Wild Greens

Volume 2, Issue x

Mediocrity

Wild Greens 2, no. 10 (August 2022)

Mediocrity

Welcome to the August 2022 issue of Wild Greens

My nephew Anthony, who is nine years old, is an artist of first-rate ability. He excels at drawing maps in particular, capturing the craggy coastlines of islands and arbitrary boundary lines of geopolitical states—some maps real, others imagined. He also has a surprisingly keen eye for comedic timing in animation, which never fails to crack me up.

The other day we were sitting at the kitchen table, coming up with activities to pass the slow summer day. “How is Wild Greens?” he asked, picking up a marker and a piece of paper. “Oh it’s great,” I replied. “Do you want to draw something for us?” “Yes!” he exclaimed, and then asked if he could see our logo. I explained that we change it every month. I pulled up the folder of all of the ones we’ve used, and after briefly studying our aesthetic, Anthony hand drew a perfectly neat “WG” in gold above a strawberry. Two helpful captions accompany the strawberry: “Wild Greens” points to the leaves and stem of the strawberry. “Wild Strawberry” helpfully labels the red berry near the top.

I showed the family, and we all swooned and sighed over it, but when asked whether I was going to include it in the issue I balked. “I can’t include Anthony in this one.” I protested. “The theme is mediocrity!” And my nine-year-old nephew is anything but mediocre.

Thus, the problem with mediocrity. We reject its application to our loved ones, our friends, to everything and everyone except ourselves and our art. I heard from many people about this theme over the last month, and the primary takeaway was that we all feel mediocre, inadequate, and uninspired, pretty much all the time, and especially when we’re creating.

But if I learned anything from putting together this issue, it’s that what we find mediocre can be a source of beauty. It’s not all highs and lows; there is peace in the everyday. People wrote about the mediocre as a source of inspiration, and even as a source of peace, of coming to terms with our inadequacies in the face of a world that demands perfection.

One caveat: theme aside, you won’t find a shred of mediocrity in this issue.

Hiram Larew’s playful poem “Intentions” speaks to the inadequacies of language. “Sorry Not Sorry,” the newest Turtle and Hare, to the difficulty of apologies.

Sean Hughes’s essay “The Pleasures of Competence” examines the unlikely draw of a perfectly okay movie, not a masterpiece, not a failure… just competent. Irina Novikova’s wax crayons and paper triptych “Untitled” finds peace in the lull of feeling uninspired, in the “backwater” of mediocrity.

Lauren Kimball’s longform comic, “Late: Three Weeks and Twenty-Four Hours With a Deadline” explores the artist’s difficulty with meeting deadlines, and finds an unlikely comfort in time passed and deadlines missed. (Editor’s note: Lauren has never missed a Wild Greens deadline.)

Carly Lewis’s “When Sami Comes to Visit” relishes the quiet moments of long-lasting friendship. Susan Marie Radloff’s watercolor still life, entitled “First Still Life,” finds beauty in the domestic, in the commonplace.

Melissa Lomax’s “Sometimes It’s Okay,” speaks to the difficulty of being a self-employed artist and the pressures to always be producing. It’s okay, she says, to take some time for yourself. Fern Marshall’s “Gentle instructions for finding beauty in the humdrum” is a blueprint for how to take that time.

Follow Fern’s instructions and you are guaranteed to find joy in the unremarkable, inspiration in the humdrum, and wonder at the beauty of the everyday.

-Rebecca

Intentions

by Hiram Larew

How maybe so gives up

or really should haves sneak off

and only ifs are only said


Or how that just make do forgoes

While really hope so turns to fog

or we knew better never does


How those best wishes

are almost always not

Like that’s a shame is useless


It seems so easy

to say away so little —

To care like all the air inside of

dear oh dear

Sorry Not Sorry

by Lauren Kimball


Digital stylus


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The Pleasures of Competence

by Sean Hughes

I know why I like terrible movies. They give me a giddy, punch-drunk feeling. They fail to engage me in their world, but they’re too weird to ignore, so my judgment and my attention are left to frolic in their aesthetic failures. But I’m not sure what I get out of mediocre movies. I don’t mean genre exercises or movies with brilliant set-pieces surrounded by nonsense. We know what we’re looking for when we watch a movie where break dancers raise money to save the rec center or someone uses roundhouse kicks to save the United States. What about those movies that have everything going for them but still don’t work?

I saw My Best Friend’s Wedding less than twenty-four hours ago, and I can already feel it fading out of my memory. Julia Roberts plays a career-focused food writer who’s always warded off romantic intimacy, but desperately tries to break up her best friend’s engagement with a twenty-year-old college student (Cameron Diaz) because she wants him all to herself. Roberts fails in her quest, but her gay friend (Rupert Everett) flies across the country so she has someone to dance with at the wedding. There’s a hole at the center of this movie because the titular best friend has a personality with no distinguishing marks, and he’s played by a wet log that changed its name to Dermot Mulroney when it joined SAG.

When talented people make a film that’s less than the sum of its parts, the best moments can stir up your admiration for moviemaking without making you admire the movie. There’s a scene where Roberts is sitting in the hall of a hotel, sadly smoking a cigarette after confessing to a reprehensible act of deception. When an employee, played by a baby-faced Paul Giamatti, comes to tell her that the whole floor is nonsmoking, she apologizes but offers him a puff before he goes on his way. He accepts, and they smoke a little, face to face. This moment, with that specifically 90s attitude towards cigarettes, wordlessly expresses the hope that we can still be worthy of forbearance and intimacy after we feel like we’ve ruined everything. It isn’t integral to the movie, but it’s my favorite use of actors and cameras throughout the whole thing.

The best scenes in a mediocre movie can capture the most ephemeral things about their historical moment. About halfway through the movie, Roberts tries to sabotage her best friend’s fiancé by taking the couple to a karaoke bar, knowing that his child bride is a terrible singer. When Roberts forces her to sing, Diaz does her best as the heckling crowd is slowly won over and ends up cheering her. Everything about this scene feels false, but it works cinematically. You can’t really believe that this is how Roberts’s character would try to undermine her friend’s affection for this young woman, but she sells it in the long takes. As the crowd is learning to love Diaz, Roberts can convey the suppressed dread that her plan is failing, which is also the dread of no longer being preferred. And that’s one of the fears that cameras are made to explore. Even though you can’t really believe any karaoke bar would be set up like this, maybe that’s all for the best. The scene feels like it was made by people who’ve never done karaoke but are projecting their desires and fears onto it—just right for 1997.

It’s from a time when movies were still one of the primary ways adults processed contemporary life. I could imagine what it would be like back then to feel like it was worth the ticket to see movie stars fondly remember an old pop song, nod at our anxieties, and wear new clothes. The pleasure of competency has a strange way of obviating the movies where we find it. Sometimes, pleasantly wasted time is the closest thing to the ineffable feeling of being in the present.

Untitled

by Irina Novikova


Wax crayons, paper


Inspiration: For me, mediocrity is a kind of lull, like a backwater. Where the flow of water has stopped, the backwater will then be cleaned. Mud and algae will be taken out, but now, when the time comes for peace and quiet real estate, then when you want to stop and look at the greenery of grass or forests, it's like an eternal meadow filled with flowers. For some reason, I remember one name, Charcoal Feather Federation, a Japanese animated film (there were about 25 episodes), where the action takes place in some almost perfect world. There is a forge, there is also a shop where buns and bread are baked, and people live there after death and have gray wings behind their backs. There is silence and no evil. Another comparison that comes to mind is the name of Violet Evergarden, a girl who fought in the war and then began to write wonderful, feeling-filled letters. Probably mediocrity, but for me it's peace.


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Late: Three Weeks and Twenty-Four Hours with a Deadline

by Lauren Kimball


Digital stylus


Inspiration: I am mediocre at meeting important deadlines. I am pretty excellent at being about 24 hours late. Usually, I avoid confronting this source of shame in my life, but this month's theme inspired me to explore it.


Editor's note: For mobile users, turn phone to landscape mode for best viewing.

When Sami Comes to Visit

by Carly Lewis

Talk about that kind of love where it’s been months, years, and it’s finally the day. Talk about going to the train station and seeing her face, watching her run to the car so balance is restored. Talk about talking, of all and nothing—laughing and singing, maybe crying—all in the span of minutes.

Talk about sleeping, then waking. Of wiggling toes at the covers’ edges because it’s funnier with two pairs.

Talk about early rising in search of fresh pastries—the little ones that look like bells, with the vanilla pudding center. Talk about the last two in the case, a small victory. Talk about the quiet savor of that first bite, and wishing there were three more each.

Talk about existing in the same space. Reading a book. Discussing it. Is it time for a cuppa? Perhaps another pastry. Perhaps two, one each.

Talk about an evening walk, when the sun is preparing for rest. The duck pond looks lovely tonight. Mind the geese. Talk about the conversation, all and nothing.

One bottle of wine, red, dry. Talk about watching that one show. The one that takes place in a different world. The one that looks so much better.

Talk about the days that exist exactly the same as the first, how fast they move and how quickly they end.

How fine it would be if every day were just like this.

First Still Life

by Susan Marie Radloff


Watercolor


Inspiration: I wanted to try, for the first time, painting a still life. This watercolor represents a real, simplistic scene. Simple beauty that is not always recognized in the commonplace household setting.


Sometimes It's Okay

by Melissa Lomax


Digital drawing & color


Inspiration: As a self-employed illustrator, cartoonist and creative teacher, it's so easy for me to feel like I should always be “doing something productive.” But, sometimes, just chilling is the BEST thing “to do”! Enjoying the simple moments in each day brings harmony to my life and makes me feel even more grateful. Being the creator of an autobiographical weekly comic called, Doodle Town, I celebrate “everyday moments” and often find magic in the mediocrity!

Gentle instructions for finding beauty in the humdrum

by Fern Marshall

Go outside. Notice. Collect fragments of joy—the vibrating chest of a blackbird singing on a bare tree in November, a purple haze of lupins lining a train track. Hold them close—in your heart, in your palm. Write them down. Talk about them. Take a photograph. Look up. Look down. Look at a dandelion close-up, and then look at everything all at once. Look at the colours. Listen birdsong, bee-hum, rustling grasses. Touch soft velvet leaf, delicate petal, fallen feather. Smell fennel, pineapple weed, blushing rose. Seek small, scrappy beaches and tiny harbours with bobbing boats. Look up—peach sunset, translucent moon, glinting weathervanes. Look down—pastel chalk drawings, damp petals, puddles reflecting the sky. Find a park and walk barefoot, then lie back on a constellation of daisies and clover and watch the pale bellies of swifts swoop overhead. Find a lilac tree or a tiny garden full of roses and visit it each year when it blooms. Learn the names of the flowers and trees you see and greet them as friends. In almost every moment, there is a piece of the natural world nearby to steady you—a square of window, a breath of fresh wind, a tiny flower. Pay attention to the seasons, the shifting skies, the ever-changing moon. Watch plants bud, bloom, and fade away. Let it remind you that nothing is permanent. Go outside in all weathers, in clothes that keep you dry and warm, but remember to turn your face to the skies. Let the rain and hail and snow kiss your face.

Artists and Contributors

Hiram Larew

Poet

Hiram Larew's (he/him) latest collection of poems, Mud Ajar, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press. He is the Founder of Poetry X Hunger and lives in Maryland. www.HiramLarewPoetry.com and www.PoetryXHunger.com

Lauren Kimball

Artist

Lauren Kimball (she/her) lives in Philadelphia. She teaches literature and composition at Rutgers University - New Brunswick. In her spare time, she plays with paint, digital pens, words, and home improvement tools.


You can find her comics on Instagram @turtle_n_hare_comic.

Sean Hughes

Poet and Poetry Editor

Sean Hughes (he/him) is a writer and editor who's grateful to live in Philadelphia. He has a PhD from Rutgers where he studied Victorian Literature and also thought about ethics, historicism, poetics, and criticism. He used to co-host the Blackbox Poetry Podcast. He co-writes a webcomic called “Wally and the Witches.”

Irina Novikova

Artist

Irina Novikova (she/her) is an artist, graphic artist, and illustrator. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art, and also has a bachelor's degree in design.

The first personal exhibition "My soul is like a wild hawk" (2002) was held in the Museum of Maxim Bagdanovich. In her works, she raises themes of ecology. In 2005 she devoted a series of works to the Chernobyl disaster, drawing on anti-war topics. The first big series she drew was The Red Book, dedicated to rare and endangered species of animals and birds. She writes fairy tales and poems, and also illustrates short stories. She draws various fantastic creatures, including unicorns and animals with human faces. She especially likes the image of a woman and bird—a Siren. In 2020, she took part in Poznań Art Week.


You can find her on social media: @irinanov4155 and @irina1187novikova


Carly Lewis

Writer

Carly Lewis (she/her) is a visual and written storyteller residing in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A graduate of Hollins University's creative writing and film programs, she tries to find a meeting place in the middle of those two subjects, creating a specific atmosphere or a surreal, different world entirely in her pieces. She has a taste for artists who break the rules, and has even written about them in Spindle Magazine, LARB's Publishing Workshop journal, PubLab, and as a contributor to the Write or Die Tribe writer's collective. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter at @carlyisclary.

Susan Marie Radloff

Artist

Susan Marie Radloff

Artist

Susan Marie Radloff (she/her) lives in Corona, California, where she served on the board of the Corona Art Association as Art Show Coordinator. Her love for painting began when she was 11 years old. Since then, she's worked with acrylics, oils, pencils, and most recently, watercolors. You can find more of her artwork at her website: suemarie.com.


Melissa Lomax

Artist

Melissa Lomax (she/her) is a freelance illustrator, art teacher, and cartoonist, with 20 years of experience in the creative industry. Some of her clients include American Greetings, Recycled Paper Greetings, Sellers Publishing and Highlights for Children. Her comic 'Doodle Town' posts on GoComics.com, the largest catalog of syndicated cartoons and comics. When she is not in the art studio, she enjoys spending time in nature, drinking really good coffee, and 'everyday adventures' with her husband. Pop by her Instagram @melissalomaxart for weekly inspiration!


Fern Marshall

Writer

Fern Marshall (she/her) is a writer and welfare rights worker based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Writing is a source of solace and escape for her, with a focus on nature and mental health. Her work has appeared in Little Livingroom and BlueHouse Journal. She is on Instagram, @fernmarshal.

Jessica Doble

Poetry Editor

Jessica Doble (she/her) holds a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She's published two critical works: “Hope in the Apocalypse: Narrative Perspective as Negotiation of Structural Crises in Salvage the Bones” Xavier Review, and “Two-Sides of the Same Witchy Coin: Re-examining Belief in Witches through Jeannette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate” in All about Monsters. Her poetry has appeared in PubLab and Wild Greens magazine.

Myra Chappius

Copyeditor

Myra Chappius (she/her) is the author of six works of fiction and poetry. While her passion lies with shorter creations, it is her aspiration to complete a full-length novel and screenplay someday. She enjoys reading, music, travel, and learning. When not doing mom things, she is working full-time, seeing the latest movie, or waiting an acceptable length of time before returning to Universal Orlando to satiate her Harry Potter obsession.


You can follow Myra on Instagram at @inwordform. Her work can be purchased on Amazon or at www.reverebyjnicole.com


Jacqueline Ruvalcaba

Fiction Editor

Jacqueline (she/her) is a senior undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside, working toward earning her BA in English and creative writing. She was a 2021 publishing fellow with the Los Angeles Review of Books and served as a co-editor, copyeditor, and producer on the fourth issue of PubLab journal. As a bookworm, writer, and homebody at heart, she spends her spare time looking for new fictional worlds she can lose herself in and working on crafting stories of her own.

Tim Brey

Music Editor

Tim Brey (he/him) is a jazz pianist living in Philadelphia. He holds positions as Artist-in-Residence and Adjunct Faculty at Temple University and The University of the Arts, where he teaches jazz piano, music theory, and improvisation. Check out more of his music and his performance schedule at https://www.timbreymusic.com.

Maggie Topel

Artist

Maggie Topel (she/her) is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. She designs our seasonal Wild Greens logo and social media avatar.


Hayley Boyle

Arts Editor

Hayley Boyle (she/her) creates the cover image for each issue of Wild Greens magazine and serves as the Arts Editor. Hayley is a social justice seeker, world traveler, rock climber, dog snuggler, frisbee player, event planner, and storyteller. She loves to paint with watercolors, embroider, and write. She grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, and to this day she still turns to those genres to help her make sense of the world. She calls Philadelphia home and wouldn't have it any other way. You can find Hayley on Instagram @hayley3390 or @haypaints. She accepts commissions, and you can find examples of her work on her website.

Rebecca Lipperini

Editor-in-chief

Rebecca Lipperini (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and academic living in Philadelphia, and the founding editor of Wild Greens magazine (hi!). She holds a PhD in English from Rutgers University, where she taught all kinds of classes on literature and poetry and writing, and wrote all kinds of papers on the same. Her essay on the soothing aesthetics of the supermarket was recently published in PubLab.


You can find Rebecca on Instagram @rebeccalipperini (personal) @wildgreensmag (you already know it).