Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents December Reading Series

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the guests for the December installment of our virtual reading series. This event will take place on Wednesday, December 29, 2021, on Zoom (http://tiny.utk.edu/sundress, password: safta) from 7-8 PM EST.


Ae Hee Lee was born in South Korea and raised in Peru. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and most recently, Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, Poetry, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Christopher Citro is the author of If We Had a Lemon We’d Throw It and Call That the Sun (Elixir Press, 2021), winner of the 2019 Antivenom Poetry Award, and The Maintenance of the Shimmy-Shammy (Steel Toe Books, 2015). His honors include a 2018 Pushcart Prize for poetry, a 2019 fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation, Columbia Journal‘s poetry award, and a creative nonfiction award from The Florida Review. His poetry appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, West Branch, and elsewhere. He lives in Syracuse, New York. 

Chaya Bhuvaneswar is a physician, writer and PEN American Robert W. Bingham Debut Fiction Prize finalist for WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS: STORIES whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Narrative Magazine, Salon, Tin House, Electric Literature, The Millions, Joyland, Large Hearted Boy, Chattahoochee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.  Her work was selected for Best Small Fictions 2019 and she has received fellowships and residencies from MacDowell, Sewanee Writers Workshop, and Community of Writers. 

Sundress Reads: Review of How The Wind Calls The Restless

In her debut poetry collection How The Wind Calls The Restless, Emily DeYoung masterfully captures the feeling of uncertainty that comes with age. Through poems that guide readers through her transition from adolescence into adulthood, DeYoung describes both the fear and restlessness of entering your early twenties. The collection is told in twelve parts, each recounting the many wonderfully scary experiences and feelings young adults have as they grow older. Largely inspired by DeYoung’s own restlessness, How The Wind Calls The Restless encourages readers to follow whichever path the wind takes them, even if it may not be the conventional way.

The collection opens with the poem “Dripping,” which is an honest portrayal of her writing process. Though she candidly states that she has to “force” herself to be a poet, DeYoung’s language effortlessly conjures the image of an uncertain writer attempting to fit the traditional model of how a poet should write. While she initially tries to make the act of dripping seem profound, as she believes other poets would do, DeYoung instead decides to put her own unique spin on the word by highlighting its mundaneness. This bold decision shapes DeYoung’s character, one who is made restless by conforming to the status quo. DeYoung has an awareness of what is considered conventional but chooses to do whatever she wishes, which is further demonstrated in her other poems. “Dripping” also skillfully establishes her voice as a poet, and this piece introduces the underlying sense of commonality that is interwoven in each poem throughout the collection.

In the next few parts, DeYoung utilizes a nostalgic perspective when describing past memories and her former innocence, which affirms her uneasy feelings about aging. She writes about returning to a once-familiar street and noticing how it has changed in her absence (“Familiarity”), of heartbreak and loss (“Open”), and of joyfully reminiscing about childhood until the realization that those days are gone overwhelms you (“Tinsel Vineyards”). She also recalls her childhood and watching other kids having fun, the playful actions she writes about directly contrasting her wistful tone. These are all ordinary yet impactful moments that everyone experiences at a point in their lives in some way, and DeYoung captures the vulnerability we feel when considering how much we have lost.

Most notably, DeYoung consistently circles back to the concept of death in between recalling these past and present moments. Her fixation on the past, present, and future is emphasized by her consideration of what it must be like to be on your deathbed (“The Bastards and The Birds”), or how she will live the remainder of her life until she reaches the end (“Consolation”). She frequently becomes caught up in these thoughts, the poems addressing or asking open-ended questions such as What if? or What happens then?. The realization that you have permanently left your childhood is an intensely terrifying feeling, and DeYoung’s open depiction of what someone just coming to terms with this experiences shows readers who may feel similarly that they are not alone.

Despite her fears, DeYoung’s restlessness, and how she acts on that drive, shows that she still has so much life left to live. DeYoung travels and explores the world instead of going to college, and her adventures while abroad demonstrate her liveliness. Even though she is not a teenager anymore, DeYoung lives fully. The most inspiring, real poem in the collection is “Afraid,” which shows the new outlook DeYoung adopts through her travels. She writes: “photographs start peeling, but please / don’t waste your time trying to straighten them out / Throw them into the field / for the next generation of Lost Causes to find / once they remember that being Alive / is worth being very, very Afraid” (113). The ending of this poem sums up everything she has learnt. She asserts that instead of trying to hold onto your memories, let your experiences inspire others in the same position so that they can see there is so much more to life than fixating on the future. DeYoung’s writing about her growth does exactly that, while also encouraging readers to live their lives to the fullest potential, even if that means going against the grain.

DeYoung’s collection is an authentic, inspiring depiction of moments which lead up to her eventual acceptance of aging. The poems take readers along on her personal journey, experiencing exactly what she felt as she went through it. DeYoung strayed away from ordinary experiences which made her feel stagnant, and satisfying her restlessness inspired her to change her entire mindset. A striking, moving portrait of growth and overcoming the loss of childhood, How The Wind Calls The Restless is a collection that will leave readers with a new perspective on life.

How The Wind Calls The Restless is available at Emily DeYoung’s website


Victoria Carrubba is a senior English Publishing Studies student at Hofstra University. She is currently a tutor at her university’s writing center and a copyeditor for The Hofstra Chronicle. She has also worked on her university’s literary magazines, Font and Growl, and was previously a fiction editor for Windmill Journal. Outside of work, she can be found reading, dancing, painting, or drinking chai.

2021 Poetry Open Reading Period Selections Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce the results of the 2021 open reading period for full-length poetry manuscripts. The winning selections are: Heather Bartlett’s Another Word for Hunger, Tatiana Johnson-Boria’s Nocturne in Joy, and Athena Nassar’s Little Houses. Another Word for Hunger, Nocturne in Joy, and Little Houses are slated for publication in 2023.

Heather Bartlett’s poetry and prose appear widely in literary journals including Barrow Street, Lambda LiteraryThe Los Angeles Review, Ninth Letter, RHINO PoetryPoet Lore, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in poetry from Hunter College and is currently a professor of English and Writing at the State University of New York at Cortland. She is the founding editor of the online literary magazine Hoxie Gorge Review. She lives and writes in Ithaca, NY.

Tatiana Johnson-Boria (she/her) is a writer, artist, and educator. Her writing explores identity, trauma, especially inherited trauma, and what it means to heal. Her work has been selected as a finalist for The Prairie Schooner Book Prize, The Black Warrior Review Poetry Contest (2020), and others. She is a recipient of the 2021 MacDowell Fellowship and the 2021 Brother Thomas Fellowship. She’s received honorable mentions for the 2021 and 2020 Academy of American Poets Prize and is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. Tatiana completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College and is a 2021 Tin House Scholar. She also serves on the board for VIDA: Literary Arts. Find her work in or forthcoming at Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, and others.

Athena Nassar is an Egyptian-American poet, essayist, and short-story writer from Atlanta, Georgia. A finalist for the 2021 Poets Out Loud Prize, she is the winner of the 2020-2021 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest, the 2021 Academy of American Poets College Prize, and the 2019 Scholastic National Gold Medal Portfolio Award, among other honors. Her work has appeared in The Academy of American Poets, Southern Humanities Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Salt Hill, Lake Effect, The McNeese Review, New Orleans Review, Zone 3, The Los Angeles Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, PANK, and elsewhere. She is currently an undergraduate student at Emerson College, where she is the Head Poetry Editor of The Emerson Review.

Congratulations also to this year’s finalists and semifinalists:

Finalists

Anthony Aguero, Palm Springs
Alyse Bensel, Ecophagy
Caitlin Cowan, Happy Everything
Caleb Curtiss, Mortal Kombat
Farnaz Fatemi, Sister Tongue*
Raye Hendrix, What Good Is Heaven
Ashley Roach-Freiman, Violator
Caroline Shea, Some Nerve
Mia Willis, the space between men*

Semifinalists

Clayre Benzadón, Moon as Salted Lemon
Russell Brickey, Breath Elegies for Josephine
Jacob Bundenz, Spellwork for the Modern Pastel Witch
Ori Feinberg, Where Babies Come From
Ceridwen Hall, Acoustic Shadows
Emily Hansen, connected to nowhere
Jocelyn Heath, Cosmic Fugue
Rebekah Hewitt, En Caul
Tara Iacobucci, Thread, Bare
Christian Lozada, Skin is the Space Between Believing and Knowing
Tony Mancus, Same After Life
Anne McDonnell, Breath on a Coal
Rachel Stemple, Mimicries

* accepted elsewhere for publication

Sundress Reads: Review of ‘Spinning the Vast Fantastic’

At its (fist-sized) heart, Britton Shurley’s chapbook, Spinning the Vast Fantastic (Bull City Press, 2021), is a meditation on growth: growth that can sprout from God’s dead skin, spoons, an elk carcass, or even a pile of fresh horse shit. More importantly, the book teaches us that peace and optimism can thrive in decay, if viewed from a specific angle.

Shurley provides this angle. He primarily exalts his pastoral surroundings, family, household, and other blessings through the process of planting, harvesting, and consuming things that grow in the ground– “How could you not eat it all: / this field, these bushes, this sunlight; / this ripeness, this bee-hum, this dust?” – or fall from the sky– “… a girl can / make soap in her yard, look up / toward a cornflower sky, and be showered / with chunks of meat.” Shurley examines this (that is, a day in 1846 Kentucky where it rained mystery meat for ten minutes) and other puzzling phenomena, never fully understanding them, but allowing them to bewitch his readers through clear, palpable diction. After digesting these poems, you will leave craving blackberries and honey, meat and potatoes, snow and the wail of a steel guitar that Shurley decided against pawning.

Though he writes almost entirely in couplets and tercets within this book, Shurley’s practice is far from monotonous. He ensures our engagement by contrasting the softness of subjects like flowers and farm-fresh produce with the hardness of metal tools and urbanization. He surprises us by juxtaposing the portrait of house-bound comforts and meal preparation (“Our counters / filled with muffins, their tops inked dark and blue”) with the lamentation of a half-dead headless chicken (“This body that held / its hunger, this ghost that refused its call.”)

Remarkably, Spinning the Vast Fantastic feels quiet and materially anchored despite not being grounded in one specific place or season– Shurley rather traverses Southern and Midwestern landscapes and states from late autumn to the onset of summer. We see him interact with his daughters, drinking buddies, car thieves, and four-legged neighbors, all of whom become accessible to us through his warm, inviting voice. He implores: “Let’s agree some months / seem endless, like winter,” and he asks, time and time again: “But isn’t that / how magic happens— a little / something spun from nothing?” In Spinning the Vast Fantastic, the fanciful is celebrated and almost anything can become a fruit to be eaten and savored.

Spinning the Vast Fantastic is available at Bully City Press.


Alexa White is an editorial intern with Sundress Academy for the Arts and a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which is also her hometown. As an aspiring professional writer, she is finishing her BA in Creative Writing with a minor in Studio Art. Alexa has enjoyed painting, photography, and writing, especially poetry, for most of her life and has had both art and poetry published in UTK’s Phoenix literary magazine.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents December Poetry XFit

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Erin Elizabeth Smith. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, December 19th, 2021 from 2 to 4 pm EST via Zoom. Join us at the link tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password “safta”.

Poetry Xfit isn’t about throwing tires or heavy ropes, but the idea of confusing our muscles is the same. This generative workshop series will give you prompts, rules, obstructions, and more to write three poems in two hours. Writers will write together for thirty minutes, be invited to share new work, and then given a new set of prompts. The idea isn’t that we are writing perfect final drafts, but instead creating clay that can then be edited and turned into art later. Prose writers are also welcome to attend!

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Executive Director for Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently DOWN (SFASU 2020), and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American, among others. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

While this is a free event, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here: https://sundress-publications.square.site/product/donate-to-sundress/107?cs=true

Our community partner for December is The Bottom, a nonprofit multi-space community center and home to a Black-Affirming bookshop, which recently celebrated their grand re-opening in their new home in East Knoxville.  The Bottom serves as a central hub to build community, celebrate culture, and engage in  creativity through multiple program opportunities and fellowship with and for Black youth and adults. 

To donate to The Bottom, please check out https://www.thebottomknox.com/support-us

 

Project Bookshelf: Kathryn Davis

I’ve never had a proper bookshelf. 

Late in the July between my kindergarten and first-grade years, when my big brother loaned me his favorite book on the face of the earth—Nate the Great Goes Down In the Dumps—I didn’t need a bookshelf. My picture books were content to live (albeit overflowing) in the big wicker basket beside my bed, and anyway, I’d need to return Sam’s copy of Nate the Great when I’d finished. It wasn’t a signed copy or anything, but he’d added some drawings of his own that he might want to revisit down the road. And anyway, it was a loan—NOT a present. Okay

Soon after I’d torn through Nate (and safely returned it to my brother’s library under threat of noogies), I picked up Because of Winn Dixie, Charlotte’s Web, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Anniversary Boxed Set. Around the same time, my dolls went hungry. They moved out of their dollhouse, which my mother had built (and wallpapered) herself for my fourth birthday. My dolls cleared out their furniture, their clothes, their pets, and skipped town. So my books moved into my pink-roofed, five-bedroom dollhouse. The smaller books fit well into the bathroom and the nursery; the larger ones were stacked in the living room, the master bedroom. The oddly-proportioned ones were cast off into the doll house’s attic, angled and leaning into the pitch of the roof. 

My first car, the car my father used to usher my mother to the hospital the day I was born, was a white Jeep Cherokee Sport. It had this knit heather-grey interior—and seat pockets on the back of both the driver’s and passenger’s seats. I’d moved on to slightly-heftier books by the time I learned to drive; Speak, The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Bluest Eye. I brought books with me everywhere. I planned ahead, loaded my Jeep’s seat pockets with books I meant to read soon, books I’d read again, and took them with me wherever I went. When I blew the engine on the Jeep—on the expressway three miles from home—the back-of-seat pockets were blown out and sagging from the years they’d spent stuffed full of my library. I cleared out the car so my uncle could sell its shell down at his salvage yard, and I pulled books out of the pockets in stacks. Empty, the pockets held the shape of the books: re-formed to hold hardcovers instead of gum wrappers and ice scrapers, as the car’s designers had intended. 

My college dorm room came equipped with a bed, a small dresser, and a desk—as a loan—NOT a present. Okay? My writing professors sent me to buy dozens of collections and anthologies and craft books and implored me to keep them forever. Still, without a proper bookshelf, and with a backpack (and, for that matter, a back) that boasted only a finite load-bearing capacity, I was left to stacking. I stacked my books on the floor: On either side of my dresser. Along the foot of my bed. As a makeshift side table to the right of my desk. Each semester, I got more books, and my stacks got more precarious. A friend once compared my stacks of books to those stacks people make with rocks alongside rivers—except my stacks were not especially harmful to wildlife.

Now, I own a house that bears a striking resemblance to my childhood home (and very little resemblance to my pink-roofed dollhouse), but I still don’t have a bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong—large portions of hutches, console tables, nightstands, empty corners of rooms—serve as homes for my books. They’re the cornerstone of my house’s interior design; they’re spread all around, scaling the fireplace, holding up candles and framed photos, a couple dozen in every room. 

I like it this way. I like living amidst a poorly-filed library that I can access at every moment, in any room or on any surface or corner. I like that I can accidentally pick up a collection or novel and read the whole thing, just because it was there. Books are full of beautiful things that are meant to be happened upon, held onto, carried with us. It makes sense to me, not having a real bookshelf, because it means that books are everywhere, too great and necessary to ever really put away.


Kathryn Davis is a writer and editor from Michigan. She graduated in 2018 from Grand Valley State University, where she studied Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction, and served as editor-in-chief of the university’s literary journal, fishladder. You can find her work in Potomac Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere—or follow her on Twitter @kathrvndavis.

Sundress Reads Review Series Looking for Recently Published Books

As part of Sundress’s ongoing commitment to service, we recognize that COVID-19 has caused hardship by cancelling readings, launches, tours, and other needed promotional efforts. To combat this, Sundress Publications continues to accept submissions for consideration for inclusion in our review series, Sundress Reads. We’re looking to write featured reviews for any books published or to be published from July 2021 to June 2022. We at Sundress hope to champion writers whose work highlights human struggle and challenges misconceptions.

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

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

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

Interview with Inès Pujos, Author of Something Dark to Shine In

In anticipation of the release of her collection Something Dark to Shine In, Inès Pujos spoke with Sundress Publications’ editorial intern Ryleigh Wann about the use of the speculative and macabre in writing, animals, and survival.

Ryleigh Wann: The manuscript for Something Dark to Shine In was, at some points, also known as Against Porcelain and Lilly of The Valley. Could you speak more about the title of the book and how it encompasses the collection?

Inès Pujos: When I originally finished writing the manuscript post-MFA, I named it Against Porcelain after the title poem, which captured this urgent and macabre perspective that seemed to thread the collection as a whole. There was something eerie about porcelain, in the color and the fragility nature of it all. After submitting to several contests, a few editors pointed out that they thought a different title would be better suited. So I began submitting it as Lilly of the Valley, a nod to another title poem that was added after the first draft of the manuscript. But as time went on, I felt that title felt a little too mundane. My manuscript was previously picked up by another press and the editor suggested that I just lift my opening quote from Frank Standford’s The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You: “I’ll just bleed so the stars have something Dark to Shine In.” This quote has always resonated with me and really encompasses this idea of making something special out of one’s own martyrdom and trauma…which is what my whole collection discusses, and so the manuscript officially became Something Dark to Shine In.”

RW: Can you speak about the use of the speculative in this collection, found in the wolf
character in “Breaking Winter” or the meandering nature of “Patron Saint of All Lost Things”?

IP: I first began writing because I was not able to draw…or at least draw well. I always loved the surrealist painters and gravitated towards the surreal in my writing. It was in those early writing days that I created whole alternative worlds with these more fantastical characters all living in a village by the sea. As the years went on, more of these surreal characters began to emerge and I’ve carried them with me in various poems. Interestingly ,the wolf character appeared in my writing as a predator, in relation to the narrator. But over time, the wolf also became a feral protector. A few years out of writing “Breaking Winter,” I was working on my trauma with my therapist through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and the wolf character came to my protection…in all of his feralness he was able to be protective and at times nurturing so my relationship with this character changed.

As for “Patron Saint of All Lost Thing,” that poem was written in one sitting. I was on the train from NYC to New Haven and “Says I Love You”… I just remember having written one line and then it all flowed out of me, very much stream of consciences…which also could have been facilitated by the movement of the train. It was here that I explored a bit more of my personal family folklore and the long form allowed for a more whimsical approach. By the time I reach New Haven, I had the first draft done…my friend and I spent the afternoon walking through a graveyard …which was peak gothic and writerly and was able to make its way into sections of “Patron Saint of All Lost Things” after that.

RW: Can you tell me about the use of form throughout the collection, specifically in “Breaking Winter” or “More Blood in the East Village” and your use of space on the page?

IP: I find writing in certain forms to be very motivating when I experience writers block and although I am comfortable with more traditional form, I do like creating a hybrid out of it… taking something traditional and adding a twist to it. Yes…I love using white space…whether it is through erasure poems or using the space to create an erasure type esthetic. I use spaces as a way to add a bit more breath in my poems…often I find that my work has some manic energy to it and I rush to get everything on the page. The use of white space in “Breaking Winter” or “More Blood in the East Village” acts almost like the beat cue in screenplays. I want to add more tension between the manic/more urgent pacing with the use of white space.

RW: This haunting and haunted collection employs morbid language and imagery to discuss the impacts trauma has on the body. Can you discuss the influence of the macabre in your writing of such visceral language, themes, and imagery?

IP: My use of the macabre in my writing is a direct influence from my thought process and I’ve turned to writing to explore and destigmatize my own intrusive thoughts from previous traumas. But I also think that I’ve always been a bit morbid. As a child, I was fascinated by animals and wanted to be a surgeon. Growing up, my cats would often leave their prey lying around our yard and I would take their bodies back inside and try to examine their bodies and blood under a microscope. When I saw a dead bird on the road, I would put it in my bag and examine its wings, tried to sew it back. My desire to be a surgeon stopped the moment I experienced some medical trauma when I was thirteen. Though I still poured over my own surgery notes and pictures…I just didn’t feel comfortable inflecting harm on someone even if they medically need it. I find the body fascinating, whether human or animal and am curious to witness its inner workings. Post numerous surgeries and medical treatments, I took a lot of those experiences and put them into writing. That lived experience combined with intrusive thoughts only further fueled my more visceral images in themes. I think there’s a link between the macabre and trauma, In Esme Wang’s The Collected Schizophrenias, Esme teases out this connection beautifully…of consuming more macabre media and even true crime following a trauma. I think it’s my brain’s way of finding attunement, so I’m naturally drawn to morbidity.

RW: Tell me about the particular syntax of these poems, particularly the use of enjambment and blank spaces between phrases in individual lines like in “Good Faith.”

IP: I approached “Good Faith” in a similar manner to “Breaking Winter” and More Blood in the East Village”…in terms of the form and use of white space. Though, in this later poem, many of the spaces are not so much about creating tension and rather using the space to emphasize the intimacy between my partner and I…kind of like when we look at each other and I know what she’s thinking and vice versa.

RW: Something Dark to Shine In almost reads like a grimoire. Can you discuss the balance of the personal and cosmic mythologies (or magic) occurring within these poems?

IP: I grew up in the United States with just my immediate family…all my extended family was in France and so the only constant connection to my larger family was through old photographs. I used to take them out and look at my relatives, create narratives as a way to feel closer to my relatives. At an early age I found out about my grandmother’s suicide, which occurred when my mother was fourteen. My grandmother was so tragically beautiful and the stories surrounding her depression, her mental illness, and her family dynamics captivated me. So those stories always appeared to have some scene of mysticism/ family folklore. I would say that this folklore is very present in “Patron Saint of All Lost Things”, where I explore family grief and trauma and making something bright out of something so terribly tragic. It all ties back to the need to make something special, it’s very human.

RW: What truths do you think the book is searching for?

IP: I think a lot of personal truths were written within this manuscript by my own unconscious. When I first wrote the poems within my second and third semester of my MFA, I had not come to terms that during my first semester, I was raped. And yet, looking back at the poems now, almost ten years later, it was so clear that my body processed the rape earlier than my own mind…so there are so many personal truths hidden throughout the poems. Same goes for my own gender identity…I look at the lines that are in this book and I am stunned at how clearly I knew myself within that realm of the poem, but that it took me a little longer to come to terms with these truths.

RW: Many of the truths in these poems include a consideration of place, such as the East Village, Tompkins Square. I found it interesting how this ecotone is written about; the speaker or language of these poems interacting with a location. What does it mean to you to write about a place?

IP: I find location to be a very important part of my writing process. Perhaps it’s the influence of screenwriting, but I almost always need to ground myself in a physical space…whether imagined or real…I need the reader to be able to see where I am. And a great deal of these poems from the manuscript were written at coffee shops in the East Village, on my walks through Tompkins Park, and throughout the Lower East Side. I think there’s something inherently special about the East Village…so many great art movements were born there, and it was the first time that I saw a
large city function as literally a small village. I talk about my friend’s mother, Leslie, who I never met while she was alive…but having heard so many stories about her while in High school,  always imagined the neighborhood as Avant Garde and feral. When I first spent more time in the East Village, I felt instantly connected to it, and to Leslie, and I began writing my own folklore narrative between us.

RW: Which poems compel you the most?

IP: This answer has changed so many times of the years. Looking back, I notice the difference in my work the most with the poem entitled, “The New Frontier.” While the subject matter is about grooming and sexual assault, a subject that I cover in other poems, It’s the first poem that I am more direct about the subject itself. It was written after I had realized and began to process that I was a rape survivor, and I was more comfortable with claiming that trauma and had the words to articulate what I had survived. Previously, my unconscious didn’t’ have that clear cut language and I tended to rely on metaphors and more surreal settings. While there are some
surreal aspects to this poem, it felt like a turning point in my own trauma processing and writing.

Order your copy of Something Dark to Shine In today


Inès Pujos holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU. Their poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily, among others. Their manuscript was a finalist for multiple prizes, including Alice James’ 2017 open reading period and Semi-finalist for The 2017 Berkshire Prize by Tupelo Press. For more information visit inespujoscreative.com.

Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington where she teaches creative writing and is the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in Rejection LettersFlypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.

Sundress Announces the Release of Inès Pujos’ Something Dark to Shine In

Knoxville, TN— Sundress Publications announces the release of Inès Pujos’ Something Dark to Shine In, a debut poetry collection that considers the impact of pain while maintaining an unwillingness to surrender. 

In Something Dark to Shine In, trauma manifests in body horror. Skin strips away from flesh; blood stains floorboards; and teeth fall out to become toys. Death and religion hover constantly in the background of this haunting and haunted collection, even as the speaker reminds herself, “I am not dead yet.” Faced with the alienation and the horror of sexual violence, these poems resist the impulse to romanticize. Here, rot is marked by “a black wool of flies,” soil is laced with “chips of plates or lead paint,” and feral wolf-women refuse to be tamed. The classically beautiful becomes frightening such that a bee’s sweet honey is a reminder of the pain of their sting, and a golden crucifix is a symbol only of a calvary’s violence. Something Dark to Shine In refuses to look away from pain, from violence, yet to read these poems in a world where such atrocities become banal and commonplace, is to witness a profound refusal to die, a wish to find beauty, and even hope, in one’s own terror. 

Eileen Myles, author of I Must Be Living Twice and Inferno, (among many others) says, “Inès’ book is very pregnant and raggedy. I like it like I liked Lars Van Triers’ Nymphomaniac I & II. It’s medieval but darker like if a painter explained how he liked to cook—using skulls. So cavalier but with these tiny blots of light. Plus, she builds her poems with these good, great, organic lists that are never corny cause she’s seriously counting things in the world.” 

Order your copy of Something Dark to Shine In

Inès Pujos holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU. Their poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily, among others. Their manuscript was a finalist for the following prizes, among others: BOAAT Press’s 2018 open reading period and Alice James’ 2017 open reading period, and semi-finalist for: The 2017 Berkshire Prize by Tupelo Press and the 2017 Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry, among others. For more information, visit inespujoscreative.com


Our Favourite Poetry Books of 2021

The year is coming to a close and you’re wondering what poetry releases you missed in 2021. We asked our staff, editors, and authors which poetry books they loved this year, so scroll down to find your next read!

Krista Cox, Managing Editor at Doubleback Review

Bloodwarm by Taylor Byas

Cleave by Tiana Nobile

A Net to Catch My Body in its Weaving by Katie Farris

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