Short Play by Emma Johnson-Rivard

Emma Johnson-Rivard is a Masters student at Hamline University. She received her undergraduate degree in Film Studies at Smith College in Massachusetts and currently lives in Minnesota with her dogs and far too many books. Her work has appeared in Mistake House, the Olive Press, and the Santa Ana River Review.

 

The Painter Seeks A Muse And The Historian Lectures on Jack The Ripper

A short play

Two friends sit drinking coffee. The Historian carries a book bag. The PAINTER has a portfolio and is taking notes on a piece of paper.

PAINTER

Be as honest as you can.

HISTORIAN

I wasn’t aware people interviewed their muses.

PAINTER

I don’t have to take notes, if that makes it easier.

HISTORIAN

Studies show that handwritten notes improve memory retention and increased comprehension of abstract concepts.

PAINTER

So…

HISTORIAN

Go ahead.

PAINTER

Thank you. I just wanted to say, you don’t have to answer everything. I’d like you to be hones, but if there’s anywhere you don’t want me to go, just say so.

HISTORIAN

That’s very polite of you.

PAINTER

I don’t want to hurt anyone with my work unless I mean to.

HISTORIAN

Do you mean to hurt people?

PAINTER

Sometimes I mean to insult them or force you to see a painful truth. I mean “you” as the collective, not you personally, of course. I very rarely direct my work at specific, individual people, and only then to historical figures or politicians.

HISTORIAN

Because they expect it?

PAINTER

I suppose they do. But it’s more because they’ve shifted into the background of our collective unconsciousness. They mean something more than themselves. And sometimes they cause great harm or great innovation by being more than themselves.

HISTORIAN

So a painting of Copernicus is more important than a painting of a crowd?

PAINTER

I wouldn’t say it’s more important. Just different. And I’d probably work with Galileo, anyway.

HISTORIAN

You’re pretty good at this.

PAINTER

Thank you.

HISTORIAN

Do you write papers?

PAINTER

Sometimes. The collective you tends to think there’s this great divine between painters and historians, but we’re all academics, really. We take notes and draw conclusions.

HISTORIAN

And neither of us get rich.

The Painter laughs.

PAINTER

Nope! Though I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

HISTORIAN

My apologies. I got carried away.

PAINTER

That’s fine. Do you mind if I begin?

HISTORIAN

Not at all.

PAINTER

Excellent. As I said, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. But I’d like you to be as honest as you can.

HISTORIAN

I understand.

PAINTER

Then I’ll jump right in. Why do you study historical crime?

HISTORIAN

Why do I study it, or why should the collective you study it?

PAINTER

Both, please.

HISTORIAN

I research crimes concerning women; whether as perpetrators, bystanders, or victims. It became a fascination of mine in high school when I saw this movie about Jack the Ripper and I found myself wondering about the women. The ones who died, of course, but their families as well. Annie Chapman had three children. No one really talks about them.

PAINTER

She was the first victim?

HISTORIAN

Second. She was murdered on September 8th, 1880.

PAINTER

So you write about the Ripper.

HISTORIAN

No. I don’t care about the Ripper.

PAINTER

Just the women.

HISTORIAN

Looking at the crimes is a way of looking at multiple levels of society all at once. How these women died is extremely well documented. Working backwards, I try to get a picture of how they lived.

PAINTER

Like with the Ripper.

HISTORIAN

I don’t want to talk about him.

PAINTER

So why look at crimes at all? If you’re interested in the lives of Victorian women, I can think of other ways you could do it without encountering such gruesome history.

HISTORIAN

You’re not the first person to ask me that. With this kind of history, it’s easy to get drawn into the sensation of the narrative. Make a spectacle of the blood and guts. And I can’t speak to why other people are drawn to this particular field, but for me, there was a profound sense of injustice that women like Annie Chapman are remembered for what was probably the worst moment of their lives. The reason people know her name is because she was murdered and the collective we, as you said, has developed this whole subculture around the person who killed her. You can buy replicas of the knife. People dress up as Gentleman Jack for Halloween. And the general consensus is that Annie and the others put themselves into dangerous situations and got themselves killed. The dominant narrative in this case is about the grand mystery of revealing the killer. It’s treated as an intellectual puzzle and not a tragedy. The truth is, Annie Chapman and the other women died because a man who hated women decided to murder them because of it.

PAINTER

So you don’t have any theories about who the Ripper was?

HISTORIAN

Everyone has theories. I have my own, but there’s not enough evidence to prove them.

PAINTER

Does his identity matter at all?

HISTORIAN

I’m not saying we shouldn’t look or that there’s anything wrong with trying to figure it out. People have done very thoughtful, important work trying to close the case. It’s too late for the victims and their families, but the pursuit of justice isn’t something that should come with a time limit. But I also think that the whole conversation has shifted to putting this almost mythical killer on a pedestal. It’s become the legend of Jack the Ripper and his so called “perfect murders” rather than a historical evil we should be working to eradicate in the present. When we come to the point where you’ve got people idealizing this kind of violence against women, then you know we’ve got a problem.

PAINTER

What do you mean, idealizing the violence

 

HISTORIAN

The Ripper has become a sort of folk hero, in the collective consciousness. He’s called a criminal genius, his crimes are praised for how they were carried out. You can buy replicas of the knife we think he used, for God’s sake.

PAINTER

Is this something you find with a lot of the cases you study?

HISTORIAN

Occasionally, though never to this extreme as the Ripper case.

PAINTER

Why do you think that is?

HISTORIAN

Victorian crimes were reported to the public in a very specific way. Information was released episodically and it was purposefully sensationalized. Criminal cases and trials were followed closely by the public. Executions were treated like county fairs. People sold food, souvenirs; people made a day out of it. The Ripper case also touched on a lot of fears that people were grappling with at the time, but didn’t necessarily have an outlet to express. That time period in London saw extreme wealth disparities, and tensions between various ethnic and religious groups were quite high. People were afraid. A lot of prejudice came out of the proverbial woodwork because of it. And people in London, especially around the Whitechapel area, lived in very close proximity to each other, in horribly squalid conditions.

PAINTER

There wasn’t any way to escape.

HISTORIAN

Exactly. The Ripper case brought a lot of that tension to the surface and so there was a great deal of interest in the case. But I’d say even back then, the crimes started developing a mythology of their own. “Jack can’t be caught, he’s a monster, a criminal mastermind”, things like that. And of course he was never caught. The mystery appeals to people.

PAINTER

But there are a lot of unsolved crimes in the world.

HISTORIAN

Thousands. Part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is the facts of the case are consistently overshadowed by the legend. Jack the Ripper wasn’t a criminal mastermind who just vanished into the night; the police didn’t have access to what we would consider standard forensic tests, the victims were all vulnerable, and Whitechapel was a notoriously dark area. I mean that literally; there was a great deal of smog and the public street lamps of the time were quite weak. Furthermore, it wasn’t difficult to avoid the police. We know from other accounts that the Whitechapel police wore a specific type of boot, and these boots made a distinct sound on the cobblestone roads. So even before a criminal would see a policeman, they would hear him coming. Add that to the fact that the patrol routes were predictable, and even a moderately clever criminal could avoid detection at night.

PAINTER

So Jack wasn’t so special after all.

HISTORIAN

No. He was a criminal and he never saw justice for his crimes, but that was hardly unique for the time. People zero in on the legend rather than the facts of the case.

PAINTER

Given your feelings about the way the case is approached today, why research it at all?

HISTORIAN

I want to say because someone should do justice to the memory of the victims. And I do want that, I want these women to be seen as whole people instead of just props in the saga of Jack the Ripper, but I’m also very aware that I can’t speak for these women. I can only speak about them. There’s always a risk of turning them into props of my own; I’m not arrogant to think I’m above that.

PAINTER

That sounds difficult.

HISTORIAN

I believe we should be thoughtful about history, especially as it concerns violence against women. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

PAINTER

I agree. If we never tried to engage with the past, how would we ever learn from it?

HISTORIAN

Is this helping at all? I don’t know what painters look for.

PAINTER

You’re being very helpful. I appreciate how honest you’ve been with me.

HISTORIAN

All right.

PAINTER

You should dubious.

HISTORIAN

I guess I don’t see what you’re getting out of this.

PAINTER

Quite honestly, it’s part of my process. I don’t think many people like saying this, but the majority of artists are scavengers. We take pieces from the world around us and mash them together. I don’t want to paint just for myself, so I have to step outside my own wants and aesthetics, and think about what bothers other people. What haunts them, like the Ripper case haunts you.

HISTORIAN

I’m not a Ripperologist.

PAINTER

I know, but it’s something you feel deeply about. And to be entirely cavalier about it, that’s something I can use. That need to remember these women as they really were, when they’ve already been distorted into some strange myth. I don’t think I’ll sit down and paint Annie Chapman when we’re done. I’m not that literal. But I’ll be thinking about her as I work, about how deeply you feel for the truth of this case, and something will probably come of that.

HISTORIAN

I’m not sure I understand.

PAINTER

I know it’s strange.

HISTORIAN

This work is strange.

PAINTER

You’re quite right! But it is important, I think. Otherwise it might be lost.

HISTORIAN

I want someone to remember Annie Chapman as a person. Just one to remember her and not the Ripper.

The Painter smiles.

PAINTER

I promise at least one person will.

HISTORIAN

Thank you.

PAINTER

Shall we continue? There’s still so much I want to ask you.

HISTORIAN

Yes. That would be all right. There’s a lot to tell.

PAINTER

I’ll do my best.

HISTORIAN

I know. Will you show me, when it’s done?

PAINTER

The painting?

HISTORIAN

Yes.

PAINTER

Of course.

HISTORIAN

Then let’s begin.

Blackout.

 

 

 

Poetry by Josef Krebs

Josef Krebs has a chapbook published by Etched Press and his poetry also appears in Agenda, the Bicycle Review, Calliope, Mouse Tales Press, The Corner Club Press, The FictionWeek Literary Review, Burningword Literary Journal, the Aurorean, Inscape, Crack the Spine, The Cape Rock, Carcinogenic Poetry, The Bangalore Review, 521magazine, Organs of Vision and Speech, Tacenda, Former People, The Chaffey Review, The Bohemian, and The Cats Meow. A short story has been published in blazeVOX. He’s written three novels and five screenplays. His film was successfully screened at Santa Cruz and Short Film Corner of Cannes film festivals.

Here are three poems by Josef Krebs. We hope you find them as engaging and dynamic as we did.

 

And tremors that begin in your hand

And spread to the city

Are no longer a factor in the war that followed

The turmoil a mere residue now of unforgotten dreams

And ideological stubbornness

Or ignorance

The eyes that saw no longer hesitate to witness

But the images drip away barely burning into the soul anymore

As if taste buds had died along with retinal ganglion cells

In order to protect the no longer

And the no longer innocent

Alike

 

 

 

 

As the thesis of existence inoculates us to our last departure

I rapture over past

Memories of other

That no longer is

As if a moment had passed

Into past

A droplet reabsorbed into the collision between water and sky

That might come around and around

As distance becomes foreshortened into thesis and antithesis

With all lost from the let go get go

In order that a new race might emerge

 

 

 

 

Distance accounts for half the effect of inconclusive adaptability

As direct dialectic deception gives the perception of equality of opposites

When the balance is all off

And one should make a stand for something however simple and multilayered if not multi-angled

Or is all just perception and necessity of the moment

With no tense balance possible

Beyond the momentary interaction with those you love too much

Spoken Word by Craig Kurtz

Finding the 21st century obsolete, Craig Kurtz versifies Restoration plays, illustrated by Anni Wilson. Excerpts appear in California Quarterly, Crannóg, Icon, and Penn Review. Visit http://antickcomedies.blogspot.com/ for particulars. Kurtz and Wilson reside at Twin Oaks Intentional Community.

 

Life Isn’t Fair

 

Money is Magic

Photography by Anna Martin

Anna Martin is a digital/traditional artist, writer, and photographer based out of Saint Augustine, Florida. She is an avid explorer and much of her artwork is inspired by her travels and life experiences, and she strives to capture emotions and inspire others with her work.

Her work has been previously exhibited in various galleries and museums, such as the Rosenberg Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art, and has also been published in various art magazines such as Grub Street and Plenilune Magazine.

Anna is a freelance artist, and is always looking for new work and collaborative projects. She also frequently works under the pseudonym Vacantia. More of her art can be found at her online gallery: http://www.vacantia.org.

 

crimson raindrops, Photography, 11 x 17 inches, 2015

 kismet, Photography, 11 x 17 inches, 2017 

 lentic, Photography, 11 x 17 inches, 2014 

nothing but silence, Photography, 11 x 17 inches, 2014

 winterbourne, Photography, 11 x 17 inches, 2016

Staff Spotlight – Joseph Zook

The following is an excerpt from The Persecuted. It is a story about three young adults that are at the wrong place and time. Scientists have created a “smart” shot to increase the intelligence of society, but lost their funding. They continued to make the product, but had no one to test it on, so they kidnap a group of children. Will they survive on their own, or will they have to rely on a stranger for survival? —

The Persecuted

”Hey, son would you like to be the first to try the smart shot?” A guy in a black trench coat says from the window of his huge SUV.

”What the heck is a smart shot? No,” I say totally confused. Two people get out of the back, and the guy who talked to him ran towards him. “Hey! What are you doing?” I start running, like the junior running back I am, toward my friends, but Mr. Black trench coat knocks me down. “Ouch!” I try to stop the guy from putting a bag over my head, but am unsuccessful. I start hyper-ventilating when it is shoved over my head and a gag placed in my mouth, effectively muffling my screams.

After a long time, “Get up you piece of trash,” says Mr. Black trench coat. “You’re here to test the shot Gomer’s made.” With that sentiment, I pass out with my mind reeling trying to find a way out of this situation.

I woke up groggy to the sound of a shot having its air bubbles taken out with a flick of a deadly finger. Tink! Tink! A guy with a white science coat enters my field of vision, his name tag reading Dr. Gomer. He got the air bubbles out. “This won’t hurt too much.” My eyes close again, because gomer gives me a shot. Where am I? Oh, yeah, I’m testing a new shot, I think as I wake up again.

I see a mirror in the room, and look at myself in it. My olive skin had turned a weird color.

“Ahhh, what the heck happened to my skin?” This mirror must be broken. CRASH! I see the glass of the mirror fall and I look at my bloody hand still throbbing. Did I punch the mirror?

———–

Joseph Zook is an assistant editor for The New Plains Review. He was born and raised Oklahoman, and is originally from Enid. He fell in love with writing in his teenage years, and is passionate about it to this day. When he was 16 he wrote The Persecuted.

My First Loss in the Age of Social Media Grieving

 

This week I unexpectedly lost my best friend, platonic soulmate, and “every day” person. By “every day” person, I mean we had that special relationship where we told each other the little things that don’t seem important to anyone else. I find myself still wanting to text him every time something small happens. Having my entire world turned upside down in the matter of a day was difficult enough, but I never expected to be so horrified by the public response to his death.

I preface this by saying I know grief is not a competition. I know everyone handles death in their own way and has a right to respond to it as they will. I am at no point saying that anyone’s grief or expression of love toward someone is invalid or a lie. I only offer a perspective that I did not previously understand before losing someone so close, and know many people simply do not understand. My friend’s death was quickly publicized by the news, radio, and social media. Many people I was not even aware knew my best friend were suddenly expressing their unconditional love on all forms of social media. One stranger wrote “RIP” before he was even gone. Others shared stories about that one time they played a show with his band.

At this point, one might be thinking, “I don’t see the problem here. Everyone is expressing their love for the person. How is this insensitive?” It’s true, no one had a single bad thing to say. It was all sympathetic and positive and loving. So why does it bother me so much? The first reason is social media is simply an insincere platform. Expressing grief on social media is like writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall. If you’re really their friend, why aren’t you just calling or messaging them? My friend’s death has been turned into a #trend. Everyone feels the need to be publicly included in the grieving.

While there are many sincere people who loved my friend and still chose to post, there were many who used my friend’s death to draw attention to themselves. Posting a selfie with a caption telling everyone to “live life to the fullest and not regret anything” is insensitive. I question if some of my peers are more upset at the reality of death than the actual death. Even if they don’t realize it. Yes, I’m sure they are actually upset. Again, I’m not trying to invalidate people’s feelings. BUT, the choice to post self-centered posts that draw attention to themselves for the sake of getting likes makes me want to scream, “I HOPE MY BEST FRIEND’S DEATH IS GETTING YOU ALL OF THE LIKES YOU WANTED.”

Grief is the most personal and heart-wrenching experience in my life. Having all of my peers constantly make insensitive public posts is overwhelming and I feel like the worst experience in my life is being put on display. I find myself wanting to be territorial over my friend. It might not be a competition of who loved him most, but grief makes the griever irrationally emotional. It doesn’t have to be fair. It doesn’t have to be “right.” I feel what I feel, and what I feel is a lot of anger.

In a week, most of the people who made these posts will be able to continue their lives normally. I don’t get that. Those closest to him don’t get to go back to normal lives in the next week or month. At worst, they’ll think back about his death, be sad, and think “that was such a shame.” At best for me, I’ll make it through the day without crying every time I’m alone a year from now. All I want is for everyone to think before they post about the death of someone. It may be making the grieving experience worse for those closest to the person. I love you best friend. Forever.

 

5 Tips For A Great Spring Break For Writers

couponpal.com

Many of us will soon be starting spring break – a glorious week off from the stresses of school. Some will be jetting off to the beach; others will be picking up extra shifts at work. No matter what your plan is, here are some tips to use this time wisely as a writer.

1. Don’t forget about the BREAK part of spring break.

Whether you’re an English major, or you’ve been tirelessly working on your next great novel, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break. If you feel stuck, over-worked, or unsure about your writing, check out this link below. It provides a 7-day plan (perfect for your week off) for getting out of a writing funk.

It’s Okay To Take A Break

2. Read some inspiring literature.

If you need a good book to read during your vacation, I recommend The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Labeled as “A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self,” this book provides daily writing exercises to help writers tap into their creativity and write more consistently.

amazon.com

3. Write morning pages.

Taken from The Artists Way, morning pages are “three pages of whatever crosses your mind- that’s all there is to it.” “Morning pages will teach you that your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk.” This stream-of-conscious exercise helps you learn to write without judgment and clear your mind, which allows your creativity to flow better.

4. Share your work at an open mic.

Now that you have some free time during, consider going to a local open mic to share some of your creative work. We guarantee, that no matter where you are, there are various mics almost every night of the week that welcomes poets. If you’re in the metro Oklahoma area, District House in the Plaza hosts one every Monday, and Sauced in the Paseo hosts one every Wednesday night.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back.

via GIPHY

Writing is HARD. Take some time to reflect on how far you’ve come as a writer and how much you have accomplished this semester. It can be easy to focus on everything you haven’t done yet, but taking time to be proud of your achievements will help you become a more confident writer.

Happy Spring Break everyone! I’m going to take a 7-day nap.

via GIPHY

5 Tips To Get Published in a Journal

We know you want to be published, and we know it can be daunting. So we, New Plains Review, present to you a brief list of precautionary measures you should take before submitting your work to anywhere. (But primarily to us, right?)

1. Research the journal itself
Every journal has a specific form and style. You want to make sure you’re submitting to the right kind of journal for your work.

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2. Read the Directions
READ THE DIRECTIONS. I can’t say it enough. It seems so simple, yet people fail to do it every year. Every journal has a specific set of guidelines for submitted work. If they require a 3-poem limit and you submit 10 poems, you run the risk of your submission being thrown out just for not following the rules.

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3. Read past issues
Reading past issues will better help you understand what they are looking for. While every piece is unique, you will notice an overall cohesive style in each journal.

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4. Make sure the grammar and formatting is flawless
This is SO important! Before submitting your work, double-check that every single comma is in place before you click submit. It’s easy to overlook small errors as the writer, so make sure to have someone else look over it. Once you feel like it is perfect, read it one more time. If you want your submission to be taken seriously, take your work seriously.

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5. Don’t be discouraged if your work is not selected
Again, every journal has a specific style. Your work may just not be what they’re looking for this year. Just because your submission wasn’t selected by one publication, doesn’t mean it’s not perfect for something else. Try, try again!

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We hope that these tips are a big help for your publishing adventures!

Local Open Mic Provides Space For Unique Performances

The Oklahoma City creative community has seen a lot of exciting growth in the past few years, and if you haven’t had a chance to check out local open mics, you’re truly missing out! Comics, singers, magicians, and all other artists are able to show off and improve their skills in welcoming environments around the city through these opportunities.

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