How do you define chaos? Perhaps as a series of simultaneously occurring events tossing ripples into reality’s pond? Trying to love someone who wants to change every aspect of your existence? Finding purpose in a traveling circus, performing death-defying stunts? How do you define chaos? Perhaps as a series of simultaneously occurring events tossing ripples into reality’s pond? Trying to love someone who wants to change every aspect of your existence? Finding purpose in a traveling circus, performing death-defying stunts?
Chaos theory, formally proposed by Edward Lorenz in the 1960s, is a relatively new concept based off the assumption that complex systems are susceptible to small changes in initial dynamics—also popularly known as the butterfly effect. The 56th issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review seeks to explore this concept in its own ways, aptly beginning with the first prose poem in a collection situated throughout the magazine echoing this sentiment. Lindsey Drager’s pieces, accumulatively titled “The Archive of Alternative Endings” paint an ominous picture at their conclusion: exactly how much do our small, daily decisions determine the outcome of our lives? She writes:
My mother and father don’t meet. I am the déjà vu that comes to them at the precipice of waking. When they rise in their separate lives, I am the vague and formless haunting that they do not speak of to their respective lovers in the kitchen over tea.
Or perhaps chaos lives inside that one being, that leviathan as Kent Shaw labels it, which remains the same while everything else on the planet changes, transforms into something else. Because what has the highest chance of producing chaos than a thing that doesn’t age? Shaw, in his poem titled “The Boxes Were Arranged So They Formed a Leviathan,” explores the idea of this concept by questioning:
What would it mean if we built a human out of Freud’s mouth?
And the mouthiness was a child?
And the child was a human?
And we put a glass cabinet in the bedroom and said, Freud’s Mouth, this is your childhood?
We would say Freud’s Mouth is lucky.
He’ll never grow up.
The boxes were arranged so they formed a Leviathan, and we said good-bye human child when he
crawled inside them.
Although, if the word “chaos” to you draws up images of a world on fire and a handful of season finales of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Partridge Boswell’s poem “Let’s Get it On” will live up to those pictures in your head. Boswell’s poem begins with a very simple:
Not much progress was made.
Our most coveted faded nameless on the vine.
At least there’s a heap of door prizes to show for showing up.
Did I really need that third happy meal? All I wanted was the toy.
and proceeds to its very explosive points:
Because if we can’t endure the siren-swan song of a whole world in love
with itself, at least we can tweak the frequency of one wheel whirring
in the dark, the extreme compunction of our last conjunction. [. . .]
Imagine a virgin forest: the epochs it grew before anyone with two
legs entered it, the endless numbered days before your eyes reached in and mapped it.
and from there turns into the kind of untidy beauty we thought only Joss Whedon was capable of creating at the end of the world.
“Notes from the Gillwood,” a unique piece found at the core of this issue, seems almost to be a memoir or journal entry where the author, Dennis James Sweeney, observes a collection of sticky-note, scribbled thoughts attached to ordinary household appliances that his friend left behind before his abrupt and unannounced departure from the city in which they resided. Sweeney notes that:
These sticky notes bore messages that were, to say the least, completely impractical. Idle wonderings, some of them, but most appeared to take a mode of beseeching toward each household item, as if our friend’s last shreds of stability had compelled him to beg relief from the everyday labor-saving devices that you or I might not take a second look at.
One of the most memorable of these notes: “Dash me dash me mutton me Wimple cat the parts we love are little like stars gigantic just far away.”
If you’re looking for a unique literary experience, Hayden’s Ferry Review will certainly provide it for you. The selection of contributors proves the eye for talent the editors have and certainly makes for a fascinating read. And who knows—maybe the next time you pass by that coffee shop on the street corner and consider going in, you’ll realize how one small decision could change the course of your life.