Archive for September, 2012

Video Feature: Nance Van Winckel’s “Photoems”

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Nance Van Winckel is a decorated poet and fiction writer with almost as many books as fingers, but in our upcoming issue she blends poetry with visual art to create what she calls “photoems.” Her breathtaking digital photo-collages draw from the traditions of urban landscape photography, collage, mural, and graffiti. Of her process, she says, “I begin with a digital photo I’ve taken. Then, via Photoshop, I add other images I have created, e.g., black & white images I’ve Xeroxed out of 1930’s sixth-grade textbooks, hand-colored, and scanned back in. Then I add small bits of my own text—mini-poems, if you will.”

In CR 9.2, we showcase Van Winckel’s work in photographs of blighted urban buildings, which Van Winckel digitally alters both graphically and poetically. As her artist statement says, “Of these facades there seem endless ways poetry might intersect with/become/mash-up against graffiti.”

Here, Van Winckel applies this same aesthetic practice to train cars, creating a series of photo-collages set to music: “When You Need a Train It Never Comes” by alt-country musician Amanda Shires. She says: “These incorporate, like the building facades I’ve graffitied in this issue, small bits of text and graphic alterations. I haven’t quit poetry; I’m just putting it on walls, and trains!”

Tagging Trains

Contest Update

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Thanks to all those who yanked out their issues and methodically counted their way to the winning sentence:

Well-behaved sharks eat Taco Bell for a rare and challenging treat.

As I write this, sling-packs and thermoses are winging their way to you on the backs of our logo-emblazoned—and famously literate—homing pigeons. (Haven’t heard of CR’s rooftop avian schoolhouse? The Peabody has nothing on McMicken Hall.)

Monthly Contest: Issue 9.1 Mash-Up

Monday, September 24th, 2012

For this month’s contest, associate editor Becky Adnot-Haynes took a cue from Glee (back when it used to be good) and created a mash-up of words and phrases from choice poems and stories in CR’s latest issue. And now we want you, readers, to get in on the fun: Take out your super-secret spy glasses, pull out issue 9.1, and unlock our code! Be one of the first five people to send us the correct sentence (we will wait till we have five before we release the comments) and win your choice of free back issue, CR thermos, or CR slingpack.

(Note: Instructions do not take into account titles or author names; for example, “line ten” refers to the tenth line of the body of the poem).

The fourth word of the thirtieth line on page 92.

The last word of the tenth line on page 18.

The fourth word of the fourth line on page 150.

The fourteenth and fifteenth words of page 71.

The fourth word of the second line on page 80.

The third through seventh words of line 6 on page 74.


Wonderful Weirdness: Kapitan, Poch, Perry, Norcliffe, Bakken

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Do you remember when you were a kid and you’d tell your mother you were bored, and she would say, “Only boring people are bored,” and then lock you outside while it was snowing? To discover how strange/cold the world could truly be?

If not, you probably had better childhoods than certain members of our staff, or perhaps you are on the same wavelength as our contributors, who needed no help discovering the bizarre in their own lives. Our contributors from 9.1 revealed the plain strange and sometimes macabre origins of their poems and stories. Pick up your copy of 9.1, and let’s get weird.

Joe Kapitan (on “Brothers of the Salvageable Crust”): My favorite kind of stories to read, and therefore to write, are stories of warped realism—where one aspect of an otherwise realist story is stretched to the absurd. That single absurdity, though, can be enough to provide fresh perspective on the surrounding reality. Think George Saunders or Aimee Bender, two masters of this formula. I’ve also found that, within a framework of limited absurdity, a story can be both funny and poignant. RE “Brothers of the Salvageable Crust,” I’d read a news story about the increasing use of interactive learning devices in high-school classrooms. I imagined an instructor getting carried away with the technology. I pictured one-liners and victims, side by side.

John Poch (on “Two Rooms”): [The poem] was written while I was in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts. Working one morning, I was interrupted by the sounds of sex in the next room; the walls in that old house were thin. These artists “making love” in the next room had made it known to everyone that they had a second profession as actors in pornographic films. Most of the other artists and administrators seemed to find this intriguing, while a few of us found it repulsive. I found myself trying not to judge them, and yet I judged them. One cannot know what goes on behind closed doors, or behind the curtain, or behind the scenes, or above a ceiling, or within a body, or in the soul, but sometimes one believes one knows.

Nathaniel Perry (on “Bizarre”): These particular sections in this issue of CR, from my poem, “Bizarre,” are examples of some of the side-roads that a longer poem takes. The titular focus of the poem is an eighteenth-century adultery/infanticide scandal that took place near my home here in rural Virginia. The actors in this scandal were members of the Randolph family (of John Randolph fame), who lived for many years on a local plantation, named, incredibly, Bizarre. The poem itself revolves mostly around parenting, but knowing that my readers might not trust a long poem about infanticide to speak entirely coherently to the experience of raising children, I knew the poem would have to, at times, veer elsewhere. Somehow, after hearing once again Mike Seeger’s amazing set of field recordings of the Virginia banjo player Dock Boggs, I knew that he belonged in the poem. Music and parenting aren’t all that different, in some ways—there is technique and there is mystery, and they’re kind of inseparable. And Ezekiel? I’m not sure how he got into this poem, but he lived with something too he could barely understand. Let’s just say that anything you nurture, live with, and call your own—a five-string country blues, a prophecy, a child—can be profoundly bizarre.

James Norcliffe (on “Laika”): I’m not entirely sure where “Laika” came from. It was one of those gift poems. The opening line certainly prompted what followed. The Russian theme probably came from the fact that I was at the Trois Rivieres International Poetry Festival in Quebec last autumn and kicking about with a trio of Russian poets. Laika would be familiar to baby boomers. She was the first creature from earth to be put into orbit. Wikipedia tells me that Laika was a Russian street dog (the name means “Barker”). In those days there was not merely a space race, there was something of a language race as well: would sputnik win, or satellite, would astronaut win, or cosmonaut? The strange thing in retrospect (I was a small boy) is that nobody seemed to comprehend (or care?) that Laika was doomed as there was insufficient technology to bring her down. Still, while the satellite/sputnik circled above we looked up marveling that a living thing had escaped the bounds of gravity. Or not. The final irony, we have since learnt, is that Laika probably never even made it that far, that the cooling system failed and that the poor creature almost certainly was cooked to death long before a single orbit was completed. Strange days. Most of this macabre stuff is irrelevant to the poem, but it does provide a shadow, a counterpoint to the poem’s lurching rhythm and ersatz romanticism.

Christopher Bakken (on Kouros/Kore): My new book, Impressions of a Drowning Man, opens with a poem

Courtesy of Christopher Bakken

imagining the failed suicide of Greek poet Kostas Karyotakis, who in July, 1928, spent ten hours trying to drown himself, but proved too capable a swimmer. This poem’s inquiry into the idea of suicide echoes throughout the collection, culminating in “Kouros/Kore,” a fourteen-section poem that appears at the book’s end. I think of the poem as an abstract “sonnet” in which I use the tropes of Greek sculpture to examine two figures—one male (kouros) and one female (kore).  The two sections printed in The Cincinnati Review are both addressed to the “kouros” figure, which I imagine by way of the monumental kouroi of Naxos: abandoned archaic statues that still litter the island’s hillsides.

Awarding the Pulitzer

Friday, September 14th, 2012

When the Pulitzer Prize board decided not to award a prize in fiction last April, you were confused. Was this a bum year for the American imagination? An artistic recession for representing imaginary people with words? Had our writers, like our politicians and parents, let us down? But if you’d been reading with any diligence in 2011, you knew there was no lack of deserving books. So your confusion quickly morphed into anger, maybe rage. What’s wrong with these judges? How could they do this to us? Don’t they know we have families? Inner lives? Should we take to the streets? Send strongly-worded letters studded with exclamation points?!!

Usually, CR seeks to incite civil and literary unrest, but in our upcoming issue, we wish to quell it. In issue 9.2 (forthcoming in November) we’ve asked four intelligent reviewers to make a case for the most Pulitzer Prize-deserving book of 2011.

Alissa Nutting chose Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang. She writes, “The Family Fang explores exactly what it takes . . . for anyone to be well: how to reasonably formulate the molecular structure of happiness when life is an imperfect and volatile laboratory.”

Jensen Beach selects Alan Heathcock’s short story collection, Volt, about which he says, “Here’s a book that collects a town’s past and its present together into a single frame and presents us with the shared identity of these people so that it might say something about us and to us.”

Suzanne Warren selects Edith Pearlman’s short story collection, Binocular Vision. She says, “Read in succession, these thirty-four stories gain depth and intensity, as if each were a coat of red lacquer applied atop the last.”

Peter Grimes selects Justin Torres’s novel-in-stories, We the Animals. He says, “Any great work of literature . . . replies to works of the past, recontexualizing age-old themes as human culture diversifies and changes. We the Animals does both in the zoos and wildernesses of twenty-first century America.”

Hopefully, these insightful and sound judgments will calm your anger, or at least make you grab our upcoming issue and these great prize-deserving books.

Rethinking Our Reading Period

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

We hate to rethink our reading period, but we’re rethinking our reading period. UC has made the big ole confusing move from quarters to semesters, which means the mag’s ever-so-crucial grad staff and volunteer pool arrive earlier in the fall and depart earlier in the spring than in days of yore (which is how we now refer to the fuzzy, antiquated time before semester conversion). Because we need to match up our reading period with, er, the presence of readers, we’re adjusting the beginning and end of our submission shower (oh so refreshing) to August 15 and April 15. This doesn’t mean we ever actually stop reading (nay), merely that our numbers dwindle in the summer, and in order to catch up by the time we open the proverbial gates again (cue music), we need a decent full-strength stretch of work in the manuscript mine before CR’s creaky little elevator rises up to release its literary laborers into the summer sun. No doubt there will be some confusion at first, since we’ve stuck to the same dates since the magazine’s inception. Please help us spread the word—and we’ll shoot out reminders periodically to nudge the noggins of the overwhelmed and absentminded.

Contributors to Crow About

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Congratulations to our talented contributors, who keep racking up the laurels!

Fellowship News

Ari Banias (Issue 5.1) is the recipient of the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and was awarded a work-study scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference.

Sara Gelston (9.1) is the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Joshua Rivkin (7.1) is a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

Joshua Weiner (2.2, 9.1) won the 2012–2013 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship.

Book News

Seth Abramson (3.1, 6.1) was awarded the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize for his collection Thievery, which was chosen by Dara Wier.

Tarfia Faizullah (8.1) won the 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book contest for her collection SEAM, chosen by Chad Davidson.

Brian Russell (9.2) won the 2012 Bakeless Literary Publication Prize in poetry for his collection The Year of What Now, chosen by Tom Sleigh.

Kudos to all!

Poetry, Prose, and Pumpkins with Kick

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Every year when the temperature outside begins to drop, the CR staff becomes giddy for all things fall. Matt O’Keefe positively giggles over the leaves crunching beneath his feet, and Lisa Ampleman and Nicola Mason nearly come to blows over the question of lattice-crusted versus crumb-topped apple pie. Becky Adnot-Haynes begins chucking a football at volunteers as they arrive for their weekly office hours, yelling “Think fast!” and Brian Trapp thinks the decreased humidity makes his hair look good.

In this celebratory fall spirit, we recommending curling up with your copy of 9.1 and treating yourself to a good pumpkin beer. Below, for your reading pleasure, we’ve created pairings with commentary from some of our 9.1 contributors.

Tracy Burkholder (Terrapin Pumpkinfest): I’ve never been a touchy-feely person and yet for fifteen years I’ve been a massage therapist, a profession that is nothing but touching and feeling. In “Proof” I wanted to explore the path, both personal and cultural, that brought me to a place where I regularly work my hands across the muscles of near-naked strangers. I wanted to examine the power inherent in a touch and the ways we so often avoid it.

Chris Cunningham (Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale): I’ve been writing poems about a man named Mr. Anderson for several years now—”Mr. Anderson in the Supermarket,” “Mr. Anderson Rents a Foreign Film,” “The Sins of Mr. Anderson,” etc.  He’s a sad man, lonely—or at least often alone—and a bit eccentric.  My wife teases me that he’s going to “go postal” one of these days and start shooting people in one of the poems, but I want him to be sad and eccentric not in a scary or strange way but in the way we all are at times, so I’ve been working on poems that try to complicate his emotional life. “Mr. Anderson in the Fall” started as a scrap of observation recorded in my notebook one morning, the kind of thing you write when you have nothing to write. When I went back to it earlier this year, the scrap grew into a short lyric and took an interesting left turn, and I saw that it could be just the kind of experience and thinking I want for Mr. Anderson. Finally, I had been rereading Wallace Stevens, and I think echoes of his “Snow Man” found their way into the poem as well.

Kelly Moffett (Imperial Pumpkin): I wrote the poems while on retreat at KY Foundation for Women’s Hopscotch House, a farmhouse surrounded by acres of land and wood. I was pondering Ann Hamilton, my reaction to my father’s recent stroke, and the rain, the way the rain clung to bare branches like still tears and refused to fall and the way that landscape is presented both still and moving in Hamilton’s work and how Hamilton kind of collects material (like pennies, honey, and sheep) to create art. Then, quite literally, a herd of deer ran through the back field and there was a setting sun and a bunch of middle distance, and all I wanted to do (emotionally) was dive into that beauty, become the herd on the move, the red sun, the still rain. I was creating from the emotional space of the “impulse to dissolve,” to become ghostlike and beautiful—a different kind of alive. “Renunciation” and “Indwelling” became an accumulation of all of this.

Dave Yost (Ichabod Ale): Years ago, I took an out-of-town date to the Faust Park carousel  in St. Louis at her request and was surprised to learn she already knew a few of its animals and the workshops that had crafted them. She also told me their outrageous selling prices, and about the occasional robberies of older pieces. I’d never given much thought to carousels before, but I jotted the title “The Carousel Thief” into my notebook on the spot. Five years later, the rest of the story finally followed.

Laboring after Labor Day: We’re Open for Business

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

As at least 227 of you have already figured out, we’re open for business—the business of reading, that is. Send us your love letters, your manifestos, your toenail-clipping guides, all those narratives and nonce sonnets yearning for life on the published page. We’re ready to receive your words.

You can access our ever-so-easy-to-use online submission manager here. Take a look at our submission guidelines before you submit.

And the Labor Day weekend brought other good news: The Review Review took a gander at our summer issue! We’re grateful for the time and attention they gave to the wonderful work in Volume 9, Number 1.