The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: 28,065 Nights by Katie Manning

28,065 Nights

I tell your stories to keep myself alive. I tell you new stories. I speak them
aloud to you when no one is around, the way you used to talk to Grandpa
in your bedroom after his death. The stories play on repeat in my head. I
write them down. I tell them to Elliott when he asks. A year later, he still
remembered you, but I don’t know how long his memories from two will
last. To him, you will be more story than person. Are we always more story
than person, words thicker than water? I got the wave of your hair and your
lack of wisdom teeth. I did not get your metabolism that let you eat six hot
dogs at one cookout, but I get to keep that story, more necessary now than
blood or breath.


This selection comes from 28,065 Nights, available from River Glass Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Rogue Agent, Stirring, THRUSH, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Twitter Handle: @iamkatmann

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: 28,065 Nights by Katie Manning

Which Way Do You Want to Go?

I ask this question more than you might think, mustering my best Muppet
voice. And now my 4 year old watches Labyrinth as I did at his age, and I am
becoming you: shuffling around the kitchen in the same style of open-toed
house slippers that you always wore, baking chocolate rolls or biscuits. Yes,
which way? The blue hands insist on an answer. Sometimes I look down at
my hands and see yours kneading the dough. I would choose this if I had
a choice.


This selection comes from 28,065 Nights, available from River Glass Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Rogue Agent, Stirring, THRUSH, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Twitter Handle: @iamkatmann

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee.

Lyric Essentials: Donna Vorreyer reads Katie Ford

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, Donna Vorreyer reads us Katie Ford and discusses the tender, reverent nature of her poetry and why she considers Ford one of the greats. Thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read Katie Ford for Lyric Essentials?

Donna Vorreyer: Katie Ford, for me, is simply one of our best poets, a touchstone poet for me. But she works quietly. Although she is well-respected and praised, she isn’t on social media, and she’s not an “it” poet in the sense that you hear people talk about her all the time. Her poems reveal a reverence for the physical and the spiritual worlds, but also a willingness to question and challenge the wisdom of both. Her astute attention to the longings of the heart and her deft use of space and inquiry bring me back to her work again and again.

EH: You chose poems all published in different collections of Ford’s – what drew you to these specifically?

DV: Each of her collections is very different. Deposition, which includes “Last Breath Deposition” is deeply rooted in Christian iconography and story while being incredibly personal. The book begins with a definition of “deposition” that gives the reader a full picture of what is being addressed. Not simply the legal statement of testimony, but the other meanings: the action of putting down, laying aside, or putting away, as of burdens; and the taking down of the body of Christ from the cross, or a representation of such in art. The spiritual and the personal. I never get tired of reading these poems, their long sentences all running together to resemble a voice tumbling headlong into both prayer and confusion. “Last Breath Deposition” is one of many “last breath” titles in the collection, which has as its centerpiece 14 poems that accompany the stations of the cross. This particular poem’s first utterance “Please I am forthright” knocks me off my feet every time I read it. It’s a plea to be believed, to be judged as worthy of believing. Then the declaration in the middle – “I knew then there was knowledge in me” – brings Eve to mind, which is reinforced by the “he” at the poem’s end throwing “what came/from on high far from us.” And whether that he is a beloved, or Adam, or God, the speaker is left with her knowledge, her loneliness, an emptiness like the quarry.

Donna Vorreyer reads “Last Breath Deposition” by Katie Ford

“Song of Sadness” from Blood Lyrics performs a similar seemingly impossible marriage of concerns: the struggle to find peace and faith while caring for a fragile newborn and living in a violent world where in another famous poem from this book “Foreign Song,” she begins “To bomb them, / we mustn’t have heard their music…” These poems are very different in form from Deposition (and the book that came between them, Colosseum). Ford has traded long, unpunctuated lines for shorter ones, most poems only a page in length, some with a sort of postscript on a facing page that serves both the larger body of a poem and stands on its own. Her constant reinvention of form, suiting it to the function of the poem, is admirable and something that I marvel at in all of her work. “Song of Sadness” links despair to the body in its first line, then the body to the water from which it is made, tells the reader to serve only this salt in the body of a beloved, of a child before listing all of the things in the world that kneel in praise of something. To me, this poem seems like an ars poetica – the last lines – “Don’t say it’s the beautiful / I praise. I praise the human, / gutted and rising” describes how I feel when I read all of her poems.

Donna Vorreyer reads “Song of Sadness” by Katie Ford

EH: Both your poetry and Ford’s have an honest and tender quality to approaching topics of truth and grief. Do you find yourself inspired or influenced by Ford’s writing with your own?

DV: I am honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Katie Ford, honestly. I can say that she has been a big influence on me in two ways. First, I was very lucky to have taken a class with Katie in 2006 while she was writing Colosseum. At the time, I had never published a poem, and I didn’t know whether or not it was something I should continue pursuing. Katie’s gracious teaching gave me confidence, and her openness about her own process gave me an insight into the world of a “real” poet’s mind. I vividly remember hearing her share lines from the poem that would be “Colosseum” with our class, and it inspired me. Second, I admire that she is unafraid to write from a place of tenderness and spirituality and doubt. In a poetry world where people are always looking for the “next thing,” her masterful explorations of both societal and personal tragedy teach me to write what speaks to my heart. 

EH: Lastly, you just released another collection from Sundress in 2020 – To Everything There Is – congratulations! Is there anything else you are currently working on that you’d like to share with readers?

DV: Thank you! I’m pleased that the new book is finding readers, but I am writing new work. It was difficult to be mired in elegy for so long. Though grief doesn’t go away, the need to write it down in order to accept it thankfully diminishes. My newer poems seem to be addressing the different aspects of aging, especially as a woman. Issues of the body, of isolation, of changing relationships, of usefulness are all finding their way in. 


Katie Ford is an American poet and professor of English at University of California, Riverside. She is the author of the collections Deposition (Graywolf Press, 2002), Storm (Marick Press, 2007), Colosseum (Graywolf Press, 2008), Blood Lyrics (Graywolf Press, 2014), and If You Have to Go (Graywold Press, 2018). She received the Lannan Foundation Fellowship in 2008.

Further Reading:

Purchase Ford’s Deposition from Graywolf Press.
Watch Ford read from her collection Blood Lyrics for Public Poetry.
Learn more about Ford on her page at Poets.org.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications, as well as eight chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Rhino, Tinderbox Poetry, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, and other journals, and she serves as an associate editor for Rhino Poetry. Recently retired from 36 years in public education, she can’t wait to see what happens next.

Further Reading:

Purchase Vorreyer’s newest collection To Everything There Is from Sundress Publications.
Learn more about Vorreyer in her recent interview with Entropy.
Read three poems by Vorreyer in Split Lip Magazine.

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and advocates for media literacy and digital citizenship. She is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society and the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at: http://ericahoffmeister.com/

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: 28,065 Nights by Katie Manning

I Haven’t Eaten Fried Bologna Since You Died

When I spent my days with you, I’d watch you fry a pink circle brown,
unwrap bright yellow cheese, and squeeze ketchup onto bread. You’d
cut the sandwich in two and put half on each plate. Then we’d sit down
together on the couch, and I’d ask, Can I have your half? And you would swap
our sandwiches, even though they were the same, even if mine already had
a bite taken out. Still, thirty years later, I swear your side tasted the best.


This selection comes from 28,065 Nights, available from River Glass Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Rogue Agent, Stirring, THRUSH, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Twitter Handle: @iamkatmann

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee.

Sundress Reads: A Review of Spinster for Hire

A fear of and fascination with loneliness dominates Julia Story’s Spinster for Hire, a collection whose poems move back and forth between the speaker’s Midwestern upbringing and her adulthood, following moments of isolation and misconnections with others as she ages. Solitude in Spinster for Hire is specifically Midwestern in its Indiana childhood homes and rural farmlands and churches, yet its hauntings wrestle with larger existential questions that mystify the speaker at any point in her life. Story does not include romantic love as a goal for the speaker, never classifying her as a “spinster” in a stereotypical sense. In a series of devastatingly blunt narrative poems, Spinster for Hire reckons with being seen and unseen, with the known and the unknown, and instead of resolving these issues, Story demonstrates that the speaker’s interior world offers more respite than any person could give her.

Though the speaker’s childhood self in Spinster for Hire is afraid of being alone, she still seeks out loneliness for a sense of familiarity and freedom. In one of the book’s opening poems, “Indiana Problem (Alone),” the speaker states, “To wake meant / get on the bike, / try every day / to look for a place / to be alone.” Many of Story’s poems describe these repeated, solitary, and seemingly pointless actions. There are twelve “Indiana Problem” variations throughout the book, many of which are separated into three brief sections gulfed by silent pauses and emptiness. In “Indiana Problem (Three Steaks),” after describing babysitters, Barbies, and TV dinners, the speaker admits, “I […] walked into / the firefly-packed / dark green dark and / no one looked / for me.” The divided structures of these poems read as miniature suburban portraits, echoes of familiar childhood images and the speaker’s lack of recognition among them. In “Indiana Problem (Mousetrap),” noting the “dark Hosier sadness” closing in on her home one evening, the speaker says, “I didn’t plan this / second kingdom: / not exactly in the mind / or the heart but in the dullness between / them, a waiting so long it made another / body in case this one got too lonely.” As these images of the speaker arriving, departing, and waiting in darkness or stillness culminate, they serve as blunt reminders that her isolation is a quintessential part of her childhood, just like watching Small Wonder and Little House on the Prairie, or playing Mousetrap and Lite Brite.

As an adult, the speaker tests for proof of her own existence in the physical world as she is often not recognized by others. In “Barely There,” Story writes, “I had touched the weeping birch in the cemetery so many times that there was a small mark, / a grease mark or worn place where my hand had rested, trying to feel the spinning that connected it / to some invisible underground pathway.” Story combats the dullness and ordinariness of the Midwest with haunted houses and ghosts, the familiar, flat landscapes made strange. In the title poem, the speaker instructs, “If you look up you can see / me in my window, one spot / of life in our hibernation, / our long orchard of silence.” Story often renders the divide between the speaker and others physically so that she is an observer to a world in which she does not belong. The speaker is terrified by the spiritual realm, and one night stays up thinking about demonic possession, skeletons, and the dark. In “Moth,” the speaker compares herself to the insect, stating, “I hid in the walls, / white and dusty. There is / no one to hear me say it / and there is no voice / to say it with: I was loved.” Time and again, the speaker worries her existence does not matter because no one is there to recognize it. Fears that should subside after childhood, like being afraid of the dark, continue to plague the speaker, and age offers no clarity or answers to her existential questions; she is simply alone.

Rather than forming any lasting attachments to anyone, Story’s speaker accepts isolation as a part of herself, inseparable from any memory and toward which she always moves. Her ex-husband is only briefly mentioned, but without any hate or longing. After discovering that he will marry the woman he cheated on her with, the speaker confesses, “Bubbles / rose in me over / and over. Grief, / I thought, finally. / But it was joy.” None of the speaker’s ruminations on loneliness revolve around lost or unrequited romantic love, defying assumptions about the way a “spinster” is typically cast. In the following poem, “Romantics,” the speaker dreams of living in the spaces she once feared: “Now my head / is filled with as many empty houses as I dream / as I creak around their closets, dangerous balconies, / the dark tragic corners of their basements.” The speaker now knows she wants to occupy a world in which her worth is not dependent on others. In Spinster for Hire’s last poem, “And the Waters Prevailed,” the speaker declares, “Underneath [the rain’s] constant muttering / is the anthem of the ground: Until further / notice, I’m alive.” Story moves the speaker completely away from the narrative of the life we expect to follow, one that includes marriage, children, etc. All that matters is that the speaker knows she is here and that she controls the life she wants to live.

Spinster for Hire is rich in nostalgic details from an Indiana upbringing: the after-dinner lull with Ripley’s Believe it or Not on the TV, playing an Addams Family pinball game, or a dog chasing a kid down a country road. Yet loneliness and emptiness cast a gloom over all the speaker’s memories, no matter how quaint they seem. While one might assume that the speaker would change, fall in love, or find clarity as she ages, she instead learns that her interior life and individual experience are as valuable as a life shared with others. Story’s work arrives at a time when many of us do not know how to navigate this year’s profound isolation, yet Spinster for Hire stares headlong into uncertainty with clear-eyed determination and grace.

Spinster for Hire is available at The Work Works


Emmalee Hagarman earned her MFA in poetry at The Ohio State University, where she served as poetry editor of The Journal. Recently her work was selected by Kenyatta Rogers to receive the Academy of American Poets Award/The Arthur Rense Prize, and also selected by Ruth Awad to receive the Helen Earnhart Harley Fellowship in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Waxwing, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Laurel Review, among others.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: 28,065 Nights by Katie Manning

Thomas Anthony

You didn’t even know your mom was pregnant. She sewed new dresses to
hide it. When the time came, all of you kids were sent off to the neighbor’s
house, and your oldest sister had to tell you why. Your mom gave birth, but
the boy was blue. It looked so perfect otherwise, you’d say, the still body an “it”
in your child’s memory, more like a doll than a real baby. If he were born today,
he’d live, you’d sometimes add, making him real again. Then we’d talk about
your mother and make ourselves heavy with her loss. The last time you told
me this story, I realized I’d never asked the baby’s name.


This selection comes from 28,065 Nights, available from River Glass Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Rogue Agent, Stirring, THRUSH, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Twitter Handle: @iamkatmann

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: 28,065 Nights by Katie Manning

Your Death Explained in Birds

Death is the great egret at the swamp, picking newly hatched green herons
from their cypress nest. I am the pregnant woman on land looking for
something to throw. I am the mother heron, too small to fight back, and the
runt deep in the nest. Death is the egret dropping fresh young birds into
the swamp with barely a ripple. I am the pregnant woman standing horrified
and helpless. I am the mother heron shrieking and snapping on the branch
below. I am the smallest green heron in the nest. I stick my head out in the
stillness after everyone else has gone.


This selection comes from 28,065 Nights, available from River Glass Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Katie Manning is the founding editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review and a professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of Tasty Other, which won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and her fifth chapbook, 28,065 Nights, is newly available from River Glass Books. Her poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, december, The Lascaux Review, New Letters, Rogue Agent, Stirring, THRUSH, Verse Daily, and many other venues. Twitter Handle: @iamkatmann

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents: Poetry Xfit

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, January 17th, 2021 via Zoom. Join us at the link tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password “safta”.

Poetry Xfit isn’t about throwing tires or heavy ropes, but the idea of confusing our muscles is the same. This generative workshop series will give you prompts, rules, obstructions, and more to write three poems in two hours.

Writers will write together for thirty minutes, be invited to share new work, and then given a new set of prompts. The idea isn’t that we are writing perfect final drafts, but instead creating clay that can then be edited and turned into art later.

Prose writers are also welcome to attend!

While this is a free workshop, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here: https://sundress-publications.square.site/product/donate-to-sundress/107?cs=true

All donations received will be split with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a nonprofit museum featuring a range of local & national African-American history exhibits & artifacts here in Knoxville, TN. 

Call for Applications: Graphic Design Internship

Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit publishing collective founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks, full-length collections, and literary anthologies in both print and digital formats. Sundress also publishes the annual Best of the Net Anthology, celebrating the best work published online, runs Poets in Pajamas, an online reading series, and the Gone Dark Archives, preserving online journals that have reached the end of their run. 

The graphic design internship position will run from March 15, 2021 to September 15, 2021. The design intern will assist with creating promotional graphics, digital flyers, logos, social media images, and brochures, etc. Responsibilites may also include designing the interior and exterior of e-books, formatting manuscripts, and/or designing and editing promotional materials. Applicants must be self motivated and be able to work on a strict deadline.

Preferred qualifications include:

  • Graphic design or visual art experience 
  • Familiarity with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and/or Illustrator
  • Knowledge of contemporary literature a plus

Applicants are welcome to telecommunicate and therefore not restricted to living in the Knoxville area.

While this is an unpaid internship, all interns will gain real-world experience in designing books and promotional materials for a nationally recognized press while creating a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities.

To apply, please send a resume and a brief cover letter detailing your interest in the position to our Managing Editor, Erin Elizabeth Smith at erin@sundresspublications.com by February 20, 2021

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Way Home by Ashley Inguanta

Healer

A psychic once took me by the body, my whole body, and sat me down, called me “healer,” told me I could heal with my hands. We sat by the ocean in Key West. It was about to rain. She said I could have babies if I chose, even get married. I wanted to believe her. Back then, at eighteen, I hadn’t menstruated in two years. I wasn’t planning on bleeding, either. Bones were more important. But this woman, she said I could heal with my hands. The thought of touching another made me flinch. I wanted to love this woman who told me I could heal. Years would pass and I’d want to love other women, too, but it wouldn’t work. The psychic wouldn’t tell me this. Instead, she stood to leave. I paid her, and night settled.

Years later, at twenty-three and on my period, I went to some trendy bar and there was a by-donation psychic. I donated, put my beer in a corner, sat down. She took my hands, placed them palm up. You have lost everything, she said, and will only fall in love if you allow it. I wanted to tell her I haven’t loved a lover in my whole life, and I wasn’t planning on it.

I wanted to tell her how bitter I was, the choice I made to exist on the outskirts of another
woman’s life.

But I didn’t tell her. There were others waiting, and my friends were asking me to dance.


This selection comes from The Way Home, available from The Dancing Girl Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.

Ashley Inguanta is a poet and art photographer whose work often focuses on romantic love, the spirit, landscape, and place. Most recently, you can find her poems in Contrary Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, and The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest short collection of poetry, The Island, The Mountain, and the Nightblooming Field is forthcoming in May of 2020. You can learn more about Ashley’s poetry, art, and teaching at ashleyinguanta.net.