Tuesday, April 23, 2019

"F(r)iction" Literary Journal Publishes Charlie's Poem

Libby and I were delighted to receive copies of the "F(r)iction" Winter 2018 edition of this highly-regarded international art and literary journal featuring the first publication of my recent poem, "Stirs The Eggs, Scrambled," a narrative poem of my childhood.

When I got my copy of the literary and art journal at mail call, several of my fellow prisoners were immediately drawn to the beautiful cover art by Carly Janine Mazur. "F(r)iction" is filled with more art, and Tyler Champion created the illustrations going along with my poem and the other prisoners' works. There is talk of how great tattoos of his works would look. I'm not encouraging anyone to do that. Tattoos are illegal in prison, although you couldn't tell, considering their prevalence.

"F(r)iction" is an imprint of the Brink Literacy Project, an international literacy nonprofit and independent publisher, beautifully designed by Dani Hedlund, Editor-In-Chief, including works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic artwork. Helen Maimaris, C.O.O. and Assistant Art Director, has been in touch with me through emails, and gave me permission to reproduce the following pages from the literary journal. She has encouraged me to submit additional literary works for consideration in future publications, a great honor.

Caits Meissner, director of the PEN American Center Prison Writing Program in New York City (pen.org), recommended my poem and four others by imprisoned poets, for a "F(r)iction" feature, "The Pen Cries Power," stating, "PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect freedom of expression in the United States and worldwide. Founded on the heels of the Attica prison uprising in 1971, PEN America's Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative, rehabilitative, and transformative possibilities of writing, and we support free expression, encouraging the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. We provide hundreds of imprisoned writers across the country with free writing resources, skilled mentors, and audiences for their work. We strive toward an increasingly integrative approach--aiming to amplify the voices and writing of imprisoned people to expand beyond the silo of prison and the identity of prisoner."

Click here to go to the online "F(r)iction" literary journal and read my poem: https://frictionlit.org/the-pen-cries-power/

Also, as a nonprofit, "F(r)iction" has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Click here to check it out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1002171905/friction-a-fine-art-and-literature-collection  

I'm putting together a proposal to start a creative writing class through the Wellness Department here at Tomoka C. I. We have a number of budding poets and writers who've expressed interest in becoming better writers, and I hope those in charge will look favorably on this proposal. PEN American Center has supported my creative writing classes at several prisons over the years, and publishes a useful book, "Handbook For Prison Writers." Helen Maimaris has already sent us a number of back issues of "F(r)iction" for inspiration and study. Thanks, Helen.

Charles Patrick Norman



Early morning: the sun not yet shining.
Still dark. Breakfast. 

My Father sits across from me
        at the small square kitchen table
        covered with a red-and-white-checked
        oil cloth, spooning hot grits
        onto his plate—white, steaming,
        swirls of orange sharp cheddar cheese
        stirred into eddies with the melted butter,
        a shake of salt, then pepper.
He takes two buttermilk biscuits from the
        small round pan, hot from the oven,
        breaks each one open with his fork,
        dabs soft churned butter onto each one,
        sets the biscuits next to the grits,
        then scoops a spoon of molasses,
        from the little jar, dips one biscuit into
        the thick brown sweetness,
        bites, chews, and smiles at me.
He spoons hot buttered cheese grits
        onto my plate. I take two biscuits from the pan and copy him,
        move for move, as my mother turns
        from the hot stove two feet away
        black cast-iron skillet handle wrapped
        with a striped dish towel, and slides
        two fried eggs, soft, over easy,
        with the spatula, onto my father’s plate of grits.
He stirs the yellow yolks into the grits,
        dabs a biscuit into the mix
        and eats, pleased.
She turns back to the gas stove,
        blue flames flowing from the burner,
        grasps two brown eggs from
        the bowl in one hand.
        With practiced ease she cracks
        the eggs against the skillet edge,
        drops the yolks and whites
        into the bubbling bacon grease,
        stirs the eggs, scrambled­—
        I do not yet like the runny eggs
        like my father does,
        but one day I will,
        perhaps in homage to him,
        or yearning to return to that time
        when there were but the three of us
        in that little white house
        on the hill, happy, content, alive,
        before he kissed Mama goodbye,
        squeezed my shoulder,
        and drove to work,
one more time.

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