Archive for October, 2010

Submission Trends

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Just for kicks, here is a list of trends that we’ve been noticing in our submission stacks lately:

Stories set in the 50s and 60s: It’s fun to insist that this is due to the popularity of Madmen, even if it’s not true.

Stories about ghosts: And we published one of these—Micah Riecker’s “The Drowned Girl”—and it is going to get its own special blog post here in a week or so.

Nonfiction about incest.

We don’t have any poetry trends right now because we’re experiencing a weird dearth of poetry submissions. What gives?

Of course, this isn’t meant to discourage your masterpiece about an advertising firm run by ghosts who have crushes on their siblings. Especially if it’s a poem.

“In-Between Places”: Why We Like It

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Here in our dusty corner of McMicken Hall, our ragtag group of editors, faculty, and graduate-student volunteers spend a lot of time passing around and discussing the work writers send us. Sometimes one of us stands on a rickety chair and effuses ebulliently about a manuscript he or she likes. Those are fun times, and it’s always helpful to hear what it is about a story or poem that butters someone’s biscuit. We wish everyone could hear these things. And now you can. We’re going to start putting them up here on our blog. Recently, fiction writer and UC PhD student Jason Nemec turned cartwheels down McMicken Hall in response to a story, and our managing editor ran alongside Jason and caught his comments on tape (or maybe just asked him to write them down).

Jason Nemec: If you care about literature—and I’m assuming you do—then you have a problem. There are thousands of poems, stories, and novels you simply must read, books people have been telling you about for years. Well, you’re already overwhelmed, so let’s add one more to the pile: Philip Moustakis’s “In-Between Places,” which appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of The Cincinnati Review as the author’s first published story.

The plot is simple enough: Simon, an aimless teenage boy, and Maeve, his lesbian best friend, cruise through Queens, looking to score some money for drugs. We’ve heard this story before, we think, or at least some version of it. And yet the way our first-person narrator views the world is at once fresh, disturbing, and breathtaking. Simon speaks of a friend whose fists and forearms were covered in blood, “like he beat a hole in the man and dipped his arms in.” Maeve’s neck becomes “the whitest thing in the dingy pizza parlor, white like a spot of bare canvas in a painting.” In Moustakis’s hands, Queens is transformed into a grimy Neverland, and we follow Simon and Maeve through the streets, so entranced by the brilliant imagery we almost miss the thing that’s been guiding them the whole way: their love for one another.


The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Summer Issue Bonus Material: Laura Van Den Berg, Ron Wallace

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

As you already know, if you’ve been following, we’ve been posting bonus material all month, to hold our readers over until the winter 2011 issue arrives (any day now!). We asked all the writers in our summer issue to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. Below are the final two, by Laura Van Den Berg and Ron Wallace. If you missed all the others, scroll down and check them out.

Laura Van Den Berg: I loved having the opportunity to delve into Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City and to craft my impressions into the essay “Chronic Conversation.” Though of course aware of Lethem’s contribution to contemporary letters, I was woefully under-read when it came to his work and so it was a joy and a challenge to have a chance to sit with this ambitious and intriguing novel.

Ron Wallace: When I started writing poetry seriously forty years ago, I was in love with the music of language and content to bake the kind of fruitcakes of image and sound that my mentors, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Dylan Thomas, were famous for. Pound’s warning to “go in fear of abstractions,” and William Carlos Williams’s prescription “no ideas but in things” further reinforced that recipe for poetic practice. These days I’m facing my fears, embracing abstractions, and striving directly to explore ideas in my poems, even though the older I get the less I seem to know.

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Summer Issue Bonus: Henry Rappaport, Chuck Rybak, Maura Stanton

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The winter 2011 issue is at the press!  In the meantime, enjoy some bonus material.  We asked all the writers in our summer issue to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. We’ll be posting their comments all month, until the new issue is out.  Here’s what Henry Rappaport, Chuck Rybak, and Saara Myrene Raappana had to say:

Henry Rappaport: Like turning on a radio and hearing a song you love, sometimes you get to sing along. And it’s such fun. Good fortune or grace, it just happens. Maybe it is helpful and instructive to say this, although it’s amorphous and vague. And it’s not dumb luck either. I doubt it would come along if not for those times the interference is so strong all the fiddling in the world won’t get it right. I doubt I’d recognize it if it did. Once in a while you wake in the right place at the right time and all you have to do is sing.

Chuck Rybak: “Cinderella, as Told by Birds” developed from my experience of trying to read the classic Grimms fairy tale to my daughter at a time when she was already completely enamored with the Disney version. It had been a long time since I’d read the Grimms tales, and I was surprised at how raw and violent the story was: self-mutilation, the final image of the birds plucking out the step-sisters’ eyeballs. Needless to say, I did a lot of creative editing on the fly, often midsentence. It was from that editing and improvising that this poem was born, and I thought a lot about how to answer the question, “Who would have an objective, dispassionate, or completely different perspective of the brutality here?” I found my answer in the birds, who could always be heard outside the window when I paused and tried to think of a more gentle way to put things to a three-year-old.

Maura Stanton: “Horse in a Swimming Pool” had two sources. To begin with there was a tiny article in a local newspaper about a horse that had fallen into a swimming pool. After swimming for a while, the horse had finally been rescued by the fire department. I was inspired to write about the horse, but how?  Luckily I was reading a translation of Voices from the Plains by Gianni Celati around that time, an amazing and visionary book of stories set in Italy’s Po Valley, and felt encouraged to tell the horse’s story in a simple and direct way.

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Summer Issue Bonus: D. A. Powell, Kevin Prufer, Saara Myrene Raappana

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The winter 2011 issue is at the press!  In the meantime, enjoy some bonus material.  We asked all the writers in our summer issue to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. We’ll be posting their comments all month, until the new issue is out.  Here’s what D. A. Powell, Kevin Prufer, and Saara Myrene Raappana had to say:

D. A. Powell: These poems are part of a larger project, focusing on California’s Central Valley. The ways in which the rural landscape has been altered by developers is something I’m trying to capture through the use of subordinate clauses and traditional punctuation. The sentence itself is an imposed order. The language, though, retains elements of the wild.

Kevin Prufer: I have followed D. A. Powell’s work since a mutual friend, Rick Barot, first sent me a manilla file folder full of his poems back in 1997. Powell didn’t have a book out yet, but his early poems struck me immediately for their technical brilliance, their humor, their sheer hyperactivity, and their many complicated sadnesses. Over the years, I’ve met so many other young writers who were similarly affected on first encountering his poems. And, more than that, so many of us have seen our own work deeply influenced by Powell’s. For that reason, I was thrilled to write this long essay for The Cincinnati Review. I hope it inspires readers to seek out his poems.

Saara Myrene Raappana: I’m pretty sure I’ve read about studies indicating that we all tend to personify inanimate objects. As a child, I had a near-crippling inability to shut off those personification tendencies, and the result was a quiet but persistent hum of guilt that ran throughout my childhood as I threw away grinning tin cans, ran past those dolorous doorbell chimes without so much as a hello, or bounced a tennis ball against the long-suffering house siding. The richness of the internal worlds I perceived in those objects still fascinates me, so I started making lists of titles for poems from the perspectives of those objects. “The Hardwood Laments Its Lowly Position” was one of them.

“Don’t Let’s Talk Things through Anymore” is a poem about covertness, obviously in subject but more so in process: I was trying to hide a personal subject in an impersonal poem and to hide rhyme in something that could appear to be free verse. Rule #1 was that I had to express the emotions of a situation vividly without mentioning a single thing about the situation itself. Rule #2 was that I had to (in the first draft, at least) make sure that every line included a word that rhymed with at least two other words somewhere in the poem, but it didn’t matter how far apart they were. I came upon the solution of zeroing in closely on a single phrase (“talk things through”) and then letting the rhyme pattern guide the direction of the poem. I was surprised, not only by the images the poem settled on, by the number of unintentional rhymes and sound repetitions that emerged.

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Summer Issue Bonus: Christopher Merkner, Philip Moustakis, Edith Pearlman

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The winter 2011 issue is at the press!  In the meantime, enjoy some bonus material.  We asked all the writers in our summer issue to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. We’ll be posting their comments all month, until the new issue is out.  Here’s what Christopher Merkner, Philip Moustakis, and Edith Pearlman had to say:

Christopher Merkner: A while back I tried to write something sweet and good and pure about my hometown and the people I know and love, and “Last Cottage” is what arrived. It’s a shame. I’m pretty sure none of this story is true. I mean, I suppose I remember Slocum Lake having an unnatural swarm of carp sucking the water’s surface in summer, gasping, looking very desperate, terrified and terrifying, seemingly very eager to get the hell out of that cesspool. I’ll never forget all those eyes looking at me, all those mouths mouthing in silence, and I’ll of course never forget the good and pure people who lived with me in that sweet part of Illinois.

Philip Moustakis: In “In-Between Places,” I am making an argument for Simon more than writing his story. In fact, I am far more comfortable making arguments than writing stories. What’s the argument? If I could explain it—if I could make the rational argument—I could just write an essay. But I can’t, so I need the story.

Edith Pearlman: I would like to promote writing as an amateur enterprise. There are very few artistic endeavors and sports that do not have an amateur component—think of painting, singing, theatricals; think of tennis and soccer and baseball. There are opera companies that are  largely amateur; there are amateur architects. Writing as a hobby can be taken up as seriously as writing as a profession. The craft can be studied, practiced, and mastered for the pleasure of only a few readers, just as the amateur pianist has only a household audience and the tennis player no audience at all. A few readers? I am happy with one—that is to say, all my writing is directed toward a single ideal reader, literate, leisured, interested in being interested. When I think I have satisfied him, I myself am satisfied.

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Summer Issue Bonus: Koster, Langemak, Luongo

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

While we wait for the winter 2011 issue (out next month!), we’ve assembled some great bonus material from our summer 2010 issue. We asked all the writers in issue 7.1  to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. We’ll be posting their comments all month, until the new issue is out.  Here’s what Dana Koster, Liz Langemak, and Margaret Luongo had to say:

Dana Koster: I’ve always loved the freedom that comes from constraint, but I’ve also never been good at following rules. “Ghazal for Aurora Chasing the Deer” and “Kablooey” are part of a fourteen poem series of ghazals that I’ve been tinkering with for the past three years, all of which follow the basic couplet format of the ghazal, but which diverge rather recklessly from there. In the traditional construction of the form, a single word is repeated at the end of each couplet, and each couplet ends with a period. In my poems, the repeated word gets twisted, ever morphing into something slightly different—”dying” becomes “Diane” which becomes “dynamite,” and the couplets bleed into each other rather than ending on a complete thought. The result is something more loose and quite a bit more strange.

Liz Langemak: I don’t tend to like hotels, but I wrote “At the Palmer House Hilton” after my recent stay there because I admired how the room presented simple things really well. As someone who’s aware that she tends to write poems as skins for ideas, I wanted to try beginning with straight images—particularly the amazing towels at the Palmer House—and see what happened. Maybe I’m easily impressed, or I just need to get new towels myself, but I loved those towels on their rack and that whole room. Writing this poem refocused my writing and reminded me that Williams was right about things: they’re a good source of their own ideas.

Margaret Luongo: Three years ago, I was getting ready to teach a summer semester in London. A few nights before I left, I had a dream in which a friend of mine held up a white sock, the fine kind a girl would wear, and shook it at me. He said, “I can’t,” and then more emphatically, with more sock shaking, “I won’t!” As I awoke, a story formed around that image—or the premise of the story did, along with more images. I was in a rush to leave the country, so I didn’t write it down. On my first night in London, when I thought I could die from jet lag, I wrote the story and felt embarrassed that the first thing I’d written in London had nothing to do with London. “Girls Come Calling” is set in Florida, which I am embarrassed to say I still miss

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.

Winner of the Schiff Prize in Poetry

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Don Bogen on Ashley Seitz Kramer’s Prize-Winning Poem:

What I especially admire in “Winter Storyboard” is the way it builds. There’s a sense of confidence and deft control behind the rhetoric and varied syntax here, and the pacing is exquisite. With each couplet we are led deeper into a world of nature, the eccentric, and the maternal that becomes more vivid and compelling the stranger it gets. The scene unfolds with the haunting clarity and persistence of a dream that won’t let go.

Ashley Seitz Kramer on “Winter Storyboard”:

Long before the “green” movement, long before it was hip to recycle and drive a hybrid, my mother collected the rain to water the flowers, built a house for the bats and a hotel for the neighborhood cats. She taught me how to appreciate what has been broken down—from age, weather, and use—and, perhaps triumphantly, what can be saved, repurposed and remembered with tenderness and creativity. I know that I started to write the poem with these things in mind, so I suppose this poem is for her and about her, but it’s also true that this poem is not about her. Yes, my mother has done the things I describe in this poem, but this persona seems embellished, fanatical almost. In this way, the language and narrative either betray me or simply expand what even I see and understand about her. No one (but me) would describe my mother in this way, and she would never describe herself this way, yet I think she would recognize herself here. Perhaps this poem asked me to embellish my mother. And why not? Why shouldn’t we embellish the things we love most about the people we love most?

Winners of the Schiff Prize in Poetry and Prose will appear in the May 2011 issue.

Emerging Fiction Writers Festival, and more

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Holly Goddard Jones, Nami Mun, and Kevin Wilson are on campus this week for the Emerging Fiction Writers Festival.  Leigh Anne Couch is reading on Friday. Check out the schedule of panels and readings.

Summer Issue Bonus: Kelly Davio, Eva Hooker, Lew Klatt

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The winter 2011 issue is at the press!  In the meantime, enjoy some bonus material.  We asked all the writers in our summer issue to tell us about the ideas that lead to their poems, stories, and essays. We’ll be posting their comments all month, until the new issue is out.  Here’s what Kelly Davio, Eva Hooker, and Lew Klatt had to say:

Kelly Davio: As a child, I was fascinated with the idea that, even in complete silence, the body is surrounded by radio waves. I thought that if I focused hard enough, I might discover how to use my brain as a kind of transponder. While I eventually gave up that experiment, I’m still interested in the idea of the body’s interaction with intangible information. “Electromagnetic Compatibility” explores, with a bit of kid-like exuberance, what it might be like to find the secret to that interplay.

Eva Hooker: “Emblem of Increase” and “Labour” began as a teaching exercise. After we read The Tempest, I asked my students to imagine the pre-story and the after-story of the play and write poems. I fixed myself on Miranda’s mother.  I had in mind a series of poems, a small fascicle, made for Miranda by her mother: “The Miranda Journals.” “Emblem of Increase” is, then, a gift-poem, each stanza imagined as a page in a book of “birth & kin & sisters,” made by the kind of woman who lived “cleaving unto study.” “Labour” is a gift-poem within the act of dying, just after birth. Mother gives her daughter sayings through which she can braid warrants of illusion and claim the caul & skin & nerve of wonder.

Lew Klatt: In “A Better Mousetrap” I found myself engineering weirdly symmetrical stanzas in pursuit of what the title suggests, a better mousetrap. It seems to me, though, that no matter how innovative they are, all poems fail at what they attempt; the poetic impulse cannot be captured in words without eventually killing it. In “A Better Mousetrap,” I’m wondering aloud about this paradox, as well as searching in the mouse’s (and my own) gray space for signs of life: an appetite for “greater things” and a desire to wander.

I began “King Salmon” on the steps of the courthouse in Seattle after another visit to famous Pike Street Market. Very quickly the poem became more than a meditation on fish and evolved into a slanted parable. The salmon in the poem are made to dream, and the question that begins to surface is how exactly those dreams will get realized—in the imagination of the fish or in the humans that consume them?

The Cincinnati Review is available for order through our secure online form.