Today we are pleased to announce that past contributor Irena Praitis and future contributor Bojan Louis will be featured in The Stellar Alumni Reading Series on ASU’s Tempe campus.
Irena Praitis will be reading from her latest book titled The Last Stone in the Circle. The collection of poetry is based on eyewitness accounts and chronicles experiences of prisoners in a WWII German work re-education camp. Purchase a copy of The Last Stone in the Circle from Small Press Distributionhere. Bojan Louis will read from his forthcoming book Currents, which encompasses the kinetic dissonance of the contemporary struggle to coexist with self-inflicted eroding environments.
For more information about the reading click here.
Read two of Irena’s poems in Issue 1 of Superstition Reviewhere.
Today we are pleased to announce that past contributor Paisley Rekdal will be the poetry consultant for the 2018 Writers at Work Conference. The Writers at Work Conference takes place in Alta Lodge, Alta Utah, near the Wasatch Mountains, where writers of all backgrounds gather to share ideas, craft, and fine writing. For more information click here.
Paisley also released a book-length essay titled The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam. The Broken Country uses an incident that took place in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2012 to delve into the long-term cultural and psychological effects of the Vietnam War. Purchase a copy from The King’s English Bookshop here.
To read our interview with Paisley in Issue 19 of Superstition Review click here.
Last 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).
Today we are excited to share that past contributor W. Todd Kaneko has a forthcoming book. Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology, which he co-authored with Amorak Huey, will be released January 11, 2018 and is available to pre-order here. The book offers a complete introduction to the art and craft of poetry, as well as inspiring examples of contemporary poetry covering modes such as: elegy, nocturne, ars poetica, and much more.
To read Todd’s poem “Forty” in Issue 6 of Superstition Review click here.
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.
I confess that when I first wrote this poem, I was thinking about lovers. About the way those we love leave their marks on us — on our skin, our mouths, our hearts — and the way those marks fade but do not disappear as time passes and love fades and may or may not disappear.
The more I sat with the image, though, the more I realized my body is covered in the words of so many others — friends I’ve cared for, enemies I’ve cursed, strangers who loitered long enough to leave traces. Some were written in indelible ink, others with a lighter touch, but my hide has been dried under tension, and washing with milk and oat bran will never get this parchment completely clean.
In the right light, I can read it all.
On my feet I see action words, reminders that I can wait or run, stand or fall. My knees say please and up my thighs are lines of lyrics (or are they limericks?). Across my belly sits the word empty. No matter how hard I scrub it with pumice, the curves and tails of those letters remain. My chest bears remnants of an animal’s fear and a surgeon’s signature, and the writing on my breasts, well, that I choose not to share with you.
My back is covered with what looks like court stenographers’ notes — each scribble symbolizing my exact whereabouts on the dates in question and the precise lengths of each of my sentences. Over my shoulders are my first doctor’s orders: the pain will never go away. Twenty years later, a different doctor drew a line through his diagnosis, but she did not rewrite it. The pain is still there under the skin — all she did was take away its name. The marks on my throat are my music teacher’s words. They’re too blurry now to read, but I know they are the reason I only sing when I’m alone.
Every day my face reveals more lines. There are jokes around my mouth and riddles on my forehead. Farewells trail from the corners of my eyes. Along my limbal rings are the details of my birth, and deep in one pupil, there’s a no, in the other, a yes. My scalp says fuck you. I occasionally clip my hair to let those words get some air.
My hands are a bit different. They’re my manuscript. They are the one place on my person I’ve never let someone else’s pen tip touch. They are scarred by my words alone. My wrist says try.
In the mirror, I see my story. Like Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Sand, it is without beginning or end, impossible, and terribly infinite. Perhaps there is some beauty there, too.
I grew up believing that there was a distinct line separating the body and the mind. The body was the physical — the domain of science, a subject I was never very interested in. I had nothing against science; I trusted it and was frequently amazed by it. In terms of interest, though . . . no.
I was more into the mind: the mental, emotional, intellectual. The mind was my passion — I loved learning and teaching, discussing and arguing, reading and writing. I wrote about my thoughts and emotions and made up characters with their own thoughts and emotions. In this realm, there could be pleasure or pain, ecstasy or anguish. If a feeling was confusing or a thought distressing, with my pen in hand, I believed I could make it better. The consequences of this were both comfort and power. I wrote what I thought I could never say. I wrote what I thought no one would know until they’d read what I’d written.
As I’ve grown older, though, I realize the errors of my thinking. The body and the mind are not separate. What goes on in one goes on in the other. Every thought I’ve ever had lives in my bloodstream and my brain, my memories in my muscles and my mind.
This concept might be stupidly obvious to others, but to me, it was an epiphany. This body was not just a thing I lugged around each day; it had meaning. Or rather, meanings — different parts meant different things in different contexts, like page-long entries in a dictionary, like feelings that feel good and also bad. I thought I’d been writing my life on paper in poetry, but I’d also been doing it on my skin and in my bones.
Of course, this means sometimes that I am weary. Depression makes a mind muddled and a body heavy. I can no longer pretend that one’s all right when the other one is clearly not. However, it also means that my bibliography is longer and more varied than I’d previously thought. It appears I’m quite prolific.
Because my body is a palimpsest. It is tattooed with others’ words as well as my own, and the layers are deep and permanent. There are lines in my fingerprint, they are lines of poetry. All that writing will tell you who I am.
Today we are excited to share that past contributor Ephraim S. Sommers has been recently featured on Apercus Quarterly. Ephraim’s poems “Graveyards” and “What Losing Is” can be read on their website here.
To read Ephraim’s poem “The Search Party’s Prayer” in Issue 15 of Superstition Review click here.
We are glad to announce that past contributor Deborah Bogen has recently released a collection of poems titled In Case of Sudden Free Fall. The collection has already received recognition from poet and actress Hélène Cardona, who called Deborah’s writing “a delicious gem” worth revisiting. Purchase a copy of In Case of Sudden Free Fall from Jacar Presshere.
To read four poems by Deborah in Issue 4 of Superstition Review click here.
Reading submissions for Superstition Review allowed me to think about the stories I love to read. I’ve found that the best stories have a character I can connect with, and also an interesting problem.
There are so many elements that can make a piece of writing good. The first thing that comes to mind is characterization, which means creating round characters, with both internal and external struggles, and a full life that exists outside the page. My sister says that when she finishes a good book, she sometimes misses the characters and the time that she’s spent with them. One of my professors will always remind us in class not to say the word character, because writers are actually creating souls.
But it’s not enough to have an interesting character sitting in a room doing nothing. What makes a character truly endearing and relatable is their problems and how they choose to deal with them. Even Nick Carroway and Jay Gatsby without their dramatic love affairs would likely not hold a reader’s attention very long.
This is where I feel we get the human experience: when we read about someone relatable that has a problem foreign to us. Or someone that is completely foreign to us, and how they’ve overcome their problems (or not). Stories are about what a character wants and what they are willing to go through to get it. These struggles create an empathetic connection between the reader and the outside world.
Scientific American recently highlighted a study that found reading literary fiction helps young students to learn empathy. The experiment presented young groups with various types of reading; literary fiction, genre fiction, nonfiction, and nothing. The young readers that read literary fiction were significantly stronger at inferring others’ thoughts and emotions. Through seeing someone else’s trials and tribulations, a person is able to learn better how to interpret other people.
Interesting souls with interesting problems create the basis of fiction that empathetically moves readers. These are the kinds of stories that I love; stories that help to build an understanding of the world around us.
Bio: John Chakravarty is an undergraduate student at ASU majoring in English and Creative Writing. He is the Fiction Editor at Superstition Review. He also interns at Four Chambers Press reading submissions. When he graduates he hopes to write, edit, and publish for the comic book industry.
This Friday our former student editor-in-chief, Ofelia Montelongo will be hosting the final Spanish creative writing class and workshop at Las Palabras book store. Ofelia created the group over the summer and this is the students’ chance to read the work that they have been working on. Las Palabras libraria is located at 1738 E Mcdowell and the reading starts at 7 PM. Click here for the Facebook event and more information.