Poetry Blog: Jaclyn Youhana Garver

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Jaclyn Youhana Garver is a freelance writer in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She writes fiction and poetry, and she has been featured in Narrow Road, Poets Reading the News, and Prometheus Dreaming (forthcoming). Her work has also been chosen by the Wick Poetry Center as a Traveling Stanza selection.  


Jaclyn’s Poem:

A COLLEGE GIRL MAKES WARDROBE DECISIONS BASED ON THE POSSIBILITY OF A RANDOM TSA SCREENING

    1964

White kid gloves / cinched waist / her perched hat the 
precise plum match to her two-piece suit / a corsage

    (seriously, a goddamned corsage)

/ a Cherries in the Snow pout / a blushing visage 
coral or rose / a fur, perhaps, in beaver or lamb.

    2004

Pajama pants, peppered in cartoons / flip flops 
with jewels that stud the thongs / pigtails 

    (seriously, goddamn pigtails)

/ a gray T-shirt that boasts, 
“Journalists do it daily.”

Don’t look at me, Terry, standing in line. I know 
you’ve a quota to meet, so many at random

searches to complete to assure you don’t permit on 
the plane any drugs, bombs or hydrogen dioxide. 

    (Water, Terry, I’m talking about water.)

It doesn’t matter, though. You’ll search me nonetheless, 
just like that agent last time and the agent who’ll be next.

And anyways, I’ll stick with PJs and pigtails, my sandwich 
board to shout I’m threatening like sidewalk chalk, an eagle 

scout, freckles, and winks, but apparently, the extra melanin 
in my skin, a gift from my father, means you must pull me

from the line, away from my friends—none of whom you
also select at random, I see, goddamn it, Terry—so you 

run the backs of your Caucasian hands along my Persian arms, 
my cartooned inseam, my Assyrian torso. Then you make me move 

my Iranian pigtails from my Middle Eastern shoulders. 
You look so bored, Terry, and I wonder if you notice: 

We’re quite the chatty portrait of our country tis of thee.

Interview With Jaclyn:

The setting of your poem is very specific and relatable for people who have travelled in American airports. What inspired you to write about the experience of a TSA screening?

This summer, I found a photo of myself at an airport in 2004, with two college friends, on the way to a Society of Professional Journalists conference in NYC. For the three or so years after 9/11, I began to be “randomly” searched on every flight I boarded. Seriously. Every flight. I thought it would help if I dressed in an unintimidating way. I remember I did this each time I flew, but it was wild to see photographic proof, especially compared to two other young adults who were dressed in, you know, normal airplane-appropriate clothing. Finding the photo, seeing how 21-year-old me felt like she had to dress, seriously pissed me off.

You’ve spent an impressive amount of time working for daily newspapers during your professional career. How do you feel this writing experience impacted you creatively? 

I can’t even imagine writing creatively without my journalism experience. Writing for a daily newspaper made me completely deadline-focused. If a journalist doesn’t finish her story on time, there could an actual hole in the newspaper. Plus, the piece needs to be done well and accurately, often in hours or less—journalists don’t have days and days to perfect a piece of writing. 

I adore the saying Done is better than perfect. Writers, especially creative writers, can get stuck in this I can’t show this to anyone because it’s not perfect hole. Then nothing ever gets finished. Writing for a daily newspaper was a wonderful way to keep from being too precious about my words. What I write matters, and it’s important to me, but once I turn in a story, it’s on to the next thing.

Writing for daily publication also gave me tough skin. I adore editor feedback and love seeing how subsequent drafts improve. Similarly, I also trust my gut. Writing is a wonderful mixture of both subjectivity and objectivity, even in poetry. My newspaper experience gave me an almost scientific approach to being creative.

What audience do you hope to reach through your poetry? Why is this audience meaningful to you?

As a reader, the best feeling is “Oh my goodness, you too? I thought I was the only one.” As a writer, then, that’s who I want to reach—anyone who has felt like me, to help them feel less alone. Strangely, the opposite is true, too: It’s such a rush to be told “I never thought of it in that way before.” 

Those audiences are meaningful to me because it means we have a shared experience. Especially in 2020, feeling a connection—to anyone, even some writer you’ve never met—is vital. 

How has the global pandemic impacted your creative process?

The pandemic hasn’t impacted my creative process so much as it’s impacted my creative output. I’ve written poetry since I was about 12 and I had a writing minor in college, so writing creatively has always been a part of my life. However, the pandemic made me itch to do more. I answered that by enrolling in a poetry class. The instructor helped me figure out what was missing from my poetry unlike any writing teacher I’ve had before. After the class, I asked where she was teaching next, and I signed up for that class, too. She helped me see where and how my work could be improved, which simultaneously showed me how to edit my own work.

This year has been hard, and there are a few things I can point to and say “That, specifically, made things a little easier.” Writing poetry is one of those things.

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

In college, a journalism professor taught us to let the other person have the last say. When someone reaches out to a reporter to complain about something they wrote, the caller or emailer doesn’t actually care what the writer has to say about it. They just want to be heard (and maybe to be nasty). That knowledge, that someone who has something mean to say isn’t looking for a response, is incredibly freeing.

What are your upcoming projects?

I have a number of manuscripts in the works, but two are currently taking up the most of my time—a poetry book and a women’s fiction novel, which I will be pitching to agents early next year. I also write horror short stories. I love bouncing between genres and working on projects of varying lengths.

Poetry Blog: Paul Chuks

Following is an interview conducted by Superstition Review‘s Poetry Editor, Erin Peters.

Paul Chuks is an emerging Nigerian poet, writer and song writer, studying philosophy at the University of Benin, Edo state, Nigeria. He has appeared or is forthcoming in StreetCake Magazine, Kalahari Review, Neurological Magazine, Afritondo, The Remnant Archive and was recently shortlisted for The 49th Street‘s top ten poets in Nigeria. When Paul is not reading or writing songs, he’s critiquing the hiphop game or mimicking Michael Jackson.


Paul’s Poem:

To the Man Standing at the corner lifting the placard that said “All Lives Matter” as a protest against Black Lives Matter.

Your ancestors have apparelled in seem like bruteness in the past

But in this one, you are standing in a corner watching black lives evanesce like lights beholding a murky sky. 

                 You think about justice, but your soul is

                 a leaky faucet, expelling your empathy 

                 into an abysmal pit.

My ancestors’ tears are the ghosts of this poem/appearing as metaphors/telling you to drop that placard, go home & shut your mouth like Trump’s border[s]/because you are slow-dancing with the injustice of their history. 

                  You are sipping our pain into a black-

                  hole/& our cries go out like a bird’s 

                  tweet against a horrendous wind-

                  storm. 

This poem is a scar tissue/like the body of a slave/telling the world/that blacks wouldn’t clamour for their lives to matter if there was fairness/as the world wouldn’t know dryness if there were no tongues.


Interview with Paul:

What motivated you to write your poem as a direct address? What impact do you hope this form will have on your audience?

I wrote the poem as a direct address, because many have allowed themselves to elude the important message of the movement, that is: take black lives seriously as you take others. When George Floyd’s sad situation happened, & the BLM movement kicked off to an almost untamable situation, many on the internet, sewed threads that ran counter to the BLM movement, with the prevalent theme: ALL LIVES MATTER. It irked me because they have not recognized that ALL LIVES MATTER remains a superstition, if a black boy can be shot at, because he reached into his car for his hair-brush, but the officer mistook it for a gun. And the jury acquits the officer on account that he tried to clamp down a druggie. ALL LIVES MATTER is a remark of the ignorant, or the devil, who enjoys the maltreatment of black people.

What has inspired you to write about the Black Lives Matter movement?

I think my biggest inspiration to write about the BLM movement, is the fact that I’m black. I have an ambition of taking a Masters course in America. The moment I get there, I’ll wear the profile of a black boy. I also write about them, because I can feel & perceive their pain. The Injustice makes all of us bleed from sealed places. 

What audience do you hope to reach through your poetry? Why is this audience meaningful to you?

My poetry is intended to be variegated with everything possible to make a subject of, so i want the whole world to listen to me, while i play the game of painting pictures with words & inkling of my feeling(s). B: the audience is meaningful because without them, my tag as a poet is a facade. My pets can’t read, neither can the birds that perch on the trees behind my house.

How has the global pandemic impacted your creative process?

The pandemic has not affected my creative process, so far. Rather, my academic life. It has cancelled an academic year, pushing my future farther..all in this transient life. 

What is the most important piece of advice you have received as a writer?

My best advice as a writer was gotten from another awesome writer I admire: Nome Patrick. He said: Paul, read more than you write. It was an interesting discussion on the essence of reading and the miracle it does to one’s repertoire. It has worked so far.

What are your upcoming projects?

More & more poetry. In fact, a chapbook is in sight. But for now, more poetry.

Contributor Update, Cameron Barnett

Join Superstition Review in congratulating past contributor and Carol Brown Award-winning poet Cameron Barnett for being featured in the Poetry Society of America‘s poetry series, “Saying his Name.” The series is curated by Terrance Hayes and focuses on how the story of Emmett Till’s murder in the 1950s has influenced a new generation of black poets. Emmett Till was just a child at the time of his lynching and his story is still intimately tied to many people’s perceptions of what it means to be a young black boy in America. Cameron’s poem is titled “Emmett Till Haunts the Library in Money, MS” and touches on the invisibility with which black boys learn to navigate the world, a poignant and bitter dissection of the way black authors have been tucked aside and forgotten over the years. Check out the poem for yourself here.

Be sure to take a look at Cameron’s website here and his poems featured in Issue 22 here.

Essay as Solid Object, a Guest Post by David Lazar

Essay as Solid Object

On July 18, 1974, Pete Seeger wrote to me: “Dear Dave: Thanks for your letter and the magazine. Please believe me, in a very short while most individuals’ names are forgotten. But the work we do will play a part in the future, for good or bad. And the work that millions of people must now do is to realize that it is they who are important, not a few well known individuals. I hope that you in your writing can make people proud of themselves and help them get off their asses as they will if they would only realize how effective each one of us can be if we want to. Best Wishes, Pete Seeger.” Underneath he wrote, in script, his tag line, “Take it easy, but take it.” Here’s the context: I was the co-editor of my high school history magazine, with Rob Steele (first and last names synonyms), and Rob agreed with my dedicatory desire.

I sent a copy of our magazine, a ragtag issue of mini-essays mostly indicting Nixon, though I wrote a mixed review of the recently released Planet Waves by Bob Dylan for, I now imagine, without a great deal of ballast, some arty cred. It was smart and committed for seventeen year olds, and Pete Seeger’s response—I don’t have a copy of my undoubtedly sincere letter—is a redoubt of his reputation for being a good guy. And, as you might imagine, from my little row house perch in Brooklyn, I was just so pleased that that this icon that I admired politically and musically was encouraging me to write.

In 1974, I had already had experience working in a political campaign. Rob Steele (I’m trying not to say it again) and I were co-managers of canvassing for the McGovern campaign in our Brooklyn district. This says something about our dedication and perspicacity, or the terrible organization of the campaign. There have been moments over the last 45 years when I’ve thought, “how was he supposed to win with a couple of 15 year olds directing his canvassing?” In any case, I went on to work for the campaigns of Bella Abzug and Ramsey Clark, and got into the habit of thinking that throwing my heart into the campaigns of those who were throwing their hats into the ring meant inevitable heartbreak. These were the campaigns of, to use Leonard Cohen’s phrase, “beautiful losers.”

David Lazar

My next directly political foray was working for the Sanctuary organizing committee in Syracuse in 1982-3. It was mostly a group of nuns and me meeting and trying to find a way to use the upstate Catholic churches to give safe have to political refugees from Guatemala and Nicaragua. Anyone remember all that, or has all of this faded into the morass of Reagan hagiography?

I’ve almost forgotten one other early episode: I was a on a ballot slate in the NY primary in 1977, to be an elector to choose the Democratic nominee for State Supreme Court in NY. I won a slot for undoubtedly obscure reasons—perhaps the perverse people in my district thought I was Swifty Lazar, and spent a quiet few hours months later casting an inconsequential vote.

Since then, my direct action has been limited to political donations, a few marches here and there, signing petitions, and spouting off incessantly about a series of mostly fixed betes noirs: the cupidity of the Republican party, the misery of thinly (if at all) disguised racist, misogynist and homophobic indulgences by the seemingly endless dying white patriarchy. You know: that kind of thing. I am, after all, no less a type than any one else: a progressive New York Jew born of familial connections to the labor movement. A quirky type, yes, even perhaps inconsistent, perchance unpredictable if the barometer is swinging wildly, but mostly close to the set of beliefs I had, lo, those many years ago in Brooklyn.

Now, as for Pete Seeger’s admonition about using my writing, and my own consideration of how politics has figured in my work: the result has been rather indirect, I think, but far from absent. I’m tempted to say to I’m not a political writer until I realize that I’m not at all an apolitical writer—far from it. My politics, which is to say my political self is too essential to me, too bound, to ever be too many rooms away from where I’m throwing the children’s hammer down on the walnut of whatever obsession I happen to be chasing in an essay. It makes itself known in almost everything I write, even if what I write doesn’t lead with political questions or ideations. The Rosenbergs, Donald Trump, 911 . . . my indignity at various forms of human indignities make themselves known. But to be fair these are all things that I discuss as part of my thinking-feeling self, not as leading subjects.

One of my favorie essays has always been Orwell’s “Why I Write,” just as Orwell has always been one of the polestars of the essay for me—a bit, I suppose, like saying, “I just adore Bach. He’s one of the best.” In any case, in “Why I Write,” Orwell speaks to his reputation as a political essayist and surprises, as an essayist might, an essayist should, by upending our expected sense of his motives. First he describes his sense of the political, telling us that no book is apolitical, and that he means the word in the widest sense, as the “Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after” which can manifest itself in so many ways, in deeply personal writing, in fact. Along with insisting on his rational, committed, getting people of their asses motives (which Orwell, however, took more ambitiously into a desire to change consciousness), he acknowledges, “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.”

It is precisely in the ability to combine these impulses, sometimes jarring, but hardly contradictory, that great works are born. Think Baldwin, Hazlitt, Woolf’s Room of One’s Own. One of the reasons I love Orwell is his understanding of what he could never be free of: “I am not able, and I do not want, completely to abandon the world-view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.”

This is one of my favorite passages in the entire essay canon: so clear, self-knowing, resigned to what cannot be changed, what must be. The essay, one comes to almost feel here, is a solid object that can change the world a little through oneself.

Contributor Update, Kathleen Winter

Join us in congratulating past Superstition Review contributor and award-winning poet Kathleen Winter on being featured in DMQ Review’s September Virtual Salon. The DMQ Virtual Salon is a series in which authors share poems from their 2020 books. Kathleen released her latest book of poems titled Transformer in June of this year. It is currently on sale through Small Press Distribution. This collection of poems focuses on violence and domestic abuse, the pain that often comes with revisiting the past, and the nakedness with which one must present herself in order to discuss these things. Kathleen uses historical references and a transcendence through physical spaces we are all familiar with in order to craft a narrative that is electric with emotion. Congratulations Kathleen on the release of your new book and for being featured in DMQ Review’s September Virtual Salon!

Check out Kathleen’s poetry featured in Issue 13 here and Issue 20 here. Be sure to also check out an interview she did for the Chris Rice Cooper Blog here.

How To Be More Than One Thing, A Guest Post By Rochelle Hurt

How to Be More Than One Thing

I’ve been thinking about collaboration as a means of queering. In writing, collaboration queers the traditional artist-as-precious-genius notion by forcing writers to relinquish creative control while still in the midst of creating. It queers the solitary writing process by exposing our artistic vulnerabilities. It queers the commercial author machine by sharing profit and leaving less room for a promotional cult of personality. It can even queer the almighty “I” on any given page.

I’m currently at work on a collaborative poetry project with Carol Guess about a character named NonMom. Like me, and like Carol, NonMom is queer. Love and sex aren’t structured around binary gender for NonMom. She lives without interest in the heteropatriarchal family structure. She rejects easy categories. Sometimes she refuses a stable identity altogether.

So I’ve also been thinking about what it means to claim that term, queer—and not just as a verb, which academics (including myself) love to do. I’m talking about a concrete, women-loving woman (to use my own life) kind of queerness. Around the time that Carol and I began this project, I also began to claim queerness for myself in concrete ways, though I hesitated to use the term at first, because it was not a term I’d claimed in the past. When I’d been in straight relationships, I had written about queerness a little—but only in “persona” poems. I’m embarrassed to say this now, afraid of suggesting to you that I was in the closet or simply oblivious. Those notions don’t capture my life in the slightest.

As Carol (who is a frequent collaborator) has pointed out to me, a collaborative poem is a kind of persona poem. The reader knows the “I” is compromised. If needed, the author can hide—but she can also write a role for herself. I didn’t want to hide in NonMom. I wanted to enter into something big and complicated with the support of another queer writer. I wanted to create some of the most confessional poems I’ve ever written by claiming not just queerness in NonMom’s voice, but also her refusal to keep quiet. She’s outspoken about her desires—and her lack of a desire for children, which is embraced in her very name. I, on the other hand, am still learning how to speak up about such things.

A former colleague once spoke to me about an acquaintance who identified as a lesbian but married a man, had a child, then divorced the man and fell in love with a woman. It was just that she made such a big deal about being a lesbian, my colleague explained, and then she wasn’t, and then she was again. It was the swerve that bothered her, apparently—the shift from one lane to another, or perhaps worse: occupying multiple lanes. The question that needled: How could anyone be more than one thing?

In collaboration, voices can meld, but they can also clash in fruitful ways. I often teach collaborative work from literary journals and anthologies (like They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing). One of my favorite collaborative essays to teach is “Pink” by Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade. I ask my students why it matters that the essay has two authors. Many admit that they didn’t at first notice there were two authors, while others say they knew because one author calls herself “straight” and speaks of an ex-husband, while another calls herself “a proud gay woman”—though it’s not necessarily clear who is speaking at any given moment in the essay. At this point, someone in class typically reminds everyone that who you’re with doesn’t determine your sexuality. Maybe someone else says sexuality can change. A pregnant pause enters the room. Eventually we conclude that although there are two distinct authors, the lines between their identities and experiences intersect and even blur. After that, my students usually create fantastic collaborative essays that use “I” to challenge the very notion of a stable identity.

On the page I am Rochelle and I am NonMom, who is also Carol, who is also I. We travel a loop through the poem, leaving in the center a wide-open space for being.

Contributor Update, Sigrid Nunez

We are pleased to announce that former Superstition Review contributor Sigrid Nunez has just released a new book titled What Are You Going Through. Sigrid is a New York Times bestselling author and her newest book is one of seven she has written over her career. What Are You Going Through is narrated by a woman who uses the stories of friends, family members, and even strangers to assess the beauty of human nature through the conversations they hold. The narrator is a passive listener until she gets whirled into a life-changing encounter of her very own. What Are You Going Through is currently available for purchase on Amazon.

“Reading Sigrid Nunez’s absorbing new novel is somewhat akin to having a long conversation with someone who is telling you something very important, but is telling it in a very quiet voice. You have to really pay attention. Be assured, however, that the experience will be worth it. You will emerge calmer, meditative, more thoughtful, as if you have benefited from an excellent literary massage of sorts.” –The New York Times Book Review

Congratulations Sigrid!

Learn more about Sigrid at her website here or by reading her Issue 10 interview here.

ASU’s Common Read to Host Jonathan Safran Foer

Join Arizona State University’s Department of English in welcoming author Jonathan Safran Foer at a virtual event to be hosted on October 1, 2020 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. The goal of the Common Read program is to have incoming freshman read and write about a topic of interest that relates to ASU’s mission for change. For this event, the focus will be on environmental protection, as is described in Jonathan’s book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. The event, where Jonathan will discuss his book and answer questions from students and staff, is free and open to the public. More information about the event and a link to register for the reading can be found here.

You can find out more about Jonathan and his latest book here and more about ASU’s Common Read here.

Rebecca Fish Ewan’s Doodling for Writers for Sale on Amazon

Join us in congratulating our faculty art advisor, Rebecca Fish Ewan, on her new book Doodling for Writers, published by Books for Hippocampus. Rebecca Fish Ewan is an artist and author and founded Plankton Press. In addition, she is currently a professor at ASU and teaches for the landscape architecture program. She has previously written two books, A Land Between and By the Forces of Gravity. Her new book Doodling for Writers features her own cartoons, as well as tips and tricks for authors who want to incorporate drawing into the writing process. It guides the reader through processes that will enhance their writing with prompts and activities to guide the way. Rebecca’s book will be released on October 6th, 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

Learn more about Rebecca on her LinkedIn Profile or website here.

Submissions for Authors Talks and Guest Posts

The Superstition Review blog posts two types of content from past contributors to our magazine, guest posts and Author Talks. Both of these are posted regularly on the blog and are a great way for us to hear authors talk about their writing process and what they have been up to since being featured in the magazine. We now have an easier way for past contributors to submit both guest posts and authors talks to the blog. Both can be submitted by following a link to Submittable, an online submission form found on the front page of our magazine, or by clicking here.