Indiana Review’s 2015 1/2 K Prize Contest

contestSubmissions are now open for Indiana Review‘s 2015 1/2 K Prize, judged by Kim Chinquee. Work from any genre will be considered–just as long as it’s under 500 words. Entrants may send up to three pieces of up to 500 words per submission. All entries are considered anonymously. Multiple entries are OK, but the entry fee is non-refundable if the submitted work is accepted elsewhere.

For more information, visit indianareview.org/contests.

 

 

Guest Post, Grant Clauser: Pleasure in Not Knowing

Rain fell hard most of yesterday and last night. The previous week we had temperatures in the low 90s, but for the past 18 hours the outside has been down in 60s. It’s a nice relief, and we opened the windows (the ones that weren’t facing the rain) to let in some cool air. For part of this rainy day I sat out on the covered porch, watched the leaves on the Japanese maple Saint Vitus in the pelting; watched the bigger silver maple crack and break in the wind.

I love watching rain. I can be easily distracted by it for hours. It’s been many years since my meteorology class in college, but I still have a pretty competent understanding of how storms work. That working knowledge of rain doesn’t take away from its mystery. In fact, it probably contributes to it.

My favorite poems affect me in the same way—with a sense of wonder brought on by their mystery and their engineering. The mind needs to be engaged, and poetry’s mystery is one of the most engaging things I can find. That’s why I find the pedestrian response to poems, the “I just don’t get it” response, so disheartening. Often, it’s the parts I don’t “get” that I like the best. So that begs the question—do we ruin poetry by solving its mysteries?

I know it doesn’t ruirainy-day-1359070-mn my garden to know a little about soil chemistry, that adding eggshells to the soil can prevent calcium deficiencies in my tomatoes. Does it ruin a poem to understand that a poet’s use of the caesura is there to slow down the mind’s ramble, that the poet’s use of the second person is a technique to engage me in a universal idea?

I find satisfaction in knowing how poems work, and why in the same way I’m happy to not get lost in the woods. I can enjoy following blazes along a trail at the same time I find joy in not knowing—wonder at the animal that made that scratch mark or the fire that scorched that meadow.

But is there a line between knowing and unknowing that some readers can’t cross? Probably there are lots of lines, and those vary from reader to reader, poem to poem. It varies based on one’s openness to wonder and unbalance.

What happens when joy in unknowing turns to frustration, ambivalence and resentment? I think that’s where poetry ends, where doubt or displeasure takes over. We don’t like to be tricked, and too much mystery can be pretentious, or worse, hollow.

Some of this probably explains why I like being outside more than anything, especially those places we call nature. However, I often take field guides with me. I may swoon at the sight of a large bird over a lake, but I like knowing its name. This may also explain my library of books on poetics. You can know how a thing works, and still appreciate the magic that it does.

I try to make sure I leave myself open to some joy in mystery every day, and by that, I leave myself open to poetry. I find, usually in retrospect, that the times I’m most caught up in anxiety or stress, the details of negative distraction, that I’m less inclined to appreciate mystery. Those times (when work, life, finances… get in the way) I find it hard to write and hard even to read the things I love.

We, or I, at least, need to remind myself daily of the vastness and wonder of the universe. Call it a prescription to relieve stress if you will. So, rain. Rain falling on my house; rain in the middle of the night; rain falling on a dark Pocono lake.

Grant’s blog : www.uniambic.com

SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer N. Marc Mullin

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Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by N. Marc Mullin.

A native of the Bronx, N. Marc Mullin drove a taxi and spent years as a sheet metal worker before he became an attorney specializing in civil rights and employment law. His short stories have been published in Storyscape Journal, Hawai’i Pacific Review  and are forthcoming in the Willow Review and Superstition Review. He published as a finalist in the Middlesex University (UK) international short story contest and he has published nonfiction, including an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Intern Post, Jessica Marie Fletcher: (AWP15) Yes, We Are All Writers, Relax

When I was asked to go to AWP Minneapolis and represent Superstition Review, I didn’t really know what AWP was and what it would entail. I had only just learned a few weeks earlier of its existence. Panicked, I wanted to learned everything and read everyone so that I could fully appreciate the experience. Once I had the flight booked, I heard people talking about AWP left and right. How did I miss this? It became the code. AWP? Yeah, you? Yeah. It sounded like the party of the year, but it was at some speakeasy where only the elite could go, and I somehow got a golden ticket undeserved.

This is how I thought: do I even belong here? How funny that I spent the greater time worrying about humbling myself before the Great that I assumed would be there. I eventually realized that there was no real way to prep for the conference, so I just sat back and watched the #badAWPadvice roll in while I packed my bag (not quite well enough for the snow). I sensed the theme of all the advice: yes, we are all writers, relax.

I was the first to launnamednd on the ground in Minneapolis, so my selfie was the one plastered across the ASU News page and other social media. Already still wondering how I got there, I was even more confused by seeing this. Yes, you are here. This picture in the article was found by my sweet mom, who unknowingly professed her love for me on the Facebook post. Already unsure of myself, I thought that this was even more embarrassing. Quickly, I realized I needed to not take myself so seriously. Many moments on the trip felt like these little nuggets of life wisdom.

I spent that hour alone in the city wandering, getting my bearings, trying to center myself for the event. I never felt like I stopped moving (which made sense given the plane, subway, bus, and walk to the hotel I took to start) that entire trip.

The girls I roomed with were the highlight of the conference. Early on, we bonded, and I was able to learn from these like-minded women, who were in the same undergraduate, lost boat as I was. This bonding—this sense of community—defined the trip. I got it: an association of writers.

We spent our first night in a crowded, local Normal World Pub that couldn’t fit more people in if it tried–and it did try. The Literary Death Match was hosted there, and right away the trip began with awkward bump ins and “excuse me, coming throughs” with fabulous writers like Roxane Gay, Mark Doten, Matt Bell, and Claire Vaye Watkins. We pushed, shoved to the front of the crowd and had the equally the best and worst spot up front and right next to the bathrooms  where the waiters/passerbys had to continuously shove to pass. None of that mattered because everyone was enjoying the readings, the impromptu performance of Matt Bell, and the literary charades to follow.

The conference itself felt like swirling dream sequences. I had a dream before the trip that the conference was like a casino. There were no lights and gambling tones rising above the crowd, but we were enticed into various panels and rooms until we reached the last day and were all ready to go home, slightly broke from buying books and cool totes and souvenirs at the book fair.

I learned a lot from the panels I did go to, and I also learned to relax when I didn’t go to a panel. Everything began to bleed into everything else like watercolors, and I was okay with that. I even sort of liked that better than the regimented plan that I originally assumed would get me through the conference.

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Left to right: Stephanie Funk, Sydni Budelier and Erin Regan

I was not discouraged by the advice, but rather uplifted because every person that I met only reminded me that you write because you love it. I understood that the conference served as a reunion for many writers, who after years teaching or living elsewhere, were able to catch up and engage in the same thought-provoking conversations with other like-minded and intuitive people.
I was thrilled to meet the humans behind the contributors list in SR, to take part in curious conversations, and to connect with the past SR Editor-in-Chiefs, Erin Regan and Sydni Budelier, and the most recent fiction editor and my mentor, Stephanie Funk. It truly was a treat, and I won a golden ticket with the friendships and memories from AWP15.

Photos by Jessica Marie Fletcher 

Sundress Publications Debuts Les Kay’s Poetry Collection, The Bureau

UntitledIssue 15 Superstition Review contributor, Les Kay, recently released a poetry collection, The Bureau, with Sundress Publications, and it is announced here in a press release.

Enter a daring dystopian high-rise where revolutionary language craves a new kind of survival. The high stakes these poems ante up beneath fluorescent heat to forge addictive identities. Imaginative traps and creeping Stockholm syndrome throughout are signed, sealed, and delivered fresh from the mail room in Kay’s potent arrival.

“Les Kay’s The Bureau is unlike anything I (or you) have ever read. A brilliant series of interconnected poems, it’s like Kafka and Berryman drinking poison tea while discussing the new normal. Funny, strange, and horrifying. Visionary. Bartleby the Scrivener on acid. Rimbaud’s appearance in these poems seems completely natural, inevitable really. Kay has his finger on the pulse of a monster here—a monster called The Bureau.” -Jim Daniels, author of Birth Marks  and Eight Mile High

Les Kay holds a PhD with a focus on Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati and an MFA from the University of Miami,where he was a James Michener Fellow.After he survived the dot-com boom of the early 2000s, his poetry appeared widely in journals such as decomP, PANK, Redactions, South Dakota Review, Southern Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Whiskey Island, and The White Review.  The two maybe related. He is also an Associate Editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection. He currently lives in Cincinnati, teaching writing, caring for three very small dogs, and contemplating the distribution of systemic power and misinformation. The Bureau loves him.

The Bureau is available for free download at http://sundresspublications.com/

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Subscribe to the Sundress blog: https://sundresspublications.wordpress.com/

Read Kay’s poems in Superstition Review

Guest Post, Brad Kuhl and Monique Leyton: Songzhuang, China: Emerging Art Town

Songzhuang is a town on the eastern edges of Beijing, China. In the past two decades it has become the home of a number of artists both Chinese and foreign. Songzhuang is one of many art districts in Beijing, perhaps the most notable of which is 798, formerly a military factory complex. Songzhuang is distinct in that it is less commercial, more community oriented and is still an affordable place for artists to work and live.

IMG_6400In the early 1990s many artists in Beijing worked at the Old Summer Palace in the northwest of the city. The government shut down the group of artists working in the Old Summer Palace and many chose to move to the far outskirts of Beijing where they could work free from economic and political pressures. According to some the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre was a catalyst for driving artists out of the city.

Many artists in Songzhuang are oil painters, but there are also sculptors, photographers, installation artists, traditional Chinese painters, calligraphy artists, woodworkers, furniture designers, and filmmakers. Some live in traditional houses with a courtyard, some in massive spaces that resemble a factory, and others in large complexes built specifically for artists.

Marc Baufrere and Tine Deturck are artists fIMG_0832rom France and Belgium, respectively, who first came to Songzhuang in 2008 after Marc was invited to a group gallery show at the Songzhuang Museum of Art. Tine notes that after first seeing Songzhuang they, “didn’t hesitate for one second,” to move to Songzhuang.

Upon first glance Songzhuang might appear very similar to any small town in China with many restaurants and scattered buildings, but one can’t help but notice the abundance of paint stores, framing shops, canvas stretchers, and the traditional calligraphy supply stores. It is home to hundreds of artists who often frequent each other’s studios where the tradition is to pour tea for a visitor. When asked why so many artists came to Songzhuang Marc says that it’s cheap. Tine disagrees noting that in Songzhuang there is, “a sense of community [like] we were somewhere else.” This is opposed to the city-center of Beijing which is slowly having much of its traditional communities uprooted in favor of rapid development. Marc adds, “it’s very convenient,” referring to all of the art stores. “If I need blue, I walk 20 meters and get blue.” IMG_3561

Change is bound to be a facet of almost any conversation involving the modern face of China.  In Michael Meyer’s book, “The Last Days of Old Beijing” he describes the force of change as “The Hand.” Songzhuang is yet another microcosm of the restless change that envelops China and “the Hand” is never far away; moving, adding, deleting, reimagining. When asked how Songzhuang has changed since they arrived seven years ago, Marc says it used to be only artists and farmers, “no cars. You saw one car every fifteen minutes.” Tine added, “No apartments like now.” Songzhuang is still relatively quiet and dark at night, but has a constant stream of vehicles during the day that run the gamut from BMWs and Audis to large trucks transporting lumber, watermelons and sometimes a gang of migrant workers piled twenty-deep. Marc notes than when they first arrived, “the only traffic was the sheep,” and that there were, “firecrackers every day.” Tine adds that before there were, “no locks on bikes, no banks.” Tine says, now farmers, “profit from artists.” There is a constant clamor of hammers in Songzhuang either knocking down buildings or erecting new studios and restaurants, with many eager to cash in on the wave of artists and cash that continue to arrive.

When asked about the good and bad with life as foreigner in Sonzhuang, Tine declares, “I don’t feel as a foreigner, I feel as a Songzhuanger.” The most difficult part, Tine says is, “I don’t speak Chinese, it’s a handicap for me. I can’t have interesting conversations.” She adds, “I speak baby Chinese.” But in Songzhuang, “I am at ease as who I am.” Many seem enamored with the sense of community in Songzhuang and an almost spiritual sense of calm that exists in the town. Tine says, “It’s different, you feel outside [of Beijing]” and adds that it is,“an artists’ community” I feel, “more like a person.”

Tine points out that there is a, “rangeIMG_6415 [of] famous to poor artists.” Perhaps one of the most talented and overlooked artists within Songzhuang goes by the name, “The Siberian Butterfly.” He creates images using a traditional paper-cutting technique that has its origins in his home province of Shaanxi and history of more than 2000 years. Although his technique is traditional, his subject matter explores homosexuality and his personal life. Life has not been easy for him, having recently lost his son and having worked numerous jobs from shoveling coal and collecting trash to working as a security guard. Thanks to attention from the LGBT center in Beijing he has been able to get international exposure.

A 30-minute video about The Siberian Butterfly is included below:

 

 

In Chinese, there is a proverb, “Tian gao, Huangdi yuan.” It translates to, heaven is high and the emperor is far away. It often refers the autonomy local areas far from Beijing are afforded due to the vast scale of China. More than two decades ago Songzhuang was a remote farming village accessible by no buses, taxis or subway. With Beijing’s rapidly expanding and developing suburbs one can only wonder how free Songzhuang will remain from “the Hand” constantly redrawing Beijing.

Kuhl and Leyton’s website

Photos by Kuhl and Leyton

SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Dinah Cox

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Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Dinah Cox. 

Dinah Cox’s first book of stories, Remarkable, won the fourth annual BOA Short Fiction Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2016. Her stories appear or are forthcoming in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Calyx, Cream City Review, Salt Hill, South Dakota Review, J Journal, and elsewhere. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department at Oklahoma State University where she also is an Associate Editor at Cimarron Review.

 

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.