Archive for November, 2012

The Blue Pencil Prize

Friday, November 30th, 2012

As we mentioned Wednesday, we’ve sent off Issue 9.2 to subscribers, no matter the spilled Laffy Taffy, tangled tape, or papercuts necessary to complete the shipping project. Keep an eye on the mailbox for your issue (or order it here if you forgot to renew your subscription!), and when it arrives and you open it with reverence, immediately grab a pen or pencil (even better if it’s blue) and take a careful look for mistakes. Despite our thorough proofreading process, which involves six sets of eyes, we’re not perfect. If you can prove that by finding one legitimate typo or mistake in Issue 9.2, we’ll post the results on our blog—and you’ll win a prize!

Leave your comments by clicking the post title above (unless you can already see the comments section). The first five to respond get their choice of a free issue, thermos, or slingpack, along with a blue Col-Erase pencil, the old-timey editor’s tool of choice. Yes, we’re old school, and we like it that way.

Shipping-Day Bloopers

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Yeah, we still do it the old-fashioned way. Boxes arrive, we crack them open with a sense of both trepidation and excitement, and if the pages are not upside-down or smeared with ink blobs or otherwise wonkified, we woot and do head butts, then make an offer of Laffy Taffy to our office Lit Gods shrine (little known fact: the LGs love to masticate). Then we get down to business—stuffing envelopes, stamping them Media Mail, slapping on labels, tucking in the letter to our valued (oh so valued!) subscribers, and taping shut the whole shebang. Today’s comedy was provided by Becky Adnot-Haynes, who spilled the (giant) container of Laffy Taffy onto our gross office carpet (worry not—the gods will punish her), sustained a paper cut within the first five mailing minutes, and became so entangled in shipping tape that scissors-wielding editorial warrior Matt O’Keefe had to come to her rescue. There was also a wonton soup incident on her desk, but it is too tragic to detail here (multiple wontons were lost). All in a day’s sacrifice, of course, to bring wildly crafted and meaningful wordage to our devoted readership.

We leave you with some (super-lame) Laffy Taffy jokes.

Q: What kind of bear has no teeth?
A: A gummy bear!

Q: Where does the general put his armies?
A: In his sleevies!

Q: When does it rain money?
A: When there is change in the weather.

Q: What are the strongest days of the week?
A: Saturday and Sunday. Every other day is a weekday.

Q: What did the finger say to the thumb?
A: I’m in glove with you.

Q: Why was the tomato blushing?
A: Because she saw the salad dressing!

Q: Why didn’t the teddy bear finish his supper?
A: Because he was already stuffed.

Hearing the Music: Guttman, Luongo, Mann

Monday, November 26th, 2012

We just heard from a freight company that has custody of a pallet containing Cincinnati Review Issue 9.2—they’ll be releasing this bookish bounty to us tomorrow! And then, after carefully stuffing each little volume into a labeled envelope, we’ll send our freshly printed literary offering into the world, wishing it well, singing “So long, farewell…” We’ve started fashioning our curtains into clothing (Brian Trapp gets to wear a bandanna made of blue paisley, Becky Adnot-Haynes brown tweed leggings) to wear as we sing in chorus. The following contributors had music in mind as they wrote their pieces, which you can read in full in the issue, available for purchase here.

Naomi Guttman (on her poems “Thin wishes” and “Domestic Dirge”): Three years ago, I began writing poems about a couple and their sons, which has now become the novella-in-verse The Banquet of Donny and Ari. The project began as an exploration of the tension in my own life between the desire to throw myself into life’s pleasures and the need to hold back, to conserve resources, to abstain for the sake of others. I divided the individual into two characters with distinct temperaments: Dionysian “Donny” is a musician; abstemious “Ari” is a textile artist. As the narrative of the collection unfolds, we discover that after long illness, Ari’s mother has recently died, and these two poems embody some of the feelings of loss, guilt, and anger that Ari experiences after this abandonment.

Margaret Luongo (on her story “Word Problem”): Probably because I’m terrible at math, I had been wanting to write a story in the form of a word problem. I couldn’t think what the story might be about, though, until we attended the Cincinnati Fringe Festival two years ago. A small group performed John Cage’s Radio Music. Clearly these were trained musicians, and most of them were young. I looked around the audience and wondered what people thought of this chaos, if that’s what it was—young men and women, fiddling with radio knobs, a string quartet bowing, plucking, vocalizing. Some of musicians looked happy, playful; others were intently focused. I wondered what had happened to them in their professional training and experience to lead them to this stage. That was the question the story would answer.

Randall Mann (on his poem “Young Republican”): I don’t have too much to say about the poem itself: I played Ronald Reagan at a mock debate at my middle school, and like Reagan, I destroyed mock-Mondale. But the whole scene had a bizarre musical component that I left out. There was a chorus performance of “Hello Dolly” with the lyrics changed to Hello Mondale and Hello Reagan. And then the smoldering dance-corps performance of The Time’s “Jungle Love,” all slinky leggings and eighth-grade ’80s sex appeal. What.

T-Day Letter Glut

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Sure, everybody loves turkey. Actually I (Nicola) don’t. And my vegetarian family members don’t. And my Asian and Hispanic friends are less than keen. And my small child, who keeps bringing home colorful pictures of turkeys in top hats and spats—or of papa, mama, and baby turkey cavorting about the forest—is horrified by the idea that Tom is going to end up on the table. So . . . Turkey Day seems outdated as a holiday moniker. Yet T-Day can still stand, because who doesn’t love the letter T? It’s strong, upright, and true, not to mention useful (integral as it is to the words strong, upright, and true, as well as integral). Thus the CR staff offers you, on this day of celebration, a post teeming with T words.

Don Bogen: The tintinnabulary clatter of multiple gleaming utensils as they thrust into platters of aromatic foodstuffs preceded the ecstatic bite-by-bite transport of the feast to expectant tongues soon engaged in gustatory delectation, shared compliments, and eventual torpor punctuated by faint utterances of No more, thanks.

Michael Griffith: Terence was traduced by Ted—traitor!—and thanks to that tomato-faced tosser, his tapir-tupping took the town into a tizzy of tsking.

Nicola Mason: The troglodytes, having no cave-dwelling fowl to feast upon, fashioned a faux turkey from a trove of tiny sightless fish (tacked together with toothpicks of flint) from a deep dark tarn, and toasted their triumph with a tincture of toadstools and slime.


Matt O’Keefe: This T-word whose daily job is odious on T-day needs to be extra commodious.

Becky Adnot-Haynes: After considering trivet, tureen, and tryptophan, I chose for my favorite T-word tetchy, because it’s something nobody is on Thanksgiving, after the roasted fowl and the two preparations of potato and the can-shaped glob of cranberry jelly—unless they play football with my family, which is disgustingly competitive (cue last year’s game: a touchdown pass headed for the arms of my 92-pound mother; my dad, on the opposing team, flying in front of her to emphatically bat it down and then pound his chest, Tarzan-style).

Lisa Ampleman: The aunts in self-knit holiday cardigans—pilgrims, pumpkins, and cornucopiae—spoke in terza rima as they stirred the gravy, uncanned the cranberry sauce, and burned the pecan pie, finishing each other’s sentences and weaving a tale of the everlasting fire and perdition of middle age.

Brian Trapp: Gustav was on his way to festive caroling when the baron’s runaway troika struck him in the upper-body, caving in his sternum and causing him to drop his pot of chicken liver stuffing, all of which made his serfs rejoice.

Verse Daily + CR x 2

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

We’re delighted to discover today that Verse Daily is featuring Sara Grossman’s poem from our current issue.

Earlier this week, they reran a marvelous poem (from the same issue) by Medbh McGuckian.

Thanks, Verse Daily!

Furry Walls and Medieval Weaponry

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Yep, these are just part and parcel of the average EGO (English Graduate Organization) reading. The last event for the semester, which took place this past Thursday, featured two of CR’s esteemed staff—Lisa Ampleman, poet extraordinaire, whose area of study is courtly love; and Brian Trapp, fictionisto, who studies the letter R (serif and sans-serif permutations), which was once in the ampersand family, which was once in the clef family, before a tragic breach that the other letters attribute to a long-ago dispute over whether ampersand (representing in one elegant sweep what is a group effort for A, N, and D) was full of herself. R voted yes—and also implied ampersand’s butt was too big. Ampersand responded in a taunting singsong: “Jealous.”

But back to the EGO reading—to see the above-mentioned walls and weaponry, as well as the shining visages of many of our staff and volunteers (past, present, and future), friend us on Facebook.

Why We Like It: “Monsieur”

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

If you look at her Facebook page, you’ll see that volunteer Chelsie Bryant’s interests are wide ranging: cardigans, Hillary Clinton, vegetarian soups, The Daily Show, tea, YouTube videos of cats wearing Halloween costumes, YouTube videos of cats that look like croissants, YouTube videos of French-speaking cats with existential crises (okay, we just saw the pattern). A related warning: If you become friends with Chelsie, she may or may not repost one of your finest, most introspective I-look-like-a-real-author Facebook photos with an altered version of your face being attacked by cats. (On a similar note, Chelsie’s Facebook page is riddled with sage, feline-related advice. This nugget from yesterday: When asking your parents for large sums of money, always tell them it’s for your cat. Make sure to add an adorable picture for emphasis.)

Chelsie brings her brimming good cheer with her to the CR office (but not her cat—which is good, because we don’t have much to offer in the way of mice and open windows). She does an excellent job entering copyediting changes, opening mail, and reading submissions. This week, Chelsie took a gander at Jenn Scott’s “Monsieur” from our upcoming issue and jotted the following thoughts:

Chelsie Bryant: Jenn Scott populates her story’s world with images and characters that haunt the reader even days later. Some examples: “Monsieur’s red dickey remained unflappable”; “A single rubber ducky bobbed gracefully on the water’s surface, its forced blue eyes staring forward, evaluating the situation at hand”; and “Recently, she looks at me with steady eyes, afraid to follow the curve of my elbow to my wrist to those certain raw scars, just as she asks questions in nervous strings so that I think of paper dolls when they are finally pulled open: not one body but a series of bodies with connecting hands, or rather, wrists.” Her protagonist, Izzy, isn’t just a misguided, depressed girl—she’s Belma, the good student; Chantal, the beautiful. Monsieur Roche isn’t just a caricature of a high-school French teacher. His depression, his need for companionship—even that of an insecure teenage misfit—creates a resonant context for his absurd quirks. Then there’s Izzy’s mother, who cares for her in a way that suggests her ineptitude and helplessness as a parent. Scott’s characters find themselves lost in degrees of disconnection, their actions revealing their need for identity and love. I could read “Monsieur” over and over again, and each time find fresh nuances to marvel over.

Women’s Roles: Rawlings and Chertok

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

In one week, the literary elf will visit our office under the cloak of darkness and leave beneath the dry-erase board dozens of beautiful brown boxes, each filled with 64 copies of Issue 9.2 (which you can order here). None of us has seen this mysterious figure in person, but Brian Trapp set up a webcam for 9.1 delivery, and that’s how we know she wears clothing consisting entirely of stapled-together pages from the Chicago Manual of Style—no doubt because Chicago covers everything. Har. At any rate, we are ever so grateful for the role this magically grammatical female plays in the life of the journal, and in light of the recent election (New Hampshire’s first all-female delegation! Twenty women in the Senate!), we thought we’d whet your appetite for the issue with commentary from two contributors who were thinking about women’s roles as they wrote:

Wendy Rawlings (on “Weight Watching”): This is the first piece of nonfiction I’ve written that directly addresses my interest in/focus on/obsession with weight. I’ve written short stories and parts of a novel that explore the ways women, and particularly American women, and particularly American women living in a postindustrial capitalist society, are bombarded with images of skinny women even as we live in a culture that just keeps getting fatter and fatter. A few years ago I read Joan Jacobs Brumberg’s The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, and it blew my mind. She argues that in the last century, girls have shifted their focus from practicing domestic arts such as quilting, knitting, cooking, and sewing, to trying to perfect their bodies. Right around that time, my mother’s partner decided to undergo bariatric surgery in a last-ditch effort to lose the extra weight she’d carried her whole life. Watching someone close to me transform utterly after this radical surgery provided an opportunity for me to think about this pastime so many women engage in: watching ourselves and others—celebrities, reality TV stars, our friends and relatives—gain and lose, lose and gain.

Alex Chertok: In grad school I learned about words. How divisive and multivalent they can be. This learning didn’t always take place in the classroom. Like the word “motherly.” It became clear that many of the female twenty-somethings in my cohort felt affronted by the term. On the other hand, of the women I asked from my mother’s generation (all of them mothers), most felt a certain pride in being called “motherly” and understood it to connote someone who’s nurturing, unwavering in love and discipline, empathetic, strong. Both groups of women considered themselves feminists. Of course the maternal instinct isn’t knit into every female body. We know now that not every woman is hardwired to become a mother (and thank goodness for this), but denying the maternal instinct in toto seems wrong to me. The same way that denying the paternal instinct is wrong: I possess it unequivocally, palpably. Maybe the term needs to be changed, but the condition of feeling a presiding love toward one’s child, born or unborn, is real. I felt “motherliness” needed defending. It needed celebrating. I wanted my poem “In Praise of the Motherly” to depict my mother as I knew her, a woman of great agency and tenderness.

Best American: A New Record

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Don Bogen: The latest annual Best American Poetry anthology is just out, and The Cincinnati Review is keeping up its tradition of being well represented.  Five of our contributors let us know their poems had been accepted and were duly praised on the website, but it turns out there were actually seven poems from our pages in the anthology.  I guess we made the same mistake as Wordsworth, but, as far as I know, none of our contributors is lying in the churchyard.  Here they are:

Julianna Baggott, “For Furious Nursing Baby”

Joseph Chapman, “Sparrow”

Joy Katz, “Death Is Something Entirely Else”

James Kimbrell, “How to Tie a Knot”

Eric Pankey, “Sober Then Drunk Again”

Dean Rader, “Self-Portrait as Dido to Aeneas”

Don Russ, “Girl with Gerbil”

Now for some stats:  Seven is a record for us–we are tied with The New Yorker for the highest number of poems in the anthology.  Since this year’s edition includes seventy-five poems from forty different journals, The Cincinnati Review is coming in at just under 10% of the total work in the anthology.  Of literary magazines associated with colleges and universities, our closest competitor is New England Review with four poems; The Gettysburg Review had two poems, The Southern Review and The Kenyon Review a poem each.  Congratulations to the poets we’ve published, to the grad-student volunteers who read for us, to Managing Editor Nicola Mason, and to the Assistant and Associate Editors involved in the two issues from which work was chosen:  Peter Grimes, Heather Hamilton, Christian Moody, and Matt McBride.  Great job, all!

“Moxie Returns”: Why We Like It

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Last time CR Editorial Assistant Sara Watson wrote a blogpost for us, we highlighted her biography, which mirrored—to a remarkable degree—that of a certain Hollywood actor. Since then, we’ve learned that she also writes a mean ekphrastic poem, runs half-marathons, and loves her wiener-dog mix, whom she sometimes dresses in tuxedos. We don’t hold this against her, since many of us also press costumes on our pets. Nicola Mason’s guinea pig has been a fairy princess in her magical pint-sized village, Becky Adnot-Haynes’s dogs impersonated a shark and a dinosaur on Halloween, and Lisa Ampleman’s outdoor comet-tailed goldfish like to pretend they’re Nemo, swimming around in a conspicuously erratic pattern. They have injured-fin jealousy.

And we’re all jealous of Sara’s skills at concision. Why use five words when you can use one, after all? Sara put those talents to use when she wrote this appreciation of Heather June Gibbons’s poem “Moxie Returns,” from our upcoming Issue 9.2 (which you can order here):

Sara Watson: What draws me to Heather June Gibbons’s poem “Moxie Returns” is the bottomless pit of its speaker’s desperation. In other words, I like a self-deprecating joke—particularly when it’s more heartbreaking than it is humorous.

Nothing in this poem can accomplish even the simplest goal: Keys can’t unlock doors, knobs can’t open drawers, the motor isn’t worth the energy required to get it started, and nobody can stay awake while attempting vigilance. Still, Gibbons’s speaker keeps on, propelled by the unfulfilled but still-throbbing desires of the may-as-well-be-dead.

Is there hope in this poem? I’m not sure. Has moxie indeed returned? I don’t think so. But Gibbons’s self-destructive narrator redeems desperation itself, transforming it from what is pitiable into something we might honor: effort—that grasping, even only at straws.