Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Submission Period Closing Soon!!! Special Call for Nonfiction

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Just a quick reminder that our Submission Period will close on March 15th (at 11:59pm, EST – to be technical).

Due to trends discussed recently by our esteemed Senior Associate Editor Matt O’Keefe, we especially welcome literary nonfiction submissions. So if you’ve got a lyric essay, travel narrative about your last trip to Mongolia, flash-style memoir, personal essay told via bullet points, or nonfiction hybrid form, send it our way; we’d love to see it!

Poets and fiction writers, we’d love to see your work too–just don’t miss the deadline . . .

Find your way to your Submission Manager here.

 

Contributor News: Wayne Miller

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Here at the Cincinnati Review we’re always rooting for our talented contributors, so we’re especially happy today because of some good news from Poetry Editor Don Bogen:

Don Bogen: Congratulations are in order for poet, translator, editor, and CR contributor Wayne Miller, whose most recent book Post- (Milkweed Editions, 2016) was just awarded the Rainer Maria Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas. The prize is for “a book that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision written by a mid-career poet.” And while it does not provide free room and board in an aristocrat’s castle, as its name might imply, it includes a reading at UNT and a good-sized check of $10,000. It is much deserved.

Wayne’s work has been all over our pages and our blog, and we’re glad to have it. Post- includes a poem that originally appeared in our Winter 2015 issue, and you can read José Angel Araguz’s microreview of the book & an interview here.  A review of Wayne’s previous book The City, Our City appeared in the Summer 2012 issue, and another poem of his back in Winter 2010. Wayne’s been here in the flesh too.  If you’d like to hear him talking about his work and reading some poems from Post- and The City, Our City, a reading and a Q&A from his 2010 visit to the University of Cincinnati are available in the Elliston Project archives here.

Hearty congratulations to a friend, a contributor, and one terrific poet.

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Please note that our reading period ends in less than a week! Submit here before March 15th.

microreview & interview: Rochelle Hurt’s In Which I Play the Runaway

Monday, March 6th, 2017

by José Angel Araguz

RUNAWAYIn “The Miami River Floods,” from Rochelle Hurt’s collection In Which I Play the Runaway (Barrow Street Press), the speaker addresses her father while watching footage of the Miami River flooding and speculates on the following:

how many babies will be born tonight in heroic backseat
deliveries as cars float down the freeway? They will carry

those stories all their lives like everyone else—
not from memory, but narrative inheritance. How dutifully

we gulp down circumstance as fate

This idea of narrative inheritance lies at the heart of this collection whose poems challenge accepted narratives about womanhood, fairy tales, movies, and family, always with an eye toward questioning the reflex to “gulp down circumstance as fate.”

Throughout the collection, Hurt displays a deft ability to create images that allow narrative to be carried, developed, and understood on an intellectual and emotional level simultaneously. In the poem “Self-portrait in Needmore, Indiana,” for example, the reader is presented with the following:

As expected, after the wedding, the house
became a cough we lived in, trembling
in the throat of that asthmatic spring.

These three lines set a narrative, then quickly compound it. Within the logic of these lines there are implications of weakness and affliction. A ceremony of union changes the world around the poem’s characters, so that it can only be understood in terms of an afflicted body. This metaphor places the emotional charge of the poem within the body, while the imagery unfolds in a way that mirrors the sudden and unwieldy transitions of real life. This poem continues in terms of the body:

The streets stacked and curved like fingers
on a grease-knuckled hand gripping
the waist of our Midwestern dream.

The narrative of affliction continues here with the additional pressure of possessive relationships added. As the self is caught in the body, the speaker of this self-portrait (one of a series in the collection) is caught behind the narrative inheritance of marriage. The poem’s conclusion makes clear what the stakes are of being caught:

I could have died etching my name
into the glass eye of my cage—a bay
window painted with lace. The skyline
in its expanse was a farce played out each night.

Sometimes my reflection was the star
of the show. Sometimes it was the child
clapping from her seat, so looking out
and looking in became the same thing.
Sometimes it just rained for weeks.

After the description of the bay window as a “glass eye,” the poem develops the metaphor of hindered sight by presenting several shifting images. The speaker’s listing of reflections of self then of the child evokes the potential loss of self of parenting. This loss is further emphasized in the last line, where the speaker sees only rain, implying a complete loss of being able to see themselves or anyone.

While the above poem and others present a poetic sensibility capable of speaking in terms of the body, the “runaway” of the collection’s title is also present throughout offering its own language. The runaway theme runs counter to the body-centered theme and creates a push/pull effect. In “Poem in Which I Play the Runaway,” these two themes interact:

It could open with a party, strewn
with girls like tinsel, girls looking
for a house to stuff themselves in [. . .]

Or a chase scene: some ranch house
with walls thin as a mother’s dress,
long emptied of men and closing on me.

I never wanted a home in him,
but the sex was like licking sheets
of corrugated iron, my torn maw
breathing in the corrosion

Here, the speaker works out two variations on house narratives, the speaker’s voice charged with swagger and conviction as they reimagine via metaphor. The third stanza shows this reimagining impulse suddenly grounded. After the statement of not wanting “a home in him,” a statement still working on the intellectual/imaginative level, the speaker describes how “the sex was like licking sheets / of corrugated iron,” a description which brings the poem back into the body. This synesthesia mirrors the argument between the imagination and the body engaged with in this poem. The runaway theme here is embodied in the speaker’s attempts to escape narrative while acknowledging their ties to it.

It is in this tension between escape and acknowledgment where the collection’s most compelling takes on narrative inheritance occur. Over time, this tension becomes imbued with empathy, as in “Some Oz,” where the speaker meditates on how their father learned from his father how to leave as if looking for the Oz of the title:

Some Oz where the clock of your life could unwind.
But you’ve returned to us now, your hands

full of years like salvage. And how could you
have known what you’d wake to—a home

inescapable, you wearing your father’s face [. . .]

you search for a word like an opening

into some storm strong enough to take us both
to a place where your daughters can forgive you.

The runaway theme here becomes a running toward. The narrative inheritance of fathers and daughters is suspended in a way that honors the complexity of the relationship while continuing to question it. While the runaway theme implies motion, the body implies stillness; the interplay of these two themes makes for poetry capable of reimagining the world while facing it.

interview

JAA: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be?

RH: One thing poetry can do very well is destabilize language—or use language to destabilize ideas. My favorite kind of poetry, no matter the school or style, is poetry that uses linguistic slippage and play to challenge concepts we might otherwise consider stable. A primary theme in my collection is the instability of self-image, given the precarious relationship between self, story, and place. The book is structured around a series of poems that use intriguing town names—Last Chance, Hurt, Honesty, etc.—to tease out narrative, metaphor, and persona. Many of the poems are narrative, but still rely on lyricism as an engine for moving between the town name and the self that is painted in the poem. Many of the poems also mix autobiographical confession with tale-telling and hyperbole as a means of further dislocating the self. We do get lost, I think, in the shifting narratives about where we come from, who our families are, who we could have been/are/could still be. I know I do—and I look to poetry not as a means of affirmation or comfort, but as a way of continuing to question those narratives.

JAA: What were the challenges in writing these poems and how did you work through them?

RH: Writing the individual poems was less challenging than organizing them into a book. As you can imagine, it’s somewhat difficult to structure a collection with an arc of some sort when you’re specifically trying to mess around with narrative. At first I tried to mush everything together into one clean story over three long sections, but that traditional structure just wasn’t working. I knew that if a reader approached the collection expecting a singular speaker with one coherent story to tell, that reader would be confused and disappointed. After reorganizing the collection close to twenty-five times, I decided to make six short sections guided by experiences and ideas. The speaker, in all her plural forms, moves through different places and contexts patched together from family history, memory, and fabricated stories. Emotional states and revelations are mapped onto place, and the book moves forward through this map. The arc wound up leading to a place of honesty for this speaker, as she begins to more directly confront her own tendencies toward exaggeration and fatalism. She winds up, after all, in Honesty, Ohio.

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In Which I Play the Runaway is available for purchase from Barrow Street Press.

To find out more about Rochelle Hurt’s work, check out her site.

A Sabermetric Note from Your Submission Manager Manager

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

basicPositionByNumber

As we ease into March (and Spring Training), we find ourselves in the final stretch of our reading period, which ends March 15th. Here’s Senior Associate Editor Matt O’Keefe offering up some play-by-play on submissions patterns he’s noticed over the years.

Matt O’Keefe: Six to three to one. What is that? A somewhat decisive community council vote? One of your rarer and more exciting double plays (shortstop to first base to pitcher)? The outcome of consecutive games of HORSE (or a single game of HORSEHORSE) between three players, one of whom is significantly better/luckier than the others? Sure, could be. But at The Cincinnati Review, and maybe lit mags the world over [It would be interesting to know–Ed.], it is also a ratio that persists with the force of natural law: for every ten submissions we get, six are fiction, three are poetry, and one is nonfiction.

Of course, like nearly everything one says or writes, this is not literally true. Sometimes in my Submission Manager queue I see things like twelve stories in a row, or combinations that go fiction-poetry-fiction-poetry-nonfiction-nonfiction-fiction-poetry-poetry-fiction, and there was that one day when the next five submissions were all nonfiction, and I just had to get up from my chair, smiling inwardly, and walk around a little. But over time, and usually not much time, a couple weeks at most, nature reasserts itself and leaves us with that classic 6-3-1 distribution. I guess it’s just the frequency with which you guys write the stuff [It would be interesting to know–Ed.]!

Be sure to get your submissions in by March 15th!

Interviews: Poets of Instagram part 1

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

by José Angel Araguz

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share interviews with #poetsofinstagram, that is, poets who have chosen the social media site Instagram as the forum to share their work. Interviews range from poets who work with erasure/blackout poetry and found poems, to poets who combine their own artwork with their text. These interviews will focus on the writing itself as well as the sense of community to be found among poets on social media.

nomadic 3For this first interview, @nomadic_words shares with us a few poems as well as insights into craft and style of her poetry on Instagram. I was drawn to the work of nomadic_words for its lyrical play. Each poem works on the level of its own inner logic, building with the same engines as aphorisms and proverbs. Beyond wordplay, these lyrics seek to establish a sense of emotion in a brief space.

José: Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to poetry and the journey to where you are today?

nomadic_words: My introduction to poetry was, unsurprisingly, in the classroom. I enjoyed my creative writing English lessons more than others as it was an hour every other week I could sit and express myself more at school. I wrote my first real poem for a national poetry competition that was being advertised around school with the theme of journeys. It wasn’t really something I took seriously, but thought I’d try it and that afternoon sat on my aunt’s doorsteps writing out a poem inspired by Joseph Turner’s “Steam-boat off a Harbour’s mouth.” I didn’t win, but I put a lot of where I am now down to that day where I thought I’d try my hand at something new. My poetry has undergone a fair transformation since then, but if I’m publishing a poetry book this year I know exactly how it started and for that I’m grateful.

José: When did you get started with your Instagram account?

nomadic_words: I actually only started it in September! I’ve been accumulating poems properly over the past two years, writing pieces—or sometimes pieces of pieces—and only really started venturing onto social media with it around a year ago. Whatever your creative passion, it’s nerve-racking to go public, so I would occasionally drop poems on my personal Instagram as a way of dipping my toe into the water. After a few months I felt it was time to give my work more identity and made nomadic_words and now here we are.

José: Who or what influences you?

nomadic_words: My journey through life influences me and I find I’m writing the most when things aren’t so easy; when life makes you rethink the assumptions and ideas you have about people, yourself, love, and the world. It’s kind of a strange comfort, finding something good in the bad and it’s my way of documenting my thoughts and feelings as and when they come. Reflecting on these experiences is what makes you grow, I just do it through writing and it really makes it worthwhile when someone you’ve never met before reads it and identifies with the feeling.

José: In three words, how would you describe your poetry?

nomadic_words: Quiet. Personal. Me.

José: What ideas of craft do you find yourself working with, both in terms of linguistic expression and visual presentation?

nomadic_words: I tend to keep my vocabulary and structure fairly simple; these are my thoughts and most of the time I jot them down in the notes on my phone before the phrase fails me. From there, if necessary, I can flesh it out into its final form. If I have to keep coming back to a poem I usually abandon it because I think it speaks for something about the power of the message. I like to use a lot of enjambment as this can be used to create a play on words or change the path of the poem. Sometimes we rush through things and end up missing the detail between the lines and I love subtleties, it’s fairly metaphorical of life, I feel.

José: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of writing for Instagram? What do you find most positive about it?

nomadic_words: The uncertainty of not knowing whether what you’re about to post is going to be understood or received by people was the biggest for me, but I think as a result of this there’s definitely a tendency across Instagram writing to write what you think people want to read or feel, but most of the time I find it’s glaringly obvious when the poem has been put together for a general audience looking to identify with any quote. There is a lot being said about a little and sometimes nothing at all, which is a real shame to see. However, Instagram is great for bringing poets together, just check out one of the many hashtags such as #poetsofinstagram and you have a whole feed of people putting out their work which is lovely. From there, people who would’ve never discovered your work sometimes stumble across poems which put into words everything they wish they could say or reflections they didn’t even realize were worthy of recognition. You sometimes get messages from people on the other side of the world telling you your work made them feel some type of way and there are really no words to describe that feeling, it’s ineffable.

José: What advice do you have for anyone interested in writing poetry (for Instagram or in general)?

nomadic_words: This is your work, a product of everything that has made you you, so take pride in it, take your time, be honest with yourself, and never, ever, adulterate your voice because you don’t think it’s powerful enough to be heard by someone else out there. Somebody else speaks your language and they may need to hear what you have to say. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read as much poetry as I would’ve liked to, but inspiration comes from everywhere—my first poem was inspired by a painting, my second, a dream, my third, a daydream . . . you get the picture. Find what inspires you and be open-minded to what that may be; you might just tap into something totally new. Finally, I cannot stress the importance of making sure you write down anything that crosses your mind and makes you wonder; I’ve sometimes found odd phrases and sentences I’ve jotted down complement each other perfectly. So don’t be afraid to be messy behind the scenes!

José: What are you future plans in terms of writing projects?

nomadic_words: I’m very excited to be publishing my debut book this year! It’s at the editing stage and it feels right to do it now. It’s a big milestone for me and something I want to share with the world as other peoples’ work has inspired and helped me through tougher times. Stay tuned!

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Follow @nomadic_words to keep to up to date with her work.

Also, be sure to check out José’s current Instagram poetry project, @poetryamano, which focuses on handwritten poems.

microreview & interview: Leah Poole Osowski’s Hover Over Her

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Leah Osowski’s poem “Vs. Field” is forthcoming Issue 13.2. In today’s blog post, Associate Editor José Angel Araguz reviews Osowski’s collection, Hover Over Her.

by José Angel Araguz

While reading Leah Poole Osowski’s Hover Over Her, I found myself coming back to the phrase “the poetics of suddenness.” Throughout the collection, moments are built up into a spark and flash of imagery and linguistic resonance, so that often a reader is engaged in the act of keeping up with the poem as it happens. These lines from “For the Unrealized Girls” serve as a brief example of how this kind of suddenness works:

—the throb that comes the first time

an earlobe is sealed into the envelope of a mouth,
the beating wingspan of an owl under-chest—

The juxtaposition of physical descriptions here, from human to animal, is executed in such a way that both come alive simultaneously. The human acts are imbued with that of the animal, and vice versa; these twin moments of intensity push the lyric to a sudden level of emotion, lingering there before moving on.

In “Three Girls and Something Like Hovering on a Hill in Vermont” this same suddenness works as a narrative engine. This poem begins by contextualizing the lives of three girls via ideas of motion:

They’ll take more walks in this phase than any other—

the budding years right before driver’s licenses

just after boundaries…

These three lines paint a picture indirectly; rather than an age, the reader is given before and after. In this gesture, one can read the title’s “hovering” as pointing to a state of being indefinable. From here, the liminal energy of youth carries the poem forward through various details of the three girls’ respective lives, culminating at the end in images whose succession and immediacy have a meaning on the level of near physical sensation:

…There’s homemade

dandelion wine in the top cabinet. A little brother

grasping a fly swatter. A rooster hung from a cypress,

bleeding out in a kill cone. Most of the poplar stairs

lick the girls’ bare feet as they lightning past.

Here, the velocity of the three girls’ lives is mirrored in the speed of the narrative. Meaning and narrative happen in confluence through juxtaposition, the story realized through each image and phrasing registered. In a poem where a little brother is presented poised on the edge of violence, and a rooster hangs as a victim of violence, the image and sensation of the last line resonate with a mortal urgency.

This urgency is also present in a series of prose poems from the perspective of various inanimate objects. The poem “Blood Speaks of the Heart” begins:

It’s like coming home. Like running through a corn maze. Like the Vatican. But it really depends on which side you’re in, the blood gushes. If your next stop are the lungs then it feels like you’re climbing so many flights of stairs at an area of high elevation. And if you just came from the lungs it’s like a dance party in the atrium where nobody ever gets tired and the music is pumping and the energy is so high that the crowd always spills out into the streets and takes to sprinting…

Here, the imaginative leaps serve to redefine the biological working of blood via metaphor. This redefining becomes another kind of hovering, pushing against expectation through the conceit of blood speaking. Yet, metaphor and conceit necessarily push the poem back to its human terms:

And what about love, we ask? The blood gets real quiet. It whispers, we’ve heard of that version of the heart, we’ve heard it lives upstairs. And then in a barely audible murmur, like heaven lives upstairs up from you.

In this back and forth between blood and the speaker, one can see with what suddenness the redefining and reimagining impulse can be curbed. Osowski’s ability to evoke both exuberance and pathos within this conceit makes for an engaging reading experience.

The ambition of this poetic of suddenness can be seen in the emotional range of the poems discussed. Like the hovering implied in the collection’s title, a poem becomes a space where reader and writer can linger and consider experience. In Osowski’s hands, a poem is a way to reach after, but not hold or restrain, experience. Suddenness, then, becomes a way to do this work. The speaker in the sequence “Moonstone” asks a telling question:

10. You think you know the shade of someone once your body has laid next to theirs a certain number of times. But then the question arises—what color, if any, are they when the light goes out?

As the reader lingers in both the physical and conceptual dark of the speaker’s question, inklings of how unanswerable this question is and why begin to crack through. The speaker goes on to end the poem with an image of what it feels like to hover such questions:

11. Snow angels in a blizzard.

interview

JAA: How would you say this collection reflects your idea of what poetry is/can be? 

LPO: This summer I lived at a camp in the woods next to a lake. A larger lake nearby spit out rocks perfectly smooth and flat. I wrote the word “transformation” on one and kept it on the table in the center of the cabin. I believe poetry transforms experience. It’s a way of accessing memory and image through a layer of language. And language has a mind of its own. It can render reality optional, persona flexible, and insert rooms into the smallest details. All day we walk around with gravity and a whole slew of rules that apply to this world—poetry transcends those limitations, so when you have an art form that can do that you must. Poetry also tends to corral your preoccupations and obsessions, sometimes subconsciously. In that way, we access what’s pawing at us, herd it all into a fenced-in area, and hope to calm it down. But back to that lake stone: by adding words to the natural world we aim to understand it, or maybe just increase our proximity.

JAA: What were the challenges in writing these poems and how did you work through them?

LPO: I tend to begin poems on a line or an image and let the language take over and drive the content. I wrote most of the poems in this book in a 2 ½ year period and it wasn’t until the end of that time that I laid them out to witness the conversation they were having. The challenges weren’t in the individual poems but how they were working as a collection. I realized that the narrative backbone of this book is the poems about the “three girls” and their arch needed some shaping. But when I tried to write a prescripted poem it fell apart. The lack of spontaneity results in a dulling of luster. I’d write them and my boyfriend, who’s also a writer, would tell me they were terrible, and I’d go back in and mess up their hair. They’re like kids in that way—if you try to dress them up and keep them neat by the end of the day there’s grass stains and bruises and four wardrobe changes. Poems, like all living things, need their freedoms, and the challenge is in allowing that to happen while steering a collection towards cohesion.

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Hover Over Her is available for purchase from The Kent State University Press.

To find out more about Leah Poole Osowski’s work, check out her site.

What’s Poetry Got to Do With It?: Meditation

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Musings by José Angel Araguz

Episode 6: Meditation

In this episode I explore ways in which meditation can apply to the craft of poetry.

Some Preliminary Thoughts

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, however, it’s worth framing my own outlook on meditation as it has developed over the years. First off, meditation is simply being. While there are a great number of apps (I’m using Calm at the moment, but have also worked with Buddhify and Headspace) which provide guided meditations and/or music and soundscapes which add to the experience, what one essentially does in meditation is make the intention to set aside time to exist within their own mind.

Now, while meditation can be done sitting on the floor, in a comfortable chair, sitting cross-legged, it can also be done lying on the floor, on your bed, lying flat or with your knees up, etc. Meditation can also be done by walking, or even listening to music. I wake up every morning and read a few poems aloud; I don’t study or analyze them, I just let them ring out in the air. As can be seen, most activities can become meditative if approached with the intention to engage in them with full attention.

Though some religions do incorporate meditation into their rites, meditation is not a religion. It is not a diet, not a set of principles or a new way of life. There are many privileged, ableist, and potentially triggering materials out there that put pressure and misguided expectations on a practice that should be about not feeling pressure and expectations. Meditation, like poetry, is about setting the intention to go let yourself be in a room simply breathing (or writing down words). Approached this way, both poetry and meditation offer answers to the question of: How does it feel to exist?

Learning from the Pine

Basho_by_Kinkoku_c1820One of the first poets that came to mind when I began to think about this subject is the classical Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Famous for his haiku and travel journals, Basho was also a great teacher. One famous lesson begins with the suggestion to “Learn about the pines from the pine, and about bamboo from the bamboo.” He goes on to say:

One must first of all concentrate one’s thoughts on an object. Once the mind achieves a state of concentration and the space between oneself and the object had disappeared, the essential nature of the object can be perceived. Then express it immediately. If one ponders it, it will vanish from the mind.

This mix of concentration and expression in the face of moments “vanishing” connects to meditation in terms of how hard it is to exist. Meditation is often considered a calm, easy thing. Yet, as soon as you close your eyes, all you sense is chaos: you daydream; your to-do list and responsibilities come immediately to mind; or a past memory surfaces and distracts you. These distractions can happen even on a walking meditation, when you begin to worry and stop noticing the things you pass on your walk. When any of these happen, it is your attention span and energy that vanish. Meditation is engaging directly with this chaos inside, and, for at least five or ten minutes, letting it go.

The small victory of letting yourself take the time to write, to pull out the notebook or open a fresh document and let yourself begin the process of writing requires a similar mix of concentration and letting go. A poem begins with a few words—but which words? Sitting before a blank page can not only leave you stuck, it can also make whatever nerve you had to write vanish. Writing prompts are great tools for writing into a meditative space exactly because they give us a way to begin. With a set of words or a theme, the mind can focus on creating, following the sense of the words.

Revision Mind

That feeling of being stuck before a blank page not knowing where to start can, with meditation, over time be worked into what I like to call “revision mind.” When meditation forces us to exist in the space behind closed eyes or the space of noticing what is in front of us as we walk—noticing and letting it pass, not studying or analyzing—it places us in the same space as when we sit in front of words.

One thing I like to do when revising a poem is to rewrite it by hand. This act places me back into the same silence as when the first draft was written; it also allows me to consider each word again. One line at a time, the poem gets rewritten slowly, and the full range of emotions—from This is brilliant! to Whose idea was it to let me move around words???—is experienced. If I set the intention to not judge the lines and not get hung up on the inadequacies of the poem (which the ego, of course, sees as a reflection of my own inadequacies), I make room for possible changes as well as acceptance.

pine-trees-1209656_960_720We return to our favorite poems by others because of what we find in them, and what we find is often simultaneously familiar and new. Our own poems work in the same manner, and yield possibilities beyond the first few drafts if approached with intention and consideration. It is too easy to seek the reassurance of brilliance or reflection of inadequacy in our own poems; however, a poem doesn’t need that validation, people do. And we owe it to our poems to treat them like poems, to “learn about the pines from the pine,” as someone more brilliant and more adequate than me put it.

Attention

In her contribution to the book A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith, poet Jane Hirshfield discusses her time in a Buddhist monastery, when she did “nothing but practice Zen.” She goes on to share:

When I returned to poetry…I brought with me two things I now can see would be useful to any young aspiring writer: the monastic model of non-distraction and silence, and the experience of calling oneself into complete attention. The ability to stay in the moment, to investigate immediate existence through my own body and mind, was what I most needed to learn at that point in my life, and to learn to stay within my own experience more fearlessly.

Because of the attention it asks us to pay to the shifts and nuances of how we feel while existing, meditation is a way to become fearless and be able to stay within your own experience. While my thoughts here only begin to explore the connections between meditation and poetry, if nothing else I hope I have established the value of attention in both activities. Attention, which in meditation talk is often termed mindfulness or awareness, is invaluable to poetry. By having us pay attention to words, poems open ways for us to pay attention to the world.

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For more on Basho’s lesson, go here.

To read the full excerpt from A God in the House, go here.

The CR 13.2 Cento Contest!

Monday, December 5th, 2016

cento-poemJosé Angel Araguz: Time again for another cento contest celebrating the release of our latest issue!

The cento is a collage form in which a poem is composed entirely of lines from other poems. It can be an homage to the originals, a subversive twist, or just a fun game. Contemporary examples of the form include “The Dong with the Luminous Nose” by John Ashbery and “Wolf Cento” by Simone Muench.

As in our previous post, I’ve gone ahead a composed a cento poem based on last lines pulled from 13.2 (with punctuation added here and there) in celebration of the new issue. We encourage you to compose your own 13.2 cento and post it on our blog. We’ll float a free issue to creators of the strongest three (either gift for a friend or added to your current subscription). Pro tips: 1. Remember to cite the authors you quote from the issue; 2. enjambment is your friend!

Here. Take it all.

cento sonnet, written with last lines drawn from The Cincinnati Review, issue 13.2

Stand in bareness after the plunging hoofs are gone
beside the body, talking to it.
No more swallowing blood and coughing up trenzas,
ashamed to be ashamed.

Pollution of the heart, yearning,
until the visions open, until the visions bleed.
I’ll sing myself hoarse with prayers of data and space, our soundless bell,
night after night. You know my name, remember?

The hands that fed me
across the dusky skies and spelled out my silent shame
killed it easily, that stag with horns of gold,
and woke finding no God to whom to pray.

About the time: It’s passing so quickly.
I don’t know what to do with my heart.

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[sources, in order: Alex Lemon (title), Joseph Zaccardi, Okwudili Nebeolisa, Eduardo Martinez-Leyva, Carina del Valle Schorske, Tuvia Ruebner, Claire Hero, Jessica Rae Bergamino, Todd Hearon, Josh Kalscheur, Jim Daniels, Martha Silano, Marilyn Nelson, David O’Connell, Charlotte Muzzi]

What We’re Reading: Paul Auster’s Brief Encounters

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

brief encounters coverSuzie Vander Vorste: Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction is my current reading companion, and it’s a great one—full of brilliant short creative-nonfiction essays. It’s easy to flip this book open and land on a piece that enlarges one’s understanding of the art of story-telling, the act of self-reflection, and of the different perspectives on what it means to be human. One essay in particular, “Winter Journal: The First Three Pages,” reminds us how something elemental to the human condition can surge through a piece of writing, compelling us to think about what it’s like to live our lives in our bodies.

As you read about Paul Auster’s childhood sensations of cold air felt through a window frame, the tenderness in which he describes the scene may draw you back to the day when, at age six, you tried to sweep up snow with a broom while helping your mother clear the driveway. It may take you back to pulling icy clumps off your mittens while playing outside, or walking to school with numb toes inside heavy winter boots.

Although his essay in some ways evokes a painful desire to turn back the clock, Auster’s work also considers the inevitability of aging, recognizing both that our time does run out, and that a person only has one body to live in. In “Winter Journal,” Auster tells his body’s story, presenting a fragmented narrative that reflects how life itself is a series of sensations and that emphasizes the ways our sense of self is bound to the physical as much as it is to memory. For Auster, the bodily pleasures and pains of life, past and present, are bound together from the beginning. His ability to convey this interplay over the course of a person’s life is remarkable.

snow-thawing-nature-forestAuster reminds us that there are moments we each experience that are unique to our bodies and our selves, moments that allow the reader to disentangle what it means to have lived one’s own life compared to the lives of others.

Although “Winter Journal: The First Three Pages” is brief, Auster digs deep into the sensations of living in his body to reconcile who he is at the age he is—and all while his title quietly insists there is still more life, and writing, to be had.

Furry Walls and Medieval Weaponry

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Yep, these are just part and parcel of the average EGO (English Graduate Organization) reading. The last event for the semester, which took place this past Thursday, featured two of CR’s esteemed staff—Lisa Ampleman, poet extraordinaire, whose area of study is courtly love; and Brian Trapp, fictionisto, who studies the letter R (serif and sans-serif permutations), which was once in the ampersand family, which was once in the clef family, before a tragic breach that the other letters attribute to a long-ago dispute over whether ampersand (representing in one elegant sweep what is a group effort for A, N, and D) was full of herself. R voted yes—and also implied ampersand’s butt was too big. Ampersand responded in a taunting singsong: “Jealous.”

But back to the EGO reading—to see the above-mentioned walls and weaponry, as well as the shining visages of many of our staff and volunteers (past, present, and future), friend us on Facebook.