Lyric Essentials: Susan Lilley Reads Eavan Boland

Thank you for joining us again for the latest installment of Lyric Essentials! This week, Orlando Poet Laureate Susan Lilley joins us to gush all about legendary Irish poet Eavan Boland, who passed this spring. Thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: What is your personal connection with Eavan Boland?

Susan Lilley: Eavan Boland has become one of the most important poets to me personally over the last two decades. I first discovered her as a teacher while learning about the AP Literature exam, and her knock-out poem “It’s a Woman’s World” was an essay prompt in the late 90s. I teach that poem to this day, and it is a feast for students to delve into feminist ideas and the magic of the poetic line. A spare, gorgeous, timeless piece.

EH: Has Boland’s work influenced your own poetry or poet’s identity?

SL: I developed slowly as a poet while raising kids and making a living. It always seemed that the same creative energy spent in mothering was also the source of my poetry. Not that I only write poems of domestic life, but the energy stems from the same source–deep deep deep. Boland is that poet, for me, who gave permission to bring all of that experience (and, let’s face it, love and anxiety of child-rearing) into my work. I chose to read “Energies” (from her book Night Feed) here because, like “It’s a Woman’s World,” the imagery of daily rhythms and domestic detail taps at something ineffable and transitory under the surface.

Susan Lilley reads “Energies” by Eavan Boland

EH: What is your relationship with Boland’s poetry?

SL: I have to say that Against Love Poetry is the book that I reread the most. A poem that seems to have come from her sifting through the lives of the past is a desperately sad love story set during a famine, “Quarantine.”  The opening lines are unnerving and bold:  “In the worst hour of the worst season/ of the worst year of a whole people/ a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.”  The terrible challenge of trying to escape famine-related death only to succumb “under freezing stars” and be found dead in the morning is wrenching to read, but most moving in the narrative are the two lines in the third stanza, which describe and interpret the couple’s last moments before dying of cold and hunger:

            “But her feet were held against his breastbone.

             The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.”

After the three four-line stanzas tell this stark tale, the last two bring the story into direct connection with the book’s theme and title:

            Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.

                        There is no place here for the inexact

            praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.

            There is only time for this merciless inventory:

The last stanza lists the categorical facts of the couple’s suffering and death in 1847, and ends with a more sober and powerful definition of love than ever attempted by those courtier-songwriters, Wyatt and Raleigh:  “what there is between a man and a woman./ And in which darkness it can best be proved.” I so admire this poem’s leap from narrative to dissection of what love means at “this threshold”—far from the ditties of romantic dalliances at court Boland so obediently studied in her youth. No wonder she’s “against love poetry”!

Susan Lilley reads “Thanked be Fortune” by Eavan Boland

EH: Boland’s identity as an Irish feminist poet has gained a reputation for giving voice to previously unspoken women’s experiences through poetry—and she gives credit to Sylvia Plath for doing the same for her. Do you feel Boland has given voice with poetry for you and your experiences?

SL: In Boland we have an authentic female voice, a voice both steeped in literary tradition and yet strong enough to buck its patriarchal dominance, a voice that speaks to me both personally and politically as a woman. When Boland says “we [women] were never at the scene of the crime” she is invoking not only Irish history but every woman’s history, and the blessing and curse of the domestic world to which (she says in the introduction to an essential essay collection, Object Lessons) her body led her at the same time she was trying to become a poet. A difficult path, especially “in a country where the word woman and the word poet were almost magnetically opposed.” This divided experience is shared by women in other countries and other generations, and is undoubtedly still a nagging truth in the lives of many women artists today.

Boland’s literary training simultaneously intimidated her and prepared her for the life of a poet. Her historical sensibility is very present in these poems, but now she seems to have control over what used to subdue and even sometimes alienate her. In the second poem I chose to read, “Thanked be Fortune,” Sir Thomas Wyatt is invoked in the title, a line from his 1535 poem “They Flee from Me,” in which a bereft courtier first whines about his falling popularity with the women of the court and then indulges in a sensual memory (“thanked be fortune, it hath been otherwise . . .”).  Even a momentary re-examination of Wyatt’s famous poem reinforces Boland’s assertion in Object Lessons that throughout centuries of male dominance in poetry, women have certainly been present, but as “ornaments” and mythic emblems, which objectified and silenced real women. The first line of this love poem about marriage carries us further into the profound dual existence of the speaker which is glimpsed here in the couple’s book-filled bedroom:

            Did we live a double life?

                        I would have said

                                    we never envied

            the epic glory of the star-crossed

Instead, this couple learned the “code marriage makes of passion–duty dailyness routine.”  Through the bookshelf above their bed, they are vicariously involved in the on-going dramas of all great literature, where “men and women/ wept, curse, kept and broke faith/ and killed themselves for love” only to wake to their own selves at dawn.  Although Boland is never afraid to deal in abstract ideas, her sparing and well-wrought imagery is stunning, as in this poem which ends with such a complete sensory picture of the season, the current era of the marriage, and the enveloping natural world, it is downright Haiku-like in its delicious completion:

                        we woke early and lay together

            listening to our child crying, as if to birdsong,

                        with ice on the windowsills

                                                            and the grass eking out

                        the last crooked hour of starlight.

The image of the grass, complicated and personified by the verb “eking,” takes the poem outdoors but the air is still infused with very human longings and rhythms. I am eternally grateful for how her poems demonstrate the power of women’s experience as poetic material.

And now she is gone. At the beginning of the Covid crisis, she was teaching at Stanford, far from her home and family in Ireland. She chose to go home to weather the pandemic with her family and was enjoying teaching online when she suffered a massive stroke and died at home in Dublin on April 27. For a whole day I sat on my bed with her books all around me. Thanked be fortune, we have this beautiful work in which she lives. Read Eavan Boland!


Eavan Boland is an influential Irish poet and academic, known for being a prominent female voice in contemporary Irish literature. She is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, several volumes of nonfiction, and was the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Award, an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards, among many other honors. She was also an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Irish Academy of Letters. A professor for decades at several institutions, Boland was most recently teaching at Stanford University, where she was the Melvin and Bill Lane Director of the Creative Writing Program. She died following a stroke in her home in Dublin on April 27th, 2020 at 75 years old.

Further reading:

Read Stanford’s dedication to Boland following her untimely death.
Watch PBS’ “Conversation: Poet Eavan Boland.”
Check out Boland’s body of work by reading her collections of poetry.

Susan Lilley is a Florida native and is currently serving as Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Saw Palm, The Florida Review, Sweet, and other journals. Her two chapbooks are Night Windows and Satellite Beach. She is a past winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and has held a State of Florida Individual Arts Fellowship. She has taught at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park. Her new full collection, Venus in Retrograde, was published spring of 2019 by Burrow Press.

Further reading:

Purchase Lilley’s first full collection of poetry, Venus in Retrograde from Burrow Press.
Read the official announcement naming Lilley Orlando’s first poet laureate.
Listen to Lilley talk more about her work on the podcast The Drunken Odyssey.

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 is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is 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: Letters from the Interior by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Elegy

To lose a homeland you must give away
your stories. No sentences can be saved.

Verbs will break, abstract nouns will collapse and
precious centuries will wither away.

The world you spoke of and the world that spoke
of you is now strafed with smoke. You must burn

the documents that will not pass checkpoints,
the line of refugees thickens, the siege

aimed at your ribcage sharpens its knives. You
no longer want. No possessions,

no hunger for bread. Only a border
passage, the frayed hem of a horizon.

To lose a homeland you must give away
your self. Your words must break open, become

empty containers the shapes of which will
forever remind you of what you had

to hold inside. Beyond the thirsting fields
there is an old road to walk and it is

never paved, never the place you used to
travel in the lemon blossom dreams

you used to have when you owned a pillow or
a lantern or the solace of a language.


This selection comes from the book, Letters from the Interior, available from Diode Editions.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. She is the recipient of a 2019 Artist Trust Fellowship and has served as the inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium, in Seattle. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She has been published in Barrow Street, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day feature.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe is Looking for Published Collections by Women and Nonbinary Writers

As part of our ongoing commitment to providing a platform for marginalized voices, Sundress Publications‘ project, The Wardrobe, is accepting submissions of published collections in all genres by women and nonbinary authors that honor the following holidays:

  • June 27th, PTSD Awareness Day
  • June 28th – July 4th, Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week
  • July 1st – July 7th, Clean Beaches Week or Plastic Free July
  • August 1st – August 7th, World Breastfeeding Week
  • August 9th, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
  • September 1st – September 30th, National Infant Mortality Awareness Month
  • September 6th – September 12th, National Suicide Prevention Week

We at Sundress hope to champion writers whose work highlights human struggle and challenges misconceptions. We are looking for that touch on the various topics encompassed above.

Authors or publishers of books published in the past twelve months may submit to The Wardrobe. To do so, 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 wardrobe@sundresspublications.com with the holiday of your choosing in the subject line. In addition, we request that one print copy be mailed to Sundress Academy for the Arts, ATTN: The Wardrobe, 195 Tobby Hollow Lane, Knoxville, TN 37931.

Submissions to The Wardrobe will remain eligible for our “Best Dressed” selection for one year. Hard copies will become a permanent part of the Sundress Academy for the Arts library and be made available to our residency and workshop participants.

For the complete details and rules, please see The Wardrobe website.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Letters from the Interior by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Miss Sahar Listens to
Fairuz Sing “The Bees’ Path”

If you’re going to go,
if you’re going to scorch this heart
and leave a desert in your absence,
tell me now and I’ll follow the bees.

If you’re going to scorch this heart,
I’ll hem the horizon in solitude.
Tell me now and I’ll follow the bees
inside the anemones scarring the hillside.

I’ll hem the horizon in solitude,
the light lengthening, breaking
inside the anemones scarring the hillside.
I’ll spiral beneath the dome of the sky.

The light lengthening, breaking,
this moment gathered around us
as I spiral beneath the dome of the sky.
Spring is a ravishment forever dying dying dying.

This moment gathered around us is
honey and wild greens and the promise
of ravishment forever dying dying dying.
We’re just another love song, remembered or forgotten.

Honey and wild greens and the promise
of losing you in the desert of what happens next.
We’re just another love song, remembered or forgotten.
Will you stay until the anemones fold back into the land?

Will you stay until the anemones fold back into the land
or leave a desert in your absence?
Are we just another love song, remembered or forgotten?
Tell me now and I’ll follow the bees.


This selection comes from the book, Letters from the Interior, available from Diode Editions.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. She is the recipient of a 2019 Artist Trust Fellowship and has served as the inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium, in Seattle. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She has been published in Barrow Street, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day feature.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

Interview with Author Angela Narciso Torres

Angela Narciso Torres’ chapbook, To the Bone, explores themes of motherhood, life, death, tradition, and culture. Torres writes with a rhythm and musicality all her own, playing with imagery and meaning in a manner that reminds one of the kaleidoscopic perspectives of the impressionists.

In this interview, Sundress intern Ada Wofford took some time to correspond with Torres about this chapbook and the concepts therein.

Ada Wofford: I noticed the repeated themes of food and eating, what can you tell me about the significance of those themes?

Angela Narciso Torres: The theme of food and eating recurs because cooking (and eating) was a valuable part of our family, especially on the maternal side. It was a metaphor for love, as is the case in many Filipino families. Where words failed, food came in to fill the gaps. Meals were not only for sustenance but for nourishing and strengthening family ties. Many of my best childhood memories revolved around the unforgettable meals we shared. And because this book is about love, and family, and loss—food naturally became one of the central tropes.

AW: The poem, “VIA NEGATIVA” eschews the use of question marks and uses a long space to emphasize a particular line. What is the role/function of punctuation and space in this poem and the book as a whole?

ANT: The negative space in the middle of this poem is used to enact, in a physical way, the poem’s subject. My use of punctuation, or the lack of it, is always deliberate in my poems. I view punctuation as a valuable tool for teaching the reader how to read the poem, and so it must be employed with great care and attention. Along with line breaks, they control the pacing of the poem, but also the tone. We can extend the pauses between sentences with punctuation; adding white space extends that pause even further.

AW: What is the significance of light and sunlight in these poems?

ANT: Growing up in the Philippines, light was either overabundant (during the dry season) or notably lacking (during rainy season). As a poet, I’ve always been aware of light as something that can influence the mood or tone surrounding a memory or a felt experience. When I moved to the United States and experienced the four seasons it deepened and expanded my appreciation for various qualities of light and how they can alter not only our moods but also the tone of an experience, when expressed in language. It is one of those devices we have at our disposal as poets to get at a feeling that we need to express in words and images.

AW: One poem is called, “Self-Portrait of a Rosary” and rosary beads are mentioned elsewhere as well. What is the significance of Catholicism in this collection?

ANT: Having been raised Catholic and having attended parochial schools growing up in the Philippines, the language of liturgy and scripture naturally found their way into my poems. The cadences of the psalms, prayers, the liturgy of the Word, and the ritual of the Mass were easily some of the first poetic language I’d learned. There’s a cadence embedded in this language that becomes hardwired in your memory when you hear them week after week. Some of it is really quite beautiful. Aside from Sunday Mass, my parents insisted on the family saying the rosary together at night.

While I am not as devout with this practice as my parents were, rosary beads have become a symbol or talisman for the strength and comfort of family and of faith in something larger than ourselves that the repetition of these incantatory prayers somehow invokes. To this day, I carry rosary beads in my pocket or purse for this very reason.

AW: Considering the references to music in your collection, what is the role of sound and rhythm in these poems?

ANT: Poetry is an art form that aspires toward music. I strive for musicality in my poems simply because I feel that poetry must be, among other things, as pleasurable to the ear as a piece of music. My parents played piano and violin together, and my father constantly played music as we were growing up: from classical to jazz, to Broadway musicals, to “golden oldies.” I begged my parents for piano lessons at the age of 5 and continued taking lessons up to my college years. For me, music was a direct, almost visceral path to the emotions, and the release music could provide was even more immediate than language itself.

So, to be able to express emotional experiences in language, music would clearly have to come into play. I will often read my poems aloud to “hear” the lines as musical phrases, noting whether the lines sound melodious or clunky and revising the phrasing, rhythm, or sound as I see fit.

AW: Can you talk about the recurring theme of your mother?

ANT: When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it was a bewildering time for my family. She had always been at the center of our lives—the powerhouse that fueled our days, the keeper and teller of stories, the life of any gathering. She was also a well-loved doctor, a skilled pianist, and an exacting disciplinarian.

From her mother, she inherited a passion for cooking. In her family, food was the highest expression of love. Writing this book was, among other things, primarily a way of preserving what I could of the mother I knew, even as she began the slow decline into dementia.

It was also a way of coming to terms with the impending loss, in part by being watchful for whatever connections we could still forge as she came under the grips of this terrible disease.

In writing these poems, I found myself sifting through the stories she repeated, the food she loved, the songs she played on the piano, her quirky rituals, her anxieties, and her various expressions of love, imperfect as they sometimes were. The most insistent of those found their way into this book.

AW: There are three poems titled as, “Self-Portrait of…” What is the significance of this act (the act of creating a portrait of oneself) in regard to this collection? 

ANT: The three poems, “Self Portrait as Water,” “Self Portrait as Rosary Beads,” and “Self Portrait as Revision,” are meant to redirect the reader’s attention to the speaker of these poems, and to consider how this person is changed by the events in her life—her mother’s decline, her body changing as she grows older while fulfilling various roles as young daughter, wife, mother (of young and then older children), and daughter of aging parents.

In a way, these self-portraits are a thread that weave the poems together, being the voice or the sensibility behind these poems—ever-evolving, morphing, and changing as life necessitates when one is thrust into various transitions, losses, and beginnings that are part of the ebb and flow of human experience.

Download your copy of To the Bone for free here.


Angela Narciso Torres is the author of Blood Orange (Willow Books, 2013) and What Happens Is Neither (Four Way Books, 2021); and winner of the 2019 Yeats Poetry Prize. Her recent work appears in POETRY, Missouri Review, and PANK.

A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and Ragdale Foundation. She serves as the reviews editor for RHINO. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she currently lives in South Florida.

Ada Wofford is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Library and Information Science. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a BA in English Literature.

She is a Contributing Editor for The Blue Nib literary magazine, the Founding Editor of My Little Underground, and has been published by McSweeney’s, Fudoki Magazine, Burial Day Books, and more.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Letters from the Interior by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

Dear Miss Sahar

First Letter

Everyone is gathering in the square
and the square is a center that cannot hold
and the center is alive and burning.

I don’t know how it happened
and yet I’ve known it always,
the poems we sang. Now

I understand—
they were a compass rose.
We were afraid.

the architecture of our cities
is designed to house the fearful.
Maybe we’ve reached the limits of fear,

our bones broken so often
they’ve set in new shapes.
Maybe we are finally free

of ourselves. Everyone
is in the square, Miss Sahar,
and the streets are reclaiming their names.

We’re taking long drags of tear gas
when they fire it into our midst.
Our lungs have been decolonized

or incinerated, I can’t tell. The sound
of singing and the scarcity of sleep
are making me light-headed,

language and all its rules re-ordering my mind.
Yesterday a groom carried his bride through the square,
slender vine of Damascus jasmine. A people’s wedding,

the joyous rave at the end of sorrow. Everywhere
is liberation and chanting
threaded with gunfire. The girls have flowers

in their hair. The boys are sharing their cigarettes.
There is suddenly bread enough
for all of us

or do we hunger for something more?
The time for Kaan is setting, Miss Sahar,
I need a new grammar for this country.


This selection comes from the book, Letters from the Interior, available from Diode Editions.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her first book, Water & Salt (Red Hen Press) won the 2018 Washington State Book Award. Her chapbook, Arab in Newsland, won the 2016 Two Sylvias Press Prize. She is the recipient of a 2019 Artist Trust Fellowship and has served as the inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium, in Seattle. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington and an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She has been published in Barrow Street, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day feature.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Nothing’s Holding Up Nothing

El Salvador, 1982

Under the floorboards with the wood
rot, the insects, ants skittering to
and fro, the mother hides with her child.
Her nipple’s in the infant’s mouth,
but her milk won’t let down.

She did nothing, but the officials
suspected, decided to make an example,
the child dragged out, beaten,
the bellies of flowers, blackened,
the bells, the bells,
the long toll of roots . . .

It is hard to believe anything
was ever alive under here, under
these boards, anything alive
for long under these boards.
Filaments break off and powder
as if they never were wood,
as if the hollows were roads
going somewhere, as if the mother’s
breasts could fill with milk, as if
her child could breathe again.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

Sundress Reading Series Opens for Applications

From August 2020 to January 2021, the Sundress Reading Series will be conducted online via Zoom. Applications to participate as a reader are available and the deadline to apply is June 30th.

The Sundress Reading Series is an award-winning literary reading series usually hosted on-ground in Knoxville, TN, just miles from the Great Smoky Mountains. An extension of Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts, the Sundress Reading Series features nationally recognized writers in all genres from around the US while also supporting local and regional nonprofits. 

We are currently curating our fall reading series schedule on August 26, September 30, October 28, November 18, and December 30, and January 27. Our readings take place the last Wednesday of every month from 7-8PM EST through the online platform of Zoom.  

We are currently seeking readers with books recently released–or to be released in 2020– with an emphasis on marginalized voices especially BIPOC writers, trans and nonbinary writers, and writers with disabilities. To apply to read for the fall, send 6-8 pages of poetry or 8-15 pages of prose, a 100-word bio, CV (optional), and preferred reading dates to sundresspublications@gmail.com. Please make sure the subject line reads “Reading Series Application + Your Name.” 

We will make every effort possible to contact those chosen by July 15th. While we are currently unable to pay our readers, authors’s work will be promoted on the Sundress Academy for the Arts social media platforms both during and preceding the event.

Find our more or to view some of our past readers and schedules, visit us at www.sundressacademyforthearts.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 Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Queen City

Coming back to Cincinnati,
a wayward soul looking for a sign, I see the city
stretching out like a foresworn promise.

The thing next to cleanliness—Cincinnati—
host to Proctor & Gamble, the Smut Buster,
Skyline Chili. I now return like a blind man

inhabiting a woman’s body, an alien
within an alien, hopelessly lost, sensing Cincinnati
will always be foreign. The city will always catapult me

to a childhood endlessly spinning
out of control. Cincinnati, oh city of fountains,
squares, new buildings I will never recognize,

what is your plan? Returning to the once great
Queen City, riverboat town, gateway to the south, I find
ghosts of the underground railroad, Mapplethorpe, race

riots, boycotts. Cincinnati, where crows combed the outlying
fields in awful stillness, and dogs barked as if they alone
knew their voices echoed for miles down hollows,

where are you now? Where is the Cincinnati filled
with concrete strength, suppressed love, waiting breath,
this city of my youth with everything opening, where smells

of spring meant daffodils covered whole hillsides
with yellow? City once called Porkopolis, where hordes of pigs
pushed pedestrians off streets, once trashed

by Frances Trollope, why am I coming back to you, land
restlessly stolen, abandoned in adolescent
despair, vanished island, lost promise of light?


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Cracked Piano by Margo Taft Stever

Surfaces

Take possession
of the blanket, the feel
of it, the smooth

and the lean, the lying
down of it, the way it
imitates the body.

This is the promise
I keep—to rest on the
bed under moonlight.

Yet so many cats
knead the surfaces;
their paws tap-dance,

wishing for food.
The dark summer
storm rips across

the bed, rumpling
covers like waves,
whitecaps against

each other.
Cats’ paws skim
the sheets as if

called by a higher spirit.
Their willowy bodies
curl together in sleep.


This selection comes from the book, Cracked Piano, available from CavanKerry.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sarah Ghoshal.

Margo Taft Stever’s poetry collections include Cracked Piano (CavanKerry Press, 2019); Ghost Moose (Kattywompus Press, 2019); The Lunatic Ball (Kattywompus Press, 2015); The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012); Frozen Spring (Mid-List Press First Series Award, 2002) and Reading the Night Sky (Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Competition, 1996). She co-authored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 U.S. Diplomatic Mission to China (Zhejiang University Press, 2012). Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, including Verse Daily; Prairie Schooner; Connecticut Review; “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Academy of American Poets; Cincinnati Review; upstreet; Plume; and Salamander. She is founder of the Hudson Valley Writers Center and founding and current co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Sarah Ghoshal’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Arsenic Lobster, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Empty Mirror, Red Savina Review and Broad! Magazine, among others. Her chapbook, Changing the Grid, is available from Finishing Line Press. She earned her MFA from Long Island University and teaches at Montclair State University. Sarah lives in New Jersey with her husband, her ten month old daughter and her dog Comet, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.