Jeri Alexander: Art That Invokes Reaction

Our website header is a photograph from inside Jeri Alexander’s most recent sculpture installation. This collection was more than just a display of sculptures, it was an experience to be entered and interacted with. All kinds of artists, including writers, spend time considering the connection and conversations that their creations will have with the world. We wanted to share this insight with you into her art and this process, as well as thank her for letting us display this lovely exhibit at the top of our website!

Let’s start with this collection of work specifically—how did it come to be and what connects it together?

This installation was for my senior installation, I tried to make the room itself art. I wanted to make the room feel creepy, then to layer more and more creepy elements on top until it all came together. That’s what I do with a lot of my art—I keep building—like, here’s a weird thing, what would go with that?

What inspires or influences your work?

As far as inspiration I look to other artists who use elements like mine, that same kind of creepy—I scour the internet, find inspiration from artists I like. Not copying but y’know, trying to get a feel. Also, history and fashion has always inspired me for sure. The first example I can think of is 1930’s Weimar cabaret style.

Who do you create your art for?

The freaks man, the weirdos. C’mon.

When did you start becoming passionate about art? Sculptures? What pushed you towards your mediums?

Straight out the womb dude. I’ve always been passionate about sculpture, makeup, fashion—any kind of studio, 3-d, tangible art. I’m interested in making that interactive, reactive work. That’s how my brain works, I connect more with things I can feel rather than just ideas or something on a page.  Tangible art feels more real to me, more visceral; it creates a reaction.

Sculpture and other similar arts can often end up feeling inaccessible due to the money and equipment it requires. How have you worked around that, and do you have any advice for artists trying to work with what feels like nothing?

I like to use any medium I can get my hands on; it doesn’t have to be metal or anything expensive. I think adding together a ton of mixed media is much more interesting than sculptures with a single medium. The more things you have the better it’ll look in the end, is my philosophy. I think this installation really shows that. I started in sculpture because there wasn’t a fashion major at my school and 3-d studio art was the closest. I don’t have much advice, still figuring it out myself. Just work with as much as you can get your hands on. Do whatever you wanna do and don’t follow anyone else’s rules. If someone says don’t do that, you should definitely do it.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Paris Fashion Week. Or a shipyard. Maybe at the same time.


Jeri is a graduate of Salisbury University. She’s an artist in every sense of the word and is currently working as a visual stylist and as a sculpture studio tech.

A Review by Robin Arble

A Good Book of Poems: Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet

“I write a book of poems. I title it Your Favorite Poet. It is a good book of poems,” begins Your Favorite Poet, Leigh Chadwick’s very, very good debut book of poems. If the self-reflexive title and prologue have momentarily dissuaded you from buying this book, I would like to politely grab you by the shirt collar, drag you to the poetry section of your nearest independent book store, open up a copy of Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet, and read aloud from literally any page until you realize how desperately you need this book in your life:

“I always wait at least forty-five minutes after therapy before having sex. Every spring I pick up a second job planting pollen in dandelions. On Thursdays I listen to the same Frankie Cosmos song as I follow myself into the afternoon.” (Frankie Cosmos Is a Good Band Name)

“I am born an ostrich in a bomb shelter in some small town in Iowa. Minutes after my birth, a tornado knocks on the shelter door. Hello, the tornado says, I am here to kill who is supposed to be killed.” (Hint of Color)

“I can’t remember the last time we fucked to the silence of alliteration. Minutes turn into miles and miles turn into decades. In ten years, we will be ten years older. We’ve sharpened our teeth into knives.” (I Delete Every Emotion That Was Never Worth Capitalizing)

The surface persona of Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet quickly drops its defenses to reveal a speaker of startling sincerity who, more than anything else, worries—about her daughter, about her marriage, about her health, about the spreading threat of gun violence in the U.S. “The road to heaven is lined with bullet casings and leftover pieces of children too slow to duck,” begins the first poem. “Leigh Chadwick moves to a state so red you can’t tell if you’re bleeding,” Leigh Chadwick says later. “I take five pills every morning to forget the definition of feel,” Leigh tells us early on. There is a fierce vulnerability hiding in plain sight in these poems, in “a bed made of smaller beds,” in “the memory of the night in the bar,” in “keeping my daughter’s heart my daughter’s heart.” Leigh Chadwick is a poet of remarkable tenderness, as in Deer Poem, the third poem in the collection, which ends, “Your heart threatened nothing but its next beat.” These poems threaten even less: they comfort us with mutual worry.

Leigh Chadwick is a disarmingly relatable poet. Almost every poem in my copy is filled with “yes!”s and “awesome!”s and “so true!”s raining down the margins. I tried my best to read this book in one sitting, but I kept running to my notebook to write down my new favorite line, not knowing every other line would be my new favorite line.  Here are just a few favorite favorites from my notes: “If you wait long enough, even a cloud will rot.” (Foreplay I.) “Right now is what I miss most about right now.” (What Do People Do When People Do People Things?) “I quit poetry/to write better poetry.” (What Cheer) “I am trying to figure out why some people get to exist and others don’t.” (Bullets Not Included) (Some more marginalia: “love this attitude!” “total non-sequitur!” “this speaker is so real!”—all from the same poem. Any guess would be correct.)

Leigh Chadwick’s imagination never fails her. “I go to bed a Jehovah’s Witness. I dream Armageddon filing its taxes. I dream people climbing out of the dirt and dusting off their cellphones,” begins Mass of Thoughts. The leap between the apocalyptic and the mundane is a thrill to read and reread, and the phonetic echo of the expected “clothes” in the surprise of “cellphones” keeps me on my toes until the poem ends, startlingly, with a confession: “I start a Daniel Johnston cover band between my hips and cover the pillows with the memory from the afternoon at the lake.” Leigh Chadwick begins a poem with detached irony, moves through concern, and ends by telling you half a secret. I don’t know any other poet besides Leigh Chadwick who writes like Leigh Chadwick and gets away with it.

When you inevitably flip back to the first page of Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet the moment you finish it, you’ll be surprised to find out she’s being modest when she says, “It is a good book of poems.” Leigh Chadwick’s Your Favorite Poet is, in fact, one of the best I’ve read all year. You don’t need me tugging at your shirt collar to convince you. Go out and buy this book, this brave and generous abundance.


Buy Your Favorite Poet here!

Leigh Chadwick is the author of the poetry collection Your Favorite Poet (Malarkey Books, 2022), the collaborative poetry collection Too Much Tongue (Autofocus, 2022), co-written with Adrienne Marie Barrios, and Sophomore Slump (Malarkey Books, 2023). Her poetry has appeared in Salamander, Passages North, Identity TheoryThe Indianapolis ReviewPithead Chapel, and CLOVES Literary, among others. She is the executive editor of Redacted Books and is also a regular contributor at Olney Magazine, where she conducts the “Mediocre Conversations” interview series.

Aubade

J’Sun Howard

In response to the prompt “write a poem about being in a graveyard where you find your name on the headstone.”

it’s just like my father’s funeral,
except the chrysanthemums litter
themselves everywhere mocking me.
if you’re not crying, you didn’t love him,
was the fire on my ears that should’ve burned
her in the pew behind me. praise her god,
i didn’t pursue my pyrotechnic propensity
that still coruscates like mdma in my bloodstream,
like the aries i am. looking at my name,
i know it’s one i’ll never answer to again—
a love i’ll never know who wasn’t loved.
i mean, i don’t think i can or will ever forgive
my father if that’s what a hero is supposed to do.
i sit next to my headstone & wonder in anime
of the level of mastery of fūinjutsu it takes
to seal apart of myself outside of myself
knowing still i won’t be loved. there are more ways
to heal than to have a name that means healing.
like trying to piece these chrysanthemums
back together so they won’t forget themselves
as they pretend to mourn me in their hymnal silence.
a lost pieris lands atop my headstone & i pray
for me when i repeat my auntie to myself,
if you’re not crying, you didn’t love him.


More prompts for you to ponder! Feel free to send any responses to thebeaversubmissions@gmail.com

  • Write a tritina using the words static, soft, and strange.
  • Write a golden shovel of the line “My body is old but the bones don’t creak in fear.”
  • Write a flash fiction piece about what you think a version of the end of the world might be (and check out this piece for inspiration)!
  • Take a line you’d given up on from an old poem and try to use it as the beginning to a flash prose piece.
  • Write a creative nonfiction piece telling the story of one small, specific place. Whether it be a certain tree you pass walking home, your favorite water fountain on campus, or the water stains in the kitchen from your dogs bowl; let us know how this location came to be.

J’Sun Howard is a Chicago-based dancemaker and poet. He is a 2018 Bests New Poets nominee. His poetry appears I Can’t Breathe: A Poetic Anthology of Fresh Air, The Matador Review, WusGood, The Shade Journal, Calamus Journal, Bird’s Thumb, and Propter Nos. He is a 2020 Frontier Poetry Digital Chapbook and Button Poetry Chapbook award finalist. He holds an MFA in dance from the University of Michigan. He can be found on Twitter at @jsoleil47 and on Instagram @jsunhoward.

Ella’s Plan—A Concoction of Childlike Curiosities

Written by Ellery Beck, Co-Editor

Buy Ella’s Plan by Jeffrey Bean here!


“Ella’s Plan” is best described as a potion—thrown together of everything familiar and found, everything reimagined—made in your backyard, barehanded. This chapbook, written by Jeffrey Bean and selected for publication by Naomi Shihab Nye, is as she describes it, “the ultimate alchemy of spirit.” In a reading hosted by The Poet’s Corner, Naomi and Jeffrey discuss this similarity to a childhood creation, a concoction made of outdoor finds (or possibly even kitchen chemicals). I found myself absorbed into Ella’s potion, her plan; feeling an intimacy with her due to the attentiveness with which she was created. I was transported back to the times I made backyard potions myself, filling wheelbarrows with sticks, pine needles and as much mud as I could scoop. There’s a level of care and respect put into articulating this younger point of view, and that consideration results in an intimate conversation with the audience. Jeffrey accomplishes this through the delicate, simple voice Ella carries through each piece as well as through the wondrous, imaginative imagery. These poems embody eventness—the element of the lyric that pulls you in, that asks you to participate. These poems are all consuming. It’s hard not to find yourself in Ella.

 This chapbook often finds a way to articulate concepts that often feel impossible to express—as early as the first poem, Ella is observing “how light/ so alive it can stop a heart/ courses through wires/ that connect our houses together;”. We’re introduced to the innocent yet incredibly observant persona Ella continues to show us throughout the book, and as early as this poem it’s hard not to find parts of her in your own upbringing. At the end of this poem, Ella becomes a bird, and we feel her urgency to fly away, to find the quiet by the train tracks. It’s an urgency many writers feel familiar with and this intimate articulation of it is, as Naomi Shihab Nye says, “nothing short of magic.” The language, soft and almost simple, keeps you within the character, back as a child, while the observations and intricate imagery are that of an intentional, craft-minded poet.

There are many moments where the childlike wonder shifts into sobering observations regardless of age. In the poem “Truths” we are introduced to most solemn (yet most important) piece in this collection. This piece shifts to a more narrative, less imagistic voice; we’re able to not just see but also feel what Ella is experiencing. Reading this piece left me haunted by the gentlest ghost. Even as the babysitter leaves “a bruise/ the shape of a butterfly,” Ella remains “the puff of pollen in a lily” and “the sizzle of bee wings.” Even as we feel the abrupt need to float away with her, these tender images carry us slowly into sky.

It plays on the familiar, the warm memories still floating fuzzy in your head from childhood, the lullabies you halfway remember. It pulls from so many image pools, merging metaphors, collaging each distinct description together; the individual images enhancing the whole. This immense collection of imagery dialogues with itself, each image enriched with the context of the last. Naomi and Jeffrey also discussed the idea that Ella led him to some of the images and ideas that appeared in these pieces; that the creation of this collection itself was an intimate process between the artist and Ella, similar to the interactions that the audience also has her. This collection feels as if it was formed with those poet-to-reader conversations in mind, while also feeling as if Ella led us directly to some of the discussions she wants us to have with the poems and with her. Through this layered creation of Ella, she becomes each of us as a child, while at the same time existing as herself, a singular, distinct being.

Colors are such an integral part of Ella’s world, and the attention put into this physical chapbook fits so well with this collection. Purple permeates through all these poems more so than other colors, and it feels so fitting that this collection is printed on the prettiest blush pages with dark purple text, wrapped in a stunning aubergine cover with silver ink accenting it. Holding this poem, seeing the art inside of the cover, feels like entering Ella’s world. The attention to detail goes as far as placing the poems closer to the bottom of the pages, in a similar way to how a child would draw, or how a children’s book would situate the words. The designer, Richard Reitz Smith, put the same intimate attention that Jeffrey did into these words making this chapbook magical to hold. I highly recommended immersing yourself into Ella’s world, seeing where the poems carry you off to.


If you’re interested in purchasing this chapbook, go here! or Jeffrey’s website here!

If you’d like to reread Jeffrey’s poems in Beaver Mag, see them here:

Ella in the Dust,

Ella’s Nocturne


Jeffrey Bean is the author of two poetry collections—Woman Putting on Pearls (2017) and Diminished Fifth (2009)—and three chapbooks, most recently Ella’s Plan, chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the 2022 Poet’s Corner/Maine Media College Chapbook Contest. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Colorado Review, Poets.org, I-70 Review, Poet Lore, and The Laurel Review, among other journals. He is Professor of English at Central Michigan University.

“Vaginismus” Broadside

Hi Beav Friends!

I hope everyone is having a fabulous October and that next month only gets better. We’ve been busy over here with more submissions for the upcoming issue than we received for our past four issues combined! It’s been so lovely reading all of your powerful work.

Below is a broadside for Jenna Baillargeon’s poem “Vaginismus” featured in Issue 4. Feel free to print this out, post it anywhere; we want to see our contributors work out in the world even if we’re an online magazine (for now…)!

Collage by Ellery Beck

All of the love,

The Beav Team

An Uneven Sestina About Food

Caroline Morris

In response to the twitter prompt, “write a sestina with the words fried, fingers, pot, wing, drive and way”

We don’t believe in eating out; the pot
is filled with roast, it simmers out of the way
so we, on passing by, don’t stick our fingers
into the heat. On special nights we drive
down thirty, getting shrimp and steak and fried
rice. An occasion—not something we wing.

Of course, I’ve housed a honeyed chicken wing,
the Tyson bag in shreds. They had a pot,
betting how many, brains just getting fried
from calculating how I eat this way,
can’t fathom how my shame becomes a drive
for more. I lick the sauce from off my fingers.

Alright, it’s not like I can count by fingers
the meals we didn’t cook. A Casey’s wing
is a common app, we’ve done a Wendy’s drive
through as a treat. But Mom, she loves the pot
or pan or tray above it all; a way
to show us love at home, and it’s pan-fried.

It’s not as though we’re nuts, the fat and fried
and sweet are all familiar to our fingers;
I’m not the only one who finds my way
to the end of a bag or the bone of a chicken wing,
especially when my brother smokes his pot
and needs a snack, which I then have to drive

and get. The smell of pizza fills the drive
back, and my stomach growls for something fried—
just not my brother. I, without the pot,
already crave around the clock, my fingers
gripping the fleshy, pasty skin on the wing
of my arm. I battle weight. I need a way

to see my food anew. I need a way
to lose the symbol, just accept the drive
as human, know a wing is just a wing,
A meal is not a family or fried
humiliation. Food… it moves my fingers,
the pen. A gift that lets me write about a pot.


Respond to one of our prompts on @TheBeaverMag on twitter or to a prompt below for a chance to be our next blog featured poem! Reply directly on social media or send in your work to our email (thebeaversubmissions@gmail.com) with responses to any of our prompts! Here’s some fresh prompts for you to ponder…

  1. Write a cento using a poem from Issue Four (or from the fourth issue of any other online literary magazine you enjoy. Let us know which one if so!)
  2. Write a poem about being in a graveyard where you find your name on the headstone
  3. Write a decapitated sonnet about something familiar and make it as strange and new as possible
  4. Write a prose poem about the happiest things you’ve seen lately. Try to sneak in some sound work within the paragraph–internal rhyme, meter, whatever makes YOU happy 🙂
  5. Write a hermit crab flash piece inhabiting the form of something you’ve come across today (whether it be a receipt, a billboard, a bad tabloid magazine near the grocery store checkout…)

Caroline Morris is an aspiring writer based in the Philadelphia suburbs and currently works as an editor. She received her B.A. in English literature with a concentration in writing at the Catholic University of America. Her work plays with the feminine, the familial, the interpersonal, the psychological, and the physical. Morris has previously been published by Vermilion and Silent Spark Press. She can be found on Twitter @Lean_Writer