Cracking a Cold One with the Books

By: Parker Gregory Shpak

Two of my most frequented hobbies are reading books and drinking beer. My favorite hobby, however, is reading books while drinking beer. Herein lies a primer for those of you who have perhaps dabbled in these pastimes, but have not yet mastered them in combination.


Beer has as rich a history as literature and is equally as steeped in the human experience, so the pair is a natural combination. It helps that getting a good buzz on can make narratives more captivating. I read the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire while drinking beer, and a mind soaked in booze can absorb the pages of a novel like a sponge.

First, an explanation of some lingo associated with the brewing community:

*ABV: Alcohol by volume. A standard beer is 5% ABV

*IBU: International Bittering Units (0-120+). Around 60 is what I’d call fairly bitter.

Now, here are some great brews to get you started on your alcohol filled literary journey:


  1. “Backwoods Bastard” by Founders Brewing Co., out of Grand Rapids, MI

            Scotch Ale/11.6% ABV/50 IBU

At 11.6% ABV, this beer will kick your ass and push you into a mental state like heading deep into the southern woods. It’s a Scotch Ale, which means, of course, it tastes heavily of scotch. I recommend drinking this while reading anything by Faulkner or perhaps even Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. You catch my drift.


  1. “Heady Topper” by The Alchemist, out of Stowe, VT

            DIPA/8% ABV/100 IBU

This beer is sought after world-wide, and until July 2016 it was extremely difficult to get your hands on. Three of my friends and I went on a beer-pilgrimage of sorts in November 2015, driving from Connecticut up to Burlington, VT (about a ten-hour-round-trip journey) and strategically stopped at several package stores where we had heard Heady Topper was being delivered that day. After being laughed out of—more than a few—businesses, we eventually managed to buy forty-eight cans (a big thank you to Since then, The Alchemist has established a designated distribution and retail center in Stowe, VT, where a customer can reliably obtain their current selection of beers. Drink this with, well, anything. The cans are 16 oz., and at 8% ABV you’ll be feeling it after just one.


  1. “Profanity Ale” by The Shed Brewery, out of Middlebury, VT

            Brown Ale/6.8% ABV/68 IBU

Profanity Ale had me saying “well fuck, I didn’t know a beer could taste like that.” Several brews have made me say the same, but I’m a sucker for puns. This beer tastes to me like a combination of the India Pale Ale and the American Brown Ale, and given their extreme difference in taste profiles, I consider Profanity Ale to be an unprecedented and impressive fusion by The Shed. Drink this while reading any contemporary literature that crosses genres, like a prose-poem—especially if the writer drops obscenities like their casual modifiers.


  1. “Julius” by Tree House Brewing Company, out of Monson, MA

            New England Style IPA/6.8% ABV/72 IBU

New England Style IPAs have recently displaced West Coast Style IPAs as the current king of craft beer. Also known as “juice bombs,” they have a load of tropical fruit flavors and aromas; you could likely have someone take a whiff of Julius and get away with telling them you’re drinking mango juice. Drink while reading some Shakespeare or perhaps a poem by Robert Frost.


  1. “120 Minute IPA” by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, out of Milton, DE

            Imperial IPA/18% ABV/120 IBU

120 Minute is about the limit of what can be achieved in the world of beer. At 18% ABV, it is stronger than some liqueurs, and when you’re drinking you’ll become aware of that fact too. Flavors include booze and bitterness, and after imbibing your palette will be so overwhelmed that tasting anything else will be an impossibility. Pair with something equally potent, perhaps a few haikus or tankas.




  1. “White” by Allagash Brewing Company, out of Portland, ME

            Witbier/5.1% ABV/13 IBU

If nothing I’ve yet listed has appealed to you, or if you don’t consider yourself a beer drinker, then start here. Allagash White is the everyman of craft beer; you can’t not like it. It’s like how when your friend doesn’t read much but wants to get into it, you start them off slowly with some pop-lit. Harry Potter has a wide appeal and is easy to read. Allagash White is like the Harry Potter of craft beer, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Rowling masterfully created a massive world in her renowned series, and Allagash has similarly brewed a reliably drinkable and approachable brew with “White.”


  1. “Three-Eyed Raven” by Brewery Ommegang, out of Cooperstown, NY

            Saison/7.2%/80 IBU

Over the last few years Ommegang has put out a series of beers inspired by the Game of Thrones television phenomenon. Although I can’t claim to have enjoyed any of these while reading the books (I read the novels prior to the beer’s existence), it’s an obvious pairing. Three Eyed Raven is my favorite out of these creations, and puts an interesting spin on the traditionally Belgian saison style; the beer is stronger and more bitter than most saisons.


  1. “Lil Heaven Session IPA” by Two Roads Brewing Company, out of Stratford, CT

            Session IPA/4.8% ABV/IBU N/A (but it’s probably around 40)

I have to pay homage to our magazine’s fair state, and Two Roads is quickly becoming our foremost brewery. Lil Heaven is a great session ale, and it’s easy to crush several of these babies. I recommend getting yourself a six-pack, a warm sunny day, and settling in for the long haul with a piece of literature that will engross you for several hours. Be sure not to have any responsibilities, and take a long snooze afterwards. No summer day better spent.


  1. “Arrogant Bastard Ale” by Stone Brewing, out of Escondido, CA

            American Strong Ale/7.2% ABV/100 IBU

This beer is divisive: people either love it or hate it. I happen to be in the former camp, and Stone recently started selling it for a song: ~$13 for a six-pack of 16 oz. cans. The words on the back of the cans explain it as well as possible: “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.” Given it’s abrasive and divisive nature, I recommend pairing with a novel of similar repute: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger—a novel I also love.


  1. “Blushing Monk” by Founders Brewing Co., out of Grand Rapids, MI

            Fruit Beer/9.2 ABV/IBU N/A (but it’s very low)

 One of my father’s favorite brews, this will expand your beer-horizons. If you’ve never had a fruit beer, then you’re in for a treat. Sweet and tart, it’s brewed with fresh raspberries and is only available in-season. The color is a vibrant red and you’re ripe to be accused of drinking wine if caught with this in hand. It’s different, kind of wild, and simply delicious; pair with something similarly unique and apt to expand your literary horizons, like the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Long River Review.

Where I Am Going And Where I Have Been

By: Maggie Parker


I live in extremes. People laugh when I say that, they smile at me as if they know what I mean. “You go from zero to 60. But you got that from me.” My mother has said to me. But she’s wrong, I’m not like her. My intensity is drug induced. My personality is an amplification of the girl who is and the Dexmethylphenidate that turns my brain into a machine. My body is the catalyst for the drug and my mind is ever-changing under its influence. It may seem like a small change, the dosage of Ritalin that I am taking, but those drugs sit inside my head. They change the version of myself that I get to show. They change my perception and, therefore, they change everything about who I am. My doctor says that my heart beats too fast now.

I am a being that was always meant to binge and purge. Physically. Spiritually. I drink coffee and booze and take more Ritalin until I forget that is who I am. Yet, I am a firm believer that we are inescapably ourselves all the time, the fakeness of our facades just reveals more about the person that is within. We may be revealed to ourselves occasionally by the strong voice of another, someone who first reveals themselves to us. This week, I found that spiritual snake-charmer in the words of Patti Smith. She wrote an article for The New Yorker in December where she discussed her experience while honoring Bob Dylan at The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. The show, where she stumbled over a section and then had to restart, went viral because of the raw emotion that her performance depicted. I read the article and then watched her portion of the ceremony through the linked video. The song made me weep. It made me weep not for the person that I am, it’s too late for her—the currents of life are moving too strongly for me to figure out who she is now—but for the person that I was. A girl who did not have the emotional walls to protect herself from the extremes that pick her up and drop her faster than the sun rises and sets.

It was junior year of high school and my English class had just finished reading the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. I bring up this story in creative writing workshops all the time, I mention it at least twice a semester. I’ve always thought that my obsession with this story was due to Oates’ masterful ability to craft her characters and construct dialogue that drags her audience right into the scene. But I was wrong. I watched Patti Smith sing her rendition of Bob Dylan’s song at The Nobel Prize Ceremony and I was struck with an image of myself. I was sitting in my high school class, having just finished Oates’ story, and my English teacher played “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan. I remember being startled by the emotional upheaval that came from the song’s chorus, “It’s all over now, baby blue. It’s all over now, baby blue.” I asked for a record player for my birthday the following month. The machine that my parents bought me didn’t have any speakers, so I borrowed an old pair from a friend who was a theater techy. His speakers didn’t let you adjust the volume and the sound was low, if I wanted to hear the music I had to lie on the floor with my head at eye level with the machine. That worked just fine for me. The bulimia that dictated my junior year was so rampant and uncontrollable that I would eat a gallon of ice cream, vomit it all up, and then curl up in a ball next to the record player and let the pain from my stomach hit me in waves. I would turn on Dylan and wait for the harmonica to play him on. “You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last/ But whatever you wish to keep you better grab it fast.”

Patti Smith sang “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” as a tribute to Dylan at The Nobel Prize Ceremony. The song starts with the lyrics, “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?/ Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?” I did not make the connection between the beginning of the song and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, which uses that line almost verbatim (I was immersed in Smith’s singing and had not read Oates’ story in years.) After re-reading Oates’ piece, the irony of my fascination with a story of that name, just two weeks before the end of my college career, was no longer lost on me. I read through the story, still beautiful, but no longer as poignant as I had remembered. It was Dylan who had emotionally held me in that place in my life. It was Oates who was the catalyst for that discovery.

I had a friend in high school with eyes like the sun. Her mixed-raced heritage produced irises that started brown then expanded to amber, green, and blue. I would try to look into these eyes when she held me against the bathroom wall in our friend’s pool house, her mouth desperately grappling for my own. I used to write poetry about the colors in her gaze. I would stay awake at night during our sleepovers and write about the sun and how it touched me with flashing heat. I think she liked the attention.

These images of myself are only loosely connected. They were produced within the lifetime of a single person, but outside of that understanding they are just fragments. Before this, I have not been able to make the connection between these parts of myself because they are the result of the ups and downs of my personhood. When Smith wrote in her New Yorker article, “And all the things I have seen and experienced and remember will be within me, and the remorse I had felt so heavily will joyfully meld with all other moments,” I realized that I cannot hide these parts of myself from each other any longer. I am not a person divided, but a person loosely conjoined. I am a string of moments that flap together in a wind produced by the great expanse of my future and past.

Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” ends with “My sweet little blue-eyed girl.” I wonder who would say that to me. I loved a boy in college that I was not allowed to love. He held me under the artificial, painted stars of Grand Central Station once, and then I moved past him into the depth of the train station and beyond. I loved a girl in college who could not love me back. Her eyes were deep and brown, perfectly framed by her tan face. These are the people that I imagine speaking to me. But they did not stay, and I may not have kept them. There is no violence in my connection with them, and that is what I have come to expect. I expect it because I receive it from myself. Therefore, I am alone with myself when I am being called “little blue-eyed girl.” I look at the speaker who calls to me and I do not know who that person is or where they want to take me.

“My sweet little blue-eyed girl,” he said in a half-sung sigh that had nothing to do with her brown eyes but was taken up just the same by the vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and on all sides of him—so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.

My Voice is like Bomba

Gabriela García Sánchez

Writing, music, art, and dance all have one thing in common–voice.  No matter the art form, the creator laces his or her own voice into the work. In Eleanor Parker Sapa’s blog, Finding Your Unique Writing Voice, Sapa defines voice as  “the unique way by which we see, experience, and interpret the world as individuals.” She goes on to discuss her thoughts about the use of voice and how there is no one-size-fits-all for this element of the creative process. Her definition demonstrates how the development of a voice is entirely dependent on the artist, and that makes sense to me. If no one person is exactly like another, how can their voices be the same? As someone who is both indecisive and fears commitment, I appreciate that fluidity that Sapa’s definition provides.

I am on a constant search for writers, singers and artists who share work that demands attention as well as a response from their audience. Lately, I have been very drawn to Latinx and Afro-Caribbean writers and artists. I’m interested in the variety of voices, experiences, and attitudes that come from these individuals because they possess similar identities to my own.

My desire to experience art created by artists who identify as Hispanic began when I read Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This novel did not fully embody my own experience as a female of Latin descent because Esperanza, the story’s protagonist, is Mexican and I’m Puerto Rican. However, I must give my parents credit for exposing me to a novel that was written by and of Hispanic females.

Similarly, my parents noticed early on that I had a passion for the visual and performing arts. They put me into a Caribbean dance class where I learned salsa, merengue, cha-cha, plena, and bomba. This time of my life was filled with people who looked like me, spoke Spanish, and taught me about my Boricua heritage through dance.

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Out of these dances, bomba was my favorite. Dancing Bomba leaves me in an empowered state, where I am focused on myself as well as my own interactions with the rhythm. In Bomba, this interaction produces the dance steps that in turn influences the beats.

Let me explain: Bomba is one of the beautiful treasures produced from the African influence within Puerto Rican culture. The rhythms, music, and dance of Bomba are derived from the traditions of the African slaves that were brought over during the colonial period, which is why we see variations of this dance and its rhythms throughout the Caribbean. Back in that time, bomba allowed people the space to express their sadness over their living conditions and the struggles that eventually drove them to rebel and protest. However, bomba was also a space they could explore as an expression of joy and celebration, which is how it is more commonly used today.

To truly understand bomba as an artform is to understand the conversation between the dance steps and the beat. In bomba there is always a call and response; a soloist sings a phrase and it evokes the drummers to begin. The crowd then gathers and the dancers begin to come forth. When a dancer comes to the forefront and engages the lead drummer, el primo, he or she is challenging the drummer to follow their steps and body movements with the beats that they produce. The challenge is done like a gentleman’s duel, starting with polite saludos, then the drummer and dancer can go for as long as possible until one tires and a new round begins.

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Bomba gave me an ear for rhythm that I now try to paint onto the canvas. Unfortunately, what the ears hear and the eyes see rarely translate perfectly. Transitioning from dance to painting as my artistic media was a challenge. Developing designs, compositions, and placement of colors to replace the feel of a rhythmic beat was both a strange and daunting task. Unlike dance, where everyone hears the same music, the rhythm that I feel and build into the painting is not the same rhythm that the viewer may experience. Rather than translate my perspective exactly to my audience, I allow my temperament in that moment of creation to dictate the art that I create. Therefore, my work is constantly changing. Recently, I have tried to redirect my art back to the basic of both colors and textures in order to depict movement. Either way, I find myself wanting to cut the ties I’ve placed on myself. The lack of cohesiveness in my art pushes me to explore the lack of a distinct voice that I feel. In all honesty, I still don’t understand the art I create.

Ginsberg Would Have Wanted You to Get this Tattoo

By: Betty Noe


Browsing through the blog of the literary journal Paper Darts (a fine publication that I would recommend to anyone—even if only for the top notch staff bios) my eyes hit on a headline that I couldn’t pass-up: Five Roxane Gay quotes we just might tattoo on our biceps. Talk about a hook. That title has everything that a girl could want from an online post: tattoos, Roxane Gay, biceps. The piece itself was equally as interesting, replete with Bad Feminist wisdoms and a number of links to Gay’s many articles outside of her famed book.

This article got me thinking about more than just Queen Roxane and her sage life advice. I asked myself, what literary quotes would actually look good as a tattoo? Pretentious as it may appear, we do live in a world where Gucci Mane had a tricolor ice cream cone tattooed on his face. Therefore, a good quote isn’t the worst thing you could get inked on your body. So, let me make a few light-hearted suggestions about what you should get permanently etched on your skin (and please don’t blame me when your tattoo is inevitably misspelled).

“First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable.”

— Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway is by far Woolf’s greatest novel (A Room of One’s Own doesn’t count because it’s an essay) and it’s difficult to find a passage or a line from the book that isn’t a profound revelation on life, love, and the passage of time. That being said, not everything written in Mrs. Dalloway would make for great body art. I love this quote because, out of context, it could apply to anything you’d like and it’s not immediately recognizable as a Virginia Woolf quote. And if this line is a little too serious for your taste, you could always go with the classic “I prefer men to cauliflowers.”

“Instead of death there was light.”

— Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Part of the human condition is a fear of death, which is what makes Ivan Ilyich so timeless. Tolstoy dissects the fear of the unknown, common between all of us, without sugarcoating it. Ilyich’s long, drawn-out end to this novel comes with this final, uplifting sentiment: Instead of death there was light. Wouldn’t you like to carry these words with you wherever you go?

“The moon has lost her memory.”

— T.S. Eliot, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”

We all have that one friend who’s obsessed with the moon; sometimes we are that one friend. And if you’re that person, this quote is for you. There’s no Do I dare to eat a peach? here. This poem was originally published in Eliot’s Prufrock collection and, in my opinion, it’s the unsung hero of this book (no offense to “Love Song;” it deserves all of the attention it gets). And this one line—although arguably more powerful when read in the context of its stanza—really lends itself to a tattoo.

“Time flows in strange ways on Sundays.”

— Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

While there are whole paragraphs of this book that I would willingly have tattooed on my chest, I understand that not everyone is as enamored with this novel as I am. Therefore, I’ve narrowed my search for a good Haruki Murakami-inspired tattoo down to this single sentence. In 1,157 pages, this book warps time, space, and reality in ways that I can’t summarize in one blog post. However, this one quote is indicative of the familiar surrealism that Murakami so masterfully creates. And he’s right: time does flow in strange ways on Sundays.

“the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!”

— Allen Ginsberg, “Footnote to Howl”

Isn’t it funny how the “Footnote to Howl” has become more famous than “Howl” itself? By comparing the two, however, it’s easy to see why. “Footnote” is pure Ginsberg, the poet at his finest, and it’s the reason I got hooked on his poetry in the first place. In such a racing poem, it’s hard to snatch out a single line that is small enough to make a great tattoo. But this one is my choice. I decided if I’m going to permanently attach great literature to my body, I’d like it to remind me that, “you my soul are holy.”