Call for Full-Length Poetry Manuscripts

Sundress Publications is open for submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts. All authors are welcome to submit qualifying manuscripts during our reading period of June 1st to August 31st, 2020.

We’re looking for manuscripts of forty-eight to eighty (48-80) single-spaced pages; front matter is excluded from page count. Individual pieces or selections may have been previously published in anthologies, chapbooks, print journals, online journals, etc., but cannot have appeared in any full-length collection, including self-published collections. Single-author and collaborative author manuscripts will be considered. Manuscripts translated from another language will not be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but we ask that authors notify us immediately if their manuscript has been accepted elsewhere.

The reading fee is $13 per manuscript, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre-order any Sundress title or broadside. We will also accept nominations for entrants, provided the nominating person either pays the reading fee or makes a qualifying purchase. Authors may submit and/or nominate as many manuscripts as they would like, so long as each is accompanied by a separate reading fee or purchase/pre-order. Entrants and nominators can place book orders or pay submission fees at our store. Please note that this submission fee is also waived for all BIPOC writers.

All manuscripts will be read by members of our editorial board, and we will choose at least two manuscripts for publication. We are actively seeking collections from writers of color, trans and nonbinary writers, writers with disabilities, and others whose voices are underrepresented in literary publishing. Selected manuscripts will be offered a standard publication contract, which includes 25 copies of the published book, as well as any additional copies at cost.

This year our top selection from the reading period also will receive a free one-week writing residency at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, TN.

To submit, email your Sundress store receipt for submission fee or book purchase, along with your manuscript (DOC, DOCX, or PDF), to sundresspublications@gmail.com. Be sure to note both your name and the title of the manuscript in your email header. For those nominating others for our reading period, please include the name of nominee as well as an email address; we will solicit the manuscript directly.

The CookBook Featuring Nick White

CookBook, a video series from Sundress Publications, is pleased to announce the newest episode with Nick White. Together, Nick and host Darren Demaree prepare Nick’s sweet potato hash with black beans and kale while discussing the process of writing, books, poetic imagery, novel writing, and so much more.

Watch the episode, here.

Originally from Mississippi, Nick White is the author of the novel How to Survive a Summer (Blue Rider/Penguin, 2017) and the story collection Sweet and Low. He is an Assistant Professor of English at The Ohio State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. His short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in a variety of places, including The Kenyon Review, Guernica, Catapult, The Hopkins Review, Indiana Review,The Literary Review, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a new novel.

Host Darren C. Demaree is the author of eleven poetry collections, most recently Emily As Sometimes the Forest Wants the Fire (June 2019, Harpoon Books). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.

Meet Our New Graphic Design Intern: Coral Black

When I was a kid, I hated reading. I refused to read any book offered me because it was too hard. I have dyslexia. I wouldn’t even try when my mama would ask me to read just this one small picture book trying to help me learn. I remember once trying to prove I could read just fine by hiding the book in question behind my back and reciting it to her word for word from memory of all the times she had read it to me. It didn’t work.

She never gave up though, she kept offering me new books and new authors until one day she gave me a Tamora Pierce book. After that, she couldn’t get me to stop reading. I always had a stack of books next to me and asked to go to the library every week. This was the stepping stone to entering college at 16. (Thanks mama for making sure I could read!) 

I graduated from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University four years ago. Like all Fairhaven students, I read a lot and contemplated the purpose of existence as if it were something to be learned in just four years. I soaked daily in beautiful words by more authors than I can list here, which naturally lead to inspiration.

Mine was not a written inspiration however, I was drawn to illustrate the inspiration I felt with a paintbrush, glue, paper, and of course pen. That is to say, I was a double major in fine arts and arts management. Words were often a companion to my visuals and remain so to this day. I enjoy the way in which they play off of each other and tell a different part of the same story. 

Now I work as a freelance creator, which entails a lot of logo design and a remarkable amount of watching that spinning rainbow circle. Words are still crucial in this environment, but “visit our website” is not quite the inspirational text I long for. To combat this, I really enjoy creating book covers whenever I can. I see it as that visual support for a manuscript that lands it in the right hands. A book cover gives you just seconds to grab that reader and yell “Read this one!” over the hundreds of other books in their presence. 

I’m thrilled to be working with Sundress and apply my artistic skills to be the visual support for under-represented voices. There is no greater purpose to life than to support each other by sharing love and knowledge because we’re all on this orb together. Maybe I learned that from four years of book reading after all. 


Coral Black received her BA in fine arts and fine arts management from Western Washington University. She has worked as a graphic designer for InkSpeak and others and most recently completed a custom label for Patron tequila. She works as a freelance designer and artist and is also the kitchen manager for her local YMCA where she cooks 3 meals per day for 75 kids and teachers.

Sundress Reads: A Review of Birthmarks

As part of our ongoing effort to support writers impacted by COVI-19, this installment of Sundress Reads features a review written by Maya Williams on Birthmarks by Whitney Rio-Ross:

Whitney Rio-Ross’ Birthmarks is a skilled and comprehensive deconstruction of the representation of women in the Bible, and how patriarchal influences have highjacked their stories and even play a role in Ross’ life with her mother (whom the book is dedicated to).

Ross uses poetry as a tool to give life to their stories and critique the ongoing themes of fruitfulness, equating baby-making and binary gender roles of men being masters and women engaging in eternal servitude. The book is out now with Resource Publications (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers). See below for ordering information.

Before the reader can even begin to engage with Ross’ poems, there are quotes from the “beginning” of significant birth through Eve after she and Adam are kicked out of the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis to the “ending” of significant birth through Mary before she conceives and gives birth to Jesus in the Book of Luke. The contrast is there on purpose.

Those two separate stories of women and childbirth alone display the ongoing themes of “bearing fruit” throughout the Bible being in strictly two categories: either for the sake of being punished or for the sake of sacrifice. The similarity they share is these two women giving birth because God, shown in this book of poems sometimes as a central male figure, told them to.

The opening poem is an erasure poem. Erasure poems are a staple in this collection in regards to an up close and personal look at how women are viewed to be servants (“Magnificat, As Plea”), and how bystanders are to be ambivalent towards women’s sorrow and how what is loved by them is taken away from them (“Resurrection, As Resurrection”). The opening erasure “Proverbs 31, As Curse” changes the line “A woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised” to “A woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised.” I don’t believe that erasing God from this piece is a dig upon someone’s relationship with a deity or spiritual entity. I believe that Ross is calling attention to how the patriarchy in our society is reliant on women’s fear, which is the only moment when they are worthy of any kind of praise.

Poems involving “Eve” in its title is another staple in Birthmarks, because instead of directly talking about Eve from the Bible, she talks about her mother. Just as there has been blame on Eve for eating from The Tree of Good and Evil—even though Adam ate from it too, and didn’t try to stop her—there has been blame on Ross’ mother…for multiple things actually: “What had she done                   wrong    this   time?” The strain in the indentations in between is startling too.

A more fascinating poem is one that reminds readers of someone not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. We don’t even know her name. The Prodigal Son is a story of the Bible often referenced about a son who goes off to waste his father’s inheritance in a life of lust and partying, only to return when he is poor and down on his luck. We know of the prodigal son, his father who welcomes him back with open arms, and his brother, who is upset because he was the one who stayed home and remained “the good one.” No one knows the mother. How long she had to wait for her son’s return, how much cleaning she had to do in order to prepare. Readers of the Bible may not consider that because the men in this story certainly haven’t. Ross makes sure we as readers get to know her in “Prodigal’s Mother, Waiting.”

Regardless of your personal worldview, and regardless of your knowledge base of Christianity, this book is an intriguing read. It is a book that encourages the reader to consider being in the shoes of women in an important text written by men. It is a book that supports you in viewing the harms of how a woman’s productivity in childbirth determines their value and can even pit women against each other when it shouldn’t (“Rachel, at Leah’s Baby Shower”). It’s a book of poems written about women by a woman shedding a perspective not often considered in most dialogue about religion.

Birthmarks is available via Resource Publications


Maya Williams (she/they) is a Black and Mixed Race writer currently residing in Portland, ME. Maya has published poems in glitterMOB, The Portland Press Herald, Black Table Arts, Occulum, and more. She has also published essays and poetry book reviews in The Tempest, Black Girl Nerds, The Floor Mag, and more. They are a Best of the Net Nominee and a finalist in Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance’s chapbook contest in 2019. Maya will be starting Randolph College’s low residency MFA virtually in mid-June 2020. 

2020 Prose Open Reading Period Selections Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce the results of the 2020 Prose and Short Story open reading period. The winning selection is: Jilly Dreadful’s COSMOBIOLOGICAL: Stories. The book is scheduled for release in the spring of 2021.

Of this collection, judge Saba Razvi, author of Heliophobia and In the Crocodile Gardens, says, ”The stories in COSMOBIOLOGICAL celebrate the resilience of the human spirit and the tricky net of narrative structures that connect us to each other and to the inexplicable realities of a world sometimes unreal its expression. Just as our mythologies remind us that energy is reshaped in the universe in unexpected ways, the energies of these multidimensional characters and their refractory worlds ricochet and resonate like cosmic blooms, reminding us that what is broken can sometimes still cut with the jagged edge of beauty even after the breaking. This collection is as intimate as it is diverse, as unusual as familiar. It reminds us of the strength that we build within ourselves from the wreckage of our dreams and remnant fumes of hope, taking us from the value of tears to the frailty of fire, from the expectation of rebellion to that of metamorphosis, from the lines that dictate surrender to the ones that embroider the ache of longing, and from the breath of the body to the dance of the cosmos. 

By creating modern tales from threads of familiar hue, Jilly Dreadful weaves, in this collection, a shadow-scape that invites our curiosity and wonder, that devastates our tranquility, that reminds us of how intensely we long for the world when we make a cocoon for ourselves away from it, and that immerses us in a subversively critical exploration of human intimacy, perception, and culpability in the transgressive delights and derelictions of the psyche’s own orbiting bodies. In these times of transformation and heartache, the stories we encounter can give us the hopeful light and fire of stardust, the certainty that the world is bigger than our fears of it.” 

Jilly Dreadful was born under a water sign and earned her Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at University of Southern California. Her stories are challenging like Pluto, but with the dreaminess of a Neptunian chaser, and can be found in places like Lightspeed Magazine, Rough Magick edited by Francesca Lia Block and Jessa Maria Mendez, and the first all-female Lovecraftian anthology, She Walks in Shadows. She is the creator of The Brainery: Online Speculative Fiction Workshops + Resources, which has been featured on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy and Wired.com.

Finalists

Kneel Said the Night, Margo Berdeshevsky
Perilous Creatures, Jennifer Clark
Freak Lip: An Epistolary, Julia Cohen
Love and Other Creatures, Sarah Herrington
Guardians and Saints, Diane Josefowicz
Love and Other Mirages, Summer Keown
From Outer Space, Humans Are Aliens Too, Summer Koo
As Petals Fall on Asphalt Roads, Aimee Parkinson
The Body Remembers, Blake Planty
Nature and Other Fictions, Forrest Roth

Semi-Finalists

The Paper Demon and Other Stories, Rosaleen Bertalino
Synonyms for Ghost, Guy Biederman
Lessons from the Desert, Mariyah Converse
Love, Faith, and Other Stories, Cathy Cruise
A Delicate Pain, Karen Fayeth
Assisted Living: Stories, Erin Flanagan
The Truth About Psych Camp, Ann Gelder
the futility of my kisses, RIP, Paula Harris
When the Glory Came Down, Rachel Holbrook
Carrion, Wes Jamison
Further Novella and Stories, Deborah Jannerson
May You Live Long Enough to Return Home, Yma Johnson
Housebound, Christina Kapp
Stay, Sarah Leamy
Children Will Drown, Rachel Luria
Mad Prairie, Kate McIntyre
Ball Breaker, Sherryl Melnyk
You Made This, Lisa Piazza
Tiny Monsters, CR Resetarits
To Such As These, Jeremy Schnotala
The Killdeer Lies, Alice Stinetorf
Things That May Save Us, Julie Trimingham
Lesser American Boys, Zach VandeZande
Painted Ladies, Victoria Waddle


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.

Website: www.sundresspublications.com  Facebook: sundresspublications
Email: sundresspublications@gmail.com  Twitter: @SundressPub

Sundress Roundtable: Reading and Writing from Adrienne Rich, Part 2

roundtable-graphic

Sundress Publications is glad to give space to the writing community at large for broader discussions on important topics. Recently, we have hosted discussions on accountability in publishing, plagiarism, and starting small presses. Now, we are sharing an AWP panel which was sadly cancelled this year, due to the coronavirus, on reading and writing in response to Adrienne Rich.

The Cherrywood Poetry Workshop in Austin, TX, following a format learned in Hoa Nguyen’s private studio, read and wrote in response to all 1216 pages of Adrienne Rich’s Collected Poems 1950-2012 (Norton, 2016). Surmising that having read every published Rich poem in community might be a unique accomplishment, Cindy Huyser, Lisa L. Moore, Desiree Morales, and Robert Stanton report on how deeply prescient Rich is about the ruptures in contemporary American life and share some of the work developed in response. 

What follows is the second part of this roundtable. The first part can be found here.


Participants: 

  • Cindy Huyser (CH): (coordinator) (she/her)
  • Lisa L. Moore (LLM): (she/her)
  • Desiree Morales (DM): (she/her)
  • Rob Stanton (RS): (he/him)

The Cherrywood Poetry Workshop’s process consists of reading the poems aloud, two pages per person at a time in a “round robin” format, then generating prompts at the end of the reading session before a period of writing. How does the group’s communal, performative, generative process enable us to encounter Rich?

CH: Our workshop’s process allows me to enter Rich’s work in an embodied way on multiple levels. In speaking the poems, we actually bring them into our bodies and literally into the present moment. In addition to highlighting the sonic effects of the work, this “round robin” reading allows me to hear and imagine the poem in multiple registers and from multiple viewpoints. Our process also encourages me to think about Rich’s craft as we read—the patterns she uses and then subverts—as well as the topics she engages. Reading in this way leads to fertile generative ground.

DM: Our process makes me feel like I am trying on Rich’s voice the way I would try on clothes, with the added benefit that I also get to see how it looks on the poets whose work and process are closest to me. Generating prompts spontaneously together also fossilizes the present moment and the insights of each poet in the room into the writing that results. So much of Rich’s work is about confronting and really seeing the present moment, and the practice of writing together synchronously acts as an invitation and reminder to connect our seeing to the present moment, our present predicament, whenever we are/were.

LLM: With the mix of ages, genders, and sexual orientations in our group, it has been illuminating to me to hear Rich’s poems in so many voices and to witness how they feel personal and prescient to so many different kinds of “persons.” This process certainly increased, or at least confirmed, my esteem for Rich’s poems and awe for how much they mean to us.

RS: It definitely feels like we have “lived through” Rich’s poems–it is odd to reflect that I have probably now spoken her words aloud more than any other poet, that I have heard her words so often in the voices of my friends in the group. That we then respond, not with critical analysis (other than the occasional stray comment or murmur of assent), but with our creative effects–individually but in a communal grouping–felt like we were “honouring” Rich’s work in a way I had never really encountered before.

How does Rich’s work act as a map?

CH: I think Rich’s work provides us a political and social topography, with poems that give us indicators of distance and direction.  When I was a young woman, Rich’s poems questioning heteronormativity and speaking lesbian existence plotted destinations that made my own world more expansive. As I return to the poems now, I discover that the terrain of the United States—its policies and prejudices—is easily recognizable in spite of the passage of time. Rich’s insights act as a legend that deepens my understanding of the current moment.

DM: The week I really began to understand the extent of the concentration camps on American soil, just a few miles from where I live in Texas, Lisa and I met and read Rich together. Among the poems we read that day were poems she wrote about being an American Jew during the Holocaust, balancing the pain, relief, and guilt of being safe and distant from the genocide. She articulated my exact feelings and I felt relieved to have Adrienne Rich do some of the heavy lifting to process them. It was also important to realize she had written those poems in the 80s, reminding me that it takes time to heal enough to tackle something like that and articulate it. I cried but then I breathed for what felt like the first time that week.

There have been so many moments like this. When I sifted through the Collected to find “Nightbreak” I came across these lines, from “Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev:”

After the long training     the early sieges
we are moving almost effortlessly in our love

In the diary as the wind          began to tear
at the tents over us                 I wrote
We know now we have always been in danger
down in our separateness
and now up here together     but till now
we had not touched our strength

from Collected Poems: 1950 – 2012

They struck me to my core that day, and even harder now, as I write these responses quarantined alone in my apartment, which I did not leave to attend AWP. It’s been weeks since I’ve been touched but down in my separateness I’m sustained in part by how collectively, we’ve now touched our strength.

LLM: Rich’s poems give us permission to go “all over the map” in our own poems—geographically, historically, politically, and emotionally. The sheer range and volume of the Collected created so much space for my own composition process.

RS: Reading Rich’s poems in full really reveals what a “total” poet she is–one for whom the personal and political, the historic and the biographical are all inevitably interconnected in the same accessible imaginative terrain. Writing under her influence  felt like encouragement to break all thoughts and feelings out of their individual compartments and into one collective space–very liberating!

How does Rich’s work read into the present moment?

CH: As I mentioned earlier, for me, the sociopolitical topography in these poems is utterly recognizable. One example that comes to mind is “Frame,” which was written in 1980 (from A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far). In this poem, a student seeking shelter from icy wind as she waits for a bus is transformed by white gaze into a criminal and subjected to violent arrest. Themes of police violence, racial inequity, and the power of the white gaze are instantly recognizable in the current environment. I had this experience again and again as we read through the Collected Poems.

DM: Rich models how to see the present moment and write about it. She writes about what’s in front of her with such well-honed specificity and insight that her poems are at once urgently present and universal at the same time. This connects back to how her work is a map: she lays out the emotional landscape of a particular moment with such accuracy that readers of her work only need to recognize a moment or event as analogous to our predicament and the whole emotional life of the experience is laid out in front of us. She is somehow always writing about now—her present as she writes it and our present as we read it.

LLM: It is actually paradoxically comforting to realize/remember that the underlying issues of racist colonialism and capitalist patriarchy are not new. Great minds such as Rich’s have engaged with these problems before. They have not solved or banished violence and oppression, which puts into perspective that perhaps that’s not the task. Perhaps the task is simply to show up for the work of compassion and justice as it presents itself in our own lives, humbly.

RS: “Joke” is not the right word, but it certainly became a recurring comment in the group that this or that poem seemed like it was “speaking” to our present moment directly: we felt addressed. On one hand, this could be discouraging: for all her work as trailblazer and ground-breaker, the same hatred and violence can be seen to drive the contemporary world. But, more frequently, it was a reminder that it is possible to respond to “dark times” with one’s whole being, one’s concerted sensibility, in ways that aren’t only angry or incisive, but beautiful. She’s still a model of how to do that and not crumble.

What does it mean to be a poetic ancestor? How is Rich ours? How are we carrying that lineage forward?

CH: I think of a poetic ancestor as someone whose work passes down strands of craft and concern that in a later generation retain a certain likeness, even when mutation has occurred. Rich is my poetic ancestor not only in terms of the poems I’ve written directly in response to her work, but in what she has taught me about attention to the world. Another theme of the poem “Frame” is the role of the witness: the poem’s speaker both identifies their ability to be hidden “outside the frame” and claims the space of witness. So I hope to carry Rich’s lineage not only in work that responds directly to her poems or carries traces of her sensibilities, but by writing poems that bear witness.

DM: Rich is our ancestor in a number of ways. The first is because we chose her. We spent two years calling her into the room with our voices, reading her closely, learning everything we could from her so that we can take our turn and do the work of poets, striving to live up to the standard she modeled (we’ve got a long way to go).

Secondly, because we didn’t choose her. She is an influential American poet whose poetic impact is inescapable. I see her lessons fossilized in the work of so many living poets whose work matters to me right now—Claudia Rankine and Ada Limón, for instance—she’s taught all of us.

Finally, she’s our ancestor because she shows us how to navigate American life, especially its ugliness. That’s what culture and ritual ultimately have to do for us, give us something that shows us how to feel, give us something to do, when we can’t completely manage the lift of doing that for ourselves. So she’s our ancestor because she gives us something as big as what culture gives us, something human and universal and personal and intimate.

LLM: Before reading her poems with Cherrywood, I thought of Rich as a poetic ancestor mainly as a lesbian and a feminist—one of the first self-identified lesbian poets I had ever heard of or read. Now I experience her as everyone’s ancestor, everyone, that is, to whom these poems speak with urgency and power.

RS: I realized, after joining the group, that I had been eager for this encounter with Rich’s work, more even than I’d expected. Before, I had admired what I knew of her work from a slight distance mainly because she was clearly such a powerful forebear for others I admired. Now, open to the experience, I felt–as is somehow the case with all great art–that it wanted and needed to be so “absorbed.” And, as with the work of all great artists, it ultimately makes it a just little bit easier to go on living and go on creating.

Once again, part one can be found here.


Thank you to the roundtable participants:

CindyHuyserPortrait_color

Cindy Huyser’s poems appear in many journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook, Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems (Blue Horse Press, 2014). She co-edited Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press, 2016) and several editions of the Texas Poetry Calendar.

Poet Lisa Moore in her backyard in Austin, Texas

Lisa Moore is the author of the chapbook 24 Hours of Men (Dancing Girl, 2018) and a winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation Book Award. The author or editor of five scholarly books, she is Director of the LGBTQ Studies Program at The University of Texas at Austin.

Desiree Morales photo

Desiree Morales is a poet and educator in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in What Rough Beast, Conflict of Interest, and Truck: I35 Corridor. She grew up in Southern California and plans to never stop talking about it.

RobStanton

Rob Stanton lives and teaches in Austin, TX. He is the author of The Method, Trip- and Takes, Cuts, the latter in collaboration with Colin Winborn.


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.

Website: www.sundresspublications.com  Facebook: sundresspublications
Email: sundresspublications@gmail.com  Twitter: @SundressPub

Sundress Roundtable: Reading and Writing from Adrienne Rich, Part 1

roundtable-graphic

Sundress Publications is glad to give space to the writing community at large for broader discussions on important topics. Recently, we have hosted discussions on accountability in publishing, plagiarism, and starting small presses. Now, we are sharing an AWP panel which was sadly cancelled this year due to the coronavirus on reading and writing in response to Adrienne Rich.

The Cherrywood Poetry Workshop in Austin, TX, following a format learned in Hoa Nguyen’s private studio, read and wrote in response to all 1216 pages of Adrienne Rich’s Collected Poems 1950-2012 (Norton, 2016). Surmising that having read every published Rich poem in community might be a unique accomplishment, Cindy Huyser, Lisa L. Moore, Desiree Morales, and Robert Stanton report on how deeply prescient Rich is about the ruptures in contemporary American life and share some of the work developed in response. 

This is the first part of the two-part roundtable. Part two can be found here!


Participants: 

  • Cindy Huyser (CH): (coordinator) (she/her)
  • Lisa L. Moore (LLM): (she/her)
  • Desiree Morales (DM): (she/her)
  • Rob Stanton (RS): (he/him)

Please introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your experience with encountering the collected works of Adrienne Rich.

Cindy Huyser (CH): My first encounter with Adrienne Rich’s work was as an undergraduate, when I read Diving Into the Wreck. That someone of my mother’s generation could write poems so clearly critical of patriarchal power structures, and ones that reflected the identity I had begun to claim (”I am the androgyne,” Rich writes in “The Stranger”), was both revelation and relief. So it was a special pleasure to read and write to her Collected Poems with the Cherrywood workshop.

Rich’s poem “The Eye” takes place within an apartment in a city into which war is thrusting, close enough to coat trees and books with ash. The week we read this poem, NASA announced that 2018 had been the 4th hottest year on record, and the poem’s hurricane metaphor prompted me to think about weather extremes as a form of imminent conflict. The speaker of the poem imagines a response that might have come too late in any case, and as someone recently widowed I could certainly relate.

My poem, “Dear Storm” responds to Adrienne Rich’s poem “The Eye”.

The Eye

A balcony, violet shade on stucco    fruit in a plastic bowl on the iron
    raggedy legged table, grapes and sliced melon, saucers, a knife, wine
in a couple of thick short tumblers cream cheese once came in: our snack
    in the eye of the war      There are places where fruit is implausible, even
rest is implausible, places where wine if any should be poured into wounds
    but we’re not yet there or it’s not here yet      it’s the war
not us, that moves, pauses and hurtles forward into the neck
    and groin of the city, the soft indefensible places but not here yet

Behind the balcony an apartment, papers, pillows, green vines still watered
    there are waterless places but not here yet, there’s a bureau topped with
marble
and combs and brushes on it, little tubes for lips and eyebrows, a dish of
coins and keys
    there’s a bed a desk a stove a cane rocker a bookcase civilization
cage with a skitter bird, there are birdless places but not
    here yet, this bird must creak and flutter in the name of all
uprooted orchards, limbless groves
    this bird standing for wings and song that here can’t fly

Our bed quilted      wine poured      future uncertain      you’d think
    people like us would have it scanned and planned      tickets to somewhere
would be in the drawer     with all our education you’d think we’d have
taken measures
    soon as ash started turning up on the edges of everything ash
in the leaves of books ash on the leaves of trees and in the veins of the
passive

    innocent life we were leading calling it hope
you’d think that and we thought this     it’s the war not us that’s moving
    like shade on a balcony
from The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000 – 2004

Dear Storm 

The years flow in only one
direction, no eye
but a gaze to the past
and some blurred trajectory.

Regard the remnant energy
posted a year ago: bodies
shot through with seconds’ invisible
riddling, the hours of the living
a colander of stars.

Outside, a dizzying drench—
alleyway and intersection drowned,
the rain barrel’s reminder
of fullness, overflow, drought.

Desiree Morales (DM): We began reading Rich soon after the 2016 election, at the same time that I began taking curanderismo classes from a local elder. I experienced my deepest despair just as I began to approach these cultural technologies that had been left for me, right when I needed them. In curandera school we learned that we’re never alone and can always call on our ancestors, saints, and guides to join us, not just in ceremony. It was immediately clear that Adrienne Rich is one of my ancestor/saint/guides, and her uncanny ability to talk to me across time through her poetry is a salve that guides how I approach this tumultuous American moment.

The day after I stood next to students during the March for Our Lives, I read a line from Rich that I remember as: “We have lived with violence for seven years/ It was not worth one single life.” The Rich poem I included, “Nightbreak,” appeared the week I listened to the Kavanaugh hearings on NPR with my fists clenched around the steering wheel. Week after week, Rich articulated my despair, pain, anger, fear and resolve in a way that was both prescient and reflective because it was rooted in her clarity around her present moment.

Interspersed within the same book, there are poems of joy, love, sex, and hope. Those poems are like a promise–if she feels dark on one page and light on the next, then I shouldn’t worry I will never have light again, no matter how much it feels that way. I was twelve years old when she wrote her last poems. It has been a comfort to remind myself that my whole adult life, almost every moment of optimism, my sense of security, my faith in whatever holds our lives together came after all of this work.

I wrote my poem, “Dream Girl” in response to Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Nightbreak.”

Nightbreak

Something broken     Something
I need     By someone
I love     Next year
will I remember what
This anger     unreal
yet
has to be gone through
The sun to set
on this anger
I go on
head down     into it
The mountain pulsing
Into the oildrum     drops
the ball of fire.

Time is quiet     doesn’t break things
or even wound     Things are in danger
from people     The frail clay lamps
of Mesopotamia
row on row under glass
in the ethnological section
little hollows for dried-
up oil     The refugees
with their identical
tales of escape     I don’t
collect what I can’t use     I need
what can be broken.

In the bed the pieces fly together
and the rifts fill     or else
my body is a list     of wounds
symmetrically placed
a village

blown open     by planes
that did not     finish the job

The enemy has     withdrawn
between raids     become invisible
there are
no agencies
of relief
the darkness becomes utter
Sleep     cracked and flaking
Sifts over the shaken    target.

What breaks     is night
not day     The white
scar     splitting
over the east
The crack weeping
Time for the pieces
to move
dumbly back
toward each other.

from Leaflets: Poems 1965 – 1968

Dream Girl

I am driving the old blue
truck made of birds
through the forest

I am walking through
the neighborhood where my
ancestor’s tears are honeybees

Ask why enough
and the answer to anything
becomes beautiful

The female word for warrior means
an intractable light
I am making my body into
an instrument of light

The female word for weapon means
that which commands without violence

I no longer recognize the passive voice

I am making a weapon of my body

with my ancestor technology
with my inside out snake technology
with these instrument flight hands
I put words in my own mouth
and carry the story awhile

Lisa L. Moore (LLM): I grew up in Canada, and my English literature degree was canonical and traditional. The only class I took on living writers was on Canadian literature. So I did not encounter Adrienne Rich until I started graduate school at Cornell in 1986. I knew she was a poet, but I first read her as the author of iconic essays of feminist theory like “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” and her co-authored piece “An Interview with Audre Lorde.”

I remember another lesbian in the entering class, a very sophisticated Bryn Mawr graduate, saying on the first day of our Poetry and Poetics class that she was interested in Rich’s poem “North American Time.” I read “North American Time” and found it completely incomprehensible. I just didn’t have the tools to read it at the time. But eventually I heard about 21 Love Poems, at that time among the few published works about contemporary lesbian erotic relationships.

Those were the poems that I transcribed into valentines and read to new lovers. Even though it was cool for my friends and I to make a little affectionate fun of the romantic language of the poems (“your lovemaking, like the half-cured frond/ of the fiddlehead fern in forests”), I know I at least felt deeply understood, felt, seen, by the directness of lines like “the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth.” I taught those poems and others like Diving Into the Wreck and eventually, even “North American Time” in literature survey courses at UT for a long time before I had this exquisite opportunity to read all of Rich with Cherrywood Workshop. It was deep.

Adrienne Rich’s triptych of poems about her frustrated female relatives really opened up for me one of my own origin stories, about which I’m always trying to write and always failing. When I was a baby, my parents left me with my grandparents for the weekend. My grandparents lived on a farm in rural Alberta, so I was incorporated into the daily routine of winter chores. In a terrible accident that shaped my childhood and my family, the car got stuck in the fields where we were out checking that the cattle had enough hay for the night. My grandparents got out but left me in the car where it was warmer. My grandfather jacked up the car and slid underneath it to clean out the snow that had accumulated, choking the engine. The car fell on him, crushing him, and he died. My grandmother left me in the car to get help. At least that’s what we think happened. It was one of the many traumas of my childhood that were never talked about.

Rich’s poem opened up for me the possibility of understanding this as a story not about me being left behind but my grandmother walking away. That led me to imagine whether this event I have usually thought of as an abandonment might have also been the template for my own walking away from some of the constraints of my upbringing. It’s also a poem about winter. My poem “Eileen May White Moore” responds to Rich’s poem “Mary Gravely Jones.”

Mary Gravely Jones

We had no petnames, no diminutives for you,
always the formal guest under my father’s roof:
you were “Grandmother Jones” and you visited rarely.
I see you walking up and down the garden,
restless, southern-accented, reserved, you did not seem
my mother’s mother or anyone’s grandmother.
You were Mary, widow of William and no matriarch,
yet smoldering to the end with frustrate life,
ideas nobody listened to, least of all my father.
One summer night you sat with my sister and me
in the wooden glider long after twilight
holding us there with streams of pent-up words.
You could quote every poet I had ever heard of,
had read The Opium Eater, Amiel and Bernard Shaw,
your green eyes looked clenched against opposition.
You married straight out of the convent school,
your background was country, you left an outperformed
typescript of a play about Burr and Hamilton,
you were impotent and brilliant, no one cared
about your mind, you might have ended
elsewhere than in that glider
reciting your unwritten novels to the children.

from “Grandmothers,” in A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far

Eileen May White Moore

The name we called you, “Gramma Moore,”
flattened out consonants and contracted syllables
but was oddly formal. In your small stucco house
by the highway, you raised four children in two bedrooms
and a lean-to tacked on to the back. How crowded
that must have been. But I remember you
alone there and lonely, the worry over finding you
a hired boy to live-in, my father and uncles
gathering on the weekends to help with the farm,
work you could not do alone after Grampa died.
I was with you that day, fifteen months old
in the deep Alberta winter, well-wrapped in the back seat
of a car that stopped in the snowy field where you
and Grampa had driven to check the cattle. Something
happened, no one knows what but you, the car stalled,
Grandpa jacked it up, dug underneath and the car slipped,
crushing him. The nearest help was a mile across the fields,
so in your housedress and galoshes, you walked away.

Robert Stanton (RS): Before this in-depth engagement, my experience of Rich’s work was piecemeal–powerful individual poems and sequences read in anthologies, revelatory essays discussed mainly in academic contexts. When I first joined, I was excited the Cherryword group had already embarked on reading through the Collected Poems: I got to know and love the people as I got to know and love the poetry.

“From Strata” is one of the “Later Poems” included at the very end of Rich’s Collected. Its central metaphor of archeological excavation is in some ways so obvious but also so clear, so strong and so flexible: the author identifies, tellingly, less with the static artifacts to be uncovered and more with the active efforts and theories of the diggers, ceaselessly searching for and finding new meaning. So many “layers” of her ongoing commitment– the political, the personal, the poetic, the erotic–are returned to here, for the last time, knowingly.

“Career” is a verse journal [I] began November 17, 2016, each daily nine-line chunk hovering somewhere between a separate poem and another stanza added to an ongoing account. The sections [here] were all begun at group meetings–sessions that have been a necessary coping mechanism in dark times. My responses to hearing and reading Rich’s perennially timely and incisive work alongside the other group members are now permanently woven into this ongoing project in ways that are sustaining, at least to me.

From Strata

1

Under this blue
immune unfissured autumn
urbs et orbis      pivot and axis      thrashing

upthrust from strata
deep under : silences
pressed each against

another : sharpened flints
pulverized coral      stoneware crumbling
rusted musket muzzles

chips of China-trade
porcelain     shackled bone
no death unchained

Here at eye-level the new
news new season new
moment’s momentary flare :

floodlit abstractions
root-riven      scrambling
for adulation

Yes, we lived here long and hard
on surfaces stunned by the wrecking ball
where time’s thought’s creature only

and when all’s fallen      even
our remnant renegade selves
—let this too sleep in strata :

the nerve-ends of my footsole
still crave your touch as when
my earlobes glowed between

your quiet teeth

2

Say a pen must write underground      underwater      so be it

The students gather at the site :
Come over here and look at this
  Looks like writing      yes      that’s how they did it      thought it
     
into marks they thought
      would outlast them
     
it would take patience to do that      Anyone
                                                                                  recognize the script?
     
Could it be music?      a manifesto?

3

Rescuers back off      hands lifted open as in guilt
for the ancestors no one is rescued from :

curated galleried faces starting
off      from behind long-stiffened bandages

but who would meet those lookaway eyes
maybe they’re metal      blind reflectors

maybe only who choose to look can see :
thought finding itself in act

violet olive brush strokes speaking of flesh
leaps diagonals pauses : a long conversation

with others living and dead
palpable and strange

4

Viscous stealth, brutal calm : subterfugal, churning
encrypted in tar      sending expendable

bodies to underworlds unseen      until
catastrophe blows apart

the premises      a spectacle hits
the TV channels      then in a blink

a dense cloth wipes history clean :

but never in beds never to warm again
with the pulsing of arrival      shudder of wordless welcome

the body heat of breadwinners and lovers

5

My hands under your buttocks      your fingers numbering my ribs
how a bow scrapes, a string holds the after-pluck

astonishing variations      hours, bodies without boundaries

Back into that erotic autumn I search my way defiant

through passages of long neglect

6

Throw the handwritten scraps of paper
into the toilet bowl

to work their way spiraling down
the open gullet of advanced barbarism

So : if you thought no good came from any of this
not the resistance nor its penalties

not our younger moments nor the continuing on
then, I say, trash the evidence

So : a scrap of paper      a loved bitter scrawl
swirls under into the confluence

of bodily waste and wasted bodies :
—a shred      absorbed, belonging

7

Weathers drag down and claw up the will :
yellowdust wind      asphalt fog      a green slash
of aurora borealis      or :

a surveillance helicopter’s high-intensity beam
impaling solitudes      ransacking solidarities

In the end no pleas no bargains :

It’s your own humanity you’ll have to drag
over and over, piece by piece
page after page
out of the dark

from Later Poems: Selected and New 1971 – 2012

from “Career”
making out
in-
escapable tweets
bird language
everyone assigned
their own
negligible portion
of the dark
forest

what it would mean not
to have to
defend
to push
back
from the margin
to feel (anew each day
a new reason every day)
mortified

imagine a
Cassandra
surviving to
live
her vision (a
joke
right?) – rage
that must be dealt with in
this life / this world / this body

kindness as
wanted ghost
mineral
deposits
(why do
men
do it
I had thought them happy
dead wrong)

a ‘scary
time
for young men’
indeed
all those hormones
needing bonding
all that time that sound
echoing from the future
breaking glass

get used to
begging
for medication
get used to
not
tasting water
get used to
getting used to our
ancient future

ends of the earth
returned from –
mentor
needing guidance
navigates
via key-
board &
finger-
tip

from the porous
eye
out
– influx
(unpredictable)
of guilt
– ash
is what is
always coming next

power to choose
no power –
‘victims’
to ascend to
check out
the current
paperwork the preferred
smorgasbord the
rigorous perimeter

to labour to
be simple to
ask the one
question to assert
(with zero violence)
its importance
to allow love its
pitiless victory
is not easy

think of the earth
minus ego
plus exultation
the un-
seen vast leverage required
to
maneuver epiphany
to
everyday daylight

dreams even
nightmares a
luxury a
privilege old &
on fire
your stand-in
cartoon bird
whistles awkwardly of ‘what
is past, or passing, or to come’

work you are not
expected to complete but
from which you are not
permitted to refrain
its buffeting
choral affect
sounding
each of us
trusty responsive instruments in turn

where to next
laws & lords repealed
quit
while you’re ahead
richer than ever
nah move seamlessly between
solitude
&
solidarities

You can find part two, here. And thanks to the roundtable participants!


CindyHuyserPortrait_color

Cindy Huyser’s poems appear in many journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook, Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems (Blue Horse Press, 2014). She co-edited Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems (Dos Gatos Press, 2016) and several editions of the Texas Poetry Calendar.

Poet Lisa Moore in her backyard in Austin, Texas

Lisa L. Moore is the author of the chapbook 24 Hours of Men (Dancing Girl, 2018) and a winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation Book Award. The author or editor of five scholarly books, she is Director of the LGBTQ Studies Program at The University of Texas at Austin.

Desiree Morales photo

Desiree Morales is a poet and educator in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in What Rough Beast, Conflict of Interest, and Truck: I35 Corridor. She grew up in Southern California and plans to never stop talking about it.

RobStanton

Rob Stanton lives and teaches in Austin, TX. He is the author of The Method, Trip- and Takes, Cuts, the latter in collaboration with Colin Winborn.


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Project Bookshelf with Social Media Intern Mary B. Sellers

As an only child with two working parents, books quickly became my constant and beloved companions growing up. I began establishing myself as A Reader early on in elementary school, thanks to a program called Accelerated Reader. The premise was an annual, ongoing “contest” where we could check out books from the library each week and then take short online reading comprehension quizzes about them. Each quiz earned us points that were evaluated at the end of the semester, totaled, and first, second, and third place winners for each grade were announced. While the prizes varied from getting to eat lunch with the principal and “special” lunch hour field trips to local restaurants, those weren’t what interested me.

I was a shy child; the last thing I wanted was to have to eat with our principal, be compelled to make small talk with a man 50 years my senior, and know the entire lunchroom could see that I spilled some tomato soup on my collar. I was driven to read by something small and secret and new to me at that point in life: pride. The breathless intellectual satisfaction of knowing I was reading a book that high schoolers usually tackled and understanding its plots and themes on some basic, instinctual level. When I ran across a vocabulary word I didn’t know, I logged in on a piece of notebook paper. Soon, I began anticipating the types of questions on the quizzes; I assigned myself weekday and weekend books; read in the back of my mother’s minivan on the way to and from my after school ballet classes.

I read. I read constantly. I read obsessively. It wouldn’t be until much later that I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I’ve always suspected that these reading binges were probably one of the healthiest ways of expressing the disorder’s compulsions. It was also nice to be known for something, as I wasn’t much good at math or science and even worse at the games we played in P.E. I wasn’t popular or especially well-dressed like some of the girls in my classes with their Limited Too and Abercrombie jeans. Instead of long golden hair, mine was a nondescript brown and cropped into a short bob vaguely resembling a mushroom. In short, it just wasn’t happening for me at that point.

I ended up placing either first or second place from fourth through sixth grade. I got to see my name on the big bulletin board outside the front office each day. My parents got bragging rights and it felt lovely to be referred to as something other than just myself. More than that, though, it was the first time people started calling me adjectives like “smart” or “bright.” My teachers and the other students were starting to notice me, to approve of me, which led, of course, to learning to approve of myself.

I didn’t have the best grades, but I had read the most books.

I spent months with Nancy Drew and her sensible, 150-page mysteries; I read The Three Musketeers and Little Women and Tolkien’s trilogy, which led to my developing a taste for magic and world-building. Years later, as I sit here writing this, months away from turning 30, it’s easy to see what was happening: I was discovering myself, my tastes, my personal curiosities through reading about others. I’d lived hundreds of lives by the time I turned 12. It didn’t matter if they were fictional. That’s not how empathy works. When we read, we practice the art of empathy, of taking a walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s something so essential for both children and adults to learn and practice and actively use throughout their day-to-day.

We all want an identity; even as kids, we cling to certain things that make us feel sturdier, more tethered to this world. Books became that for me.

As for my bookcase these days: it’s smaller than I’d like it to be. With approximately 405 square feet to work with, however, options for interior decorating are slim. Forgoing “real” furniture, I decided to build one out of two sets of display shelving units I found on sale at Target. The instructions claimed their assembly would take me under 45 minutes, but because I’m me (with little to no engineering capacity or instinct) the project took me a little over three hours. It was oddly enjoyable doing something with my hands and I surprised myself by how absorbed I became in the whole process. It was a Tuesday night in October. I drank two glasses of pinot grigio and watched re-runs of The Office and felt truly capable for the first time in months. I only slammed my finger with the hammer once.

As for organization? Well, I don’t really have one specific system. As a Libra, I’m drawn to aesthetics. To colors. I wanted to make my bookcase one of the focal points in my studio apartment and so I thought for a couple of days before beginning the shelving process. Up until that point, my books were kept precariously stacked in three big liquor store boxes I’d had shipped across the country via the Greyhound bus shipping service. It took three weeks for them to arrive, the boxes were badly torn and stained with god only knows what, but it was cheap and effective. As a recent creative writing graduate without a job, cheap was optimal. Moving from Mississippi to Seattle meant I had to be scrupulous in what I chose to bring, so the books I have with me now are especial favorites—a smorgasbord of dog-eared, highlighted-to-an-inch-of-their-life novels, college and graduate school textbooks, and ones from childhood I couldn’t bear to part with. I’m defensive about how few there are, and oftentimes find myself overexplaining to guests that I own “so many more, I promise,” like the overly earnest literary snob I (unfortunately) sometimes am.

I finally decided to organize my books by shades of color. I have the Capitol Hill library in Seattle to thank for that: it’s a stunning building with high glass windows and a huge shelf organized with book spines ranging from ballet pinks to marigolds to dusty blues. It’s truly gorgeous—definitely Pinterest-worthy. I caught my breath the first time I walked past it, immediately took out my iPhone, and snapped a photo. Finding this organizational hack in my local library was the best, most wholesome sort of inspiration. It was fitting in a romantic and bookish way that real life rarely is. As an intensely visual person and learner, organizing by color rather than author or alphabet made far more sense. And besides, it was pretty.


Mary B. Sellers lives and works in Seattle, WA, and is at work on her second book, a novel of autofiction. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Mississippi and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. Most recently her writing has appeared in Psychopomp Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Grimoire, Third Point Press, Sidereal Magazine, and Young Professionals of Seattle.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Accepting Internship Applications

Sundress Publications, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is currently seeking applications for three REMOTE internships: (1) Development Internship and (2) Editorial Internships for the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA). 

The development intern will be responsible for tasks that could include researching and proposing grant opportunities, drafting grant language, coordinating with other development interns and SAFTA departments, collating data, and proofreading documents. The intern may also be responsible for writing copy, composing blogs, and assisting in the establishment of new programs, projects, and partnerships. 

The editorial interns will help with editorial matters involved in running SAFTA residencies. Those responsibilities may include writing press releases, composing blogs, proofreading, working with social media (Facebook, WordPress, etc), collating editorial data, research, and more.

Due to the current health crisis, both positions can be done remotely, and therefore we are accepting applications regardless of your current location.

To apply for the development internship, please send a resume and brief cover letter detailing your interest in the position to the Development Director, Korrin Bishop, at korrin@sundresspublications.com. Applications are due by June 25, 2020

To apply for one of the editorial internships, please send a resume and a brief cover letter detailing your interest in the position to the SAFTA Staff Director, JoAnna Brooker, at saftastaffdirector@gmail.com. Applications are due by June 20th, 2020

For detailed information about both positions, visit our hiring website at:
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Project Bookshelf with Aumaine Rose Gruich

My bookshelf is, firstly, too small. It’s also the least-visited of all my book-storing spaces. But it’s also the prettiest. This bookshelf is the landing place for books I’ve read, annotated, taken photos of, and decided to keep. It’s organized by color, as it’s the brightest space in my room, and I associate it with busyness of ideas and in need of aesthetic order. Each color-coded section is split into genres: poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I feel pleased to look at the bookshelf from my bed across the room and usually less pleased when I have to approach it to look for a particular title of which I can’t remember the color.

Other non-bookshelf “bookshelves” are my mantle, where I store books I’m currently reading or want to read next, in stacks of prose and poetry (not color-coded) and my windowsill, where I’ve been keeping books I’m studying for my MFA thesis. These stacks tend to look a little more haphazard, which feels okay to me, as they’re more in flux.

I’ve only just begun to feel I’m growing out of my bookshelf, as I buy books carefully, for the most part, after first taking them out of the library and deciding if I love the entire book enough to buy it. If I love only parts of a book and not necessarily the entire book, I’ll just just copy key lines or phrases by hand or photograph–a solution that’s evolved to meet my graduate-student budget.

While I hope in the future to have more expendable income to spend on books, I imagine the minimalist in me will always be choosy about what texts come into my home permanently. And I’d be hard pressed to imagine my central bookshelf (or shelves!) arranged without some organizing principal—the dream would be to find a system that both looks good and makes quick sense.


Aumaine Rose Gruich is an MFA candidate at The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She has received support from the Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop and the Illinois Department of Dance’s Choreographic Platform. Aumaine’s work is published or forthcoming in magazines such as Pleiades, Court Green, Phoebe, and Bluestem.