Sundress Publications Now Open for Submissions for Our Annual Poetry Broadside Contest

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that we are now open for submissions for our annual poetry broadside contest. The contest will be open for submission between September 1st to November 30th, 2022.

The winner’s poem will be letterpress-printed as an 8.5” x 11” broadside complete with custom art and made available for sale on our online store. The winner will receive $200 and 20 copies of their broadside.

To submit, send up to three poems, no longer than 28 lines each (line limit includes stanza breaks but not the title), in one Word or PDF document to contest@sundresspublications.com by November 30, 2022. Be sure to include a copy of your payment receipt or purchase order number (see below for payment of fees). Please make sure that no identifying information is included in the submitted poems.

The reading fee is $10 per batch of three poems, though the fee will be waived for entrants who purchase or pre-order any Sundress title. Entrants can place book orders or pay submission fees at our store. Once the purchase is made, the store will send a receipt with a purchase code. This code should be included in the submission, or you may forward the email receipt at the same time as you send the submission. This fee is waived for all BIPOC writers, and all proceeds from the submission fees go directly to residency support grants for Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers.

Previously published material is welcome so long as you maintain the rights to the work. Let us know in your cover letter if any of your submitted poems have been previously published.

Poems translated from another language will not be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but we ask that authors notify us immediately if their work has been accepted elsewhere; poems accepted for publication are still qualified provided the author retains the rights to the work at the time of printing.

This contest’s judge is Kanika Lawton, a Cambodian-Chinese Canadian writer, editor, and film scholar. Born and raised in Vancouver, they are now based in Toronto, where they are a PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, they have been published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Vagabond City Literary Journal, Longleaf Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Parentheses Journal, among others. They are the author of four micro-chapbooks, most recently Theories on Wreckage (Ghost City Press, 2020). 

Sundress Reads: Review of Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy

“Outside, stretched out on the grass beneath the cooling canopy of a willow and staring up at the seafoam sky” is precisely how I felt reading Andrena Zawinski’s Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy (Writing Knights Press, 2022).

“And that’s a true story—well, almost.”

Consisting of 31 flash fictions/memoirs, each piece is ripe with detail, beautifully constructed, and fills the soul with a sweet (and sometimes sour) taste of reminiscence. Zawinski seems to want readers to understand life for how it is, but to also push through the clouds to see what it could be. With just the first sentence, Zawinski propels the reader into another scene, another time, another world, her world:

From “Wayward:” It was already 108 degrees when Valentina and I were dropped at the 5th and Juárez bus stop after an hour’s ride from Cancún to Playa del Carmen. From “Cherie:” “How’s t’day’s gumbo, chérie?” he said in a low Louisiana drawl, leaning over from his table toward hers. From “Lights Out:” The red wine must be getting to my head because I find myself alone and scribbling in the dark in Paris. From “Woodstock:” We stuck out our thumbs at the nearest highway entrance to leave Yasgur’s Farm. From “The Diamond Cutter’s Daughter:” Rachel’s father died young, but her elderly Rabbi grandfather survived him and the Holocaust, faded numbers tattooed on his wrist he made no effort to hide. From “Bella Mia:” Alegria lived small like most college students, her only indulgence a rowboat she’d rescued and restored that she would toss into Sarasota Bay.

With this collection, you never know where you’ll end up as Zawinski takes her readers on a combination of homey and extraordinary locations. One may find themselves in small-town America watching an ignorant father mentally abuse his child, or in a metropolis city bar where there’s plenty of booze but not seating, or in a delivery room with a tuxedo-dressed doctor, or along a European road where you’ll meet an unsuspecting shoe thief in the next.

And with every location comes some new lesson, implication, or hard truth. Zawinski is gifted at threading her stories with these revelations, often presenting them at the end: “This story is about finding a way.” “All of us crossing boundaries.” “You were only waiting for this moment to be free.” “Gone, but now less afraid of extinction by hook, line, and sinker than by the pink
plastic bag.” “She was last seen wearing her Sunday best, not walking on the road to church, but barefoot along the path toward the roses at the coal drifts, all their petals laced with black dust.” “Let’s keep this between the two of us, a secret.”
There are no shortages of these simple, yet powerful messages in this collection, and I guarantee readers will reevaluate their past, present, and future while on their journey with Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy as I have.

Even though each piece is undeniably its own, Zawinski nails what it means to curate a collection—diverse, yet cohesive. Each story dropped me off in a new place, yet I felt that all of the speakers could be one and the same—and turns out they were—and that their overarching goal was to impart some new truths while reminding me to heed timeless warnings. As Zawinski threw different adventures at me back-to-back, not once did I feel any sort of disconnect—and that was before I became aware that these stories were reflections of Zawinski’s life. As I’ve done with Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy, I’ll pick up a book and ignore the synopsis so that any pre-judgments or expectations will not mar my overall view of an author’s work. As a result, I found the pieces captivating, but then to discover they were inspired by the author’s life? Depth. This depth is the seasoning in any Mexican dish, the perfectly wrapped bow around a present at Christmas, the café au lait in a French coffee shop; the one thing that makes the collection perfecto, perfect, parfait. This is what I treasure most in a writer’s work and I know that special connection to the author, not just their words, will resonate with readers. This is what makes Zawinski’s collection truly valuable.

I realized from the beginning that Zawinski crafts all of her stories with a style that allows her to set the stage quickly without feeling hurried. From the plot to the characters to the overall essence, Zawinski pours life into all three without catering more to one over another. And at any given moment, you’ll most assuredly find yourself relating to the speaker, the situations they’ve been thrown into, or both. If by some strange phenomenon neither happens, then Zawinski will still have succeeded in brightening (or darkening) someone’s world. In this way, she truly brings something to the gate that everyone will be eager to line up for.

As I neared the end of Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy, I found myself saying no. No to the inevitable end of the story, of saying goodbye to the people I’ve met, loved, or hated, and goodbye to all of the places Zawinski has invited me to. But I must go with the critique that I’m sorry to see my flight end. I can only hope that Zawinski invites us all for another ride very soon.

Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy is available at Writing Knights Press

___________

Eden Stiger is a Kentucky-bred, Ohio-living college undergraduate who recently received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Findlay. She is the current poetry editor and layout editor for the literary magazine Slippery Elm. When the day job and fantasy novel aren’t fighting for her attention, she can be found snuggled on the couch with a book in her hand, playing The Sims at her computer desk, or spending time with her hubby and sweet kitty.

Lyric Essentials: Donald Quist Reads Terrance Hayes

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite authors to share the work of their favorite poets. This month, Donald Quist has joined us to discuss the work of Terrance Hayes and how poetry impacts writing prose, the musicality of verse, and how form can impact content. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.


Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Terrance Hayes work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Donald Quist

Donald Quist: I first heard about Hayes when I was an undergrad, about twenty years ago now. I was struggling through an English minor at a small, predominantly white, Liberal Arts college in South Carolina. My professors often mentioned Hayes to me. Hayes was an alum. I was told he and I shared similar backgrounds, and we both are Black and poetic. Teachers offered his work to me as a kind of model. I was given a copy of Hip Logic and fell in love with the musicality of his verse and the clarity of his poetic imagery.

RW: How has Hayes’s writing inspired your own? 

Donald Quist Reads “American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin [“I lock you in an American sonnet that is part prison”]” by Terrance Hayes.

DQ: Hayes has had a significant impact on my work, perhaps most notably in how I approach the construction of narratives. He once said: “I want form to influence my content. I want it to make my language do things that it might not have otherwise done.” His poetry has often inspired me to take chances with my prose, and to seek out forms that serve the ways I’d hope for my narratives to function. It’s why I have essays in the form of lesson plans and stage directions, and short stories constructed out of search engine results and another one as the preface to a fictional anthology.

RW: Why did you choose these poems to specifically? 

Donald Quist Reads “For Robert Hayden” by Terrance Hayes

DQ: I chose these poems because they span the length of his career. I think they offer a great representation of his versatility and core themes. Also, they’re pleasurable to read. Like, notice how there’s a physicality to the verses, the employment of verbs, adverbs and syntax that highlight movement, and the narrowing on bodily details. It all works together to remind the reader of the presence of their own flesh. The poems aren’t just heard or viewed, there is a clear intent to make them felt. Damn, it’s good. I attempt to do the same in all my Creative Writing.

RW: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?

DQ: I try to stay busy. I have a novel out on submission and I’m working to complete a draft of another book project by the end of the year. Got some upcoming workshops, and I have readings scheduled from my recent essay collection, To Those Bounded.

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.


Terrance Hayes is a contemporary American poet and artist. His most recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin 2018) and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018). Hayes is a Professor of English at New York University. 

Find his website here.

Purchase his collection American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin here.

Donald Quist is author of two essay collections, Harbors, a Foreword INDIES Bronze Winner and International Book Awards Finalist, and TO THOSE BOUNDED. He has a linked story collection, For Other Ghosts. His writing has appeared in AGNI, North American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, and was Notable in Best American Essays 2018. He is creator of the online nonfiction series PAST TEN. Donald has received fellowships from Sundress Academy for the Arts and Kimbilio Fiction. He has served as a Gus T. Ridgel fellow for the English PhD program at University of Missouri and Director of the MFA in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Visit: https://www.donaldquist.com/

Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA in poetry from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in Longleaf Review, Rejection Letters, Flypaper Lit, and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in North Carolina by way of Michigan. Learn more at ryleighwann.com

Sundress Reads: Review of Body Facts

Joey S. Kim’s Body Facts deliberately and bravely navigates the unique confusion of first-generation Korean Americans, moving with poise through both personal and political histories of trauma and loss. The collection’s range of experiences spans both space and time, from reflections on Japanese-occupied Korea and the Korean War to painful personal memories of a childhood spent being othered by white classmates in suburban Ohio, from the speaker’s life under Trump’s America to imagined recollections of her parents’ lives in their homeland. Grounding the collection’s vast sweep of history and memory is the physical fact of the body, and the ways it is wounded and transformed as it tries to fit into a country that rejects and shames it, while also trying to remain true to a heritage to which it feels unmoored. Kim’s poems borrow from a variety of texts: tweets, memoirs, Shakespearean sonnets, and more are all deftly woven in with poignant visions of rice paddies and monsoons. This braiding of sundry images creates a collection that thoughtfully expresses the variegated nature of a hyphenated identity, of an American-born child of Korean immigrants. Body Facts opens a door to that identity, illuminating the extraordinary complexity within the body that contains it.

The collection’s titular poem, “Body Facts,” uses text from the racist, stiffly clinical “Oriental Peregrinations,” written by plastic surgeon D.R. Millard, who brought double eyelid surgery, or sangapul, to Korea during the Korean War. Though the poem begins with Millard’s words, it ends with Kim’s inclusion of personal, painful details of stomach skin that “looks elephantine after the weight loss of high school,” or the arm, wounded after “the skateboarding accident.” Here, she reclaims the body that was historically horrifically distorted through the racist white lens, allowing it to be a troubled teenager, a fully realized personality, instead of the generalizations of the “Orient,” of “thousands of mongoloid folds.” This is only the first of many times throughout the collection that we see Kim carve space for the Korean American identity in old, white texts. The poem “Y” gets its name from the “y” in English poet William Blake’s famous poem, “Tyger” (“Tyger Tyger burning bright”) and, like “Body Facts,” it begins with the source text but immediately veers into vivid, personal images of “the hostel near the central Seoul train station where / halmoni supported herself by selling snacks from a pushcart” or the “fluorescent TruGreen patina” of her Ohio childhood lawn. In doing so, Kim takes hold of and reinvents the literary canon that has traditionally excluded any non-white, non-male voices. Why? Because, she states simply in “Y,” “I am fearful of disappearing.”

Yet, Kim does not only make space for Koreanness in the midst of white texts. Body Facts is filled with whole poems consisting solely of collective memory, the collection opening with images of a fisherman and his wife, “Stomachs churning, dreaming / of white rice at dinner.” As she steadily and calmly describes the scene, we are reminded that these memories, too, belong to her, as she belongs to them—though she may never have been the fisherman or his wife, their shared Korean heritage runs through her body, in her blood.

This collective memory becomes more specifically personal as she recounts, secondhand, memories of her parents’ lives in Korea, even addressing them directly in poems titled “Umma (Mom)” and “Appa (Dad).” Such poems evoke the way immigrant parents often become the point their children anchor to for understanding of the greater tradition they come from. Our parents are the people who look like us when no one else in our United States suburb does, the people that hold the key to the heritage our bodies evince—it is as Kim says to her mother in “Umma (Mom)”: “Your womb is my first / memory… / I grew up attached to your shin.” But Kim also captures the distinct sense of distance created between even the child and the immigrant parent, as the parent often feels unhappy in their strange land, lost in their longing for their home. Guilt and want take root in the child’s heart, as reflected in the way Kim wistfully begins and ends “Appa (Dad)” with “Most days, I can’t find you.”

What does this guilt do to a young body, as it also experiences the shame of twisting itself to fit the pressures of American stereotypes and expectations? In “’China Doll’Sacrifice,” we see the answer, as Kim shows us the young, Asian, female body “told to suck in, / act weak for the boys,” “[swallow] the venom of their words,” and “let the poison, the palliative, / come back up.” The physical consequences of emotional, societal pressures are made severely known, reminding us of the ways abstract concepts such as identity can have real and painful effects when constantly in a state of upheaval.

And yet, the distance between the speaker and her heritage is not unbridgeable. Kim makes this clear. The first-generation experience of feeling rejected and isolated from our parents’ culture is reimagined in poems like “A Sijo Prayer”: “The mid-day tide rolls in, and I dream of my Korean ancestors. / Although their words are foreign, the water tugs me to join my hands.” Here, Kim suggests that our yearning is reciprocated, mutual, that our distant heritage is as drawn to us as we are to it. They want us there. And this wanting shows us that we do, indeed, belong to someone, somewhere.

Body Facts is available at Diode Editions


Kaylee Jeong is a Korean American writer, currently studying English at Columbia University. She edits for Quarto, Columbia’s official undergraduate literary magazine, and serves as a poetry reader for the Columbia Journal’s Incarcerated Writers Initiative. A 2019 Sundress Best of the Net finalist in poetry, her work has been featured in diode, BOAAT, and Hyphen, among others.

Meet Our New Intern: Nicole Bethune Winters

A photo of Nicole, a white woman with blonde hair, wearing a sweatshirt and resting on a fence at sunset overlooking the ocean.

Growing up, when I wasn’t running around barefoot outside, you could find me reading, writing, or in the midst of a very messy art project—and to be honest, not much has changed. Two decades later, I’m still writing voraciously, and end most days splattered in clay. My creative life is fuelled by adventuring into the wild and connecting to the environment around me, and I pursue that inspiration without abandon every chance I get.

Creative expression has long been a vital part of who I am as a human, but when I first graduated from college, I was a little lost. I went from being in this beautiful creative incubator with safe spaces to get vulnerable, collaborate with other artists, and receive constructive criticism, to being very alone in that practice. But, something about moving to California felt like moving back into that incubator. Within a year and a half of moving to San Diego, my first collection of poetry was accepted for publication, and my pottery business was thriving. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, but I finally landed in a place where I could bloom.

Moving west woke up a piece of my soul that had been lying dormant for far too long. Surrounded by a vast variety of accessible and gorgeous new landscapes, I developed a strong pull towards the outdoors. I have always been a beach kid, but every time I jet off on a camping trip, I find more of myself in the mountains and desert. Being fully immersed in nature is what gets me going. I feel alive out there, and leaning into that has been huge for my creative work. I began carving the landscapes I fell in love with on my pottery, and writing them into poetry, and felt my pieces begin to connect with people on a different level.

That connection is something I have chased since I graduated college, and my ultimate dream is to find a niche in the editorial world that allows me the capacity to travel, while providing the opportunity to connect with a greater community of fellow writers. I am jazzed to work for Sundress Publications, and to have the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of publishing while helping foster a space for others to share their work.


Nicole Bethune Winters is a poet, ceramic artist, and yoga teacher. She currently resides in Southern California, where she makes and sells pottery out of her home studio. When she isn’t writing or wheel-throwing, Nicole is likely at the beach, on a trail, or exploring new landscapes. She derives most of the inspiration for her creative work from her interactions with the environment around her, and is always looking for new ways to connect with and understand the earth. Her debut poetry collection, brackish, will be published by Finishing Line Press in August 2022.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents “The Elegiac Hybrid”

Sundress Academy for the Arts

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present “The Elegiac Hybrid,” a workshop led by Mary Leauna Christensen on July 13, 2022, from 6-7:30 PM. This event will be held over Zoom. Participants can access the event at tiny.utk.edu/sundress (password: safta).

This workshop will reflect on the poetic tradition of elegy, while experimenting with what it means to elegize. The subject of an elegy might be a concrete person or thing, or the loss of language, ancestral land, or even personal agency. Reading the work of poets such as Layli Long Solider, Jake Skeets, and Donika Kelly, we will give attention to historically silenced voices, while discussing how experimentation with genre, form, and the use of the blank page allows more avenues for elegizing and the processing of grief. 

Grief is, of course, non-linear. By considering elegy as a possible experimental or hybrid form, we will consider the importance of writing at the line level. We will discover ways individual lines interact with each other as well as how what we write interacts with the page itself. Using guiding prompts and example poems, participants will generate new work.

While there is no fee to participate in this workshop, those who are able and appreciative may make donations directly to Mary Leauna Christensen via Venmo at @Mleauna or via PayPal to mleauna@hotmail.com.

Mary Leauna Christensen, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Mary is Managing Editor of The Swamp Literary Magazine. Her work can be found in New Ohio Review, Puerto del Sol, Cream City Review, The Laurel Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Denver Quarterly. She has also recently been named an Indigenous Nations Poets fellow for the inaugural In-Na-Po retreat.

Sundress Reads: Review of She Has Dreamt Again of Water

Stephanie Niu’s chapbook, She Has Dreamt Again of Water

Stephanie Niu’s chapbook, She Has Dreamt Again of Water (Diode Editions, 2022), conjures both a dreamer’s perspective and longing for freedom, as well as a clear-eyed understanding of how it can be restricted. She searches for some balance between nourishing other people and relationships, and self-preservation. No answer to that question could be straightforward, and Niu’s thoughtful exploration of it ensures its emotional dimensions remain intact. 

The first two poems of the collection (following a mythic sort of prologue) immediately set up some essential themes, with the motif of water carrying particular weight. “Water Dreams” pulls the central mother-daughter connection in and out of focus, like a tide. “Her relief that I can conjure, / even in sleep, what she cannot give me—good rest, / good luck, an ocean to dream in.” This care, as well as the discomfort of it at times, is evident throughout the chapbook, with the speaker frequently drawn in and away from the mother’s gravity. “She is always in motion, urgent for something / she cannot name.”

Both qualities of the relationship become more apparent in “Midden / Appetite,” the first of many poems that center less around water and more around themes of food and, more significantly, “trash” or “garbage,” as the mother identifies herself. These more potent metaphors reappear throughout the poems. Love is intertwined in what is consumed, as when the speaker notes the mother “eats what we won’t,” despite her complaint that “no one wants to be garbage.” Later, the mother wishes, “If someone loved me more, / maybe I wouldn’t gain weight.

Finding a connection between the mystic ocean themes and the more mundane question of nourishment, Niu draws a sketch of a dead whale’s remains becoming an “ecosystem,” contradicting her mother’s wish not to “become food”—illustrating a fear that love means being consumed. What power do we have, or do we not have, to choose to linger in the lives of others? To sustain our loved ones in whatever way they may need?

In the next poem, “Garbage Boogie,” the speaker notes that she has “trash guilt” and will “discard what [she] can’t carry”—a stark contrast. More crucially, she believes that “the system / can’t need us to be superhuman” as she watches “the ways we still overflow / with hunger, so much hunger / with nowhere to go.” It doesn’t feel quite like a judgment on the mother, but perhaps a rejection of that model for herself after witnessing the wear on her bones.

Later, in “Before Desire,” the speaker makes this conflict a bit clearer. She uses the metaphor of pelicans filling their mouths with fish, accepting that “our way of being in the world / was the only one we wanted,” knowing that “we had no dreams.” The reader can’t help but think of the collection’s title, however, and the speaker’s insistence on dreaming, even if it’s almost apologetic.

In later poems, the speaker’s father appears to be the opposite, somehow: struggling to find the right way to nourish those in his care, misfeeding parakeets who don’t know to “keep their bellies full” like chickens do—an apparent metaphor for himself. In the next poem, however, the speaker reconsiders, noting that “he has learned to fly,” thoughtfully providing her two pears for travel; they have the “sharp crunch of water” and nourish her more fully, while being more acceptable on a plane than liquids.

The narrative of her father is clearer than that of the mother, perhaps. But maybe painting such a clear portrait of each of them is enough.

Through the three parts of “Diver Walks into the Sea and Stays,” the speaker finally creates a narrative for herself, slowly “learn[ing] to clear [her] ears,” and then beginning to explore, finding “everything […] worthy of devotion.” She concludes, “I need / nothing. I survive” in the image of an angler fish. Then, in the collection’s titular poem, she longs for exile, for the moon (“What better home / for her lonely body than another lonely, / celestial body?”)

One of the chapbook’s highlights, “Migration,” carries the reader from that longing and exploration into the collection’s final quiet moments. The poem is a sestina, using the end-words of each line to pull together many thematic elements and details that have flowed like driftwood through the collection, like “mother” and “free” and “swell.” 

In one stanza, the speaker’s mother seems to accept her “early desire to be free,” at which the mother “swell[s]/with pride;” later, that acceptance is reciprocated, when the speaker realizes, “I wish I could say what I needed to be free/from, what thing. Not any particular, even my mother.” She promises to “show [her] mother the swells” of the ocean someday.

Clear, cleansing prose runs through these poems like a river. They are not simple or transparent, yet the reader’s mind doesn’t stumble over the words. They are musical, but also purer than that, spoken with a clear throat yet an exploring mind. The language invites us to spend time with it, inside of it, like opening our eyes underwater and examining an unknown landscape. The vision is sharp, translucent. 

Much of this language is used to create the ethereal atmosphere of many poems, a similar magic to the title. At other times, though, it finds other purposes, even play. “Garbage boogie,” for instance, is aptly named after its musical qualities: “the sound of hollow boxes” dancing with “and old bottles of booze / lulls me, confused, into its groove”; “culpable” ricocheting off of “compost” and “recyclables”—all this just in the first few moments of the poem.

Although the ocean metaphors were unsurprising, I didn’t anticipate the themes centered around food and remains. At times, there is emptiness and hunger, while at others, fullness and the act of consuming. There is a clear contrast in these themes, the mysticism of water and the practical care of feeding. Yet, moments of connection are scattered throughout, such as the whale’s corpse becoming sustenance. In other cases, food and water act as both sources of life and nourishment (literal food, and metaphorical spiritual freedom of the ocean) as well as, perhaps, suffocation (consumed and being consumed; dreams being put to rest).

The final poem, “I Drive As My Family Sleeps,” offers some resolution of these themes. The images of this poem are quiet, nearly still, except for the lullaby hum of the road beneath the words. Something intangible lingers there, in the space this family creates for each other. “But for now, /this quiet mile is the only thing on earth that is ours.”

She Has Dreamt Again of Water is available at Diode Editions


Laurel Elizabeth is a writing tutor and success coach for Kennebec Valley Community College’s TRIO program, where she recently earned an associate degree in liberal arts. Additionally, she is a graduate of Vassar College’s Exploring Transfer summer program, and aims to begin a BA in English this fall. An emerging writer and aspiring English teacher, she has a special interest in the role of creative empowerment in education.

Sundress Reads: Review of Matryoshka Houses

Matryoshka Houses

Reading Matryoshka Houses (Kelsay Books, 2020) in the Midwest suburbs is like reading Mary Oliver in Provincetown, or Frank O’Hara in New York, or Flannery O’Connor in the Deep South. They just make everything you’re looking at more beautiful, more important somehow. I’m not convinced that’s because Lynn Pattison wrote the collection with my city-planned exurb in mind, or simply because I am surrounded by houses.

It may be true that any place surrounded by homes is a place rich with the textures and dualities of the human experience, the unscrutinized beauty of a hundred little lives—big lives, to the ones living them. I find this dichotomy so profound, that as I look across the street to the house parallel to mine, I see the husband through the window. I watch their fluffy white Samoyed jumping up and down, and I find everything there so tangible, so easy to process and comprehend. By contrast, in my own, everything is out of proportion. I cannot make sense of this life I am experiencing, its complexities virtuous and maddening. Yet, from the view across the street, through their window, I am a college kid on my little computer sipping tea and watching the light come in. I bet you I am very small to him, too. This smallness and bigness is what Pattison acutely capitalizes on in her stunning collection, an amalgamation of life, of objects, of characters and props, of a three dimensional, fully formed human experience as lived through distinct setting. A picture of life through the home.

When tackling as huge a subject as the metaphor of a house, there is much to be said about taking it apart, dissecting this monster of a motif into digestible pieces of imagery—a hairbrush here, a litter box there, an empty milk carton, etc. That is one way to illustrate a personhood. Yet, Pattison seems to argue against this methodology, especially with early lines of “Elusive”: “The story / of home can’t be unearthed by orderly excavation, / studied one stratum at a time.” By deliberately using words like excavation, with a sort of scientific cadence, she contends that a home (and by extended metaphor, a life) isn’t an impersonal stack of objects, the bare bones of the matter, or its earth underneath. That though these things hold pieces, fractured bits of a reality, they can never surmise its true, lush fullness. Nevertheless, she exemplifies the impactfulness of this stylistic list form, following the above-mentioned line with a montage of prose-filled imagery. In what seems like direct opposition to her ideology surrounding the way we discuss the vast emotional and physical presence of homes, she indulges the audience in visuals that triumphantly glorify the ordinary, channeling time, change, and history. Moments like, “wax pilgrims and jewelry boxes with dancers // on the lids, framed diplomas and watering cans, / sump pumps and inner tubes” take objects that, while having no clear ties to one another, become a forcibly linked and united front to deliver a picture of what an overflowing, real, functional home looks like. 

It isn’t just the commitment to this grand idea that makes this collection so powerful—it’s Pattison’s narrative voice. An influx between personal and omnipotent, there is a balanced authority and loss of authority sustained throughout. In poems like “Rustbeltasana” and “At Last,” the author carries the poem with confidence, assuredness we relax in and listen to. Conversely, poems like “The dog, if I had one. Maybe my pillow.” and “Cleaning the birdhouse” contrast it with what can often be the fragility of our limited perspective, paired with the forced all-knowingness of a matriarch. In weaving these frames of view, we find the humanness at the center, the deeply maternal struggle between having answers and grasping for them. As Pattison writes, “There are so many things / A mother can’t explain.”

At the center of the whirlwind of life that is harnessed in this text, there is a gracefulness, a fight against cynicism, a battle sometimes lost, an intentional awareness, a paying attention, a gratitude and a tentativeness, the home and what’s inside. Pattison is an expert at this art, of illuminating reality, of allowing it full figuration and, as a result, we exit her world feeling deeper and more profoundly about our own homes, and the ones across the street.

Matryoshka Houses is available at Kelsay Books


Finnegan Angelos is a poet and essayist originally from northern Maryland, now residing in Chicago. His work often concentrates on the dichotomy between those two places, dealing heavily in nostalgia and naturalism—as well as queerness, interpersonal relationships, and spirituality. His work has been published in the Beyond Queer Words Anthology, Thistle Magazine, and FRANCES, among others. He loves his dog, hibiscus tea, and the banjo.

Lyric Essentials: Roseanna Alice Boswell Reads Becca Klaver

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week poet, student, and author Roseanna Alice Boswell has joined us to discuss the work of Becca Klaver, feeling understood and comforted during a lonely time, and being unafraid in writing. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: When was the first time you read Klaver’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Roseanna Alice Boswell: I first experienced Becca Klaver’s work in 2017 when I heard her give a reading in Ohio. She was the visiting professor at my MFA at the time, and so I had sort of the unique opportunity of getting to know her as a teacher first, and then as a poet. As soon as I heard her poems, it was like something clicked in my brain. I was like oh my god, yes, this is the kind of poetry I want to write when I grow up!

AH: How has Klaver’s writing inspired your own? 

Roseanna Alice Broswell Reads “Uptalk” by Becca Klaver

RAB: I think what is so delicious to me about Becca’s work is that it is just unabashed all the time. In her collection Ready for the World, she writes about selfies, and dildos, and magic, and girl-ness in this way that intellectualizes without distancing, if that makes sense? Reading her poems always makes me want to grab a pink, sparkly pen and start writing, as both celebration and interrogation: what is girlhood? what can I make with it?

Roseanna Alice Broswell Reads “Reproductive Logic” by Becca Klaver

AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically? 

RAB: These poems are all from Ready for the World, which I read after the start of the pandemic and social distancing. It was such a comforting collection to read; it made me feel seen and understood during a time that felt incredibly lonely and isolating. And these three poems in particular have just stayed and stayed with me. I think great poems are kind of like music that way, they’ll just pop into your head from time to time and ride through your day with you. The poem “Reproductive Logic” is like that especially for me. “Last night, I pulled the death card for future and shuddered as I thought, It’s coming for us all; have your babies. I’ll raise this solitude like a foundling.” I mean, COME ON. How great is that? Maybe too because I’m approaching my thirties, and many of my friends and family are starting families, that one hits very close to home.

AH: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share?

RAB: School and work and writing take up pretty much all of my time, although not usually in equal shares (wouldn’t that be tidy and convenient?). I am working on a chapbook manuscript right now though that I am pretty excited about. And I think that while I was at work last week I thought of a good title for my next full length collection! We’ll see if I still like it in a year or so when I am trying to put it together, but it felt like a Big Moment at the time…

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.


Becca Klaver is a contemporary American poet. She is the author of the poetry collections LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), Empire Wasted (Bloof Books, 2016), and Ready for the World (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). Her poems and prose have appeared in Verse Daily, American Poetry Review, and Sink Review. She received her PhD from Rutgers University.

Find her website here.

Read her poem “Fall Parties” at Poets.org

Purchase her collection Ready for the World at Black Lawrence Press.

Roseanna Alice Boswell is a queer poet from Upstate New York. Her work has appeared in: RHINO, Whiskey Island, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Roseanna holds an MFA from Bowling Green State University and is a Ph.D. student in English – Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. Her chapbook, Imitating Light, was chosen as the 2021 Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Competition winner. Roseanna’s first full-length collection, Hiding in a Thimble, was published with Haverthorn Press in 2021. She currently haunts the Midwest with her husband and cat.

Find her website here.

Follow Roseanna Alice on Twitter.

Purchase her collection Hiding in a Thimble here.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an Iranian-American multimedia artist, writer, and journalist. Her writing has appeared in Moon City Review, Hobart, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor-in-Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press, and a contributing writer at MovieWeb. Her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Lyric Essentials: Dayna Patterson Reads Pattiann Rogers

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! Artist, writer, and avid fungi enthusiast Dayna Patterson has joined us to discuss the work of Pattiann Rogers, faith in writing, and being a poet mom. We hope you enjoyed as much as we did, and, as always, thank you for tuning in.


Ashley Hajimirsadeghi: When was the first time you read Roger’s work? Why did it stand out to you then? 

Dayna Patterson: About 13 years ago, when my girls were very little, just 1 and 2, I was taking a poetry workshop that met once or twice a week in the evening. The professor, Christine Butterworth-McDermott, introduced Rogers’s work, and I was immediately captivated by the blend of science and lyricism. I remember checking out a video of Rogers reading for the Lannan Foundation, and she mentioned that she really began writing poetry when her two boys were very small. She joked about dedicating her first book to Popeye because the only time she got any writing done was when her boys were plunked in front of the TV. From that moment, I felt less guilty about turning on Max & Ruby for my girls while I wrote. Rogers made the poet-mom life seem more possible. 

Dayna Patterson reads “Servant, Birthright” by Pattiann Rogers

AH: How has Rogers’s writing inspired your own? 

DP: My understanding is that Rogers minored in zoology, and I appreciate both the close observations and the zooming out to glimpse the big picture that she does in her poems. I’m enamored by her attention to detail in the natural world, which I find an endless source of wonder and amazement, both in my life and in my own work. But her poetic magic is more than just attention to detail. She seems to be really gifted with maneuvering the extended metaphor, linking together some wonderfully strange ideas and running with them.

Dayna Patterson reads “‘God is in the Details’ says the Mathematician Freeman J. Dyson” by Pattiann Rogers

AH: Why did you choose these poems specifically? 

DP: Rogers has a lot to say about god, doesn’t she? Coming back to her work after more than a decade, after a huge fluctuation in my own faith, I’ve been particularly piqued by how she talks about god and how god changes over time. In her earlier work, she seems to affirm the existence of god and the soul, and then later there’s much more room for doubt. I read “Servant, Birthright” a few months ago for the first time, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m haunted by the idea of god as a cow, the speaker’s relationship to the cow, how it morphs over time. I wonder how closely the speaker of the poem reflects Rogers’s own ideas about her relationship to god. I wonder what metaphor I could write into to transcribe my own shifting relationship to divinity. 

I chose “God is in the Details” because I’m more drawn, these days, to the Feminine Divine. I was raised Mormon, and Mormon theology has a godhead made up of God the Father (male), God the Son (aka Jesus, also male), and God the Holy Ghost (you guessed it–male). There’s a God the Mother, but she’s considered by many to be too sacred to speak of, and Mormons are forbidden to pray to Her. After leaving Mormonism, I’m still curious about the idea of a Feminine Divine figure. I also began dabbling in embroidery and textile arts a couple of years ago, so this poem, with its down-to-earth grandma-god stitching the fine details of the world? Well, I wish I’d written it. 

AH: What have you been up to lately (life, work, anything!)? Got any news to share? 

DP: My first full-length collection, If Mother Braids a WaterfalI, just turned two! My next poetry book, O Lady, Speak Again, a collection of Post-Mormon feminist poems that riff on Shakespeare, is forthcoming from Signature Books. In my spare time, I curate Poetry + Fungus, a pairing of poetry books with species from the fungal world. 


Pattiann Rogers is an American poet from the Midwest. She has received two NEA grants, four Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Poetry Fellowship over the course of her prolific career. Her poetry collections include Quickening Fields (Penguin, 2017), Wayfare (Penguin, 2008), and Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems (Milkweed Editions, 1994).

Find a collection of her work at Poetry.

Purchase a copy of Firekeeper at Milkweed.

Read more about Rogers here.

Dayna Patterson is a Thea-curious recovering Mormon, fungophile, macrophotography enthusiast, and textile artist. She’s the author of Titania in Yellow (Porkbelly Press, 2019) and If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020). Honors include the Association for Mormon Letters Poetry Award and the 2019 #DignityNotDetention Poetry Prize judged by Ilya Kaminsky. Her creative work has appeared recently in EcoTheo, Kenyon Review, and Whale Road Review. She’s the founding editor (now emerita) of Psaltery & Lyre and a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. In her spare time, she curates Poetry + Fungus, a pairing of poetry books and species from the fungal world.

Find Dayna online at daynapatterson.com

Purchase If a Mother Braids a Waterfall here.

Read Dayna’s poem “Our Lady of Thread” at The Kenyon Review.

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an Iranian-American multimedia artist, writer, and journalist. Her writing has appeared in Barren Magazine, Hobart, DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor in Chief at both Mud Season Review and Juven Press. More of her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com