James Feichthaler: An Invitation to Forrealism

To sound off in some pompous, proclamatory way about “what I think forrealism is” would be to destroy the magnagorous* fibers of its existence with one insufferable stroke; so, I won’t do that in this essay. Rather, I will invite you into the mind of a poet who lives in his imagination constantly; not like some hermit escaping the realities of a stress-filled world, but like a rockstar with his axe, bending the wires of thought, until the shrill-made echoes of contemplation give up some truth in the simplicity of symbolism or language that he can use in his art.

Imagination is king. Deny this idea, and several thousand ideas (in opposition) will prove me right in the heartbeat of a millisecond. And this is forrealism, in essence-- an infinitely undeniable expression of truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth, with globs of ethereal gravy being dumped on it from the bulldozers of Paradise. “A banana is yellow” is truth; “a banana on the sidewalk, next to an open condom-wrapper” is the symbol for lust, or could be, if described in such a way; and so, it is thus truth. “A tree full of cherry-blossoms” is truth; “a tree full of cherry-blossoms with several plastic bags dangling from its appendages” could be used as a symbol for jealousy, a friend despising a close friend’s relationship perhaps. And since the imagery is an excellent fit for jealousy-- an attachment of rubbish feelings to the early-spring innocence of that thing we humans call “love”— it is also truth.

Confusing? Think of a child playing with his toys and imagining some natural space for his superhero action-figures to exist in: a heap of pillows becomes a rugged mountain range in his imagination; a living-room rug becomes a barren desert wasteland, where opposing forces collide and come to battle; a bathtub becomes a small ocean, where sea-monsters and sharks exist to ravage the poor souls that traverse those waters. These imaginary scenes of youthful drifting are as real to the boy as the air he breathes, a tangible representation of good and evil, of dark and light that his mind has created to exist in, for however long. Now think of art and the creative process of writing. To attain truth in one’s poetry, one must align a series of symbolic stars in a galaxy of already accepted truths that reality puts forth through sight, sound, touch and experience, making one’s works vivid enough so that all walks of life can identify with them in some way. Just as a child at play identifies with an entirely invented world based on real images, so too must the poet give you his world through the concrete imagery of life, no matter how wildly fantastic his imagination might be.

Simplicity is the genius of poetry; to express truth through art in the most imaginatively simple way is forrealism. Not ‘simple’ in a small-minded or lazily impotent way, but in the exactness of a thing, a shape, a feeling, an emotion.  Sometimes the truth is as boring as watching an old woman knit her double-layered stockings by a cozy brick fireplace on a winter’s night.  And yet, even as I say this, the boredom of such a scene brings to mind a cluster of images that one might use to express time, nihilism, or even youth, by having the old woman knit two young lovers into those stockings to show how the specters of youth and age are one and the same; or to show the extreme brevity of life and love as defined by a picture of naked indulgence in two consenting adults, by presenting one of the lovers as the old woman in her youthful prime. And could this not also be the symbol for lust? For adultery? For boredom itself?  Imagination makes the limits of such description not only deliciously attainable but also infinitely glorious. 

Forrealism is, in effect, what all poetry must be if it is to communicate anything useful to the reader: an expression of truth that reveals the soul of the human experience. And that’s the trick isn’t it? To reveal the soul in things, when (for the poet) doing so will never be an exact science.  In fact, even when the poet hits his mark, he is an inch or two away from the center, like a bad darts-player aiming for the bullseye.  But fortunately enough for the poet, being ‘close enough’ to Nature’s mysteries is like hitting six numbers in a seven-digit multi-million-dollar lottery-- the payout will still be enormous.  I think of Tennyson’s famous lines from In Memoriam:

I sometimes hold it half a sin

To put in words the grief I feel:

For words, like Nature, half reveal

And half conceal the soul within.

And then I recall my own scribblings on the conundrum of artistic perfection, and smile relievedly, as an overwhelming peace takes over me:

Perfection can’t be had,

Not with a pen and pad

Or with a wiry brush;

But it can drive you mad,

And is (for most of us

Who dabble in the arts)

Equivalent with farts.

Perfection in poetry is an illusion, it doesn’t exist. An artistic excellence can exist, however, and is achieved by being real with one’s self, or having, as Hemingway said, a ‘built-in, shockproof, shit detector’ when it comes to one’s own writing. The poet must be real with himself in asking the question of believability, of whether or not his words have hit upon some truth in expression. Being ‘imaginatively simple’ when it comes to the craft of poetry means being unapologetically real about a world that can seem unhinged at times, about one’s love affairs, one’s fears, etc. Imagination is the lifeblood of forrealism in that its limitless ability to shape art out of the smoke of existence becomes the touchstone to authenticity in a work. From imagination, we get the poet’s style, his take on the realities of everyday life, the underlying meaning behind the madness-- the dream within the dream.

All poetry has a dream-like quality because every poem is a remembrance of some event, some instance in one’s life that looks back into time while existing in the present moment. This world that we were born into is a world of subtle and amazing changes, of endless movement, constant flux. And yet, one moment in time is that moment ‘forever’ when the poet decides to put his observations into words-- an impulse of creativity and real emotions that provide the reader with the same experience on the first or fiftieth read; an invitation into truth; an invitation to forrealism.

*magnagorous: excessively wonderful

James Feichthaler’s poetry has appeared in many print and online journals in both the US and UK. His poems are truthful odes to his Imagination, which he calls, “the lunatic disciple of his existence.” The self-proclaimed ‘forrealist poet’ is the host of an open-mic reading series called “The Dead Bards of Philadelphia,” which is held once a month at the Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk, PA.  His first book, “Three Incantations of the Modern Druid,” is due out soon.  You can follow James’s poetic exploits on Twitter at @forrealist_poet and keep up with The Dead Bards of Philadelphia on Facebook.

Allen Orrante: The Yew Call: A Model of Positive Behavior Observed in Skateboarding

­­­­­­Why are we so inclined to ridicule and judge the affairs of others? Nature itself is a beast that need not be compounded with the loathing of our neighbors. How dare he put that sticker on his car? How dare she take a flattering photo of herself? How dare they listen to that kind of music? However robust these inclinations of disdain may be, our means of combating them and the reasons for doing so must always be greater. The means need not be strenuous. The smallest of acts have the power to influence the health of a culture – for better or for worse.

There is one social phenomenon in skateboarding that is worth treating exclusively in order to illustrate the value of a small act as such, it will be referred to as the yew call. The yew call is a high-pitched howl that skaters make to acknowledge the successful execution of a trick by another skater. In many cases, the trick doesn’t even have to be landed, so long as it is an admirable attempt. It is a common social bonding agent employed among friends, and more crucially, it is an effective means of initiating new relationships.

Let’s suppose that the potential friendliness between two individuals is on a spectrum. The spectrum ranges from disdain on the left to ultimate trust on the right, and the middle is a neutral awareness of one another. Offering a yew call or some other positive feedback will generally advance one’s relationship with the other to the right of the spectrum. Simply put, if one stranger offers a compliment to another stranger, the relationship will become increasingly friendly.

There is no mystery as to why the yew call inspires feelings of community and positivity in skateboarding. As human beings, we yearn for the acceptance and acknowledgment of our peers. It simply feels good for another person to recognize that we have achieved something in our life—even if the achievement amounts to a single trick on a skateboard.

The value of the yew call became ever-present the day that Andrew Reynolds visited my local skatepark. Reynolds, otherwise known as the ‘Boss’, is a giant in the skateboarding community. He has inspired a generation of skaters and is a world-class role model for the youth and adults alike. In every respect, whether it be talent, experience, clout, or business, Reynolds and I reside at opposite ends. I am a novice, a nobody, a neophyte. Despite his colossal ability as a professional, despite his ubiquity in the sport, despite all of this and more— the man yewed me: a novice, a nobody, a neophyte.

What does that reveal about his character? What might cause a goliath of the sport to compliment a stranger for achieving the ordinary? It seems to be an expression of generosity—a generosity of spirit. It is a sincere appreciation for another person’s achievement. The achievement need not be great so long as it means something to the achiever. What is ordinary to one may be the pinnacle of ability to another. If the Boss himself can congratulate a stranger on landing a trick, great or small, why can’t I? Surely, it is a spirit worthy of emulation.   

In a broader sense, it is crucial that we begin to recognize that achievement is relative. Why is it that we praise a baby when she utters her first word but we don’t praise the teenager when he opens his mouth to speak? The answer is stupidly obvious: the baby has achieved something new that it was unable to do before while the teenager has long been capable. Individuals are each held to a unique standard of achievement due to their position in their development. The problem is that we often blur these lines and people suffer because of it. Why is it that the truly depressed among us are sometimes treated as if they suffer from a mere weakness of will? Why is it that the homeless alcoholic seemingly deserves his lot in life? Is life a fruit basket from which each individual possesses the same potential to reach in and grab their fair share? This doesn’t appear to be so. It would seem, then, that the mere recognition of relative achievement may enable us to soften our ridicule and judgment of others.

The yew call and other social bonding mechanisms reside on the periphery of these issues of relative achievement recognition. The yew call is a simple gesture. It is a thread in the fabric of the community. But if only a thread, what else makes up the fabric of our communities? Is it a conglomerate of good and bad gestures subject to an eternal tug-of-war? However transient our good and bad behaviors towards one another may be, let us aim towards the friendly end of the spectrum, both in mind and in the body.  

So, I ask: why not lend a hand in this cruel world and sing a gentler song for our neighbors to hear? This world is vicious enough without the tyranny of our critical minds. This life is a struggle and to each his own. To yew, a fellow person is to acknowledge that their struggle matters and that their achievements matter; it is to appreciate their effort; it is to partake in their accomplishment; it is to be delighted to be in their presence. This mode of thinking is not something to be acquired rather it is something to be practiced and pruned. The yew call is only one such example of an act that imbues a community with vitality. To choose not to groom the well-being of our neighbor is to cut the throat of our civilization’s potential.

Allen Orrante is a Southern California resident and is an alumnus of California State University, Channel Islands. He graduated with a BA in Liberal Studies in 2015 and is currently a substitute teacher. Orrante is a dilettante; that is, he specializes in no particular field and his interests vary throughout the year. His perennial interests and pastimes include his band Dolores, podcasting, skateboarding, dissecting books, and film editing. You can follow him on Instagram here.


Valisa Bernardino: Art Gallery

Valisa Bernardino is a Southern California native. She holds a BS in Media Arts and Animation from The Art Institute Pittsburgh. Currently a project manager by profession, she is dedicating the remainder of 2017 and beyond to developing her artistic career.

Bernardino's art is of a lowbrow style, featuring a predominantly feminine subject. The themes range from macabre, mystical, and sexual metaphors. In a majority of her pieces, the subjects do not have eyes. This is done on purpose, as she feels that eyes are extremely expressive and retract from the overall expression of the work. She prefers to not have such a defining feature in her characters, allowing the viewer to interpret the piece with consideration to other elements. Valisa finds inspiration in various people (mostly artists and writers) and locations. However, she claims most of her pieces are self-reflective and are heavily influenced by her mood or state of mind.

Currently, Bernardino has only shared her art via social media and has been featured on various curated artists pages on Instagram. She recently has been a contributor to British art magazine, The Bread Bin and The Biscuit Tin. She also currently is working on a clothing design project, soon to be announced. By the end of 2017, she expects an online market store for prints and originals. You can view her art on Instagram @vali_saurus and she is open for commission-based projects.


Sara Sheldon: Art Criticism is Dead and Instagram Did It

Instagram is a vast terrain of patterns in self-identified groups; one of the biggest countries being “The Poets of Instagram.” After spending almost four years here I’ve gained a lot of perspective on the art of writing and existing, almost exclusively, in a social media world. After digging through the dirt under shallow-planted flowers, I’ve found most of this terrain is a landfill. Outside of its pixelated square, the contents of these posts just seem to crumble to dust in our hands. It takes a little effort as plucking one flower to unveil the hollow façade over the whole land.

“I can only think about him/her” has gone from a teen’s away message on AIM to something regarded with the sacredness of literature. The most thought that goes into these posts seems to be picking out what image to pair it with; either a shadowed, sad-looking beautiful model, a glass of whiskey (to show professional writer credentials), or a picture of a sunset. Saying something about a girl’s wild heart (a go-to favorite of popular poets), and some authoritative voice about loving her isn’t much at face value.  But someone who is projecting something in a positive tone, even if it’s a misunderstood interpretation, doesn’t seem like something to shake your fist at. And if you try to you’ll be met with the usual rhetoric about supporting fellow artists, about how it isn’t your right or your job to knock someone else, about how everyone is “just out here trying to do their thing.” In short, you will be made into an asshole if you try to critique words that have been liked and shared by thousands, sometimes millions, of people.

Of the many things I could discuss around Instagram poetry, my point here is this: art criticism is dead and there are adverse consequences. People say anything can be art, and we as humans don’t have the right to confine what that is. I see this issue causing people to take great offense to doing anything but accepting peoples’ art at face value. We are no longer allowed to have in-depth discussions about meaning by objectively commenting.

If we aren’t allowed to critique how will there a conversation between art pieces and society so we can reach deeper meanings and learn? We completely forgo the idea of “something underneath” and reduce our understandings of the world and ourselves. Self-exploration isn’t possible without the concept of depth. If we can’t say this piece lacks depth, the conversation will end and the price of not hurting someone’s feelings might be erasing depth from art altogether and the shallowing of our minds continues.

Instagram writers, on a whole, reduce the art of poetry to empty-worded clichés, dismantling the altar of literature into commoners’ dumping ground for glorified tweets. The time-window for the good that could have come out of Instagram poetry has long been closed. The good could have been accessibility, taking poetry from the fancy-speak sonnets of Shakespeare to a real voice of modern times. Poetry is not supposed to be elitist, it’s not supposed to be for the upper class of literacy. But through the “anything is art” theory and our inability to judge and discuss works cause a reduction of the definition of poetry and what classifies as poetry. The everyday-ness of social media leaves no clear line where art starts as a departure from random occurrences, therefore, no deeper meaning can be derived from it.

So, what’s the endgame here? Is there any chance of being a writer of depth when the only way to get notoriety is to conform to meaningless, bite-size clichés? I believe it’s an uphill battle as the appreciation of and capacity to understand meaning diminishes, but I think we can start the conversation again. As tensions rise all around the world we will start to turn inward for answers and people eventually reach their limit for tolerating generalized bullshit perpetrated on social media. When we start to feel the emptiness still unfulfilled by empty words we will, once again, set out as people who express and explore themselves through art.

Sara Sheldon is a 25-year-old from Maine. She has one novel published, “Celeste and The Beyond”, and is currently working on the sequel. You can find her work and more information at www.saramichellesheldon.com and @saramichelle91 on Instagram

Gideon Cecil: The Importance of Poetry and the Poet

Poetry has always been a part of human life. It is an art that lies in the soul and spirit of man since the beginning of time. A poet writes always of his personal life and experience. He writes because he has an indispensable desire in his heart to express his ideas to objectify his poetic philosophy about life.

The English poet Shelly said that: ‘‘A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth…’’. The profound truth in this line written by Shelly can be seen in the poetry of all the classical poets, from Homer to Shakespeare. The writing of great poetry has been the primary vehicle for expressing one’s thoughts, observations, historical events, and various philosophies from a different perspective about life. A great poem, unlike a novel or a short story, can be digested and absorbed in our souls and can become a part of us forever. The poetry of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Tagore, and Shakespeare has become a part of the literary world until today. The divinity of their poetry has become sermons and prayers over the ages.

Poets speak a language all their own. Poets think in images—words naming a sensory thing or action. Great poetry requires a reader to experience a series of sensory experiences. Having experienced the image, we need to interpret it. The vital message and metaphor are what the poet wants you to know. Poetry gives pleasure first, then truth, hidden in complex imagery and philosophy. Its language is charged, intensified and sophisticated. The imagery in poetic writing is what every poet should strive for to achieve in his literary craft. Imagery is not just the sensory object the poem will convey to the readers. It is not only the beautiful and musical patterning of words; it is truth and meaning within the words of the poet that gives us great poetry.

The illustrious American poet and critic T.S. Eliot wrote: ‘‘The dead poets are revealing themselves in the poets that are alive…’’ His knowledge in the line I have quoted here is what I have experienced as a poet. I am inspired and motivated to write when I read the work of a great poet. Inspiration will only come thusly. Poetry, I believe, is a very deep spiritual revelation compounded with creative imagination from the unseen world into the known material world.

Some philosophers and theologians believe that poetry writing is ‘intuitive writing’ that cannot be taught from mere book learning. I fully agree with them because one can be taught the literary genres and techniques about writing from an English textbook, but one cannot be taught how to write. Great poetry should be revealed to the poet by spiritual revelation for him. It is my firm conviction that poetry, as well as music and art, are a God-given gift given to the artist unknown to him on many occasions that cannot be taught at Universities. Some of our greatest Guyanese authors and poets such as Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Edgar Mittelholzer, Philip Moore and Petamber Persaud never acquired university degrees but their writings excelled those with Ph.D. degrees. Samuel Johnson was too poor to acquire a University degree, yet he wrote the greatest dictionary and tons of books and papers. What many academics failed to understand is very simple: degrees don’t write; writers do the writing.

Intuition which we sometimes call ‘inspiration’ will push us to write lines we ourselves are unable to write by our natural intellectual apprehension. Until today, many literary scholars believe that Shakespeare never wrote what he had written because he was not educated at a University. Shakespeare was naturally gifted and inspired by God to write what he had written. The American poet and critic, T.S. Eliot, believed that Shakespeare never did any real thinking to write but wrote upon inspired thoughts given to him by the imperial muse of poetry.

Poetry is an art, and in my opinion, the greatest of the fine arts and the hardest in which to reach true perfection. The true poet must be genuine, who has faith and confidence that his work will do something to the world and the society he lives in. Poetry deals with the emotional intensity in mankind. It’s a more sophisticated art in writing that comes from the poet’s heart by a higher sort of creative imagination. Prose, on the other hand, deals with the external intellect. It’s more lucid and scientific form of expression. It is a more analytical and comprehensive style in formal writing. It enables man to see things more clearly, whereas poetry lies in obscure images beneath the surface of things that can only be comprehended by eyes within our mind’s eye. Poetry is philosophy locked in symbolism and magnificent imagery. In closing, poets are important in every society because their prophetic words of wisdom will live on after they are gone.

Gideon Sampson Cecil was born on the 9th of May 1968 in Rose Hall Town, Corentyne Berbice, Guyana. He holds a Bachelor and Master of Divinity from Life Christian University in Tampa, Florida and a degree in journalism. He is a college lecturer and freelance journalist. He has over 300 poems, articles, stories and essays published from 1993 to 2017. He is the author of the romantic collection of poetry, The Revelation of Love, published by Outskirts Press and recently republished by Tate Publishing & Enterprises LLC. His poetry was published in POUi X by The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados the Muse Literary Journal India, The Harbinger Literary Journal USA, The Chachalaca Review England, Forward Journal London and more. He continues to write poetry, fiction, literary criticism, and articles for various journals and newspapers at home and abroad.

Vaishali Paliwal: Humanity and its choices today

We are a restless generation.

We were born with access to so many worlds. Our options bloomed in every direction. One click on a hand-carrying machine took us to multitude of possibilities; things we could do, places we could go, people, we could meet. Our dreams were served to us instantly. With so many permutations and combinations in our skies, the rulebook dissolved. We could do anything. What an immense spectrum of freedom and innovation continued to be strengthened by our further breakthrough technologies! Our power was also our resources.
We were browsing, researching, and always looking for the next best thing to take up to curb our curiosity for life. We sought to find the answers baffling humanity for generations and to live like we found was the way to live in these digital investigations. And what a beautiful chase it has been. This generation ran past those archaic boundaries.

Our quiet moments are few as we are on-the-go. Moments of raw enlightenment are rare. Moments of human connection amidst these great technologies perhaps even rarer. Our compulsiveness and cravings are abundant. It drives us for these expeditions. Soon, dear readers, we realize we are just running blindly into madness. We are expecting this next summit to bring content to our lives as we thought it would. However, with each peak we traverse, another becomes visible; a tribute to ego gratification. We stop and wonder who did we start climbing for in the first place. There is a thin line between the path of self-search and addictions. We learn this slowly leaving a sour taste in our mouths.

But this is not an essay of fault finding. Perhaps, we are evolving into another species, rich with digital resources and entering a fading realm of what peace and love once brought us; an apathetic species. Perhaps, even our art evolves is the product of connection with our technology, not our souls. Perhaps, love and respect in this new world are rated by the number of likes and follows in social media. Perhaps, humans are machines we so long predicted and are slowly entering the phase of singularity... How we connect with ourselves and world around us has been transforming on a very rapid basis. With our indulgence, we have already stepped into this new life. And who is to say how this will all work out. After all our prehistoric ancestors, could never imagine us and our lives today.

And we are still here.

We will survive. Between further miracles of science and will of humans, we will survive and very likely thrive. But with one crimson sunset over our glass sky, while we get disrupted for a second by an error in our web of wires, we will remember the spark. The same spark that drove our prehistoric ancestors to draw their visions in the caves for the first time. The same spark which sets humanity apart from other species; our creative marvels, our grand success in spectacular inventions, our sense of connectedness to our magnificent universe, all birthed by this human spark. We will remember then that we are humans with a rare gift to dream, with a rare gift to connect with our brains these dreams to deliver artistic expressions unthinkable and irreplaceable. We will remember what peace is: one minuscule moment of peace we so longed in our hearts, where no technology could ever seize from us.

Our potential has barely been touched. We are just starting. Our grasp on science and an inherent restless nature is capable of worlds so extraordinary. Not just for humans, but species across the earth and the entire cosmos. What we need is balance in all aspects of our living. We must watch over our egos, which births greed and animosity. We must cease making enemies when we need friends to build something grand together. Answers to all issues of our world today is taming our minds and channeling our energies to creative endeavors rather than cheap short-lived thrills of satisfying ego. We are the children of this universe, and in there, we will return. In our brief time here, do we want to come and leave with shallow swims or dive in the sweet ocean of all what our universe has to offer? Do we want to be united in goals to create or divisive plights leading to destruction? We need to decide for ourselves whether we want to survive or truly live.

Yes, we are a restless generation with a noble cause.


Vaishali Paliwal is an aspiring writer living in Los Angeles finding solace in attempts to write
about minor earthquakes and grand hurricanes of her life. She lives in distant worlds of past poetry of D. Thomas and such and manages to land at the present times occasionally. She had her poems recently published in Eunoia Review. A manager by profession and engineer by degree yet poetry is where her heart is. She has her poetry blogs and likes to share her words with friends and community for creative sparks to keep lighting their fires. You can find some of her playful writing pieces in Instagram account violet_rhymes and you can reach her at paliwalvaishali@gmail.com