take these.

Make it official; all we have, we’ll share.

Unerring knowledge of the passage through

is given us, which we will give to you

for love, and just one fractured future sight

of years to come. Friends, what we’re saying is,

please tell us everything we shouldn’t know.