Interview with Inès Pujos, Author of Something Dark to Shine In

In anticipation of the release of her collection Something Dark to Shine In, Inès Pujos spoke with Sundress Publications’ editorial intern Ryleigh Wann about the use of the speculative and macabre in writing, animals, and survival.

Ryleigh Wann: The manuscript for Something Dark to Shine In was, at some points, also known as Against Porcelain and Lilly of The Valley. Could you speak more about the title of the book and how it encompasses the collection?

Inès Pujos: When I originally finished writing the manuscript post-MFA, I named it Against Porcelain after the title poem, which captured this urgent and macabre perspective that seemed to thread the collection as a whole. There was something eerie about porcelain, in the color and the fragility nature of it all. After submitting to several contests, a few editors pointed out that they thought a different title would be better suited. So I began submitting it as Lilly of the Valley, a nod to another title poem that was added after the first draft of the manuscript. But as time went on, I felt that title felt a little too mundane. My manuscript was previously picked up by another press and the editor suggested that I just lift my opening quote from Frank Standford’s The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You: “I’ll just bleed so the stars have something Dark to Shine In.” This quote has always resonated with me and really encompasses this idea of making something special out of one’s own martyrdom and trauma…which is what my whole collection discusses, and so the manuscript officially became Something Dark to Shine In.”

RW: Can you speak about the use of the speculative in this collection, found in the wolf
character in “Breaking Winter” or the meandering nature of “Patron Saint of All Lost Things”?

IP: I first began writing because I was not able to draw…or at least draw well. I always loved the surrealist painters and gravitated towards the surreal in my writing. It was in those early writing days that I created whole alternative worlds with these more fantastical characters all living in a village by the sea. As the years went on, more of these surreal characters began to emerge and I’ve carried them with me in various poems. Interestingly ,the wolf character appeared in my writing as a predator, in relation to the narrator. But over time, the wolf also became a feral protector. A few years out of writing “Breaking Winter,” I was working on my trauma with my therapist through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and the wolf character came to my protection…in all of his feralness he was able to be protective and at times nurturing so my relationship with this character changed.

As for “Patron Saint of All Lost Thing,” that poem was written in one sitting. I was on the train from NYC to New Haven and “Says I Love You”… I just remember having written one line and then it all flowed out of me, very much stream of consciences…which also could have been facilitated by the movement of the train. It was here that I explored a bit more of my personal family folklore and the long form allowed for a more whimsical approach. By the time I reach New Haven, I had the first draft done…my friend and I spent the afternoon walking through a graveyard …which was peak gothic and writerly and was able to make its way into sections of “Patron Saint of All Lost Things” after that.

RW: Can you tell me about the use of form throughout the collection, specifically in “Breaking Winter” or “More Blood in the East Village” and your use of space on the page?

IP: I find writing in certain forms to be very motivating when I experience writers block and although I am comfortable with more traditional form, I do like creating a hybrid out of it… taking something traditional and adding a twist to it. Yes…I love using white space…whether it is through erasure poems or using the space to create an erasure type esthetic. I use spaces as a way to add a bit more breath in my poems…often I find that my work has some manic energy to it and I rush to get everything on the page. The use of white space in “Breaking Winter” or “More Blood in the East Village” acts almost like the beat cue in screenplays. I want to add more tension between the manic/more urgent pacing with the use of white space.

RW: This haunting and haunted collection employs morbid language and imagery to discuss the impacts trauma has on the body. Can you discuss the influence of the macabre in your writing of such visceral language, themes, and imagery?

IP: My use of the macabre in my writing is a direct influence from my thought process and I’ve turned to writing to explore and destigmatize my own intrusive thoughts from previous traumas. But I also think that I’ve always been a bit morbid. As a child, I was fascinated by animals and wanted to be a surgeon. Growing up, my cats would often leave their prey lying around our yard and I would take their bodies back inside and try to examine their bodies and blood under a microscope. When I saw a dead bird on the road, I would put it in my bag and examine its wings, tried to sew it back. My desire to be a surgeon stopped the moment I experienced some medical trauma when I was thirteen. Though I still poured over my own surgery notes and pictures…I just didn’t feel comfortable inflecting harm on someone even if they medically need it. I find the body fascinating, whether human or animal and am curious to witness its inner workings. Post numerous surgeries and medical treatments, I took a lot of those experiences and put them into writing. That lived experience combined with intrusive thoughts only further fueled my more visceral images in themes. I think there’s a link between the macabre and trauma, In Esme Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias, Esme teases out this connection beautifully…of consuming more macabre media and even true crime following a trauma. I think it’s my brain’s way of finding attunement, so I’m naturally drawn to morbidity.

RW: Tell me about the particular syntax of these poems, particularly the use of enjambment and blank spaces between phrases in individual lines like in “Good Faith.”

IP: I approached “Good Faith” in a similar manner to “Breaking Winter” and More Blood in the East Village”…in terms of the form and use of white space. Though, in this later poem, many of the spaces are not so much about creating tension and rather using the space to emphasize the intimacy between my partner and I…kind of like when we look at each other and I know what she’s thinking and vice versa.

RW: Something Dark to Shine In almost reads like a grimoire. Can you discuss the balance of the personal and cosmic mythologies (or magic) occurring within these poems?

IP: I grew up in the United States with just my immediate family…all my extended family was in France and so the only constant connection to my larger family was through old photographs. I used to take them out and look at my relatives, create narratives as a way to feel closer to my relatives. At an early age I found out about my grandmother’s suicide, which occurred when my mother was fourteen. My grandmother was so tragically beautiful and the stories surrounding her depression, her mental illness, and her family dynamics captivated me. So those stories always appeared to have some scene of mysticism/ family folklore. I would say that this folklore is very present in “Patron Saint of All Lost Things”, where I explore family grief and trauma and making something bright out of something so terribly tragic. It all ties back to the need to make something special, it’s very human.

RW: What truths do you think the book is searching for?

IP: I think a lot of personal truths were written within this manuscript by my own unconscious. When I first wrote the poems within my second and third semester of my MFA, I had not come to terms that during my first semester, I was raped. And yet, looking back at the poems now, almost ten years later, it was so clear that my body processed the rape earlier than my own mind…so there are so many personal truths hidden throughout the poems. Same goes for my own gender identity…I look at the lines that are in this book and I am stunned at how clearly I knew myself within that realm of the poem, but that it took me a little longer to come to terms with these truths.

RW: Many of the truths in these poems include a consideration of place, such as the East Village, Tompkins Square. I found it interesting how this ecotone is written about; the speaker or language of these poems interacting with a location. What does it mean to you to write about a place?

IP: I find location to be a very important part of my writing process. Perhaps it’s the influence of screenwriting, but I almost always need to ground myself in a physical space…whether imagined or real…I need the reader to be able to see where I am. And a great deal of these poems from the manuscript were written at coffee shops in the East Village, on my walks through Tompkins Park, and throughout the Lower East Side. I think there’s something inherently special about the East Village…so many great art movements were born there, and it was the first time that I saw a
large city function as literally a small village. I talk about my friend’s mother, Leslie, who I never met while she was alive…but having heard so many stories about her while in High school,  always imagined the neighborhood as Avant Garde and feral. When I first spent more time in the East Village, I felt instantly connected to it, and to Leslie, and I began writing my own folklore narrative between us.

RW: Which poems compel you the most?

IP: This answer has changed so many times of the years. Looking back, I notice the difference in my work the most with the poem entitled, “The New Frontier.” While the subject matter is about grooming and sexual assault, a subject that I cover in other poems, It’s the first poem that I am more direct about the subject itself. It was written after I had realized and began to process that I was a rape survivor, and I was more comfortable with claiming that trauma and had the words to articulate what I had survived. Previously, my unconscious didn’t’ have that clear cut language and I tended to rely on metaphors and more surreal settings. While there are some
surreal aspects to this poem, it felt like a turning point in my own trauma processing and writing.

Order your copy of Something Dark to Shine In today


Inès Pujos holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU. Their poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily, among others. Their manuscript was a finalist for multiple prizes, including Alice James’ 2017 open reading period and Semi-finalist for The 2017 Berkshire Prize by Tupelo Press. For more information visit inespujoscreative.com.

Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington where she teaches creative writing and is the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in Rejection LettersFlypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.

Sundress Announces the Release of Inès Pujos’ Something Dark to Shine In

Knoxville, TN— Sundress Publications announces the release of Inès Pujos’ Something Dark to Shine In, a debut poetry collection that considers the impact of pain while maintaining an unwillingness to surrender. 

In Something Dark to Shine In, trauma manifests in body horror. Skin strips away from flesh; blood stains floorboards; and teeth fall out to become toys. Death and religion hover constantly in the background of this haunting and haunted collection, even as the speaker reminds herself, “I am not dead yet.” Faced with the alienation and the horror of sexual violence, these poems resist the impulse to romanticize. Here, rot is marked by “a black wool of flies,” soil is laced with “chips of plates or lead paint,” and feral wolf-women refuse to be tamed. The classically beautiful becomes frightening such that a bee’s sweet honey is a reminder of the pain of their sting, and a golden crucifix is a symbol only of a calvary’s violence. Something Dark to Shine In refuses to look away from pain, from violence, yet to read these poems in a world where such atrocities become banal and commonplace, is to witness a profound refusal to die, a wish to find beauty, and even hope, in one’s own terror. 

Eileen Myles, author of I Must Be Living Twice and Inferno, (among many others) says, “Inès’ book is very pregnant and raggedy. I like it like I liked Lars Van Triers’ Nymphomaniac I & II. It’s medieval but darker like if a painter explained how he liked to cook—using skulls. So cavalier but with these tiny blots of light. Plus, she builds her poems with these good, great, organic lists that are never corny cause she’s seriously counting things in the world.” 

Order your copy of Something Dark to Shine In

Inès Pujos holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU. Their poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily, among others. Their manuscript was a finalist for the following prizes, among others: BOAAT Press’s 2018 open reading period and Alice James’ 2017 open reading period, and semi-finalist for: The 2017 Berkshire Prize by Tupelo Press and the 2017 Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry, among others. For more information, visit inespujoscreative.com


The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins


This selection, chosen by guest curator and Sundress intern Stephi Cham, is from Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins, released by MWC Press in 2020. 

Excerpt from Chapter 23: Iris, Three Rivers, 1931, Spring

            It is difficult for me to remember when the trajectory of our lives shifted. Was it when Jasmine walked into our house in her simple, cream-colored cotton jacket, red pants, her long braid reaching to her slender lower back? Was it when You-jun jumped into the lotus pond and Jasmine said she would jump in with him if he didn’t come back? Or was it when Jasmine was sent back to Cloud Gate when You-jun was away in Chengdu? When I close my eyes, all the people and events float in front of me as if I were watching a puppet show, but I cannot remember what the main act was.

            If I had written it down back then, I might have remembered more clearly. But words only come to me now, after twenty years. After Mother was gone forever. After I myself have a grown daughter.


X.H. Collins (she/her) was born in Hechuan, Sichuan Province, China, and grew up in Kangding on the East Tibet Plateau. She has a Ph.D in nutrition and is a retired biology professor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, dancing (ballroom and Latin), and cooking. She is the author of the novel Flowing Water, Falling Flowers (MWC Press, Rock Island, IL, 2020). She lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephi Cham is a freelance editor and author. She received her BM in Music Therapy and Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and is pursuing her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she is the Fiction Editor of Rathalla Review. She wrote the Great Asian-Americans series, published in 2018 by Capstone Press, and her writing has been featured in Strange Horizons.

Our Favourite Poetry Books of 2021

The year is coming to a close and you’re wondering what poetry releases you missed in 2021. We asked our staff, editors, and authors which poetry books they loved this year, so scroll down to find your next read!

Krista Cox, Managing Editor at Sundress Publications

Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas

Cleave by Tiana Nobile

A Net to Catch My Body in its Weaving by Katie Farris

Dialogues with Rising Tides by Kelli Russell Agodon

Anna Black, Managing Editor at Sundress Publications

How to Not Be Afraid of Everything by Jane Wong

Mouths of Garden by Barbara Fant

Autumn McClintock, Associate Poetry Editor at Doubleback Review

frank: sonnets by Dianne Seuss

Oh You Robot Saints by Rebecca Morgan Frank

Sarah Clark, Editorial Board Member at Sundress Publications

Bone House by K-Ming Chang

Waterbaby by Nikki Wallschlaeger

Sundress Publications Authors Also Recommend:

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth by Yusef Komunyakaa

Boat People by Mayra Santos Febres

What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey

Imagine Us, The Swarm by Muriel Leung

Little God by Avni Vyas

2021 Gifts for the Writer Who Has Everything

So the writer in your life already has every book on their list, and more notebooks than they could fill in a lifetime. We talked to writers we know to learn what they’d love to receive this holiday season, so look no further to treat your favourite writer!

A stack of magazines on a dark wooden shelf.

1. Literary Magazine Subscriptions

A subscription to a literary magazine or journal is the gift that keeps on giving for your favourite writer, who will receive each new issue throughout the year. Check out The Stinging Fly for twice-yearly issues of new writing, or Prairie Schooner for essays, reviews, poetry, and fiction. Looking for something unique? Try Uncanny Magazine for indie science fiction and fantasy!

A person's hand holding a steaming cup of coffee in a white mug.

2. Coffee

Please give writers coffee. Writers want coffee so much! Equip them with an especially indulgent stock of their preferred roast (Millie Tullis recommends Highlander Grogg), or look into a coffee subscription service. Even better, support their entire caffeine routine and look into finding them the French press, pour-over set-up, or fancy kettle they’ve always wanted. If they’re not a coffee-drinker, try their favourite tea, or a cute, re-useable tea-steeper.

3. Word Games

Bananagrams, Boggle, Scrabble… nab them one of these classics, or try something new with games like Word Smithery or Poetry for Neanderthals, suggests Editorial Board member Sarah Clark.

A young feminine person with long hair and glasses browsing a bookstore.

4. A Gift Card to Their Local Bookshop

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a local bookstore must be in want of several books. Snag them a gift card to their preferred independent bookseller, and spare yourself the stress of trying to guess which of this year’s releases they have already.

5. A Workshop!

Workshops can be expensive, but they can also help a writer dig into their new project, try out a new technique, or learn from artists they admire. If a writer in your life has been eyeing a certain workshop for a while, consider supporting their registration or other associated costs.

6. A Small Press Subscription

Lots of small, independent presses offer subscriptions that let you snag all of their yearly releases at a reduced cost. For the writer with an insatiable appetite for new books, this gift keeps the reading material coming all year-long and lets them enjoy some of the year’s exciting new releases! Try Glass Poetry Press for a subscription to their Chapbook Series, or Sundress’s very own 2022 Subscription for full-length releases from Stacey Balkun, Mackenzie Berry, Jason B. Crawford, Amanda Galvin-Huynh, Matthew E. Henry, Valerie Ruiz, and Margo Berdeshevsky’s as well as a copy of our handprinted letterpress broadside from this year’s contest winner!

A fountain pen laying on top of paper with cursive writing on it.

7. A Fountain Pen

Writers might have every notebook under the sun, but what about a gorgeous pen to go with it? If you’re feeling ambitious, grab some ink in their favourite shade to go with it.

8. A Patreon Membership

Why not give your favourite writer extra perks from their favourite writers and creatives—while also supporting all of their great work? Gift a Patreon membership for their favourite authors, podcasters, Youtubers, etc; you can even get them a membership to our own Patreon and all of the cool books and swags we have to offer!

9. Editing Software

Want to give a writer writing their next bestseller—or thinking about drafting it—a leg up in the writing game? Why not get them a subscription to editorial services like Grammarly or the Holy Grail of drafting software, Scrivener?

10. The Gift of Time

Maybe the writer in your life just needs time and a quiet space to start a new project or get some writing in. Offer to do some errands for them or help them block off undistracted time so they can sit down and write knowing you have things taken care of.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents “Resisting Genre: Poetry as Hybrid and Experimentation”: A Writers Workshop

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present “Resisting Genre: Poetry as Hybrid and Experimentation” a workshop led by Clayre Benzadón on December 8, 2021, from 6-7:30 PM. This event will be held over Zoom. Participants can access the event at tiny.utk.edu/sundress (password: safta).

This workshop aims to explore the concept of genre, particularly within the scope of poetry. Does a poem need to be strictly defined as a prose poem? What if it also reads/contains elements of the “lyric essay”? In this workshop, participants will be introduced to this concept of challenging form through the Surrealist and Language poetry lens/movements (discussing poets such as Lyn Heijinian and Frank O ‘Hara). Participants will focus on the hybrid / experimental possibilities embedded within poetry, such as multilingual poetry which not only refers to different languages themselves, but also referring to “language” in broader terms, such as through the medium of coding (ex.: Uri Sacharow’s “Code Monkey Barbie”), or math poetry (ex.: Stephanie Strickland), or through the experimentation of form itself (Cecilia Vicuña, M NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, text from Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas.

While there is no fee for this workshop, those who are able and appreciative can make direct donations  via Venmo @Clayre-Benzadon or PayPal @clayrebenz

Clayre Benzadón received her MFA at the University of Miami. She is a Split Lip Magazine poetry reader and Broadsided Press’s Instagram editor. Her chapbook, Liminal Zenith was published by SurVision Books. She was awarded the Alfred Boas Poetry Prize for Linguistic Rewilding and her full-length collection, Moon as Salted Lemon was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize. She has been published in places including 14poems, SWWIM, Fairy Tale Review, ANMLY, and forthcoming in Grist. Find more about her at clayrebenzadon.com.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins


This selection, chosen by guest curator and Sundress intern Stephi Cham, is from Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins, released by MWC Press in 2020. 

Excerpt from Chapter 23: Iris, Three Rivers, 1931, Spring

When the news came, I wept. I had the urge to pour everything out on paper. But still, I needed the sprouting life of a new spring to give me the final motivation. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter, the four seasons will always come and go, even when people are gone forever. What we can hold on are memories and stories. I need to tell the stories and keep the memories alive.


X.H. Collins (she/her) was born in Hechuan, Sichuan Province, China, and grew up in Kangding on the East Tibet Plateau. She has a Ph.D in nutrition and is a retired biology professor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, dancing (ballroom and Latin), and cooking. She is the author of the novel Flowing Water, Falling Flowers (MWC Press, Rock Island, IL, 2020). She lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephi Cham is a freelance editor and author. She received her BM in Music Therapy and Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and is pursuing her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she is the Fiction Editor of Rathalla Review. She wrote the Great Asian-Americans series, published in 2018 by Capstone Press, and her writing has been featured in Strange Horizons.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins


This selection, chosen by guest curator and Sundress intern Stephi Cham, is from Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins, released by MWC Press in 2020. 

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Three Rivers, 1910

            On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important holidays and second only to the Chinese New Year, the three families gathered in Three Rivers to celebrate. Old Wang and Tiger came from Cloud Gate after finishing farm work. Master Han rented a showboat so everyone could be on the water, under the brightest full moon of the year, and enjoy the good food, wine, scenery, and each other’s company.

            The cook and his helpers worked all day to prepare the feast: moon cakes, roasted duck, pumpkin soup, steamed marbled pork belly with taro, and the must-have delicacy of the occasion, fresh river hairy crab steamed with thinly sliced ginger, garlic, and scallion. Old Wang brought wine made from osmanthus flowers. Everything was packed into baskets and brought on board.

            The wind was calm. The water was smooth like glass. The full moon hung low in the sky, white as silver, its shadows of Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit dark as spilled ink, as if reachable if they kept rowing the boat just a little further. The osmanthus trees were in full bloom throughout the city and their pleasant fragrance permeated the air. Other showboats and tour boats crowded the river and laughter and lively conversations floated around them.


X.H. Collins (she/her) was born in Hechuan, Sichuan Province, China, and grew up in Kangding on the East Tibet Plateau. She has a Ph.D in nutrition and is a retired biology professor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, dancing (ballroom and Latin), and cooking. She is the author of the novel Flowing Water, Falling Flowers (MWC Press, Rock Island, IL, 2020). She lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephi Cham is a freelance editor and author. She received her BM in Music Therapy and Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and is pursuing her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she is the Fiction Editor of Rathalla Review. She wrote the Great Asian-Americans series, published in 2018 by Capstone Press, and her writing has been featured in Strange Horizons.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins


This selection, chosen by guest curator and Sundress intern Stephi Cham, is from Flowing Water, Falling Flowers by X.H. Collins, released by MWC Press in 2020. 

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Three Rivers, 1905

            The old woman did not like Iris. From an early age, Iris learned that she needed to be as quiet as a mouse when her grandmother was in the vicinity, or better yet, she should simply stay in her room, so she wouldn’t cause her grandmother a headache by appearing in front of her.

            Lady Han kept her head down and her hands busy with needlework and other household work. She set up a small altar for Guanyin in her room. She draped a small table with red velvet cloth and carefully put a small Guanyin statue, about three inches tall and made of white porcelain, on the table. The statue was a gift from her husband when he came home from one of his trips. In front of the statue, she laid a small bronze incense burner.

            And she prayed and prayed. She burned bundles upon bundles of incense. She saved and donated her allowance to the Guanyin Temple in Cloud Gate and to the Huguo Temple near Diaoyu Fortress.

            And finally, Guanyin heard her prayers and You-jun was born. All was good, and all was forgiven.


X.H. Collins (she/her) was born in Hechuan, Sichuan Province, China, and grew up in Kangding on the East Tibet Plateau. She has a Ph.D in nutrition and is a retired biology professor. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, dancing (ballroom and Latin), and cooking. She is the author of the novel Flowing Water, Falling Flowers (MWC Press, Rock Island, IL, 2020). She lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephi Cham is a freelance editor and author. She received her BM in Music Therapy and Minor in Psychology from Southern Methodist University and is pursuing her MA in Publishing at Rosemont College, where she is the Fiction Editor of Rathalla Review. She wrote the Great Asian-Americans series, published in 2018 by Capstone Press, and her writing has been featured in Strange Horizons.

Project Bookshelf: Alexa White

My bookshelves are entities that both taunt and comfort me. 

On the wall opposite my bed, watching me oversleep, binge-watch Netflix shows, and re-read the same books in my spare time is my “classics” shelf. The books within it represent the reader I try to be. While I’ve read and re-read a handful of them, like Brontë’s Jane Eyre (my all-time favorite), Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, and Shelley’s Frankenstein, many of them remain unopened. I’m not exactly sure why I display them so brazenly– maybe to appear more sophisticated and well-read to the 10 people who visit my room each year. But most likely, it’s to constantly remind myself of all the words I have yet to read. 

To the left of the classics is a much larger bookshelf (and I use that term loosely). The two towering stacks consist of guilty pleasures and tattered remnants of my unavoidable teenage YA Fantasy phase. Among my favorites and most heavily read are Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest, Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society, and Maria V. Snyder’s Study series. Sprinkled in are some much-loved oddballs like Eggs by Jerry Spinelli, Richard Adams’ Watership Down, a handful of art books, and maybe a few Terry Pratchett novels.

My poetry collection corner offers some respite. I can flip through an issue of Poetry or my Sylvia Plath anthology if I don’t feel like committing to an entire novel or take one with me to a café or picnic. However, this is the smallest stack of books in my room. I must admit, for most of my life I was content with PoemHunter.com and a few obscure bookstore finds. 

I tell myself that the second I graduate college and have more free time, I’ll read every unread book in my assortment. Until then, I’ll endure their judgemental stares from across the room.


Alexa White is an editorial intern with Sundress Academy for the Arts and a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which is also her hometown. As an aspiring professional writer, she is finishing her BA in Creative Writing with a minor in Studio Art. Alexa has enjoyed painting, photography, and writing, especially poetry, for most of her life and has had both art and poetry published in UTK’s Phoenix literary magazine.