The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Leah Browning’s “The Night He Broke His Collarbone”

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THE NIGHT HE BROKE HIS COLLARBONE

The diaper commercials never show
all the waiting:

the outer room at the dentist or
the living room when he’s out late or

at his bedside, in the emergency room,
waiting to take the X-rays or hear the results.

Or now, standing outside in the driveway
in the dark, waiting for the ambulance.

My son is sitting in the front
passenger seat of my car,

trying not to move too much
or cry or throw up, and

I stand in the wedge of light
from the car’s open door.

Earlier tonight, when the sun was still low,
he hit a bump on the BMX track

and slammed into the ground
shoulder-first. He is not quite thirteen.

His friend had to borrow a cell phone
to call his father and ask him to drive over

and pick them up in his SUV.
At the time, it didn’t seem so serious.

The neighbors have come outside,
one already in her nightdress and robe,

wringing her hands. There is nothing left
to say. Mostly, it is quiet. Other cars drive past,

and at the end of the street, a city bus stops
to collect its passengers before grinding away again.

One night, on a school trip, there was an accident—
but it was twenty years ago and all I remember now

is filing off a bus in the dark, and seeing
a teenage boy laid out on his back

in a parking lot, in some unfamiliar state—
in another lifetime, it seems now.

But it is all called back by the faint sound of the siren
rising from the bottom of the hill,

eliciting a familiar sense of relief. The ambulance
pulls to a stop in front of us, and the back doors are opened

to reveal its inner workings: the raised white cot,
the long gray bench, a series of cupboards, and then

the confident, efficient machine of the paramedics
emerging with their clipboards and backboard

and gloves and stethoscope,
and the pair of silver scissors they’ll use

to cut his shirt off his body, deftly,
like magicians performing a deceptively complex trick,

and in that moment I almost expect to see rising smoke
and a flurry of milk-white doves

as they set aside the glittering mirror of the scissors
and whisk back the colored cloth.

 

“The Night He Broke His Collarbone” is from Leah Browning’s chapbook, In the Chair Museum, available from dancing girl pressPurchase your copy here!

Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens (Capstone Press) and three chapbooks: In the Chair Museum (Dancing Girl 2013),  Picking Cherries in the Española Valley (Dancing Girl Press, 2010) and Making Love to the Same Man for Fifteen Years (Big Table Publishing, 2009).  Browning’s fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have previously appeared in a variety of publications, including Queen’s Quarterly, Queen’s Feminist Review, 42opus, The Saint Ann’s Review, Blood Orange Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Brink Magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs, Sweet: A Literary Confection, and Per Contra, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies.  In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review.  Her personal website is located at www.leahbrowning.com.

 

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.

 

#TheBlogTour #MyWritingProcess Erin Elizabeth Smith

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Today is my day on #TheBlogTour where writers and artists answer questions and their processes. Thanks to Sally Deskins for tagging me for this week!

Each writer answers the same four questions each week and then links to three more writers who will submit their answers next week with the hashtag #MyWritingProcess.

MY BIO

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I’m an currently cleaning up a finished manuscript that deals with both Alice in Wonderland and my divorce–the poems were an awakening of sorts after not writing for several months after the initial separation. I was broken (emotionally, mentally) but also deeply angry and, in some ways, embarassed. I didn’t know how to put those emotions on to paper until I was teaching Alice in a literature course at the University of Tennessee, thinking about adaptation and what stays the same between each iteration. It was then that I realized what I loved about Alice wasn’t the strange world that she found herself in, but rather that she had no goals, no demons to vanquish, no score to settle. She just moved forward because that’s what you do. That’s how you get from one place to another.

The poems came slowly, and as I healed from the separation, they began to change, to open up to other places, to bring in new characters, to look at my past and my present all in a linear line that made no sense. Everything was through the looking glass, the same but only backwards.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

This question feels like I’m supposed to answer something elitist, like “My work is unique in the entire world of poetry because”…and I’ll be honest, it isn’t. Poetry doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Writing this collection, I read back issues of The Fairytale Review, the Alice issue of Gargoyle, the poems of Stephanie Bolster, the short stories of Angela Carter, and then I watched about twenty different variants of Alice. I read Carroll’s notes. I read Alice Lidell’s letters. I read the first draft of Alice (Alice Underground) with Carroll’s own illustrations. I read biographies. I read critical essays. I was inspired by friends, by pop music, by YouTube videos, by OKCupid ads. Everything.

My work isn’t different from others; it’s inspired by others.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I think I write what I do in large part as a way for me to frame my own female experience in this world. There is something about the density of poetry that I really like, the way one image can echo, reverberate through an entire book of poems, through the entire way that we look at the world. I write poetry because there is an imperative to see the world through metaphor, through the knotting of one thought to another, a daisy chain of conversation that exists outside of time or response.

I like how in poetry you can say a thousand different things depending on what flower you reference, what shade of sky, what song rumbles on your radio. How these small choices are what draw empathy and strength.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I write at my computer. Partially because I feel that I can’t write without Google or Wikipedia anymore. When I resort to pen and paper, I come back to the words that I love too much–“break,” “red,” “bone,” “history,” “forsythia.” When I’m at the computer, I can find out what the state bird of Tennessee is—a mockingbird—or the type of grass that grows most commonly in Georgia—tall fescue. Words that never would have come to me are served up on silver e-platter of language. When working on my current book, I also always had a print and digital copy of Alice at the ready, so that I could peruse my own notes and well and do word searches to tie images directly to scenes in the novel.

When I am stuck, I open my favorite poetry volumes and read first lines. I’ll find the things I dogeared in periods of my life where I felt the same and re-read whole collections. We always tell our students that in order to write well, you must read well. I think this is true in my process too—how can you even begin writing without reading? And how can you continue it—poem by poem—without even more?

NEXT WEEK

Here are the three writers who will post their contributions to #TheBlogTour next week:

Letitia Trent‘s first novel, Echo Lake, will be published by Dark House Press/Curbside Splendor in 2014. Trent poetry and prose have appeared in the Denver Quarterly, The Black Warrior Review, Fence, Folio, The Journal, Mipoesias, Ootoliths, Blazevox, and many others. Her first full-length poetry collection, One Perfect Bird, is available from Sundress Publications. Her chapbooks include You aren’t in this movie (dancing girl press), Splice (Blue Hour Press) and The Medical Diaries (Scantily Clad Press). She was the 2010 winner of the Alumni Flash Writing Award from the Ohio State University’s the Journal and has been awarded fellowships from The Vermont Studio Center and the MacDowell Colony. Trent is currently book review editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and a frequent contributor to Bright Wall/Dark Room and The Nervous Breakdown.

A writer and visual artist, Kristy Bowen is the author of several books, chapbooks, and zines, including girl show (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), the shared properties of water and stars (Noctuary Press, 2013), in the bird museum (Dusie Press, 2008) and the fever almanac (Ghost Road, 2006). She lives in Chicago, where under the guise of dancing girl press & studio, she curates an annual series of chapbooks by women authors, edits the online lit zine, wicked alice, and creates a variety of paper based arts & crafts. Her poetry chapbook, I*HATE*YOU*JAMES*FRANCO, was released in 2012 by Sundress Publications, and her full-length collection, major characters in minor films, will be published by Sundress in 2015.

Lisa M. Cole is the author of the poetry collections Heart Full of Tinders and Dreams of the Living, and is a contributor to Wood Becomes Bone: A Mental Health Awareness Series, all three titles forthcoming from ELJ publications. Lisa has also written six chapbooks; most recently Negotiating with Objects from Sundress Publications; The Bodyscape from dancing girl press, & the forthcoming Living in a Lonely House also from dancing girl press. She was a recipient of the Lois Nelson Award in Creative Non-Fiction in 2005, & was a runner-up in SLAB’s Elizabeth R. Curry poetry contest earlier this year. When not writing, Lisa teaches writing workshops in Tucson Arizona’s prisons as well as in various places within Tucson’s vibrant literary communities, including the University of Arizona Poetry Center, & Casa Libre En La Solona. You can read book reviews of her fellow poets’ work at her blog & find her on Facebook in both personal & professional capacities

National Poetry Month Book Giveaway!

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That’s right, friends! Sundress Publications is giving away two books for FREE in celebration of National Poetry Writing Month!

As you may have heard, the month of April is National Poetry Writing Month! What better way to celebrate NaPoWriMo than by giving away some free inspiration in the form of some of our most-loved books of poems?

Our blog, along with many other blogs across the web, is partnering with The Book of Kells and giving away our books in celebration of this special month! The goal is to share our favorite poets with each other as well as encourage you all to visit different poetry-loving blogs and see who other people are reading (and enter ALL THE GIVEAWAYS for more chances to win!).

Here at Sundress, we are giving away David Cazden’s The Lost Animals and a copy of our beloved boss lady Erin Elizabeth Smith’s most recent collection, The Naming of Strays.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment below with your name, e-mail, and your favorite poem/poet, and you’ll be in the running for one of these books!

You have the rest of the month to comment and enter, and on May 1st we will randomly select 2 winners!

Happy NaPoWriMo!

Now, shouldn’t you be writing something?

Press Release: Not Somewhere Else But Here

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Knoxville, TN — Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the release of Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place, edited by Erin Elizabeth Smith, T.A. Noonan, Rhonda Lott and Beth Couture. This book is Sundress’s first anthology and contains poetry, fiction, and non-fiction pieces exclusively featuring contemporary women writers. In this 300+ page eclectic and engaging multi-genre anthology, the reader will find literature that transports them across the entire globe, written by women who have boldly traversed it.

Writers include Marjoie Maddox, Wendy Call, Barbara Crooker, Marthe Reed, Karyna McGlynn, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Dianne Seuss, Sarah Sloat, and many,many more!

“Miniature celebrations of place, the writings in Not Somewhere Else But Here deftly maneuver through imagined spaces and bustling Manhattan streets, the impossible page and the architecture of Japanese homes. Here, place is questioned and subdued: it is the hot gloss of sun on concrete.”

-Lily Hoang, author of The Evolutionary Revolution and Changing

“The writing in Not Somewhere Else But Here is at turns haunting and infused with a deep magic. The work carries the reader from Beirut to Vermont, from Japan into dream worlds, bodies as maps. Landscapes are often treacherous, populated with, “mouths of razor-wild men,” enchanted with, “fists opened to explosions of diatomic stars,” and each woman in this collection navigates those spaces with a deft grace. Step into the worlds they have summoned.

-Margaret Bashaar, Editor of Hyacinth Girl Press

To find out more or to order a copy for sale or review, visit the Sundress Publications website at www.sundresspublications.com.

Wardrobe Best Dressed: Sara Henning’s “How We Love”

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National Geographic wild life cameraman John Varty captures Manana, a wild African leopard, in an unprecedented ritual of mourning

While the mother leopard foraged, a python lured her cub into its throat. When she found the den empty, python slow with new architecture, she tore until it surrendered the body black with digestive fluid, whole as she’d left him, barely dead. Last summer in Illinois, a woman was found under a pile of trash, her animals eating what was left of her. Neighbors said when her husband died, she stopped letting go of what passed through her hands. Even the leopard carried the cub’s body to a field close to her den, chewed it tenderly to pieces, swallowed each down. Even I still look for your effigy everywhere, practice your body until it is raw susurration, burned not by my throat but my heart. Which of us stays at her guttural refrain for days, though our love was never so close to our hunger? What is love but a set of urges? Hold the nape of the neck just so—carry the pieces of the body just so—

 

How We Love” appeared in Sara Henning’s collection, A Sweeter Water, available from Lavender InkPurchase your copy today!

 

Sara Henning is the author of the full-length collection of poetry A Sweeter Water (2013)as well as a chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (2012). Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Willow Springs, Bombay Gin and the Crab Orchard Review. Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for The South Dakota Review.

 

This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected by Erin Elizabeth Smith. Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.

Wardrobe Best Dressed: Sara Henning’s “Afterthought”

Afterthought

If I twine loss with what loses,
I get disappearing, bones of doves


who once ate the evening’s marrow
and became stars,


ate until their hearts stopped
and recited the wild strawberries

of their stopping, and these birds shone
like elevators climbing a shaft

toward the indelibility
of my heart rejecting itself,

the perfumed light of its image
flying raw.

The sunset’s dialect escapes
in hushed drawls:

shhhh, mmmm, shhhh, a triptych.

Afterthought” appeared in Sara Henning’s collection, A Sweeter Water, available from Lavender Ink. Purchase your copy today!

Sara Henning is the author of the full-length collection of poetry A Sweeter Water (2013), as well as a chapbook, To Speak of Dahlias (2012). Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Willow Springs, Bombay Gin and the Crab Orchard Review. Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Managing Editor for The South Dakota Review

This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected by Erin Elizabeth Smith. Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Fear of Being Found (Three Candles Press 2008) and The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake Press 2011). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee and serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Stirring.

Creative Camping : A Workshop and Retreat in East TN

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Join us for our first workshop at our new home, Firefly Farms! At this multi-genre overnight workshop you will get the opportunity not only work with top-tier local writers, including poet Erin Elizabeth Smith, you will also get to explore the new 29-acre location of the weekend workshops!

This workshop will focus on writing nature and will feature instruction on incorporating local flora, fauna, etc. into your work. With instructional workshops on tree identification, foraging, and campfire cookery, you will have the opportunity to learn a number of new woodsy traits to examine in your writing.

All food and drink (including alcohol) is included in the workshop fee, which also includes workshop instruction, camp sites, and printing. Camping gear will also be available for rent for a minimal extra cost.

The overnight workshop fee is $100. Current students receive 20% off with ID. Please RSVP by April 18th to reserve your space.