Archive for July, 2011

Bonus Material: Sweeney, Beebe, Russ

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

More from our contributors on their work in our current issue—volume 8, number 1. We’re struck by how these three poets approach dailiness. Through lavish contemplation of common objects, events, or experiences, they enliven and enrich what often falls under our radar.

Chad Sweeney: I’ve written a series of poems with place names for titles in which the narrator personifies some aspect of that place, including Istanbul, Michigan, Bolivia, Chicago, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Paris, California. The poem “Los Angeles” imagines a poet (or someone who once thought of himself as a poet) caught in commuter traffic on the way to his commercial job in Los Angeles. I haven’t seen much poetry written in this landscape, the commuter’s highway, yet it is the daily reality for so many people living in the outer rings of urban sprawl. I think one of poetry’s challenges is to claim the “unpoetic” for its materials: elevator, shopping mall, office space, fax machine, and parking lot. I wrote the poem while living in Michigan, yet ironically I’ll be navigating that freeway sprawl east of Los Angeles when I begin teaching at Cal State, San Bernardino, in the fall of 2011.

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 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 had 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.

Don Russ: I’ve come to think that anything looked at closely enough becomes everything—or at least begins to reveal kinship with everything—in my world.  Both “Girl with Gerbil” and “Reunion” grew out of autobiographical material I’d earlier recorded in notebooks. When at some point I sat down to think and to try to make them into a poem, each episode eventually began to breathe my deepest preoccupations: childhood and identity, relationships, questions about the very nature of reality and its relationship to human perception and creativity. To some degree they both became poems about art, about poetry itself.

Deadline Alert!

Monday, July 25th, 2011

We just wanted to send a quick reminder that our Robert and Adele Schiff Prizes in poetry and prose submission period will close at the end of this month. Aside from the honor of possibly winning a contest from a superior literary journal (one that was recently ranked in the nation’s top twenty we might humbly add), you could also receive $300! Why, with that kind of money you could do almost anything. You could get fifteen BeDazzlers! You could get five tickets to see Chicago at the Majestic Theatre, August 10, in San Antonio! So unless your some kind of moral degenerate who doesn’t like the band Chicago, you should send us some work.

But what about the entry fee, you say? Bah. The price for one submission is a mere $15. What could you possibly buy with that? Why, $15 will barely get you two copies of Tom Hanks’s The Money Pit, used! What would you do with two copies of the Money Pit? And, for a mere $25 you get the contest fee AND a year’s subscription to Cincinnati Review! A subscription to CR will quickly pay for itself. We found that CR subscribers, on average, pay 23% less on their heating and cooling bills than people without a subscription. Further, double-blind studies have shown that CR subscribers are more physically attractive than non-subscribers. What are you waiting for? Are you too busy watching your used copy of The Money Pit? Enter today!

AWP Alert!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

It’s never too early to start thinking about—and planning for—AWP (the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference). At least, from our perspective. We had such a fantastic time last year teaming up with Mid-American Review and Ninth Letter that we’re repeating the pleasure, this time in Chicago. YES, there will be another three-for-one subscription deal at the book fair. YES, there will be another tag-team Monsters of the Midwest reading (for an account of last year’s reading, click here).

Mike Czyzniejewski, Mid-Am‘s esteemed ed., has booked an amazing venue for the event: Murphy’s Bleachers, directly across the street from Wrigley Field. So hear ye, hear ye—and write ye, write ye on your 2012 calendars—the Monsters of the Midwest reading (killer lineup to be announced) will occur on 29 February (that’s a Wednesday, folks, so plan to arrive at the conference early) in the year two thousand and twelve. We’re working on some goofy competitions that will pit readers, editors, and members of audience against one another in a kind of literary cage match. Trophies (of the homemade variety) will be awarded—and they will be both very stupid and very cool; this we promise you.

Grab our feed so you don’t miss any updates. Hope to see you at Murphy’s Bleachers!

FREE Issue Offer

Friday, July 15th, 2011

In the interest of making space in our storage closet, and for the boost that beneficence brings, we are offering one free back issue (your choice) to anyone who emails me (Nicola) at by the end of the business day on Monday (July 18).

If you are already a subscriber, you can offer your free issue to a friend. If you’re a contributor, you can nab an extra copy of the issue that features your piece. If you’re not (yet) either of these, here’s your opportunity to sample our prose and poetry wares for zip.

As an added enticement, here’s PhD candidate Ruth Williams’s thoughtful analysis of Jaswinder Bolina’s “Stump Speech,” which appeared in our Winter 2011 number.

Ruth Williams: Jaswinder Bolina’s “Stump Speech” reminds us of the point made by numerous postcolonial theorists: more than any geographical location, the nation is first and foremost an imagined space. Bolina creatively captures this fact in his poetic version of a political stump speech; however, rather than a triumphant declaration of national superiority, the speech suggests the terrified and terrifying national imaginary most reminiscent of post-9/11, posteconomic meltdown America.

The opening of the poem sets the tone of trouble as the speaker recognizes the difficulty of these days, when “the shadows of the nation cast wobbly.” Using a direct address to us, the listener/reader, the speaker says: “I understand how near you are to the tipping.” In a wonderfully crafted metaphor, Bolina represents our national anxiety as a perilous walk along a “high scaffolding” where you’re caught between “trying not to overthink it and . . . trying not to think of it either.” With dangers all around us—“Bacteria in the headwind, free radicals in the cola”—of course, we “feel small.” We long to remember a different nation, in which we “didn’t even think of germicide.” A place where it was easy to merely grow up, “large and employable,” and find that the nation, in kind, “employed you.” However, such times have passed us by, and “Lately, you think you are nearly no longer the nation”; instead, we’ve become like “a hallway all vanishing point, no conclusion.”

There’s something about the second person “you” in this poem that is mesmerizing, in part because we don’t often hear a stump speech make such prolonged use of the second person; more often, we hear “we,” a call to collective unity. The “you” address causes us to intimately enter into Bolina’s rich sensory descriptions, to assume the imagined nation he presents us with as our own.

Yet in the context of the end of the poem, we begin to realize the danger in identifying so closely with the “you.” If elected, the speaker promises to restore our wounded national psyche, returning us to the same happiness we might experience walking in a “tree-shaded backyard of old friends you haven’t see in many years.” In the pleasant “sun after rain” feel of this space, the nation will be “flawness and naked and crooning beside you its pledge of fidelity, its ripe promise of industry, missile silos vigilant under the prairie, its warheads waiting in the sea.”

Clearly these lines suggest that the pleasant image of our nation cannot be erected without the unpleasant truth of the military-industrial complex; however, the power of this poem lies for me in its insistence that I examine how I, one the “yous” of this nation, have been called to adopt its imagery. Furthermore, the end of this poem forces me to ask: for what purpose am I being encouraged to adopt the speaker’s vision of this nation? In other words, is my own sense of peace necessarily contingent on the vigilant missiles, the waiting warheads? Must it always be this way?

TROPHY, Impersonation, Fiery Seats of Government, etc.

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Trophy, the new novel by CR’s fiction ed., is garnering some great reviews. Yet Michael, a modest sort of fellow, can’t bring himself to promote it. Ben Dudley, one of Michael’s students, recently took him to task for this on Facebook. The exchange went thus:

Ben: Are you aware that you’re not on YouTube? Who isn’t on YouTube?? How am I supposed to show this visiting poet that he has the exact same voice as you? Michael: start vlogging. About everything (American Idol results, big football matches, the foibles of life in these United States).

Michael: Ben, you’ve convinced me. I need a presence on youtube; I need a star’s presence. And since I’m old, dull, technologically inept, and unphotogenic (the kind way of saying it), I need YOU to be my youtube presence. I propose impersonation.

The following vlog (with Ben impersonating Michael) resulted: