Join Superstition Review in congratulating one of our past contributors, Claire Fuller, on her forthcoming book, Unsettled Ground, out May 18th. The novel follows “an unusual family held together by a string of lies, a small town with too many questions, and a sudden death that threatens to undo them all.” Through this tale, Claire “masterfully builds a [story] of sacrifice and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized and remarkable people uncover long-held family secrets and, in their own way, repair, recover, and begin again.”
“Unsettled Ground is a gorgeously written celebration of the natural world as well as a moving portrait of a family struggling against time. Through buried secrets and private longings, the Seeders emerge as multi-layered characters living at the fringes of society. This book is ultimately about redemption—about the unexpected importance of neighbors, lovers, and friends, and the ways in which we can re-envision our lives for the better, even after the unimaginable has occurred.”
Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised
A US launch event for the book will be held on publication date, May 18th, online via McNally Jackson. For more details on the event as well as more about Claire’s US book tour, please visit her website.
Click here to pre-order your copy of Unsettled Ground. Be sure to also check out Claire’s Twitter and our interview with her in Issue 21.
Last night I read my poetry master’s thesis in my childhood bedroom on a Zoom call. The walls of my room are painted like the rainforest from third grade when I obsessed over jungles and canopies. In the background, my cohort and professors could probably make out the blue sky painted on the ceiling of the room and the closet in the background that still houses old dresses, short-shorts, and cosplay costumes from high school.
I haven’t lived at my parents’ house consistently for over six years. Part of that distance has to do with coming out as a queer transgender person. I have returned after my housemates and I were unable to make rent in our New York apartment due to COVID19 closures and uncertainty of future employment.
The juxtaposition between my childhood bedroom, a place where I grappled for the first part of my life with gender, sexuality, and mental health, and the achievement of finishing an MFA as a queer trans poet, is, ironically, something I could see myself having written into a poem months ago before any of this began.
In my poetry, I often turn to the surreal, the fantastical, the paranormal, and the absurd to make sense of the fulcrums of my life and my place in society as a queer person. The deeper we wade into the pandemic and into the increasingly disturbing and violent American landscape, the weirder and weirder I have found my poetry becoming. Usually, before the pandemic, I would take notes to write poems daily but I have found myself waking up and leaning into whatever images are stalking my thoughts. I find comfort in my strangeness because the worlds that warp and distort time feel more real and true than the present.
This past week I have been reading a collection of poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, who I admittedly only stumbled upon because there’s a Frank O’Hara poem I love titled by his name. In his poems, I find the threads of my own tilting away from realism in order to grapple with injustice. There is a sad humor to his speakers similar to O’Hara’s. In, “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage,” he writes:
And beyond that village yawned a hole, into that hole- and not just maybe – the sun for certain always rolled, slowly, surely, daily. At morn to flood the world again the sun rose up- and ruddied it. Day after day it happened this way, till I got fed up with it.
And one day I let out such a shout, that everything grew pale, point-blank at the sun I yelled: “Get out! Enough of loafing there in hell!”
This moment in the poem sticks with me because the idea the sun could retreat into a hole and then the speaker’s anger and address to the sun tells us something I think is incommunicable without turning away from “reality.” The earnestness of the speaker and the futility of yelling at the sun is much like how I feel right now. The bends in perception capture what we are experiencing as humans who also implicated and interpolated in complex systems of oppression in a time of great loss, grief, and injustice.
The speaker shouting “Get out!” embodies how I have been experiencing time. I forget what day it is. An afternoon takes eons and then a week is totally gone. The speaker wants the persistent cycles to stop and even chastises the sun for his role in this.
I wish I had more time to find endings. Instead, I have been brought back to a physical place full many of my ghosts.
In the absurd and surreal I find my contradictions survive together. There is healing in letting the worlds of my poems unravel in ways the physical word doesn’t allow for. I’ll leave you with the last lines of a poem I wrote today:
i hope the sky is eventually mauve. i hope the stone melts to magma & the mountains finally get to experience a real transformation. i too turned to liquid & cooled in the stream. pillow over my head. the sun is blinking or winking who can know which?
Dedication: For all writers who struggle with mental illness. But particularly, for Aubrie Cox Warner and Jill Talbot who, whether they realize it or not, continue to inspire me to be vulnerable and open. With thanks to Ben Barnes for assistance with self-portraits and so much more.
Congratulations to SR Contributor Irena Praitis on her prize-winning book of poems The Last Stone in the Circle which is set to release June 2016 from Red Mountain Press. The collection features poems from Issue One, and is available for order here.
For those in Sante Fe, Irena will be reading her work at Teatro Paraguas, 3504 Calle Marie at 3pm on June 19.
Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. If you’ve ever tried blogging, you know what I’m talking about. The immediacy and candidness of an internet platform can be both a blessing and a curse. To help you navigate the world of blogging, we’ve compiled a list of 10 blogging tips and tricks from some of our favorite blogging guides, Blogging For Dummies(Susannah Gardner) and Blogging Heroes(Michael A. Banks).
1. Just write anything. This isn’t to say that you should start pouring your heart out for all of the Internet to see, but the best way to overcome writer’s block is just to start writing. Getting something, anything, written down is better than staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor, even if you think what you’ve written is absolute rubbish. What you write doesn’t have to be good (at least not right away). That’s why they call it a draft.
2. When you’re on a roll, don’t stop. I’ll have some great days where I feel I could write 10,000 words on every subject, and there are other days when I feel I would have difficulty writing my name. Understanding that I have that flexibility to think and creatively write ahead of time gives me a little wiggle room for those days when I am feeling compositionally-challenged. When creativity strikes, keep writing. You can always stockpile posts for another day.
3. Interact with other bloggers. The blogosphere is a great place to create new friends, talk about the things you love, and become inspired. Do you love grilled cheese? Well, there’s probably a blog about that. Commenting on other blogs can not only increase traffic to your blog, but can also lead to some interesting topics. Just don’t forget to be polite. No one likes an Internet troll.
4. Be authentic. Without passion and authenticity, your blog is going to fall flat. Write about something that interests you. Ask yourself if it is something you would want to read, because if you wouldn’t want to read it, neither will your audience.
5. Know your audience. There has been some debate as to whether or not analytic tools are an invasion of privacy. Even here at Superstition Review, we try to keep our readers updated with our latest stats through Google Analytics. Analytic tools do not store personal information. They do, however, allow bloggers to take a closer look at who is frequenting the site, what they’re looking at, how long they linger, and where they’re coming from. These tools are vital in understanding who you’re writing for. With this information, you can tailor your post to better meet the interests of your readership, and scrap ideas that aren’t working.
6. Don’t be afraid to fail. Your blog probably won’t become an overnight success. The best part about blogging is that you can experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. As blogger Scott McNulty advised, “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s the same as everything else: If you work hard and stick to it, eventually you’ll grow your audience. Of course, if you are interested as I am in a particular subject, you’ll just do it for the love of the subject, and success will usually follow.”
7. Grow a thick skin. Not everyone is going to agree with everything you say and that is okay. What you write, what you think, and what you say will be under constant criticism. Because the Internet is a fairly anonymous platform, commenters will say things that they would never openly say to your face. It is important that you not take these comments personally. Be polite and never go on the defensive. Acknowledge their views and try to take a neutral ground. The chances that you’re going to convince someone they’re wrong is slim to none.
8. Post consistently. Once you build your readership, it is important that you keep them coming back. If you leave your blog dormant for a month or even a few weeks, interest is going to wane quickly. There are thousands of blogs that have been abandoned by their bloggers (can’t you hear their lonely sobbing?). If you don’t post consistently, your readers will think your blog is one of them. Try to make a schedule for yourself. Set goals and stick to them.
9. Cite your sources. Stealing ideas and images is just as bad as running out of Best Buy with a cart of electronics you didn’t pay for. It is okay to draw from other sources as long as you give them credit where it is due.
10. Have fun. Blogging can be a great learning opportunity and a lot of fun. It has opened doors for a lot of people over the past decade and has given voices to writers from every walk of life. Don’t let it overwhelm you.
I highly recommend you check out Blogging Heroes and Blogging For Dummies for more tips and tricks. Their guides have been invaluable to me and a wonderful resource to fall back on when I’m in need of some advice.
AWP won’t come around again until next year, but if you’re thinking of attending, it is never too early to start preparing. We’ve compiled a few survival tips to help you navigate and adjust to the dizzying pace of your first AWP conference.
1. Wear comfortable shoes. AWP is the biggest writer’s conference in the US, meaning it will be sprawled across an enormous venue. You’ll be doing a lot of walking between panels – and possibly some running if you’re lost or trying to see more than one panel per hour. Leave those fancy shoes, high heels, or dress shoes that pinch your toes at home.
2. See more than one panel per hour – at least on your first day. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave mid-panel (although to be polite we suggest you do it during applause or between speakers). Take advantage of the multitude of offerings to see and learn as much as possible. Using this strategy the first day will give you a good idea of what kind of panels are useful to you and which ones are way over your head or just too basic.
3. Find overlapping topics in order to narrow down your panel list. Dying to see that panel on political poetry that conflicts with the one that offers advice on submissions? See if there are other panels that deal with politics in literature. Finding overlap is a good way to narrow down your list to those panels that you just can’t miss.
4. Wear pants. This mainly applies to women (though gents, it’s probably not a good idea to show up without your pants). You’ll most likely end up sitting on the floor, walking up stairs, or as we mentioned earlier, running (there is a lot of running), so if your heart is set on wearing a skirt, make sure you can still sit on the floor comfortably.
5. Sit on the floor. Popular panels get crowded fast, but don’t let it discourage you. You don’t necessarily have to see the panelists’ faces to absorb their great advice. Plus, it’s easier to leave between speakers when you’re not trapped in the front row with all eyes on you.
6. Try not to step on the floor-sitters’ appendages. Take it from me — having your foot or your fingers stomped on hurts.
7. Scope out nearby diners for coffee and affordable food. Chances are, the prices at your hotel are going to be high. Even the servers treat their prices like a joke. “Will you be ordering off the menu, or would you like to try our sixteen dollar breakfast bar?” one waiter asked us with an ironic smile. A little bit of walking will keep you from emptying your wallet just for a bottle of water.
8. Bring snacks. With all those panels, there may not be time for lunch, and with those amusingly high prices, keeping supplies with you can end the temptation to buy that $16.00 bottle of water. We writers aren’t exactly a wealth-soaked group, so no one will judge you for pulling out a sleeve of Ritz crackers during a panel. Just remember to clean up after yourself and try not to make a mess.
9. Go to the dance party, especially if you’re over 21. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many half-drunk writers shaking it like a Polaroid picture on the dance floor. Make a game out of it. See how many poets & fiction writers you can find doing the Macarena or the Robot. Remember to tip well at the bar and ask for two drinks at a time in order to avoid the long lines. Use whatever time you do spend waiting in line to make new friends.
10. Hang out with the friends you made at events and panels. See where they’re going for dinner and tag along. Visit their tables at the book fair. Don’t be shy. Being at AWP, you already have a lot in common.