GROCERY STORE TRUTH BY MARY WOLFF 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 56
SPIRITUAL SEIZURES BY MARKITA NAOMI SCHULMAN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 56
TOUJOURS BY HANNAH HORNSEY 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 56
MARKITA NAOMI SCHULMAN
In childhood, I was an obsessive keeper of journals. I was desperate not to forget anything, and kept a list of things parents didn’t understand that I swore I would remember when I became one. I loved and aspired to the sound and rhythm of adult speech and sat under the dining room table happily when family friends visited, and I read voraciously, reenacting scenes from Nancy Drew and The Phantom Toll Booth for Mom and Dad. These days I study human rights and Spanish at New York University, and I am currently writing a thesis about the cycle of desire, consumption, waste, and regeneration. I am trying my hand at writing seriously and for eyes other than my own. I enjoy writing about marginal and overlooked human experiences—the bodily, the queer, and the “crazy”. Some of my favorite authors are Rebecca Solnit, Maggie Nelson, and Dave Eggers.
Growing up, I had a severe stutter which I knew without being told by a therapist was rooted in being in a family of dramatic personalities among whom I could barely find breath.
In high school I wrote poems about secret desires and my difficult engagement with the public world. Writing became my release and way through that hard encounter with a world I wanted to enter.
I went to Binghamton University, where away from family and Brooklyn fears I began to find my voice both in speaking and writing. I wrote a five-act play for a course in Jacobean Literature, and in law school at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, I wrote a play for a course in Jurisprudence, the only instance I’m aware of where a law student was given the freedom to use creative expression discuss theories of “natural” law and the laws written and imposed by the “state”.
Returning to NYC and a life in law and family, I continued to write poetry and stories amidst contracts and business plans.
I believe that each area of writing is enriched by the other, with even contracts benefitting from a bit of poetic dance. I have come to see writing as my own “natural” law that allows me to encounter the world in a way that allows me to discover who I am.
I have had poems published in Ithaca Lit, West Trade Review and Oddville Press.
I write poetry because I love language. That might sound reductive or overly simplistic, but really I love the way that words arranged in a certain way taste like hard candy and give me the same kind of sugar rush. We rely on lyrics or verses when the world doesn’t make any sense. Poetry is my preferred method of translating my surroundings into edible soundbites that I can digest. It’s helped me to take a more objective look at my own life and internal thoughts, as well as the social and political turmoil around me.
Since I just graduated with a BA in English, I am now at the point where I have to evaluate what I want my next steps to be. My dream is to go on to get my Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, then my PhD, and teach on a collegiate level. For now, I am working on applications to MFA programs, and will begin teaching English in France in about a month.
I don’t know for sure when I became a writer. I think becoming a writer is something that happens gradually over time rather than in one particular moment. I started writing poems when I was 13, and that was it for me.
Poetry is the easiest way I know of to make sense of the world around me. I wrote this collection of poems as a response to emotions I was still in the middle of processing. These poems in particular were a way for me to process some feelings of shame and anger I was unknowingly holding onto with both hands. I drew from my own experiences, like the chaos of active addiction, the fearful freefall through subsequent rehab for said addiction, and the struggle to make sense of everything left in that wake.
If you are a writer, go for it. Don’t hold back when it hurts or it’s hard. In my experience, life is going to hurt either way, so you might as well get a few good poems or stories out of the deal. A writer has to be willing to say the hard things no one else wants to confront. I’m not saying you need to seek out a fight for the sake of a fight or write poems with the aim of hurting your parents/spouse/friends, because that isn’t what poetry should be about. Tell a story and make it count as a way to reach a better understanding of the situation for yourself, and then aim to move the reader in some way. I hope these poems do just that for both of us.
I write under the name M Wolff Writer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram because people call me Mary or Maggie, which is confusing, so online it is just “M” instead. The way I don’t have one standard first name could actually be a metaphor for my poems, because many of them deal with a sense of muddled identity or clouded realities.
I’m a crazy old San Francisco kid who first heard the Beats wail in my head while reading for hours in the original dim basement poetry section at City Lights Books and have since DJ’d underground FM radio broadcasts of poetry and jazz, lived on the street, twisted on the spit of psychotic relationships, sailed under the seven seas on submarines and submersibles, published an e-zine and experienced ancestral spirits rise in aboriginal longhouses. I write for my own sanity and as a storyteller relating the artifacts of this twisting road. Matsuo Bashō’s haiku Summer Grasses spoke to me powerfully as a young man, of the transience of humanity’s actions and dreams. The crumbling urban neighborhoods and overgrown railroad tracks that I frequent now compelled me to capture that sense in Entropy.
I probably owe what ability I have to produce fiction the way I do to the early influence of my mother. She started early in drilling me and drilling me to grow my ability to read. I must say that having been able to read exceptionally well from childhood was the foundation of any abilities in reading or writing the language I might have. I read quickly and with comprehension very fast and very early, becoming very “well read” at an early age. And I read across the whole spectrum of what was there to read. I just found it to be fun and did it constantly. This gave me an edge for when I finally decided to focus on producing fiction—I had a solid set of skills and a pretty vivid imagination. But that was just the start. There seems to be something in me that is either very stubborn or is seeking punishment, I don’t know—because when I decided to focus on fiction, I went at it relentlessly. As soon as I produced my first stories, I submitted them to top places. And at the same time went on producing more. When rejections came, they meant nothing, because it seemed to me that was part of the job of obtaining a readership—but of course, I used whatever comments or suggestions I got as input to improve. I decided to succeed no matter what. And that has gone on for thirty years with no sign of stopping. I have this attitude that when you set out to do something, you need to keep at it until you accomplish it. You’ll take a beating on the way to getting there, but that’s the way of reaching any goal. This is probably old fashioned. But that’s how it is. And best of all, it seems to be working.
My stories have been published in South Carolina Review, Xavier Review, Phoebe, Baltimore Review, New Orleans Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Literary Review, 14 Hills, Witness, Journal of Experimental Fiction (Anthology and Novel), Le Scat Noir, Optional Press (Novel), Montag Press (Two Novels), and many others.