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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sundress Reads: Review of 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 sundresspublications@gmail.com. Please include the phrase “Light Bill Incubator Microgrant Application” in the subject line. There is no fee to apply.

Meet Our New Intern: Emory Night

Settling into wanting to do something has not come easily to me. I know a lot of people who would say the same, but coming into my fifth year of college has made me reckon with that fact. I have had to examine everything about me, from where I come from to where I want to go to who I want to be. I looked back at my childhood, my teenage years, and tried to find something, anything, that would point me in some direction.

Everything always seemed to lead itself back to writing. 

As a child, I was the kid who made the worlds we played in. I was the kid who helped people develop wild backstories, who helped people feel seen in their roles in what we played. I was the one writing “lyrics” for the band that my cousins and I were totally going to start. I was that middle schooler who wrote fanfiction and always had a notebook to just jot something, anything, down whenever I could. In high school I took advanced English classes, studied musical composition in relation to the written word, worked in the school’s library in the morning, and wrote essay after essay about what I wanted to do for college.

It’s funny to think that in those essays I was writing about becoming a kinesiologist. That, of course, didn’t last. Before orientation, I had already changed my major to public relations, something I was absolutely fascinated with. I saw it as an opportunity to use my voice and have an impact and was so excited for it. First semester of sophomore year, I realized that it wasn’t quite right. I wanted to help people and PR didn’t really seem like the best way for me to do that. I switched around a lot of communications majors until switching to psychology. It felt closer to what I wanted to do, but nothing really clicked until I switched to English.

It feels obvious looking back. Of course the best way to use my voice and help people would be through English, through writing. Questioning what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, has led me to this most amazing place in my life where I am finally recognizing what I want. I wish I could take credit for this realization, but honestly it was my friends who noticed it before I did. Part of that is why I am here in the first place. If I had not had others to lift me up, I would still be unhappily working towards a degree that didn’t suit me. Community is always something I want to strive to participate in and create. Being here means that I get to do both.


Emory Night is currently studying at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. They plan to graduate with a BA in English and a minor in secondary education. They are an intern with The Jones Center for Leadership and Service and read regularly with Writers Block, a writing club at the University of Tennessee.

Project Bookshelf: Crysta Montiel

I’ve scattered parts of my bookshelf all over Toronto. Sometimes, on random weekend trips to the west end, I visit local book stores to window shop. I always tell myself that I won’t buy anything, but the city’s talented booksellers tempt me with rare gems. Gems that I have an unfortunate habit of losing.

As Murphy’s law famously states, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Sometimes I forget my books in transitory places—buses, trains, and planes. Other times, I forget my books at friends’ places, vowing to retrieve them until the statute of limitations finally applies. Either way, I suppose that every book I’ve ever lost goes through a long cycle of finding, trading, borrowing, gifting, and re-gifting. I’m a firm believer in the idea that a book comes to life again every time a new pair of eyes reads it.

Because I’m so giving, and not at all because of my tendency to misplace books, my personal collection remains fairly small. Above my desk, I have a shelf of academic books on English literature, poetry, and philosophy. I keep these on hand because they’re writing resources that I flip through and cite whenever I need to. On an adjacent wall, I have a shelf stacked with fiction, which is mostly untouched because I’ve read them all.

Libraries are a magical place where people breathe life into literature over and over again, which is why I gravitate toward them. Toronto Public Library has annual book sales, where they sell donated books and books from their collections. All the profits are used to support library programs, so it’s basically guilt-free shopping. My most prized books are the ones that I picked up there in my youth.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was my first coming-of-age book. The protagonist, an orphan boy, is raised by an ensemble of quirky graveyard monsters. Imagine Boyhood (2014) if it was a dark whimsy children’s book. Likewise, I felt seen by Adam Green’s Satsuma Sun-Mover, a comedic tale about a Cambridge philosophy student caught between two warring factions: the Hegelians and the Positivists.

It’s strange to verbalize my love for these books because the feeling is so intimate. For me, the select few books that I keep in my collection are the ones that I’ve attached to core memories.

And, yes, I’ve alleviated my forgetfulness by using an e-reader for most books I buy today. I like being able to highlight and save quotes, bookmark pages, and ctrl+f search for words. The screen also brightens at night if I ever want to read in the dark.

On my e-reader, I probably have over 5000 books now. Even though it’s just a tablet and the books are digital, I like to envision my personal collection looks something like Jorge Luis Borges’ “Library of Babel.” This romantic image makes me feel a lot better about having a collection scattered over the city with books I can’t actually see.


Crysta Montiel is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto in Canada, where she studies English Literature and Philosophy. She previously worked as an editorial intern at Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. When Crysta’s not digging through treasure troves of queries, she’s completing her Criterion Collection bucket list and playing with her cat. 

Interview with Mackenzie Berry, Author of Slack Tongue City

With the recent publication of her debut poetry collection, Slack Tongue City, Sundress Publications author Mackenzie Berry sat down with our intern, Katherine DeCoste, to discuss how her Southern roots, food, and regionality inform her writing. This collection of poetry explores sensory manifestations of longing, transforming ideas of the “homeland” from a physical place to a place of memory.

Katherine DeCoste: The poems in this collection frequently returns to food—grits, coffee, mac & cheese. Can you speak to how food informs identity and community in your work?

Mackenzie Berry: To know any place, I think you have to taste it. And it feels especially important when talking about the U.S. South. So, I had to talk about it when talking about Louisville. At every church potluck, it was all on the table—who made what, hurrying up to get something before it’s gone. Food is so transitory and still so important. Food feels like the concrete manifestation of nostalgia and longing, and my writing has a lot of longing.

KD: You use a wide range of forms here, from prose poem to ghazal, sestina, and pantoum. How did you arrive at these specific forms, and how did they shape these poems?

MB: Honestly, the form poems came out of assignments to write specific form poems in college, when I wrote most of the manuscript. I used the space of form as a means to have musicality or give direction to particular content I wanted to write about. The jug band poem felt like it had to be a sestina because the repeating six words could tell a long story but remain with emphasis. The ghazal is my favorite form, because it’s so musical, so there are a couple of them. It has a chorus built in—something to return to and anchor the poem. The forms also gave the poems a direction to arrive at by the end of a line, something to write toward, so that helped the poems come into being. Writing some of them was writing a puzzle, which felt accurate to the content.

KD: Can you tell me more about the “after” poems in this collection, and how other creatives influenced your work?

MB: Sure—the “after” poems here are citations. A few gesture to some poets I’ve read and their work—John Murillo, Frank X Walker, Brigit Pegeen Kelly. A couple others reference an event as a starting point, as a head of the poem, and don’t return to it in the body of the poem. I’ve drawn from so many poets for their music, for their song. Joy Priest was the first Louisville poet I read on the page, and her work Horsepower has the hum and the engine, as the title suggests.

KD: In “Mama Said Louisville’s not the South Because it Dresses Grits Fancy,” you tease out tension around regionality, especially concerning the South and Midwest. Can you speak more to this?

MB: Louisville’s always been in a geographic struggle with which region it belongs to, and with its relationship with Kentucky as a whole, so I wanted to play that out in this poem with some humor and with specificity. It was funny to me that my mom’s singular and unequivocal criteria for why Louisville is not the South is on account of grits. And yet, of course it is.

KD: Tell me about the book’s three sections. What moved you to structure the collection this way? 

MB: I saw three clear groupings of poems—Louisville poems, childhood/upbringing poems, and grief/heartbreak poems. I tried weaving them all together so that the collection wouldn’t read as disconnected, then tried sections, then returned to no sections, but once my editor Tennison suggested putting them into sections to see how it read, it felt like each one built on the last and that the collection had a clear arc.

KD: You write “if a city is a body it’s redrawing its anatomy” in “Three Truths & A Lie.” How do you see Louisville as a character, as well as a place or setting, in these poems?

MB: I see Louisville as a sky, as an overlook, as an underground, as actually an arbitrary thing—a defined city with borders—as another place which only exists from displacing Indigenous peoples, and that is where I come from. It has many people acting upon it and stretching it into something else, and all it can do is watch it happen in some instances, but in other instances other actors refuse that.

KD: “On Being From Nobody” details a violent encounter between the speaker and “the boy who is almost a man.” Can you tell me how you see femininity and masculinity at play in this poem, as well as throughout the collection?

MB: I don’t see masculinity in this poem but a caricature of it. This caricature is used by “the body who is almost a man” as leverage and as a threat, as something that rages and laughs about it. In the collection as a whole, girlhood and womanhood is something that multiplies and becomes abundant the more it feeds itself. It makes itself, in the absence of and in the howling for. 

KD: Slack Tongue City is as concerned with history as it is with location and place. With that in mind, how do you see these poems engaging with the notion of being “from” a place?

MB: Yes. I’m caught up with archives, and I felt such a need to archive this place as I’ve known it and put my finger on the map, knowing it will never return back there. I think these poems live at the tension of simultaneously being from a place and being beyond it. Of being attached to a physical place as a reference point, as a landing ground, and knowing that ground is ever shaking. I’ve always thought that the best way to read history is to read the poets of the time. Because poetry will bring you into the house, into the kitchen, whereas other depictions may stop at the street, or only go as far as the front door. I’ve always thought of poets as historians from the first collection I ever read, which was Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney.

KD: The collection’s second section presents several recollections from the speaker’s childhood, like their mother’s cookies and purchasing a bike at a garage sale. What is poetry’s role in engaging with these kinds of memories?

MB: Poetry can be used as an archive of the personal. I certainly use it for that. It’s great for memory because by genre it can be incoherent and jarring and parsed and jumpy, which memories often are. Poetry is good for making a quilt. 

Order your copy of Slack Tongue City today!


Mackenzie Berry’s poetry is inspired by Louisville, Kentucky, her hometown and subject of her debut poetry collection, Slack Tongue City. Her poetry has been published in Vinyl, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Hobart, and Blood Orange Review, among others. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Cornell University.

Katherine DeCoste is an MA student at the University of Victoria, on the stolen lands of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples and the WSANEC peoples. Their poems have appeared in Grain MagazineThe Antigonish ReviewContemporary Verse 2, and elsewhere, and their play “many hollow mercies” won the 2020 Alberta Playwriting Competition Novitiate Prize. When not writing, reading, or answering emails, you can find them baking vegan snacks and forcing their friends to play Dungeons and Dragons.

We Call Upon the Author to Explain—Saida Agostini

Saida Agostini’s first collection of poetry, let the dead in, moves between mythology and day-to-day life as if there are no boundaries between. A radical act of love for self and community, the poems imagine the fantastic in terms of beauty and a blending of realities. Saida was kind enough to take the time to sit down and answer some questions for this column, and her answers here are as thoughtful and gorgeous as the poetry itself.

Alex DiFrancesco: Saida, I just finished your book, and I was so incredibly moved by it—by the fabulist poems, by the love poems, by the death poems, and by the murder poems. I suppose my first question is that, as I read the first section, “Notes on Archiving Erasure,” it occurred to me, at first, that I was reading speculative poetry, then my feelings on it shifted towards it maybe being magical realism, then finally to the idea that I was perhaps reading creation mythology in poetic

Saida Agostini: I suppose it’s really a hybridization of all those forms. On some level, I would argue that the presence of Black love and its ability to not only survive but expand in the midst of white patriarchal violence is a miracle worthy of not only interrogation but deep study. In writing this collection, I’ve explored the mythology surrounding not only my creation but the creation of my kin and ancestors. I come from a line of powerfully stubborn, deeply rooted, and loving people who keep moving towards freedom. The stories we have told to ourselves to survive are astounding—everything from kidnapping mermaids and whispering jumbees to the half-buried histories of our own evolution. I remember a few years ago, I heard Sapphire speak about Push, and how it is the story of literacy—a young Black girl who comes into her power through learning the written word. The first section chronicles my own journey to emotional literacy: it explores how I became fluent in the histories and emotions of my family, abuse and love.

AD: There is a sense in this book that family is not something that one can separate from, even if the family in question engages in physical abuse, or, in the case of “Bresha Meadows Speaks on Divinity,” a variety of abuses (I’m thinking here of Meadows holding her father after/as she murders him). Can you speak more to this intrinsic link to family, whether one desires it or not?

SA: Families of origin feel inescapable to me. I am a social worker, and always interested in how others make sense of their kin. I have always felt a deep necessity to honor my family—even in the moments where harm is happening. I think in the retelling of great and small wounds, we tend to move into binaries that do not serve us, or reflect the complexities of human emotions. I was formerly a member of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a collective that organized the Monument Quilt, a collection of over three thousand quilt squares from survivors and allies. In the workshops I held, so few people spoke, or felt, in absolute terms. It’s complicated, hard and tricky—especially when it’s family. My work tries to move beyond reductive narratives about abuse, and explore what happens when survivor’s voices are given room to express everything. And that’s what family is right? A tricky, hard, difficult space that generates so much love, confusion, and hope. I have experienced great harm in my family. And yet, I have experienced great love. When I talk about the things I have survived, I need room to make you understand all of it: the ability to move back and forth throughout time, to shift between love, pain and, joy. No matter how we are connected or disconnected from family, those stories and lineages stay with us.

AD: I absolutely adored the persona poems from the series of monsters and spirits in “We Find the Fantastic.” I also noticed and loved, though, that this section holds some poems on Black lesbian love and sex—and I’m wondering about the melding here of fantastic in the “fantasy” and the “wonderful” sense.

SA: As a baby queer, desire and pleasure felt very much in the realm of both fantasy and the fantastic. Raised in public schools by conservative immigrant parents, I very much remember the only conversations we had about sexuality were grounded in the mechanics of reproduction. I couldn’t tell you very much about pleasure, but I could tell you about the zygote. As I grew up, so much of my agency and sense of self came from discovering how I could generate pleasure in myself and others. To this day, I have a sense of awe in thinking about it. In a culture where we are constantly taught to revere production, outcomes, and capitalism, it is an act of liberation to engage in acts that have no intended purpose other than joy. As I meditate on fantasy, whether I am speaking on mermaids, Harriet Tubman’s pursuit of Sojourner Truth or Black queer love, what I am really speaking about is building a world that revels in deep joy.

AD: God is seen again and again as a Black woman in this collection. Harriet Tubman and Sojourner truth become lesbian lovers and heroes. I want to ask you to talk more about Black women’s power and love for each other here, about these ideas of Black women, particularly fat Black women and lesbians, as gods/heroes.

SA: There are very few days that I don’t hate my body. That’s not shocking—I am a fat Black woman in a culture that derides any body that doesn’t fit within audaciously restrictive and fatphobic standards of beauty. I don’t ever remember seeing a fat Black woman in popular culture that was not a figure of derision or mockery. Whether we are talking about the Klumps in Nutty Professor or Madea, what I learned about fat Black women is that we are not worthy of pleasure. Toni Morrison’s often repeated edict, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” brought me to the page. I wanted to see myself in the pages. I wanted to fall in love with me as I am. To witness fat Black women who revel in their bodies and the pleasure it brings. There is something divine about that, right? To articulate a way of being that centers Black womanhood and pleasure as intoxicating and lovely, worthy of worship. The creation stories in let the dead in are about bucking any gaze that cannot celebrate the expansiveness of Blackness and our bodies.

AD: There is a series of poems in section three, “American Love,” about Black people who are murdered by the police, or otherwise brutalized by the justice system in America. You make, what I felt, was an extremely bold move of not just memorializing these folks, but also, particularly in the poem “If Tamir Rice and Eric Garner Wore Heels,” of calling out who is often left out of the extremely righteous rage people have expressed over these murders. Can you talk more about who is left out?

SA: It is unbearable that the daily lives of Black folks attract such profound and lethal risks. It is unforgivable to know that the lives of Black folks who exist outside of the white gaze will not be grieved. We all know the brutal calculus behind public grieving in American culture. The precarity that Black women, queer folks, trans and gender non-conforming communities face is so absurd, they go without comment or care. The gymnastics that must be proved to merit grief, let alone a public response to the harm Black folks face outside of cis-heteronormativity is exhausting. Makhia Bryant should be alive. CeCe McDonald should never have been incarcerated. Breonna Taylor should have woken up that morning. I am no longer interested in inviting white culture to meditate on why these realities exist. I am however demanding that our community explore how white gaze limits our ability for great love.

let the dead in is available through Alan Squire Publishing


Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet whose work explores the ways that Black folks harness mythology to enter the fantastic. Saida’s first collection of poems, let the dead in, was a finalist for the Center of African American Poetry & Poetics’ 2020 Book Prize as well as the New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the author of STUNT (Neon Hemlock, October 2020), a chapbook exploring the history of Nellie Jackson, a Black woman entrepreneur who operated a brothel for sixty years in Natchez, Mississippi. Her poetry can also be found in the Black Ladies Brunch Collective’s anthology Not Without Our Laughter, Barrelhouse Magazine, Hobart Pulp, Plume, and other publications. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, Saida has been awarded honors and support for her work by the Watering Hole and Blue Mountain Center, as well as a 2018 Rubys Grant funding travel to Guyana to support the completion of her first manuscript. She is a Best of the Net Finalist and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer who has published work in Tin HouseThe Washington PostPacific StandardVol. 1 BrooklynThe New Ohio ReviewBrevity, and more. In 2019, they published their essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press), which was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards. They are an assistant editor at Sundress Publications.

Meet Our New Intern: Crysta Montiel

When I was a child, I imitated the many books that I read, silently narrating my day-to-day. Although my personal stories were always mundane, to me, they were never boring. My unpleasant French teacher, who I won’t name, became Miss Trunchbull. My childhood crush was as dashing as Prince Caspian. A walk with my best friend had the potential to be as riveting as an adventure with Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. I clung to these stories because they prescribed me a sense of order and predictability as a child. When a narrator speaks, one can usually expect a happy ending. While I now know that that’s not always the case in real life, cultivating an inner “literary” monologue allowed me to better interpret the outside world.

As I grew older, my child-like narrative voice slowly faded away. Instead, I had an intense longing to engage with others’ storytelling. I wanted to understand how they perceived the world, but, most of all, I wanted to help them master the necessary tools to tell their stories. I imagine that everyone has their own inner narrative voice, and that the task of a good editor is both to nurture it and to help writers clearly convey their tales to readers.

With this in mind, after high school, I decided to enroll as an English and Philosophy major at the University of Toronto. As an undergraduate, I refined my literary criticism by studying theory and reading the classics. However, my real schooling began last semester when I was fortunate enough to intern at a literary agency based in New York City—this experience solidified my passion for the publishing industry.

With revitalized vigor for the opportunities that lie ahead, I’m excited to join the Sundress Publications team this year and learn more about what literary publishing entails.


Crysta Montiel is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto in Canada, where she studies English Literature and Philosophy. She previously worked as an editorial intern at Ayesha Pande Literary Agency. When Crysta’s not digging through treasure troves of queries, she’s completing her Criterion Collection bucket list and playing with her cat. 

Sundress Announces the Release of Jason B. Crawford’s Year of the Unicorn Kidz

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the release of Jason B. Crawford’s Year of the Unicorn Kidz. Crawford’s poetry delicately details the thrills and dangers of self-discovery on the margins of reality.

Jason B. Crawford’s Year of the Unicorn Kidz beautifully explores existence on the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality. Their profound navigation of identity, violence, and desire transcends boundaries and binaries. Vulnerability takes the centre stage as the speaker of these descriptive and passionate poems unburies old relationships and haunting memories. Year of the Unicorn Kidz reads like a coming-of-age story for marginalized youth in America, sketching the body in terms of disconnection, loss, and the explosive nature of desire. From burning rage to healing friendships to the thrill of forbidden encounters and the regrets that follow them, Crawford revisits the reckless elements of youth that capture the inner and outer conflicts of self-discovery. They bring incredible depth to their poetry with urgent and vivid storytelling that delicately reveals the complexity of reality, while also leaving room for readers to reflect on their own.

torrin a. greathouse, author of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound, and boy/girl/ghost says, “In Year of the Unicorn Kidz, ode and elegy coexist by necessity. Crawford crafts for us a poetic landscape sat at the intersection of violence and desire, drenched in neon and horror movie fog. Even in this book’s happiest poems, risk is always in the periphery, whether they are writing about beloved friends, cruising, or childhood memories. Undergirding the entire collection is Crawford’s particular talent for writing through violence with stunning tenderness, rendering knives and teeth blunt even as they speak them sharp into a poem.”

Pre-order your copy of Year of the Unicorn Kidz on the Sundress website: https://sundress-publications.square.site/

Jason B. Crawford (they/them) is a Black, nonbinary, queer writer. Crawford is the author of three chapbooks: Summertime Fine (Variant Literaure, 2021), Twerkable Moments (Paper Nautilus, 2021), and Good Boi (Neon Hemlock, 2021). Crawford is a current poetry MFA candidate at The New School in New York, NY.