Thursday, June 30, 2016

New chapbook

On sale now!

WILDERNESS & LOVE (2016)

A limited edition chapbook of poems written or re-envisioned in the early 2010's, during Sturner's first few years in Tennessee. Love, nature, relationships, and the universe are just a few of the themes contemplated within these pages. Contains artwork and photography by family and friends....

PRINT version $5. Includes the cost of shipping. Contact the author for details.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wildflower photo used for book cover

Here's my photo of a rare Mead's Milkweed being used for the cover of Kara Rogers' new book The Quiet Extinction: Stories of North America's Rare and Threatened Plants. Looks like an interesting read.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wildflower photos published in nature magazine

Two of my wildflower photos have been used for an article in the Spring 2016 issue of The Conservationist, a quarterly publication of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (in Illinois). The article, called "Spring Woodland Wildflower Guide," was written by Scott Kobal, an ecologist I know from my days at The Morton Arboretum.

Now is the best time to learn about spring wildflowers, so if you're at all interested in reading the article, visit the following website to get a copy of the magazine. They also have digital versions, which are free.

http://www.dupageforest.com/District_News/The_Conservationist/The_Conservationist.aspx

Friday, March 18, 2016

Whip-poor-will Road (an account)

In birding there are, as we all know, wonderful moments. They happen all the time. But sometimes there are multiple moments that accrete into a singular experience that defies words. "Magical," perhaps? Cheese. But why bother looking for words where none are needed?

Anyway, such an experience was had this morning in Knoxville as I sat in my car at the end of a silent, forested road to listen for a whip-poor-will. It was just before dawn. And while I sat there, glancing at a dark blue sky bordered by black trees, I was lulled into a peaceful state of mind, my breath the only sound for a million miles.... I was about to close my eyes when suddenly a pair of Barred Owls began conversing in the woods to my left. The exchange was brief, yet energetic. Owl romance? Maybe. But I won't speculate as to what they were discussing; that is their business.


For a time things were quiet again after the owls stopped vocalizing (with the exception of a cardinal, whose periodic yawning of a few notes sometimes broke the silence). And then, something unexpected—a low, confident hooting. A Great Horned Owl. I say "unexpected" because the Barred Owls were very close, and the former have been known to kill the latter. I found myself scowling at the bloody-feathered thought when suddenly a friend drove up and shut off her lights. I quickly got out of my car, and together we listened for the whip-poor-will.


By now all the owls were quiet, and the dawn chorus was rising: cardinals, robins, a phoebe. I hated to check the time but I did anyway (I am what I am) and saw that it was 7:09, nine minutes later than when the bird was reported the previous morning.

We cupped our ears anyway, kept listening. Nothing.

And then, at the strike of 7:11, of which a nightjar knows nothing, we heard him: That unmistakable churning out of "whip-poor-will whip-poor-will whip-poor-will" into the purple air. It rose off the wooded slope and elbowed its way through the dawn chorus to greet our ears.... The song only went on for about a minute.

But it went on forever, too.

eBird report: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28377954

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Update on the new chapbook

I'm happy to announce that the new chapbook is nearly done and that orders are now being taken! The cost is 5 bucks, which includes shipping. I'm also happy to reveal that partial proceeds will go to Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, a very special place in my community.

Please email me if you are interested in purchasing the book.

FYI: The book contains 20 randomly themed poems (love, nature, happy, sad, etc.) as well as other bits of writing. To make up for the relatively small amount of material, the book also contains wonderful artwork by Stephen Lyn Bales, Vickie Henderson, Bryan O'Blivion, and Kyle Sturner, along with photographs by Melinda Fawver, Bill Foster, Barry Spruce, Kelly Sturner, Jimmy Tucker, and myself.


Thank you to everyone who preorders the book. I REALLY appreciate the support!

Jay

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Brown-shaded Gray

I love this time of year, when first-of-spring things mingle with last-of-winter things. This morning I've juncos, finches, and siskins zipping about the yard, winter birds not quite ready to return to their breeding grounds. Beyond them, down in some wet spot in the woods, newly awakened chorus frogs and peepers are crying out for mates. They'll come, and an orgy will ensue--you can be sure of that. And then there are the less noticeable beauties (all around us, if we're looking) such as this Brown-shaded Gray moth, watching me silently from the patio window as I go about my morning. Soon this cryptic critter will flitter off to do whatever it is such quiet, mysterious things do (probably sleep on a tree somewhere, if I know anything at all) and I'll be sorry to see him go. Thankfully he'll return at dusk--along with the bats and Barred Owls--when he and others like him cling to the house like little impermanent ornaments to bask in the artificial lights. Call me crazy, but I really look forward to seeing them.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Horror story featured on audio podcast

Tales to Terrify has just released an audio performance of my horror story "The Blackout Killer" on their website and via iTunes and other outlets. It was read and recorded by the talented Rock Manor, who succeeded in making it creepier than I had imagined it! Have a listen (story starts at 34 minutes in and is about 15 minutes long). http://talestoterrify.com/tales-to-terrify-208-kurtagich-sturner/

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ghoul of the Enamel

Tonight, we sense him, hiding in the sunken shadows of the bedroom: a ghoul creeping silent, forcing quiet the other monsters. Chunks of enamel, grooved by nightly gnawing, fatten his belly. And our own teeth tighten in the jaw, fight the urge to drop and slip away, to escape his gluttonous rage. You see, the foul thing broke from fairy law: took to ripping out the loose teeth of children, a calcareous shit slipped beneath their bloodied pillows in a gesture of defiance; a jab at us proper fairies. And though imprisoned for a time in the amber caves, he broke free—saber arms flapping and chipping with madness.

Now we wait within this toy-box, scanning the room for residual energies: the moans of bloody roots, the chattering of crowns, the hissing red of severed nerves…. Such things betray his whereabouts.


At last we fly and crawl from the moonlit box, our eyes narrowed and our tongues writhing with an invocation. How swift, how sweet the coming of revenge from its ancient lair! Soon the children will sleep soundly; none will recall the ghoul’s attack. Money will distribute where due, and the status of the tooth fairy will once again be restored to its innocuous state. Because tonight we are going to pounce on the fiend. Unravel his existence. Shred into his stomach and take back what is ours.




First published in the Summer 2015 issue of Spectral Realms.

We Call Them the Gods

There are men in the sky, and we call them the gods. Their beards shine with the light of rejected stars, harbor failed empires and the wailing souls of extinct hominids. Always their dark, playful eyes are hot with mischief. They delight in a belief that the goddesses are impressed by their creations, amused even. Surely they got a kick out of Homo sapiens, that inferior clay fumbling wildly over the layout of design. Such fodder for comedy. But in dull pockets of timelessness, when the bearded ones are idle, the goddesses—because it is their way—have been known to nurture Earth’s fetal spirit, to channel love there, to fire-open seeds of art and philosophy, to spark the ambitious theories we never prove. Myriad tasks are assigned to fairies, mystics and angels; demons too, if it should lead to a truth. Much then becomes nurtured in the hidden spectrums of our souls, in the heart of posterity. There are men in the sky, and there are women. These are the gods.


First published in the Spring 2015 issue of Tales of the Talisman.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gold 'n' Blue Sunrise

Gold ‘n’ Blue Sunrise
Forks of the River WMA, Knoxville, TN
July 7, 2015

On glistening sunflowers,
In ghosts of morning mist,
Whistle-buzzy buntings
Open us to joy.

Indigo Bunting by Jimmy Tucker



(From the book Wilderness & Love)


Thursday, June 18, 2015

On a hiatus

UPDATE: I am currently on a hiatus from writing while I raise my son Garion (he's just over 5 months old). I now spend much of my free time leading nature hikes in East Tennessee, mostly around Knoxville and in the Great Smoky Mountains. At this time I do not know when or if I'll return to writing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Climbing Rose in a Ruin

Somewhere between soft touching
and hard kissing, I swerved into love;
somewhere between a dead end
and a wreck at a hairpin turn.

I wrote exotic poems for her,
sang them through a hedge of nettle and wire.
And when she drained my heart pallid
I crumbled comatose for years, for years.

O rose of my chest, bramble of the bones,
where love sleeps amid a ruin of brick and leaf—
Bloom in my teeth, pollinate the tongue.
Press your thorns gently to the backs of my eyes!



(From the book Wilderness & Love)

Winter from Below

Oak leaves tremble in the wind,
drip with recent rain.
They turn orange and fall
to know winter from below.

I know winter from above.
My place at the window,
coffee in hand
as thoughts rise and take shape.

I’ve seen the leaves shine and die.
Seen them shake in storms
and fall from crowns.
From this I have gathered insight:

In each moment, a heart shines,
a body dies. Lives bend beneath wind.
They’ll all go orange inside
to know winter from below.

One day I too will fade:
drip with a lifetime of storms—
float leaf-like
into the hands of winter.



(From the book Wilderness & Love)

White Heart

See the eagle spread his wings,
soar across the sky of white dreams.
Watch as a million arms reach
for a falling feather on the breeze.

See the elders shake their hair,
fling an old song to the four seas.
Watch as oiled machines
plow through red clay and sky.

We of this country burn with the hope
of softening our heart’s history,
yet polish our cups of tarnished gold,
strike with hot guns and false tongues.

We drive stakes into the skin of Earth,
hang our hats on melting icebergs.
How long till we clip the eagle’s wings?
Stick him in a cage all fat and tame?


(From the book Wilderness & Love)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Poem published in 2015 Rhysling Award Anthology

Earlier this year my poem "Intimate Universes" was nominated for a Rhysling Award in the Short Poem Category. Winners have not yet been announced, but an anthology containing all the nominated poems is currently for sale.

Paperback and PDF copies can be purchased through the Science Fiction Poetry Association website (you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page). Paperback copies are also available at Amazon and CreateSpace. A few other places may also be selling it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Post-Funeral Mission (to Mars)

This fantasy prose poem (or vignette) was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Tales of the Talisman, and is semiautobiographical.


Post-Funeral Mission (to Mars)

As the airplane enters the towering clouds, Billy spies wispy ghosts and shifting white valleys. What is turbulence to everyone else, to Billy is scratching fog-fingers and the bites of monstrous jaws.

His grandma snores beside him. Others resign to airport novels, electronics, and the anticipation of the cart. Humming engines and whooshing air vents backdrop the cries of a baby, of two teenage girls absorbed in gossip.

Billy peers out the cold, turbid window, sees Harryhausen beasts run amok through the floating landscape: dinosaurs gnawing on cars and bridges, a distant Cyclops ripping a train off its tracks.

A break in the clouds reveals a stretch of suburbia, baseball fields where an interest in sports fell short of home plate. All around, long thin roads blink with ant-cars: “More people die in car crashes than in planes, you know,” his parents once said, not long before the accident.

The edge of an approaching cirrus cloud swirls over the wings: here comes Conan through the smoke of battle, sword dripping with ruddy sunlight. He charges an army of angry skeletons—bones and skulls sailing through the fog.

Suburbia slides back into view, its rooftops the color of cigarette ash, a string of retention ponds like chicory weeds in a cracked parking lot. His father’s voice: “Earth to Billy, Earth to Billy—grab me another beer!”

A return to clouds, where Charles Knight mammoths [ding] struggle in [ding] tar pits [ding].

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Please fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronics. We’ll be landing shortly. Thank you, and good luck.”

Someone kicks the back of Billy’s seat. The baby shrieks. Others shut books, fumble with personal items. Grandma adds a wheeze to her snores.

Suddenly a woman’s voice blasts through the intercom static; the voice is distant, yet familiar: “Mars to Billy . . . —ars to Billy . . . —der alien attack! . . . You are des—rately needed . . . Please—ome at once!”

A space suit drops from an overhead compartment. The plane becomes a silver rocket. Billy squeezes past his grandma to the aisle, climbs into the suit, snaps on the helmet. The passengers dissolve as he heads for the cockpit. Outside, the clouds turn red.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Photos of author Jason Sturner (Jay Sturner)

At my grandmother's house in Park Forest, Illinois.

Ring bearer for my uncle's wedding, Park Forest, Illinois.


Author photo for Kairos, my first book of poetry.

Author photo for Selected Poems 2004-2007.

At the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

With poet Nikki Giovanni in Knoxville, TN.

Sitting at my computer in Knoxville.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Poem nominated for Best of the Net 2014

Thank you to Nastia Lenkova, editor of the webzine Work to a Calm, for nominating my poem "Poet" for this year's Best of the Net. The poem appeared in the October 2013 issue of the webzine.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Intimate Universes

Intimate Universes
Inspired by the theory that cosmic branes (of a multiverse) can touch and influence one another

Their “kiss” lasted but one millionth of a second,
though truly timeless and spared of angels; a mere gleam
in the dreaming eye of Pan; the first quiver of life in primordial ooze.
A singularity popped off the tongue of a howling black hole,
expanded where nascent gods toss rose petals over looping,
cosmic currents, shot plasma-fire blue into the nothing of our universe—
a universe silent as an ash-covered opera—until the chaos of cooling atoms
induced space-time and spark, lending symphonic gravity
to the tenacity of evolution, to the intangibles of consciousness.
 

This poem was nominated for a 2015 Rhysling Award. It was later published in the book Wilderness & Love.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Poem published in 2014 Rhysling Award Anthology

Earlier this year my poem "Faerystruck Down" was nominated for a Rhysling Award in the Short Poem Category. Winners have not yet been announced, but an anthology containing all the nominated poems is currently for sale.

Paperback and PDF copies can be purchased through the Science Fiction Poetry Association website (you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page). Paperback copies are also available at CreateSpace. Amazon and a few other places will be selling the book soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leaving the Old Us

It’s a perfect time to release our birds,
Caged for far too long and submerged in dark.
Constant fright has hurt their eyes,
Trembled the beak and silenced the song.

It’s a suitable time to drain our home,
Flooded for years and unknown to breathe.
Rising water has wrinkled its design,
Drowned the art and soaked the dreams . . .

Birds spill from waterfall windows,
Ignite their songs and fill up the trees.
Bloated sharks writhe in the sun,
Cough up the tar and spit out the bones.

Today we sail in the wake of an albatross,
Colored by sunrise and bound for the sea.
It’s an auspicious time to leave ones past,
Desalt the eye and lift the anchor.

 


(From the book Wilderness & Love)


Girl with the Crooked Spine

Her skin is like leather. What remains of her reddish blond hair sits in a tuft beside her mummified head. She has no arms or legs, though both her feet and right hand lay alongside her torso. The eyes deteriorated almost two thousand years ago, long before her well-preserved body was dug out of the peat in the village of Yde in Bourtangermoor, Netherlands, and placed in this traveling exhibit. She was sixteen years old the day she died, and her spine, not unlike Patrick’s, was horribly twisted by scoliosis.

Archaeologists call her Yde Girl. Patrick calls her Edie.

Propped up next to the body’s display case is a reconstruction photo, a wax head that depicts what the teen might have looked like in life. Here she has long, wavy, reddish blonde hair, an oddly high forehead, and what some might consider an intelligent yet sad countenance.

Other attractions in the Bog Bodies of Europe exhibit include Lindow Man, Tollund Man, and the Girl of the Uchter Moor, among others, each fragmented body displayed in small, personalized exhibit rooms adjoined by dim corridors.

* * *

It is a late Sunday afternoon in January. Snow accumulates outside the Field Museum in Chicago, long drifts rising across the steps of the main entrance. In the distance, Snowy Owls, on winter leave from Canada, sit on elongated water breaks, their sleepy, golden eyes scanning for ducks on the gray surface of Lake Michigan. Few cars populate the streets, and despite the storm, Patrick has come to see Edie. It’s his fourth visit.

Patrick wiggles out of his backpack, letting it slide down his left shoulder, the side of him that is slightly higher than his right. Hiding behind red bangs, he glances at Edie’s reconstruction photo, the version of her he prefers (though he does address the fragmented body now and then, so as to not seem disrespectful). He unzips his backpack, retrieves a spiral notebook.

“How are you today?” Patrick asks her shyly. “Man, there’s a really n-nasty storm out there. We almost didn’t come, but I told my mom I had to take notes for a research paper on bog bodies, and that it’s due tomorrow.” He laughs. “She has no idea I made the whole thing up! Anyway, we came here on the bus today and walked around a bit. She’s over in the gift shop now.”

Though Edie’s hardships had undoubtedly been more profound than his own, Patrick did identify with how he imagined she must have felt. Surely she had been stared at, pointed at, laughed at—all by ignorant and superstitious people that did not, or would not, understand her deformity. This deformity had probably led to her death, as it was theorized she had been brutally beaten, choked, and stabbed in a sacrifice to the gods.

Now the ancient girl’s naked remains lay exposed in wizened, leathery fragments atop a sterile white slab—a static, lonely darkness curling tightly about her glass display case. Worst of all is the frayed rope, an instrument of her death, still wrapped loosely about her neck.

“You should’ve seen it, Edie,” Patrick says, shuffling closer to the photo. “There’s this gorgeous Cecropia Moth in the entomology exhibit. It’s huge!” He shifts his torso to the right in an attempt to gain comfort in his back brace. “You know, it’s the largest saturniid—I-I mean, giant silk moth—in North America. At night, in summer, you can find them by artificial lights.”

Realizing she may not understand “artificial lights,” Patrick gestures to the track lighting over her display case.

“Most people aren’t even aware those types of moths exist. It’s kinda sad, actually.” He drops his eyes, follows a swirl in the floor pattern, then quietly adds, “Before my dad died, he used to show me all the best places to find them. That’s when I really got interested in science and stuff.”

Frowning, he bites his lower lip. “I keep trying to get my mom to go find them with me, but besides butterflies, she pretty much hates insects. She thinks they’re all going to bite her. My friend Andrew, though, he used to help me catch them all the time. He even had his own net. That was awhile ago though, before he got hooked on video games n’ stuff. So . . . I usually just go out by myself now. Kinda lame, huh?”

Edie lays silent in her display case. All is quiet but for the subdued howling of the wind over the museum.

With growing acceptance, Patrick has imagined that Edie’s presence now lingers inside the tight space of the exhibit. The presence grows stronger, more feminine—more intimate it seems—with each of his visits. And today, perhaps because the museum is virtually empty, he welcomes the feeling that she has leaned up against his crooked body and under his arm for comfort, the snowstorm blowing forcefully across the high roof. In such an atmosphere, mixed with the quietude of the museum’s closing hour, Patrick thinks he can hear her breathing within the persistent drone of the heating vents, occasionally feeling a slight flinch from her asymmetrical shoulders when a far-off door slams or a noisy child disturbs the tranquility. Her hair gives off the scent of heather, or so he imagines, and this makes him feel as if they are together in a lush, boundless moor.

“I wrote you something,” Patrick confesses, opening his notebook. “It’s nothing special, just—”

He flips to the desired page, freckled face turning a light shade of red. “Well, it’s . . . it’s sort of a poem.”

He begins to read quietly, so as to not be heard outside the thin, temporary walls of the exhibit. He struggles a bit with the title: “To a Girl from Bourt-a-an-ger-moor.”

The track lighting flickers, its low, electric hum filling the boxed-in exhibit space. Yde Girl’s reconstruction photo stares across the room as Patrick begins to read.

“For Edie, from Patrick.”

Shadows pulsate across the off-white walls, stretch and retract as the display lights continue to flicker. Patrick twists his torso, presses a free hand over his back brace. His voice grows soft.

“I am here, as a friend
a kindred soul from tomorrow
to offer my heart and mind
to a girl who knows much sorrow”

The storm howls and whips across the sky. And though the massive building seems impenetrable, a rogue wind finds its way in and wanders sharply down the marmoreal, columned halls. Floor by floor it brushes against glass cases and interpretive signs of myriad exhibits, past the Charles Knight murals, in and out of gift shop and café, through the angry skeleton of Sue the T. rex.

“Oh my gawd, Brian, this one is really gross!” A woman in her early twenties, holding hands with a guy who looks visibly exhausted by the museum, comes bounding into Yde Girl’s exhibit from the corridor. Patrick back steps into the darkness. The woman snaps a few quick, thoughtless pictures of the bog body with her cell phone and the couple giggles their way out.

Patrick sighs, shakes his head as he eases back into the weak light of the display case. “I’m so sick of people like that. Stupid, self-centered idiots—I hate them!”

For several minutes he stares into a corner, lost in thought. He turns back to Yde Girl’s reconstruction photo, admires her through the curtain of his dangling hair then says, “I’m sorry, Edie. I just get so mad sometimes. I don’t get why people have to act like that. It’s beyond rude!” He regards Edie’s fragmented remains. “And you know what else? I wouldn’t care if I never saw another human being again for as long as I live. I’m serious. There isn’t anyone else besides you that I—” He turns away, blushing. “Never mind. I’m sure you’re sick of me by now, anyway. I’ll just . . . I’ll just finish reading this stupid thing and go.”

He lifts the notebook, angles it into the light. Dust falls from the edge of the display case as a large mote floats into the darkness. He finds his place in the poem.

“I give you these words
that arose from our meeting
to help end the loneliness
that the both of us are feeling

An announcement comes over the loudspeaker, indicating that the museum will be closing in ten minutes.

“Patrick, the museum’s going to close in ten minutes.” It’s Patrick’s mother. She’s sticking her head into the exhibit.

“I know, mom. Everyone hears that announcement. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Just letting you know. We need to get going or we’ll miss the next bus.”

Her head retreats into the corridor and Patrick follows her footsteps as they move along the walls of the exhibit, going a short distance until they reach a nearby bench. He hears her sit down and rummage through her purse.

Patrick rolls his eyes. “Parents,” he says in a low voice. In the photo, Yde Girl stares off to Patrick’s left. The eye sockets of her partially collapsed head are set directly on him.

A bit unsteady on his feet, and grimacing in pain from having stood too long in one spot, Patrick supports the bulk of his weight against the display case as he recites the final lines of the poem.

“Let’s break the barrier
let’s walk hand in hand
across the moors of time & space
to a city of our own land”

A security guard approaches the exhibit as he goes about his route.

“My son’s in there,” Patrick’s mother says, pointing with one hand and snapping shut her compact with the other. “He’s taking notes for a school paper. He’ll be out in just a minute.” She smiles at the man, who responds with a lazy yawn. Outside, the blizzard presses up against the museum.

And then—pop!

Shards of broken glass crackle to the floor and echo across the museum.

The guard spins on his heel, tears a flashlight from his belt, scrambles into the exhibit. Patrick’s mother follows, slams into the man as they dead stop at the other end of the corridor. A low, rolling fog drifts past their legs. The odor of rotten peat permeates the air.

The fog, having floated out of Yde Girl’s demolished display case, starts to dissipate. Now visible on the white slab, and wobbling to a stop, is Patrick’s back brace, the rope from the bog body underneath it. Neither the boy nor Yde Girl are anywhere in sight.

Patrick’s mother screams. The security guard throws a meaty arm across her lunging body as he yells into his radio. She falls back, shouts her son’s name from the wall. The guard steps forward cautiously, shines his flashlight into each corner of the room.

Nothing.

Worried about the broken glass, and troubled by the realization that the display case blew apart from the inside out, he grabs the woman by the arm and pulls her out of the exhibit. No further trace of Patrick or Yde Girl was ever found.
 
 
THE END
 
 
First published in Volume 9, Issue 2 of Electric Spec.