BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Marge Saiser, who lives in Nebraska, is a fine and a very lucky poet. With the passing of each year her poems have gotten stronger and deeper. That's an enviable direction for a writer. This poem was published in The Briar Cliff Review and it looks back wisely and wistfully over a rich life. Saiser's most recent book is The Woman in the Moon from the Backwaters Press.
Weren't We Beautiful
growing into ourselves
earnest and funny we were
angels of some kind, smiling visitors
the light we lived in was gorgeous
we looked up and into the camera
the ordinary things we did with our hands
or how we turned and walked
or looked back we lifted the child
spooned food into his mouth
the camera held it, stayed it
there we are in our lives as if
we had all time
as if we would stand in that room
and wear that shirt those glasses
as if that light
would shine on us
and from us.
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 Marjorie Saiser, "Weren't We Beautiful," from The Briar Cliff Review (Vol. 30, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Marjorie Saiser 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.
Co-edited by Nicole Oquendo [pictured], Editor Lisa Roney introduces the newest issue of The Florida Review (42.2) in the "Editor's Note: Heritage, Family, Respect: Who Controls the Narrative?"
"It's with great pride and humility that we bring this array of poems, stories, memoirs, and both filmic and visual art to our readers - we believe that it represents a new generation of self-aware and multi-faceted creators who sometimes seek shelter under the umbrella of 'Latinx,' but who refuse to be defined by any label. [. . . ] They are, in fact, quintessentially American, representing the hybridity that makes our literature so strong on this continent, filled with varieties of experience and exhibiting styles that have been learned from an array of cultural sources and then innovated upon."
Selections highlight heritage, family, parent-child relationships, disability, divorce, and grieving. In several contributions, language and representations in history are examined, with all the works asking, "Who controls the narrative? What do words mean? If we know that they are subject to twisting, then how do we trust any story, any poem, any sentence?" Roney comments, "All of use, it seems, are grappling with these questions."
Contributors to this issue include Juan Carlos Reyes, Brooke Champagne, Steve Castro, Chris Campanioni, M. Soledad Caballero, Sara Lupita Olivares, Ariel Francisco, Leslie Sainz, Valorie K. Ruiz, Naomi A. Shuyama Gomez, Alana de Hinojosa, Maria Esquinca, Michael J. Pagán, Lupita Eyde-Tucker, Trinity Tibe, Karl Michael Iglesias, George Choundas, Pedro Ponce, Paul Alfonso Soto, Cindy Pollack, Pascha Sotolongo, Cassandra Martinez, Julia María Schiavone Camacho, Ivonne Lamazares, and Michael Betancourt.
Throughout 2018, Basalt "committed to publishing a selection of poems from each month of Ian Boyden’s manuscript A Forest of Names. Over the course of a year, Boyden translated the 5,196 names of schoolchildren crushed in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. He then began a collection of poems, each written on the day of each child’s birth. An in-depth discussion of these poems can be read in Fault Line: An Introduction to A Forest of Names.”
In his discussion, Boyden explains how, had it not been for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the names of these children, and the government being held accountable for the shoddy construction of the schools where these children were killed, would have been lost.
As part of the curation of Ai Weiwei's work related to the earthquake, Ian Boyden papered a wall with the children's names, "a massive work on paper consisting of 21 scrolls, together measuring 10.5' by over 42' long."
Boyden then discusses his work, taking the name of each child, the Chinese characters, and translating these into poetic renderings: "Holding the hopes implicit in each of these names in tension with the tragedy of the children's deaths has also been a translations of one grief to another: perhaps this is the most accurate translation of all."
Number 25 in the 2River Chapbook Series, Inscape, is a collection of poems by members of the Summer Poetry Workshop at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vermont. Facilitator and retired English lit prof Bill Freedman introduces the collection, talking about the past four summers he has spent leading the poetry writing workshop, Poetry as Personal Expression.
"There is brotherhood here," Freedman writes, "the camaraderie of proud men similarly confined, some insist unjustly, stripped of agency and entitlement, vulnerable to an array of humiliations, yet determined to make this time not a suspension of their lives, but, if possible, a useful and worthwhile part of it. Their writing, this workshop, is, I think, for many, an important part of that."
As with all 2River Chapbooks, readers can find this fully available online, downloadable as a PDF, and in the form of "Chap the Book," which provides a PDF download that can be printed and folded into a chapbook.
THAT DAMNED FENCE
By Jim Yoshihara
They’ve sunk the posts, deep into the ground
They’ve strung out wires, all the way around.
With machine gun nests, just over there,
And sentries and soldiers everywhere.
We’re trapped like rats in a wired cage,
To fret and fume with impotent rage;
Yonder whispers the life of the night,
But that DAMNED FENCE in the floodlight glare.
We seek the softness of the midnight air,
But that DAMNED FENCE in the floodlight glare
Awaken unrest in our nocturnal quest,
And mockingly laughs with vicious jest.
With nowhere to go and nothing to do,
We feed terrible, lonesome and blue;
That DAMNED FENCE is driving us crazy,
Destroying our youth and making us lazy.
Imprisoned in here for a long, long time,
We know we’re punished tho we’ve committed no crime,
Our thoughts are gloomy and enthusiasm damp,
To be locked up in a concentration camp.
Loyalty we know and Patriotism we feel,
To sacrifice our utmost was our ideal,
To fight for our country, and die mayhap;
But we’re here because we happen to be JAP.
We all love life, and our country best,
Our misfortune to be here in the West,
To keep us penned behind that DAMNED FENCE,
Is someone’s notion of NATIONAL DEFENSE!!!!!!!
The Densho Digital Repository is an open online resource which chronicles the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans with photographs, documents, newspapers, letters and other primary resources. Densho credits this poem to Jim Yoshihara, written while incarcerated at Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho, c. 1940.
“You will dig me from the earth with your bare hands” by Paula Harris [pictured]
"Our Hands Are Bowls of Dust" by Clemonce Heard
Shangyang Fang, "Marsysas Returning"
Kevin McLellan, “The Art of Fugue: Contrapunctus I”
Mark Wagenaar, "It Was While I Was Looking at the Oldest Wooden Wheel Ever Discovered"
Mark Wagenaar, “Oculi"
Renia White, “In this Village”
See a full list of finalists and judge's comments here.
The 2019 Prize is open until May 15 with Final Judge Craig Santos Perez. The winner receives $1500 and publication; second place receives $200 and publication.
Each year, Zone 3 considers all poems, essays, and stories accepted for publication in the journal for their Literary Awards. Zone 3 editors choose the winners, each of whom receives $250 and publicaiton.
The fall 2018 issue includes the fiction and nonfiction winners, while the poetry winner was published in the spring 2018 issue.
"Immigrant Prayer" by Ethan Chua [pictured]
"Mea Culpa, My Monster" by Carrie Shipers
"Halleujah Station" by Randal O'Wain
The reading period for submissions and the Literary Awards is August 1 - April 1.
The newest issue of The Malahat Review (#205) features LGBTQ2S?+ writers in a celebration of "Queer Perspectives." Featured authors include fiction by Nathan Caro Fréchette, Christine Higdon, Matthew J. Trafford; creative nonfiction by Darrel J. McLeod, Anaheed Saatchi, Neal Debreceni, Deborah VanSlet; poetry by A. Light Zachary, Arün Smith, Kayla Czaga, Adèle Barclay, Arleen Paré, Nisa Malli, Charlie C. Petch, Sun Rey, and gorgeous cover art by Kent Monkman.
Malahat Lite, the publication's virtual newsletter, features interviews with Billeh Nickerson, who discusses his poem/lyric essay "Skies," and Francesca Ekwuyasi, who talks about her story "Good Soil," both pieces included in this issue.
I often run across commentary related to writers' frustrations with submitting to literary magazines, running into the Wall of Rejection, and rants against The Establishment perceived in many long-standing publications/academically-connected journals. Often, new publications are started by writers attempting to break down the barriers for other writers, promising to give consideration to those totally-unknown authors as well as those who do not come with a highly-acclaimed workshop/colony/MFA pedigree. Stick around literary publishing long enough, and the repetitions become easy to sort, but nonetheless, heartfelt and real for those going through them for the first time.
Anette Gendler, in her post "The Year I Gave Up Submitting to Literary Magazines" in Women Writers, Women['s] Books, took a look at her publishing record a few years back, "As 2015 drew to a close, I reviewed my submissions log and noted that 25 submissions to literary magazines had yielded zero acceptances." After considering the usual self-blame ("not enough effort, I should have submitted more"), Gendler considered her record for the years prior: 32 submissions/0 acceptances; 68 submissions/0 acceptances.
For many reading this, I know the first thought: Maybe she's just not that good.
Consider her previous publication credits: Bella Grace, Washington Independent Review of Books, Tablet Magazine, Thread, Wall Street Journal, and, for a period of time before this 'dry spell': Flashquake, South Loop Review, Under the Sun, Bellevue Literary Review, Kaleidoscope, Natural Bridge, and Prime Number Magazine.
She's been published. She just wasn't seeing the results that would encourage her to continue banging her head against that Wall. Yet, she asked herself, "Could I abandon the mothership?" She did, and instead, "I focused on the publications whose work I truly admired and loved to read, and that’s where I kept submitting."
The result? "It’s not that suddenly all my work gets accepted, but the rate is much higher," Gendler writes. "I now look at my submissions in terms of publications I want to get into. I think about what I could write for them."
After reading Gendler's commentary and seeing it had been a few years, I wondered, "Where is she now?" with her stance on lit mags, so I reached out to her to ask.
"My approach has pretty much stayed the same since then," she wrote, "I don't submit to literary magazines anymore. Not doing so was essentially a course correction for me. Literary magazines are just not the right market for my work, even though I write literary nonfiction and memoir."
As well, since that time, she has published her first book, Jumping Over Shadows: A Memoir. Ironically, a lit mag editor, having read her post, asked her to submit something for their journal. She did, and they published The Flying Dutchman, an excerpt from her book.
Over the past several months, writer Michael Nye [pictured] has been working to resurrect Story, which had originally been founded and edited by Travis Kurowski, and ceased publication in 2016. After working out the details with Travis, Michael laid all the groundwork to continue the publication in strong steed.
Nye's experience with other publications has helped him understand the intricacies and necessities of running a quality journal. Previous managing editor of The Missouri Review and associate editor with Boulevard, Nye has had plenty of experience "steering ships"; this will be his first venture "building them." He says, "I've always wanted to run a literary magazine and over the last fifteen years, I think I’ve learned enough to pull it off." Travis has worked closely with Michael on the transition and remains involved as the editor-at-large.
In addition, Nye has drawn in a solid staff: Associate Editor LaTanya McQueen; Staff Andrew Bockhold, Brandon Grammer, Robert Ryan, and Brianna Westervelt; as well as a Board of Directors with Ruth Awad, Valerie Cumming, Keith Leonard, and Maggie Smith; and an Advisory Board with David Althoff, Jürgen Fauth, Stephanie G’Schwind, Roxane Gay, Jonathan Gottschall, Andrea Martucci, Speer Morgan, David Shields, Randi Shedlosky-Shoemaker, Jim Shepard, and Marion Winik.
Nye has put his full faith and effort into this venture: "There is a tremendous amount to look forward to in the coming year. I am beyond thrilled to bring Story back. I do hope you'll join us: we plan on being here for a long time to come."
Readers can look forward to Story #4 released this February featuring new stories by Anne Valente, Claudia Hinz, A.A. Balaskovits, Phong Nguyen, Brett Beach, Jordan Jacks, Dionne Irving, Katherine Zlabek, and Marilyn Abildskov and debut fiction by Yohanca Delgado.