Rowing| Kevin Zepper

Rowing by Kevin Zepper. Cover
Rowing by Kevin Zepper

Kevin Zepper teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He is the author of four books of poetry. Part of his creative time is devoted to performing collaborative poetry and music with his musical partner and colleague Terrie Manno. They call themselves Lines&Notes, performing at art venues and colleges. Zepper’s recent photography credits include: Inscape, Minnesota Portage, Barking Sycamores and other local publications. He loves New Mexico and collecting rocks and was once a contestant on Who wants to be a Millionaire? (nope, he didn’t win)

Editor’s Note| Katelyn Dunne

                                                      “hark, now hear the sailors cry,

smell the sea, and feel the sky

let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”

― Van Morrison

            I’ve never seen the ocean.  I’ve never seen crabs roaming about dunes with pinchers that seem like the monsters hiding in childhood closets; I’ve never seen dolphins off in the distance and imagined them as mermaids singing a siren song, irresistibly reeling me in. I’ve never tasted the briny salt in the air.

But I live near Lake Michigan. Even though it’s only a small fraction of the size of an ocean, it’s always seemed endless to me. As a child, I’d go out there, feel the burn of glassy sand between my toes, look at the sun glittering and dancing upon the skyscrapers and water. In the summer, I’d hear the rumble of laughter and music coming from the groups of people littering the beach. In the winter, I’d collect beached seashells and algae and stuff them carefully into the pockets of my puffiest purple coat. I would wonder what it would feel like to run out into the cold water, disobeying the “Do Not Swim” signs, and embrace the rush of torn plastic and ice.

The Drowning Gull’s first Sea Salt issue explores these feelings. Everyone who has touched water has been irreversibly touched back by it. They get swayed by the current; pulled in my its song. We all are lulled by the same waves. We consist of water, like Mary Ellen Talley’s Body of Water describes; and Lisa Marie Brodsky’s poem, Sleep is an Isthmus, hauntingly alludes to the fact that we are always drawn back to it.

I’d like to thank Tiegan for her endless effort to The Drowning Gull. Without her, none of this would be possible. Ben, Shonavee, and Rebecca (the latter two people, unfortunately, have discontinued their work for us) also deserve our gratitude for the effort they have put into this first Sea Salt issue. Thank you to our contributors – without you, there would be no issue!– and also to anyone else who submitted work (your effort and trust is valued!). Everyone who reads this issue, and everyone who continues to support all of us here at The Drowning Gull on our literary adventure, receives our hugs. Enjoy!

Blessings to all of you out there,

Katie Dunne

Managing Editor

One Set of Prints For Two | Rick Kempa

One Set of Prints for Two

by Rick Kempa

For Claire

In the winter of your first year we camped by the ocean. You would sleep beside me in the tent. Towards morning, but still night, you’d roll over, let out a cry. I’d take you outside to give you some fresh air. You liked that, fell quiet, turned your head towards Venus above the bluffs. You’d be perfect­ly alert. So I’d wrap you in your blanket, hoist you on my back, and we would walk.

It was chilly; you huddled close. I walked as briskly as I could, navigating the black clutter of seaweed and wood. My feet sank in the soft sand, the muscles in my calves and arches ached. I headed over to the water side, where the sand was packed, stripped bare, the going easier.

There, the beach abruptly fell off towards the water. The water, a body more or less in place, loomed up across from us, its surface head‑high or higher. We watched each wave in turn advance, drawing the wash from the last wave into itself, steepening into a black wall, until the crest began to froth, the spume to race along it like a white thread unravelling, and the water‑wall would collapse. The tremendous thump of each part against the sand, the shock felt underfoot, the explosion into foam, the giant tongues hissing up the bank towards where we were, wiping out my tracks.

You began to utter marvellous cries. Your feet braced on the pack’s frame, your knees against my spine, you lurched from side to side, or way over forward or back, your little arm and forefinger extended, shrilling your delight. At what? I peered after you. The stars, twice as bright in that atmosphere. An air‑bubble in the sand, into which perhaps you saw a ghost crab disappear. A trio of pelicans above a breaking wave. (Their cries from that other side seemed to mimic you.)

After a while you grew quiet, attentive to the rhythm of our walk. One motion described us. Your muscles slackened, head grew heavy, thumping on my shoulder with each step. You would rest for a moment, jolt awake—like me, always fighting sleep—rest some more. You became small, your legs drawn up, shoulders hunched, hands tucked between your belly and my back. I swear you grew lighter, once consciousness had left you.

And I felt lighter too. Walking the long border, night and day, earth and water, the vast inverted curve of beach, the cape where the cliffs stepped forth to take their punishment, the next cove, the next cape, as many as I wanted. At each cape, I’d pause. The boulders that had fallen from the cliffs lay piled on the shelves of rock or rooted in the shallows, and the water beat them, and the water broke, not them.

For once I had no purpose, no one thing to head for and surmount. I was alone and with you, your small breath, my one set of prints for two. Before us and behind us, embracing us, the mist that seemed to breathe light, that was the light, was rising from its sleep to take the sky. I thanked you for waking me. I did not want to turn back.

Rick Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming–a long day’s drive from sea salt–where he teaches at Western Wyoming College. Rick is editor of the anthology ON FOOT: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories, (Vishnu Temple Press, 2014) and co-editor, with Peter Anderson, of Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon (Lithic Press, 2015). His latest poetry collection is Ten Thousand Voices (Littoral Press, 2014). Other work of his can be found at Blue Lyra Review, Buddhist Poetry Review,, Hippocampus, and Watershed Review.

2 Poems | Mary C. Rowin

2 Poems

by Mary C. Rowin


I Will Carry You

Follow the cord from darkness

daughter, up, into the light.


You will find me weaving

dried grasses into baskets


large enough to hold your sorrows

strong enough for me to carry


to the river, tip into rushing

water, where burdens are cleansed


against stones, dispersed by rain

and driven far out into the sea.


Destination, Seaside (Aubade to a Mountain)


You, implacable, sit unmoved like the Buddha

you are, sunk deep into your mountain-ness.

Sun’s first rays refract crystals on your shaggy head.


Like clanks of cow bells rouse the milkmaid,

brightening morning warns, Time to go. So I too rise,

reach toward your face, stony like a father’s,


sons gone to war. But you will not miss me.

I am flesh. You are millennia. Now becoming

memory, you are dark as a Yin shadow.


Day is warming to a slow burn.


Mary C. Rowin’s poems have appeared recently in Solitary Plover, Portage Magazine, Panoply, Bramble, the literary magazine of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, and in you are here, The Journal of Creative Geography.  Mary lives with her husband and seventeen year-old cat Rio in Middleton, Wisconsin.  She is a docent at the Chazen Museum of Art and tutors English as a Second Language.







Neşko 1 | Jennifer Reimer

Neşko 1

by Jennifer Reimer


You learn the rhythm by the third day.  Eray raises and lowers the anchor. Mehmet

drives the boat and—. “You write” —keşke—.  Remember : the sound of water. Taxis


boat to boat.  In the evening, he— air haunted by the taste of salt—Skin.

The sun sets portside.  Grilled shrimp and rakı. How could we help having more than


enough —keşke—: Andriake harbor in the morning.  You watch sea

turtles.  Fish. Things spoken as—unspoken give us a way. You broke your


vow of sobriety to dance barefoot.  Green, how much he wanted —your

dreams—green the trails of memory. Do you like American music? Your best


friend texts: “You basically are embodying every music video ever.”  Why then—

On the 4th day, Roman ruins slide starboard—you wonder if you could—


come for days—The passengers mistake you for crew. Neşko named for his dead

grandfather.  His father— dead when he was three years old.  No, he dosen’t—tell


you all about it : the old house, working the boat at 13, the uncle the drunk stepfather

who beats his mother who is angry today because he didn’t come home


last night you slept on the boat.  He wakes you early. The Turkish Word­

of the Day is nefis. Part of speech : adjective : Nefisti — That was delicious—


You tell yourself that someday—

soon you’ll learn past tense—


Jennifer Reimer‘s first book of prose poetry, The Rainy Season Diaries, was published by Quale Press in 2013.  Her poetry and fiction have appeared in: The Denver Quarterly, Tinfish, Puerto del Sol, Weave, Zoland, Gyroscope, and Glass. She has an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and a PhD in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley.  She is the co-founder and co-editor of Achiote Press.  She currently lives and work in Ankara, Turkey, and enjoys escaping to the Mediterranean coast where the raki, like the poetry, is abundant.  She believes sea salt should be its own food group.

The Little Mermaid Goes To Work | Marta Ferguson

The Little Mermaid Goes To Work

by Marta Ferguson


Red wig heavy around her face, she signs

the books and videos the chubby hands

hold out to her across the gold chain fence.

Her shift will end at six. And then the next

girl will put up with it. She’ll smile so wide,

her lipstick will crack, flake off and fall like

so many drops of Sleeping Beauty’s blood,

come back to stain the spindle red again,

so she can rest, away from teeming hordes

of five-year-olds who want to know if she

has legs. She’ll dream, anyway, of such peace,

as cameras point, click and catch her shine,

tear bright, the new mascara stinging fine

red lines right through the oceans of her eyes.


Marta Ferguson is the co-editor of Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books (Minor Arcana Press, 2014), the editor of the Columbia Art League’s Interpretations anthology series, and the author of Mustang Sally Pays Her Debt to Wilson Pickett (Main Street Rag, 2005). Her poetry has appeared in dozens of literary magazines, including The Cortland Review, Poet Lore, Spillway, Rattle, and Prairie Schooner. A former poetry editor for The Missouri Review, Marta has been the sole proprietor of Wordhound Writing& Editing Services, LLC for 15 years. Her officemate is a chinchilla named Grayson (Yes, after Dick Grayson, Batman’s original Robin). In her spare time, Marta enjoys wickedly complicated board games like Five Tribes, Pandemic, and Carcassonne. 



No Headway | Cathie Sandstrom

No Headway

by Cathie Sandstrom


For long moments a hard breeze

off the Pacific holds aloft over

wetlands, a gull flapping yet hanging—

treading air until he feints


down and south along the water’s edge

looking for a doorway into the wind.

The woman watching him also searches

for a passage from here to what follows.


Above her, fast-moving clouds veil

the sunset, harbingers of the marine fog

she’ll wake to. In failing light she turns her face

westward, closes her eyes, lifts her chin.


The gull, finding no opening, glides low.

She raises her arms, stands in the wind’s indifference.


As a military brat, never “from around here,” Cathie Sandstrom has lived in ten states: Japan, England, Denmark, and Germany. Even though she’s lived many years now in the same house, she still expects to hear from the Pentagon any day. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Lyric, The Comstock Review, Cider Press Review, Ekphrasis, among others journals, and is forthcoming in The Southern Review. Her poem “You, Again” is in the artists’ book collection at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles: proof, she says, of the existence of poetry angels. She lives in a village up against the San Gabriel Mountains, minutes north of Los Angeles. She thinks Chopin wrote the Nocturnes just for her.






Body of Water | Mary Ellen Talley

Body of Water

by Mary Ellen Talley


Mine keeps flowing into blood

flesh and sinew, pat-a-cake

palm of hand, firm handshake,

platelets I cherish clotting

to repair sites of my wounds.

Pump, churn heart river flow

all that channels inside me

wrapped up in crepey skin.

I call my backbone water

because I drink from its strength.

Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in and Kaleidoscope as well as in recent anthologies, The Doll Collection, All We Can Hold poems of motherhood and Raising Lilly Ledbetter Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. Her poetry has received a Pushcart Nomination. She has worked for many years with words and children as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in Washington public schools.






February – Penned: Interviews with Writers

The other day, my creative writing professor told me that “we were made to tell stories.” That’s the basis of human nature, to share their experiences, to use their voices. Every story is unique — each one has its own distinct voice and purpose.

As writers, we excel at storytelling. It’s in our blood, intertwined into our DNA. We all do it differently; that’s why this month’s interviews focus on individual storytelling techniques.

The February theme: How to begin a story/poem.


Tyler Barton:

Find a voice and follow its energy. I find it almost impossible to start with an idea (for example: irony as a defense mechanism can have serious consequences for human connection) and then try write a story. However, if I sit down to write and listen for the voice of a caustic, sarcastic, washed-up comic, whose loneliness seeps hilariously through her speech, I’m much more likely to get a draft started, maybe even completed. Basically: don’t start with what you want to say, but who you want to watch, know, and hear speak.

Leanne Gregory:

To me, the method that works when beginning a story or poem is to become that story or poem. By that I mean, act it out. Whether out loud, or inside your head, find someplace you can be alone and let yourself meditate on what you want the story to say. What the characters look like, and act like. The sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of your world. Imagine it all. Make sure to have a recorder or notebook nearby to record what you discover as well.

Jamie Yourdon:

Every story teaches the reader how to read it. It begins: “I am happy,” or “I am sad.” I am happy and sad. I am the first, second, or third person. I’m an anecdote. I’m argot. I am not to be trusted. I am in conversation with all the stories that came before me, the ones you read in college or huddled under the covers. I am a new old story and you are your new old self—you, the reader. We are bound by this sentence, and the next, and the next. So let’s begin.

Zane Ross:

Any of my work, my stories or my poems, always start with a single idea. I could be sitting at my desk eating lunch and then a lyric will pop into my head or a vaguely defined premise like “techno wizards from Mars.” Although that example sounds completely awful that’s kind of how it is. Even the worst ideas can turn into great ones. So I will pull out my laptop and start typing up a story based on that small thing, not always intending on it being good. The first thing I write isn’t meant to be read by others, but it is meant to establish my characters and my world for me. When you first start you don’t know either of them. You haven’t been to this world or you haven’t met these characters yet. That short story, just for me, is how I understand what they are about.

Ben Tanzer:

It begins with an idea. Or maybe it starts with a theme, family, small towns, marriage. You muse on that theme. You wait for associations. Incidents from your childhood. A story a friend told you. A dream or fantasy. You make a list of these associations. You have associations with the associations. You write them down. The list gets messy. You stare at the list, certain ideas start to take form and leap from the page. You grab hold of them. You put pen to paper. You’ve begun.


I’d like to thank the writers who shared with us in this month’s Penned! I hope these responses help with putting your pen to some paper. (Don’t forget, Sea Salt submissions are open!)

See ya next month!



Tyler Barton is a cofounder of FEAR NO LIT and an intern for Sundress Publications. His stories have been published in Midwestern Gothic, Split Lip Mag, Hobart, and NANO Fiction. Find him at Follow him @goftyler.

Leanne Gregory is a student at the University of the Cumberlands. She has been writing since the sixth grade, and she was a member of her high school’s writing club for three years. She loves to write in the fictional genre of fantasy, specifically medieval settings, but has recently been trying to expand her writings into the realm of science fiction, as well.

Jamie Yourdon, a freelance editor and technical expert, received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. His short fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Underneath the Juniper Tree, and Chicago Literati, and he has contributed essays and interviews to Booktrib. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Froelich’s Ladder (Forest Avenue, 2016) is his debut novel. He has been writing for 27 years, always and only literary fiction.

Zane Ross is a junior at University of the Cumberlands and an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in Journalism. He started writing when he was young, writing his own Goosebumps-like stories in 5th grade. He played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in high school, so he contributes a lot of his practice in writing to those nerdtastic years. He is a fiction writer by trade and focuses mainly on the genres of Fantasy, Mystery and Horror. His writing is very focused on entertaining readers. He also write for the UC Patriot, his university’s school newspaper.

Ben Tanzer is the author of the  book Be Cool – a memoir (sort of), among others. He also oversees the lifestyle empire This Blog Will Change Your Life and frequently speaks on the topics of messaging, framing, social media, blogging, fiction, essay writing and independent publishing. He has been writing for 18 years, a mix of fiction and personal essay.

December – Penned: Interviews with Writers

Our Encounters with Nature issue has finally been released! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so here. Each of the editors has worked hard combing through submissions, perfecting the mechanics of each piece, and stringing together the parts of the whole.

Readers and submitters don’t normally get the chance to hear from the shadowy figures who construct the lit mag. So, this month, I thought it would be nice to give the readers a glimpse of the women behind the mask and to give The Drowning Gull’s own some well-deserved recognition.

The December theme: A writer who inspires you.


I know there will be some serious eye rolls when I say this, but the writer who inspires me more than anyone is Stephen King. I first discovered King when I was 11 and borrowed Misery from the school library. The thing that I love most about Stephen King, is his fearlessness and commitment. He’s written what he knows, which is unquestionably horror, but he has never limited himself to that. Hearts in Atlantis was an artistic masterpiece, his short stories are as satisfying as his novels, and his fantasy was a hit or a major miss depending on who you talk to. No matter what, he will always write the story he believes in and he will sit down every day to do it. Fearless. Committed. Everything a writer should aim to be.


Anyone who follows me on social media would know that my favourite writer would have to be Brenda Shaughnessy, a poet living in Verona, New Jersey. She’s the author of ‘Interior with Sudden Joy,’ ‘Human Dark With Sugar,’ ‘Our Andromeda’, and my favourite of favourites, ‘So Much Synth’. I first came across Brenda when I searched online for poetry books that could begin my collection of poetry. (I was predominantly a fiction reader, back then, but wrote quite a bit of poetry; I wanted to learn what all the popular contemporary poets were up to so I could master it.) “Our Andromeda” popped up on Google, and it piqued my interest, so I got it. That made me fall in love with Brenda’s poetry– and consequently, purchase her earlier collections and watch out for forthcoming ones. I loved– LOVE– the sounds her words create when strung together into eloquent sentences. Some of the sentences in particular became like mantras I memorised for personal use (self-empowerment, etc). Brenda’s poems are empowering, inspiring, enlightening, heartbreaking… All those emotion-related adjectives that, when used by an author’s readers to describe their work, mean the poems did exactly what they were meant to do.


It’s hard to pick one writer that inspires me, but I am struck over and over again by Italo Calvino’s work each time I read him. He has no formula for his novels — each is unique, a world unto its own, and each book reads completely differently. I love that he gives himself so much room to experiment with form and structure, and I hope to emulate that kind of whimsical dedication to experimentation in my own work. I love how he questions and redefines what a novel can be, and I love the magic that is present in each of his stories. He really gives himself room to play.


Mark Z. Danielewski is my idol. One day, I plan to write a novel as trippy and awesome as his House of Leaves. His words mimic his story; physically and emotionally, he captures the essence of the novel in the mere placement of letters. I love how he does not adhere to structural standards (his words spiral and even transcend the page boundary) and, not only does he write outside of the box, he decimates that box completely. There are so many layers and secret messages in his novel. One can dig and dig and dig, always finding a new chunk of gold on which to latch. That’s the beauty of it: his tale is never-ending. In a sense, its layers make it immortal. Danielewski follows his heart, no mater the backlash or the consequence — that’s what I love about him. I want to be his level of fearless.