Sundress Announces the Release of Athena Nassar’s Little Houses

The cover of a book with the illustration of a girl of Egyptian descent with a gray head scarf and dark red lipstick against a black background. The girl's neck transitions into a brick wall which forms part of a house, and there are various pieces of different houses and buildings where her shoulders would be. The title, "Little Houses" is written in tan letters, and the authors name, "Athena Nassar" is written in light gray letters below the tile.

Sundress Publications announces the release of Athena Nassar’s Little Houses. Nassar’s poetry is bold, and walks readers down a harrowing, heartfelt, passionate road.

“a part of you wants to stay wedged / in the throat of what will kill you.”

Athena Nassar’s piercing debut full-length collection, Little Houses, unravels one American family’s conflicted Southern existence. Nassar’s speaker first surfaces from an alligator’s mouth to beckon readers through a series of revolving doors. Behind one door, she reckons with a complex history of colonization; behind another, Princess Peach mourns her own hard-coded impotence. In this way, Nassar does not shy from exploring all sides of her speaker’s sexuality, heritage, and familial connections. To occupy her Little Houses is to find freedom in contradiction.

Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction writes, “In Little Houses, Athena Nassar meditates with unusual clarity on the complexities of race and displacement, the pervasiveness of violence, and the vagaries of love and sex. In poems at once deeply personal and vast in scope, the weight of history and memory hangs heavy—imperial, ancient, familial, and personal. This is a marvelous debut collection by a poet deeply attuned to the possibilities of language and introspection.”

Order your copy of Little Houses on the Sundress website.

A woman with a medium-dark skin with long dark hair, wearing a black long-sleeve shirt and black pants seated in a black chair, one arm is resting on the back of the chair and the other is draped into her lap, in a gray room with a grayish wood floor.

Athena Nassar, author of Little Houses (Sundress Publications, 2023), is an Egyptian-American poet, essayist, and short story writer from Atlanta, Georgia. A finalist for the 2021 Poets Out Loud Prize, she is the winner of the 2021 Academy of American Poets College Prize, and the 2019 Scholastic National Gold Medal Portfolio Award among other honors. Her work has appeared in Southern Humanities Review, The Missouri Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Salt Hill, Lake Effect, The McNeese Review, New Orleans Review, Zone 3, The Los Angeles Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, PANK, and elsewhere. She attends Emerson College, where she is the Poetry Editor of The Emerson Review.

Lyric Essentials: Juliana Roth Reads Ross Gay

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite writers to read the work of their favorite poets. This month, Juliana Roth joins us to discuss the work of Ross Gay, contemporary poetry, literary citizenship, and how Gay’s poetry feels like a doorway to better understanding the surrounding world and ourselves. As always, we hope you enjoy reading as much as we did.

Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Ross Gay’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Juliana Roth: I had a funny way into Ross Gay’s work, which is just to show my ignorance of contemporary poetry. I didn’t know much about living poets until my final year of college. I was working at this small lending library at my school called the Hopwood Room where once a week the MFA students would gather at this big round table across from my desk and a visiting writer would come sit with them and talk for an hour about their process and books. There was a little nook behind my desk where I would work during the sessions and listen in. I was having a really bad day, I forget why, so I was in my nook. Then all of a sudden I started to hear someone reading a poem, and the words really caught my ear, and then the conversation that followed lifted me right out of my mood. I came out from my nook and learned the poet was Ross Gay.

RW: Why did you choose to read these poems specifically?

JR: In “Becoming the Horse,” I love how I’m taken in to approach “the beast,” whether that is a literal nonhuman animal or any part of us (or our world, which is us) that is difficult to touch, at first tiny as a grass blade, then a fly, then a total transformation occurs. I feel the piece also opens up the possibility that we might change our behavior should we know ourselves or our animals more intimately (nose to nose, heart to heart). It’s a love poem, I think. A gesture towards radical honesty, which the poem seems to suggest might set us free from fear. If we are fully honest and see with true clarity, what is left to fear?

I think this carries into “Ending the Estrangement” where that proximity to what is feared is actually knowing the pain of your mother. The gesture at the end of the poem of singing along with that pain just feels liberating. And like we’re being guided in confronting death. Also a love poem, I think.

And then “Wedding Poem,” definitely a love poem, I think it’s safe to say. For me, the poem captures that sweet embarrassment and shyness that often appears in the face of true love. I imagine that bashfulness happens at any age, and the piece celebrates how simple it is to just let love in—once you do, despite how long it takes to get there.

Juliana Roth reads “Becoming a Horse” by Ross Gay

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

JR: The generosity on display in his work is an important model for literary citizenship and maintaining personhood in a public profession. The acknowledgment he makes in Be Holding where he basically says all the poets that came before and all the books he reads, even friends and family, they are his work and in essence the collection belongs to them—that’s pretty significant. I think modeling that resistance to becoming capital and hyper individualism a creative market puts on you is what I hope to do as well. I also think the process he used for The Book of Delights freed me to write my newsletter because I give myself specific constraints not to overedit (there are even typos!), write without knowing in advance what my goal is for the letter, and also as I do the podcast I haven’t spent any money at all on production, so it is very handmade. I don’t think I have a radio voice or personality either—I’m just bringing on people who I admire and who are thinking about the world in interesting ways to chat and we just record our conversation.

Juliana Roth reads “Wedding Poem” by Ross Gay

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

JR: Right now I’m in professor mode just getting us through midterms at the moment, but I did find out a few weeks ago that I was selected as an Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction, which has been a whirlwind. Last week we got to meet the outgoing fellows and I spent just a few minutes so far with my cohort, but I’m so excited for the community and space to write. I can’t wait to see what work I create while I’m there. I also have a new short film premiering in a festival at Cinema Village on October 26th if there are any local readers who love old movie theaters. As far as life outside of my career goes, I’m just spending as much time as I can with my family right now, including my sweet dog Ziggy. Oh—I started learning to skateboard with a friend this past spring so we practice as much as we can. And I’ve been very into trying different varieties of pesto—hugely exciting, but my favorite so far has been a beetroot cashew. So good!

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.

Juliana Roth is a 2022-23 Susan Kamil Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction and was selected as a VIDA Fellow with the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Her writing appears in The Breakwater Review, The Offing, Irish Pages, and Entropy as well as being produced as independent films that she directs. Her web series, The University, was nominated by the International Academy of Web Television for Best Drama Writing and screened at survivor justice nonprofits across the country. Currently, she teaches writing at NYU and writes the newsletter Drawing Animals (subscribe here: featuring essays, interviews, doodles, and podcast episodes celebrating our interconnection with nonhuman animal life.

Ross Gay is an advocate for joy, love, and the pleasures of life. He is the author of four books of poetry: Against WhichBringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller.

Inciting Joy is his most recently published collection of essays.

Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in The McNeese ReviewLongleaf ReviewRejection Letters, and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in Brooklyn. Learn more or read her work at

Interview with Margo Berdeshevsky, Author of Kneel Said the Night

For the release of her book Kneel Said the Night, Margo Berdeshevsky spoke with intern Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong about the weaving of myth and reality, poetry and prose, to explore themes of temporality, spirituality, and womanhood.

Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong: You begin the first part of this book with an epigraph from Alice Notley: “To be dead grows on one, sweetly. Not knowing what time it is.” How do death and temporality influence the writing of Kneel Said the Night?

Margo Berdeshevsky: When did we see it coming? I know that I am afraid. And I hide it. And I can’t. So do you. I no longer know what time to call ours, or if we have lost our way in the literal and in the nonlinear. We are living, right now—in war time, in a time of yes, global ache. What time is it when fascism is rising in so many countries, and it is not the 1930s, it is now. With ugly aggression comes cruelty, and yes, death, and yes, fears, and lusts for power, and illnesses we cannot control, even as we try to love one another sweetly, and smell the rain, and believe in our own creativity, still.

When I was growing up, I often thought I was blessed to not be in a country at war. That wars were history, not our now. But I grew to understand that the wars and hatreds and ruins have never ended. They have only remerged, vermin from under old stones, and this is in our time. We try to pay attention to other things. Gardens. Sunrises. Music. Poetry. But the truth is what it is. As I write elsewhere in the book, “I am the woman who asks, how close is death, how near is God.” That question has been a deep personal and philosophical quest for me—from the past, and most certainly in the now I share with my fellow humans and yes, with readers. I try to imagine endings, and beginnings. So I wrote Kneel Said the Night with such consciousness in my being, of a world I can’t escape, as a woman, as a cynic with her eyes wide open to the world that is—and as one who still reaches out hungry for love, or sex, and that thing with feathers Emily Dickinson wrote of. “Hope.”

KYEJ: Tell me more about the way you move fluidly between first, third and even second person narration.

MB: The book, as I moved into it in the opening chapter, and later in the notes at the end, is what I call a book of “half notes.” Breaths. Fragments becoming a whole. So it made sense to me to speak in those several modes, first, second, third…as a way to embrace different points of view. Maybe facets of a shattered crystal, I could say. I wanted to build stories and poems that would break through different walls and doors. And to do so, I needed to find voice in the different characters and images. To move with a spatial and poetic prose and a harsher one, to an articulation and unexpected imagery—and to find a self, and characters that could live inside each.

KYEJ: How did you go about creating the hybrid genre of the book, moving from poetry to prose and in between?

MB: Poetry, prose, and images. Yes, they happen as a result of my larger thrust. I have a love for the hybrid approach as an artist in different mediums. I don’t like to be stuck in a single box, and I find it very interesting as a reader, and an image maker and a word maker, to break forms and expectations. That way I surprise myself, and, hopefully, the one who receives the work I can offer. As I wrote in response to a quote by Zora Neale Hurston, reiterated in the final notes at the end of the book: “The single hour cannot be—eternity. But here is its gathering—for the book that is in your hands, now.”

KYEJ: How did you select the pictures you used, and how would you want your reader to appreciate them within the context of the language?

MB: I’m a collector of my own images. I photograph, I draw, I collage, I layer, I hunt. Sometimes I have a piece of an image but I don’t yet know what I might do with it, it’s sitting on my table, or in my files, and then I wear a different hat or magic cape one morning. And I’m making a poem or a story and I remember that visual image and I go looking for it and it begins to morph in my hands as I see how it could accompany what I’m writing or have already written. I never use an image for mere show and tell. I use it to jog the way the words land. I like ambiguity, sometimes, and I like contrast, to invite left brain/ right brain side by side. As this book came together in its overall intention, I began to know what belonged and what to use, or not use. For that, I have an inner yes/no/yes—and I listen to it.

KYEJ: Tell me about your choice to use mythic, abstract elements in conjunction with more mundane aspects of ordinary life, such as gardening or texting a lover.

MB: I’m smiling as I answer this. Because all I can say honestly is: that’s just how my head works! I like collage. I like to mix. I’ve often been attracted to what is mythic and to the surreal. I’ve read and studied myths and different spiritual paths. I’m a rebel when it comes to “systems of belief.” I feel I need and want and have the freedom to pick what works for me at a given time. And to select something other, later, or next year. I’ve believed, and lapsed, and believed anew. And I’ve lost my way. But I don’t want to get locked in a box I can never get out of.

Abstract? Not so much. I’m attracted to what moves me emotionally. And what moves me, and what I tell myself I believe in has changed over time. I want to be a “believer.” But I lose my way and have to come back around from a new or different source. I’ve traveled widely in my life, I speak a few different languages, and I’ve read and explored different cultures and creation stories and spiritual explanations for our lives. I’ve had respect for each of them. Each of them becomes part of how I wonder about and look at life. And then—I long for simplicity, and silence, and daily life to lean on. I haven’t always been able to make that happen. I haven’t often had a traditional life. So yes, a garden. And yes, a lover. And yes, a text, if it has something to say and is not just blah blah blah. The mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary are tools for me.

KYEJ: What is the significance of the religious and spiritual imagery in Kneel Said the Night?

MB: I think I speak to this question in several ways just above. Blessings are everywhere, and yet so damn hard to hold or trust in. As the “description” of the book ends, it asks “who holds the winning hand?” and “who will save us?” Word images come near me, like presences—spiritual, metaphorical, hard edged and soft—insisting that I include them somehow. I think that to deal with our times these days, the spiritual element is often the elephant in the room. Religion is personal and can be addressed in myriad ways, or not at all. But our truths and/or questions are voices in the book that I, and they, pursue.

KYEJ: Can you speak about the book’s different experiences of womanhood and the ways they intersect?

MB: I’ve long cherished Sojourner Truth’s words, “Ain’t I a woman?” Because it ain’t so easy. Because the cause of freedom and a woman’s rights to be—confront us now as then, and more and more than ever.

Being a woman often comes at a deep cost to the soul. In the book I speak through different narratives of a woman’s intimate desire(s.) And her quest to know if she has learned anything in a long or a short life. If she is or can be free. If abuse or rape or just being in this world in these times—can still allow her to “fly” (metaphorically speaking.) She asks what it is or may be to grow old in a woman’s body. What frightens her. What desire and the hungers for love have led her to. What she must risk, to be held. What or who does she belong to. Where can she travel to become free. Who holds her hand. Who influences her? Dead mothers, dead fathers, available or unavailable lovers, her own shape and flesh, fame, solitudes, illnesses, death itself, or something holy? Sometimes she is preyed upon. Sometimes she turns predator. But mostly, the women I speak of in their intimacies turn to the erotic and the mythic, the poetic, the mysterious, and even to ruin. Or, joy in the play and dances of life—all to survive. And to be a woman.

KYEJ: Can you speak to the recurring birds in this book?

MB: People have noticed my inclusion of birds in my writing elsewhere. I acknowledge it. The very fact that a bird may lift from the branch, from the earth, and that in my narratives earth is sometimes a place to escape or to be saved from, makes a bird an apt symbol for me.

Maybe too it’s what I mentioned at the beginning of this interview: as one who still reaches out hungry for love, or sex, and that thing with feathers Emily Dickinson wrote of. “Hope.”

KYEJ: What is the significance of the constant father figure-like characters throughout this work?

MB: I would not say that the father figure is the constant in the work, but yes, it is a hard presence, and/or an absence. Sometimes as mythically so, as one to reach for. Sometimes, frighteningly so, as one who permits abuse. Sometimes, merely as an old death. Sometimes, but rarely so, as the patriarchal deity who might answer a question, the question. (I must add that often in the book, the mother figure-like character is written and is a constant for good or for loss or for memory or for ghost …)

Order your copy of Kneel Said the Night today

Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York City, often lives and writes in Paris. Her latest  collection, Before the Drought, is from Glass Lyre Press and was a finalist for the National  Poetry Series. It is Still Beautiful to Hear the Heart Beat is forthcoming from Salmon  Poetry. Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone and But a Passage in Wilderness (Sheep Meadow Press). Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough,  received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for FC2 (University of Alabama  Press.) For more information, kindly see

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

Lyric Essentials: Anthony DiPietro Reads Diane Seuss

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite writers to read the work of their favorite poets. This month, Anthony DiPietro joins us to discuss the work of Diane Seuss and line length in poetry, the intersection of play and rules, and insight regarding the perks of writing prompts. As always, we hope you enjoy reading as much as we did.

Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Diane Seuss’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Anthony DiPietro: Diane Seuss taught at The Frost Place in 2017 while I was assisting the director, and I had the chance to study in her class. Before we all arrived in New Hampshire, while she was reading my packet of work, I was reading her book Four Legged Girl. When she arrived, she walked up to me to check in, and the director introduced us. She told me she dug my poems, which really bowled me over, and all I could say was “I like yours too.” Later in the week, she gave a reading and afterwards signed my copy of her book with a kind note and a lipstick kiss on the title page. I went on to read just about everything she’s written.

When I was first discovering her poems, I was drawn to her play between titles and first lines as well as her often long lines that run together. There’s almost a tease sometimes that this poem will be one long sentence. What that’s really about is an exuberance of voice, a confidence. She jumps headlong into a poem, and you just have to go along for the ride. If you look at “Either everything is sexual,” sometimes she chooses to end the sentence with a period, and that stop has certainty–a certainty of tone if not of fact. Other times, she strings sentences together with commas, including the final question that ends the poem, as if the momentum of her poem-story won’t let her reach a full stop. Sometimes there are fragments parading as sentences, which would suggest an incomplete thought, but she has a way of eventually coming back to complete every thought later, which is super satisfying. I think I saw her playing on the page, and it reminded me that when we write, we can sometimes return to our kindergarten self: we know no rules when we’re first learning to write or draw or sing. Creativity is just for expression. I’m making it sound like she doesn’t care for rules, but she’s also said that she selects each word with the care of a jeweler–and that is immediately apparent in any Diane Seuss poem. She’s making choices everywhere. You see them and you feel them on a gut level. Ultimately, I feel a kinship to Diane Seuss because she’s doing what I imagine all great poets do, or maybe it’s just the clan of poets in what I consider my lineage, which is to turn the raw material of our life, our biography, into a mythology. To do that is to generate image systems we keep drawing from. And to sound slick doing it.

Anthony DiPietro reads “[I fell on an incline]” by Diane Seuss

RW: Why did you choose to read these poems specifically?

AD: I chose poems that I felt had something in common with my own work. “I aborted two daughters,” reminds me of my poem “A few years ago, I got a ticket for being exposed” which starts with me naked on a beach where I shouldn’t have been naked. I wrote it after reading Dolly Lemke’s poem “I never went to that movie at 12:45” in Best American Poetry 2010, where her liner notes say, “I have pretty much laid out all my faults, mistakes, and negative attributes for everyone to read.” I took those instructions as a prompt to enter directly into the vein of confessional poetry. Alongside the bigger sins, Lemke and I both pepper our lists with mundane references–coffee, shopping, shoes, sugar. In Seuss’s first line, the poem appears to respond to that same impulse: I’m about to tell you the worst thing about me (or the worst thing I’ve ever done). But in fact the poem goes to completely unpredictable places.

The same could be said for the poem “Either everything is sexual, or nothing is.” I love a poem that sets itself up that way: such an absolute, black and white statement that it can only be a false hypothesis. The title reads as a demand for an argument, and the poem answers that demand. And more than an argument, it becomes a sort of manifesto–or am I just projecting here? Sex ranks first on my list of writerly obsessions, so it’s possible. And this argument or manifesto takes the form of this positively luscious, exuberant list of images. I love list poems; I think every poem I write is based around some form of list. Around the time I met this poem, I was beginning to think of my aesthetic as embracing the idea that more is more–which is supposed to be against the rules in poetry–but I believe that a queer or camp aesthetic is built on an over-the-top quality. I have tried to write as over-the-top as this poem goes, and I can’t get there. I’m beat.

The third poem, “I fell on an incline,” I chose because of the way the poem travels. With almost impossible compression, the poem literally criss-crosses the continent while also time traveling to memories from different decades. I’m often reaching for a similar effect in my poems. When it works, it feels like you’ve actually traveled all these places, like you’ve danced yourself dizzy. You’ve been dropped off somewhere disorienting, but it turns out to be nirvana. The self-address in her last three words of this poem are signature Diane Seuss, just fully and unmistakably her voice. I can’t quite put into words where that little gesture takes me, but I get there every time I read it.

Anthony DiPietro reads “[I aborted two daughters]”

RW: Seuss’s latest poetry collection is made up entirely of sonnets. What do you think the benefits of writing formal poetry can be? How does your own writing interact with different forms, musicality, meter, etc.?

AD: One poem in that book begins, “The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without.” Which apart from being a brilliant line break seems to be a clue about one of the reasons she’s drawn to the form. I’m definitely aligned with Seuss in this–I like to make use of forms.

I believe that a good prompt brings together an expansive element to help you generate words and ideas, plus at least one constraining element, something that limits you. Without the limiting element, you might be making a grocery list rather than writing poetry. Writing in forms, or against a form, however you choose to think of it, is a constraining element. It becomes the box that you try to think outside of. When you start to write up against those limits, you suddenly find yourself saying what you didn’t expect to and wouldn’t have otherwise, which gives the poem a pulse of surprise or discovery. 

That being said, as much as I’m a fan of forms, I don’t want something too strict, particularly a strict meter. I want my cadence to feel like mine. Musicality is not what I consider my strength or natural gift. Some poets have an ear for the music in the language, some write by ear and only later bring in sense–the logic, the drama, whatever meaning-making is happening in the poem. I’m quite the opposite. Sense comes first, and at some stage I revise to make sure its music works. Possibly, for this reason, I’m drawn to contemporary forms that invite you to test their limits and try to break them. For example, I find sestinas too dense, so I invented a form that borrows the sestina’s patterns but has 18 lines rather than 39.

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

AD: Most exciting is that my debut poetry collection, kiss & release, is under contract to be published in 2024. While I wait for that, I’m working on another poetry book. I’m playing with persona in a different way from my past work, which is great fun. And I’m planning to attend one or more writing residencies next year to get some more focused time with that manuscript. Something a little more unexpected is that I’m also working on my first screenplay, a gay romantic comedy. We were just talking about forms, and romantic comedies are another example. They’re totally formulaic but seem to be able to hold an infinite number of combinations of characters and circumstances that lead to different results–some are more funny, some are more romantic, sometimes one partner has to grow, sometimes both, etc. You have to understand the form deeply to be able to do something new within it. That’s why I’ve been writing this since I think 2019. Also it became a little harder to finish when, in life, I got to the ending of my own romantic comedy when I met my partner in 2020 and moved in together last year.

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.

Diane Seuss is poet, teacher, and the author of five books of poetry, including frank: sonnets (Graywolf Press, 2021), winner of the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press, 2018), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry; Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf Press, 2015), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), recipient of the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Seuss lives in Michigan.

Purchase her collection, frank: sonnets, here.

Anthony DiPietro is a gay Rhode Island-born writer and arts administrator now living in Worcester, MA. He earned a creative writing MFA at Stony Brook University, where he also taught courses and planned and diversified arts programming. He now serves as deputy director of Rose Art Museum. His first chapbook, And Walk Through, a series of poems composed on a typewriter during the pandemic lockdowns, is now available, and his full-length poetry collection, kiss & release, will appear from Unsolicited Press in 2024. His website is

Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in The McNeese ReviewLongleaf ReviewRejection Letters,  and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @wannderfullll or read her publications at

Lyric Essentials: Jennifer Schomburg Kanke Reads Annie Finch

Welcome back to Lyric Essentials, where we invite authors to share the work of their favorite poets. This month, Jennifer Schomburg Kanke has joined us to discuss the work of Annie Finch, and the act of poetry as magic, formal poetry with contemporary topics, and resources to find similar poetry recommendations. As always, we hope you enjoy as much as we did.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Ryleigh Wann: When was the first time you read Annie Finch’s work? Why did it stand out to you then?

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke: The first time I read her work was when Calendars came out from Tupelo Press in the early aughts. It stood out to me because it was the first time I was reading contemporary poetry from a major press that wasn’t being vague about magic. These poems went beyond being just metaphor and symbol, they were spells and chants, and their power was palpable. At that time I’d been a practicing pagan for about four or five years and Calendars just opened up so many possibilities to me as a writer (of course, then I went into a graduate program a few years after and that possibility laid latent for a bit).

RW: Where would you recommend new readers of Finch’s work start out? What other similar poets do you recommend?

JSK: I would suggest starting with Calendars or Spells, if you’re looking for a collection. You can also find a lot of her work on the Poetry Foundation’s page, so if you want a broad overview, that’s a great place to go ( And Annie’s readings really bring her poems to life. You can find a lot of them on her YouTube channel ( I think the exact combination of what Annie Finch has going on can be difficult to find in other writers. But, if you like Annie’s emphasis on prosody in her work, there are so many great poets out there to recommend. Patricia Smith, Rita Dove, and Mark Jarman come to mind for contemporary formal work. Another really great place to find poets similar to her is by joining the Poetry Witch Community online which is open to only women (cis and trans) and gender nonconforming writers. It’s a wonderful place to make connection with and read the poetry of others who have been brought together through an interest in Annie Finch’s work.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke reads “Winter Solstice Chant” by Annie Finch

RW: Why did you choose to read these poems specifically?

JSK: I picked out one of her poems about abortion, “My Baby Fell Apart,” because it’s a great example of how formal poetry can still tackle tough contemporary topics. I picked out “Edge, Atlantic, July” because it’s a more recent poem, and also because I love the way it reminds us of nature’s ability to bring us back to ourselves, to shake us out of our own shit. And I picked out “Winter Solstice Chant” because it’s one of my favorites. It’s beautiful in the way that it’s both comforting and creepy all at once.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke reads “My Baby Fell Apart” by Annie Finch

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

JSK: I’m incredibly excited that an excerpt from the novel I’ve been working on will be appearing in Shenandoah in November. I’ve been sending the novel to contests and haven’t had any luck with it yet, so when they accepted the excerpt it just really made my heart sing because I was starting to worry that maybe it wasn’t connecting with people the way I wanted it to. And really I think it’s that I just need to find the people it will connect with. It’s called A Pleasant Loitering Journey and it’s the fictional memoir of a woman who becomes a literal goddess after going through chemo for ovarian cancer. It has a non-linear timeline and an almost ridiculous amount of direct addresses to the reader (and some three page footnoted asides that I’m hoping will crack others up as much as they crack me up), and by the end, becomes sort of a self-help book where she gives the reader tips for how to be a goddess while also spewing out all the times she’s fucked things up.

Read more from this interview at our Patreon.

Annie Finch is a poet, writer, speaker, and performer known for her powers of poetic rhythm and spellbinding readings of poetry infused with magic. Her other writings include books, plays, and essays on poetry, meter, feminism, and witchcraft and the anthology Choice Words: Writers on Abortion. Her poems have appeared onstage at Carnegie Hall and in The Paris Review, New York Times, and Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her website is

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke lives in Florida where she edits confidential documents. Her work has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, Nimrod, Massachusetts Review, and Salamander. Her zine about her experiences undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, Fine, Considering, is available from Rinky Dink Press. She serves as a reader for The Dodge. Her website is

Ryleigh Wann earned her MFA from UNC Wilmington where she taught poetry and served as the comics editor for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in The McNeese Review, Longleaf ReviewRejection Letters,  and elsewhere. Ryleigh currently lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @wannderfullll or read her work at

Sundress Announces the Pre-Order of Margo Berdeshevsky’s Kneel Said the Night

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the that pre-orders are now available for Margo Berdeshevsky’s Kneel Said the Night. Pulitzer- Prize-winning author, Diane Seuss, calls this collection “a lush, authoritative masterwork.”

Margo Berdeshevsky’s Kneel Said the Night weaves together intimacy, revamped fairy tales, erotic myth, and legend. Berdeshevsky articulates a composition that is balanced precariously between wonder and horror by merging poetry, prose, and visual art. The result is the fragmented world of a speaker that offers a visceral, lifelong journey of love and ruin. This collection explodes with relationships that are both passionate and complicated: a sick mother and her daughter, an unwanted child-turned-mother, a woman and her desires, a woman and her lovers, a woman and her predators, little boys and their predator. Oscillating between the real and the unreal, Kneel Said the Night renders pain and pleasure in equal parts, with imagery that cuts deeply, yet embraces its reader, asking both “who holds the winning hand?” and “who will save us?”

“Composed of lyric essays, line broken poems, revamped fairy tales, erotic myths, and histories clothed in see-through shifts, wearing Eau Sauvage men’s cologne, Kneel Said the Night: a hybrid book in half notes, is a lush, authoritative masterwork. This Red Riding Hood gathers flowers and details in her basket, and generates revivified archetypes—‘menstrual-colored canary,’ ‘full paunch moon’—that can only emerge from an imagination fed by solitude and desire (and Paris). ‘I’m the woman who asks how close is death, how near is God,’ Berdeshevsky writes, and in this intimate, audacious collection, the answer is very close, and very, very near.” 
—Diane Seuss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of frank: sonnets

Pre-order your copy of Kneel Said the Night on the Sundress website!

Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York City, often lives and writes in Paris. Her latest collection, Before The Drought, is from Glass Lyre Press, (a finalist for the National Poetry Series.) It Is Still Beautiful To Hear The Heart Beat is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness, (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press.) She is also the recipient of Grand Prize for Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award and the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Her work appears in Poetry International, New Letters, The Night Heron Barks, Kenyon Review, Plume, Scoundrel Time, The Collagist, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review, Harbor Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, The American Journal of Poetry, Jacar—One, Mānoa, Pirene’s Fountain, Big Other, Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, among many others. In Europe and the UK her works have been seen in The Poetry Review, PN Review, The Wolf, Europe, Siècle 21, Confluences Poétiques, Recours au Poème, Levure Littéraire, Under the Radar. Her “Letters from Paris” have appeared for many years in Poetry International online. She may be found reading from her books in London, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, at literary festivals, and/or somewhere new in the world. For more information, kindly see

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 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 Cup & Dagger

A row of 17 mini-chapbooks on a white background.
Photo: Sword and Kettle Press

The Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook series transports readers through 17 diverse stories, all published in tandem by Sword and Kettle Press. Swinging from experimental horror and poetry to fairytale retellings and fantasy, these stories harmonize through the emphasis they put on women, trans, and nonbinary experiences, using the fantastical as a vehicle for understanding. It’s this centering of underrepresented voices beyond the binary that makes these mini-chapbooks important and like few others. In society, we too often prioritize male voices and stories; but in this series, a diverse range of female, trans, and nonbinary voices is offered, fearlessly calling out the treatment of women in society and the standards we hold them to, while delivering a commentary on our treatment of the environment. Each no more than 12 pages, they contend with body issues, model culture, male cruelty to nature and women, and so much more. These mini-chapbooks dare to imagine worlds where women unite in grief, women help each other through times when they are shunned by the world, and where love is always valid. This way of storytelling, combined with depth of emotion and experimental ways of writing, is what makes this series worth amplifying.

In an innately heteronormative society, the works in this series decimate boundaries; in the six mini-chapbooks featuring romance, love is love, a desire for romance isn’t required, and queer romance is celebrated. Women find peace and harmony with wolves and androids, with women and men and no one at all, and each romance—or even shunning of romance—is no more or less valid than any other. For example, Encounters with Wolves in Three Acts by Shreya Ila Anasuya gives power to queer love while simultaneously relegating gender in love to irrelevancy with the story of verdant love and acceptance between woman and wolf in the woods at the center of an unforgiving concrete city. Corporate America, patriarchy, homophobia, and the rigidity of an artificial city are contrasted against nature, nurturing, and play, cradled by a family of wolves in the deep woods in the center of the city, as woman and wolf find love even as they find themselves pulled apart. Although the wolf is mentioned as female, ideas of gender can’t be fully projected onto this romance since we cannot assume that our ideas of gender correlate to those of wolves. In this way, the gender of the wolf becomes almost irrelevant, perhaps showing the irrelevance of gender in relation to love.

The impossible standards for women’s bodies, the dark side of the beauty industry, and the vagaries of modeling are illuminated as well. In A Hole Walked In by Sarah Cavar, a woman bleeds from every orifice, streaming from eyes and nose and mouth in great vision-staining rivulets that are dismissed as unconcerning by all that see her. While bleeding in the mall, a modeling agent “solicits me like a street preacher cries hellfire. I pretend I have been waiting for him my whole life […]. You have the look, he tells me.” Her body seemingly becomes not her own, something for display and something to be ashamed of, to stuff and pinch and beat into submission as she emerges into the modeling industry. The blood gushing from her face, clotting in her lungs, becomes a casual talking point as the damage that is occurring to her body (perhaps a metaphor for internal wounds) is normalized as a part of the effort to be pretty. The way that this story shines a light on how we bleed for a society that cares nothing for our health, with the hope that it will value us for our emaciated bodies, is vital. This mini-chapbook and others unapologetically challenges our society and forces the public to reckon with the harm intrinsic in the beauty standards we hold for women.

Dealing with themes of death, patriarchy, and love beyond barriers, the mini-chapbooks in this series often return to one unwavering truth; in our darkest moments, it’s often nature and each other who can save us. We find each other despite all odds. Sometimes, these characters unite in love; other times, they escape together from a world not meant for them, build new homes, save each other’s lives, or sew each other back together. Mothers warn daughters of men and sailors while nature provides them a home, as in The Seawalker’s Flame by Rebecca Payne, and female sirens teach a drowned woman how to live again with nature, as in No One Saw Ophelia Drown by Grace Noto. But there is not always a path through the darkness. At times, women shop alone in psychedelic post-apocalyptic grocery stores reminiscent of the work of Kelly Link, as in Bury Me In Iron and Ivy by Monica Robinson; live forever gaslit by male society about their own body, their comfort found in men only temporary, as in Take Care When Made of Glass by Rachel Brittain; and sometimes there is nothing left but to stand together with the soul-wrenching music of grief, as in Our Ballad in Soil by Bisola Sosan.

In this way, by providing a balance of support and disorientation, love and grief, this series shows women, trans, and nonbinary folks in glory. I wish that in this time of intersectional feminism it had gone even further; I’d like to see a continuation of the series which includes an even more vibrant array of inclusion. But the current collection still does something vital in that it encourages women supporting women, validates women’s struggles, centers their voices, and encourages acceptance of all people. Every Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook is worth reading, with tales ranging from those of unusual creatures inspired by Chinese-Malay myths from Singapore, to vanquished love and mortuary work in Russia, to burning ballerinas and the things we do for our image. With these implications and this broad coverage of tales around the stories of women, the voices of these micro-chapbooks echo and stay with us far beyond the page. Much like the haunting voice of the singer in Our Ballad in Soil, the voices of these writers “would go on until those ashes in the ground felt satisfied. We would keep humming with [them].” And perhaps we will use them to build a better feminist society.

The Cup & Dagger mini-chapbook series is available at Sword and Kettle Press

A young white woman with short bleached hair and octagon glasses stands before a green background. She wears a collared shirt, gray sweater, and blue lace top.

Solstice Black (she/they) is a queer poet and novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. They are currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chautauqua, The Fantastic Other, and A Forest of Words, among others. They hope to pursue an MFA in creative writing and a BFA in visual art in the next few years. Her cat is both her greatest joy and torment.

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 Publications Open for Microgrant Applications for Black and/or Indigenous Writers

Call for Submissions for Light Bill Incubator Grant

Sundress Publications is now open to submissions for grant applications from Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers with a chapbook in progress. All eligible authors are welcome to submit during our application period from August 1st to October 31st, 2022.

The Light Bill Incubator Microgrant will award $500, a slot in Sundress’s reading series, a residency at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, TN, and the potential for digital publication. This award will go to one Black and/or Indigenous writer with a chapbook in progress, to support the completion of said project

All applications will be read by members of our editorial board. One writer will be selected, who will then work with Sundress’s reading series coordinator, residency team and editorial board. 

Applicants may apply with any genre; however, the proposed project must be chapbook-length, meaning the planned final version should be no more than 48 pages. 

To apply, please send a sample of the chapbook in progress along with a brief (no more than 500 words) artist/personal statement. These items should be sent to our editorial board as DOCX or PDF files at Please include the phrase “Light Bill Incubator Microgrant Application” in the subject line. There is no fee to apply.