Contributor Update: Adam Houle Brings It Home With “Stray”

Good afternoon! Superstition Review is elated to announce that past contributor Adam Houle’s first book, titled “Stray” will be dropping March 21st from the good folks over at Lithic Press. Lauded by press and peers alike, “Stray” features an updated version of one of Houle’s poems that were featured in the Poetry section of Issue 9, which can all be found here. Go pre-order your copy of “Stray” right here, right now, and behold the wonders of Houle’s poetry!

Buy this book!

The cover art for Adam Houle’s first book “Stray,” forthcoming from Lithic Press.

Guest Post, Lori Brack: A Spider Season

SpiderIn July, just outside the back door at elbow height, I discovered an orb weaver, Argiope aurantia, growing more and more enormous each week, clinging to its web. The pattern of its weaving was mostly invisible except for one thick white zigzag down the web’s vertical axis. Each time I opened the door, the whole edifice swayed and swung. The spider hung in wait.

A bestiary I found on the plush seat of a chair in a used bookstore in August opened naturally to a full-page photograph of this very spider, as if the book had been placed there, marked for me. Aha, I thought. Now I’ll know what it is and whether I should be afraid. The book, however, was written in Spanish and so I noted araña tejedora and came home to look up the second word, not a cognate like the arachnid that I imagine poses in araña. The search engine brought back “weaving machine,” “loom” when I typed in tejedora. Where I had hoped for clarity, I found only the obvious. So, it must be its beauty and the peach-pit size of its body, its long striped legs, I decided, that rate a whole page in full color. But once I knew its Spanish name, I had other questions: How long would it last, protected under the roof of the porch? Would it go before I needed the rake and snow shovel, their handles bound with spider silk to make one pillar holding up the web?

Then, September sun began to brighten lawns with its slight touch of yellow. Crickets increased their volume. I watched from my chair a patch where leaf shadow flickered through the doomed leaves of a pin oak. That moving light fanned from chair legs to table legs, disappeared soon, and on the loom of days autumn came on.

*

I discovered the spider has other names: garden spider, corn spider, writing spider, the one who reweaves her web, or at least the zigzag, every night. I noticed in mid-October as nights began to cool that she was a bit off-center in her web and found myself thinking that her death must be near, caught myself, made sure I didn’t wish it, having known her so long. A day or two later, I found the web empty. I worried she had tried to get into my warm house, so I glanced at my feet and the rugs on both sides of the door. I looked for her under the web on the porch step. Finally, I looked up and found her body hanging high over the web, legs bent toward her huge torso. It was near freezing the night before. I wondered if she is built only for summer, her fragile mechanism like a watch’s once-wound gears. I don’t know how she lived, and then I needed some explanation of how she died.

*

A naturalist would have more to say than genus and species, scrupulous research standing in where I have only this willingness to look, and a list of mysteries:

Did I watch because I recognized the spider or her labor? Did I covet her design because I strain to find my own? Or did I envy the sharpness of her zigzag, that she could resay it every night, whiter, cleaner, clearer each time, and that saying it seemed to make her bigger and more powerful each day?

What do I know about the spider? Only my response to her, my fascination and desire to see up against my side-eye fear of looking too close. I know this: scale is part of my bafflement – I could never get small enough or close enough to understand or feel how it is to be her. And part of this puzzle is my revulsion when I leaned in to see. I loved her web more than I love her? No. I loved them both – but I was able to see web and zigzag in ways I could not see the spider.

*

The day after I mourned her empty web, I wrote: The spider awakes! As the day warmed, I watched her flex one or two of her folded legs, then another two or three. By dusk, she was back at the center of her web, gathering her silken glamor. I tried to lean closer to memorize her shape before the frost, but her size and grasp made something tickle at the back of my throat.

*

November, and the spider’s egg sac hangs like a plum from the porch roof. She spent her last days suspended near it, abandoning the summer web, its white line tattered and blurred. Each day of her death I opened the door slowly, looked for her before stepping out, watched as each cold night left her smaller, long legs folding closer to her body.

I read that her nearly violet brown sac could contain up to a thousand offspring. The females will emerge in spring looking just like her, only much tinier, and will grow a leg-span almost as wide as my hand over a summer, carrying the knowledge of web and weave in their impossibly expendable bodies. If they survive, every night they will remake like their mother from the substance of their spider selves a thick white line in even stitches, and when it’s time, they will construct the fruit-shaped sac to shelter their eggs.

*

A web yawns wide as out-flung arms. An egg sac keeps its secrets, dangling purse holding everything she spent.

Across the room, the little thrift shop Royal I bought for its sleek silver chrome despite its broken mechanism catches on its fancy keys a glint of sun as it rises. A naturalist would remind us that it is we who descend, our dangling pod turning out here, fixed to the star.

*

I did not rescue her body after it fell, after it lost its beauty and symmetry and became simply fearful. I cannot make my home out of the elements of my body as the spider taught. I use my house, solid uninspired stucco and plaster, to shelter the meander of my thoughts, the pattern I make with my notebooks and the flexible net of intention. She is gone now, blown away or crushed to dust. I keep vigil by marking off each writing day of oncoming winter, holding close with these stitches the seethe and foment of life inside.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Writer Adrianne Kalfopoulou

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

Adrianne KalfopoulouAdrianne Kalfopoulou has had her work appear in print and online journals including Hotel Amerika, World Literature Today, ROOM magazine, The Broome Street Review, Web Del Sol, VPR (Valparaiso Poetry Review) and Fogged Clarity. She lives and teaches in Athens Greece, and is on the faculty of the creative writing program at NYU. Adrianne written a poetry collection, Passion Maps (Red Hen Press), and her collection of essays, Ruin, Essays in Exilic Life, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in September 2014.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet John A. Nieves

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

John A. NievesJohn A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Beloit Poetry Journal, Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, and Cincinnati Review. He won the 2011 Indiana Review Poetry and is a 2012 Pushcart nominee. His work has also been featured on Verse Daily twice recently. His first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize and is due out in early 2014. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from USF and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri..

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

s[r] Goodreads #FridayReads

Lindsey Bosak, our Goodreads social networker this fall, shared this review recently on Superstition Review’s Goodreads page.

The LuckyThe Lucky by H. Lee Barnes

H. Lee Barnes’ The Lucky is the compelling story of a young boy coming of age in one of the most interesting and wild places on earth – the Las Vegas strip. Pete is thrust into the world of gambling, mob bosses, and all the backstabbing and chaos that goes along with it.

Barnes masterfully transitions from Pete’s life on the streets of Las Vegas, to his time in the endless fields of Montana, and finally to the days he spends on the war-torn battlefield of Vietnam. Along the way the reader gets to experience Pete’s triumphs and troubles, and watch him struggle to find himself and make his own way in the crazy time that was America during the ‘60s.

This tale touches on the fact that every person on earth is doing all that they can to survive and thrive in this world. Pete is not much different than most. He has made some bad decisions, but he has also made some good, and along the way he has discovered who he is, and what he wants out of life. Pete’s tale is a love story, not with a person, but with all of the places he has seen, and everything he has done. And while it can be argued that The Lucky is a tale of disappointment and heartbreak, and while the mood should be a turn off for the reader, Barnes skillfully weaves in humor and periods of lightheartedness to create a truly engaging story, that just cannot be put down.

We published H. Lee Barnes’ The Day Nixon Was Impeached in s[r] Issue 9.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Alec Hershman

Alec HershmanEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Alec Hershman.

Alec Hershman lives in St. Louis where he teaches at The Stevens Institute of Business and Arts. Other poems are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Burnside Review, The Journal, Yemassee, Lumina, and The Sycamore Review. His chapbook length sequence Jollyboats can be viewed for free online at The White Whale Review.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

s[r] Goodreads #FridayReads

Here are a couple of reviews by April Hanks, a member of s[r]’s advertising staff.

This Is Not Your CityThis Is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks

From the woman who is able to recall her past lives to the couple on a cruise that is overtaken by pirates, Caitlin Horrocks’ debut collection of short stories takes the reader around the world and into the lives of eleven unique women. In This is Not Your City, Horrocks is able to accurately and realistically present people and situations that are extremely different while still creating an engaging and cohesive collection.

Although Horrocks deals with difficult topics such as death, a ticking biological clock, and a severe disability, the stories do not feel forced or cheesy. Instead, the emotion is powerful and realistic. Most of Horrocks’ stories do not have a happy, satisfying conclusion. But like life, they are left open ended. She explores both the lives of people who have been victimized and those who have been the victimizers. Because of this, it is difficult to read at times; several of the stories, such as “Steal Small”, will make you feel uncomfortable, but in the best way possible.

The last two stories, “This is Not Your City” and “In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui”, particularly stood out. However, the two stories are vastly different. The first of these, about a Russian mail-order bride, explores what it means to find identity in an environment you are not used to. The story is engaging but still manages to convey complex emotions. The second of these stories, “In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui”, is the story of a couple who go on a cruise as a vacation away from their severely disabled son. However, the cruise ship is overtaken by pirates. During the wait for a settlement with the pirates, the reader learns about the intricacy of the couple’s life. Despite their differences, both stories use plot to reveal deeper complexities.

Overall, Horrocks has crafted a beautiful collection that accurately reflects life and the emotions that stem from it. The powerful and descriptive writing highlights her abilities as a writer. She is able to draw you into the stories and make you care about the characters in them. This is Not Your City is not collection you will soon forget.

You can read the s[r] interview with Caitlin Horrocks in Issue 9, where we talk with her about This Is Not Your City.

 

Anything GoesAnything Goes by Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell’s thirteenth novel, Anything Goes, follows a year in the life of protagonist Jesse Melungeon. Jesse is the bass player for a cover band called Anything Goes. While the novel deals with the struggles of the band to stay afloat it also reveals Jesse’s complicated family history. Throughout its plot, the novel deals with complex issues such as race, abuse, and addiction.

Bell ingeniously develops Jesse’s character throughout the novel. Over time, Jesse becomes a more dynamic and round character. Although you learn Jesse’s history fairly early, his feelings about it are revealed slowly throughout the book. Not only does his characterization develop, but so do his relationships. Those that seem relatively simple at first are shown to be much more complex. Both the characters and relationships in the novel are complicated and realistic, greatly adding to its overall impact.

As Jesse says in Anything Goes, “there would always be people who actually were drawn to your wounds more than to you.” The characters in the novel are wounded in different ways. They deal with complicated family drama, brushes with the law, conflicts of interest, and various other problems. Although these issues are nothing new to literature, they do not seem cliché in the book. Bell is able to write wounded characters and explain them in a way that is meaningful.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the music theory that is incorporated throughout. The musical aspects of Anything Goes only add to the novel. Whether or not you know music theory, it feels like you can almost hear the songs playing in your head.

Bell displays extensive research in this novel. Overall, Anything Goes is a well-written and engaging novel that uses plot to explore emotion. The characters and relationships are realistic and interesting. You won’t want to put this book down.

s[r] interviewed Madison Smartt Bell in Issue 8, you can read that interview here.

Check out more s[r] Goodreads.com reviews on our Goodreads page.