Contributing Toads {3:3}

Jessica Alexander

Jessica Alexander teaches and studies at the University of Utah. Her fiction is forthcoming in Fence Magazine, Denver Quarterly, and Big Lucks. "I remember being taught to use a dictionary and how impossible comprehending this seemed to me. I remember thinking two things: 1) this is the biggest book I’ve ever seen, and 2) how, amidst all these words, will I ever find this one. This is the moment I am always trying to capture in my fiction: the strange shame of being in a highly organized world, whose laws, logic, and groupings feel arbitrary and alienating." To me art is not about comprehending anything, but rather the dimensions of a very particular non-comprehension. Art occurs in my daily life every time the ordinary strikes me as wondrous and absurd.

Laura Davis

Laura E. Davis is the author of Braiding the Storm (Finishing Line Press, 2012), the founding editor of Weave Magazine, and the founder of the Submission Bombers writers' collective. Her poems were most-recently featured in Corium, So to Speak, and Muzzle. She attended the 2013 Napa Valley Writers’ Conference as a scholarship recipient, and was a grant recipient for the Center for Cultural Innovation. When she isn't writing kitschy descriptions of vintage-inspired clothing for ModCloth, Laura teaches for Poetry Inside Out, a K-12 a bilingual poetry program. She lives in San Francisco with her partner, Sal, in an old apartment with little closet space. There is an art to anything that is everyday - bedmaking, folding laundry, boiling water for a cup of tea. I don't do any of these things though, unless you count microwaving a mug of water. When I do get around to laundry, and I'm otherwise avoiding something more important, I organize my hanging clothes in order of the ROYGBIV color spectrum.

Mike Dockins

Mike Dockins was born in 1972 and grew up in Yonkers NY. He holds a B.S. from SUNY Brockport (1999), an MFA from UMASS Amherst (2002), and a PhD from Georgia State University (2010). His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, Third Coast, The Greensboro Review, Quarterly West, Willow Springs, Salt Hill, Atlanta Review, jubilat, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review,Gulf Coast, West Branch, Meridian, PANK, and elsewhere, and they have been reprinted on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and in the 2007 edition of The Best American Poetry. His critically-acclaimed first book of poems, Slouching in the Path of a Comet (Sage Hill Press, 2007), after moving 850 copies, is currently anticipating a third print run. Mike moonlights as a singer-songwriter. Fame For Zoe, the latest (2005) full-length album from his acoustic-pop duo Clop, is available on iTunes. After a stint in north Florida, he’ll soon be back on a hill above Hammondsport NY where a fangless tabby misses sleeping on his neck, which is a little weird. And nobody will believe this, but Mike is also Director of Internal Communications for a small web-based company, which is very weird. As for ART: I see art as the prime creative impulse. And when you see good art, it has this numinous, transformative effect on you, like a terrific metaphor—you can completely relate with why/how the writer compared x to y, and yet you have no clue how the writer did that. And yet this same individual cannot always properly explain his/her own terrific metaphors. Magic. The poems published in Toad came out of an ongoing postcard-poem project that he has with the poet Susie Meserve.

Patrick Dundon

Patrick Dundon was born and raised in Portland, OR. His father took dozens of pictures of his birth and later discovered there was no film in the camera. He currently lives in Portland where he writes poems, teaches preschool, makes a mean mushroom risotto, and likes to ride his bike to the top of the dormant volcano by his house. If I were able to distinguish art from the rest of my everyday life, I'd probably be a healthier person, but everything--getting broken up with, picking a dandelion, drinking too much coffee, washing a boat--feels, to me, like a form of art.

Jeff Hipsher

JEFF HIPSHER’s work has previously appeared in or is forthcoming from Phoebe, TUBA, Forklift : Ohio, iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, Caketrain, Interrupture, InDigest, NAP, Phantom Limb, Leveler and others. He is the founding editor of Catch Up, a journal of comics and literature. An MFA candidate at Florida State University, he lives in Tallahassee, Florida where - with Nick Sturm - he curates the independent reading series Dear Marge, Hello. He has turned watching Planet of the Apes, every single day, into an art.

Les Kay

Les Kay is a doctoral candidate studying poetry at the University of Cincinnati. He earned an MFA from the University of Miami, where he was a James Michener fellow. In 2013, his poetry has appeared in a variety of literary journals including Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Stoneboat, Fox Cry Review, Steam Ticket, Menacing Hedge, Third Wednesday, Santa Clara Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, The White Review, and elsewhere. Art in Daily Life: Caring for dogs is my primary art outside of writing. The careful attention and awareness needed to make sure that two hobbled dogs who tend toward laziness live in harmony with one who is healthy and overly energetic is not at all unlike the mindfulness necessary for writing/reading.

Ginger Ko

Ginger Ko studies at the University of Wyoming’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Her poetry and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in smoking glue gun, Anti-, TYPO, inter|rupture, and HTMLGIANT. She is originally from Los Angeles. Art, to me, is about trying to complete each day with work and love.

Susie Meserve

Susie Meserve is a poet and memoirist living in Northern California. She writes for the popular writing blog popcorn and teaches at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her essays and poems have been published in many places, and her chapbook Faith came out in 2008. You can learn more at Susie says, "I find art in many aspects of life, but most especially in the first sight of my four-year-old son padding into the kitchen to find me in the morning, his blonde Mohawk askew, and the feeling I get then of truly having created something great. Then I have to create something mundane: toast."

Jessica McCaughey

Jessica McCaughey earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University in Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Colorado Review, The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Best American Travel Essays 2011, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among other publications. She teaches first-year and professional writing at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Some arts that Jessica is currently trying to master: invisible-tape gift wrapping, homemade stir-fry sauce, and patience.

Bucky Miller

Bucky Miller was born in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a BFA in photography from Arizona State University. In 2013 he completed a residency at the grassroots arts institution Tempe Museum of Contemporary Art, released a small-edition artist book titled Catalog of Meteorites, and attended the Little Brown Mushroom Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers in St. Paul, Minnesota. At the moment Bucky is probing the country for photographs and other things. He is also a frequent contributor to The Believer Logger, including the series Artists' Bookshelves and Thomas Pynchon Mountain. "I make my best photographs when I do not try to make photographs. I used to put a camera and tripod in my car and drive around town looking for pictures, but the results usually felt forced. It is better to go about my day, doing the things that I have or want to do without expecting to take any pictures, but to have a camera with me all the while. Once I find something that I think I should photograph, I have to make sure that I’m not confusing something interesting in the world for something that will make an interesting picture. Some things exist so excitingly in nature that they cannot possibly be translated into a worthwhile photograph. I want the opposite, those things that become extraordinary only when transformed by the camera. "I found myself continuously on the road in 2013, and I am just beginning to sort through the photographs that I made during that time. I like to stay behind my pictures. When I catch up to them too soon it becomes more difficult to make new ones. These few photographs mark the start of my attempt at decoding this past year, and there is a lot to decode. At the moment it seems my favorites of the year all occurred in the span of 48 hours and 200 miles in central Texas. I have no idea why that would be."

Martha Olson

Art was considered an important part of ‘rounding out’ my education, but my family did not support me in pursuing art as a career. So, I graduated with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in acceptable college degrees, although I still longed to be in the world of making art. Now, after many years of professional administrative work and raising a family, I have time to fulfill my long desire to create art. But I had another obstacle! What to do? What medium? Where to begin? Well…why not apply the “Martha” approach to solve the problem. Jump in with both feet and swim! I took classes and explored various mediums to find a fit that was good for me; there was clay—looked like mud to me, then water colors—I made more mud, next was stain glass- way too sharp and I seriously cut myself, followed by welding- loved this, but too heavy, and yes I even tried basket weaving! Only by accident, when I stumbled into the medium of paper, was the search over, and the fit just right. Working with paper, I found color, texture, 2D and 3D flexibility, and a limitless supply of readily available materials. It did not look like mud; it was not too heavy or sharp! Although I do experience a paper cut now and again. My work begins with recycling glossy magazine pages that I alter by crumpling, tearing, cutting, and applying a releasing agent to dissolve the ink. Each page produces a one of a kind image and color palette that I inventory until the colors and images is complete. Then the next step in the process begins like a dance that swirls with combing images, color, and movement to form my creations. I apply many layers of paper, which invites the viewer to take a closer inspection where they will discover and experience hidden images and find personal interpretations. To answer the question about "what aspects of everyday life do you consider art?" This is an easy question and yet a complicated and difficult one, but I choose to take the easy view or in other words a more simple view to be open to possibilities. In my everyday life, which no two days are the same, I find inspiration by being open and receptive to my surroundings at the moment. It could be as simple as the way objects are arranged, the fading daylight playing with colors and shadows, or the view outside my studio which is nestled at the base of Brush Mountain in Blacksburg, VA. The selection of images I have sent you are my response to the Brown Farm where I walk several times a week. It is a true Gift of Place for Blacksburg residents to commune with nature. Today the Brown Farm is no longer a working farm, but it offers open fields, creeks, ponds, abandoned buildings, and new discoveries of nature everyday if one chooses to be open and receptive.

Chad Reynolds

Chad is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Victor in the New World (Rope-a-Dope Press, 2008); Buenos Aires (Rye House Press, 2013); and City of Tomorrow (Greying Ghost Press, 2013). His poems have recently appeared in CutBank, Sixth Finch, Jellyfish, Free Verse, So & So Magazine, This Land Press, and elsewhere. Listening—really listening—to others, to the world around one, to oneself, is an art form that I certainly haven't mastered but would like to. In the poem I've attached here, I tried hard to listen to what the character of the Doctor had to tell me.

Danny Rios

Danny is a self taught artist (“auto didact”). Things that inspire him: human behavior, his own diverse cultural heritage, nature, music, cinema, world history, kinetic movement, character of all kinds, sense of humor, all kinds of sounds, imagination. Grew up in San Francisco, Cape Cod, and New York City. He is a filmmaker, musician, writer, and hockey player. He would like to awaken something within whether it’s curiosity, laughter, a sense of play, or poetry to feel something that maybe you didn’t expect. "What aspect/s of everyday life do you consider art?": the answer to that question would be anything and everything is art depending on how you look at it.

Linwood Rumney

Linwood Rumney’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Cold Mountain Review, Potomac Review, North American Review, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. He has received an emerging writers fellowship from the Writers’ Room of Boston, and an Emerging Artists Grant from the St. Botolph Club Foundation. He currently resides in Cincinnati, where he is pursuing a PhD.