Archive for May, 2011

Officially Closed, Officially Open: Submit to the Schiff Prize!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

First, the bad news: The end is nigh! Apocalypses may fail to materialize, but the end of our regular reading period has arrived with a vengeance. Any manuscript postmarked after today will be burned, eaten, excreted, and then burned again by the four horsemen of late-submission annihilation. Maybe they are actually deadline-driven copy editors on rented scooters, but no matter—get thee to a post office quickly! We look forward to reading your in-the-nick-of-time poems and stories.

Now for the good news: The Robert and Adele Schiff Prizes in Poetry and Prose are officially open for submissions tomorrow! We promise to keep our more destructive staff members away from your contest manuscripts, but if you don’t send us an entry, the four fearsome scooter-persons may may well arrive to putter around on your lawn while ominously sharpening blue pencils. You’ve been warned.

Here’s all the official Schiff Prize information:

One winning poem and prose piece (fiction or creative nonfiction) will be chosen for publication in our 2012 prize issue, and winning authors will receive $300 each. All entries will be considered for publication in The Cincinnati Review.


Writers may submit up to 8 pages of poetry or 40 pages of prose, per entry. Previously published manuscripts, including works that have appeared online (in any form), will not be considered. There are no restrictions as to form, style, or content; all entries will be considered for publication. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable under the condition that you notify us if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere.


Entry fee is your choice of either: $15 contest only or $25, which includes a one-year subscription to The Cincinnati Review. All entries will receive equal consideration. Checks should be made payable to University of Cincinnati.


Submissions will be accepted by mail in June and July (postmarked). Entries must include a cover letter with the writer’s name, mailing address, telephone number, email, and the title(s) of the work(s) submitted. Please do not include the writer’s contact info on the manuscript, as submissions will be judged blindly.


Schiff [Poetry or Prose] Prize

The Cincinnati Review

P.O. Box 210069

Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069

Winners will be notified October 1, and an announcement will appear on our website and in the Winter 2012 issue.

Issue 8.1 Has Arrived!

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The summer issue is here! In an effort to save on shipping, and because our out-of-the-way attic office affords us lots of quality time with the sizable population of campus birds, we’ve decided to send issues via pigeon post. Though our dry runs were largely unsuccessful (and not especially dry), we finally figured out that tying the issues to the birds’ feet alarms them, whereas fashioning volume 8, number 1 into stylish British wedding hats results in a desire to fly far and wide and preen like mad, then preen some more. If you find random copies of CR strewn around your local parks and city plazas, or if a puffed-up pigeon turns up in your wedding chapel wearing a literary chapeau, you’ll know vanity won out over centuries of training. It happens.

If an issue does arrive on your doorstep, we hope you’ll enjoy it. In the meantime here’s some bonus material from contributors Jeff Gundy, Cindy Beebe, and Jessica Hollander about their work in the new issue:

Jeff Gundy: I saw the slogan “free beer tomorrow” in a bar a while back, chuckled, then almost forgot it. But somehow the goofy promise of it stuck with me, and I tried it out as the refrain for “March Ode,” a spring poem that’s all about the goofy persistence of hope in the face of so much darkness and disaster. Once I was in the realm of miraculous gifts like free beer, it seemed like child’s play to envision all the small and large frustrations and problems of my life and the world at large suddenly resolved or transformed. There is indeed a lot of play in the poem, including (as some readers surely will notice) a lot of playing with religious language and imagery. I mean no irreverence, only the kind of revelry in words that, some days, makes me believe, though it’s hard to say in what, exactly.

Cindy Beebe: During a poetry workshop I attended a few years ago, I was privileged to hear B. H. Fairchild speak of “the too-muchness of the world” and how it must be given voice.  I couldn’t agree more. Always, and everywhere, especially in mundane and unexpected places, I find there is something a bit “too much” to ignore, some fact or aspect that endears, or surprises, or in some way begs my attention—for example, the time my father pulled me aside and declared that my aunt has a naked man in her garage. I knew immediately that a poem—which eventually became “My Aunt Has a Naked Man in Her Garage”—was coming.

Jessica Hollander: A couple years ago I read Lorraine Delia Kenny’s “Daughters of Suburbia,” a study about white suburban teenage girls. Everything in these girls’ lives had the potential for dramatic narrative, and the most successful (popular) girls were good story tellers, swapping elaborate stories of their suburban suffering (where life was “soooo boring” that they had to make it interesting themselves). Kenny describes an instance where one of the popular girls inspired an infectious dramatic episode: She got sick in gym class, triggering several of her friends to get sick too. And they all went to the nurse, and their parents were called, and the cafeteria exploded in gossip, and these girls all gained a sort of social currency from this psychotic, groupthink frenzy. The event was so disturbing and ripe with complicated symbolism that I knew I had to write a story where an iteration of it would take place. I wanted “Like Falling Down and Laughing” to be about people’s obsession with story-making, about the desire to have our lives follow some sort of narrative, and about the frenzy created around the female body as a landscape for enacting social narratives.

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

“Found Poem”: Why We Like It

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

When volunteer Brandon Whiting ate eight billiard balls, he began to bawl. He tried to explain, plainly, why he wanted to eat the balls, but his bass voice grew coarse, he clutched the base of his throat, and then the blue ball—not the cue ball—blew on a trajectory course right out of his gullet, straight into associate editor Christian Moody’s temple. Christian toppled like a tippler who, in a drunken daze for days, had a serious ale ailment. Brandon was not allowed to speak aloud after that. While a queue of spectators formed, Brandon grabbed the pool cue and scratched out the following thoughts on the felt-topped table.

Brandon Whiting: Driving home the other day, I saw a sign for a sports arena that read “Sure you have a seat, but do you have a suite?” and I pondered the difference between a seat and a suite, even though I’ve only ever had seats at games. Later that night, I found myself writing a poem in couplets that ended with homophones. For example, “That butte/ is a beaut.” Sometimes poetry just happens like that: A word or phrase captures our attention, and then our imagination starts to play. Of course, the results are not always publishable. That’s why I like Eric McHenry’s “Found Poem” from the new issue of Cincinnati Review. Unlike my love poem to geography, McHenry’s offering is executed so perfectly that it’s hard  to tell from which context(s) he took his lines. I can only say that his sources were more poetic than mine. Take, for instance, the opening stanza: “They’re coming like a thunderhead./ They’re darkening the eastern plain./ All afternoon we’ve watched them spread/ across it like a pinot stain.”

McHenry may be reading billboards, but his work definitely isn’t contributing to ad pollution.

BONUS MATERIAL: The poet explains the provenance of “Found Poem.”

Eric McHenry: I had been reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which something is always about to be besieged, to my son at bedtime, and one morning I woke up with the germ of “Found Poem” in my head. I think of it as having been “found” beneath the ashes and rubble of the sacked city. It only now occurs to me that the language echoes, quite clearly, that passage in the Book of Mazarbul that the dwarves find in the Mines of Moria: “We can not get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming.” That certainly must have been in my head when I wrote the poem. At the time, we had just moved from Seattle back to my hometown, Topeka, and I was also processing that change, and thinking about the (real and imagined) differences between the two places and the tribalism to which Americans are as susceptible as anyone.

The Blue Pencil Prize

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Issue 8.1 has officially “dropped.” And now that it’s in, it’s out (soon). Which means another five lucky winners will be eligible for the “elite” Blue Pencil Prize! What is this Blue Pencil Prize? It’s a chance for you to win your choice of a free issue, a free thermos, or a free slingpack—all emblazoned with CR’s oh-so-tasteful logo. So, for you fans of heated beverages, sensibly-sized nylon bags, and incredible writing, this contest is for you! All you have to do is find a legitimate typo (subject to editorial review) in issue 8.1, and we’ll post the results on our blog. The first five to respond will have their choice of free issue, thermos, or slingpack (as well as, of course, a blue Col-Erase pencil, the old-timey editor’s tool of choice).

Just leave your comments on the blog by clicking on the post title above. We get a lot of spam, so you’ll have to wait for your comment to be approved.

The New Issue Is Almost Here!

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Word has it that the new issue is on its way! We’re super excited—the cover, featuring Bill Wolff’s sculpture More, looks great, and we have a terrific group of poems, stories, and essays from a wide range of writers. We’ll be mailing it out in the coming days, but in the meantime we want to share some behind-the-scenes bonus material with you. We asked all of our contributors to comment on their pieces in our pages, and here’s what Matt Schumacher, Meghan Kenny, and Murray Shugars had to say:

Matt Schumacher: “a dionysian outburst,” the introductory poem in a book of fantastical drinking songs, chronicles an impossibly long and improbable list of drinks that the book’s thirsty picaresque heroes, the miraculous alcoholics, have absolutely no business drinking. Considered as a poetic mixed drink, it consists of equal jiggers list poem, drinking song, and tall tale. And due in part to this poem, I’ve surmised that the impulse behind the book hearkens back to Dionysian tradition, whose various bards and philosophers have included Horace, Nonnus, Aristophanes, Walter F. Otto, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Writing these poems has led me to some wonderful reading.

Meghan Kenny: The theme of love is one I return to over and over again in writing. “Love Is No Small Thing” explores a woman in her mid-thirties who wants to be in love and be loved back, and wants to marry and have children, but is in a bad, dead-end relationship. I’m intrigued by how women who want to experience marriage and motherhood, but who have been unlucky in love, navigate and define themselves in our culture where marriage and motherhood is expected and the norm by a certain age and where it’s easy to feel like a failure if you haven’t experienced these rites of passage. I wrote this story because I often do not know how to navigate this time in life and where I fit in as a single, childless woman in my late thirties.

Murray Shugars: I wrote “Battle Rhythm of a Convoy Security Company” on Sunday, August 23, 2009, in my sleeping quarters at Contingency Operating Base Qayyarah-West, a former Coalition military post in northern Iraq near Mosul. I belonged to a Mississippi Army National Guard unit. Our mission was to escort logistical convoys across Iraq, and the men and women of our battalion operated Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected gun-trucks (MRAPs). The name of the vehicle implies the primary dangers to the convoys, which rotated in and out of our base as regularly as the dust twisters did that summer. I had just returned from such a mission when I wrote that poem. I was always tired when I got back from a mission—that goes without saying—but I could never sleep right away, being too keyed-up. I’d shrug off my body armor and set aside my weapon and often write something.

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

Game of the Month: Late Entry

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Yesterday, we at CR received a cover letter simply titled “cover letter.” Aside from this single sheet, there was nothing else in the envelope. The letter was not signed, nor was there a return address. After a puzzled moment, we realized it was a late, and brilliant, entry in our cover letter contest (that’s what we’re hoping anyway; if not, we’ve seriously misjudged the anonymous submitter). It was a shinning buoy in the dense, frozen sea that is our lives as we await the shipment (pun, get it?) of the summer issue. To view the epistle as it was mailed to us, click here. We’ve also reproduced in this post:

Esteemed Interns, Clerks, and Editors,

Whatever nights of discomfort and days of distress you may have endured up to this point can now, thankfully and mercifully, be placed firmly in your past.

You have an opening and I, my fine women and men of respectable emplacement, am your person. It would be belligerent, violent even, of me to claim to contain within myself a capability of adhering to your lofty standards, unless I was so overwhelmingly confident of my steadfast commitment to said standards that I would rather dash my young brains out on a table corner, like a ship on the rocks, than disappoint your potential trust in me, this potential trust beginning today, this morning, this minute, on this paper of this letter.

Let me speak like mountain water. I am she. I am what you seek. If you need sharpness, I will stab. If you need dead men, I am a murderer. If you need life, I am a midwife. If you need saving, I am you know who.

If you wish to see my references, the place to start is in your mother’s handshake. A trustworthy impression of my character has been made across the clouds in your hometown.

Let us be frank and serious. You know it’s me.

In Sincerity,

Though the author who penned the above missive chose to remain anonymous, we’re almost certain she looks like one of the following people:

Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell

Queen Elizabeth the 1st

Coco Chanel

Contributor Jane Springer Wins Pushcart Prize

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We are delighted to announce that Jane Springer’s poem “Murder Ballad” (CR volume 6, number 2) has been selected to appear in Pushcart Prize XXXVI. Big congrats, Jane!

Game of the Month: Everyone’s a Winner!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We’re so happy with the responses to our game of the month that we’ve decided to award prizes to everyone who contributed disturbing, gross, deeply frightening, sad, and all-around hilarious cover letters. Confession: We’re doing this in part to make room in our storage closet for the new issue—which should arrive next week! But we really liked your letters, you crazy kids. Truly. To claim your logo-emblazoned thermos, slingpack, or an issue of your choice, simply email us at Thanks for participating—and watch for our next contest. More fabulous awards and prizes await you!

Game of the Month: Cover Letters

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Though we read cover letters with interest here at CR, they don’t really play a part in our decision-making process. Cover letters are kind of like internal organs. You don’t think too much about them unless they’re bloated or causing you pain. Sometimes we’ll receive cover letters in which authors try to sell us on a submission or explain the social import of their work (“My wrenching tale of an agave-harvesting desert hermit who nurses a mistrustful, snake-bitten coyote interrogates the conflicts and complications arising in the post-capitalist global marketplace”), or they’ll claim their work will change our lives (in the same manner the inventors of  The Clapper© promised to change our lives but could never live up to the impossible dreams their infomercials engendered in our hopeful, longing bosoms). Of course, we would never dismiss a submission based on a silly cover letter, but we will admit, sometimes these hyperbolic efforts do bring us joy—especially the ones that come with photos and illustrations. In honor of the deep-down happiness a truly goofy cover letter provides, we invite you draft for us your most bombastic attempts at the genre. Make us impossible promises. Tell us it was your fiction, and not Jonas Salk, that rid America of Polio. Explain why your poems about losing your virginity in an Applebee’s restroom demonstrates the decadence and cultural decay of Western civilization better than The Wasteland.

Send us your imaginary cover letters, and we’ll award logo–emblazoned thermoses or slingpacks to our winners next week. To enter, simply post your comments on the blog by clicking the post title above. (Due to the volume of spam we receive, we have to approve each comment individually, so bear with us as we upload your entry.)

EWR’s Literary Magazine Rankings

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Our small, give-it-our-all staff is ecstatic about Every Writer’s Resource new ranking of US literary magazines. They have our humble publication as  number 20, the second-youngest in the top 30 (after Tin House). Among university-affiliated magazines, CR would be number 11 (number 3 among  journals whose schools grant creative writing PhDs). We’re honored to be nestled among such esteemed journals as Yale Review, McSweeneys, and Granta. For the complete list, along with criteria used and comments on each journal, click here.