Summer Flash Showdown: “Get Your Jersey On” Winners!

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Once again, Sundress Publications welcomes you to the winners’ circle! This week’s MVP’s knocked the prompt out of the park and into April Michelle Bratten’s heart. Let’s tune in to her decision.

Congratulations to Penny Pennell for her first prize story, “The Climbing Pine.”

Here are April’s highlights from the piece:

“The Climbing Pine,” skillfully written with a wicked sense of humor, is a story of
unexpected characterizations. In this story’s cleverly designed atmosphere, I found
myself drawn toward the purity and tradition of a summer baseball game. What I
found instead was an endearing twist–characters traditionally deemed innocent were
teetering on the edge of darkness. The climbing tree, tall and foreboding, loomed over
the scene as a warning: things are not quite as they seem.

-April Michelle Bratten

Penny is the winner of her very own Outspoken Tank!

We also congratulate Barbara Harroun as our runner-up for round two, with her powerful story entitled, “Empty.”

Both authors will go on to compete in the final grand prize round, where one writer will walk away with five Sundress titles of their choosing and their story immortalized on the blog!  Get cracking on this week’s contest here!

Now for some great reads.

The Climbing Pine

by Penny Pennell

The first time you heard a priest swear was at your younger brother’s t-ball game. Early evening, mosquitoes biting, you were far more captivated by the rainbow snowcone in hand than the call that wasn’t just bullshit, but fucking bullshit. That side eye did little to mask your surprise, but Father Joe ticked up a notch that day. “Yeah,” your nine-year-old self concurred.

The game ended, as they often do, before the twilight hour, teams high-fiving in a post-game ode to sportsmanship. Defeat or victory didn’t loom long because once little league finished, the big game took center stage. Lights snapped and echoed on, a low hum began the orchestra, luring insects 50 feet skyward to a dizzying mosh pit. Kiwanis vs Noonan’s Hardware. Kiwanis Number 25 in left field, pale blue stripes on his chest, socks uneven. Slurping a wad of Big League Chew, he pulled his hat down too far over thick eyebrows and jogged deep – the worst player in the league.

You met the neighborhood boys on Brown Mountain to play king of the hill, re-enact lightsaber battles, and race matchbox cars in a pile of dirt used to feed the pitcher’s mound. No need to worry about heading home when the streetlights buzzed on, the diamond lights gave a furlough. They also illuminated the climbing pine.

The park was home to many trees suitable for play: the maple with a branch low enough to hang from upside down, the oak shedding acorns to collect and throw, the fuller pines that offered invisibility in dusk games of hide-and-seek. But the climbing pine bore advantageous war wounds that offered up its internal ladder. Stripped bare on one side, likely damaged when the lights were installed, the sap-seeping branches let you climb beyond heights you dared to go on the stadium lights. Sheltered with fronds, you and another could find branches and call out to Number 25. Heckling like Statler and Waldorf because distractions or no, Number 25 was never going to catch that pop-up fly.

Seventh inning and the barbs repeated or waned, leaving Number 25 frustrated with promises of post-game recrimination. By the eighth, a cicada shell deftly crumbled between sticky fingers among thoughts of heading home. The crack of a Kiwanis bat in the ninth began the descent. Halfway down, you leapt for the dusty landing of Brown Mountain. No risking the wrath of a humiliated outfielder.  You and the neighborhood boys scattered like June bugs when the lights go out.


Penny Pennell received an M.A. in English in 2003 from The University of Illinois at Springfield. Her short fiction has previously appeared in Eureka Literary Magazine (ELM), The Journal of Microliterature, River Poets Journal, Foliate Oak, Underground Voices, Barnstorm and The Illinois Times.


by Barbara Harroun

You’ve started your pathetic yellow Pinto when you realize you left the keys for the pet shop in the belly of locker 117. Your legs are gelatinous from holding the last wall sit for an extra ten seconds and nosing in first on each and every suicide rep. You’re trying too hard, but you think if Mr. Stiffer (you just don’t respect him enough to call him “Coach”) pays any attention at all, he’ll start you at center next game, like you did all of Junior Varsity. Not Katie. She’s as tall as you, but graceful–not muscled like some beef cake mechanic, which is how you see yourself, honestly, standing naked in front of your mirror after your shower. God, a hot shower! You still have to shovel shit and clean cages at the pet shop, trying not to make eye contact with the puppies piled on one another in their tiny jails. Katie is probably going home and doing whatever a doctor’s daughter does, like eat something delicious and homemade by her mother, the doctor’s wife, and then off to do homework. That’s probably her job—get good grades. Not like you, who has to go clean the shitty pet shop your almost-divorced parents are barely holding on to.

You have a Spanish test tomorrow, so you as you sprint back to the gym you conjugate verbs and wonder for the millionth time how Mr. Stiffer can be married to Senora Stiffer. She’s the gentlest person you’ve ever met. She’s plain, but inside she’s gloriously beautiful. She’s showing now, her belly as perfect and round as a basketball, and today, in class, you caught her, standing by the window, hands on her belly, a private smile on her face, so joyful you wished she were your mother.

You enter quietly because you don’t want to talk to Mr. Stiffer, you just want to get your keys. He is with Katie, under the net, grappling the same ball, trying to gain control of it. A game. A joke sporting event. The ball drops, hits the floor and bounces until it’s still. That’s the saddest sound in the world, besides the cacophony of crying pets waiting for you. Now they’re kissing. Really kissing. The rack of basketballs is right there. A familiar rage bares its sharp ferret teeth and blinks its pink eyes. A ball is in your hand, familiar and known as your own skin. You rapid fire, throwing as hard as you fucking can, hoping to raise welts, break noses, going for their faces when they are still together—one target–and then alternating when they have separated, until the rack is empty and you are too.

Barb Harroun photo-2-1

Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. Her most recent work is forthcoming or appearing in Circus Book, Empty Sink, Per Contra Fiction, Fiction Southeast, Watershed Review, and Spelk. Her favorite creative endeavors are her awesome kids, Annaleigh and Jack. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she can be found walking her beloved dog, Banjo, or engaging in literacy activism and radical optimism. Her website is and she blogs about all things mysterious with her friend, colleague, and running partner Rebekah Buchanan at

Lyric Essentials: April Michelle Bratten reads “Songs to Joannes” parts I-V by Mina Loy

Welcome to our first installment of Lyric Essentials, where writers and poets share with us a passage or poem which is “essential” to their bookshelf, and who they are, as a writer. Today April Michelle Bratten reads the first five parts of Mina Loy’s “Songs to Joannes”.

Sundress: April, before we take a listen, let’s put this poem in a little context. I know Mina Loy was a contemporary of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and William Carlos Williams (I just love saying his name), but what else can you tell us? Who was Mina Loy?

April: I “accidentally” discovered Mina Loy several years ago. I imagine this is how a lot of people find her now: accidentally. I had fallen into a Wikipedia black hole, which is much like a You Tube black hole; you continuously and obsessively click links, delving further into a topic until you land somewhere drastically far away from where you originally began.

I found that Mina Loy was not only a top writer during the Modernist era (early 1900’s) but she was also an artist, mostly specializing in strange lamp shades and light fixtures, but also illustrations and found art. I learned that she was famous, now, for having been forgotten. She was never written into the history books even though she was deeply connected to many writers and artists from that era; she hung out at Gertrude Stein’s salon, she met WCW through a theatrical production they put on together (she had a brief affair with him and apparently broke the doc’s heart) she was close friends with and was photographed many times by Man Ray, and she was friends with Marcel Duchamp during the years he created the infamous “Fountain.” The list of her contacts truly goes on and on. However, she did not merely circle this group of people. She was also being published and featured in art galleries. She was their contemporary. Her friend Ezra Pound wrote to Marianne Moore, “Is there anyone in America except you, Bill [William Carlos Williams] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?”

Portrait of Man Ray -  inscribed, Never say I don't love you, circa 1925Portrait of Man Ray – inscribed, Never say I don’t love you, circa 1925
La Maison en papier - 1906La Maison en papier – 1906
Consider Your Grandmother's Stays - 1916Consider Your Grandmother’s Stays – 1916

Loy’s tumultuous and deeply compelling life story ended on a strange note. She wound up a penniless elderly woman rooming with several young people in their 20s, rifling through garbage cans (her roommates called her “The Trash Lady”) finding pieces for her found art. She gave one last gallery showing in 1959, which was attended by many of her old friends from the Modernist era.

Communal Cot - circa 1950Communal Cot – circa 1950
Christ on a Clothesline - circa 1955-59Christ on a Clothesline – circa 1955-59

My fascination began with the mystery of Mina Loy. How does one so important to an entire movement of writing and art completely fall off the map? My admiration and respect for her was found in research and of course, by reading her work.

Sundress: If you had to guess, why do you think she “fell off the map”?

April: It’s a provocative question. I think there are a couple of possibilities. One of the most defining moments of Loy’s personal life was when her husband disappeared. The story is a complicated one, but the summation is that Arthur Cravan bid farewell to his wife and set out on a sailboat to travel from Mexico to Argentina. Mina took a different boat, expecting to meet up with her husband at the end of their travels, but he was never seen or heard from again. The devastation and grief that followed Mina around for the remainder of her life turned her into a recluse. She dropped out of the artist “scene” and mostly kept to herself after Cravan’s disappearance.

However, one could also simply suggest that the reason she “fell off of the map” was because she was a woman. There are already a few prominent women to cover from that period and school of thought: Adrienne Rich, Gertrude Stein, and to a slightly smaller degree, Djuna Barnes. God forbid another woman should happen into the text books. The Modernist era, like every other period of time we have experienced, was male dominated, and therefore the study of this period tends to be more focused on men.

Sundress: The cannon does tend to favor white males. Speaking of which, Enclave has a new project, The New Canon: A Redefinition Project—a great idea to help rewrite the canon. Which book would you petition them to add?

April: I have heard about this exciting project! I have a wealth of possibilities, but for brevity, I will stick with my two favorites. First, I would immediately add Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I feel it is one of the most important novels, not to mention one of the best novels, I have ever read. It is striking in its content, brutal in its delivery, and is tremendously affecting on the spirit. If you haven’t read it, please do.

Secondly, I would add Mina Loy’s collection of poetry and essays, The Lost Lunar Baedeker. My copy is a little bruised and beaten up. It is one of those books that you return to repeatedly, for inspiration, for insight, for the joy of language. Loy manipulates language in a way that I have never seen before. I envy her crazy skills. She is not an easy read, but she is definitely a poet that should be critiqued, examined, and studied. Also, you might fall in love with her.

Sundress: I’m open to falling for a love poem. Loy’s most famous work, published in 1915, “Songs to Joannes”:

Sundress: What I immediately notice is a very strong, self-assured sexuality; Pig Cupid his rosy snout/rooting erotic garbage is both grotesque and sexy—a pleasant surprise considering “Songs to Joannes” was published five years before women had the right to vote. Was it this sensuality or something else which drew you to this poem?

April: Loy’s sensuality is apparent in every piece that she wrote. She oozed with a freedom and an honesty that was shocking to readers at the time. In fact, the story goes that the poet Amy Lowell was so offended by “Songs to Joannes” that she refused to be published in the same journals as Loy.

This poem first drew me in because of its incredible use of language, line breaks, and pacing. I was immediately drawn to the strange and wonderful rhythm the poem created. What is even more enticing, is that this poem is about a sexual affair and the abortion that followed. This poem was written in the 1910s. For a woman from this time period to write so boldly about this subject matter both surprised and delighted me. She was certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, I only recorded the first five parts. This poem is an epic—34 parts in its totality, all just as spellbinding as the first five. There is sensuality in this poem, indeed, but there is also sorrow, uncertainty, loss, anger, wonder, love, mystery, and hope. Tonally, “Songs to Joannes” seems to sum up a great deal of Loy’s complicated life:


When we lifted
Our eyelids on Love
A cosmos
Of coloured voices
And laughing honey

And spermatozoa
At the core of Nothing
In the milk of the Moon

Sundress: You’ve convinced me—I must hunt this poem down to read it. Which other ones do you recommend?

April: Mina Loy’s poems are difficult to find online, so I would recommend buying The Lost Lunar Baedeker to read some of my favorites. From this collection I adore “Omen of Victory,” a very short and intensely visual poem about a group of women sitting for tea. Her poem “Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots” is another favorite of mine with the lines, “Love is a God / Marriage expensive / A secret well kept.” Her essay, “Feminist Manifesto” is another must read, and should be somewhat easier to find online. You can also check out a small taste of her work at The Poetry Foundation.

Sundress: What have you, as a poet, learned from Loy?

April: Mina’s work, both her writing and art, has been a significant part of my experience as a writer. I was a young poet when I “found” her. She was the guiding hand for my exploration into experimental language and the usage of visual art as an instrumental inspiration for poetry. I felt compelled to write several poems inspired by her artwork. By my own volition I studied Modernism, Futurism, and Dadaism, and eventually minored in art history in college. The mixture and collaboration of poetry and the visual arts is still a passion of mine, which is evident in the journal I edit and hopefully, in the poetry I write.

Most importantly, Mina Loy taught me that vulnerability and boldness are permissible hand-in-hand, and I should never be timid about sending that story out into the world.


What is essential to you as a writer or poet? What piece changed your life? Gave you hope, validated and voiced your fears, was there while you triumphed over them? What piece brings you joy? Made you laugh or grin like a fool? Who was it who made you sit back in wonder, inspiring you to be a stronger writer? We want to know. Send us a recording (or packet of short recordings) of you reading your Lyric Essential—a short story, a handful of poems, an excerpt or two—to SundressLyricEssentials AT gmail DOT com. Then we’ll talk.

April Michelle Bratten April Michelle Bratten has been editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly since 2008. Originally from Marrero, Louisiana, April has a BA in English from Minot State University in North Dakota. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southeast Review, Zone 3, Thrush Poetry Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Gargoyle, among others. She is also a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing where she writes the article “Three to Read.” April has a chapbook, Anne with an E, forthcoming from dancing girl press in the fall of 2015. You can learn more at

Mina Loy Bio Pic

Mina Loy, born in England in 1882 as Mina Gertrude Löwry, worked as a poet, model, playwright, novelist, lamp designer, model, and visual artist in Paris, Florence, and New York City. A feminist, she was part of both the modernism and futurism movements. “Songs to Joannes” was originally titled “Love Songs”. Its avant-garde lyricism and erotic sexuality shocked readers. Loy died in 1966 in Aspen, Colorado. Her most famous book is The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems; her novel Insel was published posthumously.

Summer Flash Showdown: Get Your Jersey On!

Donkey Basketball. Photo by Lauren Leone-Cross.
Photo by Lauren Leone-Cross.

Welcome to the second round of the Summer Flash Showdown, a series by none other than Sundress Publications! While our audience is likely chomping at the bit to hear our two winners from last week’s challenge, the running is too close. We’ll need some more time to make the many difficult decisions to come. For the remainder of this ongoing saga of flash fiction, tune in to The Wardrobe every Wednesday to find out who came out on top.

As you may know, all finalists will have the opportunity to write for the Grand Prize Round, in which the supreme victor could walk away with endless boasting privileges, publication of their story on The Wardrobe, and FIVE FREE SUNDRESS TITLES OF YOUR CHOOSING!!!

Also, round two’s winner will receive an Outspoken Tank (as well as publication on the blog.) The runner-up will also receive publication right here on The Wardrobe.

Without further adieu, this week’s honored judge is…


April Michelle Bratten

April Michelle Bratten was born in Marrero, Louisiana. The daughter of an USAF active duty father, April grew up traveling and living across the United States and abroad. Her travels have greatly influenced her writing over the years, particularly her three year residency at Incirlik Air Force Base, Turkey. She currently lives in Minot, North Dakota, where she received her BA in English from Minot State University. You can find her poetry in decomP, Southeast Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and others. April has been the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly since 2008 and she is also a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing, where she writes the article Three to Read. Three to Read highlights recent poetry and poets in online journals around the web. Aside from reading, editing, and writing, April loves beer, art, libraries, sports, camping, and bunny rabbits. You can find her on twitter: @aprilmbratten

THE CHALLENGE: Get Your Jersey On!


All submitted stories in this round must take place at a sporting event, whether it’s a grizzly tee ball match or a Stanley Cup Playoff. The conflict can hover in the stands or be slugged out on the field, but the setting must be at and during the game.

It must also be told from a second person p.o.v. We want your use of this perspective to immerse readers in the action with a unique abruptness. Command your readers to feel the sand on their soles mid-volley ball match or harness the crack of a bat in their palms.

For example, you might write as your first line, “Rise to pass 100 people for more $9 nachos for your gurgling belly. You trip and spill beer into the perm of the woman in front of you who has been on her smartphone for half the game.”

And no Mighty Ducks, tearful sentiments on the “love of the game.” Be a good sport and serve us lit that taps into deeper realities than a team winning a preconceived stand-off. Make the odds higher than the scoreboard.

Word limit is 450 for this round. Send all stories to RTF or DOCX file format preferred.  Stories must be submitted by Friday, July 24th at midnight EST! [EDIT: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MONDAY, JULY 27TH AT MIDNIGHT]

We hope you knock this one out of…we’ll spare you any more sports puns. Go get em!