Sundress Reads: A Review of ‘Goldenrod’

Everything about Maggie Smith’s Goldenrod (One Signal Publishers, 2021) feels warm. Seeped in floral and faunal language and set against the arcadian landscapes of Smith’s native Ohio, even frigid aspects of the human condition (death, aging, divorce, sickness, motherly fears) feel more approachable and easy to dissect. In her three-part collection of poems, Smith contemplates such universal and confounding concepts as birth, death, motherhood, loneliness, and perseverance: “I’ve started calling the hum / the soul. Today I have to hold / my breath to hear it,” (“The Hum”) “If you feel yourself receding, receding, / and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone,” (“Poem Beginning with a Retweet”) “We birth the new citizens / & answer their bodies with our bodies,” (“Interrogators of Orchids”).

Upon first reading, we can effortlessly and vividly envision Smith interacting with the personifications of her familiar midwestern environment like they are wordless, wisened friends who, quite possibly, hold all great secrets of the universe. In “Starlings,” Smith writes: “Near the river’s edge, one birch holds a knot so much / like an eye, you think it sees you.” In “Junk Trees”: “False spring, too, is junk, not science. It serves us right / for asking trees to tell us the time.” Smith seamlessly blends her own body with the environment, sometimes unsure where the former ends and the latter begins– from “Poor Sheep”: “I’m reading too much / into the landscape again … My skin, / all forest and manifestation / of the interior. You can see / the mountains through me.”

Smith’s three “Marriage/Divorce” poems, which chronicle her divorce and its effects on her children, are sprinkled throughout the collection as brief musings on absence, renewal, and letting go. In the first, she likens her waning marriage to an overgrown backyard: “Late in the season, we sit ankle-deep / in weeds and flowers. In weeds we call flowers.” It is the kind of poem that can be appreciated by divorced parents and their children alike.

Recurring animals, plants, people, and places are diffused throughout Smith’s collection like increasingly familiar, charming characters. However, nothing appears more frequently than her two children; we see them grow, navigate, and “love by questioning” all while unknowingly informing their mother’s craft. Despite their differences in age, each individual seeks to understand their flawed, cruel, and mystifying world. Nonetheless, Smith includes the pain of knowing she cannot always protect them from it. In ”Half Staff” she asks: “Why don’t we leave / the flags at half-staff / & save ourselves / the trouble?”

Undoubtedly, Smith understands the importance of questioning and not knowing. “So often / the mind whispers / to the body, I am not / safe here, & the body / never bothers / to answer. Because / what could it say?” she she ponders in “Half Staff.” In “Poem Beginning with a Line from Bashō,” she asks: “How can something stand / for years, and then–? Just like that? / Where the roof was, all this night.”

By the final pages, instead of answers and conclusions, we find little solaces in how Smith has made peace with her anxieties and herself. In “Bride,” we find Smith “Married less / to the man than to the woman / silvering in the mirror.” Goldenrod offers a view of a mother’s mind with a refreshing dose of uncertainty, though not necessarily without the warmth of optimism.

Goldenrod is available through IndieBound.


Alexa White is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the city where she grew up, and is pursuing a BA in Creative Writing with a Studio Art minor. She has enjoyed reading and writing, especially poetry, for most of her life and has had both art and poetry published in UTK’s Phoenix literary magazine.

Meet Our New Intern: Iqra Abid

When I was younger, I would follow my older sisters around all day, copying everything they did. Part of this was watching all the same shows they did, reading their books, listening to the music they listened to. In many ways, this formed my taste in media. Shows and books where the main characters worked at magazines or dedicated their entire lives to writing books or were starting their careers as journalists— those were my favourite stories to watch or read. They kept diaries so I did, too. I started writing stories in them, usually horror for some reason. My best ones would have crazy twist endings like the protagonist waking up from a nightmare. Of course, I thought I was a genius.

Then, in middle school, I joined a club where one of the perks was getting free magazines and reading stacks of them during our lunch breaks. My friends and I would often argue over the free posters that came out of them. Years later, my oldest sister would give me a giant pile of magazines to throw away for her before we moved out of our childhood home. I would spend hours scouring each one before I finally threw them away, ripping my favourite pages out of them to make collages with one day. I still have some of those pages saved today, waiting to be cut up and stuck somewhere.

In high school, I started to art journal and write poetry. I made friends who loved all the nerdy, artsy things I did. We went through all the same phases together, hung out after school to make collages out of those old magazine pages, shared and read books together like an informal book club. I edited everybody’s English essays and creative writing pieces. I thought it was fun and it made me happy. It sounds totally lame but I still enjoy it now. What does that say about me?

In the summer after my first year of university, I felt deprived of art and the freedom to creatively express myself. I didn’t get to see my friends as much anymore, so we had less time to create things together. I was also fed up with the lack of mainstream representation that artists from marginalized identities received. When I want to consume art that speaks to my experiences, why do I have to dig so deep for a morsel of relatable or accurate content? I thought that there needed to be more platforms dedicated to uplifting marginalized artists, to foster a safe space that allows them to create content with other artists from similar backgrounds. I thought, why not do it myself?

So, I started Kiwi Collective Magazine, a digital arts publication for marginalized creators of all mediums. I was able to combine my passion for writing, art, and editing to give something back to the creative communities I love. It wasn’t until I started the magazine that I looked back at my childhood and noticed everything that led me to this point. I realized that I have always wanted to be an editor, I just didn’t always know it. Now, I am lucky enough to be with Sundress Publications, expanding my horizons and honing my skills so I can continue to give back to underrepresented creators in the art and literary scenes.


Iqra Abid (she/her) is a young, Pakistani, Muslim writer based in Canada. She is currently a student at McMaster University studying Psychology Neuroscience, and Behaviour. She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kiwi Collective Magazine. Her work can be found in various publications such as Stone Fruit Magazine, Tiny Spoon Lit Magazine, Scorpion Magazine, and more.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: A Net to Catch my Body in its Weaving by Katie Farris


This selection, chosen by Sundress intern Ryleigh Wann, is from A Net to Catch my Body in its Weaving by Katie Farris, released by Beloit Poetry Journal. 


Tell it Slant

You float in the MRI gloam,
several spiculated masses,
I name you “cactus,”
carcinoma be damned—you make
a desert of all
of me.

Have I said it slant enough?
Here’s a shot between
the eyes: Six days before
my thirty-seventh birthday,
a stranger called and said,
You have cancer. Unfortunately.
Then hung up the phone.


Katie Farris’s work appears in American Poetry ReviewGrantaThe Nation, and Poetry, and has been commissioned by MoMA. She is the author of the chapbook A Net to Catch My Body in its Weaving, which won the 2020 Chad Walsh Poetry Award from Beloit Poetry Journal, and boysgirls, a hybrid-form book, as well as co-translator of many books of poetry. She holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Brown University. She is currently Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Georgia Institute of Technology. Standing in the Forest of Being Alive (Alice James Books, 2023) is her first book of poems.

Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington. Her past experiences include reading poetry for Ecotone, editing with Lookout Books, teaching creative writing, and working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Michigan. Her writing can be found in Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever, released by Kattywompus Press in 2019. 

End of Horses

I write to you from the end

of the time zone. You must realize

that nothing survived after

the horses were slaughtered.

We sleep below the hollow

burned-out stars.

We look beyond dust bowls

searching for horses.

When you walk in the country,

you will be shocked to meet

substantial masses on the road.

We do not know who to accuse

or where the horses were driven,

who slaughtered them, or for what

purpose. Had the horses slept

under the linden trees? The generals

and engineers pucker

and snore on the veranda.


In 2019, Margo Taft Stever’s second full-length collection of poetry, Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press), a 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist, and her chapbook, Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press), both appeared. In 2022, her third full-length collection, THE END OF HORSES, will be forthcoming from Broadstone Press. Her four other poetry collections include The Lunatic BallThe Hudson Line, 2012; Frozen Spring; and Reading the Night Sky. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlume, upstreet, Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day BlackbirdSalamanderPrairie SchoonerNew England ReviewCincinnati Review, RattapallaxWebster Review, and West Branch. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. In 2021, as Adjunct Assistant Professor, she taught Poetry and Bioethics in the Bioethics Department of the Medical School at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches poetry at Children’s Village, a residential school for at-risk children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever, released by Kattywompus Press in 2019. 

Locked Ward, II

Two Canada geese and three goslings
crib grass in a corner patch
triangulated by Redcoat Lane,
Tower Hill Road, and the reservoir.

The goslings nip green shoots
in their narrow constriction,
strangulated strip—downy
feathers fluttering in summer haze.

The geese hover over them, protecting
from menacing cars, blurring by
at breakneck speed, drivers cursing
out windows—pests, vermin.

They turn their radios up—“Love,
O careless Love….
” But at dawn, no
cars, no noise, all people
sleeping, the parents bring

their goslings across the vacant
road to teach them how to swim.


In 2019, Margo Taft Stever’s second full-length collection of poetry, Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press), a 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist, and her chapbook, Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press), both appeared. In 2022, her third full-length collection, THE END OF HORSES, will be forthcoming from Broadstone Press. Her four other poetry collections include The Lunatic BallThe Hudson Line, 2012; Frozen Spring; and Reading the Night Sky. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlume, upstreet, Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day BlackbirdSalamanderPrairie SchoonerNew England ReviewCincinnati Review, RattapallaxWebster Review, and West Branch. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. In 2021, as Adjunct Assistant Professor, she taught Poetry and Bioethics in the Bioethics Department of the Medical School at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches poetry at Children’s Village, a residential school for at-risk children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever, released by Kattywompus Press in 2019. 

Menopause

The pool they build
in the backyard resembles
a sarcophagus.

A terrier owned
by a neighborhood widower
falls in and drowns.

A frog lives in the water element.
She fishes him out in spring
to take him to a local pond.

She plays tennis with women
half her age who talk
about carpools.

A hawk drops a beheaded, half-
eaten mouse on the front walkway,
most of its entrails missing.

The wrens make a nest
in magnolias in front of her house.
The cats guard the window

inspecting the birds’ work.
Cats tremble and chirrup; wings
knock the window.


In 2019, Margo Taft Stever’s second full-length collection of poetry, Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press), a 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist, and her chapbook, Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press), both appeared. In 2022, her third full-length collection, THE END OF HORSES, will be forthcoming from Broadstone Press. Her four other poetry collections include The Lunatic BallThe Hudson Line, 2012; Frozen Spring; and Reading the Night Sky. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlume, upstreet, Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day BlackbirdSalamanderPrairie SchoonerNew England ReviewCincinnati Review, RattapallaxWebster Review, and West Branch. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. In 2021, as Adjunct Assistant Professor, she taught Poetry and Bioethics in the Bioethics Department of the Medical School at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches poetry at Children’s Village, a residential school for at-risk children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever, released by Kattywompus Press in 2019. 

Instructions for Burial

Dress her in blood stone and
azure silk from Le Printemps.
Let blue springs envelope her.
Let her grow roots—a tree,
pulling water from earth

to bough, branches
training leaves; each
season—each separate
body—each universe smaller—
explained and recanted.

On the evening news, scientists
gather wearing masks; it is not
Halloween. Each holds
a variant explanation.


In 2019, Margo Taft Stever’s second full-length collection of poetry, Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press), a 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist, and her chapbook, Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press), both appeared. In 2022, her third full-length collection, THE END OF HORSES, will be forthcoming from Broadstone Press. Her four other poetry collections include The Lunatic BallThe Hudson Line, 2012; Frozen Spring; and Reading the Night Sky. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlume, upstreet, Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day BlackbirdSalamanderPrairie SchoonerNew England ReviewCincinnati Review, RattapallaxWebster Review, and West Branch. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. In 2021, as Adjunct Assistant Professor, she taught Poetry and Bioethics in the Bioethics Department of the Medical School at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches poetry at Children’s Village, a residential school for at-risk children.

Meet Our New Intern: Alexa White

I think I was nine or ten when I wrote my first legitimate poem. I was distressed at the thought of having to leave everyone and everything I knew on the Virginia coast where I was born and move with my family to Knoxville, Tennessee, where I have lived ever since. It’s easy to look (or cringe) back at that poem as a silly, painfully melodramatic list of beach-themed cliches, but I know that it began what will likely be a lifelong artistic experiment with emotions, words, and speculations.

In the years since, I have continued to use writing, along with visual art, as a tool of exploration and recognition. I use them to understand and connect to the world I live in both externally and internally.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and ADHD since childhood, I often struggle to maintain a calm and confident headspace. I am almost always worried or uncomfortably unsure about several things at any given time. Early on, my disorder contributed to a distaste for school and learning in general. Nevertheless, the older I got, the more time I spent with words. As my passion for the literary arts grew, I came to love writing not only as an effective and satisfying process of channeling negative energy but also as a way to connect with people and understand the complexities in my life. In my early teens, I read works by icons like Oscar Wilde, John Keats, Chinua Achebe, and Sylvia Plath and felt seen (by dead people but seen nonetheless). To compose something that connects with even a handful of people, in any century, became a goal for me as an artist.  

To this day I am trying to figure out what exactly an ‘artist’ is and how I can best demonstrate it within my life. In addition to my literary interests, I have always had a strong affinity for visual arts, namely drawing, painting, and photography. Going into my freshman year at the University of Tennessee, I felt pressured to choose between a degree in English and the Fine Arts. Eventually, much like everybody’s favorite Old El Paso girl, I asked: Why don’t we have both? With feet in two distinct areas of study, I realized that art and poetry share more similarities than differences. 

Maybe the most infuriating yet comforting commonality is that there is no right or wrong way to create. Yes, there are techniques, precedents, and a few unspoken rules, but ultimately an artist has total authority over their craft. It’s terrifying.

While I have many doubts about my own future and artistry, I keep an open mind and try to make peace with my own ambiguity. This year I am very excited and honored to be part of the Sundress team and look forward to forming new connections, gaining experience, and contributing to a thriving creative community.


Alexa White is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the city where she grew up, and is pursuing a BA in Creative Writing with a Studio Art minor. She has enjoyed reading and writing, especially poetry, for most of her life and has had both art and poetry published in UTK’s Phoenix literary magazine.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Ghost Moose by Margo Taft Stever, released by Kattywompus Press in 2019. 

Ghost Moose

Searching for moose, the children
run down to the river, calling

the already-gone, the forgotten,
for freedom of stench,

the smell of skunk weeds.
Moose calves become ghosts,

rubbing fur, skin, scraping ticks
off on tree bark.

In mild winters, ticks multiply
and multiply, occupy moose calves,

killing them slowly; their mothers
witness starvation from blood loss.

Moose calves resemble ghosts,
tearing fur, skin.

Calves waste away. Wasted
bodies frighten the forest

floor—foresters call April
the month of death.


In 2019, Margo Taft Stever’s second full-length collection of poetry, Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press), a 2021 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist, and her chapbook, Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press), both appeared. In 2022, her third full-length collection, THE END OF HORSES, will be forthcoming from Broadstone Press. Her four other poetry collections include The Lunatic BallThe Hudson Line, 2012; Frozen Spring; and Reading the Night Sky. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines including Verse DailyPlume, upstreet, Academy of American Poets, Poem-A-Day BlackbirdSalamanderPrairie SchoonerNew England ReviewCincinnati Review, RattapallaxWebster Review, and West Branch. She is the founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. In 2021, as Adjunct Assistant Professor, she taught Poetry and Bioethics in the Bioethics Department of the Medical School at Case Western Reserve University. She also teaches poetry at Children’s Village, a residential school for at-risk children.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents: September Poetry Xfit

Knoxville, TN — The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present our September Poetry Xfit, hosted by Erin Elizabeth Smith. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, September 19th, 2021 from 2 to 4 pm EST 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 challenging 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 be 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!

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Executive Director for Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently DOWN (SFASU 2020), and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American, among others. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

While this is a free workshop, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here.

Each month, half of our Xfit donations are shared with a community partner. Our community partner for September is Southerners on New Ground (SONG). SONG has been a home for LGBTQ liberation since 1993 and reaches across racial, class, and cultural lines in the South to transform the region through strategic planning, organizing, and fellowship. SONG works towards building through alliances and coalitions with other organizations that challenge systemic oppression. For more info or to donate to support LGBTQ and Trans liberation, find them at here.


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 including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, academic writing, playwriting, and more. 

Web:     www.sundressacademyforthearts.com

Facebook: SundressAcademyfortheArts

Email:   safta@sundresspublications.com

Twitter:   @SundressPub