Archive for November, 2013

GO 10.2!

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Our winter issue has arrived! And in the spirit of rooting it on as it makes its way from our hands, across the field (also known as the highway system), to the goal (your reading pleasure), we . . . well, we put on face paint. Actually we intended our cross-countenance cheer to read: GO 10.2! GREAT POEMS, STORIES, ESSAYS, CREATIVE NONFICTION, BOOK REVIEWS, PAINTINGS—NOT TO MENTION AN ART SONG—FOR YOU! But at noon yesterday, we could only find seven literary types willing to look dorky for half an hour. Though our message is abbreviated, our enthusiasm for volume 10, number 2 knows no bounds. Happy reading, oh-so-valued subscribers. A special Rah Rah, Sis-Boom-Bah to you.

Anxieties of Influence: Bagoo, Edmeades, Joyner, Schutt

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
As Harold Bloom contends, most poets, whether they admit it or not, struggle to surpass their influences. Wordsworth arm-wrestles Milton for The Prelude. Stevens posits a secular vision of the sublime to rival Dante’s devout cosmology. And part of Shakespeare, however deep and dark, envies Ingram Frizer for stabbing Kit Marlowe in the face.

Four poets published in issue 10.1 take a less violent, if equally revisionary, approach. Andre Bagoo uses a technique he borrowed from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to write an unauthorized biography in verse. Lynley Edmeades follows the lead of four giants of Irish and American poetry to access the origins of language itself. Janet Joyner credits Jacques Cousteau with helping her link the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis with the massive 2010 Transocean oil spill in the Gulf Coast. And Will Schutt negotiates the terms of his literary debts to Elizabeth Bishop and Du Fu in order to gain possession of his own poems.

Andre Bagoo (on five poems from All Streets Lead to the Sea): About two years ago I read Borges poem “Las Calles (The Streets)” with its closing line: “unfold the streets—and they too are my country.” At around the same time, I had begun a collaboration with the poet Vahni Capildeo called Disappearing Houses, which saw me spend time walking around the streets of Port-of-Spain, where I grew up and live, photographing things. Also at this time, my nephew Luke was obsessed with the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with its fantastic device of a living map that betrayed the whereabouts of all through magically changing footprints on its surface. I thought of writing, in a series of poems, an unauthorized biography of someone, but based solely on key experiences they had on key streets in their life: a kind of personal history; a biographical map. Thus, “White Street” recalls one such event for the protagonist:  tenor Eddie Cumberbatch’s performance of Schubert’s Das Winterreise at the Little Carib Theatre in 2011. All Streets Lead to the Sea, the name of the entire sequence, remains ongoing, but many of the poems in it have already been published, scattered across diverse journals and publications, as they should be.

Lynley Edmeades (on “Deipnosophy,” “Expenditure,” and “Interior, Midday”): During 2011-2012, I lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was a year dedicated to the study and writing of poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queens University. I was fortunate, also, to attend the John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh, where I saw Jorie Graham and Paul Muldoon perform. When I look back, I can see a clear line between what I was writing at that time and what I had been surrounding myself with. Seeing and reading Paul Muldoon during that year (his influence on Northern Irish poetry is indispensable) taught me a lot about form and encouraged my growing interest in etymology and lexicography (hence “Deipnosophy” and “Expenditure”). Seeing Jorie Graham opened up a space around silence and place, the metaphysical capabilities of the poem (hence “Interior, Midday”). My teacher and mentor during my time in Belfast was the poet Sinead Morrissey. Her influence on my own process has now become something quite elementary. These three poems are all, upon reflection, an attempt to get inside language, to embody the reality that language enables.

Janet Joyner (on “The Edge Has Moved to the Center”): It was not so much the Deepwater Horizon well explosion, which took life and dumped unparalleled quantities of oil into the Gulf, that was the initial spur for my poem “The Edge Has Moved To The Center,” but rather the “clean up” procedure of dispersing chemicals to break up the oil floating on the surface so that it would descend, in small bits, to the ocean floor. And there remain, out of sight, out of mind. Justified by the sea’s “diluting factor.” To enter, as Jacques Cousteau once said, “the planetary currents and upwellings and winds that keep atmosphere and ocean in constant motion—reacting one with another, maintaining Earth’s temperature and the sea’s alkalinity and oxygenation endlessly circulating as though they were a pulsing bloodstream and Earth itself a living organism. Finite and fragile, minuscule but majestic: air and water, the fluids of life.” This same principle of “dilution” underlay the schemes enabling the subprime mortgage scandal at the root of  the financial crisis now known as our Great Recession. With “clean up” procedures that left untouched those most responsible for it.  And, as it turns out, if business really is America’s only business, then pollution by assault weaponry will go largely unchecked.

Will Schutt (on “Ambitions” and “Biking Down Beach Lane I Spy a Group of Fox Kits Underneath an Empty Summer Rental”): Both “Ambitions” and “Biking Down Beach Lane I Spy A Group of Fox Kits Underneath an Empty Summer Rental” were written in the early spring out on pretty Eastern Long Island, a place packed during the summer and relatively dead in winter, where the inbetweeness of spring is acutely felt. I was working from home and spent the early mornings and late afternoons watching animals: wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and, yes, once, a brood of fox kits. For whatever reason, I wanted to record their presence before the summer crowds—I told myself—drove them into hiding again. Perhaps, aware of their failure to capture the animals, the poems have more to do with our natural yet inexplicable desire to preserve things (in art, in writing). I was reading David Young’s translations of Du Fu and re-reading Elizabeth Bishop, especially her poem “The End of March.” For the scoring and spare punctuation, I owe a debt to Young’s Du Fu; the looking closely bit I get from Bishop. As for the liesurely pace and flights of fancy—those cowbells at the end of “Biking” are all in my head—I hope I can claim them for my own. But maybe they’re theirs too.

Pushcart Nominations

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Nomination season is always a heated time in our office. We are usually a friendly and collegial bunch, but when asked to select just six pieces of poetry and prose from our two hearty 2013 issues, things can get ugly. We question one another’s aesthetic judgment. We raise our voices. Dinner party invitations are rescinded. We make plans to hurt each other in small and undetectable ways. This time, the tension boiled over with the long-expected battle of the Brians, a shoving match by the file cabinets between Associate Editor Brian Trapp and Assistant Editor Brian Brodeur. They were separated. No one was hurt. It was over a poem.

The heart of the problem—and we don’t mean to brag—is that all of our poems and stories are so good. We chose them for a reason. On this blog, we’ve already sung the praises of D. J. Thielke’s story “Frantic Hearts,” Michael Barach’s poem “Penis Interview,” Julianna Baggott’s essay “My Mother in Her Mail-Order Scott Paper Company Dress: A Portrait of Intergenerational Neuroses,” Erin Belieu’s poem “Olentangy River,” Hugh Sheehy’s story “The Secret Boyfriend,” Naomi Guttman’s poem “Domestic Dirge,” and Ian Stansel’s “Traveling Light.” And there are so many other amazing poems, essays, and stories in issues 9.2 and 10.1 still awaiting paeans. In other words, we could be here all day. So we’ll cut to the chase.

Here is our list. I hope you are happy, Pushcart. Our office friendships are wrecked, but our nominations are things of beauty. At least we have that.


Margaret Luongo , “Word Problem

Alexander Lumans, “Give Your Man His Due”

Aharon Levy, “Philomela in Tribeca


Rebecca Lehman, “Exoskeleton

Joseph P. Wood, “Birmingham”

Andre Bagoo,  “White Street”

Emerging Poets Festival

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Along with unicorns, cephalopods, and whiskers on kittens, our list of favorite things includes promoting amazing new writers. Last week we hosted four such talents at our Emerging Poets Festival, where attendees gained insight on publishing a first book, and got a preview of some exciting projects on the horizon. Here is an excerpt from a roundtable discussion (moderated by Assistant Professor Danielle Deulen), in which you will learn why Collier Nogues is defacing military documents, what Nathaniel Perry finds bizarre, why feminism’s got a beef with Shara Lessley’s new book title, and which garden tools Marcus Wicker finds praise-worthy:

Daniel Deulen: Can you talk about what you’re working on now?

Marcus Wicker: I’m juggling two different manuscripts, spending more time on this thing I call Cul-de-sac Pastoral. Praise poems to midwestern suburbia, to and against, so like, praise poem to the hermetically sealed lawn and Uzi sprinkler head, praise poems to black squirrels. But then, the other half of the book is a dialogue with god or a higher power, something like that. And it’s good fun. It’s unholy. It’s not what you’re thinking.

Nathaniel Perry: I have a second manuscript that’s done which is called Bizarre, and it’s mostly about parenting, which IS bizarre. And it has three suites of poems—one for each of my children. One’s modeled on Geoffrey Hill’s amazing sequence “The Pentecost Castle,” from Tenebrae, in which he thinks about love in all of its forms, both religious love and sexual love and other kinds of love. There’s a series of poems about moons for my daughter, and then another sequence based on some poems by the Appalachian poet George Scarborough. And then a long poem about an infanticide scandal from the Eighteenth Century that occurred in my neck of the woods in Virginia. Which is a weird place to start thinking about parenting, but I promise I think it works.

Collier Nogues: At this point I have several different manuscripts that are outgrowths of different projects I’ve started, and the one that I’m focusing on most stems from the fact that I grew up on a military base overseas in Okinawa. For a long time I’ve been really interested in how the state of war or preparedness for war becomes naturalized, begins to seem like a really natural thing, which I think is certainly of the moment, now, in the United States. And so, as a way to be writing different kinds of poems than I had been, I stared doing erasures. Those have taken off, and I keep trying to get original poems in this manuscript, but they’re not as interesting; I have less to say, I guess, in my own voice than from picking from other texts, which all participated somehow in currents of imperialism or colonialism or militarism that precipitate war, and they’re focused around World War II in the pacific, Okinawa specifically.

Shara Lessley: Danielle mentioned [my next book] The Explosive Expert’s Wife, and I’m horrified because I’ve read things about how this construction of the title is now passé, and that if we have another book that says something about so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s daughter that it’s going to set feminism back. But I’m about two thirds of the way through the project. I just returned from living in the Middle East for three years, and so today actually I’ll be reading poems that are rooted firmly in Amman, Jordan. Half of the book is really situated in that location, and then the other half has to do with the history of domestic terrorism in the United States, so, fun little numbers on the Unabomber and Oklahoma City and some of the things that happened during the civil rights era in this country.

Book Review News

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

A decade or so ago, when we read a good book review, it left us both hungry and restless. “Surely,” we’d say too loudly with finger raised, “there must be a different take on this, some other astute but equally illuminating opinion on the qualities of this work.” That’s why at The Cincinnati Review, we don’t offer just one but rather three reviews of a given book. No plot summaries, we tell our reviewers, just argument, appraisal, meditation, or some combination thereof. We want you, our readers, to leave our pages with your interest not merely piqued but sated.

Our “threefer feature,” if you will, has been part of CR since its inception. Way back in 2004 we began by running three reviews of J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and over the last ten years, we’ve published similarly savvy troikas on the work of literary patriarchs (John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick) as well as that of first-time authors (Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife). We’ve featured memoirs (Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying), autobiographical fiction (Alice Munro’s The View from Castle Rock), and fabulism (Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake). We’ve even riffed on anthologies (My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, edited by Kate Bernheimer) and the graphic novel (Chris Ware’s Building Stories). It’s been a good run, but to be honest, ten years is a long time to do anything.

So in CR 10.2, we’re mixing it up with three reviews of debut story collections by women. You’ll read Liv Stratman on Jamie Quatro’s I Want to Show You More, Steve Kistulentz on Kate Milliken’s If I’d Known You Were Coming, and Holly Goddard Jones on Marie-Helene Bertino’s Safe as Houses. If we find ourselves once again speechifying with raised finger, we’ll bring back the former, er, format. But in the meantime, we hope you’ll check out our new issue—due in the next couple of weeks—and then read the wonderful collections themselves.

Art-Song Offering

Friday, November 8th, 2013

A bit of news related to our developing interest in words and music. (Look for our first art-song feature in our November issue, coming soon!)

Kevin Simmonds, whose poems appeared in 9.2 and will also appear in 11.1 (spring/summer 2014), is the composer of a musical piece being performed this weekend and next in San Francisco. The piece concerns the life and death of Emmett Till, the African American teen who in 1955, after allegedly whistling at a white woman, was kidnapped from his uncle’s home, brutally beaten, shot in the head, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. The photograph of his open casket became an iconic image that circulated throughout the world, and Emmett Till immediately became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.

Simmonds also wrote half the text of this unusual and powerful presentation, which, utilizing a combination of Japanese Noh and religious oratorio, includes poetry, musical settings of poetry, characters, a chorus, and an instrumental ensemble—all in a concert presentation.

AWP Small Press Publisher Award Finalist!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Thanks, AWP! We are finalists for the AWP Small Press Publisher Award, along with One Story and Creative Nonfiction. The winner will receive $2000 and an exhibit booth at the 2015 conference. We’ll be nibbling our nails till the announcement in Seattle!

CR’s Emerging Poets Festival

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Our Emerging Poets Festival kicks off this Friday afternoon in the Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library. We’ve made it part of our mission to support strong new writers—and four of these talented comers (bios below) will gather for a panel discussion at 2:00 and a reading at 3:00. Both events are free and open to the public. There will be a break after the panel, so stop by whenever you can. Books will be available for sale and signing.

Collier Nogues’s first book, On the Other Side, Blue, was published by Four Way Books in 2011. She has received fellowships and grants from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and Oregon’s Fishtrap, Inc. She teaches writing at the University of California, Irvine, and lives in nearby Long Beach.

Shara Lessley is the author of Two-Headed Nightingale (New Issues, 2012) and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Her awards include an Artist Fellowship from the State of North Carolina, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Colgate University’s O’Connor Fellowship, The Gilman School’s Tickner Fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation prize. She lives in the Middle East, where she’s completing her second collection, tentatively titled The Explosive Expert’s Wife.

Nathaniel Perry is the author of Nine Acres (APR/Copper Canyon, 2011), which won the Honickman First Prize from The American Poetry Review. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Orion, Kenyon Review Online, Subtropics, and elsewhere. the editor of the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, he lives with his family in rural southside Virginia.

Marcus Wicker’s first book, Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper, 2012), won the National Poetry Series Prize. The recipient of a 2011 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, he has also held fellowships from Cave Canem, the Fine Arts Work Center, and Indiana University. He is an assistant professor at Southern Indiana University.

“Borrowing” from the Best

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Kenneth Nichols over at Great Writers Steal has constructed a tutorial in thieving from Brendan Mathews’s short story “My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer.” Mathews’s story first appeared in issue 6.1, and later lit up the pages of Best American Short Stories 2010. Here’s a little something we pilfered to give you a peek:

“First, I’m going to point out that Mr. Mathews borrowed from Hamlet, whether he knew it or not. The narrator’s jealousy leads him to strike back in a manner unique to his situation. He plans to perform a parody of the lion tamer’s underwhelming act using Scottie terriers instead of giant cats. The narrator expects the audience to release great peals of laughter as they mock his romantic rival. Now, it doesn’t work out that way in the story, but Mr. Mathews gets a great deal of mileage out of describing the image. We’ve all resented those who stand in the way of the man or woman we love (or think we love), and wouldn’t it be great to enlist a couple thousand people in your campaign to make the rival feel terrible about themselves?”

Read the complete post at: