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From the introduction to the final sentence, Leslie Jill Patterson’s flash essay,“Study in Self-Defense: Lubbock, Texas,” published in the September 2019 issue of Brevity (Issue 62), kept me on the edge of my seat. A perfect read for this October, Patterson tells the story of the tense moments that follow her dog’s ferocious reaction to something, or someone, outside her house at one in the morning—an event that gives her “a lesson in self-defense.”
Patterson sets the scene by painting a sense of isolation: a woman living alone, lurking shadows, the man she is afraid might come after her. She then fully engages the reader’s fight or flight response through dark strokes of impending danger, her dog’s protective instincts engaged. From the moment of her dog’s jolt from a sound sleep to an adrenaline punched awakening, the reader finds themselves breathless as her “lesson” unfolds.
Patterson’s essay brings the scene to life with detailed imagery and an all too relatable reaction to terror. You can hear the furious barking of the dog as he “pinball[s]” from room to room, see the woman hiding as if to play “peek-a-boo,” and feel afraid even to look up from your own screen, your “covers,” and catch that terrifying glimpse. A thrill to read.
Review by Kelsie Peterson
A psychoanalytic spin on the “unthought known” stream of one woman’s stumble upon the narrative of self, reflective of intuitive synchronicity, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love bursts the bubbles of vintage notions of the perfect family, or at least the façade of what the perfect family should have been.
In this memoir, Shapiro takes readers on a rocky ride through her personal genealogic discoveries; specifically, finding out after five decades that the man she knew as her father was not her biological father. Shapiro elaborates on how he was the only father she ever knew, and they shared an unbreakable bond until his passing when she was in her twenties. She tenderly recalls how he taught her about his Jewish heritage, which makes up a major part of the fabric of her self-narrative surrounding her paternity. She encounters rough waters throughout her quest, yet love remains the “unknown thought” she never gave up on.
According to William J. Doan’s visual narrative “Dear Family and Friends,” in Issue 27 of Cleaver Magazine, “17 million adults had a major depressive episode last year.” Despite affecting so many people, it can be hard to articulate the experience, and even harder for the people around them to understand, especially when the sufferer is wearing a mask of “normality,” a mask of laughter and smiles. As Doan says, “Sharing what it’s like to live with anxiety and depression is a lot like undressing in front of strangers. It’s AWKWARD.” But after a while, masking began to feel like lying to Doan, and “Dear Family and Friends” is an attempt at breaking that silence and “coming out” to those around him.
By using visual means of communication, Doan offers a more concrete way of explaining and understanding the feelings of depression and anxiety. His images are grayscale, with smudges of cool colors creeping into some panels. Scribbles and dots of ink show how it feels to be filled with anxiety, to have your brain feel weighed down and blotted with dark ink.
“I’ve barely reached the heart of the matter in this brief letter,” he says of his eighteen panels, “But it’s a start.” Not only is this piece a start for Doan, but it’s a good way to start difficult conversations with our own friends and family as we remove our masks.
Review by Katy Haas
Unpregnant Offers a Radical Normalization of Abortion and Reproductive Health. Currently, we’re in a terrifying moment in history for reproductive health in America, which makes abortion no laughing matter—and that’s exactly why Unpregnant, the debut YA novel by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan, is such a breath of fresh air. Unpregnant tells the tale of an overachieving 17-year-old named Veronica Clarke who discovers that she is pregnant a month before her high-school graduation. Seeing her college education (she’s been accepted to Brown University) and future slipping away, she enlists her former best friend—and current school outcast—Bailey Butler to drive her to an abortion clinic that doesn’t require a parental signature. The only catch? The clinic is more than 900 miles away... Read full review at BitchMedia here.
The works in the latest issue of Runestone Journal, which publishes writing by undergraduates, is splashed with color.
In nonfiction, Eli Rallo harnesses the power that a change in color brought to her as an eleven-year-old struggling with anxiety. A touching piece on family, “Color the Walls,” plays back moment from her past when her hardworking, serious father allowed his children to paint the walls red and green for Christmas, a gesture of pure silliness that gave her stillness during a difficult time.
In fiction, Whitley Carpenter captures colors in “Memories of Green,” with narrator Pell taking care of Ella, an older relative whose memories come in and out of focus as dementia starts to set in. From the blue veins beneath her skin to the green surrounding the farmhouse, Whitley’s details stand as a strong backbone to the characters’ struggles. In the same section, Renata Erickson creatively imagines a world where color is something that can be physically taken from its source in “The Color Crisis,” the narrator learning where they belong in this new type of environment and how they’ll contribute to it.
There is no shortage of color in the poetry section, however. Damaris Castillo’s “The Passing of Marigolds” brings us “a golden road to home.” Cole Chang’s “In the late Afternoon” brings a summer day in the wetlands to life in hues of brown and green, purple and gold. In “An Evening at Inch Strand Beach Just Outside Dingle, Ireland,” Emilee Kinney describes a sunset, the “Deep pink” and the “sunlit-stained shores.” Mariah Rose turns “flamingo-pink,” sunburnt in “NOLA,” then describes “Muddied water the color of chocolate milk” in “Sedona, AZ.”
Carve out some time to check out Volume 5 of Runestone Journal. It will be sure to give your day the pop of color it needs.
Review by Katy Haas
Do you ever find yourself feeling out of sorts, unable to tell if you’re still human? Jessy Randall has considered this feeling and helps readers handle it with an instructional manual of sorts in How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems, part of the Pleaides Press Visual Poetry Series.
Repurposing graphs and images to create visual poems, Randall’s works are minimal in style as they capture the complexity of human emotions. Although most of poems are just one sentence or phrase long, they manage to make connections with readers, leaving space to insert themselves as the speaker, to figure out whether or not they’re human.
Review by Katy Haas
Gabriela Garcia’s “Mrs. Sorry” can be found in the latest issue of ZYZZYVA. Focusing on class and gender, the short story is narrated by a young woman working at a cosmetics counter. At work, she helps rich women (and one in particular who comes to be known as the titular character) pick out skincare products. At home, she feels herself slipping away from herself and her boyfriend, who begins offering her the Roxicodone pills he’s been stealing from his work at a pharmacy.
As the story progresses, we see Mrs. Sorry’s husband, a man who gaslights her in front of and with debatably inadvertent help from the narrator. While Mrs. Sorry and the narrator are leading entirely different lives, they’re both women who are being manipulated by the men they trust most, the difference in their social and economic classes keeping her from speaking out on Mrs. Sorry’s behalf. “Nothing cracks in my presence,” the narrator thinks at one point as she considers her weaknesses and the futility with which she handles both her home and work life.
Eventually she finds the strength and the weight to make cracks, the ending a defiant fist in the air. Just long enough to create tension, Garcia masters her narrator’s voice in four short, satisfying pages.
Review by Katy Haas
Jeanann Verlee digs into the culture of violence against women in Prey. Published last August, the collection of poems is broken into five parts. The speaker details her own story of an abusive ex-husband and the horrors he put her through, as well as a broader focus: “The New Crucible” speaks on the ways men have used religion to justify their violence against women, and multiple pieces called “His Version” are made of quotes from men like Brock Turner and the men involved in the Steubenville rape trial. The latter set of poems are presented without comment, without words from Verlee, speaking volumes on their own. Verlee writes with unflinching honesty, recording a history of violence that leaves one breathless and bent defensively over the pages.
Review by Katy Haas
Beautiful Things is a weekly column of "very brief nonfiction that find beauty in the everyday" published on the River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative website. Edited by Michelle Webster-Hein and Sarah M. Wells, the inspiration for the column was Michelle Webseter-Hein's essay, "Beautiful Things," published in River Teeth 15.1 and appearing in a series of excerpts on the website.
Contributors to Beautiful Things include Stacy Boe Miller, Andrea Marcusa, Dina Relles, Kelly Morse, Carolee Bennett, Christopher Bundy, Andrea Fisk Rotterman, Pamela Rothbard, Steven Harvey, Allen M. Price, Nikki Hardin, Emily James, and many more.
Writers are invited to contribute flash, nonfiction of 250 or less to be considered for publication. Readers are welcome to comment on the stories using Disqus.
Maa, along with Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, founded the Asian American Literary Review in 2009 and has been serving as editor-in-chief. In his introduction to Georgia Review readers Maa writes, "A print periodical—dare I say here—is capable of cultivating communities in ways that no other medium can. To open up a journal—break a spine, perhaps—to carry a volume, or run your fingers over your name printed on a page is very special. But to congregate around a print journal is also special in its own right."
The Fall 2019 issue is Corey's final as editor, and in it, he offers what Maa calls "a valedictory essay that should not be missed." Indeed. Reading it, I unexpectedly found myself overwhelmed with emotion. Corey marvels as he remembers first accepting the job as editor, looking back now having "published polished and mature work by writers not yet born - and I don't mean born as writers, I mean born - when I started working at GR both excites and spooks me." Likewise, the end of such a great era for GR readers does not go unnoticed nor lightly in our hearts.
As Corey refrains in his final farewell: "Good literary-magazine editing is an intimate act."
"Frozen Flowers 3" by Nicoletta Poungias is featured on the Spring 2019 cover of Glassworks, a publication of the Master of Arts in Writing at Rowan University, located in Glassboro - go figure - New Jersey.
Between October 2016 and February 2017, Heron Tree online poetry journal published a series of works "constructed from materials in the public domain in the United States." Editors Chris Campolo and Rebecca Resinski then compiled these into a PDF ebook, Found in the Public Domain, that is free to download.
Contributors include Melissa Frederick, Wendy DeGroat, Karen L. George, Howie Good, Tamiko Nimura, Winston Plowes, Deborah Purdy, M. A. Scott, Margo Taft Stever, Carey Voss, and Sarah Ann Winn. The booklet includes a section of notes from each contributor on their source(s) and process.
Heron Tree publishes poems individually on their website and collects them into volumes and special issues. All content is available for readers online. The publications is open for submissions for volume seven through December 1, 2019.
The Fall 2019 issue of Ruminate features the winning entries for the publication's annual William Van Dyke Short Story Prize. The final judge for 2019 was Tyrese Coleman.
"DrownTown" by Joshua Gray
"Parkside" by Kate Bradley
"Standard Uniform" by Shelley Linso
Read more about each author in addition to the judge's comments about their works here.
The 2020 William Van Dyke Short Story Prize, awarding $1500 to the winner, is open until February 15, 2020.
Alex "Queen of Double Eyes" Garant is the featured artist for issue 20 of Sequestrum: Journal of Literature and Art. Unique to Sequestrum is their mission "to be an affordable, sustainable home to quality literature. Rather than charge a set sticker price per issue, we offer a unique, pay-what-you-can subscription format."
The Spring 2019 issue of Seneca Review features cover art by Edie Fake, whose "paintings start as self-portraits, and from there, they make a break for it, referencing elements of the trans and non-binary body through pattern, color and architectural metaphor."
Take some time to check out award-winning books published this September.
Refugia by Kyce Bello brought home the inaugural Interim 2018 Test Site Poetry Series Winner. Bello’s debut poetry collection, a dedication to resilience, offers a bright and hopeful voice in the current conversation about climate change.
Winner of the 2018 Autumn House Poetry Prize, debut collection Cage of Lit Glass by Charles Kell engages themes of death, incarceration, and family—a tense and insightful read.
Al Ortolani’s Hansel and Gretel Get the Word on the Street, Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner, was shipped out to subscribers of Rattle literary magazine earlier in the month. The chapbook’s poems represent connections to others, sometimes dark, sometimes light, often quirky.Sharon Olds selected Vantage by Taneum Bambrick as the winner of the 2019 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Award. A fictional account of Bambrick’s experience working as the only woman on a six-person garbage crew around the reservoirs of two dams, the poems document the violence she witnessed toward the people and the environment along the Columbia River.
In addition to publishing poetry, interviews, and reviews twice a year online as well as chapbooks, Under a Warm Green Linden accompanies each issue with a selection of beautiful, affordable, high-quality print broadsides signed by the authors. The adjectives to describe these broadsides are my own; I have sought them out for purchase with every new issue - so I can attest to their production value! Add to that, Under a Warm Green Linden donates a portion of all proceeds from sales to the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Forest Foundation - both with specific reforestation efforts. To date. Under a Warm Green Linden supporters have helped plant 300 trees. A win all around!
Pictured: "Narcissus on the Hunt" by Jennifer Bullis
Looking to spark your motivation for writing? Try the latest prompt from 3Elements Review: Carriage, Pinwheel, Scour.
Each quarter, 3Elements Review presents three elements, and all three must be used in the story or poem in order to be considered for publication.
The editors expand on this guideline, "Your story or poem doesn’t have to be about the three elements or even revolve around them; simply use your imagination to create whatever you want. You can use any form of the words/elements for the given submission period. For example, if the elements are: Flash, Whimsy, and Seizure; we would accept the usage of Flashed, Whimsical, and Seizures."
3Elements also accepts artwork and photography based on at least one of the elements - "but creating something that represents all three elements will really impress us."
The deadline for this quarter is November 30, 2019.
The Fall 2019 issue of Rattle Tribute to African Poets features seventeen poems "representative of the urgency and excitement that makes the poetry coming out of the continent feel so vital."
Authors whose work make up this tribute include O-Jeremiah Agbaakin, Ifeoluwa Ayandele, Kwame Dawes, Jonathan Endurance, Zaid Gamieldien, Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Pamilerin Jacob, Temidayo Jacob, Labeja Kodua, Akachi Obijiaku, Anointing Obuh, Chisom Okafor, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Chidinma Opaigbeogu, Olajide Salawu, and Charika Swanepoel.
There is also an interview with Kwame Dawes by Editor Timothy Green.
"Bodies Worth Defending" is the theme of Water~Stone Review Volume 21, and is clearly expressed in this cover photograph by Kwon Healin.
“Solo #4” by Leah Kosh is featured on the Winter/Spring 2019 cover of Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, which has been running uninterrupted since its inception in 1976.
Contemporary Chinese Poetry is the special focus of the latest issue of Chinese Literature Today (v8 n1), with several works by each poet. The featured authors and the translators include:
Wang Jiaxin, translated by Diana Shi and George O’Connell
Che Qianzi, translated by Yang Liping and Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas
Li Dewu, translated by Jenny Chen and Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas
Hu Jiujiu, translated by Matt Turner and Haiying Weng
Mi Jialu, translated by Lucas Klein, Michael Day, Matt Turner, and Haiying Weng
Huang Chunming, translated by Tze-lan Sang
Chen Li, translated by Elaine Wong
The publication also includes a feature section on Newman Prize Laureate Xi Xi, with the 2019 Newman Prize Nomination, the 2019 Newman Prize Acceptance Speech, new poems translated by Jennifer Feeley, excerpts from several works, reprints, and an analytical essay of Xi Xi's fiction by Wei Yang Menkus.
You are now part of The Chain.
Adrian McKinty, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, now a New Yorker, is an award-winning crime novelist who has written a stunning work of twisted psychology, domination, and contest of wills. The plan in The Chain seems foolproof, insidious as it is. A child is kidnapped, the parent gets a phone call, and a ransom demand is made. The parent is told to select another child and kidnap the target in order to get his or her child returned. A two-step process. The horrifying aspect of the demand is that the parent gets 24 hours to pay the ransom and kidnap the next child. No such thing as planning, considering, discussing, contemplating, rationalizing, justifying. The Chain makes an action demand, and the demand for fast action and tangible results. Or the kidnapped child is no more. The Chain has no tolerance for mistakes, for police involvement, for extensions of time to pay the ransom, for attempts to outwit. The entire process will be completed in 24 hours, or else.
Carla Rachel Sameth’s One Day on the Gold Line offers a gut-wrenching account of Sameth’s life from young adulthood through middle-age, spinning around maternal desire and loss, and probing the critical distinctions between an imaginary motherhood and the lived reality of mothering her son through young-adulthood. Structured through a series of twenty-nine short chapters that refuse easy chronology, the book is both thematically and formally interested in questions of time and identity.
Beginning with the essay “The Burning Boat,” the book charts Sameth’s insatiable desire to build a family, whether partnered or solo, and the obstacles that stand in her way. Conception comes easily to Sameth; carrying to term does not. Only after undergoing experimental treatments for recurrent miscarriage does she give birth to her son, Raphael. Significantly, Sameth chooses not to offer a developed account of gestation—the ground that most mother memoirs traverse; rather, there’s a temporal gap between the chapters that explore maternal desire and those that present difficulties of mothering, both single and as lesbian co-parent to her stepdaughter. In this way, the book provocatively explores what it means to create and sustain family outside heterosexual marriage.
Rooted in the physical and social landscapes of California, the last third of the book takes up the difficulties that Sameth experiences as adolescent Raphael undergoes treatment for drug use. Critically, the book offers addiction as a figure through which to understand all human desire. Sameth writes: “In my case, I desperately sought self-value; I thought that I could fix the hole by creating a family to love and nurture.” Writing against fantasies of ideal motherhood, Sameth’s book presents a brutally honest and much-needed account of family-building and parenting in the twenty-first century.
Review by Robin Silbergleid
Robin Silbergleid is a poet and nonfiction writer. Her most recent publication is In the Cubiculum Nocturnum (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). She currently directs the Creative Writing Program and teaches at Michigan State University. You can also find her online at @rsilbergleid and robinsilbergleid.com.
Understorey Magazine is an online publication of Canadian literature and visual art inviting "compelling, original stories and art by Canadian writers and artists who identify as women or non-binary."
For Issue 17 themed Nature: Writing on a World under Threat, the editors are offering free editing services for submissions. In an effort to "inspire new and emerging writers, as well as support established writers," the editors are offering to "send our thoughts on what already works and what can be improved." Not all works will be published, but with this effort, Understorey hopes to help women writers "polish" their writing and "find a place to share it with the world."
A very generous offer indeed! Submission deadline is September 30.
The Sept/Oct 2019 issue of Kenyon Review features the 2019 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers winner and runners up, along with an introduction by Richie Hofmann. Each work can also be found on the Kenyon Review website along with an audio recording by the poet.
Jay Martin: “November Picnic with Louise"
The Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers is open to high school sophomores and juniors. The winner receives a full scholarship to the Kenyon Review Young Writers workshop in addition to publication with two runners up.