My heart rate increases slightly when a cover emerges for a manuscript I’ve jaunted for a year with its authors. An oil painting by a San Saba rancher of his love, Joan, encompasses both gaze and indifference to gaze. Our many gods and devils are in the details of Free State Review, issue 16.

This week has been spirited by visits with Quebec poet Mary Dean Lee, calls with new Galileo poet Clayton Clark and house author Jessica Bonder, and an alley reading with Dan Leach. Uppermost in the talk: the trouble with personal nature. Sure, we all know what we suffer, our primary trauma. We know our ‘story.’ And our sense of our own nature. Haven’t we all said, “I’m not that sort of person” or “I’m someone who never drinks enough water.” 

What we call our nature is only our primary nature. If we move our primary nature out of the way, we’d find other natures hidden there, smaller natures we hadn’t noticed. Some of them contradictory. I mean, everyone’s essence is comprised of at least 4-5 natures. If only one of them—the primary nature—becomes soul defining, then we let our personality dominate our essence. Which leads to self parody.

Joanna Acevedo’s A Story about the Body dropped on our website last week. Here is an author who so is simultaneous with all of her natures as she moves about in a city that craves only one of them. “In a bar, a man tells me about being a writer. I have a graduate degree in creative writing. Have, at that time, published two books. You can’t force the creative process, he says. You have to let your inspiration flow. In cases of extreme starvation, the brain will begin to eat itself.”

Acevedo was on our short list last year and has a new chapbook from WTAW press, Outtakes.

The Iranian writer Thomas Bazar has been working with Jessica Bonder on his new novel and we’ve been talking about code switching as it applies to American Iranian authors. What began as a question about how writers can unwittingly fetish their own culture is morphing into a conversation about the way code switching leans into the dominant culture’s fantasy of you, and how much their fantasy is a function of their tolerance, their willingness to make space for you. Look for his essay response in the coming months.

Speaking of the Golden Poppy state, Elizabeth Herron’s letter arrived detailing her intricate dream about oak trees and her feelings about Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense” in relation to sorrow and slaughter everywhere. Herron makes a toast “to inner emptiness.”

What am I reading? Sarah Wetzel’s The Davids inside David. Put another way, the natures inside nature. My review is forthcoming.