Newsletter 3/24

“Superstition

3.24.17


Contest: Show Us Your Workspace

Workspace Contest

At the end of every author interview, we ask the same question: What does your writing space look like? Now, we’re asking you!

We’re accepting entries on Twitter: Tag us in a pic, use , &  you could win a Starbucks gift card! Contest ends March 31.


Ocean Vuong and Camille Rankine Reading at Phoenix Art Museum

Poets Ocean Vuong and Camille Rankine will be reading from their work at Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004) on April 7 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event is hosted by the University of Arizona Poetry Center, the Phoenix Art Museum, Literary & Prologue Society of the Southwest, ASU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Superstition Review, ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center For Creative Writing, and ASU Performance in the Border/Lands. After the reading, there will be a short Q&A and a book signing.

Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). His writings have been featured in the Kenyon Review, GRANTA, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in New York City.

Camille Rankine’s first book of poetry, Incorrect Merciful Impulses, was published in January by Copper Canyon Press. Her poetry has appeared in Atlas Review, American Poet, The Baffler, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Octopus Magazine, Paper Darts, Phantom Books, A Public Space, Tin House, and elsewhere. She serves on the Executive Committee of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and lives in New York City.


The Book Nerd’s Guide to Non-Readers

For bibliophiles, it can be frustrating to explain the love for the written word, especially when the response is sometimes, “People still read books?”

But the Book Nerd over at Barnes and Noble Reads has compiled a guide to non-readers that any book lover can get behind.

See the article by Barnes and Noble here.


Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Writing Playlist

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mind behind Hamilton and the Moana soundtrack, shared on Twitter a 19-track playlist called “Write Your Way Out,” a collection of songs “about writing, songs that feature great writing, and everything in between.”

From Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan to Saul Williams and Nas, this playlist’s a great way to punch through that next bout of writer’s block.

See the full list here.


Featured Partner: Prick of the Spindle

Prick of the Spindle is a nonprofit journal of the literary arts, founded in 2007. We are always seeking critics to review the titles listed on our review shelf at http://prickofthespindle.org/reviewer-guidelines/. We are also seeking short film and visual artists for our online galleries, as well as satire for the new online section, The Corner. Submit your fiction, poetry, nonfiction, humorous pieces, reviews, interviews, artwork, and drama for the biannual print edition at https://posprint.submittable.com/submit. To purchase copies of the biannual print edition, visit http://prickofthespindle.org/shop/

 

Contributor Update: Barbara Crooker

Hey there, readers! In the most recent bit of good news that’s floated by Superstition Review’s open windowsill, we are immensely pleased to announce that past contributor Barbara Crooker has a new book out called “Les Fauves,” which has been published by C&R Press. “Les Fauves” is a collection of ekphrastic poems that utilize the works of the Fauve and Post-Impressionist in order to move through the world, both as it is given and as it is withheld. Crooker’s poetry was featured in the Poetry section of our second issue, and can be viewed here. Go check out some reviews and order yourself a copy of “Les Fauves” here. A hearty congratulations to Barbara Crooker, and as always, feel free to let us know what you all liked about “Les Fauves,” as well as the rest of Crooker’s poetry, in the comments section down below.

Buy this book!

The cover for Barbara Crooker’s new book of poems, “Les Fauves.”

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.

Contributor Update: Victor Lodato Waxes Romantic In The Times

Hey there dear readers! Superstition Review is back after a brief hiatus with more good news: past contributor Victor Lodato’s essay “When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship” has been published in The New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column. Lodato was featured in our Interview section of Issue 8 in an interview conducted by former intern Marie Lazaro. In addition to being a recipient of the PEN Center USA Award for fiction, Victor Lodato has also been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Institute as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.  His latest novel, “Edgar and Lucy” is out now from Macmillan, and can be found both online as well as at most major bookstores. Do yourself a favor and check out the essay here, and buy one (or two, or seven) copies of “Edgar and Lucy” here. Congratulations Victor, we couldn’t be happier to know you!

Read the essay and buy the book!

Victor Lodato, author of “When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship” and “Edgar and Lucy.”

Contributor Update: Ruben Quesada Brings His Talents To The UCLA Extension This Summer

Hey readers! Superstition Review is proud to announce that Ruben Quesada, a former faculty member at Eastern Illinois University who was featured in the Poetry section of Issue 13, has been named a faculty member at the UCLA Extension, and will be teaching a course on Poetry and Popular Culture alongside Rosebud Ben-Oni this summer. Do yourself a favor, and check out Ruben Quesada’s poem “On Witness” here, and stay tuned to the blog for more updates on the beautiful happenings here at Superstition Review.

Ruben Quesada, featured in the Poetry Section of Issue 13, will be teaching at the UCLA Extension this summer!

Ruben Quesada, featured in the Poetry Section of Issue 13, will be teaching at the UCLA Extension this summer!

Guest Post, Meghan McClure: In Praise of the Physical World

Matthew Nienow’s House of Water

Farmington, ME: Alice James Books, 2016. 57 pages. $15.95.

 

Picture of the book House of Water by Matthew NienowFor the past few months I’ve been unmoored, I feel against everything. I think a lot of us do. During this time I’ve turned, as I always have in difficult times, to books. I’ve found myself drawn to two types of books, both of which seem relevant and necessary. The first kind are those that teach me to see through the eyes of others, show me the history of how we got here, give voice to the often unheard, teach me to resist, give me strength to fight back. The second type of book I’ve been drawn to are those which praise the physical world, look with wonder at the earth and its inhabitants, draw the eye to the light. The books of the first kind have been my maps and guides. The second kind of book has been an anchor for me. In these times of upheaval and uncertainty I am seeking things that ground me to the world, that re-invest me in this place. I want to hold something in my hands, to know that it is real, to remember I’m not against everything. The poems in Matthew Nienow’s House of Water are as close to that as poems can be.

Built in to each of the poems in House of Water is a commitment to the physical world. Readers cannot escape the smell of seawater, the heat of fire, the shavings of wood beneath their feet, the laughter of children, or the rock of a boat. The book begins with a prayer to the tools of his trade (he builds boats) and continues with odes to those tools (“Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood,” “Ode to the Steam Box,” “Ode to the Gain,” “Ode to the Preacher Jig,” “Ode to the Slick”), joy in the work of creation, and quiet moments of watching his wife and children. Nienow begins with the tools, but from there goes on to praise the body which uses the tools, the life that is created, and the work it all takes.

These poems are about learning to look closely at the things we hold daily. In Nienow’s case these things are tools and woods I’m unfamiliar with, but came to admire as I read through the book. In “Ode to the Belt Sander & This Cocobolo Sapwood” Nienow holds up a block of wood to the belt sander and:

 

A single knot blinks

out of the small block & becomes

 

the eye of a hummingbird, its beak

bending around the edge of the wood,

 

its song captured in the annular rings.

To think, this block was tossed in

 

with the scrap. That the bird

could have been lost. Or burned.

 

How quickly the mundane scrap of a day can become a thing to behold. The world still holds mystery and wonder. Sometimes that mystery is locked away in a block of wood, sometimes it is hidden in a page of scribbled notes waiting to become a poem. Nienow shows the reader how to hold a scrap in their hand, hold it to the light, and get to work uncovering its beauty.

At first glance “The Handshake” seems like a shout against the body and work:

 

God damn my hands

and the inward ache

that is the echo of every

 

hammer swing; God

damn every struck thing

and the impulse to make.

 

God damn the scars

and the memories they bear,

the fists I carry with me

 

everywhere; God damn

all that my hands fail

to hold…

 

 

But in the refrain of  “God damn…” we hear the echo of “God bless.” Instead of reading of anger and resentment, the pain and shame of this poem become an ode all their own: to the hands (“my two best tools”) that long to create, that come from a long line of hands (“I remember / my father’s father”), and that get to shape their future:

 

I consider

the road. My handshake

 

will not tell you

what kind of man I am.

 

This poem is a reminder that we can howl against the pain in our lives and still hold our lives dear. We can see the darkness of the world and still want to make it brighter. Sometimes the very hands that hurt are the hands that will create something that gleams.

Halfway through the book, in “Song of Tomorrow,” the speaker wants to give the world, whole and shining, to his children: “I will give / them whatever I have, whatever I can acquire.” But he also knows he will not be able to give them all he desires to, he is “ a man trying / to hold water in cupped hands” knowing he “will fail / to hold it.” But even in that failing he knows “what joy there is in feeling it pass.” Throughout the book Nienow balances praise of the physical with the knowledge that it will never be enough. Nienow’s book is not a glossy ode to the perfect, but an ode to the scraped and dented imperfect life we create with our hands. There is joy not just in the material or the tools, but in the process of creation – the life we live.

By the time we get to “Making a Rabbet Plane in the Machine Shop on the Hill” we have praised the materials, the tools, and the process of creation, but here we watch the speaker work. The worker has to dig into his collection of tools with his aching hands and put them into action. In this collection of poems, the speaker is never more than a line or two away from work. Above all, the work is to be praised:

 

I turn

the idea of the tool over in my hands.

That it works makes me want to work.

The work, it carves that want away.

 

 

Nienow shows, through his writing, the work it takes to chisel, bend, and sand raw material down to a useful object and how that work itself is beautiful. When we look at the world there is endless wonder, but wonder alone won’t change anything, it takes work. This is not a book merely of ideas, but of tools, material, and what they create. Nienow finds beauty in the world because he works to make it.

We need things to tether us to this earth. We need to find reminders of the immensity and wonder this earth holds – it will give us the energy to move forward when it feels like we can’t. We need to create wonder of our own and to find joy and solace in the work of creating. As writers, this book is a reminder to stay observant and alert and curious in our work. And above all, to love the work.

Stand up, march, protest, yell, read to inform yourself, carry a sign, volunteer, donate. And when you get weary and start losing hope, recharge with a book that tethers you to this world. Because we have to stay invested in this place, in each other. Writers need to keep writing about the things that matter to them, sharing their stories because like the famous Maggie Smith poem, “Good Bones,” says: “This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.” To work to make it beautiful, we have to remember it’s worth it.

More book recommendations for mooring you to this earth:

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

System of Ghosts by Lindsay Tigue

World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Trouble the Water by Derrick Austin

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: H. Rae Monk

Editorial Preferences in Fiction: H. Rae Monk (Spring 2017)

I remember fondly an Advanced Fiction class, where my peers and I workshopped two previously published short stories. The first piece took up only a few minutes of discussion, because everything about the craft, the content and the emotion was air-tight. The second, with many a swiftly moving editing pen and several hands risen, in need to remark on this or that took much, much longer to finish with. I think the instructor had us do this exercise for multiple reasons, however I remember the experience, because I couldn’t help asking, “Why did so-and-so publish this when it’s so obviously not a fully realized draft?” I think there has to be an honesty contract between editors and those who submit. I won’t push a story for consideration because it’s just “good enough”, but I’ll advocate for stories that I believe in, from the title to the final punctuation mark.

I love short literary fiction because there are no places to hide; unnecessary information is erased, prose are polished, and a truth about genuine human experience and emotion remain. I search for fearless, relatable, fully-formed stories that keep me engaged from the first sentence to the last. I tend to focus on stories with clean, well-paced writing, attention to detail, sentence variation, as well as situations and interactions that subvert my expectations. E. Annie Proulx writes, “I find it satisfying and intellectually stimulating to work with the intensity, brevity, balance and word play of the short story.” I look forward to working with, and helping put the concise beauties of submitting contemporary authors out into the public eye.

 

 

 

Bio: Student Fiction Editor H. Rae Monk is a Wyoming native and an almost graduate of ASU’s Creative Writing program. When she isn’t reading every book that comes under her nose, she enjoys creating short fiction driven by characters that see the world through the lens of their abnormal vocations. She also enjoys strong coffee, bouldering, traveling on a tiny budget with a big backpack and engaging with her local literary community. Her future plans are constantly changing, but she is considering both MFA programs and jobs in publishing.