The honesty of Chickenhawks & Goldilocks washes in like a wild tide on grief’s jagged shoreline, embracing the confusion and complexity that accompanies losing a loved one to suicide. Instead of a one-note lament, this chapbook recognizes confusion and examines how that confusion can make a person and a relationship seem improved through absence. Chickenhawks & Goldilocks reveals how a love can fill in our cracks and seams and make us feel whole. By juxtaposing poems that acknowledge this feeling with poems that delve into flawed relationships and the abandonment the speaker cannot help but feel, Vild portrays a more complete grief. Thoughts and feelings are intertwined, wrapped in each other such that they cannot be separated. Betrayal, love, rage, anguish, and guilt all bleed toward each other, trapped in the cage of our chests.
“Chickenhawks & Goldilocks adroitly renders the liminal experience of grief, with notes of tender specificity dovetailing expressive and purposeful abstraction, each poem a shout against the silence absence carves into our lives. But make no mistake, Grey Vild doesn’t wallow in these poems, nor allow us to do so; here we, poet and reader, overcome the loss that would have us lose ourselves—a loss all too present for those in and aside the Trans community—and find resolve to carry forward in the beautiful project of living, to make the choice every day while still honoring those who felt they couldn’t, hiding nothing about how difficult, at times, the living is and will be.” —Cortney Lamar Charleston
Grey Vild is a goddamned transsexual. A recent graduate of the MFA at Rutgers-Newark, his work can be found at Them, Vetch, EOAGH, Harriet: The Blog and elsewhere.
A 501(c)3 non-profit literary press collective founded in 2000, Sundress Publications is an entirely volunteer-run press that publishes chapbooks and full-length collections in both print and digital formats, and hosts numerous literary journals, an online reading series, and the Best of the Net Anthology.
Tania Runyan, author of What Will Soon Take Place had this to say about Craigo’s book:
“I’ve been reading Passing Through Humansville during a time of despair, and they are among the few written words that have comforted me. Emboldened me. Spoken. These poems explore marriage and family, nature and politics, and faith and doubt from a wellspring of compassionate wisdom and grace—a still, small (but not timid) voice of a life lived and loved with intention. ‘There are so many / ways to move across Earth’s face and I / would just as gladly move or sit with you,’ Craigo writes. I feel the same way about this book, it’s a companion whose side I won’t leave for long.
Other advance readers include Sarah Freligh, author of Sad Math, who said:
“In Passing Through Humansville, Karen Craigo is the best kind of tour guide—wise, tender, funny and keenly observant of the moments life serves up however large or small. Who among us cannot identify with the weary speaker in “Advent” who finds herself siding with the innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph: ‘Damn / but a hard day’s work / should earn us a little rest, / not crisis after crisis.’ I don’t know of another poet who is able to balance feminism, faith, and motherhood as deftly as Craigo does in these poems. These are wonderful meditations on the fierceness of love and the meaning of the word “humankind.”
Karen Craigo is the author of two Sundress Publications titles, No More Milk (2016) and Passing Through Humansville (2018). She is also the author of Escaped Housewife Tries Hard to Blend In (forthcoming from Tolson Books, 2018), and three chapbooks. She is the editor of a weekly newspaper, The Marshfield (Missouri) Mail, and she maintains Better View of the Moon, a blog on writing and creativity. She lives in Springfield, Missouri.
Phantom Tongue explores identity, homosexuality, heritage, and language. Written with vibrant detail and surgically precise word choice, the poems in the collection navigate through the construction of a person’s identity by various experiences and circumstances. Some poems are about the narrator’s Mexican heritage and the confliction of not being able to understand the language of his parents and relatives. Others show the struggle to come to terms with sexuality in the context of heritage and religion and the expectations of male gender roles. And others interact with the larger societal struggles looming around the narrator’s struggle, such as a poem about the Orlando nightclub shooting. Phantom Tongue presents the danger of love, the bittersweet beauty of loss, and the power of human striving, often encapsulated by some form of expression—artistic, linguistic, romantic, or otherwise.
Rigoberto González, author and book critic, said of Phantom Tongue:
“Exiled from the cultural language of his Mexican ancestors, longing for the private discourse of queer desire, the young speaker in Steven Sanchez’s Phantom Tongue imagines—and then inhabits—a wondrous space where expression is tactile, intuitive, and intimate. What a heartfelt debut and a wound-healing testament to the fragile but resilient body, its whispered stories.”
Steven Sanchez is the author of Phantom Tongue (Sundress Publications, 2018), selected by Mark Doty as the winner of Marsh Hawk Press’ Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award. A recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo and the Lambda Literary Foundation, his poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, Muzzle, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and other publications.
Cass Hayes: What kinds of things inform and inspire your writing? Are there any specific books or authors that had a big impact on Either Way, You’re Done?
Stephanie McCarley Dugger: I grew up on a farm, which is a big influence on my work; I write a lot about nature and animals and the night sky (it’s vast and gracious in the country). And music—I’m from a family of singers (but since I can’t sing to save my life, I became a flutist). So, music really inspires my work, too. Specific writers? So, so many. Definitely Mary Ann Samyn, Anne Carson, and, of course, Emily Dickinson. I didn’t recognize her influence until I was proofing one of the early drafts of Either Way, You’re Done and noticed that nearly every poem had two or three dashes. They’ve changed a lot since those early drafts, but I believe her influence is still evident in the poems.
CH: What about writing brings you joy?
SMD: Discovery. I write to find out—to investigate something—and when the writing results in some new discovery, some new truth, I get excited. When I wrote the last two lines of “After the Shooting,” “In my daydreams, / I do not beg for mercy,” I realized much of the manuscript is an act of begging for mercy, and refusing to do that is alluring and empowering, but also often impossible. That kind of surprise keeps me writing. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I get all giddy.
CH: Why do you write poetry, and why did the topics you explore in Either Way, You’re Done need to be explored through poems?
SMD: I’m drawn to poetry in particular because rhythm is a form of meditation for me. It provides me focus to explore what I’m trying to learn about. I write essays, too, but I always return to poetry because the attention to rhythm, language, and space on the page helps me clear out all of the noise. I write a lot about trauma, and poetry seems to work best when I’m delving into those topics. I can cut, cut, cut until only the necessary remains. Often, the necessary ends up being more space on the page than words. That white space gives me (and maybe the reader) a place to breathe.
CH: What has been your biggest struggle in your writing and in publishing your work?
SMD: There are some love poems to women in the book, some about being bisexual in a Southern Baptist home. That isn’t something I’ve shared with many family members, so I have some concerns about how they’ll react. The biggest struggle, though, goes back to writing about trauma. Many of the poems are about my childhood experiences—physical and sexual abuse, my mother’s mental illness—and that’s hard to put out there. It isn’t something I go around talking about, so knowing these poems might be read by other people has been hard. I struggled for a long time with whether or not I should publish them at all. I want to protect my family and my privacy, so I’m torn between writing/publishing my experience or keeping it close. At some point, I had to make a decision. This is what I write about, and I’m going to either release it out into the world or abandon the work. I decided to release it.
CH: How do you decide what form a poem is going to take? Is there any significance in the form of the poems included in Either Way, You’re Done, or in the structure of the book as a whole?
SMD: I’m not very practiced in choosing a form and writing to that form, so I have to listen to the poem to find the form. I still handwrite the first draft of everything—it feels less restrictive. The handwritten draft is usually a sin
gle stanza, short lines. Then I type the poem out, but keep that basic form. I work in the white space and fragmentation after several revisions. I revise based on sound—I read the poem out loud over and over, and the pauses in rhythm usually suggest the white space. Funny, though—when I read the finished poems in front of people, I usually don’t read them as they appear on the page. The white space is diminished. I don’t always end up with a fragmented poem, but the poems dealing with trauma often end up in that form. It just needs more time, more space on the page. Not more words, just more space.
CH: Why are so many poems in Either Way, You’re Done dedicated to specific people?
SMD: That’s a great question. I didn’t actually intend for those people in the dedications to read these poems (this goes back to your earlier question about the struggles with writing). If they do, fine, but it wasn’t my aim to get their attention. Initially, none of the poems were dedicated, but there are so many different you’s in the first section of the book that it was confusing. No matter what I did, though, I couldn’t get away from second person point of view. Very few of the poems worked in third person. The best solution was to add a dedication when it was necessary to understand who the poem is directed to. In the first section, it’s important to know in order to keep the narrative clear. That information isn’t as necessary in the second section—whether the you’s are all the same or different doesn’t matter as much—so there are fewer dedications in the second half.
CH: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out writing poetry?
SMD: Keep writing. We need your voice, especially now.
And if you’re afraid to write about something, that’s the very thing you need to write about.
Oh, and there is no set path, no set time-table in writing. Go your own pace, no matter what everyone else is doing.
CH: Do you have any advice for revision? How do you go about revision?
SMD: I revise a lot. A lot! I like revising. I like it more than writing something new, so I’ll often put off generating new work by revising. I rarely know when to stop. It’s part of the reason there’s so much white space in my work—I cut and cut words and lines until I have to start the poem over.
My advice for revising: Read it out loud over and over. Reading out loud is the most productive means of revising for me. I get a clearer sense of the diction and rhythm.
Also, keep every draft so you can go back if you don’t like where it’s going, but don’t be afraid to do something drastic in revision. The poem isn’t some delicate thing that needs to be nestled and protected. It’s a process, a product of manipulation. So, blow it up, cut it apart, see what happens. You can always go back if it doesn’t work.
CH: What are you working on now? Do you have any other projects in the works?
SMD: I’m working on a children’s book and an essay collection (slowly). I recently finished my second manuscript, a long poem about mental illness and diagnosis, and I’m working on a third. I’ve been spending as much time outside as possible these last couple of years, and that is heavily influencing the new poems (back to nature!).
Stephanie McCarley Dugger is the author of Either Way, You’re Done (Sundress Publications, 2017). Her chapbook Sterling (Paper Nautilus, 2015) was co-winner of the 2014 Vella Chapbook contest. Her work has appeared in The Boiler Journal, Gulf Stream, Heron Tree, Meridian, The Southeast Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and other journals. She is an assistant professor at Austin Peay State University and is Assistant Poetry Editor for Zone 3 Press.
Cass Hayes is a writer from Waxahachie, Texas. She attends the Arkansas Writers MFA Program at the University of Central Arkansas and works as the managing editor of the online literary journal Arkana. Her fiction and poetry appears or is forthcoming in various online and print literary journals, including Five:2:One, Work Literary Magazine, and Déraciné Magazine.
The author of Blood Sugar, ire’ne lara silva, had this to say about Hands that Break and Scar:
“In language that is both achingly honest and meticulously poetic, Chavez chronicles the passage from childhood to young womanhood in California’s Central Valley, negotiating culture, language, identity, sexuality, love, and meaning. It is not that these poems reveal the secret profound nature of things—in Chavez’ world, the lines blur between violence and love, joy and struggle, memory and transcendence, the sacred and the mundane. One thing flows into another and back again. Hands That Break & Scar will leave an indelible mark on your heart, reminding you that poetry, beauty, and life are everywhere—within and without.”
Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the chapbook, All Day, Talking (dancing girl press, 2014), a selection of which won the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship. Her work appears in such publications as Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands, Brevity, North American Review, Fourth River, Acentos Review, and VIDA Exclusive, among others. She holds a PhD in English with a focus in poetry and Ethnic Studies from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Along with teaching at Marshall University, she serves as coordinator of the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series.
Other advance readers include Corinne Clegg Hales, author of To Make it Right, who said:
“The poems in Hands That Break and Scar work as a sort of mosaic, vividly portraying a bi-cultural, working class—and often precarious—childhood in the rough world of California’s hot Central Valley. This community is as stressed as it is vital—and children become vigilant and self-sufficient at an early age. […] Chavez celebrates the moments of true joy and grace to be found in simple physical acts and otherwise ordinary situations. “I climbed the ladder,” she says, “reached out my arm / placed my fingers on the fruit’s smooth skin, / twisted it away from the stem / and handed it down to my grandmother / whose hair danced lightly in the breeze.” This is a stunning first book, filled with brilliant images, hard truths, and honest hope.”
Amorak Huey is the author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump, which was published by Sundress Publications in August, 2015. He sat down to talk to our editorial intern Adam J. Gellings about process, influence, and more!
Adam J. Gellings: What is your writing process like? Do you have a routine?
Amorak Huey: My writing routine is the absolute lack of a routine. I envy those writers who are all like, “Oh, yes, I arise and write from 5:30 to 7 every morning. The sunrise and the quiet house are so inspiring!” My life is far too chaotic for any such thing, and probably I lack discipline for all that anyway. I write when I can fit it in around the edges of things. Sometimes early mornings. Sometimes late at night. Sometimes with Criminal Minds on TV, or while the kids are doing homework, or in the car while waiting to pick up the soccer-practice carpool. Often when I’m supposed to be grading or doing the laundry. There’s no better recipe for getting writing done than having something else I need to be doing. Conversely, there’s no better motivation for getting other stuff done—the house cleaned, the checkbook balanced—than having writing I need to do. It’s a weird life. I don’t write every day, but I write more days than not. Maybe this fragmented writing life is why I mostly write poems and not longer things that might require a more sustained kind of focus.
AJG: When did you first become interested in writing poems? Who were your early influences?
AH: It’s hard to pinpoint a true first moment. I grew up in a family of readers, talkers, storytellers, so words and books and writing have always been important to me. The first contemporary poet I was captivated by was Raymond Carver, whose work I came to through his short stories. I know his poems are not especially well thought of these days, but when I was in college, they opened up verse for me. He showed me that poems can be narrative, can be personal, can be driven by voice, can be clever, can be readable. These things are probably self-evident for most poets, but I had to learn them, and have to continue to relearn them over and over. Other poets I read with hunger early in my writing life included Maya Angelou, Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, David Kirby, Tess Gallagher, Bob Hicok, Jorie Graham.
When I was a senior in college, I had plans to be a novelist and short story writer. One of my mentors and writing professors sat me down in her office and asked if I was serious about writing prose, because she thought maybe I should write poetry instead. I don’t know exactly how she meant it—probably as a compliment to my poetry—but I was kind of devastated, despairing about how crappy my prose-writing must be for her to say this. In hindsight, this conversation probably was kind of a turning point for me, and gradually I started writing more poetry and less prose. I started grad school in fiction right out of college, but dropped out after a few semesters, and by the time I went back to do my MFA 10 years later, there was no question I was going to study poetry.
AJG: You have previously worked as a newspaper editor & reporter. What experiences as a news writer shaped your voice as a poet? Is there a bond between your creative writing & your work reporting the facts?
AH: The biggest connections between news writing and poetry have to do with language. They share the aim of achieving your purpose in as few words as possible. Wasting not a syllable. The demand that each word have maximum impact. My years as a copy editor taught me a lot about how sentences work and how to express a complex thought with clarity. Clarity isn’t always the goal in a poem, but it helps to have that ability in your writer’s toolbox.
The contrast between news writing and poetry comes in context and purpose. I’m always telling my students that if someone asked them, say, what happened at a meeting or where they wanted to go for lunch, and they wrote a poem in response, that would be weird. A poem is not the best way to handle the straightforward delivery of information. A poem is not a memo, or a news article, or a status update, or a text message to a friend, right? I mean, it can look like those things, it can take the shape of those things, it can borrow from those things, but as soon as you call it a poem, it becomes something else. I won’t say something larger, because I’m not sure about the hierarchy there, but definitely something other. So then the purpose of a poem must be something else, and it’s tough to articulate, but it’s along the lines of: a poem exists to create an experience for the reader, to use language to explore and evoke some event or emotion or memory, some facet of human existence, and in doing so the poem will necessarily bump up against the limits of language. The role of language in a news article is to be as invisible as possible, to deliver the goods and get out of the way. In a poem, the language is the goods.
My poetry voice is definitely shaped by my years as a journalist. It’s sometimes an obstacle I have to overcome, a tendency to over-explain or oversimplify. In a news article, it might be enough to write, like, “I was sad,” or whatever. But that straightforwardness isn’t always what a poem needs, though it can be. I have to create sadness (or happiness or lust or hunger or whatever). Invent it almost from scratch, using language, which is an incredibly imperfect medium. So then I have to reach for image or metaphor or another rhetorical device. Have to find something new in the language. Express something in a way it hasn’t quite been expressed before. And it’s so much fun. I am pretty terrible at it most of the time, but I love the attempt. It’s invigorating.
AJG: Could you talk a little about how you came about choosing Ha Ha Ha Thump as the title for your collection & the decision behind starting each section with a poem of the same name?
AH: That title came fairly early in the process, even as the book went through numerous drafts and revisions. I liked the tone of it, the idea of humor followed by something more alarming. I like to think that’s a metaphor for what some of the poems in the collection achieve. You’re laughing along then you’re like, wait, what?
I was interested in the idea of using a joke in a poem—not just wit or cleverness, but a straightforward joke with a set-up and punchline—and that’s what I was trying to do in the first “Ha Ha Ha Thump” poem I wrote, to go back to this childhood joke: What goes ha ha ha thump? Someone laughing their head off.
Then, when I was working with the amazing Erin Elizabeth Smith, my editor at Sundress, on the final shape of the collection, she wanted me to reorganize it to fight against my tendency to shape collections like narratives, because this isn’t a book with a single coherent speaker or storyline. So I was making piles of poems that felt like they could be sections and seeking some device, some structural mechanism by which to organize the piles, and I thought, What if I come up with other answers to the question? What else might go ha ha ha thump? I came up with a Hollywood marriage, a hyena falling out of a tree, a clown having a heart attack, and laughter to measure the silence between lightning and thunder. Those became the opening poems for each section, with each answer loosely—very loosely—connected to what I see as the uniting themes or tones within the sections.
AJG: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection?
AH: All my babies are beautiful! But since you asked, I’ll say the last poem in the book, “Ars Poetica Disguised as a Love Poem Disguised as a Commemoration of the 166th Anniversary of the Rescue of the Donner Party.” The absurdly long title makes me smile, and I think the poem comes pretty close to doing everything I want it to. I’m also happy with the hopeful chord it strikes at the end of this book, which I suspect at times might come across as somewhat cynical about love.
AJG: Are you part of a writing community where you live? How do you know when a poem you have written is officially done revising?
AH: I am so fortunate to have a built-in community of writers in the Writing Department at Grand Valley State University. How awesome is it to go to work with colleagues and students who value what I value, who want to have the same conversations I want to have about language and teaching and learning and writing?
I also am part of an online writing group with about a dozen other poets, where someone comes up with a prompt each month and we all write a poem for that prompt. Some of the poets in the group are local, but others are spread across the country. Each April, some friends and I do the poem-a-day thing, sharing our poems with each other for accountability.
So, yes, I am part of lots of writing communities, these that I’ve mentioned, but also being engaged with other writers through social media, reading their work and the work they find and link to. Reading literary journals and books published by small presses and discovering new writers and new poems, even submitting my own work, attending the AWP Conference—it’s all part of engaging with a larger community of writing and writers. Without these communities, I don’t know how I would keep writing.
I suspect that since you linked your question about a writing community with a question about revision, you’re also asking about a workshop-like group, a set of readers who offer feedback and help answer that “how do you know when it’s done” question. That, I don’t really have. In the online group, we offer encouragement and some feedback to each other, but the main point is to keep each other writing; if you’re in the group, you know you’re writing at least a poem a month. Similarly, our April thing is mostly about having someone on the other end who expects you to email them a poem every day. We do get together in May over burgers and beers to rehash and talk about the poems, but it’s more about celebrating having survived the month than about offering detailed feedback.
So when do you know you’re done revising a piece? The flippant answer is the real answer: You don’t. And you never have to be done. Even publication doesn’t mean you have to stop. Robert Lowell was famous for tinkering with pieces even after they appeared in prestigious journals, often to the irritation of his editors. But, yeah, at some point, you want to stop, right? You want to feel like you’ve reached some milestone, some point where the poem is ready for its close-up. And eventually, you do gain a sense of confidence that you can tell when your work is some approximation of finished, a felt sense of things having clicked into place. There’s no shortcut to that felt sense, though. You have to read literally thousands of poems and write thousands of poems that fall woefully short of your ambitions for them. Then read some more and write some more. Eventually, you’ll learn to trust in your feelings about a piece.
AJG: What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?
AH: A new chapbook, A Map of the Farm Three Miles from the End of Happy Hollow Road, is coming out later this year from Porkbelly Press. I have two other full-length manuscripts in circulation, with all the revision and revisiting and rejection that process entails, and of course the most important project is always merely—merely—to write the next poem.
Amorak Huey, a former newspaper editor and reporter, is author of the poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress, 2015) and the chapbooks The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl, 2014) and A Map of the Farm Three Miles from the End of Happy Hollow Road (Porkbelly, forthcoming in 2016). He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poems appear in The Best American Poetry 2012, The Southern Review, The Collagist, Oxford American, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere.
Adam J. Gellings is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. He is currently a PhD student in English at SUNY Binghamton & he received a MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University. You can find his work in Quarter After Eight, Rust + Moth & forthcoming in The Tishman Review.
Agape Editions, an imprint of Sundress Publications, announces the first annual Numinous Orisons, Luminous Origin Literary Award for a Book of Poetry. All authors are invited to submit qualifying, full-length manuscripts (45-150 pages) during our reading period, which is January 15-April 15, 2016.
We are looking for manuscripts of forty-five to one hundred fifty (45-150) single-spaced pages of poetry. Individual pieces or selections may have been previously published in anthologies, chapbooks, print journals, online journals, etc., but cannot have appeared in any full-length collection, including self-published collections. Single-author and collaborative author manuscripts will be considered. Manuscripts translated from another language will not be accepted.
Entry fee is $23 per manuscript. We are happy to accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that authors notify us immediately if their work is accepted elsewhere. Authors may submit as many manuscripts as they like, so long as each is accompanied by a separate entry fee. Entrants should pay submission fee(s) at our store, then email manuscript to email@example.com along with your Agape Editions store receipt. Be sure to note both your name and the title(s) of your manuscript(s) in both the subject line and in the email.
The author of the winning manuscript will receive $500 and 10 author copies. Agape Editions will also send out additional copies for review on the author’s behalf.
As an imprint of Sundress Publications, Agape Editions is part of a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; we are entirely volunteer-run. We publish chapbooks and full-length works in both print and digital formats, and operate a publication series in association with THEThe Poetry Blog. The majority of our authors are women and people of color. As suggested in our mission statement, we are strongly committed to diversity—we are not merely “open to” work by authors from different backgrounds; we need them in order to thrive.
Maybe you’re not familiar with Griffith, Indiana, a northwestern, Hoosier town forty minutes south of Chicago. Maybe you’ve never tried the “sproh rootie” at the Grindhouse Cafe downtown, or mosied into the Pokro Brewing Company for a craft beer with the infamous handle, the “Dwarven Assassin.” But worse yet, what if you weren’t in Griffith on August 1st and 2nd, when this interstate oasis hosted Small Prestivus 2015?
Unless you’re Cher and you can “turn back time,” then you missed out. But the good news is Julie Demoff Larson, Small Prestivus coordinator and Blotterature Literary Magazine founder/editor, plans to keep the annual festival alive and well for years to come. With books to buy, talent to hear, workshops to play, and new friendships to forge, Small Prestivus 2015 was a moleskin journal that fits in your back pocket: small enough for every page and every name to mingle and stand-out. Small enough to matter, to take with you wherever you go.
Speaking of books you obsessively carry and crave, last Saturday’s book fair was brimming with cool titles to share and shine, with food, music, and workshops abounding too. Twelve Winters Press, Lit Fest Press, Sundress Publications, and more showed off their writers and catalogs in the sweltering heat. And when I say sweltering, I mean it. Just ask T. A. Noonan’s likely-still-healing sunburns. Yeah, Sundress works hard for the money, and T.A. wasn’t the only author on-hand to sign books and help out at the publication’s tent. Sarah Winn and Donna Vorreyer were also present, giving readings on both days to very appreciative audiences. You can check-out Sarah’s e-chap, Portage, here for free. Donna’s release, A House of Many Windows, is available for purchase at the Sundress store.
Following a night of counter-intuitive hydration and evening readings at the Pokro Brewing Company, the Small Prestivus crew of writers, editors, friends, and family gathered one last time on Sunday afternoon for the Festival of Language. This was a diverse five hour slam of fiction and poetry. Deliveries ranged from the suave, Cassonova-meets-Bukowski poems of Bill Gainer to the heart-skipping elegance of Sarah Chavez’s reevaluation of the worlds that are borne on turtle backs. Kayla Greenwell took us into her grandmother’s home and, consequently, her own heart. Bud Smith told us a story about tiger blood. Joani Reese sang from her book, Night Chorus. Robert Vaughan introduced us to Addicts & Basements, and other wondrous characters. Krista Cox captured listeners with her verses scaling the walls of online dating, with one poem rightfully shrinking a “Fisher of Women” down a size. The full list of awesome writers and their equally poignant work is formidable to say the least, and other impressive artists staked their claim to the afternoon as well.
Also making sense of internet non-sense, Adam Nicholson was on-site, establishing himself as the “harmonizer of hash tags” with a reading of the internet’s finest dismal posts. Adam was also responsible for bringing Sala to everyone’s attention at Small Prestivus, a fresh organization made by artists for artists, promoting collaboration and support of creative thinkers as far as the internet can reach. But don’t take my word for it: take Adam’s, and support his cause here.
In the same reader’s block as Adam, T.A. Noonan later spoke both a “compsognathus” and an “archaeopteryx” back into existence. She read excerpts from Petticoat Government and The Bone Folders, one line of the latter echoing through the weekend, “That kindergarten grin of peel. How your lips glistened like raw eggs.” She even shared fresh material for fans. You can catch her new book, The Midway Iterations, later this year from Hyacinth Girl Press.
After each round of individual readings, Jane L. Carman and Julie Demoff Larson organized a series of reading experiments. These mixed and matched all the readers and their varied works onto the same stage. Voices mingled and read in unison. Fragments collided in midair. Other experiments allowed for call-and-response theatrics as presenters read every other line of their own work as questions instead of statements, as the laughter launched and the beverages threatened to crawl their way up and out of the audience’s helpless noses. After the last experiment and a round of sixty-second reads, the Festival of Language concluded.
With bittersweet farewells, the cast of Small Prestivus 2015 left the mystical heat of Griffith in its assorted rear-view mirrors. Across the country, we attempt in vain to resume normalcy after the high of sharing work and relishing in the words of new friends. We wait for Small Prestivus 2016, where we hope you can join us in our celebration of all things small press.
Sundress Publications thanks all those who participated, as well as Julie Demoff Larson for organizing!
(All photos courtesy of Small Prestivus 2015 unless otherwise noted.)
For a full list of occurrences, participants, and related news for next year, please view the Small Prestivus Facebook page.
Claire is the hyacinth and the egg
still unbroken in this town
that does not belong to her,
with its bars and motorcycles on Main,
one grocery store and the haunted hotel
where she sleeps with dead monkeys
and little girl ghosts.
At night she gets open-mouthed
sweet green pepper kisses from a man
who could be her father, thick hands
heavy on her shoulders and in the morning
they never speak of it. When they first met
he brought her hurricanes to hold in her palm,
caught her in his teeth as she searched for the sun,
face a naked flower bulb.
He shot her once and she carries
a lump of lead in her chest to prove it,
will show any boy who wants to see.
He brought her here one hot summer afternoon,
tied up her fingers and carried her in his mouth.
She is not certain when he spit her out.
But now he leaves her with tonsil stones,
chalky stench in the crypts of her body,
in her stomach, and he is in her
periphery when she plucks hairs from her head
one at a time and bites off the roots.
She swears it is like sinking her teeth into meat.
Margaret Bashaar’s poetry has been previously collected into two chapbooks, Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel (Blood Pudding Press) and Barefoot and Listening (Tilt Press), as well as in many literary journals and anthologies including Rhino, Caketrain, New South, Copper Nickel, and Time You Let Me In. She lives in Pittsburgh where she edits the chapbook press Hyacinth Girl Press and is a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine. Her debut collection, Stationed Near the Gateway, will be published by Sundress in 2015.
A soldier in World War I brings
a German bride back to America,
but he does not love
women and she stays locked
her whole married life in a
language she cannot learn.
There are children who leave and don’t
come back, even when the mother dies
and the father’s health fails. What kind of children are these? people ask, who
still consider the husband a kind man –
remember, the wife spoke only silence. What kind of children? you ask, and I
look away – I have already shared
what I know, and there is nothing one
will not do to another, again and again.
Virginia Smith Rice earned her MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University. Her first full-length poetry collection, When I Wake It Will Be Forever, was published in 2014 by Sundress Publications. Her poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Meridian, Rattle, Stone Highway Review, Superstition Review, and Third Coast, among other journals. She is co-editor of the online poetry journal, Kettle Blue Review, and associate editor at Canopic Publishing.