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eileen favorite


Eileen Favorite

April 25, 2017

Laundry Chute

I can’t sleep. The el rumbles across the street, and the neighbor’s porch light burns all night. Did they forget to turn it off, or are they like me, leaving it on in case

somebody comes knocking? That makes me think of the Grim Reaper, who hasn’t
come knocking yet. My dad’s still here, and a few hours later I visit him in the hospital,

where he’s getting a blood transfusion, which gives him a jolt and his spirits are lively. He’s telling me about buying the blueprints for our split-level house outta a magazine

back in ’61. Only cost fifteen bucks! He borrowed five grand from a lawyer client to buy the lot. Talk about a shoestring. Then his moment of genius, standing on the second floor,

the rooms framed out, the closets too, but no walls yet, no plaster. He looked through the opening and saw straight from the second floor down to the basement and thought,

laundry chute! He got a sheet metal guy from Dolton to hammer out the lining and built an opening high enough that a toddler couldn’t climb into it. When my cousins came over

we’d throw pool balls down the chute. It made a racket so bombastic, the grown-ups shouted for mercy. All my life clothes fell down that chute, into a closet that was never

empty, bursting with sheets and school blouses, baseball uniforms, damp towels, tube socks and toe socks, pedal pushers and pantyhose. The mountain never went down, just

spilled out of the closet, onto the basement floor. At ten I started to fish out my
blouses and socks and throw on a load all my own. I was in a fastidious stage, ironing

pleats in my plaid uniform skirt, my blue jeans, and the arms of my white school blouses.
That’s a phase from my childhood my father never knew about, and now’s not

the time to talk about a young girl’s grave chores. I’m here for his stories, but then
my cell rings, time to pick up the baby. My dad starts to cry, his thin face

waxy and pale. He says, you’ve heard these stories a million times, and I say no,
I never heard the one about the laundry chute. He says, yes, it was incredible. I looked

right down there and saw it! Something to make your mother’s life easier.

Another Moon Poem

I waited all winter for the windows to arrive,
xxxxxxfor the trees to leaf,
xxxxxxxxxxxxfor my father to die,


and now it’s May and they’re in
xxxxxxxand they have
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand he has.


I take Lulu upstairs to show
xxxxxxxxher the full moon, bolder
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthan we’ve ever seen, framed


by the new picture window,
xxxxxxtangled in the locust tree.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxEven when it ducks behind a cloud,


the light’s a wonder, but Lulu
xxxxxxxleans her head into my shoulder,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxand says, I’m too tired for the moon.


OK, I think, but someday
xxxxxxyou’ll see. The moon is your
xxxxxxxxxxxxlong-lost birth mother,


who gave you up
xxxxxxxfor your own good.
xxxxxxxxxxBut who’s been watching all along.


She’s here for me tonight.
xxxxxxIt’s her solitary roving I crave, linked
xxxxxxxxxxxx to the sea, the stars


the whole messy
xxxxxxxuniverse, but
xxxxxxxxxxxfrom a cool, perfect distance.


Eileen Favorite’s first novel The Heroines(Scribner, 2008) was named a Best Debut by The Rocky Mountain News. She’s twice received Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowships. Her work has appeared in Triquarterly, Folio, The Toast, The Rumpus, Chicago Reader, Poetry East, Diagram,and others. She’s been nominated for Pushcart Prize for fiction and nonfiction. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.





Declare the Pennies on Your Eyes

April 25, 2017


Here’s a challenge: name a good work of art about taxes. Their very nature resists creative engagement. Generally, those who complain most about taxes are those who can most afford to pay them, and when the president refuses to release his tax returns or even to disclose whether he paid any income tax at all, it is too easy to align the issue with one’s personal politics. At the same time, there is something Pollyannaish about being in favor of paying taxes, given that a lot of the money we pay to the federal government goes to fund things that we oppose. All that being said, I nominate “Taxman” by the Beatles the most successful creative work on the subject. Recorded for the Revolver album, the song features the snappy, bright guitar and psychedelic harmonies that characterized the mid-career Fab Four, but lyrics are lacking. The song was one of the few that George Harrison wrote for the band. He had just learned that the top tax rate in England at the time was 95 percent, thus the line “There’s one for you, nineteen for me.” Of course, the Beatles were not paying nineteen shillings out of every twenty in taxes. In a tiered system, income earners pay the same percentage in taxes at each level, with the rate increasing as income increases, which means George was talking top rates rather than effective rates, though what that was in 1966 for Harrison, I have no idea. He may have chafed at that, too.

In her essay for our April issue, Hilary Collins reveals that she tithed first to her church, then to her therapist. Now she is paying down on the dubious return of a psychic, when she seeks to connect with a boy who died, as a way of recapturing a missing part of herself. In her piece, “Laundry Chute” Eileen Favorite peers into a void and recalls a lifetime of memories. And Jason Reblando’s photo essay “Youth Boxing” reveals stark portraits of determination and aspiration. Read on. It’s free.

Ian Morris, Managing Editor

Book Reviews

Timothy Parfitt Reviews Writers Who Love Too Much

February 15, 2018

A Look Back at a New Narrative

Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977-1997 

Nightboat511 pages, $24.95 

Edited by Dodie Bellamy & Kevin Killian 

New Narrative, a late twentieth-century art movement that fused queer praxis, radical  politics, and daring writing, is now on arguably on its third or fourth “wave,” but I had not encountered it until recently. Now the similarly uninitiated can thank Nightboat for publishing the delightful and overdue anthology Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977-1997. As editors Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian explain in their introduction, the movement reshaped narrative into “a system of writing designed to be optimally responsive to cultural and political change.” Indeed the personal essays, auto-fiction, interviews, and criticism in this collection explode notions of “good” writing and art in order to build something true to modern lived experience.

Take Robert Glück’s “Sanchez and a Day,” in which a narrator and his dog must evade a truck of threatening homophones.  Glück’s complex layering of memory and sensation sets up a left turn towards intimate (and overtly political) direct address: “I had angry dreams. Even in my erotic fantasies I couldn’t banish a violence that twisted the plot away from pleasure to confusion and fear. And what I resolved was this: that I would gear my writing to tell you about incidents like the one at Sanchez and Day, to put them to you as real questions that need answers, and that these questions, along with my understanding and my practice, would grow more energetic and precise.” The questions raised by Glück dictate the mode of writing, regardless of inherited notions of taste and “show, don’t tell.” As a reader, there’s some whiplash when the artful anecdote goes from consumable experience to a shared, solvable problem.

In Dodie Bellamy’s “Dear Gail,” the narrator describes her future lover’s eye contact as a “missile dying for a target.” That phrase could be used to describe many of the characters who knock around this collection. Indeed much of the writing, which first grew out of a free poetry workshop in San Francisco in the late seventies, uses desire as the lens through which the view the self, taking more narrative cues from pornos than from what’s traditionally considered literary canon. In Dennis Cooper’s “Square One,” a skin flick idol is held up as divine harbinger of grace and loss. “The actor’s beauty is God. Their sex is heaven . . . Never again will his face be as gripped by what’s deep inside him but slipping from his possession.” Eros and politics are forever intersecting, whether in excerpts by better-known figures like Eileen Myles’ (Chelsea Girls) and Chris Kraus (I Love Dick), or those by cult favorites like Lawrence Braithwaite. In the Braithwaite’s Wigger, language, desire, and racism push language to its breaking point: “He’d tug at the crotch of his slacks / rub his big belly—have his hand up by his chest (it looked like a thermal-photo) as Brian swayed, paced and gestured in his boxers / telling him about his plans to annihilate a body w/ the seduction of words and weapons / /”

Power dictates how stories get told, so it’s worth examining how narrative builds and reflects our understandings of the world. Writers Who Love Too Much offers an array of off ramps away from pre-made conclusions and towards  more  nontraditional (aka dangerous) modes of meaning-making. It can be hard to unlearn inherited notions of right and wrong.  By making the “wrong” parts of personal experience (politics, kitsch, desire) so central to their work, the writers of New Narrative have complicated and broadened conceptions of what the modern nonfiction essay can do.

Timothy Parfitt is a Chicago-based essayist and translator. His writing has appeared in Deadspin, ThreadNewcity, Chicagoist, Timeout Chicago and Wassup.



An Interview with Suzanne Scanlon

July 1, 2016

Scanlon_S_194On Indexing and Self-Imagining

Suzanne Scanlon is the author of two novels, Promising Young Women and her most recent, Her 37th Year, An Index. She has won the Iowa Review Fiction Award and appeared in publications such as Hobart, Diagram, Electric Literature, Make, and BOMB. Her nonfiction has appeared in Essay Daily, Bust, The American Scholar, and The Millions, the latter receiving a Critical Hit Award from Electric Literature. She teaches in the English and Creative Writing Departments of Columbia College.

The assistant editors of Punctuate recently sat down with Suzanne to talk about genre bending, blurring, and the interstices within poetry, fiction and nonfiction.

Punctuate: We noted that Her 37th Year, An Index, is labeled as fiction, but certain parts read as nonfiction. Could you talk about that and where you got the idea to write a book in the index format?

Suzanne Scanlon: I wish I could remember the moment I decided to write it as an index.  It was a one-day writing exercise to try to give it some shape, and I just liked it as a short piece. Then, I submitted and published that and it got a prize from the Iowa Review, the short piece. So then I thought, “Oh I have an audience that liked it,” and then I expanded it. I had seen, of course, other writers work in forms like the index. It wasn’t something I was inventing. And putting the timeline into a year, helped the story in a way I liked.

Your second question was in regards to fiction/nonfiction—I think everything I write is like that. I think of it all as fiction, but I read as much nonfiction as fiction. I honestly like playing with genre that way, and I like the interplay. I like exploring ways of telling a true story through the self. That’s how I think of genre. I’m not really attached to genre boundaries. I’m much more interested in the interplay. I read poetry as much as fiction and nonfiction, and I see theater and think about performance as well. Continue Reading