March 30th 2016: Back in the summer of 2015, I had this idea bouncing around in the back of my head. It involved the CCM Mainline contest and testing things out with a prompt that might have been controversial for some. Given my nature to go ahead and tackle a risk, CCM announced the culmination of the idea, #IAMCOPING, wherein the aim of the contest was to answer the question:
The idea of a book titled “Civil Coping Mechanisms” written by an author or collaboration between authors that fully captures the “inner coping” of the press.
What might it be? A novel? A poetry collection? A little bit of everything?
Fast forward to AWP 2016 and hundreds of submissions later: CCM has found itself in yet another tie situation with its Mainline contest series. In a spectacular demonstration of interpretative potential of the prompt, our contest winners, Russell Jaffe and Sarah Certa, composed highly original collections exploring the nature of what it means to cope.
What is a civil coping mechanism? To answer, Jaffe tapped into the nature of community, lit citizenship, and the motivations of life and literary influences. Certa delved into the psychology of the self, particularly the pain, disorder, emotion, and reaches to which one must go in order to find and maintain oneself. Together, both exemplify, and act as bookends to, the full spectrum of what it means to cope with our intensely modern 24/7 tireless era.
Both books will be published as part of the 2017 CCM Catalogue. Thank you so much, everyone that took part in this exceedingly strange contest and we hope you’ll be around for when Mainline reconvenes later this year.
A Selection from Russell Jaffe’s Manuscript
CIVIL COPING MECHANISMS: A MAXIM
It’s not true what they say, you know,
about death and taxes.
There are a lot of tax loopholes
a few of us escape through.
Everyone is born. And no one escapes death.
Despite our elegies in lives, even our idols die.
That’s why life is all we assuredly know we have.
Right now, you are reading a book.
A Selection from Sarah Certa’s Manuscript
They (Civil Voices)
On the first day of fall I am in pieces
again, too many for anyone to hold.
Like a mirror I am shattered on the floor.
I try to pick myself up and cut my fingertips open,
pass like a ghost from one realm
of pain into the next. I know this is what it’s like
to be inside of you, and who’s to say
I’m not? But still they say I’m not. Still
they say boundaries, and I say trust me,
I’m not ever going to touch anyone again.
But still I have some questions
about reality and ownership, the prison
of words we keep trying to chisel open
with other, better words. If I listen
closely enough I bet you I can blow
a hole in the sky just big enough
for us to crawl through.
I write this poem and listen
to myself writing it, hear my synapses click
into tiny galaxies that will eventually form
a halo around both of our heads. I know
this is a form of meditation/hallucination,
but tell me how real I’m making you feel.
What they call a delusion is my heart growing big
in the space of your absence.
I don’t even have to get high
to open myself to the universal cinema
coursing through our lives at hyperspeed.
I’m so organic, it makes me
really easy to hate, so empty, it makes me
really tempting to fill. Is that
why you won’t leave? I feel you
on a molecular level, as if your body left
its heartbeat in me, each of my cells
an echo in mourning. I am trying
to trace the map of our collective love
and where it went wrong. A map
of all the bruises no one believes we have.
I can’t tell if I’m getting close.
I can’t tell what this film in my mind
is trying to say, this carcass of you
outlined in dark silvery green.
Green because I know you’re not ready to die,
which is why you keep coming to me,
why they keep bringing
me to the edge of you
as if I know how to get in.
As if it doesn’t matter what I want.
As if they know what I want.