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Life on the Mississippi – the Real Story: Author Lee Sandlin Creates a Patchwork History of the “Wicked River” PDF Print E-mail
Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 13 September 2012 05:33

“Many in the crowd got roaring drunk – and the drunks at their most extreme were hard to tell apart from the fallers and the jerkers and the howlers. Others gave in to the general mood of riot and began fighting and beating each other up over nothing. But what made the camp meetings truly infamous were the orgies.”

Lee SandlinThis is not the Mississippi River that most people remember from Mark Twain. This is the real deal in all its lurid detail.

Lee Sandlin, who will be speaking at the Bettendorf Public Library on September 27 and the Upper Mississippi River Conference on September 28, said in a recent phone interview that he aimed to re-create “the Mississippi River culture in the first half of the 19th Century” in his 2010 book Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild. “Basically what I’m doing is trying to introduce people to that kind of very strange little world that had formed then around the river.”

“Very strange little world” is the gentle way of putting it.

 
Serious Fun: The Spectra Poetry-Reading Series, Opening September 15 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 06 September 2012 05:53

To grasp the concept of the Midwest Writing Center’s new Spectra poetry-reading series, we might start with the 1916 book of the same name. In its preface, Anne Knish explained that the “Spectric” school “speaks ... of that process of diffraction by which are disarticulated the several colored and other rays of which light is composed. It indicates our feeling that the theme of a poem is to be regarded as a prism, upon which the colorless white light of infinite existence falls and is broken up into glowing, beautiful, and intelligible hues.”

Before you flee this article, understand that Spectra was a satiric hoax created by Arthur Davison Ficke (a Davenport native writing as Knish) and Witter Bynner (writing as Emanuel Morgan). The pair gleefully mocked the abstruse pretensions of modern free verse, but several prominent poets – including Edgar Lee Masters and William Carlos Williams – actually embraced the work, not recognizing its intent. Poetry magazine Editor Harriet Monroe accepted a handful of Spectric works before the hoax was revealed by Bynner.

Although the poems were mostly nonsense, they were compellingly playful. One opens: “Her soul was freckled / Like the bald head / Of a jaundiced Jewish banker.” It concludes: “This demonstrates the futility of thinking.” One of the most charming starts: “If I were only dafter / I might be making hymns / To the liquor of your laughter / And the lacquer of your limbs.”

And they were occasionally incisive. In one about “my little house of glass,” Knish wrote: “Sometimes I’m terribly tempted / To throw the stones myself.”

Adam FellTo show how this relates to the new poetry-reading series (which begins September 15), allow me to note that one of the first two featured writers, Adam Fell, closes his poem “Summer Lovin Torture Party” with these oddly familiar lines: “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord. / I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”

 
Enter the Reader’s 2012 Short-Fiction Contest! Deadline September 7! PDF Print E-mail
Literature
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:22

We recently freed our short-fiction-contest troll from his five-year captivity in the River Cities’ Reader dungeon, and based on the rules he devised for the 2012 competition, he’s grumpy. (Some might note that Jeff is always grumpy, but never mind.)

Let’s start with the easy rules.

 
Cops Say Legalize Drugs. One Tells Why PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:55

Tony Ryan says his organization has an effective tool in the war on the War on Drugs: a T-shirt.

It reads: “Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why.” And people do.

Ryan served 36 years in Denver, Colorado’s police department before retiring in 2003. He’s now a member of the board of directors of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP.cc). The 10-year-old organization, he said, has 50,000 members, ranging from current and former law-enforcement officers to prosecutors to judges.

The former cop (who retired as a lieutenant) said that although he never worked in narcotics, he watched the effects of drugs – and drug enforcement – firsthand in Denver’s poorer neighborhoods. “I saw a lot of drug activity,” he said in a phone interview last week. “I saw the damage that is done by drug use and drug addiction, but I also saw the damage that’s being done by the country’s policy – in those days the War on Drugs. ... I’m of the mindset ... that the damage that has done ... is worse than what the drugs themselves cause.”

Ryan will speak at and participate in an August 1 forum organized by Iowa state-representative candidate Mark Nelson. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Central Perk (226 West Third Street in Davenport).

 
“Brady and Harrison Acquired a Voice”: Davenport’s Hilltop Campus Village Thinks Small (and Big) to Reinvent Itself PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:59

Hilltop Campus Village Director Scott Tunnicliff. Photo by Joshua Ford (JoshuaFord.com).

Walking through the commercial area of Davenport’s Hilltop Campus Village last month, Scott Tunnicliff picked up trash. The garbage far outstripped his ability to carry it – two hands and a few pockets – but Tunnicliff persisted.

Similarly, the Hilltop Campus Village organization (of which Tunnicliff is director) has over the past three years spiffed up its neighborhood in lots of little ways that seem mostly cosmetic: crosswalks, banners, and decorative streetlights.

There are nine new streetlights on Harrison and 16th streets (installed in the past two years and funded by grants), and they and the crosswalks do serve a safety purpose, designed to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. But these improvements, along with 50 banners on Harrison and Brady streets, are nonetheless modest changes.

Still, said Kelly Wallace – owner of the two-year-old Estate Sale Shop in the old McKay Music building at 1326 Brady Street – they hint at renewal. “The little amenities that we’re seeing make a big difference,” she said. “That type of visual as people drive through gives the impression that it is something that’s being revitalized. Many times, it starts with a flower pot full of beautiful flowers.”

 
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