Come See our New Website

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hayden's Ferry Review: Issue 56, The Chaos Issue

from the editor

The ancient Greeks saw Chaos as the dark abyss from which life sprang.

Mathematicians use Chaos theory to explain how small decisions can give rise to unexpectedly grave consequences.

Chaos is a cluttered bedroom, a busy street corner, a blinding snowstorm.

In Paradise Lost, John Milton described Chaos as “the vast immeasurable abyss, / Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild.”

Most of us spend our lives trying to ward off Chaos. We keep agendas, we make grocery  lists. We look for patterns, symmetry, and structure. But what happens when we no longer avoid Chaos, and instead embrace it? As writers and artists, a big part of our job is to revise and to edit, to impose order on an unordered world. How do we preserve the thrill of inspiration, of turmoil, when we work in a medium with inherent structure? What if, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star”?

Issue 56 of Hayden’s Ferry Review is about celebrating the unordered, the frenzied, the messy, and the “dark, wasteful, wild” in all its forms. The pieces in this issue start conversations about how and why Chaos can be important and powerful to us as artists and as human beings. 

Thank you to our wonderful editors for their creativity and their spontaneity. Thank you to our contributors, who explore Chaos in content, style, and form. Thank you for trusting us with your work—trusting us to read it, to share it, and to turn it sideways.

 -Dana Diehl

Please visit our table at the AWP bookfair (1226) to purchase a discounted copy of Issue 56. Copies will be available online soon.


Issue 56 Contributors

Prose: Megan Mayhew Bergman, Jaclyn Dwyer, Lindsey Drager, Miles Klee, Lisa Locascio, Maia Morgan

Poetry: Gavin Adair, Lindsey D. Alexander, Partridge Boswell, Eric Burger, Lauren Clark, Mary Cisper, Mary-Alice Daniel, Ezra Dan Feldman, Sally Houtman, Alyse Knorr, Calgary Martin, Phoebe Reeves, Courtney Mandryk, Martin Rock, Sam Sax, Kent Shaw, Chris Siteman, Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, Donna Steiner

Translation: Alireza Taheri Araghi [Sodeh Negintaj], Margaret Jull Costa [Medardo Fraile], Dennis James Sweeney [Ronald Legrand], Toshiya Kamei [Claudia Apablaza], Jeffrey Zuckerman [Antoine Volodine]

Art: Ron Bimrose, Brenton Hamilton, Forrest Solis (Cover Artist)


Issue 56 Masthead

Editor: Dana Diehl

Managing Editor: Chelsea Hickok

International: Alex McElroyBrian Bender

Art: Ashley Czajkowski

Special Projects: Heath Wilcock

Copyeditor: Mindy Wilson

Dear Girl in the Cactus - THE DOCK, April 2015

This month, we're pleased to share Molly Beckwith's poem, "Dear Girl in the Cactus."

HFR: I love how this poem explores magical realism in its address to “you.” It speaks to the imagination of the girl and calls attention to the more quiet, realistic line: “In you mother’s circle you are the one / with bad breath, dirty fingernails, red stripes on your shoulders.” Can you speak a little about the pairing of this imagery? I am also interested in the inciting incident of the photograph and how the events begin to overlap in each stanza. Did you begin writing this poem with this incident or did it develop through revision, and did that influence the form?

MB: Sure—I think that there’s so much interplay between magical realism and realistic imagery in this poem because, well, I’m extremely interested in how we accommodate magical moments into our everyday experiences. In this poem, that realistic experience is being pushed into a cactus (which actually did happen to me as a pre-teen). The rest of the poem isn’t biographical, but it does stem out of my cactus experience: how might a girl take that and let it be her giant, formative moment? What would happen if she saw the cactus thorns as dragon spines, and thereafter she considered herself a dragon? How does that dragon-identity creep back into the mundane experiences of growing up, like being categorized by her mother’s friends as a ragamuffin tomboy? I think that by letting the poem wander into weird or impossible imagery, the realistic imagery suddenly seems a little weirder, too. Our identities are so complex, especially as we’re figuring out who we are in our early teen years, and this poem characterizes that strange time, for me—I don’t think such a discovery could be anything other than fantastical. As for the “you” address, I think I used it as another way to make this formative moment less familiar or straightforward: I certainly didn’t realize what I was learning about myself as I learned it, and it would have been terrifically helpful had I received a letter from my future self who had already done much of her growing up. 


Dear Girl in the Cactus,

Your parents meant to take a photograph. You stole
your brother’s light and so he shoved you, shoulder-first.

Girl in the cactus, pain will taste like the whiskey
you’ll shoot one summer in a stretch of empty field.
You are stronger than its burn
or the cigarette smoke clung to your collar. For now,

the green suits you, little dragon spines
tangling in your blood as you perch on the tub.
When you pull them, the cactus claws,
from your thigh, lay them on the counter
in order of size, and then trash them. Later
wish you hadn’t. Tisk your tongue
against your teeth as air fills in your holes.

In your mother’s circle you are the one
with bad breath, dirty fingernails, red stripes on your shoulders
from climbing too many trees. Keep digging your lair,
little Komodo, and find what it is you’ve been missing.
Eat flowers and peppers until you turn lovely, hot.
Know your parents never took the picture.
Dear fire-eater, beat your arms until they grow heavy,
and do not stop. Dear little dragon, swallow light so it shines

in your chest. Dear girl in the cactus, you’d do it again.


Molly Beckwith seriously considered joining a circus, but has decided that pursuing writing will be better for her sanity. A poem of hers recently appeared in issue 34.1 of The Pinch. She hails from Hot Springs, Arkansas, pursued her undergraduate studies in English at Mississippi State University, and in the fall will attend the University of Nevada, Reno’s MFA program.