The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer, released by Noemi Press in 2019. 
A black and white image of an instruction sheet for a 4-H Clothing Project including materials you need to bring to each meeting (e.g. sewing needles, pins, etc.) and options for projects that may be chosen throughout the year. Also includes several small images, like a thimble and a heart.

[August 2013, Rio de Janiero]

Stitching on the machine opens memory: sewing my own clothes after my mother packed up my belongings without notice and left them and me to save her marriage. Halter tops, altered jeans, satch- els. The Offspring playing. I pieced together fabrics then as a way to comfort myself, to call back into my body the moments I loved most with her: making things. Those hours of focus that opened out the universe in unspeakable ways. The wonder of holding up a finished piece, evidence of that other world. It was not just the awe of being able to make anything on our own, but the envelopment in a world that felt more real, more alive than this one. I came back to this world with magic in my palms.

She attempted sutures: gifts stitched by hand, I love yous. I stopped trusting the words by the time I turned fourteen.

Now sewing brings the pain back, eases it. It reveals holes in my own loving. I held tight to a divine plan narrative to survive that raw pain, told myself it was an experience I needed, one that pushed me to leave the hills. And while today I doubt this story, I can’t help but think I might have been onto something. I loved that rural life. I loved that quiet making, even the practicality of it. I may well have settled early, too, into a life that wasn’t quite mine. Maybe the leaving was necessary. But living has a way of bending you until you doubt every rigid narrative you’ve ever held about yourself. So maybe the story I crafted was true. But maybe, too, I have just done the best I could do and this body that stitches shows its pain too plainly.


Stephanie Sauer was raised in Rough and Ready, California (a real town), where she learned to sew and make art in 4-H on her way to becoming a member of the FFA. She instead fled to Chicago to earn her MFA, co-founded an in-translation press (A Bolha Editora) in Brazil with her wife, and authored Almonds Are Members of the Peach Family (Noemi Press) and The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press). You can find her other writings and book work in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, Asymptote, Lavender Review, So to Speak, and Another Chicago Magazine. She currently serves on the faculty of Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas program (also real) and directs Lolmĕn Publications for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer, released by Noemi Press in 2019. 

content warning for domestic violence

Two black and white images. One appears to be from a textbook and says, "Embroidery has always been a deservedly popular hobby. It stimulates the imagination and at the same time provides an island of calm in the midst of a hurly-burly world." The other is a picture of embroidered words above a floral flourish, which say, "came home and beat the shit out of me."

My friends and I joked in high school that the street on which our grandparents lived should be renamed Wife Beater Lane, and not for the cotton apparel. It was the first suburb in town, and nearly every post-war home hid a violent story that had been stricken from the Greatest Generation documentaries airing on TV. We all knew the stories: cops who responded to calls by driving the men around until they sobered up, then dropping them back off at home. No consequences. No shame. Now that same street, like so many sub-urban streets in this country, is home to meth labs and hydroponic pot farms. The police are called out for a different kind of danger, a danger seen as real.


Stephanie Sauer was raised in Rough and Ready, California (a real town), where she learned to sew and make art in 4-H on her way to becoming a member of the FFA. She instead fled to Chicago to earn her MFA, co-founded an in-translation press (A Bolha Editora) in Brazil with her wife, and authored Almonds Are Members of the Peach Family (Noemi Press) and The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press). You can find her other writings and book work in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, Asymptote, Lavender Review, So to Speak, and Another Chicago Magazine. She currently serves on the faculty of Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas program (also real) and directs Lolmĕn Publications for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. 

Sundress Reads: Review of when the daffodils die

“there’s peace in acknowledging the death of things” – Exactly the opposite in describing the unrest I feel after finishing Darah Schillinger’s debut chapbook, when the daffodils die (Yellow Arrow Publishing, 2022).

Schillinger metamorphosizes an entirely new way of experiencing feelings in using connections between nature and other overlooked treasures of the world to ground our own personal sentiments. The resemblance in her humanizing comparisons between earthly processes and our own life journeys evokes such deep curiosity about our own standing in this world. 

In one of Schillinger’s earlier poems, the speaker in “Eden” gives a wittingly fantastic retelling of the biblically known Lilith and makes way for a new view on women in society. The speaker refers to Adam and Eve, asking Lilith, Adam’s first wife, if she missed the garden from which she was cast away from for disobeying Adam. In an empowering twist, the speaker claims Lilith is grateful she “ran from paradise,” that it is better to be “a demon than a woman to blame.” Lilith is “proof we were never made to obey.” This speaks volumes to the conventional stereotypes bestowed upon women.

The poem “I love meeting people lined with tattoos” falls in touch with the world around us and scales it back to tattooed skin, miniscule in comparison. It gives the tattoos a storyline of their own, “the people who come from trees / deep punctured / dark marked flesh,” bringing light to the tattoos as something we can identify with. The speaker goes on, “the people who mortalize art / it dies with them,” gauging the tattoos as entities in themselves–a parallel in the beauty we find in our own skin and in nature’s. 

While finding value in nature, Schillinger found irony in it as well. “Why Mars and Venus Collide” reads as a commentary in the form of an argument between the speaker’s inner self, one prejudiced voice fighting for the idea that women are predestined to never be in nature’s favor, and the other who shows all the ways they’re wrong. The speaker follows this pattern of stating preconceived notions, “of course we are irrational emotional nonlinear / it’s natural / it’s in the brain / women can’t think rationally,” then presenting a rebuttal in the form of exemplary women, “(Mary Jackson, Susan La Flesche, Cordelia Fine, Tu Youyou).” In the final rebuttal, the speaker ends, “(stop blaming nature for your prejudice)” –a message that nature does not define society’s idea of a woman.

In “marriage,” the speaker views marriage through the essence of the environment. They “fall in love daily / with the sky and the sea and / the pollen watering my eyes,” conceptualizing the feeling of marriage through nature. The final lines read “and I fall / again and again / with or without you,” encompassing the hardship of finding what you had in the first place in new places.

Schillinger’s untitled poem, which appears later in the book, forges the concept that love and loss go hand in hand. The speaker starts, “how foolish can we be to believe all love comes without loss”, an unfortunate truth that we cannot have one without the other. The piece takes an optimistic turn, however, “love can conquer time and distance and uncertainty / and it can / break / fall apart / die, / still mean something after,” proposing that one is needed to mend the other.

Each piece is undaunting in how they challenge societal standards, whether that is gender inequality, familial relationships, religion, love, or grief. They strive to reform everything we thought we knew about the world and foster a sense of acceptance. Using the element of nature, Schillinger makes even the most mundane aspects of life worth paying attention to. 

After reading when the daffodils die, I have an appreciation for how Schillinger’s poems work to configure different presentations of love for ourselves, for others, and for all things unseeming. Her work unearths the perceptions we often see in society today and sets a tone for empowerment, for how we see each other and ourselves. 

when the daffodils die is available at Yellow Arrow Publishing


Z Eihausen is an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she studies English and Philosophy. Her extracurriculars include dancing (poorly), hanging out with bees, playing saxophone, and attempting to make peace with her beloved cat.

Sundress Publications Now Open for Submissions for Our Annual Poetry Broadside Contest

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that we are now open for submissions for our annual poetry broadside contest. The contest will be open for submission between September 1st to November 30th, 2022.

The winner’s poem will be letterpress-printed as an 8.5” x 11” broadside complete with custom art and made available for sale on our online store. The winner will receive $200 and 20 copies of their broadside.

To submit, send up to three poems, no longer than 28 lines each (line limit includes stanza breaks but not the title), in one Word or PDF document to contest@sundresspublications.com by November 30, 2022. Be sure to include a copy of your payment receipt or purchase order number (see below for payment of fees). Please make sure that no identifying information is included in the submitted poems.

The reading fee is $10 per batch of three poems, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre-order any Sundress title. Entrants can place book orders or pay submission fees at our store. Once the purchase is made, the store will send a receipt with a purchase code. This code should be included in the submission, or you may forward the email receipt at the same time as you send the submission. This fee is waived for all BIPOC writers, and all proceeds from the submission fees go directly to residency support grants for Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers.

Previously published material is welcome so long as you maintain the rights to the work. Let us know in your cover letter if any of your submitted poems have been previously published.

Poems translated from another language will not be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but we ask that authors notify us immediately if their work has been accepted elsewhere; poems accepted for publication are still qualified provided the author retains the rights to the work at the time of printing.

This contest’s judge is Kanika Lawton, a Cambodian-Chinese Canadian writer, editor, and film scholar. Born and raised in Vancouver, they are now based in Toronto, where they are a PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, they have been published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Vagabond City Literary Journal, Longleaf Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Parentheses Journal, among others. They are the author of four micro-chapbooks, most recently Theories on Wreckage (Ghost City Press, 2020). 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Almonds are Members of the Peach Family by Stephanie Sauer, released by Noemi Press in 2019. 

Rio, the city, has many mouths. Each one houses gums hot from infection reaching into arteries. Rio, the city, does not resist person-ification. Rio, the city, will eat you. It will suck you and serenade you and swallow the crackle of your bones whole. Rio, the city, has no regard for survival, only for living at the epidural edge—at the mo-ment blood pushes pores open, releases scent. The air is composed of saline and the once living. At certain circumferences, their weight calcifies into matter. I bump into one on the way to buy groceries and it slices my arm. I hold the cut with my opposing hand and an incision forms from the inside of my skin, letting air in but no blood out. Rio, the city, becomes home not because it, too, is a postcard like California Gold Country, but because it, too, fails to digest its dead.


Stephanie Sauer was raised in Rough and Ready, California (a real town), where she learned to sew and make art in 4-H on her way to becoming a member of the FFA. She instead fled to Chicago to earn her MFA, co-founded an in-translation press (A Bolha Editora) in Brazil with her wife, and authored Almonds Are Members of the Peach Family (Noemi Press) and The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press). You can find her other writings and book work in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, Asymptote, Lavender Review, So to Speak, and Another Chicago Magazine. She currently serves on the faculty of Stetson University’s MFA of the Americas program (also real) and directs Lolmĕn Publications for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Automotive by Ceridwen Hall


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Automotive by Ceridwen Hall, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

Visibility

An empty bottle rotates in the wind ahead,

then in the mirror. I too am strange

to all my previous selves, despite history,

despite patterns entrenched. Fences slip by

outside and I mistake animals for symbols:

a crow eats road kill, two horses drink

from a small pond. The grass is faded brown,

but I try to mark where the fields end,

where the hills first lift. There’s nothing exact

about transformation. Landmarks arise,

blur into memory; I will be again, surrounded

by the people who know me now because

they knew me once. A slow river doubles

the bridge—with pillars stretched across water.


Ceridwen Hall is a poet, editor, and educator from Ohio. Although she’s lived on both coasts and in the mountains, she retains a deep appreciation for the Midwest and its roads. She completed her MFA at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her PhD at the University of Utah, where she received the Clarence Snow Fellowship and the Levis Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Automotive by Ceridwen Hall


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Automotive by Ceridwen Hall, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

surface

I vehicle and drift—the usual error—out for groceries; a yellow light demands rapid [but this reckless is mostly systemic—or carbon, and we collude] wheeling left— through traffic—to park; shop, exit


through automatic doors

step by instinct toward my previous model—remember a sudden freeze and sliding downhill, being unable to stop before impact: airbags, repairs, etc.; for years after, I drove cautiously—but dreamed of veering toward bodies of water—until rain flooded the streets and filled my engine

[insurance declared weather]

then I went pedestrian, while oceanside

so I remain in the habit of moving and thinking; worry at crosswalks, what I am capable of forgetting, worry, backing—mind chiming between rear camera lines
 and figures, wandering

Ceridwen Hall is a poet, editor, and educator from Ohio. Although she’s lived on both coasts and in the mountains, she retains a deep appreciation for the Midwest and its roads. She completed her MFA at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her PhD at the University of Utah, where she received the Clarence Snow Fellowship and the Levis Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Automotive by Ceridwen Hall


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Automotive by Ceridwen Hall, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

30 Degrees

Snow dusts the concrete at dawn,
not cumulative, just obscuring
patches of ice. I brush the windshield,
ignore the roof. Every few winters
this self starts to feel like a pretense.
Why name and face difficulty
in a body, in thought. It thrashes
or goes still when you fail to recognize
that gaze in the rearview. A warning:
she rejects every available friction,
sways rudderless. A stranger in pajamas
stops me to ask for money and prayers,
but this ‘I’ seems unable to meet any need,
unable to speak even. Blame arrives,
then guilt. It takes so long to heat the car
each time. And what’s autonomy—
a series of decisions. Hours and clouds
shift. Steam rises. Vessels constrict
in this weather; blood abandons
extremities. I want, idly, to be more
kind, more anything. Crystals of salt
encrust the road and every passing tire.

Ceridwen Hall is a poet, editor, and educator from Ohio. Although she’s lived on both coasts and in the mountains, she retains a deep appreciation for the Midwest and its roads. She completed her MFA at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her PhD at the University of Utah, where she received the Clarence Snow Fellowship and the Levis Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Automotive by Ceridwen Hall


This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Automotive by Ceridwen Hall, released by Finishing Line Press in 2020. 

at the DMV

you go sweet and pliant
for convenience sake, let
the clerk decide your eyes
are blue like the many chairs
and the number 41 you are
assigned

to be processed; you wait and stand
and answer yes and no and 1987
and recite the letters in the vision
screening; something peripheral
flashes and you lift an arm, consent
to be an organ donor; 5’7, then spell
your entire name again

until it sounds strange to you
and like the surface of water, ripples
or splashes; when you sign the registry,
you find you’ve been labeled male,
point the error out, nicely, are asked
to repeat your data, watch all of it

bob around as if in a blue pool
where letters grow light and plastic
and the weather is lovely today
you agree and write a check,
then sit at the monitor and answer
questions about fog or how to pass
slower vehicles, how to survive

various abstract and hypothetical
scenarios on roads unlike any
you’ve driven in this state
or ever—but you press buttons
in the correct sequence, proceed
to be photographed, gaze straight,
as directed, at the butterfly icon

Ceridwen Hall is a poet, editor, and educator from Ohio. Although she’s lived on both coasts and in the mountains, she retains a deep appreciation for the Midwest and its roads. She completed her MFA at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her PhD at the University of Utah, where she received the Clarence Snow Fellowship and the Levis Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals.

Sundress Reads: Review of Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy

“Outside, stretched out on the grass beneath the cooling canopy of a willow and staring up at the seafoam sky” is precisely how I felt reading Andrena Zawinski’s Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy (Writing Knights Press, 2022).

“And that’s a true story—well, almost.”

Consisting of 31 flash fictions/memoirs, each piece is ripe with detail, beautifully constructed, and fills the soul with a sweet (and sometimes sour) taste of reminiscence. Zawinski seems to want readers to understand life for how it is, but to also push through the clouds to see what it could be. With just the first sentence, Zawinski propels the reader into another scene, another time, another world, her world:

From “Wayward:” It was already 108 degrees when Valentina and I were dropped at the 5th and Juárez bus stop after an hour’s ride from Cancún to Playa del Carmen. From “Cherie:” “How’s t’day’s gumbo, chérie?” he said in a low Louisiana drawl, leaning over from his table toward hers. From “Lights Out:” The red wine must be getting to my head because I find myself alone and scribbling in the dark in Paris. From “Woodstock:” We stuck out our thumbs at the nearest highway entrance to leave Yasgur’s Farm. From “The Diamond Cutter’s Daughter:” Rachel’s father died young, but her elderly Rabbi grandfather survived him and the Holocaust, faded numbers tattooed on his wrist he made no effort to hide. From “Bella Mia:” Alegria lived small like most college students, her only indulgence a rowboat she’d rescued and restored that she would toss into Sarasota Bay.

With this collection, you never know where you’ll end up as Zawinski takes her readers on a combination of homey and extraordinary locations. One may find themselves in small-town America watching an ignorant father mentally abuse his child, or in a metropolis city bar where there’s plenty of booze but not seating, or in a delivery room with a tuxedo-dressed doctor, or along a European road where you’ll meet an unsuspecting shoe thief in the next.

And with every location comes some new lesson, implication, or hard truth. Zawinski is gifted at threading her stories with these revelations, often presenting them at the end: “This story is about finding a way.” “All of us crossing boundaries.” “You were only waiting for this moment to be free.” “Gone, but now less afraid of extinction by hook, line, and sinker than by the pink
plastic bag.” “She was last seen wearing her Sunday best, not walking on the road to church, but barefoot along the path toward the roses at the coal drifts, all their petals laced with black dust.” “Let’s keep this between the two of us, a secret.”
There are no shortages of these simple, yet powerful messages in this collection, and I guarantee readers will reevaluate their past, present, and future while on their journey with Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy as I have.

Even though each piece is undeniably its own, Zawinski nails what it means to curate a collection—diverse, yet cohesive. Each story dropped me off in a new place, yet I felt that all of the speakers could be one and the same—and turns out they were—and that their overarching goal was to impart some new truths while reminding me to heed timeless warnings. As Zawinski threw different adventures at me back-to-back, not once did I feel any sort of disconnect—and that was before I became aware that these stories were reflections of Zawinski’s life. As I’ve done with Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy, I’ll pick up a book and ignore the synopsis so that any pre-judgments or expectations will not mar my overall view of an author’s work. As a result, I found the pieces captivating, but then to discover they were inspired by the author’s life? Depth. This depth is the seasoning in any Mexican dish, the perfectly wrapped bow around a present at Christmas, the café au lait in a French coffee shop; the one thing that makes the collection perfecto, perfect, parfait. This is what I treasure most in a writer’s work and I know that special connection to the author, not just their words, will resonate with readers. This is what makes Zawinski’s collection truly valuable.

I realized from the beginning that Zawinski crafts all of her stories with a style that allows her to set the stage quickly without feeling hurried. From the plot to the characters to the overall essence, Zawinski pours life into all three without catering more to one over another. And at any given moment, you’ll most assuredly find yourself relating to the speaker, the situations they’ve been thrown into, or both. If by some strange phenomenon neither happens, then Zawinski will still have succeeded in brightening (or darkening) someone’s world. In this way, she truly brings something to the gate that everyone will be eager to line up for.

As I neared the end of Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy, I found myself saying no. No to the inevitable end of the story, of saying goodbye to the people I’ve met, loved, or hated, and goodbye to all of the places Zawinski has invited me to. But I must go with the critique that I’m sorry to see my flight end. I can only hope that Zawinski invites us all for another ride very soon.

Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy is available at Writing Knights Press

___________

Eden Stiger is a Kentucky-bred, Ohio-living college undergraduate who recently received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Findlay. She is the current poetry editor and layout editor for the literary magazine Slippery Elm. When the day job and fantasy novel aren’t fighting for her attention, she can be found snuggled on the couch with a book in her hand, playing The Sims at her computer desk, or spending time with her hubby and sweet kitty.