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.

Project Bookshelf: Marah Hoffman

For my birthday, my roommate got me a personalized stamp that proclaims, “From the library of Marah Robyn Hoffman.” In the stamp’s center is a simple bee (I have been nicknamed Mother Nature for the magnetic pull I seem to have on small, winged creatures), and around it are leaves and petals. I gasped at the gift’s beauty. In its intricate me-ness, I saw how well my friend pays attention.  

The stamp is a gift for the future. At twenty-two, I do not own a bookshelf, let alone a library. My books, like a child’s stuffed animals, often travel back and forth from various dwellings, mainly from my dorm room to my parents’ house but also to my boyfriend’s row home in Philadelphia, to the beach house we visit every summer, and to my grandfather’s hunting cabin in the deep mountains of Pennsylvania, far from cell service and suburbia.  

Books are my constant companions. I have been known to, on occasion, bring three books to an outing, so I may read according to my mood. On one particularly uneventful trip to the mountains, I inhaled three-and-a-half books. I still reminisce about that vacation fondly.  

“My bookshelf” or, in other words, the obnoxious stacks populating my room, is becoming increasingly obscure and diverse. On the lower rungs of these literary ladders used to climb to other worlds are The Box Car Children, The Hunger GamesTwilightHarry Potter, and Percy Jackson. But the higher your eyes scan, you see how my interests have evolved beyond the domain of dominant pop culture. You may discover Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello, a collection of sixteen essays ruminating on famous animals, or Bluets by Maggie Nelson, a book full of pieces of varying genres each considering the color blue.  

This Christmas, both my boyfriend and my sister complained that buying me presents was like playing a scavenger hunt. My Christmas list was 70% books, but many of them could not be easily found online or in the small, independent bookstores my sister frequents.  

My liberal arts education in the humanities is the culprit. I used to know only fiction, but now, thanks to my professors and my position on my college’s literary magazine, I am acquainted with the existence of prose poems, flash fiction, micro fiction, creative nonfiction, personal essays, braided essays, and hybrid essays. I have become more voracious because I know the vast voices I have yet to hear.  

When I consider my bookshelf, my brain becomes a chorus of these different voices making similar, resonant sounds.  

I hear my dad reading my first favorite books to me as a child snuggled against him on our small couch. These storybooks no longer exist in a physical place; instead, they rest on the shelves of my mind. Current reads echo these old stories. The themes have not fully changed despite their placement in new genres.  

My bookshelf exists in its full capacity only in my mind. Even when I find a true bookshelf for my room after graduation, and even when I someday, hopefully, have an office/library in my own home, my bookshelf will foremost stand in my imagination, holding stories whose names I may forget but whose contents inform future passion.  


Marah Hoffman is a senior double major in English and creative writing at Lebanon Valley College in rural Pennsylvania. Within her campus’s lively literary community, she is a writing tutor, mentor for prospective and new students, co-poetry editor for their literary magazine, and president of her college’s International English Honors Society chapter. Marah enjoys reading classic and contemporary literature. She has written poetry since she was twelve but has lately found herself wandering the realm of creative nonfiction, particularly personal essays. Besides being a bookworm, Marah is an avid runner. She is a member of LVC’s cross country and track teams. When Marah graduates, she hopes to find a position that allows her to continue pursuing her passion for books.  

Meet Our New Intern: Marah Hoffman

While predicting future professions, a high school classmate of mine once said I would own a teacup shop in Paris. I smiled before replying that his assessment of me was the daintiest one I could imagine and would ultimately prove incorrect. Despite my size (and admitted affinity for tea and florals), I am not dainty.  

I have been a cross country athlete for seven years. Meaning that I run long distances (sometimes in snow, frequently through mud) and climb large hills for fun and for the challenge.  

I am ambitious too. My father taught me ambition by advising, “Be your own best advocate.” I follow his advice by asking my questions, applying for the position, and submitting my work. Over time, I have come to accept the failures that can come from putting yourself out there. In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, I found one of my favorite words—errata. Errata are errors in printing, and Franklin believed they should be embraced because they promote learning. The word errata contains little of the heft of failure or sin but all the promise of growth.  

Language and literature have been among my greatest advisors. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed attests that even the greatest pain—the worst pain I can imagine myself experiencing—may be survived. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie explains why individuality must be celebrated. Such lessons have indebted and endeared me to the written word.  

Language, as many literary icons have stressed, is sustenance, knowledge, delight, and unity. We cannot live without it. Therefore, using it well is an endeavor anything but dainty. Being part of a team such as Sundress that uses language to diminish the boxes and binaries of the world is an enormous blessing, an early dream realized.  


Marah Hoffman is a senior double major in English and creative writing at Lebanon Valley College in rural Pennsylvania. Within her campus’s lively literary community, she is a writing tutor, mentor for prospective and new students, co-poetry editor for their literary magazine, and president of her college’s International English Honors Society chapter. Marah enjoys reading classic and contemporary literature. She has written poetry since she was twelve but has lately found herself wandering the realm of creative nonfiction, particularly personal essays. Besides being a bookworm, Marah is an avid runner. She is a member of LVC’s cross country and track teams. When Marah graduates, she hopes to find a position that allows her to continue pursuing her passion for books.  

Sundress Reads Review Series Looking for Recently Published Books

As part of Sundress’s ongoing commitment to service, we recognize that COVID-19 has caused hardship by cancelling readings, launches, tours, and other needed promotional efforts. To combat this, Sundress Publications continues to accept submissions for consideration for inclusion in our review series, Sundress Reads. We’re looking to write featured reviews for any books published or to be published from July 2021 to June 2022. We at Sundress hope to champion writers whose work highlights human struggle and challenges misconceptions.

Authors or publishers of books published within this date range are invited to submit books, chapbooks, or anthologies in any genre for consideration by our reviewers who are standing by. Submissions will be considered on a rolling basis.

For immediate consideration, please forward an electronic copy of the book (PDFs preferred), author bio, photo of the cover, and a link to the publisher’s website to sundresspublications@gmail.com with “Sundress Reads: Title” as the subject line. In addition, we request that one print copy be mailed to Sundress Academy for the Arts, ATTN: Sundress Reads, 195 Tobby Hollow Lane, Knoxville, TN 37931.

Submissions to Sundress Reads will remain eligible for selection for one year. Hard copies will become a permanent part of the Sundress Academy for the Arts library and will be made available to SAFTA residents and staff as well as by request to affiliate journals for further reviews.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents November Reading Series

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the guests for the November installment of our virtual reading series. This event will take place on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, on Zoom (http://tiny.utk.edu/sundress, password: safta) from 7-8 PM EST.

Joy Jones is a trainer, performance poet, playwright and author of several books, including Private Lessons: A Book of Meditations for Teachers; Tambourine Moon; and Fearless Public Speaking. She has won awards for her writing from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, and the Colonial Players Promising Playwrights Competition. Her most recent book is Jayla Jumps In (Albert Whitman & Co, 2020).

Anna Leahy is the author of the poetry collections What Happened Was:, Aperture, and Constituents of Matter and the nonfiction book Tumor. Her work has appeared at Aeon, Atlanta Review, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Poetry, Scientific American, The Southern Review, and elsewhere, and her essays have won top awards from Mississippi Review, Los Angeles Review, Ninth Letter, and Dogwood. She directs the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman University and edits the international Tab Journal. More at https://amleahy.com.

Kimberly Ann Priest is the author of Slaughter the One Bird (Sundress 2021) and chapbooks The Optimist Shelters in Place (forthcoming Harbor Editions 2022), Still Life (PANK, 2020), Parrot Flower (Glass, 2020) and White Goat Black Sheep (FLP, 2018). Winner of the 2019 Heartland Poetry Prize from New American Press, her work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Salamander, Slipstream, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Lunch Ticket, Borderland, etc. She is an Assistant Professor of First Year Writing at Michigan State University and serves as an associate poetry editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. Find her work at kimberlyannpriest.com.


The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is a writers residency and arts collective that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers in all genres including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, academic writing, playwriting, and more. The land on which Sundress Publications operates is part of the traditional territory of the Tsalagi peoples (now Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians) and Tsoyaha peoples (Yuchi, Muscogee Creek).

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Meet Our New Intern: Kathryn Davis

I’ve never been big on football, but I’ve always loved books. Between my third-grade and seventh-grade years, the oldest of my two brothers played college football nine hours away from home, and my parents resolved to attend every. Single. Game. We’d wake up at four or five each Saturday morning, load into my dad’s Ford Explorer without a word to one another, and we’d drive. 

During the first couple hours of those drives, it’d be too dark to read—but around seven or eight, I’d start in. The librarians in town had known me for a while by then (my general book habit was nothing new), but they began to learn the football season drill as well. They’d ask where Joe was playing that week. How many hours away? Twelve? How many of these (gesturing vaguely at the pile of books I’d pulled off the shelves to take with me) do you think you’ll finish by next weekend? All of them? See you next week. 

I’d read from that first light until we parked and headed into the game. We’d settle into the bleachers. Then I’d start again. About halfway through Joe’s college football career, a teammate of his said to him, “Joe—I didn’t realize you had a sister. What does she look like?” Another teammate interjected, “A book cover.” 

I went to college years later in hopes of making books, because there will always be more long drives, more library trips, more football games. In college, I led my university’s literary journal, fishladder, while pursuing a degree in Creative Writing—while writing bad stories and worse poems and working with great writers. I had just about the greatest and luckiest college experience a young writer can have. 

The bad thing about this fact, though, is that the writing life beyond college does not necessarily feature regular three-hour discussions of short stories, debates about line breaks, or exhausting and wonderful workshops. There are long and difficult work days that mean the writing never gets done. There are lots and lots of Submittable rejections and bills to pay. On roadtrips, I’m now expected to put down my books and help drive. All that said, I’m so, so excited to have arrived at this internship with the Sundress Academy for the Arts. I feel like I’m sneaking more time in the backseat of my dad’s Explorer, lucking into more time to draft a story that’s almost-there. I’m so honored to be trusted to help uplift Sundress’s incredible writers’ voices, to play a small role in fostering a community of folks who’d rather hang out behind a book cover than watch the game.