Day of the dead altar

Support an ASU Scholarship!

Day of the dead altar

Join us next week to raise funds for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts’ Interdisciplinary Humanities and Communication (IHC) scholarship. This scholarship helps underrepresented students pay for tuition, housing, books, and other expenses as students of ASU. Kick-off for the IHC fundraising campaign begins Monday at Day of the Dead Walk with Ancestors!

When: Monday, November 1st, 4:00-6:00pm

Where: ASU Polytechnic campus, Student Union, Cooley Ballroom

Price: Free – make sure you register for the event

Day of the Dead Walk with Ancestors begins with a one-mile walk/run through the Polytechnic campus, during which time participants can get their event passport stamped in natural environment spaces on campus. Redeem your passport at the end for a treat! Additionally, honor the life of a loved one by bringing a photo of them and and placing it on the Day of the Dead altar in the Student Union.

The fun continues after the walk in the Student Union with:

  • Food
  • Aguas frescas
  • Mariachi music
  • Skull painting
  • Discussions with students in a Chicana/o Literature course
  • A migration exhibit

Visit the IHC campaign webpage to learn more and donate directly – any amount is appreciated and will support underrepresented students pursue the humanities.

Ananda Lima headshot

Mother/land by Ananda Lima Explores Identity and Heritage

Mother/land cover

Congratulations are in order for contributor Ananda Lima, who just released the book of poems Mother/land! Incorporating English and Portuguese, the collection explores the nuances of ancestry, language, identity, and motherhood and dives in to how the confluence of them all can complicate or enhance life. Mother/land asks us to consider the aspects of life we take part in and those which are chosen for us.

Ananda Lima’s Mother/land is as much a mother’s grappling with how to raise her son amid the danger and violence of today’s America as it is an investigation of a daughter’s inherited, migrant Brazilian past. Lima’s poetry has the rare power to let us feel and “know the terror” of the present moment, while reflecting on ancestry and passing on familial legacy to the next generation. Her poems aren’t afraid to “shout ‘I’m an American citizen’ ” across borders and languages, while shattering the security of presumed identity and recognizing both the precarity and privilege of citizenship. Piercing and poignant, Lima’s voice and music stay with you, “undisturbed / by wind or water, there will always remain/ a footprint” guiding your way home.

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Author of the Many Names for Mother

One of the poems, “Transa,” was originally published in SR. “Transa” is among the few poems in Mother/land that are connected with Brazilian music.

Mother/land is the winner of the 2020 Hudson Prize and is available from Black Lawrence Press. To learn more about Ananda, who has published several chapbooks, visit her website, Instagram, and Twitter. Also, find Ananda at one of her many upcoming book tour events!

Megan Mayhew Bergman

Megan Mayhew Bergman: Writing About It All

At SR, we love keeping up with our past contributors. Their pursuit of their literary or artistic talents and passions is inspiring.

Today, we’re sharing about Megan Mayhew Bergman, who has published numerous essays and articles this year.

Most recently, Megan wrote an essay for The New Yorker. The essay, “The Vibrant Life and Quiet Passing of Dottie Dodgion,” discusses the remarkable events of the drummer’s life. Dodgion was consistently involved in music – playing instruments, singing, and dancing – from age 16 until she died at age 90.

Megan is also a contributor to The Guardian and has written four articles for it this year, all on different topics.

And in June, Megan sat down to chat with author Jeff VanderMeer and actor Lili Taylor. The conversation about birds, beauty, and books can be found on LitHub.

Congratulations, Megan, on sharing your work in so many places! To learn more about Megan, visit her website.

Superstition Mountain

The Story Behind Our Name

Superstition Mountain

Have you ever wondered why we’re called Superstition Review? Well, let me tell you the story!

For those of you who don’t know, SR is housed at Arizona State University (students play a big role in the curation of each issue). ASU has four campuses in the metro Phoenix area and SR is housed on the Polytechnic campus in Mesa. From the Polytechnic (or Poly, as we call it) campus, there is a wonderful view of the Superstition Mountains. Not only are these mountains stunning in and of themselves – and therefore worthy as a namesake – our founding editor, Patricia Colleen Murphy, also has a personal connection to these mountains. Since the mountains are beautifully showcased on the Poly campus and they hold a special place in Trish’s heart, the name Superstition Review was a natural choice.

Do you have other questions about SR? Let us know in the comments!

Reese Conner and his cat

The Body He Left Behind: Poems From an ASU Alum


We’re excited to share that Arizona State University alum Reese Conner recently published a book! The Body He Left Behind is Reese’s debut poetry collection and is published by Cider Press Review. Winner of the 2020 Cider Press Review Editor’s Prize Book Award, The Body He Left Behind includes the poem “The Rapture.”

The Rapture
after Robert Dash’s “Into the Mystic”

The first thing to go was a sailboat.
It was raptured, just like that. Snap
your fingers, please. Like that.

An old couple watched from the end
of a pier. Beyond them, the sloop
tickled water for a bit, shuddered
like nostalgia or blackmail, then poof:
The mainsail, the headsail, the hull,
all the boat jargon lost specificity
like a ghost, bleeding form
and crying vowels. The boat
peeled from the water, stretching
a paintbrush of pixels in its wake
as it rose. The skyline, too,
began to glaze, and the sea
poured upward into it, everything
a swarm of movement.

Imaginative men who witnessed it
thought things like justice.
The old couple joined hands now.
And everyone who knew Robert Hass
knew he was right: everything
was dissolving, spiriting away
towards a more perfect self
of itself. As more world
blurred upward—housecats, tire swings,
entire orchards—a gentle murmur
spread in the bellies of the observant,
who saw even the ugly things
begin to ascend—blobfish, Smart Cars,
murder weapons, every issue of Us Weekly—
and thought, or began to think:
What about us? And they were all
naked now, they noticed—
clothes lifted from them
like water in a dry heat. Some ogled
the newly-naked world with intention.
Others began to tantrum—violent
or existential, all unable to translate
what must have felt like betrayal.
And that old couple, still holding hands,
looked skyward and stood up
on their tippy toes.

Cats are a major theme throughout the collection. But not only is there ample mention of cats, the poems speak to us:

These are singular, quietly soaring poems. They innocuously but effectively reach for greater truths regarding the animal nature of our beings and where we as individual humans fall on that hierarchical scale. In these poems, we so easily find in their dailiness depths of feeling we recognize immediately, even if we have never said so aloud before. They artfully connect us to something important inside ourselves. Simply put, these are heartfelt—and powerful—love poems to and about cats, poems of genuine grappling with human sensibility. These are near sentimentality all the time, but without sentimentality. This is dangerously wonderful territory for a writer, and the poems explore their terrain well. They simply make us feel, so that even as they are about cats, these poems humanize us.

Alberto Rios, Author of A Small Story About the Sky

The Body He Left Behind is available for purchase from Cider Review Press. Find more from Reese on his website. Congratulations, Reese!

Nightbitch cover

An Unexpected Combo: Canine Identity and Motherhood

It’s not every day you come across a novel like Nightbitch. Out this past summer from contributor Rachel Yoder, Nightbitch cleverly uses the fantasy genre to challenge long-held societal norms. The story centers on a new mother who has sidelined her career to raise her newborn. In the child’s second year, she begins to feel that she is actually a dog: dark hair grows on the back of her neck and her canine teeth appear sharper. When she mentions this to her husband, who travels for business often, he doesn’t think anything of it. As her canine feelings intensify, the mother heads to the library in search of cure. There, she discovers A Field Guide to Magical Women: A Mythical Ethnography and a curious group of mothers who have secrets of their own. Both lead her down an unexpected path…

Nightbitch bravely trailblazes a new path – the confluence of an alter-canine-identity and questions about motherhood. Dark, humorous, and creative, Nightbitch was one of July’s most anticipated books.

“Rather than childbirth twisted into hideous shapes by the male artistic eye, in this book art crawls out of motherhood with an exhausted, sweating, blood-strewn, but joyous howl. . . Creativity and motherhood don’t need to be at each other’s throats, like vampires or zombies. In Nightbitch they feed in the same night on the same wild prey.”

The Boston Globe

Nightbitch is available from Doubleday and you can find purchase information here. The novel has been optioned for film by Annapurna Pictures with Amy Adams set to star.

Rachel’s essay “I Was the Mennonite Kid” was featured in Issue 4. Check out her website and Twitter to learn more about her work and find her upcoming events. Congratulations, Rachel!

Christopher holding If We Had a Lemon in the snow

When Life Gives You Lemons…


Congratulations to past contributor Christopher Citro on his recent poetry collection If We Had a Lemon We’d Throw It and Call That the Sun, which was published by Elixir Press in April. The collection is Christopher’s second poetry book.

The title poem was originally published in Gulf Coast Literary Journal in 2018:

If We Had a Lemon We'd Throw It and Call That the Sun

I’d like to invite you to the party but I don’t
know your name, have your address, or
know you well enough to really want you
around my cat. I feel a kinship with all people
and then I share a beach with them and want
to yell use your inside voice. We’re outside
but that doesn’t mean we’ll not dissolve
if raised to the light. Some days the sea wants
to chew us into shattered two-by-fours.
Some days she’s a kitten pasting soft hairs
around our ankles. I know—I know this for
a fact—there are moist pasta salads being
prepared and eaten all around me—in those
bushes for instance—and I’m not getting any.
I tried to start my life out right and still
lost track of where I was going. Example,
I picked my college because my girlfriend
went there. She slept with my best friend.
I went there anyway. That determined
the course of the rest of my life. I wiped
the table down with bleach before sitting
and now my forearm smells. It’s going
to be okay though. I’m going to need this
bleach-arm for some purpose. To identify
some wanderers in the sky it’s helpful to
determine the color. At a distance everything
for me goes gray. A mountain range in
a black-and-white film. We’ve been walking,
my horse and I, for days. For water we
think about rivers and lick our own ideas.

Check out this video to hear Christopher read two poems in the collection, “It’s Something People in Love Do” and “Our Beautiful Life When It’s Filled With Shrieks.”

Christopher Citro reads two poems from If We Had a Lemon We’d Throw It and Call That the Sun by Christopher Citro, August 3, 2020

The collection is the winner of the 2019 Antivenom Poetry Award and is available from Small Press Distribution. Find more from Christopher on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.

Delight is Such a Human Madness

Delight is Such a Human Madness, a Guest Post by Gabriela Denise Frank

Girl running through sunlit field with balloons

I wasn’t ready for delight when Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights came out in February 2019. It may seem surprising then (if unpopular) that on the anniversary of the end of life as we knew it—March 2021—I felt mostly gratitude. And delight.

When Delights was published, I was descending into burnout, though I didn’t know it. My symptoms—anxiety, irritability, migraines, insomnia, memory loss, exhaustion, inability to focus, hopelessness, crying randomly—didn’t seem indicative of anything beyond aging or my own bodily weakness. Wasn’t everyone stressed out, overworked, and glued to their phones? Didn’t everyone feel looming dread on Sunday afternoons?

One morning on the train to work, an ache spread across my chest. It was like someone tightened a belt around my lungs—I couldn’t breathe. My heart pounded like I was running though I was just sitting there, cringing at the day ahead. After a few hours, the feeling subsided into tingly coolness. My doctor ran a bunch of tests, but she couldn’t find anything wrong. I believed the problem was me—my inability to handle the grind. My husband, Michael, urged me to take a break from what had always been a stressful job. He had a heart attack at my age and didn’t want the same to happen to me.

“I don’t know if I can afford to leave,” I said.

“I don’t know if you can’t.”

That winter, I was forced to agree when the panic attacks and tachycardia recurred with increasing frequency. Nearly a year to the day after Delights was published, I quit my job with nothing lined up—I simply couldn’t work anymore. I told colleagues that 2020 was my gap year. I’d rest and reconnect with Michael, then I’d edit my novel and rethink my relationship to work. Some congratulated me for prioritizing my mental and physical health and my marriage. Others cocked their heads. I was giving up a well-paying job with benefits and a lofty title at a prestigious firm others would “kill” to work for. Quitting indicated I was weak. I’d lost my edge. My career, meaning my life, was over at forty-five.

Secretly, I feared they were right.

What if I was washed up? Had I made a huge mistake?

Of course, I couldn’t imagine we were headed for a global pandemic. Nor could I foresee that, two days before my last at work, we would discover Michael needed a five-way bypass and a new aortic valve. For us, quarantine began on March 1, 2020, to keep Michael healthy for open-heart surgery, scheduled for March 12—the day the hospital closed to visitors.

That afternoon, while Michael recovered in ICU, his surgeon noted copious fluids draining from his chest. It seemed Michael was bleeding internally. They’d have to open him up again. That evening, I spent five awful hours reckoning with the possibility of his death just when life was supposed to get better. When the call came after nine p.m.—Michael survived—I couldn’t believe the news. For me, March 12, 2021, wasn’t the anniversary of losing everything.

It was the anniversary of keeping it.

When Michael went back to work from home last May, I dared to relax. Strangely, quarantine felt like the safest place to be. I wasn’t ready to edit my novel yet, so I asked poet Arianne True for reading recommendations.

“When anyone asks, I always say, Ross Gay,” she said. “No matter what. If you’re happy, read Ross Gay; if you’re sad, same thing.”

I ordered The Book of Delights hoping it wasn’t Pollyanna philosophy or “magical” thinking. It was, in fact, the opposite. In one hundred and two essays, Gay expanded the notion of delight by layering observations of nature, music, and people with reflections on racism, death, and loss. In Gay’s hands, delight wasn’t the opposite of pain: it was inherently interwoven with it. His gaze deepened my understanding of delight as “a human madness,” echoing Zadie Smith’s essay on Joy.

Amidst the gloom of 2020, Ross (note: Gay becomes Ross here) led me to unexpected light-filled places. His delectable asides, his poetic language—Assonance! Consonance! Alliteration!—his sprinkling of profanity, flirtatiousness, frankness—Ross the Boss the King of Applesauce—oh, his tender heart! His emotional intelligence! His ability to write urine and hand job and not be gross! Hey look—Ross and I are the same age! (I’m a month older.) I peered shyly into his eyes via Zoom during a Vermont Studio Center reading of his new book-length poem, Be Holding, feeling faint with fandom.

His observations also helped me examine my own stalled writing.

After finishing Delights, I reread the essays I wrote in 2019 to discover they were miserable. Naturally, they had all been rejected. I started new work, this time scribbling Where’s the delight? on drafts until I found it: often, a single golden thread buried deep. I found that even small glimmers of delight leant range to my work. Acceptances began to arrive. This practice and application of delight—both observing and reflecting on it—was life-changing.

Then came my “brilliant” idea: I’d turn Ross’s process of observing a delight a day into a guide for rediscovering delight in one’s writing. I proposed a generative course with his book as a companion text to Hugo House, a creative writing center in Seattle where I live.

My grand aspirations were dashed in the first fifteen minutes of class.

 I was expecting to attract writers closer to my skill level looking for inspiration. One was writing-curious; three journaled a little; two said they wrote stories; one wrote poems. None self-identified as writers. Uh-oh. They signed up because they were sad, they said; they hoped my class might make them feel happier.

My guts made a squelch I hoped wasn’t audible on Zoom.

This wasn’t going to be a crackling discussion where I could rely on my students to dog-pile insights. These people were looking to me—a person clawing out of her own black hole—to help them find actual delight.

I shifted my lesson plans and looked for ways to meet my students where they were. We listened to podcasts of Ross (delight) and I compiled a delight mixtape of their favorite songs. The problem was, I wasn’t prepared to lead a class of students who didn’t want to talk. They were too shy to share more than a few words, even in the chat. The only time my students spoke in sentences was when we took turns reading sections of the book aloud. Everyone agreed Ross’s voice was medicine. He buoyed us. His words were the sun, and we followed them.

I kept asking my students to share their work, but they stonewalled me. I tried to be patient, knowing we were approaching the one-year anniversary of lockdown. The few observations they did share were touching and insightful; I wanted them to take a risk and find something good from it. That was a lot to ask.

The week I said we’d start class by everyone reading a paragraph of their writing, two students dropped out and never returned. Only one dared to share because I asked her to. (She sent me a draft over the weekend. It was fantastic.) The rest were silent.

Why did I think I could teach this class?

What did I know about delight, anyway?

In the ensuing weeks, a familiar sense of dread arose, this time on Saturday mornings before class. I wallowed in glumness until the camera light turned green, then I slapped on a smile. I stopped asking my students to share their work. Instead, we did “delight swaps” in the chat. There was always a stand-out beyond the regular appearances of birds, cats, and flowers, like the mail carrier singing a cappella as she walked down the empty street. Mainly, we read Ross’s essays and we wrote and wrote and wrote.

“I’m a bad teacher,” I sighed after class, face in hands.

“You must be giving them something,” Michael said. “Five keep showing up.”

It felt brutal, though, to pose questions and sit in silence. Sometimes, it was a struggle to get them to read. I gritted my teeth during the long pauses, having learned that if I held back, someone would eventually speak. Along the way I received a couple of notes—Thanks for the inspiring class!—but it didn’t feel inspiring to me. My delight experiment was a failure. Not only the class, but what it represented: my new life, a thing I could point to when former colleagues asked what I was doing with my “free” time.

We began the last session by looking back at the first during which we had drafted a collective definition of delight. My students had been nervous about being pinned down to words, but I assured them our definition could change and grow. After we made a starting list, I pasted Merriam-Webster’s version into the chat. Everyone agreed it was flat in comparison. Ours was messy, but it had depth.

That moment was the glimmering thread I had clung to for six weeks.

At the end of the final class, I asked my students to write—one last time—their personal definitions of delight. I asked them to paste a sentence or two in the chat, and I waited until each had a turn. It took less than five minutes and more than two of silence for them to share what they wrote. After the Zoom boxes went dark, I sat alone in cyberspace rereading their lines.

Tears sprung to my eyes. In our six weeks together, something in them had changed.

My students hadn’t only redefined delight, they had made a collaborative poem, line by line. I thought I’d failed them and myself, but their definitions were alive with vulnerability and nuance. Hope. Fear. Risk. Delight.

As it happened, choreographing twelve hours of prompts also forced me to probe how delight lived (or didn’t) in my life. The class was over; my practice had only begun.

Delight is not “nice to have” nor is it a luxury. It’s not all sunshine and unicorns. It’s a portal into the gloriously labyrinthine human experience that’s right in front of us, inside us, every day—one we turn away from because delight isn’t easy. Instead, we swipe, we like, we click purchase, we dumb things down into zeroes and ones until we, ourselves, become algorithms that other algorithms measure. A practice of delight requires attention that we’re breeding out of ourselves, and I don’t want to go back inside the Matrix.

On this anniversary of the time everything changed, I, too, recommend reading Ross Gay whether you’re happy or sad. His work can help you grapple with the incongruity: joy, happiness, pleasure—yes, and—heartbreak, pain, suffering. Sadness is not a sign you’ve failed, nor is happiness its opposite or even the point. You’ll learn how pain holds hands with delight, how they enrich each other. You’ll learn that practicing delight doesn’t mean shutting your eyes to darkness but opening them to unavoidable loss.

Delight is the confounding truth that humans become more complete by asking questions, by pondering. Delight is having nowhere to go except inside existential discomfort; it’s curiosity of the unpleasant and the unknown. As Mary Ruefle says in her essay On Fear, I’d rather wonder than know, and I do keep wondering: about fear, about death, about the marvelous intricacies of nature whose designs we grapple to understand and whose complexity we mimic bluntly—or destroy, despite what we know.

Delight isn’t binaries or absolutes; it’s depth, scale, range.

A year after quitting my job, my life isn’t free from worry or suffering, nor was quitting an end: it was a volta. If we’re counting, I spend as many hours writing, editing, and teaching as I did at my corporate job, but I feel different. My panic attacks have subsided, though my heart feels permanently changed. I mostly sleep through the night. I can remember things again. The mental fog is lifting. My sense of delight doesn’t arise from not working, but from working with meaningful questions and helping others explore theirs. What does it mean to be human? To be embodied and part of this earth in an inequitable society that prizes individualism, detachment, and distraction? How dare we love anything in a world where everything dies? How do we contemplate mortality beyond misery? Ross taught me it’s never delight or pain, but both, a negative capability—a human madness. For what could be more infuriating than our capacity to be grateful and desirous of more, always more?

Since my mother’s death in my teens, I’ve run from delight. Better to deny myself even small joys than face their inevitable loss. Better to lean in, to achieve, to climb—meet goals, make to-do lists, buy things. I was afraid to feel pleasure, thinking happiness was a lightning rod for catastrophe. Better to keep my eyes down, work hard, earn money; I believed my job would somehow save me. That’s how my capitalist burnout took hold, strangling me as it used my body to propagate itself, like the face-hugger xenomorph in Aliens, a movie I find unsettlingly delightful. Which is to say, The Book of Delights showed me how delight is a technology of rebellion against despair and denial. Sitting, if uncomfortably, in silence asking seemingly unanswerable questions does indeed yield insights. Asking doesn’t solve, it illuminates.

From Ross I learned to turn and face delight. Nothing can prevent Michael’s death or my own, but I can pour my attention into the imperfect time we share—a window of highs and lows whose duration is uncertain, whose quality carries no assurances—before it’s gone.

A study of mortality can be a study of aliveness, if you let it.

That, I realize, is my life’s work.