Archive for February, 2012

Give Us Five (perhaps in person)

Monday, February 27th, 2012

An embarrassment of riches! We learned last week that a fifth poem from our pages will appear in Best American Poetry 2012! Joining Julianna Baggott, James Kimbrell, Dean Rader, and Don Russ is Eric Pankey, whose poem “Sober Then Drunk Again” was chosen by Mark Doty for the honor. Four of those five poems, including Eric’s, were chosen from Issue 7.2; if you’d like to take a look at the issue, you can order it here.

Eric had this to say about his poem:

“The title does the work of narration in this little lyric. Sober for many years, I tried my hand at drinking again, and apart from the consumption of many fine bottles of wine, little good came of my failed attempt to drink moderately.  A melancholic to start with, I was pulled even deeper down by alcohol and the lead weight of depression. This is a poem voiced from that depth. ”

In other news, we’re AWP-bound, and we hope to see you there. Stop by Table  022 and say hello: We’ve got super subscription deals and very hip grammatically-instructive American Apparel and Bella T-shirts. On Wednesday night, we’re co-hosting the Monster Mags of the Midwest Reading with Mid-American Review and Ninth Letter. The reading takes place from 7-10 p.m. at Murphy’s Bleachers near Wrigley Field (for more information, see our flyer).

Since we’ll be busy hawking our issues and T-shirts (that is, when we’re not making funny faces at ourselves in the Silver Bean), we’re going dark on the blog for the duration of the conference. But don’t worry—we’ll be back next week, bleary-eyed but gratified to have seen so many friends.

Submission Trends and Tips

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

One trend we’ve noticed here at CR is how many pieces we receive that are set in foreign countries. Not a problem in and of itself, but all too often what we get, instead of an affecting narrative or poem, is a travelogue, a Rick Steves-esque report of where characters or speakers went and what they ate, peppered with the five foreign words they learned while interacting with charming locals. We hear all about what the light looks like from their hostel in Prague or the consistency and aroma of the coffee at the café on the plaza de insert-romantic-word-here. Though place can play a meaningful role in a piece (indeed, probably the only reason anyone watched the Drew Carey show was because it was set in Cleveland), we caution you not to make it the point of the piece. If you went to Rome last summer, we’re happy for you. Friend us on Facebook, and we’ll gladly look at your pictures. But please, don’t send us a story that demonstrates your familiarity with every apostolic nook and red-capped cranny of the Eternal City.

It seems, too, that the people who write these poems all keep traveling to the same countries, usually France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. The problem is that we “know” these countries. They have been presented to us countless times (for example, who wasn’t moved to tears by Meg Ryan’s 1995 vehicle French Kiss or Billy Crystal’s Forget Paris of the same year). This is not to say that excellent works can’t take place in these countries. Richard Hugo’s Good Luck in Cracked Italian is an amazing book. We’ve heard the Sun Also Rises is a good read. We just want to make sure that when authors are describing the how moved they were by dark, attenuated alleyways Venice, they don’t forget that places are not nearly as interesting as the lives that take place in them.

Two More Winners!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Results of the Blue Pencil Prize: Laura Somerville, eagle-eye extraordinaire, has won yet another azul editorial implement  to add to her collection. (She tells us she mounts them on the wall. Perhaps she’ll send a pic of her distinguished, and growing, blue-pencil display?) Thanks, Laura. You remind us that what we do—and don’t do—matters. If we screw up, people (well, you anyway) notice.

And speaking of syntactical infelicities, today’s other winner is . . . a T-shirt. But not just any T-shirt. Specifically, the Oxford-comma shirt we just had printed to transform the discriminating wearer into a walking grammar lesson. Hypercritical word nerds unite! This four-color, top-quality American Apparel anti-nakedness technology will be FREE to those who mosey over to our humble table at the AWP book fair and pony up for a three-year subscription. If you are actually naked, we might just shield our eyes and beg you to take one, because we at CR prize our innocence above all things.

NOTE: Quantities limited. Available in snug-fitting baby-blue ringer and traditional-cut cinder (or taupe, or cafe au lait, or day-old guacamole, or whatever you call the weird-yet-attractively grungy hue at left.)

Mardi Gras, Teenage Princesses, and Chapbooks

Friday, February 17th, 2012

At our weekly staff meeting on Wednesday, we talked proofreading and typesetting, but we also gorged ourselves on a delicious King Cake (Assistant Editor Becky Adnot-Haynes found the baby in her piece and will thus bring the cake next year), celebrating good times for CR staff members.

As we noted a few weeks ago, volunteer Luke Geddes’s story collection, I Am a Magical Teenage Princess, is forthcoming from Chômu Press later this year. He wasn’t wearing his standard bow-tie at the meeting, but we made sure to get a back-jacket-worthy snapshot of it for our blog audience.

In addition, Assistant Editor Lisa Ampleman just received her author copies of her chapbook, I’ve Been Collecting This to Tell You, which won the 2010 Wick Poetry Center chapbook competition and is published by Kent State University Press. (Although, for some reason, also lists her as the author of Slings & Slingstones: The Forgotten Weapons of Oceania and the Americas.)

And, as icing on the CR cake, Associate Editor Matt McBride learned late last week that H_NGM_N books will be publishing a chapbook of his poems soon! We’re thrilled for Matt, whose earlier chapbook, The Space Between Stars (Kent State UP, 2007), was also a Wick Poetry Center winner, and we’ve been playing Hanging with Friends and the pretechnological version, Hangman, nonstop since the news broke.


The Blue Pencil Prize: There’s Still Time!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Friends and readers: Nurse your chocolate hangover by having some editorial fun! Show off your proofreading skills by entering our Blue Pencil Prize contest here by this Friday, February 17. We’ve already got one winner, but there’s room for more: The next four people to find a legitimate error in issue 8.2 will win their choice of CR-emblazoned thermos, slingpack, or issue, along with a blue Col-Erase pencil, the old-timey editor’s tool of choice.

Relative Clauses Revealed

Monday, February 13th, 2012

We’ve got grammar on our ganglia as we painstakingly copy-edit our summer number in the hope of getting it to the typesetter by week’s end. Twice a year, as we peer at the sentences and lines that make up each two-hundred-plus-page issue, we encounter many of the same across-the-board errors. We all have different responses to comma splices and misplaced mods and the like. Matt McBride twirls his green pencil faster and faster and faster until its sheer rotary power lifts him from his chair. Lisa tends to growl low in her throat, but because she has a naturally melodic voice, the sound comes out more coronet than cougar. Becky’s eyes burst into flame, and she has to run to the water fountain to put them out. Matt O’Keefe emits an unusual odor—a cross between persimmon and new car smell. And Nicola loses consciousness—only for about ten seconds—which is why she works with one of those c-shaped airplane pillows around her neck. To spare our staff these distractions, we’ve decided to shed blog light on phrases beginning with “which” and “that” (also known as nonrestrictive and restrictive clauses).

In short:

that = restrictive = no comma

which = nonrestrictive = comma

The trick in using these words correctly, though, is figuring out whether the clause (or rather the information the clause contains) can be removed without sacrificing meaning. If you can’t remove the clause without changing the meaning, the clause is restrictive.

Example: Pudding that eats through your bowl like acid is not a good choice for dessert.

If you can remove the clause and the sentence still makes perfect sense, the clause is nonrestrictive.

Example: Baklava, which is hard to say if your mouth is full of acid pudding, is yummier than foods that dissolve your tongue.

We hope this editorial interlude clears up any confusion—and that we haven’t made you terrified of semi-liquid comestibles. Happy writing!

Peteroy’s Irrelevant Questions for Relevant Writers

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Yes, blog readers, it’s yet another installment of the peculiar probings of Don Peteroy—a CR-hosted series in which the ever-provocative DP pitches profoundly preposterous questions at hand-picked prosists. This week’s featured writer is one of our own—Margaret Luongo—who has made three appearances in our pages, and who was last seen wearing a blaze-yellow babydoll tee printed with the words DEAD INSIDE.

Margaret Luongo is the author of the story collection If the Heart is Lean (LSU Press, 2008). Her stories have appeared in Tin House, Jane, Fence, Granta on-line, The Cincinnati Review, The Pushcart Prize anthology, and other venues. She teaches creative writing at Miami of Ohio. One of her best friends teaches Shakespeare and wears combat boots.

Question: If you had to eliminate one author from the canon in exchange for three months of world peace, who would it be? Explain your answer.

ML: I’m sure many contemporary authors, if they were so privileged to be in the canon, would take themselves out of it for three months of world peace. Then there’s the problem of the existence of a canon; haven’t we been trying to alter it or get rid of it? But let’s say there is one and we all know who’s in it.

My husband and I talked about this. Shakespeare’s name came up. Eliminating Shakespeare from the canon would really screw the economy. Think of all the professors and actors who would be out of work. On the other hand, ejecting Shakespeare might cause a backlash and increase the popularity of his work: protests by the 20% (People Who Make a Living Off Shakespeare) might ensue. Actually, I think it would be very good for Early Modern scholars to be cast aside this way; they would become defiant and achieve punk status. Films could be made about their dying art. When the Chinese government banned the Chinese opera, a moribund form became suddenly wildly popular. While interest in Shakespeare’s work hasn’t diminished, maybe this exile from the canon would spark interest among populations previously alienated. It’s tiresome and obvious, but maybe Shakespeare is the answer? I am already more interested. Can’t you imagine publicists for dead or aging authors fighting for the right to be cast away? “This three months’ peace sponsored by the Melville Estate.” Cormac McCarthy could consider giving back; we’ve been tormented by his apocalyptic vision in prose; now he could give us the gift of peace—and probably increase his sales.

“Theory of must”: Why We Like It

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Devoted blog readers: don’t forget that the Blue Pencil Prize is up for grabs! The next four readers who find mistakes we missed during our multilevel proofreading process win the coveted blue Col-Erase pencil as well as their choice of a free issue, thermos, or sling pack. You know you want to make beautiful beryl marks on the newspaper crossword, your post-it-note reminders to SELF, and your collection of unsent, tear-stained love letters to Scott Bakula.

Talk of color makes us think of new CR volunteer S. Whitney Holmes or, as we know her, Whit. She can carry off hot-pink tights with a lime-green dress while, in the selfsame conversation, touting University of Alabama football and mourning the loss of the handmade Mexican tortillas prevalent in Chicago, from which she hails. We’ve promised to take her on a taquería tour of Cincinnati, and in return she’s agreed to shuttle us around in the City of Big Shoulders during the AWP conference. The last time she was in the office, she displayed what can only be termed elephant acumen: She spoke of prehensile trunks, matriarchy, 22-month pachyderm pregnancies and greeting ceremonies. At first we didn’t understand her outsized obsession, but then we realized Whitney had read and reread Ryan J. Browne’s poem “Theory of must” from our newest issue, which made a heavy, somewhat roundish impression on her.

S. Whitney Holmes: A theory’s individual principles may be proven, but a theory, by definition, is unproven, no matter how accepted it might be. Ryan J. Browne’s “Theory of must”—when read as a theory in this sense—surrenders individual lines and ideas to understanding and provability, but the poem as a whole retains a strangeness that puts one in mind of Yeats’s assertion that “what can be explained is not poetry.”

“Theory of must” is the kind of poem that traps the reader between trust and understanding, a poem that makes you want to know. I trust the confident, instructive tone with which the piece begins—“This is what the body does. Becomes/ the backbone, the ribs, the chest, the tusks”—and yet by the end of the second line I question my understanding of the poem’s world (tusks?). At one point I found myself looking up the word must, which lead me to musth, a condition of the male elephant marked by aggression, unpredictable behavior, and heightened testosterone. Ah, yes—tusks! That explains it! And then I Googled “elephants”—did you know they can hear across long distances through haptic sensors in their feet? In trying to know the world of the poem, I ended up looking to the world outside it.

There are lots of ways of knowing in this poem that are scientific, provable, recognizable with a little investigation. But no matter how many entry points I find in its lines, I return to the state of delightful not-knowing—or perhaps, more accurately, visceral knowing—both because of the emotional resonance the work evokes, and because the poem directly asks: “For the others/ of this earth know me in all the other ways.”

The Blue Pencil Prize

Monday, February 6th, 2012

A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into the copy-editing and proofreading of each issue of CR (and mustard . . . we blame associate editor Matt McBride for the mustard stain on our copy of The Chicago Manual of Style). And now that our newest issue is officially available, we want you, readers, to get in on the fun: Did we miss anything? Scour our pages and find one legitimate typo (subject to editorial review) in issue 8.2, and we’ll post the results on our blog.

Leave your comments by clicking the post title above. First five to respond get their choice of free issue, thermos, or slingpack, along with a blue Col-Erase pencil, the old-timey editor’s tool of choice. (We have to warn you: Your friends won’t like it when you return their correspondence with the comma splices corrected).

The Good News Continues

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

February is beginning well for The Cincinnati Review. Our new issue is out in the mail, the AWP conference is on the horizon, and it’s 57 degrees today. Who cares if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow? His prediction is fixed by the mysterious Inner Circle, after all, and trees are beginning to bud already.

Another reason February makes us happy: great news for the CR family!

Frequent contributor Edith Pearlman’s short-story collection Binocular Vision (Lookout Books, 2011) was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle awards! Pearlman was also a nominee for the National Book Award and won the Pen/Malamud prize for short fiction this year. Her work has appeared in our humble mag five times, most recently in our new issue. We posted a sneak preview of that story, “Life Lessons,” here, and you can see her comments on it here .  The NBCC awards will be announced on March 8.

Contributor Kathleen Winter (whose poems have appeared in Issues 4.1, 5.2, and 7.2) won the Elixir Press’s 2011 Antivenom Poetry Prize for her first full-length poetry collection, Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, which will be available soon. We’re honored that five of the poems from the book appeared first in CR, more than any other journal.

And one of our trusty volunteers, Luke Geddes, a fiction student in the Ph.D. program here at the University of Cincinnati, has had a short-story collection accepted by Chômu Press.  I Am a Magical Teenage Princess will be released later this year.  Luke’s stories have appeared in journals including Mid-American Review, Washington Square Review, Conjunctions, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.

Congratulations to Edith, Kathleen, and Luke!