Category Archives: Writing, Revising, Blogging

Poetry Workshop Begins Next Week

Screen Shot 2022-03-21 at 11.20.07 AMBeginning Wednesday, March 30:

The Wednesday afternoon poetry workshop, which meets weekly from 1:00-3:00 pm via Zoom, continues to thrive. There happens to be a few open seats for the next six-week session and we’d love to welcome practicing poets into the group. We will be working out of The Strategic Poet edited by Diane Lockward.

Dates: Wednesdays March 30, April 6, 13, 20, 27, and May 4. Registration: $225

Registration is open. To enroll, provide your name and preferred workshop in the form below. Space is limited, so reserve your seat soon.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Chanteuse and Wild Rice by Libby Bernardine

Can we believe the mustard seed growseidt piaf
into a large tree producing seed for the birds
to gather—the ever-present sparrows build
their nest, shake down the seeds then born
by wind—many are fed

The French called Edith Piaf la mone piaf,
the Little Sparrow, child raised in poverty
in a brothel, sang her chansons on a street
corner, and once I saw her at Versailles
in New York—who was this voice

in this little frame belting out
Padam Padam Padam, fist clenched
in pounding rhythm, her voice
from across the sea sending
her song of love, La Vie En Rose

Wild rice across the street gracefully
dies, scatters seeds for any of the marsh folk
to feed as it ages—the sparrow
chit, chit whistling over near three red roses
blooming on a bush, three years dormant

I hear the faint sound of a cricket—
I call it to me, the faith of its song
I send it out among the grains.


Libby Bernardin is the author of Stones Ripe for Sowing (2018, Press 53) and two Chapbooks, one The Book of Myth, chosen by Kwame Dawes. Publications have appeared in The Asheville Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Kakalak. She has received awards from the Poetry Society of South Carolina, and the North Carolina Poetry Society.

Interview with poet Pamela Yenser, author of Close Encounters Down Home

When my good friend, Pam Yenser told me her poetry collection would be published earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to savor it. You see, I have missed working with Pam ever since I moved from Albuquerque to Charleston eight years ago. Missed hearing about her projects, missed reading her latest poem drafts, and equally missed telling her about my own work. Of course I had to interview her for Zingara Poetry Review, which you will find below immediately following a poem expert from her book, Close Encounters Down Home.

Our Lives Were Like Firefly Light

Our lives were like firefly lightclose encounters
Caught in a jar, we lit up the night.

How did our collectors punish us?
Did Mother bruise us with brushes?

Did Father grow closer by inches?
Had he grown too big for his britches?

Was he mad enough to break into
her closet and remove each left shoe?

The lawyers said she had dementia.
Who was crazier was the question!

Leave, my darlings, that long-ago life
where Father knocked with a kitchen knife

at your side door. Shake off that old shoe-
stealing monster. I never left you

alone to remember. Now you’re free
of Mary and the Frankenstein she

married. Look! I have razor blades sewn
into the hem of every poem.

from Close Encounters Down Home, Finishing Line Press, February 2021

Pam YenserTell us a little about the genesis of your book, including your writing process.

I love your reference to the “genesis” of my book! It’s an apt metaphor for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS Down Home. Although there was no single moment when I decided to write about my father’s fixation with the Roswell, New Mexico, flying saucer incident or how it affected me, I can tell you that it showed up among many poems with vivid and often distressing moments from childhood—some with recurring images and motifs I had not yet connected to the rest of my poetry collection. One day, I envisioned that story stretching from childhood and coming of age into a well-organized adult poem of perception. Once I focused on paring down to a thirty-page narrative, one memory begat another, telling the poet-speaker’s “true” story as honestly and openly as possible.

The poetry writing process is an intricate exercise, isn’t it? There are the poems (part memory and part memoir) and then there is the plot (part chronology and part time travel). For the memoir aspect of my poems and creative nonfiction, I dig through biographical memorabilia: family photos, letters, hospital records, email reports, calendars, event notes, cute kid memorabilia, pre-Covid travel guides, and whatever is in the eight storage boxes bearing down on my bedroom wall. For allusions to historic events like the Roswell saucer crash, I collect contemporaneous accounts in books and magazines. It’s hard to keep up. My book was published two months before The New Yorker broke several stories in its May 2021 issue, revealing the highly anticipated opening of top-secret military reports on extra-terrestrial sightings—including the Roswell saucer incident.

The poet-speaker’s story begins in Roswell, where flying saucer mania attracts her father, who straps her in and flies her down through the clouds and over the wreckage. “Cloud angels!” she remembers. “It looks like a broken kite!” The “red rocks and glitter” I wrote about years ago showed up in a photo released recently by the U.S. Army. Worried my book of poems would get lost among the hundreds of books titled “Close Encounters of the First Kind,” or the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth kind, for that matter, I added “Down Home” as a subtitle. There are several homes of memory in the book, and all include a fox of a father, a religion-possessed mother, a brother L.A. doctors called your little retarded brother,” two younger sisters, and their little brother.

While grouping poems that emphasize time and space travel, I formatted “Memory’s Gate” and “Snow Angel” to travel typographically forwards and backwards on the page, like a windshear, creating a cyclone of words on the page. “The End of TV,” in the shape of a tornado a few pages before, confirms the news, “It’s coming.” Most of the poems are separate memories, but the book’s final poem “Damn, il pleut is a summation in rhymed couplets. It is also an illustration of the time and place displacements the speaker in the poem experiences. I was sitting in a recliner, a legal pad in my lap, when I had the notion to recount the father-daughter relationship from beginning to end. That poem submitted the next day—on the final day to enter—won the annual Ithaca Lit poetry contest. Thank you, judges…and Ms. poetry muse.

Now, about the mechanics of the writing process, or should I say, the consequences of the writing process? The machinery of publishing…the publishing part.

Like most everyone these days, I use Submittable to access challenges, and contest deadlines. It is nothing like the old days, when I mailed off a manila envelope containing a few poems and a stamped return envelope. I used to dread return of my poems—not only because of the usual rejection slip, but also because the pages themselves might be handled by many, mis-folded, or missing—which meant those printouts couldn’t be recycled for the next submission…but then, return envelopes might also contain encouraging notes. I remember an acceptance I received from esteemed Shenandoah Editor R.T. Smith, who wrote to me in a formal letter of acceptance that he had “at last received a sestina that worked.”

 How did your book come to be published?

How, indeed! I was mentored into the process of publishing. I remember one night meeting the brilliant poet Hilda Raz, former Editor at Prairie Schooner, that widely respected journal at the University of Nebraska. Hilda had moved to Albuquerque about the time I did, when she became Editor at the University of New Mexico Press. I had long ago submitted poems to her, but we didn’t know each other. Fortunately, we all met through a college friend of poet and critic Stephen Yenser. She had read that my husband, Jon Kelly Yenser, and I were giving a reading, and she invited Hilda. Kelly had recently published chapbooks through Kattywompus Press—a wonderful experience, and that reading led to Hilda’s acceptance of Kelly’s collected poems at the University of New Mexico Press…and a mighty motivation for me.

When Hilda Raz, a wonderful listener and ever an advocate for poets, realized how often I read my broadly published poems, she looked at Kelly and said to me, “Why don’t you have a book of poems? Every poet I know has one.” My excuses were inadequate: grading papers, managing home and garden, balancing a career and two kids. I had submitted my book-length manuscript only a handful of times. Hilda’s question was to the point, and soon enough she had me focused on submitting poems and collecting prizes: the first Bosque Poetry Prize for a quartet of poems on James Merrill, the Ithaca Lit Prize for the concluding seven-part poem of the chapbook “Damn, Il Pleut,” and a plaque I treasure from Leslie McGrath, judge at the W.B. Yeats Society of New York, in recognition of my epistolary verse “Dear Mary Shelley, Regarding Monsters.” At that point, Hilda gifted me a workshop and suggested I sign up for the annual Colrain Intensive Poetry Manuscript Conference. With additional encouragement from Four Way Books Founding Editor Martha Rhodes and also from Translator/Editor Ellen Watson, who had helped select some of my poems previously for the Massachusetts Review, I buckled down to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, finishing it in March of 2020 and submitting the manuscript immediately to a Finishing Line Press chapbook contest. I didn’t “win,” and yet I did: I was a finalist, and Editor Leah Maines invited me to publish at her press. By that time, twelve of twenty-two poems in my manuscript were published in serious journals. I am delighted with the book. Finishing Line Press is a first-class operation which not only makes handsome books but has a well-developed marketing plan and distribution network—necessary elements for a successful publication.

Can you discuss how you determine when to use formal elements in your poetry?

I have never shied away from traditional or experimental forms; in fact, I tend to rhyme like hell when writing poems of witness. I was a formalist from kindergarten, thanks to a book of nursery rhymes my Grandmother sent. I stapled books of my rhyming poems for my teachers throughout grade and middle school; however, I didn’t know any other way to write until my Wichita High School teacher Lee Streiff, a beat poet who wrote flying saucer fiction, sent me to the library during class to read books by the imagists and early Beats. At Wichita State University, I fell in love with Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz,” and bought Lewis Turco’s Book of Forms for practice. I learned formalism at WSU by example: John Keats, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Merrill—poets whose rhyme and line breaks are meticulous and witty, and I was drawn to Sylvia Plath’s syllabic lines. I began to use syllabics in poems of mine that otherwise don’t appear to be formal; but it is the energy of rhyming couplets that drives my final chapbook poem to its logical conclusion.

What are some overarching themes or motifs in your collection and how do you explore them?

As I gathered my “memory poems” into a book, I used a flying motif in conjunction with time travel and family history. I meant to make a narrative out of memoir and motif, starting with the Roswell crash. But memory knows no chronology: sequence and consequence are distorted. Poems likewise move back and forth between the actual and the imagined—as does our understanding of interplanetary space travel! While arranging the order of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS poems, I seized the chance to emphasize time and space travel by placing poems that travel typographically forwards and backwards on the page midway in the book. In “Memory’s Gate,” the adult poet-speaker is pulling rotten fenceposts at her home in Idaho, when she remembers a neighbor and her father discussing flying saucers over a picket fence while her father casually reaches up her skirt as she walks along the top rail. In “Snow Angels,” I forward my truth, then reverse the direction of 9-9-9-3-foot syllabic lines to speak of the past. Here is a small excerpt illustrating the turn:

It is our father who harries us

along that old game of Fox and Geese,

our spokes creating an enormous

sign of peace

until we are chased until all fall down

to make hourglass waves of skinny arms

and spraddled legs becoming frigid

snow angels…

…then and there in a dormitory

meant for students in a Midwest mining town

where the military marriage

of a nurse

and her captain came undone and I

vanished inside—becoming nothing

more than desire in her lover’s eyes

for a girl.

I should note how beautifully the overarching metaphor of flight is depicted in the painting on the cover of the book: blue skies, the exposed woman turning her back on a column of naked children, all those figures focused on the challenge and perils of flight…or escape. The artist who painted that triptych is a lifelong friend and former colleague who is familiar with my story—one that has versions in other lives; and so, in the opening, I invite my readers to come onboard through a literary device—the apostrophe:

You’re in that saucer

spinning out over Roswell

on edge like a dime….

Sylvia Plath seems like an important figure for you. Can you talk more about that?

Ah, yes, but of course. Sylvia Plath reminded me of my own situation, right down to the moment I felt so trapped in my parents’ little brick house that I thought “If the wolf isn’t caught I will walk down to the nearby creek and drown myself. Mercifully, I could not figure out how to do that in water so shallow. Like Plath, I eventually told my father, in so many words, “we’re through.” I was a college student when I read Plath and started writing “Confessional” poems. I read Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. His students included Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. That was the heart of the movement. Though we both had “Daddy” poems, Plath’s efforts at suicide were unfortunately more focused than mine. For others who suffer closed doors and intimate inuendo, it takes time to react—it’s difficult to process what has just happened.

“Zipper Trip,” my first confessional poem, was under consideration for a prize at Massachusetts Review when I withdrew it from the competition to protect my family from publicity that would have attracted and enraged my father. That poem, taught later in Women’s Studies classes and listed in literary indexes, drew responses from male as well as female readers who found themselves in a similar situation. I was driven from that point to read the many isolated, multilingual, and multi-gendered poets who speak out against repression. I sometimes try on their exact form and write my way within the shape of their argument—now called a “hermit crab” device. An example of a hermit crab poem in my chapbook is the opening “Like Emily, They Shut me up in Prose,” a 12-line Rondeau Prime form I closely follow. I even make myself at home in Dickinson’s title, which comes from the first line of her poem (the work of her editor, because she simply numbered poems and didn’t use titles.) Like a naked crab on the beach, I crawled inside her poem, making myself safe at home. Within her protective shell, am I the poet, poet-speaker, or a vulnerable creature hiding on a hot beach? I begin this book like a hermit crab, at home wherever I am safe from predation.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m completing a full-length manuscript with the working title of “Transported Here.” I am obviously not done with time and space travel—nor with shaped and formal poems. My Roswell experience begins that collection, including a section on the family that, as a reviewer put it, “does not travel well together” as they drive across the country on iconic Route 66. Continuing my interest in the unstable dynamics of memoir and memory, my collected poems recall campus protests of the 1970’s, during the run-up to Vietnam War and its interruption to our studies and our lives. I also write about love as passion and escape…into nature, human nature, and the historic role of the cicadas’ devastating “Insect Sex” on the Kansas landscape, necessitating that we find relief (re-leaf?) by being transported through travel—across state borders and abroad. The book ends with poems about the summer 1971 in Greece with James Merrill, our dear mentor and Yenser family guide. In this final chapbook-sized section of my collection, I attempt to capture all that is Merrillian in Greece: the art and food, politics, history, armed Colonels marching into a play in the amphitheater at Epidavros, the bucolic Peloponnese, the bluest seas, and whitewashed island towns, marble walls embraced with bougainvillea, and investigations of the ruins—both personal and planetary.

Now, a question that everyone wants to know the answer to: How has writing been during this time of the pandemic, social political upheaval, and activism?

Covid more or less shut down our writing routines until we got the green light, or rather the “turquoise” light here in New Mexico. We haven’t been able to join our writing tribe at the coffee shop, on campus, or in each other’s homes. Like so many others, Kelly and I had medical concerns and were directed to isolate at home, where we found ourselves excessively cooking, housekeeping, composting, gardening, dog walking, and Skyping for hours with family and friends. We were depressed by the politics of the first Covid year—not only horrified by the Corona virus and its blood-red spikes, but also disgusted with our nation’s bloody politics—so many shootings, so many lies, so much gratuitous violence. Aside from donating, I felt helpless to help. Sometimes, the best I could do was to shower and change pajama/sweats once a week to become presentable for a conversation or poetry reading on Zoom, but I also became aware and grateful for a safe house, companionship, and online transportation. We were obliged to sit for hours in our car, waiting for groceries, but wait we did, then wipe the stuff down, and cut out the rotten parts. That is the lesson we’re learning, isn’t it: to appreciate the leavings of our lives?

Retired after working at ten colleges and universities, I have more time to write. I now manage a family business—NM Book Editors, where I teach as a developmental editor. I find it satisfying to see a client’s annual award-winning books of memoir reach the reading public, and I am educated by the subject areas I’m obliged to study. I recently discovered the Netflix series Rotten, which contains a segment featuring a New Mexico client: a lawyer trying to save American farming from international dumping of cheap products. I watch the British baking show to broaden my survival skills. I’ve learned to make biscotti and lost 20 pounds by giving it away to friends and neighbors. I’ve slept for 20 years and awakened to the silver in my hair. I have religiously washed my hands until my skin has become thin, transparent, loose, and smooth as silk. I’m writing my first Pandemic short story. The anti-hero is a politician who runs from room to room, trying to escape until Truth catches up with him, and he catches Covid.

It came to me then in a dream, as I ran from room to room in Freud’s castle, that I too must have made a mistake: I turned a corner and fell to the bottom of a dry cement cistern. I stood up, spun around, looking upwards for toeholds, where there were none, and said, “Does this mean I’m dead?” But here I am, and all my family vaccinated and free as birds! In the tiny territory of our Albuquerque backyard, grown children are transported by car or plane from Wichita and LA, my hometowns. Meeting on our patio under climbing yellow roses, bees, and butterflies, we recite the names of this yard’s honorary survivors: Dove, Hawk, Magpie, Meadowlark, and Sparrow.

Close Encounters Down Home is available for purchase at Finishing Line Press


PAMELA YENSER (BA, MA, MFA) was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and has been teaching at colleges and universities since she was a sophomore at WSU. She does improv and gives readings. Her poems are available online at Connotation Press and Notable Kansas Poets; in print at Poetry Northwest, Midwest Quarterly, Shenandoah, Massachusetts Review, others; and in many anthologies. She and her husband, the poet Jon Kelly Yenser (UNM Press), work at NM Book Editors, LLC, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

where the light sneaks in by Mike Jurkovic

The psychic took my personal check and I
quickly questioned all her projections.
Surely she knew my grifter past before predicting
Ten weeks on The Times Top Ten,
Amazon Prime’s Big Pick.

Have you read my stuff
it’s freaking depressing I said.
A curt evaluation I’ll concede but
I don’t see stars anymore
just bullet holes where the light sneaks in.

We need your truth she said
and I thought: Wow!
What a blurb that would make.
Let Kirkus charge me now!

This country ain’t piss she said
lending credence to my last submissions,
heft to my whole oeuvre.
Can I quote ya I asked
w/o grimace, my standard scowl of the day.
Twenty six ninety nine she said
w/o fanfare or delight.

Mike Jurkovic is a 2016 Pushcart nominee and his latest book is  AmericanMental, (Luchador Press 2020). His CD reviews appear in All About Jazz,.  He is the Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY.

Who Names this Child? by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran

God didn’t name me—
didn’t come to my father
and mother with anointing oil,
declare a greatness
over my weakness.

Yet,
there is a sound,
unnamable, I hear
rising from femur
and spleen, that pushes
through my veins.

Can I call it divine?

This name,
deeper within
that outweighs fear.

Nadine Ellsworth-Moran is a full-time minister living in Georgia. She is fascinated by the stories unfolding all around her and seeks to bring everyone into conversation around a common table. Her essays and poems have appeared in Interpretation, The Presbyterian Outlook, Emrys, Structo, Kakalak, and Saint Katherine Review, among others.

Eyes Fastened with Poems by Lois Marie Harrod

Made thing, mad thing
mud and muddied thing—
how hard the poem works

shaping its ship of clay,
what is there to discover?
Sails aghast

but still trying
to suck life
into the little vessel,

shale becomes slate.
Well, take up your chalk
and walk.

Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman was published by Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton. Links to her online work www.loismarieharrod.org

 

Online Writing Workshops for September

 Yoga and Memoir Workshop: Write, Heal, Transform Join me and yoga instructor Jessica Merritt via Zoom from 6:30-8:30pm Thursdays in September for 4 weeks (September 3, 10, 17, & 24). Get all the benefits of a home practice with the support of professional instructors Jessica Merritt and Lisa Hase-Jackson and fellow yogi/writers. Participants will be led through a 30 minute yoga series followed by memoir writing exercises and instruction. Stay centered AND start or make progress on your memoir this September and feel good doing it. The cost for this class is $199. Email zingarapoet@gmail.com to register.

Advanced Poetry Workshop: a six-week advanced poetry workshop and study group from September 8 to October 13 which will meet on Tuesdays from 8:30pm – 10:30pm Eastern via Zoom with email and Google doc supplements. Each week we will discuss select chapters from “Why Poetry” by Matthew Zapruder, “Madness, Rack and Honey” by Mary Ruefle, and “The Flexible Lyric” by Ellen Bryant Voigt, particularly in terms of whether or not they affect our relationship with poetry, our sense of craft, or our revision process. Some weeks we will focus on generating new work and other weeks we will focus on works-in-progress and/or revision. Participants will be expected to have their own copies of the books. Some supplemental material may be provided. The cost for this class is $120. Email zingarapoet@gmail.com to register.

 

Years Go By by Haley Sui

 

19. 6 years, and sometimes I can’t see anything except the radiation machines that clank against each other, metal shrieks ringing in my ear. 6 years, and I still cry myself to sleep at night. 6 years, and there’s always someone, somewhere, saying PTSD isn’t real. Just get over it.

18. It’s been 5 years. They say I’m safe now. They say it’s over.

18. Legal age. I can vote now. Does the world want me to change it? Do I, even have that right?

17. Oh my god! They took me! Ivy-bound.

17. Applying for college. Will Harvard take me? But they’re so good. Should I even mention the cancer?

16. My friend Vanessa said the scar on my chest looked like I got heart surgery. I was so scared. What if she found out?

16. I can’t tell anybody, right? What if they treat me differently? I don’t want all my friends to be friends with me out of pity.

15. My hair’s so short; I wear a cap everyday to school. Mom talked to the teachers, so they let me wear it in class too. I’m so embarrassed.

15. New school. New faces. Will I be okay? Why did I leave Hunter?

14. Chemo ends in March. They make me ring a nice bell to show I finished treatment. It’s shiny. Does that mean it’s over? Can I go back to my life?

14. I can’t walk in a straight line. My flute lies on the ground, abandoned. My paintings drape over the basement table. Mom and Dad shove my baking tools in an empty drawer.

13. Everyone wants me to say something. But I don’t want to say anything. My throat hurts. Do I have a voice? I think Grandma is asking me something, but I can’t hear her.

13. The surgery is tomorrow. I’m scared of this hospital. This place is weird and looks too bright. My eyes are angry. There are purple butterflies on the walls.

13. I ask Mom why my head hurts so much. Because she’s my Mom. She has all the answers. She looks at me, sad. She doesn’t have an answer.

13. My head hurts. Ow. This really hurts.

13. Jack of all trades. That’s what Grandma calls me. She says she’s proud of me because I can play piano and flute and I can bake yummy stuff and my art is really pretty and I do really good in school.

12. It takes 3 hours to travel to school every day. There’s so much work. It’s ok, though. Mom says it’s the best middle school. Mom knows everything.

11. I got into Hunter! Finally, wow, this took so long.

10.

9.

8. Little brother doesn’t want to go to kindergarten. He’s crying by the window. I go and calm him down.

7. Grandma says I’m her favorite because I can do so many things.

6.

5.

4.

3. I can’t sleep without Mommy. I piddle paddle to her room. Mommy and Daddy are talking, loud but whispering, quiet but angry. I fall asleep outside with my blankie.

2.

1.

0.
 
---
Haley Sui is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Creative Writing and Neuroscience. She is an active member in her college’s acapella group and dance club, as well as a fervent writer for the university’s science newsletter. When she’s not studying or working on club projects, Haley enjoys listening to lofi music and writing personal memoirs. 

 

Poetry Added to Annual Contest

South 85 Journal is adding POETRY to it’s summer literary contest this year with a $500 cash award. Our inaugural poetry judge is Denise Duhamel.

Full details, including information for the Flash Fiction contest, can be found below and on the South 85 Journal website.  Deadline for contest submissions is August 1st, 2020.


JULIA PETERKIN LITERARY CONTEST HONORS SOUTH CAROLINIAN AUTHOR
Winners in Each Genre will Receive $500 Prize Each

South 85 Journal, Converse College MFA program’s online literary journal, is adding poetry to it’s annual Julia Peterkin summer literary contest.

As in past years, the contest honors South Carolinian author Julia Peterkin, an1896 graduate of Converse College whose novel, Scarlet Sister Mary, received the Pulitzer in 1929.

Submissions are open from June 1 through August 1. One winner in each genre will receive a cash prize of $500 and four runners-up in each genre will be named and published alongside the winning selection in the Fall / Winter issue of South 85 Journal. Only the winners will receive a cash award.

Contest readers, composed of seasoned writers and MFA students, will review submissions and forward them to the presiding judges. Converse College MFA faculty member Marlin Barton will make the final selections for the Flash Fiction award and Converse College MFA faculty member Denise Duhamel will make the final selection for the Poetry award. All submissions will be read blind.

Submit your previously unpublished fiction of 850 words or less for consideration in the Flash Fiction contest or up to three previously unpublished poems of 50 lines or fewer for consideration in the Poetry contest.

For more information or to submit, visit the contest page on Submittable at https://south85.submittable.com/submit/118884/julia-peterkin-award-for-flash-fiction-500-prize.

Interview with Poet Carol Smallwood by Carole Mertz

I am pleased to feature Carol Mertz’s interview with Carol Smallwood.

Carole Smallwood is an interviewer, editor, and literary judge. Her most recent book is Patterns: Moments in Time (Word Poetry, 2019). A multi-Pushcart nominee, she’s founded and supports humane societies. A collection is also forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Their conversation right after this poem by Smallwood:

We Select

a few—the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path,
knowing with certainty at the time they’ll be ours to the end—
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend.
Knowing with certainty at the time they’ll be ours to the end,
they return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise:
a sunset, muffled cry, a Thanksgiving dressing, smile of a friend
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise.
They return at unexpected moments, their clarity a surprise
an imprinting sudden as first love with no thought of aftermath
bringing feeling from depths we cannot withhold, disguise:
a few—the selections random: a melody, morning fog, a path.

C.M. Carol, from the number of collections you’ve published within the last decade, it’s obvious your work is a rich flow of creativity. Can you tell us a little about your attitude toward work and your writing process? When did you start writing poetry?

Smallwood: Writing never seemed to be work ever since learning to read in school. The whole idea of words—the way they sound, look, evoke, made me feel right away it was a new world I wanted to explore. Of course I had no idea what was involved but knew it was one I wanted to be in. Poetry was a form I didn’t think I’d ever try, as after taking college poetry classes in which one class period was figuring out what a poet meant in one line seemed impossibly hard. But finally I decided to try a few so jumped in and was amazed to get acceptances which encouraged me in 2006 to keep going. Probably dealing with cancer at this time prompted me. Yes, I’m OK now but facing mortality pushes one. By chance I ran across formal poetry and after much struggling came up with a villanelle which gave me so much satisfaction I found out how to do triolets, pantoums, and other forms; the rondeau my latest. I found How to Write Classical Poetry: A Guide to Forms, Techniques, and Meaning (Ragazine) to be of great help. As far as the process of writing, it is illusive, very mysterious. The best comes from our unconscious which we know little. It seems the times I try the hardest are times I do the least and when I am not trying, ideas come. Writers are always writing even if not putting words down as it is a simmering on a back burner we have little to do with. Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in a very short time as he was ready for it, it was cooked so to speak.

C.M. Do you work mostly at home? If not, how do you establish your routine, for example, if working at a library or another location? In Interweavings, your collection of creative nonfiction, in your essays, and in some of your poems, you refer to visits to the library, and sometimes to the napkins at McDonald’s. I’ve always wondered if you actually took lunches at McDonald’s.

Smallwood: Yes, I work mostly at home now, around 5 hours at the desktop computer. When not at home I often jot down words on paper that is always handy and yes, sometimes when I run out, on napkins or placemats. Lunch out is my carrot to keep me working and I’m a good customer of fast food places—they know me by name and what I order.

C.M. When working at an outside location, what writing tools do you carry in your tote bag?

Smallwood: Just my list of things to shop on back of scrap paper and two pens. Often ideas pop up while I’m driving, so I have a clipboard handy on the passenger seat. It is hard to read on the fly (if you want to read it).

C.M. I’ve admired your essays at Society of Classical Poets on various poetical forms. Does content of your poems dictate the form you choose, or vice versa?

Smallwood: A cinquain sometimes starts as a poem but ends up as a sestina or fiction. My computer screen has a big folder called Unfinished Work that I keep going and often use, that is, finish. My latest notes I took last night long hand watching television.

C.M. Does the material reside in your mind (pre-inscription, as it were) and then you shape the poem? Or do you begin with the formal outline of a villanelle or pantoum, for example, and work the lines into the poem’s formal construct?

Smallwood: Ideas come first and then I write it as a narrative not thinking what form it would fit. The challenge in most formal poetry is not to make it too “sing song” that is, the rhyme must not overwhelm. I often start out with many lines but end up with just a few or toss it.

C.M. In various passages from your writing, you’ve referred to John Galsworthy? How has his writing influenced your own?

Smallwood: I have lunch with John every day even if carrying hard copies in my purse makes it heavy. It was in high school I first read him and greatly admired his style—not knowing about him at all, I just felt it was special and someone I wanted to keep reading. I now have a set (Devon Edition) I treasure that came with uncut pages as well as several autographed books. He has written widely in other forms besides fiction, but it is his novels I keep reading. His The Forsyte Saga has been in at least 2 major television series but I can’t watch it because my image of the characters just doesn’t match those on screen after reading it so often. I often think of his:  “Art was unsatisfactory. When it gave you the spirit, distilled the essence, it didn’t seem real; and when it gave you the gross, cross-currented, contradictory surface, it didn’t seem worth while.”

C.M. Do you have favorite contemporary poets? I feel I’m always trying to catch up on authors I haven’t yet read. Do you feel that kind of pressure?

 Smallwood: Yes, I have that same pressure of keeping up to date. And concluded one just cannot!

C.M. One of my favorite essays from your Interweavings is the one you call “Beginning the Day.” I like it for the “present moment” of the essay and for its reverence of the past, told as much by the scarf the cat played with (made from flour sack material), as by items such as stones saved from the past and reference to an old Department of Agriculture land study. This essay achieved such a balancing of “then and now.” Can you tell us something of how this essay came about?

 Smallwood: Thank you! The things I mention were taken from what I saw. As one that fights to fall asleep, seeing dawn has become very familiar but I can never really capture it—it is an amazing process seeing familiar things take on reassuring form early in the day. The essay was an attempt.

C.M. Your collections are so interesting and so varied, one from the other. In Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences you organize your material according to the earth’s elements, speaking sometimes of the Swan Nebula and sometimes of tea bubbles. The unity of Prisms, Particles, and Refractions, on the other hand, is so different from that of A Matter of Selection where in your preface you address the question of words left in poems and thoughts suggested by what’s left out. When you start assembling your material, do you always recognize immediately the common thread that will make the collection cohere?

Smallwood: Thank you! It isn’t until I’ve written nearly twenty new poems that I can detect a theme to shape a new collection. There is a thread that connects them even if didn’t know it when writing them and it is satisfying to find, pin it down.

C.M. I think readers would be most interested in learning what part of the collection process you find most enjoyable? most laborious? most challenging?

 Smallwood: The most enjoyable is seeing the collection fall into place as a unit out of so many parts. In each collection I use 3-5 Parts in Roman Numerals to place the poems as a further definition. And begin with a Prelude, end with an Epilogue. Give it structure, maybe it is the librarian part of my background. The most laborious is thinking of a new poem: thinking is the wrong word—it just comes when it is ready. Sometimes you are convinced you have written your last one and a new one is a thing of the past; it is all over. The most challenging is to keep yourself open, the waiting.

C.M. If you don’t mind serving further as teacher, could you tell the novice poet how to go about organizing his/her material, or how or when (s)he should approach a publisher?

Smallwood: Once you finish putting the collection together, add requested blurbs, let it sit a month at least, read it with new eyes. Make sure the table of contents matches the order of the poems, spellcheck. If possible, have a friend spellcheck.  This is the way I organized my most recent poetry collection, In the Measuring:

  • Blurbs
  • Half Page (title only)
  • Title/Author Page
  • Epigraph
  • Recent Selected Work
  • Table
  • Foreword
  • Introduction (Preface)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Prelude
  • Names of Parts
  • Epilogue
  • About the Writer

Decide if you want to pay a fee for a contest, or a reading fee. Most publishers go this route but some do not. A reliable list of publishers is by Poets & Writers: Small Presses

Expect to wait, make dozens of submissions as the competition is high. I’ve had 8 poetry collections published so far and another hybrid (not all poetry) is coming out in November from Finishing Line Press; a poetry collection in 2019 from WordTech Editions. John Dos Passos expressed it well when he wrote:  “If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works, with all the misconceptions, the omissions, the failures that any finished work of art implies.”

***

Carole Mertz, poet and essayist, is the author of the 2019 poetry chapbook, Toward a Peeping Sunrise (Prolific Press). She writes for various literary journals in U.S. and Canada and resides in Parma, OH. Mertz is the Book Review Editor at Dreamer’s Creative Writing.

Columbus Day by Jenny McBride

Oh Cris Columbus
How I wish you hadn’t come here.
Five hundred years of your celebrations
Have scraped the birds thin
Drained the fish dry
Made the rock cry.
The Vikings sailed back
When their Vinland grew cold
But you wrapped your future
In buffalo robes
And now I don’t know where to turn
When I want to go home.

Jenny McBride’s writing has appeared in SLAB, Common Ground Review, Rappahannock Review, The California Quarterly, Conclave, and other publications. She makes her home in the rainforest of southeast Alaska.

In Dissent by Tom D’Angelo

Both foreign and familiar
you patrol the hidden
America.

You don’t care about
selling the most
cookies.

You know how
to tell a joke but you don’t
want to.

You’ve learned to be
suspicious
learned to be always
on the lookout.

You’ve heard the stories
from the battlefields—
academic, financial, political

and yet you refuse
to run away and join
the circus even though
relationships create
obligations,

so you walk
in perpetual Lent
concentrating ashy guilt and
polishing it to a
rough luster

for you need things
to be raw &
heavy
and irritating
to the eye.


Tom D’Angelo works in the Writing Center at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY, and teaches courses in Mythology, Film and Literature, and Creative Writing. In addition to poetry, his current projects include a series of creative non-fiction essays on his formative years in Queens, NY. His poems have most recently appeared in The Flatbush Review.

Paperplane letters by Kristina Gibbs

Love was pressed between
Stained smudges of downy diction
            Creased along the edges
Bent over backwards
            Then folded forward
Sealed by the weight of waxy hope
Sent with a flick—
but the sun beat on
      And on
      And on
So it flut ter ed
            Falt er
      ed
                Fall
            ing
Hitting the water
A distraught Icarus.
The whole of its failure upon it
Contributed to its
Sinking.
Words raged
And swirled
Unleashed—
            Torn open
Harboured in
The inky black deep.

Kristina Gibbs is an emerging writer from Tennessee pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and minor in Linguistics. She has previously published in Speaking of Marvels and North of Oxford Review. When she is not reading or writing, you may find her clambering over both hiking trails and paint brushes.

10 More WordPress-Hosted Sites Accepting Poetry

Allegheny Review:  The Allegheny Review, now entering its 32nd year of publication, is one of America’s few nationwide literary magazines dedicated exclusively to undergraduate works of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and artwork. Published annually, the periodical showcases some of the best literature the nation’s undergraduates have to offer.

Burning House Press: Burning House Press is born from a community arts ethos and focus. We seek to cultivate spaces where people feel safe and encouraged to explore and express their creativity. We hold a belief in the power of creativity, and share a faith in the fundamental connectivity of all peoples, especially as expressed through the commonality and community of multi-disciplinary arts. We believe that capitalism and its attendant profit culture is a public health issue, affecting us all on the level of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health and well-being.

Calamus Journal: A monthly publication of poetry and visual art. The journal is named after the “Calamus” poems, a group of male-male love poems from Walt Whitman’s collection Leaves of Grass. We seek work that stuns with what it has to say as well as how it says it. We like treatises on identity, mixtures of the literary and scientific, and form as function. We have zero tolerance for xenophobia or bigotry of any sort. For more information about who we are and what we’re all about, check out our interview with Jim Harrington of the “Six Questions for…” project.

Echo Literary Magazine: Submit work via Microsoft Word as an attachment including the cover letter. All submissions must be emailed no later than the 28th of each month to echoliteraryjournal@gmail.com. If your story is accepted or rejected you will receive an email. Deadlines for stories: 28th of each month. ALL RIGHTS: The right to own your work. You are free to reprint your material or to sell it elsewhere after publication.

Eyes+ Words: Words have immense power and, when used responsibly, they can help shape the world in hopes to make a better tomorrow. Let’s come together and share a story or two. Please feel free to share your original poetry/stories and we will gladly post them on our website, full credit will be given. Email us: EyesPlusWords@gmail.com

The Green Light: publishes multiple times a year.  We accept submissions on a rolling basis, but we will provide deadlines for each issue. Sprinkled amongst our regular issues will be a few fantastic special issues.

Gulf Stream Literary Magazine: Publishing emerging and established writers of exceptional fiction, nonfiction and poetry since 1989. We also publish interviews and book reviews. Past contributors include Sherman Alexie, Steve Almond, Jan Beatty, Lee Martin, Robert Wrigley, Dennis Lehane, Liz Robbins, Stuart Dybek, David Kirby, Ann Hood, Ha Jin, B.H. Fairchild, Naomi Shihab Nye, F. Daniel Rzicznek, and Connie May Fowler. Gulf Stream Magazine is supported by the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida.

Little Patuxent Review: Little Patuxent Review is a community-based publication focused on writers and artists from the Mid-Atlantic region, but all excellent work originating in the United States will be considered.Although our issues are organized around themes, we allow considerable leeway in how contributors interpret them in order to ensure access to the broadest range of high-quality work.

Wild Goose Poetry Review is an online journal of poetry, reviews, and poetry-related news, edited by Scott Owens, located in North Carolina. To facilitate further conversation about the poetry in the Goose, Wild Goose posts commentary by the poets and invites readers to leave their comments as well. All comments are screened by the editors to insure appropriateness. The intention is to publish new issues of Wild Goose in mid February, mid May, mid August, and mid November. Reality, however, sometimes intercedes with such plans. Submissions for each issue close at the end of the month preceding publication.

Wolff Poetry Literary Journal: Now open to accepting poetry submissions— we publish poetry from unpublished or emerging poets. We will accept published pieces too. We don’t charge a reading fee, unsolicited pieces, and are open 365 days a year.

Want to add a wordpress-hosted literary journal to the list? Send a link to ZingaraPoet@gmail.com

10 WordPress-Hosted Literary Journals Accepting Poetry Submissions

  1. Dogwood – A Journal of Poetry and Prose: An annual national literary journal seeking works from writers during its fall reading period each year. We publish fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction of both contest winners and other writers in May of each year. The literary journal is produced by the faculty in the Department of English at Fairfield University, and Fairfield undergraduate students gain hands-on experience in helping to edit and produce the journal by taking EN 340: The World of Publishing or The World of Publishing II.
  2. The Magnolia Review The Magnolia Review was born in October 2011 by Bowling Green State University creative writing undergraduates. Suzanna Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder. Please visit the Submit tab for information on how to submit. While The Magnolia Review will not have physical copies at this time, the editors may compile a print version if funds become available. We publish two issues a year, deadlines on November 15 and May 15. The issue will be available January 15 and July 15 online.
                                                                             
  3. The Mantle: Founded in 2017, The Mantle is an online quarterly journal dedicated to contemporary poetry. We’ll publish the most memorable poems we receive. When the time comes, we’ll nominate for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Find our submission guidelines here.
                                                  
  4. Naugatuck River Review: This is a literary journal founded in order to publish and in doing so to honor good narrative poetry. We publish twice a year. Our first edition was Winter 2009.  A print issue will be available through this site for purchase. It will also be available for download. Publication rights will revert to the author of the poem and we do not pay for poetry published. We accept simultaneous submissions, but please inform us if your work is accepted elsewhere. Naugatuck River Review is dedicated to publishing narrative poetry in the tradition of great narrative poets such as Gerald Stern, Philip Levine or James Wright.
  5. Panoply, A Literary Zine: Join us here for a wide-ranging and impressive array of writing.
                                                        
  6. Peacock Journal: Have you ever been so attracted to something, you just wanted to be close to it? You just wanted to exist within the same space? Or have you ever seen something so beautiful you thought it might be a door to another world? And all you desired, with the entirety of your being, was to pass through that door, into that other place, and just exist there for a little while? It’s not a separate reality, it’s a heightened, more intense reality, fuller and more complete. Write that and send it to us. It’s really difficult. It’s far easier to write gritty and pedestrian. But try it. Send us something about water and wind and light and the interplay of harmonies between them.
  7. Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Literary Journal: See website for current submission guidelines.

  8. Quill’s Edge Press: QuillsEdge Press is dedicated to publishing the poetry of women over the age of 50. We offer an annual chapbook contest during the fall and winter, and beginning in 2017, an annual anthology of new, emerging, and established women poets called 50/50: Poems and Translations by Women Over 50.                                                                                              
  9. Seshat – A Homeschool Literary Magazine:  Submissions will be open until September 1, 2017. Please review the submission guidelines before submitting your pieces to our email. All pieces will be reviewed immediately upon being received.The inaugural issue of this journal is planned for release on September 15, 2017. Any further news regarding this new release will be updated as time passes.

  10. Sliver of Stone:   a nonprofit online literary magazine. Our editors are the talented progeny of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Our mission is to provide for a web-based environment for outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art from around the globe. We want to expand the influence of these genres beyond their traditionally academic audiences.

Want to add a wordpress-hosted literary journal to the list? Send a link to ZingaraPoet@gmail.com