Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Emily Bradley

I was supposed to be in med school by now.  Actually, I suck at dissection, so scratch that.  I’d have probably wound up in a lab, looking at nice, sterile slides under a microscope.  Science was the plan. It had rules and tangible logic, a promise that greater study would positively correlate with greater understanding.  In high school, I was the everything AP science kid, the never-missed-an-exam-prep-session kid, the kid who origami folded what looked like a voice out of textbook pages and prayed it never got wet.  But then, of course it did.    

Perfection is a dead end.  A perfect test score ends in a zero, is applauded and then silenced on a transcript to be filed away.  I was a size double zero senior year of high school, the ideal anorexic for four and a half years by that point, not sick enough to demand attention, not well enough to quit walking round and round the same cul-de-sac whittling my stomach down.  I could achieve these goals, but without fresh air they would decompose into a dark garden inside me one day.

My cousin killed himself during the fall of that year. He was twenty years old. We were never close—spread across the eastern half of the U.S., my extended family typically gathers only every three or four years for a requisite wedding, graduation, or, in this case, a funeral.  Nonetheless, the image of his powdered face and overstuffed chest flash flooded my years of panicked perfectionism, dissolved carefully pleated calorie charts and diagrams of cellular respiration into bits of colored paper, arranging themselves into some visceral understanding of why he did it. Suicide—by gunshot, poison gas, alcohol, and silence—had marked both sides of my family tree, and I knew that no equations or scholarships could keep it from blossoming in my imagination as well.  Stuck in my cul-de-sac, I needed something open-ended. So, I started writing.  

It didn’t fix me.  I was bad at it, but I also learned how to honor imperfection.  My first poems were collections of teen angst clichés – hearts, oceans, and all – but poetry taught me resilience.  I started college as a biological engineering major, and by the middle of the first semester I switched to English and Spanish. The more I studied, the less things made sense.  Once, I wrote an entire paper about how I didn’t understand Ezra Pound, and that was okay.  

Junior year, I decided to seek professional treatment for my eating disorder and writing became a tool to free lies that had lain silent at the bottom of me for years.  I still struggled, still panicked watching my years’ worth of rules and self-control dissolve as I learned to cry open-ended instead of running in circles to numb out. But I learned to love open-ended too.  To give myself to others in a way that didn’t fit neatly into an equation; no matter the numbers, there was always some remainder left. And the better I learned to care for my body, the stronger my voice became.  Eventually, I heard about something called an MFA and decided to apply to graduate programs in creative writing (my undergraduate university didn’t offer a CW program).  

Graduate school has pushed me to rethink much of what I thought I knew about learning.  It’s introduced me to writers whose work has entirely shifted my relationship to language.  Poetry workshops have shattered my ideas about reading and writing and how a classroom can function.  Moving from a rather insular community in Arkansas to a new city stretched my sense of self in unexpected directions, and here I’ve found a group of writers and friends who continually teach me what it means to be fully human.   I’ve met mentors who honor my voice but also call me on my bullshit and push me to put my truth rather than just my intellect on the page. And I never would have guessed how hard that would be.  

So, I wasn’t born with a pen in my hand and a song in my heart.  Sorry if that’s what you were expecting. Hell, I didn’t even sing along with the radio as a kid.  But I do now. Writing taught me how to break patterns that would have tethered me to a legacy of silence and slow destruction.  Slowly, I’ve built a voice that’s no longer paper-thin, and it’s taken me far away from that old cul-de-sac, though I’ve still got farther to go.  

Emily Bradley is a second year MFA candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she teaches and serves as the assistant poetry editor of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts.  She loves poetry, falling asleep on the couch, and the color yellow.

New Review Series Looking for Recently Published Books

As part of Sundress Publications’ ongoing commitment to service, we recognizing that COVID-19 is causing hardship by canceling readings, launches, tours, and other needed promotional efforts. To combat this, Sundress Publications is now accepting submissions for consideration for inclusion in our new review series, Sundress Reads. We’re looking to write featured reviews for books with release dates from February 1-April 30, 2020. 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 fellows and staff as well as by request to affiliate journals for further reviews.

Tara Shea Burke Reads Judith Barrington and Donika Kelly

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! In our latest installment, Tara Shea Burke reads poems from two different poets and discusses the connectivity of lesbian poetry, somatic poetry, animalistic poetry, and how important it is for everyone to hear about it all. Thanks for listening!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to break the rules and read two poems by two different poets for Lyric Essentials? 

Photo credit: Rae Thweatt

Tara Shea Burke: Well, for a few practical, radical, and metaphorical reasons. Because this trine of things is perhaps how I do everything. When I was thinking about what poems to read, I scanned my shelves and all the poets I love. I could have read from Tim Seibles, Jericho Brown, Mary Oliver, Megan Falley—so many poets and so many poems. But because this was about reading poems I love, I sat and breathed and got deep into my body. The first poem I think about reading aloud when we talk about poems that influence is always, always for me, Why Young Girls Like to Ride Bareback by Judith Barrington. I heard her read this poem at an AWP years and years ago, when I was either still in or just finishing my MFA and realizing how much I needed and responded to poems about the body, the lesbian body, the thrust of us.

I recorded that poem right away, then read the rest of the book “Horses and the Human Soul”, which I haven’t read fully in a while, though I return to my favorite poem often. I love so much of the book, but I was looking for another poem that really rode the wave of my body as I read it in the same way, and I came up short. So, I looked on the Lyric Essentials page and read back through what other poets had done. I was just going to break the rules, like I do, but also wanted to feel in community with other poets that may have gone outside the boundaries, and I found some writers that shared different poets. I break rules and look for shared experiences simultaneously—in life, in poetry, in spirit. I sat for a while again, and asked myself to remember, bodily, what other poems I love feel the same to me in rhythm and texture like this poem. Donika Kelly’s every poem. I immediately wanted to read “The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.” So, I read it aloud and felt that ride of body of lesbian body of love of queerness and animal and the rhythm and felt at home, which is what I look for, always. 

Tara Shea Burke reads “Why Young Girls Like to Ride Bareback” by Judith Barrington

EH: How do you feel these two poems or two poets are connected, so that they can be read together?

TSB: I mentioned a little of this above, but when I was first coming out, first writing, first finding my voice in literature and as a student, as a young queer writer full of animal feelings all over the place, embodied writers saved my life. I will always want to place two or more lesbian and queer writers together who bring in animals and animalistic urges, who can write about sex while not writing about sex (I fail at this and speak literally of sex) and what love feels like for oneself, and for another, as a queer body in this dominant culture that strangles everything deeply divine about our bodies and all we crave. Barrington’s poem is a perfect poem to me. Its language matches its form matches its sound and tone and experience as I read, and to me every single poem truly should be an embodied, felt, experience on the tongue aloud as well as on the page. Lesbian and queer writers do this best for me. They have been my teachers. I love so much writing people create, but I want to feel something, you know?

Barrington’s poem is about a young girl riding bareback, and not a single word is about sex and early sexuality, and yet every single word choice, every straddle and whole body singing is about the dance of the body waking up in tune with nature, the whole other world between a young girl’s legs. And that queers the hell out of it, too—so unapologetically inviting us to consider what is unsaid, what we’ve all barebacked before. Wow, this is the power of bringing the unsaid, particularly about young queerness, to life on the page. Some may say this poem is about the joy of riding a horse. I say read it aloud, again.

And Kelly’s poem is about feelings in this very frank and unapologetic way, too. About falling in love with a woman and seeing sex and love and lust and death everywhere, in sea creatures and the water and the sand and the tide. And about naming oneself in the poem! Whew. Most of her poems embrace the animal of us, which has taught me so much about my body, about what is possible when I let my love of things, of women, of creatures into my work despite all the damn rules we think we must adhere to in order to write well. Screw them all, sing the body one with the love that wakes us up, the bodies alive and alive, again. 

Tara Shea Burke reads “The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.” by Donika Kelly

EH: What roles have these poems acted as in influencing your own writing? Do you find one more influential than the other, or one poet more impactful to your writer’s identity than the other? 

TSB: I seem to be bleeding one answer into the other before the next question, which feels like me and all the poets I love. I don’t want to compare here, but man, every time I read Barrington’s poem, I stomp my feet on the floor and rock my body and feel alive in a way I can’t quite name, for worry of killing it. The ride that poem takes reminds me what I’m here for in spirit and in relationship to language and queerness and sex and myself and this body I am loving fiercely as a big giant FU to all the powers that be, no matter how hard it is. And it reminds me how little we’ve written about the young girl’s body and how hard it is to name what we straddle. I mean, really. Kelly’s work is influential as hell for me, but in a way that reminds me to embrace deep metaphor, shorter poems that reveal and hold back just enough to make you hungry for more. 

EH: I love how much we can hear your emotional connection to these poems when you’re reading! Who do you imagine is your audience when reading these poems aloud? As in, who do you imagine needs or wants to hear you read these poems by these poets? 

TSB: Um, everyone. We’ve lost so much of aurality in language, at least in the way poetry asks us to consider words and feelings together. But, I know what’s happening there when we hear the same kind of reading over and over. I get it’s hard to read out loud, but really, what the crap are we doing? I feel like it is my job, when reading a poem, to practice it and read both like myself, and also in a way that honors the poem. Each poem has its own tone (I wrote town first) and music, or lack of, and subject matter, and desire. Every poem is a conversation with an audience, and I want us to read even MORE in poet voice. But I want poet voice to be something we can’t pin down anymore because we’re actually reading like ourselves, to people we truly care about reaching, and in a way that honors each poem as it is.

I love these poems. They light me up and turn me on. Why wouldn’t I read them in that way? I have spent a lot of my life wasting my words, and I aim to not do that anymore. What a waste to read these as if they aren’t magical, love-giving, life-giving, climax-giving poems? I’d read these to anyone. And, I think I’ve read the Bareback poem to children. 


Judith Barrington has published four poetry collections, two chapbooks, and the award-winning memoir Lifesaving: A Memoir. She is also a creative writing teacher who has taught in Britain, Spain, and the U.S. and currently teaches literary memoir at The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MFA program, and is the author of the bestselling book on craft, Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art. She is a recipient of many awards, including the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize, the Lambda Book Award, and runner-up for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award.

Further reading:

Purchase Judith Barrington’s collection of poetry, Horses and the Human Soul
Read this interview with Judith Barrington about crafting memoir into literature
Read Barrington’s essay Poems From the Body

Donika Kelly is an assistant professor of English at St. Bonaventure University where she teaches Creative Writing. She is the author of the chapbook Aviarium, and the full-length collection Bestiary, which was the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for poetry and the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and long-listed for the National Book Award and finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

Further reading:

Visit Donika Kelly’s personal website
Listen to Kelly discuss How to Bring Physicality Into Your Work
Read a review of Kelly’s book Bestiary

Tara Shea Burke is is a queer poet and teacher from the Blue Ridge Mountains and Hampton Roads, Virginia. She’s a writing instructor, editor, creative coach, and yoga teacher who has taught and lived in Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado. Her writing will appear in Erase the Patriarchy, a book of sexual assault and rape erasures, edited by Isobel O’Hare and University of Hell Press, and was featured in Reading Queer, Poetry in the Time of Chaos, edited by Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton from Anhinga Press, as well as many journals and anthologies. She is a board member for Sinister Wisdom, the longest running multicultural, lesbian literary and arts journal. She believes in community building and radical support for any human that wants to tell their stories, and has edited and coached writers through creative work, dissertations, personal projects, and movement-based writing for healing and growth. To find more about her writing and work visit www.tarasheaburke.com

Erica Hoffmeister is is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently living in Denver, she teaches college writing across the Denver metro area and is an editor for the 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) and writes across genres.

Seeking Canceled AWP Panels for Online Roundtable

Sundress Publications is excited to announce that we will continue our tradition of hosting roundtables on our official blog by featuring some of the amazing AWP panels that were not able to appear at AWP 2020 through initial rejection or cancellation of the panel due to COVID-19. We’d like to focus especially on panels that will not be going to Kansas City in 2021. If your panel did not make the final cut this year, or you had to cancel running it and won’t be re-pitching for AWP 2021, we’d like to talk to you!

Now more than ever, your voices are necessary. We know that many important discussions won’t make it to AWP next year. That’s why we want to make them accessible in order to build an archive of diverse, engaging voices. We’re looking for topics that are driven by passion, inclusivity, forward-thinking, collaboration, and hybridity — all things fresh and unexpected. Let’s have more conversations — the world needs them.

Past panels posted to our blog include a wide variety of topics such as using a reporter’s techniques for fiction writing, a fresh look at the cultural conversations started by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and women at war. You can see some of our previous conversations at: https://sundresspublications.wordpress.com/tag/awp/.

Please send us your proposal for consideration at submit@sundresspublications.com by April 1, 2020. 

Poets in Pajamas 2020 Call for ADDITIONAL Readers

In an effort to support writers during this time of uncertainty and reading cancellations, Poets in Pajamas (PiP), a biweekly Sundress Publications reading series, would like to offer to support even MORE readers than we already have slated for 2020. Submissions for this call will focus solely on those whose book is slated for release between February and April, 2020 and/or those who are most at risk due to COVID-19.

Poets in Pajamas is an online reading series run through Facebook Live, which prides itself on producing high-quality poetry readings for an online audience. Readers read from their own work for fifteen minutes and then field questions for an additional ten or fifteen.

We are interested in hearing from ALL writers (we accept both poetry and prose readers) but we also particularly want to welcome writers who identify as being a part of disenfranchised communities (such as but not limited to, people of color, immigrant populations, Native and indigenous people, LGBTQ+, D/deaf and Disabled, non-binary people, members of non-dominant religious groups, current or former sex workers, all women, Dreamers, formerly incarcerated, and more). We want to host you and promote your work. 

To apply, send three poems or up to five pages of prose and a short video clip of you reading (NOT a recorded reading in front of a crowd, this should be an ad-hoc and recent video that shows your presence and your work in a good light). Please send a new video of you reading at home or in your garden, in front of your computer, or in your living room. (Again, this is NOT a call for produced sessions). Read for no more than 1 to 3 minutes (less is more), and please also attach a bio and author photo in one email to poetsinpajamas@gmail.com. Submissions close March 26, 2020, and new readings will be scheduled shortly thereafter.

Note: We are NOT concerned with audio/video quality here, nor your appearance—don’t stress, just use your phone or a laptop and show us that you have a good audio/video presence, and a good sense of a digital audience. We are NOT judging you based on your appearance or what you’re wearing or whether you did your hair. We are looking for that magical combination wherein the poet writes wonderful words we want to hear AND is willing to engage with a camera AND knows how to give a good reading. Really, one to three minutes, read as you would at any reading, one poem, or one paragraph, don’t overthink. Please apply!


A 501(c)(3) non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run press that publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats, and hosts numerous literary journals, an online reading series, and the Best of the Net Anthology.

Web: poetsinpajamas.wordpress.com Facebook: PoetsInPajamas
Email: poetsinpajamas@gmail.com Twitter: @poetsinpajamas

2019 Best of the Net Anthology Released

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the release of the 2019 edition of Best of the Net. This year’s anthology includes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction published in thirty-two different journals and features work by Jane Wong, K Ming Cheng, Leila Chatti, Gabriela Garcia, Sarah Eliza Johnson, and many more.

This year’s judges were Eloisa Amezcua, Megan Giddings, and Hanif Abdurraqib

Eloisa Amezcua is from Arizona. Her debut collection, From the Inside Quietly, is the inaugural winner of the Shelterbelt Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón. A MacDowell fellow, she is the author of three chapbooks and founder/editor-in-chief of The Shallow Ends: A Journal of Poetry. Her poems and translations are published in New York Times Magazine, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and others. Eloisa lives in Columbus, OH and is the founder of Costura Creative.

Megan Giddings is a fiction editor at The Offing and a features editor at The Rumpus. She’s been included in the 2014 and 2018 Best of the Net anthologies. Her short stories are forthcoming or have been recently published in Catapult, Gulf Coast, and The Iowa Review. Megan’s debut novel, Lakewood, will be published by Amistad in 2020. More about her can be found at megangiddings.com.

Hanif Abdurraqib is a writer from the east side of Columbus, Ohio.

Read the latest edition of this annual anthology, today.

A 501(c)(3) non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run press that publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats, and hosts numerous literary journals, an online reading series, and the Best of the Net Anthology.

The Wardrobe Seeks Published Books to Feature

As part of Sundress Publications’ ongoing commitment to providing a platform for marginalized and underrepresented voices, we are now accepting submissions  of published collections (full-length or chapbook-length) by women and non-binary authors that honor the following months:

  • April 2020—Autism Awareness Month
  • April 2020—Sexual Assault Awareness Month
  • May 2020—Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month
  • June 2020—LGBTQIA Pride Month
  • June 2020—Brain and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

We at Sundress hope to champion writers whose work highlights human struggle and challenges misconceptions. We are looking for work to shed some light 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 topic 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 for review by our editors and/or affiliate journals. 

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

                  

Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Emma Hudson

Sundress Headshot 1

I never dreamed of being a writer, yet here I am: writing. Growing up, I daydreamed while taking bus rides home from school about having superpowers. I played outside on historic military weaponry like military brats living on base typically did back then. I also played inside, but only with my younger sister, who’s five years my junior—she was the only one who understood the importance of maintaining societal standards that reflected High School Musical.

I especially loved to pretend I was going to become a mega-rockstar. Maybe I still have time to fulfill that dream despite my complete lack of musical talent.

Until the day comes when I absorb superpowers or musical prowess, I enjoy writing: I want to write no matter if I attain any of these seemingly unrealistic qualities.

In my own right, I feel like a rockstar. My experience as a writer in middle school and high school was nonexistent outside of papers for class. I didn’t think much about those papers. I thought more about the books I read in school and in my free time.

Each English class I took throughout my years in high school typically ended up being my favorite class. I annotated, took notes, and participated in class—giving my take on how I thought Romeo and Juliet were more desperate than star-crossed and how drawing comparisons between characters like Heathcliff and Edward Cullen weren’t as applicable as my peers believed.

I had no idea where I wanted to go for my higher education experience. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do or become. My dad, my forever peer-reviewer, pointed out I was always reading and writing. Sure, I wrote rough drafts of story ideas on my laptop: I even dreamed about publishing a novel, one that could surpass the likes of John Green, whom I later discovered would be the center of some UTK Creative Writing Club jokes (Apologies Mr. Green, we mean well and admire your success).

I only applied for two schools and only for their writing programs. I got into both, but I picked the University of Tennessee. It wasn’t the bright orange beckoning me or because my dad graduated from the university in 1989 that I chose to come here. I came to discover myself.

If someone from today’s present went back to tell college freshman me that I would become motivated to join a lot of organizations thanks to the empowering music by seven men from South Korea, I would have no idea what to think.

Today, I still write more for class than anything else, but I love writing more than ever. As an English Major with a double concentration in rhetoric and creative writing, I’m learning about various forms of writing, challenging myself to write within multiple disciplines.

Since freshman year, I’ve been a member of UTK’s Creative Writing Club. Without my friends, I wouldn’t have the bravery to share my work. In the following year, I joined Honey Magazine in its first semester. Now I’m the Editor-in-Chief and hope to finalize our first publication by the end of the 2020 spring semester.

During the same year, I became a member of Sigma Tau Delta and ran for the Executive Board. In the year I’ve been a member, I will get the opportunity to present my rhetorical research on K-Pop group BTS and their fandom BTS ARMY at an international conference that focuses on literature. It’s crazy and a wild dream come true.

Another dream come true is getting to intern for Sundress. I might’ve never grown up dreaming of becoming a writer, but learning how to become a writing rockstar sounds amazing to me.

Emma Hudson is currently a third year student at the University of Tennessee working on her double concentration BA in English: Rhetoric and Creative Writing, along with a minor in retail consumer science. She’s a busy bee; she is the Editor-in-Chief of the up-and-coming Honey Magazine. Emma is also a long-time member and leader in UTK’s Creative Writing Club and on the Executive Board for UTK’s Sigma Tau Delta, Alpha Epsilon chapter. In her free time, she figures out how to include K-Pop group BTS into her research projects and watches “reality” tv shows.

Lyric Essentials: Amy Watkins Reads Carl Phillips

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! In this latest installment, Amy Watkins, author of Wolf Daughter, reads two poems by one of her favorite living poets, Carl Phillips. Amy discusses the act of reading poetry out loud, Phillips’ poetry’s intricate complexity, and Watkins’ new chapbook.

Of special note to regular readers: Sundress would like to welcome former intern Erica Hoffmeister to our staff as the new editor of LE. We’re excited to have her rejoin the team and know she will create fantastic episodes for the series. Thanks for reading!

Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read these two poems by Carl Phillips for Lyric Essentials?

Amy Watkins: I wanted to read something by a living poet. Carl Phillips is one of my favorites, and I had just read his new chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures from Sibling Rivalry Press. I chose these particular poems because I love them; “Sea Glass,” in particular, is one I read over and over. Like a lot of Phillips’s poetry and a lot of my poetry, they’re about love and death, but they’re quiet, controlled. I love that calm, thoughtful voice. I love the metaphorical leaps he makes, and the way the careful syntax and punctuation and line breaks hold it all together.

I also chose these poems because, in spite of the heavy themes, they have a little thread of lightness. In “Sea Glass,” when he says, “some things maybe still a little bit worth being sorry for,” it’s not funny exactly, but there’s a little humor in that wry take on regret. 

Amy Watkins reads “Sea Glass” by Carl Phillips

EH: You said in our discussions that you love reading poetry out loud (and your readings of these poems are beautiful!) – how do reading these particular poems express that love?

AW: These poems are not easy to read out loud because Phillips writes such complex sentences, and he uses line breaks and punctuation so masterfully. I don’t know if you can hear it in my reading, because I tend to read through line breaks a bit, but “Words of Love” has short, choppy lines—some only one word long—and if you read some of the stanzas alone, they momentarily contradict the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

For instance, the middle of the poem without line breaks goes, “I might have added that not only do I respect, I require mystery. Less and less am I one of those who believes to know a thing, first you touch it…” But there’s a stanza break after “Less and less.” For just a second in the middle of saying something, he subtly suggests its opposite. The form and punctuation are all in on the existential reflecting and reassessing the speaker is doing, so you have to read carefully. It’s a beautiful poem to hear, but also really rewarding to read on the page.

I’m a page poet more than a performer, but I do love reading out loud. I used to host a podcast poetry “magazine” called Red Lion Sq. I enjoyed reading the poems myself, but It was better to have a variety of voices. Sometimes poets would submit recordings, or I would ask other writers or actors to read. I prefer a heightened natural reading voice, but every reader has to find their own sweet spot. Making fun of “poet voice” just makes people self-conscious; however, I don’t think you could convey the meaning of a poem like “Words of Love” with a really affected performance—dramatically pausing and up-turning at the end of every line. My unsolicited advice for reading out loud is to remember that the point is to communicate; speak slowly and clearly, and focus on the poem. And if you’re giving a live reading, practice once or twice, have your material ready so you don’t have to fumble for it when it’s time, and pretend you’re not nervous.

Amy Watkins reads “Words of Love” by Carl Phillips

EH: Has Carl Phillips’ poetry influenced your own writing?

AW: I’m sure it has; I’ve read a lot of it! His book The Art of Daring is the craft book I recommend to my smart friends. But I don’t think my poetry is much like his. My poems are more straightforward. Syntactically they’re a lot simpler than Phillips’s poems. Reading him does make me more aware of punctuation and line breaks. It makes me think more about what a powerful tool grammar is. And we both like similes.

EH: Is there any elements in your newly released chapbook, Wolf Daughter, that you find especially connected to what you’ve talked about here?

AW: Like “Sea Glass,” Wolf Daughter is both heavy and light. It’s about parenting an adolescent girl at this moment in America, only my girl has turned into a wolf. It talks about gun violence and fear of the “other” and alludes to sexual assault, but it also talks about radical confidence and self love, singing in the car, making art—many small joys. There are even two poems about reading out loud together!


Carl Phillips is a one of America’s most celebrated living lyric poets and the author of more than a dozen books of critically acclaimed poetry and criticism. Known as an accidental poet, Phillips earned an M.F.A. from Boston University after studying biology and math at Harvard University. A biracial, queer poet, Phillips’ writing explores themes of dual identities, and has garnered numerous awards and honors. He currently serves as a professor of English and Creative Writing at Washington University in St. Louis and was elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. His latest collection of poetry Wild Is the Wind (2018) won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Further reading:

Purchase Carl Phillips’ newest book, Wild is the Wind
Read a feature about Phillips in the New Yorker
Listen to an interview with Phillips on NPR

Amy Watkins is the author of three poetry chapbooks (Milk & Water, Lucky, and Wolf Daughter), a graduate of the Spalding University MFA in Writing, and a parent of a human girl. Find her online at RedLionSq.com or @amykwatkins on Twitter. She lives in Orlando, Florida

Further reading:

Follow Amy Watkins on Twitter
Listen to Amy read more poetry on Red Lion Square podcast
Download and read Wolf Daughter from Sundress Publications

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently living in Denver, she teaches college writing across the Denver metro area and is an editor for the 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) and writes across genres.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Announces Winners of Summer Residencies

Sundress Academy for the Arts Announces Winners of Summer Residencies

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce Marina Carreira, Jung Hae Chae, Joshua Nguyen, Cy Ozgood, and JM Wong as the winners of their five summer residency scholarships. These residencies are designed to give writers time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment. 

Marina Carreira is a queer Luso-American writer and multimedia artist from Newark, NJ. She is the author of Save the Bathwater (Get Fresh Books, 2018) and I Sing to That Bird Knowing It Won’t Sing Back (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She has work featured in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Paterson Literary Review, The Acentos Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Green Mountain Review, Hinchas de Poesia, wildness journal, and Harpoon Review. Marina has exhibited her visual art in group exhibitions and festivals at ArtFront Galleries, West Orange Arts Council, Hahne & Co., Gallery 211, and Living Incubator Performance Space {LIPS} in the Gateway Project Spaces in Newark, NJ. She is a founding member of Brick City Collective, a Newark-based multicultural, multimedia group working for social change through the arts. She lives in Union, NJ with her partner and kids.

Jung Hae Chae is a writer based in New Jersey. Her work has been published in AGNI, Ploughshares, Calyx Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere, as well as anthologized in the 2019 Pushcart Prize XIII: Best of the Small Presses. Most recently, she won Ploughshares‘ 2019 Emerging Writers’ Contest in nonfiction.   

Joshua Nguyen is Vietnamese-American, a collegiate national poetry slam champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Vermont Studio Center. He has been published in The Offing, The Acentos Review, Rambutan Literary, Button Poetry, The Texas Review, Auburn Avenue, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, and Hot Metal Bridge. He is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi. He is a bubble tea connoisseur and works in a kitchen.

Cy Ozgood is a queer poet and witch with a degree in text and media arts from The Evergreen State College. They are the author of several chapbooks including Girl Tramp (Horse Less Press, 2016) and Day (MOLD Editions, 2018). Their work has been featured or is forthcoming in Twang Anthology, baest journal, Gritty Silk, The Operating System, and Horse Less Review. They are a tarot reader, astrologer, farmer, educator, and a seasoned performer who has shared their poetry, music and performance art in basements, living rooms, storefronts, puppet theaters, coffee shops, repurposed churches, wineries, county fairs, riverside docks and clearings in the woods since 2011.

JM Wong (they/them) is a queer child of the Chinese diaspora living on Duwamish lands (Seattle) via Malaysia/Singapore and many cities in between. They write about movements, desire, and longings across distances and bordered spaces. Of diaspora, of the logistical supply chain stretching over ocean waters, of connections transcending prison walls, of crossings over to the ancestral realms. What we each journey through matters, and the futures we imagine begin from now. 

Finalists for this year’s fellowships were Bailey Moorhead, Stacey Balkun, Rachel Holbrook, Kathry Leland, Stephen Hundley, Mary Leauna Christensen, Sabrina Sarro, Maya Williams, and Heather Leigh Maher.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is now accepting applications for our fall writers residencies. Find out more at our website.