#SRIssue16: An Interview with Karen Bender

benderKaren Bender is the author of the story collection Refund, published by Counterpoint Press in 2015; it is a Finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction, and is on the shortlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize; it was also a Los Angeles Times bestseller. She is also the author of Like Normal People, (Houghton Mifflin) which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and A Town of Empty Rooms (Counterpoint Press). 

Her short fiction has appeared in magazines including The New Yorker, Granta, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, Story, Narrative, The Harvard Review, Guernica, and The Iowa Review. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best and have won two Pushcart prizes. Two of her stories have been read in the Selected Shorts program on NPR.

On December 1st you can read our interview with Karen Bender in the Launch of our 16th Issue.

 

Jen Bervin Talk on The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems

envelope poemThe University of Arizona Poetry Center and the Phoenix Art Museum present:

Artist’s Talk from Jen Bervin, co-editor of The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, which was recognized as a 2013 best book of the year by The New Yorker and Times Literary Supplement.

This event is FREE and will be followed by a Q & A, with books available for purchase. Learn more at poetry.arizona.edu or phxart.org.

Date: Friday, May 1, 7:00 PM

Location: The Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave, Phoenix, Arizona

The book is printed in a facsimile edition, and the poems are unique–each is composed on the flap of an envelope.  You can learn more about the book in the NYTimes review and New Yorker pieces below:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/books/the-gorgeous-nothings-shows-dickinsons-envelope-poems.html?_r=1

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/27/back-of-the-envelope

For even more information you can check out these links to reviews on the book:

NPR: “Readers always seem to want to get to closer to Emily Dickinson, the godmother of American poetry. Paging through her poems feels like burrowing nose-deep in her 19th century backyard – where ‘the grass divides as with a comb,’ as she writes in…”

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/30/247496393/emily-dickinson-envelope-writings-gorgeous-poetry-in-3-d

An essay response in Jacket2: “‘The world will not rest satisfied,’ wrote a reviewer of Emily Dickinson’s poems in 1982, ’till every scrap of writings, letters as well as literature, has been published.’ Here is how The Gorgeous Nothings, a provocation, satisfies…”

http://jacket2.org/reviews/light

LA Times: “In 2012, a daguerreotype surfaced that was thought to be of a midlife Emily Dickinson, causing an Internet frenzy. As far as we (the frenzied) knew, there was only one known…”

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/21/entertainment/la-ca-jc-emily-dickinson-20131124

New Republic: “It turns out that for a not insignificant fee, literary museums and author’s homes will often let guests handle the artifacts, materials, and manuscripts of long-deceased writers. On a chilly, windblown visit to…”

http://newrepublic.com/article/115452/gorgeous-nothings-emily-dickinson-envelope-writings

Guest Post, Joannie Stangeland: But Is It Poetry?

I was driving to the grocery store, radio turned to NPR mid-segment, someone reading–was it a poem, or was it a story? The imagery was arresting. The storyline carried me all the way to the QFC parking lot, but I wasn’t sure until I heard the name of the author. Question answered by association.

But I want a poem to sound like a poem.

This could have been a conversation about the difference between the poem on the page and the poem out loud. Or a conversation about line breaks. (We can talk about line breaks all day, right?)

But it felt bigger. It brought me back to this question: What’s the difference between poetry and prose?

On a page you can see line breaks and see that it’s a poem. But does it feel like a poem?

A rhyme scheme can get your attention quickly–but I believe that poetry is vast and end rhymes are only one of many possibilities.

Poetry thrives on imagery. We can even say that imagery is the foundation of poetry–metaphors and extended metaphors, juxtapositions that open worlds of new meaning. But prose can be image-rich, and poetry can sound like prose when you aren’t looking at it on the page.

Last September, in the space of 10 days, I heard both Jorie Graham and Dorianne Laux talk about the relation of music to their work. Instead of trying to paraphrase from my notes, I went online and found these links for you.

In a Smartish Pace Poets Q & A interview, Jorie Graham says her writing “comes much more directly out of life experience, the nature of language, and musical threads one follows as one tries to come to terms with intuitions generated by an encounter with the given world, with the sensation.”

In “Between The Words I Couldn’t Understand and The First Music I Can’t Remember,” Dorianne Laux says, “I think what happened is that I finally found my way as a poem writer in the way one does as a songwriter.  I invented my own music for the language based on what I had heard working in the songs I loved, as well as in the air around me…”

And then I found myself in the car listening to radio and wondering about poetry. And I thought, “Yes.”

If, as Gregory Orr has noted, a poem can emphasize story, form, imagination, or music, I’m putting a stake in the ground: Ultimately, it’s the music.

music-thinkingAny kind of music, all kinds of music–think of Mozart, John Cage, John Prine, Joni Mitchell (the way she stretches out lines, changing the rhythm), Hip Hop, Ska, Mbira music, drumming!

But there’s got to be some overriding, driving rhythm, the rhythm and the sounds and the spaces between the sounds, the spaces at the ends of lines and stanzas (the rests) that allow those sounds to echo silently. It’s the rhythm  and the sounds that propel you to the end of the line, leave you briefly in the pause, and lead you to the next line. Whether it’s lyrical or narrative, a poem uses music the same way a song does, but without melody or instruments.

Poems use different types of music, different rhythms. Sometimes a poem moves from one rhythm to another to shift the mood–shorter lines for a somber image, an elegy or a meditation; longer lines for a heady rush to leave the reader breathless. I know it always seems like shorter lines are faster–you get to the page that much more quickly.

But try reading short and long lines out loud. For example,

I was not born for storms, blown off course
to watch weather rage like demons without names.

and

I was not born
for storms, blown
off course to watch
weather rage
like demons
without names.

Do the line breaks slow your voice, force pauses, even if they’re tiny pauses?

(When I read from my most recent book, I struggle with the short lines, those with only two or one word, one beat. I want to go faster!)

The sound, the pause or momentum adds to the experience of your poem. The music and the subject are having a conversation.

Those line breaks must work hard in other ways, must resonate–in the ear (with assonance, alliteration, rhythm/meter, rhyming or internal rhyming, the pause after the break, and even repetition), and in meaning (how the words play off each other or their origins).

What about prose? Prose can be gorgeously musical, but the narrative remains the boss. In poetry, the music trumps the story. How it sounds is that important.

This argument appears to fall apart when we look at prose poems (which I love). Now we no longer have the line break to add that tension. It’s all momentum. But the music still applies, still trumps any narrative.

This argument disintegrates when we get to automatic writing and chance operations. Poetry has room for everything, but I’ll suggest those are the exceptions that prove the rule–and I’ll keep listening to hear the poem’s music.

Writing Workshops with Mary Sojourner

Pima Community College West Campus is hosting a wide array of weekend writing workshops ranging from Memoir Crafting to Poetry Workshops. Led by authors and professional writers, these workshops offer an opportunity to get hands-on experience and explore a variety of creative writing topics.

On April 13-15, Mary Sojourner, Issue 3 contributor, will lead the in-depth writing workshop, w(Rite): A Workshop in Deep Writing and Craft. The workshop will feature exercises and activities that help writers craft and “move personal writing into publishable work.”

Mary Sojourner is the author of novels Sisters of the Dream and Going Through Ghosts, and short story collection, Delicate. Sojourner is also known for her essay collection Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest and memoirs, Solace: rituals of loss and desire and She Bets Her Life. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR and teaches writing at colleges, universities, writing conferences, and privately. You can read her blog at marysojourner.com, or the November SR interview with Sojourner here.

If you’re looking to hone your craft or gather tools to eliminate your writer’s block, check out Writing Workshop Spring 2012 at Pima Community College.

An Interview with Mary Sojourner


Superstition Review
will be hosting Mary Sojourner during our 2011 Fall Reading Series, on Wednesday, November 9 at 7 p.m. on the ASU Tempe Campus in the Pima Auditorium at the Memorial Union Building.

On Thursday, November 10, NPR commentator and novelist Mary Sojourner hosts a writing workshop called The Jump Start Circle “for those,” she says, “who have always wanted to write and somehow haven’t begun; for writers who have blocked; and for writers who want to move to the next level of their work.” The Jump Start Circle is not a lecture workshop—participants write for most of the session. November 10, 6:30-8:30. Cost: $25. Registration and pre-payment at 480.730.0205.

We are incredibly excited to host Mary Sojourner on our campus, and encourage all to come out to see her. Admission is free and anyone can attend.

Superstition Review recently had the opportunity to talk to Sojourner and ask her a few questions, and her answers have us on the edge of our seat, eagerly anticipating more of her insight during her upcoming events in Arizona.

Superstition Review: What got you started as a writer? How did you decide to take that (career) path?

Mary Sojourner: I wrote in my memoir, Solace: Rituals of Loss and Desire, about growing up in a frightening childhood. My mother was a brilliant and gifted bi-polar psychotic. Every two years, she would descend toward a suicide attempt and be taken away to the grim shelter of the State Mental Hospital. My dad was terrified and helpless in the face of her illness. I learned fast to disappear into books – and into the safety of the outdoors. That was the beginning. I knew from the time I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a writer – only a little more than I wanted to be a cowboy on the Western plains.

The writing path took me. It is not a career, especially now in these mean days of contemporary publishing. I teach in order to earn my living. Writing is a possession, a torment and the most compelling love I’ve ever known.

SR: What is the most rewarding thing you’ve taken from your career? Is it teaching? Participating in public readings?

MS: Every day I take the knowledge that writing has chosen me. Only a little less, I take the knowledge that teaching other writers also owns me. And, of course, there are those moments when lightning arcs through me and onto the page.

SR: What advice would you offer aspiring writers and artists currently attending undergraduate universities?

MS: Either drop out of school right now or plan to do so once you graduate. Resist the pressure and impulse to get an advanced degree. Apprentice yourself to your creativity. Let it map your route. You – unless you have a trust fund – can plan on being poor, scared, frustrated. You might, if you’re lucky, find yourself walking the blade of an obsidian knife. Howling. Laughing. Being grateful for every breath you take.

She added:

“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” — Albert Einstein. Make beauty. Make change. Make trouble for the settled and secure.

Mary Sojourner’s personal blog can be found here: marysojourner.com

 

An Evening with Mary Sojourner

Superstition Review will host its 2011 Fall Reading with special guest author Mary Sojourner.

Mary Sojourner is the author of the essay collection Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, as well as novels, memoirs and short story collections. She is an NPR commentator and has taught writing throughout the West for 20 years. Please follow this link to read more about Mary Sojourner at: marysojourner.com

Who:     Superstition Review Literary Magazine presents Mary Sojourner

What:    Fall Reading Series

When:   Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 7 p.m.

Where:  ASU Tempe Campus, Pima Auditorium at Memorial Union

Admission:  Free

On Thursday, November 10 Mary will be offering a workshop at Changing Hands Bookstore.

Jump Start with Mary Sojourner: a writing circle to charge your writing.
The Jump Start circle is for those of you who have always wanted to write and somehow haven’t begun; for writers who have blocked; and for writers who want to move to the next level of their work. Mary Sojourner is a national author and NPR commentator. She has taught writing circles for universities, writing conferences (Desert Nights, Rising Stars, Hassyampa) and in private circles nationally. This is not a lecture workshop – you will write for most of the session. November 10, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Az., 6:30-8:30. fee: $25. Register and pay through Changing Hands.

Mary Sojourner is the author of two novels, Sisters of the Dream (1989) and Going Through Ghosts; the short story collection, Delicate; essay collection, Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest; memoirs, Solace: rituals of loss and desire and She Bets Her Life. She is an intermittent NPR commentator and the author of countless essays, columns and op eds for High Country News, Writers on the Range and dozens of other publications. She teaches writing, in private circles, one-on-one, at colleges and universities, writing conferences and book festivals. She believes in both the limitations and possibilities of healing. Writing is the most powerful tool she has found for doing what is necessary to mend.

Psychology Today blog, She Bets Her Life:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/she-bets-her-life

Launch of Issue 7: Interviews

Superstition Review Issue 7 has launched and to celebrate we will be featuring blog posts about our artists and authors. Today we will be highlighting a few of the interviews featured in Issue 7.

A native of Detroit, John Grogan spent more than 20 years as an investigative reporter and columnist, most recently at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also is the former editor of Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine. His first book, Marley & Me, was a #1 New York Times bestseller with six million copies in print in more than 30 languages. It was made into a movie starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Grogan’s second book, The Longest Trip Home, also a national bestseller, explores the author’s loving but complicated relationship with his devout Irish Catholic parents. John lives with his wife and three children in eastern Pennsylvania. Read the interview featured in issue 7. John Grogan’s Website

Sloane Crosley is the author of The New York Times bestsellers I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which was a finalist for The Thurber Prize, and How Did You Get This Number. She is also a weekly columnist for The Independent in the UK and editor of The Best American Travel Essays 2011. She lives in Manhattan, where she is a regular contributor to GQThe New York Times, National Public Radio and the inexplicably vast and varied collection of granolas in her kitchen cabinet. Read the interview from issue 7. Sloane Crosley’s Website

Jenifer Rae Vernon’s first book of poetry Rock Candy was published by West End Press in 2009. Rock Candy received the “Tillie Olsen Award” as the best book of creative writing that insightfully represents working class life and culture from the Working Class Studies Association, SUNY, Stony Brook, in June of 2010. In August of 2009, Garrison Keillor selected a poem from the collection, “Blackberry Pie” to perform on Writer’s Almanac. And in October of 2010, Keillor selected a second poem from the book, “Ketchican Wrestling” for Writer’s Almanac. Currently, Vernon lives in Juneau, Alaska with her husband and teaches Communication at the University of Alaska Southeast. Read the interview featured in issue 7 here.

Diana Joseph is the author of the short story collection Happy or Otherwise (Carnegie Mellon UP 2003) and I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing But True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother and Friend to Man and Dog (Putnam 2009.) Her work has appeared in Threepenny ReviewWillow Springs, Marie ClaireCountry Living and Best Sex Writing 2009. She teaches in the MFA program at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota. Read the interview in issue 7. Diana Joseph’s Website

Beverly Lowry was born in Memphis, grew up in Greenville, Mississippi and now lives in Austin where she is working on a book about another case of multiple murder, the unsolved killings of four young girls in an I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt shop, in Austin in 1991. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA fellowship and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, she is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction, she teaches at George Mason University and is currently Writer-in-Residence at Goucher College in Baltimore. Read the interview in issue 7. Beverly Lowry’s Website

 

The full magazine with featured art and artists from issue 7 can be found here. Check back tomorrow to read about the nonfiction authors featured in issue 7.

Progress Report: Submissions Period Open for Issue 7

The submissions period for Superstition Review Issue 7 opened February 1st. If you have any works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art that you would like to submit, or if you would like more information about our guidelines, please visit http://superstitionreview.submishmash.com/Submit. The deadline for submissions is March 31st.

Our Section Editors for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art are familiarizing themselves with our submission management program, Submishmash, and are looking forward to reading submissions.

In other news we have scheduled our two readings for 2011. Our first guest in our reading series is poet, essayist and teacher Alison Hawthorne Deming. Deming is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Her reading will take place on April 13th at 7 p.m. More information will be available in the coming weeks.

Our second guest in our reading series is writer, activist and teacher Mary Sojourner. Mary, an NPR commentator, has taught writing across the West for 20 years. Her reading will take place November 9th at 7 p.m.

Keep an eye on the blog for more updates on submissions, our interns and upcoming literary events.

 

Melissa Pritchard discusses Superstition Review reading and other works

On November 8th the Superstition Review Reading Series will feature Melissa Pritchard at Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus. Her reading will take place at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union’s Pima Auditorium. Pritchard has published several books such as Phoenix: A Novel, Late Bloomer and Devotedly, Virginia: The Life of Virginia Galvin Piper. She has also published her essays Finding Ashton and A Woman’s Garden, Sown in Blood in O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Collagist 4, respectively. I had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming reading and Pritchard’s latest novel The Odditorium.

Superstition Review: How is The Odditorium different from your other works?

Melissa Pritchard: The Odditorium is a collection of seven stories and a novella. Most are based on unusual or enigmatic historical figures, all look at the ways architecture exerts subtle or unsubtle pressures on human consciousness. So they are different in those ways from most of my previous stories. More than half of them do not approach narrative in a traditional or conventional way. I experiment in one story, “Watanya Cicilia,” with a pastiche of historical documents, songs, research and fiction, contrasting the Wild West Show and the real, genocidal story of the West. “The Hauser Variations,” based on the life of Kaspar Hauser, a German boy kept in an underground dungeon throughout his childhood and then mysteriously released into a second tragic fate, is based, in terms of narrative strategy, on Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In another story, “Patricide,” two sisters meet in a haunted hotel in Richmond, Virginia, its courtyard said to be a place where Edgar Allen Poe once played as a child. In this hotel, one of the sisters goes mad. So I was less interested in the traditional structure of plot and expected emotional release than in ethics, history, architecture and the effects of these upon both historically based and purely imagined characters.

SR: What has in been like working with Bellevue Literary Press?

MP: We are in the earliest phases; I accepted their offer to publish The Odditorium in January, 2012, and had a lengthy phone conversation with the publisher, Erika Goldman. I was so impressed with her aesthetic understanding of the collection, her excitement over the departures I had taken in terms of subject and form, I became convinced this was the proper home for these pieces. The BLP website is terrific, too, as is their history with Bellevue Hospital and New York University’s Medical Center. They publish elegant books at the nexus of art, science and medicine, and only publish two fiction titles a year. One of this year’s fiction titles, Tinkers, by Paul Harding, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, resulting in a flurry of attention for the press, with articles and interviews in The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and other media venues. It’s a tiny press operating out of Bellevue Hospital, and they do terrific work. I come from a family of surgeons, doctors and nurses, and have always been fascinated by science, medicine and the history of medicine, so this could not be a better place for this book, as a number of the stories deal with medical histories, issues and questions.

SR: How has your time at ASU influenced your writing?

MP: Because my time to write is limited, I have to be disciplined. Sometimes I find it quite difficult, having time and energy to both write and teach. A fragile balance at best. On the other hand, teaching keeps me awake to current trends in literature, to remaining relevant to students year after year, and I am blessed to work with some incredibly gifted students, both graduates and undergraduates. I always say my students teach me in equal proportion to what I teach them. At least I feel that. Also, ASU has always been tremendously supportive of my outside work–traveling for research, traveling to conferences, traveling for reportage or for humanitarian work, which I also do. I am extremely grateful for the university’s support.

SR: What are you most looking forward to as the Superstition Review reading draws near?

MP: I have a background in theater, in acting, so I always love reading my work aloud in a public setting…for me, it is as close to performance as I come these days. I love an audience and I love hearing the piece I’ve chosen come alive in the room, seeing the reactions of the listeners, answering questions afterwards. It is truly a wonderful exchange. This past summer at The Glen, a writing workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, part of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA Program, I read my collection’s title story, “The Odditorium,” to a full house. It is a comic piece about Robert Ripley of Believe It or Not fame, and other audiences have responded with laughter and lively commentary afterwards. This audience was dead silent. The room was dark, I couldn’t see anyone. I kept reading, on and on, by the little glow from the podium light. Afterwards, no one even asked questions! I was horrified, sure I had failed, sure the story had been a failure…I wanted to crawl under a carpet had there been one. What I found out later, was that the story had gone over so well, people couldn’t react, they went silent–stunned. I won’t repeat the praises I later heard, but then I became overwhelmed the other direction–was my story really that good? So one never knows, and one always doubts. Also, I’m always a little nervous before a reading, hoping it goes well, that I don’t disappoint people who made the time and effort to come to my reading when there are dozens of other things for them to do….I am also always scared no one will show up, and thrilled to pieces when they do. Finally, I’m looking forward to meeting all the staff and interns at Superstition Review. They’ve even managed to arrange to have copies of A Public Space #11 mailed from New York to be available for sale on the night of the reading. (I’ll be reading a story, “Ecorche, The Flayed Man,” from that issue.)

SR: What are you currently working on creatively?

MP: I’m in between three pieces right now…a non-fiction piece about my miniature dachshund, Simon, a speech about Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project that I will be giving at the Air Force Institute of Technology in December, and a novella set in 19th century Florence, Italy.

SR: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

MP: Read voraciously. Read the best work you can find. Read what interests you. Be observant. Practice empathy and compassion. Know that what you write ultimately reflects who you are. Write every day, even if only for an hour and be humble in your practice while aspiring to greatness. Be gentle with yourself, and always reward yourself in some small way after a writing session. Leave the writing at a place where you are eager to return the next day.

 

Progress Update: Closing In

With just over three weeks left in our submissions period, Superstition Review staff are reaching a critical point in Issue 6. Submissions are pouring in and our section editors are reading and sorting them daily.

Our photoshopper has been busy formatting the head shots of confirmed authors as well as staff. We’re also looking to our Advertising Coordinator to develop new ways to expand our readership. Interview Editors are continuing their research by listening to National Public Radio broadcasts and reading previous interviews from our selected authors. This is allowing them to form more refined interview questions.

Content Coordinator Carrie Grant has confirmed poets James Hoggard and Amanda Auchter for this semester’s issue. Hoggard’s work has been published in Mississippi ReviewHarvard Review and others. His most recent work, out of the 19 books he’s published, is Triangles of Light: The Edward Hopper Poems.

Author of The Glass Crib, Amanda Auchter‘s writing has appeared in numerous reviews and magazines and she has received accolades from Crab Orchard Review and Bellevue Literary Review, among others. We look forward to their work with Superstition Review.

In addition to providing these weekly updates on our progress, I strive to provide information on Superstition Review authors, and upcoming literary events in the community. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for features on Matthew Gavin Frank and Melissa Pritchard.