#ArtLitPhx: Mesa Arts Center: WordPlay Café

artlitphx WordPlay Café

FREE

June 12 and July 14, 2018

6:00-7:00 p.m. Writing/Performance Workshop

7:00-9:00 p.m. Open mic

Volstead Public House in downtown Mesa (105 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201)

WordPlay Café open mic creates a platform for community members to become storytellers, poets, and musicians. Attendees have the opportunity to craft, mold, and present their work by showing up and putting their name on the list. In addition to the open mic, each month features a workshop led by professional poets and storytellers, highlighting the nuanced aesthetics of each respective medium.

#ArtLitPhx: Diana Arterian and Douglas Manuel Poetry Reading

Poets Diana Arterian and Douglas Manuel, one of our very own Superstition Review contributors, will read from their latest works–Playing Monster :: Seiche and Testify–on Monday, April 30, 2018 at Valley Bar (130 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004) at 6:30 pm. Please note this event is 21+.

About the Books:

Playing Monster :: Seiche was the Editrix’s Pick for the 1913 Press Prize for First Books in 2016. This is a book-length poem weaving many threads, but predominantly childhood experiences with an abusive father and, as an adult, increasingly aggressive acts made toward the speaker’s mother by strange men. Playing Monster :: Seiche is a piece of noir poetics. It is memoir. It is documentary.

A book of elegiac ambivalence, Testify’s speaker often finds himself trapped between received binaries: black and white, ghetto and suburban, atheism and Catholicism. In many ways, this work is a Bildungsroman detailing the maturation of a black man raised in the crack-laden 1980s, with hip-hop, jazz, and blues as its soundtrack. Rendered with keen attention to the economic decline of the Midwest due to the departure of the automotive industry, this book portrays the speaker wrestling with his city’s demise, family relationships, interracial love, and notions of black masculinity. Never letting anyone, including the speaker, off the hook, Testify refuses sentimentality and didacticism and dwells in a space of uncertainty, where meaning and identity are messy, complicated, and multivalent.

About the Authors:

Diana Arterian is the author of Playing Monster :: Seiche (1913 Press, 2017), the chapbooks With Lightness & Darkness and Other Brief Pieces (Essay Press, 2017), Death Centos (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013), and co-editor of Among Margins: Critical & Lyrical Writing on Aesthetics (Ricochet, 2016). A Poetry Editor at Noemi Press, her creative work has been recognized with fellowships from the Banff Centre, Caldera, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo, and her poetry, essays, and translations have appeared in Asymptote, BOMB, Black Warrior Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, and Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. Born and raised in Arizona, she currently resides in Los Angeles where she is a doctoral candidate in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She holds an MFA in poetry from CalArts, where she was a Beutner Fellow.

Douglas Manuel was born in Anderson, Indiana. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and a MFA from Butler University where he was the Managing Editor of Booth a Journal. He is currently a Middleton and Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California where he is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing. He has been the Poetry Editor of Gold Line Press as well as was one of the Managing Editors of Ricochet Editions. His work is featured on Poetry Foundation’s website and has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, Rhino, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, New Orleans Review, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. His first full length collection of poems, Testify, was released by Red Hen Press in the spring of 2017.

About the Piper Center
Diana and Doug’s reading is presented as part of the Distinguished Visting Writer Series by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, a home for writers, readers, and the literary community, offering talks, readings, classes, workshops, and other literary events and programs

#ArtLitPhx: WordPlay Cafe

Partnering with Creative Catalysts, the WordPlay Cafe’s open mic creates a platform for community members to become storytellers, poets, and musicians. It is here where artist have the opportunity to craft, mold, and present their work by simply showing up and putting their name on the list. Before open mic, each month WordPlay Cafe will feature a workshop led by professional poets and storytellers, highlighting the nuanced aesthetics of each respective medium.

Workshop is free, open to the public and starts at 6 pm, open mic is from 7 pm to 9 pm. The workshop and open mic will be held at Volstead Public House (105 W. Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201) on February 8th, RSVP here.

AWP Giveaway!

Superstition Review table at the AWP writers' conferenceThis weekend Superstition Review has a table at the AWP Writers’ conference in Washington DC. We have some really cool swag, including mugs, t-shirts, and notebooks we are raffling to convention-goers. If you’re at AWP this weekend and want to win, follow us on twitter @Superstitionrev and send us a tweet saying “Hello @superstitionrev from AWP.” Winners will be announced on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 4PM. Swing by the Superstition Review booth (501-T) to claim your prizes.

You can find out more about AWP here: https://www.awpwriter.org/

 

#ArtLitPhx: Launch of the ASU DPC/Lawn Gnome Poetry + Public Art Project

PoetryRosemarie

Join ASU students and local visual artists on Friday, November 4 at 7 p.m. for the Launch of the ASU DPC/Lawn Gnome Poetry + Public Art Project event. The event takes place at Lawn Gnome Books (905 N 5th St, Phoenix, AZ).

Eight undergraduate poets on the DPC (under the direction of Rosemarie Dombrowski) produced poems under 25 words inspired by the city, its the desert ecology, and the people who inhabit it.  The students will read for ten minutes of any literary work of their choice. Local artists then came together (under the organization of Aaron Johnson) to produce corresponding artwork.  Both the poems and the artwork will be painted onto eight 8’x4’ boards that will be installed at Lawn Gnome Books and unveiled on the First Friday.

The eight ASU Downtown campus poets are Megan Atencia, Sawyer Elms, Daniela Diaz, Anna Florez, Mandy Peterson, Richard Sais, Matthew Session, and Kellen Shover.

The reading will be followed by a Q & A with the poets and artists.  The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the Facebook event.

Guest Post, Elizabeth Bradfield: In Praise of Jackalopes and Secret Agents

Elizabeth Bradfield

Secret agent in the field

Sometimes, on an airplane, I wonder if the person beside me thinks I’m a pathological liar after they ask, “What do you do?” and I begin to answer.  Or fumble toward answering.

Sometimes I want to lie.

Do you lie?

Sometimes I do.

By omission, if nothing else.  Too many answers when they want one.  I work on ships.  I am run a press.  I teach.  I do website design. And then the real answer, which to many is strange and either provokes awkward silence or too many questions: I am a poet and a naturalist.

At the core of my being, that reply rings and resounds.  Poet and naturalist are callings I heed.  Passions I am grateful to follow.  They are ways of moving through the world.  Words for how I navigate.  They are not careers.

*

A career is paystubs and (hopefully) promotions.  It is marked progress or at least marked time.  It is commerce.

Being a naturalist is not commerce. It is carefully observing the world without humans at its center.  You might get paid to lead a walk or give a talk, but being a naturalist constitutes more than that calendared moment.  Being a poet is the same.

Poetry is not commerce. Sometimes, a little money might come from a poem.  Sometimes.  A little.  But not often.

And that is our freedom, as poets.  The poems won’t pay the rent.  Their value is reckoned differently.  Even after they go out into the world, they are ours.  And we can allow whim and art and passion to make them.  For most poets, there is no “brand” to protect for market-driven reasons, a narrowing of expression which would hinder our making with self-consciousness.  The exploration and the experimentation of each new poem is the thing that makes us poets.

Career: v. move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction. “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.”

If you’re like me, you’d probably say “careened.”  The car careened around a corner.

In North America, that’s become an acceptable usage of the verb.  But to careen is more truly to turn (a ship) on its side for cleaning, caulking, or repair.  Where I live, we see ships careened in the summer.  Wooden hulks coaxed to float by annual patching.

*

A boat out of the water is a vulnerable and strange thing.  It keens with the weight of its careening.  It does more than list.  It leans.  And it leans hard—maybe against a piling driven into the sand to hold it upright when the water pulls away.

Meander, when I was younger, was one of my favorite words.  I loved the way my mouth had to work around it.  Now, it sounds a little whiny to me, mewling, and I don’t use it in poems.

I would be careened without poems, without the deliberate observation, the delighted surprise that springs from being open to what emerges, that comes from both writing and being a naturalist.  I would lean and break.  I would be a hulk on the shore.

I career between these selves, these lives.

*

Odd hybrids have always held power.  Minotaur, selkie, siyokoy, Anubis, angel, jackalope.

“In the 1930s, Douglas Herrick and his brother, hunters with taxidermy skills, popularized the American jackalope by grafting deer antlers onto a jackrabbit carcass and selling the combination to a local hotel in Douglas, Wyoming.”

Praise the jackalope.  Praise the strange beauty of two lives deliberately brought together.  And the secrets and omissions that conjoining must necessarily entail.

Secrets are held within us, alive but invisible.  Some, of course, can be horrible and dangerous.  But not all.  Some fuel us.

When I am speaking as a poet, talking to students about image or line, the secret of my naturalist life pulses within me.  I am comforted by its warmth.  My shoulders hold an echo of the weight of my binocular strap and my eyes a squint of light on water.  I need the power of that other, more physical life to buoy me when I flounder in the world of words.

When I am working as a naturalist, searching for animals or coaxing people to bend down and look at feeding barnacles, poems sing in me. Lines by other poets, phrases that might become a poem of my own. I don’t share them.  I joke with the crew, drive the boat, do head-counts, take data.  I don’t want to talk about writing poems.  I want that buzz in my pocket, that secret gathering power in its unspoken form.

Sometimes, though, shuttling between poet-self and naturalist-self leaves me disoriented.  As if I’m too much in limbo, liminal, always becoming and never there.

*

Dedicating oneself to two worlds can mean slower progress in each.  There is a benefit to laser focus, to sustained and dedicated effort in one field.  But not all of us are wired for that.  Some of us struggle and itch if we have to offer only one answer to the question, “What do you do?”

I want to honor the power and necessity of that non-singularity.  The energy of that pendulum swing between ways of seeing, ways of engaging.  Poetry and plumbing.  Poetry and psychoanalysis.  Poetry and parenthood.

Many writers (myself included, at least partly, for the past four years) earn a living by teaching writing.  But not all writers are in the academy, and not all writers want to be in the academy.  Some hold writing apart from whatever they do to make money, keep it separate from their working lives, free to range and explore unseen by supervisors or colleagues.  Free to rebel and speak against as well as for.

It’s harder, sometimes, to find these writers.  It’s harder for them to take time to travel and give readings; they don’t have students who go out and share their work.  But their books are out there to be found. Their voices sing.

Writers who have wandered, whether it’s into teaching or doctoring or carpentry, know that I claim you as kin.  We won’t have “careers” as writers, but we will career, and the energy our non-writing life—its vocabulary and systems and specific conundrums—will make the words we explore vital and strange. We will have lives as writers.  As jackalopes, as secret agents of words.

Guest Post, Andrew Galligan: A Job Program for Eighth Graders

“poem” by Pankaj Kaushal is licensed under CC by 2.0

Poetry reviews written by poets are the worst. Of course, not ALL of them are the worst. But many of them are.

I’ve read plenty of poetry reviews, whether in-hand when picking up a new book or online when considering a purchase from a new author or the latest release of one whose work I admire. They are laudatory, very often contain sweeping flourishes of language, and may attempt serious contemplation and honest appraisal of the work inside. Some are as insightful and illuminating as a buyer would hope, but to me the body of them feels esoteric, exaggerated and, at their worst, repetitive.

To illustrate, I pulled eight books of poetry off my living room shelves. These are actual rear-cover reviews of published books of poems written by other poets (titles and author names are redacted). The first three fall into the all-too-common category of “poetry about poetry”:

  • In (this book), we’re banging along the Baja of our little American lives, spritzing truth from our lapels, elbowing our compadres, the Seven Deadly Sins. Maybe we’re unhappy in a less tragic way, but our ruin requires of us a love and understanding and loyalty just as deep and sweet as any tragic hero’s.
  • (She) isn’t afraid to write metaphor to test the voice – that poor arrow – or to try to write beautiful lines…A reader will be reminded of the beautiful motions of the mind
  • …what a flawless understanding of gravity…this is a work of profound daring, written by a spirit deeply aware of the ultimate cost of beauty, and the endless human thirst for, and dependence upon, surfaces…

Of course a book of true poetry cannot be complete until a few additional poems are appended to its back in the form of reviews. Here’s a book of poems…since you may have some trouble understanding at first, the publishers have helped by attaching 2-4 meta-poems to explain what’s inside.

Next, when surveying the reviews I found that several writers were unparalleled and quite necessary:

  • His achievement, above all, is to make something precious out of the sad jetsam of experience…No one conjures the holy ghosts of the commonplace like (him).
  • One of the finest poets of this century, his work will in due course be widely recognized for its excellence.
  • (this book) is the achievement of a young poet writing in the full measure of her powers.
  • He is one of our premier anatomists of contemporary American life, a wildly refreshing, necessary poet.
  • This is our beautiful glimpse of forever. (Her) (book) is a harrowing, necessary work.

Whoah. Better get started. Lots of required reading.

Finally, I came upon a review where the poet writes the poet-y-est thing ever:

  • (This book) is an unignorable book…The feeling behind it is painful, but exquisitely so. Pain made into art or what, in another time, people called ”‘beauty”

In case you missed it, that was pain, art AND beauty. A poet’s trifecta.

Much of what you see above is just empty accolades for the writer. It’s certainly a big deal to finish a book and have it published – no dispute there. All active writers understand this challenge. But praise for the writer – dealt in spades by peers – says nothing of the content. And far too often, as we have seen, attempts at the content result in a poeticized review.

It could be the form of the review tempting poets into such impregnable, overwrought summations. A typical review is short in length and aims to address a broad body of content. Though epic strokes aren’t required, the review writer does have to deduce and distill, and in those few words represent in some way an entire work. This task is not unlike that of writing a poem – a genre set apart by focus, by its economical and muscular employment of comparative device in capturing our experiences.

The problem here of course is that a review is supposed to help someone decide to read the book. It’s a sales tactic, but a worthwhile one if executed with the reader in mind. It should supplement the impression of a work the reader gets if he or she decides to peek inside the pages for a few minutes. If the review of a professional poet is more beautiful and intricate than the work inside it purports to sponsor, the curious reader is done a disservice. How the hell could they decide in a few minutes if this book is worth their sixteen bucks?

And I am not arguing for accessibility. Though great writing is often great for the lucid simplicity of plain language (I think of James Wright), folks in the trade of language appreciate its entire spectrum. Art that confronts with mystery, curiosity and confusion mimics the experience of everyday life. Art’s logic is not that of science or philosophy or mathematics. If you’ve ever felt your gently startled body shake and settle in exhale at the end of a poem or story (or movie) that struck you, you’ve experienced this sense-making. If you want to talk accessibility, send Billy Collins a tweet.

The conventions I observed in poetry reviews affirm two things: 1) reactions captured in a particular review are often less sincere for their facile deployment of tic tacks from the toolbox of review writing, and 2) the review as a form is a mechanism not to deliver the insight and persuasion it promises a potential reader, but to document the professional connections among writers. It’s the original LinkedIn for poets. Congrats! T.S. has endorsed you for synecdoche!

Here’s the thing: that network of poets and poetry is small. Its practitioners are few, and by and large, its readers are also the practitioners. To praise poetry with poetry, I believe, is to close the circle even tighter. So that’s why I propose that eighth grade students write all reviews of published poetry. Talk about an outsider’s lens! Students at that level are equipped to elevate a sense of narrative from publishable poetry, and have a burgeoning eye for metaphor as well. They’ll skip over the parlor games and inside jokes (we all do them), and take the writing seriously so long as it can be believed. That is the best test. And the early, deliberate (paid hourly? ☺) exposure will at minimum stretch that circle of poetry a little bit wider, and get kids along with the rest of us making connections we never would have before.