The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cleave by Tiana Nobile


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Cleave by Tiana Nobile, released by Hub City Press in 2021. 

/ˈmīɡrənt/

Of an animal, especially a bird. A wandering species
whom no seas nor places limit. A seed who survives despite
the depths of hard winter. The ripple of a herring

steering her band from icy seas to warmer strands.
To find the usual watering-places despite
the gauze of death that shrouds our eyes

is a breathtaking feat. Do you ever wonder why
we felt like happy birds brushing our feathers
on the tips of leaves? How we lifted our toes

from one sandbank and landed – fingertips first –
on another? Why we clutched the dumb and tiny creatures
of flower and blade and sod between our budding fists?

From an origin of buried seeds emerge
these many-banded dagger wings.
We, of the sky, the dirt, and the sea. We,

the seven-league-booters and the little-by-littlers.
We, transmigrated souls, will prevail.
We will carry ourselves into the realms of light.


Tiana Nobile is the author of CLEAVE (Hub City Press, 2021). She is a Korean American adoptee, Kundiman fellow, and recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and Southern Cultures, among others. She lives in Bulbancha, aka New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

Sundress Reads: Review of The Animal At Your Side

Megan Alpert’s The Animal at Your Side (Airlie Press, 2020) is a collection that airs on the longer side for poetry books but consists of shorter, digestible poems. It is made up of five sections: Trails, Shores, Interiors, Out Further, and Ways in the Dark. These sections stitch together a multitude of narratives, where the heart of them is a longing for foundation while navigating the ways in which one becomes uprooted from a place, history, or a specific person. They read like lore, like a book uncovered by some mysterious happenstance, or like a fairytale suppressed in your memory. The themes travelled across the board but are rooted in foundation and how one rediscovers home, or a place that can resemble some consistency to such a term. Reading this collection, personally, was both inspirational and an act of discovery as someone who naturally admires poetry about yearning for a place or person, both in an erotic and mournful approach. Alpert has done both, effortlessly, and in a way that feels original.

At its core, The Animal at Your Side is a book about loss, longing, queerness, nature, and location. This collection displays ecopoetics in a way that is accessible to any reader, even one who may not have a background in poetics or environmental interest. Ecopoetics, in its simplest definition, is poetry with an ecological message; the message here being places that will eventually be impacted by climate change, more so than they already are. The Animal at Your Side exists in a surreal and confessional world, blurring the lines of grief and desire for an abundance of things.

The first section, Trails, introduces the reader to the lore of the speaker, their family, their roots… the trails one stumbles upon, and the tracks they leave behind, footprints settled in the dust. The world that is created is one of wild dogs, teeth, wars existing under tongues, bones, and the dirt these things return to. It explores and praises the undesirables. “The dark was soft. It ate / against my skin.” This line from the poem “The Wolf That Never Comes” shows one example of how this collection juxtaposes the dangerous and the inviting—something scary, like darkness or a wolf, can exist simultaneously as soft yet ravenous. Another example of this can be found in “Dawn,” where the first stanza reads: “My sister comes home / smelling of dirt she was buried in, / dandelion milk under her nails.” This poem, along with the others where the speaker grieves for the sister, are haunting and delicate within the flora and fauna planted throughout the book. We are introduced to war hidden in first love and cereal bowls, an aunt who lies and has an intuition for teeth, and a mother who doubles as a storyteller: “Said, Go down / into the earth, / the only / place I will not follow.”

This section leads to the second part, Shores, where we are introduced to a speaker exploring the waters off Massachusetts, the glassy rain in Seattle, and a yard below a purple sky, where they share a moment with their sister, prior to death. A later section eventually leads the reader to a village near the oil road, an apartment with stolen CDs, and a mountainside where a lion waits. Shores explores households, shared spaces, what it means to find home—even when that home is temporary. Despite exploring a new environment, the concerns remain the same, as does the writing—the entrapment of swaying between grief and want, because what else is there to write about? The truth of this book shares a story through new environments, persona poems, narrative tales, and curiosity of a strange eagerness that comes from intimate moments, as well as the melancholic.

One of my favorite poems, “Village at the End of the Oil Road” takes the form of one long stanza, almost looking like the image the poem is about. This narrative piece sets the scene at an oil camp, where the speaker chats on a porch littered with dead katydids while a mother holds her son in a hammock. “When I left, I could never find the text / that said in recent years the word for outsider / had changed from cannibal / to the one we have to feed so they do not starve.” The collection continues to lead toward that sentiment, the idea of being fed as not to starve. The sadness is snapped open and what remains is the fullness from the unburdening of it, or the “Desahogarse,” which “is to unburden yourself, not to undrown / or even to unhome.” The Animal at Your Side shows a world of curiosities through a voice that you can’t help but empathize for, and internally feel a kindred spirit to. Ecopoetics serving as a throughline throughout a collection whose place-based writing encourages the reader to think deeply about the places being written about in these poems. Themes of loss and longing that exist at the core of this collection feel all too real in a world being damaged by climate change, as if these poems are speaking to both ends: loss on the personal level and the concerning loss of the homes the speaker has found. The Animal at Your Side introduces these concerns through a lens that works to get every reader onboard with the fear of loss and the desire to gain.

The Animal at Your Side is available at Airlie Press


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

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents November Reading Series

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the guests for the November installment of our virtual reading series. This event will take place on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, on Zoom (http://tiny.utk.edu/sundress, password: safta) from 7-8 PM EST.

Joy Jones is a trainer, performance poet, playwright and author of several books, including Private Lessons: A Book of Meditations for Teachers; Tambourine Moon; and Fearless Public Speaking. She has won awards for her writing from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Colonial Players Promising Playwrights Competition. Her most recent book is Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman & Co, 2020).

Anna Leahy is the author of the poetry collections What Happened Was:, Aperture, and Constituents of Matter and the nonfiction book Tumor. Her work has appeared at Aeon, Atlanta Review, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Poetry, Scientific American, The Southern Review, and elsewhere, and her essays have won top awards from Mississippi Review, Los Angeles Review, Ninth Letter, and Dogwood. She directs the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman University and edits the international Tab Journal. More at https://amleahy.com.

Kimberly Ann Priest is the author of Slaughter the One Bird (Sundress 2021) and chapbooks The Optimist Shelters in Place (forthcoming Harbor Editions 2022), Still Life (PANK, 2020), Parrot Flower (Glass, 2020) and White Goat Black Sheep (FLP, 2018). Winner of the 2019 Heartland Poetry Prize from New American Press, her work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Salamander, Slipstream, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Lunch Ticket, Borderland, etc. She is an Assistant Professor of First Year Writing at Michigan State University and serves as an associate poetry editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. Find her work at kimberlyannpriest.com.


The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is a writers residency and arts collective that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers in all genres including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, academic writing, playwriting, and more. The land on which Sundress Publications operates is part of the traditional territory of the Tsalagi peoples (now Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians) and Tsoyaha peoples (Yuchi, Muscogee Creek).

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cleave by Tiana Nobile


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Cleave by Tiana Nobile, released by Hub City Press in 2021. 

Moon Yeong Shin

Written on the white slip at the bottom
of a polaroid, cut off by the frame:
a name. Many years passed before I learned
surnames come first in Korea. I rode
my bicycle in circles around this reversal.
For years, my skin leaped from shadow to shadow.
I drank the darkness, or the darkness drank me,
but what’s the difference when your veins are full
of haunting? One day I will walk
the narrow streets of many cities full of ice
freshly frozen. I will hike through forests
of wind storms newly risen. I will learn
and forget the names of many trees,
of tea leaves plucked too early in the season.
I will orbit the earth like a moon
searching for its shadow. Where does a moon
find its planet? Or is it the other way
around? To be a recently hatched egg-moon,
curved shell pinned to the sky. I’ve spent my whole
life in orbit of other people’s light, celestial satellite
in ceaseless wane. How much can you learn
from a stranger’s surname? A young animal
crawls its way out of the womb, stretches its legs,
and feels cold for the very first time.


Tiana Nobile is the author of CLEAVE (Hub City Press, 2021). She is a Korean American adoptee, Kundiman fellow, and recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and Southern Cultures, among others. She lives in Bulbancha, aka New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Scattered Arils by Dena Rod


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Scattered Arils by Dena Rod, released by Milk & Cake Press in 2021. 

gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA

worry is another love, to worry is to love
sweet talismans of take care / be well
not enough to guard against
metal sharpened teeth biting down
on inner cheeks, salted salivary
shame flowing down through lips.

my mother’s love is worried
cuticles, scorched forearms
forcing a plastic lid cracked open,
to peel back foil of never sour enough mast,
tanged with thick prepped herbs
that radiate love, a worried radiation full

of sweet morsels to feed syrup down
your throat, raw short nails scoring
the plane of mars, kindling flames
humming glassy-eyed, worry sheared razor-thin,
roasted fat dripping hot, burning flesh,
wiping out well-being.

my mother’s love a sun small enough
to burn me, encompassing warmth,
coppered hot and floral, mint alighting
my tongue, irradiated comfort
fleeting against bordered
creases in our eyes.

mirror the way my love is worried.
care tossed and wrapped
around my figure, refreshed
to pink and blue plump little cakes
climbing to dream ourselves
wicked, benzos bitter on our tongues.

unease dissolving sharp and metallic,
worry burned brightly away under
a chemical blank, a challenge forgotten.


Dena Rod is a queer Iranian American poet and essayist who focuses on illuminating their diasporic experiences. Described by The Bold Italic as a “verbose advocate,” they’ve been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as The Rumpus, My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, and Butter Press. In 2020, they debuted the chapbook swallow a beginning and toured with RADAR Production’s Sister Spit. Scattered Arils is their first poetry collection.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Scattered Arils by Dena Rod


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Scattered Arils by Dena Rod, released by Milk & Cake Press in 2021. 

bodywork

we spoke with tactile sensations
before my tongue knew words,
the roughness of your tender embrace
belying the expanse of smooth
skin wrapped around my infant frame.

i should have read
the omens to my own fate
when you first
asked me to walk over
your shoulder blades.

we’ve been here before.
virile with black inked
into your mustache,
my juvenile steps over
the ends of your bones.

i know where the curve
of my spine began
to bend under touch, sweet
touch placed at
the nape of my neck.

your neck curves there too
where tired tendons
snap taut into place as
flushing skin whispers what is
larynxically locked
through capillary warmth.

limbs sprawled over grounded earth,
your weathering hand clutches
the arch of my calloused foot
textured palm to plantar bottom,
the way your feet bend outward mimic
mine, as they cup each other.

a penance ritual for a debt
i can never repay, my account
of life on borrowed credit.
still: with gentle footsteps
over your back, i can begin.


Dena Rod is a queer Iranian American poet and essayist who focuses on illuminating their diasporic experiences. Described by The Bold Italic as a “verbose advocate,” they’ve been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as The Rumpus, My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, and Butter Press. In 2020, they debuted the chapbook swallow a beginning and toured with RADAR Production’s Sister Spit. Scattered Arils is their first poetry collection.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

Kimberly Ann Priest Reads Rebecca Lindenberg

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week poet and educator Kimberly Ann Priest joined us to discuss the work of Rebecca Lindenberg, becoming a poet, poetry as a form of excavating memories. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: During our email correspondence, you mentioned that Lindenberg’s Love, an Index was one of the first poetry collections you read when you decided to write poetry. How did this experience shape how you’ve approached your own writing?

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Kimberly Ann Priest: Excellent question. I’m going to give you some background on my entrance into the poetry scene….


It was 2013. I was almost 36 and making a brave move to divorce a violent spouse while also pursuing my MA. I made $11,000 a year as a grad assistant instructor, plus child support, and found myself in the throes of exhaustion and grief and a new style of harassment from my soon to be ex. We had been married for 15 years and I had become accustomed to a semblance of romance, but mostly a list of reasons why I wasn’t a suitable romantic partner. About a year after divorce, my ex would come out as gay and continues, to this day, to assert that the violence of ‘the past’ was not his fault nor the complications it has caused me his responsibility. Getting out of this relationship, with two children in tow, was daunting and complicated as he and his family maintained control over all of my material possessions and the community around me, and continued to try to hold sway over my children’s perspective of the marriage. (Thankfully, on the latter, they were not successful).

All of that said to provide context to my state of being when I entered my grad program at Central Michigan University. I was worn to a thread and working diligently to rebuild myself and a career after having not been allowed to do so for those 15 years. I started my MA with a focus on Brit Lit, but after one semester realized that what I needed to do was write, not analyze others’ writing so much. I think it was October when I sat down with Robert Fanning, one of the poetry professors in the English Department, to inquire about the Creative Writing track in poetry. I remember how “chill” he was during our meeting and thinking that this is what I needed: chill. I needed something in my life to be less demanding and more therapeutic. Thus, I began my journey as a poet.

I don’t recall if we read Lindenberg in class, or if her work was recommended to me elsewhere. I took a lot of courses on craft and female poets so she may have been one of them. All I remember is getting her book and reveling in its steady beats and weaving of grief and romance. It felt like love. It felt like rain. In fact, Megan Devine says “Grief is love in its wildest forms.” It felt like that.

I was writing a lot of love poems then—an irony given my circumstances. But I think the earliest stages of my grief were marked by the loss of romance in my 20s and 30s. I was grieving the love I had felt for someone who didn’t love me back. I was grieving the death of the person I thought he was. The backstory of Lindenberg’s Love an Index is heartbreaking. The man she writes about and grieves in this book was her partner of several years who went permanently missing on an expedition to explore a volcano, something he loved to do. When I married, my partner was my best friend. Somewhere along the way, within only a year or so, I lost him. He went missing. No romance ensued and I found myself mostly alone in my homes with children, emotionally and economically striped to the bone. Somehow, Lindenberg’s work spoke to this early grief—the loss of romance I felt—because her connection to her partner was so raw and real and desirous. She does not hold back her feeling—even writing poems that reveal anger
and argument, regret and desperation.

And this is how her work shaped my early writing, and still shapes it today. My work is deeply relational and, I think, multi-dimensional. No relationship is all joy or all hate, all pain or all roses. Even my relationship with my ex cannot be flattened this way. In “The Language of Flowers,” Lindenberg turns love round and round and shows us both the beauty and pain of it, the sentimental and practical. I appreciate this about her writing. The emotional life is grounded in the reality that there’s a little hate in love, a bit of anger in desire, a lot of bravery in lament, and tensile quality strength in the tenderness and weakness born of agony. Lindenberg has helped me embrace grief in my work as an expression of everything I once loved and hope to love again.

Kimberly Ann Priest Reads “The Language of Flowers” & “The Language of Flowers Revised” by Rebecca Lindenberg

AH:Why did you choose these poems specifically?

KAP: Both “The Language of Flowers” and it’s opposite “The Language of Flowers Revised,” as well as “Carnival,” take objects—flowers and carnival masks—and reveal their duplicity. Again, as I mentioned in the first question, love fueling both celebration and grief. [It might even be said that grief is another form of celebration.] In these poems, flowers are constructed of various materials, even glass and paper, to translate different facets of desire, wanting, care, heartbreak. All of it is love. And all of it is potentially deceitful. In “Carnival” the mask (not to be confused with pandemic masks) is understood as a facial covering both concealing and revealing beauty and pain [as if these are mutually exclusive] and it’s hard to know which it is covering and what it is doing just as it is hard to know our own hearts.

These poems suggest that no emotion is exclusive—or even assured. “[A] moon face” reads “Carnival,” “with a healed gash that means harvest.” What a line. The wound, the gash, is signaling a season of harvest, of plenty. Or how about in “The Language of Flowers where “Plum” means “lost in beauty” and comes right before “Poppy Red” which means “threatening pleasure.” Such a juxtaposition of getting lost in something desirable to the senses as a possible threat of pure bliss. Something is always at stake in Lindenberg’s expressions of romance.


Maybe the most difficult thing about loving someone who does you almost nothing but harm, is that you are unsure of your own love. The emotional self is constantly confused. How do you love someone that screams at you and pins you to walls or shatters glass at your feet only to watch you pick it up slowly so your children won’t walk on it? I only know I tried. Flowers never meant what they were supposed to. And unmasking my abuser was always turned on me in a vicious game. I listen to these poems and wonder what it’s like to write and read them as someone deeply in love with someone who also loved them back. I am so interested in the way they are familiar to me in their metaphors, yet different in their expressions. Or are they? I don’t know. I hope to find out someday.

Kimberly Ann Priest Reads “Carnival” by Rebecca Lindenberg

AH: When asked why she writes poetry in an interview on McSweeneys, Lindenberg said the following: “I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say.” Now I am asking you: why write poetry?

KAP: I appreciate Lindenberg’s answer. I’m not convinced poetry is about language at all. I think it is most certainly about what cannot be said, the silences. It is certainly that for me. I can’t tell you what it’s like to love someone who harms you, or long for romance for 15 years while caring for children, or grieve an abuser, or hate everything the abuser does, or want flowers to mean something wholly different from what they’ve always meant—but I can show you. I can write the wordless pain and desire. For me, poems are most certainly about what I cannot explain.

When I started writing during my grad program, I had no words for what had or was happening to me. In fact, I was in such a dissociated state that I barely even remember what happened those 15 years; I only knew it was bad. Writing, after my grad program, became about excavating those memories. All I could do was portray snapshots of moments and feeling. Many things were “echoing around in my bone-dome” that I could only access through the poem. So, yes, to Lindenberg’s answer.

These days, I don’t have memories to excavate. I have found all that I need. But the echo-ings will come again with new experiences. I feel this deeply. There will always be echoes that have no language; and for those, I will need the poem.

AH:Have any updates (about life, writing, anything!) that’d you like to share?

KAP: Sure!
I just moved to Pittsburgh for a year as the James Tolen Writer in Residence at Writer’s House. Thus far, I am inspired by the squirrels all around. There are so many squirrels. I haven’t begun writing yet, but there may be some squirrel poems soon.


My next chapbook comes out with Harbor Review Press in March. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Allison Blevins, the press editor (who happens to have a new book out—Slowly, Suddenly). My book is called The Optimist Shelters in Place and was written at the onset of the pandemic. It’s my first non-trauma book so I’m excited for something emotionally different on the horizon. It tackles loneliness in America, among other things.


Other than this, I’m just calibrating to a new environment. I finished three full-length books of poetry this year and they are all going out into the world seeking homes. I moved through a lot of past territory in those poems and now I’m exploring the present moment, which is a strange, nice shift. While at Writer’s House, I’ll be doing some memoir pieces and other prose. And maybe just relaxing a bit… watching squirrels.


Rebecca Lindenberg is an American poet and educator. She is the author of Love, an Index (McSweeney’s 2012) and The Logan Notebooks. Her poems, criticism, and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry 2019, Tulepo Quarterly, and Diagram, among others. She currently is teaching at the University of Cincinnati, where she also edits the Cincinnati Review.

Find her website here.

Read an interview about Love, an Index here.

Read “He Asks Me to Send Him Some Words (Home)”in Tulepo Quarterly.

Kimberly Ann Priest is the author of Slaughter the One Bird (Sundress 2021) and chapbooks The Optimist Shelters in Place (Harbor Editions 2022), Still Life (PANK, 2020), Parrot Flower (Glass, 2020) and White Goat Black Sheep (FLP, 2018). Winner of the2019 Heartland Poetry Prize from New American Press, her work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Salamander, Slipstream, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Lunch Ticket, Borderland, etc. She is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University and serves as an associate poetry editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry.

Find her work at kimberlyannpriest.com.

Find her new collection Slaughter the One Bird here.

Read Kimberly’s poems “This Much” and “About Blue.”

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear in Barren Magazine, Hobart, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Scattered Arils by Dena Rod


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Scattered Arils by Dena Rod, released by Milk & Cake Press in 2021. 

the lion’s husband

he tells me not to
sleep in lions’ dens.
their laziness belying
dangerous claws and teeth,
a proud animal where a fallen
kingdom would not be taken
lightly.

his long thin, brown fingers
were wider at the knuckle,
dusted more sumac than sand
reddish brown fingers ending
in broad nail beds
with clean half moons.

the persian word for lion
is the same word for milk
and faucet, the context clues
you to the sign of the lion, forever
linked with monarchy,
shah apologists, supporters.
my juvenile mind trying to
speak understanding to my tongue.

left hand remains on
the steering wheel while
right fumbles for trusty
lighter in a shirt pocket,
a crumpled silver foil package
emblazoned with a gold chevron
now sits in the cup holder.

mirrored full pink lips
part as the white
filter perches in between words
of warning trailing out
with acrid smoke.

begging to ask
who were the lions
in our family pride?
who were they?
did they know me?

he looks towards me,
smiles and says,
“don’t worry.
they should be
dead now.”

i turn to look outside
the car window,
gazing at hills rolling by
grassy and dry. at one point
they were lush green mounds.


Dena Rod is a queer Iranian American poet and essayist who focuses on illuminating their diasporic experiences. Described by The Bold Italic as a “verbose advocate,” they’ve been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as The Rumpus, My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, and Butter Press. In 2020, they debuted the chapbook swallow a beginning and toured with RADAR Production’s Sister Spit. Scattered Arils is their first poetry collection.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Scattered Arils by Dena Rod


This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from Scattered Arils by Dena Rod, released by Milk & Cake Press in 2021. 

steeped

the british are known
for their tea, spoils of their empire
across the asian continent,
an afternoon tea service,
watercress crusts cut off,
chinese porcelain cups,
ivory and petal pink

but not for chai with clear
glass vessels in gilded
wrought-handled covers,
imbued with amniotic fuel,
a gourey perched
top of engraved samovar
served eldest to youngest

a sugar cube held between teeth,
a saucer to pour and cool,
sipped to dissolve the crystals
down your throat.

chai said like
“cha” and “yee”
not “chay” like shy
flowing over tastebuds
bookended molasses cinnamon
copper amber coveted

not a store bought concentrate
mixed with nut milks
rather hand mixed tea
from cluttered spice cabinets
filled to the brim
with fennel seeds
saffron pistils, sumac
ground in jars
stored in secret
carried in suitcases,
mint and dried limes
on plane rides west
from iran,
a reverse spice road.

chai like
jasmine blooming
on a warm dark night
fallen orange blossoms
curled and dried
picked from damp tanbark
dust on fingers,
a laid out palette
cured and blended.


Dena Rod is a queer Iranian American poet and essayist who focuses on illuminating their diasporic experiences. Described by The Bold Italic as a “verbose advocate,” they’ve been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as The Rumpus, My Shadow is My Skin: Voices from the Iranian Diaspora, and Butter Press. In 2020, they debuted the chapbook swallow a beginning and toured with RADAR Production’s Sister Spit. Scattered Arils is their first poetry collection.

Sarah Clark is a disabled non-binary Native (Nanticoke) editor, writer, and cultural consultant. They are Editor-in-Chief of beestung, Editor-in-Chief at ANMLY, Co-Editor at Bettering American Poetry, a Co-Editor of The Queer Movement Anthology, and a member of Sundress Press’s Board of Directors.

Vintage Sundress: An Interview with Karen Craigo

Since publishing Passing Through Humansville (Sundress Publications, 2018), poet Karen Craigo has been reflecting on writing, grief, and everyday beauty, and served a two-year term as Missouri’s Poet Laureate. Editorial Intern Saoirse sat down with Karen to chat about her writing process and projects in the past three years.

Saoirse: Thinking back on the publication process from Passing Through Humansville, what was the experience like?

Karen Craigo: Passing Through Humansville was my second Sundress book, and what I found was that the process was every bit as careful and meticulous as it was the first time around. Erin Elizabeth Smith is one of the best editors in the business, and she gave my poems (already thoroughly worked out) a thorough workout! What I mean is that I submitted a collection of finished work that I was happy with, but Erin showed me how to absolutely maximize the potential of each poem. She was also good about trusting me when I was committed to something—a line, an image, a poem—that I felt strongly about. It’s funny; when I look back on my first book, there were three favorite poems of mine that I wanted to keep in there over her suggestion to the contrary, and with the benefit of time, I totally see where she was coming from and would not include those poems today. Isn’t that a heck of a note? But honestly, I trust Erin completely, and I would recommend her to anyone.

S: What would you say surprised you the most about putting Passing Through Humansville and No More Milk out in the world?

KC: I always heard poets talk about how tired they were of their poems almost the moment a book comes out, and I thought that would never happen to me. Just having a book would be such a recharge, I figured! But it did happen, and instantly. Having a beautiful book in hand made me want to make another. Old poems are nice if you’re dead. New poems are what fires me up

S: What has changed for you since Passing Through Humansville was published?

KC: I was tapped for a two-year term as Missouri’s fifth Poet Laureate in 2019, which shocked the hell out of me. Don’t tell the governor, but I’m such an Ohioan at heart! Of course, COVID-19 happened at the same time as my term of office, so nothing worked out as it was supposed to; my projects couldn’t happen, and I didn’t get to enjoy the usual school visits and other public events, since everything was online. I have to say, though, it was an amazing shot in the arm, at least for my self-image. The poetry gets a lot harder to write when there’s a laurel crown on your head, I can tell you.

S: Has the publishing of your books altered your perspective on the literary community? If yes, in what way?

KC: A book makes you feel legitimate—like you have a valid voice in the conversation. I remember that individual poem publications served the same function way back when, but a book kind of takes that feeling to the next level. It’s all nonsense, though. Everyone who loves poetry has something valuable to say on the subject, and there’s no club or society where a book is the price of entry—not one that has anything to do with actually making art, anyway. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, and those feelings, either of inadequacy, adequacy, or super-adequacy, are nonsense.

S: Have you published other full-length works or chapbooks since being published at Sundress?

KC: No, but I have a collection that I’m ready to circulate, and I feel really strongly about it. Fingers crossed!

I recently lost my ex-husband, who was also my best friend, to suicide, and I’ve put together a fat set of poems on grief. It’s a weird grief when it’s an ex; I felt it (and still feel it) so acutely, but I didn’t feel like I had a right to it. I lost my mother shortly afterwards, and that’s certainly a grief I can own, but it made the other stand in such sharp relief that I found myself making a study of sorrow and loss. The result is Ex and What Comes After—and of course what comes after (e)X is Y, or why. The poems ask why over and over.

S: How do they build on the themes you explored in Passing Through Humansville and No More Milk?

KC: Both of those books are really about motherhood—new motherhood and mature motherhood. In this new bunch of poems, I’m focusing very closely on myself and my desires and sources of hurt and glee. It’s liberating.

S: Who are your inspirations right now? Which books are you reading? Which writers stand out to you the most?

KC: I feel most inspired by my contemplative life right now. Every day, I give over as much time as I can to meditation, rumination, and chant. I’m also working these days as a business reporter, and I’m finding so much inspiration there as well. It never really occurred to me before, but a business is a powerful manifestation of what began as a vision. There is a lot about that I’d like to emulate. As far as reading goes, I love literary journals, with a bit of this and a bit of that. It energizes me to read many voices.

S: What are you currently working on?

KC: I’m writing poems about dailiness—what’s ordinary. I should note that by “ordinary,” I’m thinking of the root of the word, “order,” as in “first this happens, then that happens.” I’m writing about my life and trying to come to grips with how holy it is, in other words. Your life is too, by the way.

S: What is one thing you want to try in your current work that you haven’t tried before?

KC: I’d love to play more with form. So many of my poems are skinny, sonnet-length clumps without much use of horizontal space or caesurae or stanzas. I have a feeling that aiming for different shapes of poems will result in different ways of thinking. When I tinker that way, it tends to feel a little contrived for me, but I’d like to get to where I can organically create broad, airy poems.

S: What are you most excited about for the future?

KC: I don’t think a lot about the future. I focus quite a bit on trying to make each day count. Maybe it’s because my older son is 15, and I know I won’t have him home much longer, but I just want to live in the now with the people I love.

S: And finally, what advice/insight would you give to emerging writers?

KC: Sounds either silly or flippant, but I wish writers would write more. We spend a lot of time talking about and participating in community, usually in the virtual sense, and we focus a lot on publishing (necessary—our work deserves an audience). But I feel most fulfilled when I’m centered on poetry and take a break from the community. Our community isn’t always very … communal? We very seldom talk about art and our lives as artists, even though that’s the real stuff. What’s more, I know very few people who live their lives as artists. I know we all need jobs and things, and I’m as busy as anyone I know, but I have to say, when I put poetry at the center and fit everything else in (rather than the opposite, capturing lines on scraps of paper during fleeting breaks from work and family), that’s when things work best. My whole life falls into line in service to the word.

Passing Through Humansville is available at the Sundress store.


Karen Craigo is a reporter for The Springfield Business Journal in Springfield, Missouri, where she lives with her husband, the fiction writer Michael Czyzniejewski, and their two sons. She is the author of two full-length collections from Sundress PublicationsPassing Through Humansville (2018) and No More Milk (2016), plus three chapbooks. She recently ended her term as Missouri’s fifth Poet Laureate.

a brown femme person sits at a table. They have a drink in their hand and a tattoo on their wrist. They are wearing spectacles. They have shoulder length black hair.

Saoirse‘s name and passion are the same: freedom. As an exophonic writer, their academic interests revolve around linguistic power dynamics, especially in connection to the land. They are always trying to write, and find, poetry that breaks the English language into articulating its own colonial violence. They are a freelance editor and serve as the Guest Editor for Emerging Voices in Poetry at Oyster River Pages. They are a 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellow and a finalist for the Sophie Kerr Prize. They find excitement in travel, comfort in a good cup of coffee and love in their newly adopted puppy, Malaika. Find them at saoirseedits.com or on Twitter @saoirseedits.