Authors Talk: Kalani Pickhart

Today we are pleased to to feature author Kalani Pickhart as our Authors Talk series contributor. Kalani discusses the process and personal significance of “Little Mouse.” She concludes by offering a piece of advice for other young writers.

Kalani explains that “Little Mouse” is her first story that “did a lot with very, very little.” She explains her immediate affinity for this method because it allows the characters’ voices to be communicated more directly. Characters revealing themselves and being heard on their own terms and in their own tone is Kalani’s first priority. This is clear from her language throughout the talk.

You can read and listen to “Little Mouse” in Superstition Review, Issue 19.

Contributor Update: Michelle Menting

Leaves Surface Like SkinToday we are pleased to announce that past contributor Michelle Menting’s debut collection of poems, Leaves Surface Like Skin, has been recently released. The book has already received praise from poet Sandra Beasley, who says, “Menting has a gift for moody and luminous phrasing: ‘For some, the world is wood tick wicked.’ There’s magic to a collection that does such heavy lifting with a light touch.” Purchase your copy through Terrapin, Amazon, B&N, or through your local bookstore.

To read Michelle’s essay “On Becoming Vegan” in Issue 3 of Superstition Review click here.

Editorial Preferences in Nonfiction: Jaime Faulkner

When I’m reading nonfiction, I’m looking for strong sensory detail and a solid voice from the speaker. The best kinds of essays are the ones that start with a high level of specific detail and open up to the reader, allowing them to reflect back on their own experiences. This occurs through developing the setting with concrete imagery. Whether it is focused on just one striking event or transverses months or years, sensory details are essential to understanding how the characters are shaped by their surroundings — and to ground the audience in those moments.

Consider Hamartia: The Failure to Recognize, Rachel Toliver’s essay in Issue 151 of TriQuarterly. The essay is highly personal, lush with detail, and uses location to stunning effect: The street is empty except for a little boy who wears only shorts and stands solemn in his black body. He takes up the middle of the pavement and he stays there, face quiet in the midst of concrete curbs and locked car doors. I can sense, looking at him, the translucent column of his personhood there, patient inside his chest. The scene suspends the boy in the moment, and Toliver allows the reader to rest in that image with her. In just a paragraph, it develops space and setting very quickly with details that provoke thoughts about politicizing black bodies, childhood, and observing the inner world of other people.

I am looking for deeply personal essays — because I’m reading to learn from the speaker, develop my own empathy and try think about the world in new ways. It can be tempting to overgeneralize; as Mary Karr says in The Art of Memoir, “I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” However, when speakers shy away from the gritty details, the story suffers. Vulnerability and thoughtfulness are exactly what I’m looking for in nonfiction. Not every piece needs to be sentimental or overwrought, but I want the speaker to really dig into the memories they choose to share and to clearly show readers why these thoughts matter.

I believe the best literature encourages readers and writers to reach out and learn from each other, and that’s where nonfiction shines. By grounding a story in rich sensory detail and honest reflection, the speaker is allowing us to live, briefly suspended in their moment.

Jaime FaulknerBio: Jaime Faulkner is a junior at Arizona State University majoring in Communication. She is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Superstition Review, as well as a volunteer editor with Four Chambers Press. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in publishing as an editor and author.

 

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Megan Bromley

I have never pinned down exactly what poetry is. As a sophomore in high school, I bought a used copy of the first volume of Poems for the Millennium: a soaring, 800-page anthology of modern poetry edited by Jerome Rothenberg. While I read this anthology, I thought poetry was an experiment. It was hard not to feel the fundamental joy of watching an idea, snow-shaped, roll down its hill to build and destroy at once.

The modernist imperative—“MAKE IT NEW”—resonated in my very teenage heart. I wanted to read and write poetry that resisted entropic decay, that pushed past the point of no return and did not want to return. “New” meant scattered and blown-out, spacey and Space Age, supernova-ing. I didn’t “make” anything, just placed two ideas on a page and hoped they played nicely. Reader be damned! I was having fun.

Once during my beginning poetry workshop, I met with my section’s TA (Kyle Bassett) to discuss my life goals and to recite Dean Young’s “Anti-Ambition Ode” (my final assignment). A pigeon pooped on my bike while we spoke. When we finished our conversation, I walked back to my bike to find the fresh evidence and a rusty-colored, one-legged bird confidently strutting nearby. “That’s a poem,” Kyle said.

As an astrobiology student, I’m always asked “What is life?” and as a poetry student, I’m always asked “What is poetry?” and over time, these two definitions have converged. Life does not make sense, particularly in its origin. How do we make life out of its building blocks (nucleotides, minerals, amino acids)? What assembly is necessary? How does it persist and evolve? It’s easy now to look at my more “experimental” poems from high school and see the same failures and assumptions made in them as in some astrobiology research. The blocks are there, but the life is not.

I don’t know what poetry is. I only know that it does. It defies its own dimensions, and finds its way into every niche in which we look. We crack open a rock, and there we find poetry. Sink into the mantle, and it is there. Bottom of ocean. Our cities. Our commute. It lives between the bones. It is the interconnectedness of all things—ultimate betweenness.

To quote from Anne Boyer’s Garments against Women:

“Sometimes when you look at smoothly joining at least two different-sized pieces of flat but pliable material so that these pieces might correctly encase an eternally irregular, perspiring and breathing three-dimensional object that cannot cease its motion you think that there is no way ever this could happen, yet sometimes it does.

Megan BromleyBio: Megan Bromley is the student Poetry Editor for Superstition Review’s 20th issue. She is a junior studying Creative Writing and Astrobiology, and is also active in the marching band as a piccolo player. She enjoys all things chaotic and/or musical.

 

Guest Post, Liz Robbins: Generation Vex: Returning to Walls

Butterfly PaintingLast week, I had a conversation with a visual artist about the challenges of making art as we age. I’ll turn forty-six in December, and my friend is near there. I’ve read the statistics: the average poet peaks in her twenties; artists tend to be more in line with novelists, creating their best work in their forties (lucky guy). Still, with modern life and its distractions (see Anthony Varallo’s good post on interruption), finding inspiration tends to become more problematic with age.

The artist and I briefly discussed strategies we’ve tried to keep the wheels turning. He’s a pro: a gifted painter who reinvented his artistic identity by trying—and mastering—a new genre (video). He’s secured artist residencies. He’s earned a sabbatical. Yet he juggles a full-time teaching gig with a brilliant, lively family, which is to say, he drinks a lot of coffee. He’s constantly weighing appropriate balance and space—responsibilities galore, but good ones, ones crackling with depth and possibility. I struggle to find space—and inspiration within that space—for art in similar ways. In recent years, it’s been in the playgrounds of other art mediums, which sometimes means excellent live music shows, but often means wherever fresh contemporary visual art can be found locally; when on the Flagler College campus, where I teach, I frequent CEAM (the Crisp Ellert Art Museum). This is nothing new: poets have written ekphrastic poems since the beginning, many of them great and lasting (ie. Auden’s “Musee Des Beaux Arts”). And this is perhaps because there’s a certain kind of attention required of visual art—how color works to convey mood, for instance, or how vital a fresh concept to the work’s success—that helps remind us of important elements in poem-making. Not every poet has the same hurdles when it comes to making poems, but one of mine tends to be getting hyper-focused on the linear argument—that which I find most interesting, chasing the a-ha! moment—and therefore getting lazy about filling in with lush details. Or filling in the details, but not presenting them in strange or original ways. Another challenge is finding new themes: my obsessions have gone through the wash twenty times; all that hot water has faded and shrunk them. Spending a few hours with a visual artist’s work tends to get fresh angles spinning. For instance, one of my more recent riffs came courtesy of Anna Von Mertens, a highly-accomplished multi-media artist, currently living in New Hampshire. In this series, she’s taking well-known portraits (often self-portraits by artists like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo) and from them, creating auras, using cloth, stitching, and homemade dye. Gorgeous. Mind-blowing. When I saw some of these in a CEAM exhibit, I immediately wanted to talk back to them, create a kind of tribute to them in poems. The result was a series of “aura” poems, using largely the Confessional poets. Here’s one:

aura: james wright
the head and torso shape that of a supplicant,
a nonbeliever in prayer, the eyes closed below
their frames, hands clasped at the heart, but the heart’s
red is the opposite of the dominant pigment, green: sap green
that breaks into flowering, o, Monet’s fields and water lilies
seeding and bursting beneath surfaces, all grown-blessed
in permanent green light . . . . Jenny the muse in hooker’s green:
river-rising just enough to be seen, he will wade in over
his head into the snake’s viridian venom, in the background
Van Gogh’s mother portrait, where the world’s players
smash against each other, competing terribly–
who wouldn’t waste a life for the naive green just breaking
into gallop? the wild fields blossoming?

As you can see, I’ve selected a dominant color palette that represents the poet/his work (green, with nods to significant painters who worked famously in green) and made allusions to Wright’s most well-known poems. What I’m most interested in is the conversation, the stimulation that arose from it. A familiar paradox, but one that bears repeating: artists must carve out vacuums in order to make art, yet art is not inspired by such vacuums, but life itself. In support of the collaboration of visual art and poetic inspiration, I bring my students to CEAM every semester, to view what riches our director has procured and to respond in poems; part of my own making process comes in designing prompts unique to the artist’s work. This experience is for them, for me, the dominant lesson: that the art-making engine runs on nouvelles idées, that we must constantly see potential inspiration everywhere and seek it out. If we’re young, the challenge comes in developing the habit; if we’re older, it’s in sustaining it. The irony, of course, with this particular mode: that the new ideas come from ideas already examined, though differently, by other makers. Another paradox (the soul of poetry).

Authors Talk: Maureen Seaton

Today we are pleased to feature poet Maureen Seaton as our Authors Talk series contributor. Maureen speaks about the way that her poems began and her love of poetic form.

Maureen describes her poems as “fraternal twins” that were born from a state of shock after her first bout with breast cancer. She notes her future’s ambiguity asking “I wonder what I would be today if….” That ambiguity is reflected in the poems’ simultaneous “straightforwardness” and complexity, their connection and their difference. The surface differences are in full view in the poems’ forms, which Maureen discusses.

You can read and listen to Maureen’s poems in Issue 19.