The Aletheia Journal

a literary & arts publication | facebook.com/thealetheiajournal

Call for submissions and editors!

The Aletheia Journal is currently seeking undergraduates from the University of Houston to submit work for our upcoming journal and to apply for editor positions!

Every semester we publish a print journal, along with online content, featuring undergraduates from the University of Houston working in a variety of media. We are currently accepting submissions through December 21. We accept all forms of art including poetry, fiction, theater, visual art, music, and more! Full submission guidelines here: http://thealetheiajournal.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/

We are also seeking new editors. The journal maintains 3-5 associate editors at any given time, and the position is open to any University of Houston undergraduate. Editorial duties include reviewing submissions, designing print content, conducting interviews, and marketing the journal. Please send a cover letter (including graduation date) and resume to thealetheiasubmissions@gmail.com

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Efficacy in Practice: Performing Arts students at large in Houston

Four University of Houston students, Amber Baker, Anasheh Partiai, Sarah Rodriguez and Brandon Zech recently performed at Fringe Festival, the self-described “forum” of performance art. The Aletheia teamed up with two of these artists, Sarah Rodriguez and Brandon Zech, to talk about visual art, performance, experience, and the spaces in between. The resulting interview gives us a look at the University’s role in creating a multi-faceted art experience for all of Houstonians to enjoy.

The Aletheia: Your work together began in IART 3395, Efficacy in Practice. What about the class led to this collaboration?

Sarah: IART 3395 was a tiny class, four people total. So it was kind of impossible not to collaborate when we got the opportunity. Our intentions and hopes for the project were so similar we just decided to roll with it. 

Brandon: After the class ended, I believe all of us still had a desire to create. We mounted a successful exhibition together, and therefore believed we could do so again.

TA: As art history, philosophy and dance students, you’re a pretty diverse bunch. What unites you in your practice?

S: This is kind of a cheesy answer, but what really tied us together were ideas of accessibility. I think our works embody that idea very differently (Brandon’s piece, through vulnerability, Amber’s piece through education, and mine through queer spaces), but at their root, I really think accessibility is what’s important. 

B: Our practices are united in the fact that they do not stick within one discipline. I study art history, but I also make art. Further than that, some of my performances have a very dance-like fashion to them. No one in the group sticks within any boundaries. This is why everyone’s practice works so well together.

TA: How has your creation process worked as collaborators?

B: We are interesting in our collaboration in that we put on a show as a collective, but each member has a distinctive voice. The ideas and motivational forces behind the pieces are not necessarily directly related. We are not trying to put on a themed show. Rather, each artist addresses issues that they are concerned with, and in turn, there is a poignant theme of personal challenge running throughout the show.

TA: Is it most individual or collective?

S: We give each other advice and critiques, but I think we work pretty individually when it comes to final products. 

B: In the creation of single pieces, I would say it is mostly individual. However, the conceptualization of the pieces has involved a large amount of input from all members of the group.

TA: Neither one of you comes from a performance background originally. Why performance, now?

S: I like to think of performance as a way to create experiences, not necessarily through a stage and lighting. I use performance as a way of interacting with a space or idea that one normally wouldn’t seek out. Performance then becomes something I, as an artist, can experience along with the audience, so I gain something I normally wouldn’t from just putting up work on the wall. 

B: For this piece, as it has to do with everyday acts of vulnerability, performance was the best way to present it. It was a work that involved lots of doing. Also, it had a strong relation to the physical body – particularly, my physical body. In this sense, performance was the best way to communicate the message of the work.

TA: Talk a little about what has happened since Fall 2013 with your collaborative.

S: Well, we’ve actually gotten quite a bit from our collaborations. Last April, we had a show at DiverseWorks that was a more traditional collaboration. We developed the piece together and incorporated all of our styles, very successfully, I would say! So that was very cool. 

B: We have been through a few different stages of thinking about things. We presented a performance at the art space DiverseWorks that was in dialogue with our 2013 exhibition The Art of Everyday Politics, and then, for the Houston Fringe Festival, we reconceptualized our original exhibition. All in all, it has involved a large amount of meditative thinking on the original issues we chose to address.

TA: What did you bring to Fringe Festival?

B: As a performer, I brought a piece of performance art. It resembles dance, but upon closer inspection, it has many nuanced qualities that blur traditional media. As a collective, we are bringing a new look on the politics of everyday life and what makes up the world around us.

TA: How have your performances morphed?

S: I like working, and I think we all like working, with materials inspired by or borrowed from the everyday. So, for our show at Alabama Song, I created a reading space that lasted for twenty four hours. For Fringe, I decided to narrow the focus a little bit. The piece is only in the women’s bathroom, and uses queer and feminist texts in a way that attempts to remove the stigma of accessing these ideas by effectively removing the male gaze. 

Maybe that’s actually widening the lens after all. Haha. 

B: Since it has been a number of months since I originally performed my work, I have been able to look back on it and see the effect it had on my art making. I have taken this into account, and, for the Fringe Festival performance, I modified my original dance to include a segment of me talking about the project in an intimate fashion. Recorded days before the festival, it was the first time I deeply looked back at the project itself, and by recording it, the project became self aware.

Interview by Sara Balabanlilar

Feature: Nicole Nguyen

Nicole Nguyen is currently a student in the University of Houston’s College of Pharmacy. Her piece, ‘Peak’, is published in Volume 7 of The Aletheia.

Interview conducted by Adrienne Meyers, Associate Editor of The Aletheia.

The Aletheia: In ‘Peak’, you speak a lot about genetics and where the study of genes will take us in the future. Do these ideas come from topics you study in the pharmacy school, or do they spring from a more general sci-fi interest?

Nicole Nguyen: I have taken a class in genetics before, but what really made me excited to write this piece was that I could put my own spin on a popular concept. Society has always toyed with the idea of living forever, but what if it’s simply not possible? With all the medical advances, surely there would be a compromise. So, what is it about immortality that appeals to people? What I gathered is that it is not necessarily about the time, but increasing the opportunities to make memories and have experiences. Along those lines, I thought of experiences that are generalized to certain periods in a life span; awkward adolescence, declining with old age, and of course the “Peak” of adulthood. What if everyone could experience those times, and as with everything, what would be the downfalls? So in a general answer to the question, I believe that constitutes a general sci-fi interest I didn’t realize I had.

TA: What is the relationship like between your class work and your creative writing? Does the writing provide you with a chance to explore different perspectives, or does it work closely within your primary field of study?

NN: I would definitely say that my creative writing allows me to explore the line of “what if” thoughts that occasional come to mind, and while my study of pharmacy doesn’t directly relate, I notice it affects how I approach a subject. Since I’m pursuing healthcare, I like to view the situation from the point of view of the patient, or the person being affected. Considering the scenario from both sides I can address the positives and negatives of all angles and flesh out more details to make the piece more plausible.

 TA: Your writing is written in a very conversational voice. Are you writing as yourself or creating a character voice to write through?

NN: My intention was to narrate from the perspective of a typical person who is living out the aftermath of some intangible person’s design. While I didn’t rely on the factual knowledge from my classes, I did base what little scientific information I offered on how I believe patients see the aspects of healthcare they don’t understand. Similarly, here the voice belongs to a generalized character that lacks insight on how the chemical works. The narrator also speaks curtly, not giving the reader a chance to ask questions to reflect their lack of control on the situation as well.

TA:  How did you begin writing? Is it something you’ve always been interested in, or did your writing begin more recently?

NN: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I have to be very inspired by an idea for something to actually be put down on paper. I don’t make time to write, rather if I happen to come across a concept I try and jot it down. Then when I feel like putting words together I try and decipher what my idea was and find the same inspiration. Usually the original focus of the piece is lost in side thoughts that branch out from my poking and prodding, but I like to write without restriction and see how the story molds in the end. All detours and deviations are welcome.

February Feature: Steven Asher

Steven Asher is a junior and an English/Creative Writing major at the University of Houston. He has been writing at about age ten and hasn’t stopped since, though this online feature with the Aletheia is his first publication. Steven always loved fiction in all forms, be it literature, film, theater or comic books and because of this, he is a strong supporter of local artists. Whether it be plays or musicals at a small theater, orchestra concerts, readings, local bands, he wants to support it. He thanks the Aletheia editors, for giving him this opportunity to be apart of it all.

________________________________________________________

Wordsworth to Wordsworth

by Steven Asher

            I don’t know what reading Wordsworth had to do with Mona keeping her hand over mine, as it cupped her breast in a hotel two years ago but that’s where it took me. I was taking the District Line down to Braidy’s place before we went to school and decided to pop the Crush on the ride over. He told me not to underestimate the little orange pill when he handed it to me in the small plastic bag.

“At it’s peak, it takes whatever it is you’re currently experiencing, a buried memory and connects the two in a series of emotions and images, sometimes making you relive entire memories themselves if the memory is a strong one,” he answered my question, but the look on my face must have colored me unconvinced because he capped the explanation with the phrase, “Shit works.”

I tried to recall the connections in my head the Crush connected together but it was hard at first. We had been on a trip in London our junior year led by the French teacher and Braidy had secretly invited one of his college friends, Mona. Braidy and I met her at the airport during our free hours instead of roaming the city. She was beautiful: green eyes, porcelain skin and ginger hair she insisted was “strawberry blonde.”  She was all these things and older than me.

Mona never got her own room but shared ours and ducked our French teacher when she came for the random “room checks.” One of us would coincidentally be in the shower when the teacher came looking and Mona would hide out in there. Mostly it was Braidy who in there with her but one night our teacher came for a second check after making her rounds and we panicked, Mona pulling me into the bathroom with her.

“Is this all you two do?” I asked, tapping my fingers against the sink.

“What did you think we were doing? Did Braidy tell you we were fucking?” Mona said, sitting next to me on the bathroom floor next to the running shower. Not a moments pause between the two questions.

“I don’t know what I thought.”

“Calm down dude, I was just fucking with you,” she said.

I didn’t really know what to say, mouth ready to spring with something to say but my brain was coming up completely empty. I ended up letting my eyes wander around, examining every inch like I’d never seen a bathroom. Braidy eventually opened the door to let us know we were in the clear.

I had just finished unpacking all of my clothes when the teacher came back one last time and Braidy pushed me into the bathroom again.

“You going to unpack your stuff?” I said after a minute of silence.

“Oh, so you do talk?” she said, smiling.

“I was just thinking, there’s enough room in the dressers and it’s not like Ms. Packer is going to check,” I tried smiling back.

“Sit next to me, I can barely hear you over the shower,” she sort of inched her body to the right and patted the floor next to her.

“I mean, if you’re going to be staying with us for the week, you might as well..”

“Thanks, but I usually live out of my suitcase during these kinds of things?”

It’s a phrase I would pass over at the time but would bring up later in the week.

The shower was low enough for me to hear the teacher asking Braidy why I was taking so long in the shower.

“He’s masturbating,” he blurted out.

Mona gave a snicker and I can only imagine what shade of red my face flushed. Braidy was always giving me shit for things, especially for me being straight edge for the first two years of high school.

“Being straight edge basically means no alcohol, drugs or sex,” I explained to Braidy outside the White Rabbit our freshman year. It was a local show for Ghost Town Electric and he wanted me to pop X so I could “fully experience” the light show that accompanied their sets.

“How’d you hear about Ghost Town Electric?” Mona asked.

“Oh,” I snapped, looking down at my vest to the GTE patch. “Well…”

Braidy knocks on the door this time and simply yells, “We’re good!”

“Go ahead and go, I’m going to actually take a shower now that I think about it,” she said, standing up.

“Sounds good,” I sit up but before I can even stand, she’s taking off her shirt. “Whoa!” I almost yell, “Wait until I get out of the bathroom first?”

I don’t look back on my way out but she makes a sort of “pfft” sound with her lips, which makes me look back to see her rolling her eyes with a smirk.

That GTE patch would end up draped over her chest later; she put the vest on after coming out of the shower in only a bra and shorts.

We watched TV together for the first time that night, some hour long drama on BBC that put Braidy to sleep and left Mona to put my arm around her as we sat propped up, at the end of the bed together. She held the cross at the end of her necklace in her mouth when she really focused in on something. I noticed the habit the first time her and I were in the bathroom together. I came back from the bathroom during a commercial break and put my arm around her again after she sat up from the bed headboard, expecting me to return.

“Sorry,” I said, my hand accidentally brushing her chest as it draped around her neck but instead of letting me pull away, she held it there and looked up at me. It was that look of opening a door and catching someone in the act of something but instead of being shocked with what she had found there, Mona had a stare like she had been expecting what she had found. If Braidy hadn’t been passed out due to bottles of cheap wine he smuggled in, we wouldn’t have… or at least, I wouldn’t have but we did. Braidy asked me how she was when we got home but I just told him the whole thing was a blur, which was the truth. The next day, when Braidy ordered two beers for Mona and him, I told him to make it three. We had found a place that didn’t card a few nights before and started frequenting it.

“Calm down, I’ll pay for it,” I tried putting Braidy at ease but it wasn’t until after he explained himself that I realized he was freaking out over me ordering alcohol for myself.

“And with such confidence,” Mona added in.

I later realized and told her that she was the result of that confidence.

“Not my usual pillow talk,” she said, “but I’ll take it.”

Mona had thick skin when I met her, so she never really talked about emotions. Which meant we never really talked about emotions but the night after we had sex, I told her that she made me happy. She told me I made her happy, right now. I didn’t have much time to question the afterthought because Braidy ended up making the cab driver pull over, so he could plant his hands to the pavement out the backseat and throw up, his lower half still in the cab. I got out without saying anything to Mona to make sure he was okay but he waved me off before I could touch him.

“Meter’s running,” the cabbie said.

“I’ve got the money, just hang tight. He’s throwing up, geeze.”

“Look at the balls on you, kid,” Mona said, looking over the top of the car at me.

“Don’t call me kid,” I threw back, a little more harsh than intended.

“Calm down, it’s just an expression.”

“Is that your solution for everything?”

“What?” she looked confused, not following my train of thought.

“You’re so laid back about everything.”

I let out a sigh and found myself leaning against the trunk of the car, Braidy still puking his guts out, insisting he was okay in between heaves. I look over to him and see Mona leaning against the trunk with me.

“Don’t take it as an insult, I’m impulsive,” she finally came out and said it for the first time that week. Problem was, she didn’t think that was an issue for me. Bigger problem was, I didn’t address that it was an issue for me. “I meant you make me happy right now and that’s enough for me,” she said, retracing our conversation back to where it derailed.

“I guess you’re right.”

“Are you guys fighting about me?” is what Braidy meant to say but it all comes out in one slurred phrase.

“No Braidy, you okay?” I ask.

“Mmmmyeah.” He says, throwing himself back in the cab.

“Let’s get you home buddy,” I say. “Come on,” I say and without thinking, I give Mona a kiss on the forehead through her bangs. She tugs me back, reaching into my coat pocket to pull me by my hand.

“What’s that?” I asked.

And without a moment’s hesitation she leaned in and said, “I really want to kiss you right now.”

“Right now?” I kind of chuckled but more out of confusion than humor before kissing her.

“What was that for?” I ask.

“You’re just a good person,” she says and kind of shrugs.

Not counting when we had sex, I kissed her twice in the week that I knew her. Once when Braidy was blowing chunks out the back of that cab and again the night we flew out from London, she was going to stay a few more days. Everyone was filing in at the airport and Braidy had just walked into the terminal after saying bye when she caught me by the arm and pulled me into her.

She didn’t even say bye after that, just kissed me, hopped in her cab and left.

Mona was my first, the ignition of sexual passion at the beginning of my high school years. In retrospect, that night was the start for all of what I had been putting off as someone who claimed “straight edge”. So, I guess I do agree with Wordsworth when he said that sexual passion is the strongest of them all when talking of the origin and creation of poetry.

“Huh…” the word was meant to be a thought but instead came out as an audible alarm to pull me out of my memories and the chain they created.

“Huh, what?” Braidy said, and it was only then that I realized I had made my way from the start of the District Line all the way to his side of town, to his apartment, up the stairs and to his front door.  I tried to suffice the explanation with Braidy’s phrase of “shit works” but he just said, “nah motherfucker, tell me about your trip.”

After throwing myself on his couch, I asked if he still knew Mona

“Well of course I still know her, you don’t stop knowing someone,” he retorted.

“No, I mean,” I stopped and hung my head.

He interrupts my frustration at his being a smart ass and tells me that he and Mona hadn’t spoken much in the past year. She had taken last summer to road-trip around the States, visited everywhere apparently. Braidy got halfway through describing her travels before retrieving a post card from his room. It was from the world’s largest catsup bottle in Illinois, attached was a picture. Mona stood next to it proudly with her hands on her hips, her hair blown wildly in her face by the wind. Apparently this was supposed to be the first of many but the rest were never sent out. Braidy said he got another one when she made her way to Singapore. I lament over the word Singapore for a second before Braidy decides to tell me she’s coming into town at the end of the week. He says he’ll get in touch with her then and see if she wants to hit up a bar or something.

“So Mona is where the Crush left you stranded?” he started to connect the dots.

I told him I don’t know why my mind went there but that’s the path my brain went down. Wordsworth to Mona? From poetry, to the poet, his perception of the world, man’s connection to nature, beauty, passion, strong passion, the strongest of passions, sexual desire, etymology of sexual desire, coming of age, high school, meeting Mona in this city, this city, revisiting now, admiring the skyline, not able to express my longing to return, much like a poet would, or the great “translators” for things we can’t properly articulate as Wordsworth would say, on the train reading this passage on poetry by Wordsworth.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“Yep.”

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say, running the cycle over and over, each time the associations growing in complexity and number and…

Braidy snaps his fingers in my ear and I flinch, “Don’t relapse into the cycle, you still have to help me with this remember?”

I told him I’m sorry and rub my eyes before focusing in on the laptop in front of him.

“Wait, you haven’t signed up for next semester’s courses yet?” I ask.

He laughs and makes a smart remark about how not everyone does it the night the registration opens for them. I spent the rest of the week in my flat, sifting through possible plans for the summer. A few of us wanted to take a trip to the beach, so I started marking the possible weekends I could take off from work. I was reading through the end of a book for the third time when Braidy called me and said Mona wanted to go out with us that weekend. I had only ten pages left in that book but spent the rest of the night sifting through my closet to find something to wear.

“Calm down Rico Suave’” Braidy comments on my clothes as we walk towards the bar together.

“Piss off,” I tell him, half smirking.

We walk into the bar and Mona is sitting there with two other people, one guy and another girl. She stands up and gives Braidy a hug but pauses for a split second at me.

“Holy shit, London!” she finally says, so loud that half the bar looks over at us. We meander through a bit of small talk before I eventually ask how her trip went, but only after Braidy brings the subject up.

She saw everything, got arrested twice, spent a few weeks in Seattle after she ran out of money and lived in her car. Most of it was living in her car, when she passed through cities she knew nobody in, which wasn’t that often apparently. Braidy makes the comment that it’s a wonder she’s not dead.  She went everywhere, Seattle, Toronto, L.A., Houston, Miami, Amish country in Ohio, a concert at the Red Rocks in Colorado. The entire trip is explained in a single breath. The thought of who she saw at the Red Rocks crosses my mind in the middle of it all but Braidy interrupts me, ordering a round for the table and the conversation diverts to what he’s been doing since she left.

His anecdotes aren’t nearly as entertaining and take twice as long to get out.

“We actually just finished school,” he says, jabbing me in the shoulder.

“Really?” Mona’s eyes fix on me for the first time since she realized who I was.

“Yeah,” is all I manage.

“Maybe Braidy can stop slinging Crush and get a real job now,” Mona says.

“I’ve heard that stuff is nothing but terrible trips,” the guy next to her in a sloppy beanie chimes in.

“Not really, it just depends on the user and what’s being used as the current focus being paired with the memory,” I say.

“You’ve tried it?” Mona cocks her head slightly away from me.

“This morning actually!” Braidy proudly states, leaning over the table.

“What did it do to you?” the guy in the beanie asks.

“Nothing just…” I can feel Braidy’s eyes on me, “brought a sort of personal meaning and memory to some classic literature I was reading on the train.”

“Good memory or bad memory?” he asks and for some reason, even though I didn’t owe anything to this guy and Braidy was the only one who knew the truth of the situation, I had to be honest.

“I don’t know?” I say, looking at Mona. Her black shirt clinging tight to her chest. “Anyone got a cigarette?” I ask.

“Why don’t you ask the drug dealer?” sloppy beanie says.

“Why don’t you not point me out as a drug dealer in a public place,” Braidy says through his teeth. “Besides, I don’t smoke.”

“You don’t smoke?”

“No, I don’t smoke,” he says, leaning over the table to lower his tone, “because as much as I enjoy my pharmaceutical endeavors, I hate the idea of my breath constantly smelling like ash.”

“I’ve got one,” Mona says standing up, “I’ll join you.”

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Braidy calls after us.

“I don’t,” I say, unsure of who he was talking to.

“Just started,” she throws back.

“You got a light, love?” she says, motioning towards a guy leaning against the outside of the bar.

“You smoke but don’t have a lighter,” I remark.

“Sounds like me,” she says, lighting the cigarette in my mouth. She thanks the guy with another “love”, he winks at her and she flashes a smile.

“Yeah, I guess it does.” I say back.

“How do you figure?”

“I didn’t mean—”

“No, I know you didn’t. Remember, you’re a nice person,” she pushes me playfully.

“You remember that,” I chuckle.

“So now that it’s just you and me,” she says, “does your memory of me leave a good or bad taste in your mouth?”

“How did…”

“You looked straight at me when talking about your Crush trip and Braidy had that stupid grin on his face when looking at you he gets when he wants to say something so badly but he knows he shouldn’t.”

“Well…” I say and she looks dead at me, “it’s the whole going for a smoke without a lighter. I mean I didn’t think it was possible for someone to live ‘in the now’ anymore than you already were when I met you, but you found a way.”

“Works though doesn’t it?” she says, taking a long drag of the cigarette.

“For you, maybe. I could never be that whimsical.”

“You say that, but you’re nowhere near the boy I met back then and took his virginity.”

I almost choke to death, coughing out smoke, “You knew, huh?”

“You were seventeen, barely could look at me without blushing.”

“I guess you’re right,” I say.

The light at the other end of the street turns green and the flood of traffic is released.

“You’re more bold than I remember,” I say.

“That’s because I am more bold than I was when I met you,” she says, her dark red lipstick leaves stains on the filter each time she puffs.

“I think that’s why I’m not sure.”

“Of?” I can’t tell if she’s being coy or genuine.

“Of whether or not my memory of you is a good or bad one.”

“What does my boldness have to do with that?”

“Because… because there was always this gap between what you knew and what you could say or do and who I was as a person. Like you were a step ahead of me in life.”
“I am older, it’s kind of a package deal.”

“Yeah but then that makes me think that you didn’t enjoy yourself as much as I did all those years ago.”

“If that were true,” she drops the cigarette butt, “does that change anything for you?”

She snuffs the still lit cigarette with her heel and walks in the bar. I walk in just a few steps behind her, as I started my cigarette just a little bit after hers and have grown content my pace.

 

Spring Greetings

Reading Cover

 Hello to you all! We hope your semester is off to a great start. Here are some updates on what’s happening with the Aletheia Journal.

If you weren’t able to pick up a copy of our Fall 2013 chapbook, no worries! We have a digital copy available online over in the ‘Chapbook Archive’ section, and the Nook café on campus also has some physical copies for your viewing pleasure.

Spring is off to a great start! The upcoming chapbook is looking wonderful- you guys sent us fantastic work. We’ll be releasing the printed chapbooks on February 6th at our first reading of the semester. Readings this semester will again take place every first Thursday at Avant Garden, starting at 8pm. Those dates are: Feb 6, March 6, Apr 3, and May 1.

We’ll be posting updates online right here at

http://thealetheiajournal.wordpress.com/ and

https://www.facebook.com/thealetheiajournal

or email us at thealetheiasubmissions@gmail.com

 

We hope to see you soon!

The Aletheia Editors

 

 

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