Ray Gonzalez is the author of 10 books of poetry and three collections of essays. His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry (Scribners) and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000 (Pushcart Press). He is a full-time Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Join us to celebrate National Poetry Month.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
Library First Floor
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
2626 E. Pecos Rd., Chandler, AZ 85225-2499
Allyson Boggess is a graduate of the MFA program at Arizona State University, where she was a poetry editor at Hayden’s Ferry Review. She teaches poetry at CGCC and writing at ASU and the Harvard Extension School. Her work was recently published in [PANK]. She lives in Phoenix.
Matthew Jolly is a member of the English faculty at GateWay Community College where he teaches classes in English composition and literature. He grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio, but now lives in Southeast Phoenix with his wife Lauren, his son Benjamin, three devious dogs, and a cat named Ebbilah. He received his MFA in poetry from Arizona State University where he was the recipient of a graduate fellowship and winner of the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Award in poetry. His work has appeared in Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art; The New Delta Review; and as part of NCTE’s online celebration of National Poetry Month. His “Elegy, Autopsy, and Archeological Excavation: An Interview with David Wojahn” (Hayden’s Ferry Review, 2003) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Patricia Murphy is a Senior Lecturer at ASU where she teaches creative writing and is the founding editor of Superstition Review. In Spring 2009 she won the Provost’s Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Student Mentoring. Murphy earned her B.A. in English and French from Miami University and her M.F.A. in Poetry from ASU. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines including The Massachusetts Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Orleans Review, Seattle Review, Cimarron Review, Kalliope, Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review, Indiana Review, and The Iowa Review. Her poems have received awards from the Cream City Review, The GSU Review, Glimmer Train Press, the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, and Gulf Coast among others. She is the recipient of an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and she has been awarded residencies at Mesa Refuge, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Vermont Studio Center.
With every new year comes a new edition of the Pushcart Prize and with it, the names of publications and pieces lucky enough to grace its pages. Known for compiling submissions from small presses all over the world, Pushcart has created a high standard of quality that authors and literary magazines alike hope to achieve. Perpetual Folly has released a ranking of Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry submissions published in the Pushcart by each literary publication for 2012.
While some notable names like Tin House, Poetry, and Ploughshares grace the top spots, some new faces have also joined the ranks. The rankings are a great way to discover new publications and revisit some familiar magazines. You can also see rankings from 2010, 2009, and 2008.
The Pushcart Prize, known for its prestigious spot on the small press altar, has come under recent criticism for its narrowed scope. Pushcart editor Bill Henderson wrote in his introduction: “I have long railed against the e-book and instant Internet publication as damaging to writers. Instant anything is dangerous – great writing takes time. You should long to be as good as John Milton and Reynolds Price, not just barf into the electronic void.” There’s an excellent article about this comment in Luna Park, but we’d like to add our thoughts as well..
Publishing has come a long way since the days of stone tablets. Digital media has become a rapidly evolving field that is changing the way we consume literature. While some literary magazines have already converted to online platforms, other notable publications stand by their steadfast printers and traditional paper mediums.
The Pushcart’s bias against online publishing is apparent: only one submission from an online publication was printed in the 2012 Pushcart anthology. Pushcart had long been known for incorporating the best of the best small presses, but if it continues to disregard online publications, it will no longer be representative of small press publishing.
While not all online magazines uphold the same rigorous editing procedures of their print counterparts, many maintain traditional practices of print journals, with the only change being that they are free and immediately accessible.
We can understand Henderson’s argument to some degree. Online publishing, after all, is a double-edged sword. Often, editing is sacrificed in the name of immediate publication. An author can write a sentence and hit submit without a second thought. It can lack the craft and artistic value that many unplugged authors have spent years honing. However, online publication also opens doors to high-quality work. Connecting in a digital environment increases accessibility, eliminates physical printing constraints, and fosters collaboration and community. We have to ask ourselves, how long will Pushcart continue to ignore the growing field of online lit mags?
If writing better poetry is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, then you’ll want to take a look into Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen’s new book, Wingbeats. Wiggerman and Meischen, an SR contributor from Issue 7, have compiled the wisdom and advice of 58 poets in order to create exercises that showcase the poetry writing process.
As a poet and former Poetry Columnist for the Texas Writer, Scott Wiggerman is no stranger to the world of poetry. He has conducted a number of workshops for the WLT Poetry Study Group and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Wiggerman found he kept returning to poetry staples, like The Practice of Poetry (edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell), for reference, but what he really needed was something new that applied the same variety of techniques. Wiggerman writes that he was looking for something that “combined exercises and essays by poets who actually teach, both academics and non-academics, this time. Since it didn’t seem to be forthcoming from anywhere, I asked my partner about creating and publishing such a book. I foolishly thought it would be a project that I could handle alone, but David came on board as co-editor almost immediately, thank goodness!”
From the simplest activities to the more involved tasks, Wingbeats provides aspiring poets with exercises along with real poems that show what these look like in action. “We wanted to create a book that poets would actually use, and I wanted a book that would work well for poets both in MFA programs and those, like myself and several of our Wingbeats contributors, who learn the craft of poetry on their own or through the occasional workshop,” wrote Wiggerman.
Wiggerman and Meischen’s new book not only covers standard poetic techniques, but also new strategies for revision, collaboration, and inspiration. If you’re looking for some hands-on experience in writing poetry, Wingbeats is a great resource.
Wiggerman also recommends that aspiring poets seek out workshops and writing groups for guidance: “The absolute best way to learn how to write is to write–and many books or MFA programs can ‘teach’ you this. But it takes feedback as well, and for this, one needs someone to share his or her work with. Of course, it also helps tremendously to read poetry. One of the adages of writing is to ‘show, don’t tell,’ and while Wingbeats does tell, it also shows through poem after poem. It’s the way I like to teach my workshops, letting poems speak for themselves by showing how they’re done.”
Julie Hensley grew up on a sheep farm in the Shenandoah Valley, but now she makes her home in Kentucky with her husband (the writer R. Dean Johnson) and their two children. Julie has won The Southern Women Writers Emerging Voice Award in both fiction (2005) and poetry (2009). Her work regularly appears in a variety of journals, most recently in Redivider, Ruminate, Superstition Review, PoemMemiorStory, The Pinch and Blackbird, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her novel-in-stories, Landfall, won the 2007 Everett Southwest Literature Award. Her chapbook of poems, The Language of Horses, is available from Finishing Line Press.
Superstition Review: What inspired you to write The Language of Horses?
Julie Hensley: My girlhood, like so many, was marked by a period of intense love of horses. When I was very young, my three sisters and I took riding lessons. Saturday mornings, we dawned jodphurs and leather boots, rode around and around a ring of sawdust, and then stopped at Seven Eleven for Slurpees on the way home. When I was nine, after much waiting and saving, my parents bought a farm. Finally, we had our own horses. We could ride them on the overgrown trails that snaked out through the woods behind the barn. We could lounge bareback with a book while the horses grazed.
For my mom, this move marked the fulfillment of her own childhood wishes. Every Christmas, she told us, she had begged her parents for a horse, but had to settle instead for a string of Breyer ponies. Her yearning for horses was a palpable part of my childhood, and as an adolescent, I began to recognize in the fulfillment of that yearning, its metaphoric power. It wasn’t surprising that our move to the farm heralded my mother’s return to college and her development of a career as a teacher. Horses were desire. They were imagination. They were autonomy. They were the things that, I was just then beginning to understand, women ultimately have to fashion for themselves.
SR: The poems have very vivid memories and stories. Are they connected to your own personal memories and what made you want to share these certain moments?
JH: The poems are highly autobiographical. My husband Bob (R. Dean Johnson), who himself writes nonfiction, loves to tease me when I give him a new poem to read. He says, “Huh. Why don’t you take the line breaks out of that and submit it to Brevity.” While there is usually a narrative moment to my poems, and these are no exception, it is not story as much as raw, highly sensory imagery which spawns a poem for me. For instance, while “Monsoon Season” recounts the memory of a hike Bob and I did in the San Francisco Peaks, the poem really began with the immediate smell of vanilla rising from wet pine bark.
Once I realized horses could work as an extended metaphor, I did begin actively siphoning imagery around that theme, which led to specific memories such as my sister teaching me to French braid on a horse’s tail.
SR: In your fiction piece, “Expecting,” your descriptions are still very poetic. Is writing fiction more of a challenge for you compared to poems?
JH: I would have to say that fiction is harder for me. Or perhaps it is more fitting to admit that I simply work harder at fiction. My MFA is actually in fiction. Poetry has always been my secondary genre. Because I teach, I dedicate summers to fiction–for several summers in a row, I have been trying to complete a novel. When I feel hung up on the fiction, rather than sitting and fuming with creative wheels spinning, I will open a new file and begin a poem. During the academic year when I teach four classes at a time, it is difficult to drop fully into the world of my fiction, so during the winter I revise fiction and write new poems. I’m grateful to have my poetry because moving back and forth between the two genres releases pressure.
SR: The Language of Horses brings the reader to many different beautiful settings like Virginia, Kansas, and Phoenix. What does traveling offer to the pieces you write?
JH: It’s funny. My dreams take a while to catch up with my actual life. For instance, I have a nine-month-old daughter, but she has yet to appear in my dream life. I moved to Kentucky three years ago, yet my home here has really only just begun to formulate the backdrop of my dreams. I think my writing life works the same way. When I was a student in Arizona I constantly wrote of Virginia and Kansas. When I moved to Oklahoma, I wrote about the desert. Now that I live in Kentucky, I have begun to write about the plains. For me, being away from a place breeds a yearning that is quite productive to the creative process. I like to cultivate that yearning, to play with the power of dislocation.
I think that’s part of the power of low and brief-residency MFA programs such as the one in which I teach at Eastern Kentucky University—they allow emerging writers to feel the beautiful strangeness of a new place and the warm yearning for home that accompanies it. Two years ago, I traveled with students to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I actually crafted “Expecting” there, sipping espresso each morning in Café Montenegro. This summer, I’ll accompany students to Edinburgh, Scotland. Maybe that trip will help me make progress on my novel.
SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?
JH: It’s winter, so I’m writing poems. I’m working simultaneously on two cycles. One, with the working title Viable, explores motherhood and fertility. The other, Breaking Ground, channels the voices of a fictional couple—Gracie and Nohl—whose marriage dissolves into physical abuse as they build a farmhouse together.
I just finished Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, a book which absolutely blew my mind. In general, I’m a fan of novels-in-stories. (“Expecting” is actually the capstone piece in Landall, a novel-in-stories which I have just begun to circulate.) Egan’s novel is so imaginative. She inhabits the lives of an array of characters so fully, and she balances decades of branching relationships with such flawless, nuanced control. I just began and am thoroughly enjoying Nancy Jensen’s The Sisters, a sweeping novel that moves, through six different perspectives, from 1920s Kentucky to Vietnam era Indiana. I’m also reading collections of poems in preparation for a poetry workshop I’ll be teaching in the spring—this week it’s Beckian Fritz Goldberg’s Lie Awake Lake and Claudia Emerson’s Figure Studies.
Michelle Brafman has received numerous awards for her fiction, including a Special Mention in the 2010 Pushcart Prize Anthology, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story prize, and first place in the Lilith Magazine Fiction contest. Her stories have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Blackbird, and Fifth Wednesday Journal, among other places. She teaches fiction writing at George Washington University and the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program. Michelle is also an award-winning filmmaker and lives in Glen Echo, Maryland with her husband and two children. For more information: www.michellebrafman.com
Superstition Review: Early on in your story “In Flight,” the protagonist says, “…I’m his crazy big sister. I lost too much oxygen at birth. People always want to label me ‘tard’ or PDD or high-functioning this or that, but I’m just Rosie.” The reader later gets a sense of Rosie’s disability through some of the observations she makes, and we, as the reader, understand that she doesn’t understand her surroundings the way her mother and brother do. What was the effect you were aiming for in including the Rosie’s awareness of how people saw her?
Michelle Brafman: I suppose my initial intention was to provide the reader with a sense of Rosie’s disability, but as she emerged as a character, I grew interested in exploring the tension between her uncanny perceptiveness and her inability to interpret social cues. I’d initially written the story from the point of view of Marcus, the more reliable narrator, but it lacked verity. It is Rosie who implores Marcus to jump, to confront his mother’s mortality and the impending reality of his sister’s care, and it is Rosie who intuits that Marcus will need the trampoline, as Esther did, as a release from the weight of his new responsibilities.
SR: In “January” and “Would you Rather?” both of the protagonists suspect that their spouses might be cheating on them. Please discuss the notion of fidelity as a theme in contemporary writing. What makes it popular and interesting?
MB: I don’t know that I’m equipped to speak for an entire genre, but what makes infidelity interesting to me is the way in which it exacerbates a character’s trouble. Writing about “the how” of an affair grows tedious quickly. I’m more interested in why a character seeks such an all-consuming escape and the ripples that form after hurling such an enormous boulder into his or her psychic pond.
SR: I noticed that the character Annabel from “Ripe” reappears in “January,” although as an absent character. If these two stories were to appear together in a collection, which one would come first, and to what effect?
MB: Actually, “Ripe” and “January” belong to a triptych that starts with “The 42,” the first story I published. I wrote “The 42” in response to a variation of an exercise featured in John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. I’ve further modified this prompt for my students, but it goes something like this: A man gets off a bus, trips, looks around in embarrassment, and sees a woman smiling. Describe this event using three different points of view.
The story cycle begins when a pregnant Annabel takes “The 42” to her old neighborhood for an acupuncturist appointment. Eager to take a break from her husband Leon’s hovering, she declines his ride offer and spends the bus trip reflecting on a less fettered period in her life. “Ripe” picks up after her ex-boyfriend Phil watches her stumble off the bus, and the final story “January” begins after Leon has tracked down Annabel to deliver her misplaced wallet and spots her and Phil walking down the street, sharing an intimate moment of laughter.
SR: I enjoy how your stories are structured and especially how they end. There is no apparent resolution of conflict at the closing of your stories. What is your opinion on what the end of a story should do for a reader?
MB: I appreciate your observation. When I first began writing fiction, I tied up my stories in pretty little bows, often tagging on what I now call the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink: did you get it?” closing line. Bob Bausch, one of my first writing instructors, once said to me that a good ending should resolve the story but not the conflict. His words resonated with me. I like the idea of leaving a story somewhat open for the reader to impose his or her own ideas on what might happen to the characters.
SR: What are you writing now? What are you reading?
MB: I’m working on a new novel. It took me months to find a pathway into this project, but my characters are starting to develop minds of their own and are surprising me in all sorts of fun ways.
I’ve enrolled in a course on the unreliable narrator, and I’ve been engrossed in the assigned texts: True Confections by Katharine Weber, the class instructor, Nabokov’s Lolita and What Was She Thinking? (Notes On A Scandal) by Zoe Heller. My daughter and I have also been reading some wonderful YA fiction for a mother-daughter book club. My favorite pick so far has been Claire Vanderpool’s beautifully crafted Moon over Manifest.
Congratulations to our 2011 Pushcart Nominees:
Cynthia Hogue, Nonfiction, “The Genius of the Western World”
William J. Cobb, Fiction “The Lives of Gofers”
Lucinda Roy, Poetry, “Custodians of the Bush”
Sarah Pape, Poetry, “Prayer for Thirteen”
Matthew Gavin Frank, Poetry, “The Sticking-Place, Stripped Screws”
Rich Ives, Fiction, “Mole Group 2-1”
The reading and book signing will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Phoenix College, 1202 Thomas Rd, in room H102.
Patrick Michael Finn is the author of the novella A Martyr for Suzy Kashasovich, which won the 2006 Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Competition. His collection of short stories, The Darkness Under Our Feet, is the 2009 Hudson Prize winner.
Patrick’s short stories have appeared in Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Third Coast, Quarterly West, The Clackamas Literary Review, and Houghton Mifflin’s The Best American Mystery Stories 2004. Awards for his fiction include the Third Coast Fiction Prize 2004, AWP Intro Award, citations in the 2005 Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Short Stories 2008.
Patrick has taught at the University of Arizona, Western Nebraska Community College, and the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and founded the Chandler-Gilbert Community College writing program in 2007, which he currently directs. He lives in Arizona with his wife and son.
For more information about the reading, contact Lisa Miller at 602-285-7348 or lisa.miller.@pcmail.maricopa.edu.
At Superstition Review, we like to keep up with upcoming literary events in the Phoenix area. Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference scholar and Pushcart Prize nominee, Michelle Hoover, will be visiting Changing Hands Bookstore on Tuesday October 12th at 7 p.m. She will be reading from her debut novel, The Quickening, which was released in June.
Based on her family’s rich history of oral story-telling and her grandmother’s diary, The Quickening narrates an interminable feud between two Iowa farming families. The conflict lasted over four decades, spanning across both World Wars and well into the Great Depression. A timeless tale of humanity’s intuition in times of peril, Hoover’s entrance into the world of literature is felicitous.
While The Quickening is Hoover’s first novel, her first-hand experience of growing up in Ames, Iowa ensures validity in her work. It is obvious that this experience combined with the recounted stories from family members over the generations has provided the necessary knowledge to convey this story with immense accuracy. Michelle Hoover has also previously published fiction in The Massachusettes Review, Best New American Voices, and Prairie Schooner, as well as others. She teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street, Inc., a group that assists writers in developing their manuscripts through six to ten week workshops.
Hoover’s website, http://www.michellehoover.net/, includes a list of upcoming readings and events and a video message about The Quickening. It also offers the opportunity to tell your own story about working or growing up on a farm. Stories must have a minimum of 500 words and be submitted by December 1st to be eligible. Two lucky winners who have shared their story will be picked to receive a copy of The Quickening. The winners will be posted on her website on December 15th. You can also follow Michelle Hoover on Twitter via http://twitter.com/quickeningnovel for frequent updates on her successes and recent work.
Superstition Review interns are busily preparing to launch the next issue of the fast growing literary magazine run by undergraduate students at ASU. With the launch date quickly approaching, we are excited to announce two fiction authors whose work has been selected to appear in the magazine. Issue 3 of Superstition Review will feature authors Mary Sojourner and Patricia Ann McNair.
Mary Sojourner’s publications include Sisters of the Dream, Delicate, Bonelight: ruin and grace in the New Southwest, and Solcace: Rituals of Loss and Desire. Sojourner’s short stories and essays have been featured in many literary magazines, as well as High Country News and Mountain Gazette. Her commentary on social issues can be found on NPR. She also teaches writing throughout the West.
Patricia Ann McNair teaches in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in American Fiction: Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Other Voices, F Magazine, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, and Air Canada’s en Route magazine. She has received many Illinois Arts Council Awards and Pushcart Prize nominations and fiction and nonfiction.
Be sure to find out who else will be featured in Issue 3 of Superstition Review when the magazine launches on April 20th!
by Sarah Dillard