Sundress Announces the Release of Mackenzie Berry’s Slack Tongue City

Sundress Publications announces the release of Mackenzie Berry’s Slack Tongue City, an ode to Berry’s hometown—Louisville, Kentucky. This debut poetry collection acts as a love letter, paying homage while also tracing the joys and dangers of nostalgia for place. Glasses of bourbon in summer, jug bands, disco balls, and homemade pools quenched from the mouth of a garden hose populate the poems with memories and longing. Slack Tongue City says Louisville is the South because it says it is while simultaneously inviting you to join for supper and see what the syrupy, Kentucky heat is all about. Forget what you think you know about this city—or if you know little, then here is the place to see it through the eyes of someone who loves it dearly. These poems will show you what hides behind the rolling hills. Beyond one city or one region, Slack Tongue City also draws the reader through poems that include the rituals of girlhood via a speaker who, even though they may leave, will never fully be removed from their hometown.

Joy Priest, Louisville, Kentucky native and author of Horsepower, writes that, “Slack Tongue City is an archive of a city, fast-changing due to a growing tourist industry and the arrival of gentrification—and this voice from the interior is a precious repository of memory. In these poems, the ways we talk and the ways we tradition—the ways we myth and memory, eat and escape, pass jokes and parade—live forever.”

Amaud Jamaul Johnson, author of Imperial Liquor and Red Summer, writes that, “Berry makes the case that Louisville serves as our shadow capital…As vital as the liver or the spleen, and equally unacknowledged or abused, until one is at the edge of catastrophe, Kentucky is central to our American body politic. Like Komunyakaa’s Bogalusa and Levine’s Detroit, Berry masterfully sketches the anatomy of a city. This debut is an invitation, but the keys to this world are carefully hidden.”

Quan Barry, author of Loose Strife, calls it, “Lyrical in its hard-won authority, clear-eyed in its portrayal of Southern life…A percussive debut.”

Pre-order your copy of Slack Tongue City on the Sundress website: https://sundress-publications.square.site/

Mackenzie Berry is the author of Slack Tongue City, which traces her hometown—Louisville, Kentucky—the South, place, girlhood, and belonging. Her poetry has been published in Vinyl, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Hobart, and Blood Orange Review, among others. She is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Cornell University.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Lararium by Ray Ball


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Lararium by Ray Ball, released by Variant Lit in 2020. 

Medusa

The unsuspecting bullsnake uncoils,
               suns itself on the dark asphalt
                              of a quiet county road at the edge

                              of the Panhandle. My father spots it,
               brakes sharply. He darts out the door –
a hook and an old faded pillowcase

in hand. A new specimen
               bagged by the herpetologist.
                              And I am made Medusa. Daughter

                              of a Gorgon. Snakes always my company,
               always in my head. Even now that I am all
leather and musk, I cannot shed their skins.


Ray Ball currently lives on the land of the Dena’ina, where she works as a history professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the author of two history books and two chapbooks of poetry, Tithe of Salt (Louisiana Literature, 2019) and Lararium (Variant Lit, 2020). Her poems and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including GlassOrange Blossom Review, Split Rock Review, and X-R-A-Y. She has received multiple nominations for Pushcart and been a Best of the Net finalist. Ray is senior editor at Coffin Bell and assistant editor Juke JointYou can find her on Twitter: @ProfessorBall.  

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Naturalization :: Migration

At a pottery sale,
I buy nothing, only
               consider: this

      turquoise-ribbed vase, baked
      into a gloss of rivers,
slightly slanted to the left.

So, so cheap—perhaps
a uniqueness mistaken
                for a mistake.

I’m convinced
       of its fragility,
               its ceramic pelvis.

                 The space
               it would take up
     in the immigration bag

     my parents passed down
to me: dark, foldable closet
                            I’ve dragged

from country to country.
When I was younger,
                 I orphaned many books;

now I just carry
this guilt,
     a longing

     for roots, a garland
of delicate hair seeping
             slowly into soil—

into vase.
             But I’m no perennial
         green. I have feet

         eager to get naked,
                moved by the seasons
 not here yet.

                               They ask me to chase
                their undulating
         animal dreams.


Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Mogyoktang :: Inside

From the entrance, the steam smells of pine leaf
and boiled eggs—I sink

into one of the hot tubs, quickly become raw skin,
conditioned timidity I can’t reason away, mauve heat

blush with a nervous eye on a towel, which assured me
it would conceal the soft folds of my stomach. I’m not

alone. There are others more accustomed to bareness,
close by. Today, we all wear the same teal

waters, every quivering droplet: together
we tread the tiled floor as moons

of milk fat, of dark budding nipples and creviced
thighs, of wide stony hips, of tender

skin, exfoliated from mineral sweat and grime—and I, pulse
and curve, feel lightheaded in the

warm water, or the beauty of something so ordinary
like the body. Inside this mogyoktang, I start

to believe I can hide away from eyes and words
that hunger. I lean back, drift

into a time long before shame
was something to dress for.


Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

Interview with Manuela Williams, Author of Ghost in Girl Costume

For the release of Ghost in Girl Costume, Manuela Williams spoke with Doubleback Books poetry editor Bethany Milholland about the writing process, mental health, and advice to writers.

Bethany Milholland: What is your story?

Manuela Williams: I haven’t always been a poet. However, I will say that I’ve always loved storytelling. I started writing short stories at a young age. My mom was very encouraging of this and often printed out my stories to frame and hang around the house (she’d also email them out to friends and family, which is a bit embarrassing for me now!) Creativity, art, and reading were celebrated and encouraged throughout my childhood, and I often dreamt about writing and publishing a novel of my own.

I didn’t start writing poetry until around 2015. I was struggling with clinical depression and couldn’t seem to write the stories that once brought me joy. So, I turned to poetry as a way to express emotions that I didn’t feel capable of expressing through my fiction writing. As I’ve learned more about poetry and my place within the poetry world, I am now mostly interested in the ways poetry can be used to work through trauma, and am a firm believer in the healing power of art.

BM: What was the process like to write Ghost in Girl Costume?

MW: Many of the drafts that would later become Ghost in Girl Costume were written
in 2015 and 2016. This was before I decided to pursue an MFA in Poetry and I had
attended maybe one or two poetry workshops before that. It’s been both strange and
illuminating reading back through my older work and comparing it to what I’m
writing now. I tended to experiment a lot more with the way words, lines, and stanzas
appeared on the page. Coming from a fiction writing background, the thought that I
could use the page as a sort of canvas really excited me, and I think that shows
throughout Ghost in Girl Costume.

In the process of writing Ghost in Girl Costume, I found myself relying a lot on my
intuition regarding the poem order in the manuscript, as well as the form each poem
took. At that point in my writing career, I hadn’t read a lot of poetry and couldn’t
point to any specific influences on my work. Mainly, I did what felt right to me, or
what I thought looked and sounded interesting at the time. Now, my process is a lot
different. I’m much more aware of the stylistic choices that I make, and I try to be
very deliberate with those choices.

BM: How do you overcome writer’s block?

MW: For me, writer’s block goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. If I find myself unable
to write, it’s usually because I’m anxious about how a particular piece will be
received. For instance, what if no one likes what I write? Are these images interesting
enough? Am I actually a terrible poet? These are some of the questions that I’ve asked
myself while writing. I’ve had to work hard to re-train my brain to block out those
voices when I’m in the process of creating something. Usually, it’s enough to tell
myself that no one has to read my work unless I want them to, and that art goes
beyond publication or what other people think. Sometimes, art is just for me, and
that’s okay! Another thing that helps me through writer’s block is to simply take a
break from writing. If I force myself to try and write through the block, I end up
feeling worse in the long run.

I would describe myself as a hesitant writer. Sometimes, it takes me a full week to
finish a draft of a poem that I’m happy with. I’ve had to tell myself there’s no rush
when it comes to art. There is no hard and fast rule telling me that I must write every
single day, or else I’m not a “real” writer. If that means I need to take a month off
from whatever project I’m working on, so be it. I think it’s important to take breaks
because it’s during these breaks that we are able to re-fill our creative wells, so-to-
speak.

BM: What advice would you give to fellow writers?

MW: When I was starting out, I was so anxious to be published that I tried to write as
quickly as possible and submit to as many literary journals as I could find. Now, I’ve
slowed down my publication efforts considerably and I’m much more selective in the
poems I choose to send out. I’ve also stopped equating publication with my worth or
capabilities as a writer. Of course, I’m proud of my publications, but I think it’s
important to view them as a nice benefit, and not the entire point of why I write. I
write to express myself, to heal, and because it brings me joy. If I get to a point where
I’m writing just so I can get published, I think that means I’ve lost sight of what drew
me to poetry in the first place.

So, my advice to fellow writers—and especially writers who are just starting
out—would be to not worry so much about publication, at least when starting out.
Focus on developing your own style, write good poems, write bad poems, and, most
importantly, remember why you started writing in the first place.

BM: Who are your favorite authors and poetry collections?

MW: I’m going to focus on poets and poetry volumes for this question because if I
included all my favorite fiction writers, I’m afraid this interview would go on for at
least twenty more pages!

Kaveh Akbar, Calling a Wolf a Wolf
Ariana Reines, A Sand Book
Tommy Pico, IRL
Cate Marvin, Fragment of the Head of a Queen
Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard
Louise Glück, Ararat
Some of my other favorite poets include Sharon Olds, Alice Notley, and CAConrad.

Download your copy of Ghost in Girl Costume for free on the Doubleback website!


Manuela Williams is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Witch (dancing girl press) and Ghost in Girl Costume (Doubleback Books). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Night Music Journal, Bear Review, Thimble, The Mantle Poetry, Bone Bouquet, and other places. She is a regular contributor for DIY MFA and is the author of “The Poet’s Toolbox” column.

Bethany Milholland resides in Southern Indiana and is a research analyst assistant at a global law firm. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Evansville and loves thrift shopping and petting cats.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Korea :: Things to Review Before Landing

My origin story:

My mother found me as a chestnut dangling from a tree.
When I fell onto her lap, she was eating
a copper pear with one hand, paging through
a book with the other. She carried out the burr
in the hollow of her arms; the spiny cupule made her bleed,
but she didn’t let go until I broke out from the shell.
Later, I sprouted needles anew, afraid
I was being nibbled away by the world.

My grandfather’s name:

I thought my grandfather’s name was Hal-abeoji,
only to find out it was the Korean word for grandfather.
He was the one who taught me and my sister to sail
a paper kite over a frozen river, to allow my index to flirt
with its mercurial tail.

An idiom:

When I was given a norigae to hang
under my first hanbok jacket, I foresaw
a pendulous love in my life. I alternated
between laughing and sobbing. Short horns
appeared on my back. From then on, a childlike
misfortune took the shape of a blank page
and muffled my steps in every new country I called
home. I didn’t want her at first, but eventually grew
fond of her, held her hand when she cried at night.

An road:

The one I took to school when I lived in Jang-yu
for that one year. I studied the occasional
bush of forsythias on the side
prodding yellow against an absolute autumn sky.


Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

La Esperanza :: Poinciana Tree

In La Esperanza stands a barren poinciana tree.
We climb over it, scratching its callused bark
with our sandals. Breathless, our faces
are like berries, petite and round
flames. We place airy leaflets behind our ears
and chuckle. The neighbor doesn’t like us
on the tree, which extends its branches
toward her eaves, and so one day,
we come back to a nest of barbed wires
scrawled on the treetop. How sad…
we say to no one in particular,
How pitiful, our poinciana tree…
With the belief it would rather be
hurt by us, we leave it
to play house in a different garden.


Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Kimchi :: In Trujillo

I.

My mother and her wooden cooking spoon. A pot filled with water
and an ambiguous amount of all-purpose flour
instead of rice flour. She stirs. The water turns milky. It turns
thicker, stickier—the smell of starch dissipates into the air.
It occurs to me that my mother’s arm is an orbiting moon, unable to escape
the gravity of a planet much larger than itself.

II.

My mother with salt on the palm of her hand, her arm extending
toward a ray of noon. She compares the Peruvian salt to another
memory. This unfamiliar salt in front of her eyes
is a thinner crystal. She licks her fingers. It’s slightly sour.
She asks me to come and have a taste, but I
have nothing to compare it with yet.

III.

My mother slicing onions, spring onions, radishes—
into whatever size she thinks would be “a pleasure to eat.”
My mother’s measuring tool: her intuition, her philosophy
that a fixation with perfection deters one from pouring jeong
into the food. Jeong, she teaches me, is love
that comes with time, similar to the process of fermentation,
similar to the slow dyeing of brined leaves.

IV.

My mother’s concave back as she squats over the blue rim
of a plastic tub in the laundry room. The Napa cabbages inside are
as wide as my childish hips—rare in Trujillo, rare like the Korean pepper flakes
my mother has been saving by mixing them with ají panca. The translucent
plastic gloves covering her hands are smeared with bright candy red
and the green of spring onions. She tells me to go sleep first. I dream of her
hands carefully running between the cabbage leaves, even today,
half a continent away, making sure no white spot is left untouched.


Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

Sundress Publications Social Media Internship Open Call

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 Sundress Workshop Series which offers free virtual writers workshops.

The social media internship position will run from July 1 to December 31, 2022. The intern’s responsibilities include scheduling and posting promotional materials on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), maintaining our newsletter, and promoting our various open reading periods, workshops, readings, and catalog of titles. This will also include creating promotional graphics, digital flyers, logos, and social media images. Applicants for this internship must be self-motivated and be able to work on a strict deadline.

Preferred qualifications include:

  • Familiarity with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and/or Canva
  • Familiarity with social media scheduling tools
  • Ability to work under a deadline and multitask
  • Strong written communication skills
  • Knowledge of and interest in contemporary literature a plus

This is a REMOTE internship with the team communicating primarily via email and text messages and is therefore not restricted to applicants living in any particular geographic area. Interns are asked to devote up to 10 hours per week to their assignments.

While this is an unpaid internship, all interns will gain real-world experience of the ins and outs of independent publishing with a nationally recognized press while creating a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities. Interns will also be able to attend all retreats and residencies at the Sundress Academy for the Arts at a significantly discounted cost.

We welcome, encourage, and are enthusiastic to see a diverse array of applicants in all areas, including race, ethnicity, disability, gender, class, religion, education, immigration status, age, and more.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter detailing your interest in the position to Staff Director Kanika Lawton at sundressstaffdirector@gmail.com by May 20, 2021.

For more information, please read our internship guidebook at: http://www.sundresspublications.com/internshipguide.pdf

Project Bookshelf: Finnegan Angelos

I am anti-bookshelf. 

Just kidding, but it’s true that I don’t really have one. I’m not sure what kind of writer that makes me, or what it says about my reading habits, but what’re you gonna do? I actually did buy a bookshelf a couple of years ago, in an effort to change my ways, but it has been overtaken by an impenetrable army of personal wellness and YA—neither belonging to me. Only a few of my older books stay mixed in with my family’s collections on the shelves, whereas my more recent additions find themselves sporadically tossed around my mom’s house. As backwards as it is, that’s how you know I really love them. 

Crowded single bookshelf, all books leaning to the right and barely fitting.

I was, as a lot of us were, one of those kids who read roughly eight books a month. I have no idea how I managed to do that, but I’m surely not at that sort of peak level anymore. My biggest reading-for-pleasure periods are my breaks from academia, summer, and post-Christmas, where I basically only consume fiction. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Listen, I’m a nonfiction writer. I should own more essay collections, at least one Sedaris book, but I consider the score balanced with my New Yorker subscription and all of my birdwatching guides. Not to mention an impressive amount of Glennon Doyle-adjacent memoir.

Unfortunately, my most beloved books go without photo evidence, as I keep them on the puja table in my dorm. Expect a ton of Mary Oliver and Walt Whitman, Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds, The Bhagavad-Gita, Be Here Now, and a handful of other books centered around self-actualization and/or the general premise of wonder. That little collection of mine has become a scrapbook bible. 

A short stack of books on a side table. Featuring "Small Things Like These" by Claire Keegan, "Oh William!" by Elizabeth Strout, "Detransition, Baby" Torrey Peters, "Memorial" by Bryan Washington, and "Birdfeeder Guide" by Robert Burton and Stephen W. Kress.

In my room, about twenty books are arranged in perfect alignment—Jenga style—all resting and leaning together with a fairly out-of-tune mandolin seated right on top. The whole thing hasn’t tumbled once. This genius creation was, of course, the doing of my partner, who took what was previously a single five-foot stack on the floor and dispersed it atop the record player that, at sixteen, I was sure I would use. I was wrong. 

It’s crazy I know, and incredibly telling, but I kind of like the mess I’ve created; I don’t think passions are supposed to be tidy things. In fact, all of my passions come with a little disaster, free of charge. When I cook, I need an eight-person team to help me get the kitchen all clean again. When I write, all of the pages of my once-blank notebook get covered in illegible strings of black pen, then subsequently scratched-out black pen. I leave instruments all over the house, on every surface. Everyone is “mad” at me all of the time because when I create, with unthinkable love—it can’t be contained.

Trust me, I’ve tried.


Young white man with curly hair and mustache looks into the sun in front of a lush forested background.

Finnegan Angelos is a self-proclaimed east-coast-love-struck-queer-awakening poet and essayist originally from northern Baltimore County, Maryland. His work has been published in the Beyond Queer Words Anthology, Thistle Magazine, and FRANCES, among others. He loves his dog, hibiscus tea, and the banjo.