Good afternoon, readers! We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Amanda Eyre Ward, a contributor featured in the Interview Section of our 7th issue, has a new novel available for preorder, titled “The Nearness of You,” which will be put out from the good people at Ballantine Books, an imprint of the literary titan Random House. Jodi Picoult calls the book “Wrenching, honest, painstakingly researched.,” while People Magazine calls “The Nearness of You” “Deeply affecting.” Ward has created a braiding of perspectives that offer the reader a number of intertwining narratives, all centered around the story of a family in its formation, meditating on ideas of motherhood, love, relationships, and what it means to be a family in this day and age. Don’t wait another moment to go out and preorder yourself a copy of Amanda Eyre Ward’s transformative new novel, “The Nearness of You.”
Got Ekphrasis? Conversations Among Art Forms
Who doesn’t want to feel exhilaration, even transformation, during their creative writing process? Often when we are writing alone we get trapped in our own obsessions, verbal tics, repetitive images, “go-to” metaphors; and sometimes we just come up empty. Perhaps we can enhance our creative process by allowing another artist to speak into our imaginative space. Yes, it often feels risky but the rewards can be great.
I am speaking of the practice of ekphrasis, a conversation between and among two or more art forms. Working within an ekphrasis framework, some poets are using visual art, music, photography as well as mathematics, philosophy and physics to enhance their creative process and transform their finished work.
Ekphrasis can be viewed as an active, rapid interchange of the unexpected. It requires an attitude of openness and vulnerability. Ekphrasis courts the unanticipated.
My own experience with ekphrasis involves working with visual artists and musicians, some of whom I collaborated with for more than 10 years. When I first began working this way, my initial responses were nervousness and fear. I didn’t know how my collaborators would receive my work—or if they would understand my vision—or if they would try to impose something on my imaginative space that would feel false and intrusive. And I was also afraid that I would do the same thing to them! However, mid-way through my first collaborative project, what I discovered was that my fears were unfounded. In fact, my collaborators affirmed my poetic vision and enhanced my process by offering unexpected but thoughtful and useful suggestions about my work. Their reactions to my process and to poems allowed me to “think bigger” about my whole body of work. They saw things in me and my work that I could not otherwise see.
Significantly, I learned the approach to ekphrasis projects often centered upon these two dynamics:
- Focus on structure or form
- Focus on theme or content (essence)
I have worked with artists on numerous ekphrasis projects. However, I collaborated with two artists far more than any others.
With visual artist Beth Shadur, I have worked for more than 10 years on a multitude of artistic adventures. Beth founded and curates the Poetic Dialogue Project (for which I am the poetry curator), an ongoing project pairing visual artists with poets to make collaborative work. Its exhibitions have traveled nationally and internationally.
During our collaborations, Beth and I would often talk about how the “rhythms” and “structures” in a particular visual art piece matched the rhythms and structures of a particular poem. For example, here is Beth’s work “Witness,” which she created in response to my anti-war poem “Bougainvillea and TV.” If you look closely at this painting, you can see part of my poem and my name embedded on the palms, in the upper left hand corner of the picture. My poem is written in free verse with short lines followed by longer stanzas. Beth’s work has similar rhythms of color. My poem ends with the lines: “Now I know I will never understand a thing./The world talks only to itself./Rain to War. Child to dirt/Bougainvillea and TV.” Notice all Beth’s multi-cultural symbols of peace alongside the embedded image of the child lying in the dirt, which is a response to those lines. Both the poem and the visual art retain their own integrity but each is clearly “in conversation” with the other.
Beth explains the transformative power embedded in the ekphrasis framework that she heard from her many Poetic Dialogue Project collaborators:
“Poets mentioned experimenting and working outside their own comfort zone to create new ideas and forms for their work, while artists who had never considered text as part of their work found ways to integrate the poet’s voice. The ongoing dialogue offered each creator the opportunity to witness and effect the creation of ‘the other’, respond, communicate, argue, compromise, and sometimes, to change or overcome difficulties. In making collaborative work, each individual brought his or her strength to the paired collaboration, allowing each contribution to be weighed and valued, given critical consideration, as the pair moved to develop solutions to the creative process as a team. In some cases, the collaborative effort was exciting and inspirational, in others problematic. Some pairs mentioned difficult struggles in working with a person who was a stranger; and yet struggle, too, is part of the creative process. All pairs found that the collaborative process in creativity became a catalyst for new directions, new forms and new paradigms in their process and practice.” http://bethshadur.com/the-poetic-dialogue-project
The other artist I worked with was composer Christopher Scinto. He and I collaborated on the creation of a music drama, The Ballad of Downtown Jake. Christopher wrote the music and I wrote the book and lyrics. “Jake” is based on my collection of poems High Notes, the writing of which was a direct result of our collaboration.
When we first began working on our project, Christopher and I would talk about the way the structures of jazz pieces—“riffs”—can be mirrored in the structure of poems and a poetry collection. Christopher suggested we create five characters based on his anticipated musical considerations, which he would refer back to when writing his musical score. We decided the core conflict of our characters would be a differentiated struggle with addiction. A short while later, I named the characters and wrote a five-part poem titled “After the Jam Session.” The refrain in the sequence was a riff on the line “Give it to me,” which later became a kind of guiding principle for us. We decided each of our characters was addicted to something— whether it was fame, love, justice, power or hope. Ultimately, we realized we wanted to address the essence of those addictions in terms of the sacred and the profane and the role it plays in the creation of art.
Working with these artists transformed my poetic process and my poetry significantly. However, the most important gift I received from working with artists on these projects was joy: The pure delight of creating. The simple delight in discovery. The excitement of invention. The elation along the journey. The transport of another’s imagination. The experience of living art.
Local poet Giancarlo Huapaya will open.
After the reading there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.
Superstition Review is proud to co-sponsor this event with The Poetry Center at The University of Arizona.
See The Poetry Center’s website for more information.
Forrest Gander is a poet, translator, essayist, and editor of several anthologies of writing from Spain and Mexico. His 2011 poetry collection Core Samples from the World was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and his works include novels and poetry. His essay collection Faithful Existence: Reading, Memory & Transcendence have appeared in The Nation, The Boston Review, and the New York Times Book Review, among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Howard, and Whiting Foundations, and he has received two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry.
Poetry: A Meal Served at the Table of Resistance
On a recent Saturday morning seven of us sat around a table with steaming cups of tea and homemade blueberry muffins. Good friends, we spent a fair amount of time sharing our common despair over the current state of the U.S. government. We had come together to talk writing, but the two Ps – politics and poetry – seem to roll around each other like shards of broken glass in a swelling sea.
I do know English and, therefore, when hungry, can ask for more than minimum wage, pointing repeatedly at my mouth and yours. – Eileen Tabios 
We live in Northern California’s red towns. The conversation we had wouldn’t be welcome in other parts of our lives: at work, with our neighbors, with our families. The ability to speak freely felt like discovering a camellia tree pink as a valentine in bloom during a long, rainy winter.
12.what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral – Danez Smith
As we finished up, gathered our bags and coats and headed out the door, I was filled with dread at the idea of going back out to a world where I look at everyone I meet and think, “Did you vote for this?” knowing that half of those people would say yes.
In the entryway, I said to my friend, “Time to return to the unsafe spaces.”
It wasn’t until later it occurred to me: I said these words to a woman who at one time was forced out of her home because she’s a lesbian. She’s been living in unsafe spaces for years.
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk – Audre Lorde
As a white, able-bodied woman who’s married to a man, I’m not really experiencing unsafe spaces, other than the usual walk through a dark parking lot with my keys between my fingers. That’s nothing new.
Now, though, I am afraid – of what? – that someone will wear a “Make America Great Again” hat to our neighborhood block party, and we’ll no longer have conversations over the fence while pulling weeds? Yes. But what’s the worst that’s really going to happen at that party? I might feel compelled to turn in early for the night.
if the black girl knows she has already been beaten, as if
the black girl hasn’t always survived beatings. – Deonte Osayande
It’s not on quite the same level as a black person who’s worried that the neighbors are white supremacists who feel they’ve been given the go-ahead to burn down homes because racism is now employed in the highest levels of government.
There’s nothing I am or wear that makes me a target.
And yet, every day feels like a long walk alone through a poorly lit garage.
I pay taxes and I am a child and
I grow into a bright fleshy fruit.
White bites: I stain the uniform.
I am thrown black type-
face in a headline with no name. – Morgan Parker
I’ve always been prone to bouts of inexplicable sadness, but since November there have been so many nights when, last to bed, falling asleep in the dark, I’ve wished I wouldn’t wake, and in the grayish numb dawn the heaviness clings to me, and I have to talk myself into an upright position.
Quit bothering with angels, I say. They’re no good for Indians.
Remember what happened last time
some white god came floating across the ocean – Natalie Diaz
My conversation with myself begins this way:
If I die, someone else will raise my 9-year-old son, and she’ll let him watch rated-R movies and swig Monster energy drinks for breakfast.
If I die, my daughter will drop out of college, and unable to re-pay her student loans she’ll be forced to live on the streets.
Isiah is dead— or
Isiah is standing right in front of me,
he doesn’t even know what a bullet means. – Sean Desvignes
If I die, my husband will become an alcoholic, lose his job, lose the house.
No one will walk the dog and as a result he’ll bite people and have to be put down.
If I die, I won’t be here to see the glorious defeat of evil.
I want to see the glorious defeat of evil.
Finally, the fact that I choose whether or not I continue to live is my white privilege.
It’s highly unlikely that another person is going to take my life because of who I am, and I understand that there are so many who aren’t given the choice to stay alive.
for even after the dead, there are things to learn,
like reading, and maps, and minus one. – Zeina Hashem Beck
I’ve heard people from marginalized communities say again and again: You thought America was a safe space? That’s cute. Welcome to our reality: Educate yourself.
if we don’t get along with each other
or speak perfect English—
you can’t help mixing us up –Amy Uyematsu
And little by little, I am trying to educate myself, beginning with poetry.
A few kind people have pointed me in the right direction, some poets I have discovered on my own, and some I am reading anew.
It’s not perfect, this fragile understanding. It will never be perfect, but I keep reading, along with many other forms of resistance. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won’t. In any case, I don’t want my death to be a tiny white flag of surrender. If it comes to it, I want to die fighting this beast, a sword in one hand and a poem in the other.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite. – Joy Harjo
 “I Do,” Eileen Tabios, Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/53813
 “alternate names for black boys,” Danez Smith, Buzz Feed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/danezsmith/not-an-elegy-for-mike-brown-two-poems-for-ferguson?utm_term=.owQXarYpp#.viXVe12oo
 “A Litany for Survival,” Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn
 “I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp, White Background: An Elegy,” Morgan Parker, Apogee: http://apogeejournal.org/2014/08/27/i-feel-most-colored-when-i-am-thrown-against-a-sharp-white-background-an-elegy/
 “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglican Seraphym Subjugation of Wild Indian Rezervation,” Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec
 “In Offense of Vision,” Sean Desvignes, PANK
 “The Invented Mothers,” Zeina Hashem Beck, Heart Online:
 “Someone Is Trying to Warn You,” Amy Uyematsu, Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain
 “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” Joy Harjo, Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49622#poem
Top of the afternoon, dearest readers! We here at Superstition Review are rife with news from the Occident after a barn-burner of a conference at this year’s AWP, held in the belly of the beast in Washington, D.C. Past contributor Patrick Madden is co-editing the 21st Century Essays series with none other than David Lazar! 21st Century Essays is put out through Ohio State University Press, and they themselves have some great news: The 2017 Gournay Prize is taking submissions from now until March 15. If anyone out there has a book-length collection of essays, or knows someone who might, tell them to check out this link here. There’s a publication deal with a cash prize of $1,000 in it for ’em if they win!
And the proliferation doesn’t stop there: Madden also has provided us with the announcement for not one but TWO collections of essays, titled (respectively) “After Montaigne” (which was also co-edited with David Lazar), out from University of Georgia Press, and “Sublime Physick” (for which Patrick Madden is the sole progenitor), put out through University of Nebraska Press.
Suffice it to say, Patrick Madden keeps the hits comin’, and we here at Superstition Review are only too happy to share these with you, dear readers. Congratulations to Patrick Madden, and David Lazar, for all their hard work!
That about does it for us today, gang. Thanks for reading, and always, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
The Phoenix Poetry Series showcases some of the best poets in our community. This month in conjunction with Four Chambers Press, presents the launch of Weaving the Threads, featuring readings by Megan Condeno Atencia, Kat Hofland, Sophia McGovern, Venita Blackburn, Rosemarie Jeana, Elizabeth McNeil, Elyse Årring, Jia Oak Baker, and Kelsey Desiree Pinckney. Their reading will be at Grand Central Coffee Company 718 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004 on Saturday, February 25th at 7 p.m. For more information please visit the Facebook Event Page.
In response to the community art exhibition, House, Habitat, Home on the Downtown campus, 9 women writers — 3 students, 3 faculty, and 3 from the community — produced emotional and evocative work spanning the genres of poetry, flash fiction, and flash memoir.
Limited copies of the collection will be available for purchase at the event.