Elizabeth Spencer Spragins’ passion for bardic verse in The Language of the Bones is irresistible. I can’t imagine a writer who, after reading this, wouldn’t try her hand at it or even use this as a class text to inspire students. Though Spragins does not provide ‘guidelines’ for the forms she utilizes – four Welsh (cywydd llosgyrnog, rhupunt, clogyrnach, cyhydedd hir) and one Gaelic (rannaigheacht ghairid) – a Google search offers plenty of resources (including an article by Spragins herself).
This “American Journeys in Bardic Verse” takes readers from Virginia to South and North Carolina, the deserts of the Southwest, the forests of the Northwest, and all the way to Alaska. Each poem is accompanied by endnotes to provide historical and cultural contexts. Because Spragins has specifically chosen to give “voice to the unspoken, the overlooked, and the forgotten,” these poems require prior knowledge for greatest appreciation, and each is a kind of history lesson. The “starving time” in colonial Jamestown; the forcible removal of the Cherokee Nation from their homeland; people, events, and landmarks of the American Civil War and the south are subjects Spragins educates her readers about through deftly crafted meter and rhyme which, she instructs, is traditionally read aloud.
Spragins also includes contemporary issues and does not shy away from controversy, as in her poem “At Standing Rock,” commenting on the treatment of Lakota Sioux. “Polar Night,” “Hunters,” and “Northern Lights” stand in witness to the devastations of climate change. And the book closes on a series of poems that return to places where nature and spirituality intersect, in “Sedona,” “The Garden of the Gods,” the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (“Sacred Songs”), and Muir Woods (“Spires”). A looking outward from who and where we are physically to something much greater and beyond.
Read more about Elizabeth Spencer Spragins and The Language of the Bones in an interview with Ceri Shaw on AmeriCymru.
Review by Denise Hill
Crazyhorse Fiction Editor Anthony Varallo's Editor's Note to the Spring 2019 issue couldn't be more timely. In it, he recounts a conversation with a colleague asking, "What do you do with all your books?"
A conundrum for most NewPages readers, no doubt, since being book people still means holding onto physical copies of books, no matter how many e-versions we could be reading also/instead.
I once envisioned the perfect adulthood as being one surrounded by books. I guess I also should have envisioned the time to read them all! Much like the Twilight Episode, Time Enough At Last, we here at NewPages find ourselves surrounded by books and literary journals with barely enough time to glance the covers and contents before another batch arrives in the mail.
We do make time, however, to read, to write reviews, to appreciate others' reviews, and keep up with the literary world in general. Still - here are all these physical books.
Varallo [pictured] writes, "For many years, I acquired books with the idea that I was building a library. A library that would give me pleasure for years, I'd hoped, or a library that might be useful to others . . . "
We had also held such visions at one time, purchasing a dozen or so quality bookcases and having some built in. They quickly filled the office and spilled into numerous rooms in our home. And who read them? Did we have time? Did they even "look good" ? As Varallo comments, "I tell my colleague about the tower of books on my nightstand, the one that stretches higher than my lamp. I describe the books stacked horizontally on my bookshelves, not in the artful, decorative style you sometimes see in glossy magazines; these are stacks of pure necessity. Books piled on top of other books, sometimes bending the covers of the books beneath them."
This is the reality of 'too many books.' Yes, there is such a thing as too many books. And the truth of the matter in our case is, they should be freed onto others so that they can be read.
We cleared off the bookshelves in the office. Cleared out almost every bookcase in the house. We boxed up books and magazines and donated them to various libraries, colleges, universities and K-12 classrooms in our area and a bit beyond (Hello Alaska friends!). After this initial clearing out, we are still met with a steady stream of books and lit mags that come through. It is our work, after all.
What to do with them? We have a plan hatching and look forward to sharing it with you later this summer. In the meantime, What do you do with all your books?
Glimmer Train has just chosen the winning stories for their final Short Story Award for New Writers competition. The award was given for a short story by a writer whose fiction has not appeared with a circulation greater than 5000.
1st place goes to Rachael Uwada [pictured] Clifford of Baltimore, Maryland, who wins $2500 for “What the Year Will Swallow.” Her story will be published in Issue 106, the final issue of Glimmer Train Stories. This will be her first fiction publication.
2nd place goes to Douglas Kiklowicz of Long Beach, California, who wins $500 for “I Used to Be Funny.” His story will also be published in Issue 106 of Glimmer Train, increasing his prize to $700. This will be his first fiction publication.
3rd place goes to Ashley Alliano of Orlando, Florida, who wins $300 for “Trust.” Her story will also be published in Issue 106 of Glimmer Train, increasing her prize to $700. This will be her first fiction publication.
Here’s a PDF of the Top 25.
It doesn’t matter if you gravitate toward fiction, nonfiction, or poetry when cracking open a new issue of literary magazine—the Spring/Summer 2019 Concho River Review has you covered.
John Blair kicks off the issue with “The Glass Mountain,” a piece that drips dark energy. Ray’s young, troubled niece moves in with him and his wife after her mother dies. Sexual and violent tension build throughout the story, finally culminating in an explosion of darkness.
In nonfiction, Brandon Daily revisits a dark time in his own life in “A Moment In Our Life, Again,” an intimate taste of the turmoil a couple feels when trying for children and experiencing multiple miscarriages. Daily gives the point of view of the father in the heartbreaking scenario, his pain orbiting his wife’s. The piece takes place as Daily waits outside the bathroom door, waiting for bad news, and then moves backward to shed light on the years and previous miscarriages that led up to this one, the moment suspended, hanging over readers like a shadow.
The issue concludes with twenty-seven poems by twenty-seven poets. Some of my favorites include “Migratory Bird Count” by Walter Bargen, a light piece on perception; “Some Good News” by Grant Clauser who points out the little bits of human kindness and comfort we can cling to; “AX” by Timothy Krcmarik, a small study on the speaker’s five-year-old son; and “Hunger” by Elena Lelia Radulescu, wives’ tales exploring the delicate balance of loneliness. Regardless of which poem a reader decides to start with, all are straight forward narratives telling stories in clear voices.
Both poetry and prose in this issue of Concho River Review promise readers a satisfying selection.
Review by Katy Haas
Dante Di Stefano creates a fascinating read of precise opinions and clever phrasing with poetry in his new book, Ill Angels. If I were to divide it roughly into subject chapters, one would be musicians, another would be portraits, then love poems to his wife, verses about America, and poems for his students. Throughout the book, a characteristic worthy of attention is his skill in giving fresh meaning to words.
American Life in Poetry: Column 745
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
The following poem by James Davis May, published in 32 Poems Magazine, has a sentence I'd like to underline, because it states just what I look for in the poems I choose for this column: "We praise the world by making / others see what we see." Here we have moonflowers opening, for a man and his daughter, and for us. The poet lives in Georgia and is the author of Unquiet Things from Louisiana State University Press.
Tonight at dusk we linger by the fence
around the garden, watching the wound husks
of moonflowers unclench themselves slowly,
almost too slow for us to see their moving—
you notice only when you look away
and back, until the bloom decides,
or seems to decide, the tease is over,
and throws its petals backward like a sail
in wind, a suddenness about this as though
it screams, almost the way a newborn screams
at pain and want and cold, and I still hear
that cry in the shout across the garden
to say another flower is about to break.
I go to where my daughter stands, flowers
strung along the vine like Christmas lights,
one not yet lit. We praise the world by making
others see what we see. So now she points and feels
what must be pride when the bloom unlocks itself
from itself. And then she turns to look at me.
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 ©2018 by James Davis May, "Moonflowers," from 32 Poems Magazine (Number 16.2, Winter, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of James Davis May 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.
Glimmer Train has chosen the winning stories for their final Family Matters competition. This award was given for a short story about families of any configuration.
1st place goes to Robin Halevy [pictured] of Big Pine Key, Florida, who wins $2500 for “Bright Ideas for Residential Lighting.” Her story will be published in Issue 106, the final issue of Glimmer Train Stories. This will be her first fiction publication.
2nd place goes to Arthur Klepchukov of Germantown, Maryland, who wins $500 for “The Unfinished Death of My Grandfather.” His story will also be published in Issue 106 of Glimmer Train, increasing his prize to $700.
3rd place goes to Christa Romanosky of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who wins $300 for “Ways to Light the Water on Fire.” Her story will also be published in Issue 106 of Glimmer Train, increasing her prize to $700.
Here’s a PDF of the Top 25.
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 Editor CMarie Fuhrman asserts, "It is necessary that we begin to define, for ourselves and as a Nation, that which makes us human, humane." And Assistant Editor Maggie Miller explores the concept of dignity and closes her preface: "With chin up, shoulders back, we too go forward – with dignity given not taken away."
Contributors to the issue include Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, Jacqueline Johnson, Patricia Spears Jones, Fenton Johnson, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Linda Weasel Head, Kelle Groom, Maria Melendez Kelson, Cornelius Eady, Sagirah Shahid, Inés Hernández-Ávila, Gerald L. Coleman, K.LEE, K. Eltinaé, and Kimberly Blaeser.
Submissions for the next issue of About Place Journal are being accepted until August 1, 2019 on the theme: "Infinite Country: Deepening Our Connection to Place, Culture and One Another." Editor Austin Smith and Assistant Editors Taylor Brorby and Brenna Cussen Anglada.
Toyin Ojih Odutola is the featured artist on the cover and inside the Summer 2019 issue of The Georgia Review. Odutola is "a visual artist consumed by the literary. Her drawings of figures are often cloaked in narrative allusions, and the build-up of marks on the page becomes a language which can be read." The introduction and portfolio of her work can be seen here.
Rise, an archival ink jet print of a portrait of Lauren Schad of the Cheyenne River Lakota tribe by photographer Leah Rose is featured on the 13.1 2019 cover of basalt. Leah Rose is a Native American artist of the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa tribe who writes, "Reconnecting with my Anishinaabe heritage has become my calling." See more about her and her work here.
Editorial Assistant Danni Lynn McDonald is credited for the clever photo on the Spring 2019 Hiram Poetry Review cover: each reader holding a back issue of the publication to their face. Exactly how I found myself moments later, engrossed in my reading!
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.
Review by Katy Haas
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 August 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.