The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020. 

Columbus, Mars

                                                            Just when we agreed
                                                                           we’d overreached, touched
                                                                                                         that ragged, final edge,

                              the next continent began
                                                                           drifting toward us, floe
                                                                                                         shushing its own pink name.

                                                            At first, dreamed up—
                                                                                          a soap bubble’s
                                                                                                                        laminous prism—

                                             then, the separate colors
                                                                           clicking into focus.
                                                                                          Then, embers. Shore of ash.

                              Like the old world’s
                                                            temperas, it darkened
                                                                                          the longer we threw our light upon it,

                                                            though we still claimed
                                                                                          each crater rim,
                                                                                                         what beveled just below

                              the surface. Each had its memory
                                                                           of water, rust like a bathtub’s ring.
                                                                                                                  Red sky at night,

                              sailor’s delight. . . .
                                             We were half-drunk when
                                                                           we landed, cruel on our own iron taste.

                                             Out of thin air, we became
                                                                                          toponymists, touched every place
                                                                                                                                      we’d named:

alluring                 transfixed
                                                            fertile?                  inclined to love
                                                                                                                            Who would stop us

                                             from drawing this map too,
                                                                                                         in a girl’s naked image?

                              Hail the Santa Maria, full
                                                            of plastic grace. We bottled
                                                                                          and vialed minerals, new flora,

                                             scrawled our stories
                                                                           on her cabin walls—
                                                                                                         in white ink, a mythic code—

                                             tell the kids:
                                                                           Long ago, a fleet of men
                                                                                                                 let their parachutes bloom

                              over desiccated ground.
                                                                           The lost blue pilot felt
                                                                                                         the wind tear at his face

               just before his feet touched down,
                                                                                          his mind gone blank, like sailcloth.



Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (she/her/hers) is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for both the Miller Williams Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and The Tilt Torn Away From the Seasons (Acre Books, 2020). Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Bennington Review, FIELD, Guernica, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Journal, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, AGNI Online, Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and many others. Her creative nonfiction appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Best American Travel Writing 2017, The Missouri Review, The Journal, The Rumpus, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and The Hong Kong Review.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020. 

Arcadia, Mars

               To console myself, I wander
wing to wing in the orangery,
               slip between twisted limbs,
olives’ silver and green. The air here
               whisks so convincingly I can’t believe
there’s a rock partition keeping me
               safe from the pinked-out sky.

In Gethsemane—that ancient other world—
               they say the Virgin Mary
is also buried in a silver grove.
               They say any rock is agony. They say her grief
was deeper than those roots
               (the oldest known on Earth).

Our own carbon dates us. If I could cut
               myself open, you’d see rings
lapping more rings: my mother
               crying for her mother in the same
way her mother wept for hers.
               You’d see the silvery orbit

where each life dissolved.
               But for now, I remain
human. I am a nesting doll for griefs.
               Even in utopia, there is suffering:
one sheep forced to walk
               the labyrinth, ensuring the grass
regenerates. And my young daughter,
               her legs thin as reeds,

chased and caught and pushed by
               the boys again. Her layers stripped away.
Not even the olive he wedged
               under her tongue
could hold her, clot those cries—
               these shepherds, they think of nothing but
what might wake this weak blue soil.


Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (she/her/hers) is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for both the Miller Williams Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and The Tilt Torn Away From the Seasons (Acre Books, 2020). Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Bennington Review, FIELD, Guernica, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Journal, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, AGNI Online, Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and many others. Her creative nonfiction appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Best American Travel Writing 2017, The Missouri Review, The Journal, The Rumpus, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and The Hong Kong Review.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020. 

Astrobleme

               Victoria Crater

Witch hazel I boil

                                                                           below the silver rim,

                              my moonroof dark, beading sweat

like a horse’s flank, from myth.

                                             So what if Genghis Khan

               worshipped nothing

but the sky?

                                                            I revere my own dark matter,

not just spittles of gas or light.

At dawn I chart my mood

                                                                   across an analog screen,

sine wave hissing: a grass snake’s

S, neon green.

                                                                    The desert—embered, hormonal—

       takes its first inhale. The sun

rises mad, a cigarette’s end

                                                                           poised above the canyon.

*

But all sols are the same. The grunt all morning,

                                                            rover wheels, friction

crossing the potholes. Damn this world!

Its forever adolescence,

                                                                   face full of deep depressions, wounds.

Where terra once resigned itself—

laid its ugliness bare—

                                                                   waxy grass, like Easter baskets’,

now sprigs up through the crater.

*

In truth, I’m not much for fresh

                                                            beginnings. My skin feels fragile,

a blown green glass. I believe

a body’s odor is better

                                                            than chemical cures, weapons

designed to wipe out the face.

So I live in fear of the next

                                                  bombardment, more waves

passing through the ground:

shatter cones and broken bowls

                              and my stone door rolling away.

*

No female can avoid

                                                            the Easter morning mandates:

bathe twice in something man-made,

waterless. Blot the blemish

                                                                           with sterile hemp.

               Apply the mineral mask, mica

colonizing us with that chaos

                                                            usually reserved for stars.

Unfold the pastel dress:

                                                                           another cold year passed. (How

many hours, with radiation and wind,

before this lace

                                                                                          unravels back to its brides?)

                              The acolyte girls circle

around the escarpment,

                                                                                          our skins reflecting

                                    that uncertain light—

So beautiful! So alive! the crowd exclaims.

               We flare. They call it spring.


Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (she/her/hers) is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for both the Miller Williams Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and The Tilt Torn Away From the Seasons (Acre Books, 2020). Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Bennington Review, FIELD, Guernica, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Journal, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, AGNI Online, Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and many others. Her creative nonfiction appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Best American Travel Writing 2017, The Missouri Review, The Journal, The Rumpus, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and The Hong Kong Review.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020. 

Deep Space Crown

Out of the oval, we read darkness. Stars

glint like lost sequins or scales

numbering a knife’s black edge.

Libra tips, its precarious justice

just beyond our reach.

This outer world wafts a summer: hot metal, diesel,

barbeque. But the moon, matte as wax paper,

smells more like gunpowder than egg or bread.

We flip through white-ink novels

typed on endless—negative—space, our bodies

diminished or augmented, never quite to actual scale.

This is how a meter grows

into a mile. The mile spins itself into a stone,

whooshing out and on and on.

Whooshing on and on, our bodies

are live cultures trapped

in this white capsule. We name ourselves

after flora, epiphytes drifting

in a realm of cold gas. What we sweat

or breathe out will circle, eventually,

back into the drinking glass.

Any ship is a hermetic

world: an arrow tightened,

blunt head swallowing the nock.

So forget that blue-and-cloud earth

fading in the porthole. Whatever roots

we have will dissolve. Mostly air and dust,

we wheel within a wheel. A body sure gets around.

Within the ship’s sure body, a star wheel

replaces the wall calendar:

time’s squares redrawn

with spidery legs, framed in concentric circles.

I hear the ratchet click, the only real noise

between the worlds’ terrible blanks.

Tucked in my hollow space suit, I wanted

to be a rivet: my head brassy

and fixed, the analog in chaos.

But every human body

is a disaster, the fallout from old stars.

My brain is just a tangle of wire,

electricity clusters. My hair is recessive

rubble, all redshift and helium.

Imagine the sun as a red balloon, helium

colliding at its core. There, they say

a human’s mongrel of atoms

will weigh twenty-eight times more.

I would never trust any hand of god

over gravity’s colossal pull. How heavy

our limbs grow when faced with that

stove eye coming closer and closer.

Plasma smells like burning sugar.

On Earth, you dream of appliances

you forgot to turn off, children you abandoned,

and, if you’re lucky, the power to fly.

In space, you dream only of feet

touching down on warm sand or wood.

Just sand and warm stone: the universe

is a Zen garden, or her third cousin

once removed. Mechanical arms

rake the surface, meditating on grooves

and swirls. Occasionally, we hallucinate

water inside a gravel’s white spill.

Like the theater, space can render us

stiller than rock. When we do move, it is behind layers,

white scrim over cloak over skin. These costumes

keep us away from radiation,

the hot and cold knobs of other worlds.

What I would give now for a beach, the sand

white or red or basalt. My feet want

a real lip of water, not just a backdrop of blue.

Long ago, against a blue water backdrop,

we turned and turned, and mostly felt

nothing. We held ourselves up like trees

without wind. Whatever substance our spoon held

flowed straight from silver and into our mouths.

But now is not then.                  Now is not even

now. Clock hands, craving sleep,

sloth toward the next white number.

            To think I once imagined space

as the smooth texture of coins

or zeros, and never as that deep sap

that traps and always keeps. Never

as our own atoms, suspended in this colloid:

inside the dark, these stars we circle and misread.


Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers (she/her/hers) is the author of Chord Box (University of Arkansas Press, 2013), finalist for both the Miller Williams Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and The Tilt Torn Away From the Seasons (Acre Books, 2020). Her poems appear in The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Bennington Review, FIELD, Guernica, Washington Square Review, Blackbird, The Journal, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, AGNI Online, Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and many others. Her creative nonfiction appears in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017, Best American Travel Writing 2017, The Missouri Review, The Journal, The Rumpus, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and The Hong Kong Review.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.

Sundress Reads: Review of The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat

The Sundress Reads logo is black and white and features a fluffy sheep drinking a mug of tea, reading a book, and sitting cross-legged on a stool.
The title of the chapbook and the author's name fill the entire page in thick block letters. In the silhouette of the letters, a stained glass window and three small congregants are visible.

In Melody S. Gee’s The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat (Driftwood Press, 2022), her conversion experience becomes as tangible as a warm meal. Gee, a Chinese American and convert to Catholicism in adulthood, sees the generosity of God in overflowing dishes of Chinese food: “fill rice over the lip, / A strained seal says, see how much / was poured out for you?” (“Liturgy”).

Through The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat, Gee collects pre- and post-conversion stories and asks, as she does in the interview section of the book, “is there room for all the past and the present?” Can “the immigrants’ daughter [who] doesn’t know Easter / or egg hunts” (“The Convert Receives the Sign of the Cross on Her Feet”) hold onto her childhood while also full-heartedly embracing “Jesus… / eternally / wounded, eternally weeping / from his gashes” (“The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars”)?

 In order to explore these questions, Gee starts with her childhood. She describes Easter egg hunts, games of hide and seek, and grade school science experiments. These stories show how Gee, even as a convert, is separated from American Christian traditions, like Easter egg hunting for “silver wrappings / or shiny plastics.” (“The Convert Receives the Sign of the Cross on Her Feet.”) “No one has told her these eggs will not be / the raw, white ones / her dutiful mother tucked by the longbeans.” As a child, Gee is separated from the Christian community around her, distinctly set apart from their traditions, especially surrounding Christian holidays and food. Inevitably, the speaker of “And So More” calls the reader to “Begin with before you / are made.” As Gee reaches adulthood, wonderings about what came before childhood leads Gee to discover “some directive” that speaks to bodies and “says heart and not nail.” Gee begins the conversion process when she considers her earliest being.

Yet, regardless of her faith, there is still a separation between the pre- and post-conversion selves. Gee repeatedly turns to food to bridge this divide. From the first line of the opening poem of the chapbook, “The convert hid within her grandfather’s / restaurant… / while their mothers fried in oil and sweet / and sour.” Food becomes a comfort, a sustenance, and a connection to childhood, family, and spirituality. Gee uses imagery and metaphor to shift not only “wine” and “wafer” (“The Convert Receives the Sign of the Cross on Her Feet”), but also “celery slices and chicken cubes” (“Liturgy”), into spiritual food. Gee’s otherwise “non-religious” family and upbringing become spiritual in “The Convert Desires Her Way Into a First Prayer,” where “her mother’s first lesson / was chew your wants and spit / the pulp…”. This lesson was always relevant to the speaker, but becomes distinctly religious after her conversion. Food is the spirituality of Gee’s non-religious childhood, and through the culture, relationships, and traditions surrounding food, Gee reunites her childhood and adulthood.

Gee’s faith also gives her a new understanding of struggle. In “The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat,” she reminds the reader that “What happens inside a body happens / in darkness.” Why “Does the Lord ask her what she wants / when he already knows its name?” (“The Convert Desires Her Way Into a First Prayer”). The Lord is the provider, and the speaker wonders why He does not provide. Nevertheless, it is in struggle where she sees the Lord revealed. She is not only thankful for struggle, but prays for it: “Let me oil. Let me wash. / Let me want with a full throat / even of hopeless warbling. / Let You do nothing about any of it.” Darkness and hiding shift when there is a “Lord… in the garden calling,” but “The girl knows being found is the part / you wait for but is not the best part” (“The Convert Learns to Play Hide and Seek”). The speaker does not only want to be found; somehow, in some way, they also want to wander and be lost.

The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat is unquestionably about the divine; Gee nudges and considers God through and after her conversion experience. However, the chapbook’s vividness comes from its distinct humanity. In “Love Outnumbers Us,” Gee writes that “pain exposed will blend with tender fingers / sealing the bandage over salve.” Human pain does not disappear in the face of Gee’s Lord. In fact, the presence of pain becomes perhaps more pronounced through the Lord’s healing of her. Nevertheless, Gee’s experiences are concrete, complicated, and nuanced. The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat does not preach about identity and spirituality, but explores these topics with all the honesty of a confession.

The Convert’s Heart is Good to Eat is available at Driftwood Press


A white woman with red hair, round, tortoise shell glasses, and a blue coat sits on a stone bench against a stone wall and looks directly at the camera.

Hailey Small is based in Wilmore, Kentucky, where she writes lyric prose and watches gingko leaves turn soft each November. Hailey is a junior at Asbury University working towards a BA in English and History. She enjoys working in Asbury’s writing center, where she partners with remedial English students to make academia and creative writing more accessible. Most recently, Hailey was published in The Asbury Review, where she also serves as the creative non-fiction editor, and anthrowcircus.com

Sundress Publications Editorial Internship Open Call

Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit publishing collective founded in 2000 that hosts a variety of online journals and publishes chapbooks, full-length collections, and literary anthologies in both print and digital formats. Sundress also publishes the annual Best of the Net Anthology, celebrating the best work published online, runs Poets in Pajamas, an online reading series, and the Sundress Workshop Series which offers free virtual writers workshops.

The editorial internship position will run from July 1 to December 31, 2022. The editorial intern’s responsibilities may include writing press releases, composing blog posts and promotional emails, proofreading manuscripts, assembling press kits, collating editorial data, research, managing spreadsheets, and more. The intern may also be responsible for writing copy, conducting interviews with Sundress authors, reviewing newly released books, and promoting our catalog of titles.

Preferred qualifications include:

  • A keen eye for proofreading
  • Strong written communication skills
  • Familiarity with WordPress, Microsoft Word, and Google Suite
  • Ability to work under a deadline and multitask
  • Knowledge of and interest in contemporary literature a plus

This is a REMOTE internship with the team communicating primarily via email and text messages and is therefore not restricted to applicants living in any particular geographic area. Interns are asked to devote up to 10 hours per week to their assignments.

While this is an unpaid internship, all interns will gain real-world experience of the ins and outs of independent publishing with a nationally recognized press while creating a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities. Interns will also be able to attend all retreats and residencies at the Sundress Academy for the Arts at a significantly discounted cost.

We welcome, encourage, and are enthusiastic to see a diverse array of applicants in all areas, including race, ethnicity, disability, gender, class, religion, education, immigration status, and more.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter detailing your interest in the position to Staff Director Kanika Lawton at sundressstaffdirector@gmail.com by May 20, 2022.

For more information, please read our internship guidebook at: http://www.sundresspublications.com/internshipguide.pdf

We Call Upon the Author to Explain—Saida Agostini

Saida Agostini’s first collection of poetry, let the dead in, moves between mythology and day-to-day life as if there are no boundaries between. A radical act of love for self and community, the poems imagine the fantastic in terms of beauty and a blending of realities. Saida was kind enough to take the time to sit down and answer some questions for this column, and her answers here are as thoughtful and gorgeous as the poetry itself.

Alex DiFrancesco: Saida, I just finished your book, and I was so incredibly moved by it—by the fabulist poems, by the love poems, by the death poems, and by the murder poems. I suppose my first question is that, as I read the first section, “Notes on Archiving Erasure,” it occurred to me, at first, that I was reading speculative poetry, then my feelings on it shifted towards it maybe being magical realism, then finally to the idea that I was perhaps reading creation mythology in poetic

Saida Agostini: I suppose it’s really a hybridization of all those forms. On some level, I would argue that the presence of Black love and its ability to not only survive but expand in the midst of white patriarchal violence is a miracle worthy of not only interrogation but deep study. In writing this collection, I’ve explored the mythology surrounding not only my creation but the creation of my kin and ancestors. I come from a line of powerfully stubborn, deeply rooted, and loving people who keep moving towards freedom. The stories we have told to ourselves to survive are astounding—everything from kidnapping mermaids and whispering jumbees to the half-buried histories of our own evolution. I remember a few years ago, I heard Sapphire speak about Push, and how it is the story of literacy—a young Black girl who comes into her power through learning the written word. The first section chronicles my own journey to emotional literacy: it explores how I became fluent in the histories and emotions of my family, abuse and love.

AD: There is a sense in this book that family is not something that one can separate from, even if the family in question engages in physical abuse, or, in the case of “Bresha Meadows Speaks on Divinity,” a variety of abuses (I’m thinking here of Meadows holding her father after/as she murders him). Can you speak more to this intrinsic link to family, whether one desires it or not?

SA: Families of origin feel inescapable to me. I am a social worker, and always interested in how others make sense of their kin. I have always felt a deep necessity to honor my family—even in the moments where harm is happening. I think in the retelling of great and small wounds, we tend to move into binaries that do not serve us, or reflect the complexities of human emotions. I was formerly a member of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a collective that organized the Monument Quilt, a collection of over three thousand quilt squares from survivors and allies. In the workshops I held, so few people spoke, or felt, in absolute terms. It’s complicated, hard and tricky—especially when it’s family. My work tries to move beyond reductive narratives about abuse, and explore what happens when survivor’s voices are given room to express everything. And that’s what family is right? A tricky, hard, difficult space that generates so much love, confusion, and hope. I have experienced great harm in my family. And yet, I have experienced great love. When I talk about the things I have survived, I need room to make you understand all of it: the ability to move back and forth throughout time, to shift between love, pain and, joy. No matter how we are connected or disconnected from family, those stories and lineages stay with us.

AD: I absolutely adored the persona poems from the series of monsters and spirits in “We Find the Fantastic.” I also noticed and loved, though, that this section holds some poems on Black lesbian love and sex—and I’m wondering about the melding here of fantastic in the “fantasy” and the “wonderful” sense.

SA: As a baby queer, desire and pleasure felt very much in the realm of both fantasy and the fantastic. Raised in public schools by conservative immigrant parents, I very much remember the only conversations we had about sexuality were grounded in the mechanics of reproduction. I couldn’t tell you very much about pleasure, but I could tell you about the zygote. As I grew up, so much of my agency and sense of self came from discovering how I could generate pleasure in myself and others. To this day, I have a sense of awe in thinking about it. In a culture where we are constantly taught to revere production, outcomes, and capitalism, it is an act of liberation to engage in acts that have no intended purpose other than joy. As I meditate on fantasy, whether I am speaking on mermaids, Harriet Tubman’s pursuit of Sojourner Truth or Black queer love, what I am really speaking about is building a world that revels in deep joy.

AD: God is seen again and again as a Black woman in this collection. Harriet Tubman and Sojourner truth become lesbian lovers and heroes. I want to ask you to talk more about Black women’s power and love for each other here, about these ideas of Black women, particularly fat Black women and lesbians, as gods/heroes.

SA: There are very few days that I don’t hate my body. That’s not shocking—I am a fat Black woman in a culture that derides any body that doesn’t fit within audaciously restrictive and fatphobic standards of beauty. I don’t ever remember seeing a fat Black woman in popular culture that was not a figure of derision or mockery. Whether we are talking about the Klumps in Nutty Professor or Madea, what I learned about fat Black women is that we are not worthy of pleasure. Toni Morrison’s often repeated edict, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” brought me to the page. I wanted to see myself in the pages. I wanted to fall in love with me as I am. To witness fat Black women who revel in their bodies and the pleasure it brings. There is something divine about that, right? To articulate a way of being that centers Black womanhood and pleasure as intoxicating and lovely, worthy of worship. The creation stories in let the dead in are about bucking any gaze that cannot celebrate the expansiveness of Blackness and our bodies.

AD: There is a series of poems in section three, “American Love,” about Black people who are murdered by the police, or otherwise brutalized by the justice system in America. You make, what I felt, was an extremely bold move of not just memorializing these folks, but also, particularly in the poem “If Tamir Rice and Eric Garner Wore Heels,” of calling out who is often left out of the extremely righteous rage people have expressed over these murders. Can you talk more about who is left out?

SA: It is unbearable that the daily lives of Black folks attract such profound and lethal risks. It is unforgivable to know that the lives of Black folks who exist outside of the white gaze will not be grieved. We all know the brutal calculus behind public grieving in American culture. The precarity that Black women, queer folks, trans and gender non-conforming communities face is so absurd, they go without comment or care. The gymnastics that must be proved to merit grief, let alone a public response to the harm Black folks face outside of cis-heteronormativity is exhausting. Makhia Bryant should be alive. CeCe McDonald should never have been incarcerated. Breonna Taylor should have woken up that morning. I am no longer interested in inviting white culture to meditate on why these realities exist. I am however demanding that our community explore how white gaze limits our ability for great love.

let the dead in is available through Alan Squire Publishing


Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet whose work explores the ways that Black folks harness mythology to enter the fantastic. Saida’s first collection of poems, let the dead in, was a finalist for the Center of African American Poetry & Poetics’ 2020 Book Prize as well as the New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the author of STUNT (Neon Hemlock, October 2020), a chapbook exploring the history of Nellie Jackson, a Black woman entrepreneur who operated a brothel for sixty years in Natchez, Mississippi. Her poetry can also be found in the Black Ladies Brunch Collective’s anthology Not Without Our Laughter, Barrelhouse Magazine, Hobart Pulp, Plume, and other publications. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, Saida has been awarded honors and support for her work by the Watering Hole and Blue Mountain Center, as well as a 2018 Rubys Grant funding travel to Guyana to support the completion of her first manuscript. She is a Best of the Net Finalist and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 BrooklynThe New Ohio ReviewBrevity, and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Marissa Davis


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator H.V. Cramond, is from My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Jai-Alai Books in 2020. 

Self-Portrait as Persephone

I am afraid of his long man’s body
the way it creeps toward me in the gray
marrow of the night the way
I yearn for it to split me open
like a blade does a soft fruit

this is what my mother warned me about
when I was young & still combed my hair with poplar twigs
& ran barefoot between the rising yellow grains
that looked like sunrays & spun the sunrays into life

my navel then still smooth & smelling
like blue milk    my head like sweat & sweet
almond oil when my mother labored
against my wild down   bridled it flat to my scalp

as if that meant I would not shiver
towards the mouths of beasts
or lay my body

flat against the earth & trail
my nose across it my lips & yes my tongue
pretending it was

o I do not know what I pretended that it was
but in the endless summer
how the tree fruits puffed & tumbled

wind-felled sunken half-moons & I remember
how the sunheat turned their meat & the air
surged syrup-sharp gnat-thick

each month I ate just one from the ground

thinking this is what it will be like to be a woman
nectar in my mouth overflowing acid sugar mold sour light

but that was before I licked the honey blood
from arils before inside my cavern abdomen
hunger burst open         what strange & tender poppy

before my mother’s howls
snapped the land to crystal       now I align
with winter clinging
to the dark its swell its tightening
cold & taking this man

my mouth a resurrection so lush & animal
my plump body sharp against his seams

I rename night emergence
rename myself bloom, beast, knife




Photo by Caitlin Vazquez

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Poem-A-Day, Great River Review, Southeast Review, Rattle, West Branch, Mississippi Review, Muzzle Magazine, and Best New Poets, among others. Her translations are published or forthcoming in Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Mid-American Review, The Common, Rhino, American Chordata, and The Offing. Her chapbook, My Name & Other Languages I Am Learning How to Speak (Jai-Alai Books, 2020) was selected by Danez Smith for Cave Canem’s 2019 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Prize, and she was the runner-up of Narrative Magazine‘s 2021 30 Below contest. Davis holds an MFA from New York University.

H.V. Cramond holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was the founding Poetry Editor of Requited Journal for 10 years. In 2018, she helped pass the Survivor’s Bill of Rights as the Illinois organizer for Rise. Recent work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Ignavia, death hums, Crack the Spine, BlazeVOX, Menacing Hedge, Adanna, So to Speak, Thank You for Swallowing, Dusie, Masque & Spectacle, Matter, and at https://hvcramond.com

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Marissa Davis


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator H.V. Cramond, is from My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Jai-Alai Books in 2020. 

Requiem for a Rabat Hammam

Steam & my body plump & deranged
as a stormhead. Eden lost
to the whim of teeth, my two hands
hardly a single fig leaf. Even mist
an imagined condemnation
of eyes, light-lean, splitting me
like water splits
against the tiles’ blue sag.
Splash & I was raised that a good woman
bolts knees & binds
indefinite ankles & wears her body
ambiguously, wears her body like a bracelet
that is slipping off her wrist as she walks.
& she is otherwise occupied
ruminating the most effective ways
to vanish. & here my breasts lolling
& my splayed palms urgent
& repentant & incapable of miracle.
Oil & the bald skin slick as tongue.
too freshly shaved & every pore
a conflagration & a woman touches me, black
soaps, sloughs & presses: here the tyrannical
shoulder, here the sinister
arm & back & stomach
yet she does not recoil
& how did I not notice all around—
new mothers, slack-bellied,
their toddlers drumming their gracious thighs;
hipless girls with thready saffron calves;
elders’ wilted calligraphy of folds;
heat & my recent skin becoming
gray flake, washing away with the water.
O how we in the bath
are an alphabet of women.
& for the first time
my hands drop,
my body shouts its name.


Photo by Caitlin Vazquez

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Poem-A-Day, Great River Review, Southeast Review, Rattle, West Branch, Mississippi Review, Muzzle Magazine, and Best New Poets, among others. Her translations are published or forthcoming in Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Mid-American Review, The Common, Rhino, American Chordata, and The Offing. Her chapbook, My Name & Other Languages I Am Learning How to Speak (Jai-Alai Books, 2020) was selected by Danez Smith for Cave Canem’s 2019 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Prize, and she was the runner-up of Narrative Magazine‘s 2021 30 Below contest. Davis holds an MFA from New York University.

H.V. Cramond holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was the founding Poetry Editor of Requited Journal for 10 years. In 2018, she helped pass the Survivor’s Bill of Rights as the Illinois organizer for Rise. Recent work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Ignavia, death hums, Crack the Spine, BlazeVOX, Menacing Hedge, Adanna, So to Speak, Thank You for Swallowing, Dusie, Masque & Spectacle, Matter, and at https://hvcramond.com

Lyric Essentials: Roseanna Alice Boswell Reads Becca Klaver

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week poet, student, and author Roseanna Alice Boswell has joined us to discuss the work of Becca Klaver, feeling understood and comforted during a lonely time, and being unafraid in writing. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: When was the first time you read Klaver’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Roseanna Alice Boswell: I first experienced Becca Klaver’s work in 2017 when I heard her give a reading in Ohio. She was the visiting professor at my MFA at the time, and so I had sort of the unique opportunity of getting to know her as a teacher first, and then as a poet. As soon as I heard her poems, it was like something clicked in my brain. I was like oh my god, yes, this is the kind of poetry I want to write when I grow up!

AH: How has Klaver’s writing inspired your own? 

Roseanna Alice Broswell Reads “Uptalk” by Becca Klaver

RAB: I think what is so delicious to me about Becca’s work is that it is just unabashed all the time. In her collection Ready for the World, she writes about selfies, and dildos, and magic, and girl-ness in this way that intellectualizes without distancing, if that makes sense? Reading her poems always makes me want to grab a pink, sparkly pen and start writing, as both celebration and interrogation: what is girlhood? what can I make with it?

Roseanna Alice Broswell Reads “Reproductive Logic” by Becca Klaver

AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically? 

RAB: These poems are all from Ready for the World, which I read after the start of the pandemic and social distancing. It was such a comforting collection to read; it made me feel seen and understood during a time that felt incredibly lonely and isolating. And these three poems in particular have just stayed and stayed with me. I think great poems are kind of like music that way, they’ll just pop into your head from time to time and ride through your day with you. The poem “Reproductive Logic” is like that especially for me. “Last night, I pulled the death card for future and shuddered as I thought, It’s coming for us all; have your babies. I’ll raise this solitude like a foundling.” I mean, COME ON. How great is that? Maybe too because I’m approaching my thirties, and many of my friends and family are starting families, that one hits very close to home.

AH: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?

RAB: School and work and writing take up pretty much all of my time, although not usually in equal shares (wouldn’t that be tidy and convenient?). I am working on a chapbook manuscript right now though that I am pretty excited about. And I think that while I was at work last week I thought of a good title for my next full length collection! We’ll see if I still like it in a year or so when I am trying to put it together, but it felt like a Big Moment at the time…

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.


Becca Klaver is a contemporary American poet. She is the author of the poetry collections LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), Empire Wasted (Bloof Books, 2016), and Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). Her poems and prose have appeared in Verse Daily, American Poetry Review, and Sink Review. She received her PhD from Rutgers University.

Find her website here.

Read her poem “Fall Parties” at Poets.org

Purchase her collection Ready for the World at Black Lawrence Press.

Roseanna Alice Boswell is a queer poet from Upstate New York. Her work has appeared in: RHINO, Whiskey Island, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Roseanna holds an MFA from Bowling Green State University and is a Ph.D. student in English – Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. Her chapbook, Imitating Light, was chosen as the 2021 Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Competition winner. Roseanna’s first full-length collection, Hiding in a Thimble, was published with Haverthorn Press in 2021. She currently haunts the Midwest with her husband and cat.

Find her website here.

Follow Roseanna Alice on Twitter.

Purchase her collection Hiding in a Thimble here.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an Iranian-American multimedia artist, writer, and journalist. Her writing has appeared in Moon City Review, Hobart, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor-in-Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and a contributing writer at MovieWeb. Her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com