Who doesn’t appreciate a good play on words? The University of New Mexico Press has announced an anthology forthcoming in September, edited by Ilan Stavans, with a title that tickled my pun fancy.
The anthology of Jewish stories from Latin America is titled Oy, Caramba!, and put a smile on my face the moment it arrived. Even the bright, eye-catching cover mixes the Jewish and Latin American cultures: a sugar skull decorated with a hamsa and Chai symbols.
First published in 1994 as Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories by Jewish-Latin American Writers, the anthology returns next month, expanded and updated.
Check out the UNM Press website for more information.
Douglass comments on the efforts of many committed individuals who have supported the publication through the years - with blood, sweat and tears, and "who work specific projects for cheap, sometimes for beer and/or Chinese food." Sounds like literary publishing as we know it. But Douglass has built quite a publishing house, producing "as many as 200 titles in a single year, but now averages between 100 and 120 titles per year, when you include our titles, this literary magazine and those we produce for others, and the books we produce as a contractor."
I'm sure there are hundreds of individuals, if not in the thousands by now, who owe some thanks to The Main Street Rag for having given them the opportunity to be published and read, and certainly in those thousands, those who have appreciated being able to read from this publishing house over the past 20 year. MSR has been a mainstay in the literary community. We congratulate them on two great decades of dedication and commitment to literary publishing, and wish them many, many more years of good work.
Other authors whose works in tribute to Barks are included: Ty Sassaman, Hugh Ruppersburg, Jody Kennedy, Ravi Shankar, John Yow, Norman Minnick, Gulnaz Saiyed, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lisa Starr, and Gordon Johnston. Several of the works, including one of Barks poems, can be read online here.
Of "Next of Kin," the judges said: "With its controlled reveal of complications, it has the drive of a mystery story—but the mystery under investigation is the intricacies of a family over time. Anne Marie Todkill is an accomplished writer, offering surprising and astute insights into the relationship between sisters. Her dialogue is sharp and she is especially incisive in writing about sex. Her narrator Marian speaks with a knowing voice, at odds with her 'small life'; the things she withholds come to the reader as a series of small explosions. Todkill imposes no pattern over events and offers her characters no epiphanies. Instead, incidents refract off each other and the story speaks powerfully through its silences. Like all good novellas, 'Next of Kin' offers both the concentrated pleasures of a short story and the scope of a novel."
Read an interview with the Anne Marie Todkill here.
"Humans don't wait for revolution or democracy in order to live their lives," says Mia Leonin...Her point underscores both the force of literature and art, and the hope found there. The impulses to generalize about certain groups, to categorize and perhaps condemn--to indulge in the quality of discourse imposed on us by many critics and politicians--find their antidote in literature. "The poems, stories, and essays in these pages," Leonin continues, "remind us that Cuba is not an idea or ideology, a photo op or a news line. Likewise, its diaspora is neither offshoot nor derivative. Whatever its temporality, literature is the present moment unfolding, and these writers carve out each moment with authenticity and vision."
Authors and artists whose works are featured: Chantel Acevedo, Alfredo Zaldivar, Ruth Behar, Lisiette Alonso, Cristina Garcia ("Berliners Who, two stories" can be read here), Orlando Ricardo Menes, Ana Menendez, Laura Ruiz Montes, Pablo Medina.
This year's winner of the Willow Springs Fiction is "Gorilla Love Story" by Chelsea Bryant. The award provides each entrant with a one-year subscription to the publication; the winner receives $2000 + publication in the annual June issue. Willow Springs offers some of their publication's content for online reading along with comments from the author about the work.
[Cover image by Marta Berens from Dream Chapter]
Unlike the Olympics, the Poetry Marathon is an annual event. I originally posted on it here, and the PM website offers a complete history and FAQ of the event. While I've known about the event for several years, this is the first year I participated. Luckily for me (and many others), the organizers have created a half marathon, which is what I completed. Both marathons start at 9:00am ET on writing day (Aug 13 this year), then every hour for 12 or 24 hours, participants are expected to write a poem and post it to the PM website. Each participant gets their own login on a group Wordpress site, then as each participant publishes a poem, which is housed on their own blog space, it is also posted to the whole group blog. If you look at the site now, what you see are the poems posted by the participants as they came in.
If this sounds like a big commitment of a day, it is - or it can be. The organizers are flexible in letting participants commit to (on their honor) writing one poem every hour and then posting them when they can get to a computer. Some participants commented on having to go to work, so while they were writing the poems, they wouldn't be posting them until later. Even for me, with a day "off," I couldn't be at the computer every hour of the day.
Bottom line: Was it fun? Was it engaging? Was it worthwhile? Yes, yes, and yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Until you do it, you don't quite "get it." Write a poem an hour? Anyone can do that on their own. But it was motivating (even a bit demanding) being in the community, committed to having to publish poems up to the website, having to be responsible every hour of the day. In fact, even while I was just sitting working at the computer, I almost missed one of the hours because I was so caught up in my work. I realized it with only five minutes left in the hour and scrambled to catch up! The pressure! It was wonderful. As were the prompts, which the organizers provide at the top of every hour. I admire those writers who had their own ideas for poems, but I relied heavily on the prompts to give me something to write about and get the writing done. There were many who did the same, and it was engaging to see the various interpretations of the prompts - a lot of really creative writers.
When it was done - 12 hours and 12 poems later - I felt a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. Not that I believe I wrote 12 astonishing poems that will shake the world. But because I wrote 12 poems in 12 hours as part of a community of people who were just as eager and committed as me. Surrounded for a whole day by an entire community of poets - reading, writing, commenting, and then doing it all over again, and again, and again. I think immersion is the right word.
I also learned that not everyone will be able to appreciate the experience if you try to share your joy at the accomplishment. "I just finished a poetry half marathon!" I exclaimed to my husband as I walked away from the computer at 9:00pm after just having posted my final poem. "Okay," he said, not turning away from his laptop.
What you get out of it is definitely personal. Unlike the foot race, and unlike the Olympics, there aren't throngs of people cheering your completion, no competitors there to hug you for a good race won. Though the organizers and participants do post encouraging comments for one another and have chat groups running to motivate one another, in the end, the sense of whatever it has meant to you will be completely up to you to generate and to own.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I was challenged, I accomplished my goal, and I hope to be back to do it again next year.
Thank you Poetry Marathon! Congratulations to everyone who completed the half 12 hours of writing and the full 24 hours of writing. I get it: You are amazing!
The Gettysburg Review Autumn 2016 issue features The Letter A, detail by Alexandra Tyng, 2012, oil on linen. The publication also includes a full-color portfolio of eight of his works.
The online publication Ragazine features Castles in the Sky, oil on watercolor paper by Laura Guese, and also includes an interview with her in the issue here.
2016 Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Award
$500 + publication
"The Mockingbird" by John Blair, Texas
2016 Mighty River Short Story Award
$1000 + publication
"Teachers" by Elisabeth Doyle, Washington, DC
Lisa Allen Oritz took home the Perugia Press Prize for a first or second book by a woman (now open for 2017 submissions) in 2016 with the poetry collection Guide to the Exhibit.
“Inspired by the displays at a small natural history museum” Guide to the Exhibit is “about what we set aside to examine and remember,” using a quirky, scientific lens.
At the Perugia Press website, readers can find an excerpt from the collection, which will be released and September, as well as preorder copies.
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Here's a fine, deftly made poem by Meg Kearney, of New Hampshire, in which the details deliver the emotions, which are never overtly named other than by the title. It's my favorite kind of poem, and it's from her book An Unkindness of Ravens, from BOA Editions. Her most recent book is Home By Now (Four Way Books 2009).
The girl hunting with her father approaches
the strange man who has stopped at the end
of his day to rest and look at the lake.
Do you like geese? she asks. The man smiles.
The girl draws a webbed foot from her pocket
and places it in his hand. It's late fall
and still the geese keep coming, two fingers
spread against a caution-yellow sky. Before
he can thank her, the girl has run off, down
to the edge of the water. The man studies her
father, about to bring down his third goose
today—then ponders the foot: soft, pink,
and covered with dirt like the little girl's hand.
He slips it into his coat pocket, and holds it there.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2001 by Meg Kearney, “Loneliness,” from An Unkindness of Ravens, (BOA Editions, 2001). Poem reprinted by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, LTD. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
This year's Grand Prize winner was Anna Leahy’s essay “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.”
A complete list of authors as well as judge's comments for each of the winners can be found here along with a link for information about the 2017 contest.
Irresistable: Colorado Review's Summer 2016 cover image is just so summery with this full-cover-wrap photogray by Lenny Koh of Lenny K Photography.
Thema's Summer 2016 cover is reflective of this issue's theme: "Lost in the Zoo." Cover photograph by Kathleen Gunton.
Along with Cimarron Review's Spring 2016 issue, I almost had a whole cat theme going. This one taps my appreciation for whimsy with Sabrina Barnett's photo "Greens (2)."
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Dorianne Laux, who lives in North Carolina, is one of our country's most distinguished poets, and here's a poignant poem about a family resemblance. It's from her book Smoke, from BOA Editions.
Ray at 14
Bless this boy, born with the strong face
of my older brother, the one I loved most,
who jumped with me from the roof
of the playhouse, my hand in his hand.
On Friday nights we watched Twilight Zone
and he let me hold the bowl of popcorn,
a blanket draped over our shoulders,
saying, Don't be afraid. I was never afraid
when I was with my big brother
who let me touch the baseball-size muscles
living in his arms, who carried me on his back
through the lonely neighborhood,
held tight to the fender of my bike
until I made him let go.
The year he was fourteen
he looked just like Ray, and when he died
at twenty-two on a roadside in Germany
I thought he was gone forever.
But Ray runs into the kitchen: dirty T-shirt,
torn jeans, pushes back his sleeve.
He says, Feel my muscle, and I do.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2000 by Dorianne Laux, “Ray at 14,” (Smoke, BOA Editions, 2000). Poem reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Featured in the volume is an interview with Anania as well as several of his poems. Also included are essays on Anania's work: "Modernist Current: Michael Anania's Poetry of the Western Rivers" by Robert Archambeau; "'Out of Dazzlement'...Chiaroscuro Revisited" by Peter Michaelson; "'Energy Held in Elegant Control': Vortex Anania" by Lachlan Murray; "Another Italian-American Poet in Omaha: Italy in Michael Anania's Poetry" by William Allegrezza; "Michael Anania's The Red Menace: A Study in Self-Production" by David Ray Vance; "'Like Hands Raised in Song': Proper Names in Michael Anania's 'Steal Away'" by Lea Graham; "On Michael Anania's In Natural Light" by Reginald Gibbons as well as several more.
"This collection of essays and original work," the editors write, "offers a set of moments in lands (and waters) surveyed by Anania. That land pretends a relentless modernity - one that Anania has evidenced for readers, colleagues, and other artists page by page, line by line. Charles Olson argued that the poet either rides on or digs into the land. This collection of essays and Anania's writings attest that he has done both."
Winner of the 2014 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry, Bruce Bond’s Black Anthem, was published this month. The sonnets in the collection are “wide-ranging in their investigations of the body, the psyche, metaphysical hunger, and its place in human conflict.” Black Anthem is available from the University of Tampa Press website in hardcover and paperback.
Ann Clark, Dexter, NY, “Pretend” and Annie Lanzillotto, Yonkers, NY, “Diminished Capacity, an Indictment”
Lynne McEniry, Morristown, NJ, “Splinter”
Maxine Susman, Princeton, NJ, “Thirteen”
A full list of winners and honorable mentions as well as guidelines for this annual contest can be found here.
In June, A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen was published by Red Dragonfly Press. Winner of the 2015 David Martinson - Meadowhawk Prize, A Different Wakeful Animal “takes on the profound questions in language that catches the ear and the imagination. [ . . . ] A Different Wakeful Animal investigates what perishes and what might remain.”
Readers can grab a copy of Cohen’s poetry collection, and writers can still submit to the 2016 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize until August 31.
Looking back to May, Jennifer Barber’s Works on Paper was published by The Word Works. Winner of the 2015 Word Works Tenth Gate Prize. Her third poetry collection, Works on Paper “shows us the power of lyric restraint in the hands of a poet who draws from the well of the small moments of motherhood as well as the sweep of Jewish history.” This year’s Tenth Gate Prize just closed earlier in the month, with results announced on October 1st.
The awards are designed to recognize and encourage authors and illustrators starting out in the field of children's books who share Ezra Jack Keats' commitment to children and diversity. The award is given annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of picture books for children (9 years old and under). Publishers are encouraged to submit works by new writers and illustrators who are committed to celebrating diversity through their writing and art.
To be eligible, writers and illustrators must have had no more than three books published. A selection committee of early childhood education specialists, librarians, illustrators, and experts in children's literature will review the entries, seeking books that portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world. The award includes an honorarium of $1,000 for each winner.
Deadline: December 15, 2016
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
As children, just about everyone has experienced the very real fear of an imaginary monster. But what if our mothers could have spoken to our childhood fears? Carrie Shipers of Wisconsin, the author of Family Resemblances: Poems (University of New Mexico Press), depicts just that when a protective mother talks back to her son's Bogeyman in this fine poem.
Mother Talks Back to the Monster
Tonight, I dressed my son in astronaut pajamas,
kissed his forehead and tucked him in.
I turned on his night-light and looked for you
in the closet and under the bed. I told him
you were nowhere to be found, but I could smell
your breath, your musty fur. I remember
all your tricks: the jagged shadows on the wall,
click of your claws, the hand that hovered
just above my ankles if I left them exposed.
Since I became a parent I see danger everywhere—
unleashed dogs, sudden fevers, cereal
two days out of date. And even worse
than feeling so much fear is keeping it inside,
trying not to let my love become so tangled
with anxiety my son thinks they're the same.
When he says he's seen your tail or heard
your heavy step, I insist that you aren't real.
Soon he'll feel too old to tell me his bad dreams.
If you get lonely after he's asleep, you can
always come downstairs. I'll be sitting
at the kitchen table with the dishes
I should wash, crumbs I should wipe up.
We can drink hot tea and talk about
the future, how hard it is to be outgrown.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Carrie Shipers, “Mother Talks Back to the Monster” (North American Review, Vol. 300, no. 4, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Carrie Shipers and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
Winner Christine Poreba for “Negative Miracle”
Finalist Rachel Flynn for “America, February”
Winner Matthew Lansburgh for “The Lure”
Finalist Jacob Appel for “The Dragon Declension”
Finalist Miriam Cohen for “Recess Brides”
Winner Melanie Thorne for “What We Keep”
Finalist Carol Smith for “Tearing Down the House”