Utne Blogs > Literature

Roses Are Red for Defunct Portland Journal

by Jake Mohan 


Tags: lit journals, essay writing, eye-rhyme, defunt publications, Nick Jaina,

eyerhymeThe website for Portland, Oregon’s literary journal eye-rhyme is dead. The only print issue I can track down is three years old. And my favorite piece from it was written by *gasp* a musician.

Subtitled “Roses Are Red, the seventh issue of eye-rhyme is the only one in the Utne library. Having never lived in Portland, my first-hand knowledge of its literary scene is virtually nonexistent, and in an era when I should be able to learn everything about anything via the Internet, I am able to find precious little information about eye-rhyme online, even on the site of Pinball Publishing, which printed the journal. Some back issues are available for purchase there, including "Roses are Red" and the latest (and final?) installment, a book of portraits by local photographers.

What I do know is that Issue 7 of eye-rhyme documents a diverse population of literary talents who were writing in Portland in 2005. There are healthy doses of poetry (both prose-poetry and verse) and a long interview with Walt Curtis, the “Unofficial Poet Laureate of Portland.” There’s an absurdist piece of fiction by Kevin Sampsell called “In Jail,” which owes a great debt to Mark Leyner; there are drawings by Zak Margolis; there’s an interview with some upstart rock musician named Stephen Malkmus, who sounds like he’s destined for great things.

But my favorite piece, “Sadness: A Field Guide” is by local singer/songwriter Nick Jaina, whose album Wool was released in March of this year. Jaina’s also an elegant prose writer, and his taxonomy of all things sad is darkly funny and also very, very true. In just seven pages he takes us through the various states of sadness, including but not limited to  wistfulness, lethargy, torpor, regret, sorrow, unhappiness, and happiness (this last one is actually just another form of sadness, Jaina’s sorry to inform us).

I wish this piece was available online. I wish I could afford to buy a copy of “Roses Are Red” for all my friends. I wish I was somehow affiliated with a national magazine that reprinted great writing from alternative media and small literary journals.

For now, though, I’ll just have to leave you with my favorite moments from the piece.

On melancholy: “This is a thrilling type of sadness. Your body screams with joy, if joy can be taken out of its normal association with happiness. The sadness of a grocery store that is well lit and full of pretty girls you’ll never talk to. … The sadness of loving a song, wanting to live inside a song, wanting to kiss everyone you see.” 

On torpor: “This is a similar sluggishness to lethargy, only livened by the dictionary’s whimsical suffixing of the word for adjectival use into torporific.”

On unhappiness: “This is not sadness. This is temporary. You spend your whole life at a cocktail party, hosted by influential and powerful people. Rich people. Not to say that you are rich or powerful or influential yourself necessarily, but you’ve been invited to their party. You belong there. … Unhappiness is when you step outside the party for a brief respite. You walk out on the veranda and you are momentarily surprised at how dark and cold it has gotten since you arrived at the party. … You sense something wrong. Nothing is wrong. You can turn around and go back to the party. The door is unlocked.”

On dismay: “This is only for kings and vicars.”

On happiness: “This is perhaps the most desperate form of sadness there is. Think of all the lists you make, full of reasons why you should be happy, why you are happy, dammit. Apple wedges with cheese. City parks. The volatility of the stock market. The way she hugged you from behind, unexpectedly, at that New Years’ Eve party. Aren’t those all the same items on your list of reasons for being sad? Happiness is running with a mix tape to the post office, just before it closes, having quickly thrown on a baseball-style shirt with a number on the back because of the heat. But it’s only for the moment, what you call happiness. It won’t last. You’re wearing a t-shirt with pleated pants, which looks stupid. Everyone can see that.”

Loving this piece but being unable to share all of it; knowing that eye-rhyme is defunct or at least missing in action; browsing the shelves of the Utne library knowing that I’ll never have the time or energy to read everything there—it’s all  remarkably similar to the image with which Jaina closes his entry on melancholy: “The sadness of walking through a library, feeling like you’re in a morgue, wanting to rescue every ignored book with an unexciting cover, knowing that no matter how many books you read, you’ll still never read one tenth of one percent of all the books at your shitty local library.”

julie hanus
7/3/2008 12:19:48 PM

Jake: I can't tell you how happy I am to see you writing about eye-rhyme on the Great Writing blog. About a year ago, I also (re)discovered the Roses are Red issue. It was right around the time we moved offices, so perhaps it resurfaced in the organizing of the new library? At any rate, I also fell in love with Jaina's Sadness: A field guide. I proposed it as a candidate for reprint, actually, and we made a heartbreaking decision that, for the print edition, it was too old. Keeping with the mandate to bring our readers the freshest cullings from the independent press has never been so hard.