Tuesday, November 17, 2015

SHORT FLIGHTS: 32 Modern Writers Share Aphorisms of Insight, Inspiration, and Wit. . . .

Christal Cooper

Cooper Interviews James Lough:
To Make A Long Story An Aphorism:  The Gift

       On November 13, 2015, Schaffner Press published Short Flights:  32 Modern Writers Share Aphorisms Of Insight, Inspiration, and Wit, 265 pages, edited by James Lough and Alex Stein.

       In 2009 good friends and colleagues James Lough and Alex Stein were in Chicago participating in a panel discussion about aphorisms in which Stein inquired why there were no anthologies on contemporary aphorists.  The general response was that there was not an audience for this type of anthology. 

       Stein disagreed and soon bought up the idea of doing an anthology of aphorism to Lough as Lough was talking to his wife on the cell phone. 
       Lough’s response:  “Oh, we are doing it, all right.  A gift like this doesn’t get dropped in your lap every day.”
       The first steps Lough and Stein took in bringing this anthology into being was to ask the aphorists from that same Chicago panel if they knew other aphorists, and soon discovered that there were aphorists everywhere.
       The next step was to determine what exactly Lough and Stein were looking for.
       “We were looking for aphorisms in which the idea was original, phrasing that was crystal clear and not vague, a facility with language, and maybe most important, some sort of surprise or humor.  We were also a bit liberal as to what qualifies as an aphorism, and we expect some heat from critics about hits.”

       An example of this liberal definition of aphorism is Erick Nelson’s poem-aphorisms which some may describe as purists instead of aphorisms. 
       “Some readers will consider the term “long-form aphorisms” to be an oxymorn, but there’s a long history of aphorists writing paragraphs and calling them aphorisms:  Kafka, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Cioran to name a few.”





       The third step was to make the final decisions of which Aphorists’ work to use and which particular aphorisms they would choose from that work.
“That took a lot of phone time between Alex and me working and editing together over the phone.”
Lough and Stein also required each aphorist to write a illuminating and fun short essay of what aphorisms meant to each aphorist and what it means to him or her as a genre. 
“We got a wide variety of essays, both personal and theoretical, and we really enjoyed reading and editing the essays. We also think this may help the book have value to teachers and professors in the classroom.”
       The book was completed in 2012, but it took three years of rejections and sitting on editors’ desks before it was finally accepted by Schaffner Press.
“Schaffner Press has been nothing but helpful and agreeable in the creation and design of the book.”  http://www.schaffnerpress.com

Below are photographs of each of the 32 contributors along with his or her contact information and one of their numerous aphorisms featured in the book. 

Lily Akerman   

A puddle contains the sky.

Charles Bernstein
Photo attributed to Dirk Siba

Don’t confuse the puzzle for the solution, the poet for the poem.

John Bradley

Handwriting, no matter how shaggy or crude, grows in beauty the longer the creator’s absence.

Ashleigh Brilliant

I find it easier to be a result of the past than a cause of the future.

Steven Carter

Peace of soul is denied to us, not because we lead troubled lives, but because we don’t.

Christopher Cokinos

A full moon is only half.

Alfred Corn

The beloved body, our own Judas, after so many years of devoted service, hands us over to death – yes, and sometimes with a preliminary kiss.

Stephen Dobyns

This one was kind because he had not yet been hurt.
That one was kind because he had been hurt often.

Sharon Dolin
image attributed to Thomas Sayre Ellis

The artist performs a special kind of photosynthesis:  Like the sunflower, first she creates a tall flashy flower that then grows heavy with seeds whose small hard shells you must crack to get to the rich nut meat.

Olivia Dresher

Life is a mask hiding death, death is a mask hiding life.

Thomas Farber

“Source amnesia,’ as, when you offer a sexual surprise to your lover she asks, “Where did you learn that?”

James Geary
Twitter is @JamesGeary.

You can never look in the same mirror twice.


Kevin Griffith

If a novel is a marriage, and a poem is a one-night stand, an aphorism is knowing wink across a crowded room.

Jim Guida

Sending an email can be like letting go of an animal.

H.L. Hix

The artist counts stars through the holes in the ceiling while falling through a hole in the floor.

Irena Karafilly

Impossible not to wonder what Hitler’s mother listened to while she was pregnant.

Richard Kostelanetz

One obsession cures another.

Yahia Lababidi

Impulses we attempt to strangle only develop stronger muscles.

Ann Lauinger

When the moon in the sea looked at the sky, she was enchanted with her reflection.

Sara Levine

I found her remarks so appalling I did my best to sustain the friendship.  Not because I enjoyed her, but because I enjoyed my capacity to be appalled. 

Dan Liebert

Mop water is a rich consommé of footsteps.

James Lough

A clenched fist in flowing water – that is what we are.

George Murray

As with the knife, the longer the conversation, the less frequently it comes to a point.

Eric Nelson

Happy memories
Are the saddest.

Hart Pomerantz

In a perfect world the woman would also fall asleep after sex.

James Richardson

Success repeats itself until it is failure.

David Shields

The novel is dead.  Long live the antinovel, built from scraps.

Charles Simic

The snow grows whiter after a crow has flown over it.

Brian Jay Stanley

The poverty line has risen throughout history.  The tenants of modern trailer parks live in more luxury than early Sumerian aristocrats, whose mansions were reed huts with dirt floors.  The motor scooters of unemployed college students travel faster than the horses of medieval lords.  Civil War generals communicated by courier, but now every private has a mobile phone.  Progress impoverishes the past.  Complaints lose power when you think of your ancestors.  We decry the cost of health insurance, but a century ago, there existed neither health insurance nor cures for it to pay for.  I grumble when my air conditioning breaks in summer, but in ancient Egypt even Pharaohs had to sweat.

Alex Stein

The continual struggle of the artist to become invisible in the art – as the soul is invisible in the man.

Michael Theune

The sad promise of stars, which, because so far away, at least seem close together-

Holly Woodward

The heart is a wound, the mind – a scar.

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