Arkansas cracks the Toad up. Take the Arkansas Apostrophe Act of 2007, for example, in which the State Legislature decreed that a proper apostrophe-S shall be used to denote the possessive of “Arkansas.” Never mind gay marriage or civil rights, we’ve got our priorities.
And speaking of civil rights, howabout the controversy that ensued over the front cover of the July-August 2011 issue of Front Porch magazine? The problem, of course, wasn’t the illegal missing S as much as it was the image of an African-American prison-farm worker flanked by the word “watermelon.” I mean, in an age of increasing consciousness regarding racial stereotypes, we sure gotta hand it to the editorial masterminds at Farm Bureau Insurance Company for what they gleaned from their diversity training.
Same thing with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, who went plastering the word “FAG” all over the state. From billboards to magazines, the ad below was designed to promote conservation, but ended up stating something else.
But really, what are we to expect from such an ultra-conservative state, where yahoos in Harrison still proudly wave Confederate and white-power flags on the side of the road, espousing “family values”?
Well, the Toad is glad to answer that! We expect hatred and ignorance just as much as the freak ice storms we get every winter and the raging tornados that tear across the state every spring. We expect dumb typos. We expect oppression and denial. And just like everyone, we deny denial.
Because really, we’re no different than any other Southern state, or for that matter, any Northern state (how’s that for a grandiose statement?) in that our pros are matched by our cons. And our pros include prose, specifically that of Donald Harrington, Charles Portis, and a vast cache of under-known, under-appreciated, though unrivaled artists influenced by various Arkie subcultures. The pros also include our poets, like the august Miller Williams who passed away last year. Though more relevant to the Toad’s aesthetics, the legendary Frank Stanford, whose new collected works (What About This, Copper Canyon Press; Hidden Water, Third Man Books) take a totally redefining look behind the snakes and gar of Arkansas and all the midgets of a super-tragic imagination, then translates that phantasmagoria into a visionary language feast—which Das Toad brazenly declares to be a Renaissance in Vital Verse! In fact, the Toad declares Stanford’s new posthumous What About This to be the most significant, most vibrant, most genius work of American poetry since Ginsberg’s “Howl” to ever assail the status quo like a woman in a yellow dress! That’s why the Toad is ecstatic to include a Stanford feature in this issue, with an in-depth review/overview by poet-scholar klipschutz, plus excerpts from the aforementioned tomes. Without question, this is the hottest stuff our toady little hands have ever touched.
But that’s not all! We’ve also got a Super Allen Ginsberg Feature kicking this sucker off, in which controversial letters abound, including new lost stuff from City Lights. This is material we had to fight for, folks. We took a few punches in the process, but ultimately, the Toad reigns victorious!
Meanwhile, the Ecuadorean street art on our covers is complemented by street art photos of Lance Nizami—because the theme of this issue is “Taking it to the Streets.” Bill Wolack’s hallucinatory imagistics and Janne Karlsson’s ribald lunacy, on the other hand, are definitely off the beaten path.
Poets roaming the highways and byways of this issue include Master Michael Anania, the whimsically quirky Marc Swan, the epically insightful Rob Cook, the perceptively sensory Abigail George, the acutely amusing Suzanne Richardson, punny funny Paul Cunningham, and the playfully piercing Christine Tierney. And with the political eye of Gerard Sarnat, and Janelle Rainer getting to the nutmeat of the matter, and with prophetic bad-ass Brad Garber taking us down a more rural road, and with Steve Castro and Paul Smith keeping it surreal, we’re left with Michael Koch’s acrobatic street performance making these high-octane lanes a Kerosene Carnival of Conflagrating Poetix!
Next up, we’ve got an interview with Artist-in-Residence Cristina Garcia concerning her novel King of Cuba. Our toadies (or editorial assistants) applied their street smarts to this piece, and hit the road running with savvy splendor.
ollowing that, we have our fiction writers: John M. Gist rumbles combustion through the streets of the desert Southwest, vandalizing literature; Christina Fulton struts her stuff in Key Weird; and Curtis VanDonkelaar rues the caminos of the Jesus Man.
This route leads us to Translatio, where former Assistant Editor Scotty Lewis, now Poet Laureate of Toad Suck (we proclaim), has traduced some infamous forgeries of Rimbaud and explains their historical mojo. Scott Thompson’s translations of Joachim Sartorius envision boulevards toward “a clear altar to remember,” and Robert Archambeau’s rendering of the whacko Piquerays takes us down a path less traveled by.
Arriving in the realm of Creative Nonfixion, Thea Swanson’s scheming street vendors reflect a bizarre tapestry while Mark Rossi waxes nostalgic for the mean streets of the Cold War. Nancy Dafoe then tests her street cred with a portrait of a hundred sisters (the question of where one draws the line betwixt fixion and nonfixion always keeping this genre alive).
The Eco-Edge arises next, leading to the wilderness, where the gravel roads of Gillian Rose are littered with poverty, isolation, and one cuddly bear cub. Kenny Kelly’s slaughterhouse activism envisions thoroughfares of the human condition as Dave Barret autobahns us out to sea.
Arkana then happens with the iconic Arkansas poet Jo McDougall supplying the Toad with some brand new poems while Tom Lavoie reviews her new book. Guy Choate and Joe Trimble follow, musing on various streets of “the Natural State” which may not be so natural. Homegirl Lea Graham then leads us down an old school street in Wormtown, MA as J. Bradley Minnick crystalizes streets of salt from the flats of a strange sodium land.
Then Whamo! Our monster Frank Stanford feature segues into Critical Intel, where C. Prozak and Kelvin Krill review authors from the Frank Thurmond Pike to the Charles Bukowski Interstate. Ken Mootz rides shotgun with an essay on suicide notes straight off Polemic Street while Nate Jordon rolls on down Baraka Lane and Astoria Jellet investigates a Madagascar memorial.
So that’s what we’ve got, that’s who we are, and this is the product of streets converging and roads merging in a literary consciousness, in a literary community, growing more and more each year. And the Toad is honored to be part of this intersection (a riveting, ribbeting street festival, if you will) where diverse imaginations croak past the streetlights above—unto all the stars of Infinity!