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Snifters of Snippets

Monday, August 31st, 2015

werebackFall term is in full swing here at UC, and the halls are hopping. So is our office. We have two new staffers—Rochelle Hurt and Jose Araguz—as well as a fresh group of grad volunteers. We’re already in the thick of the submissions you fine people are sending our way—and we’re awaiting the proof (due next week) of our winter 2016 number, which is positively primo (if we do say so). Here are a few snippets of prose from 12.2 to wet your lit whistle. To belly up to the CR bar, become a subscriber. As added inducement, we’ll send those who subscribe this week a gratis copy of our 64-page, full-color graphic play, MOTH (a $12 value). It’s the literary equivalent of an absinthe fizz. Look for more excerpts from our forthcoming issue later this week!


Wendy Rawlings, “Restraint”

The hotel room door opens as if on its own. He always steps behind it. More ceremony. Maybe it’s military. One time he had her to his house when the wife was away and asked her to take off her shoes. She thought at first his request must be forensic. Shred the evidence. If he killed her he could dispose of the body. Illicit acts, illicit thoughts. They sat in his den and drank bourbon with Coke and lime. Fabulous heavy glassware, made in the last century. One day she would be a real adult, and own things. He had made another request. Would she remove the rest of her clothes? She had chosen a short black skirt with a pink silk blouse and black sandals with tiny pink flowers hand-painted on them from her one time in Spain. All that effort for flowers. She took her time removing each piece and folding it. Then sat with her legs crossed to drink a second bourbon.


Michael Byers, “Stone”

After minutes of liquid agony, during which he was reduced to a burning nothingness, there came the urge to urinate again, and he gingerly felt for the bottle and applied it to himself in time, and after two more codeine the ceiling began to paint itself in deeply saturated tones of gray and blue, and when he woke the room was dark and someone had turned a Mariners game up very loud, very far away, or so it seemed. Then more time passed without making an account of itself and he was in pain again—this time the pain seeming to have acquired a mind and a will, now wanting him to understand something, that obligations had to be met, that certain performances had to be assured. He spent what seemed like weeks in conversation with this entity. They were on a wide, sandy desert, and then they entered a large open sandy room, which was also the sandy desert. In this way the pain was showing him the terms of their agreement.


Leslie Pietrzyk, “How We Leave Home”

Talk about Roger Ackroyd. Talk about the gig, a good one with a cranking crowd and a decent take. Two glasses of bourbon for me, bigger, taller. Five for him. We found the bottom of the bottle. When he grabbed my shoulders and jammed his lips onto mine, when his tongue scooped through my mouth, when he moaned my name, my real name, no childish nickname, and muttered, “Oh shit-shit-shit-shit,” when his hand snaked down through my tube top and I straddled him right where he sat in my father’s chair, when these things happened and then more things happened, more, I kept my eyes open. I saw everything. It was my own life arriving—finally—and there I was, watching it all spool loose.

CR Sampler

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

samplerHey, everybody. The term starts next week, the winter issue is with the typesetter, and we’re already back to considering and reading submissions for our upcoming spring 2016 number. Actually we never stopped. It has taken us all summer to . . . almost . . . catch up. (Only thirty more to go from last term!)

For those unfamiliar with the journal, we urge you to give us a read before submitting. Sample back issues are seven bucks. There’s no fee to submit to CR, but our system prevents you from submitting another piece (or packet) before you’ve heard from us on the last one you sent. With a response time of (usually) three or four months, that means you’ll only get a couple of shots at it in a given reading period. In other words, choose carefully. In other, other words, send us your best stuff.

For a few samples of material that has been published in our pages—and commented upon by our staff and contributors—check out our blog:


The latter story, a marvelous piece by Tom Paine, is included in his new collection, A Boy’s Book of Nervous Breakdowns, just reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly.

CR and Poetry Daily

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Poetry Daily is once again featuring some of our content. Today’s poem: Benjamin S. Grossberg’s “McGuire’s Twenty-Five Minutes” from our newly released summer number.


Song of “Sefiros”

Monday, July 20th, 2015

At last we can present the recording of our “art song” offering based on Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros” (both published in our Winter 2015 issue). Contributor and musician Claudia Monpere offers her informed and sensitive response to playing Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score.

Claudia Monpere: I love the fusion of music and poetry, but I’ve never been involved in a collaboration of the two arts. After reading the winter 2015 issue of The Cincinnati Review, I sit at the piano and play Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score of Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros.” Oh, what a haunting and lovely composition of a deeply moving poem. Since the parts for both violin and soprano are in the treble clef, I experiment, playing the soprano part an octave higher, then trying the violin section an octave lower. I experiment further, sometimes singing the words, other times reading them silently as I play.

The key of A minor is perfect for this elegy, and the music enhances the poem’s emotional intensity. Holocaust images of fire, bones, and ash are juxtaposed with private loss. As my left hand plays the frequent sequences of triplets, the keys accumulate waterfalls of grief. There are no full chords in this piece. Instead, there are double-stops which heighten the mournful quality. I play slowly, very slowly—“In every abandoned chamber of names charred limbs & leaves read by black flame”—until the tempo quickens and the music turns discordant: “bone-known and written in skeletal verse.”

Stein’s language is replete with consonance and assonance. Harrison’s score lingers on some words and phrases, intensifying the music in the language. With those searing final images: “black plume, bottomless chasm, blazing gate,” my right hand strikes the high A hard—forte—a tied note holding on, gripping through another waterfall triplet,falling downward while the left hand fades—pianissimo. Then the final double-stop of D and A, a long tie, echoes of loss, eons of loss. Silence.


Lingering with 11.2

Friday, July 17th, 2015

LingeringDon Peteroy: In Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, the narrator says “So it goes” 106 times. It’s a sigh; it conveys melancholy, and always appears after something—animate or inanimate—moves on. Similarly, throughout Stephen King’s series The Dark Tower, the narrators and characters say “The world has moved on” too many times for me to count.

Here at Cincinnati Review, though 12.1 is now available, our world has not . . . yet . . . moved on. Back issues of CR 11.2 are still available for order, and we have some wonderful comments from contributors in that issue, discussing their pieces, their struggles, their inspirations. The three writers below attest to what can be done when the world insists it must move on.

Dan Bellm: In the days and weeks after my mother’s death in 2010, at the end of a very long good-bye, her very long passage through Alzheimer’s disease, there was practically nothing at all that I could bear reading, and I am a constant reader. Certainly not any kind of poetry of “consolation.” You might say by chance I ended up pulling Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North off a shelf, that great prose-and-poem account of a long journey on foot in seventh century Japan that had nothing and everything to do with my present experience and state of mind. I can’t entirely say, but something of its air of peace and acceptance, of transience and eternity, stayed with me. My notebook started filling up with fairly bad attempts at haiku, brief gestures that almost never cohered. This was somehow all right. Eventually I stayed with nothing of that “form” except for what is probably its least important element, the syllables, the tercet of five and seven and five. For a good long while, until it ended, this became the way I thought and wrote; it gave me a vessel in which to address, remember, and try to evoke my mother. As many writers before me have said, I found freedom in the constraint. The two pieces in Cincinnati Review both come near the end of the book-length elegy for my mother that is also called Deep Well, entirely written in this syllabic form.


Katherine Karlin: Like many readers, I was deeply affected by David Sedaris’s account of the suicide of his sister, Tiffany.  The debates that ensued afterwards—was Sedaris displaying an appropriate sense of grief? Was he sufficiently honoring the deceased?—discounted an inevitable premise: this was David’s story, not Tiffany’s. He never presumed to represent her voice, nor should he. Still, I was unnerved by her silence and began to explore through fictive imagination (the only way I know how) what it might be like to nurse a dogged mental illness when you come from an accomplished, hyper-verbal family. In my story, Honey is tragic not only because her mind works in reflexive circuits she can’t escape but also because, like all suicides, she cedes the last word of her own narrative.


Claudia Monpere: “The Now” is part of a manuscript called Person in Water about my husband’s suicide. I wrote fiercely in a notebook for about a year after his death, never complete poems but questions, images, rants, summaries of his last days, disembodied lines that much later entered some poems. I wrote “The Now” a few years after his death, trying to create the intensity of that week when I had trouble breathing and the days were a rush of family and police flooding my house and memories and images clashing with one another. I worried that my dad would fall in the rain on the path to my front door, remembered paintings in an art gallery on a trip when my husband was stable and happy, felt terror for my children’s future, obsessed about the cause of his suicide. I struggled with the poem’s form, but once I figured it out, the lines came fairly quickly

Oops—We Did It Again

Friday, July 17th, 2015
Deadline_ExtensionFor the second year in a row, our weakness for slackers has won the day. Yes, we are extending the entry period for the 2015 Robert and Adele Schiff Awards by one week. Submissions will now close on Wednesday, July 22, at 11:59 p.m. EST. One poem and one prose piece (fiction or creative nonfiction) will be chosen for publication in our 2016 prize issue, and the two winners will each receive $1,000.

Contest—Last Week to Enter!

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
Only one week left to submit to The Cincinnati Review’s 2015 Robert and Adele Schiff Awards in Poetry and Prose. One poem and one prose piece (fiction or creative nonfiction) will be chosen for publication in our 2016 prize issue, and the two winners will each receive $1,000.


The entry fee of $20 includes a year-long subscription (two issues), and submissions will be accepted until midnight EST on July 15. All entries will be considered for publication. Please submit up to 8 pages of poetry or 40 pages of prose per entry. All entries should be submitted through our online submission manager.

Pantoum for the Rejected

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Nicola Mason: Threw this together in response to contributor Michael Robins’s wry Facebook post about summer rejection season. Sensitive subject for writers, and (I can attest) for editors too. In the next few weeks we will steadily work through the hundreds of submissions that built up during our reading period so we can start with a clean slate come fall and keep our response time from snowballing. Because summer is catch-up time for so many journals, writers who submit a lot often get inundated with rejections in a short span. It can be rough, but despite the seeming onslaught,  a “no” simply means your piece wasn’t right for a particular mag at a particular moment. We don’t enjoy rejecting work, but CR moves on, and hopefully so do all of you. In that spirit, I give you my (loose) Pantoum for the Rejected.

The term is over, the halls open.
I do not want to send you a rejection.
The grad staff is off for the summer,
scrabbling for work to make rent.

I do not want to send you a rejection.
The issue is nearly full, but unbalanced.
We like what you sent,
but we’re scrabbling for more creative nonfiction.

The issue is nearly full,
and still Submission Manager is a vasty deep.
We like what you sent
and wish for more pages, more funding.

Submission Manager is a vasty deep,
with life at different leagues.
I wish for more pages, more funding.
I do not want to send you a rejection.

Hitch in Our Giddyup

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Giddyup_ButtercupDear contest types: We’ve run into an electronic snag re the payment process for the Robert and Adele Schiff Awards. In short, if you enter and pay, then return to Sumission Manager later to check on your entry, it will appear as though your payment did not go through. Rest assured, ALL IS WELL. You’re all paid up, and we’re diving into your poems, stories, essays. We’ve got people who’ve got people who are working to restore the communication line with Skipjack, which is ignoring us right now. But that’s our problem. Just alerting you so you do not pay twice. Repeat: DO NOT PAY TWICE! If you do, we can fix that too, but we’d rather save you—and ourselves—the trouble. Thanks for entering!  Exciting-looking submissions are rolling in. Remember you can enter multiple times (and receive multiple subscriptions), and we’re accepting work through July 15.

Let the Contest Commence!

Monday, June 1st, 2015

EnterToWinOur summer contest is officially open. Bring on your stories or essays about crazy uncles, camping trips gone bad, of conjoined twins marrying conjoined twins, about the takeover of talking oysters, the turncoat best friend or the boss from hell, the skeleton in the closet who starts dressing up and putting on skits. Send us your poems about prairie fires, annoying yacht salesmen, the ruminations of a slab of granite, about tides, wishes, crows, lutes, bridges, French tutors, nanotechnology, or any combination thereof. Which is our way of saying we’re open to everything—as long as your piece is well considered, fully imagined, and skillfully executed. Enter—as many times as you like—between now and midnight (eastern time) on July 15 using Submission Manager on our website. The fee for each entry is $20, and with each paid fee comes a year’s subscription. Multiple submissions means multiple subscriptions that are either yours to accrue or to give to a fellow lit lover.

Simultaneous submissions are acceptable under the condition that you notify us if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere. As the contest is judged blind, no contact information may appear anywhere on the manuscript file. Files that do include identifying information will be rejected unread, and entry fees will not be refunded (though you’ll still get your free subscription).

All entrants will be notified of the winners—who receive a thousand bucks each—on October 1, and an announcement will appear on our website and in the Winter 2016 issue. Winning entries will be published in the Summer 2016 issue, which comes out in May. Remember: Even if you don’t win, your piece could still be selected for publication. It happens a lot.

An important note for international entrants: Our payment gateway requires you to enter a US state or territory and zip code as part of your address. We suggest you use OH for the state and 45202 for the zip code. If you already have an account with us, you’ll need to change this information on your account page before submitting payment. After your payment has gone through, please change your address back, so that your free subscription will go to the right place.

If you have any questions about the contest or problems submitting and/or making payment, please email editors[at]cincinnatireview[dot]com, and we’ll get back to you shortly.