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Denise Hill

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American Life in Poetry: Column 517

The Dalai Llama has said that dying is just getting a new set of clothes. Here's an interesting take on what it may be like for the newly departed, casting off their burdens and moving with enthusiasm into the next world. Kathleen Aguero lives in Massachusetts.

Send Off

The dead are having a party without us.
They've left our worries behind.
What a bore we've become
with our resentment and sorrow,
like former lovers united
for once by our common complaints.
Meanwhile the dead, shedding pilled sweaters,
annoying habits, have become
glamorous Western celebrities
gone off to learn meditation.

We trudge home through snow
to a burst pipe,
broken furnace, looking
up at the sky where we imagine
they journey to wish them bon voyage,
waving till the jet on which they travel
first class is out of sight—
only the code of its vapor trail left behind.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Kathleen Aguero from her most recent book of poems, After That, (Tiger Bark Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Kathleen Aguero and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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This issue (17.1) iron-horse-reviewof Iron Horse Review had me at the cover image, which drew me in to learn this is the "Bedroom Issue." Certainly not limited to that literal room, Assistant Editor Katie Cortese writes, "We considered this issue a risk." Oh goodie! She goes on, "Not because sex is a taboo topic—as an important part of adult existence, it's as worthy of ink and metaphor as any other aspect of living—but because writing about it is so hard to do well."

Cortese offers her view on the ends of the spectrum, from bad to good sex writing, and on purposely having released this issue for the movie release of Fifty Shades of Grey: ". . . we conceived this issue in part to combat some of the problems we see with a work like Fifty Shades of Grey. We don't believe that series constitutes art."

She goes on, engaging the perspective of Elizabeth Benedict in her work The Joy of Writing Sex to support what is "good" sex scene writing. "When we applied her standards to the wonderful, brave, inventive work that flooded our submission portal, we were forced to make some truly difficult decisions."

Read Cortese's full commentary here.
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I enjoy reading editor introductions to publications as much as the content itself sometimes. Readers and writers alike can be duly informed of the 'sensibilities' of a publication based on what they'll find in those brief opening notes. In her opening letter to the Fall 2014 Catamaran Literary Reader, Founding Editor Catherine Segurson gives much to inform as well as contemplate:

catamaran"The freedome to move, to travel and explore, is core to our being. Pulling up roots and heading off to parts unknown frees us from our patterned lives and promotes growth. The journey can be both liberating and terrifying, filled with wonder and potential dangers, every step a lesson about the world and about ourselves - how we deal with the unexpected, how we cope with not knowing what the next turn in the road will bring."
. . .
"We don't have to travel halfway around the world or to distant planets to experience the wonder of what it means to be alive. As long as we are fully aware, even a walk around the block can inspire us; closely studying the structure of a primrose can add to our view of the world. These are lessons we learn from art and litearature as well. Writers, artists, and scientists are in the business of examining life and revealing what they've discovered - this, in turn, benefits us as readers and gallery visitors."

Following these sentiments is much to support Segurson's perspective, in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art (including photography, sculpture, paintings, mixed media, and more - all in full color!). Samples of the artwork and written works published in this issue can be read on the publication's website.

[Cover art: Candy Tree by Michael Cutlip, 2011, mixed media on panel, 40 x 48 in]
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lakesIssue 44.1 of George Mason University's MFA-student-run Phoebe includes a special feature Poetry Editor Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes first starting mulling over as "disparity."

She writes, "So many of the struggles in my life and the lives of people I see in the world seem to revolve around some sort of disparity: of place, of mind, of circumstance. After speaking with Qinglan Wang, my assistant editor, I realized I was less interested in the 'parity' and more interested in the 'dis-' - in poems that explored disability, in poems that confronted things that dissatisfied or disappointed, and in poems that grappled with disaster."

Authors contributing to this special dis- poetry feature include Catherine Pierce, Stacey Kidd, Richard Greenfield, Dorothea Lasky, Matt Bell, Martha Collins, and Adam Clay.
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The most recent issue of Cincinnati Review is unique for a number of reasons. The issue comes with a separately printed, full-color graphic novel, Moth: The Play written by Declan Greene and illustrated by Gabe Ostley. Check out this sweet YouTube video The Making of Moth for a teaser.

The publication also received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that allowed the editors to focus on longer forms. "In fiction, this includes several extended stories. In poetry, sequences and long poems lead off each section." In total, this issue offers almost one hundred additional pages of fiction and poetry.

ellen-ruth-harrisonAnd finally, the magazine features a unique partnering of music and poetry. Award-winner composer of chamber works Ellen Ruth Harrison has created music to express three poems by Jakob Stein, originally printed in the Summer 2008 issue. The full score for "Sefiros" appears in this issue along with the reprinted poems and introduction by Poetry Editor Don Bogen. Additionally, the art-song will be performed in the Robert J. Werner Recital Hall at UC's College-Conservatory of Music on Monday February 16, 2015 at 8 p.m. A podcast of the performance will be posted on the publication's website following the event.

I think that's quite enough to recommend, don't you?

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malahat-reviewThe Malahat Review #189 includes winners of the 2014 Far Horizons Award for Poetry and the 2014 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize.

Far Horizons Award for Poetry winner Laura Ritland's poem "Vincent, in the Dream of Zundert" can be read on the publication's website, along with an interview with her regarding the award.

"Venn Diagrams" the Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize winning piece by Rebecca Foust is only available in print, but the website includes an interview with Foust as well.

Books :: Delta Dogs

February 17, 2015
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delta-dogsThis new book, Delta Dogs from University Press of Mississippi, celebrates the canines who roam this most storied corner of Mississippi. Some of Clay's photographs feature lone dogs dwarfed by kudzu-choked trees and hidden among the brambles next to plowed fields. In others, dogs travel in amiable packs, trotting toward a shared but mysterious adventure. Her Delta dogs are by turns soulful, eager, wary, resigned, menacing, and contented.

Writers Brad Watson and Beth Ann Fennelly ponder Clay's dogs and their connections to the Delta, speculating about their role in the drama of everyday life and about their relationships to the humans who share this landscape with them. In a photographer's afterword, Clay writes about discovering the beauty of her native land from within. She finds that the ubiquitous presence of the Delta dog gives scale, life, and sometimes even whimsy and intent to her Mississippi landscape.

Delta Dogs
By Maude Schuyler Clay
Introduction by Brad Watson
Essay by Beth Ann Fennelly
96 pp. / 10.5 X 9 inches / 70 duotone photographs

[Text from the publisher's website.]
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In addition to featuring Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Tate, "captivating fiction and nonfiction," the cover of The Austin Review issue 3 is equally captivating. "Iron Age" is a work by Austin local Irish artist John Mulvany.
Nope. No stunning imagery here. Instead, I was completely drawn to the cleaver concept of printing one of the publication's submissions on the front cover. I've seen this done on the back cover, but not the front. Cactus Heart #10 is an e-issue, with #10.5 this print version. Featured: "Confessions of a Lazy Feminist" by Amanda Fuller.

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subterrainIssue #69 of SubTerrain: Strong Words for a Polite Nation is the result of a call for submissions on the theme of Meat - animal flesh that is eaten for food. Editor Brian Kaufman opens with his editorial "Conflicted, in Carnivore Land," in which he writes that wading "into the thorny debate on meat consumption" was not intended. Still, he understands there may be just such perceptions with consequences: "While this issue is not intended to be a celebration of meat consumption so much as an exploration into our relationship with meat, we leave ourselves open to the flood of responses from the vegetarians and vegans - please send your letters in!"

This issue also includes winning entries from the 2014 Lush Triumphant Literary Awards:

Winner: Vickie Weaver (Hagerstown, IN) for "Suggestion"

Winner: Matt Whiteman (Vancouver, BC) for "Do Good, You Go"

Creative Non-fiction
Winner: George Ilsley (Vancouver, BC) for "Storytelling"
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Event: Poetry and Prose, the Douglas College Review, issue 43.3 features the winners of the 2014 Non-Fiction Contest judged by Deborah Campbell [pictured], author of A Disappearnce in Damascus (August 2015, Knopf Canada).

deborah-campbell"Vocational Rehabilitation" by Hilary Dean
Scarborough, ON

"Whatever It Is" by Zachary Hug
West Hollywood, CA, USA

"Twenty Miles Above the Limit" by Alessandra Naccarato
Toronto, ON

The other short-listed entries can be found here.

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