Sundress Reads: Review of Hiding in a Thimble

In dark, dense forests and well-kept domestic houses, Roseanna Alice Boswell’s collection Hiding in a Thimble (Haverthorn Press, 2020) weaves the fairytale of adolescent girlhood with a grimness reminiscent of the Brothers’ Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. As she asserts in the book’s opening poem, “Forest: Feat. Thicket:” “If / everything is in its place, a forest should / look almost domestic.” It is in these myths—of Snow White, a recurring anthropomorphized “Bunny,” and personified does—that the speaker identifies facets of herself, and the horrors of a girlhood defined by the male gaze and male desire. 

In this collection, the speaker’s rapidly changing body becomes a site of profound alienation and disassociation. “Snip/Slide” recounts the painfully vivid tale of the speaker’s violent alteration of a bathing suit to fit in with other preteen girls: “I / am a watermelon—blocky and green,” she laments, before “I cut the / middle out and it is ragged and rolls down / but I don’t care.” In this poem, exposure stops a childish, innocent girlhood in its tracks; “I / will never slide down another slide as long / as I live,” insists the speaker, defiantly racing towards the womanhood that she sees symbolized in the other girls’ “lemon print bikinis and tanned middles.” 

Throughout the book, the speaker grapples with her own burgeoning desire, which both empowers and disenfranchises her. Recounting a first crush in “You Make Me Feel Things I Can’t Tell My Mother,” sexuality straddles childhood, where “who knows what could happen / on Hello Kitty sheets.” However, the same conflict follows the speaker into adulthood. “I make an excellent wife with my recipes / from Aesop,” she brags, recounting how she must contort herself to please her husband and other men: “I almost imagine myself a pomegranate / with all that hidden flesh for plucking.” The possibility is both titillating and heartbreaking, as the speaker conflates desire with being desired, adopting male wants as her own. Even as she reflects that “I’ve developed a lot of empathy for colanders / &/or condoms recently. Really anything / that has to filter potential catastrophe / for a living,” she boasts that “If any girl is home with a broken heart / it’s not me.”

The disconnect between the speaker and her own body is frightening enough, but as the rest of the collection reveals, it is adulthood—and the male attention it brings—which intensifies this disconnect, making it still more harmful. In several poems about “Bunny,” the speaker places herself in the shoes of this small, helpless prey animal, analogizing the creature’s timidness to her own obedience, demureness, and submission to men: “Mable Bushytale stores everything / away for her husband / never takes a stray / acorn for herself,” reads the opening stanza to “Lessons in Deportment,” both lauding this self-sacrificial behavior and mourning its impact on Mable, who “is always looking for ways / to take up less.” Such internalized violence is coupled, more explicitly, by comparisons between predator animals and the rape culture that characterizes so much of female adolescence. In “Bunny Fables,” Boswell adopts the victim-blaming language of media, explaining “she should know better / than to stray / off the path alone.” In the face of a world where “her bones / will be delicious / cautionary tales,” the bunny may find that Mable’s desolate, empty nest is the more appealing option.

 A profound sense of irony cuts through Hiding in a Thimble as Boswell recontextualizes the patriarchy’s language in a sharp critique of its impact on young women. In “Funny Girl Talks,” contemporary media unravels the fairy-tale image of the bunny: “hey just look up my Twitter @ / swellbunny you’ll see how fucking funny / I can be.” This poem, and a few others, offer a jarring, vocal anger that contrasts the quiet bitterness of most of the collection’s pieces. Boswell surgically deconstructs the same myths that she’s spent much of the collection exploring, recasting her speaker as “shrew-mouthed and screaming” and insisting that “Girl-hearts always become cannibal.” Here, the violence that the bunny-girl experiences is refocused on those who have hurt her. Ultimately, the speaker attempts to reject the genealogy of ideal femininity that she inherited from her own mother, claiming that “We are not going to grow / old conventionally if I have any say.” Even for a woman scarred by patriarchal violence and self-hatred, healthy versions of domestic bliss are possible, where “My lover’s arms are warmer / than our furnace ever gets.” But doubt lingers, and “everyone becomes somebody’s mother.” Hiding in a Thimble maps the quiet traumas of girlhood onto familiar fairy-tale imagery, stitching a myth that, like most fairy-tales, is less idyllic and more violent than it first appears. Its “cautionary tale” is not the bunny who strays from the path, but rather this account of the dispossession, silencing, and alienation that young women face in their intimate relationships as they become objects to be desired and animals to be hunted down.

Hiding in a Thimble is available at Haverthorn Press


A black and white headshot of Katherine DeCoste. They are wearing black square glasses, a floral collared shirt, and a white cardigan. They wear their hair in a bob. They are smiling slightly.

Katherine (Katy) DeCoste is a queer, white settler currently living on the unceded territory of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples and the WSÁNEĆ peoples, where they are pursuing their MA in English at the University of Victoria. In 2020, they received their BA Honours in English and History from the University of Alberta. You can find their poetry in Barren Magazine, Grain MagazineThe Antigonish Review, and other outlets. When not writing, reading, or answering emails, Katherine can be found playing Dungeons and Dragons, volunteering with food support initiatives, and forcing their friends to eat their baking.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents Our October Poetry Xfit

Knoxville, TN — The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Kathryn Davis. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, October 17th, 2021 from 2 to 4 pm EST via Zoom. Join us at the link tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password “safta”.

Poetry Xfit isn’t about throwing tires or heavy ropes, but the idea of confusing our muscles is the same. This generative workshop series will give you prompts, rules, obstructions, and more to write three poems in two hours. Writers will write together for thirty minutes, be invited to share new work, and then given a new set of prompts. The idea isn’t that we are writing perfect final drafts, but instead creating clay that can then be edited and turned into art later. Prose writers are also welcome to attend!

Kathryn Davis is a writer and editorial intern with Sundress Academy for the Arts. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University, and served as editor-in-chief of the university’s literary journal, fishladder. She writes and produces films from the southwest corner of Michigan. 

While this is a free workshop, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here.

Our community partner for October is the Joy of Music School. The Joy of Music School provides access to quality music education for disadvantaged children and teens. All of the instructors and mentors are volunteers who aim to foster self-esteem, character, and supportive community relationships with their students. To learn more about the Joy of Music School, check out their website here.

Lyric Essentials: Summer J. Hart Reads Louise Erdrich

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! Today artist and writer Summer J. Hart joins us to discuss the Louise Erdrich, being left breathless by writing, and poetic origin stories. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: What drew you originally into Louise Erdrich’s poetry? Is there an origin story of how you discovered her work?

Summer J. Hart: I encountered the novels of Louise Erdrich long before reading her poems. After graduate school I spent a year or so temping. One of my jobs was as a receptionist for a realty management office. A retired New Yorker cartoonist named Boris Drucker rented the office next door and we became friends. My job was neither challenging nor interesting, so I would often read or draw behind my desk. Boris saw my copy of Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine and the next day brought in his copy of Tracks. For the rest of my time in the office, Boris and I spent our lunch breaks talking about our love of drawing and Louise Erdrich. Erdrich’s writing, whether prose or poetry, never fails to goose-pimple my arms. I’ve spent years researching, collecting family lore, and making art about my own mixed Native and settler heritage. Before reading Love Medicine, I had never heard stories as similar to those my aunts and grandmother shared with me about life on and after leaving the reservation.

Summer J. Hart Reads “Owls” by Louise Erdrich

AH:I was absolutely in love with the details woven into the poems you’ve read! What were your favorite lines and/or images?

SJH: From “Owls”: “Each night the noise wakes me, a death / rattle, everything in sex that wounds.” I love the way Erdrich writes about sex in this poem as “raw need / of one feathered body for another.” The owl is a symbol of death so terrifying that even children don’t enjoy the lilting repetition of its name spoken in Ojibwe. Which was very fun to read! Kokoko. This poem rips bodies open—pulls feathers and bones from flesh. But, it also nourishes.

A barred owl asks again and again, Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
The couple in the apartment also have an aching, visceral need. “This is how we make love” she writes, “when there are people in the halls around us…” The world inside the apartment is stripped back until there is nothing left but two bodies clinging together. All around them the gears of domesticity churn, relentless. The grinding consumption and expulsion of days whir along. Outside, birds fly from one throat to another. Neighbors scrub plates in the sink. A glass breaks. The pungency of frying onions drifts down the hall.I am drawn to the images (and sounds) of the owls, the humans, and the dead tree. I read this poem as both love letter and Memento mori.

From “That Pull from the Left”:
I love how she begins this poem with a name. Butch. This Butch, even if I read nothing more of him, has somehow been with me my whole life. “But something queer happens when the heart is delivered.” The word delivered. She follows the first iteration of this line with “when a child is born…” A baby is delivered. Cattle are delivered and again to slaughter. Meat is wrapped carefully in brown paper and delivered to the outstretched palm of a customer. The heart, cut from the body is how we begin and end, the start / stop of a muscle. We cling to life in life (our lolling eyes), and our bones fight to keep the flesh and sinew attached even after a final blow delivers death. The poem talks also of the queerness of the woman’s own heart. How she can feel “That pull from the left…” Then, there is the queerness of the sky, or perhaps internal weather, before the dark plunge.

Summer J. Hart Reads “The Pull from the Left” by Louise Erdrich

AH: As a writer and creative human, how have you been inspired by Erdrich’s work?

SJH: Louise Erdrich is my forever-favorite. Her work absolutely inspires me to be a much braver writer—my instinct is to self-censor, skirt around the truth of a thing. But she writes fearlessly about living, loving, dying in the natural world…with a bit of magical reality woven in. Her words leave me breathless, but my senses are sharper having read them.

AH: Got any news to share? It can be life, writing, creative updates–anything!

SJH: I am honored to be the Land Acknowledgment Writer for The 3rd Thing Press’ 2021 cohort (forthcoming November 2021). My poem, “Salt for the Stain” appeared in the Massachusetts Review’s Winter 2021 special issue, A Gathering of Native Voices. The website accompaniment to this issue including video readings and links to Native resources will launch this fall. My first full-length collection of poems, Boomhouse will be published by The 3rd Thing Press in 2023.


Louise Erdrich is an American novelist, poet, and children’s book writer. A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, she has devoted her work to exploring the lives of Native Americans and those of mixed heritage. She has published three poetry collections and several novels, many of which have received critical acclaim.

Read her poem “Captivity” at Poetry.

Listen to an interview Erdrich had with NPR here.

Read her poem “Original Fire” at Lit Hub.

Summer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual artworks are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. She is the author Boomhouse (2023, The 3rd Thing Press) & the microchapbook, Augury of Ash (Post Ghost Press). Her poetry can be found in WaxwingThe Massachusetts Review, Northern New England Review, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries and shows including SPRING/BREAK Art Show, NYC; Pen + Brush, NYC; Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ; and LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is an enrolled member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation.

Find her website here.

Read her poem “Boy Crazy” at Waxwing.

Find her her forthcoming collection Boomhouse at The 3rd Thing Press.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents “Striking Illumination: Erasure as Excavation,” A Writers’ Workshop

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present “Striking Illumination: Erasure as Excavation Workshop,” a workshop led by Jeni De La O on October 13, 2021 from 6-7:30PM. This event will be held over Zoom. Participants can access the event at tiny.utk.edu/sundress (password: safta).

This is a wrap-around workshop that includes pre- and post-meeting materials. The workshop will open with an exquisite corpse icebreaker followed by a discussion on the erasure methods illustrated in the pre-workshop packet. Participants will then practice three types of erasures together using celebrity media apologies. From there, participants will have time to work on erasures using their own source material or sample material provided in the session. The workshop will close, time permitting, with a collaborative erasure of the exquisite corpse poem that the group will write together. 

Prior to the workshop, we ask participants to access and review the workshop’s prep packet, which features two craft essays and three poems for consideration in the class discussion. The prep packet can be found here.

By the close of the session, participants will have two drafts started, a list of publications that publish erasures, and an invitation to submit to The Estuary Collectives Visual Poetry Zine scheduled for publication in December of 2021. 

While there is no fee for this workshop, those who are able and appreciative can make direct donations to Jeni via Venmo  @Jeni-DeLaO-1.

Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. She is a 2021 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellow in Literary Arts and a founding member of The Estuary Collective. She is Managing Editor at Kissing Dynamite Poetry and authors the monthly column, BROWN STUDY, at  The Poetry Question. Her chapbook, SOFIAS, is forthcoming from Ethel Press in 2022. Jeni has appeared as a storyteller with The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers, Lamplight Festival, MouthPiece Stories, and The Moth MainStage. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Columbia Journal, Sugar House Review, Glass Poetry, and other places. 

Lyric Essentials: Jory Mickelson Reads Brian Teare

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week writer and educator Jory Mickelson has joined us to discuss Brian Teare’s poetry, learning from another’s work, and being grounded within a speaker’s body. Thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: Why did you choose these poems and how did you discover Teare’s work? 

Jory Mickelson: Well for one, they are some of his shorter poems. Brian Teare has an incredible ability to write dozen-plus page, dazzling poems. I chose to focus on some smaller bites of his writing rather than read excerpts of longer pieces.

In Teare’s poem “Then I painted the two rectangles,” there is such a sweet resonance between reading the poem and seeing the poem on the page. Additionally, I love how he yokes the two windows above his sickbed in this poem and also the function of imagination in art, all in one go.

The poem “Perceiving is the same as receiving and it is the same as responding.” seems initially simple. It is made almost entirely of images. But it is also an explanation of the speaker’s mind on the page. I’ve read this one again and again, and it always causes me to pause and reconsider what is happening just below the surface.

Jory Mickelson reads “Then I painted the two rectangles” by Brian Teare

AH: How has Teare’s work inspired you as a writer and creative? 
JM: In a real way, Teare’s work teaches me something new in each of his book. There is a quote by Allen Ginsberg that says, “Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.” Minds don’t come more original than Teare’s. He is fearsome, persistent, and totalizing. What I mean to say is every book is different from his previous one. Some of the concerns repeat, but the language is always pushing itself into new avenues of thought and he is always taking received forms and adapting them. Stretching them. Making them serve new purposes. Who wouldn’t want to learn these lessons?

Jory Mickelson reads “Perceiving is the same as receiving and it is the same as responding” by Brian Teare

AH: In an interview with The New School, Teare said the following: “Our most vulnerable sites of selfhood are our bodies, our mortal naked selves. They ground us in mammalian experience, a welter of hormones and hungers.” He used this to describe how he wants the language and images of his poems to be for readers. Do you relate to this with your own work (if so, how?), or with what you typically read? 

JM: I definitely relate to Teare’s work being grounded in the body, in what he calls “mammalian experience.” The poems in my first book Wilderness//Kingdom (Floating Bridge Press, 2019), are grounded in the bodies of the speakers and in the terrain they inhabit or pass through. The embeddedness or embodiment found in Teare’s work is something we share. Though we approach it or think about it on the page in differently.

In my new manuscript, I wrestle with the legacy of Western U.S. history and what it tells us about our contemporary issues of climate crisis, violence, waning empire, etc. These new poems brought me into the bodies, landscapes, and minds of the past in new ways. It was fascinating to see how their “welter of hormones and hungers” aligned or departed from our own today.

AH: What have you been up to lately? Got any exciting news to share (about life, writing, anything!)?
 
JM: Well, while I was at a writing residency in Taos last winter (Thank you Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico!) My book Wilderness//Kingdom won the 2020 High Plains Book Award in poetry and it was fantastic. All of us residents had a tiny outdoor pandemic party to celebrate.

More recently, I taught the Master Class at our local writers’ conference about how poetry, meditation and mindfulness are interrelated. And just this week I was asked by Hugo House in Seattle to teach classes for their winter and spring schedule! I love the energy in the classroom that happens with writers. While I love writing poems, teaching is definitely my second joy.


Brian Teare received his BA from the University of Alabama and MFA from Indiana University. Teare has received fellowships from the the National Endowment of the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and was a previous Wallace Stegner Fellow in creative writing at Stanford University. He is the author of the collections Doomstead Days and Pleasure, among many others.

Find out more about his work at his website.

Read his poem “When we are on the right track we are rewarded with joy” here.

Learn more about his collection Doomstead Days here.

Jory Mickelson’s first book, WILDERNESS//KINGDOM, is the inaugural winner of the Evergreen Award Tour from Floating Bridge Press and winner of the 2020 High Plains Book Award in Poetry. Their publications include Court Green, Painted Bride Quarterly, Jubilat, Sixth Finch, and The Rumpus.  They are the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and were awarded fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Winter Tangerine, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. 

You can learn more about them and their writing at http://www.jorymickelson.com

Find their books here.

Read their poem “Float” at PANK.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Shannon Wolf Reads Olivia Gatwood

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week we are joined by poet and editor Shannon Wolf to discuss the work of Olivia Gatwood, the particular power of seeing poetry performed live, and writing as a therapeutic act. As always, thank you for tuning in!


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: We all have an origin story for when we discovered a favorite poet. How did you discover Olivia Gatwood?

Shannon Wolf: Just like many of her fans, I found Gatwood through Youtube performances of her poems. She has a huge following in the slam poetry scene, and I found both her performance style and the actual content of her poems really compelling. She’s best known for earlier poems – like “Alternate Universe in Which I Am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me” – and I think it’s because these poems (especially for women) are accessible in their language and ideas, which is not to say they aren’t well written. She has a wonderful eye for making magic from the minutiae. So many of her poems are about the female experience, the female body, and all of its burdens and blessings. Her work is somehow both refreshing and dark, and as a poet myself, that seems like one unattainable feat to accomplish.

Shannon Wolf Reads “If a Girl Screams in the Middle of the Night” by Olivia Gatwood

AH: During our correspondence, you mentioned that you’ve actually seen Gatwood perform her work live. How was the experience? Did the experience of hearing and seeing it performed change anything for you?

SW: It was really fantastic. I think it’s important to note how the venue was packed with so many people identifying as women and it felt like this safe, collaborative, familiar environment – the laughter and the emphatic noises of agreement you often hear at poetry readings seemed three times louder than usual in that room in Portland, Oregon. She performed with a musician, Mexican singer-songwriter Joaquina Mertz, setting her poems to sound, and it was a total sensory experience. Gatwood’s performances (with and without music) definitely add a layer of meaning to the written word. Her style of reading, her tone contextualizes the work – she has this great deadpan delivery that just lights each piece on fire. This particular performance was on the tour for her chapbook New American Best Friend, so I’d love to take in a reading of poems from Life of the Party, which I think drill a lot deeper into the female consciousness (and the dangers that seem to surround it).

Shannon Wolf Reads “My Mother’s Addendum” by Olivia Gatwood

AH: In an interview with The Adroit Journal, Gatwood said the following about Life of the Party: “I was in a constant state of feeling afraid, and instead of running from that feeling or trying to soften it, I held a magnifying glass up to it, tried to figure out where it was born, then write from the beginning.” As a writer, have you felt similar emotions and experiences when trying to write a particular piece?

SW: Absolutely! I would be surprised if there isn’t a writer who doesn’t use their work as some kind of therapy, honestly. I think whether it’s fear, or a specific trauma, or even just making sense of a memory, stepping toward it with your writing can produce something really striking. I often say that Gatwood’s poems are so personal – many in her chapbook refer to specific details from her own reality – but in Life of the Party, Gatwood appears to distance herself much more. Somehow though, this serves to bring the reader in even closer. In “If A Girl Screams In the Middle of the Night”, the singular scream of a girl becomes universal. In inspecting her own fear, she taps into our collective fear. I try to do this in my own work when I inspect generational trauma, and abusive relationships. Perhaps this hard stare into the sun eventually softens the fear anyway.

AH: Have any exciting news you want to share (it can be anything! Life, writing, new revelations)?

SW: I do. I just recently signed a contract for my first full-length poetry collection. Green Card Girl, which will be forthcoming from Fernwood Press in September 2022. It’s about my immigration journey from England to the US, the genesis of my chosen family, and the slow rot of toxic relationships. You can follow me on Twitter @helloshanwolf or check my website helloshanwolf.com for updates on the book! I also have poems coming out with Sledgehammer Lit and HAD, and I’ve just started a new teaching job here in my new hometown, Denver, CO. There’s a lot going on right now!


Olivia Gatwood is a writer and activist. She is the author of the full-length collection Life of the Party and has performed her poetry both in the United States and internationally. Her poetry has appeared in The Winter Tangerine Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Missouri Review, among others.

Find her website here.

Watch her perform her poem “We Find Each Other in the Details” here.

Purchase her collection Life of the Party at Penguin Random House.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer, living in Denver, Colorado. Her debut full-length poetry collection Green Card Girl is forthcoming from Fernwood Press. She received a joint MA-MFA in Poetry at McNeese State University and also has degrees from Lancaster University and the University of Chichester. She is Co-Curator of the “Poets in Pajamas” Reading Series. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in or are forthcoming from The ForgeGreat Weather for MEDIAHAD and NoContactMag among others.

You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

Read her poem “Ode to Tony Soprano” here at No Contact Magazine.

Learn more about Shannon on her website.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Meet Our New Intern: Saoirse

A brown femme person with shoulder length black har sitting at a table. They have a drink in their hand and a butterfly tattoo in pride colors is visible on their wrist.

I grew up in a family of six people and four languages. We also moved around quite a lot. Between code switching at home and learning a new dialect with every move to a different city, I learned the power of language pretty quickly. So it was no surprise when I started poking my nose in my parents’ book collection as a child. Always being the new kid in school and being bullied constantly only made me retreat into my books even more.

Not the best idea—according to my teachers, at least. Books can plant the darnedest ideas in your head. They can suggest your school textbooks are sexist and problematic. They can tell you it’s okay—gasp—even healthy, to be your full queer self. They can instill in you a revolutionary zeal. My books got me in quite a lot of trouble—trouble I took as a sign that I was doing something right.

Though I had a habit of juggling languages based on my mood in both my reading and writing, English held a mysterious allure for me. It was the language where I found my identity as a queer nonbinary woman and it was also a legacy of the colonial violence that separated by grandparents from their ancestral lands. I was proud to be articulate in a language that could never articulate its own violence upon my lived reality. It was to understand this fraught relationship that I found myself majoring in English at Washington College on the eastern shore of Maryland.

Washington College, particularly the pedagogical brilliance of Drs. Kimberly Andrews and Alisha Knight, allowed me to come into my own as a writer and a thinker. It was also where I discovered my passion for editing. Over the years, I’ve harnessed that passion into working with emerging writers who don’t necessarily have access to a creative writing workshop. To that end, I founded Palimpsest—a writers collective focused on honing our craft in community with each other. I also serve as a Guest Editor at Oyster River Pages, where I inaugurated the Emerging Voices in Poetry program as well as ORP Schools— our creative writing workshops. These are all an attempt to create spaces that center the creativity of historically excluded folks.

Language is power harnessed through story. There is no ecstasy greater than finding a story that disrupts, enhances, and challenges the trends at any given time and place. And no honor greater than working with the writer to help them achieve precise muscularity of language as they tell their story. That is why I am so very honored to join Sundress Publications in the curation of a diverse and vibrant literary landscape.


Saoirse’s name and passion are the same: freedom. As an exophonic writer, their academic interests revolve around linguistic power dynamics, especially in connection to the land. They are always trying to write, and find, poetry that breaks the English language into articulating its own colonial violence. They are a freelance editor and serve as the Guest Editor for Emerging Voices in Poetry at Oyster River Pages. They are a 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellow and a finalist for the Sophie Kerr Prize. They find excitement in travel, comfort in a good cup of coffee, and love in their newly adopted puppy, Malaika. Find them at saoirseedits.com or on Twitter @saoirseedits.

Sundress Reads: Review of The Temple

Michael Bazzett’s The Temple (Bull City Press, 2020) invites readers to enter a realm where the stone is rolled away, revealing a space for musings, mystery, curiosity, and the type of humor that feels wise and natural. Bazzett effortlessly grapples with the bewilderment that the body has in a world where very few things are certain, and everything is waiting.

In a collection of 20 short poems, The Temple introduces a God who is equipped with dark humor, a nonchalant attitude, and even a cigar. Made up of two parts, the collection explores the stance I imagine many people come across with the topic of faith: how it sways from strong truth to a subtle wondering to, sometimes, disbelief. I imagine the speaker of these poems has walked a beach and searched for a set of footprints but instead saw only the crest of a swell wash them away. With this use of imagery and language, it’s no wonder American poet Maggie Smith says of the book, “Of poets writing today, I can’t think of any whose metaphors are more satisfying than Michael Bazzett—and The Temple is his best work yet.”

Belief is the heart of the collection and appears in the poem it’s named after, but these poems are accessible to anyone—including those without a background in religion. Pondering belief and meaning—the same unknowns that make us all human—its concerns surround the actual body we possess and the places we take them and leave them, momentarily, curious about what any of it will result in or for what purpose.

These poems are part confessional, part dramatic monologue, part history, part cryptid tale bestowed from a place of wisdom, all making the collection strange and inspiring. The musicality of the pieces flow and spill over the page and onto the lap of the reader. Here, anything is possible: an empty city living inside the body, a dog writing poetry, a blue-toothed woman, miracles. The narratives in these poems are so evocative you could reach out and touch them, or mistake the voices for someone you know intimately well, forcing both reader and poem to sit together in grief, a desperate longing, or casual conversation. Here, a God eats old candy and compares it to tinfoil, “All that aching naked hope.”

The poem “My Body Tells Me What To Do” spits the reader into the thickness of vulnerable honesty with the lines “There is still a meaty part of me / that yearns to rest / in dirt and grow soft as a mashed root.” The piece then wanders into the ponderings of turning to ash, going under the ground, and the eventual and unavoidable concept of nothingness. “The Ones Who Aren’t Mentioned” introduces characters like the dog of a serial killer, a small mouse witnessing a city burn, and a God with a reluctance to self-identify, ending on the lines “Imagine laying down / a rusty knife and calling it love.”

Many of the poems include running titles that lead into the first line, yet each piece in this book feels as if you are at a sermon rediscovering your deepest self, your soul split open to the will of the words, imagery, and rhythm. Bazzett begins The Temple with a poem titled “The End,” which is a giveaway for how topsy turvy the world is within this surreal collection. The Temple symbolizes all the things people often worship, whether it be religion, a God, a body, or a place. The title of the collection couldn’t be more fitting, with Bazzett acting as its interpreter. The complexity of this writing is wrapped up in such a brief collection gracefully, with the ending poem “The Follower” encountering a run in with an older version of the self but choosing to watch them disappear. This ending ultimately leaves the reader with a different version of themselves prior to reading it, as we sit with our body, reflecting on the exquisite peculiarities in our own lives we choose to worship or believe in. Reading this book will encourage you to reflect on what resigns within your own temple.

The Temple is available at Bull City Press


Ryleigh Wann (she/her/hers) is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington. Her past experiences include reading poetry for Ecotone, editing with Lookout Books, teaching creative writing, and working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Michigan. Her writing can be found in Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry, among others.

Lyric Essentials: Maya Williams Reads Anis Mojgani

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week writer, slam poet, and organizer Maya Williams has joined us to discuss the work of Anis Mojgani and poetry as conversation. We hope you enjoy as much as we did, and, as always, thank you for tuning in. 


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: How did you discover Anis Mojgani? 

Maya Williams: I discovered Anis Mojgani upon watching his performance of “Shake the Dust” uploaded to Button Poetry on my birthday in college (it was only uploaded two days before!). I have been obsessed ever since.

Maya Williams reads “They Raised Violins” by Anis Mojgani

AH: In an interview published at Literary Arts, Mojgani stated the following: “That’s what poetry comes down to––the opportunity to make sense of who we are, that we might grow and learn and foster ourselves, and in turn perhaps aid in the growth and learning and fostering of others.” Through interacting with Mojgani’s work and poetry as a whole, what has poetry become for you? 

MW: Through interacting with Mojgani’s work and poetry as a whole, poetry becomes for me an expansive conversation. One with myself as I’m reading, one with the writer of the poem (even if the writer cannot respond to me as I’m reading), and with others who may resonate with his work or another writer’s work. It continues to inspire me to make sure my poems in my work can be their own conversations for people.

Maya Williams reads “Sock Hop” by Anis Mojgani

AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically? 

MW: I choose these poems specifically because I wanted to showcase different phases of Mojgani’s work. It’s incredible to see what remains the same in his work and how he has grown overtime not only in his work, but how talks about it and tries to make his work a pulse for social change in any way he can.

AH: What’s next for you? Got any plans you’d like to share (about life, writing, creativity—anything!)? 

MW: Ooh! Next for me is finishing up my third semester at Randolph College, working on a thesis right now about the ramifications of the metaphors of mental illness that correlate with the prison industrial complex. I’m excited to start poetry programming with the Portland Public Library in 2022. I was selected as Portland, Maine’s poet laureate in July of this year, which involves community poetry programming I get co-facilitate with fellow poets I admire!


Anis Mojgani is a visual artist and spoken word artist originally from New Orleans. He received his education in Sequential Art then Performing Arts, which led him to joining poetry slam teams. Mojgani currently is the Poet Laureate of the state of Oregon, where he currently resides. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, Rattle, as the Poem-of-the-Day at Poets.org, and have been performed all around the world.

Find his website with his art and writing here.

Watch Mojgani perform “To Where the Trees Grow Tall.”

Discover his book The Feather Room here.

Maya Williams (ey/they/she) is a Black Mixed Race poet and sucide survivor residing in Portland, ME. They have received residencies and fellowships from the Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA), Voices of our Nation Arts (VONA) Foundation, The For Us by Us Fund’s Words of Fire Retreat, and Hewnoaks Artist Colony. You can find em as one of the three selected artists of color to represent Maine in The Kennedy Center’s Arts Across America series. You can also find her on her website at mayawilliamspoet.com

Watch Maya read their poem “Definitions of Home.”

Read their poem “The Words We Wear” here.

Read their essay “I’m a Black Suicide Survivor and Joy is My Act of Resistance” here.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a multimedia artist and writer. She has had work appear, or forthcoming, in Barren Magazine, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and reads for EX/POST Magazine. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Project Bookshelf: Saoirse

Three wooden bookshelves side by side against a white wall. They are completely filled with book and have built 3D puzzled on top of them.
The bookshelf I shared with my parents

I’ve been thinking a lot about the process of building collections recently. As much as I love to see a cupboard (or an apartment or a house or a life) full of books, an empty bookshelf holds such wonderful possibilities. I’ve never had to build (read: populate) a bookshelf from scratch until this last year. As a child, I first began reading by dipping into my parents’ books—with or without their permission—and adding my own to their collection. I wasn’t allowed to read any books my parents wouldn’t read themselves. Our books were shared and thus, so were our tastes in reading material.

So many people talk of finding their voice at college but I found my ears. Finally, the chance to have a bookshelf of my own helped me develop a reading sensibility informed by my own identity, experiences, and preferences. Between readings at the Rose O’Neill Literary House, visits to the Dodge Poetry Festival, and research trips to New York, East Anglia, and Havana, I picked up an extensive collection of books that could serve as an introduction to me on its own.

Multiple large stacks of books on a desk.
Some of the books I left in storage

Until May 2020, when I received a call from the Indian Embassy. They said they would be airlifting me from the States back to India. My flight was to take off in five days. My first thought: what am I going to do with my extensive book collection? So, I painstakingly chose a handful of books to bring with me that have since created the foundations of my current bookshelf. (The rest are safe in storage, don’t worry).

A book (A Brief History of Fruit by Kimberly Quiogue Andrews) on a desk with an apple and a small bottle of orange juice next to it.
A quarantine breakfast

The first three books I chose because of my admiration of both the contents and its creators: A Brief History of Fruit by the inimitable Kimberly Quiogue Andrews, The Court Dancer by Kyung-Sook Shin and translated by the inspirational Anton Hur, and finally, Bla_k by no other than M. Nourbese Philip. A book of poetry, a translated novel, and a collection of nonfiction. I was clearly working hard to curate as varied a list of texts as possible written/translated/created by folks of extraordinary character.

If there is one thing I can confidently say about my current book collection (other than its diminutive size), is that it continues to speak to my identity and current lived reality. I read books almost immediately after acquiring them, and thus, my book purchases reflect my priorities. Given the socio-political realities of the pandemic in India and the world writ large, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents have become Afrofuturist necessities. So has Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, trans. Stephen Snyder. I have also taken to engaging with my books on a more involved level by writing them out longhand so you will find a stack of notebooks containing (part of) Toni Morrison’s Beloved written in my hand on the bottom shelf. A benefit of repatriation: my shelves now also hold classic books from my homeland that are hard to find in the US, like फ़ैज़ अहमद “फ़ैज़” जी की मेरे दिल मेरे मुसाफ़िर (My Heart, My Traveller by Faiz Ahmed Faiz).

I must admit, I am cautiously enjoying this short liminal period of having a half-empty bookshelf. It’s so full of possibilities and wonder. Every so often, I feel a jab of resentment or irritation, finding myself wishing I’d packed a specific book or wishing I hadn’t had to leave my life behind. The thrill of curating a new collection tempers the loss of the old but it never truly resolves it. Someday, I will open those boxes again and perhaps rediscover a younger version of myself in those pages. Perhaps even combine these collections despite the Pacific Ocean in the way. Until then, on to the next one!


a brown femme person sits at a table. They have a drink in their hand and a tattoo on their wrist. They are wearing spectacles. They have shoulder length black hair.

Saoirse‘s name and passion are the same: freedom. As an exophonic writer, their academic interests revolve around linguistic power dynamics, especially in connection to the land. They are always trying to write, and find, poetry that breaks the English language into articulating its own colonial violence. They are a freelance editor and serve as the Guest Editor for Emerging Voices in Poetry at Oyster River Pages. They are a 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellow and a finalist for the Sophie Kerr Prize. They find excitement in travel, comfort in a good cup of coffee, and love in their newly adopted puppy, Malaika. Find them at saoirseedits.com or on Twitter @saoirseedits.