Posts Tagged ‘CR 12.2’

More Pushcart Nominations!!!

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

2016_cover_bigWe both love and hate nominating pieces for the Pushcart Prize. With our allotment of a mere six selections, there are so many excellent stories and poems that we must leave unheralded. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce more Pushcart Prize nominations, this time stemming from the Pushcart contributing editors’ choices. They’ve nominated six more additional pieces from our recent issues: two poems and four stories.

from issue 12.2 (Winter 2016)
fiction: Wendy Rawlings, “Restraint” & Josh Russell, “Our Boys”

from issue 13.1 (Summer 2016)
poetry: Andrea Cohen “Happiness” & “Tip”
fiction: Robert Long Foreman, “Awe” & Steven Sherrill “excerpt from The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time

Congrats to these worthy writers, and thanks to the editors for nominating these marvelous pieces!

Obstacles & Aversions

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Rochelle Hurt: There is something to be said for writing against or away from received traditions and natural proclivities. Often, the result is a kind of verve and vigor we may not otherwise access. Several contributors to CR 12.2 describe their process as that of writing against the grain, whether by challenging predecessors, staking out marginal territory, or disavowing process altogether. In thinking about this, I also noticed that many 12.2 contributors formed their pieces out of difficult or negative experiences—not by turning away from them in search of comfort, but by turning toward them. This is an interesting and indirect counter to the idea of writing against. Perhaps sometimes the same kind of verve attained through writing from aversion can also be attained through writing from adversity. In other words, try the darker path.



David Mohan: “Semblance” explores how a lover treats with time, and the psychological temporality of a relationship. My key trigger would have to be John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising,” one of the great poems about love and the passage of time, but it should be pointed out that I was inspired to write against that poem, and explore something similar to a counterpoint to Donne’s playful conceit. I love the idea in Donne’s poem that it might be possible, within the exalted temporality of being in love, to control time, but I was more interested in how someone in love has a more pronounced sense of how transient any form of human contact is. If the lovers in Donne’s poem are at the center of the universe—according to the poet, at least—the lovers in “Semblance” are rendered close to anonymous when viewed in the context of moment-by-moment flux and change.

Charles Rafferty on “Leisure,” “Antique,” and “Because He Had Been Crying”: I used to have an aversion to prose poems. I thought of them as mules—sterile hybrids. Now, I see the prose poem as a euglena—that cutthroat survivor with a foot in two kingdoms.

Allison Campbell on “Necessity”: I think I can safely say this is the first poem I’ve written via food poisoning. Maybe this is an argument for how much intelligence is in the gut, rather than the brain. I don’t know. But after a turkey sandwich from a questionable, smoothie-making-health-food-like joint, I was up all night and in incredible pain. To pass the dark hours and try to ease the discomfort, I listened to a meditation podcast. The woman’s almost unnervingly calm voice kept calling for space, to create space. And I noticed that when I could breathe around the areas of my body that felt distressed the space that breathing created opened room for some relaxation and relief. I started thinking about how the heart needed similar space, similar opening. Now, I say I started thinking about the heart—but in truth, I didn’t think, I just started writing the poem. In place of the meditation, I used the lines of the poem I was writing to pass the night. I repeated them and added to them and wrote my first draft of the poem the next day. Life’s gifts come in strange packages, right?

Dana Koster on “Endeavour”: There is ineloquence in grief, in that heart-ripped-out feeling that happens when you lose someone. You feel gutted. But you can’t write that your heart feels ripped out or that you feel gutted because those descriptions are cliché. So at a time when it’s difficult to come up with the name of a food that sounds appetizing, you’re left searching for new words to describe the oldest form of sadness. “Endeavour” came out of such a time. In the weeks after my friend Rick T. Jones died suddenly in 2014, I came across a photo of the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it was retired: its stark silhouette set against the huge and vibrant ombré of Earth’s atmosphere. It struck me how profoundly alone it was and it reminded me of Rick—both his wanderlust and the lonely manner of his death. In its way, the poem is an elegy for them both.

Colin Fleming on “Old Pyke”: I see a lot of accounts of how people came to write something where their grandfather had a talisman that was passed down with an accompanying tale through generations, or they labored for years with this idea they fictionalized from a newspaper story. I don’t really work that way. Sometimes stories come to me while I’m asleep, other times they just come to me, sometimes I write them in my head in full on my ten mile walks and I type them out later, and other times I just sit at the computer and say, “okay, time to go, let’s do a story, who do you want in it, what do you want to happen.” And I make it up. For me, it’s just about being myself. I suck at a lot of things—a huge, huge, embarrassing amount of things—but writing is not hard for me. By being myself I don’t mean looking around my life at things that have happened to me, but just doing what I do and knowing that doing that is going to carry the day, find the end point I want. I’m a storyteller. I think we fetishize process nowadays, because many writers like to talk more about writing than actually doing the writing. They sometimes live in fear of trying to make the white page black. So with “Old Pyke,” I’d never been to any of those places, I didn’t base the characters on anyone, and I did it in a couple hours. I had other things to write. You’re not supposed to say that anymore, right? But that’s also how it always was for the people whose work I esteem, across a range of mediums. When the imagination is in place, plus the understanding of what I’ll call human truths, and you can just be yourself, it’s about keeping the line moving and doing the next one. Because if that’s really who you are, they kind of write themselves anyway.

Why We Like It: “The Brief Second Life of Winston Whithers’s Wife” by Leslie Entsminger

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Eric Van Hoose: Ghost stories tend to hinge on the question of the ghost’s existence. Either the figment is real or it isn’t, and story’s purpose is to find the answer. But from the first moments of Leslie Entsminger’s “The Brief Second Life of Winston Whithers’s Wife,” when the spirit of Winston’s dead wife—initially haunting his bed—calls him an asshole, it’s clear that this is a different kind of ghost story. Ghosts are definitely present, inhabiting coffee grinders, violins, dildos, vacuums, and their hauntings are circumscribed by expensive, legally binding contracts drawn up and sold by the Church of Inanimate Possession (which, we learn, has branches “everywhere”).

Though most ghost stories test the limits of plausibility and reader credulity—Are there no rules? Are we meant to take this seriously?—in Entsminger’s hands, the paranormal world is no excuse for license. The story sets strict rules and takes them seriously.

toasterAn hour later, Winston sat in the kitchen with the toaster in front of him on the table. It had changed. The dent where one of their cats had knocked it off the counter was gone, and it was definitely shinier. It had taken a few tries. The pamphlet had given vague instructions to find the object with the “most vibrations,” which confused both of them, until Chloris had concentrated and had gotten the hang of it.

Entsminger’s ghosts are profoundly constricted, confined, and through observing the details of this limited kind of embodiment, we see the impoverishment and, simultaneously, the beauty of the bodies we all haunt.

They fell into their old habits, the only exception being that each evening he carried Chloris into the park so she could hear life around her. In the morning, Winston left Chloris on the counter so she could hear the radio. When he came home, he ate dinner and told her about his day. After an evening of game shows, he took her upstairs to bed and tucked her in. At first, he’d wanted to snuggle, but Chloris didn’t like it, saying he left fingerprints on her.

When you’ve begun where most ghost stories finish, when the hauntees are aware of the circumstances and can, as Winston does, verify the relevant contractual details (haunting length, senses involved, instructions for inhabiting different objects), where do you have left to go?

A lot of places, it turns out, and it’s that sense of plunging into the unknown, entering unexplored territory and becoming subject to all kinds of genuine surprise, that is part of the pleasure.

One . . . pictured a woman in a field of daisies, photographed midspin. Her skirts swirled out as she held a blender in front of her, her expression that of someone deeply happy and in love. The caption read Still together, plus now he can really make you margaritas!

Ghost stories can frighten, agitate, linger. They can make us wonder if something is there after we’ve turned off the light. In short, like all good works of art, they can add something to our realities. But until I read “The Brief Second Life of Winston Whithers’s Wife,” I didn’t know ghost stories could make me think about love, about kindness, about how our lives are saturated with beauty, about what it means to unplug my toaster. This story is so powerfully affecting because its ghosts are never the point. Instead we get lonesomeness, objects seen anew, insight about human relationships, aging, grieving, and what it means to care for things and for each other. Chloris’s second life might be brief, but for those who read Entsminger’s account of it, her story it is sure to live on for a long, long time.

Why We Like It: “Make No Bones about It” by Cindy Beebe

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Rochelle Hurt: In music, riffing usually refers to a method of composition in which a single element (like a series of notes in a specific order) is repeated, sometimes changing slightly with each new iteration, in order to form a pattern—though riffing is often improvisational. It’s a technique common to poetry as well. For example, anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of each line) can be understood as a linguistic riff, as can internal rhyme, repetition, alliteration, assonance, and consonance.


In her prose poem from issue 12.2, Cindy Beebe riffs on the turn of phrase “make no bones about it,” which serves as the poem’s title. She jumps right in with an extension of the title, “Not one single bone,” and then elaborates using “bone/s” as her riffing point and reintegrating the word “make”: “Make soup, if you like, though bones in the soup are not allowed. Even nice, fat ham bones, with ham bits on them.” In this brand of crafted spontaneity, repeated words and sounds become bridges to new phrases or ideas. Later in the poem, “make” and “bones” return to set off the following chain of sonic events: “Make no bones that float. Or sink, either. Make hay, rather. Make barley, alfalfa, the cows will love you. The cows will bow to you in one smooth, synchronous plié. A little cow ballet.” The progression here is not narrative, nor even logical in a traditional sense—rather, Beebe’s movement seems to be guided by an associative logic. This is a form of play, of course, but it is serious in its linguistic endeavors.

The author describes her process as a means of finding new life in worn out language: “Idioms have always fascinated me. I marvel at how they are able to retain their place in our language, sometimes for centuries, long after their origins are forgotten. If we were to look at them with our eyes open, as though we were children again, what new things might we see in them? What old things might we see differently? Writing “Make No Bones about It” was sort of like milking an old, familiar cow to find out what she might still be worth.”

While Beebe’s riffs do not form a predictable pattern, they are tied together. In this way, the poem forms an expansive network of meaning and connotation with a single idiom at its center. Each individual phrase or idea acts as a lateral extension of meaning from that center, and this allows them to cross back and forth over one another: “Such as whoopee. Such as in the morning, when you are floating still in your little boat of sleep, and the other skin, the skin that isn’t yours, comes drifting over into your own sleepy flesh. And there is this mesh like a dream you dream together. Dreams of whoopee, lots of whoopee.”

This lateral structure is precisely what makes the prose form perfect for Beebe’s poem. The prose block here is a wide plane on which this network of meanings can unfold, expanding outward rather than moving forward down the page in a linear fashion. Additionally, the condensed form supports Beebe’s associative leaps. The breathing space that would be provided by line breaks is not required here, where the reader is whisked quickly from one riff to the next—so quickly, in fact, that when one arrives finally back at the poem’s title phrase, “make no bones about it,” the arrival feels both astonishing and inevitable.


(The opening guitar riff from Sleater-Kinney’s “Dig Me Out” is one of my favorite earworms.)

Launch Party!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

launchpartyThe Cincinnati Review is celebrating our new issue with a launch party at Wash Park Art (a gallery at 1215 Elm Street, right across from Washington Park near Music Hall) this Friday, January 22, from 5:00 to 8:00. Come join us for food, drink, lively conversation, and a brief poetry reading by Norman Finkelstein, a contributor to the issue. More details here:

We will, of course, have copies of the magazine on hand. The new issue includes fiction from Nicholas Montemarano and Wendy Rawlings; poems from Charles Rafferty, who was just featured on Poetry Daily (, and this year’s Elliston Poet Carl Phillips; art by Alicia LaChance; translations from the Zapotec; a crossword puzzle by Fiction Editor Michael Griffith, and more. You can pick up a copy at an office near you (369 McM) or order one through our website.

Shipping Week!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015



Our winter issue has arrived! We’re busy stuffing, taping, stamping, and hauling boxes to the mail room. In addition to fiction by Michael Byers, Wendy Rawlings, and Nicholas Montemarano, not to mention poetry by Carl Phillips, MRB Chelko, and Rebecca Hazelton—as well as two primo pieces of creative nonfiction—we’re running another crossword by fiction editor Michael Griffith. He describes it as his toughest one yet! As we’ve done in the past, we’re offering a bonus issue to the first few folks who email us the correct grid (we’ll add it to your subscriptions). Shoot your puzzle solution to editors[at]cincinnatireview[dot]com by Friday, December 18, to win!




Exposing Our Roots: Coben, Wineman, Revell, Bagdanov

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Seamus Heaney’s famous poem “Digging” provides a well-loved metaphor for the writing process: pen as spade, the past as soil. “Between my finger and my thumb,” he writes, “The squat pen rests./I’ll dig with it.” In discussing their work from our upcoming winter issue (due late November), several contributors similarly explain their process as a kind of excavation—or, by contrast, a palimpsest built upon the past. Whether finding inspiration in family, biography, the literary canon, or the human body itself, these writers all reveal the constant presence of history on the page.

Joshua Coben: “Antechamber” is one of several poems about fatherhood that I’ve worked on in recent years. It reflects some of my most troubling questions about myself as a son and as a father of sons. I am trying to come to grips with the legacy of silence and misunderstanding that can be passed from taciturn father to quiet son across generations. Each son tries and, in many ways, fails to penetrate the mystery of his father. He seeks not only love, but also the means to understand himself. His father’s example, with all the unanswered questions it engenders, inevitably informs the kind of father he will grow into. This poem tries to convey the ancient dance of filial longing and paternal love, where the latter is often concealed behind barriers we do not mean to erect. The three-beat lines give it the lilt of a waltz, as father and son circle each other, changing places with each turn of the generational wheel.

Steven Wineman: When I heard about Alice Goffman’s book On the Run, I was drawn to the subject (a study of fugitive life in a poor African American neighborhood) and curious whether she was related to the great sociologist Erving Goffman. I did some poking around on the internet and found that, sure enough, Alice is Erving’s daughter. I also learned that Erving Goffman died when Alice was a baby, which seemed especially poignant given that he had remarried only the year before, at the age of fifty-nine. I came upon something else I had not known about Goffman: his first wife suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide in 1964. Suddenly I had a very personal link to Erving’s biography; I also was married to a woman who struggled with bipolar disorder and who took her life. I began to think about how to weave all these strands—a young woman taking up the work of the father she lost as an infant; two women crushed by mental illness; two husbands overwhelmed by suffering and loss—into a single essay. “Erving and Alice and Sky and Elisabeth” is the result.

Donald Revell on “Fresh Dante”: The poem for me arose from a crowd of living palimpsests—the city of Toulouse, vivid now as it was vivid centuries ago as the capital of the Troubadors; the Garonne, a river running through the city and through the Cantos of Ezra Pound; a sense of Dante in the midst of all, still and still embodied as he was in Eternity where his shadow dumbfounded the shades, including the shades of the Troubadors themselves; and eventually my own flesh, inscribing and effacing my days. We die into our books and then out of them again. The imperfections of our words match the imperfection of our loves, in the flesh and out of it. For me, Toulouse is at the center of it all.

Kristin George Bagdanov on “Resurrection Body”: I worry about extinction. I wonder how much of my life is actually an interaction with residue (shadow, echo, fossil, language) rather than the thing itself. I wonder if a poem, like the world, is always tending toward extinction, if the poem itself is a fossil in the making. In “Resurrection Body,” I reimagine the concepts of metempsychosis and bodily resurrection by considering the fact that our material bodies are not wholly our own—they are both person and thing, self and other, human and other-than-human. The human body, for example, has ten times more bacterial cells than human ones—so what implications does this have for calling one’s body “human” or saying “I”? This poem also elegizes the current and future loss of this world; the last line could be read as hopeful, or perhaps a realization forged too late in this epoch: that the damage we’ve inflicted upon other bodies is damage we’ve inflicted upon our own, and that this residue will persist beyond any individual’s death.

Ongoing Subscription Offer

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

poetryAs a followup to Monday’s post, whereby we offered readers sample passages from our forthcoming fiction, we’re now presenting a poetry gallimaufry, as it were. AND we’ll make good on our subscription bonus till the end of this week. In short, if you subscribe today, tomorrow, or Friday, we’ll send you a gratis copy of our graphic play MOTH with your first issue of the journal.


From “Not the Waves As They Make Their Way Forward” by Carl Phillips (Visiting UC in the spring!)

Like Virgil, Marcus Aurelius died believing that his triumphs,

when pitched against his failures, had come to very little.

I don’t know. Given the messiness of most lives (humble,

legendary, all the rest in between)—their interiors,

I mean—it’s hard to say he was wrong. Black night.


From “Necessity” by Allison Campbell

You can’t put a cold heart in the microwave for sixty seconds. It will not heat evenly. Some portions of the heart will still be cold, others much too hot. No, you cannot reheat the heart. The heart needs space.


From “Fresh Dante” by Donald Revell

Berries are nice, Lady.

Grishkin is nice, Lullay.

The soul of Toulouse rots through.

Creation is one way. Creation

Is the other way too.


From “April Incantation” by Maggie Dietz

Crack new bourns and boundaries

into parceled plots. Wreck even


the season that reared you: lick

the lilacs into sobbing heaps.


From “Reach for Your Inside Rain” by Emily Vizzo

How easy to be on my knees. My face on the bed.

Take whatever you want, I tell God. My buddy God

ignores me. Patience is his best trick


From “St. Louis Symphonic” by Philip Schaefer

A chorus of fingers

connected to a chorus of brain activities

which leads to a final chorus of breaths

on the other end of the street. A body

becoming a mural, a glowing coral reef.


From Translation series: part of a twelve-poem series “Lu Neza / Sobre el Camino” (“On the Road”) by Irma Pineda, trans. Wendy Call

The sea went deaf and tossed us

into the desert’s arms

The sea went deaf and hurled us

on a path to other places


From “Make No Bones About It” by Cindy Beebe

Make no bones that float. Or sink, either. Make hay, rather. Make barley, alfalfa, the cows will love you. The cows will bow to you in one smooth, synchronous plié. A little cow ballet.


From “Traveling Circus” by George David Clark

The stilts telescope. The big top folds and folds.

My shirt is the lion inside out, his canines for the cufflinks.

When I’ve vacuum-sealed the acrobats inside their leotards,

I use the high wire to tether the tent stakes.


From “Ant in Amber” by Ashley Keyser

Tiger-iris, me the pupil

learning history

is density. Bride, bare


your throat. You palaces

burning at the bottom of the sea,

fathom me.







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.