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.
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.
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 atKissing 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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present “Magical Realism & Cultural Context,” a workshop led by Jessica Reidy on August 11, 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 workshop will challenge the idea of magical realism as something imagined within reality with Marquez’s assertion that “surrealism runs through the streets,” and invite students to consider various cultural perspectives on what is real, which include magic or spiritual phenomena as inseparable from reality. The format of this workshop will be part lecture, and part generative. In the lecture, we will examine works by Rajko Đjuríc, Edwidge Danticat, and Joy Harjo as examples of the magic and the mundane coexisting, and we will examine the cultural elements of the story that inform these specific realities.
The second part of the workshop will be focused on generating material through writing prompts that guide students to writing their own magical realism, incorporating their sense of heritage, place, and cosmology into their work. The goal of this workshop is to free up ideas around what is real and what is magical, allowing students to access all forms of their and their characters’ lived experiences, and create a holistic narrative.
While there is no fee for this workshop, those who are able and appreciative can make direct donations to Jessica via Venmo @jezminavonthiele or PayPal at email@example.com .
Jessica Reidy (she/they) is a writer and educator with works in Narrative Magazine as Story of the Week, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review online, RomArchive, and other publications. She is the winner of the Nancy Thorp Poetry Prize, the Penelope Nivens Award for Creative Nonfiction, and the Glenna Luschei Prize, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net. She is a co-host of Romanistan podcast alongside Paulina Verminski, a celebration of Roma, rebels, and roots. Under the name Jezmina Von Thiele, she is a dancer, healer, artist, art model, and fortune teller, dealing in tarot, palmistry, and tea leaves. She tells fortunes in her mixed Roma/Sinti family’s tradition. She is a queer witch, and can be found at jessicareidy.com and jezminavonthiele.com.
The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Emily Capettini. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, February 21st, 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.
Emily Capettini is a queer fiction writer from the Midwest who loves a good ghost story. She is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana State University and Assistant Editor with Sundress Publications. Her work has most recently appeared in places like Middle House Review and Lammergeier and her chapbook, Girl Detectives, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Find out more about her at emilycapettini.com.
We will be splitting any donations received with our February community partner, the Next Step Initiative. Next Step Initiative is a local non-profit dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness and drug addiction through organizing food drives and distributions, collaborating with local community resources to provide harm reduction, and most recently started transitional housing for women in recovery. Find out more at: www.NextStepInitiative.com
Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week Madeleine Barnes reads poetry from Michelle Maher and discusses maternal lineage, relationships, and inspiration. Thank you for reading!
Erica Hoffmeister: You were eager for the opportunity to share Michelle Maher’s poetry with our readers. Can you share why that is?
Madeleine Barnes: Michelle Maher is my mother! It’s a privilege to know her through her poems. I admire her as a person and an artist. In the poem “For My Mother,” May Sarton writes: “Today I remember / The creator, / The lion-hearted.” Sarton honors her mother as creator, committing her artistry and courage to memory. My mother is the lion-hearted woman who gave my sisters and me life, andthe author of an incredible debut poetry collection, Bright Air Settling Around Us (Main Street Rag, April 2020). When I was growing up, I don’t think I appreciated how much creative energy goes into motherhood, and how difficult it is to make time for writing while raising kids and working full-time. I don’t know how she ever slept. So it was really exciting when our first books were picked up for publication around the same time last year.
She’s not on social media and she’s averse to self-promotion, but her writing makes an impact on people. I want her work to reach as many people as possible because there’s so much we can learn from it. A few years ago, Toi Derricotte selected one of her poems as the winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award. At the award reading, I had this experience where I both could and couldn’t believe the reader was my mother—her poems are a heartbeat. Her voice is the first poem I ever heard. In her work, I recognize the marker of poetry: a life not only lived, but deeply felt. She taught me that our legacy is who we love, who we support, and the meaning we make out of our lives.
EH: In our emails, you expressed the difficulty in choosing just a few poems of Maher’s to read for us–how and why did you end up reading the poems that you did?
MB: In the end I chose poems that ask difficult questions and address topics like grief. Her poems have the power to help a lot of people. “What would it mean to see with the eyes / of a woman recently returned from the dead?” she writes in “To Return is to Carry.” The speaker’s vision is a “flame that sears away everything inconsequential.” When we’re confronted with mortality, what truly matters rises to the surface. “To return is to carry a thirst so deep it seems like grief,” she writes. This line helps me recognize how loving life and loving the world is similar to complicated grief. What will outlast us? What would it be like to come back from the dead? A man walks past the woman and ignores her, assuming that she has nothing to offer him. My mother’s poetry honors people who are overlooked, and people who can’t do anything for us. The poem closes with the repeated question, “What lasts? What lasts?” It’s a question that all of us have to face, and the answer depends on the individual.
“Deep Blue Bowl” is a lesson in grief. After someone we love dies, we still feel their presence everywhere. This poem does something important—it addresses an incredulousness that can accompany grief. When the speaker sees an image of her mother, she senses that she’s is happy in the afterlife, and this feels upsetting. “Really? I want to say. / You left me with boxes of photos / and no one to call who will be interested / in my day, down to its tiniest detail. / I want to be somebody’s child again.” I feel anguish reading these lines. She captures how hard it is to feel left behind after someone so integral to your life dies. How could they leave us? Don’t they know how much we miss them? Even if we sense that they’re okay, we might selfishly wish they were still with us. I’ve read a lot of wonderful poems about grief, but to me, this one is stands out because it captures a moment in the grieving process that we don’t talk about enough, and it’s related to anger. The pain we feel over someone’s absence is directly proportionate to the amount of love we feel for them. The image of the deep blue bowl, and the feeling of being under something cosmic and heavenly, is so powerful.
EH: You and your mother write, collaborate and create together – even writing about each other and connecting familial threads throughout one another’s poetry. What positive impact do you think you and your mother have on the writing community as a writer’s family of women?
MB: My relationship with my mother as a poet is one that is founded on love and joy in each other’s accomplishments. She always rejoiced in my successes, and this showed me how to celebrate others. Now that I’m an adult, we’re artistic peers and collaborators. We’ve gone through hard times, and we’re not perfect in any way, but there’s a fundamental love and respect that seeps through. Our first community is our immediate family, and hopefully we carry collaboration and support into the wider world. We made a decision a long time ago to always have each other’s backs and support one another no matter what, because living any other way would be intolerable. It’s not a rivalry or a zero-sum game where “whatever you have takes away from what I have.” That mindset is extremely destructive. She says it would be strange to compete with me—she doesn’t see that as her role as a parent. We both had graduate school experiences where writers tried to tear each other down, and that competitive mindset is toxic. It destroys mutual health and friendships and support systems and love. So, we make the choice to continually lift each other up, knowing that support, encouragement, and community is what lasts.
She recently told me that she’s never been to a funeral where people say, “Oh, this person won this and that prestigious award.” What they remember is what that person contributed, who they loved, who they supported, and what meaning they made from their life. I think there’s sometimes a valorization of selfishness in art—we’re taught that it’s commendable if you put your art above how you treat people, and selfishness is somehow complex and admirable—she and I are both tired of that, especially under our current administration. We prioritize art and how we treat others, and we don’t buy into the scarcity mindset. We don’t agree on everything, but we never look at each other in a way that’s disappointed or stressed out. A win for her is a win for me. We want to lift other people up, too!
EH: Lastly, is there anything you are working on now that you’d like to share with our readers?
MB: We’re mulling over the idea of a collaborative chapbook—poems in response to each other, and in response to the urgencies of this extraordinary time that we’re living through. Our goal is to have it ready to submit by summer 2021.
Michelle Maher is is a professor of English at La Roche College and the author of the poetry collection Bright Air Settling Around Us. Her work has appeared in the journals Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, The Georgetown Review, Atlanta Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, and others. Her poem, “At the Brera, Milan” won the 2012 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, a national contest sponsored by Carlow University.
Purchase Maher’s debut poetry collection Bright Air Settling Around Us from Main Street Rag. Read more of Maher’s poetry featured in Cordella Magazine. Read this interview with Maher in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Madeleine Barnes is a poet, visual artist, Mellon Foundation Humanities Public Fellow, and PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her debut poetry collection, You Do Not Have To Be Good, was published by Trio House Press in July 2020. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Women’s Work, forthcoming from Tolsun Books. She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women and non-binary writers and artists. She’s the recipient of two Academy of American Poets poetry prizes, the Princeton Poetry Prize, the Gertrude Gordon Journalism Prize, and the Three Rivers Review Poetry Prize. Visit her at madeleinebarnes.com.
Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and advocates for media literacy and digital citizenship. She is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society and the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/
Sundress Publications’ own Megan Cass, Samantha Edmonds, and Saba Syed Razvi will present Surprise, Strangeness, and Story on October 24, 2020 at 3:30 pm EST during The Plot Summit: Escape the Plot Forrest, a virtual fiction writing conference.
Meagan Cass is Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications and Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Springfield. She won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction for her story, “AcitvAmerica.” Some of her other stories were published in Joyland, DIAGRAM, andMississippi Review, among others. Cass holds an MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.
Samantha Edmonds, a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Missouri, is Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. She is the author of the chapbooks Pretty to Think Soand The Space Poet. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Gay Magazine, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Rumpus.
Saba Syed Razvi is Associate Fiction Editor at Sundress Publications and Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. She holds aPhD in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Razvi is the author of In the Crocodile Gardens and heliophobia and several chapbooks, including Limerence & Lux, and Beyond the Harem’s Veil.
The Plot Summit is centered around staying confident while writing your first draft, building mystery, developing characters, structuring your tale around revelations, and earning your ending. The final day will include sessions on how to build your audience and market your book.
Poets in Pajamas (PiP), a Sundress Publications reading series is putting together the slate of readers for 2021 and would like to invite you to apply to read.
Poets in Pajamas is a live-feed online reading series, hosted by Sundress Publications on Facebook Live. We pride ourselves on producing high-quality poetry readings for an online audience. Readers read from their own work for fifteen minutes and then field questions for an additional ten or fifteen.
We will be prioritizing readers with new or forthcoming books that will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are interested in hearing from ALL writers (we accept both poetry and prose readers) but we also particularly want to welcome writers who identify as being a part of disenfranchised communities (such as but not limited to, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, migrants, LGBTQAI+ people, D/deaf, Disabled, and neurodiverse people, members of non-dominant religious groups, both cis and trans women, Dreamers, formerly incarcerated people, and more). We want to host you and promote your work.
To apply, send three poems or up to five pages of prose and a short video clip of you reading (NOT a recorded reading in front of a crowd), please send a new video of you reading at home or in your garden, in front of your computer, or in your living room. This is NOT a call for produced sessions). Read for no more than 1 to 3 minutes (less is more), and please also attach a bio and author photo in one email, sent here. Submissions close November 1st, 2020.
Note: We are NOT concerned with audio/video quality here, nor your appearance—don’t stress, just use your phone and show us that you have a good audio/video presence and a good sense of a digital audience. We are NOT judging you based on your weight or what you’re wearing or whether you did your hair. We are looking for that magical combination wherein the poet writes wonderful words we want to hear AND is willing to engage with a camera AND knows how to give a good reading. Really, one to three minutes, read as you would at any reading, one poem, or one paragraph, don’t overthink. Please apply!
Have you ever considered how many people either really miss getting out to readings because they don’t live near a literary city/don’t have time/can’t get to them? These are the people who will rarely be at your readings but want to see you read, want to know your work better, and want to love you. PiP would like to help you and they find one another.