Review | Rabble Lit | May 2017 | Issue One | May Day
Rabble Lit is a bi-annual online literary journal. Their inaugural issue, published on May 1, 2017 and appropriately titled, May Day, is dedicated to the Haymarket Martyrs as well as “to the other thinkers and leaders who dedicate(d) their lives to the Struggle.” Additionally, this issue wishes to recognize the many nameless and numberless workers of such historical events like the Pullman Strike, the Flint Sit-Down Strike, the Ludlow Massacre, and Justice for Janitors to name just a few.
Committed to honoring the working class in our society, Rabble Lit focuses directly upon work written by our working class and for our working class with an emphasis on the idea that diversity is the strength behind the concept of this unique and quite prolific new online magazine.
Artwork and photography throughout the issue, as well as the entire site, is dynamic and appropriately placed. The cover artwork for May Day, a mural by artist Niki Ortiz, stands out for its edgy theme and bold pallet. The images reflect the content within the issue. Entitled Juntos, meaning “Together” in Spanish, the concept of the mural pays homage to the unity achieved between our Native Reservations, new America and Mexico. Be sure to check out her Featured Artist “handwritten” interview. I found it refreshingly candid.
The eclectic set of photos on the Masthead page were equally striking and proved to be an immense visual of this magazines goal to demonstrate diversity through carefully chosen pictures.
Content is vast and includes every imagined category. This debut issue features ten poetry contributors, eight fictions, four non-fictions, two interviews, three hybrid contributions, three comics and one spoken word poetry submission. Online literary journals can include spoken word poetry and I applaud any magazine that allows it as a submission. In this issue, it falls as the last entry but since it’s a category I like, I’ll start with it.
Spoken word poets need two things to be successful; the ability to craft solid poetry AND read it with proper inflection. Mick Parsons possesses both. His piece, entitled
Solidarity in a Minute 46, is profound in its raw reality of the times we are living in today. Paired smartly with a track by Dark Sunn, Mr. Parsons first line, “If your solidarity depends on what is or is not between someone’s legs, you ain’t got solidarity,” grabs you like a fish on a hook. It continues with wording so powerful and real, filling the listener with the urge to break out the paint, make signs and march. His background as a labor organizer and activist proves a useful tool in getting his distinct voice heard. Move over George Watsky, a fresh voice is emerging.
Of the four non-fiction pieces, Stakes, by West Chicago native T. Rios, was compelling and relatable, although all were admirable choices for publication. Stakes offers a tangible insight to living on “the wrong side of the tracks”, as a child. This piece, autobiographical in nature, is a life snapshot of a young, intelligent girl growing up in the inner city and the expectations and too often, lack of expectations, of children born to working class parents. Ms. Rios states;
“We were the children the professional classes fled from. Parents who abandoned Chicago in favor of Evanston and Winnetka felt comforted by the knowledge that their offspring wouldn’t be forced to brush shoulders with us”
Her clear, concise language hits home the shameful reality of how the adults in our world categorize our country’s youth. As Ms. Rios puts it;
“We didn’t know there was a national debate about how many of us could be saved. We didn’t even know that we needed saving. We were kids. Back then, we still played.”
From start to finish this piece lays to paper the truth regarding her initial statement, “Our lives were horror stories, but we didn’t know it.” As children, all we know is our reality. The one we see from our kitchens, bedrooms, porches and school yards and it is stories like this that make this literary magazine such a compelling a read.
The poetry selections in this issue are all truly noteworthy. There is nothing like poetry that cuts you on purpose then hands you a Kleenex and a band aid. This is what I crave in a poem, when raw reality is softened with empathy. Jacob Little’s poem, During my shift at the Circle K, a young girl asks for cigarettes, does both of those things brilliantly with well-crafted verse that is not rushed to deliver a message. First the set up;
showing her ID and exposing herself
as fifteen. She offers to flash me
and when I laugh she sobs,
flees, makes me recall
Then life’s inevitable flash back with its moments of glory and heartbreak;
sprinting naked through sprinklers, choking down
the Ten Pounder at The Kookout, and pillaging garages
for cold beer. Gripping the door handle
while skidding through suburbs to outrun the cops.
Sweating, staring at the floor as Angela Watson took her time
turning me down. My face tingling when I saw
Isaiah’s senior photo in the paper. The floor tilting. The red heat
that pulsed from the picture of his crumpled car,
how numbness drummed through me. A heartbeat.
Followed by reality;
Now my store is empty.
No businessman swiping his platinum
at the pump or examining his hairpiece in the rearview.
No ragged kids with two dollars in quarters and dimes
debating the merits of Snickers versus Kit Kats.
No veteran growling in to buy his Mavericks,
six-packs, and scratch-offs. No teens
who smell like weed, out so late
that it’s early.
And inevitable regret;
I should’ve just given her the goddamn cigarettes.
We would’ve lit them together,
inhaling and exhaling
smoke and exhaust
until we couldn’t tell our breath
in the cold early air
from the fog rolling in.
Life lessons are encapsulated in this poem. Ones to remember on purpose, for a purpose. Must mention the photograph header on this page too, excellent.
Another notable piece of prose in this issue was by Ron Gibson Jr. with his piece, The Farewell Lasso. I read it several times and each time I picked up something new and unique. For me, this piece was a sad melody of misery that wasn’t seen as misery at all but just as life as it came each passing day. Using the authors own words, this prose is a “patchwork quilt” of a man’s random musings as he sits, rocking upon his worn and dusty porch.
Zaccheus, by Andrew Fazzini is a poem reminiscent of one of my favorite poets, William Carlos Williams, in structure. It is not an easy task to craft a poem filled with so much story, yet use so few words. The title, Zaccheus, presumably refers to the gospel of Luke (Luke 19:2). Zaccheus was the tax collector of Jericho, who, to see Jesus, climbed a Sycamore tree where he not only saw Jesus but got his attention. Mr. Fazzini’s reference to the still standing Sycamore (permanence) and “where the potato house used to be” (impermanence) is brilliantly constructed work in showing us the passage of time and how it also stands still.
Samuel Amadon once wrote an article for the Boston Review titled, Hybrid Poets Exist, and thankfully they do. This type of experimental poetry has really come to its own because it relishes in the notion that poetry should have no limitations. Bear in mind that there was a time when Emily Dickinson’s envelope notations and scrap paper antidotes were considered experimental by the very people who would later publish her work. It wasn’t because it wasn’t good, it was because it was different and didn’t fit the standard of what constituted a poem.
The Hybrid additions to Rabble Lit’s first issue are some of my favorite pieces. As the daughter of a blue-collar worker (auto industry worker in the heart of Detroit), seasoned writer Jan Stinchcomb’s Hybrid submission, Questions for the Blue Collar Girl, was so relatable. Of the thirty questions her poem asks, I have been asked over half of them throughout my life. The questions are delivered in a numbered manner; however, they progress down a timeline to reveal the hidden story of a perception that exists by those not familiar (or ignorant) with a blue-collar upbringing. My favorite question was for sure No. 24- “Who showed you how to change a spark plug?” I knew more about cars than most of the boys at my high school.
Eight fiction pieces honor the pages of this issue of Rabble Lit. All of them are exceptional and the stand out pieces for me are Nelta and the Wolf, by seasoned writer Tom Weller, and Gilding by writer and artist Lizz Huerta. Each of these pieces allow the reader a glimpse inside real struggle. The kind most of us can’t even comprehend or simply don’t want to but desperately should.
The Waitress, by poet and novelist Kai Harris, is probably the most notable piece for me. Harris is originally from Detroit, Michigan, like myself, as in other pieces in this issue, I could relate to the submission on a different level. This story, or should I say snapshot, of a day in the life of a waitress in Detroit, is a poignant account of life in the inner city for an uneducated, single mother who is doing everything she possibly can to rise above the women who came before her in her family for the sake of her young son, Landon.
With cautiously worded sentences like, “digging my heels into the sole of the too-small shoes that grow hills on my toes” and “Marcus’s fists burst through the wooden door, throwing splinters into the air like confetti” I am transported to Detroit and I am seated at a booth waiting for my order, watching this story unfold first hand.
This story is one of a young woman’s determination to be better but in the end, despite her efforts, the reader knows what she doesn’t yet realize, she is already repeating the history of her family. She is attracted to a man for his car and what he can do for her, her “next” baby daddy to follow the first who has long since exited her life. With each new paragraph, Ms. Harris reveals to the reader the wheel this woman is on, her path is set, despite the want in herself to change it, the need in her just won’t allow it. This story demonstrates that the need to survive often trumps the want to change a damn thing.
Rabble Lit’s site is not particularly easy to maneuver. While they do publish issues twice a year, they also publish in between, which I think is great, however, it can be confusing to click around. I feel the current issue should be pinned to the top so it is easy to find. For a new reader to find Issue One you must click to open it in the upper right-hand corner, which, if you are not fast enough, the FOLLOW button will cover it up as you scroll the page. There is a lot of content and rolling columns, however I am not sure if they are monthly or weekly. Additionally, the other categories listed-Appalachian Features, Felony Record, Rust & Remembrance, and Radical Romance-again, are loose, not sure the intended purpose of these. Their titles don’t offer a suggestion either and when they are opened, there is no explanation of what the categories are. Now the Playlist category I did like, but the title indicates the category’s purpose so I knew what to expect. For this I am going to give the magazine a four and a half out of five stars. An online magazine must be user friendly.
If your looking to contribute, submissions for Issue Two open August 1st with an expected publishing date of November 2017. Keep in mind their motto is “Diversity is our strength” so be sure to thoroughly read Issue One to get an idea of what they accept. This journal is a place a writer can tell their story and be heard.
The commitment to the working class is praiseworthy. This is an online literary magazine with a voice I have not yet seen making it one to watch. While there is brutality in the honesty among the many works I read, there is also this underlying rawness to it. Some of these writers truly exposed themselves. You will learn from the words written, you will get a clear and better understanding of the true definition of the class of people represented. Many of you many even find mirror images of yourself, I did.