10 Holiday Gifts for Writers (That Aren't Journals!)

It’s that time of year again, and you’re in luck! We’ve taken the guesswork out of what to get that writer on your list and compiled a list of items — and none of them are Moleskine journals.


10 – Gift Card for Books

As Stephen King says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” While you probably can’t help with the second thing, you can definitely help with the first by getting your writer a gift card for more books! Bonus points if it’s from their local independent bookstore.


9 – A Reading Light

For those night owls, a cute reading light that clips onto their book is a great gift so they can keep on reading long after the lights go out.


8 – Cozy Blanket

For those writers that love to cuddle up with their computer or a good book, a big fuzzy blanket is a perfect gift. Also, consider a weighted blanket for those who want some extra comfort.


7 – Candles

Candles smell good and brighten up a space. We love this one that smells like old books and tea!

6 – Fancy Coffee or Tea

Speaking of tea, many writers say the real writer’s fuel is caffeine. Supply them with some fancy coffee or tea to keep them going.


5 – Fuzzy Socks or Slippers

To keep their feet warm and cozy on those cold days at the desk — or consider a small plug-in foot heater.


4 – Subscription to Literary Journals

For the literary journal and small press loving writers, gift a year-long subscription to their favorites. Of course, we’re partial to our own subscription which comes with goodies. You can find the Sundress Publications 2020 Subscription here.


3 – Noise Canceling Headphones

Help that writer focus with some noise-canceling headphones. Now they can write without distractions from that noisy neighbor. Is it you?


2 – A Litograph Pillow of Their Work

Show your writer how much you love their work by gifting a custom pillow that’s covered in their writing from Litograph. It’s easy: Upload their writing, choose a color, and order!


1 – Writer’s Residency

A writing residency doesn’t have to be through a fancy artist retreat. It could be two nights at a hotel in your hometown (or just outside of). It could be an AirBnB getaway or a cabin in the woods. Remember, the gift of time is a best gift a writer can receive.

The residencies at Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) are open to writers of all genres and take place in beautiful East Tennessee. They are designed to give writers time and space to complete their personal projects in a quiet and productive environment. For information on how to apply, click here!

Shitty First Drafts with Krista Cox

Sundress Publications announces the tenth episode of the podcast, Shitty First Drafts. A podcast made for and by writers, this show playfully investigates the creative processes of different artists to determine how a finished draft gets its polish.

On their 10th episode, Stephanie Phillips and Brynn Martin sit down with poet Krista Cox to discuss two different iterations of a poem she wrote last year. Krista explains how this poem started her on a path that changed the way she wrote and approached her work. We discuss spreadsheets, only writing poems when you’re sad, and how to be the chillest muthafucka. By day, Krista is a paralegal in South Bend, Indiana, but also spends her time working with Lit Literary Collective, a nonprofit she founded that serves her local literary community. Additionally, Krista is the managing editor of Doubleback Review and an associate poetry editor at Stirring.

Listen to Episode 10 at: https://sfdpodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-010-krista-cox/


Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet based in South Bend, Indiana, but longing for somewhere saltier. She’s the Managing Editor of Doubleback Review, a journal for work from defunct journals, and an Associate Poetry Editor at Stirring: A Literary Collection. She’s also the Executive Director of Lit Literary Collective, a nonprofit serving her local literary community. Her poetry has appeared in Columbia Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, The Humanist, and elsewhere. More on the web at kristacox.me.

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: i love you and i'm not dead by Sade LaNay (fka Murphy)


June & Arthenia arrive in the Chariot

I wake up in the middle of the night T___T it is so inconvenient to be sad I want to be held and I am afraid of closeness. I think I miss Liz because she held me the most before Sheronda kept us apart. my ancestors are the dead too soon. Liz “forced” Rhonda to have me, she would not pay for the abortion. My journals got me in trouble. I had to write in secret. If Shay found my  journals–you fix your fucking face before I give you something to cry about–the way her hands would fly into me, an embrace that I cannot see coming–make me stomp a mud hole in your ass. ungrateful heifer what the fuck is this shit you’re writing? only thing you should feel is happy there’s food on the table. the way my feelings would bloom & tingle in my body they were real to me & I learned to be quiet. when I cried that made her angry so I learned not to cry, I learned to keep secrets. I would cry later in the back of the school bus with my head down or in a bathroom stall at school or with a book in bed at night. there were always books. I never allowed myself to laugh or smile in front of anybody. spent a decade on suicide watch. she can’t help it the girl can’t help it am I better now. my bones are made from ghosts, dead star minerals, planetary refuse. if death is the last reality we will encounter, it did not matter to me that she performed sex work to pay our rent or buy food. I was afraid of our neighborhood and ashamed of our shotgun house & I did not want to live. I did not understand her choices and I could only think of them as choices. when Fred Moten says “I am using an idiosyncratic definition of consent” in the  audience I feel that but I do not know what it means but I do know what it means. “I am the history of rape… I have been raped… I have been the  meaning of rape” I am writing to send Sade back to Sade: alonely girl who reads everything, who is looking for her self, who wants to believe a powerful love is possible && the world hardens me and softens me, I feel more porous than ever. I feel for her: alonely girl who gave birth to something she could not hold.

¹² June Jordan (Cancer, 1936-2002) Poet, architect, educator. Her papers are in the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

¹³ Arthenia Jackson Bates Millican (Gemini, 1920-2012) Poet, educator, scholar. Her papers are archived at the University of South Carolina South Caroliniana Library.

This selection comes from the book, i love you and i’m not dead, available from Argos Books.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Clark .

Sade LaNay (fka Murphy) is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Pratt Institute and a BA in Studio Art and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. They are the author of ​Härte ​(Downstate Legacies, 2018) ​self portrait​ (Birds of Lace, 2018) Dream Machine​ (co•im•press, 2014) and the forthcoming ​I love you and I’m not dead​ (Argos Books). Her poems are included in the ​Bettering American Poetry​ and ​Best American Experimental Poetry​ anthologies.
 
Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at Anomaly (www.anmly.org), Co-Editor of the Bettering American Poetry series (www.betteringamericanpoetry.com) and The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2021), a reader at The Atlas Review and Doubleback Books, and an Editorial Board member at Sundress Press. She curated Anomaly‘s GLITTERBRAIN folio (http://anmly.org/ap25-glitterbrain/) and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms (http://anmly.org/ap-27-indigenous-futures/), edited Drunken Boat’s folios on Sound Art, “Desire & Interaction,” and a collection of global indigenous art and literature, “First Peoples, Plural.” They were co-editor of Apogee Journal‘s #NoDAPL #Still Here folio, and co-edited Apogee Journal‘s series “WE OUTLAST EMPIRE,” of work against imperialism, and “Place[meant]“, on place and meaning, and is a former Executive Board member at VIDA. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations. www.twitter.com/petitobjetb

Sundress Announces the Release of Ruth Foley’s Dead Man’s Float

Sundress Publications announces the release of Ruth Foley’s Collection, Dead Man’s Float. An ode to the sea, the Earth, and the body, this is a collection of estuary poems: wooded and mossed over, burying all the things we’d like to forget in the deepest of forests, the wettest of mud, the farthest depths of the ocean.

There is an ever-present sense of loss— sadness that looms and storms, hovering in the corner of each page, just beyond the horizon line. And yet, these poems expose a way to salvage beauty and hope in times of grief and heartbreak, in loss beyond simply death. It is not only through oceanic allegory that Foley explores longing; here is the sense that finding land—the respite of stillness—is the goal. There is no creature left unearthed to roam without meaning; even the millipede brings the hope of understanding to the violent forces of nature, to the nuances of human experience. In this balance between love and loss, ocean and earth, life and death, loneliness and solitude, Foley’s mesmerizing dance mimics the tide.

After reading this collection, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, author of Letters from Limbo and Burning of the Three Fires states that Foley is, “doing the work of elegy, beneath the surface—water being an operative metaphor throughout—it is an unappeasable and unflinching quarrel with death itself. Tossed by loss and taunted by omens, Foley turns her scrappy, sinewy, verb-packed lines into lifelines, offering her readers a bounty of poems brought up from the depths of our mortal predicament.”

Order Dead Man’s Float on the Sundress website.

Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Adroit, Sou’wester, Threepenny Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Her poems can also be found in several anthologies, including the Best Indie Lit New England anthology. She is the author of the chapbooks Sink and Drift, Creature Feature, and Dear Turquoise, and the forthcoming full-length Abandon.

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: i love you and i'm not dead by Sade LaNay (fka Murphy)


Georgia & Carolyn fling florida water with sprigs of parsley

moving from the sacred interior to displacement
surrounded being read, hardly determined as “woman”
spirits tell me secrets & I am a secret gender an open book about it

pick up your regretful face
you are stealing back (something that was stolen
from you to begin with) your body

when you are sleeping &or sleepwalking
home not home but there or to school or to find work
or to explore the place you have been but not really been

thinking about how I go to therapy
and feel bad for the therapist & is it working
I do not give myself enough credit and I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶n̶g̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶

getting a new tattoo would fix everything
“well, men never do something they don’t expect to be rewarded for”
I want to know which makes me unfair & threatening

⁸ Georgia Douglas Johnson (Virgo, 1877-1966) Poet, playwright, activist. Her papers are in the Manuscript Division of the University
Archives at Howard University.

⁹ Carolyn M. Rodgers (Sagittarius, 1960-2010) Poet, publisher, educator. Her poems are online at the Internet Archive.

This selection comes from the book, i love you and i’m not dead, available from Argos Books.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Clark .

Sade LaNay (fka Murphy) is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Pratt Institute and a BA in Studio Art and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. They are the author of ​Härte ​(Downstate Legacies, 2018) ​self portrait​ (Birds of Lace, 2018) Dream Machine​ (co•im•press, 2014) and the forthcoming ​I love you and I’m not dead​ (Argos Books). Her poems are included in the ​Bettering American Poetry​ and ​Best American Experimental Poetry​ anthologies.
 
Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at Anomaly (www.anmly.org), Co-Editor of the Bettering American Poetry series (www.betteringamericanpoetry.com) and The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2021), a reader at The Atlas Review and Doubleback Books, and an Editorial Board member at Sundress Press. She curated Anomaly‘s GLITTERBRAIN folio (http://anmly.org/ap25-glitterbrain/) and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms (http://anmly.org/ap-27-indigenous-futures/), edited Drunken Boat’s folios on Sound Art, “Desire & Interaction,” and a collection of global indigenous art and literature, “First Peoples, Plural.” They were co-editor of Apogee Journal‘s #NoDAPL #Still Here folio, and co-edited Apogee Journal‘s series “WE OUTLAST EMPIRE,” of work against imperialism, and “Place[meant]“, on place and meaning, and is a former Executive Board member at VIDA. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations. www.twitter.com/petitobjetb

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: i love you and i'm not dead by Sade LaNay (fka Murphy)


Chorus of Matriarchs, you open frequently

Anne & Bethany plant a field of sunflowers in the backyard Alice pulls Death Frances & Harriet let the Moon in through the windows Wanda inherits twentyone coins Audre richtet die Wäge der Gerechtigkeit auf Carolyn & Georgia fling florida water with sprigs of parsley Harriet joxrc souplrp howc oup eosx at iowj Phillis casts a circle with sodalite June & Arthenia arrive in The Chariot Pauline & Pauli intercede to The High Priestess Alice & Mary grid the house with quartz points and salt Safiya & Zora toast flaming sambucas Lorraine blesses the obsidian egg Gwendolyn mounts two swords above the bed Pinkie runs a bath of peony and passionflower Lucille füllt neun Tassen May & May ouualuf mlfy irwau joiw oup sasaunf ali Marita shuffles the deck Ntozake & Gwendolyn sage the house Octavia & Octavia drag The Devil out from under the bed Toni fries ripe plantains and escovitch fish Amanda und Sojourner gewinnen ihrer Spielraum zurück Ella & Nina brew ginger and echinacea tea Ida charges ten selenite wands with candlelight Anne & Nella eraeqoulvrc fyr jaaxcyrit Maya pulls The Hermit Toni closes the circle with aragonite

This selection comes from the book, i love you and i’m not dead, available from Argos Books.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Clark .

Sade LaNay (fka Murphy) is a poet and artist from Houston, TX. Sade holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Pratt Institute and a BA in Studio Art and Theology from the University of Notre Dame. They are the author of ​Härte ​(Downstate Legacies, 2018) ​self portrait​ (Birds of Lace, 2018) Dream Machine​ (co•im•press, 2014) and the forthcoming ​I love you and I’m not dead​ (Argos Books). Her poems are included in the ​Bettering American Poetry​ and ​Best American Experimental Poetry​ anthologies.
 
Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at Anomaly (www.anmly.org), Co-Editor of the Bettering American Poetry series (www.betteringamericanpoetry.com) and The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2021), a reader at The Atlas Review and Doubleback Books, and an Editorial Board member at Sundress Press. She curated Anomaly‘s GLITTERBRAIN folio (http://anmly.org/ap25-glitterbrain/) and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms (http://anmly.org/ap-27-indigenous-futures/), edited Drunken Boat’s folios on Sound Art, “Desire & Interaction,” and a collection of global indigenous art and literature, “First Peoples, Plural.” They were co-editor of Apogee Journal‘s #NoDAPL #Still Here folio, and co-edited Apogee Journal‘s series “WE OUTLAST EMPIRE,” of work against imperialism, and “Place[meant]“, on place and meaning, and is a former Executive Board member at VIDA. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations. www.twitter.com/petitobjetb

2019 Poetry Open Reading Period Selections Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce the results of the 2019 open reading period for full-length poetry manuscripts. The winning selections are: Anna Meister’s What Nothing and Esteban Rodriguez’s The Valley. Each is slated for publication in 2021.

Anna Meister is the author of two chapbooks, most recently As if (Glass Poetry Press, 2018). She earned an MFA in poetry from New York University, where she served as a Goldwater Writing Fellow. Meister’s poems have appeared in BOAAT, The Adroit Journal, Kenyon Review, The Shallow Ends, & elsewhere. She lives in Des Moines, IA with her wife & son.

Esteban Rodríguez is the author of the collections Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press 2019), Crash Course (Saddle Road Press 2019), In Bloom (SFASU Press 2020), and (Dis)placement (Skull + Wind Press 2020). His poetry has appeared in Boulevard, The Rumpus, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI, and a regular reviews contributor for PANK and Heavy Feather Review. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas. 

Congratulations also to this year’s finalists and semifinalists.

Finalists:

Linda Dove, Coin
Melissa Helton, Out, and Out Again 
Emily Mercurio, Slime Child 
Alison Palmer, The Alarmist 
Michelle Reed, The Body Left Behind 
Valorie Ruiz, In Stories We Thunder 
Katie Schmid, Eat the Dream

Semi-finalists:

Quintin Collins, The Dandelion Speaks of Survival 
Brandi George, The Nameless 
Gail Goepfert, Self-Portrait as Thorns 
Paula Harris, A Thousand Deliciously Ill-Advised Ways to Shorten Your Life 
Heather Hughes, Like Bodies Inventing Ghosts 
Rae Hoffman Jager, American Bitch 
Becca J.R. Lachman, What I say to this house 
Jean Prokott, Our Problems are the Same Size as Us 
Brooke Sahni, Before I Had the Word 
Sara Sams, Atom City 
Kimberly Ann Southwick, Orchid Alpha 
Elizabeth Theroit, Haruspex 
Tony Trigilio, Self-Portrait in the Glare of Motion Detector Lights
Emily Troia, Mental Coordinates

A 501(c)3 non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run press that publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats, and hosts numerous literary journals, an online reading series, and the Best of the Net Anthology.

Website: www.sundresspublications.com  Facebook: sundresspublications
Email: sundresspublications@gmail.com  Twitter: @SundressPub

The Wardrobe's Best Dressed: It Was Over There By That Place by Diane Glancy


What can I say?

I don’t have native language. I don’t have documentation.
My great-grandfather is not on the Dawes Rolls. He
fled Indian Territory because he was in trouble. He spent
his life hiding in northern Arkansas. I have the same
tendencies.
What is there in history but a shape of being? A language
structure that is place with its multiple meanings of places
within place.
I translate without original language. I translate the traces
of the process of original thought. Something of what
other says.


This selection comes from the chapbook, It Was Over There By That Place, available from The Atlas Review.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Clark .

Diane Glancy is professor emerita at Macalester College. Her latest books are Fort Marion Prisoners and the Trauma of Native Education (creative nonfiction), University of Nebraska Press, 2014, and Report to the Department of the Interior (poetry), University of New Mexico Press. 2015. in 2016-17 Wipf & Stock has published several books including Mary Queen of Bees (novella), The Servitude of Love (short stories) and The Collector of Bodies, Concern for Syria and the Middle East (poems).
 
Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Nanticoke editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor at Anomaly (www.anmly.org), Co-Editor of the Bettering American Poetry series (www.betteringamericanpoetry.com) and The Queer Movement Anthology (Seagull Books, 2021), a reader at The Atlas Review and Doubleback Books, and an Editorial Board member at Sundress Press. She curated Anomaly‘s GLITTERBRAIN folio (http://anmly.org/ap25-glitterbrain/) and a folio on Indigenous & Decolonial Futures & Futurisms (http://anmly.org/ap-27-indigenous-futures/), edited Drunken Boat’s folios on Sound Art, “Desire & Interaction,” and a collection of global indigenous art and literature, “First Peoples, Plural.” They were co-editor of Apogee Journal‘s #NoDAPL #Still Here folio, and co-edited Apogee Journal‘s series “WE OUTLAST EMPIRE,” of work against imperialism, and “Place[meant]“, on place and meaning, and is a former Executive Board member at VIDA. Sarah freelances, and has worked with a number of literary and arts publications and organizations. www.twitter.com/petitobjetb

Call for Readers

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is looking for readers to participate in our fundraiser reading for the Mountain Access Brigade, a Knoxville collective focused on decreasing the stigma around abortion and woman’s reproductive experiences.

We’re seeking, in particular, authors—novelists, poets, memoirists, or something in-between—whose work highlights or focuses attention toward these complicated and often unspoken conversations.

The reading will be on Saturday February 8th, 2020 at 6pm at Union Ave Books, with a portion of all proceeds benefiting the Mountain Access Brigade.

To apply, please send a short letter of interest, and up to eight pages of sample work to our Reading Series Coordinator, Emily Jalloul, at sundresspublications@gmail.com by December 15th, 2019. We will be selecting up to three readers for this event.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is a writers residency and arts collective that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers in all genres. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.

Lyric Essentials: Jessie Janeshek Reads Olena Kalytiak Davis

Welcome to the next episode of Lyric Essentials, where we’re excited to talk with poet Jessie Janeshek about the work of Olena Kalytiak Davis. Janeshek shares how she relates to Davis’ poetry, tells us about the time she heard Davis read at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, and speaks about the ways in which Davis’ poetry has influenced her own. Thanks for reading!


Riley Steiner: Why did you choose these two poems to share with us?

Jessie Janeshek: “The Outline I Inhabit” is one of my favorite poems, so that one was a given, and I was just happy to share it. I also wanted to include something representative of Davis’ more overtly experimental work (which is more what I’m discussing in the rest of these questions), so I went with “small quilled poem with no taste for spring.”

Jessie Janeshek reads “small quilled poem with no taste for spring” by Olena Kalytiak Davis

RS: What do you admire about Davis’ work?

JJ: I admire—and also relate to—Davis’ ability to fuse the experimental and the traditional. Although my work has often been described as “experimental” (whatever that’s meaning these days), my training in poetry is pretty traditional. I was a literature major as an undergraduate and, though I wrote on my own, I didn’t take a creative writing workshop until I started my MFA. I knew I had much to read and learn before I threw my hat in the ring. I still have much to read and learn now.

Knowing and understanding traditions of poetry strengthens your own work—even if you aren’t using those traditions explicitly in your work—and makes you a more informed, appreciative reader of others’ poetry, past and present.

Davis, however, does use traditions of poetry explicitly, and her engagements with them are fascinating and rewarding. It gives me pleasure to be challenged as a reader and to consume contemporary work that revisits and reappropriates literary pasts. Davis pushes poetic traditions (forms, tropes, themes, etc.) in ways that feel current, feminist, and also authentic to her voice and aesthetic. Her work is strikingly intelligent without being pompous, fresh yet aware of its history, funny, and true.

RS: How did your relationship with Davis’ work begin?

I was recommended Davis’ first book, And Her Soul out of Nothing, by someone at Emerson College during my MFA studies. (I’m pretty sure it was one of my teachers, Peter Jay Shippy, who recommended her work to me, but I’m not one hundred percent sure.) So I bought her book and read it and ended up really liking it. I then bought her second collection, shattered sonnets, love cards, and other off and back handed importunities, which had come out pretty recently at that point. I continued reading her work throughout my graduate studies and included her with writers I used to contextualize my own poetry in the critical introduction to my creative dissertation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In summer 2014, my boyfriend and I were visiting Paris, and he pointed out that a few poets were reading at Shakespeare and Company that night. I started freaking out because it was Davis and another one of my favorite poets, Charles Simic. We attended, of course, and it was awesome to see them, especially because it had been a lucky surprise. A day or two later, we were at the Palais de Tokyo art museum, and we saw Davis and, I think, her daughter. I was scared to go up to talk to her, so I didn’t. I’m still mentally kicking myself for that one because I was really stupid. My loss.

Jessie Janeshek reads “The Outline I Inhabit” by Olena Kalytiak Davis

RS: What are some of your favorite words or lines from these poems?

I’ve been repeating the last six lines of “The Outline I Inhabit” to myself since about 2004:

Walking down Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway.

I’m not thinking about composition.
I’m not delineating anything.

Walking down Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway.

I’m feeling terrifically heavy.
I’m feeling as well grounded as the dead. (Davis, And Her Soul Out of Nothing)

I didn’t record this poem because it seemed like it would be a bit long, but I love the end of “this is the kind of poem I’m done writing, or, a small pang in spring”:

turns out, I am the cock of the rock. gallinaceous and pugnacious and
(pang): I guess,
a little disappointed.

like beckett in spring, ping,
like beckett in spring. (Davis, shattered sonnets, love cards, and other off and back Handed importunities)

RS: Has Davis influenced your own work? If so, how?

JJ: Yes, I think so. She’s definitely one of the writers who has taught me that it’s okay to write “difficult” poetry if that’s what you feel called to do, even if such “difficult” work isn’t in vogue. I keep putting “difficult” in scare quotes because, well, difficulty in literature seems to scare people away sometimes. Maybe I’ve just been reading poetry with my college students for too long, but I find that people sometimes get turned off when they don’t know exactly what’s happening in a text right away. I’m kind of the opposite. If I can figure out what’s going on in a poem (or a song or a movie or a TV show) immediately, I usually don’t have much desire to stick with it because what’s the point?

Tangentially, Davis has also influenced me in the sense that both of our projects depend on pre-existing traditions/a pre-existing body of knowledge. My work is nostalgic (and when I say that, I mean both the pleasure and pain of nostalgia), exploring both cultural and personal nostalgia. The cultural nostalgia I frequently engage with and reappropriate is that of the “golden age” of Hollywood and its shadow side, film noir. I would imagine my poems are “better” if you know something about that stuff when first entering them; however, I hope they’re also inviting, challenging, and enjoyable if you don’t know much about the conventions, people, histories, and politics of that era. I strive to write poems that will be exciting whether or not you know much about where they’re coming from, but I also hope—as I hope is the case with Davis’s work—a reader with questions will take the chance to research some of what’s being talked about in the work, using the work as an excuse to learn more about something new.


Olena Kalytiak Davis is a Ukrainian-American poet and the author of four collections of poetry: And Her Soul Out of Nothing (1997); shattered sonnets, love cards, and other off and back handed importunities (2003); On the Kitchen Table From Which Everything Has Been Hastily Removed (2009); and The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems (2014). She’s won a Pushcart Prize and several fellowships for her work, along with the Brittingham Prize in Poetry.

Further reading:

Purchase And Her Soul Out of Nothing from the University of Wisconsin Press
Read this New Yorker review of The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems
Listen to a conversation with Davis from the podcast series Commonplace: Conversations with Poets (And Other People)

Jessie Janeshek‘s three full-length collections are MADCAP (Stalking Horse Press, 2019), The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press, 2017), and Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). Her chapbooks include Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia (dancing girl press, 2016), Supernoir (Grey Book Press, 2017), Auto-Harlow (Shirt Pocket Press, 2018), Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming), and Channel U (Grey Book Press, forthcoming).

Further reading:

Visit Janeshek’s website
Purchase Janeshek’s latest collection of poetry, MADCAP, from Stalking Horse Press
Read Jessie’s review of the work of an earlier Lyric Essentials poet, Nate Logan

Riley Steiner graduated from Miami University, where she studied Creative Writing and Media & Culture. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys baking, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending way too much money at Half Price Books. Her creative work has recently appeared in the Oakland Arts Review and Collision.