The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


SEATTLE

Sometimes I get so wrangled the only thing that calms
me is a deer turning into a tree. Or hands with a ring
on them I can just see through the dark. I manage
a glass of water and a small resurrection of my sister.
Under the ceiling of clouds, we manage occasional
speaking. Our troubled spills. Our restless bowels.
We raise children shaped like clouds who do not notice
out loud. Who manage our silences. Who go on, without asking.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

Sundress Reads: Review of Before the Fevered Snow

How do you map a landscape of grief onto an ever-changing seasonal landscape? In Megan Merchant’s elegiac fourth collection Before the Fevered Snow (Stillhouse Press, 2020), the poet invokes the natural world as the setting for a personal history she revisits through ruminations on marriage and motherhood, as well as darker themes of depression, dementia, and death. Many of these poems are in direct communion with nature, where Merchant searches for answers to human grief. Here, the dreamlike landscape is haunted by the memories of horses and spring snow, where owls call to children and ravens lurk in the feathery shadows of pines. Merchant traces the genealogy of memory through a shadowy America fraught with danger yet bursting with moments of unexpected beauty, where the minuscule threat of a spider coexists with the abstract peril of death and loss.

Before the Fevered Snow captures the slow progression of seasons, from autumnal decay to the snow-hushed winter landscape to the delirious confusion of a spring fever. The months often bleed into each other, as Merchant writes in “Nesting”: “It is spring, but we are still wintering a garden of colors and shapes.” These are poems that hover between the everyday—ravens, seeds, bones, feathers, falling leaves—and the surreal, such as the opening lines of “Murmuration,” where the speaker recounts “A dream that I sew wings from eyelashes taken off / the dead, pack honey into bones for the long walk.” Merchant evokes the regenerative power of the natural world as a source for her own healing, the dusting of April snow on the morning a fever lifts, and the dewdrops blanketing a tangle of branches under a bird’s nest. In “Bleuet,” a poem reminiscent of Maggie Nelson’s book-length meditation on the same name and color, the speaker unpacks the dual meanings of “America the bluetiful,” its potential for both the sorrow of cold rain and the joy of a bright cobalt sky.

Merchant instills a stunning beauty into even the darkest poems, often returning to her mother’s struggle with dementia and subsequent death. In “Boneyard,” the opening poem of the collection, “a pack of coyotes chewed a raven / until black feathers blessed the ground.” In evocative imagery suffused with color, she recounts that “My mother has blue days that are blanketed with forgetting.” When the speaker returns to a past lover in the achingly intimate “Salt Ring,” she writes “My skin—a season of subtle grey and violets.” Later, Merchant contrasts a scene of her son pointing a gun-shaped piece of wood at a younger child on the playground with her grief at the methodical nature of his lockdown drills in school. She reflects on the risk that the outside world poses toward a young child with special needs, but the all-encompassing joy of their lives together permeates throughout the poems in this collection.

Merchant’s narrative voice weaves between the crystallized past and the vivid present, a temporal shift that transcends memory and loss. In “I Will Explain,” the poet transitions from her mother’s forthcoming death—”The hospice workers say only hours might / be left. No one knows for sure”—to the coincidence of their births: “I read that I was an egg in her body, / when she was tucked and growing / in her mother.” Later, Merchant returns to a Google Earth image of her mother feeding the horses, a moment frozen in time that captures the days before her slow decline from dementia. The photograph becomes a portal into an alternate reality where somewhere on earth, her mother might still be living.

“This year will be better,” Merchant presciently declares at the start of “Turning Into Another Year,” a sentiment that was echoed by many during the last dark days of 2020. Although Before the Fevered Snow was released in April, close to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Merchant’s preoccupation with isolation, memory, grief, and the natural world was experienced by many during the early days of quarantine. As the seasons change and sorrow abates, the speaker in “I am told the dream can only be interpreted by the dreamer” says “I remember that waiting / is an anticipation of grief,” a meditation on the paradoxical nature of this in-between state. Although waiting is often accompanied by anxiety for the future, the period can also provide space for reflection and renewal. Merchant’s poems strike a hopeful note for the coming months, reminding readers that the snow will melt and better days will arrive. The striking and precise “Elegy” closes the collection, a four-line poem that perfectly encapsulates the nature of rebirth: “Her horses have shed their coats—they dream / of bones rising under the fevered snow. / Flyaway hairs float into a stream of light / like dust, or skin cells, like touch.”

Before the Fevered Snow is available at Stillhouse Press


Eliza Browning is a student at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she studies English and art history. Her work has previously appeared in Rust + MothVagabond City LitContrary Magazine, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, among others. She is a poetry editor for EX/POST Magazine and reads poetry for COUNTERCLOCK Journal.

Meet Our New Intern: Lee Anderson

I was one of those children who believed deeply in spells they found on the Internet. If Yahoo Answers couldn’t tell me the exact words to whisper as I rolled around in the bathtub, trying desperately to melt my legs together into a mermaid tail, what was the point of having outside resources?

My belief in magic often rolled over into gullibility. I once melted the plastic shade off my magenta desk lamp because I’d taped some tissues that held “dragon eggs” (read: rocks out of the creek by my house) to the bottom in order to incubate them. They smelled like burnt cookies by the time my mom came to scold me for almost burning the house down, but all I had was guilt for killing the growing creatures. Fantasy gave me something to believe in when nothing else felt right. Of course, these hands-on attempts at manifestation were accompanied by both ravenous reading of literally every fantasy book the public library had and writing my own stories to add to the canon; I wrote my first novella the year prior, fifty-some pages of young-girl-becomes-a-mermaid-and-has-to-try-and-find-her-way-back-to-land as inspired by a particularly cool rock. In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t end up becoming a geologist.

When we think about our histories as readers, writers, editors, and lovers-of-literature, I think it’s easy to fall back on these narratives of always loving books, of fumbling around to try and find that exact moment that everything clicked and knowing that this is what we were meant to do. Personally, I find just as much value in looking at who I was in the absence of literature. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, one organic chemistry course away from a degree in Neuroscience, because I was so determined in college to try and connect with people. If we cannot understand who we are from the outside, how are we to know who we are internally? My life forms concentric circles around humanity, whether I am trying to escape it via mermaid-inoculation spells (which I now recognize as feeble attempts at quieting early gender dysphoria) or to focus in on it by watching the bouncing lines of an EEG scan in a silent basement lab on a deep winter evening.

In the past two years, I’ve circled back and finally started taking myself and my writing seriously. I have learned how to love a sentence and how to share myself in slivers. Finally, I feel as though I am ready to take on the precarious, privileged position of helping authors with Sundress Publications do the same. I hope to understand a little bit more about us all, and to help the world do the same.


Lee Anderson is a nonbinary MFA student at Northern Arizona University, where they are the Managing Editor of Thin Air Magazine. They have been published sporadically but with zest, with work appearing or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Columbia Journal, and Back Patio Press.

2021 Poetry Broadside Contest Winner Announced

Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce the results of the 2021 Poetry Broadside Contest, judged by Donna Vorreyer. This year’s winner is Britton Shurley with the poem “When I Think I Am Through with Beauty.” Shurley’s poem will be letterpress-printed as an 8.5” x 11” broadside and will be made available for sale in our online store. Orders for our broadsides will be open this summer.

A light-skinned man from the shoulders up, reclining against a brick wall. He is smiling, has dark hair and a beard, and is wearing a blue t-shirt with a fish on it and the word "Kentucky."

Britton Shurley is the author of the chapbook Spinning the Vast Fantastic (Bull City Press, 2021), and his poetry has appeared in such journals as Southern Humanities Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and Southern Indiana Review. He is the recipient of Emerging Artist Awards from the Kentucky Arts Council in both 2011 and 2016. He is an Associate Professor of English at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, where he edits Exit 7: A Journal of Literature & Art with his wife, the poet Amelia Martens. They live in Paducah, Kentucky with their daughters and curate the Rivertown Reading Series.

A light-skinned woman from the shoulders up with short blonde hair and glasses. She is wearing a black tank top and a necklace, and is looking off to the side.

The judge of the 2021 Poetry Broadside Contest is Donna Vorreyer, the author of To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016), and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications, as well as eight chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Baltimore Review, Tinderbox Poetry, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, and other journals, and she serves as an associate editor for Rhino Poetry. Recently retired from 36 years in public education, she looks forward to new adventures.

Thank you to everyone who sent us their work.

Finalists:
Yasmine Ameli, “I Resurrect Myself with an Eight-Quart Pot”
Gion Davis, “There’s Water You Can Die In”
Sneha Subramanian Kanta, “Fifteen Ways of Saying Hunger”
Jasmin Lankford, “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Testified on My GRE Test Day”
Anne Livingston, “Concussion Season”
Michele Parker Randall, “Our Bodies Forget”
Anna Sandy-Elrod, “Molt”
Sreshtha Sen, “This is Not a Poem About My Mother”

February Reading Series

SAFTA Presents February Reading Series

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the guests for the February installment of our virtual reading series. This event will take place on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 on Zoom (http://tiny.utk.edu/sundress, password: safta) from 7-8 PM EST.

Laura Cresté is the author of You Should Feel Bad, which was selected by Stephanie Burt for a 2019 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a BA from Bennington College. The winner of Breakwater Review’s 2016 Peseroff Prize, her poems have appeared in journals including No Tokens, Tinderbox, and Bodega. She has received support from the Community of Writers, the Kettle Pond Writers’ Conference, and will be a 2021-2022 fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Ranjani Murali is an Indian writer who lives in suburban Chicago. She received her MFA in Poetry from George Mason University, following which she won the Srinivas Rayaprol Prize for emerging Indian poets; fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown; and the inaugural Prabha Khaitan Woman’s Voice Award. Her first book of poems Blind Screens won the Almost Island inaugural manuscript prize and her second book, Clearly You Are ESL, won the Editors’ Choice Award in The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective’s manuscript competition and was published in 2020.

Jeannine Ouellette is the author of The Part That Burns, a memoir in fragments. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Narrative, North American Review, Masters Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Writer’s Chronicle, among others, and in several anthologies including Ms. Aligned: Women Writing About Men and Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives. Her work has been supported by Millay Colony for the Arts and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. She teaches writing through the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, and Elephant Rock, an independent creative writing program she founded in 2012. She is working on her first novel.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


IN WOLF COUNTRY

I give you what the wolves left:
a tooth on a leather strap, a few stray
hairs I found stuck to a tree, skull
of a deer the dogs found and licked clean.


Wild dogs, you say, coyotes,
not wolves. You want to transition
without symbols. I trace the sickle scars
where your breasts were, where no one


has ever touched you yet.
They shine in the moonlight—streetlight—
through the window. Later, I thumb
the hairs on your razor and press


my cheek to the rough place
they came from. Sorry, you say, I’ll shave
again, and I watch through the mirror
as you file the points down from your teeth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


MY AUNT THE ARTIST, THE LIAR

On the path behind the house, we found the teeth,
but no sign of the corresponding jaw—


whatever had been forced down to earth
had been knocked or dragged elsewhere.

My aunt rattled the teeth
in her cupped palm. Sunlight dropped


a dryness in my mouth—
she was not the kind to tell the truth.

A woman, she said, the teeth
were small, like from a woman’s mouth,


and she knelt, pulled down to earth,
her fingers nosed the dirt for further proof.


(My aunt’s little rented piece of earth,
a house to make her crazy paintings in.)


They weren’t animal teeth. I ran my tongue
along the blank spots in my mouth.


She’d try them in her own mouth
at parties, she told me later, cradling my jaw,


Little one, we rent ourselves from earth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


DAWN

My sister comes home
smelling of dirt she was buried in,
dandelion milk under her nails.


We wash her arms,
scrub her fingers
with stinging soap,
but still she is not clean.


When she finally speaks,
it’s to hand me that trowel
and I’ll bury the seeds


while upstairs our grandmother
paces the attic.


Will I wake anywhere
besides this house,
or love anyone ever
beyond my sister
with the skinned knees?


I wake again in the garden
crushing stems against my teeth.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


A MAN AT A PARTY TELLS US HE VOTES REPUBLICAN BUT
ASSURES US HE IS SOCIALLY LIBERAL

at the end of the night
my wife & I call a car
& we are silent during the ride
when we get home
we brush our debatable teeth
wash our debatable faces
undress our debatable bodies
in bed we practice remembrance
we rub our inconsolable
legs together the melody,
an assertion
of our reality
outside our window
the crickets join in
& it is beautiful
just the way elegies
ought to be

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Our Debatable Bodies by Marisa Crane


YAPPING DOGS

yapping dogs i understand you sometimes i want
to fucking scream for no perceivable reason
& sometimes people tell me to get over it
to choose my battles haven’t you ever knocked
over a bottle of nice scotch & wondered what
the drunk ants talk about when they aren’t working
themselves into a dizzying haze? no anxiety
is too small it’s common to have to convince
flowers to bloom i know this because as a child
i sat on my grandfather’s lap & asked if giving
up was the same as dying & his response was
a fully-loaded sigh the gunpowder white & suspicious
could have been from a powdered doughnut but i know
the difference between passivity & gluttony five years later
i had a crush on a girl named kristin i asked her
the same question i asked my grandfather &
she said fruit grows faster if you feed it the truth
so i sat under an orange tree & shot off
confessions like catholic bullets i dreamt kristin & i were
slow dancing on clouds now i can no longer look
at her when she speaks i know the meaning of unrest
how it slithers up your spine like a snake & licks
the base of your skull i cannot tell if i am more
spinal column or fluid ice isn’t afraid of its multiple
selves it melts when it discovers that bravery
isn’t about the sword you bear then it flows
like a charmed dream unconcerned with being forgotten

This selection comes from Our Debatable Bodies, available from Animal Heart Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Marisa Crane is a queer, nonbinary writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in TriQuarterly Review, Catapult, The Florida Review, F(r)iction, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A graduate of Tin House’s 2020 Winter & Summer Workshops, she is the author of the poetry chapbook, Our Debatable Bodies (Animal Heart Press 2019), and she serves as a prose reader for The Adroit Journal. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she currently lives in San Diego with her wife and baby.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.