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I don’t like airport food. It’s terrible. It’s all chain restaurants. Everything is overpriced. It’s like finding yourself on some tiny island run by a dictator who can set whatever prices he wants. It’s tyranny. The service is bad, too. Most of the people there seem to be unhappy, probably because they are working in the airport, which seems to me like it’d be a crappy job, and that makes me unhappy. Especially since I have the privilege of making decent money waiting tables and am still unhappy about it, even though I could do something else if I really wanted to, I just don’t want to, there are people way worse off than me, and I don’t really have the right to be unhappy. And really, who am I to even think working in an airport restaurant kiosk thingy is that crappy of a job anyway? Isn’t that just another aspect of my privilege? But isn’t working in an airport restaurant an objectively crappy job? It gets really involved. The whole thing bums me out.

One time I got hungry and went to Chipotle–I figured it would be the least processed food there, what’s the worst you could do to rice and beans?–and the girl who was rolling it totally broke my burrito. Nobody told her about striation. It was a lost cause. She just lumped all the ingredients in the middle and tried to fold it up like she was taking out a bag of trash or something. I don’t think she’d been trained. I wanted to do something–call out and stop her, maybe, show her how to be gentle with the tortilla, to tuck it in like a baby–but she was behind the sneeze guard, there was a long line, and besides, it would have been rude. So they slapped a double wrap on it and passed it on down the line. It tasted like corporation. It was the saddest burrito I ever ate.

The thing is, I grew up in place where a significant portion of my activities between 14 and 18 consisted of smoking pot out of devices made primarily from plastic bottles and hot glue, playing video games, and going to the Wendy’s drive in. We would also walk around the woods behind the highway, start little fires on dirt roads, and throw things at cars. I worked at a plant nursery. It was okay. For lunch, I would get a can of mountain dew and three of those little one-dollar chicken sandwichy things from KFC when they were still running that promo. They had a crispy chicken sandwich, one that was honey barbecue. I’d mix it up.

It’s no wonder then, years later, that I get a little funny when I see pieces of fruit with the branches and leaves still attached, that I become a little transfixed. It’s like, oh yeah, I forgot. This is a natural product. This came out of the ground. These days, I have shifted my shopping to the farmer’s market. I am disoriented by the grocery store. How do they make those carrots so orange? Why do all the zuchinni look the same? Where’s the real squash? Those bananas–how did they get here all the way from Ecuador? Did they take a boat? Did they arrive by plane?

When I eat something, I am in complicit agreement with everything that went into it’s process of production. I do not want to be a broken burrito. I do not want to be the complex syndrome of middle class guilt. I want to be self-expression. I want to be love. I want to be the potato skin on my fries. I want to be the little Birdie that Peter dresses up like it was his own child he’s sending off to school–with presentation, with purpose, with a noble job to do. I want to be a Whiskey Sour at Welcome that I modify the hell out of–light sugar, heavy lemon; stirred; served up–that we call the “Jake’s an Asshole” because everyone knows I’m being an asshole, especially since it’s on happy hour and I’m only paying $4, but I tip really well, and I made the joke in the first place.

Food is necessary. We need to do it. We have to stay alive. Culture is how we inflect our survival, how we take the basic materials of life and give them a style, a meaning, an identity or purpose. Food culture is how we show each other where we come from, who we are, how we are what we eat. And when there is so much coldness in the world–all the namelessness, all the facelessness, opacity and machines–it means a lot to me that there’s a place that will make me a drink the way I like it and call me an asshole while they do it. That while the food industry is lying to me, there’s a place that tells the truth. That’s what Welcome means to me.

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SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN FOR WELCOME HOME!

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Oh boy. We’re at it again.

Okay, don’t go quoting us on this, but, we think we’ve found our niche. Or one of them at least. This past March, when we put a call out for people to write poems and/or short stories responding to and reinterpreting installations in the Phoenix Art Museum, we got an overwhelming response. Our literary community in Downtown Phoenix really loves to write about the things they collectively care about. And you know what? We really love what you have to say.

So we’re asking for your words again. But this time, we’re zoning in on a place – a feeling, an atmosphere, a relationship – that is close to home: Welcome Hospitality.

Welcome Diner is important to me because it is one of the first places that felt like home to me when I moved here 2 years ago. My first summer in Phoenix is decorated with memories of that collective groan of Arizonians enduring 120 degree weather, morphing into sighs of contentment as we all sat under misters at Welcome – enjoying each other, the good food, and the sense of neighborhood and love that inevitably comforted us in that space. I vividly remember sitting on a wooden bench outside, eating poutine, and thinking “So, is this what Phoenix is like, because if so, I’m SO glad I moved here.” It only took a few friends’ birthday parties and late-night burger runs for me to realize that yes. This is what Phoenix is like. 

After that, there’s no going back. Welcome’s atmosphere, mission, and employees truly do capture the spirit of Downtown Phoenix, and house and feed every single local whenever they need watermelon salad or a good PB&J burger. There’s a sort of magic to that, and no one else has the magic but Welcome.

Because of that, Welcome has branded itself into my heart. But it goes further – Welcome Chicken + Donuts is a unique shop located at 16th st. and Buckeye in an old KFC building. The food is incredible, there’s no doubt about that. But what is so astounding about this place is the creativity and heart that go into it everyday. Every time they introduce a new donut – Wisconsin Cheddar Apple Fritter and Grapefruit Mimosa being two of my favorites – the genius becomes more clear. This place is one-of-a-kind. And I’m so glad it lives here, with me.

Welcome Hospitality is undoubtedly about and fueled by community. So is Four Chambers. We think it only makes sense to combine the two. To be able to have a written record that captures individual stories, feelings, and interpretations of the Welcome Hospitality experience is an incredibly humbling opportunity for us. We are honored.

So enjoy some scratch food and good company at Welcome’s establishments, come to our launch party on Tuesday, May 19th at 5pm at Welcome Diner, and send us a piece of work from the heart. Visit http://fourchamberspress.com/welcome for forms and guidelines. Submissions close on Monday, July 6th 2015.

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SUBMISSIONS UPDATE

In light of our transitioning into an annual production cycle for Four Chambers–a move that will allow us more time to focus on thematic anthologies and single author works while still maintaining enough flexibility in our timelines for collaborative events and ongoing programs–Four Chambers will be temporarily closing submissions for issue 04 from Saturday, April 18th through Monday, June 1st 2015.

If you have submitted to us during this period and have any work under consideration, we should be getting back to you by early May (at the very latest). Just e-mail us at fourchamberspress@gmail.com if you have any questions, thanks so much, and looking forward to reading your work!

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HERE’S A SCHEDULE FOR THE TOUR TOMORROW

Phx Art Schedule 04-04 b

 

Click here to download a copy

Hope to see you there!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Four Chambers Presents Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum Saturday April 4th

Phoenix, AZ (March 7th, 2015)… Four Chambers—an independent community press based in Phoenix, AZ—will be staging a live performance of their latest release, Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum, as a walking tour through the Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004) on Saturday, April 4th at 2:30 pm.

Interested parties should meet in the Greenbaum Lobby at the main entrance of the Phoenix Art Museum at 2:30 pm. The event is free with Museum membership or general admission. Excerpts and order forms are available online at http://fourchamberspress.com/phxart.

Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum features 26 poems and 4 prose works from 30 authors (86% local) reinterpreting and responding to various works throughout the Phoenix Art Museum’s collection (including such prominent exhibits as Yayoi Kusama’s Firefly Room, Deborah Butterfield’s Ponder, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Rossmore II), and multiple works by Philip C Curtis). The tour will pair each author with the piece that inspired them for a live reading.

Four Chambers was founded in June 2013 with the mission of giving greater visibility to the literary arts and encouraging their larger participation in the cultural scene. So to give local authors a platform, the organization began printing an annual journal (in addition to sponsoring other events and activities). Recently, though, the magazine has been looking to take a more collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to its programming, especially as it relates to public art.

We’re not sure when the idea gelled, exactly” explains Jake Friedman, the magazine’s Founder and Editor in Chief. “But at some point, as we were visiting the Phoenix Art Museum as regular museum-goers, we realized that a lot us of were writing poems or short stories about the work that we saw there. And given how strongly we were responding as individuals, we figured a project like this would present a good opportunity to put a call out, get structured, and see what we could do together, as a community.”

After all, Phoenix is a big city. “And while it’s well-known for the visual arts and possessing of a strong local music scene,” observes Four Chambers Director of Events and Programming Jared Duran, “Phoenix has yet to establish itself as a strong, substantial literary presence—which is important for any city that seeks to be culturally significant. This high-profile collaboration with the Phoenix Art Museum is a significant step in achieving that goal outside of the traditionally exclusive academic setting.”

Often times, literature can exist independently of the public sphere—in private spaces, at readings, in books or at home. If literature is going to connect with people and have an impact in their lives, argues ASU English Lecturer Rosemarie Dombrowski, “It has to get off the page and into the community, into the spaces inhabited by ‘non-poets.’ The Phoenix Art Museum project provides poets with that very opportunity—to insert themselves (and their work) into a larger artistic dialogue, to bring poetry to a broader audience—in addition to enriching the arts community through collaboration.”

Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum is for the Phoenix Art Museum. As such, it is not only intended to resonate with people’s experiences at the Phoenix Art Museum but to enhance and deepen their appreciation of the artwork as well.

It’s this kind of thoughtful, creative engagement, explains Phoenix Art Museum Director of Education Kathryn Blake, “that keeps the museum vital and relevant for our community. Art museums can fulfill so many needs in people’s lives; I believe one of our roles is to spark imagination and serve as a point of inspiration. Responding to artworks or spaces in the museum brings fresh insights and perspectives for all of us to ponder and enjoy.”

At the same time, Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum is meant to be able to stand alone, independently of the works that inspired it. As local poet Jia Oak Baker elaborates, leading with a quote from poet Reginald Shepard, “’Poems are or should be experiences in themselves and not just accounts of or commentaries on experience; they should be additions to the world, not simply annotations to it.’ I wrote ‘You Who Are Getting Obliterated by the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies’ the night I saw Kusama’s installation for the very first time at the Phoenix Art Museum. I tried to capture the feeling and the movement I experienced. And whether I was successful or not, I tried to create an ‘addition’ to the world versus just describing the art.”

At the end of the day, Poetry and Prose for the Phoenix Art Museum is simply about providing people with opportunities to have meaningful experiences and feel like they are part of something larger than themselves.

Contributor Alicia Brall is a case in point. After seeing a friend post the call for submissions on Facebook, Alicia decided to take her kids to the Phoenix Art Museum and see what happened. “I figured if something struck me, I’d write. And if not, no big deal.”

She continues. “I ended up submitting because a lot of things struck me while I was there—sentiments and questions that wanted a breath of life. I submitted because it was local and a specific project and the call for submissions seemed less intimidating this way. I submitted because I wanted to be a part of something again. That’s why it was such a great thing for me. I’m home with my kids all day—and I love my kids and I love that they’re my work and my purpose and my everything right now. But it’s been years and years since I was a part of something like this—voices collected to sing out to the community–and about such beautiful things. It was so great to be included with this group of writers and to be able to identify with a wonderful body of people based on this love we have, this bug, this thing buried in me under dust and diapers and dog hair and all the things that cloud my view sometimes. And that’s not unlike how it’s a good thing for the city… It’s sending out a pulse. It’s saying ‘Wake up. Get out. Look. Sing. Write. Plant. Remember. Discover.’”

People move to cities because, among other things, they want to experience arts and culture; because, in certain respects, arts and culture are what make life worth living. “My hubby and I moved to the Midtown area because we wanted to be closer to everything that’s happening along the Central corridor,” explains Phoenix resident and local author Katie Hae Leo. “First Fridays, the museum district, the light rail, the local restaurants and Four Chambers Press are all contributing to make Phoenix the kind of vibrant and creative city that we’d want to live in.”

All of these things being said, Four Chambers is ultimately concerned with giving people something to believe in and, in some small way, improving their lives. Rebecca Wise-Eklund echoes the sense of belonging and identity she gained from participating in the project: “On the night of the reading at the Phoenix Art Museum, I met Jake, who then introduced me to another Four Chambers staff member, ‘She’s also a fan of yours.’ Suddenly I didn’t feel so untitled myself. I have fans? Of my work? Once again I found myself greeted. I found myself welcomed. To Four Chambers Press and the Phoenix Art Museum, I am grateful, for helping an untitled piece of art and an untitled human find a place among the rest.”

Four Chambers is not simply publishing work. It’s publishing work to build community.

About Four Chambers Press Local-National

Four Chambers Press is an independent community press based in Phoenix, AZ whose mission is to give greater visibility to the literary arts and encourage their larger participation in the cultural scene. For more information please visit http://fourchamberspress.com.

 

Click here to download a copy of the press release

Hope to see you there!