The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


A MAN AT A PARTY TELLS US HE VOTES REPUBLICAN BUT
ASSURES US HE IS SOCIALLY LIBERAL

at the end of the night
my wife & I call a car
& we are silent during the ride
when we get home
we brush our debatable teeth
wash our debatable faces
undress our debatable bodies
in bed we practice remembrance
we rub our inconsolable
legs together the melody,
an assertion
of our reality
outside our window
the crickets join in
& it is beautiful
just the way elegies
ought to be

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


YAPPING DOGS

yapping dogs i understand you sometimes i want
to fucking scream for no perceivable reason
& sometimes people tell me to get over it
to choose my battles haven’t you ever knocked
over a bottle of nice scotch & wondered what
the drunk ants talk about when they aren’t working
themselves into a dizzying haze? no anxiety
is too small it’s common to have to convince
flowers to bloom i know this because as a child
i sat on my grandfather’s lap & asked if giving
up was the same as dying & his response was
a fully-loaded sigh the gunpowder white & suspicious
could have been from a powdered doughnut but i know
the difference between passivity & gluttony five years later
i had a crush on a girl named kristin i asked her
the same question i asked my grandfather &
she said fruit grows faster if you feed it the truth
so i sat under an orange tree & shot off
confessions like catholic bullets i dreamt kristin & i were
slow dancing on clouds now i can no longer look
at her when she speaks i know the meaning of unrest
how it slithers up your spine like a snake & licks
the base of your skull i cannot tell if i am more
spinal column or fluid ice isn’t afraid of its multiple
selves it melts when it discovers that bravery
isn’t about the sword you bear then it flows
like a charmed dream unconcerned with being forgotten

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


FOR TONIGHT WE ATTEND A FERTILITY SEMINAR

I am terrified of having a child. There,
I said it. Is the fear gone yet? Has it grown
twinkle toes & danced off stage? You seem
so confident, so steady. I want to hold
on to you as I rock to & fro. Don’t be alarmed
if I vomit over the side railing. Yesterday
I set up my new record player & cried when I broke
a piece of it off. Of course, my tears
weren’t for the plastic. If I can’t assemble this shit,
how will I ever keep a human alive? I choked.
You wrapped me in your arms, but still I felt cold.
I am made of impractical atoms. They buzz about clumsily,
like June Bugs. My blood spills here & everywhere.
Our child will soon inherit the mess I made. Babe,
a confession disguised as an observation: post-baby our dynamic
will change. You will have less time for me—
of that I am certain. I have a nasty habit of measuring life
by the losses. There will be times in which
you say I love you & I will mistakenly
think you are talking to me. I will mourn
the sentiments that are not mine to keep.
This morning: You wandered into the kitchen,
eyes full of blue light. You looked at me
as if I’d spent all night building a tower to the sky—
absolutely dazzled. I worry I will become
less remarkable around the baby. A face you’ve grown
used to. God, I hate that phrase. It makes me want to
dig my own grave & sneak naps when you
aren’t looking, until I am more asleep than awake,
until I am so close to death that I hold myself a wake.
Once you give birth, your precious eyes will shoot
in a new direction. How pathetic I am to act
as if there is only room for one
cannon ball in your arsenal.

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


WE DON’T GET TO CHOOSE WHO WE LOVE BUT WE DO GET
TO CHOOSE WHETHER WE REJECT OR EMBRACE THAT LOVE

I could have stayed
hollow, but instead I chose
a bellyful
of your dreams & a handwritten sign
that reads: Guess how
many are inside. My coworkers folded
their guesses & folded their guesses
until they disappeared altogether. Some
set the memory on fire. Others
demanded to know where I’d gotten
all those beautiful dreams. I shrugged
& said, I found them. The office party
sucked that year. No one spiked
the punch because it wasn’t a movie
& the winner never showed.
I stayed home with you. I made it
all worth it. The evenings when
our feelings came running like
a herd of blue wildebeests
even though the only threat
to our becoming
was what we might fail to do,
if given the chance to
choose safety over truth. Remember,
the future is not safe. It, too, becomes
a victim of the past. What we have
is the here
& now. You kiss my shoulder,
& before I can confess that it is
inexcusably dry, you are warming
the lotion between your hands. You have given
me so much that I would have never
taken for myself. To you, I give my lips,
my tongue, my eyes, my rest of my life.

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

Lyric Essentials: Brice Maiurro reads James Tate

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, poet, editor and community organizer Brice Maiurro joins us to read James Tate and explore the often overlooked world of the strange and whimsical within poetry. As always, thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read James Tate for Lyric Essentials?

Brice Maiurro: Tate, for being a writer who has received a lot of accolades, is not someone that I hear people reference very often, and he’s been a very important poet to me. I remember being in a bookstore, picking up a copy of Return to the City of White Donkeys and the first poem I read was “The Memories of Fish”. I loved it. What a strange and whimsical idea for this man to make fun of these fish, only to feel deep regret the next day for his behavior. The ending is the kicker too “he had mocked their very fishiness, for which there can be no forgiveness.” His work has a magic to it. There’s something punk rock to this attitude of “fuck it, I’m gonna write about a guy who is mean to fish.” 

He often dismantles the ideas of poetry needing lyricism, needing stark imagery, needing a noticeable cadence or rhythm. Tate’s poetry puts you in the poem where you have to find the poetry of the situation. Not in beautiful words but in beautiful magical situations. He uses narrative prose to take you out of your day.

Brice Maiurro reads “The Memories of Fish” by James Tate

EH:  Do you have a particular connection to Tate’s collection City of White Donkeys where these two poems are found?

BM: It’s the first collection I ever read by Tate, I mostly read it on the light rail on my way to and from work. I was working at my Mom’s cupcake shop on 16th Street at the time. I think of James Tate as being a hall pass for me into being strange, especially to find the strange, and thus at times the divine, in mundane everyday situations. 

I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, in Lakewood. Went to T.J. Maxx and King Soopers with my Mom and sister on the weekends. Took girls on dates at Southwest Plaza mall. I spent a lot of time counting ceiling tiles and daydreaming. My Dad ran a shoe store called “Just For Feet” where I’d be stuck in his office for hours with nothing to do, so I wrote poems. I guess my poetry comes a lot out of waiting and boredom, and that’s something I see in James Tate. He seems like he’s just entertaining his shower thoughts.

I tend to tell people I see poetry as a math equation. Where you create a strange problem and then solve it. For example, in “Beautiful Shoeshine”, Tate seems to have asked himself “what if I had an airport entirely to myself?” He drops himself into this airport all alone, then he finds a shoeshine man, then he realizes he’s not alone, but the people around him are moving too fast to be seen, then in the poem he says, again with the good ending lines “I must not be traveling enough these days.” So here we have the problem of being alone in an airport, and Tate somehow manages to solve the equation by finding in the situation a commentary on a culture that moves so quickly, maybe doesn’t take enough time to rest and relax and breathe, all the hypercapitalism we’re so familiar with, but in a sad moment, our narrator in the poem decides not that the culture is broken, but that he must not be doing enough. I love this.

Brice Maiurro reads “The Beautiful Shoeshine” by James Tate

EH: City of White Donkeys is a peculiar journey into surrealism poetry—something Tate is known for. Your work also contains narrative forms, often playfully as well—do you ever draw inspiration or connection from Tate into your own writing in particular?

BM: I absolutely draw inspiration from Tate, going back to the idea that he gave me permission to bring surrealism into everyday scenarios. I have a poem where I talk to God at a Denny’s over a cup of coffee, I have a poem where I’m doing the dishes and all of a sudden I am taken into the astral plane, I have a poem where a man cuts off one of his fingers accidentally while chopping carrots and the first thing he decides to do is play his piano. Tate’s work resonates deeply with my own experience. Specifically the idea that while we’re in the muck of our everyday lives, we are so many other people and places and things. Also the humor. Humor is not as simple as just laughing. I find humor as a sense of solidarity, sometimes a way of honoring the absurdity of life, sometimes a way to process trauma, including our collective trauma. I believe humor is as valuable a tool in a poem as any other literary device.

EH: And lastly, is there anything you are currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?

BM: I’m working on a manuscript. The working title is “and i open another door and”. Same weirdo poems as always. Finding myself influenced now though by the softness of Ocean Vuong and the syntax and visual elements of e.e. cummings’ poems. With the poems, I’ve been considering liminal space a lot, and the acknowledgment of not having the answers. I’ve been reacting to the tenets of white supremacy as well and challenging the ways I might embody some of those identities and how I can work through that. One of the tenets of white supremacy is either/or thinking. The poems in my new collection don’t claim to have answers as much as capture my feelings and thoughts around not knowing. The title itself kinda leans into the idea of being between moments, and in a limbo, which I know during COVID is a very real experience for a lot of people, myself included. 

The press I work with, South Broadway Press, is doing a lot of plotting and scheming too. We have a March edition on the theme of Language of the Earth. Our editor Chloë Thompson created the concept, which we’ll also be exploring in our February and March open mic series. We’re also looking into publishing a full-length poetry manuscript and launching a chapbook contest. We have a big team now, seven of us, and it’s been great to see our minds and hearts come together to create an identity for this very new press.


James Tate is an American Pulitzer Prize winning poet known for his whimsical, surrealist, and well-loved absurdist poetry. He is the author of over twenty poetry collections, including The Government Lake (2018), The Ghost Soldiers (2008), Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994) which won the National Book Award, Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award, Distance from Loved Ones (1990), Constant Defender (1983), Viper Jazz (1976), and The Oblivion Ha-Ha (1970). His many accolades include an Academy of American Poets chancellorship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Tanning Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He taught at University of Massachusetts in Amherst for five decades, and died in 2015.

Further reading:

Purchase Return to the City of White Donkeys by James Tate.
Read this in-depth interview with Tate in the Paris Review.
Watch Tate read a selection of his poetry in 2013 in Poets & Writers.

Brice Maiurro is Brice Maiurro is a poet from Earth. He is the Editor-in-Chief of South Broadway Press. His work has been compiled into two collections, Stupid Flowers and Hero Victim Villain. He has been featured by the BBC, NPR, The Denver Post, Boulder Weekly, Suspect Press, and Poets Reading the News.

Further reading:

Stay updated with Maiurro on his website.
Read this interview with Maiurro featured in Westword Magazine, honoring him as a Colorado Creative.
Check out Maiurro’s indie press, South Broadway Press.

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/

Meet Our New Intern: Julie Jeanell Leung

vintage Cat in the Hat stuffy

In one of my earliest memories, I’m leaning against a window in a white-walled room while surgeons removed a tumor from my baby brother’s brain. I assume at least one of my parents was probably also in the room, but in that moment, I remember being alone. During the winter days my family spent in this Kansas City hospital, I began to read Dr. Seuss books and Highlights for Children magazines. For my birthday, my parents bought me the Cat in the Hat stuffy that I had seen during daily visits with my mom to the hospital gift shop where we purchased tiny Tootsie Rolls for pennies. I remember the feel of the cold glass window against my face, the sight of the tiny cars in the parking lot below us, the taste of the Chips Ahoy cookies my father bought for our hotel room treat. Each night he made up stories about jelly beans or teddy bears named Julie to help me sleep. Soon families of my own imaginary animals became my companions in clinics and hospitals, entertaining me with conversations, as my brother’s medical treatments continued. From the beginning, I learned how stories sustain us. 

The world became blurry at a young age. Soon my glasses prescription grew thicker and thicker, because I stayed up too late in bed reading library books, or so my eye doctor said. I loved field guides of North American mammals and Nancy Drew mysteries. In school I discovered that I also loved creating stories, scribbling my awkward handwriting across multiple pages, eager to share with any teacher who would read my imagined adventures featuring puppies or horses or witches. As a young writer, I didn’t believe in mapping plots, only moving paper or pen against paper. I loved alliteration and adjectives, the serial curves of commas, the urgency of gerunds. In math class I made up stories about the numbers. Scientific equations represented relationships. I considered studying medicine. There was a story to explain the large railroad track scar along the back of my brother’s skull. There was a story to explain why my parents divorced but I didn’t know what it was or which parent to believe. I watched my mother immerse herself in psychology books and religion. My father read Russian novels in his new apartment. In the summers, my grandmother brought us to the Pacific Ocean where we marveled over fragments of shells, enchanted by mysteries hidden and washed in salt water.

Looking for stories to sustain me, I read the Bible and devoted myself to following instructions other people had written, seeking connection, hoping for holiness, wanting some revelation or reasons. I fell in love with a man I met at church, and then I devoted myself to my children’s stories. From infancy, I read them books and books, staying home with them for years to turn the pages. Some of the books we read together are still here on shelves — Phantom Tollbooth, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, To Kill a Mockingbird — but the children are suddenly gone, now adults, all three moved out in the past year, living hundreds, thousands of miles from our home on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest. And now in this transition, in this new pandemic emptiness, it’s my turn to focus on making my own adventures and discovering the stories that will sustain me through this time.

___

Julie Jeanell Leung received her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Bellingham Review, Blue Lyra Review, and Grist: The Journal for Writers. Her essays have been selected as a Finalist for Best of the Net and as a winner of the ProForma contest and the Living Earth Nonfiction Prize. Julie lives with her husband on an island near Seattle where she volunteers as a citizen scientist and counts sea stars on the rocky shores.

Sundress Academy for the Arts presents: Poetry Xfit

A logo for the event. Across the top, it reads "Generative Writing Event", then "tiny.utk.edu/sundress" and "Password: safta". In the center, it reads "2-4 PM EST", then the logo of Poetry Xfit, then "February 21st". Along the bottom, it reads "Hosted by Emily Capettini", then "All donations will be split with our community partner Next Step Initiative." The logo is hexagonal, with long sides on the left and right that blend into the lettering.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Emily Capettini. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, February 21st, 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 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.

A white individual with short, partially-shaved blue hair and large glasses smiling at the camera. She is wearing a blue denim shirt and smiling.

Emily Capettini is a queer fiction writer from the Midwest who loves a good ghost story. She is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana State University and Assistant Editor with Sundress Publications. Her work has most recently appeared in places like Middle House Review and Lammergeier and her chapbook, Girl Detectives, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Find out more about her at emilycapettini.com.

A logo for the event. Across the top, it reads "Generative Writing Event". In the center, it reads "2-4 PM EST", then "February 21st", then "tiny.utk.edu/sundress" and "Password: safta", all next to the logo. Along the bottom, it reads "Hosted by Emily Capettini", then "All donations will be split with our community partner Next Step Initiative." The logo is hexagonal, with long on the top and bottom that blend into the lettering.

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

We will be splitting any donations received with our February community partner, the Next Step Initiative. Next Step Initiative is a local non-profit dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness and drug addiction through organizing food drives and distributions, collaborating with local community resources to provide harm reduction, and most recently started transitional housing for women in recovery. Find out more at: www.NextStepInitiative.com 

Interview with Anna Meister, Author of What Nothing

Ahead of the release of What Nothing, her debut poetry collection, Anna Meister spoke with editorial intern Kathleen Gullion. Their conversation centered on the “toolbox” Meister builds to resist and heal. As one item in the toolbox of survival, poetry does the work of acknowledgment and remembrance, and in this way, serves as an instrument of hope for Meister.

Kathleen Gullion: The title of your collection, What Nothing, comes from a line in “Toward Something Hard”: “I know what nothing means.” How do that line and that phrase in particular represent the collection as a whole?

Anna Meister: I think, in some ways, it means I don’t know anything. In this poem, it’s also the speaker’s (okay, the speaker is always some former self, some version of me) realization or recognition, at least after the fact, of the lack of care or substance or accountability in her relationship at the time. Throughout the collection, there’s a lot of reflecting (everything is a memory) and reckoning with feelings of absence and emptiness.

It took years of working on this book to decide on the title What Nothing. I struggle with titles and had various placeholders that just weren’t doing enough to lift and connect the poems. Just a couple of weeks before I sent the manuscript to Sundress, a friend and I went through all the poems searching for words/phrases that felt alive without context. Once I landed on What Nothing, something new clicked open.

KG: Reflecting on the refrain of “if” that appears throughout the poems, what role does the conditional play in this collection?

AM: There’s a lot of doubt and questioning in these poems, with acknowledgment to how connected and domino-like the accumulation of lived experiences can feel. Sometimes I don’t know what to trust. I know, as someone who lives with mental illness, I cannot always trust my mind. My depressed brain straight up lies to me. Too, trauma can scramble, fragment, block. So there’s a conjuring, an imagining of outcomes had life’s events been arranged differently, an attempt to poke holes in what is known. Turning it all over, uncertain.

KG: Can you speak to the themes of memory and forgetting?

AM: Memory is, more often than not, where a poem begins for me. That’s very much what moves me to write, this desire to make sense of what happened, recording what I remember, and just as importantly, what I don’t. Which isn’t the same as forgetting.

KG: Can you speak to the narrator’s persistent tenderness, the pursuit of “reason[s] to stay alive in the world”?

AM: I mean, it’s hard out here. I need to surround myself with all the reasons, to remind myself of them again and again on a daily basis. I need them all in my toolbox, these reasons, no matter how big or small. It’s necessary armor for the brutal world we’re all currently experiencing.

KG: What does being seen mean to the narrator?

AM: Isn’t that what everyone wants, to be acknowledged wholly, to not have to sever or hide parts of oneself in order to be accepted? It’s such an intense desire of mine and it also feels so vulnerable. It makes me think of the meme that’s like, “the rewards of being loved vs. the mortifying ordeal of being known.”

KG: What is the significance of the “bridge” image that appears multiple times throughout the collection?

AM: It’s several things. The bridge is a literal bridge, the site of a physical trauma several of the poems address. The summer of my 18th year, I fell and shattered my lower lumbar vertebrae. The bridge is dangerous because of what happened that night, and also because I live with major depression/intense suicidal ideation; the imagery alludes to that impulse, that type of dangerous thought to which I often return. And yet, I also love what a bridge can represent? A journeying, movement forward/elsewhere, being guided and carried.

KG: “IT HURTS NOT / TO BE BELIEVED” breaks form, inviting white space and a looser use of language—how do these formal choices reflect the meaning of the poem?

AM: The long poem lets everything in. It’s a collage of many different fragments—I wanted it to feel urgent and messy, to mimic a cascade of memories and associations spanning years. It lives smack dab in the middle of the collection, flanked by pieces that look more traditionally organized on the page or are speaking to a singular experience or individual. I like that juxtaposition. I like long poems for the space they dare to take up, for their insistence on taking their time to work through ideas, and for the chance to contradict oneself.

KG: How does putting language to traumatic experiences help or hinder the healing process?

AM: For me, it’s overwhelmingly helpful in my healing, or else I couldn’t do it. Writing is by no means a stand-in for therapy, but there have been times when the work I’m doing in therapy prompts a poem, or even when I’ve written a poem and brought it into therapy like, “This came out and I don’t know what the fuck it means, can we talk about it?” Sometimes you need distance from an experience in order to write about it (I’m thinking about poems I wrote about my rape years before I understood to call it that), and sometimes it’s through the writing that you gain necessary perspective. There are things I haven’t known or realized I knew until writing them down.

KG: How does the body play a role in these poems?

AM: I’m thinking about The Body Keeps the Score, a book about the impact of (all types of) trauma on the body and how we can heal from what we’re carrying. I wish everyone would read it. I’m working on being more present in my body, more integrated, listening better to what it needs and is telling me. So the body (my body) is in the poems because it needs to be, because it’s so connected to and affected by everything that’s happening. Too, I think there’s a way in which a poem’s specificity can also be the key to its universality. Not every reader will have had the same experiences as the speaker, but hopefully the level of detail makes it possible for them to connect to a time where they felt similarly. And so the body can, in that way, transform and be anyone’s.

KG: Even in the final poem, a gorgeously queer ode, there is an insistent reminder that “the tough stuff” will come. Can you talk about “the tough stuff” and how you see it playing out? How does that insistence inform the collection as a whole?

AM: There’s so much tough stuff right now, you know? We’re nine months into a global pandemic, in a time of such major social/economic/racial inequity. I’m staring out my window at the frozen world as my cyclical depression once again begins to ramp up. It all feels pretty bleak and it’s challenging (however, crucial) to imagine the future being different or better. The choice to end my collection with this love poem is a hopeful one. Hope is difficult, but it feels correct here, since I’ve survived and will do my best to keep doing that. Love is not a cure-all; I’m not looking for anyone to fix my brain. Addressing her beloved in this final poem, the speaker is realistic that what has been hard will continue to be so (or will rear its head again), that some struggles are lifelong. Being loved in entirety, because of rather than despite, is certainly a balm and a source of strength in moving forward.

Pre-order your copy of What Nothing today


Anna Meister is the author of two chapbooks, most recently As If (Glass Poetry Press, 2018). Meister studied poetry/memory/maps at Hampshire College and earned an MFA in poetry from New York University, where she served as Goldwater Writing Fellow. Her poems have appeared in BOAAT, Redivider, Kenyon Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives in Des Moines, IA with her wife and son.

Sundress Reads: Review of You Will Never be Normal

In her stunning debut memoir, You Will Never be Normal (Stillhouse Press, 2021), Catherine Klatzker takes a deep dive into her past to better understand her present and future selves. Struggling to come to terms with her splintered identities in the face of a traumatic childhood, Klatzker seeks out meditation and therapy as a means to process “Baby”, “Teena”, “Cat”, “Katie”, and “Cathie”—or the five identities that are housed within adult Catherine.

Klatzker’s story opens in motion: “curious onlookers in 2009 might assume the middle-aged brunette lopsided streak of gray hair chattering to no one in her PT cruiser was on speakerphone—not chatting with her multiple identities, locating them in the carefully constructed house of her mind, setting them up for the day.” From this moment, Klatzker approaches the page with a raw honesty and strength as she details the ways her “parts” were created, what each contributes to her life, and her extraordinary search for a “normal” life through working with “Dr. Lou,” her meditation instructor and therapist. Klatzker sets these scenes against the backdrop of her steady marriage, work as an ICU pediatric nurse, a life filled with children, and a desire to hide her experience—until it becomes inexplicably part of her whole identity.

Klatzker’s book follows a chronological order, reaching into the early 2000s when she began to practice meditation and mindfulness that quickly morphed into traumatic “body memories”—what she refers to as the experiences of her body’s remembrance of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father as a young child. In confronting such visceral trauma, she writes, “I noted the familiar tingling, but instead of settling into stillness, my voices interrupted, not talking to each other, just shrieking.” Klatzker’s retelling of the first time this happened invites a deep empathy, even for readers who do not share this direct experience. This inherent terror is what leads her to seek therapy, where she eventually accepts the multiple identities that once governed her life and allows them to integrate into one being. Rather than shy away from explaining the tremendous inner work she had to undergo, Klatzker details it vividly on the page, at one point writing, “After those ten weeks working with Dr. Lou in 2002, I still didn’t know the inner structure of the disassociated land I inhabited. In therapy, I didn’t mention my fear of multiple parts and their voices”, but in later chapters, she goes on to reveal full conversations with each voice in a way that feels perfectly natural. Cat, Katie, Baby, Cathy and Tina assume separate identities on the page in the following conversation, which takes place at the gravesite of Klatzker’s deceased parents:

“I remembered the redwoods, the retreat, my howl to matter, and I held Baby and Cathy tightly and told them they always mattered to me, their lives mattered, despite what happened before.

“’I always loved him,’ Katie said, speaking up for herself, also tearful. Other Parts did not and said so.

‘He was danger, we had to guard you,’ Cat said.”

Klatzker does not only focus on her trauma, but allows the reader to bask in the full experience of a life in which she is one of thirteen siblings, becomes a single mom at eighteen, and eventually finds solid footing with her career as a nurse, her adoption of Judaism, and her second husband. She actively seeks to show the full depth of her experience, choosing to embrace the difficult parts and reveling in the joyful: her children’s milestones; the steadfast support of her husband; the work that sustains her. By the end of You Will Never Be Normal, she has reached a new understanding: “…there was no tidy ending, tied up in a neat bow. I would always and forever be multiple.” This is a hard-won truth, sought out and found over years of difficult inner work, and it is a truth that grounds the memoir.

Klatzker’s memoir invites an intimate look into the life and experiences of a person who seeks to live a “normal” life under extreme circumstances, and by the story’s end, she has accepted her struggle and understands that her multiple identities are as much a part of her as her arms and legs. The lived experience she brings to the page is not only encouraging, but astounding and remarkable. Her prose vibrates with life and control as she allows the reader to enter into the mind of an extraordinary woman trying to make sense of a world which few never truly can.

You Will Never Be Normal is available at Stillhouse Press


Nikki Lyssy (@blindnikkii) is an MFA candidate studying creative nonfiction at the University of South Florida. Her essays have appeared in Hobart, Sweet, and Essay Daily. When she is not working, she can be found in a coffee shop.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


WHO IS THE BOY & WHO IS THE GIRL?


So glad you asked. I am the great
white shark & she is the brilliant
octopus & you are just as intrusive
as the man on the street
who complimented my muscular arms
then reassured me that
I still look like a woman.
Listen, I sink my sharp teeth into the meat
of her ass. Her tentacles touch me in places
I hadn’t known existed. It is a dual act
of delicious discovery, & it is
none of your fucking business.

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.