We’d like to give a shout out to Cincinnati Review contributor Karina Borowicz. Her new collection, The Bees Are Waiting, was selected by Franz Wright for the Marick Press Poetry Prize and has just been named a Must-Read Book of 2013 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. The collection contains her poem “The Globe,” which was published in CR 6.1. Congrats, Karina!
Archive for March, 2013
Nicola Mason: We here at UC are enjoying an extended visit with Claudia Emerson, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer for her third collection, Late Wife. As our 2013 Elliston Poet-in-Residence, Claudia is teaching and holding conferences with grad students, giving readings and lectures to the literary community, and generally lavishing her delightful company on everyone around. In short, Claudia is lovely beyond lovely—and has been since she was an accomplished but little-known young poet. I know. I was there at the beginning.
I first became aware of Claudia’s work when I was a graduate assistant at Southern Review some twenty years ago. When I got my degree and took a job at LSU Press, I was lucky enough to edit Claudia’s first book, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, which Dave Smith had accepted for his Southern Messenger Poets series. I loved it, and when Dave also took her second book—Pinion: An Elegy—for the series, I asked to edit that one too, and it was an even greater pleasure. I also got to help with the cool cover, which oddly enough was designed by Barbara Bourgoyne, who now designs and typesets CR. Barbara (who also worked—still does—at LSUP) and I visited the musty basement of LSU’s Museum of Natural History, which was filled with giant metal cabinets, the drawers of which held the stretched, preserved wings of hundreds of avian species. Barbara and I pulled out drawer after drawer, pondering the contents, and finally found the perfect wing for Pinion‘s cover. We borrowed it, Barbara photographed it, manipulated the image for the jacket, and Claudia was thrilled with the result.
I was already at CR when Late Wife came out, and Claudia was generous enough to send poems to the mag. I forwarded the batch—a terrific selection from her lyric sequence All Girls School (later published in her collection Figure Studies)—to Don Bogen, who was delighted with them and took every one. The day after he sent his letter of acceptance, Claudia was awarded the Pulitzer. Another odd intersection between my life and Claudia’s: Shortly after Pharaoh, Pharaoh came out, she took a position at Mary Washington College—my alma mater—and teaches there still.
Needless to say, it is gratifying to have played a small role in the career of such an outstanding poet and person—and to see her early promise borne out in a big way. If you’re nearby, you too can cross paths with Claudia Emerson. She lectures this Friday afternoon, April 5, on UC’s campus (Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library).
Spring Break is at an end, and it’s great to be back in the office. The staff at CR is so devoted, so focused, so . . . fused to the rewarding work of bringing you lit that buzzes your bulbs, we tend to feel a bit lost when we don’t have submissions to read, proofs to mark, accepted material to edit. In other words, Becky Adnot-Haynes spent the break rocking back and forth in a dark room, muttering to herself in past-perfect tense. Lisa Ampleman took cuticle care to new heights. Brian Trapp swallowed eggs. Whole. Lots of them. Just to see what would happen. Now he knows. Matt O’Keefe practiced writing the ampersand, which he’d never before mastered. It’s tricky, the ampersand. Nicola Mason rolled in a bed of poison ivy. Just to see what would happen. Now she knows. Linwood Rumney trumped all our efforts by scouring the sidewalks of our city for $1000 bills. He found one. Unfortunately that’s exactly what he owed his bookie, so now he’s broke again, but he gets to keep all his digits, which he put to good use in typing up the following assessment of Matt Sumpter’s poem in our upcoming (May) issue.
Linwood Rumney: For a poetry lover, finding a good sonnet is like spotting a $1000 bill on the sidewalk. After the surprise of discovering something you thought no longer existed wanes—“They print these?” you ask yourself in disbelief—everything feels brighter, and all the problems that seemed overwhelming don’t feel so insurmountable.
That’s what it was like when I first read Matt Sumpter’s “Mold House”: I unexpectedly felt a lot richer. “Mold House” is by no means a pure sonnet; it’s fifteen lines instead of fourteen, and while most of the lines do have five stresses, it clearly maintains no strict allegiance to iambic pentameter. The poem is shabby, and appropriately so. This sense of clutter, as with the exhumed contents of the house demolished in the poem, the rollerblades and mattresses, creates opportunities for genuine surprise. The poem contains no pure rhymes, for example, yet the last words still sonically resonate in intricate ways: the off-rhymes of “hammers” and “ladders”; the assonance of “edge,” “instead,” and “mattresses”; the alliteration of “rugs” and “rescue.”
So, “Mold House” is a great poem in part because the form and the content complement each other, working together to determine the direction of the piece instead of wrestling each other for supremacy. Though I love “Mold House” in part because it is a sonnet, I enjoy it all the more because it does not overtly call attention to its sonnet-ness. The poet cares more about the men “pry(ing) shingles off with claw hammers,” the sounds and cadences he can find there, than he does about patting himself on the back for accomplishing a formal feat. A reader can really be struck by the rhythms, the energy, and the atmosphere of the poem without really recognizing the intricacies of its formal features.
We’re spending most of the day with Issue 10.1, as we review our exhaustive proofreading process and produce one master proofread copy that we can send to our typesetter for changes. Before we let it go, though, we’d like to give you a taste of Issue 9.2— in particular, a number of poems that are concerned with the implications of travel and place. Order a copy of 9.2 here, and read it in a park, next to a suitcase, or in a revolving door:
I have always written prose about my experiences in combat with a sort of universal reflection, as a way to try and discover the human need for war, what feeds it, why do we only learn better ways to kill each other and not better ways to live with each other? There are moments in time, however, when war comes back to me on a very personal level and in a visceral way through some physical sensation, a sight, sound, or smell. In those instances, my writing will often turn introspective and end up in a poem instead of an essay or chapter in a book. That was the case with “Meditations on the Jungle Ambush” as I happened to be in a park on a quiet and steamy summer evening recently. Watching the clouds roil around a full moon between the branches of an ancient tree brought my memories out of the shadows.
Charles Harper Webb
I must have left my closet open the night before I wrote “Suitcase,” because when I woke next morning, I found myself staring at the black one I always carry “on the road.” Or rather, the suitcase seemed to be staring at me. Like many people post-9/11, post-TSA, I’m ambivalent about travel. I like to see new places, but don’t much like getting there, especially if I have to fly. This poem records some of my impressions and ambivalences.
Monica Berlin [On “The problem is the revolving door of this city even you”]
The city where I live is not unlike many cities in the world, by which I mean it sometimes feels like people never stay long, or are always leaving. Like many places, it sometimes feels like all opportunity is leaving. Like the future is leaving. It’s one of the predicaments of the later part of the last century and of this new one, that kind of impermanence—how we can live there in that. Also on my mind when I wrote the poem: my son, about to turn five, had become smitten with revolving doors whenever we were in a city not our own—our city, by the way, that no longer has even one such door, although we obviously have other kinds; that a disproportionate number of doors and windows grace the places where I spend my days; and the realization that everybody lives somewhere, that everyone lives in a place. The last, maybe the most benign of epiphanies, propelled this poem forward even as I was struggling with how so much of our lives seem to be spent standing still and watching someone we love pull away from the curb, or standing in the doorway waving goodbye, or wondering when anyone or anything will return to what we call “familiar.”
As you will discover in her appreciation below, editorial assistant Jessica Brown is an intrepid and fearless traveler. She name-drops countries like rappers mention name brands. Argentina? Boom. J. Brown has been there. You want to know about Ghana? Hold those horses. J. Brown can tell you all about it. Based on our extensive Facebook-stalking research, we think it very likely that she’s also been to Ireland, judging by those pictures of emerald-green grassy knolls and moss-covered castles. That’s three continents right there, four if you count North America, her home (J. Brown doesn’t).
Where hasn’t she been? China’s Great Wall? Russia’s dead Lenin? Norway’s famous fjords and the Winter Olympics bobsled infrastructure? You could take a shot, but we wouldn’t. We’re just saying it’s very likely J. Brown has been anywhere you might mention. Very likely. The tragedy in all this is that the one place J. Brown would love to go, she cannot. She is a rabid Harry Potter fan. We mean rabid. And now that J. K. Rowling is writing literary realism, all flights to Hogwarts are canceled. J. Brown has consoled herself by going to the fictional universe of “The Secret Boyfriend,” by Hugh Sheehy, from issue 9.2. , and she makes an insightful traveling companion.
Jessica Brown: Hugh Sheehy’s “The Secret Boyfriend” follows a young woman as she travels through Colombia with her boyfriend Billy, seemingly shadowed by a mysterious man named James. One reason I love this story is that the plot—meeting James, leaving Billy, staying in Colombia—isn’t really the point. Instead, James is an excuse for the narrator to chase after another version of herself, a version “not quite in this world, but close, so much so that I knew the wild taste of her mouth.”
This story resonates so strongly for me because I have felt that same self-dislocation. You think traveling will change you, will make you better. But instead, you get the loneliness of a dim hostel bedroom or an empty bar with plastic tables and a dusty Coke sign on the far wall. You end up waiting on the side of a dusty road for a taxi you’re pretty sure is going to come. Eventually. The narrator’s confusion mirrors moments in my life when I was “tormented by my certainty that outside our room, true excitements went on without me.” I thought of the evening I spent sitting in a hotel room in Formosa, Argentina, watching Dances with Wolves in Spanish on a tiny television chained to the wall. I thought of the day I spent eight hours stranded at a bus station in Accra, Ghana. I thought of the time I chose not to join my friends on a spontaneous trip to France. I was afraid I wouldn’t have time to finish my homework.
The characters in “The Secret Boyfriend” resist easy judgments, just as “motives tend to resist easy names.” I can’t dismiss Billy as just a petulant American tourist; I can’t condemn the narrator for going off with a stranger in Colombia. She thinks of her wild, alternate self, “If I went home, I would never get to know her. I would remember this night, this moment, but the feeling itself would die and, like dead things, stay that way.” So when she is faced with an opportunity to push further, she takes it—for better or worse.
Tonight: We have a full lineup of talented readers for our Monster Mags from the Midwest reading! We’ve partnered once again with Mid-American Review and Ninth Letter for this offsite reading at the Back Bay Social Club, 867 Boylston Street, right across the street from the convention center. The event starts at 6 p.m., and the readings will start at 7. Our fabulous readers: Steve Almond, Tarfia Faizullah, Roy Kesey, Mary Miller, Sarah Rose Nordgren, and Marcus Wicker.
Also, make sure to stop by our table at the bookfair, F19 on the Plaza Level. We’ll have awesome ceramic tumblers as a subscription reward, and the Monster Mags will be offering the three-for-one deal again. That’s right: you get a year’s subscription to Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, and Ninth Letter, for a mere $33.
The Cincinnati Review was named one of the 100 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers by MastersinEnglish.org. We are number nine and proud of it. They list as a must read our blog entry: Irrelevant Questions for Relevant Writers: Solipsistic Collapse Edition. If you’re considering a master’s degree or you’re an educator looking for a resource, check out this tidy site, which “cater[s] to English majors, or those who are considering taking their education in English literature and composition a step further.”