Eleven Eleven is an exciting journal from the California College of the Arts. Founded in 2004, their goal is to provide an outlet for risk and experimentation from talented writers and artists. From the gorgeous cover art to the works of fiction and poetry from local and international talent, there is a lot to like about the current issue.
One example of experimental work this journal offers is Lee Ann Roripaugh’s “My Dearest, Most Beloved and Esteemed Friend, Angel, Guppy, and Root Cellar.” It reads like an email you would find in your spam box, but instead of offering drugs that would enhance your sexual performance, this message has a much more enticing offer: “I am joyous to tell you one million, five hundred thousand kalamata olives are ready for deposit in a Peruvian cave marked by a crop circle of silently humming signifiers.” The speaker claims to be a “kidnapped prince held hostage by the narrative feed of a Tasmanian novel cartel,” but changes his story and is now “the duke/duchess of [insert lack here].” It is a hilarious piece that illustrates the absurdity of online communications and makes you wish the messages filling your spam box were just as colorful.
Another example of the kind of work Eleven Eleven reaches for is ali lanzetta’s “when you call.” It is similar to Roripaugh’s absurd letter, but instead of humor, this letter is filled with loneliness and frustration:
when you call, i’ll be knitting a hat for an elephant. droopy, gray. gigantic.
when you call, i’ll be making lasagna in a quiet kitchen listening to my voice in my head. i’ll be just beginning my fall pledge-drive, trying to raise the vibe, or the roof, or the stakes. someone sad will call in and pledge their thirst or their art or their love, and I’ll accept.
The speaker is expecting a phone call but anticipates she will be busy doing other tasks, such as writing poetry. The kind of poetry she likes comes from “jacob,” who writes “about sweat and love and loneliness.” The speaker feels abandoned by the person she is writing to, and the bitterness in the speaker’s voice rises as the letter continues. The letter ends on a relatively peaceful note, but is injected with a little bit of sarcasm. Most people know what it’s like to be abandoned by someone they love and the whirlwind of emotions that follows, and lanzetta’s piece touches on this in a very sensitive way.
Not everything in this journal reaches for the absurd. Some work is more traditional, like Tami Cox Rasel’s “The Bravest Damn Irishman in Baltimore.” It is a story from the author’s childhood about how far her father went to provide for his family. They had little cash and desperately needed a new car because their old jalopy ran on “prayers, not gasoline.” The summer carnival brought in a 600-pound baboon as a new attraction and offered one hundred dollars to anyone who could stay in the cage with the animal for five minutes. Her father accepted the challenge because he “was the best bar room brawler in all of Baltimore.” Before the “fight,” Rasel’s father covered himself in Vaseline in hopes of slipping through the baboon’s hands. However, this only causes the dung and straw to stick to his skin as the baboon beats him into a bloody mess. The story has great humor and written with wonderful details; one can almost smell the aroma of sweat, blood, and dung wafting off of the father’s bruised body. There is also a lot of heart in this story as the author proudly stands by her father as he is publicly humiliated and covered with monkey poop. Now that’s love.
Another one of my favorite poems from this issue is Floyd Salas’s “Kaleidoscope Of An Assassination In Black And White.” It depicts the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the reactions of the world with a pounding, song-like rhythm. The words “Memory is like a motion picture / Shattering stills of black and white” are repeated throughout the poem alongside hard-hitting imagery:
Memory is like a motion picture
He is waving
The President is waving
from the back seat of a car
when lead coughs
and his head explodes
Shattering stills of black and white
Salas divides the poem into four sections, each one showing the day by day aftermath of the assassination: the investigation, Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in front of millions of Americans, and even the conspiracy theories that Oswald did not act alone. But the most powerful parts of this poem are the moments of deep respect and honor for such an important figure in American politics and history.
There are many other great examples of fiction, art, and poetry in this journal. There are translated works from international writers, thought-provoking art in various mediums, and a script for a stage production featuring dystopia science fiction and coffee. Another great journal I highly recommend.