Ashley Morrow Hermsmeier dedicates Something Like the End—winner of the Fall 2017 Black River Chapbook Competition—to “the strange and lonely,” appropriate when the characters of her six-story chapbook are living lives that are just that: a bit strange and a bit lonely.
A woman prepares for an oncoming plague-like wave of bees, and, alone, faces that there are other things to be cautious of in the end of days; a city experiences an unending earthquake; a woman drawn to a mysterious stray cat can’t help thinking about her ex; a woman buries and reburies zombified past versions of herself that keep showing up at her door, versions that died so she could keep living; a futuristic assisted suicide is advertised, its five simple steps outlined for interested parties; and a beauty and beast couple can’t stop dancing as the world ends around them.
While short, each piece manages to push the boundaries of what’s expected. Love stories are surrounded by ruin, break-up stories are haunted by feral animals and zombies, and in each piece, we see the complex ways in which we interact with other humans, or how we interact with the earth that is rapidly changing around us.
Morrow Hermsmeier’s work in this chapbook is imaginative and arresting as it offers solidarity to the strange, lonely reader.
Review by Katy Haas
In his Spring 2019 "Welcome Readers" section, founder and editor M. Scott Douglass explains his plan to "retire from editing" Main Street Rag.
In making such a proclamation, Douglass comments, "the assumption is that you (I) are/am going out of business. That's not the plan." Having already sold off the production equipment for the publishing arm of MSR, Douglass is moving to the next step: "find a suitable replacement to edit the journal (and possibly books). I'd like to be able to bring this person along slowly, train them in the use of software, deadlines, scheduling, etc., but as soon as you hang a sign that says, 'Looking for new leadership,' again, everyone thinks you're on your deathbed and avoids you."
"We're not dying. I'm not dying. We have no debt, so we're not in financial difficulty." Instead, Douglass notes, after nearly twenty-five years, it's just time for him to focus on his own "muse" and get out from behind the desk to travel more.
"So, if you know someone looking to take over a literary house who's willing to put in some training time, send them my way. There may be a place for them here."
The newest issue of Gulf Coast (31.2) is chock-full of award winning writing!
2018 Barthelme Prize
Judge Laura van den Berg
"Something Clear" by Sarah Minor [pictured]
"Hunger" by Yi Jiang
"Some Weather" by Aliceanna Stopher
2018 Translation Prize in Poetry
Judge Ilya Kaminsky
"Air Raid" by Polina Barskova, Transl. by Valzhyna Mort
"Colonies of Paradise" by Matthias Göritz, Transl. by Mary Jo Bang
"Nobility" by Álvaro Lasso Transl. by Kelsi Vanada
2018 Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art Writing
Judge Wendy Vogel
“A Long, Dull Shadow: Georg Baselitz’s Legacy of Misogyny” by Maura Callahan, originally published on Momus
“Playing in the Institute: On Tag at the ICA Philadelphia” by C. Klockner
“Intimate Structures: Dorothea Rockburne at Dia: Beacon” Chloe Wyma
For a full list of entries, finalists, links to work, and information about these annual contests, visit Gulf Coast.
As previously announced, Cave Wall is fundraising to establish the Nina Riggs Poetry Award. They are sooooo close to their target amount and are now offering a sweet GIANT RAFFLE to help them reach their goal.
In discussing the award with me, Cave Wall Editor Rhett Trull offered this beautiful reminiscence:
When Nina got pregnant, she was told by a poetry colleague, "Oh no, here come the motherhood poems." Years later, when I got pregnant, a different colleague told me, "Whatever you do, just don't start writing motherhood poems." We knew they were teasing, but it bothered us. And of course, we ignored it and wrote whatever we wanted to write, whatever we were moved to write. Because that's what we do as poets, all of us: we write toward the heart. I used to hear, all the time, "Don't write poems about grandmothers and dead pets." Well, that's ridiculous. You can write about ANYTHING. Just write it well, write beyond subject and self, toward the greater truths to which all subjects lead us if we let them. At Cave Wall, we've published some beautiful poems about grandmothers and dead pets, once in the same poem and wow, is it a knockout. Anyway, Nina believed all subjects worthy of poetry. And I hope with this award, we can encourage and celebrate writing that mines the everyday for its beauty and truth, as well as writing about relationships and family and, yes, motherhood, too. All of it. All the small and big and wondrous things that connect us, that shine a light on the ordinary revealing that everything is extraordinary if we take a moment to see it.
American Life in Poetry: Column 739
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I don't suppose there are many of our younger readers who have started to worry about the possibility of memory loss, but I'd guess almost everybody over fifty does. Peter Schneider lives in Massachusetts and this is from his book Line Fence, from Amherst Writers and Artists Press.
Lost in Plain Sight
I lost my short-term memory.
It was there and then it moved
like the flash of a red fox
along a line fence.
My short-term memory
has no address but here
no time but now.
It is a straight-man, waiting to speak
to fill in empty space
with name, date, trivia, punch line.
And then it fails to show.
It is lost, hiding somewhere out back
a dried ragweed stalk on the Kansas Prairie
holding the shadow of its life
against a January wind.
How am I to go on?
I wake up a hundred times a day.
Who am I waiting for
what am I looking for
why do I have this empty cup
on the porch or in the yard?
I greet my neighbor, who smiles.
I turn a slow, lazy Susan
in my mind, looking for
some clue, anything to break the spell
of being lost in plain sight.
We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. 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 ©2006 by Peter Schneider, "Lost in Plain Sight," from Line Fence (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2006). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Schneider and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 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.
National Poetry Month may have ended in April, but you can keep the festivities kicking by checking out poetry contest winners published last month.
BOA Editions, LTD published the winner of the James Laughlin Award, Night Angler by Geffrey Davis, and the winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, Documents by Jan-Henry Gray.
The A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize is annually award to honor a poet’s first book. Jan-Henry Gray’s Documents is rooted in the experience of living in America as a queer undocumented Filipino. The poems repurpose the forms and procedures central to an immigrant’s experience: birth certificates, ID cards, letters, and interviews. An excerpt, “Across the Pacific Ocean,” can be found at the publisher’s website.
The James Laughlin Award is presented by the Academy of American Poets, and judges selected Night Angler by Geffrey Davis as the 2018 winner. Night Angler “Reads as an evolving love letter and meditation on what it means to raise an American family.” Readers can find Davis’s second collection at the BOA Editions LTD website.
From Press 53, find the winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry: Bully Love by Patricia Colleen Murphy. The poems in this collection examine the long-term effects of displacement, and how we form relationships with landscapes and lovers. Learn more about what Bully Love has to offer.
Bauhan Publishing released the winner of the 2018 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. The Double Zero by Marilee Richards, according to Judge David Blair, “reminds us of what the country has gained in consciousness and freedom, . . . what sorrows and suicides we have left necessarily behind, as the bus pulls up at the curb in the don’t-you-get-it-yet years we have been motoring through lately.” Find out more here.
Keep your support of poetry going throughout the year, starting with these award winners.
In the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Glimmer Train, find “Lady-Ghost Roles” by Laura Roque. The short story explores the oncoming end of a crumbling relationship while casting the familiar break-up story in a new light: the narrator and her boyfriend, Javi, are both dead and are now stuck haunting their old home together.
Tensions still palpable between them, the two watch as loved ones come and go, a realtor enters the picture, and a moving crew starts carrying away their belongings in the days after their deaths. Together, they reflect on moments of their relationship and what brought them to where they currently stand.
Early on, the narrator thinks about Javi: “[ . . . ] I need the universe to transport him somewhere I’m not, maybe hell, or the gym. In life, he’d spent more time touching dumbbells than me anyway.” As time passes, her views soften, though they never settle on a resolution.
Roque gives her narrator a tough exterior, her attitude remaining wry, never too sappy or sentimental. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t read the last two pages with a lump growing in my throat, Roque’s world and character building too strong to resist.
With just enough gentleness and intimacy, Roque’s “Lady-Ghost Roles” is an inventive, enjoyable read.
Review by Katy Haas.
The Winter 2018 issue features a tribute to Stitt, with contributions from Floyd Collins, Sidney Wade, Philip Schultz, Linda Pastan, Albert Goldbarth, Christopher Howell, Hope Maxwell Snyder, Michael Waters, Rebecca McClanahan, and a closing poem by Peter Stitt, “Winter Search.”
Sitting on the shelf of my university library, the Summer 2018 issue of The Southern Review intrigued me with its curious cover art by Gina Phillips, a New Orleans–based artist. Upon close inspection of the issue, I found quite a generous collection of portraits created by using mixed media and titled Friends and Neighbors. Gina Phillips shares her process of creating these portraits:
I begin by photographing the subject multiple times. Then I sketch from the photos, sometimes combining elements of several photos into one sketch. After the sketch is complete, I trace the drawing onto a transparency and enlarge the figure using an overhead projector; then I redraw it on a piece of plain muslin. At this point, I use acrylic washes to complete an underpainting. After the underpainting is dry, I load the piece onto a long-arm quilting machine and begin the process of appliqueing various combinations of fabric, thread, yarn, and hair. After rendering the figure with fabric and thread, I cut it out of its background and pin to the wall.
The results of this unique process are strikingly vibrant. As the artist notes, these portraits reflect the essence of the people and animals depicted in them.
Kenyon Review Editor David Baker opens the May/June 2019 issue with his commentary on the annual "Nature's Nature" theme. In response to our having witnessed "the Trump administration take further steps to release two hundred thousand more acres of public land—this time in Utah along the Canyonlands and the Green River—to 'development,'" Baker notes that "Greed, stupidity, and fever for power are not new to our country or even our species—read Shakespeare, Dante, Homer—but the velocity of unfixable damages and the extent of losses are without precedent."
Baker asks, "Are we one or two generations away from the point of no return for environmental stability? Is ours the last generation with hope of preventing or slowing a massive disaster? Is it too late? The calculations come every week, with variables, but the constant alarm is the same."
This is what compelled him, he recounts, "to curate a special feature on ecology and poetry . . . I wanted to showcase new poems that resisted such forms of power and that named one by one the spectacular, beautiful, and often endangered citizens of the natural world."
Now an annual issue, the writers featured each year are purposefully diverse in that the publication does not choose the same authors to appear more than once. The compilation features twenty-seven new poems, one essay, and two portfolios of artwork. For a full list of content with some selections available to read online, visit the Kenyon Review.
First Prize $1000
“Dancing Room Only”
Jim Reese [pictured], Yankton, SD
Second Prize $200
“Cu Tantu Si Cala ‘U Culu Si Para”
Maria Fama, Philadelphia, PA
Third Prize $100
Lorraine Conlin, Wantagh, NY
A full list of Honorable Mention and Editor's Choice recipients can be seen here.
The Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award for 2019 has closed, but submissions are open for the 2020 award.
“Mixed Drinks” in Zone 3 Spring 2019 is one of many collaborative works by Brenda Miller and Julie Marie Wade, erasing their cross country divide to create a memoir which blends (no pun intended) a list of drinks with associated memories from childhood (Shirley Temple) through adolescence (Bloody Mary), college years (Old Fashioned) to adulthood (Cosmopolitan). Recipes included.
Told in the second person, each vignette contains vivid pop culture details of the time, relatable to many, as well as a conflicting set of feelings the speaker must overcome – between what is expected by others, what is expected of ourselves, and what we are able to finally experience and deliver. “You know that the beer and the hamburger will provide you at least five minutes of purpose in this bar where you don’t belong, and that you’ll walk home afterward in the dwindling light of autumn, along the river, to your sparsely furnished studio apartment, where you’ll feel both lonely and relieved.”
The end of the piece didn't feel finished, but rather the start of something larger, yet unattached. This might seem a fault if it didn’t at the same time feel so polished. An interview with the two writers cleared this up. Wade comments on their collaborative style, “We don’t really know what’s going to happen or emerge, in terms of the content or the final form, until we reach an ending – and even these endings feel more like stopping points or plateaus in our momentum rather than definitive conclusions.”
For more on collaborative writing, including another by Miller and Wade, Jet Fuel Review #17 (Spring 2019) features a Collaborative Works Special Section: “These selections embody the magic that arises out of collaboration and the bringing together of separate voices and identities to craft a singular, resonant body of work.”
Review by Denise Hill
Winner of Boulevard's 2018 Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers, Gabe Montesanti's essay "The Worldwide Roller Derby Convention" is featured in the Spring 2019 issue (#101/102). Montesanti lives in St. Louis where she skates for the local team, Arch Rival, under the name Joan of Spark.
In a commentary about her work, she says, "'The Worldwide Roller Derby Convention' became the final chapter of my MFA thesis at Washington University in St. Louis, and is now the final chapter of my full-length memoir about derby. This essay unlocked the whole project for me, in a way. Recognizing the themes of physicality and queerness led me to draw new parallels between roller derby and my unconventional and often violent upbringing. Having a vision of the end also gave me direction—a place I could write toward."
The 2019 Nonfiction Contest for Emerging Writers opens June 2, 2019. The winner receives $1000 and publication.
As John Zheng shares in his introduction to the Fall 2018 “Rivers and Waters” issue of Valley Voices: A Literary Review: “Rivers are lifelines of all things in this world, and river plains are cradles of ancient civilizations. [ . . . ] We need the river to live; we need the river to enrich our spiritual life and inspire our creative writing as well.” This beautiful introduction about the importance of rivers and waters in all our lives—in fact, in the very evolution of humankind itself—sets the mood to all of the beautiful poems and images about the rivers and waters that follow.
Issue No. 17 of The Common includes a special portfolio of stories from Syria, with works by Luqman Derki (Trans. Jonathan Wright), Shahla Al-Ujayli (Trans. Alice Guthrie), Mohammad Ibrahim Nawaya (Trans. Robin Moger), Raw’a Sunbul (Trans. Alice Guthrie), Haidar Haidar (Trans. Jonathan Wright), Odai Al Zoubi (Trans. Robin Moger), Colette Bahna (Trans. Robin Moger), and Ibrahim Samuel (Trans. Maia Tabet), as well as artwork from Syria, courtesy of the Hindiyeh Museum of Art.
The Common website features full content online as well as a supercool interactive map [pictured] of the issue - click on the geographical marker and get a photo and link to the content.
For teachers: The Common offers supplementary teaching materials for each issue. A classroom subscription includes two issues for every student and an in-person or Skype visit from Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker or a participating author.
A great idea to celebrate the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman,The Poetry Motel Foundation and the Hudson Valley Writers Guild will hold a public reading of "Song of Myself" on May 31 at the Robert Burns Statue, Washington Park, Albany, NY.
If you're in the area, they are looking for readers to help manage some of the 1300 lines in 52 sections. For those not nearby - perhaps arranging a public reading in your own town would be a wonderful commemoration of the poet in keeping with "most of Whitman’s work . . . [a] celebration of the individual, of the nation, and of the spiritual possibility within us all."
Now in its 13th LUCKY year, the August Poetry Postcard Festival is opening registration earlier than usual, starting May 1!
Teachers, students, writers, readers, traditional postal mail lovers - this is YOUR kind of festival! Super easy and fun to participate in! Once you sign up, you'll get a list of 32 names (yours included), and starting in mid-July (so they start arriving in August), you write an original poem on a postcard and mail it to the name after yours on the list. Then, each day, new postcard, new poem, next name on the list, and so on, until you have written 31 poems and sent them away to their eagerly awaiting recipients (write 32 poems if you want to send yourself one!).
I LOVE this event and have been doing it from its inception. Every year brings new challenges and new delights. Writing a poem a day seems easy enough, but some days, the inspiration is more difficult than others. Still, every year, getting postcards (nearly) daily in the mailbox is such a joy! And there are a few brave souls who continue writing throughout the year - I'm still getting the occasional postcard with numbers in the hundreds or two-hundreds. Wow!
Really, of all the events I've attended over my years, none have been as inexpensive nor as rewarding as this one. In 2018 there were 293 participants from 7 countries and 31 states/provinces, so a huge thanks to poet Paul Nelson, one of the APPF founders as well as Director of Seattle Poetry LAB.
What are you waiting for? Sign up TODAY!
The Winner of the 2018 Orison Poetry Prize was published earlier this month, and readers can now find As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams at the publisher’s website. A meeting of metaphysics and social critique, the poems in this collection examine American history and violence.
Judge Vandana Khanna says of her selection: “John Sibley Williams’ collection As One Fire Consumes Another transcends beyond the boundaries of family and history and country, beyond the body’s tragedies, [ . . . ]. These poems rise as invocation, as testimonial to life’s unfiltered beauty, violence, and faith, to the ‘light . . . already in us.’”While you’re checking out advance praise for As One Fire Consumes Another, learn more about Orison Books’s prizes, including their new chapbook prize which is currently open.
"White Cosmonaut" by Jeremy Geddes is featured on the cover of the newest issue of Bennington Review (#6), themed "Kissing the Future." While in print, they offer selections that can be read online here.
"New Neighbors" was the call for the Spring 2019 issue of Thema, appropriately enough, since spring brings the squirrels out of their winter hidey holes. Cover photo by Kathleen Gunton.
Portraits of "lonely people, people with questions that cannot be answered, those who make terrible mistakes, people who do not love themselves and will not survive within their own stories" by poet and artist Melissa Cundieff are featured in the Spring 2019 American Literary Review online.
Taking genre bending in a direction for the greater good, Staunch Books holds an annual book prize which recognizes "well-written, exciting thrillers that offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women."
The criteria for the award asks for "a novel in the thriller genre in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered."
A novel idea indeed, but also one that is deeply appreciated as a model approach to genre storytelling. The editors comment on the larger issue behind creating this prize: "While women in the real world are fighting sexual abuse and violence, being harassed, assaulted and raped, or being murdered because they’re women, the casual and endless depiction of females as victims or prey sits uneasily alongside their fight. Real rape survivors struggle to be heard, counted and believed, under-reporting is rife, partly because victims fear being torn apart in court, and prosecutions continually fail. Meanwhile, in popular culture, women are endlessly cast as victims of stalking, abduction, rape and murder, for entertainment."
The editors at Staunch Books add that taking such a stand in our culture's literature does matter, commenting on research by psychologist (and Staunch Book Prize Judge) Dr. Dominic Wilmott [pictured] that "finds 'rape myth' beliefs feed into bias which results in jurors being reluctant to convict ‘ordinary’ men accused of rape as they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised through the stories and images they’ve received through popular culture."
Writers who believe that their writing matters in the larger cultural context as it feeds and shapes our ideologies must take responsibility for this genre and others; this effort by Staunch Books is a commendable step in that direction.
Books with strong female characters are encouraged, as the editors note they aren't "just looking for thrillers that feature men in jeopardy instead, but stories in which female characters don’t have to be raped before they can be empowered, or become casual collateral to pump up the plot."
"Broken Season" by Andrew Hemmert [pictured]
"Self-Portrait on the Beloved's Body" by Michael Dhyne
"Parting with Saddles" by Skyler LaLone
"Oranges in Michigan" by Andrew Hemmert
"Street Vendor" by Mariano Zaro
The 2019 International Poetry Contest is open until May 31, 2019 with a $1500 first prize, judged by Oliver de Paz.
Founded in 1990, the Iowa Poetry Prize is awarded for a book-length collection of poems each year.
This month, the 2018 winner was published: The Year of the Femme by Cassie Donish.
From the publisher’s website: "These are poems that assess and dwell in a sensual, fantastically queer mode. Here is a voice slowed by an erotics suffused with pain, quickened by discovery. In masterful long poems and refracted lyrics, Donish flips the coin of subjectivity; different and potentially dangerous faces are revealed in turn. With lyricism as generous as it is exact, Donish tunes her writing as much to the colors, textures, and rhythms of daily life as to what violates daily life—what changes it from within and without."
Visit the press’s website to order your copy (currently on sale for the frugal reader) and visit the prize page, entries accepted throughout the month of April.
Monmouth University has announced a new way for students to earn a degree. The MA/MFA dual degree program in Creative Writing prepares writers for their future by offering publishing experience, an award-winning faculty, and flexible course offerings.
Once completing an MA in English with a Creative Writing concentration, MFA students then have 18 additional credits of creative writing study which includes the completion of a book-length Creative Thesis.Learn more about the dual degree and find out what else the program has to offer at the Monmouth University website.