SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Sara Henning

Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Sara Henning.

Sara Henning is the author of To Speak of Dahlias (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poetry, fiction, interviews and book reviews have appeared in such journals as So To Speak, Verse, and Willow Springs. Currently a doctoral student in English and Creative Writing at the University of South Dakota, she serves as Circulations Manager for The South Dakota Review.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

About Shipwrights

ShipwrightsShipwrights is the online magazine of decentered English: a review of new writing from beyond the Anglosphere. The magazine’s goal is to publish the best new short fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction coming out of the global second- and foreign-language English writing communities.

Since the combined number of speakers in these groups now triples that of native English speakers (1.2 billion to 375 million respectively), the number of decentered authors is also staggering.

Shipwrights hopes to be a showcase for the best of these writers. Because it is geographically located in Sweden, at Malmö University, Shipwrights also features work by Anglophone expatriate writers living in Scandinavia.

Shipwrights is home to the Conrad-Nabokov Prize, awarded every other issue to the most promising second- or foreign-language writer who submits work.

Detailed instructions on how to submit work can be found at Submission Guidelines.

Shipwrights is published online at the beginning of each calendar year and can be found here.

Contributor News: Virginia Smith Rice

When I WakeSuperstition Review is proud to share the news of contributor Virginia Smith Rice’s recently released full-length poetry book, When I Wake It Will Be Forever through Sundress Publications. The two poems which she initially published in Issue 10 of Superstition Review can be found here.

Rice’s debut collection collapses the natural and material world into instances of loss, longing, memory and sensory expression. Rice investigates the emptiness of language with a lyrical and alliterative force with a jarring, poignant, and distinct ability to deconstruct place through the linguistic fabric it emerges from, to create a more intimate presence with the physical landscape of existence. Rice builds her ethereal and imagistic poems with a deep engagement of the senses.

“Both shimmering and seething, haunted and haunting, the complex, dazzling contours of
When I Wake It Will Be Forever beckon the reader with the imperative of ‘listen’; and we do, because Rice’s poems vibrate with a ‘voice thorned and singing / but not human.’ Like her poetic parentage—Desnos, Szymborska, Tranströmer and Csoóri—there is a wisdom contained in this work that transcends a singular being’s experience; ultimately elegiac, yet ‘lit by inner, hidden suns,’ this book is a stellate network of memory, loss, longing, silence, and voice. Often serving as witness (to an aunt’s suicide, a stranger’s suicide, ‘the suicide in my voice’) Rice pays tribute to the manifold ghosts that clamor inside us. This is one of the most solidly exquisite and lingering first books I’ve had the honor of reading.”
-Simone Muench, author of Orange Crush, recipient of the 2013 NEA Fellowship in Poetry
“Virginia Smith Rice has created a tremblingly precise, intricate, bright-edged evocation of a world both ecstatic and ominous, grieving and vital, broken and mending, but rarely mended. Her poems are richly colored and intensely focused on the shapes and forms of the world and of inner life and relationships. They are crowded with living plants and creatures and intense feeling, and Rice can even describe the color of solitude. Her language is sensuously complex, her angle of vision is oblique and finds the memorable touch of reality off-center, at the edges, just this side of perceptibility. She has created a delicate yet vivid response to what she calls the ‘percussed absence’ that haunts human life. This is a marvelous first book.”
-Reginald Gibbons, author of Fem-Texts and professor of Humanities at Northwestern Univeristy
Virginia Smith Rice earned her MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University, where she received the Distinguished Thesis Award for her poetry manuscript, One Voice May Survive the Other. Her work appears in Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Meridian, Rattle, and Third Coast, among other journals. She currently lives in Woodstock, IL, where she teaches art and serves as co-editor of the online poetry journal, Kettle Blue Review.
When I Wake It Will Be Forever is now available at www.sundresspublications.com.

Guest Post, Maria Hummel: My First Librarian

Mrs. Blackwell’s face was wide, like a butterfly, but her eyes were small and slightly unkind. The flat planes of her cheeks began and ended with their blueness and ire. I didn’t like meeting Mrs. Blackwell’s gaze, so whenever I went to the school library, I avoided her and kept her in my peripheral vision.

Mrs. Blackwell always dressed in navy pant-suits and sat at a broad desk in the center of the room. The desk was barren except for a binder or two, but this was the era before personal computers, so every desk was like this. A place to sit. A place to type or tabulate. If you had nothing to type or tabulate—and if you were a woman, especially if you were a woman—its emptiness yawned in front of you. Perched there, Mrs. Blackwell reminded me of a captain on a stalled ship, grimly eying the horizon.

At some point between Creation and the year I entered kindergarten, Mrs. Blackwell had catalogued the known world into Units. The Units sat in folders on a shelf, labeled in her clear hand: “Ants,” “Fish,” “Amphibians,” “Metric Measurements.” The Units never changed and they had an inviolable order. If you came to the library you were supposed to study the Units, which meant taking down the next folder in succession and bringing it to Mrs. Blackwell, who would supply you with a worksheet and film strip to watch. The film strips held the answers to the questions on your worksheet. For example, studying “Ants,” one of the first Units, you might click to a slide that showed a glistening red insect and announced, “Ants have a head, thorax, and abdomen.” Then you would fill in the corresponding blank on the worksheet that asked about the three body parts of the ant. Head, thorax, abdomen.

It was rote learning at its finest. And those film strips—how to describe them to today’s children, whose gentlest touch onscreen can kindle fireworks, pies, and flying birds! The films curled like snakes and snapped at your hands as you fed them into the machines. Their images were cracked. Their voices droned. They emitted an urgent bing, indicating a new slide, that to this day could startle me rigidly awake.

Horses I must have dozed off a lot, because I never made it past the lower rungs of evolution. All I wanted to study was Horses, but first I had to progress through thirty or more Units devoted to Bees, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Weather. I remember hungrily asking about the Unit on equines and being shown where the tan folder stood, so high on the shelf it would have given me a nosebleed to climb to it. I remember Mrs. Blackwell’s short white finger, her expression of vindictive triumph.

Mrs. Blackwell didn’t hate me personally. She hated the whole messy, snotty, careless lot of us who trooped through her room and ruined her tidy system of knowledge. In her fifties, Mrs. Blackwell was from the last generation of American women who felt compelled to choose jobs in schools or hospitals if they worked outside the home. She was a blip in history—a female caught in the lingering shackles of gender expectation. Sometimes I wonder if she envied us little girls daydreaming our way through the same Units as the boys, almost as likely to be doctors or lawyers or engineers as they. But I prefer to think she didn’t believe such transformations were possible, and this was what made her so inflexible with all the kids at our lower-middle class school. Ants. Fish. Humble creatures that crawled and swam should not be preempted by gallopers.

One day I strayed to a section of chapter books just beyond the kindergarten shelves and was flipping my way through an illustrated copy of Mutiny on the Bounty when I had a sudden and strong urge to pee. I froze. I wasn’t quite sure where the bathroom was and I didn’t want Mrs. Blackwell to take me. So I stood there, staring at an ink drawing of defiant sailors wrapping their officers in chains until the urine poured from me in giant splashes. When the flow stopped, I moved away from the wet spot in the carpet, and hid, staring at the word MUTINY, until some gentle parent-volunteer came and found me.

Oh, Maria, come here,” she said. I took her hand, sodden and relieved, and left the dark stain behind, a gift and a debt to my first librarian.

I never got to Horses with Mrs. Blackwell because a few years later my family moved to the country, where I encountered in wild profusion the insects and little critters of her Units. Robins and grosbeaks appeared in March and April. Trout flickered in the brook’s green pools in June.

Our barn also housed a real equine: a quarter horse. King was nineteen and his owner paid us a small monthly fee to board him. His red-brown height and musky scent filled his stall in winter; in spring he haunted the corners of his paddock and ripped up clover with mildewed incisors. Whenever I rode him, King shied from down-hills and charged the up-hills, sometimes tossing me off.

I had seen the bitter, impersonal dislike in King’s eyes once before, and recognized it. So did my parents. They blamed his sullenness on his long succession of absentee owners. I was told that if someone like me had really loved and raised King as an individual, he would be a different horse. Sometimes, walking the fields to the barn to do my chores, I imagined those lost autumns and springs, nursing a rickety colt, tossing the first harness over his head, my pockets stuffed with carrots. Other times I watched the bees collecting pollen from the cornflowers, and the ants digging their tunnels beneath, and it seemed to me like the world and life could possess a beautiful logic.

But when King’s owner offered to sell him to us cheap, I led the refusal to buy him. Won’t it end up costing too much? I said.

In truth, I didn’t especially like rising early to chip the ice from King’s water bucket, or grooming his mud-crusted coat. I preferred lying in my soft bed, reading my books from the library.

Combs High School Collaboration

On March 21, a group of S[R] interns visited the students in Mrs. Burnquist’s senior creative writing class at Combs High School to lead a workshop with some of San Tan Valley’s most accomplished and ambitious 18-year-olds. This was the fourth in a series of collaborations with Combs that began in the fall of 2012.

The students prepared 100-word stories prior to our visit, inspired by this website 100 Word Story. They had copies of their stories in hand. As I went over the workshop plans in the days before, I built up a small arsenal of tools and techniques to get the discussion going. I expected to be pulling comments out of a reticent group, but they seemed more comfortable with the workshop structure than I was.

After initial instructions to my small group of six students, I confessed that I was a bit of a fraud and had never even been in a writing workshop myself. One of the students turned to me and said, “Well, you’re doing just fine.” From that moment on, I was able to abandon all anxieties and simply enjoy the freshness they brought to our workshop. I was impressed with the level of engagement with their 100-word assignment. Each of the six students I worked with brought a deeply original story to the classroom and offered kind words and gentle criticism to their classmates.

Our discussion ranged from story conflict to that weekend’s prom to our career paths. Although no one in my group planned to major in creative writing in college, they each possessed an enthusiasm for writing that I sometimes find missing in my collegiate English classes. “What do you like to read?” they asked me, spiraling into a discussion of their favorite books. “What do you like to write most – fiction or poetry?” “What’s your writing routine?” We had a spare twenty minutes at the end of the class period to answer some of these questions as a group, though I think some of them still left with new questions.

These students, when they aren’t reading or crafting their own stories and poems, create the school’s online literary magazine, IMPRINT. You can view their latest contrast-themed issue here. During our visit to the school last semester, we discussed the importance of social media in developing an online presence. Since then, the students launched a website and have been developing a whole social media presence with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Before we left the classroom, Jess Burnquist pulled us aside and told us that her single creative writing class is expanding into two next year because of the growing interest in the class material and the production of IMPRINT. This is truly an inspiring development, one that demonstrates the power of passionate teachers and ambitious, creative students.

Our partnership with Combs High School is also expanding this semester as S[R] will be participating in their Community Poetry Night on April 26. We’re looking forward to celebrating the voices of Combs that night, and we’ll be watching for the brilliant work they produce individually and at IMPRINT for years to come.

SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Chris Suda

Chris SudaEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Chris Suda.

Christopher’s poetry has been published in blazeVOX, The Aura, Danse Macabre, Drunk Monkeys, Poetry Super Highway, and Rufous City Review. Christopher is currently a twenty-four year old undergraduate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a musician involved in three current projects: Philos Moore (singer-songwriter) In Snow (Instrumental), and Loveislight (Experimental Hip-Hop).

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Desirae Matherly: Some Say In Ice

Two degrees Fahrenheit, even in the dead of winter, is unusual for East Tennessee. In fact, our city’s school system has closed out of concern for the safety of the children at least twice this winter because of extreme cold, with mornings beginning somewhere near zero. But today, the school is on a two-hour delay, and my eleven-year-old son is indignant that we are walking to the bus stop, given that the precedent has been set for closure just days before. Today is proof that people adapt, and no doubt the school board has finally succumbed to the suspicion that the cold has settled in, and we should simply accept it and get back to work.

Desi Matherly's Some Say In Ice

My son and I are bundled up: layered pants, shirts, two coats each, balaclavas and scarves, gloves. He has grocery bags over his tennis shoes to protect them from the snow and we walk arm-in-arm so he doesn’t slip in the grass beside my steep, icy driveway. I’m wearing the shearling boots and fleece mittens I bought when I lived in Ohio. There I had learned about cold and snow beyond what Tennesseans normally experience. There I had learned that during a “Level 3,” a driver might be arrested if found on the roads for anything other than an emergency. In Ohio, I made my first snow tunnel after the 2003 President’s Day blizzard left us with five-feet-high snowdrifts. In Ohio I saw frozen grass, and pavement glazed with half an inch of ice in January of 1999. And since then, I’ve also seen balmy Decembers, unseasonable sixty-degree January days, and heard thunder cracks in February. Weather events like these remind me to take nothing for granted.

I muse to my son that ours might be an everyday walk to the bus stop for kids in Minnesota, and that we should be glad for the experience, to appreciate our mild winters better. My son isn’t convinced, and merely grumbles, “My face is cold.” He doesn’t remember the Chicago winter, but then, he was five when we left. He doesn’t remember subzero afternoon walks (with windchills of twenty below), to the grocery store after days of being shut inside, or stepping into university buildings to warm up every ten minutes before moving on. After I relocated home to Tennessee, whenever I heard anyone say “it’s cold,” I rolled my eyes dramatically. Eventually I learned to bite my tongue before saying, “When I was in Chicago . . .” and accepted that everyone has his or her superlative account.

Even so, and no doubt because of its proximity to Lake Michigan’s winds, Chicago offers its residents a Biblical experience of winter. Biblical like a curse to painful childbirth; like razed cities and plagues taking firstborns. Biblical like deluges and apocalypses of sundry sorts. The first time I traveled to Boston, I experienced something similar. Walking to the subway with blistering gusts throwing snow into my face, I turned to look at a bareheaded student with what looked like frozen tears on his wind-scalded cheeks. My students and I were walking into the wind at an angle, and one arctic blast made us retreat for a moment of cover, as if we were being shelled. I could see the rail station when I peeked around the corner, so we readjusted our hoods if we had them and soldiered on.

Poet Robert Frost, who lived across the river in Cambridge but died in Boston, knew “enough of hate” to write “that for destruction ice/ Is also great/ And would suffice.” When Frost was my son’s age, his family moved from San Francisco to New England after the death of his father. Frost took a turn in Michigan too. I’m sure for him all winters were Biblical: a literary metaphor for the ways that human beings lose their memory of safety, security, or warmth, and yet trudge on, with only their faith to guide them. It’s no surprise that in 1940 he bought a house in Miami and spent the rest of his winters there.

Though I like “ice music,” and have claimed that I’d like to attend the annual Ice Music Festival in Geilo, Norway, I doubt I ever will. Watching the instrument makers craft the ice into cellos, horns, or xylophones inspires me, but then the idea of ice is much easier to consider than the reality. How do they play the instruments without shivering? How can anyone listen attentively? Truthfully, I would rather listen to a recording or watch a performance on video. Taking the art of ice further, I realize that “ice hotels” in Scandinavia or Canada–though magical–will never be more than a hoped-for day trip, my nights booked in a brick-and-mortar inn with a fireplace. For most of my adult life, I’ve been fascinated with Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Russia, but I can’t actually imagine booking a trip to any of these places in the winter. I blame so much on my cold nature, my sometimes anemia, my fear of enduring another attack of chilblains. I feel old in the winter, soaking my feet to warm them.

Despite all of this, I’ll admit to enjoying the cold some. When I’m armored against it with wool, or sheltered in a tidy, tea-rich kitchen, I can appreciate the stillness and the solitary beauty that snow brings. I don’t think I could ever live somewhere without a winter, but I used to believe that I could live somewhere without hot, muggy summers. Since then I’ve made my trades. Extremes of temperature and humidity (or its opposite) do nothing but keep me inside all day, a sad animal. Whether I dream of the vernal garden trowel, or the deepening shadows and blue sky hikes of autumn, the transitional seasons still strike me best. To inhabit the climate that calls to one’s nature, and to remain as long as the season welcomes–this seems the very mantra of writers and migratory birds. I look at my weather monitor on my desk and find that in the span of five hours, the temperature has risen thirty degrees to the edge of freezing. I ponder a walk, just before pulling my blanket tighter around my legs and settling in.