We’re already a few weeks into the new year! For word lovers like us, a new year means new prose. As excited as we are at Sundress to see what amazing work will come in 2018, we still find ourselves awed by some of the things we read last year.
The Sundress staff took some time to reflect on those essays that resonated with us in 2017. Below are some of our favorites:
Geek/nerd culture along with the canons of science fiction, fantasy, and adjacent genres are overwhelmingly white in representation and in racial coding. A Chicano writer explores some of the challenges that arise for him as a fan of these exciting but problematic parts of our culture.
Like every bookworm, we love to ring in the new year with a new read. To help get your 2018 off to a great start, we asked our authors, editors, and staff to choose some of their favorite books published in the past year.
Here’s a list of our top choices for your consideration–and from all of us at Sundress Publications, have a warm and happy new year.
“WHEREAS confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes, and reflects that language in its officiousness and duplicity back on its perpetrators. Through a virtuosic array of short lyrics, prose poems, longer narrative sequences, resolutions, and disclaimers, Layli Long Soldier has created a brilliantly innovative text to examine histories, landscapes, her own writing, and her predicament inside national affiliations.”
“Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Deadopens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin, body, and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. ‘some of us are killed / in pieces,’ Smith writes, ‘some of us all at once.’ Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing collection, one that confronts America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.”
“Akbar proves what books can do in his exceptional debut, which brings us along on his struggle with addiction, a dangerous comfort and soul-eating monster he addresses boldly (‘thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs’). His work stands out among literature on the subject for a refreshingly unshowy honesty; Akbar runs full tilt emotionally but is never self-indulgent” (Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, Starred Review)
“Inspired by stories from her Brazilian-born mother, Traci Brimhall’s third collection—a lush and startling ‘autobiomythography’—is reminiscent of the rich imaginative worlds of Latin American magical realists. Set in the Brazilian Amazon, Saudade is one part ghost story, one part revival, and is populated by a colorful cast of characters and a recurring chorus of irreverent Marias.”
“In Surgical Wing, surrealistic poems visit an experimental hospital ward, manifesting visions of winged angels and medical tests, as we bear witness to a doctor’s meddling and miracles. Robertson’s poems challenge the internal and external metamorphoses of the human condition and the juxtaposition between death and life by personifying the soul through images of birds.”
“Throughout this haunting first collection, Patricia Colleen Murphy shows how familial mental illness, addiction, and grief can render even the most courageous person helpless. With depth of feeling, clarity of voice, and artful conflation of surrealist image and experience, she delivers vivid descriptions of soul-shaking events with objective narration, creating psychological portraits contained in sharp, bright language and image. With Plathian relentlessness, Hemming Flames explores the deepest reaches of family dysfunction through highly imaginative language and lines that carry even more emotional weight because they surprise and delight. In landscapes as varied as an Ohio back road, a Russian mental institution, a Korean national landmark, and the summit of Kilimanjaro, each poem sews a new stitch on the dark tapestry of a disturbed suburban family’s world.”
“Meditative and richly written, this collection of poems by Kathy Fagan takes the sycamore as its inspiration―and delivers precise, luminous insights on lost love, nature, and the process of recovery.
“It is the season of separation & falling / Away,” Fagan writes. And so―like the abundance of summer diminishing to winter, and like the bark of the sycamore, which sheds to allow the tree’s expansion―the speaker of these poems documents a painful loss and tenuous rebirth, which take shape against a forested landscape. Black walnuts fall where no one can eat or smell them. Cottonwood sends out feverish signals of pollen. And everywhere are sycamores, informed by Fagan’s scientific and mythological research.
Spellbinding and ambitious, Sycamore is an important new work from a writer whose poems “gleam like pearls or slowly burning stones” (Philip Levine).”
“The existential magnitude, deep intellect, and playful subversion of St. Thomas-born, Florida-raised poet Nicole Sealey’s work is restless in its empathic, succinct examination and lucid awareness of what it means to be human.
The ranging scope of inquiry undertaken in Ordinary Beast—at times philosophical, emotional, and experiential—is evident in each thrilling twist of image by the poet. In brilliant, often ironic lines that move from meditation to matter of fact in a single beat, Sealey’s voice is always awake to the natural world, to the pain and punishment of existence, to the origins and demises of humanity. Exploring notions of race, sexuality, gender, myth, history, and embodiment with profound understanding, Sealey’s is a poetry that refuses to turn a blind eye or deny. It is a poetry of daunting knowledge.”
“Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterland holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.”
“One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today’s literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the ‘dark magicians,’ and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language— ‘her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses—one by one / by one she wrecks the casket’s spray. It’s how she / mourns—a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns’— as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America’s most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.”
“Andrea Jurjevic’s Small Crimes begins during the Croatian war years of the early 1990’s. In the midst of bombings, sniper shootings, and firing squads, the speaker of the poems manages to live an almost normal adolescence, thanks to her grit, her attachment to family, and her skepticism. The book then moves to the postwar years and onward into America, which is not without its own perils. This is a collection that is often dark but just as often beautiful. Jurjevic’s language crackles with energy, and she lingers lovingly over the intimate details of a life that is lived with the eyes wide open.”
Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that Laura Page is the winner of our sixth chapbook competition. Among a record number of strong and engaging manuscripts, Page’s collection, epithalamium, stood out. Judge Darren C. Demaree had this to say about the chapbook:
“epithalamium is an incredible dancer working beautifully, relentlessly, spasmodically on a stage that was constructed small enough that the artist must at some point jump into the crowd to make their work the whole scene. The poems in this chapbook are dynamic and unique. The language, music, and energy used caught me off guard many times, and I can think of no better goals than that for poetry. None of these poems are “that blushing thing.” All of them are working and questioning the archetypes and mythologies that deserve to be questioned, and through that process something larger emerges. Through that process we learn to “forget stardust. / think transit. think love.” This chapbook approaches the real world with an otherworldly understanding of its machinations, and despite that deep look into our workings it emerges with a passionate idea of where this could all be headed.”
Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry journal, Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, The Rumpus, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TINGE, and elsewhere. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, Children, Apostates (dancing girl press, 2016) and Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana (Anchor & Plume, forthcoming).Visit her at www.laurapage.net.
We also are excited to announce that Sarah Einstein’s A Tripart Heart and Grey Vild’s Chickenhawks & Goldilocks were also selected for publication – both collections will be available later this year on the Sundress website.
Other Submitted Chapbooks of Note
Sarah Cooper — 89%
Sarah Einstein — A Tripart Heart*
Alexis Olson — A Girl Fell in Love With a Shark
Grey Vild — Chickenhawks & Goldilocks*
Sara Adams — Swallowing Shark
Kelli Allen — Lyrebird Keeps the Peace
Zeina Azzam — Bayna-Bayna
Kristi Carter — Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem
Melissa Fite Johnson — A Crooked Door Cut Into the Sky
Mary Moore — Amanda and the Man Soul
Shannon Mullally — Perpetual Travel
Nominations are now open for the annual Best of the Net anthology from Sundress Publications. This anthology promotes the diverse and growing collection of voices who are publishing their work online and serves to bring greater respect to an innovative and continually expanding medium.
Nominations must have originally appeared online, and must have been first published or appeared on the web between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
Nominations must come from the editor of the publication (journal, chapbook, online press, etc), or, if the work is self-published, it must be sent by the author. For journals and presses, each entry may include up to six poems, two stories, and two works of creative nonfiction for consideration. For individuals sending self-published work, please send no more than two pieces regardless of genre.
Please include both the URL of the poem, story, or essay as well as a full text version in a Word or RTF document. Nominations must also include the author’s name and email address as well as the name, contact info, and URL of the journal.
Submissions must be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org between July 1st and September 30th, 2017.
SAFTA Presents VIDA Fellowship Winners,
Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris
Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the VIDA fellowships for the fall residency period, Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris. SAFTA paired with VIDA, a research-driven organization aiming to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture, to offer these fellowships for two women writers in any genre. The full scholarship was awarded to Hera Naguib and the fifty percent scholarship was awarded to Elina Mishuris. Idra Novey served as the judge for this year’s VIDA Fellowship.
Hera Naguib is a poet and teacher based in Lahore, Pakistan. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College through the Fulbright Scholarship Program and her M.Litt in Literature in English from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Hera’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, World Literature Today, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Spillway, among others.
Elina Mishuris is a writer and translator living in New York. She received an MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University in 2016, and a BA from the Gallatin School at New York University in 2011. Currently an English Editor at Morningside Translations, she was previously a teaching fellow in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia, and a Writing Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in BOMB, Guernica, The Southeast Review, Slice, and Brooklyn Magazine. In 2016, she was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize.
Applications for spring residencies at SAFTA are now open and can be found at our website.
The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ residency on a 45-acre farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers, actors, filmmakers, and visual artists. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.
Andrea England is the author of two chapbooks, INVENTORY OF A FIELD (Finishing Line Press) and OTHER GEOGRAPHIES (Creative Justice Press). She has been a finalist for Four Way Books Levis Prize and Intro Prize, and has been awarded residencies from the Vermont Studio Center and SAFTA. Currently she lives and works between Kalamazoo and Manistee Michigan, where she works as an adjunct and serves as a board member to the non-profit organization, Friends of Poetry. More information about Andrea England and her poetry can be found at andreajengland.com.
Minadora Macheret is a graduate student at Kansas State University, where she received the Graduate Poetry Award and Seaton Fellowship. Her poems received the Isabel Sparks’ Poetry Prize. Her work is forthcoming from The Deaf Poets Society and has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Rogue Agent, Connotation Press, and others. She lives in Manhattan, KS, with her dog, Aki.
Clay Matthews has published poetry in journals such as The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Black Warrior Review, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. His most recent book, Shore, was recently released from Cooper Dillon Books. His other books are Superfecta (Ghost Road Press), RUNOFF (BlazeVox), and Pretty, Rooster (Cooper Dillon). He teaches at Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN, and edits poetry for the Tusculum Review.
Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that in month of January 2017, we will donate 10% of all of our subscription profits to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
“Whether it’s achieving full equality for LGBT people, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age of widespread government surveillance, ending mass incarceration, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.
“With more than 1 million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., to safeguard everyone’s rights.” (Source: ACLU.org)
A Sundress subscription makes a great gift for yourself or a friend who is eager to stay connected to the literary world, support independent publishing, read new and exciting work from emerging and established authors, and this month, make a meaningful donation to an organization that is committed to establishing peace. Order 2017 Sundress subscription and get all of our 2017 titles including books from Natalie Giarratano, Sarah Marcus, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, Sarah Chavez, Stephanie McCarley Dugger, Jim Warner, and more! All subscribers will also receive Sundress swag and goodies and free entry into our contests!
As the season of giving begins and a new year approaches, Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) are raising money to build a creative platform for the LGBTQ+ community of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Now in its fourth year, OUTSpoken is a program from the Sundress Academy for the Arts that will take place through 2017. We seek to create a space in which local communities can record and perform the experiences of sex- and gender-diverse individuals in the South.
Our goal is to raise $1,000 to cover the cost of workshops, event and rehearsal space, promotional materials, and more. It is our goal to make the entire event free to participants and audience members this year. All donations are tax-deductible.
OUTSpoken begins with a series of writing workshops in January, February, and March, where community members will develop their experiences into poems, monologues, narratives, or other literary forms. These pieces are then revised and eventually performed in a staged reading. Participants will have the option of working with actors to bring their writing to life or of performing their writing themselves. The three-month workshop series, followed by a showcase of personal work, unites the community through art and expression.
As the LGBTQ+ community faces a nation divided and charged by politics, we believe it is more important than ever to build a space where all are welcomed, accepted, and celebrated. To learn more about the OUTSpoken program and campaign, visit generosity.com/community-fundraising/outspoken-needs-your-help. All donations are tax-deductible.