Beautiful Ashes: C.L. Bledsoe

Presented by Jen Michalski, for PANK. For a description of this guest series, click here.

“Wrong Turn in Hard Times”

July 3

OMG you won’t believe this, diary, but Luke tied Daddy up in the shed and tried to eat his liver. Again! He waited till Daddy fell asleep (I think Luke put something in his water cause Daddy said he wouldn’t sleep again until we were back home) and dragged him out to the shed. He was sharpening his knife when Papa Gumbo came and let Daddy out. Boy was Papa Gumbo sore. He whipped Luke till his back was all bloody. (I saw it! Euw!!). The whole time, Daddy was trying to tell him to stop, and he finally did. Daddy said boys will be boys. I still think Luke is kind of weird.

July 4

Mary Bob came and let me out of the cage so I could play dollies with her. It’s weird how she doesn’t talk, but she makes these noises sometimes that sound like she’s talking. And she can talk to the dog. And I’m pretty sure squirrels. Daddy said it’s because she was locked up and never went to school, even though she’s old now. He said I shouldn’t make fun of her for being different. There but for the grace of God, whatever that means. I think it’s kind of cool how she can growl and whine and bark at the dog and it will do stuff. And the squirrels. She convinced a squirrel to bring us some nuts. They were a lot better than the food we usually eat, which I’m pretty sure is made from the dead bodies in the cemetery next door. Dad says I shouldn’t jump to conclusions like that. He said he used to live in a neighborhood where there was a Chinese restaurant and people always said there weren’t any stray animals in the neighborhood, but that was because there were really good animal control people. But I found a finger bone in my sandwich yesterday. There was a ring on it with an inscription that said, “Love Everlasting, Barbara.” I asked Daddy, and he said we don’t have a cousin Barbara. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Petrarchan, by Kristina Marie Darling

~by C.L. Bledsoe




BlazeVOX [books]

72 pgs./$16


Darling has produced a collection of footnotes, commentaries, and poem fragments inspired by the work of Francesco Petrarcha, a poet who was known for writing emotional but spare poems. Darling has deconstructed his work to the barest slivers of emotional resonance and then shared her reactions. This is a book about a book, a direct response. But in producing these reactions, Darling is also showing us something of herself. Her reactions don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re influenced by elements of her life, so we also see a bit of Darling behind the curtains.

The book opens with a quote from Petrarcha, “And tears are heard within the harp I touch.” Harps are considered one of the more emotive instruments, and Patrarcha’s personification of the instrument implies that he shares his own sadness or loss through the harp he touches, or possibly plays; his emotion is shared through his art. “Harp” also sounds a lot like “heart” which implies that Petrarcha produces sadness in his audience, that their loss echoes his own, which connects him and his audience. This is apropos since Darling is, herself, mirroring Petrarcha’s tears, at times, through her own “harp.” Continue reading

[REVIEW] Right Now More Than Ever, by Nate Pritts

~ by C.L. Bledsoe



100 pgs/$24.95

There’s an immediacy to Pritts’ title but also a bit of gibberish in it. It smacks of a slogan, well-meaning but also empty. And couldn’t so many of our most meaningful and important life moments be reduced to slogans, sadly? Throughout this collection, Pritts expounds on the idea of presence, of being part of his own life, of not just observing but really experiencing and interacting with those he cares about, but at the same time he mocks his own efforts, refusing to take himself too seriously or allow himself to venture into the realm of “preciousness.” He is (trying to be) “here” right now more than ever, as in present in THE present, but the spotlight he’s shining on these efforts is also a little silly, as he tells us by mocking at the same time he recognizes its importance. Basically, it’s nothing special to be present in one’s own life (everyone does it, theoretically), but that doesn’t make it any more important. This mocking also smacks a bit of self-defense: if it isn’t special, then it also shouldn’t be that scary, perhaps.

In “Talking About Autumn Rain” Pritts begins:

I hereby submit this yellow leaf as my charter,
wet & preserved under snowpack – Syracuse
blunt, a backyard bluster of stark white –

though it’s early December which means it’s
autumn & the rains that rain & melt the snow
are still autumn rains. Sirs: This application contains

six parts – a missing casement, two atria, two
vehicles & respected sobbings. Also,
more than a gallon of blood. Please wear gloves

when handling to ensure proper emotional distance
from the exploding world I can’t make sense


Pritts’ exploding world is the world outside the mind which he may have “railed against/ in the bright sunshine of [his] morning li[fe]” (as he states later in the poem) but now, as he’s apparently gotten older and gained some life experience, he’s begun to make peace with it. I’m reminded of Robin Williams’ character The King of the Moon, in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, who has split his head from his body in order to pursue the life of the mind separate from the body, which runs around humping things. But as with the King, one must eventually rejoin the mind to the body or else miss out on much of what life has to offer. Continue reading