In 2018, Driftwood Press began accepting graphic work for their book publishing arm, and as readers wait for their chance to pick up a new graphic novel, they can check out the graphic work in the literary magazine. The current issue published at the start of 2019 features three selections in graphic works: “LaughTrack” by J. Collings, “The Salton Sea” by Cindy House, and “Émigré Animals” by Jason Hart.
In “The Salton Sea,” House writes of her young son who, after refusing to complete a project, is given an alternate assignment at school. House’s eager willingness to patiently teach her poet son how to navigate in a world that doesn’t completely suit him is palpable in her poetic language and minimal illustrations, a touching piece.
Hart uses topiary animals to explore the immigrant experience in “Émigré Animals,” a man showcasing his resiliency as he creates the animals of his home country along the streets of his new home. The images of this comic reminded me of a children’s book, and I could easily see Hart’s topiary artist inhabiting a longer, expanded story.
“LaughTrack” is creative in its wordlessness; the only dialogue in the comic are streams of “hahahaha” laughter written in red. A man, miserable in his day to day life, feeds off the laughter he gleans from others, culminating in one final letdown. Despite the sullen tone hanging over the comic, the bright colors and sketchy lines make for a visually enjoyable read.
None of the three comics in Issue 6.1 of Driftwood Press are alike. Each brings something different to the table—different art styles, writing styles, subject matter—and I look forward to discovering even more comics offered in future issues and novels from Driftwood Press.
Review by Katy Haas
The editors of Frontier Poetry, in keeping with their mission "to provide practical help for serious writers," especially emerging poets, has a series of interviews - Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances - with "great editors from around the literary community." Frontier Poetry asks for "frank thoughts on why poems may get accepted/rejected from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances."
Adding an interview almost every month, Frontier Poetry has so far interviewed Kristin George Bagdanov of Ruminate Magazine, Rick Barot of New England Review, Chelene Knight of Room, Esther Vincent [pictured] of The Tiger Moth Review, Talin Tahajian of Adroit Journal, J.P. Dancing Bear of Verse Daily, Gabrielle Bates of Seattle Review, Melissa Crowe of Beloit Poetry Journal, Marion Wrenn of Painted Bride Quarterly, Hannah Aizenman of The New Yorker, Anthony Frame of Glass Poetry, Luther Hughes of The Shade Journal, Don Share of Poetry, Sumita Chakraborty of Agni, Jessica Faust of The Southern Review, and Kwame Dawes of Prairie Schooner.
When her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 60s, Wolf’s father conspired with doctors, friends, and family to conceal the truth from her, a secret he ends up taking to the grave, a family member the one to finally break the silence. Wolf’s poems are about this time in her family’s lives, the title drawing from the conversation in which Wolf finds out about her mother’s illness:
“Did you know?” she asked.
“Know what?” I responded.
“Did you know the secret?” she asked.
“What secret?” I responded.
[ . . . ]
Now there was an “us”:
the ones who did not know.
Following the revelation about her health, Wolf’s mother challenges the life she created behind the shield of her husband’s secrecy; Wolf the voice in her ear urging her to finally do whatever she wants.
Wolf writes in a straightforward voice, never losing readers in overly flowery language, instead focusing on clearly relating her mother’s story, giving her a voice when she was denied one by her husband for so long.
Reading Did You Know? is an intimate peek into an archaic practice—a husband able to dictate his wife’s medical care while hiding it from her—but as women are currently fighting for bodily autonomy while access to abortion is challenged, the chapbook ends up feeling incredibly current.
Review by Katy Haas
The Spring 2019 issue of The Missouri Review includes the 2018 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize Winners.
"Salt Land" by Amanda Baldeneaux
"Jamilla" by Jo Anne Bennett
Poetry by Diane Seuss [pictured]
This annual contest closes October 1 each year, and in addition to publication, the winners each receive $5000. All entries are considered for publication.
If my mother and I walk out of a store into the center of the mall or exit a building onto any town’s main street, there’s a 95% chance she’ll ask me which way we came from and which way we’re now headed. If we park in a crowded lot, she follows as I lead to her hidden car. When I’m with her, I am the navigator, the way-finder.
The 33-page nonfiction piece begins in an airport, Sellers struggling to find her way out to her car. From here, we work back, finding this was always an issue, cultivated when she was young as her mother struggled with mental illness and her father with alcoholism. Knowing which way to turn, when it’s okay to turn on a red light, how to navigate a college campus or a familiar neighborhood, recognizing faces—this is all foreign to Sellers. However, Sellers writes all of this straightforwardly and clearly as if she’s describing how we can make it out of an airport, a route we can effortlessly follow, her words a way-finder at our side.
After tracing back to examine the possible source of this predicament, she puts a name to it: prosopagnosia or topographical agnosia. Once it has a name, it’s easier to understand and cope with, which leads to the deeper point of Sellers’ piece. In witnessing others struggle, she notes that she’s not uniquely alone, and she realizes the compassion and patience she shows others lost with or around her. This sympathy is missing when dealing with her own directional mishaps, the rest of the piece a steady reminder for readers to treat ourselves and others with more compassion as we find our ways through the world.
The basic stories in much of our canon of literature are hardly subtle. Their power and wisdom come from the discoveries about human nature and behavior through characters and their struggles. Beware of pride-bound, stubborn, pigheaded leaders—yes and beware of the idea that the themes of classic literature are “irrelevant” today. The resiliency of literature comes also in the clear and perfect expression of the moments and moods of life through language, many examples of which cannot be forgotten—Hamlet with the skull of his jester, Keats and his nightingale, or the sheer poignancy of Nick Carroway at the end of Daisy’s dock, looking out on the green light, thinking "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Speer Morgan, "Collisions," The Missouri Review, Spring 2019
"People in glass houses should not throw stones"
The characters within the novel are very thought out, and the reader is able to visualize their appearance as well as learn about their personalities through the words on the page. Gabby, who is a detective, is a strong female lead, and this is nice to read as she is seen as a feminist character. Each character adds their own input into the story and their lives are all intertwined through a series of events which will be revealed within the novel.
Each chapter is full of suspense, and they are short, so the reader is not left hanging or bored with the content. The plot is structured into two strands: before and after the murder.
The settings are beautiful within the book, and they can only be described as a paradisiacal haven where only the rich of the rich get to go. The story is set, for the most part, in a huge glass rental house, and though cliché, the saying “people in glass houses should not throw stones” perfectly applies to this novel. Pathetic fallacy is used a lot to set the tone of each chapter as the plot twists and turns.
As the reader, you go through a roller coaster of emotions throughout, deciding who to side with and trying to work out who is lying and who is telling the truth. And you constantly question yourself as to whodunit.
Overall, this was a very good novel by Holahan, and I will not hesitate to pick up another of her books in the future, as I read this one in only one weekend!
Review by Tom Walker.
The Chattahoochee Review Spring 2019 issue features the winners of the 2019 Lamar York Prize:
Winner for Fiction
Judge Kevin Wilson
“A Box of Photographs” by Peter Newall [pictured]
Winner for Nonfiction
Judge Adriana Páramo
“The Black Place” by Whitney Lawson
To read the judge's commentary and see a full list of finalists, click here.
Entries for the Lamar York Prize are accepted from November 1 - January 31 of each year. In addition to publication, winners receive a prize of $1000.
Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts is collaborating with Black Earth Institute on the publication of a major anthology of contemporary Chicanx writers. Until July 1, 2019, they are accepting submissions of Chicanx poetry and prose from across the country.
The editors for this collection will be Luis Alberto Urrea, Pam Uschuk, Matt Mendez, Beth Alvarado, William Pitt Root, Carmen Calatayud, Carmen Tafolla, Octavio Quintanilla, Theresa Acevedo, Denise Chavez and Edward Vidaurre.
Submission Guidelines: "We are looking for Chicanx writers of poems and prose, from the rasquache to the refined. We want writing that goes deep into the culture and reveals our heritage in new ways. We want experiences, from blue collar gigs to going into higher education and pursuing PhDs. We want work that challenges. That is irreverent. That is both defiant and inventive. That is well-crafted. That is puro Chicanx. We acknowledge Chicanx is an attitude that may intersect with Latinx."
For more information, visit the Cutthroat website.
In response to the recent abortion bans in the United States, Jellyfish Review has been publishing a series of “Pro-Choice stories” with their usual selections. In the days surrounding the bans, my social media accounts exploded with people in my life coming forward with their own abortion stories, each of their needs and wants behind their choices unique. The Pro-Choice stories of Jellyfish Review mimic this: varying voices and points of view from different walks of life, all of them valid.
“Now That I’m Being Honest” by Holly Pelesky is addressed to the child the narrator planned to abort and didn’t, back before she found her voice, highlighting how important the ability to make a choice is in a life. In “A Fetus Walks into a Bar,” Jonathan Cardew’s imagined fetus is cold-blooded and gun-toting, leading readers to consider the rights afforded gun owners vs. uterus owners.
“None of It Was Easy” by Meghan Louise Wagner is a short, thirteen-part nonfiction piece that walks through each step, from the first hint that Wagner is pregnant to the afternoon the day of her abortion, ending with the sentence “I felt sick and empty but, most of all, I felt relieved,” her relief palpable.
Filled with tension is “The Morning After” by Andrea Rinard, a mother supporting her daughter after her daughter’s assault, the desire to protect her battling with the knowledge that she must let her daughter make her own choices.
The stories continue, each different, each important. The editors include links to pro-choice organizations after every piece, inviting readers to continue to support the choices others make for their bodies, all as different and important and valid as the stories Jellyfish Review presents.
Review by Katy Haas
The Courtship of Winds each issue asks five questions of writers whose work has previously appeared in the online publication. The Winter 2019 Digital Forum invited Perle Besserman [pictured], Sandra Kohler, Denise Kline, and Jennifer Page to respond to questions to discuss how they see the #MeToo movement now - post initial profound effect, post backlash, post Kavanaugh hearings, and post Christine Blasey Ford testimony.
The writers each responded to five questions posed by the editors, including the Kavanaugh hearings, Trump's mocking Al Franken's stepping down, "utilitarian calculus" as addressed by Sonia Sadha, the impact of movements like this, and any inherent 'dangers' for men and women in our current climate of accusations and speaking up.
"In my view, writing, at least literary writing, is not just a matter of inventing out of whole cloth or drawing on things we remember, but also of accessing sought-for words and connections. Do we, when we're writing, reach in to actively find the parts of our next sentences, or are those 'given' to us? It often feels like the latter, which naturally makes me wonder through what agency. As Joseph Brodsky wrote somewhere, life is a gift, and where there is a gift there must be a giver."
It’s nothing new for a novel’s key character to share his name with the book’s author. Past examples are Stephen King in Song of Savannah, Paul Auster in New York Trilogy, and Philip Roth in Operation Shylock. But Ches Smith’s protagonist, Ches Smith, is something apart and definitely a standout character in Smith’s new book, The Author is Dead. Try not to speculate on any detail in this book that might be drawn from the author’s life, except that it’s about a writer who writes a book titled The Author is Dead.
We meet Ches, the character, at Sugarville Mall. He carries his writings, his so called “loose-leaf chronicles,” in a black binder that’s always with him. Ches is intrigued by Thalia, lead singer with the Zombie Cowgirls, a “punk-country fusion” band. One short conversation with her and he’s hooked. It won’t be giving anything away to tell that Thalia very soon becomes his ghostly muse, since her otherworldly presence is key to this story’s setup.
Living Midair by Karen June Olson is the newest offering in the 2River Chapbook Series. Numbering 26, these chapbooks are available open access online as well as free download using the PDF or "chap the book" feature which provides a booklet formatted print copy.
Author Karen June Olson is Professor Emerita of Early Care and Education at St. Louis Community College. Her poems in this collection examine nature, rural life, writing class, grief, death, and the familial relationships between daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers.
From the title poem, "Living Midair":
That night we sat on a veranda,
our glasses clinked a cheer or two
and we noticed the moon rise
from the water as waves
seemed to give the needed lift
and curled around its bright edges.
The cover of Booth’s Winter 2019 issue invites readers in with little square scenes of bright colors and caricatures, with text promising the Nonfiction Prize winners inside. Of the four pieces selected by Judge Brian Oliu, two touched me most: “A Fractured Atlas” by Alex Clark and “Remember the Earth” by Angelique Stevens.
In the first, Clark recounts the fractured memory of being molested as a child by a friend’s father. Points of view are manipulated. “Her” becomes “you” which sometimes slips into first person: “you grow my nails out.” Throughout the piece, names are redacted, reduced to “( )” for the friend and “// //” for the father/abuser. The switches in POV, these redactions, font changes, and layering of text and image parallel the ways memory works. Details are left out, forgotten, rearranged, repeated, layered with other memories. Each page feels like decoding a map, like uncovering a new memory, a truly inventive piece of nonfiction.
In “Remember the Earth,” Stevens explores the idea of death, of what and who we leave behind. After her sister Gina’s suicide, she faces their tumultuous relationship and the years, months, and days that lead up to Gina’s death. She tries make sense of the timeline that brought both of them there. A tender and intimate work, Stevens packs so much raw emotional energy into one short piece, I had to read it in little bursts.
Both deserved of placing in the Nonfiction Prize, Clark and Stevens peel back layers of their memories. While constructed completely differently, both give stark and honest examinations of a moment in each of their lives.
Published by the Black Earth Institute, dedicated to re-forging the links between art, spirit, and society, the May 2019 issue of About Place is themed "Dignity As An Endangered Species."
Issue Editor Pamela Uschuk notes that the editors "chose work that addressed the question, what is dignity?" from the starting point that "dignity is endangered during these times." Assistant Editors CMarie Fuhrman asserts, "It is necessary that we begin to define, for ourselves and as a Nation, that which makes us human, humane." And Maggie Miller
Having served as editor of Kenyon Review since 1994, David Lynn will be stepping down next spring. The publication board, staff and college will be setting a timeline for the application process to consider candidates this upcoming fall or winter. The submission period for this year will be limited as a result of this transition. "In anticipation of a new editor’s arrival, we must maintain space in upcoming issues, so we will be limiting our open period of submissions to September 15-October 1, 2019," writes Alicia Misarti, The Kenyon Review Director of Operations.
Fortunately, Lynn plans to remain active at Kenyon College, as the college president Sean M. Decatur notes, "We’ve already been in conversations on some ideas about other initiatives involving writing and literature for the College."
Our thanks to David Lynn for his years of commitment to the literary community as editor, and our best to all at Kenyon Review during this time of change.
Each year, The Briar Cliff Review holds a contest for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction with the winners receiving $1000 and publication. The following 2018 winners appear in the most recent issue (31, 2019):
"I'd hoped to finish this poem before it came true" by Kateri Kosek
"Drink It Dry" by Rachel E. Hicks
"Trauma in Our Country" by Beverly Tan Murray [pictured]
The Briar Cliff Contest is open annually from August 1 - November 1.
Spanning four pages of The Southeast Review (37.1), Tiana Clark’s “Gentrification” conjures up hidden details, the poem’s speaker talking in wisps, the ghosts of a summer past haunting the neighborhood in East Nashville where she used to live and which has now been gentrified. The speaker discusses the ways in which her body—a woman of color’s body—fits into this forgotten space:
and I had never tried cocaine before,
until you tricked me [ . . . ]
and other men laughed and you laughed and I laughed too,
but I didn’t know what was so funny. I didn’t know
when something was at my expense. I was the only girl there too.
I’ve always been the only girl there
inside a house with men, being duped by men, waxing their backs [ . . . ]
Repeatedly, she finds herself in moments like this, moments of emotional or physical violence: her boyfriend feeds her then calls her fat, she does drugs in a backseat, she has drunken fights in the street, she reveals the “vulnerable part” of her neck as she once “grasp[ed] at white men for attention,” her body becoming another gentrified space.
The scenes come quickly as if Clark is quickly scrawling these memories down before she can forget them, wrapping readers in the heat and tension of that summer, unflinching as she reveals the underbelly, the ugliness, the truths about her home and herself. Take some time to sink into “Gentrification,” then, like me, check out Clark’s books of poetry: I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, September 2018), and Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016).
Review by Katy Haas
Big Muddy has proven to be one of my most favorite journals to read. The topics of its many stories and poems speak to that downhome, simpler type of life, even if sometimes it may not be a positive image or experience for those involved.
Within its pages, you’ll find fiction, poetry, and essays that really make you think about life and the situations we find ourselves in. Most of the work and topics are directly related to the ten states bordering the Mississippi River, all the way from the U.S./Canada border to the Gulf Coast through Louisiana.
Creative Nonfiction invites writers to follow @cnfonline on Twitter, then tell a true story in the length of a tweet with #cnftweet to have that writing considered for publication in the "Tiny Truths" section of the print magazine.
The Spring 2019 issue includes fourteen tiny essays on a range of topics including 'caregiving for a parent with dementia' (ChrisGNguyen), finding a single cigarette butt in the driveway every day (GitaCBrown), a family's welcome back "as if no time had passed" (MPMcCune2), going home "in my dreams" (sevans_writer), 'a musician explaining his song title' (ZippyZey aka Karen Zey - pictured), doing the hokey pokey so as not to look a fool (by ridiculoustimes) and memories stirred by listening to the news (mjlevan).
It only takes looking at some of the poem titles in The Cape Rock #47 to get that this slim volume published out of Southeast Missouri State University is poetry by and for the people: “Dad’s Skoal Can” and “Song of the Opossum” by January Pearson; “Toilet Cubicle” by Steve Denehan; “Trimming My Father’s Toenails” by Cecil Sayre; “Long Distance Dating for the Elderly” by Mark Rubin. Not meaning to be dismissive in perhaps attributing these works as common, the craft and skill exhibited in them speaks to the draw of the publication and the selective capabilities of a strong editorial staff.
There are many single stunning contributions: Danielle Hanson’s poem titled “How to Tell This Wilted Dogwood Petal From Starlight” continues “Both have fallen from some level of sky. / Lay down and let’s discuss this rationally.” commanding the reader’s experience of the tangible and intangible; the three lines of “Years Later” by Ryan Pickney will leave readers speechless; Jeff Hardin’s “This Only Place” examines a series of moments under the poet’s microscope, opening, “This easy weightlessness along the earth I owe / to having heard the heron‘s wings the moment / it alighted then decided otherwise and lifted off.”
Offering multiple poems by individual writers is a welcome attribute, and the closing four by Claire Scott exemplify the ability of many of the poets included to manage a range of subject and style. Her poignant “At Eighty” reads at a bit of a romp thanks to line breaks like:
spun with mum
of prayer to
At 86 pages, 43 poets, 69 poems: The Cape Rock is a venerable journal of poetry that both makes connections and distinctions.
“Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!” Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures!
Author/illustrator Mira Bartók’s debut novel follows the story of a one-eared fox groundling (human-animal hybrid) named Thirteen. As if having one ear isn’t bad enough, Thirteen was abandoned in a grim-filled orphanage under the control of a wretched villainess called Miss Carbunkle. But the turn of events led to unexpected paths, both good and bad. Thirteen’s gut-wrenching encounters with brutality, deprivation, and unappetizing Dickensian roads are intertwined with gentle humor, uplifting vibes, and epic journeys.
Music and friendship play essential roles in the story. This explains why, in spite of the rouge-ish undertakings of rouge-ish characters, any reader will surely immerse oneself with the rollercoaster ride of events and keep the pages turning. Bartók’s writing draws rich kaleidoscopes of characters, steampunk setting, and sensational quests. The delightful illustrations brought a new level of charm to this adventure, making the whole experience undeniably jam-packed with surprises to the brim.
Blend in Miss Peregrine’s characters with the woeful mishaps in A Series of Unfortunate Events, then top it off with the legendary tale of King Arthur, and there you have it! The Wonderling! In a nutshell, The Wonderling takes its readers into a world of infinite possibilities.
Don’t let people tell you that this book is just for children, because adventure has NO age limit!
Review by Mary Kristine P. Garcia
Cave Wall 15 includes a focus on revision. The 'artwork' for this issue consists of fifteen early draft images of some of the poems included. The cover art is actually Emma Bolden's draft of "Easter Sunday." Other authors whose drafts are included: Matthew Thorburn, Billy Reynolds, Chelsea Wagenaar, Jessica Cuello, Peter Kline, and Molly Spencer.
In addition, Cave Wall interviewed poets from this issue about their revision process and published those as a PDF on their website. Poets interviewed include Kasey Jueds, Matthew Thorburn, Tori Reynolds, Emma Bolden, Christopher Buckley, Molly Spencer, Billy Reynolds, Peter Kline, Carrie Green, Elizabeth Breese, John Sibley Williams, Chelsea Wagenaar, Lola Haskins, and Celisa Steele.
This issue combined with these Q&As would make an excellent teaching resource!