A Conversation with Sean H. Doyle

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If you’ve ever had the luck of meeting Sean H. Doyle, you’ll realize quickly there are still complete human beings in this world, and that Sean is one of them. His essays offer up a darker matrix of his humanity, but a humanity nonetheless, and one that is so importantly his own. “This Clouded Heart,” featured in Issue 3 of The Atlas Reviewdraws unsettling connections between our public and private selves, which, for a drug addict, are quite profound. The personal history of such constant physical and psychological abuse is, for Sean, redeemable only in the messy chunks of telling it. This is a writing that writhes under our skins unadorned, glistening only from the dirty punk rock oils of his roots. But it is a story not without its beauty. We exist with this story on a shore, looming through binoculars at the terror of waters we’ve managed to escape by some hairs. But this isn’t a story about survival so much as the difficult addled details of addiction, sex, and grief. This isn’t about safety but the precipice of harm always about to happen. And yet, it is exactly this violent dichotomy that drives Sean, and drives the essay. As second-person narration is wont, the beauty locates itself just beyond the immediate, making Sean the pilot, copilot, and passenger on-board a plane always moving. Read the excerpt, and you’ll know what I mean. Buy the issue and continue to read the story, and you’ll really get it.

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Natalie Eilbert: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot of what it means to write the personal, especially where family is involved. It’s nearly crippling to consider the level of exposure involved depending on the subject matter. “This Clouded Heart” is a deeply personal essay, one that punctures and gouges the “I” and its history. When you set out to write this story, did you have any reservations when it came to the details? Were there aspects to the story you felt you could never include?

Sean Doyle: I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how the things I write might impact other people. I realized, that for me, and for my writing, this was a hinderance. I think we all have filters we use in our day-to-day dealing with people–most folks don’t talk to the mailman about their fantasies, most folks don’t tell the kid who works the overnight shift at the 7-Eleven about their toe fungus–and those very same filters sometimes get in the way of communicating through writing. I have finally, after years and years of struggling, done the best that I can to remove those filters. So, I don’t really have reservations anymore. I lived it, I own what I’ve done, and I can write about it. I also think it’s important when people write nonfiction to remember that just because the way they perceived a thing that happened, doesn’t mean that is how the other people involved in that happening remember it.

As far as aspects of the story that I may or may not be able to include goes, I’m the kind of person who feels that the things that make us the most uncomfortable are the things we can learn the most from. If what I am writing makes me feel exposed or anxious, it’s something I definitely need to explore.

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A Conversation with Wendy Lotterman

Wendy Lotterman

Wendy Lotterman’s two poems, “These Paris Airfares Won’t Last” and “Street View” are featured in Issue 3 of The Atlas Review, which you can order here. Wendy’s poems have the kind of dense investigation of era not typically found in contemporary poetry—and whether much of typical contemporary poetry lies in its enthusiasm to sit digestively spaced on the pages of literary journals or if it’s a matter of vision and innovation, this still leaves Wendy’s work as a towering achievement of 21st-century lyricism. These are poems which challenge and embrace status quo simultaneously, namedrop with utmost purpose of identity, and let the pocks and obsessions of the personal remain in full. In our conversation, Wendy talks about negotiating information on private and visible planes in her work, her relationship between the internet and her influences, and clarifies certain references made in both featured poems. We’re happy to feature both poems online because we want the world to gain the fuller scope of Wendy’s brilliance. Enjoy!

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Natalie Eilbert: Let’s talk about “These Paris Airfares Won’t Last,” which appears in the third issue of The Atlas Review. This is a fairly long poem that gets its lift from the memories and present mobility of the “I,” and does so in innovative, sprawling ways. How did you conceive of this poem? How did it evolve as you continued to add to it?

Wendy Lotterman: Trip Advisor sends me new emails every day with the subject line “These Paris airfares won’t be around for long.” It’s from an alert that I created in my junior year of college when I was in love with Sylvain, who lived in France. I was so claustrophobic at college, so I’d alternate between Skyping and searching for flights. It’s funny to still receive these emails, both because the threat is obviously emptythese Paris airfares do last, as 3 years later I’m still alerted every dayand because I never deleted the alert. There was a time when I really felt the threat of prices rising, which was symptomatic of a desire I can no longer fully relate to. But I’m reluctant to admit it’s expired, so I haven’t unsubscribed. 

The rest sort of follows from therecoveting my own outdated information. When I was a kid I had bad asthma and eczema and allergies, a trifecta of weak defenses. These things are pretty minor to begin with, and have lessened with age, but even though the data is outdated, frailty remains my brand.

The fantasy of illness is contrasted with Mahbod’s brain tumor. I wanted to cast myself in the shade of that giant. Mahbod went really public with the tumor, but also did a lot to make sure I didn’t find out, so the intimacy native to sharing information was displaced onto the act of keeping it a secret. This sort of happens when publicity becomes the default. Actually most of the poem is about publicity, I think. In start-ups there is a goal of going public at which point anyone can buy a share, but seeing that goal appropriated by a person is totally disorienting, especially inasmuch as friends & lovers are repositioned as fansas one of many. That said, self-identification as a fan could also cause the projection of fame.

Maybe I’m also jealous of Mahbod’s (comfort with) visibility. Even though everyone talks about how democratic the Internet is, that’s not how it feelsthat’s what I mean when I say “fame / is positively correlated with a star’s ability to surf safely above crowds, / braced by innumerable hands that know you.” I feel like I’m always about to regret my attempts to advance from crowd to stage, and even more so my attempts to jump back into the crowd and be safely braced. This is so exceptionally minor, but a good example: Andrew just sent out this mass-email about upcoming events, but forgot to bcc. He said don’t reply all, but a couple people did in jest. I did, too, just before we were busted for being a nuisance. My immediate reaction was just like, “shit, that wasn’t my crowd to jump in.” Or, more accurately, I felt like a fan who ran on stage.

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A Conversation with Nelly Reifler

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Nelly Reifler’s story “! : the Movie” is featured in Issue 3 of The Atlas Review, which is on sale for preorder and therefore free of shipping through the end of February. Nelly’s wonderful hybrid piece, part screenplay part story part poem, gives us the pre-apocalyptic sequence—with rapture and all—on an imagined island, torn as all islands tend to be torn between the natives and the tourists. Redolent of Italo Calvino’s dreamy imagery and David Lynch’s psychic casting, Reifler’s “!” is not only extremely intelligent in its movement, but especially enjoyable to read with a cup of coffee. Below is our conversation. – Natalie Eilbert

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Natalie Eilbert: First of all, how did you generate the concept for your story, “! : the movie” and conceive of its form?

Nelly Reifler: I had been writing a series of things that I called my ‘movies’ for a couple of years when I sat down to write this piece. I thought of them as descriptions of imaginary movies, and they were really satisfying to write.  It was liberating not to have to move characters around using chunks of prose or write all nice complete sentences the way I would in my more regular stories.  The boundaries of these worlds felt different. I would imagine a rectangular movie screen as I was writing.  But then it felt kind of naughty and fun to occasionally do something that one couldn’t do in a real movie, like get inside a character’s mind.  The first few Movies began as emails to someone with whom I had an intense online, long-distance relationship.  We wrote to each other using no capital letters, and I kept the pieces that way.  This one was the last complete Movie that I wrote. I think it was a kind of culmination.

It came to me as an epic, vivid dream—wholesale.  It was one of those dreams that makes you think your unconscious has been traded with someone else’s for a night.

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Preorder Issue 3!

Issue 3 is nearly set for delivery to the printers! You can preorder your copy of #3, which will get you free shipping! That’s only $10 even dollars all at the click of a button. My goodness! Look at this beautiful cover spread:

Issue 3

Issue 3 contains fiction by Nelly Reifler, John Jodzio, Jesse Kohn, Vanessa Cumming, and Marlo Starr; poetry by CAConrad, Nicole Steinberg, Morgan Parker, Wendy Lotterman, Joanna C. Valente, Dan Encarnacion, Anthony Bartels, Sarah V. Schweig, Craig Morgan Teicher, Joshua Ware, Joe DeLuca, Curtis Rogers, Ted Dodson, Jennifer Nelson, Marcus Slease, Tim Earley, Laressa Dickey, Josh Kalscheur, Krystal Languell, Liz Dosta, M. Callen, and Jonathan Aprea; nonfiction by Soleil Ho, Dale Megan Healey, and Sean H. Doyle; interviews with Etgar Keret and Sheila Heti; and art by Traci Matlock, Aliene de Souza Howell, and Dan Ivec.

We are extremely proud of this volume of work. Much like the cover photo by Traci Matlock, a self-portrait in not giving any cares over where we pour our glasses of water, the issue is brimming with work that rides the thin line of artifice and confession, and does so with the unfaltering nay unstoppable grace we see immediately in Traci’s piercing gaze. Do consider purchasing a copy of this insanely hearty issue; and consider too a subscription for one or even two whole years. While you’re at it, check out Issues 1 & 2!

The issue should be out by the end of February, right in time for AWP in Seattle. If you’re planning on attending, come visit us at table BB16. We’re excited to meet you!

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