Petty Yawp: Submission Trends and Tips

March 28th, 2017

Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Assistant Editor James Ellenberger: The Trump submissions have arrived. Droves of flaxen-haired poems and stories bask in the submission queue like flaccid porcupines, bristling at the cool, liberal wind that whistles atop our heads here at the CR office. Things to keep in mind: Trump is, yes, a total goon, an irregular Cheeto that shouldn’t have made it through quality control. But alas. The Electoral College, with some help from the people, has chosen.

It’s rough. No bones about it. Even in a post about reining ourselves in as writers, I can’t help but take pot shots. It’s hard not to be frustrated with this presidency, let alone with the fissures in our political and social consciousness that the election brought into the light. The air in office breakrooms and at family dinners is thick, as if with gasoline fumes. Everyone has talking points heavy as flint in their pockets. Internet forums, too, invite the incendiary; laid out like coal quarries, they burn endlessly underneath like Centralia, PA. It’s a difficult time. But even so, our writing, the stuff that we’re showing others and trying to publish, doesn’t have to become dismissive, petty, and aggressive.

In the many, many submissions that I’ve read over the past few months, I’ve seen every known subspecies of ad hominem argument. Authors have demonized large swaths of individuals for their education, political affiliation, geographical location, financial situation, race, and gender. There have been assassination fantasies, absurd caricatures, and parodied elections. Rural characters have struggled to distinguish their orifices from holes in the ground while academics build castles of glass and stock up on stones.

There’s catharsis in skewering a known enemy, feeling as though the page alone remains the bastion of total personal expression. Before you send a Trump submission–or that story about a working-class hero who’s easily manipulated, all heart and no brains–out for publication, perhaps consider how “on the nose” it is. What conversation is it entering? What kind of belief system is it perpetuating? In other words, is the work doing more than yawping in the echo chamber of what’s already been said? Is it work that’s doing more than venting, berating, or inciting anger? Is it giving folks a fair shake or relying heavily on the unfair dogmas we’ve adopted as Truth?

That isn’t to say that we don’t want your politically-minded work. We love submissions that grapple with difficult situations and our current political climate. Susann Cokal’s “Fourteen Shakes the Baby,” which appeared in issue 13.1, is a great example of this brand of work. It’s shocking and brutal, yet beneath its surface we can see a political and social system deeply ingrained with misogyny, one that exists well beyond one young woman’s experiences. The text’s relentless focus on the body manages to cross the liminal space between abstract policy and how we really live our lives. We ought to use our writing as an opportunity to embrace complexity rather than reification of the binaries that got us here in the first place.

The Fourth C of Good Copyediting

March 26th, 2017

Nicola Mason continues her YouTube series on the Five Cs of Good Copyediting. This week: Conciseness.

Statement in Support of the NEA

March 23rd, 2017

Given President Trump’s proposed budget and its implications for (or, rather, complete slashing of) the National Endowment for the Arts, we here at The Cincinnati Review are joining others in the writing community to state officially that we stand in solidarity with the NEA.

We would also like to acknowledge our own ventures made possible by the NEA’s generosity. With a FY2014 grant for $10,000, The Cincinnati Review was able to: devote two issues (11.2 & 12.1) to publishing literature in longer forms; produce our tenth-anniversary centerpiece, Moth, a 56-page, full-color graphic play written by Declan Greene and illustrated by Gabe Ostley; and begin an archival project that has us digitizing back issues for classroom use, to bring The Cincinnati Review and the work of its contributors into broader readership and conversation.

Beyond our own award, we’ve benefited from individual grants made to our staff members, editors, and contributors, as well as colleagues in the University of Cincinnati English department. As consumers of art, we’ve enjoyed the fruits of the NEA’s grants to other local organizations, including the Ballet, Opera, and Symphony Orchestra, and various museums and theater companies. Even ArtWorks Cincinnati’s mural program, which pairs teens with professional artists to paint murals throughout the city, has received crucial backing from the NEA.

These projects and many, many others both here and nationwide pump money into local economies and sustain communities in immeasurable, intangible ways. The NEA is a lifeline for those who create art and those who appreciate it, especially in smaller and more rural areas. By adding our voice to the chorus, we hope to encourage you, our readers and friends, to contact your representatives in Congress and express your support for the NEA.

Find more information and a sample script here at The Literary Network site.

NEA image

What’s Poetry Got to Do With It?: Introversion/Extraversion

March 21st, 2017

musings by José Angel Araguz

Episode 7: Introversion/Extraversion

In this episode I explore ways that the terms introversion and extraversion can be used as a lens with which to read poems.

The Introvert/Extravert Lens

The terms introversion and extraversion were first significantly put into use by Carl Jung and later popularized by personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator. From there, popular culture has redefined the terms over time. In general, an introvert is someone who is more reserved and leans toward solitary behavior, while an extravert is seen as someone who is outgoing, talkative, and energetic. As with any set of categories, the terms are not strict; rather, it is best to consider them as making up two sides of a spectrum on which everyone exists leaning one way or another to varying degrees.

One of the things that helped clear this up for me was seeing how the terms played out in regards to recharging one’s energy. If at the end of the week, you look forward to going out and socializing, and actually come back from said outing recharged, you might be an extravert. Conversely, if you go out on the same outing and come back exhausted, no more recharged than when you started, you might be an introvert. Seeing my introverted tendencies as me meeting my needs (and not necessarily my being antisocial) did worlds for my understanding of myself as an introvert. It also helped me empathize with my more extraverted friends and see them as meeting their own needs as well.

For further clarification (and fun!), Buzzfeed has several quizzes and lists that can help you find out if you are more introverted or extroverted.

Inner & Outer Worlds

To return to Jung, his original concept of the terms had him regarding people as either focused on their inner worlds and thoughts (introverts) at the expense of losing touch with their surroundings, or focused on the external world and being active in it (extraverts) at the expense of losing touch with themselves.

One poet whose work reflects the complexity of the introvert-extravert/inner-outer world spectrum is Emily Dickinson. Due to having lived a life of isolation, Dickinson is often written off as an introvert. Lines like the following would in fact help make the case:

The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The draw of these lines is how they take concrete things (brain, sky) and push them for the abstract meanings they imply. While on the surface the poem appears to be making a case for mind over matter, so to speak, a deeper reading shows something more akin to mind within matter. In one stanza, Dickinson does the poetic equivalent of pulling apart two strong magnets to show what lives between them.

In another poem, Dickinson does a reversal of these moves:

A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flask of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—a caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!

Here, the poem travels from the abstract act of naming physical things to the speaker announcing/becoming a rose. A sign of the transformation begins early in the second line in the form of sound, specifically the “z” sound (summer’s, breeze, trees, rose). As the poem develops, this sound travels parallel to the transformation implied in the words, and becomes its own physical presence, especially if read aloud.

In these two poems, one can see how the inner and outer world engage and impel one another, never cancelling each other out. In a similar way, one’s introversion never cancels out extraverted tendencies and needs.

Final Thoughts

Usually my introverted tendencies would have me continue with examples, ruminating over other poems and unpacking what I find there. I am going to push myself to look outward, however, and invite readers to share their thoughts in the comments regarding introversion and extraversion. I also encourage you to, in your writing, push past whatever type you see yourself leaning towards. If you write mainly about inner impressions, take a walk or describe the physical world around you. If you write mainly about the physical world, start with rhetoric or abstract thought. In either case, you might find yourself reflecting your true nature in a new and surprising way.

A Video Poem: Kathy Fagan’s “In California”

March 17th, 2017

One of our more ambitious projects these days is making use of the wonderful Elliston archives. For decades, readings in the storied Elliston Room have been recorded, and many of these readers are contributors to CR. Our goal is not just to present the distinctive voices of these poets reading their own works but to make them, well, rock stars. Hence . . . creating videos to accompany their Elliston audios. Our second effort (put together by the talented Ben Dudley) is Kathy Fagan’s “In California.” Next week: a closer look at the Elliston Project!

Best New Poets nominations!

March 16th, 2017

Continuing in the spirit of sending good vibes to our contributors, we are happy to announce our nominees for the Best New Poets anthology: Paige Lewis’s “Jayne” and Jen Schalliol’s “The Open Mouth” (both in issue 13.1).

Best New Poets is an annual anthology of fifty poems from emerging writers who haven’t yet published a full-length book. Poets are nominated by writing programs and literary magazines (like us!), or they can enter an open competition after the first round of nominations. The book is distributed nationally as a University of Virginia Press title and produced in cooperation with Meridian, a semiannual literary magazine from the University of Virginia. Natalie Diaz is the guest editor this year. Check out the BNP site to find out more.

About our nominees:

Paige Lewis is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Narrative Magazine. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.

Jen Schalliol, a Chicago native and Pushcart nominee, received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her chapbook, Means of Access, was printed through The Kenyon Review, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salt Magazine, Landscapes, decomP, Gapers Block, RHINO, Farrago’s Wainscot, and elsewhere.

Copies of 13.1 can purchased here.

Congratulations to our nominees – and good luck!

Submission Period Closing Soon!!! Special Call for Nonfiction

March 14th, 2017

Just a quick reminder that our Submission Period will close on March 15th (at 11:59pm, EST – to be technical).

Due to trends discussed recently by our esteemed Senior Associate Editor Matt O’Keefe, we especially welcome literary nonfiction submissions. So if you’ve got a lyric essay, travel narrative about your last trip to Mongolia, flash-style memoir, personal essay told via bullet points, or nonfiction hybrid form, send it our way; we’d love to see it!

Poets and fiction writers, we’d love to see your work too–just don’t miss the deadline . . .

Find your way to your Submission Manager here.

 

Managing Editor Lisa Ampleman on Our Summer Issue

March 13th, 2017

Contributor News: Wayne Miller

March 10th, 2017

Here at the Cincinnati Review we’re always rooting for our talented contributors, so we’re especially happy today because of some good news from Poetry Editor Don Bogen:

Don Bogen: Congratulations are in order for poet, translator, editor, and CR contributor Wayne Miller, whose most recent book Post- (Milkweed Editions, 2016) was just awarded the Rainer Maria Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas. The prize is for “a book that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision written by a mid-career poet.” And while it does not provide free room and board in an aristocrat’s castle, as its name might imply, it includes a reading at UNT and a good-sized check of $10,000. It is much deserved.

Wayne’s work has been all over our pages and our blog, and we’re glad to have it. Post- includes a poem that originally appeared in our Winter 2015 issue, and you can read José Angel Araguz’s microreview of the book & an interview here.  A review of Wayne’s previous book The City, Our City appeared in the Summer 2012 issue, and another poem of his back in Winter 2010. Wayne’s been here in the flesh too.  If you’d like to hear him talking about his work and reading some poems from Post- and The City, Our City, a reading and a Q&A from his 2010 visit to the University of Cincinnati are available in the Elliston Project archives here.

Hearty congratulations to a friend, a contributor, and one terrific poet.

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Please note that our reading period ends in less than a week! Submit here before March 15th.

microreview & interview: Rochelle Hurt’s In Which I Play the Runaway

March 6th, 2017

by José Angel Araguz

RUNAWAYIn “The Miami River Floods,” from Rochelle Hurt’s collection In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street Press), the speaker addresses her father while watching footage of the Miami River flooding and speculates on the following:

how many babies will be born tonight in heroic backseat
deliveries as cars float down the freeway? They will carry

those stories all their lives like everyone else—
not from memory, but narrative inheritance. How dutifully

we gulp down circumstance as fate

This idea of narrative inheritance lies at the heart of this collection whose poems challenge accepted narratives about womanhood, fairy tales, movies, and family, always with an eye toward questioning the reflex to “gulp down circumstance as fate.”

Throughout the collection, Hurt displays a deft ability to create images that allow narrative to be carried, developed, and understood on an intellectual and emotional level simultaneously. In the poem “Self-portrait in Needmore, Indiana,” for example, the reader is presented with the following:

As expected, after the wedding, the house
became a cough we lived in, trembling
in the throat of that asthmatic spring.

These three lines set a narrative, then quickly compound it. Within the logic of these lines there are implications of weakness and affliction. A ceremony of union changes the world around the poem’s characters, so that it can only be understood in terms of an afflicted body. This metaphor places the emotional charge of the poem within the body, while the imagery unfolds in a way that mirrors the sudden and unwieldy transitions of real life. This poem continues in terms of the body:

The streets stacked and curved like fingers
on a grease-knuckled hand gripping
the waist of our Midwestern dream.

The narrative of affliction continues here with the additional pressure of possessive relationships added. As the self is caught in the body, the speaker of this self-portrait (one of a series in the collection) is caught behind the narrative inheritance of marriage. The poem’s conclusion makes clear what the stakes are of being caught:

I could have died etching my name
into the glass eye of my cage—a bay
window painted with lace. The skyline
in its expanse was a farce played out each night.

Sometimes my reflection was the star
of the show. Sometimes it was the child
clapping from her seat, so looking out
and looking in became the same thing.
Sometimes it just rained for weeks.

After the description of the bay window as a “glass eye,” the poem develops the metaphor of hindered sight by presenting several shifting images. The speaker’s listing of reflections of self then of the child evokes the potential loss of self of parenting. This loss is further emphasized in the last line, where the speaker sees only rain, implying a complete loss of being able to see themselves or anyone.

While the above poem and others present a poetic sensibility capable of speaking in terms of the body, the “runaway” of the collection’s title is also present throughout offering its own language. The runaway theme runs counter to the body-centered theme and creates a push/pull effect. In “Poem in Which I Play the Runaway,” these two themes interact:

It could open with a party, strewn
with girls like tinsel, girls looking
for a house to stuff themselves in [. . .]

Or a chase scene: some ranch house
with walls thin as a mother’s dress,
long emptied of men and closing on me.

I never wanted a home in him,
but the sex was like licking sheets
of corrugated iron, my torn maw
breathing in the corrosion

Here, the speaker works out two variations on house narratives, the speaker’s voice charged with swagger and conviction as they reimagine via metaphor. The third stanza shows this reimagining impulse suddenly grounded. After the statement of not wanting “a home in him,” a statement still working on the intellectual/imaginative level, the speaker describes how “the sex was like licking sheets / of corrugated iron,” a description which brings the poem back into the body. This synesthesia mirrors the argument between the imagination and the body engaged with in this poem. The runaway theme here is embodied in the speaker’s attempts to escape narrative while acknowledging their ties to it.

It is in this tension between escape and acknowledgment where the collection’s most compelling takes on narrative inheritance occur. Over time, this tension becomes imbued with empathy, as in “Some Oz,” where the speaker meditates on how their father learned from his father how to leave as if looking for the Oz of the title:

Some Oz where the clock of your life could unwind.
But you’ve returned to us now, your hands

full of years like salvage. And how could you
have known what you’d wake to—a home

inescapable, you wearing your father’s face [. . .]

you search for a word like an opening

into some storm strong enough to take us both
to a place where your daughters can forgive you.

The runaway theme here becomes a running toward. The narrative inheritance of fathers and daughters is suspended in a way that honors the complexity of the relationship while continuing to question it. While the runaway theme implies motion, the body implies stillness; the interplay of these two themes makes for poetry capable of reimagining the world while facing it.

interview

JAA: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be?

RH: One thing poetry can do very well is destabilize language—or use language to destabilize ideas. My favorite kind of poetry, no matter the school or style, is poetry that uses linguistic slippage and play to challenge concepts we might otherwise consider stable. A primary theme in my collection is the instability of self-image, given the precarious relationship between self, story, and place. The book is structured around a series of poems that use intriguing town names—Last Chance, Hurt, Honesty, etc.—to tease out narrative, metaphor, and persona. Many of the poems are narrative, but still rely on lyricism as an engine for moving between the town name and the self that is painted in the poem. Many of the poems also mix autobiographical confession with tale-telling and hyperbole as a means of further dislocating the self. We do get lost, I think, in the shifting narratives about where we come from, who our families are, who we could have been/are/could still be. I know I do—and I look to poetry not as a means of affirmation or comfort, but as a way of continuing to question those narratives.

JAA: What were the challenges in writing these poems and how did you work through them?

RH: Writing the individual poems was less challenging than organizing them into a book. As you can imagine, it’s somewhat difficult to structure a collection with an arc of some sort when you’re specifically trying to mess around with narrative. At first I tried to mush everything together into one clean story over three long sections, but that traditional structure just wasn’t working. I knew that if a reader approached the collection expecting a singular speaker with one coherent story to tell, that reader would be confused and disappointed. After reorganizing the collection close to twenty-five times, I decided to make six short sections guided by experiences and ideas. The speaker, in all her plural forms, moves through different places and contexts patched together from family history, memory, and fabricated stories. Emotional states and revelations are mapped onto place, and the book moves forward through this map. The arc wound up leading to a place of honesty for this speaker, as she begins to more directly confront her own tendencies toward exaggeration and fatalism. She winds up, after all, in Honesty, Ohio.

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In Which I Play the Runaway is available for purchase from Barrow Street Press.

To find out more about Rochelle Hurt’s work, check out her site.