Past Intern Updates: Christina Arregoces

Christina Arregoces, Issue 7 Art Editor and Issue 8 Interview Coordinator, discusses her pursuit of literary outlets and plans for the future.

HeadshotAfter interning at Superstition Review my freshman and sophomore year, I went on to immerse myself in any (and every) literary outlet I could. From ASU’s State Press Magazine to Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, from the Barrett Chronicle to Every Day Fiction, I applied for, submitted to, reported for, and wrote for just about every publication that I was lucky enough to stumble upon.

And between papers, classes, and incredible mentors during the next year and a half, I then stumbled upon copywriting.

I now happily work as a part time copywriter at a marketing firm in Tempe, and I plan to continue there until I graduate in 2014.

Until then? I’ll be hard at work on my creative writing Honors Thesis, while continuing to write for the Washington D.C. based blog, Spike the Watercooler.

After then? Well, that’s a good question. Though I’m planning on taking the LSAT this June, I’m still considering applying to a handful of MFA programs, with the end goal of getting my PhD and teaching at a collegiate level (hopefully, somewhere in California) in mind.

Let’s just say I’ll be doing quite a bit of breath holding come next fall.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Brad Modlin

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature this podcast by Brad Modlin.

Brad Modlin’s poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, The Florida Review, The Pinch, and River Teeth, among others. His work has been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. He holds an MFA from Bowling Green and is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Ohio University, where he reads for New Ohio Review. He just finished discussing modern-day panopticons with his students and looks forward to discussing less scary topics next term—Beowulf and Middle English Chaucer.

You can read along with his poem in Issue 8 of Superstition Review.

To subscribe to our iTunes U channel, go to http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/superstition-review-online/id552593273

Past Intern Updates: Sarah Snyder

Sarah Snyder, from Issues 1 and 2, has traveled to the Far East and back–and discovered a true passion for teaching English as a foreign language. She shares with us her experience:

Grandma always said, “Everything in moderation—even moderation.” As a junior at ASU, taking 18 credits a semester, being the Reading Series Coordinator for Superstition Review, working at the Polytechnic campus Writing Center, serving as the President of ASU’s Devil Dancesport ballroom dancing team, and volunteering as a Peer Advisor for the School of Applied Arts and Sciences, I was no stranger to overextending myself, to going deeper than I could swim back up in time for air.  When I graduated in 2009, I made a strategic career move and took a job in Japan teaching English in two high schools. It was only strategic because I couldn’t even get anything close to a job in the United States. Luckily for me, this job helped me realize what I really wanted to do with my life: create positive cultural exchange and communication. This lesson came to me through all of the artists that I coordinated through SR, the students that I worked with in the Writing Center, as the President of a student organization, as a Peer Advisor and in Japan.

After a year in the Land of the Rising Sun, I moved back home to the Valley of the Sun. My parents were happy to have me home in the flesh instead of pixelated and robotic on Skype. They were perfectly content to keep me there, but I was soon restless. I needed something to keep me happy, healthy and productive, but I experienced the same depression that my father remembered as an adolescent. He told me his story from the 1970s when he was expressing the same feeling of helplessness to his grandfather. To that, Great-Grandpa Krebbs said, “There is always work for those who want it.” To this day, my father doesn’t know whether or not that was a challenge or a jab, but I took it as a challenge. I pulsed all of my networks for careers in academia for months. I applied to everything. I also kept myself busy taking Spanish and Japanese at the local community colleges to keep my morale up. Around month six, I was called for my first interview. It was my chance to vie for my dream job of being an academic advisor! At the age of 24 (my lucky Japanese year of the Rabbit) I was hired as the youngest member of an academic advising team with my mentors from undergrad as my supervisors.

After some serious soul-searching, I had to sacrifice my dream job in favor of the English and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) programs at Northern Arizona University, where I am happily immersed in concurrent graduate programs and teaching freshman composition for native and non-native speakers of English. I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Composition and Linguistics in the near future. This, I believe, will help me bring positive cultural exchange and communication to more people than I could have ever hoped while being one teacher working with just 30 students at a time in a sea of millions. It will be more work that I have probably ever had in my life—but I also have itty-bitty daydreams of being the President of the United States as well, so bring it on.

As I look back now, all I can say is that Grandma was right. “Everything in moderation–even moderation.” If I could go back in time with all of this 20/20 retrospect, I wouldn’t change one thing. Now, I am making sure that I give just as much as I have received, and these last sentences are little karmic presents for anyone who wants them: In order to survive in the world that we live in today, concentration and positive thinking are the keys to getting what the universe thinks you deserve. Nobody gets anywhere anymore by stepping on people. We’re in the age of Google, people! Also, it really DOES matter who you know and how you treat the people around you…No one ever knows who they will be interacting with in the future. Network, network, NETWORK! Oh, and always brush your teeth (another Grandma quote).

An Interview With Faculty Advisor Betsy Schneider

Superstition Review would like to welcome faculty advisor Betsy Schneider. She will be advising the art editors starting this fall. As an introduction to the staff and readers, we interviewed Betsy and we are very glad to share the interview with you.

 

 

Betsy Schneider is a photo-based artist and educator. Her artistic concerns range from trying to understand time, decay and the body, to exploring childhood, culture, and relationships and looking very closely at strange visceral things such as candy, placentas and the mouth. She uses a variety of photographic tools including APS, digital, medium format and view cameras and digital and computer generated video. Her work manifests itself through exhibitions of rectangles on the wall, video installations and books.

Her work is in several private and public collections including that of actor Jamie Lee Curtis, Museet for Fotokunst in Denmark, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. She has taught and lectured across the US, Scandinavia and the UK. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and an Associate Professor in the School of Art at Arizona State University.

Superstition Review: What is it about the medium of photography that first drew you to it?

Betsy Schneider: My mother always encouraged me and my sisters to express ourselves through art. My birth interrupted her PhD program in psychology focusing on children’s art. So I had a crayon or a pencil in my hand from as early as I could hold it. But I was a very active child and didn’t have the focus to be good at drawing. I was a cartooner—a doodler. My notes from school are covered with intense little doodles—even now at faculty meetings I can’t stop making these little drawings. But they don’t go anywhere.

So when I was about 11 I was picked to be a yearbook photographer—and I loved it. At the time I didn’t really see it connected to art—but it seemed like something I did well and enjoyed. But even photography took patience and I didn’t have enough through high school. So throughout high school I kind of forgot about photography and art—thinking I would be a lawyer and later a writer (yeah—that doesn’t take any patience at all).

While I was trying to write I realized that my ideas flowed so much more well, so much more fluidly through photography. This was at the end of college—and I thought –this is it. That was when I was about 21—and to waaay oversimplify it—I’ve been here making photos ever since.

SR: What are some of your influences and favorite artists?

BS: Why is this always the most difficult question? But it’s a good and important question. I tend to be influenced in waves and by a huge variety of things. First the people in my life (and I’ll get to that in the later question). But also wider cultural influences like politics and history and cultural history. I don’t watch that much TV but when I do I can’t stop talking about it. I tend to be totally overwhelmed by my life experiences and I flow with them.

But specifically—literature—I majored in English at Michigan. William Blake, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, Maurice Sendak,–but also TV shows from my childhood, like MASH and MAD magazine.

Photographers and artists—Emmet Gowin, of course Sally Mann, Nicholas Nixon, Michael Apted’s 7 Up Series. I could go on and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a new list.

SR: How long have you been with ASU, and what are some of the classes you teach?

BS: I have been teaching at ASU since 2002—and I teach the range of photo classes from basic photo black and white to the graduate seminar in photography. A few of my specialized classes are Portraiture—which focuses on the meaning and purpose of making pictures of people and a class in Digital Culture which addresses the ways in which digital technology does and doesn’t change the meaning and function of photographs. Some of my areas of concentration are time and the relationship between the still and the moving image, childhood and family, relationships, but also the visceral. I’m interested in why we make pictures and what the result of making pictures is.

SR: What do you enjoy most about teaching in your field?

BS: The energy and ideas from the students and the feedback between what I do, my life, their ideas, their work and my own. I love that I teach something that connects so closely to life and I love that I form strong bonds with the students and that I think I make a difference in their lives; they certainly make a difference in my life.

SR: It seems that much of your subject matter is very personal and very simple, like for example, your children playing. Would you say that your art is a part of your lifestyle?

BS: Yes—its essential. The fluidity between my everyday life and my work is essential to who I am as both a person, a parent, an educator, and an artist. They are all intricately connected. I thrive on connections.

SR: Your Guggenheim project is now drawing to a close.  What can you tell us about the experience?

BS: That’s a subject for a long interview. Intense and moving. I’m exhausted right now. Will be finished with taking the photos and interviewing 250 13-year-olds by the end of October. I am exhausted and thrilled and ready to give birth to this work.

Interview with Matthew Gavin Frank

 

Matthew Gavin Frank is a contributor for Superstition Review’s Issue 7. In this interview, SR talks to Frank about work and his newest piece, The Morrow Plots.

SR: After so much time spent in the food and wine industry, what inspired you to pursue degrees and careers in writing and poetry?

Matthew Gavin Frank: I loved writing well before I fell into the food and wine industries. I remember—I was about 10—going through my parents’ dresser drawers when they were otherwise occupied. I remember it as a Saturday. My dad was likely working. My mom was likely working-out: one of those Jane Fonda VHS tapes. In one drawer, I found a short essay she wrote about her own father’s death when she was 13. She spent her life teaching grammar—past participles and shit—to 7th graders, but, up until that point, I never knew she wrote. And, she never wrote anything again outside of letters to the editor. So stumbling onto that essay allowed me a richer engagement of my mother as a human being, I think.

Soon after that, I remember (this was 5th grade) collaborating with my friend Ryan Shpritz on a series of gross-out stories. A few years ago, when my wife and I were visiting my family in Chicago, my mom sat us down with these scrapbooks she made when my sister and I were toddlers. In the column that asked for my interests, she wrote, “Ghosts, blood, anything ghoulish.” Fucking blood. According to my own mother, one of my primary interests as a toddler was blood. So my later collaboration with Ryan, on this series of stories called “Death at Dark” (I, II, III, and so on) had its roots in those early interests. Mrs. Buccheim, our teacher—fabulous perm—allowed us to read our work in front of the class each week. She loved that we were writing extracurricularly. Once, in D at D part VI, I think, some poor sap caught his hand in a garbage disposal, and we compared the resulting carnage to a punctured egg yolk. Shannon Elliott, the cheerleader, cried. After that, Mrs. Buccheim, bless her proper heart, put a stop to our public readings. So, I then realized that writing not only had the power to reveal, but the power to get one banned.

This knowledge sort of fed all kinds of ideas about revolt, writerly and otherwise. Soon, I started thinking a lot about food. Growing up in a microwave-and-saturated-fat-centric family, it took me a while realize that the food world was larger than a radiated Lean Cuisine paired with Crystal Light pink lemonade. There was some impetuous revolt growing in me in my late teens in response to the crappy undergraduate meal-plan dinners (if you could call them that) served in Hopkins Hall, where I worked for a while—a very short while—clearing trays and washing dishes. I remember the particular dinner that inspired this culinary rebellion. It was this disaster of Creamed Chipped Beef on Texas Toast. It broke me. I began reading books on food and wine, determined to do better than this, which took a while actually. At some point, I came across an article on Barolo wine and vowed to go to the region where it was made. After a couple days, lazing in the vineyards, eating fresh pasta and white truffles, I vowed to return to live there and, upon returning to the States, trashed my microwave in vulgar ceremony. I thereafter took all sorts of restaurant jobs, and found a common thread: when chefs get together after work for drinks, and one chef asks me what I like to do in my spare time, and I say, “write poetry,” it’s ever a great conversation killer. Eventually, I realized I needed to chat about such things with some like-minded folks.

SR: I have heard some poets say that it is important for young writers to first go out into the world and experience life before writing about it and/or attempting to go into a MFA program. Others insist that the jump straight from undergraduate school to a MFA program is necessary. As someone who left home at age 17, experienced the world young, and returned to academia, what advice would you give to young writers?

MGF: I feel perfectly ill-equipped to give young writers lifestyle advice. There is no prescription for this shit. If you need and want to write, you will need and want to write, whether flipping eggs in an Alaskan diner for a living, or immersing oneself in academia. Folks are always talking about how MFA programs can be ruinous to burgeoning writers, who should first experience the world and gather stories; other folks insist that the training provided by the MFA is not a stylistic evening-out, but is essential to burgeoning writers and that it’s the outside world with its various bankrupt distractions that can be ruinous. So, everything can be ruinous, is the thesis, I think.

I tend to believe that these extremists are giving both the MFA program and the “world-at-large” too much credit. If you want and need to write, I’m not sure either choice has the power to strip that away and ruin you. Everything is situation-specific. The shunning of the academic construct in order to lead a vagabond lifestyle worked for me. That’s what I needed to do. I know incredible writers who never left academia—went straight from undergrad to MFA to PhD to a tenure-track position. That’s what they needed to do. I do think surrendering to whimsy is important, but such whimsy manifests itself in myriad ways for myriad people.

SR: I noticed that comments about your books by poets such as Norman Dubie and Cynthia Hogue are quoted on your website. Did you work with them during your time in the MFA program at ASU and if so how do you feel that they have influenced your writing?

MGF: Yeah, I worked with Norman and Cynthia, also Beckian, Jeannine, Alberto—all of whom were fabulous and influential. I love Norman’s poems for their drama, their characters, their social conscience, generosity of spirit, and their hilarity. I love watching the master of the dramatic monologue do his thing. I love how some of his poems combine the best of PBS’s Nova with the joy inherent in the telling of a fabulously bad joke. Norman once told me: “Dude, all my poems are jokes,” which is, of course, a joke, I think. This has inspired much of my own work. Wrapping joke in verse is hard, but so much fun. I can sense Norman’s joy in writing these poems as I read them. And every so often, Norman drops the veil, and steps, larger-than-life, center-stage. I love these moments, when he breaks the fourth wall. His poem, “Oration: Half-Moon in Vermont” is a great example of this.  It ends:

 In a year the owl will go on a shelf in the shed
Where in thirty years there will be a music box
Containing a lock of hair, her rosaries,
Her birth certificate,

And an impossibly sheer, salmon-pink scarf.  What
I want to know of my government is

Doesn’t poverty just fucking break your heart?

Reading this for the first time, I felt like Ronnie Ballenger had just pulled the chair from beneath me at the junior high lunchroom table again, and Kelly Konopka laughed so hard milk came out her nose. I’m similarly disarmed and embarrassed, and delighted. As a poet, it seems Norman could not help himself here. There is a time for restraint in poetry, and a time when restraint should not be part of the poem’s language. Norman understands this. And the result is often an exhilarating, guilty pleasure. The line break after the “What” is essential to this effect, this surprise. In my own work, as a challenge, any time I try to pull off the presence of a booger, or something like it, that’s Norman’s influence.

Cynthia’s work taught me to stay in one place, poetically-speaking, for a while, to allow the poem to become itself. To keep looking at the thing again and again and again—to micro-examine the thing via various contexts and lenses, and then, just when you think you’ve got it, to turn away from the thing, to stare into the opposite direction, and then to describe what you see there. This sort of technique allowed me, in a thematically-linked book like The Morrow Plots especially, a fulcrum to which subsequent poems could attach like burrs, and spin.

SR: Was The Morrow Plots the original title for the poem? And if so, did it come naturally? What made you choose it as the title for the entire collection?

MGF: When I lived in Upstate New York—way up on the Canadian border—during the awful winter, I became obsessed with The Morrow Plots, an experimental cornfield on the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign campus. The local and campus agronomists conduct important crop experiments there, and then disseminate the findings among the U.S.’s farming industry. So, it’s an important square of land, and hallowed ground in downstate Illinois. You do not trespass on the Morrow Plots. The legal and social consequences for such things are dire. The Plots are regionally revered. Yeah: holy, even. I was born in Illinois, and I think I was oddly homesick for the Midwest all the way up there near Canada among the defunct Go-Kart tracks and Shining-esque hedge maze that my wife and I lived behind (the area was a bedroom community for Manhattanite boaters in the summer time, and so had all of these kitschy tourist traps that would go skeletal come winter). Upon researching old newspaper articles from the ’20s and ’30s, I found that the Plots were then known as a popular site for violent crime, or a dumping ground for bodies. And, if some mutilated remains went unclaimed, the University of Illinois would claim them for “experimental purposes.” And now, The Morrow Plots are a National Historical Landmark. So dealing with that discrepancy consumed me for a while. This is a great, if nauseating, way to sink into the comfort of the winter blues. But I was so glad to reemerge after that one. See some light after all the murder. I had to temper a lot of the darkness by reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s sumptuous At the Drive-in Volcano that winter. So yes, this obsession came naturally, and acted as that fulcrum on which I hung a bunch of murderous Midwestern things.

SR: In The Morrow Plots there is an enchanting set of lines that I am curious about. “…The book opening/to your knees/explodes with border scenes—/skeletal fish becoming women/with piñata faces.” The imagery and the musicality are beautiful. Where did your inspiration for these lines come from?

MGF: Firstly, thank you! When I was long ago an undergraduate at The University of Illinois, I used to sneak into Lincoln Hall at night. I was taking a Biology course from this guy George Kieffer—this wonderful old madman on the cusp of retirement who would run around his lecture stage, waving his hands and screaming about having found dead bodies in the nearby Boneyard Creek. He would triumphantly howl, to his teenage and twentysomething students, “You’re all headed toward Max S [the end stage of entropy], Max S! That’s when you’re dead!”

It was one of those buildings that had locked behind Plexiglas cases all sorts of wrinkled beasts pickled in jars of alcohol. I remember halls of fetal pigs, halls of snakes—both of which are good for poetry, of course.

So I would sneak in there at night, climb to the top floor, exit a window, and sit on the roof’s ledge overlooking the center of campus. Sections of the roof were made of copper and were beginning to green. I would often write up there, read up there by a pocket flashlight. From that vantage, The Morrow Plots were visible. I have this memory—fabricated or real, I can’t tell—of sitting up there, watching the stars or some other youthful romantic shit, with two books open on my lap: a biology textbook, and a glossy book of old Mexican movie posters.  One book on each thigh. I’m trying to hold them both open, while also trying to not fall off the roof. The stars. The Plots. In the biology book, I remember some anatomical cross-section of a cod or something. In the second, an image of the second. Honestly, I don’t know if this is true or not, but this memory, when coupled with the violent history of The Morrow Plots, served to inspire this line, and this poem. The poem struggles, I think, to make all of these odd histories gel with the images that attend them. Struggles to deal with the ways in which height and distance both reveal and obscure. And how everything on earth is, of course, magnificent, terrible, and indistinct from a rooftop.

SR: Is there a particular poem or poet that first provided inspiration for your stylistic choices as a writer?

MGF: The poet Mike Madonick was the first poet who taught me that the muse occurs during the writing process, and not beforehand. That, to write a poem, in his words, is like, “[being] a dog let loose in a field, you pick up scents, another dog perhaps, a pheasant, or the quick motion of a grasshopper turns your head, and then your owner calls, you scramble back or you want to run or you just stand there and cock your head, look at him because you’re puzzled about the strange demand he’s put on you, as if he owned you.”

I was lucky enough to have Mike as a teacher, and am lucky enough to have him as a friend. I remember, as an undergrad, I declared a psychology major. Then, I took my very first poetry workshop with Mike, and he said something as simple as, “Poets are fucked-up people, generally,” and I rushed out of class and switched my major to Creative Writing, as if Madonick had given me some sort of permission to be my dumbass self, and to do the dumbass things I wanted to do.

SR: What advice do you have for writers with an interest in travelling and/or cuisine as subject matter for their work?

MGF: Don’t skimp tent-wise. Purchase one that decently blocks out the rain. This is your home for a while. Make it so. Create a little nightstand in the corner with a stack of books you plan on reading, and your notebook. Keep your watch, glasses and lantern on it, each in their own little spot.

Remember how when you were five, the optometrist told your mother in front of you that you’d be blind by age 30. Remember how you used to walk around your parents’ house at night, feeling your way in the darkness, practicing for blindness. Remember bumping into your dad’s collection of antique metal Coca-Cola trays. Remember the loudness. Finger your glasses on that makeshift nightstand in the tent—see in them, and your (however limited) retention of your sight, a lovely Fuck You to that optometrist’s version of fate. Contemplate fate, and other such nebulous things, no further. Go to sleep and dream about pasta.

If camping along the ski valley road in Taos, New Mexico, bring your own toilet paper, lest you want to succumb to the discarded Subway napkins the guy the next site over push-pinned to the pit toilet wall.

When camping in Kruger National Park in South Africa, listen at night to the hippos laughing.  Take notes in vocables.

Camp at Wonder Lake in Alaska’s Denali National Park in mid-September. Wake up in the middle of the night to see the aurora borealis dancing pink and green over the mountain. Write a horrible poem about it. Revise it into a better poem, but realize it’s still horrible. Write a new poem. Put an oyster in it.

In a pinch, when preparing ramen noodles over a propane camp-stove, choose the pork flavor; boil the noodles in half-water, half-pineapple juice. Contemplate the illusory makeup of gourmet. Remember: ratio is everything. Two cans of Stagg Chili + one can of Libby’s Corned Beef Hash = tolerable high-calorie meal.  One can of Stagg Chili + two cans of Corned Beef Hash = digestive demoralization from the throat on down—this is a ratio that may cause you to abandon your current course, flee the woods, get on the first plane to Paris, and have a vegetarian dinner at L’Arpege. After that, think differently about the tomato.

Meet your spouse in a Latin jazz bar on one island or another—one that you previously defined as fickle. Propose to her at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Do this realizing that you are surrounded by nuclear test sites. Do this realizing that nearby Arco was the first town in the U.S. to be lit by atomic power. Do this realizing that you are camping on the rocks on which the astronauts practiced for moon landings.

No matter where you are, surrender to the street food, even though it will make you sick.

ASU History Book Launch

Come celebrate the history of Arizona State University!

Meet Stephanie R. de Lusé, PhD and Denise E. Bates, PhD, authors of the new book Arizona State University.

Saturday, September 29th at 4 p.m.

Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 S. McClintock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283
(480) 730-0205

Books will be available for purchase at the event. Admission is free!

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Jackie White

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature this podcast by Jackie White.

Jackie WhiteJackie K. White earned her PhD in Creative Writing (poetry) from UIC with concentrations in Latino and Latin American and Women’s Studies. She served for nine years as an editor with RHINO, and is an associate professor at Lewis University. Her poems and translations have appeared in ACM, Bayou, Folio, Karamu, Natural Bridge, Quarter after Eight, Spoon River, Third Coast, etc. and online at seven corners, shadowbox, and prosepoem.com. Her chapbook Bestiary Charming won the 2006 Anabiosis Press award, and Petal Tearing & Variations was published by Finishing Line in 2008. A third chapbook is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. You can read along with her poems in Issue 9 of Superstition Review.

To subscribe to our iTunes U channel, go to http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/superstition-review-online/id552593273