Joanne Diaz is the author of two poetry collections, The Lessons and My Favorite Tyrants. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her recent poems have been published in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, New England Review, Poetry, River Styx, and Waxwing. She is the Isaac Funk Endowed Professor of English at Illinois Wesleyan University. She is also the co-host of the Poetry for All podcast.
Her poem “Facts in Review” appeared in Issue 30 of Superstition Review, accompanied by one of Jason Reblando’s photos. We are pleased to present an interview with Joanne Diaz below, conducted by Madison Latham, one of SuperstitionReview’s poetry editors for Issue 30.
Madison Latham: What was the process like for creating the mixed media?
Joanne Diaz: I created the collage that accompanies this poem during a residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts (VCCA). I am by no means a visual artist, and I hadn’t made a collage since I was in elementary school, but I knew that I wanted to try this, just to see where it would take the work. The black-and-white image is from a film that documented the Berlin book burnings of 1933. I had known about that image for years, and it haunted me—the way the face of the Nazi youth is facing away from the viewer, and toward the flames—and I used a simple color blocking technique to emphasize the shape of his body and he hurls the books into the fire. For a long time, I was feeling stuck with this poem, but when school boards all over the United States started banning books, I knew that I had something to say.
This collage is one of a few in the collaborative project that I’ve been working on with Jason Reblando. The majority of the word-image pairings in this collection are comprised of my poems and Jason’s photographs.
ML: How did you decide what sources to use for the poem “Facts in Review”? What makes a reliable source? What is your advice for poets that want to include facts in their own poetry?
JD: Well, the title of the poem is actually a lie. As I say in the note to the poem, Facts in Review is the title of a Nazi propaganda magazine that was sent to American subscribers between 1939-1941. I first learned about this magazine when I read Mark Monmonier’s amazing book How to Lie with Maps, which provides an analysis of how maps never tell the whole truth, and how often nations and empires use maps for propagandistic purposes. Monmonier included some examples of Nazi maps in his book, and when I saw his citation of the magazine, I read through every issue, just to see what was published there. I noticed something right away: the magazine was full of lies about Nazi aggression—lies that made the Nazi regime seem benign, even beneficent. So many times in my life, I’ve wondered what it must have been like to live in Europe during the rise of fascism in the 1930s. Reading Facts in Review helped me answer that question. It also helped me understand the rise of fascism in our own nation right now.
ML: How would you describe your experience working with one another on collaborative media? What did you learn from the collaboration?
JD: In brief: Jason’s photos came first, and my poems came second. For Jason to create the photos, he had to walk La Ruta Walter Benjamin, a difficult mountain pass that begins in Banyuls sur Mer in the south of France and ends in Portbou, Spain. For millennia, the Pyrenees have been the site of many kinds of crossings, but there are two kinds of crossings that interest us most: the trek that writer Walter Benjamin took from France to Spain in 1940 when he was escaping the Nazis who were set on persecuting him; and the walk that 500,000 Spaniards took from Spain to France in 1939 in order to escape persecution in Franco’s fascist regime.
As Jason walked the route, he took photos that not only attended to the natural landscape, but to the history and culture of the land as well. As I meditated on his photographs, I conducted research—on the Spanish Civil War, on the Nazi regime, on Walter Benjamin—and wrote poems that helped me to understand the terror of that time. Jason is often my best editor, and he provided a lot of important feedback on the poems.
When we share excerpts of this work in art galleries, we print the poems on vellum and position the photographs underneath the vellum. That way, a viewer can read the poem, then lift the vellum to see the photo that inspired it. This palimpsest effect allows the reader to think about the layers of history and language embedded in every landscape.
ML: We see that you both teach at universities in Illinois. How do you know each other? And what is the story behind the collaborative media? Have you done collaborative work before, and would you do something like it again?
JD: We’re married! Jason is a photography professor at Illinois State, and I’m an English professor at Illinois Wesleyan, just a mile down the street. We’ve never collaborated on a project before, but we’ve really enjoyed this experience and would happily do it again.
ML: What are each of you working on next?
JD: In recent months, we’ve completed work on La Ruta and are looking for a publisher. Meanwhile, Jason is creating a series of new collage pieces that draw upon archival photographs of the Philippines from the turn of the last century. You can see some of his amazing work here.
The following short story and interview contain mentions of suicide. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, know there are resources out there. For the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, call 988.
Roger loved Beth, of course, but he had hoped age would slow her down. She had never lost her frenzy for what she believed was her life’s central mystery.
In the meantime, grandkids banged on pots and pans at all hours. AM radio was always on full blast with talk about opera and the end of the world. A clipping of wisteria she’d taken from a friend had turned into a full invasion of the trees in their backyard. Butterfly stickers were plastered all over the window that looked out over his vegetable garden.
“I’d rather see real butterflies in my garden,” he told her.
“They hardly ever come around, and I want to see them all the time.”
She paid no attention to his grumbling, and of course, he felt guiltier about criticizing her when they found out she was dying.
“Death is inevitable,” he reassured her on the way back from the cardiologist.
“You wouldn’t say that if it was happening to you.”
“It is happening to me! My heart’s just as bad. I’ll probably die before you.”
“No such luck,” she said with a little laugh, and he didn’t know if she meant her luck or his.
He stopped at their favorite fast food spot and bought her a hot dog and an ice cream sundae, and he got a basket of chili fries, and they sat on one of the picnic tables overlooking the baseball field where the high school kids were practicing.
“They don’t have a care in the world. They’re not thinking about what it all means. Or else, they’re thinking about batting averages. It’s the only thing they have to prove,” she said.
Her eyes were a little red, but she wouldn’t let a tear fall. He hadn’t seen her cry for decades, not since their youngest’s body was found in the woods. Their only little girl. After that, Beth had wanted to talk about it all the time, like that would bring her back. He’d asked her to think of his feelings, and she hadn’t liked that. But what was there to do about it? Bad things happened. Death was really and truly inevitable.
“What do you think it all means? ” he asked, deciding to humor her.
She brightened like he’d given her a compliment, and she put her burger down so she could concentrate on her explanation.
“Life is about understanding the people you love. Once you understand them, you can let them go.”
“You don’t understand me,” Roger said.
“Oh, please. I understood you after our first date.”
He savored his fries and waited for her to resume her theorizing. He didn’t think he was so easy to figure out.
“I’m happy with the life we’ve lived in every way but one. I really am.”
“I believe you. But I’ve been telling you for years, we should leave that house. It brings back bad memories sometimes. We could make a fresh start even if we only have a few months. Why not? We could move to assisted living. It might be nice.”
“I can’t, Roger. She might speak to me again and finally tell me what happened. She’s still there.”
He could feel his ire rising, but he tried to tamp it down. Getting angry wouldn’t do anyone any good. It was hard to be the hard one all the time.
“She’s not there. She’s moved on, Darling. I’m sure of it. She’s not haunting us.”
Beth gave him the most furious expression she could make, her eyebrows arching lower than they used to. “But I will. I will haunt you for the rest of your life if you don’t try to help me make my peace before I die.”
“You know I’ll do anything I can!” he started, intending to defend himself against the implied accusation that he was too lazy to help his dying wife. It was hard to think of Beth’s absence, and it scared him to think of how much he’d miss her, but he didn’t want her to haunt him. She’d do it, too. If there were any way to do it, Beth would find it. He’d never get a good night’s rest again.
“I’m only asking this one thing,” she said, interrupting his defending. “I still don’t know what happened to Sweet Wendy. I don’t know why she went into the woods that day. I don’t know who hurt her. I don’t know what she was thinking.”
“She was sad, Beth. The police found her diary, and she said she was depressed. It was a tragedy—the greatest tragedy of our lives. But we already know why it happened.”
“But why? She never told me she was depressed. I don’t believe it, Roger. I’ll go to my grave not believing it.”
They’d been over the story thousands of times. Beth had the same questions, and he gave the same answers. At first, they’d both demanded answers and investigations and had called in detectives and pastors and priests and rabbis and psychics and anyone else who had any chance of helping. After a couple of years, Roger had faced the facts. Their daughter had been depressed. It didn’t make sense to him either—she hadn’t seemed sad. She was only sixteen, rather young to give up on life. But that’s what the evidence said. Beth had even called in a guy from the university who made podcast shows to investigate Wendy’s death, but he couldn’t get up enough mystery content for a single show. He said he was sorry, and then he left without giving them any more answers than they’d had before. Humiliation after humiliation! Everyone in town knew them as the poor couple who had lost their daughter in their own back woods. Everyone was sorry, but they were all alone in the depth of their sorrow. Not even their sons, Wendy’s two older brothers, had understood, though they had pain of their own.
He was ruminating on the injustices they had suffered as he drove home, and Beth made the same case she’d made for years. Wendy was always one who followed the rules. She had just won that dance competition, and she had another coming up that she was practicing for (and yet she wasn’t going overboard or stressing out too much). She wanted to be a vet, and she was volunteering at the animal shelter. She loved her family. Even that diary (which Beth had always suspected was a plant) had made that much clear. She wouldn’t have wanted to hurt her parents or her brothers. If she really felt she had to die, she would have explained it better.
When they got home, she was still ranting away as she followed him into the kitchen where he was going to get a glass of water, and she pointed to one butterfly sticker that had fallen to the floor beside the picture window.
“It’s Wendy! That sticker is a sign!”
“Damn it, Beth, that sticker just fell down. It’s nothing supernatural.” He was glad to have one less sticker to look at. It was the weird glittery-purple one, too, the one that didn’t look like any kind of butterfly he had ever seen in real life.
“These stickers don’t just fall off. Try getting another one off.”
He’d never attempted it, knowing he wouldn’t hear the end of it if he displaced one of her precious butterflies. When he tried scratching at a pink butterfly with his fingernail, it wouldn’t budge.
“You’d have to get a scraping knife to take these off,” she said.
He groaned. Maybe it would be a project for their sons when they were both dead.
“That’s her talking to me, Roger. She hasn’t left me a sign in a long time. I think it’s finally happening again because you’re finally listening again. On account of my dying. Not a second too soon, either.”
He examined the fallen butterfly. It wasn’t anything like a real butterfly, but he already sort of missed it. He was used to seeing it there on the window. Was it really Wendy speaking to them after so long? Hadn’t she moved on to heaven yet?
“Promise me you’ll keep listening, and that you’ll believe. For my sake, the last wish of a dying woman.”
“I’ll listen!” he called out, raising his hands in the air as if he were a holy roller. “I believe! I’ll listen! I believe!”
“Now, you keep paying attention, and I will too. She’s sure to spark up again soon.”
While they were watching television later that evening, they heard a light commotion outside. Animal sounds. When they went to investigate, they looked through the picture window and found a striped cat sitting at a distance from the house and staring at them.
“That’s her,” Beth said.
“Our daughter is not a cat,” Roger said. The cat was cute, though. It looked at them with a sense of purpose, swinging its tail from side to side as if to get their attention.
“Remember when she was little and she wanted to be in school plays, but she was so shy? You used to tell her to pretend like she was a cat. Cats think they’re the best, and that other people are lucky to be around them.”
“I forgot that. It sounds like so-so advice. It wouldn’t help if you were really and truly scared. You can’t just become a cat.” He wasn’t sure if he had ever given Wendy good advice. Maybe that was why she didn’t come to him before the end.
“Unless you’re a ghost,” Beth whispered. “Let’s follow the cat. The cat wants us to. Can’t you tell?”
He had promised to believe, after all, which meant he had to try.
They rarely went out at night anymore. It was early spring, and some crickets were waking up. There was a chill to the air, so Beth ran in to grab jackets for them, though he didn’t see the point since he didn’t think the cat was really going to lead them anywhere.
But the cat did lead them into the woods. Roger had only been in the woods a few times since the tragedy. A couple of times he’d gone out looking for the boys’ dog, and another time he had to help one of them find different kinds of leaves for a school project.
“You promised,” Beth said, so he followed the cat even though he felt angry about it.
He hadn’t done anything wrong, so why should he always be punished? They should have left a long time before. As soon as he could, he was going to move them into a retirement community. Then whichever one of them died last would have company while they waited. There were people playing cards and checkers and chess, and they had good hot meals. There was even a duck pond.
By grumbling to himself, he was able to ignore the thorns and creepiness of their journey into the woods. They walked slowly, and the cat would stop and wait for them sometimes. It really did seem to be leading them somewhere in particular. Finally, they found themselves in a clearing near a small creek, and they recognized the spot. This was where it had happened. There was that log that had fallen halfway in the water, still rotting slowly.
“I used to come here every day to leave flowers or little trinkets that made me think of her. But I stopped a long time ago, because it was too sad.” Beth was about to cry, and Roger felt responsible. He shouldn’t have let them get carried away.
“You did the best you could, Beth. You did a great job as a mom.”
She shook her head. His eyes had adjusted to the low light from the half-moon above, and he could see her and the cat clearly. The cat jumped up to sit on the dry portion of the log, twitching its tail as an invitation.
They had no choice, they felt, but to sit on the log where the cat wanted them to. They had come so far, and they had to finish their task.
“Look at that,” he said as he looked up.
The stars were so cold and distant, it scared him at first. It had been years since he had really looked at them. The bigger the town got, the harder it was to see them, and there was something comforting about that. The restaurants and the baseball games and the backyard parties were so bright and loud, no one had to see the stars and feel creepy about them. There was a time when people found pictures and stories up there, but the maddening silence must have made them dreamy. He couldn’t see any patterns up there. It was just a wild scatter of dots, like the holes in one of those posters they have at shooting ranges. Maybe God was up there shooting at them and kept missing.
“Beautiful,” Beth said. “This was the last thing she saw.”
That made his eyes sting. The last thing their sweet daughter knew was that cold, comfortless sky? He hoped she had closed her eyes and thought of something cozy. But then, why had she gone all the way out there if not to see that sky in the end?
“Someone told her to do it,” Beth said. “Maybe she did it herself, but someone told her to.”
“Who? Who would do something like that?”
Soon Beth was crying like a child, and Roger was, too. Who would do something like that?
“Maybe you’re right. That morning, she told me she’d go fishing with me that weekend,” Roger said. “She never lied. She always did what she said.”
“This was an exception, because something happened. Maybe she wasn’t murdered exactly. Maybe there won’t be any justice. Maybe not in this life, maybe not ever. I get the feeling…I get the feeling she wants us to forgive, to forgive her and whoever hurt her.”
Roger felt a foreign softness against his hand, and he shouted and jumped up. It was the cat coming up to them.
“Kitty?” he said, trying to sound brave.
“Wendy,” Beth said. “I know why you brought us out here. You wanted us to know what you were feeling. You felt like things were too big for you. You were sensitive, and someone was rooting against you. Maybe more than one person.”
The cat looked up. What was up there? The sky. The more he looked at it, the less alien it seemed. It was just a sky seen from a planet. The stars were fireballs. It was incredible. A cloud crept across the half-moon, and it looked like a fairy gown lit up by magic, like one of those princess things Wendy had liked to wear when she was little.
“This was what she saw before she died. And it was good,” Beth said.
He didn’t know what to say. It must have been so.
Wisteria hung from the branches above. When he was focused on the stars, he hadn’t noticed the blossoms, but now he saw.
“Was this wisteria there when she died?” he said. “I can’t remember when you set it down back here and it caught on.”
“No, it wasn’t here then. She loved purple flowers. Remember?”
“I don’t.” His voice was hoarse.
“I guess I planted it for her. And when she looks up now, she can see it there.”
When they looked down again, the cat was gone. It had done its job. They went back to the house in a kind of holy silence, holding hands. It had hurt to be so close to the sky. He was glad to be back inside. It was too hard to discuss at first. She went to bed, and he stayed up another hour to watch TV, though he wasn’t really paying attention. He was basking in the warm colors and thinking about old times.
They were able to speak at breakfast, and they agreed it had been a sign.
“I’m almost at peace,” Beth said, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“What more could you want? She came back for us, didn’t she?”
“There’s one more thing I have to understand. Is she still sad about it? Wherever she is, whatever her spirit does…is it sad, or is it at peace?”
He nodded. It seemed like it would be a good thing to know.
“If you have something else to tell us, Wendy, we’re listening,” he said. This time, he meant it.
That evening, they didn’t turn on the television. Beth suggested they read, and he knew it was so they could hear better in case Wendy came to call again.
Again, they heard tapping at the window, but this time it was insistent and gentle as rain. They ran into the kitchen, but nothing was out there. No cat this time. It wasn’t until Beth turned on the outdoor lights that they could see a swarm of bugs infesting their backyard.
“Probably those damn mosquitos,” Roger said, but it was too early for them.
When they stepped outside, they saw wings fluttering all around their garden. As they got closer, they could it was a swarm of butterflies.
“At night, Roger! At night! Not moths, but butterflies.”
There were at least a dozen of them, and they were the most vivid colors. No pale ones. Just electric blues and oranges and purples.
“Even at night. Wendy is like this even at night. Is this what death is, Roger?”
He could see it clearly now in the porchlight. He didn’t have to strain his eyes. He was going to lose his wife. It took his breath away. It was inevitable, and it happened to everyone. It had happened to their daughter before them. But now it was happening to them. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t matter if they all became butterfly spirits, happy as could be. It wasn’t fair to live so close to someone and then lose them. It wasn’t fair to get so old and lose everything. Hadn’t they done the best they could? They had done what they were supposed to do.
“It’s all right to die, then, Roger. It really is.”
Beth was happy, but he couldn’t be.
“I want to die first,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I had died suddenly a long time ago, so I wouldn’t have to think about these things.”
He sat down in the garden, and the butterflies whizzed around his head. By instinct, he almost swatted one.
“It doesn’t matter who dies first,” she said. She sat down in the grass beside him. He couldn’t think of the last time they’d sat on the ground like that, and he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to get up again. “Whoever goes will make a way. The other will follow. When moment doesn’t follow moment…you see, all the moments are there.”
He didn’t see. It didn’t make sense. But Wendy was there, at least. She was dancing again in the forms of a bunch of night-drunk butterflies. She had loved the night. Where was she? They were closing in on her territory, wherever she was.
They kept their holy silence all night. The next day, they sat for hours by the picture window. Once or twice, one of them spotted a butterfly. They had seemed so rare before, like creatures that only came out for photographers. But they were everywhere.
That night, they talked about Wendy. They didn’t talk about the end, but they talked about the different moments along the way. It hadn’t always been clear who she was. They had known she was kind (most of the time), but they hadn’t realized before what a great guide she was. They had to piece her together from all those scattered moments after she was gone.
“It is a great gift that you and I have lived together so long and know each other so well,” Beth said.
“Maybe it’s a gift that I’m not a mystery. I’m a simple person,” Roger said.
Months later, when Beth died in her bed at home, she knew she was going. The kids and grandkids went to see her one last time, and she gave everyone strange tokens, from sheets of stickers to stones she liked to little sketches she’d made of the house and backyard. Roger was alone with her that evening when she passed over.
“I know you helped me solve the mystery like you promised, but I’ll haunt you anyway. It would be my pleasure to haunt you.” That was one of the last things she said.
“Go right ahead.”
After the funeral and the lunch at their oldest son’s house, Roger drove himself home. Everyone said he should stay over at his son’s, but he wanted to go back to see if Beth had left him a sign.
It was late spring, and he was shocked to see that wisteria had spread into the front yard. Had it been that way the night before? He hadn’t noticed it. It must have spread from the back to the front overnight. It was invasive and brilliant, the most beautiful flower.
After he sold the house, he took a cutting of it with him to plant outside his window at the assisted living place. Whether he liked it or not, life was without end. Before he died, the wisteria would spread even farther.
Ivy Grimes lives in Virginia. Her work has appeared in Potomac Review, Pithead Chapel, Salt Hill, Vastarien, Shirley Magazine, and elsewhere. To learn more about her, visit her website.
We are also pleased to present an interview with Ivy Grimes about “Picture Window,” conducted by Superstition Review’s fiction editor, Margaret LaCorte. Read it below.
Margaret LaCorte: The perspectives you chose to write about in Picture Window are from that of an older couple, Roger and Beth, struggling to cope with the loss of their child several years down the road. What made you want to write the story from this perspective?
Ivy Grimes: I grew up in a smallish town, and most of my family was a ten-minute drive away, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and great-aunts and other elders. The process of aging and coming to terms with dying is fascinating and horrible and beautiful. In some ways, people who live to old age are very lucky to experience so much life, but they also grapple with so much suffering and loss. They have more time to puzzle over existential problems for which there are no obvious answers.
I also think that most of us expect others to pass through grief quickly, when really the loss never ends. It’s hard to truly enter into someone else’s pain, and I wanted to explore the perspective of people who were happy in many ways and yet dealt with extraordinary grief over a long period of time.
ML: Death is a central focus of this piece. How have your own experiences with death shaped the manner in which you wrote “Picture Window”?
IG: I was raised as a Christian in the South, and while I have problems with much of the orthodoxy now, I still believe in the life of the spirit. I believe in the peace that sustains us all. I don’t necessarily want to believe this, and I know it doesn’t make sense to believe it given the suffering that exists, but I can’t help it. Struggling with my faith and trying to make sense of the world we live in has led me to write some depressing stories, and yet for me, there’s something inexpressibly comforting behind it all.
I’ve experienced death and grief, but not in the same way the characters in the story have—not with the same intensity. They feel responsible for their daughter, and to lose someone so close and so young is a different kind of grief. Plus, they wonder what they could have done. There’s something especially shocking about suicide, and often there’s no sense of why and whether the person found peace. Suicide rips a hole in the fabric of a community. People often blame themselves when they weren’t to blame as individuals, but we are responsible as a community. We have to continually think of how to create communities where we notice and address suffering.
ML: Roger and Beth struggle in understanding what really was the cause of their daughter’s death. What made you decide to incorporate this level of uncertainty into the story?
IG: I think it’s common not to know why people commit suicide, even if the person leaves behind an explanation. In many cases, there’s been no direct communication about thoughts of suicide (which is why it’s so important to share these thoughts when they arise and to seek help). I wanted to show how this confusion might affect those left behind, and how they might grapple with those feelings. Whenever anyone dies, or when they leave us behind, we’re generally left with anger and grief, and we want to know why…in a larger sense, why does life have to be this way? And I’d like to think that if you remain open, you might not find clear answers, but you might find signs and some sense of peace.
ML: Setting plays a big role in Wendy’s death, as well as her parents’ acceptance of it. Can you speak to the significance of placing the setting of her death within the woods behind Roger and Wendy’s home?
IG: Many tragedies in our lives happen in our homes or right outside our doors, and so a place associated with wonderful memories can also be associated with deep sadness. I’ve especially seen older people cope with this, and it’s mind-boggling to me. I hate the idea of living in a house for fifty years and letting the place be a repository for all my ghosts and memories.
For most people, the woods are lovely, but with a hint of danger. For Roger, the woods outside his house became a place he couldn’t go, because he couldn’t bear thinking about what had happened there. By confronting the place and his daughter’s perspective, he was able to see that the woods might have looked different to his daughter. They might have become a place of peace instead of simply a place of suffering.
ML: I found it interesting that Beth’s character is dying through the events of the story, motivating the couple to finally come to terms with their daughter’s death. During the process of writing this, what was the most difficult part of capturing this perspective?
IG: Roger wants to leave the house, and Beth wants to stay close to her daughter’s memory and spirit. I’d want to leave, personally, which is probably why I chose to focus more on Roger’s perspective. I have a hard time sitting with grief for very long, and my response to problems is often to search for a logical explanation, and if I don’t find one, to forget about it as best I can. Roger realizes that his wife has stuck around to find her daughter or some hint of an explanation, and he wants to help. Sometimes when people in our lives believe in something we don’t believe in, we can be harsh. But there’s something healing about taking people seriously, even when we feel like they’re being dramatic or fantastical. So entering into Roger’s perspective wasn’t very hard for me. By the end, he has gained some kind of inexpressible insight, which is something I’ve felt at times. I had a harder time understanding Beth, who keeps striving and mourning and searching her whole life. Fortunately, I was approaching her from the outside.
ML: Your use of symbolism through the recurring use of the wisteria flower was one of my favorite parts of the piece. During the process of writing this story, what other options did you consider using to symbolize the everlasting nature of life?
IG: I considered no other options! Wisteria was the impetus for writing the story. I always enjoyed writing, and my Grandmother Grimes would sometimes come up with subjects for me to write about. She was a natural storyteller, and she loved to tell odd tales to children about creatures in the woods, and she loved talking to adults about what the family and the neighbors and the women in her Garden Club were doing.
So anyway, one day, she told me I should write a story about a man who comes home after his wife’s funeral and sees that the wisteria she once planted (not realizing it was invasive) was everywhere. Everywhere. In truth, my grandmother had planted some wisteria that invaded her trees, and I think she admired it but was also alarmed by its persistence. I don’t know how my grandfather felt about it, but maybe he felt the same. I thought it was a great idea for a story, but I couldn’t think of how to do it justice. I probably still haven’t! But I did the best I could at present. So thank you to my grandmother for that idea and many others!
In just two days, Issue 30 of Superstition Review will launch! On Dec. 1st, readers will have access to paintings, photography, and more—all created by five talented artists: Corey S. Pressman, Jenny Wu, RAEchel Running, Shirin Mellat Gohar, and Valyntina Grenier. Read about all of them below!
Corey S. Pressman is an artist, writer, and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. His art is shown around the country and has won several awards. He has published academic works as well as short stories and poetry in both journals and book collections including Gastronomica, the Clackamas Literary Review, Lucky Jefferson Magazine, and Arizona State University Press.
Jenny Wu is an artist and educator. She is a visiting assistant professor at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. Wu’s work acknowledges the sensational and perceptual properties of materiality and then transforms the materials from their original forms and purpose to present them within new contexts. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums including Denise Bibro Fine Art, Katzen Museum, Huntington Museum of Art, Vilnius Academy of Arts in Lithuania, and CICA Museum in South Korea. Jenny Wu was born in Nanjing, China. She holds a B.A. from William Smith College, and an M.F.A. from American University.
RAEchel Running (She/Her) is a visual storyteller, creating multi-media images that explore and champion restorative relationships of the diverse cultures connected to these beautiful, tragic and mystical histories of the Americas. Born in Flagstaff, AZ, of Trinidadian (Chinese and Afro Caribbean) American (French Canadian and Swedish) She hangs her hat in Bisbee, AZ. Her current work cross-pollinates a documentarian’s eye with handmade and digital photo illustrations, mixing the interspace between reality and dream. Internationally published, she enjoys fostering visual literacy and planet stewardship to inspire and enrich restorative relationships within communities for upcoming generations.
Shirin Mellat Gohar is a visual artist based in Tehran, Iran. She received her BFA from the Tehran University of Art. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions, nationally and internationally, such as Sugar Gallery, USA; Naregatsi Gallery, Armenia; as well as Aaran Gallery, Homa Gallery, First Painting Symposium in Museum of Qasr, and First Drawing Biennial in Iran. Shirin, with a hybrid national identity (Iranian-Iraqi), grew up within Iranian society during Iran-Iraq the war. Working primarily with painting and drawing, she addresses her dual identity through employing domestic crafts, which she learned from her mother at a very young age.
Valyntina Grenier is a multi-genre eco artist living with her wife in Tucson, AZ. She works with paint, ink, neon, encaustic medium, recycled or repurposed materials and words. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Fever Dream/ Take Heart (Cathexis Northwest Press 2020) and In Our Now (Finishing Line Press 2022). You’ll find her work in, Impermanent Earth, The Impossible Beast, The Journal, Lana Turner, The Night Heron Barks, Querencia, Ran Off With the Star Bassoon, Sunspot, and The Wardrobe. Find her at valyntinagrenier.com or Insta @valyntinagrenier.
There’s only a week left until Superstition Review’s Issue 30 Launch Party! Join us next Thursday, Dec. 1st, from 4-5 pm AZ time, as we celebrate Superstition Review’s fifteenth anniversary. The event will feature RAEchel Running, Gabriel Granillo, Audacia Ray, and Danny Rivera.
In just eight days, Issue 30 of Superstition Review will launch! On Dec. 1st, readers will have access to poetry by twelve talented writers: Charles Peck, Constance Hansen, Danny Rivera, Joanne Diaz, Natalie Girratano, Rebecca Griswold, Remi Recchia, Young-Yu Huang, Susan L. Leary, Cynthia Marie Hoffman, Rachel Nelson, and Kathryn Bratt-Pfotenhuar. Read about all of them below!
Charlie Peck is from Omaha, Nebraska. He received his MFA from Purdue University where he served as Editor-in-Chief of Sycamore Review. His work has appeared previously or is forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, Massachusetts Review, Quarterly West, and Best New Poets 2019, among others. He currently teaches at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.
Constance Hansen is the Assistant Managing Editor of Poetry Northwest. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Washington. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in: Rhino Poetry, Four Way Review, Harvard Review Online, Southern Humanities Review, Cimarron Review, The Idaho Review, Vallum, On the Seawall, Northwest Review, Mercury Firs, River Mouth Review, Psaltery & Lyre, EcoTheo Review, Volume Poetry, and elsewhere. She lives in Seattle, where she was born and raised.
Danny Rivera is the author of Ancestral Throat, a poetry chapbook published by Finishing Line Press in 2021. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from City College of New York, and his poems and literary criticism have appeared in Washington Square, Western Humanities Review, Epiphany, American Book Review, and other journals. He lives in New York City.
Joanne Diaz is the author of two poetry collections,The Lessons and My Favorite Tyrants. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her recent poems have been published in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, New England Review, Poetry, River Styx, and Waxwing. She is the Isaac Funk Endowed Professor of English at Illinois Wesleyan University. She is also the co-host of the Poetry for All podcast.
Natalie Giarratano is the author of two full-length poetry collections—Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Waxwing, Mississippi Review, McNeese Review, and Whale Road Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and was the poet laureate of the city from 2018 – 2020.
Rebecca Griswold is an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson. Her debut collection of poems, The Attic Bedroom, is out with Milk & Cake Press. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Blood Orange Review,Still: The Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and others. She was a River Styx International Poetry Contest finalist. She owns and operates White Whale Tattoo alongside her husband in Cincinnati.
Remi Recchia is a trans poet and essayist from Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a PhD candidate in English-Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. He currently serves as an associate editor for the Cimarron Review and as the reviews editor for Gasher Journal. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Remi’s work has appeared in World Literature Today, Best New Poets 2021, Columbia Online Journal, Harpur Palate, and Juked, among others. He holds an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University. Remi is the author of Quicksand/Stargazing (Cooper Dillon Books, 2021) and Sober (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2022).
Yong-Yu Huang is a writer based in Illinois, but she is originally from Taiwan and Malaysia. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Waxwing, Frontier Poetry, and Passages North, among others. She has been recognized by various institutions, including Princeton University, The Kenyon Review, and the Poetry Society of the UK, and the Hippocrates Society. She is the recipient of the 2021 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and has been included in Best Small Fictions. She attends Northwestern University.
Susan L. Leary is the author of Contraband Paradise (Main Street Rag, 2021) and the chapbook, This Girl, Your Disciple (Finishing Line Press, 2019), which was a finalist for The Heartland Review Press Chapbook Prize and a semi-finalist for the Elyse Wolf Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Tar River Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, Cherry Tree, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Pithead Chapel. Recently, she was a finalist for the 16th Mudfish Poetry Prize, judged by Marie Howe. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami, where she also teaches Writing Studies.
Cynthia Marie Hoffman is the author of the poetry collections Call Me When You Want to Talk about the Tombstones, Paper Doll Fetus, and Sightseer. She is a former Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Director’s Guest at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Her work has appeared in Lake Effect, Smartish Pace, The Los Angeles Review, diode, and elsewhere.
Rachel Nelson is a Cave Canem fellow and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s MFA program, where she won a Hopwood prize for playwriting. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the museum of americana, Muzzle Magazine, Pleiades, Radar Poetry, Thrush, and elsewhere. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Kathryn Bratt-Pfotenhauer’s work has previously been published or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Crazyhorse, Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, and others. The recipient of a 2022 Pushcart Prize, they have won awards from the Ledbury Poetry Festival and Bryn Mawr College, as well as received support from The Seventh Wave and Tin House. Their chapbook, Small Geometries, is forthcoming with Ethel Zine and Micro Press in April/May 2023. They attend Syracuse University’s MFA program.
The launch for Issue 30 of Superstition Review is only fifteen days away! On Dec. 1st, readers will have access to fiction stories by seven talented authors: Amy Reardon, Gabriel Granillo, Michael Colbert, Mohamed Shalabi, Morris Collins, Patrick Thomas Henry, and J. T. Townley. Read about all of them below!
Amy Reardon has an MFA in fiction from UC Riverside. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Alta Journal Electric Literature, Glamour, The Common, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: Trey Burnette
Gabriel Matthew Granillo is a writer and photographer. His works have appeared in both print and online journals including Postcard Poems and Prose, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Timberline Review. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is an editor at Oni Press.
Michael Colbert is a queer writer based in Massachusetts, where he’s at work on a novel about bisexual love, loss, and hauntings. He holds an MFA from UNC Wilmington, and his writing appears in Esquire, NYLON, Catapult, and Electric Literature, among others.
Mohamed (Moe) Shalabi is a Palestinian-American author of literary works, often with a speculative edge. Moe’s short stories appear in multiple literary magazines both online and in print and can be found in the Nonbinary Review and Reed Literary. His short story Palestina was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When he’s not working on his many manuscripts, Moe works as a full-time consultant in the Washington D.C. Metro. He is represented by Kat Kerr of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.
Morris Collins’ first novel, Horse Latitudes, was published in 2013 and was released in a 2nd edition by Dzanc Books in January 2019. He was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship for Fiction in 2020. Other fiction and poetry has appeared in Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Passages North, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Chattahoochee Review and The Florida Review among others.
Patrick Thomas Henry is the fiction and poetry editor for Modern Language Studies. His fiction and essays have recently appeared in West Branch online, Lake Effect, Sundog, North Dakota Quarterly, and other publications. His work was selected for inclusion in Best Microfiction 2020, and his short story collection manuscript won the 2022 Northeast Modern Language Association Creative Writing Book Award, selected by Jean McGarry. He is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Creative Writing at the University of North Dakota. You can find him on Twitter @Patrick_T_Henry.
J. T. Townley has published in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, and dozens of other magazines and journals. His stories (“A Christmas Letter,” “My Life as Mark Wahlberg,” and “The Hole That Dave Dug”) have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and another (“Meat Dreams”) has been nominated for the Best of the Net award. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an MPhil in English from the University of Oxford, and he teaches fiction writing at Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University.
Issue 30 of Superstition Review will be launched December 1st, marking SR’s 15th year anniversary. This issue features interviews with five award-winning authors: Angie Cruz, Leopoldo Gout, Rudy Ruiz, Manuel Muñoz, and Raquel Gutiérrez. All interviews were conducted by Riqué “Rich” Duhamell, this semester’s interview section editor. Read about the authors below!
Angie Cruz is a novelist and editor. Her most recent novel is How Not To Drown in A Glass of Water (2022). Her novel, Dominicana, was the inaugural book pick for GMA bookclub and shortlisted for The Women’s Prize, long-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction, The Aspen Words Literary Prize, a RUSA Notable book and the winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award in fiction. Cruz is the author of two other novels, Soledad and Let It Rain Coffee, and the recipient of numerous fellowships and residencies. She’s published shorter works in The Paris Review, VQR, Callaloo, Gulf Coast and other journals. She’s the founder and Editor-in-chief of the award winning literary journal, Aster(ix) and is currently an Associate Professor at University of Pittsburgh. She divides her time between Pittsburgh, New York, and Turin.
A visual artist, filmmaker, and writer who hails from Mexico City, Leopoldo Gout studied sculpture at Central St. Martins School of Art in London. His work belongs to multiple collections and has been in exhibitions all over the world. After finishing his studies, Gout’s creativity extended into writing, television, and film. He is the author of the books Ghost Radio and the award-winning Genius YA trilogy, and the recently published fable for all ages, Monarca. Piñata is set to publish with Tor Nightfire in March 2023.
Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction, essays, and political commentary. His earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing, and was awarded a Ford Foundation grant to support his writing endeavors. Seven for the Revolution was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards.
Manuel Muñoz is the author of two previous collections and a novel. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, three O. Henry Awards, and has appeared in Best American Short Stories. A native of Dinuba, California, he lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Raquel Gutiérrezis an arts critic/writer, poet and educator. Gutiérrez is a 2021 recipient of the Rabkin Prize in Arts Journalism, as well as a 2017 recipient of the The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Her/Their writing has recently appeared in or is forthcoming in Art In America, NPR Music, Places Journal, and The Georgia Review. Gutiérrez teaches in the Oregon State University-Cascades Low Residency Creative Writing MFA Program. Her/Their first book of proseBrown Neon is an ekphrastic memoir that considers what it means to be a Latinx artist during the Trump era. Gutiérrez calls Tucson, Arizona home.
“Interrupted by Trains,” an event which takes place at Splinter Collective, is fast approaching! Curated and hosted by Samantha Bloom, “Interrupted by Trains” happens on the fourth Saturday of every month at 7:30pm. This time, it will feature visual art and poetry by Valyntina Grenier, as well as poetry from Farid Matuk, Mo LaFlo, Viv, Jess Rite and Sara Sams. Each performance will have an ASL translator.
Valyntina Grenier is the author of two chapbooks—Fever Dream / Take Heart and In Our Now—and her art has appeared in exhibitions in Tucson, Phoenix, California, and Texas. Her art will also be featured in Issue 30 of Superstition Review.
This event requires that participants wear masks. Splinter Collective’s goal is to “provide a safe, accessible and equitable physical and community space for liberatory art practices and social justice organizing.” They currently reside in an adobe warehouse in Tucson, Arizona.