Rae Gouirand’s chapbook, Little Hour (Swan Scythe Press, 2022), uses poetry as a medium to explore themes of place, space, duality of self, as well as the relationship between nature versus human influence and design.
The collection of 20 poems opens with “Some Place” which encapsulates the speaker’s desire to understand their purpose and place in the universe as illustrated in the lines:
“I was born on a planet flung off to
yield itself— fingerprints rest
& I hover looking for some place.
I is always the hardest
among the signs that are not
just rock, straw, dark, dust,
shell, spark, wick— everything but I
has use…” (Gouirand 9).
This poem illustrates how the speaker feels like being born on Earth means coming to terms with one’s use or purpose. Gouirand highlights how in nature these purposes are clear for things like rocks or shells—but for the sentient “I,” the ego, the human being, determining purpose and finding the place where that purpose can be of use is challenging. “Some Place” introduces the collection as a whole, with each subsequent poem acting as a further investigation being made by the same speaker, rather than an assortment of different perspectives.
Gouirand expands into an exploration of the relationship between nature and human forms in the second poem, “An Autobiography.” The juxtaposition between word pairings like weather and mouth, snow and hand, and day and eyes makes the reader reflect on their own presence within the larger environment, and conversely, the environment’s impact on them. A similar series of juxtapositions between nature and inorganic or human forms appears in many of the poems including “Early Neighborhoods” and “Canoe and Cicadas.” “An Autobiography,” however, stands apart from the rest of the collection for its unusual structural form. While the majority of poems in the collection are written in first person couplets, “An Autobiography” uses a different approach. Visually, every other line is indented to the center of the page creating a vertical horizon. This stylistic choice may invite the reader to engage with the poem both line by line and by reading the right and left columns separately. With lines like “two voices at once I try,” the latter of these options leads to a more conversational tone and feels connected to the core of this piece which focuses on the duality of self (Gouirand 10).
In the seventh poem, “With Horse,” Gouirand writes:
“The muscle, the teeth, the breath rushing
out of burned throat and through those teeth into air, where it became
indistinguishable,” (Gouirand 16).
These lines showcase the symbiosis between breathing (a human act) and the air of the natural world. As the concepts of breath and air converge, the reader may consider what is one of these things if not the other? What are these things without the other? Fascinatingly, this piece references racing and running; with these active words the poem accelerates, only slowing in the third to last couplet with the word rest.
In the ninth poem, “Extinction,” the theme of place is transformed into a tangible shape. From this point in the collection forward, Gouirand writes with more specificity and compartmentalization with the repeated use of words including box and bowl—as also seen in “Simply,” “Our Tongue,” and “Far Blue.” Boxes and bowls are both containers in their own ways, and with a touch of mindfulness, these objects symbolize the importance of emptiness. In the same way only an empty box may be filled with belongings, it is only with emptiness that there is space for something to fill it. In these poems, the speaker’s search for a way to define the containment of self seems significant to the thesis of the collection as a whole. These poems present an idea that a home is a container for the self and words like box, bowl, place, land, mine, room, hold, space, outside, and inward solidify this messaging.
Little Hour invites readers to be meditative—slowing down to notice the precarious balance between art, nature, and humans by striving to “know every moment of sunlight, every moment of moonlight…” (Gouirand 20).
Annie Fay Meitchik is a writer and visual artist with her BA in Creative Writing from The New School and a Certificate in Children’s Book Writing from UC San Diego. Through a career in publishing, Annie aims to amplify the voices of marginalized identities while advocating for equality and inclusivity in art/educational spaces. Her work has been published by Matter Press, 12th Street Literary Journal, and UNiDAYS. To learn more, please visit: www.anniefay.com.
Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that the recipient of the Light Bill Incubator Microgrant is Vincente Perez. They will receive $500, a slot in Sundress’s reading series, and a residency at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, TN.
Vincente Perez is a poet, scholar, and writer working at the intersection of poetry, Hip-Hop, and digital culture. He makes work that refuses binary thinking, which allows him to be in conversation with people, places, and things that refuse to make sense in a Western framework.
He is currently a PhD Candidate in the Performance Studies program at UC Berkeley and holds a BA in Anthropology and Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies from The University of Chicago. They were a 2021-22 Poetry and the Senses Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Arts Research Center. Their poems have appeared in Poet Lore, poetry.onl, Honey Literary, Snarl Magazine, Digging Through the Fat, River and South Review, and more.
We would also like to recognize our finalists: Isaac Akanmu, Jakky Bankong-obi, Trace Howard DePass, Sedi Eastwood, Kei Vough Korede, Tamara J. Madison, Jessica Mehta, henry 7. reneau, jr., and Timi Sanni.
Sundress Publications is open for submissions of pitches for short anthology projects. Anthologies would be published as part of Sundress’ e-chapbook series in 2021 and would be available for free download on the Sundress website. These anthologies will be limited to 50 pages of content.
All editors are welcome to submit pitches for qualifying projects. We are especially interested in projects helmed by or focused on amplifying the voices of BIPOC, trans and nonbinary writers, and writers with disabilities.
Pitches should be approximately 250 words and include:
Potential authors editors would like to solicit
Example pieces of work to be included
Outline of a plan for the editorial process
Why editors believe the anthology is important to the contemporary literary landscape.
Editors of selected pitches would solicit and read work for the anthology project with Sundress-backed support in submission curation, contracts, proofing, promotion, and design. Sundress Publications will also provide a small budget to selected projects ($250) that may be used to pay editors for their work, or contributors, or both, as the editor deems appropriate.
To submit, email your pitch (DOC, DOCX, or PDF) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to note both your name and the title of the project in your email header.
The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2020.
Winner of Sundress Publications’ eight annual chapbook competition, Hannah V Warren’s,[re]construction of the necromancer, is a haunting reimagining of Hansel and Gretel that explores the themes of transformation, motherhood and creating our own fate. Editorial Intern, Ada Wofford discusses these themes with the author, as well as the significance of reimagining Hansel and Gretel today.
Ada Wofford: What can you tell us about the book’s inscription, “To the girls with the moss in their hair”?
Hannah V Warren: I’m thinking about women who had their own experiences with abandonment in their childhood, but that word means something different for everyone. In the forest, Gretel felt no more alone than in her home. This collection is for those women, the ones who felt lingering instability, no matter where they were—the ones who would have embraced Gretel’s forest and the ability to transform their bodies into something new if they could.
AW: What is the significance of reimagining Hansel and Gretel today, in 2020?
HVW: We’re currently living in a moment where people are returning to fairy tale, to legend and lore, more frequently than ever. Funnily enough, a movie about Hansel and Gretel came out the same week this chapbook released. (I haven’t seen it, but I hope people revel.)
I think we all find comfort in these stories, the ones we’ve heard again and again. There’s an entrenched familiarity. At least for me, reinventions investigate the troubling aspects of fairy tales we take for granted. In the Grimms’ “Hansel and Gretel,” the tale ends with riches and forgiveness. Although their father supported their demise, the children are easy to forget all trespasses: “Now all their cares were at an end, and they lived happily together.” I wanted to write a new Gretel, someone who doesn’t need to end on forgiveness but instead focuses on her own recovery, realizing she owes nothing to her birth family, especially not absolution of emotional and physical traumas.
AW: Can you talk about the recurring theme of “forgetting” in the book?
HVW: I played with memory a bit in this collection, considering how we process traumatic events. It’s easy to go days, or even a week, without thinking about anything that happened over a decade ago. Then, you’ll smell menthol. Or you’ll hear someone humming. Or a man will brush against your arm. Suddenly, hot stones brim your gut. As Gretel grows older, her childhood memories become fuzzier, but there are moments that haunt her, that she can’t forget. The “forgetting” poems contain many of these specific memories for Gretel, those moments that always return.
AW: Can you speak about the use of spaces and line breaks throughout the book and what their function is to the overall story?
HVW:[re]construction of the necromancer is concerned with the blueprints of our bodies; how we put things back together when they fall apart. I love white space in a poem. Those blanks and breaks are almost as important to me as the words. I imagine them as instructions that guide Gretel, but she doesn’t quite understand how to follow along because she’s never transformed her body before. It’s like putting together a human skeleton when you don’t know where any of the bones go. In these poems, the spaces are sometimes jarring, pulling the language apart like stretched taffy. I think that’s what it would be like to grow a completely new body, to abandon the parts that no longer belong.
AW: What is the significance of the shifting perspective, from first-person to third?
HVW: In these poems, I wanted to create something immersive, atmospheric. In film, it’s really easy to shift perspectives, to show the audience something the main character doesn’t know. I thought a great deal about what the reader needs to know versus what Gretel needs to know, and I quickly realized that Gretel, after her transformation, wouldn’t care a lick about how her birth mother was getting along. Regardless, it was important to me that the reader know how the forest continued interacting with the mother, how this sentience cared for Gretel quietly. In the “Guide for” poems that come at the collection’s beginning and end, I hope the first-, second-, and third-person perspectives join together. The reader is not watching Gretel but instead becomes Gretel in a fractional way. The reader learns to transform.
AW: Can you speak about the themes of eating and consumption found throughout the book?
HVW: The generally unquestioned cannibalism in fairy tales is always so fascinating to me. In lore, eating other folks is a representation of evil, and that’s that. In this collection, one of my goals was to up the ante on every aspect of the Grimms’ tale. What we consume is such an important part of our identities. I’m from south Mississippi, and I felt like part of me melted when I lived in the Midwest for a few years. Where was the crawfish bisque, the okra, the fried catfish, the Cajun seasoning? I wanted [re]construction of the necromancer to be indulgent, gluttonous even. You can’t think of Gretel without thinking of cannibalism, so I twisted that part of the story to empower Gretel. Does that make Gretel a representation of evil, as well? Probably yes, but also maybe no. Throughout the poems, Gretel shifts from starvation to indulging whenever she wants.
AW: Can you talk about the theme of transformation in the book?
HVW: I love writing within the feminine grotesque. In fairy tales, women’s bodies are consistently changing in mimetic and non-mimetic ways, often to reveal something crucial about the narrative’s moral. I hoped to do something similar with Gretel. Children aren’t helpless, per se, but they are small and relatively defenseless, which the normalization of trauma only exacerbates. Gretel’s transformations are her body’s response to her inability to forget and escape the memories that haunt her. The animal and forest parts of her new form cannot remember abandonment or violation, and they help her attain a semblance of stability as she processes her experiences.
AW: Can you talk about the significance of motherhood in the book and how does it connect to the forest?
HVW: When I first started cobbling together this collection, I knew I wanted Gretel to escape the ills that plague her, which includes her birth mother, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen. Slowly, the poems I added revealed other mother figures. The candy witch from the Grimms’ story is the mother Gretel never had; she teaches Gretel to care for herself, to cook, to change her body. The forest, as well, acts as a semi-motherly figure in the tender slips where they interact, brushing away debris from Gretel’s skin, feeding her encouragement and dried meats. Throughout her time in the forest, Gretel realizes she can rely on others, but she must find a balance, relying on herself, as well, before she can rejoin the world.
Hannah V Warren is a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia where she studies poetry and speculative narratives. Her poems have haunted or will soon appear in Mid-American Review, Moon City Review, and Redivider, among others. Follow her at @hannahvwarren and learn more at hannahvwarren.com.
Ada Wofford is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Library and Information Science. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a BA in English Literature. She is a Contributing Editor for The Blue Nib literary magazine, the Founding Editor of My Little Underground, and has been published by McSweeney’s, Fudoki Magazine, Burial Day Books, and more.
Sundress Publications is excited to announce that Anna Black and Brynn Martin will be taking the helm as our new chapbook editors. The two sat down with our editorial intern Nicole Drake to talk about some of the exciting titles and projects ahead of them. Black and Martin discuss their most treasured writing advice, some of their unique passions (natural building, embroidery), and the idea of editing as working toward a shared vision with the author.
Nicole Drake: How did you come on as an editor for the Sundress chapbook series?
Brynn Martin: I’ve worked for SAFTA since 2016 in a couple of different roles but I’ve always expressed to Erin that I’m interested in publishing/editing and the whole process of how a book comes to be. So when the editor position came open for the chapbook series, I jumped on it.
Anna Black: Sundress brought me on as an intern a long time ago. Since then I have worked as the editor of the Lyric Essentials series, the Poets in Pajamas curator, and now the Staff Director. Not all at once! I’ve been the assistant editor for most of our books over the last couple of years, and Erin knew I loved the editing side so of course when she asked me to, I was happy to be able to take on some chapbooks as an editor.
Drake: Can you give us an introduction to you and what you’re excited to bring to Sundress as an editor?
Black: My favorite works to read (and write) are eco and nature-based blow-your-hair-back-lick-your-neck words that rock with hard-core intersectional feminism and at least some hint of the grisly or magical. I love art and things that are weird — hybridity thrills me to the point of glee. I’m not sure what else there is to know about me. I’m a disabled, bi, animist, vegan Libra married to a Scorpio — we live in the PNW.
As an editor, I like to think that I’m looking not for what’s wrong (though that’s what people think of when they find out you’re an editor) because the book made it through our board and our judges to get selected in the first place (and we’re rigorous) so there’s not much wrong by that point.
But more that I’m hoping to use whatever vision I may possess by letting the writer look through my eyes. As when you point out new things to visitors in your town — you share with them a bit of the magic you’ve picked up by living there and knowing the space and when you point out the sculpture made by your friend or share the violent histories of your town, you see them shift, come alert, and spark with a connection born through seeing anew. I guess that’s what I hope to do as an editor more than anything — to let our writers see through my eyes and see their work in a new or deeper way. If we make a few changes here and there, together, along the way, then it’s because we shared a vision. So I guess that’s what I’m hoping for above all.
Martin: I’m a poet, Kansan, cat person, emerging foodie, and amateur macaron baker. I find a lot of peace in painting, embroidery, and other creative pursuits as well.
I’d say I bring my sense of humor, my passion for poetry, and my queerness to Sundress. The teams at Sundress and SAFTA are easily the most representative and welcoming that I’ve ever been a part of and it’s been refreshing to find a space that honors who I am while also allowing me to grow into my voice more.
Drake: What is the difference between a poetry collection and a chapbook?
Martin: The difference is primarily in the length; poetry collections are book-length manuscripts that run about 80+ pages. Chapbooks are often much shorter, between 10-30 pages. Because collections are longer, they will cover several topics and balance many themes, whereas a chapbook typically focuses on one theme or idea.
Black: Primarily the difference is the length. Full-length poetry collections are 45+ pages and chapbooks are “something less than that.” But it’s not as if chapbooks are unfinished collections. A good chapbook works within a shorter length and makes it a strength. A reader shouldn’t feel like the work has been cut short or that something is missing — so I guess rather than focusing on the length alone I would say that a chapbook is a book of poetry (or something else) that is at its best around 20-35 pages.
Drake: What projects are you working on now and what do you have coming up?
Martin: I run the Sh*tty First Drafts podcast with my roommate and friend Stephanie Phillips. We release new episodes about every two weeks, so follow us on social media and/or Spotify/iTunes/Google Play to see when we drop a new episode!
I’m also working on a manuscript of my own that I hope to send out this summer. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Black: We just launched Hannah V Warren’s [re]construction of the necromancer which is an incredible chap that retells the Hansel and Gretel story in a skin-tingling feminist way. It’s witchy and wonderful in every way and Hannah and I made a few changes along the way that were just what I mentioned above: a shared vision. I’m really proud of this book and I know Hannah is, too.
Coming up: I’m still the assistant editor for most of our books so I’m buried right now as we try to get everything out the door for AWP. But if you have the chance, you should also check out Bury Me in Thunder by syan jay. which is just — wow — it’s an incredible honor to be a part of this book in whatever role. And we’re about to release The Familiar Wild, an anthology on dogs edited by Rachel Mennies and Ruth Awad. We’re about to release our first fiction title, too, by Robert Long Foreman, I Am Here to Make Friends — it has charts. Oh! And Maps of Injury is coming out, too. Chera Hammons’ writing is a pleasure. As a person who deals with chronic illness, this is a collection that will just shatter the ideas most people have of what an ill body is like.
Personally, I’m working on a few projects including a novel, my second poetry collection, and a couple of visual art and photography projects. I need more sleep.
Drake: Do you have a favorite poetry collection or chapbook from 2019 still rattling around in your head?
Martin: Oh man, so many! I read The Carrying by Ada Limón most recently on a trip to the mountains. I admire her work so much. Franny Choi’s Soft Science is also stunning — no surprise there. I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark was also a favorite, though I think it came out at the end of 2018. I could go on. There’s so much kick-ass poetry happening right now.
Black: Ruth Foley’s Dead Man’s Float was a world rocker for me. And Amy Watkins’ Wolf Daughter. Oh and Lessons in Breathing Underwater by HK Hummel. They were so good! I liked all of our 2019 titles, to be honest. This is too hard.
Drake: What book have you reread the most in your life?
Black: Oh um…okay you’re going to laugh. Probably Clan of the Cave Bear—the series up through the Mammoth Hunters. Though I haven’t reread it in many, many years—I’m afraid to. It would probably offend me now. I’d say it probably has the record though given my recollection of my twenties. There’s something about a book that grips you in your early years in a way that never leaves you and changes your view on the world. That’s special. I’d also have to say Mists of Avalon but not in many years and that was before I knew there was a controversy around the writer. In more recent years I turn to Loba, Woman and Nature, Bright Dead Things, The Chronology of Water, Gathering Moss, Object Lessons, We Who Love to Be Astonished—I’d better stop.
Martin: The most honest answer is probably The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I loved that book so much and had it read to me so often as a kiddo that I’d memorized the words and would “read” it to myself before I’d ever learned how to actually read.
In more recent years, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Breaks my heart every time.
Drake: What do you look for in a chapbook that really sets it apart from the rest?
Black: Well, the chapbooks aren’t chosen by an acquisitions editor at Sundress. They go through readers which include our board and then after the initial winnowing to the finalists, to a judge. So it doesn’t matter much what I like in that sense except that as a board member I do read like everyone else. I guess, though, that I’m always hoping for a chapbook that causes me to make little grunting sounds—which I do when something strikes me as I read. It’s like an “ungh” sound. Something like a person makes when they take the perfect bite of their favorite dessert. Which is to say, I want to be touched. I want to cry. I want to be mad or hurt or surprised as I read. I want to feel for the speaker. I want to feel present and absorbed. I want to hear it breathe in my head. I want to forget I’m reading.
Martin: I appreciate chapbooks that hone in on one thing: whether it’s an exploration of a relationship, or a theme, or even one image. Chapbooks that are focused and feel like one complete unit. Which is not to say that they can’t do weird or experimental things. In fact, I think a narrowed focus allows for more room to play and explore.
Drake: Do you favor the classically excellent or more innovative, experimental works?
Black: When I make my personal choices for reading it’s probably obvious by now that I bend toward the experimental, the strange, and the things that have been hidden from us all for far too long. But that’s just how I lean personally and not a rule. I’m not usually going to reach for things that aren’t pushing boundaries but when they happen into my life, I’m no less glad to have read them. As an editor, I honestly have no preference. I think there is room for all of the words except the hateful kind. There is incredible joy in an accessible poem. I love those, too. And just as much.
Martin: It probably sounds wishy-washy, but I have to say both. Innovative and experimental works can be really exciting and captivating, but only if those choices are grounded by craft. Using something like caesura for its own sake, rather than to illuminate or complicate something in the poem, is counterproductive in my opinion.
Drake: What is the most useful editing/writing advice you have ever received?
Black: Sally Ball taught me to read manuscripts in side-by-side view and I use this every day now for Sundress and with my other work as an editor, and I’m so thankful she taught me that and much more about close reading and pulling things out from the back edges of your brain so you can look at them…about when to fight over a cow, and when to let it go—she really is an incredible editor and one I aspire to be more like.
Martin: That it’s okay to not be writing all the time. So often advice to young writers is about a schedule and producing as much as possible and all these arbitrary things that you can only really do when you’re in a position of extreme privilege. Letting go of the expectation that I had to sit down and write for two hours every day to be considered a “real” writer was incredibly freeing. Everyone works at their own pace and in their own way.
Drake: If you could live as the villain in any book–across all years and genres–who would you choose?
Martin: Probably someone like Professor Moriarty. Having seemingly unlimited access to money and power is pretty sexy, not to mention getting to mess with and outsmart the hero. Plus, Andrew Scott’s portrayal in the BBC adaptation is spectacular.
Black: In Griffin’s Woman and Nature there is this horse. While not exactly a villain, it’s being tamed, or rather, some man is trying to tame the horse. And the horse is resistant and full of fight and passion and has these threatening hooves. And I guess it’s not really a villain but it is to the man, right? I want to be that horse. That daring, blasphemous, dangerous, wild horse. Or Medusa. I’m probably already Medusa.
Drake: As an editor, have you ever experienced regret at a line you absolutely adored but had to cut for the greater good? A literary “one that got away”?
Black: Hmmm, no? Not one that comes to mind anyway. Cutting is a good thing. It should be done when called for, and without compunction when necessary. But the trick is to know when it’s necessary, right? It may seem it, but then you read it back and realize that something was lost. So you put it back in. Cutting is never permanent. It’s like being able to try on any haircut with no regrets. That’s what makes editing fun — it’s not risky unless you’re mean to the author.
Martin: In my own work, absolutely and all the time, especially as a young(er) writer. I wrote lots of lines (even whole poems) that seemed, at the time, completely genius but were ultimately too saccharine or abstract to work. You have to be willing to be pretty brutal with your own work, in my opinion. Most of the poems that I’m proudest of are ones that were completely overhauled in their structure, form, image systems, etc.
As an editor for Sundress, not so much. Most of the work we accept is polished and more-or-less ready to go. Much of what I do is more about copy-editing, small edits for clarity, and working on ordering.
Drake: Finally, what is one non-editorial, non-bookish thing that you truly enjoy doing?
Martin: I mentioned this before but something I’ve gotten into recently is embroidering. It’s something to keep my hands busy while still allowing me to feel creative. The rhythm of it is really calming, too. I post my pieces up on Instagram @BrynnsieCrafts, if that’s something you’re into.
Black: Non-bookishly I love to kayak. I’m also a photographer. I love boats, natural building (cob, earthships, strawbale, earthbag and anything that equalizes housing). I frequently blast music like I’m still 17, so I must like it. I can easily be convinced to go to art galleries and studio tours, to spend time gardening, and doing anything that involves me getting to hang up my hammock. I can break the bank in an art supplies store. I’m not good at math.
Anna Black‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Collagist, The Seattle Times, Hotel Amerika, 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, Wordgathering, SWWIM, The American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others. Black received her MFA at Arizona State University. She works as an editor and web operator based in the PNW as well as the Staff Director and an Associate Editor at Sundress Publications, and the poetry editor for Doubleback Review. More of her work can be seen at http://bylineblack.com.
Brynn Martin is a Kansas native living in Knoxville, where she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Tennessee. She is an Associate Editor for Sundress Publications and co-host of the podcast Shitty First Drafts. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Contrary Magazine, Rogue Agent, FIVE:2:ONE, and Crab Orchard Review.
Nicole Drake is a graduate of Florida State University with a BA in Creative Writing. She has served as a reader for the Southeast Review and the Seven Hills Review and currently works as the Social Media Manager for Capital City Tattoo’z. She teaches dance and works her way through her endless “To Read” list in her spare time.
Sundress Publications announces its ninth annual chapbook contest. Authors of all genres are invited to submit qualifying manuscripts during our reading period of April 1st to June 1st, 2020.
Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and hybrids are welcome. Manuscripts must be between twelve to twenty- six (12-26) pages in length, with a page break between individual pieces. Individual pieces may have been previously published in anthologies, print journals, online journals, etc., but cannot have appeared in any full-length collection, including self-published collections. Both single-author and collaborative dual-author manuscripts will be considered. Manuscripts must be primarily in English; translations are not eligible.
The entry fee is $10 per manuscript, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre- order any Sundress title. Nominations for entrants are accepted provided the nominating person either pay the reading fee or makes a qualifying purchase. Authors may submit and/or nominate as many chapbook manuscripts as they like, so long as each is accompanied by a separate reading fee or purchase/pre-order. Entrants and nominators can place book orders or pay submission fees at our store.
The winner will receive $200, plus publication as a beautiful full-color PDF available exclusively online. Runners-up will also be considered for publication.
Esteban Rodriguez will be judging. Esteban Rodríguez is the author of the poetry collections Dusk & Dust, Crash Course, In Bloom, (Dis)placement, and The Valley. His work has appeared in Boulevard, Shenandoah, The Rum- pus, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, an Assistant Poetry Editor for AGNI, and a regular reviews contribu- tor for [PANK] and Heavy Feather Review. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas.
All manuscripts should include a cover page (with only the title of the manuscript), table of contents, dedication (if applicable), and acknowledgments for previous publications. These pages will not be included in the total page count. Identifying information should not appear in any part of the manuscript. Authors with a significant relationship to the judge (friends, relatives, colleagues, past or present students, etc.) are discouraged from entering.
To submit, attach your manuscript as a DOCX or PDF file along with your order number for either a Sundress title or the entry fee to email@example.com.
Simultaneous submission to other presses is acceptable, but please notify Sundress immediately if the manuscript has been accepted elsewhere. Multiple submissions are allowed, but a separate entry fee must accompany each entry. No revisions will be allowed during the contest judging period. Winners will be announced in Fall 2020.
Pittsburgh, PA –– Pretty Owl Poetry (POP), an online feminist literary journal based in Pittsburgh, is one of ten newly selected organizations that will participate in Prototype PGH’s 2020 Incubator. Prototype PGH is a nonprofit devoted to promoting gender and racial equity in technology and entrepreneurship. It will provide resources, workshops, and consultation to assist in the growth of the journal, which seeks to establish a chapbook press called Pretty Owl Press.
POP will begin publishing two chapbooks a year in conjunction with the quarterly journal issues starting in 2021. Like the literary journal, Pretty Owl Press will also publish socially conscious work from marginalized voices; however, this new venture will also help build authors’ careers through online advertisements, book launch celebrations, and sales facilitation. POP is excited to continue giving back to the literary community by joining the Prototype incubator cohort, the range of which—according to Prototype founder Erin Gatz—“underscores the true richness of Pittsburgh’s communities and cultures.”
Founded in 2013, POP is dedicated to uplifting underrepresented voices, especially those belonging to people of color, LGBTQIA+, neurodiverse individuals, as well as womxn, non-binary folx, and trans folx. POP publishes poetry, flash fiction, and art on a quarterly basis. Over the past seven years, POP has become an integral part of the Pittsburgh literary scene by hosting readings with established authors on tour as well as local Pittsburgh writers on a regular basis.
Additionally, the journal runs a bi-weekly writing prompt series inspired by the mystery and magic of the tarot called POPcraft, and it also produces POPcast, a podcast centered around publishing and the world of writers. In its monthly newsletter and social media feeds, POP promotes its sister Sundress publications and past contributors—affectionately referred to as “Pretty Owlers.” Because the contributors make the journal possible, POP seeks to expand its support for writers and grow its audience through the creation of Pretty Owl Press.
A 501(c)(3) non-profit literary 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.
Following the release of their chapbook, Space Baby, author Nicole Oquendo sat down with Sundress Publications‘ editorial intern, Jacquelyn Scott. They talked about form, desire, violence and forgiveness.
Jacquelyn Scott: Can you talk about the three different sections? How do they speak to each other?
Nicole Oquendo: I imagine the speaker transitioning in different ways as the narrative shifts between sections. They begin infatuated in this rapturous love with our “villain,” only to reveal their true nature as the poems progress. I see the middle section as a realization that they aren’t satisfied with experiencing love in all the ways they have up until this point; nothing is enough. In that third section, desire for more burns everything.
do you hope your work says about the violence we do to each other as human
beings or as partners?
is a complicated question, as many people, me included, experience love as a
violent thing, much like our protagonist. But there’s a fine line between
consensual violent play and what seeps into our speaker’s destructive behavior.
This is up for interpretation too, though, as their lover meets an end no more
violent than the deaths we know he inflicted upon others.
does our speaker interpret or give forgiveness? How far are they willing to go
think the love present at the start was more important, more necessary, than
any previous wrongdoing. And the nature of the wrongdoing is important, too.
Sometimes we do things we feel we have to and find ourselves trapped within the
constraints we’ve placed around ourselves. I believe this is the case for the
speaker’s partner, but also for the speaker as well at first. Even that great
love became a constraint that the speaker eventually burned free of. Forgiving
ourselves is important, too, and perhaps that final burning is the truest act
of forgiveness present in the book.
do you hope readers will take away from this act (or lack) of forgiveness?
book is in no way a guide on how to behave when you’re in love, but at the
core, these are love poems, and I’m of the mind that loving freely requires a
lack of constraint. We want to be bound, but we want the bindings to be the
ones we choose.
does desire play a role in your work?
NO: Desire is a huge driving force behind most of my work, and in many ways, like a lot of writers, I end up creating art that validates my own worldview. My neurodivergent lens (and the fact that my “emotional regulator” is frequently broken), chronic pain, and disability, in general, make both experiencing the feeling of desire and acting on desire arduous at best, but in a narrative world of my own making, I can experience it in whatever way I want.
did the written word limit or liberate that experience?
is beyond liberating, and the painting, as well. It doesn’t all have to be
about pain, though pain plays a role here. What I was able to focus on was a
strange joy that unfolds as the narrative does, and while some of this might be
toxic, to me it’s beautiful as well. And I hope I’ve crafted an experience
someone else can find beautiful.
characteristics of otherworldliness or space are essential in this chapbook?
love story is magical to me, and I wanted to set it against an appropriate
backdrop. We talk about the desire to see the world, going from our default
sheltered state to wide open, but raising the stakes, giving this protagonist
the ability to have entire galaxies a short trip away, made things even more
romantic in my eyes. The book might have started as Star Wars fanfiction,
but the settings in these poems were all deliberate.
do you hope readers take away from your work?
hope is that readers will feel the mood each poem is infused with and be able
to follow this narrative arc to a satisfying conclusion. Most of all, though, I
want the work to be fun. I’ve been writing a long time, and these poems are
some of my favorites. I don’t think I’ll ever connect to a project that is
unwaveringly happy on the surface, but I really think this protagonist finds a
happy ending in their own way.
projects are you working on right now?
wrote two fun books in a row, so, of course, now I’m back to chewing on more
difficult content. I don’t have any poems from my book-in-progress published
yet to share, but I can say that each poem is about different fathers growing
in unusual ways and eventually meeting unusual ends. I’ll spend a few months at
a time working on the projects that allow me to explore joy so I have the armor
I need to tackle the work that’s more deeply rooted in trauma, or the more
difficult stuff to deal with in general. This way, I never forget that writing
is something I love.
Nicole Oquendo is especially interested in nontraditional, multimodal compositions and translations in all genres. Their work can be found in numerous literary journals, as well as in the chapbooks some prophets, self is wolf, wringing gendered we, and Space Baby, and the hybrid memoir Telomeres. Nicole has also been serving the community since 2000, giving time as an editor to several literary journals and presses, and has been working as a writing educator since 2008.
Jacquelyn Scott is a student at The University of Tennessee where she is a candidate for her Master of Fine Arts in Fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blue Mountain Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and The Write Launch. Find her on a hiking trail or on Twitter @jacquelynlscott.
Drifting through extraterrestrial worlds, poet Nicole Oquendo explores the raw power of deep, yet unsustainable love. Oquendo balances tension and passion, delving into the visceral nature of desire while depicting its inherent toxicity. In these futuristic poems is a passionate but destructive alien affair, wherein love engenders chaos. The cohesion of these lovers is intimate but dangerous, and an embrace can ascend to asphyxiation.
As the two beings grow closer they are ensnared, each simultaneously metamorphosing into captor and prisoner, paramour and adversary. In these pages, vivisection is an act of intimacy, and loving someone is akin to willingly tipping one’s face to a sky that rains glass. This chapbook examines longing for someone while wishing to escape them. While these poems demonstrate that the heat of passion can transform sand from grit to crystal, they also question whether such a thing is worth the sacrifice. It seems that to love something is to kill it. To love something is to burn.
After reading this chapbook, Amy Watkins, author of Milk and Water, said, “Space Baby: Episodes I-III is violent and kinky and weirdly redemptive. Like all of Oquendo’s writing, it is clear and lyrical and just tender enough to disrupt expectations. You would be wise to savor these poems, but you may not be able to resist reading them all in one breathless go as I did.”
Nicole Oquendo is especially interested in nontraditional, multimodal compositions and translations in all genres. Their work can be found in numerous literary journals, as well as in the chapbooks some prophets, self is wolf, wringing gendered we, and Space Baby, and in the hybrid memoir Telomeres. They have also curated the Sundress Publications anthology Manticore: Hybrid Writing from Hybrid Identities. Nicole has also been serving the community since 2000, giving time as an editor to several literary journals and presses, and has been working as a writing educator since 2008.
Sundress Publications is thrilled to announce that Hannah V. Warren with her chapbook, [re]construction of the necromancer, was selected by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello as the winner of Sundress Publications’ eighth annual chapbook competition.
Hannah V. Warren is an MFA graduate of the University of Kansas and, currently, a creative writing Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia where she studies fairytales and other speculative narratives. Her poetry has recently appeared in Prism Review, Whiskey Island, Bear Review, and Room Magazine.
Angela Narciso Torres’ chapbook To the Bone was chosen as this year’s runner-up and will also receive publication.
Angela Narciso Torres is the author of Blood Orange, winner of the Willow Book Literature Awards for Poetry. Recently, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY, Missouri Review, Quarterly West, and PANK. She is an MFA graduate of Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers and Harvard Graduate School of Education and has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Illinois Arts Council, and Ragdale Foundation. She currently resides in South Florida where she is faculty for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival as a manuscript consultant.
Congratulations, also, to this year’s finalists and semifinalists!
Finalists “Dispatches re: Year One,” Sarah B. Boyle
“A Field Guide to the Natural Disasters of Southern California,” Charles Jensen “Counting Softly the Seconds,” John LaPine
“Backstory,” Lisa Mase “Unerase,” Fargo Tbakhi
“our lady of deciduous teeth,” Chelsea Bodnar “Breadcrumbs,” Lois Marie Harrod
“If You Had Left Your Brain Alone,” David James
“Church of the Unnamed Subdivision,” Jennifer Schomburg Kanke “Tumbling After,” Sara Wagner
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.