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  • Elemental Conversations: Gilmore Tamny

    Contributor: Gilmore Tamny

    Gilmore Tamny is the author of one book of poems, The Small Time Smirker and In Nevada I Was Rabbity or FLUFFY CLOUDS (Joe Books). Her essays, artwork, interviews, short stories and op-ed pieces have been published in Madison Smartt Bell’s Narrative Design, Not A Rose by Heide Hatry, The Dan Clowes Reader, Columbus Alive, Sojourner, Chickfactor, Petrichor Review, Pindeldyboz, Ohioedit, Turk’s Head Review and Foliate Oak. She wrote songs for three albums, under the name The Yips. In 2002, she received an MFA from Emerson College. Currently, her agent is working on finding publication for two novels, one of which is being serialized at Ohioedit.

    3ER: Describe your art-making/photography process? 

    GT: I suppose I’m of the just sit-down and-do-it school. Which is not to say I sit-down-and-do-it with some unfailing, laser-like beam of focus I can conjure up at will. Ha! Sometimes it’s effortless and totally fun, sometimes it’s kinda ho-hum and sometimes it’s just heart-sickeningly discouraging. But I do my bestest to take advantage of whatever time I have to just work on the art. I also try to get out of the way of the work whenever I can and just generally not think about it a whole lot. This may, of course, be completely disastrous way to go about it for someone else. Everyone’s routines are by necessity very different. 

    3ER: What do you like about limits? 

    GT: I tend to be a structure gal, so limits work well for me. I like that the limits of non-representational work can bring about these insane degrees of subjectivity. What a piece means to me or be expressing for me, may or may not be something I can put into words or even understand. But, if I’m lucky, it may be able to express something to a viewer whether or not they can put it in to words and even if it isn’t what I was feeling when I drew the picture. Just even having a shot at that is awesome. I guess articulation, especially the kind you didn’t know you knew—hey, it’s a kick! This could hold for representational work as well, but, to me anyway, it’s more pronounced in the non. 

    3ER: What do you want to tell our readers about your piece? 

    GT: It might have taken longer than you’d think (?). Or shorter. 

    3ER: How do you know when a work is good? 

    GT: I believe you mean my own? Well, that’s hard to say, especially I tend towards the old punk rawk party line that expressing what you want as exactly as you can is more important than the end results. BUT (but!) it would be disingenuous to say I don’t think some works are more successful than others. I know I like a drawing I’ve done when it’s like my eyes focus, sort of give it a good chew and then sit back, sigh and relax. That sounds ridiculous. Eyes don’t do that! But that’s what it’s like. 

    3ER: Which artists/photographers inspire you? 

    GT: Dan Clowes is pretty much my favorite living artiste. Outside of that, I’m a painting junkie, particularly a big fan of Rothko, Turner and Caravaggio, although I don’t think any of these drawings I’ve been doing look particularly inspired by them. Boy, I would love to see what Dan Clowes would do with abstract art. I’m sure I’m forgetting 10000 people I will kick myself about later. 

    3ER: If you could have created any piece of art or taken any photo, what would it be? 

    GT: There are some rocumentaries I wish I’d filmed but that’s really because I’d have been there! That “Watson and The Shark” painting might have been fun. Is fun the right word? Hmm. It’s like the “Candyman” of paintings. Hard to get out of your head! 

    3ER: Where can we view more of your work? 

    GT: I have a tumblr and will have a website of my artwork soon if I do not freak out over the logistics.

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    The Book Thief

    I’ve only stolen one other thing in my life: a candy bar from a lonely Casey’s on Highway 28 when I was very young, an impulse that earned me my formative lesson in the essential distinction between wanting something and owning it.

    My mother discovered my transgression as we were climbing into her Rambler, a ramshackle car whose passenger door no longer closed.  A jump rope rigged from the passenger side to the rear driver’s side through the open windows and around the roof kept the broken door from flying open as we drove.  Believe it or not, people got away with such “repairs” in the seventies. “Oh no,” Mom sputtered, pointing to the Snickers I’d made no attempt to hide as I climbed in the car. “We don’t take things that don’t belong to us.  Come with me.” Mom held out her hand for me to grasp. Though I didn’t yet understand, I toddled with her through the miasma of a July afternoon into the relative cool of the store with a trepidation inspired by the unhappy creases on Mom’s pretty face. After requesting that I present the small hand clutching the melting bar to the clerk, my mother coaxed me through a halting apology and paid the tutting woman a shiny, hard-earned quarter for the candy we wouldn’t keep. Then Mom made me give the woman the finger-dented Snickers, shame staining my cherub face red as I reluctantly released it. The lesson instilled in me forever the difference between something I owned and something I did not. 


    The theft of the candy bar had been born of an innocent ignorance of capitalism. The theft of the book, however, was something entirely different.

    I knew stealing the book was wrong.  But like Liesel in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, the compulsion to take the book overran any moral sense I possessed.  I want to be quickto state that I’ve never stolen anything since.  But from the moment I first read it, I knew my friend’s copy of Tikki Tikki Tembo was supposed to be mine.  I was perhaps six and understood that taking something that didn’t belong to me was wrong. Yet my longing for that strangely captivating book overwhelmed me with an undeniable impulse that rose like a siren call that drowned out the warring voice of my young conscience.

    Written by Arlene Mosel in 1968, Tikki Tikki Tembo imagines an ancient Chinese custom whereby first-born sons are honored with elaborate names everyone must say in full, while second-born sons are typically given short names that denote a lesser status. A boy named Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo (which translates, the books says, to “The Most Wonderful Thing in the Whole Wide World”) and his little brother Chang (which the book claims to mean “Little or Nothing”) play near a well that their mother has forbidden at the story’s start. Chang falls in, and his older brother runs to tell their mother who instructs him to find the old man with the ladder. He does, and the old man quickly rescues Chang. Much later, the boys again play near the well, and this time the older brother falls in. Chang runs to their mother and tries to say: “Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo has fallen into the well.”  However, she doesn’t hear him, so he repeats himself.  Winded from running, Chang stutters and even mispronounces the onerous name, and his mother, insulted, insists that he repeat the name with respect. He tries, stumbling hopelessly over the suddenly confusing mass of syllables until finally his mother understands and cries for Chang to find the old man with the ladder. Chang disturbs the man while asleep and, when he tries to wake him, the old man is annoyed and only rolls away. After Chang breathlessly repeats his request, the old man finally grabs theladder and follows Chang to the well. They retrieve Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo, but because of the delayed rescue, an extended recovery time follows. The story ends by explaining that this is why Chinese parents give all their children such short names today.

    Of course, the book is considered controversial.  Written with a total disregard of authentic Chinese culture, it surely offends.  Yet I was a child, it was the seventies, and I loved that quirky book. The mesmerizing repetition of the older boy’s extended and exotic name served as an incantation that drove me over the edge of good citizenship and honorable friendship.  The seemingly foreign syllables did cartwheels on my tongue as I read them over and over again in my best friend’s playroom.  Further, the fact that I related so well to poor Chang and the idea of a character who struggles to be heard in his attempts to save someone (a situation I found as familiar and stressful then as I do now) led me to stealthily slip away from my friend’s house, the book soaking up the guilty heat of my sweaty palms as I slunk home that long ago day.

    Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel.

    Just this morning I found that book on a shelf, and a fresh surge of guilty exhilaration pulsed through me like adrenaline after a fright.  I opened the beloved book carefully, a whisper of my younger self emanating from the familiar pages as I reread those words I so adored long ago.

    Despite my regret, I’ve decided to forgive myself this childhood lapse because I am a firm believer that the books you need find you just when you require them most.  In my extensive experience stumbling into just the right books at the right times, I’ve found that the right books beckon you to buy them, coax you to check them out from library shelves, and beg you to borrow them from friends and family.  If you are a child with little means, they may seduce you into stealing them.  After a reading–or twenty or two hundred– they will slumber all but forgotten on your shelf, patiently waiting for you to absorb the teachings stored on their slowly yellowing pages.

    Stealing Tikki Tikki Tembo was perhaps an intuitive act of self-salvation, because forty years later, I have learned the important lessons waiting for me in that deceptively silly little book. Finally, I can release myself from my identification with Chang and let go of a family dynamic that no longer serves anyone.  I will no longer be anyone’s fumbling rescuer from any deep wells.  Thank you, Tikki Tikki Tembo.  I only wish I had been a quicker student.  

    I wonder if it’s too late to find Jeanette and return her book?

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    Elemental Conversations: Kate Garrett

    Elemental Conversations is a new weekly blog post where we ask our contributors various questions about their art and about themselves. We thought it would be fun for our readers (and us) to get to know the people whose work makes 3Elements Review possible.

    Contributor: Kate GarrettNavigation (poem)

    Kate Garrett

    Kate Garrett was born in Cincinatti, Ohio but moved to the UK in 1999. Her poetry and flash fiction have been published online and in print. Kate lives in Sheffield, England with her three kids, three cats, and a computer programmer.

    3ER: Was there a specific element that sparked your story idea?

    KG: Initially “procession” and “ache” were the two elements that kicked off my poem, as they fit together well with a topic I’ve been trying to write about for several years. The challenge was using “tandem bicycle” as a metaphor – I knew it couldn’t possibly be literal in this poem.

    3ER: If you could choose any three elements, what would they be?

    KG: Crepuscular, evergreen, nomenclature.

    3ER: Describe your writing process.

    KG: My writing process consists of jotting down a rough hodgepodge of images, sensations, observations, then chipping away the rubbish bits whilst shaping the okay bits into something I’d actually want to read/hear. It’s 20% writing the first draft and 80% revising and editing. And I’m not sure I ever stop tinkering with poems, even after they’re published somewhere.

    3ER: Who are your favorite writers?

    KG: The writers who changed my life would be Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus. If I’m reading for relaxation, it’s all about Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Phil Rickman, Marian Keyes. My favourite poets are Gary Snyder and Gillian Clarke. This feels like I’m leaving out so much; I read a lot.

    3ER: What book/story/poem do you wish you had written? Why?

    KG: Off the top of my head, the one thing I wish I’d written is the line “I was your sorry ever after” in the song ’74-‘75 by The Connells. It’s such a beautiful way of expressing regret or “the one that got away”.

    3ER: What do you want to tell our readers about your piece?

    KG: ‘Navigation’ is a poem about finding your way with another person when you’ve both experienced trauma. Sometimes the way forward isn’t the one most people expect. So you have to improvise, the love is different, but just as strong, maybe stronger than some conventional relationships. 

    3ER: Where can we read more of your work?

    KG: Here and there. I have a website: My publications and collaborations are listed, and some of my poems and flash fictions are there as well.

    3ER: What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?

    KG: I have so many weird dreams. The most ridiculous one was probably the dream where I was in a pub in Leicester (UK) and John Cusack was there. He bought me pear cider even though I asked for a Corona, and I was like “Why, John Cusack? Why would you do this to me?” If anyone knows what that means, please tell me.

    3ER: Do you write in a certain place? Do you listen to music? What are your rituals?

    KG: When I’m writing poems, I can’t listen to music. For prose it’s different, I even go as far as creating story playlists. I have to have coffee, tea, or in extreme cases, wine, by my side. Our house is too small for me to have a desk – only my children are so privileged – so I’ve had to adapt. This means I can now write almost anywhere, but I prefer the comfort of my bedroom, surrounded by cats and mountains of cushions. So if any of my work reads like an angsty teen wrote it, now you know why.

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