This spring, Witness, published by the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, announced the winners of its inaugural Literary Awards in Fiction and Poetry.
Judge Hanif Abdurraqib
“Apophatic Ghazal” by Sophia Stid [pictured]
"lump" by Renia White
Judge Lesley Nneka Arimah
“The Nine-Tailed Fox Explains” by Jane Pek
“The Kristian Vang Fan Club” by John Tait
For more information on the winning entries as well as a full list of finalists, click here. Winning entries can be read in the Spring 2019 issue.
Submissions for the 2020 contest are open until October 1, as well as general submissions on the theme "Magic."
Recent essays include "On Revision: From story to STORY, With a Little Help from a Doomed Vole and Robert McKee" by Lea Page [pictured]; "From Play to Peril and Beyond: How Writing Constraints Unleash Truer Truths" by Jeannine Ouellette; "Into the Woods: What Fairy Tale Settings Can Teach Us About Fiction Writing" by Dana Kroos; "Three Secrets to Create the Writing Life You Want" by Lisa Bubert; "In Defense of Telling" by Scott Bane.
The latest issue of New England Review (40.2) includes "Polish Poetry in Translation: Bridging the Frontiers of Language" edited by Ellen Hinsey [pictured], NER's international correspondent, with translations by Jakob Ziguras.
Hinsey discusses her approach to this collection, coming to the difficult question of "how to choose among so many brilliant authors? Should one pick a range of poets, or focus on individual key texts that might reflect a Polish reader’s idea of major 'missing' poems?"
Issue 18 of Dogwood features the winners of the 2019 Dogwood Literary Awards:
Dogwood Literary Award in Fiction
Judge Phil Klay
"Whom the Lion Seeks" by Annie Lampman
Dogwood Literary Award in Poetry
Judge Lia Purpura
"The Cancer Menagerie" by Gillian Vik [pictured]
Dogwood Literary Award in Nonfiction
Judge Lia Purpura
"The Taste of It" by Nikita Nelin
The deadline for the 2020 contest is September 5, 2019. Winners in each genre receive $1000 in addition to publication. See full guidelines here.
If you love rules and regulations, following forms and formulas to make something work, gnashing your teeth and pulling out your hair to meet perfection - and you love poetry - then you're going to love this free Prime 53 Summer Challenge Poetry Contest.
Press 53 Poetry Editor Christopher Forrest [pictured] and Publisher and Editor in Chief Kevin Morgan Watson devised a new poetic form: the Prime 53 poem.
Wrap up your summer and get ready to head back to school with Zac Thompson’s “The Water of Life” a stage/screenplay in Qu #10. The characters, Leah and Carrie, are young, romantic partners at the close of their two-month summer relationship, each preparing to go to college—Carrie away to university and Leah to the local junior college. Leah, a preacher’s daughter, has set up a baptistery so the two can bind their relationship with a ritual. The dialogue is subtly quick and revealing, Leah being the pragmatist and Carrie the comic; Leah the “intense” dramatist and Carrie the lighthearted, “afraid to express [her] feelings.” It’s an intimate scene, full of the love and subsequent gut-churning realism young people face when their paths are on the verge of separation. A memorably bittersweet read.
Review by Denise Hill
With the Spring/Summer 2019 issue, Ecotone Editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell [pictured] introduces a new "department" to be included in each issue of the journal, "Various Instructions, in which writers and artists will offer lists, prompts, formulas, how-to's, and the like."
Drawing inspiration from Eric Magrane's "Various Instructions for the Practice of Poetic Field Research," Bell writes that "these instructions are an invitation to think deeply in and with place. They have proved enduring; I’ve been glad to use them in teaching and in my own poetic practice."
We’re two weeks and a day into The Sealey Challenge, and I’m admittedly half a book behind. “Challenge” is right. Between daily responsibilities and attempting to eke the last bit of fun from the remaining weeks of summer, my poetry reading has slid onto the backburner this past week, despite the enjoyment reading more than a dozen different poets has given me.
Participating in the challenge continues to give me insight into my own habits and, well, laziness. However, this year’s reading has brought me to a local coffeeshop every couple days, so now other regulars are checking in on me and my progress. “What are you reading today?” or “Still kicking?” greets me when I walk into the cozy little building. I now have cheerleaders and accountability, something to keep me “kicking” (though I probably won’t admit to any of them that I’m a day behind when I visit today).
Are you participating in The Sealey Challenge, and are you keeping a better or worse hold on your reading than I am? What is your favorite book you’ve read so far?
Stay tuned for flash reviews of some of the books I read during the challenge, and click the “Read more” button below to check in on which books I’ve finished so far.
Robb T. White’s lead story “A Civilized Man” is provided as a sample of the July 2019 Thriller Magazine (2.1). White’s narrator opens the story with, “What is a civilized man?” and walks readers through his fiancé’s disappearance and ultimate discovery of her brutalized dead body. The predictable dead-end investigation is offset by the narrator’s unexpected choice of action as he lays down his own justice. “It’s odd that I feel no guilt or shame.” The narrator confesses, “Quite the opposite. I feel . . . pleased, if that’s the right word.” Likewise, in reading the objectively detailed sequence of events, I felt no guilt or shame in his actions either. Pleased ? Maybe that is the right word.
Review by Denise Hill
Based out of Schoolcraft College in Michigan, The MacGuffin Spring 2019 features the winners of the Detroit Working Writer’s MacGuffin Poetry Prize, awarded at the group’s annual conference last Fall:
“Ann Arbor" by Diana Dinverno [pictured]
“I Thought I Couldn’t Take It With Me” by Vicki Wilke
"Whispers" by Jack D. Ferguson
Also included in this issue is a biographical sketch and selection of poems from The MacGuffin’s 24th Poet Hunt Contest Guest Judge Richard Tillinghast. Winners of the Poet Hunt Contest will be published in the next issue of The MacGuffin.
Sorry coulrophobics, and pretty much anyone creeped out by clowns, but this still from Kate Durbin's portrayal of "the trickster figure of the clown and white box of the Facebook timeline" in her short film Unfriend Me Now! (2018) is just one of many images also included in the Summer 2019 issue of The Massachusetts Review.
Such an iconic image of summer on the cover of Parhelion #5. This photo by Anne Eastman is one of many featured in her portfolio in this issue. Read her artist's statement to learn about her approach to photography, which includes evenings dancing as as "Little Miss Funshine" at the Fantasy Bikini Club in LA.
Court Green Summer 2019 made me laugh out loud: images of Elizabeth Taylor are used to link to each writer on the publication's home page. Other publications commonly use the writers' photos here, but Court Green's spin on that is hilarious. Since moving from print to online, this use of themed circles has become their hallmark.
Two whirlwind prose poems by Leslie Marie Aguilar in the May 2019 issue of wildness online speak in abstractions melded with concrete symbols, creating a contemporary mythology of the self. “Bone Altar” begins, “Legends begin with valerian root, red clover, & a touch of tequila.” and instructs the reader to call upon ancestors. “Cartography,” just at the moment I think the poem’s speaker is deeply troubled, assures me, “If this sounds like a cry for help, like shouting into a canyon & hoping to hear a voice different than your own, it’s not.” Two dizzyingly brief works with lasting impact.
Review by Denise Hill
". . . about a year from when this issue arrives off the press, I’ll be stepping down as editor. The decision came to me rather suddenly, I confess, and several years earlier than I’d previously imagined. What had long seemed a comfortable bike ride, despite occasional potholes and sudden challenging hills that maintained my interest and attention, was now unexpectedly weighing in my legs and on my shoulders. I was growing a bit weary and impatient for other vistas, other challenges."
In discussing the role and responsibilities of editor, Lynn responds to the label of gatekeeper :
"It’s hostile and resentful, suggesting that the role of literary editors is to maintain high barriers. With all my heart, however, I believe that the appropriate charge for an editor of the Kenyon Review is to resist any such notion of guardianship, of excluding any class or set of writers. Rather, whoever is appointed to follow me, she or he or they, should continue to seek to include, to aggressively search out new voices and new talents and even new media with which to publish them, while also nourishing and supporting many of those talented authors we have discovered and honored for the past two decades and more."
We wish Lynn a smooth transition away from his wonderful work with Kenyon Review - may he indeed be met by beautiful vistas and invigorating challenges.
CRAFT Literary’s mission is to “explore the art of fiction with a focus on the elements of craft.” They do this through publishing fiction with commentary, pieces on craft, interviews, and more.
Recent publications include Cathy Ulrich’s flash fiction piece “Being the Murdered Extra.” Ulrich imagines the backstory for the quintessential crime show “dead girl.” Written in second person, readers are put in the place of the auditioning girl while still feeling disconnected (you’re dead after all) as the story moves on to breathe life into the background characters of the background character: her mother and her roommates. This story is accompanied by two paragraphs of commentary on the craft.
The “Craft” section of the website includes sections titled “Essays,” “Interviews,” “Books,” and “Roundups.” In “Books,” find reviews, and in “Roundups” check out lists like “TV Adaptations We Love” and “CRAFT Fiction by the Elements.” A recent interview with Ariel Gore is introduced by a bonus essay on Gore’s We Were Witches by interviewer Melissa Benton Barker.
Jody Hobbs Hesler in “If You Can Name It, You Can Fix It: A Craft Glossary” writes about the benefits of giving clear feedback during writing workshops. In the essay, she points out how it’s easy to provide feedback of what’s working, but harder to articulate what could use some help, so she offers her own help by pointing out some common issues such as “Cliches of the Body” or “Too Much Reality vs. Realism.” Hesler provides a convenient little glossary for writers and those who workshop.
CRAFT Literary provides a deeper look into fiction while offering writers plenty of material to help out with their own writing processes.
Review by Katy Haas
Jillian Weise’s bio at the back of her latest collection, Cyborg Detective, boasts an impressive professional history, from books published to awards won to disability rights activism to starring in the tongue-in-cheek web series “Tips for Writers by Tipsy Tullivan.” In Cyborg Detective, Weise continues to show off her skills while holding the mirror up to the literary community.
Poems such as “Cattulus Tells Me Not to Write the Rant Against Maggie Smith’s ‘Good Bones,’” “10 Postcards to Marie Howe,” and “The Phantom Limbs of the Poets” cover the topic of ableism in the writing community and the ableist language and ideation that many writers and artists keep using in their craft. Using this language might not seem like a huge deal to writers without disabilities, but poems like “Attack List” (which is continued on Weise’s Twitter as a transcription informs [braille included]) show the danger of these microaggressions by making us face full-on, violent aggressions. In her list, Weise rethinks Josef Kaplan’s Kill List and Steven Trull’s “Fuck List” with the headlines or summaries of murders and rapes of disabled women. The words we choose matter.
A favorite part of Cyborg Detective for me is “Cathedral by Raymond Carver,” in which Weise reimagines the three characters of “Cathedral,” the blind man actually given a background, a personality, sexuality, agency, all things Carver did not provide.
As a nondisabled reader and writer, I find Weise’s work revealing and informative, a reminder to check my own vocabulary for ableist language and my own thoughts for ableist ideas, and to put an end to them. Weise never resorts to handholding as she does all this, but points out the bullshit with biting wit, dark humor, and a punk rock, cyborg attitude.
Review by Katy Haas
Created by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, each book of the collection focuses on a different aspect of writing: Writing Action, Writing Character, Writing Dialogue, and Writing Humor. Prompts, writing exercises, and words of advice make up each volume, with plenty of space for writers to scribble down their ideas.
In Writing Action, writers are asked to describe what a scared teen feels during their first driving class, and on the opposite page they're asked to write what a reckless teen might be feeling. In Writing Humor there are zany scenarios to explore, including "the silent type: You've fallen in love with your daughter's Ken doll and have decided to tell your husband." Page after page reveals a new and fun scenario to capture.
These four well-designed titles include around 100 pages of inspiration, a nice choice for writers looking for a little bit of guidance.
The newest issue of Ruminate Magazine (Summer 2019) features the first and second place winning entries of their 2019 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize selected by final judge Jessica Wilbanks:
"The Foundation Above Us" by Porter Huddleston [pictured]
"The Proctor’s Manual" by Kristin Leclaire
"The Emperor’s Clothes, The Empire’s Language" by Jamila Osman
For a full list of finalists and judge's comments about the winning entries, click here.
In addition to publication, this annual prize awards $1500 to the first-place entry and $200 to the second-place entry. The deadline for entry is October 27, 2019. See full guidelines here.
The latest issue of Blood Orange Review offers plenty of good writing, the nonfiction inviting readers to consider where they come from as the three writers do the same.
Melissa Matthewson answers the question of her essay’s title “Aren’t There Any Beautiful Things in Your Own Country?” with “Yes. No. Also, fewer.” A response to Susan Sontag’s “Unguided Tour,” Matthewson writes of the beauty living along the California/Mexico border, the beauty that continues to fade as time passes.
In “We Carry Smoke and Paper,” a desire to perform a Chinese red egg ceremony for her daughter’s one-month celebration leads Melody S. Gee to think about how she and her mother each fit into the label of “Chinese,” and how Gee particularly fits, raised in America for basically her entire life, daughter of a mother who single-handedly tries to keep her Chinese traditions alive. This is an insightful and revealing piece on cultural and familial identity.
Questioning familial identity is the backbone of “Crescent” by Rochelle Smith. The piece begins:“John Coltrane is my father. The jazz saxophonist, yes [ . . . ]. I’ve known this all my life. Or that’s not true, not all my life, really only since I first heard his music, which was in college.” Readers may have their doubts, but Smith backs up her claim with proof of how Kenneth, the man her mother marries, couldn’t possibly be her real father. “I’ll tell you two stories about Kenneth,” she says, letting the reader into her story, “and then you tell me.” But we find this is all wishful thinking, like the angsty teenage years where the flitting thought comes up: “maybe I am adopted—there’s no way I come from these people.”
Check out the nonfiction in the latest issue of Blood Orange Review and take some time to think about where you came from.
Review by Katy Haas
August is here and with it comes the third annual Sealey Challenge. Started by Nicole Sealey in 2017, the challenge is to read a poetry book or chapbook every day for the month of August.
I participated last year, and it felt like such a satisfying way to round out the summer months as I brushed off the cobwebs and dove into a new book each day.
I managed to end the 2018 challenge learning new things about myself, my reading habits, and my tastes in poetry. I practiced getting out of the house with a new book, the changes in setting feeling like a fresh new adventure. Where would I settle in to read that day, and where would the poet bring me after that?
After a few days, it became clear I simply wasn’t reading enough poetry throughout the other months of the year and there wasn’t a good excuse. If I could read thirty-one books in just as many days, I could carve out more time to read poetry the rest of the year. (Did I stick to this? Not as much as I’d like, but hey—baby steps!) This year, I’m stocked up on chapbooks for a more manageable approach to the challenge for myself. Somedays it is definitely difficult to make time, and chapbooks make the work load a little easier to handle.
Along with learning about my own reading habits, I was also introduced to new favorite poets and books, the magic my body becomes by Jess Rizkallah, Acadiana by Nancy Reddy, and WASP QUEEN by Claudia Cortese among these.
Give Nicole Sealey’s Twitter a scroll-through to learn more about the challenge and see what other readers are up to during the month. I’ll be back later this month with updates on how the challenge is treating me as I move through my picks, which you can see by clicking the “Read more” button below.
Our families and the people we care about affect much of how we feel or what we do in life, so it’s appropriate that many of the poems in the Spring 2019 issue of Apple Valley Review center on family.
Gail Peck’s speaker thinks of “The Perfume I Never Gave My Mother,” the scents of “flowers [ . . . ] desire [ . . . ] youth” clouding around her as her mother’s health fails, scents reminding her of the way her “mother loved flowers. [ . . . ] Always an arrangement / on her table that could take your breath away.” Mark Belair considers the silence and absence of his grandfather’s house after he dies, offering us a tiny glimpse through “the mail slot,” also the title of the piece. Seen through the innocent scope of the speaker’s childhood self gives us a refresher on loss as he fully understands it for maybe the first time.
Lynne Knight writes of two family members in her set of poems, her father in “At Twenty” and her sister in “After My Sister’s Mastectomy.” The former recounts a tumultuous relationship between father and daughter as she watches him angrily smoke cigarettes on the sidewalk below her apartment. Knight expertly captures the complicated push and pull of loving someone while hating parts of them at the same time:
hating his daughter
even as he loved her, for making him yield
to love’s weakness, its longing
for nothing to change.
The latter poem of Knight’s draws on images of outdoors and nature to explore the finiteness of life while encouraging us to appreciate the bits of beauty, wonder, and humor the outside world offers while we’re here.
In addition to these works, this issue offers much to discover, including two fiction pieces by Jeff Ewing and Jeff Moreland, poems by Doug Rampseck, and more.
Review by Katy Haas
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Lately I've been worried about the welfare of a young groundhog who lives under our front deck. His back legs won't support him and he drags them behind. This poem has been a good lesson for me. That groundhog is neither MY groundhog, nor does he need my pity. This poem is by Gary Whitehead of New York, from his book A Glossary of Chickens: Poems, published by Princeton University Press.
In a flock on Market,
just below Union Square,
the last to land
and standing a little canted,
it teetered—I want to say now
though it's hardly true—
like Ahab toward the starboard
and regarded me
with blood-red eyes.
We all lose something,
though that day
I hadn't lost a thing.
I saw in that imperfect bird
no antipathy, no envy, no vengeance.
It needed no pity,
but just a crumb,
something to hop toward.
Note from American Life in Poetry: 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 ©2013 by Princeton University Press, "One-Legged Pigeon," by Gary J. Whitehead, from A Glossary of Chickens: Poems (Princeton University Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Gary J. Whitehead 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.
"Cold Dying Black Wet Cold Early Thing" by John Elizabeth Stintzi [pictured]
Read judges' comments and an interview with John Stintzi here.
"Weight" by Erin Soros
Read judges' comments and an interview with Erin Soros here.
In the latest issue, American Literary Review brings readers the winners of the annual ALR Awards. The 2019 winners feature Ellen Seusy in poetry, Cady Vishniac in fiction, and Julialicia Case in nonfiction.
Seusy’s “The Spiral Jetty” is an ekphrastic poem about Robert Smithson’s titular art piece. Seusy’s speaker compares Smithson’s creation with six-year-olds creating bowls from mud and spit, pointing out how “It’s the making that matters most,” even now that “we’re / out of breath, still running. Still tasting / dirt and salt. The work holds water, still.” It isn’t the finished product or the public reception that matters most—it’s the act of creating.
The narrator in Vishniac’s “Bumper Crop” faces the consequences he’s created for himself. The main character—bitter and a bit insufferable after his recent separation from his wife—encounters chickens on the way to the daycare where he works, an interruption to his usual day of hitting on his co-teacher, being too protective of his son who attends the daycare, and holding grudges against children. Vishniac crafts an entertaining story with a satisfying karmic ending.
Karmic endings also come into play in Case’s “The Stories I Do Not Know For Sure.” The nonfiction piece centers on Case’s former coworker David and his wife Sandra. The two concoct stories about their lives, stories that eventually fall apart, revealing muddled truths underneath. Case ends the piece reflecting on the stories we tell and the realities they create, recreate, or destroy. The gripping piece almost reads like a thriller, each paragraph revealing a new detail about Case’s story and the stories David and Sandra weave.
The winners of the ALR Awards are a great introduction to American Literary Review, and this year’s contest is currently open for submissions until October.
Review by Katy Haas
A recent series of poems by Jeannine Hall Gailey in the Spoon River Poetry Review is a testament to the tenacity of poetry and its poet. In her first chapbook, Female Comic Book Superheroes (Pudding House Publishing, 2005), I met Gailey as a stealthy kick-ass feminist poet. Her works were subtle but fierce, drawing character, voice, and reader into a collective sense of powerful control. Her following five books continued on this vein through recurring themes of mythology, fairy tale, feminism, science, science fiction, and the apocalypse. Through the years, I also kept up with her blog, where she shared her diagnosis of MS. But, as she first noted, back in 2013, “. . . I don’t want to define myself by this or any of the other weirdo health stuff I have. I am maybe a mutant, but I have a lot of good things in my life too.”