David Morgan O'Connor


SPANK the CARP - June 2016

SPANK the CARP is a simple Weebly site, more bloggy than permanent, far from pretentious, very down to earth, not stuffy. Each month, or so, they include six poems, with at least one shape-poem, many of them rhyme, and a smattering of flash and short-fiction. Nothing longer than 5,000 words. Although the aesthetic is not minimal, the editor seems to run short, tight and winsome works. They are open to any genre, except fantasy and erotica. “Think PG-13, maybe PG-18. Also do not submit political or religious screeds disguised as fiction or poetry.” The “goal is to invite readers to wade into the stream, not make them afraid of water for fear it's too cold.” There is a cute little gallery of Carp and Koi fish. They are always looking for fish-photo submissions, so hit that backyard pond or storm the botanical garden gates and snap away. Be sure to add a delightful one-line caption.

In June’s Pond 20, each issue is a numbered pond, the opening couplet by Clinton Van Inman, entitled “Eclipse”, gives a good insight into the almost Haiku-like editorial eye:

     Through the cracks in old cabin wood
     The sun’s reflection ran across my floor
A stanza from Tom Murphy’s “The Last of the Dinosaurs” is also a good example of what floats in July’s Pond 21:

     On painted wings like gods ascend
     Angelic grace the barren air
     Though caged or clipped of wings can not
     But sit repeating “Hello There!”

Both poets' bios proudly state that they are retired. Although, many of the writers seem to be from an older generation who have turned to poetry after illustrious careers in other fields. There are some current MFA candidates and several international selections. The authors are an eclectic bunch of all ages and nationalities, a light-hearted approach is what joins them. Deborah Guzzi’s “High Noon at Karnak,” one of the six poems chosen this month, highlights a flippant character in her second stanza:

     Shit-kicker, lizard-skinned, boots point toward the desert’s dunes—death hides. Needing no words to enjoy a taste of antiquity, Tex shuffles, sighs, and takes a draw on an American cigarette. With a flick of his fingers, he deposits the butt alongside the others in the white sand. His contribution to posterity.

Much of the fiction is dialogue driven and ends with a twist. Yes, Carver is an omnipresent influence, but the sentences are looser and longer, more O'Henry or Maupassant. Bano Bozzo, “who lives with his wife off 1989 lotto winnings in Las Cruces, New Mexico and doesn’t play the trombone,” has finished “The Sun Shines Darkly” with this paragraph:

     Then he remembered why he was there. He steadied himself on the banister as he descended into the darkened basement. In the far corner from a single small window a solitary shaft of light lit up a tin pan filled with dirt and a tiny carpet of low lying plants. He walked over to it and lightly brushed the tiny blue flowers balanced upon their stems. He whispered to himself, “I make the decisions now. I decide what’s what.” Then he opened the drawer and pulled out his old service revolver. He put it to his head and pulled the trigger.

Spank The Carp’s aesthetic is clear and consistent. Light, funny, classical, a quick-scroll, a no-frills site (although the ads running down the right, feel a little cluttered and dated), just as it says on the bow-wrapped box; fish in a pond. With the rise of Trump, Brexit, the attacks in Nice and Orlando, the eternal race war in America, the lack of gun control, the plethora of police executions, the profiteering in health and education and prison systems and the general feeling that 2016 is sending us all to hell in a greed-woven hand-basket…

Well, if you want a well-deserved break from global demise, grab your Ipad and sit by the closest pond and spank the carp. It will bring some comfort.