Today we are happy to announce news about past contributor Rosanna Oh. Rosanna’s poetry will be the subject of an upcoming poetry exhibition, titled Erasures, at the Queens Historical Society in New York City on December 2, 2018.
Erasures takes its title from a poem by Rosanna Oh, and it refers to a key theme throughout the work that is featured in this exhibition. The poem, in which a daughter reflects on her father’s and family’s past, considers erasure in the context of immigrant identity and transnational narratives. What does it mean to leave a place in which one’s self is rooted? Who or what gets left behind — and, conversely, carried over to the new country?
The exhibit also includes the work of writers who have greatly influenced Rosanna. Loide Marwanga is the exhibition designer.
Date: December 2, 2018
Time: 2:30 pm ET
Venue: The Queens Historical Society
143-35 37th Avenue
Flushing, NY 11354
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Julia Lichtblau.
Julia Lichtblau’s work has appeared in the American Fiction 13 anthology,Narrative, The Florida Review, Best Paris Stories, The Common, Ploughshares blog,Temenos, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the American Fiction Prize, the Narrative Winter and Fall 2013 contests, and won the Editorial Prize of the 2011 Paris Short Story Contest and 2nd Prize in the Jeanne Leiby Chapbook Contest. She is book review editor for The Common and has been a visiting writer at New York City’s Harbor School. For 15 years, she was a journalist in New York and Paris for BusinessWeek and Dow Jones.
Eric Hawkins from Issues 2 and 3 is in the process of applying to graduate programs. He shares with us these words:
When I graduated three years ago, I was unsure of what the future would hold for me professionally and academically. A degree in English carries with it few obvious career paths, especially for someone like me whose focus was in poetry. All I knew for sure was that I wanted to be involved with literature as much as possible. I sought advice from one of my professors, who recommended I take at least a year before enrolling in graduate school to explore possible career paths and see if anything spoke to me.
My overwhelmingly-positive experience with Superstition Review led me to the world of publishing. I moved to New York City and set about applying at publishing houses, magazines, and advertising agencies. I eventually landed an internship with a literary agency, where my job was reading and evaluating manuscripts from writers seeking representation. It was enjoyable and interesting work, but it was temporary (not to mention unpaid) so before long I had to move on.
It is no secret that the job market is tough across the board, but print media has been hit especially hard. I had no illusions that finding a great job in the hyper-competitive environment of New York would be easy, but I was still stunned at just how grueling the process was.
Ultimately I came to the realization that I was going to have to fight very hard to build any kind of career that would satisfy my passions, and I decided that a job in publishing was not something I wanted badly enough to justify the struggle. With that in mind, I left New York to further develop my poetry and determine my priorities. Since then I have been writing extensively, and have even had a few poems published.
When I think back to my favorite parts of studying English at Arizona State, the thing that stands out the most are the poetry workshops. I love discussing the thematic and technical complexities of poems, and those sessions really helped me overcome my shyness with regards to my own work. These fond memories led me to realize that I wanted to be a teacher, and toward that end I have decided to go for my Master’s degree.
Even though I find myself now in the same position as if I had gone straight from ASU to grad school, I will always be grateful to that professor who advised me to wait. Would I give the same advice to someone else in my former situation? That would depend on how clear of an idea they had about their future. Coming out of college I had only vague notions and scattered ambitions, and these past three years outside of an academic environment have taught me a lot about myself as a person and a writer. Most importantly I now have complete confidence that teaching is what I am meant to do, and it is worth the struggle.
I once sat in on a poetry workshop with the Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. I am not a poet, but he had agreed to come to my graduate school after a reading and I wanted to hear what he had to say. I snuck in and took a seat at the table, hoping that I wouldn’t be noticed. When Walcott entered, he took his seat, looked over the assembled poets, looked back again at me, and asked “What’s Woody Harrelson doing here?” (This is a remark I’ve gotten many times, although never from someone with a Nobel.)
When the chuckling around the table subsided, he let his smile fade too, took up the stack of poems, gazed at them for a moment, and then set about lambasting the assembled poets. He insisted that writing is a relationship with power; that it is a relationship that cannot be conducted in any serious way from inside the dominant center. Writing, he said, must be conducted “from the provinces.” According to Walcott, every young poet in the room was writing as if he or she was (or wanted to be) in “New York City, looking out at the rest of us.” He meant New York City literally, I think, but also metaphorically, as a kind of mental space in which artistic insiders, by virtue of being on the inside, come to be allied with the centers of cultural power and the dominant narrative. According to Walcott, this was an inexcusable artistic mistake.
The relationship with the center of power is one that (whether or not we agree with Walcott on the particulars) bears directly on writing about the American West. Like many people from the region, I grew up with a host of “Western” narratives and beliefs. I was raised in the great outdoors, fishing and backpacking, and I imbibed a heavy dose of frontier mythology – cowboys and gunfighters, Indians, pioneers, mountain men, pulp novels and Western movies. This is classic provincial stuff – the kind of heritage that, at a college back East, or a cocktail party on the Upper East Side, is often treated with a solicitous condescension. As Marilynne Robinson has noted, when she tells Eastern folks that she is from Idaho, one common response is “Then how can you write a book?” And yet it is also this province which has given the nation what is perhaps our deepest cultural myth: the self-reliant pioneer, the immigrant moving west to find land and freedom, the illimitable expansion of possibility, our Edenic vision of our nation.
In Walcott’s terms, then, the West is caught in a kind of paradox: it has the status of a province, and yet its myth has been enshrined as the national dream. Being a Western writer ties you unavoidably to this paradox. You are a provincial, a writer who will always, like it or not, operate from outside the center of power; but it is exactly towards this province’s myth of the radical individual that the American center has always wanted to feel it is moving.
An it is indeed a myth. We should all know by now. Beautiful and destructive, hopeful and violently acquisitive, forced relentlessly onto us by a culture that adores power and spectacle and self-help mantras, and yet with little regard for truth, either historical or human. Post-colonial writers like Walcott have always been viscerally aware of the effects of this, because they come from places that have born the brunt of its damage. I wonder if it’s time for more Western writers to engage with this awareness.
Sometimes on the subway my husband and I play a game. We choose a person and silently take in the details, from the obvious physical characteristics to the more subtle indicators of who this person is and what type of life he or she might lead (Is that a wedding ring? What’s the title of the book he’s reading, and is he really reading it? Why does she keep checking her watch? Look how she’s noticing her reflection in the window). We assemble narratives, which we share with each other later on, using the observed details to explain and defend until we combine our efforts into one story of a stranger we will most likely never see again. Some might call us nosy, but I prefer to think of us as curious. Either way, my husband and I are shameless. At restaurants we eavesdrop. One of us will catch a juicy tidbit at the next table and widen our eyes, and whatever conversation we were having will stop as we both lean forward and listen.
I have been a people-watcher all my life, and my home, New York City, is the perfect place to indulge. People are endlessly fascinating with their complexities and contradictions, their histories and quirks. But what really pulls me in is the raw humanness we all share—that mash-up of love, uncertainty, fear, and want swirling around just below the surface. We are more alike than we are different, yet these common vulnerabilities are the ones we guard most carefully, ashamed and afraid of the judgment of others, or even ourselves. When we let those vulnerabilities slip through—that is a moment of beauty.
If asked why I write, I could give many answers: compulsion; the joy of words; the freedom in creation; a desire to leave a mark, however small, on the world. But, really, I write for the same reason I read, and the same reason I people-watch: to learn about others and try to get at that common, messy human core. My novel, Spark, addresses subjects that have interested me for a long time; I’ve written elsewhere about my initial inspiration and the research involved. But the actual act of putting pen to paper began with one character, the narrator, Andrea. Her name came to me on a walk one afternoon and with it a feeling of anguish; I understood that she was a woman fighting to gain control and losing badly, although I didn’t know why yet. I wrote her name down in my notebook and began listing everything about her. From there, the relationships then the themes of the book revealed themselves to me.
Almost all my fiction begins this way, with one character coming up to me out of the ether. As I write, I feel that character pulling me along, as if the story is already there, the character impatient for me to uncover it. I’m sure my people-watching has helped, the details filed away in my subconscious for later use.
In my writing I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to bring out that messy human core as completely, or with as much clarity, as I would like, but it gives me something to strive for. And in the process, I find myself feeling more connected to those beautiful strangers on the subway.
Content Coordinator Winona Manrique is a senior at Arizona State University. She will graduate Spring 2012 with a BA in English Literature. Her short story “Back to the Hearth” won the 2011 Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Award for 2nd place in Fiction. Originally from Connecticut, she plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in publishing and one day become a published author. This is her first semester at Superstition Review.
Click here to hear Winona read one of her short stories.
Interview Editor Marie Lazaro is a senior at Arizona State University. She will be graduating in December from the School of Letters and Sciences with a degree in Literature: Writing and Film. Upon graduating, she plans on broadening her horizons with hopes of writing for TV and movies as well as continuing to find work within the industry of magazines. Originally from New Jersey, she plans on heading back east to New York City to experience the lifestyle and find possible job opportunities before ultimately returning back to Arizona. This is her first semester with Superstition Review.
In the link below, Marie shares some of her experience with online literary magazines.