The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion

little ditch

ittle ditch was a century a calling
can you hear them saying
don’t startle the ash


please startle all the ashes ancestors of stitches

i took up my silence in your mouth
all those nights i lied so i could forget
i fled i kept coming back i pumped my legs high on the swing and hoped
all those days we were one home one body
i climbed over dog shit and pizza boxes to hold your hand

there was the light that day off the fire escape and you were crying
when i consoled you the truth in the gleam off the window your open crooked mouth i
fell in


i slept in your bed all those years there was no other bed
but betrayal and for that piece i fought others like me
teased hair and fist-fights rumors and rank-outs stealing bruises and romanticizing
little boy pains i lost hid concealed ate my own
i pretended i was one of the cool girls i’m not a cool girl anymore i’m a cunt


little ditch was a century of sad women a defect in the cell division a slash across the
ribs little ditch tried to be a good girl bounced on men’s knees when told/don’t bite back
bit instead the insides of cheeks to taste her own blood/remembering her worth –
pennies

the dirt in her mouth
one small sacrifice

her wobbly arms doin’ the woo

her belly fat exhaled in a curdle atop

little tight dresses little bow ties little ditch started young
she took it all in opened her mouth wide lips cracked
she thought it was kindness opening she thought it was power
she became walls

little ditch is centuries of digging
little ditch is the ghost – the pallor hanging over every woman’s achievement
little ditch was is centuries of generations of women digging out the future

little ditch is a burned-out Barbie Dream House sour milk between legs
a motor that guns every time she’s casually interrupted in conversation casually
sexually assaulted in conversation casually dismissed gaslit light that match


This selection comes from the book, little ditch, available from ABOVE/GROUND PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Kelly Lorraine Andrews.

Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and currently co-curates The Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.

Kelly Lorraine Andrews is an assistant managing editor for the American Economic Association and an MFA graduate from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of the chapbooks Sonnets in Which the Speaker Is on Display (Stranded Oak Press, forthcoming 2019), The Fear Archives (Two of Cups Press, 2017), My Body Is a Poem I Can’t Stop Writing (Porkbelly Press, 2017), I Want To Eat So Many Kinds of Cake With You and Mule Skinner (both out from Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Prick of the Spindle, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. You can read more about her past and future publications and look at a slideshow of her cats at her website.

 

Lyric Essentials: Amanda Gomez Reads Miguel Hernández

Hello, and thank you for joining us again for Lyric Essentials! This week, we are pleased to hear from Amanda Gomez, who reads poetry from Miguel Hernández to us and chats about viewing poetry as a tool for hope and teaching literary citizenship through exposure to diverse writers. Thank you for reading!


Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose these two particular poems by Miguel Hernández to read for Lyric Essentials?

Amanda Gomez: Despite the fact that Miguel Hernández is one of the most popular 20th century Spanish poets, I am very new to his work. I purchased The Selected Poems of Miguel Hernández, edited by Ted Genoways, last year, but it was not until this spring that I began to read his work. It seems easy to say that I chose to read Hernández work because I have just recently finished reading his work, but I think it is his urgency that compels me. With everything going on around us, the pandemic and the ways in which it has exacerbated the inequities of our systems, police brutality and the murders of innocent Black lives, systems of oppression that continue to exist, I wanted to return to someone who has come before, and Hernández is that person for me at the moment. Hernández fought for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and both of the poems I decided to read were written by him from jail after having been imprisoned by Francisco Franco.

The first poem I chose, “Lullaby of the Onion,” was the very first poem of Hernández’ work that I was introduced to, and it is probably his most well-known poem. Hernández wrote the poem in response to a letter from his wife in which she details how she and their child were starving, and the child was malnourished having only onions and bread to eat. Hernández resists despair throughout this poem. It is not just a love poem, but a political poem: he illustrates the poet’s work is not simply to witness the moment but to reimagine a new future.

The problem with imagination, however, is that it’s rooted in our bodily experiences, and if left unchecked becomes dangerous, which is why I’ve also chosen “The World is as it Appears.” Here, Hernández’ hopeful tone is more restrained. In one line he writes, “[n]o one has seen us. We have seen / no one,” highlighting the ways in which we flatten the identities and experiences of others and conflate them with our own, reducing our capability for compassion and empathy. And while this is human error, I think we could interrogate this idea further as to how power interacts with these moments. For instance, I am reminded of D. L. Hughley who said, “The most dangerous place for Black people to live is in White people’s imagination.” I am fearful that we as a country will continue to remain blind, “blind as we are from seeing,” as Hernández ends the poem. But if there is some consolation, it is that “[i]t takes work and love / to see these things with you.”

In choosing these poems, I wanted hope for the future. Hope for now, but I can’t see that hope being viable without looking back to the past.

Amanda Gomez reads “The World as it Appears” by Miguel Hernández

EH: In our emails, you mention Don Share reading his translation of Miguel Hernández’ poem “Lullaby of the Onion” as your introductory point to Hernández’ work. What about that experience of hearing that poem aloud resonated with you so deeply?

AG: Listening to Don Share read the poem was enthralling for me. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, which was driving in my car, and just as he began the poem, I was parking in a gravel parking lot outside of a local coffee shop. I could not get out of the car until I had listened to the entire poem on repeat multiple times.

I am drawn to people’s voices. A speaker’s intonations and pauses are just as interesting to me as the words. In the act of listening, I am learning about the writer and the speaker, and sometimes those identities are shared in the same person and sometimes those identities are shared by two different people, but I find listening an erotic act. I can’t imagine anyone reads the same poem the exact same way every time. We linger in places that hold our attention more, and those places speak to us at very finite points in time. So for me, I could hear the nostalgia in Share’s voice in the places his voice warmed, knowing he’d read it many times.

However, I will admit that while listening to the poem was a great moment, reading the poem was a very lackluster experience the first time. It took multiple readings for me to come to my own appreciation and understanding of the poem.

Amanda Gomez reads “Lullaby of the Onion” by Miguel Hernández

EH: Has Hernández’ work influenced your own writing in some way?

AG: I would still say I am new to Hernández’ work, so I can’t exactly say how he has influenced my writing directly. I can say that Hernández’ imagery has stuck with me. He ends his poem “A Photograph,” by saying, “a picture accompanies me,” and I enjoy how much weight he places on the image. In one poem, there are “rustling eyelashes of the canefield,” and in another poem, “there is an orchard of mouths.” It is hard not to walk away from one of his poems without remembering these phrases, reminding me to always continue to invent new ways of seeing everything around me.

EH: How does your teacher-writer relationship impact the poetry that you read and/or teach?

AG: Being a writer has definitely impacted the way I teach and what poetry I teach. It wasn’t until graduate school that I encountered poets outside of the canon, Latinx poets that I could relate to and identify with, and I think that is such a travesty. I don’t want my students having to wait that long to find authors that look like them. I make it a priority to focus on QTBIPOC writers. I want author identity to be important to my students, though I do worry that my students come to the page to reassert their own opinions or biases rather than to confront them. I try to incorporate as many writers as possible to confront this concern and dialogue with them.

I’m also thinking about ways in which to teach my students the importance of literary citizenship. Many of the writers I choose are contemporary writers because I want them to think about the ways in which art serves us and how we can reciprocate. I also try to maintain some sort of balance between books published by large presses and small presses, so students can think about and talk about access to art as well.  

EH: Lastly, is there anything you are currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers? 

AG: Yes! My first chapbook, Wasting Disease, will be available in October through Finishing Line Press, and it is available for pre-order now. I am also working on a hybrid work that could probably best be described as lyrical essay. Growing up, most of my education came through television and movies. My parents were fascinated with American lore, and it was always a bit eerie to me. My dad especially loves Western movies, and so the piece is an exploration of John Wayne and his wives, a characteristic someone once described as the most “un-American” thing about Wayne. My primary focus is his second wife, Esperanza Baur, and I want to think through and reimagine her history as it’s hard to see her clearly past the patriarchal whitewash. At least, that’s my opinion.


Miguel Hernández is an early 20th century Spanish poet and playwright who gained fame as a political figure who wrote and read poetry during the Spanish Civil War. The son of an impoverished goat herder, Hernández was self-taught despite being discouraged and abused by his father for wanting to pursue writing. A member of the Communist Party of Spain, Hernández was arrested several times for his anti-fascist views and wrote many of his works from jail, some poems as love letters for his wife. Hernández’ prison poems which were collected and published posthumosly as Cancionero y romancero de ausencia (Songs and Ballads of Absence). Throughout his lifetime, he wrote five books of poetry and six plays. He died in 1942 in prison, at the age of 31.

Further reading:

Purchase The Selected Poems of Miguel Hernández, edited by Ted Genoways.
Read this feature about Hernández in Latino Life magazine.
Learn more about editor and translator Ted Genoways on his website.

Amanda Gomez is a Latinx poet from Norfolk, VA, where she received her MFA in poetry at Old Dominion University. Some of her poems have appeared in Nimrod International Journal, North American Review, PANK, Tupelo Quarterly, and Writers Resist. Her chapbook, Wasting Disease, which was awarded 2nd Honorable Mention in the New Women’s Voices Competition, is now available for pre-order through Finishing Line Press.   

Further reading:

Keep updated about Amanda Gomez by visiting her website.
Read Gomez’ prize winning poem “Grind” in the Academy of American Poets.
Read Gomez’ interview of Azar Nafisi in Barely South Review.

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion

ditch poem # 13

pink ditch in wilderness
gash in the ground
damp & rent with salt
no one owns a bodyzz


This selection comes from the book, little ditch, available from ABOVE/GROUND PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Kelly Lorraine Andrews.

Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and currently co-curates The Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.

Kelly Lorraine Andrews is an assistant managing editor for the American Economic Association and an MFA graduate from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of the chapbooks Sonnets in Which the Speaker Is on Display (Stranded Oak Press, forthcoming 2019), The Fear Archives (Two of Cups Press, 2017), My Body Is a Poem I Can’t Stop Writing (Porkbelly Press, 2017), I Want To Eat So Many Kinds of Cake With You and Mule Skinner (both out from Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Prick of the Spindle, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. You can read more about her past and future publications and look at a slideshow of her cats at her website.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion

ditch poem #20

it was the wildness
everything was singing and
you tried to protect me
i resisted it was pitch
and forest it was the trenches

i washed my mud and
donned its mother i slept
among the trees my golden guilt

it was the wild nests of
Brooklyn summer it was the
Cyclone everything was grit
and sunshine a glitter
of dun sand. What is protection
he asked under the boardwalk
who rides the Wonder Wheel

i resisted it was milk
or the ditch
so i started digging.


This selection comes from the book, little ditch, available from ABOVE/GROUND PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Kelly Lorraine Andrews.

Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and currently co-curates The Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.

Kelly Lorraine Andrews is an assistant managing editor for the American Economic Association and an MFA graduate from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of the chapbooks Sonnets in Which the Speaker Is on Display (Stranded Oak Press, forthcoming 2019), The Fear Archives (Two of Cups Press, 2017), My Body Is a Poem I Can’t Stop Writing (Porkbelly Press, 2017), I Want To Eat So Many Kinds of Cake With You and Mule Skinner (both out from Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Prick of the Spindle, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. You can read more about her past and future publications and look at a slideshow of her cats at her website.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion

Brighton Beach

sea-worn glass smoothed by ocean mouth

we wandered into your opening for
so long we forgot streetlight curfew

the gunmetal tide an invitation
i swam in the hot sludge of summer
swirling styrofoam oily with hair gel
and the grit of defiant refuse

i refused
the heat between my legs a warning
my kindling was my own heart
little lit matches held
chamber by chamber


This selection comes from the book, little ditch, available from ABOVE/GROUND PRESS.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Kelly Lorraine Andrews.

Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and currently co-curates The Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at http://www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com.

Kelly Lorraine Andrews is an assistant managing editor for the American Economic Association and an MFA graduate from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of the chapbooks Sonnets in Which the Speaker Is on Display (Stranded Oak Press, forthcoming 2019), The Fear Archives (Two of Cups Press, 2017), My Body Is a Poem I Can’t Stop Writing (Porkbelly Press, 2017), I Want To Eat So Many Kinds of Cake With You and Mule Skinner (both out from Dancing Girl Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Prick of the Spindle, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. You can read more about her past and future publications and look at a slideshow of her cats at her website.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: On Becoming a Role Model by Lynne Schmidt

On Becoming a Role Model

There was a day in the history of the world
when my niece stole my glasses,
stole my winter hat,
and put them on.
With a smile that could swallow oceans
she said,
“Look Auntie, I’m you!”
And I remembered my mother’s words when I told her I wanted to grow up
and be
just
like
her.
“Don’t ever turn out like me,” she’d hissed,
a slap in the face to a small child.
I didn’t understand then.
I understand now.
I am not my mother,
and my niece is not me.
Instead, I pulled her into my arms.
I cannot point to that day on the calendar,
because at the time I didn’t realize it was important.
Scholars will not write about the great battle that took place within her words
because they won’t care about it.
But on that day
in the history of the world
I decided
that I would become someone
that my niece could look up to


In honor of PTSD Awareness day of June 27, this selection comes from the book, On Becoming a Role Model, available from Thirty West Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional and an award winning poet and memoir author. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West). Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. Lynne was a five time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and has received honorable mention for the Charles Bukowski Poetry Award, the Doug Draime Prize for Poetry, and Joy of the Pen. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Nilsa Ada Rivera writes about gender and diversity issues. She’s the Managing Editor of The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications. She’s an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work appeared in the Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens Literary Journal, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Selkie Literary Magazine. She lives in Riverview, Florida with her multi-species family.

 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: On Becoming a Role Model by Lynne Schmidt

Swallowing Feelings

Please do not make me swallow my feelings,
because, while they may taste like chocolate and strawberries for some people,
my feelings go down like battery acid,
and my mother spent enough money
on braces that I rather like my teeth.
When he had custody,
my father demanded that we stop crying,
Right now,
or he’ll
Give you a reason to cry.
And so I swallowed
and swallowed
until a cavernous hole formed itself in my throat;
until my chest froze over like trees in winter.
I have felt snow.
I have had no leaves to marvel at.
Because when you choke down your feelings,
the leaves don’t grow back in the spring.
Branches snap off if the wind blows too hard.
And so my teeth that once resembled a vampire’s
show now, some days because words and stories are hilarious.
And the cavern has filled with beach sand and salt water
and it’s enough for me to drown you.


In honor of PTSD Awareness day of June 27, this selection comes from the book, On Becoming a Role Model, available from Thirty West Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional and an award winning poet and memoir author. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West). Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. Lynne was a five time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and has received honorable mention for the Charles Bukowski Poetry Award, the Doug Draime Prize for Poetry, and Joy of the Pen. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Nilsa Ada Rivera writes about gender and diversity issues. She’s the Managing Editor of The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications. She’s an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work appeared in the Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens Literary Journal, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Selkie Literary Magazine. She lives in Riverview, Florida with her multi-species family.

 

Interview with Hannah V Warren, Author of [re]construction of the necromancer

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.

Read [re]construction of the necromancer here.



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.

Lyric Essentials: Amorak Huey Reads Traci Brimhall

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, we welcome Sundress author, Amorak Huey to read poems by Traci Brimhall and talk about the craft and hidden influences of our favorite poetry. Thank you for reading!

Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose to read these poems by Traci Brimhall?

Amorak Huey: When people ask me my favorite poet, I always say Traci Brimhall. I first became aware of her work at an AWP offsite reading in Washington. I was there to support my friend Todd Kaneko, who was reading, and Traci was reading as well. I found out she was doing her PhD at Western Michigan, where I’d done my MFA—and then she read poems from Rookery, her first book. They blew me away. I bought the book that night, and I’ve read it dozens of times, and I’ve taught it in my advanced undergraduate workshop many times. All of her subsequent books have been similarly important to me, and her newest, Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod, is incredible. So, she’s a super important poet to me, and these poems I think are great examples of what I love about her work—the intertwining of love, intimacy, tenderness, violence, and vulnerability—and on a craft level, the language is immaculate.

Amorak Huey reads “Self-Portrait as Milk Hare in Active Shooter Alert” by Traci Brimhall

EH: On the surface, these poems from Brimhall are strikingly different than your latest poetry collection Boom Box. Are there any influences or similarities that you’ve drawn from Brimhall’s work when writing your own poetry?

AH: Her work I think probably has a kind of hidden influence on my writing. Like, maybe not one that a reader would pick up on, but that’s there for me. I mean, I revisit her poetry all the time, and I will read a poem and sit with it, just trying to wrap my mind around how she uses language, how she puts lines and images together. When I’m stuck in my own head and struggling to make language work on the page, I’ll go back to Traci’s books. I think her influence might be more visible in, say, my first collection, Ha Ha Ha Thump, and possibly in my forthcoming book, than it is in Boom Box, which differs from her poems so much in subject matter, and definitely leans into nostalgia more than most of her work does. Her poems tend to be more urgent and more present than mine are, I think, and that’s something I try to use to push myself. I would never claim my work is similar to hers, but I aspire to do what she does. I would love for something I write to land in a reader’s body the way her work lands in mine.   

Amorak Huey reads “Ars Poetica” by Traci Brimhall

EH: Everyone has a personal relationship with reading poetry aloud. Would you like to share your experience when reading and recording Brimhall’s poems for Lyric Essentials?

AH: Like many people, I hate the sound of my own recorded voice, so I certainly feel a bit awkward recording anything. I also felt pressure to do the poems justice. I love them so much. But I do love reading poems out loud, whether my own poems or someone else’s. I read to my students a lot, and I have gotten more comfortable with it over the years. Robert Pinsky says the medium of a poem is the breath and body of the reader, and I believe that–so reading a poem I love out loud is a great way to experience it.

Amorak Huey reads “Fledgling” by Traci Brimhall

EH:  Is there anything you are working on now that you’d like to share with readers?

AH: I haven’t been writing a lot of poetry this year. But, not entirely coincidentally, I’m taking a 24 Pearl Street workshop led by Traci on poetry and the body, and her prompts and discussions (and having deadlines!) have helped me draft some new poems. But my next big thing is that my fourth full-length collection, Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy, comes out in 2021 from Sundress.


Traci Brimhall is a lyric poet and author of four poetry collections including Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod (2020) and Saudade (2017). Her book Our Lady of the Ruins was selected for the Barnard women’s poetry prize in 2012, and her first collection, Rookery, was the 2010 winner of a Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and a finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award. Brimhall’s work has been published in The New Yorker, Poetry, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, and has also been featured on Poetry Daily, PBS Newshour, and Best American Poetry. Originally from Minnesota, Brimhall earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence and her PhD from Western Michigan and now teaches creative writing at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, where she lives.

Further reading:

Read Brimhall’s latest collection, Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod.
Listen to Brimhall read and discuss her poem “Resistance” on The Poetry Magazine Podcast.
Get to know more about Traci Brimhall at her website.

Amorak Huey is the author of the poetry collections Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy (Sundress Publications, forthcoming in 2021), Boom Box (Sundress Publications, 2019), Seducing the Asparagus Queen (Cloudbank, 2018), and Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress Publications, 2015), as well as two chapbooks. Co-author with W. Todd Kaneko of the textbook Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2018). Huey teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Further reading:

Purchase Boom Box by Huey from Sundress Publications.
Read this interview with Huey from The Kenyon Review on Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology.
Follow Amorak Huey on Twitter.

Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: On Becoming a Role Model by Lynne Schmidt

Safety in Laughter

My therapist encouraged me
to be more vulnerable.
To take my heart from my chest
from time to time,
like shoes from their box,
and see if someone would fill in the empty space.
She challenged me to stop laughing
in places like my uncle’s funeral
because I couldn’t stand to see his hands resting across his body.
It’s not funny,
She said.
But my sister laughed, too.
My therapist challenged me enough
that I sat beside you on a park bench,
minimized my jokes, and explained
that, if you wanted, I could wait for you.
In return,
you filled the space in my chest
with broken glass
that I’m still trying to peel out


In honor of PTSD Awareness day of June 27, this selection comes from the book, On Becoming a Role Model, available from Thirty West Publishing.  Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Ada Rivera.

Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional and an award winning poet and memoir author. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West). Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. Lynne was a five time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and has received honorable mention for the Charles Bukowski Poetry Award, the Doug Draime Prize for Poetry, and Joy of the Pen. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

Nilsa Ada Rivera writes about gender and diversity issues. She’s the Managing Editor of The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications. She’s an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work appeared in the Huffington Post, 50 GS Magazine, Six Hens Literary Journal, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, and Selkie Literary Magazine. She lives in Riverview, Florida with her multi-species family.