Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poems in Dirt Songs are full-throated, raw, deceptively simple, and rippling with candor, providing readers an insider’s lens into the larger questions surrounding the many aspects of Appalachian culture, including identity, the impact of poverty, generational afflictions, and the brunt of mainstream America’s skewed regard for the region. Throughout the book there is an overarching determination to endure, to be the last truth teller left standing, arm raised in solidarity with the land and its people. Dirt Songs does what journalists and mainstream media have failed to do: provide a uniquely intimate look at landscape and family generated from within Appalachia, recognizing that one story cannot accurately represent a region or its people.
Asides: Occasional Essays by George Singleton EastOver Press, November 2023
George Singleton’s Asides: Occasional Essays offers readers a fascinating and curious collection in which Singleton explains how he came to be a writer (he blames barbecue), why he still writes his first draft by hand (someone stole his typewriter), and what motivated him to run marathons (his father gave him beer). In eccentric world-according-to-George fashion, Laugh-In’s Henry Gibson is to blame for Singleton’s literary education, and Aristotle would’ve been a failed philosopher had he grown up in South Carolina. Singleton gets his dogs to promise they won’t use his new gardens as a Porta-Potty, learns about his not-so-famous relations, and generally charms anyone sensible enough to read this delightful book. Word of advice? Buckle up and relish this ride.
Tara Kelly’s moving memoir, No Last Words, opens: “The day before Robert died was an otherwise perfect June day in Connecticut: warm but not hot, with a bit of a breeze, flawless blue sky, puffy white clouds—the sort of weather a sailor loves, and Robert was a sailor.”
Robert Willis was Tara’s husband, father of their children, restauranteur, sailor, bon vivant, and alcoholic. From an enchanted start in Manhattan to a townhouse in Brooklyn, from an island in Maine and back to rural Connecticut, in fast cars and sleek boats, Tara and Robert seemed to live a charmed life. But beneath the glittering exterior was the struggle of money, alcohol, and ultimately self-control and hard-won sobriety. When this couple seems to have reached an impasse, separation brings renewed love, and then tragedy brings new challenges. Kelly’s memoir is a clear-eyed excavation of the lives lived together and apart by two charismatic modern Americans, a story told in love and compassion for herself and others.
In Ray Trotter’s collection of stories, And Dogs to Chase Them, ordinary humans are pushed to do things in out-of-the-ordinary ways. Trotter has conjured a world of Southern hyper-reality: a good Christian woman who pushes a man down the staircase, “as final as flushing the commode”; a concrete deliveryman who ought to have double-checked the address before he got out of his truck; and a man who enacts his revenge on the self-declared Queen of the Post Office. Through a keen eye for detail, Trotter brings to life a world that is at once familiar and deeply odd and creates characters that stay with a reader long after the book is closed.
The Legible Element: Essays by Ralph Sneeden EastOver Press, July 2023
The Legible Element by Ralph Sneeden is a lyrical memoir of a life lived in and out of the water. In his first book of essays, award-winning author Ralph Sneeden combines poetry, prose, and narrative in a search for the origins of his passion for buoyancy and immersion. The collection’s narratives about surfing, sailing, fishing, scuba diving, and swimming are earthly dispatches from an ongoing voyage fueled by joy, longing, loss, and humor.
The Act of Contrition & Other Poems by Joseph Bathanti EastOver Press, July 2023
The Act of Contrition by Joseph Bathanti is a series of linked stories and one novella that continues the adventures of Fritz Sweeney and his outrageously memorable parents, Travis and Rita, that began in Bathanti’s earlier award-winning volume of stories, The High Heart. Spanning the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, in an Italian American working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, these fourteen unforgettable stories—a mélange of incantatory magical realism and clear-eyed documentary precision (in the vein of Raymond Carver)—are narrated by Fritz in a prophetic voice that issues at once from the very aggregate of steel town Pittsburgh and his deep yearning to escape it.
Murmurations by Andrea Rinard EastOver Press, June 2023
In Murmurations, Andrea Rinard’s debut collection of twenty-six flash and micro fiction, readers are introduced to an eclectic array of women attempting to claim their own space and to find meaning in the extraordinary mundanity of moments large and small. Stark, spare, sometimes surreal but always illuminated with honesty, these stories are at once amusing and infuriating, comforting and heartbreaking, and always familiar. Rinard explores the art of literary distillation, packing whole worlds into few words. Sometimes ordinary, other times other-worldly, the myriad topics addressed by these small stories leave a big impression.
Outside the Frame Catherine Pritchard Childress EastOver Press, April 2023
The poetry in Outside the Frame by Catherine Pritchard Childress gives full-throated voice to those who are historically silenced, while bearing witness to a complex culture that both perpetuates that silence and cries out to be heard and to be seen. Seeking to subvert tradition in the pursuit of truth, these poems move seamlessly between worlds—the biblical and the contemporary, the mythical and the uncomfortably real. The speakers here reflect not the poet, but any woman, all women, from Lot’s wife to housewife—unnamed, unheard, yet unrelenting.
The EastOver Anthology of Rural Stories, 2023: Writers of Color edited by Keith Pilapil Lesmeister EastOver Press, March 2023
The EastOver Anthology of Rural Stories, 2023: Writers of Color is a collection of short fiction from deep in the heart of America’s rural spaces. In this inaugural volume’s introduction, series editor Keith Pilapil Lesmeister points out that “people living in communities like mine aren’t simply thinking about the urban-rural divide, we’re living it.” He adds, “Pundits, political pollsters, politicians themselves all want to know…what’s going on out here in the sticks? What’s important to rural folks? What do we have foremost on our minds?”
The writers in this collection—all people of color—offer diverse answers. Their unique takes will, in many cases, startle readers who cling to stereotypical views of folks who live in rural America: Jinwoo Chong, Risë Kevalshar Collins, Jamie Figueroa, Libby Flores, Jane Hammons, Mark L. Keats, Laura Lee Lucas, Jennifer Morales, Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera, Jeanette Weaskus, and Erika T. Wurth.
The Sins of Mortality by Marilyn Fox and Nancye McCrary EastOver Press, February 2023
The Sins of Sweet Mortality is a collection of poems by Marilyn Fox and illuminative paintings by Nancye McCrary. In this unique collaborative project with full-color images throughout, Fox and McCrary combine poetry with painting — juxtaposing voice and image, wonder and sensation — to create literary and visual work that is impassioned, thought-provoking, disturbing, and healing. Endlessly suggestive, consistently evocative, this work entices the reader into a deep dive to discover what’s beyond the surface.
Until All You See Is Sky by George Choundas EastOver Press, February 2023
This collection of essays by George Choundas is a report from the front lines of a first-generation American life: growing up as the outsider, parenting without a clue, and persevering in plague times. Choundas’s award-winning writing has appeared in over 75 publications. His story collection, The Making Sense of Things (FC2), won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. He is a former FBI agent who worked public corruption in the Bureau’s New York Office. His mother, born in Cuba, was a flyer at Macy’s Manhattan flagship until she saved enough to travel Europe for a year. His father, born in Greece, was a tanker captain who, aboard a passenger ship transporting him to his next command, met an engaging American tourist with a Cuban accent.
Homesick for Nowhere is retired field biologist Richard LeBlond’s first collection of essays and was selected as a winner of the 2022 EastOver Prize for Nonfiction. LeBlond has faced down a bear in Newfoundland, chased an insufficiently amorous spadefoot toad through the soaking undergrowth, shilled for an auction house run by men he called Laurel and Hardy, choked down home-preserved seal-ribs in Labrador, encountered the Dark Tickle Streaker on his midnight run, and witnessed a rare performance by the leading rake and scrape band of Andros Island in the Bahamas. In short, LeBlond has had quite a life, and he’s written about it here with wit and compassion for the foibles and blessings of his fellow humans. He’s also thought quite a bit about what it means to grow older and how the writing life has helped him as he ages into his eighth decade.
In Exquisite by September, Shayla Hawkins chronicles the zeitgeist of the early 21st century United States and her place in it as an American Black woman, navigating and maintaining her sanity in a nation fraught with racism, pestilence, misogyny, and political upheaval. By turns humorous, melancholy, and sensual, this collection is a poetic museum through which Hawkins, as curator and guide, shares glimpses into different facets or “galleries” of her being. A poet from Detroit, Michigan, Hawkins is the author of Carambola. She is a winner of The Caribbean Writer Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction and The John Edgar Wideman Microstory Contest. Her collection of poems Exquisite by September was a 2020 runner up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize.
Intimacies in Borrowed Light Poetry by Darius Stewart EastOver Press, July 2022
Intimacies in Borrowed Light is Stewart’s first book-length collection of poems, bringing together works from his three previous chapbooks—The Terribly Beautiful, Sotto Voce, and The Ghost the Night Becomes—in addition to new poems. The result is a book that is more than the sum of its parts, but one that coalesces around themes of love, addiction, violence, sexual identity, and the corporeal body to betray the intimate moments that illuminate, especially, Black gay male experiences. Stewart received an MFA in poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin (2007) and an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa (2020). In 2021, the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame honored him with the inaugural Emerging Writer Award. He is currently a Lulu “Merle” Johnson Doctoral Fellow in English Literary Studies at the University of Iowa.
The premise of Susannah Q. Pratt’s collection of essays is in her subtitle: Essays from a Year of No Buying. After becoming overwhelmed by how much she and her family owned, she convinced her husband and three teenage boys—through her use of a PowerPoint—to go one year without buying anything other than what was necessary. Her project raises questions about what is necessary, what we actually need to live meaningful lives in the twenty-first century, and the importance we attach to what we buy, both in healthy and unhealthy ways. At her best, Pratt’s essays explore important questions of gender, class, and privilege, examining the ways aspects of our identities impact what we’re able to buy and own. While Pratt credits an essay by Ann Patchett in 2017 on a similar subject, I was surprised she didn’t mention Judith Levine’s 2007 book Not Buying It, in which Levine takes on the same project. Pratt’s essays are a solid update to Levine, given how the world has changed in fifteen years, especially as the rise of online shopping has made buying unnecessary items even easier, but interacting with one who came before would make her work even stronger.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.
All the Rivers Flow Into the Sea and Other Stories Fiction by Khanh Ha EastOver Press, June 2022
From Vietnam to America, Khanh Ha’s All the Rivers Flow Into the Sea is a story collection that brings readers a unique sense of love and passion alongside tragedy and darker themes of peril. The titular story features a love affair between an unlikely duo pushing against barely surmountable cultural barriers. In “The Yin-Yang Market,” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abound in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book. Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb to the call of fate, All the Rivers Flow Into the Sea is a great journey where redemption and human goodness arise out of violence and beauty to become part of an essential mercy. All the Rivers Flow into the Sea was selected as a winner of the 2021 EastOver Prize for Fiction.
More or Less: Essays from a Year of No Buying Creative Nonfiction by Susannah Q. Pratt EastOver Press, February 2022
In 2018, Pratt and her family decided to buy nothing for a year: “We undertook a 365-day moratorium on the purchase of new clothes, toys, games, books, electronics, gear, furniture, housewares, and other things that fall in the general category of ‘stuff.’ For twelve months we purchased only essentials – food, toiletries, light bulbs, and a few pairs of shoes for my growing boys. We stayed out of stores and off of online shopping sites. We fixed things. We made things. We went without.” Winner of the 2021 EastOver Prize for Nonfiction, the essays in More or Less explore the degree to which we are defined, and confined, by what we own.
Crow Funeral is the end result of intention and design gone off-script. What began as a fascination with a phenomenon of crows congregating in overwhelming numbers around one of their fallen, eventually became a collection that merges an interest in the neurological wiring of birds with a mother’s battle with postpartum depression and anxiety.
This World is Not Your Home Essays by Matthew Vollmer EastOver Press, March 2022
Winner of the 2021 Eastover Prize for Nonfiction, This World Is Not Your Home includes essays ranging from third-person accounts to notes, instructions, and extended meditations, representing many of the possibilities available to the writer of creative nonfiction. The title essay, written in the second person, tells of Vollmer’s growing up in rural North Carolina and catalogs the psychological pressures exerted by a little-known religion. Written using a variety of forms and points of view, these essays show Vollmer’s dexterity of the form.
Cutleaf is an online journal published twice monthly. It’ a project of EastOver Press, an independent literary press specializing in collections of short stories, essays, and poetry. The first issue officially launched in February 2021 with “How Gretel Gets Her Groove Back” by Lauren K. Alleyne, “Sliders” by Wesley Browne, and “Eat Before You Go” by E.C. Salibian.
They feature fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and cross-genre work by both new and established writers. Issue 10 published in June 2021 features poetry by George Ella Lyon, fiction by Kevin Fitton, and nonfiction by Matt Muilenberg.
They will reopen to submissions in September 2021. Until then, browse their current issue and their back issues for an idea of what they are looking for.