Posts Tagged ‘CR 13.1’

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!

Why We Like It: Andrea Cohen’s “Tip”

Monday, November 14th, 2016

James Ellenberger: Short poems are like potato chips: I often really enjoy the work, but am left wanting more. The best short poems seem to be able to circumvent the desire for more by engaging or evoking a world well outside of the page. In the case of haiku, the poem’s brevity isolates different cairns of human experience, directing us toward something impactful without telling us how that moment should resonate with us. For example, here’s Basho’s famous frog haiku (as translated by Robert Hass):


The old pond—
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.


This poem transports us without drawing clear guidelines of where we are, which leaves the piece feeling timeless. Even when we’re gone—and the words that we’ve fretted over, too, are gone—the old ponds will be older and the frogs, always new in their sleek skin, will continue leaping. It’s comforting to think that the burden of creating beauty isn’t on our shoulders, that sometimes it’s enough to simply linger in a moment.

“Tip,” a poem Andrea Cohen in issue 13.1, manages to say an incredible amount in only five lines. Here’s the poem:


Always, on the tip

of his tongue, something


cold and deeply unthinkable.

Around him you


always felt sinkable.

The first thing that drew me to this poem was its clever use of wordplay: The tip of the tongue becomes the tip of the iceberg, implying that what we say goes much deeper than the words themselves. In a slightly different way from the aforementioned haiku, we’re given an emotional cairn washed in allusion rather than the description of a single event in the world. It’s hard not to consider Hemmingway’s Iceberg Theory here, particularly in the sense that, as readers, we’re never privy to what’s actually being said (or isn’t). The effect is rather magical: the sheer physicality of the tongue and iceberg must come to terms with the poem’s negative space (“unthinkable”). I see the other elements of this poem (the distancing effect of the self-reflexive “you,” the insistence on “always” as how this poem is framed in time) navigating the negative space that ebbs around these lines like an ocean.

Formally, rhyming “unthinkable” and “sinkable” forms a sonic bridge between what’s tactile and what isn’t; the feeling of being “sinkable” is stark and dire, while what’s “unthinkable” can’t be grappled with as directly. This creates a feeling of unease, one that’s made more poignant with the allusions to the Titanic, which serve to clarify the scale of this attachment (or detachment). It feels as though, in other words, the world, not merely the “you,” is sinking.

Gaming Poetics: Hexagon, Hexagon Again

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

James Ellenberger: The Settlers of Catan is a resource-management game that requires each player to stake out territory on a lovely, numbered hexagonal landscape. As the game progresses, the players rely on dice rolls (both their own and those of their competitors) to restock their coffers with wool, ore, lumber, grain, and brick so they can build roads, cities, and additional settlements. Players may trade resources, but most are acquired by rolling the dice. The game, then, is a mixture of early board evaluation (i.e., where to settle), luck, and one’s ability to balance personal progress with the progress of others, which is acatan-imageided by trading. You want, in other words, to trade freely until it becomes clear that those trades will result in a loss.

What does any of this mean for poetry? In Catan, each hexagon has a number on it (2–12), reflecting the possible rolls of the dice. A hexagon with a 6 or an 8 will most likely be rolled more frequently in the course of the game. Hexagons with 2 and 12 are rolled rarely, and plots numbered thus are often considered less-than-optimal places to begin your civilization. If we’re to think of this in terms of poetry, there are certain structures and subject matters that have historically fallen into the 6 or 8 category. Nightingales were all the rage in England, an easy 8. Sound poetry isn’t as widely loved, probably putting it around an 11—in Catan terms, something less likely to succeed. But who’s to say what will happen over the course of the game? Who’s to say that in twenty years sound poetry won’t be an 8 as well? As the tides of taste ebb and flow, probabilities fluctuate. One may end up edging out the competition—creating something meaningful to many, something lasting—despite the odds.

Is it more satisfying to play on the margins, shooting for the 11 and 12 tiles, putting one’s faith entirely in lady luck? Or is it more satisfying to use probability to your advantage? Should we follow our brains, our hearts, our histories, or the muse? Poets generally pick and choose among these categories, not opting for one particular mode over another. For example, the sonnet form, a true classic, can be augmented in a way that evokes its history without carbon-copying its classical interests. As poets, we’re always foregoing one form for another, a stark image for something more ghostly, a concrete moment for something invested more in musicality. We weigh our options, assess our resources, and then we begin to build.

toast“Fertility Treatments, Toast,” a poem by Cate Lycurgus in our current issue, does something that I love: It merges two subjects (breakfast and fertility) in a way that makes us look at both differently. If breakfast were a Catan hexagon, I’d give it, say, a 2; I’ve read some poems about breakfast, some stunning ones, but it’s not generally what comes to mind when I think of poetry. Fertility, however, is an 8 for sure. Birth and death are the bread and butter of poetry, with love smeared on, either liberally or sparsely, depending on who you’re asking.

In taking something that we expect from poetry (discussions of birth, of life ongoing—or of life attempted) and linking with something that isn’t immediately identified with art, Lycurgus manages to make the familiar feel fresh and the quotidian really sizzle. Some of my favorite moments here involve the liminal spaces between the lexicons. For example:

if it’s you
clinging well-
oiled or butter’s better
Baby, best
to hash this out

I’m enamored with the double meaning of “Baby.” It’s simultaneously a concrete aspect of this relationship (i.e., a term of endearment) and a kind of negative space, an absence: the idea of a baby rather than the flesh-and-blood thing. In a similar vein, the usage of “hash” speaks toward breakfast and the fragmented nature of this conversation, the difficulty of it, creating an immediately compelling subtext. As a reader, I very much feel “the thing that cannot be said” that lingers around this table.

In Catan, the “scope” of a player’s game begins before luck has a chance to rear its (sometimes ugly) head; the world is, in essence, your oyster. The decision of where to settle is made actively, intentionally. If you choose to put down stakes by the desert, or on plots labeled 2 or 11, then the path of luck is all you’ve got; probability isn’t on your side. “Luck” is relatively intangible, like the muse, inspiration, or however else you’d like to approach it.

The “scope” of Lycurgus’s poem, its form and function, is to marry two sets of images and words. In selecting both familiar and unfamiliar poetic subjects, Lycurgus rewards her readers for noticing the subtle, brutally intelligent lines drawn between some relatively common phrases in English. The “luck” behind poems is whether they stay with a readership or not, whether people will find them to be surprising. Once a poem is written and out of your hands, who knows what a readership will do with your work? In choosing to bridge these two subjects, Lycurgus shifts the balance, changes the stakes, and in making us painfully aware of the possibility of loss, wins us to her side.

microreview/interview: A. Molotkov’s The Catalog of Broken Things

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by José Angel Araguz


In my reading of The Catalog of Broken Things (Airlie Press, 2016) by poet and 13.1 contributor A. Molotkov, I found a thematic thread made up of moments within longer lyric sequences where the given speaker of a poem gestures toward a spirit of assessing the nature of “broken things.”

We dive right into the catalog, so to speak, with the poems in the first sequence, “The Catalog of Broken Things,” which approach family narratives with a surrealistic sensibility. The opening poem begins:

I let my dead mother in.
She’s lonely out there on her own.
Her ears are seashells
empty of sea.

Reading these lines, I get a sense of a poetry that feels out the world through images. This aesthetic creates a reading experience where the reader is carried into the meaning-making process through sensation as much as language. The following section is another example of this sensibility at work:


My aunt, a shadow without a landing.
In her chest, small
streams fight for the chance to be
called river.
I list her in my catalog under tumors.
She deserves more attention.
We all do, we keep
telling the moon,
but it’s dead. It doesn’t listen.

I listen.

The concept of a catalog implies a sense of order and control; what is being wrestled with here is the lack of both. By proceeding to pit themselves against the image of the moon, who is seen as “dead” and unable to listen, the speaker, and, in a way, the poem, are in the role of providing “more attention.” This is a gesture not of repair but of acknowledgement. Life cannot be controlled and ordered beyond our personal understanding, our “listening.”

This acknowledging/cataloging voice appears again in the later sequence, “The Melting Hourglass.” In this sequence, the reader is presented with the story of Zungvilda and Goombeldt as narrated by a disembodied speaker. This speaker alternates from sounding like a family member, complete with shared memories, to sounding like the voice of the hourglass of the sequence’s title. This variation in voice and narration add to the reading experience; one gets a sensation of the lyrical line as live wire. The following section of the sequence presents the kind of torque available through this imaginative conceit:

Zungvilda shares her thoughts
I have no choice but to listen
after all she lives inside my head

she asks why men are so difficult
don’t generalize I say
but she can’t hear me in there

I’m afraid it’s a monologue
I’m afraid it always is

she wonders why every day seems to start
with wild yanking and smoke
like an old lawn mower
she muses about the interchangeable
questions and answers

she suspects that the new crater
that just formed on the moon
might be her early grave
she remembers the time

when she was a girl
lost in the forest

I remember it too
even though I was
too young to remember

The narrative turns developed in the speaker’s mediation here provide a fruitful disorientation in that the reader has to follow the lyric sense of the line as it develops. In the first two stanzas, the speaker is shown to be privy to Zungvilda’s thoughts while also being at a remove; this tension of intimacy and distance is paralleled in the last two stanzas where one of Zungvilda’s memories begins to take shape, but is quickly turned away from by the speaker.

These two moments are variations of the “broken things” theme of the book. When the speaker states “I’m afraid it’s a monologue / I’m afraid it always is,” a moment rich in metanarrative and self-awareness occurs; the “monologue” here is not only a metaphor for time and existence, but also poetry. In the same way that poetry is able to provide “attention” in the poem discussed above, poetry here is seen as able to acknowledge its limits and “broken” nature. Seen this way, the title of this collection becomes its own mission, writing as a way to catalog the broken things around us.



amolotkov2J: Were there any challenges in writing these poems, and  if so how did you work through them?

A. M. : The challenges of balance. Once I commit to a longer work, the next question becomes: is it going to be five pages, or fifty? Working with recurring themes and motifs, it’s tempting to keep going. How to choose the length that keeps the tension, helps me avoid repeating myself, and allows for a substantial investigation? Once I settle on an approximate length and write my selections, their order becomes both an opportunity and a challenge. Ultimately, any poem could have emerged in many different ways, but happens to be the way it is, not optimal in any objective sense, but a compromise between intention and the infinity of possibilities. If we consider the many points of view and tastes the readers will bring, it’s easy to see that each word shivers with fear and anticipation for the unlikely connection it may fail to make.

My tendency in poetry is to push the text outside my own comfort zone. Often, I end up distanced from the capability to evaluate my own poems. I am in three writers’ groups in order to compensate for my myopia and my personal obsessions. Almost thirty people had their eyes on some or all of the poems in The Catalog and provided a wide variety of suggestions. I’m indebted to them for breathing their reality into my work.


The Catalog of Broken Things is available for pre-order from Airlie Press.

Special thanks to A. Molotkov for participating! Check out his poem “Obituary” in issue 13.1.

Find out more about his work at his website.

The Classics Revisited: Hamby and Kolbe

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

urnSince before Keats got excited about a Grecian urn, poets have been reworking, reimagining, and revolutionizing the classics. One of our issue 13.1 contributors went all the way to Greece to follow in the steps of Odysseus, and found in the modern streets full of shops the tempting decadence, and ultimately empty promise, of material possessions. Though it is not named in the poem, we feel the influence of The Odyssey in the journey of the writer and the objects for sale from all around the world.

Another contributor found the classics much closer to home—inspired by classic rock as she takes a jog—and ponders in her poem how art and context affect one another in a constant feedback loop. Thoughts of Tom Petty songs combine with “hard lines Doric/ at the mouth” to remind us that, like the classics, we are always aging, and, if we are lucky, always changing.

Barbara Hamby on “A Farewell to Shopping”: In Summer 2013 I received a grant from Florida State to follow The Odyssey from Troy to Ithaka. I reread Robert Fagles’s translation just before leaving, and I was using Tim Severin’s book The Ulysses Voyage to plan my trip. Severin built a Bronze Age ship and tried to replicate Odysseus’s voyage. One of Odysseus’s first stops after leaving Troy was pillaging a coastal town. I was in Heraklion, Crete, on my way to the spot where Severin thinks Polyphemus’s cave might have been if the story was based on fact, though it was probably highly fictionalized. In Heraklion I was walking down a street filled with the international shops you see everywhere, and the whole street seemed so tawdry. I thought, “I’m finished with shopping.” I suddenly thought of Odysseus’s pillaging as a shopping stop. The poem started percolating during lunch and I had a draft by the time we arrived in Sougia, where I did find Polyphemus’s cave. And I still go shopping from time to time.

Laura Kolbe: “Classic Rock” started when I took a run on Maine’s first warm day last year. House after house, men and women were putting to rights their porches, lawns, and driveways, while stereos and boom-boxes piped classic rock over their efforts. When I ran past “Purple Haze,” I had to stop and laugh—it seemed so incredible that a sound once deemed revolutionary, even socially dangerous, was now helping retirees maintain their equanimity while dredging gutters. Things often achieve “classic” status for their forceful, violent beauty, but once canonized, they are as rapidly, even comically, domesticated. The poem says this—and more, and better, I hope.

Make the Most of Your Toast

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Five Senses Icons

Reality often doesn’t feel half as tangible as it should, particularly when—for whatever reason—the writing of poems has become an aspect of that reality. In a world of flashing, palm-sized screens and of experiences summed up in what were once bird calls, it’s easy to lose track of the importance and pleasure of utilizing (and exploring) all of our senses. Some of our contributors for issue 13.1 attribute the genesis of their poems to physical sensations: the “walkability” of New York; a trip of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky; and a filling breakfast, complete with crisp, vocal strips of bacon.

It’s old wisdom, but good: if you’re looking for poetry—or for Papa Walt—try under your boot-soles first. 

Mark Belair: One of the beauties of New York City, for a poet, is its walkability. A stray moment here, another there—and a poem starts to coalesce. The writing of “Shadows” followed that form. The notable shadows of darkened windows, of leaves, of skyscrapers—all encountered separately, on separate summer days—came together when I sought the inviting shade of a garden willow tree. And when, calmed, I returned to the blistering sidewalk, it was the shade I myself cast that I suddenly—and only then—noticed as another contribution to the day’s inescapable variety and confusion. And this quiet poem came together.

Mary Kaiser: This poem began, like many poems in my current collection, with an overnight visit to the Shaker village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Waking up at dawn in one of the old dwelling houses, I imagined a Shaker elder on a summer morning having an experience that could be a dream, a vision, or just the play of light coming through the big, east-facing windows. I love the way Clay Mettens’s complex, layered musical setting of my poem suggests these liminal possibilities while transforming the speaker’s sharp-angled, off-kilter lyricism into a heart-rending aria.

Cate Lycurgus: “Fertility Treatments, Toast” began as most my poems do—through I line I couldn’t shake. In this case, the line was a joke of sorts—a partner of mine used to say that something would “sizzle his bacon” when he really loved it, and vegetarian me always joked it was proof I really loved him, to fry him bacon. The initial line of this offer continued to surface through morning runs and work and sleepless hours until I realized it might be the start of a poem if I followed where the sound led.

I love the seamless slippage from one word or sound to another, and the connotations it creates. As the vowels and rhymes and homophones continued to morph, I realized the line between together and separate, between new life and new death, one cell taking hold or not, is fine; and comes down to more than desire. The conditional implies refusal, and yet the poem makes a sort of fractured hope, a playful one at that, of union. Of creating something as basic as the morning’s first nourishment—bacon, eggs, toast—and plus, what’s sexier than breakfast?


Art Song Video Premiere!

Friday, May 20th, 2016
David Clay Mettens and Mary Kaiser

David Clay Mettens and Mary Kaiser

Don Bogen: With its score for alto flute, bass clarinet, viola, cello, piano, percussion, and soprano, David Clay Mettens’s setting of Mary Kaiser’s “He Dreams a Mother” in our Summer 2016 issue (just released) is one of the most intricate and haunting pieces in our series of art songs. It’s also the first for which we have a video of the premiere. “Hypnotic” is a word the composer uses several times in the score, and it certainly fits what happened on stage this past April. To watch, click here.

Be sure to check out the subtle performance by All of the Above, with soprano Jilian McGreen and all those varied instruments bringing out the calm yet deeply strange vision in Mary’s poem. The ending is particularly striking. Thanks and congratulations go to the composer, the poet, and the ensemble.

The poem and full score are in the issue.  You can find the other four settings we’ve commissioned to date in the art-song category of the blog.


Spring/Summer Issue Has Shipped!

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

13.1 is here! We just shipped the last, lovely issue, so if you’re a subscriber, expect . . . the expected. Hope you enjoy the wonderful work therein by the likes of Steven Sherrill, Cary Holladay, Dan Bellm, Barbara Hamby, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, Beth Ann Fennelly, Brock Clarke, and other literary, er, leviathans? No. Lemurs? No. Llamas? Yes! Many more literary llamas. Not to mention the winners of (in poetry and prose) of the Robert and Adele Schiff Awards—Jaime Brunton and Robert Long Foreman. Have fun, readers!

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The Minotaur Returns

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

We’re excited about all the great stuff in our spring issue (due out in May), including an excerpt from the first chapter of Steven Sherrill’s sequel to The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, an amazing novel that threw off sparks all over the world when Picador published it in 2000. CR associate ed. Don Peteroy vows it changed his life.

With The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time (forthcoming this fall), the mythical man-beast returns, seeking surcease from the tedium of modern times through Civil War reenactments and handyman duties at the Judy-Lou Motor Lodge. Get a peek at the first chunk of pages in CR 13.1.

A writer, teacher, artist, and musician, Sherrill has his thumb in pretty much every (cow)pie. To give you an idea of his inexhaustible imagination and energy, we post below a pic of items he sent us last week in an informal press kit: How to Love a Minotaur: An Instruction Manual, a CD of 18 tracks of “minotaur music” called Cluck Old Bull, assorted postcards of intimate scenes from the cursed cross-breed’s domestic life, and a (leather) lanyard advertising his autobiography. For more info on the multitalented artiste and his creations, visit


Art Song Live Performance!

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

motherOur art song feature for the spring issue is an extended score of Mary Kaiser’s poem “He Dreams a Mother” by composer David Clay Mettens. We will, of course, post a recording of the score when our spring issue comes out in May—but we’re excited to offer locals the opportunity for a live listening experience. Mettens’s ensemble All of the Above will perform on Thursday, April 28, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission will be free. For more information, visit We’ll shoot those interested a reminder as the date draws nigh, but mark your calendars!