Sundress Seeks Funding for Inclusive Anthology Series

Sundress Publications is seeking funding and financial support for a series of inclusive anthology projects. Each project will be determined individually but all will be in support of our mission of “promoting education and advancement in writing and the literary arts and literary publishing with commitment to anti-racist work, inclusivity, and the promotion of underrepresented voices regionally, nationally, and internationally.” Which is to say that these works will both increase exposure for writers as well as to create a uniquely situated work for readers.

Goals:

  • $2,000 to support a stipend of $200 per editor per project for the next two years.
  • To produce one anthology per year, each in support of the Sundress mission.
  • To distribute and promote the work of an inclusive array of writers. 
  • To increase visibility and accessibility via free distribution to an online market.
  • Anthologies will be screen-reader friendly. And will provide (voluntarily provided) audio-recordings of many readings to increase accessibility.

Our staff has always, to this point, been entirely volunteer-driven. Our editors and intern team volunteer their free time to champion the voices of the underrepresented in the interest of creating a more inclusive publishing landscape. These dedicated folks are committed to bolstering a writer’s work and offering mentorship that will enrich future endeavors in the literary world.

Donations are being collected here.

Meet Our New Intern: Ashley Somwaru

I love saying that I was born and raised in Queens, New York. However, my backyard where I spent most of my childhood felt like another country. I was brought up as if I were living in the small towns my parents grew up in back in Guyana and Trinidad. Our stereo didn’t play The Beatles or Michael Jackson. We listened to Lata Mangeshkar or Babla & Kanchan. Family gatherings meant sitting down together and peeling katahara (jackfruit). There was almost always a time where my grandmother would ask me, “Eh, gyal, yuh nah undastand?”

Most of the time, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand Creole fully. I didn’t understand some of the Hindi words I sang when I prayed. I didn’t understand how to communicate with my family and belong in my heritage when I had a broken tongue. Language became complicated.

As I became more acclimated to English literature throughout my school years, I had lost the ability to understand Hindi at all. I had also distanced myself from Creole out of shame of my accent and not being considered “intelligent” if I used this dialect. I had silenced myself in more ways than one, not knowing how to express myself or how to reconcile with the traditions and culture that created my identity.

I never liked poetry, in fact, I detested it. I didn’t appreciate the secret messages that were implanted in the lines or the heart of the poem that was so unreachable to me. But it felt like fate when I took Grace Schulman’s poetry class as an undergraduate at Baruch College. My first poems were pierced with question marks, help signs, and dig deeper encouragements when Professor Schulman would hand me back my work. Slowly, she chipped away the silence I caged myself into. With her guidance, I realized the power of the languages I grew up with, the narratives that were enveloped within its history, and the fluidity of these languages encompassing a shared desire for social change.

Finding the richness of my expression as well as a healing with my past and my lineage, I decided to continue my journey with poetry as an MFA candidate at Queens College. There, I met other incredible mentors. Nicole Cooley’s words, “write what you want to write, not what you think others want to hear” constantly ring in my ears. From this inspiration, I found my passion and purpose in advocating for the voices that have been trampled for too long. As a firm believer in the power of words, my life long desire is to assist in helping other writers and storytellers share their experiences, their erased histories, and create needed conversations that are the start to building inclusivity in today’s world.

I’m grateful to be able to intern with Sundress Publications and be a part of a literary community that uplifts the narratives of our diverse communities. We all deserve to be recognized, and we all deserve to take pride in our cultures, but we all need to listen to the struggles and injustices of our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and passersby on the street. Together, we are the driving force that stops ignorance and hate. Together, with the publication of our words, we are breaking boundaries and restructuring the literary canon.


Ashley Somwaru is an Indo-Caribbean woman who was born and raised in Queens, New York. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Queens College to immerse herself in pride for her mixed tongue, religious upbringings, superstitions, and cultural traditions that have made her into the red hibiscus she is. As a storyteller and poet, her work seeks to magnify the voices of women in her community, who have been silenced and abused, and to rewrite the history of her ancestors, those who were forgotten. She hopes to find them. Her work has been published in Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the Spring 2020 issue of A Gathering Together, and will be in the FEED issue of No, Dear

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents: Writing with Pop Culture

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) workshop series is proud to present “Writing with Pop Culture.” This workshop will be led by Emily Capettini on Wednesday August 12, 2020, from 6:00 to 7:30pm ET online. Join us at tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password safta.

From novels to smash-hit musicals, the retelling and reimagining of classic stories like fairy tales has always been popular. But what about modern pop culture? How can a writer engage with television shows, music, or video games in a way that feels original and authentic? This multigenre workshop will focus on the benefits pop culture brings to creative work and include readings that incorporate pop culture like Pokémon, Law and Order: SVU, Harry Potter, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, and professional swimmer and aquatic performer Annette Kellerman. 

The benefits to engaging with pop culture are, among others, a chance to push back against an uncomfortable or problematic narrative or use familiar characters or narratives to investigate a lived experience or identity.  During this workshop, participants will brainstorm 2-3 pop culture characters, celebrities, or narratives they are interested in. We will also discuss what new narrative opportunities these pop culture elements can create in our poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. The workshop will conclude with some writing exercises and sharing of work. 

Emily Capettini is a queer fiction writer from the Midwest who loves a good ghost story. She is the author of Girl Detectives, a chapbook of flash fiction about Velma Dinkley and Daphne Blake, forthcoming from Porkbelly Press in October 2020 and Thistle (Omnidawn 2015). Her other work can be found most recently in places such as Middle House Review, The Spectacle, Lammergeier, Permafrost, Dream Pop Journal, and Passages North, among others. She is Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications and Assistant Professor of English at Indiana State University, where she teaches literature and creative writing.

In her free time, Emily makes nerd-themed crafts and watches too much Doctor Who.

Her Venmo is ‘Emily-capettini‘.

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. 

Sundress Reads: A Review of Facts + Figures

Facts + Figures by Rob Carney will make you desperate for the sound of rushing water, for truths to be spoken, for time to stop morphing places of memory. This book of poems relays what temporary means in an environment that has completely changed and how this physical refiguring affects the birds in the sky to the coyotes that are no longer around to the person who is searching for a reminder of life lived when everything feels erased.

The first section of poems consists of prose poems that makes you question what a fact is; is it only something that can be proven true by evidence or can it also be an experience that shows truth through personal conviction? This idea extends across multiple pages as the speaker actively speaks of spaces that are no longer as remembered. The fact of a forest turned abandoned warehouse is coupled with the speaker’s idea of this warehouse being sixty-one football fields long. An orchard turned golf course can only be proven by where the speaker had a first kiss. Although you can question the validity behind his words, the speaker makes you want to believe what he labels as facts, even if “rolling clouds are bison” is too surreal to be true, because this creation of life is linked to the love the speaker has to his past and his need for the survival of the home that now only exists in his memories. 

Voices of the past and present start to break through in the second section, emphasizing a search for reconciliation after displacement. The speaker’s neighbor seems central to this change, as she had once said, “but you’re there now, so be about finding instead of looking back.” This remembrance is the starting point for the speaker’s wanting to feel at ease in his daily life. He searches for what feels like “home” and finds small doses of nature intertwined with urban life, as a crow circles around to memorize a woman’s smile, but there seems to be a darkness in the value of life. The speaker highlights the acceptance of shooting raccoons in this town, the degradation of the education system for children, and the discrimination against immigrants. Carney makes you worry about the state of living in his neighborhood; he makes you wonder with him what there is to find that is uplifting when the past seemed brighter, more positive, more humbling. 

Interestingly, Carney gives space on the page for the reader to understand how the lives of wildlife had been disrupted by the construction of buildings. It’s uncomfortable to feel the silence of the night and the calm of birds singing on trees knowing that this environment will be destroyed to make a home for people instead. It makes you wish that the displacement of these animals would never happen. In this chaos, the writer beautifully makes you wonder about what animals would say in this situation if we could understand them. 

The most striking speech given to an animal is the bear, who predicts the future of his son’s life being of decay and loss and says, “too soon, too soon, too soon.” This voice like feels more than an imagined speech of the animal; it feels like the speaker’s personal thoughts and worries about his children’s future. In the witnessing of nature being overtaken, the speaker is homesick for a return to a time before civilization touched the places where water, undisturbed wildlife, and grass once was. Amid this loss is the writer’s hope for his son’s innocence. He wishes for his child to be able to sleep well and not be burdened with the awareness of cruelty and insensitivity to life in the world. Like the bear, he hopes that his son will not realize the breaking of good memories with the reality of destruction for many years to come.

It’s heartbreaking to realize Carney’s anguish to the dismemberment of his home. His poems were a culmination of trying to understand his identity through ties to memory and locations that created his childhood and adulthood. In trying to find a place of belonging, there’s a lack of contentment and a sad reservation for accepting life as it is now. However, in this misery, there’s a beacon of hope for a future where this pain isn’t inherited. Even more importantly, Carney makes you realize that even if a person or a home is gone, the memories never will be.

Facts + Figures is available, here.


Ashley Somwaru is an Indo-Caribbean woman who was born and raised in Queens, New York. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Queens College to immerse herself in pride for her mixed tongue, religious upbringings, superstitions, and cultural traditions that have made her into the red hibiscus she is. As a storyteller and poet, her work seeks to magnify the voices of women in her community, who have been silenced and abused, and to rewrite the history of her ancestors, those who were forgotten. She hopes to find them. Somwaru’s work has been published in Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the Spring 2020 issue of A Gathering Together, and will be in the forthcoming FEED issue of No, Dear.

Lyric Essentials: Candice Iloh Reads Sasha Banks

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! For this installment, we chat about righteous anger with writer and performer, Candice Iloh and listen to her read poems by the legendary Sasha Banks.


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose Sasha Banks’ work to read for Lyric Essentials?

Candice Iloh: I have known about Sasha’s work for a long time and she is a poet I tell everyone about, so her work was an easy choice already at the tip of my tongue. Simply put, she is a Black person writing the kind of poems I want to read right now as this country shifts and implodes on itself. I’ve moved past being satisfied with poems simply working as a witness to our experiences and violent pasts as people Black people in America. I want to read poems that cast knowing spells on the reader and this entire country as a firm reminder of the powerful presence of our ancestors. I want to read Black poems warn this country of the error in harming Black bodies while reminding those of us who are still alive that we are not in this alone. I want to read poems that speak of Black people who have had enough. Sasha Banks does that. 

Candice Iloh reads “america, MINE” by Sasha Banks

EH: america, MINE is not your average poetry collection—there is a sort of narrative arc within the worldbuilding of magical realism and Afrofuturism. Why did you choose these two particular poems read from this book?

CI: I first chose the title poem america, MINE because, for me, it is the gut of what Sasha is getting at with this entire collection. My favorite line “we are not asking anymore” really says it. We are done asking permission for our rights, our freedom, our humanity when it has always been ours to claim.  I chose uhmareka, post collapse: three for it’s very similar quality, but with vivid examples of a society stripped of its oxymoronic symbolism and oppressive structures. This poems is, for once, suggesting a mourning that will follow the destruction of  white supremacy and all that does not serve us. It gave me a lot of pleasure imagining that. 

Candice Iloh reads “uhmareka, post collapse: three” by Sasha Banks

EH: How has Sasha Banks influenced your own work as a writer and community mentor?

CI: Sasha has and will always be a welcome challenge to do the bold thing in my work as a poet. To come to the page with knives and allow my very righteous anger the space to drive my stories. And she is also a poet who is really for our communities along the entire spectrum of black poets/artists. Her loyalty to both the integrity of her work and to the people its for is relentless.

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

CI: My debut YA novel in verse Every Body Looking hits stores nationwide on September 22nd and I’m so excited about it. It’s available for pre-order now.


Sasha Banks is a Pushcart-nominated poet from Brooklyn and the creator of Poets for Ferguson. She has had work featured in RHINOKinfolks QuarterlyPBS NewshourB O D Y Literature, and many others, and has performed in Tulane University’s Vagina Monologues. She holds an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and currently lives in North Carolina.

Further reading:
Purchase Sasha Banks’ book america, MINE.
Read a feature about Banks from PBS News Hour.
Listen to Banks discuss and read from america, MINE on the podcast Angels and Awakening.

Candice Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian-American writer and performer whose work centers on the body and finding one’s chosen home in the world. Her words have appeared in Fjords Review, So to Speak Journal, For Harriet, Blavity, No Dear Magazine, Glass Poetry Journal, The Felt, and The Black Girl Magic Anthology by Haymarket Books. She is a recipient of fellowships from VONA, Home School via Lambda Literary fellowship, as well as a Rhode Island Writers Colony Writer-in-Residence alum.  She holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University, where she completed her forthcoming young adult novel in verse, Every Body Looking (Dutton YA/Penguin Random House, Sept 22 2020). She is a 2018 Hi-ARTS Critical Breaks artist residency recipient where she debuted her first one-woman show, ADA: ON STAGE. When Candice isn’t writing, she dances.

Further reading:
Preorder Candice Iloh’s Every Body Looking from Penguin Random House.
Watch an episode from the docu-series Brooklyn is Masquerading as the World, featuring Iloh.
Read an interview with Iloh from Colored Girls Hustle‘s #growfierce series.

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/

2020 Chapbook Contest Winner Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce that Sunni Wilkinson’s chapbook, The Ache & The Wing, was selected by Esteban Rodriguez as the winner of our ninth annual chapbook competition. Wilkinson will receive $200 and publication. Sundress plans to release the chapbook in late 2020.

Esteban Rodriguez, contest judge and author of the forthcoming collection The Valley (Sundress 2021), had this to say about the chapbook:

“Lyrical and elegiac, this collection boldly explores a range of personal tragedies and uncertainties—the unexpected death of a son, the memory of a mother leaving, the realization that life had different plans than were originally conceived. As the speaker so succinctly states, “I don’t want another love story. / I want immortality,” but if immortality is off the table, then let us sit with a collection that page after page does everything it can to provide an authentic space to heal.”

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Adirondack Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Sou’wester and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press 2019), and winner of New Ohio Review’s inaugural NORward Poetry Prize. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three young sons.

Ugochukwu Damian Okpara’s I know the Origin of my Tremor and Allyson Whipple’s This Must be the Place were also selected as runners-up.

We are also excited to announce that Ugochukwu Damian Okpara’s chapbook, I Know the Origin of My Tremor, was also selected for publication and will receive the $100 Editor’s Award. A Nigerian writer and poet, Ugochukwu’s work appears or is forthcoming in African Writer, Barren Magazine, The Penn Review, and elsewhere.

The entire Sundress team would like to thank everyone who sent in their work. Finalists and semi-finalists include:

Finalists
OF TUNEFUL ROT, Prince Bush
Literary Self-Portraits of an Americanized Migrant, Natalie Cortez-Klossner
BREAKING WATER, Karen Llagas
Field Notes Recovered from the Expedition to Devil’s Peak, Laura A. Ring
Blur, Katherine Vanderme

Semifinalists
wash between your toes, Teni Ayo-Ariyo
Parent. Worshipper. Carrion, Stella Hervey Birrell
TACKY LITTLE NOTHING, Chelsea Margaret Bodnar
Small Girl: Micromemoirs, Lisa Fay Coutley
Feralandia, Nicole Arocho Hernández
As Things Developed, She Was to Have All Manner of Revelation, Elizabeth Devlin
Silencio, No Mas, Adrian Ernesto
Measurable Terms, Arlyn LaBelle
Massive and Newly Dead, Rebecca Martin
Object Permanence, Jeni De La O
Kaitumjaure, Laurence O’Dwyer
What Shot Did You Ever Take, Brian Oliu & Jason McCall
Harridan, Melissa Tyndall
between virus & police, ar young

Now Accepting Applications for Editorial Board Members

Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit publishing collective founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks, full-length collections, and literary anthologies in both print and digital formats. Sundress also publishes the annual Best of the Net Anthology, celebrating the best work published online, and the Gone Dark Archives, preserving online journals that have reached the end of their run.

Our editorial board members’ responsibilities primarily include reading manuscripts for contests, open reading periods, and solicited submissions, but they can also include soliciting manuscripts, reviewing residency applications, serving as a contest reader or judge, writing/curating features for our blog, and more.

Required qualifications include:

  • Knowledge of contemporary literature
  • Strong written communication skills 
  • Exemplary literary citizenship

Preferred qualifications include:

  • Experience with Adobe Creative Suite
  • An interest in book design

Applicants are welcome to telecommunicate and therefore are not restricted to living in any particular location. We are particularly interested in applications from writers of color, transgender and nonbinary writers, and writers with disabilities.

Sundress Publications is staffed entirely by passionate volunteers, so this postion, as with all positions at the press, is unpaid. We are beginning fundraising efforts and hope to pay our editors a small stipend beginning in 2021.

To apply, please send a CV and a cover letter detailing your interest in the position to our Managing Editor, Erin Elizabeth Smith at erin@sundresspublications.com. Applications are due by August 20, 2020.

For more information, visit our website at www.sundresspublications.com.

Sundress Reads: A Review of Don’t You Know I Love You

In her powerful debut out via Dzanc, Don’t You Know I Love You, Laura Bogart sheds light on some of the deeply challenging relationships many of us face with our parents. 

Bogart is a regular at Salon, where her essays on body image, dating, politics, and violence have gone viral. A recipient of the Grace Paley Fellowship from the Juniper Institute at UMass Amherst, Bogart has also written for The Atlantic, The Guardian, SPIN, The Rumpus, Vulture, Roger Ebert, The AV Club, and Refinery 29 in the past. She is currently a contributing Editor at DAME and a featured author at The Week.

Don’t You Know I Love You, released in March 2020, focuses on Angelina Moltisanti, a queer artist who is forced to move into her abusive father’s house because of an accident that renders her broke and facing life with one remaining arm. Angelia has to re-negotiate her relationship with her father as he tries to get her an accident settlement. She becomes friends with Janet, another queer artist, as she attempts to deal with this re-negotiation, alongside her mother’s wish to give her broken family a second chance. All of this while trying to make art one-handed. Don’t You Know I Love You zooms in on the life of this struggling artist, giving us occasional peeks into the lives of Jack Moltisanti, her father, and Marie, her mother, stringing together the politics of a complex family matrix that encompasses bonds beyond bloodlines. 

Bogart’s powerful and lyrical prose is a prominent feature of this novel, something that aptly captures the complex matrix of emotions it weaves. Her prose beautifully balances the paradoxes of trauma.

Elizabeth Outka, associate professor of English at the University of Richmond, talks about this kind of trauma in the essay, “Trauma and Temporal Hybridity” which appeared in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. “First,” Outka writes, “traumatic events may, strangely, be both erased from memory and yet return repeatedly as flashbacks […]. A second and related paradox involves the freezing of time at one instant, locking the subject in the past moment of trauma; yet alongside the freezing, there is a false sense of movement or unfreezing, as the memory returns again and again to haunt the present.”


Angelina, similar to the characters of The God of Small Things, experiences these paradoxes as she goes back to her father’s house after the accident. She experiences flashbacks as she tries to occupy the space again and puts up with her father’s overwhelming presence even as she attempts to move on for her mother’s sake.

The art piece she tries to create is also perhaps an embodiment of the paradoxes of her trauma and her attempts to deal with it. The prose forces the reader to step into her shoes—we are drawn into Angelina’s space and experience things as they happen to her. This makes it relatable because the reader can draw these into their own complexities and step closer to Angelina. This is a great step toward normalcy and pushing away toxic relationships, even if the person being pushed away is a parent. 

Equally beautiful is how the novel deals with sexuality without making it explicit or the centerpiece of the story, something a lot of queer fiction is constantly criticized for. Angelina never really comes out in the novel: all we see is her sexual relationship with Janet, but we are never told what exactly her sexual identity is.

Janet becomes her safe space in the novel, and we see her, Bildungsroman style, being inspired and constantly pushed to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Janet also plays a pivotal role in Angelina taking the first steps toward pressing charges against her father, even if it means becoming a “memory too painful to be named.” Angelina and Janet’s relationship perhaps also represents a union that was necessary in order to maintain a balance of two extremely opposite emotions—emotions that were broken once they cooled down and emerged as actions.

What is also surprising, at least for me, is that we get to hear from Jack and Marie, Angelina’s parents. This was definitely a tiny break for the reader occupying Angelina’s space, perhaps so as not to overwhelm the reader. One thing that this definitely does is validate the irrationality of “thinking from the other person’s shoes.” That is, how do we make space for ourselves when we are burdened with the other person’s perspective, whatever it might be? These add to the complexities of the novel without disrupting the flow, and Bogart cleverly uses these to give us more context. 

Don’t You Know I Love You, therfore, becomes an amalgamation of these ideas and comes together to form a powerful, bold and empowering story that one should definitely read!

Don’t You Know I Love You can be found at Dzanc Books.


Gokul Prabhu is a graduate of Ashoka University, India, with a Postgraduate Diploma in English and creative writing. He works as an administrator and teaching assistant for the Writing and Communication facility at 9dot9 Education, and assists in academic planning for communication, writing and critical thinking courses across several higher education institutions in India. Prabhu’s creative and academic work fluctuates between themes of sexuality and silence, and he hopes to be a healthy mix of writer, educator and journalist in the future. He occasionally scribbles book reviews and interviews authors for Scroll.in, an award-winning Indian digital news publication.

Meet the Intern: Nora Walsh-Battle

In the spring of 2018, while I studied abroad in Tokyo, I only brought one book with me: a bound volume of poems by G.M. Hopkins, a Victorian poet and priest I had studied in a class the previous fall. Hopkins had been the subject of my major paper in that class, his poem “The Windhover” in particular, but I was by no means a fan of his, or of poetry at all, when I departed Newark Airport for Narita. No, my paper had been an examination of time as two forms–kairos and chronos–co-existing in the poem and their relation to Hopkins’s vocation as a Jesuit, the same order under which I’d received my high school education. It was a topic I’d chosen for simplicity: I had neglected to read the prose pieces assigned for the class, my usual focus, and thought I’d be able to rest on the laurels of my kilt-clad religious education when making an argument. 

When we read the poem aloud, I had dominated the ensuing discussion, condemning Hopkins as artless, slack-jawed, and hopelessly bent by the Jesuit credo of ‘for others’ to where his verses were nothing but crowd-pleasing missives instead of art. My classmates nodded along, smirking, already accustomed to this crass vernacular from my campus stand-up routines. My professor, I think shocked by my sudden passion, said nothing at the time to rebuff me but when the paper was returned, she commented she found it hard to believe I truly held Hopkins in contempt when I wrote about him with such fondness. And, upon giving my essay the second look I hadn’t before turning it in, I realized she had a point. 

So, when I happened upon the Hopkins volume in a donation bin a week before my departure, I felt like I had no choice but to pocket it. If anything, having it would help me construct further criticisms of the material and so it found its way into my carry-on. Eventually, after hours spent slogging through the bland prose of a well-regarded Japanese author who will remain nameless in my sole literature class for the term, I found myself looking up “The Windhover,” reading it aloud once, then twice, eventually affording this same treatment to the rest of the collection. The lines stuck in my head and I had already spent a fair amount of time analyzing them before it occurred to me that I truly had come to love G.M. Hopkins in spite of myself. 

What I took away from this moment is that sometimes things can seem easy, can seem good, because they are. No trick, no trapdoor. Glitters can be gold, it would seem. Another takeaway was that I need to be more open to broadening my horizons, which is something I hope to accomplish through this internship. Though I now fully identify as a fan of poetry, I have a lot to learn about what makes a poem more than just a string of words on a page. With its commitment to varied, thoughtfully circulated content, Sundress seems like the perfect overseer to this next phase of my education, and I’m thrilled to join the team. 

*

Nora Walsh-Battle is a recovering stand-up comedian currently living and working on an organic farm outside of Asheville while she plans her next move. She is endlessly enraptured by the poetry of Richard Siken, considers Wikipedia to be a primary source, and is a certified Excel pro.

Meet our New Intern: Ashley Hajimirsadeghi

I wrote my first story when I was three years old. It was a classic feminist tale, one inspired by the frustration I felt while playing a Mario game on my older sister’s Gameboy. Why did I have to save Princess Peach every time? Why couldn’t Mario be the one who was kidnapped for once? So I wrote my own story, reversing the narrative. There were no damsel-in-distresses in my world: only women who beat up the antagonists with an umbrella.

I’d lock up the little rainbow Care Bear journal those stories were written in It was an artifact of a distant childhood, lost in history until high school, lost until I decided to become an archeologist and really dig deep into my personal lineage.

I went to a little arts school in Baltimore County, Maryland, where I majored in literary arts. Auditioning for the school, I thought writing was “kinda cool,” and when I got in, it only seemed natural to pick it over the two law magnet schools I’d gotten into. And, indeed, it was “kinda cool.” Our classrooms had couches, we had workshops with teenage angst poetry, there were literary feuds—it was the kind of surreal writing dream I never knew I wanted.       

So I began my descent into the rabbit hole at this school. I swore off poetry until my junior and senior year, proclaiming it for hipsters and nerds, but when I actually sat down and wrote a poem, I found that I kind of liked it. It turned out I was pretty decent at it, so I continued with it. I thought of my life as a black and white film, shot with a grainy 15mm lens, before I began to take writing more seriously.

Once, I used to briefly live and study in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. I went to Ewha Womans University in Seoul and had to commute over two hours to actually get to my classes. On the crowded 900-bus from Anyang to the outskirts of Seoul, I used to translate Emily Dickinson poems from English to Korean, and I found myself memorizing these lines, writing them in Korean on the foggy windows. It was here I learned the power of writing, as I made new bus buddies who wanted to talk about poetry to the foreign girl. Literature truly connects in a unique way, transcending international borders and linguistic barriers.

Now I go to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I study International Trade, but I never really forgot how writing made the narrative of my life bleed from black and white into color. Yeah, sure I’m a business major, but I still discover pockets of poetry in my mundane everyday routine. I read for three different literary magazines, I’ve taken workshops with Brooklyn Poets, and now I’m interning at the Sundress Academy for the Arts! As I grow older, I’m finding that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.   

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an undergraduate at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her work has appeared in Into the Void, Corvid Queen, and cahoodaloodaling, among others. She attended the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute and was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Currently, she is trying to figure out a happy intersection between her writing, film, and photography endeavors.