Contributor Update: Stevie Edwards

Stevie Edwards bio headshotCongratulations to our former contributor Stevie Edwards! Stevie’s poem, Sadness Workshop, is a finalist for the Button Poetry chapbook.  Superstition Review first published Sadness Workshop in Issue 17 with three other poems by Stevie. Button Poetry produces and distributes poetry media, including: video from local and national events, chapbooks, collaborative audio recordings, scholarship and criticism, and many other products. Keep an eye out for their upcoming chapbook, on their facebook and on their website.

 

Guest Post, Michael Berberich: Arts and Letters

“Most likely, I shall starve, a degenerate.”

“I threw away my cigarette, and began to make little mystic symbols in the sand with the rubber toe of my left combat boot.  Two early fireflies left the limb of a willow, and drifted past my face in two trailing arcs of yellow that remained marked in the twilit air in afterimages of green and blue.”

Michael Berberich bio photoQuotes from two personal letters (1946 & 1949) by poet James Wright, in A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright (2005)

Mail dropped in the mailbox at 15th and Ball gets picked up at 12:30 pm weekdays, 10:30 am Saturdays.  The mailbox outside the grocery store I shop at has a pickup time of 2:20.  The post office nearest my home has a drive through where it collects dropped off mail three times a day (late morning at 11:00, a mid-afternoon collection at 3:30, and a final pick up at 5:00 pm), but alas they’re down to that lone solitary pickup at 5:00.  The main post office on 25th St. has its sole pick up at 5:30.  And if I get obsessive—though the truth be told I have only done this once and it was so long ago I no longer remember the occasion or the urgency (it was not to get my income tax in on time, of that I am sure)—I can drive 48 miles up the interstate from Galveston where I live to the central downtown post office in Houston and if I make it by midnight my letter can be postmarked for that same day.

However, if my day is leisurely I’ll stand in line at the post office and request my letter be hand-stamped.  In a small gesture of caring that breaks up the monotony of taking letters and plopping them into a bucket alongside the counter, I’ve noticed that many counter clerks smile subconsciously as they carefully align the oversized hand stamp ever so right so that the unsmudged purple ink barely catches the lower inside corner of the stamp.  Thus has my stamp been officially cancelled by a most unofficially humane touch.

I run home during the noon hour not for lunch, which I can take anytime, but to check the mail, which my carrier, George, usually delivers between 11:30 and noon.  My family has long found this quirk a source of mirth.

For me, every letter received is a delight.  And in a world sorely in need of delight, I’ll squeeze every delight I can from every minute of the day that I can.  And my mailbox is that place where I most find such easy pleasures.  It’s better than Easter because I know where to find the colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.  Plus it’s less fattening.

A truism of book publishing holds that while coming out with an edition of collected letters may, but only just barely may, be good for the publishing house’s prestige, it’s hardly good for the bottom line.  To no great surprise the book of collected letters the above quotes from James Wright come from ranks 3,132,500 on the Amazon Best Sellers list.  Is there any better way I could know the 19 year old man who would later write two of my favorite poems, “A Blessing” and “Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio” than to read a letter he wrote as a high school senior?  I can imagine no reason for ever wanting to go to Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, save for having read that poem.

And there is that second quote, a gem of belles lettres which captures what it was like to have been alive in a particular moment in a particular place.  Nonetheless, its beauty would never else have been shared with more than one uniquely privileged, intended reader save for that finding its way into print.  That now gives me two reasons for wanting to meander about the environs of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio.  And so I confess to another quirk: I collect Collected Letters.

Writing letters.  I am convinced this is where my love of writing began.  Before I ever had a public reader, there were readers of my crayon notes, pencil scribblings, cards with doodles, and finally letters.  My readers responded, albeit sometimes their responses meant calling me on the phone.  No matter.  We are not all writers.  But in the writing of letters I believe that this is where we most readily come to life on the page as we cross our i’s and dot our t’s, with or sans serifs.  I understood intuitively then what I know articulately now: each response to every letter channels holiness in its gift of time, in the beauty of its encouragement, and ultimately in the precious act of its love.

So I make no apologies.  I am enamored of letters, both in the sending and receiving.  And I do so why?  Because I am a writer.  Letter writing makes us all, makes every participant—sender, receiver, counter clerk, street box pick up person, mail carrier—more fully human.

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Mary Lee

My definition of a “good poem” is expanding and shifting every day. As I continue to read, write, and learn poetry, I find that my understanding and appreciation for the art also continues to grow exponentially.

 

I believe that the poem, at its very best, is a discovery. I find that the best poems are invitations to see an object, an idea, the self, the very world, in a different light. Gaston Bachelard describes poets as individuals who are unafraid to take even the corners of a house and bring them to life. I am interested in the corners, in the ordinary that is explored and made meaningful through poetry. The unexpected image, the lyrical line, the compelling thought, the voice that flows familiar—these are all ways in which I am immediately drawn into a poem. I leave the poem not quite the same as when I entered it, and the poem still never quite leaves me.

 

I also believe the poem is an intellectual pursuit. I believe that art is meant to be constantly challenged within its own forms and notions—Dean Young says that we must “disrupt the habitations of use”. There is incredible importance in this, but ultimately, it should still be done well. As writers, we are always faced with this question in the revision process: did I say this well? Is this worthy of the page? Whether it is the utilization of form and technique, or the challenge of such through the experimental, our choices on the page should reflect our investment in the craft. I am interested in poems that are well-crafted and conscious of technique, but more importantly I am interested in poems that are meaningful enough to make the technique worthy. To quote Mary Ruefle, “It is not what a poem says with its mouth, it’s what a poem does with its eyes.”

 

Ultimately, I am always drawn to the honesty of a poem. The poem that is unafraid to explore simultaneous vulnerability and strength, authority and hesitancy, directness and tenderness. As Dorianne Laux writes in her poem “Tonight I Am in Love”: “I am wounded with tenderness for all who labored / in dim rooms with their handful of words / battering their full hearts against the moon.” Like Laux, I too appreciate poets and their ability to constantly bare themselves open through words.

Bio:

Our poetry editor for Issue 19, Mary Lee.

Our poetry editor for Issue 19, Mary Lee.

Mary Lee is completing her Bachelor’s degree in English at Arizona State University. She is in Barrett, The Honors College and is currently the poetry editor for Superstition Review.

 

Guest Post, Lois Roma-Deeley: Got Ekphrasis?

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:

  1. Focus on structure or form
  2. 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.

Collage and painting mixed media artwork

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.

The Ballad of Downtown Jake promotional picture. Paradise Valley Community College. March 12-15

Watch The Ballad of Downtown Jake here.

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.

Guest Post, Patricia Caspers, Poetry: A Meal Served at the Table of Resistance

Poetry: A Meal Served at the Table of Resistance

Patricia Caspers headshot

 

 

 

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 [1]

 

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[2]

 

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[3]

 

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.

 

Someone asks 

if the black girl knows she has already been beaten, as if 

the black girl hasn’t always survived beatings. – Deonte Osayande[4]

 

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[5]

 

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[6]

 

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[7]

 

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[8]

 

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.

It’s fair.

 

No difference

if we don’t get along with each other

or speak perfect English—

you can’t help mixing us up –Amy Uyematsu[9]

 

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[10]

 

 

[1] “I Do,” Eileen Tabios, Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/53813

[2] “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

[3] “A Litany for Survival,” Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

[4] “Gradual Transformations,” Deonte Osayande, COG: https://www.cogzine.com/deonte-osayande

[5] “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/

[6] “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglican Seraphym Subjugation of Wild Indian Rezervation,” Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was an Aztec

[7] “In Offense of Vision,” Sean Desvignes, PANK

[8] “The Invented Mothers,” Zeina Hashem Beck, Heart Online:

http://www.heartjournalonline.com/zeina/2015/6/6/two-poems-by-zeina-hashem-beck

[9] “Someone Is Trying to Warn You,” Amy Uyematsu, Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain

[10] “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” Joy Harjo, Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49622#poem

 

#ArtLitPhx: Cynthia Hogue and Jenny Irish Poetry Reading

9781597090377Irishc-250x386Cynthia Hogue, ASU’s Marshall Chair in Poetry, and Jenny Irish, Assistant Director of ASU’s Creative Writing Program, give a poetry reading at Changing Hands Bookstore at the Tempe location 6428 S McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85283 on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 at 7 p.m. Hogue will be reading from her ninth collection, In June the Labyrinth and Irish will be reading from her debut collection, Common Ancestor. For more information on this event, visit the Changing Hands Bookstore’s website. This event is free and open to the public.

Hogue’s In June the Labyrinth the main character of this postmodern fable, travels a trans-historical and trans-geographical terrain, on a quest of sorts, investigating not only the “labyrinth” as myth and symbol, but something akin to the “labyrinth of the broken heart.” The story is an earnest female pilgrim’s journey, full of disappointment but also hard-won wisdom and courage.

Hogue has been described in a New York Times micro-review as having a “knack for intensity.” She has published fourteen books, including nine collections of poetry, most recently Revenance, listed as one of the 2014 “Standout” books by the Academy of American Poets, and In June the Labyrinth (Red Hen Press, 2017). With Sylvain Gallais, Hogue co-translated Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), from the French of poet Virginie Lalucq and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012), which won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2013. Hogue served as the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University in the Spring of 2014. She was a 2015 NEA Fellow in Translation, and holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.

Irish lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she teaches creative writing and serves as the Assistant Director of the Creative Program at Arizona State University. In addition to her new collection of poetry, Irish’s fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Catapult, Colorado Review, Epoch, and The Georgia Review. Irish’s debut collection of prose poems, Common Ancestor, is an awe-inspiring read. From the confident power of its narratives to the hurricane-force language of its vision, this poetry is riveting. In two dramatic personae series of gorgeous, near-gothic detail, Irish looks at all the havoc humans wreak and does not blink. She scrutinizes violence with rare sang froid, and though never moralizing, leaves us in little doubt of the moral center of her universe: “Metal is not guilty for what it does in man’s hands, absent of soul,” as one poem puts it. In lines laced with brilliant figure and sly internal rhyme, Irish’s poetry is charged by truth’s searing song.