The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel, released by The Mainstreet Rag in 2019.

Lives Not Our Own

I watch the birds
to find out the news:
who’s fat and ready
for the holidays in his bright coat,
who likes a bath after dinner.
These autumn days the robins
are flocking and the starlings frighten
people who walk under the trees and think
they hear far-away screaming.
Chickadees arrow in, take one seed,
and leave; a wren drops her careful selection
and searches for it on the ground.
I know no one’s interested
in the play-by-play of lives not their own,
but—it must matter, what we feed ourselves with.
What we hold in our mouths
and swallow down before the storm.


Katherine Riegel is the author of Love Songs from the End of the WorldLetters to Colin Firth (Sundress Chapbook Prize Winner 2015), and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, Poets.org, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches independent online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at katherineriegel.com.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel, released by The Mainstreet Rag in 2019.

You Might Go Down to the Water

You do not believe
it, love, but you are
as necessary as flight.
No cardinal in his red suit
is more than you, no

monarch caterpillar at the leaves
of a milkweed
more possible. You, love,
are both possible and right,

like campfire smoke saturating
clothes and hair, like thunder traveling
so far through the humid air just
to be heard. Yes, in your shame

and sorrow you might go down
to the water and beg
it to take you away at last. Just

remember: even the knives
you carry in your head
are holy, even when they cut down
the mystery you almost
imagine and prod the boggy peat

under which any love you ever had for yourself
pretends to be dead. Why

does everything have to be
so sharp? Try to remember.
The blades are you, and they shine

in the light. Every moment,
every particle of every
thing in the whole damned universe
needs you.


Katherine Riegel is the author of Love Songs from the End of the WorldLetters to Colin Firth (Sundress Chapbook Prize Winner 2015), and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, Poets.org, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches independent online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at katherineriegel.com.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel, released by The Mainstreet Rag in 2019.

Understand

When a kingfisher dies, I fall
into dark water, my feathered heart
dwindling down to ash; and part of me
wants to burn down
the human world until every
last one of us is dead
so the animals
can be safe at last.
Who am I
to rage so, when I am
also the hunter
carrying, somewhere
in his body,
a furred thing, cowering?
Oh, my fellow criminals,
let it be the end
of this play. Let’s take off our human suits
and scamper off on our paws
before the songless morning comes.


Katherine Riegel is the author of Love Songs from the End of the WorldLetters to Colin Firth (Sundress Chapbook Prize Winner 2015), and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, Poets.org, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches independent online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at katherineriegel.com.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

Sundress Reads Review Series Looking for Recently Published Books

As part of Sundress Publications’ ongoing commitment to service, we recognize that COVID-19 has caused hardship by cancelling readings, launches, tours, and other needed promotional efforts. To combat this, Sundress Publications continues to accept submissions for consideration for inclusion in our new review series, Sundress Reads. We’re looking to write featured reviews for any books published or to be published in 2021. We at Sundress hope to champion writers whose work highlights human struggle and challenges misconceptions.

Authors or publishers of books published within this date range are invited to submit books, chapbooks, or anthologies in any genre for consideration by our reviewers who are standing by. Submissions will be considered on a rolling basis.

For immediate consideration, please forward an electronic copy of the book (PDFs preferred), author bio, photo of the cover, and a link to the publisher’s website to sundresspubications@gmail.com with “Sundress Reads: Title” as the subject line. In addition, we request that one print copy be mailed to Sundress Academy for the Arts, ATTN: Sundress Reads, 195 Tobby Hollow Lane, Knoxville, TN 37931. 

Submissions to Sundress Reads will remain eligible for selection for one year. Hard copies will become a permanent part of the Sundress Academy for the Arts library and will be made available to SAFTA residents and staff as well as by request to affiliate journals for further reviews.

Sundress Reads: Women’s Work

A book cover featuring fabric embroidered with flowers. There is an embroidery hoop in the center of the image. Inside the embroidery hoop, the words "Women's Work" are stitched. In the bottom right, the words "Madeleine Barnes" are cut out of newspaper clippings and pasted in.

How to even start explaining Madeleine Barnes’ poetry chapbook, Women’s Work? It’s certainly a challenge, considering the unique nature of the collection. All of the words are taken from sewing manuals and advertisements, rearranged into cut-up poetry that often seems to span multiple pages. However, the words are far from the only important part of the poetry on display here; each page features a scanned image of the author’s own embroidery, sometimes along with superimposed images from other sources. The embroidered patterns on each page, alongside the words taken from other sources, combine to give further meaning to both the patterns and the words.

The very first page of the book sets some precedents right away. Instead of seeing the full embroidered image, the author has chosen to scan the backs of the pattern, showing us the stitches most viewers of the physical embroidery would never see. This continues throughout the chapbook, with almost every embroidered image being the back of a pattern, and leaving the reader to guess at what each pattern represents. The first cut-out phrase is one of the longer ones, reading “The long winter evenings give a woman a splendid chance for sewing or embroidery; but her eyes suffer from the strain unless she has a good light.” This sets a tone immediately: this collection is not interested in the beautiful visual splendor of an embroidered pattern, but in the difficult work behind it—the titular “Women’s Work.”

This is immediately followed up by a page featuring images of women modeling plain white dresses, but one is turned away from the camera and the other is posing with her head tilted and her hands on her hips. The text reads “we’re disobedient”, and is followed on the next page by an image of fabric almost fully covered in stitches in a circular pattern with the words “and durable.” Building on the idea of the book, we see women beyond the boxes tradition forced them into, not obedient and fragile, but disobedient and durable.

A later page features a pattern that almost looks like a finished image in itself despite being the back of a pattern; the threads are sewn into thick, heavy shapes and lines, almost giving the appearance of a pair of flowers on grass and all in warm, sunset colors. The text on this page reads, “What a wealth of warm hospitality this picture reveals.” Ironically, the text that was almost certainly once describing the front pattern of an embroidery now describes the back: the meaning of the warm hospitality changes to represent the care put into the structure of the pattern.

Among the second half of the chapbook is an underlying theme of anatomy. Patterns are overlaid with images from what seem to be very old medical diagrams of the hands and arms, and in one case a (rather outdated and inaccurate) drawing of the stomach and womb. The most striking example of this is a page with a pattern of red and yellow threads with a superimposed image of the ligaments and tendons in the human hand. The threads follow the path of said ligaments, curving through the wrist from the arm, up through the thumb, and transitioning from yellow to red thread at the tip of the thumb as it leaves the hand entirely and spills out onto the other hand in the image, as if the thumb was bleeding. The words here are from three different cut-outs: the first reads “Pattern repeated on formal lines”, the second “Gathering stitches irregular”, and the third “If the thread breaks short, open a few stitches.” The message seems to be about injury and strain, the bleeding thumb and the in-text visual of formal lines becoming irregular and breaking stitches all conveying that message. The anatomy theme also fits the whole chapbook; we see the “anatomy” of the embroidery (the backs of the patterns) compared to the exterior and interior images of the female body.

Finishing the chapbook is a black fabric with white stitches, alongside an uplifting message: “Come along, I’ve” “had dangerous” “adventures”. This feels like a sign-off from the author and creator of the patterns we’ve been seeing, an acknowledgment of the experience of creating the chapbook, and I’m happy to say that this incredible project lives up to that sign-off entirely. Women’s Work is a work of visual art as much as a work of poetry, and I’m happy to highly recommend it.

Women’s Work is available at Tolsun Books.

Gray Flint-Vrettos is an aspiring author and a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in English and Creative Writing, and minors in Theater Arts and Film. He has a long history with theater, having appeared in multiple productions both on stage and behind the curtain. Currently, she’s focusing on getting involved with publishing and writing her first book.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Love Songs from the End of the World by Katherine Riegel, released by The Mainstreet Rag in 2019.

The Wolves in Yellowstone

Last night my friend leaked tears at the bar
when she told me about someone’s father

dying of cancer. It was a dive
bar, but with arches and a vaulted ceiling

like a chapel. Sometimes courage
both shakes and grounds me: how hard it is to tell

our fears, our griefs. Like the land
alternately baking and freezing, as it has always done,

though faster now because of us.
My friend loves her father like an arrow,

like a boomerang thrown just right
every time. She loves him, I think,

like I loved my mother, who was my witness
and my book. I want to tell her about endurance

and recovery, like the story of the wolves
brought back to Yellowstone—how because of them

the forests came back, and the birds, and the fish,
and even the rivers. But I know

sometimes all we hear is the howling, eerie
and lonely as rain at night.


Katherine Riegel is the author of Love Songs from the End of the WorldLetters to Colin Firth (Sundress Chapbook Prize Winner 2015), and two more books of poetry. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, Poets.org, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and managing editor of Sweet Lit, and teaches independent online classes in poetry and creative nonfiction. Find her at katherineriegel.com.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood, released by Hanging Loose Press in 2019.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a text that’s also haunted by the maternal. In her introduction Shelley calls the book her “hideous progeny,” and Victor Frankenstein speaks of creating his creature as a mother might speak of giving birth to a child. As I got older, I marveled that Shelley and John Polidori—who wrote The Vampyre, which influenced Bram Stoker’s Dracula—birthed with their pens our two most famous monsters in the summer of 1816 when Lord Byron challenged them to write a ghost story. Shelley had lost her own mother, the women’s rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft, ten days after birth.

A year before Byron’s ghost story challenge, Shelley had lost her infant daughter, and at the time of Byron’s challenge, she was caring for her five-month-old baby boy. Shelley had been both the child who lost the mother and the mother who lost the child, so in Frankenstein we see both perspectives: that of the abandoned creation and that of the abandoning creator, who only pursues the creation in the end to destroy it.

When I was a child, my mother told me something that was morbid but also incredibly comforting: she said whenever I was away from her, even after she died, I could look at the moon, and she’d be in there, looking back at me. I thought about this on night car rides as that rock-ribbed, indefatigable moon, its own kind of monster, stalked us always. I thought, too, of the Frankenstein creature pursued by his male mother to the ends of the earth.

*


Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She has published two books of poetry, Lunatic Speaks (FutureCycle, 2012) and Making Maxine’s Baby (Hanging Loose Press, 2015) and one book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman (Hanging Loose Press, 2019). Her novel, Ghosts of America, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose in August 2021. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist. She blogs for the Kenyon Review.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood, released by Hanging Loose Press in 2019.

I used to drink when I felt perplexed like this, or anything really, just tip my head back and swallow down any awareness in gulps, my Brooklyn apartment alive with frequencies of suffering only I could hear. But now I have to feel it, just tip my head back and swallow my own brain I guess. This is the first problem with being sober, “on the wagon,” but still frontierless, without a new land to pilfer. Alcohol is that pirate land that calls out to me at night, flowers that rats have eaten, dirty polaroids hung from clothespins in pretty girls’ rooms, anger things, shame blushing, the sneakiest man in a long line of sneaky men. But if I don’t stay sober, I won’t even make it as far as the prairie.

It’s okay, though, I’ll just sit here on the toilet totally overcome by various mental revolutions until my husband and son get home to remind me of the outside world. This writing is what I do most of the time, that, teach, eat, read, watch movies, love some people deeply, and waste time of course. What is it that happens between the valiant, virtuous, creative alternative and the decision to eat a million hot wings and watch a cat video?

Even though being “on the wagon” sucks, I’m drawn to the spatial implications of the American frontier and equally full of desire to transgress its borders. In her Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa defines a border as an indeterminate space invented by the lingering emotions of an unnatural frontier. I grew up, like every other writer in my country, aching to pen the next Great American Novel, but I suspect that territory seemed further away to women.

*


Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She has published two books of poetry, Lunatic Speaks (FutureCycle, 2012) and Making Maxine’s Baby (Hanging Loose Press, 2015) and one book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman (Hanging Loose Press, 2019). Her novel, Ghosts of America, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose in August 2021. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist. She blogs for the Kenyon Review.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Erika Eckart, is from Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood, released by Hanging Loose Press in 2019.

The concept Cronenberg refers to is Samuel Johnson’s; in metaphysical poetry, Johnson wrote, the most seemingly incompatible ideas are linked together “by violence.” While pregnant with Max, sequestered in the Fordham library doing reading for my theory class, I read Derrida on birthing imagery: a baby is monstrous, unformed, unnamed, without the fecundity of meaning and comfort that comes with it. And Derrida was witnessing the deconstruction of Western metaphysics, which was also a birth.

The mention of deconstruction in a discussion of birth may seem strange, but consider a philosophical tradition in which putting together and taking apart have always been interconnected. The funerary text The Tibetan Book of the Dead, for instance, leads the reader through the perceptual journey that lies between death and rebirth, or the in-between space of the bardo. In this model, life is more circle than straight line, although anyone who’s ever lived knows no shape so tidy can do justice to this labyrinth.

One night Minos’ wife made love to a white bull. After killing the Minotaur, Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth by following an unraveled thread backward. The monster was just an unwanted child. So, who am I, you might ask again? I’m like the rest of us, at all times on the brink of birth, death, transformation, the in-between.

After watching so much Six Feet Under, I feel qualified to discuss death, though. A family drama set in a funeral parlor’s ingenious. I’m angry I didn’t think of it myself. The show says: embalm as you like, but the extraneous and perfectly essential foul liquids of us will always come snaking around the edges, hurrying along like children down waterslides, unaccompanied by a guardian, throwing hands up in air, graceless and ugly like all true happiness. Eventually we must all pay the piper.

*


Caroline Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Literature, Writing and Publishing and Director of Undergraduate Writing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She has published two books of poetry, Lunatic Speaks (FutureCycle, 2012) and Making Maxine’s Baby (Hanging Loose Press, 2015) and one book-length essay, Ways of Looking at a Woman (Hanging Loose Press, 2019). Her novel, Ghosts of America, is forthcoming from Hanging Loose in August 2021. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, Salon, and the Economist. She blogs for the Kenyon Review.

Erika Eckart is the author of the tyranny of heirlooms, a chapbook of interconnected prose poems (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Double Room, Agni, Quarter After Eight, Quick Fiction, Nano Fiction, Quiditty, and elsewhere. She is a High School English Teacher in Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two children.

Lyric Essentials: Arhm Choi Wild Reads Mary Jean Chan

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we’ve chatted with poet Arhm Choi Wild about the beauty of Mary Jean Chan’s poems, what is means to survive, and how they discovered Chan’s work. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: You’ve chosen to read such rich, luscious poems—the entire collection they’re from, Flèche, is so wonderful. What resonates the most for you in these poems?

Arhm Choi Wild: I’m so struck by the rare mirror that these poems provide. Because of the history of erasure and curation of single stories such as the model myth minority, it’s only through intentional and pointed searching that I’ve been able to to find other queer Asian writers. There is such relief in finding that I am not alone in my experiences, that there is a commonality I can fall back on when faced with what feels like impossible questions. Discovering these mirrors makes the questions less daunting, knowing there are others to journey besides.

Arhm Choi Wild Reads “Conversations with Fantasy Mother” by Mary Jean Chan

AH: In “Names,” Chan writes: “You do know / how much I want you — us — to survive?” There is so much power in these last couple of lines, when combined with the forced distance between both the speaker and their relationships. I’m actually thinking about your writing right now. Would you say that as a writer yourself you dwell on similar themes of survival in particular situations?

ACW: Absolutely. In Korean culture there is such an emphasis on family. Since I was a child, I have been engrained with the sense that you do whatever is necessary for family and that they in turn will do anything for you. To think I might lose that support system, especially when my immediate family is small and all of our relatives are across an ocean, made it seem that being my full and authentic self meant choosing between survival and queerness. Only when it became clear that in order to survive, I have to come out to my family did I gather the courage to do so.

Arhm Choi Wild Reads “Names” by Mary Jean Chan

AH: We all have an origin story when it comes to reading our favorite poets. What is the origin story of you discovering Mary Jean Chan’s work?

ACW: I was introduced to Chan’s work in a workshop class I was auditing with R.A. Villanueva, an incredible poet and teacher. After attending many workshops where most of the texts we read were by white, cisgender, and straight people, it was such a joy to be introduced to R.A’s syllabus and Chan’s work.

AH: What have you been up to? Got any good news (about life, writing, anything!) you’d like to share?

ACW: I am so excited and honored to receive fellowships to the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing this summer. I’m working on a 2nd book of poems around coming out as non-binary, the death of my father, and navigating a divorce during the pandemic, and I’m grateful to have time to work on this manuscript!


Mary Jean Chan is a poet, lecturer, and critic based out of England. She is the author of the poetry collection Fleché, which won the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry and was a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, among receiving other awards.

Find Chan’s website here.

Listen to Chan’s interview about her full-length collection here.

Read her poem “Fully Human” at New Republic.

Arhm Choi Wild is the author of CUT TO BLOOM, the winner of the 2019 Write Bloody Prize. Arhm received a MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and their work appears in Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Split this Rock, and other publications. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing. They work as the Director of the Progressive Teaching Institute and Diversity Coordinator at a school in New York City. For more information, visit arhmchoiwild.com.

Purchase their full-length collection, Cut to Bloom, here.

Read a portion their work here.

Read their poem “The Story of My Name” at Two Hawks Quarterly.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Into the Void Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She currently reads for EX/POST Magazine, is the Managing Editor of Mud Season Review, was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow, and is the co-Editor in Chief of Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com