Mad Hatters' Review

Essay by Michael Hopping

Posted on August 25, 2011

Exclamation Points

on Václav Havel's typogram “VÁLKA” (War), aka “Peace”

The story begins innocently on the first line with the word “mír” (peace) typed at both the upper left and right margins. Each carriage return brings the opposing demands for “mír!” closer “MÍR!!” and closer “MÍR!!!” They collide in a chaos that falls disintegrating down the page until nothing remains but a hail of deadly exclamation points pounded into the white paper sky through which they fall, whistling down.

Exclamatory fields of fire bloomed across Vietnam that year. Czechoslovakia was soon to discover its own vulnerability in the clanking shock of Soviet tanks on the streets, crushing the breath of freedom remembered as the Prague Spring. From Eastern Europe and obscure jungle hamlets, murderous surprise moved on to other jungles, obscure deserts and Western cities. Detonations echo in the daily news. So too the horror of texts written in body parts, mouthed in moans and wailing too guttural for words.

Surprise comes in many flavors, of course, including delight. But regardless of context or emotional tone it is by definition disruptive. This is as true on the printed page as in life! Contemporary authors, if they're civilized, shy away from the rawness of the exclamation point. They leave it to the consumerist carpet bombers: “Step right up. See me. Hear me. Try this; feel something.”

Mostly we would rather not, except at a safe voyeuristic distance. Destabilization risks uncontrolled transformation. The pitch of the sales associate is itself canned, designed to excite only potential customers—managers reserving their excitement for deviations from the script. Algorithms standardize decision processes and are revised to minimize unruly data. There is no time for it. Officers of the culture herd defendants along with anesthetic assurances that each step in the procedure is only a formality.

Meanwhile between terror and trance, too often obscured by the rustling of decision trees or whiz-bang flashes of manufactured dazzlement, life punctuates itself as it always has—like it or not—exclamations included. This child is born. This job is lost. The car driven by this man blows a tire in a pothole. This girl bakes cookies for a soldier she will never meet who fights a war she doesn't understand.

Expectations clash, even visions of peace. Familiar territory turns suddenly strange and potent. Havel pounds his exclamation points, smashes the smugness of the page, cratering the fabric. Pinpoints of light break through.


Václav Havel's “Peace” (Evergreen Review, 1967) or “The War” (n.d.)

from Antikódy: “VÁLKA”

Michael Hopping lives in Asheville , North Carolina . His work has appeared in Spoiled Ink, The Great Smokies Review, fresh , and is forthcoming in Chrysalis Reader . A novel, Meet Me In Paradise , was published in 2007 and MacTiernan's Bottle, a collection of short stories, will appear later this year.


Poem by Chris Mansel

Posted on August 18, 2011

Midnight in Animal Control

a few minutes of running water
a woman found God in a sexual position
and then almost died
(sensory ganglia) – opium- (molester & sodomite)
orgies of the brain
gouging neck-windowed screams, screeching

There were soldiers dying on the train their mothers
throwing themselves beneath the wheels so the train
would not derail

Searching for the butcher knife
the Detective lay the photos out side by side
looking down peering over his glasses he remembers
the squalid life the victim lead
and the pattern in which the blood was smeared in the yard
then he knew that the photographs were fake

decomposition like a noose
Can attach to the moment
decomposition like a noose
Can attach to the moment
and loosen your immediate
resistance to odor and loosen
your immediate resistance to odor.

And then one day the needle struck bone and everything grew illuminated. But where was this disarticulated being that had shone so brightly beneath the water? This corpse that not even suicide could liberate a fallen being that still managed to read Blake

un hin der ed g r i s l y a sober climbing trauma that delivers
the pale woman from the moor
dressed only in her slip wet from the rain
shivering madly and rambling on about hounds.

No, much has been written on the overgrowth of bone after death! Do they not split the breastbone during heart surgery? Do they not stop the heart and then bring it back as if nothing has happened? a dentist screws in metal fragments a plumber encases a drain in cement a child gathers u egg shells and feeds his habit for dead birds The camera levels on the top of the water and does not distinguish.

Chris Mansel is a writer, filmmaker, epileptic, musician, photographer and a permanent outsider for some reason. He is the author of While in Exile: The Savage Tale of Walter Seems , Ashes of Thoreau, interviews and two books of photography entitled, No Burden and Ahisma . Along with Jake Berry, he formed the band Impermanence who have released one album, Arito . He created the band dilation Impromptu and has released several cd's. His writing is published on the web in many sources.


Music by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen

Posted on August 17, 2011

Always Late
Jukka-Pekka Kervinen


Jukka-Pekka Kervinen is a Finnish composer, writer and visual artist.


MadHat Press to release Hugh Fox's newest collection!

Posted on August 15, 2011 by marc

We are pleased to announce that MadHat Press will be releasing Hugh Fox's newest collection of verve and sharp wit. Please keep your eyes peeled for more exciting news.

The collection is tentatively entitled Primate Fox .

Hugh Fox , born in Chicago in 1932, is a writer, novelist, poet and anthropologist and one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize. To say Hugh is a prolific writer is an understatement, over the years, Hugh has published well-over sixty works of poetry and fiction.



Poem by Bobbi Lurie

Posted on August 12, 2011


Harm is the scholar of thorns and thought its repetition and what is that smell, dear Lord,
seeping out through the crevices of being this body, this bed such a plank for this
festering vessel.

And they say in their multitudes to remind us of good deeds/ kind thoughts, what brought
me here and brings me still is the cruel edge for all collect their coupons, they take the
good part out and keep it for themselves and dress in fine fabrics and gawk. Only those
who love can sit and watch.

I have analyzed paintings in my day, I have sought to dance animated to illustrations but
now the drop cloth is being taken by the workers and their skin beside the picture window

I have finished first, beyond the grave from where I'll speak, though planted like a crop
and famous for it still.

Life venerates the bedding of the dead.

Bobbi Lurie is the author of three poetry collections: Grief Suite, Letter from the Lawn and The Book I Never Read . Her work has been published in numerous print and on-line journals including Mad Hatters' Review, American Poetry Review, New American Writing, diode, Born, Big Bridge , Gulf Coast , Otoliths and many others. She lives outside of Albuquerque , New Mexico .


Poem by Keith Higginbotham

Posted on August 10, 2011


A watercolor tincture
shipwrecked organic air
machine, bamboo down
wool damask. Two parts mold
to the head; one part
adjust the greener spin.

Wash the hulls stuffed with trees,
wait the paddled word.

Sensei, do we really need

Below the third eye, bands of
diminutive wearing is still
a practice breath. Love is like

Two flower peaks atop spiky
division – these days are numbered.
Sleek that won't leave
a meditative vibe, plant-
based masque, slip
into the snipped nestle.

Cut into chunks, no obvious
bruising: take time to write
the wrist.

Keith Higginbotham lives in Columbia , SC. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Beatnik, Blue & Yellow Dog, ditch, Cricket Online Review, Eratio,The Montucky Review , and Otoliths . He is the author of Carrying the Air on a Stick (The Runaway Spoon Press) and Prosaic Suburban Commercial (Eratio Editions).


Poem by rob mclennan

Posted on August 8, 2011

The Carleton Tavern, shadow

held in my mouth, habitable

a circumstance,

when geography confounds, the sky
eventually blues,

behind thick smoke

again, to where the doors
, a shallow clink

penance of still life,
the ghost in you remains,

protecting what; a fury
beyond legislated what,

& rotting fence, where I have
hidden everything,

Born in Ottawa , Canada 's glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa . The author of more than twenty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, his most recent titles are the poetry collections A (short) history of l. (BuschekBooks, 2011), grief notes: (BlazeVOX [books], 2011), Glengarry (Talonbooks, 2011), kate street (Moira, 2011) and 52 flowers (or, a perth edge) (Obvious Epiphanies, 2010), and a second novel, missing persons (2009). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press , Chaudiere Books (with Jennifer Mulligan), The Garneau Review , seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual . He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta , and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at


Flash Fiction by Marcus Speh

Posted on August 4, 2011


Faint light shines on your actions without illuminating your fate. Someone hands you the
long pork: something to trade with. A bargain with a friend consists of hiding your true
views. You read a bizarre story and sleep badly. Knives in the kitchen seem to have come
alive in the small hours, cutting off time slices slowly. Strawberry jam's a revelation at any
time. You kill a fly: a moment ago, it was still flying, experiencing everything as only a fly
can. You're a buzz kill. The palm in the doorway smells of Galapagos dramas: pirates
coming on shore to hunt talking lizards. Some sailors, they say, have returned to the sea
from which we emerged millions of years ago, they say. But they don't mix with the fish:
instead, they form a faction. They hire experts who can prove that underwater is preferable
to above water. That gills beat ears. That fins are better than legs even though legs are
longer. Mermaids as super models! The deranged sailors' favorite pastime is the spinning
of yarn: one of them, an old guy, ends every story with a loud wet fart. He sounds like a
trumpet in a bath tub. The fish are listening to these stories but since they don't actually
have a choice they soon return to their own affairs leaving the flippered humans to their
stories for which they seem to have endless time and desire.

august_Mermaids.jpgPhoto: Ben Chapman, who played “Gill Man” in the 1954 classic film “The Creature of the Black Lagoon.”

Marcus Speh is a writer, ex-particle physi­cist, pro­fes­sor, exec­u­tive coach, project lead, web head, father, fic­tio­naut, for­mer fencer and para­trooper, who lives in Berlin, Germany, blogs at Nothing To Flawnt , curates One Thousand Shipwrecked Penguins and serves as maitre d' at the Kaffe in Katmandu .


4 Responses to Flash Fiction by Marcus Speh

•  Bruce Spear says:

August 5, 2011 at 8:59 am

I'm not sure if I should thank you for momentarily returning me to the secretive late-night horror movies of my childhood, especially at Nicky's house with the big TV, I'd return home exhausted and wary.

I do thank you for sending me off, with the spinning of yarns and sea shanties, to the songs that infected the landsmen, . Except they are designed to ward of isolation and fear, when you want to tempt the opposite … ?


•  michael j. solender says:

August 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

bizarre as not to be confused with bazaar, which is a place of commerce


•  pegjet says:

August 6, 2011 at 11:59 am

Still laughing at buzz kill. And this is a great line:
Knives in the kitchen seem to have come
alive in the small hours, cutting off time slices slowly.


•  susan says:

August 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Absolutely delightful!


Poem by Sara Fitzpatrick Comito

Posted on August 2, 2011

Any migration is forced

Gravity's not downward
but a pull between. If
you're bigger than me,
I'm gonna come to you

just how it works. Don't
mind the plastic caddy of
Lysols, my multigrain will
replace your white inflammation.

Let's put some shades over
the bare hanging. I'm not
going to change you I
promise: I'll wait up.

Any migration is forced.
Diaspora is how I show
I care. Remember: I'm the
one who had to assimilate.

It's what was best. For you.

Sara Fitzpatrick Comito writes and gardens in Fort Myers, Florida . She's achieved exponential propagation of her plants without garnering any fruits. Her poetry has been published in places like nthposition, The Smoking Poet, Hip Mama Magazine and Bloody Bridge Review . She edits the online journal Orion headless .


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