The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Life on Dodge by Rita Feinstein

Gradually, this new life closes over your absence like a scab.
The wound was smaller than it felt, the world so much bigger.
Right down the street—an abandoned gaslight plant
overgrown with grass and children. A farmers’ market
selling strawberry muffins and goat’s milk soap.
You always thought leaving me would be pulling a pin
from a grenade, thought I couldn’t withstand 
such cataclysmic detonation, but this is me climbing
from the crater. Washing the red down the drain.
On the far side of Dodge, glaciers roll back to reveal
circles of standing stones, dolmens full of bones.
To detonate is to excavate, to excavate to unlayer.
Beneath the pungent smoke is a certain sweetness,
beneath the separation, a kind of marriage.


This selection comes from the book, Life on Dodge, available from Brain Mill Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

 Rita Feinstein is the author of the poetry chapbook Life on Dodge (Brain Mill Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University. Twitter handle: @RitaFeinstein
 
Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Life on Dodge by Rita Feinstein

In the olden days, women made whole planets of their problems.
Intrigued, the men sent probes, but the probes came back red.
What horror is this? cried the men. Back, beast, back!
So the women went back to the worlds they’d created,
ashamed of themselves and determined not to feel anything again,
but as long as they were on their planets, they were in pain.
They rusted like tinmen. They filled and emptied like trash.
At night, they dreamed they were pomegranates ripping open,
a thousand teardrops full of teeth. They thought they’d never escape,
but five days later a spaceship came to take them home.
From Earth, their planets looked so small, so insignificant.
They watched them disappear into deep space, forgetting
that all things must orbit. Each month, the planets returned.
They could sense them in the rising tides.


This selection comes from the book, Life on Dodge, available from Brain Mill Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

 Rita Feinstein is the author of the poetry chapbook Life on Dodge (Brain Mill Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University. Twitter handle: @RitaFeinstein
 
Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Life on Dodge by Rita Feinstein

There are only three remedies in your pharmacy:
walk it off, sleep it off, and suck it up.
No ibuprofen or bromelain. No herbal teas.
Don’t even mention homeopathy. 
So nights when phantom cat claws
made a scratching post of my womb,
I rolled out of bed and breathed shallowly 
on the hardwood floor until the blood
found a comfortable rhythm. 
I could have woken you or cried out. 
You should have, you said. You said 
I should see a doctor. Your remedies
weren’t strong enough for me. No— 
I wasn’t strong enough for them. 



This selection comes from the book, Life on Dodge, available from Brain Mill Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

 Rita Feinstein is the author of the poetry chapbook Life on Dodge (Brain Mill Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University. Twitter handle: @RitaFeinstein
 
Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

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Sundress Reads: I Have the Answer

I Have the Answer (Made in Michigan Writers Series): Fordon, Kelly:  9780814347522: Amazon.com: Books

Kelly Fordon’s I Have the Answer is a brilliant collection of short stories that offers poignant slices of suburban life. Each story examines a different facet of difficult relationships, of love, of loss, of life. Her characters are as rich as the world they inhabit, and each is unique while managing to be incredibly universal.

Everyone knows that relationships are complicated, but it seems no one knows more so than Fordon in these stories. Whether it’s parent-child dynamics changing as they get older, like in “Why Did I Ever Think This Was a Good Idea?”; adult friend groups learning to adapt to new jobs, kids, and other time demands, as the first-person plural narrators of “How It Passed” try to do; reacting to family members’ loss of sanity, as in “Jungle Life” and “Where’s the Baby?”; or simply trying to navigate the tumultuous life we all live, these stories capture facets human emotion and relationships so wonderfully that you can’t help but laugh and cry right along with them. They’re all seeking answers to the biggest and smallest of questions, just like all of us.

Though not all the stories are connected, there are occasional overlapping characters. This gives the reader the sense that each story is happening in its own home but on the same street, or in the same neighborhood. Each story’s cast is different and their narratives are diverse, but those small moments of connection—when you get to go, “Ah, I remember that character”—tangibly place people, families, and places in the world of the collection. It gives the reader the sense that the grass isn’t always greener once you know what the people in the house next door are going through as well.

This collection is perfectly timed—all of our shared experience in the pandemic makes us crave normalcy, but also validation that we’re not the only ones feeling the way we do. I Have the Answer is a perfect fill for that feeling. The stories go through a huge range of experiences, showing that there is a way to get through the every-day difficulties as well as the monumental events. There’s so much to be found in the pages of this collection, and thoroughly I enjoyed every page.

I Have the Answer is available from Wayne State University Press.


Bayleigh Kasper is a senior creative writing major at the University of Evansville. She dreams of owning a tiny home in Colorado where she can adopt cats, make music, write, and eat very judge-worth amounts of chocolate without actually being judged.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Life on Dodge by Rita Feinstein

You have gone, and so can I.
I can go to a red planet
with no name, no coordinates.
There is no wind here, no dust,
nowhere to stake a flag. No rotation,
no view. No ocean under the crust
and no ice at the poles. There is
no gravity, no atmosphere,
and no one to name its craters.
There is not a robot to help repair
the spaceship I don’t have.
There are no giant worms in the sand.
There is no sand. There is nothing here
but not enough of it.


This selection comes from the book, Life on Dodge, available from Brain Mill Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

 Rita Feinstein is the author of the poetry chapbook Life on Dodge (Brain Mill Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University. Twitter handle: @RitaFeinstein
 
Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Life on Dodge by Rita Feinstein

When you left, there was a sound
like the scraping of a dagger
being unsheathed from my heart,
and in the left-behind hollow,
a red bat came to roost.
Good, I thought, because bats go
where moths go and moths go
where the light is, which means
there’s still something like a streetlamp
in me, however dusty and guttering.
But where its corona bleeds to black,
you can still hear it—the sleek shriek
of steel against bone, the infinite echo
of you pulling away.


This selection comes from the book, Life on Dodge, available from Brain Mill Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

 Rita Feinstein is the author of the poetry chapbook Life on Dodge (Brain Mill Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grist, Willow Springs, and Sugar House, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She received her MFA from Oregon State University. Twitter handle: @RitaFeinstein
 
Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Towns by Kathleen Kirk


Forgiveness in Lafayette

I believe I could let silkworms hug
the scarlet breath from the mulberry
choking the lilac in the northeast corner
of the yard, but isn’t that blood
vengeance? You tell me I need cold
reason, but reason isn’t cold,
and people grow heavy with what they carry,
with what they can’t undo. I dug
up the tulip bulbs on the north
this spring, where they didn’t want
to open; I’ll move them in September
to a spot beside the black-eyed Susans.
Let’s drive to Lafayette, let’s bite
the bullet, bury the hatchet, build
another bridge to nowheresville,
because that’s what people do, that’s
what people say. You think I’m lying
to you. Then the road bends.


This selection comes from the book, The Towns, available from Unicorn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

Kathleen Kirk is the author of eight poetry chapbooks, including The Towns from Unicorn Press. Her poems appear in such print and online journals as StirringRedheaded StepchildWaccamawNimrodPoetry East, and Atlanta Review. Her Patricia Dobler Award-winning poem, “Fox Collar,” is just out in Voices From the Attic. Kathleen is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Towns by Kathleen Kirk


Middletown

When we arrive, I am wavering
in my belief in myself as a woman
who knows enough to say no to a man
with real leather seats. Turning,
we pass a house with too many dogs.
I feel them at my throat clamor
for the gristle of my risen heart.
This man could ruin me, I could
ruin him. I know when we kiss
how soft my lips will seem to him,
how sharp the shadow on his chin.
I’m sure I’ve been here before: the road
curves around a tavern, eyeless
and bored, a red brick church, rubble
where once a house surprised its own
foundation, burning to the ground
after a woman shot her husband
in the chest, his palm prints on the barrel.


This selection comes from the book, The Towns, available from Unicorn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

Kathleen Kirk is the author of eight poetry chapbooks, including The Towns from Unicorn Press. Her poems appear in such print and online journals as StirringRedheaded StepchildWaccamawNimrodPoetry East, and Atlanta Review. Her Patricia Dobler Award-winning poem, “Fox Collar,” is just out in Voices From the Attic. Kathleen is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

 

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Lyric Essentials: Barbara Costas-Biggs Reads Jane Kenyon

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, we welcome Barbara Costas-Biggs who reads Jane Kenyon for us and offers a moment of solace and emotional check-ins through poetry during an exceptionally chaotic time. Thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read Jane Kenyon for Lyric Essentials?

Barbara Costas-Biggs: My mind immediately went to her.  I read her a lot—for inspiration or to find a moment of calm in this crazy world.  I feel a connectedness to Kenyon’s poems, the way she works things out with particular attention to the natural world.  When our children were very small, my husband and I moved into his grandmother’s old farmhouse in eastern Kentucky and thought we’d make a go of it as (very) small scale organic farmers.  Really, we had a large garden and a few cows and chickens, enough to keep friends and family in eggs and vegetables.  It felt very foreign to me, this new way of life we had chosen.  I think that’s when I really started to want to understand her work better.  In prepping for this interview, I read a lot of old articles about her, went back into her books and her own words.  One thing I think that people who aren’t more familiar with her think is that she wrote nice little poems about nature, and that her work might not stack up against the work of her husband (which is a crazy notion that I hadn’t really thought about myself, but the idea is out there).  Here’s one of Donald Hall’s responses when asked about their stylistic differences: “Yeah,” he’d say, “her style is a glass of water – a 100-proof glass of water.” I think that sums it up pretty well.

EH: Was there a particular reason you chose the poems “The Pear” and “Heavy Rain” from Kenyon’s expansive oeuvre?

BCB: It might be a bit of a cop-out, but I think I chose The Pear because I recently had a birthday, my 44th, and there is so much in this poem that resonates with me right now.  This wild year has had me all over the place.  I’ve spent 2020 all over the emotional charts, and I know many others have, too.  This poem, 10 lines & 53 words, is a powerhouse.  In it, I read desperation and fear, but also a warning of sorts in that last stanza.  I spend too much time worrying and thinking on the things that I have lost, and when Kenyon writes “and you may not be aware/ until things have gone too far”, it gives me pause.  It’s a reminder to me that the desolation she also speaks of in the poem can be stemmed with a bit of self-preservation and emotional check-ins.  I know that this is a deeply personal reading, and that not everyone might see it that way, and that’s ok. 

Heavy Summer Rain might be my very favorite poem, so choosing that one was easy.  I think again, she is working with the natural, looking for ways that the world (and ourselves) can “right itself”. And also again, her work with vowels is just so lovely: “Everything blooming bows down in the rain”.  It’s almost an incantation, asking to be repeated in a holy way. The images in this poem are just so clear to me, like my own backyard.  Knowing where the deer bed down, watching the poppies that my husband’s grandmother planted fall in a storm.  And that middle stanza, the one that takes a personal turn, is just too perfect. “I miss you steadily, painfully”, exactly like the falling rain.

Barbara Costas-Biggs reads “The Pear” by Jane Kenyon

EH: Your simple, almost anecdotal yet powerfully emotionally resonant poetry style seems to share some of those elements with Kenyon’s work. Do you find a particular inspiration from her poetry?

BCB: Oh, yes, and that is really much too kind. I think I have probably answered this question before getting to it officially.  There are two writers that I feel a special kinship with.  Kenyon, obviously, and also Barbara Kingsolver.  I think it’s because they write so much about place and relationship to that place.  I have spent most of my life in Appalachia, and I don’t think you can live here without feeling a strong connection to the hills and dales. I can’t imagine trying to write without bringing in mayapples, river trout, sycamore trees.  For me, like Pound said, the natural object is always the adequate symbol.  I met and studied with the poet Cathy Smith Bowers while I was working on my MFA, and she gave me wonderful advice: Always go back to Jane. And I do. When I get stuck in a poem or in my head, I pull out Kenyon and try to get back to work.

Barbara Costas-Biggs reads “Heavy Summer Rain” by Jane Kenyon

EH: Lastly, is there anything you are working on now that you’d like to share with readers?

BCB: I’m slowing putting together a second collection of poems (which seems funny since the first one is still unpublished!), and I’m also expanding a chapbook that I wrote which contains poems about my father and his death.  It’s called The Other Shore, and was recently a finalist for the Washburn Prize from Harbor Review.  My father was a music fanatic and a guitarist, and the title comes from an arrangement of Good Shepherd by Jefferson Airplane.  Music plays a large part in those poems.  I also have 4 poems forthcoming in The Appalachian Review.


Jane Kenyon is an acutely midwestern American poet, born, raised and educated in Ann Arbor Michigan. In her lifetime as a translator, poet and essayist, she published four collections of poetry and championed the art of translation, translating Anna Akhmatova’s poems from Russian to English. The wife of poet Donald Hall, Kenyon’s poetry is distinctly focused on rural and naturalist themes while addressing depression and melancholy, as is famously outlines in her acclaimed poem “Having it out with Melancholy.” She was the poet laureate of New Hampshire when she died of leukemia at just 47 years old.

Further reading:

Read this review and short biography of The Poetry of Jane Kenyon from The National Book Review.
Purchase The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon from Graywolf Press.
Watch this extensive profile of Kenyon and her husband, poet Donald Hall, from Bill Moyers.

Barbara Costas-Biggs is a poet and librarian from Appalachian Southern Ohio. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming from Appalachian Review,  Lost Balloon, Northern Appalachian Review, Mothers Always Write, Glass, Ghost City Press, 8Poems, and others. Her poem “Naked in the Macy’s Changing Room, Trying to Think About Anything Other Than the Election” won the Split This Rock Abortion Rights poetry contest in 2017, and her chapbook, The Other Shore, was a finalist for the Washburn Prize from Harbor Review.  Her MFA is from Queens University of Charlotte, and her MLIS is from Kent State.

Further reading:

Read Costas-Biggs poem “Naked in the Macy’s Changing Room, Trying to Think About Anything Other Than the Election,” winner of the 2017 Split This Rock Abortion Rights poetry contest.
Read Costas-Biggs’ blog on her personal website.
Follow Costas-Biggs on Twitter to stay updated with newly published works.

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

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Towns by Kathleen Kirk


The Towns

In Gainesville once, we took a bus across town
to visit Rebel’s brother
and played in the fenced back yard
till it was time to go home.
A flood took my shoe, we were stranded
in a parking lot till the rain stopped.
Another day, we drove away
from the hurricane.
In Kearney, the President died.
A fireman came to the door
because my brother was playing with matches.
There was a blizzard.
We drove into the baseball field.
In Bloomington, the house was made of stucco,
just like the little green store in Gainesville.
I could not remember the piano song I had learned in Kearney.
On Linden Street road, in the blur between
two townships,
a man walked on the moon.
I stood under it and watched his shadow.
Raccoons built a nest in a tree.
Wind changed the shape of everything, cedars streaming north.
In London, I wrote letters,
classmates beat upon my back,
I made a cake wrapped in marzipan.
We ate slices of coconut on the street in Paris.
In Zurich, the water was clean.
We walked through the Olympic village,
Germany still a mystery.
Florence, the golden doors.
Murano, the blown glass.
Water took us there.
Then we came home, and I never wanted to leave.
Mabel is buried in Hudson.
Polly is buried in Leroy.


This selection comes from the book, The Towns, available from Unicorn Press.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Alex DiFrancesco.

Kathleen Kirk is the author of eight poetry chapbooks, including The Towns from Unicorn Press. Her poems appear in such print and online journals as StirringRedheaded StepchildWaccamawNimrodPoetry East, and Atlanta Review. Her Patricia Dobler Award-winning poem, “Fox Collar,” is just out in Voices From the Attic. Kathleen is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 Brooklyn, The New Ohio Review, Brevity and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. Their short story collection Transmutation (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in 2021. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America and Sundress Academy for the Arts. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.
 

 

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