The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Reassurance in Negative Space by Elizabyth Hiscox



This selection comes from the collection Reassurance in Negative Space, available from Word Galaxy. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

Elizabyth A. Hiscox’s poetry has appeared in DMQ Review, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Matter, and elsewhere and her poetry scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature. She’s served editorial roles for New Issues Poetry & Prose, 42Opus, Third Coast, and Western Press Books. Former Poet-in-Residence at Durham University (UK), she has taught writing in England, the Czech Republic, and Spain and currently instructs at Western State Colorado University where she is founding director of the Contemporary Writer Series.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Reassurance in Negative Space by Elizabyth Hiscox




This selection comes from the collection Reassurance in Negative Space, available from Word Galaxy. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

Elizabyth A. Hiscox’s poetry has appeared in DMQ Review, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Matter, and elsewhere and her poetry scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature. She’s served editorial roles for New Issues Poetry & Prose, 42Opus, Third Coast, and Western Press Books. Former Poet-in-Residence at Durham University (UK), she has taught writing in England, the Czech Republic, and Spain and currently instructs at Western State Colorado University where she is founding director of the Contemporary Writer Series.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

SAFTA Now Accepting Fall Residency Applications for Writers Coop

Sundress Academy for the Arts Now Accepting
Fall Residency Applications for Writers Coop

The Sundress Academy for the Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications for short-term writers residencies during the fall residency period for our new Writers Coop during the weeks of August 27 – December 30, 2018. These residencies are designed to give writers and artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.

SAFTA is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,00 in the foothill of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities.

The SAFTA Writers Coop is a 10×10′ dry cabin approximately a fourth of a mile from the SAFTA farmhouse. This tiny house is furnished with a twin bed, a desk, a wood-burning stove, a deck that looks over the pasture and pond, as well as a personal detached outhouse. While the cabin has neither electricity nor running water, residents will have full access to the amenities at farmhouse as well as solitude from other residents to write in the rolling hills of East Tennessee.

Each residency costs $150/week and includes your own private dry cabin as well as 24-hour access to the farmhouse amenities.

Applications for this residency are free and rolling. Apply today to get preferred dates.

Find out more at www.sundressacademyforthearts.com.

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Lyric Essentials: Andrea Scarpino Reads Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These” and “Five O’clock, January 2003”

Andrea Scarpino is the author of four books, the Poet Laureate of Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, is the co-founder of the Disability March, and more. Scarpino teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield, but despite what is almost certainly a packed schedule, she sat down with me to talk about Adrienne Rich and the ongoing need for these poems and this work.

Black: “What Kind of Times” is one I’ve reached for a few times in the last year. Most recently I read it again when Bears Ears and Grand Staircase were devoured. You too? What moves you to share these poems? Is it a love of them or their prescience or…?

Scarpino: I also return to Rich’s poems again and again! When I’m struggling in my writing, I read her poems to remind me to be brave. When I’m struggling with our political situation, I read her poems to remind me that resistance is possible and can take many forms. When I’m looking for new forms, I read her poems to study the ways in which she plays with form. Her career was so long and so varied that there really are poems in her canon for everyone! 

 

 

Black: Adrienne Rich might be considered “larger than life.” What is your sense of her life and career?

ScarpinoLarger than life definitely seems right, at least in some circles. When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, she came to do a reading and some lectures, and I remember so vividly that the university booked her in one of the largest rooms on campus—this horrible concrete auditorium that sat like 700 people. The place was packed. Like, seriously packed! And when Rich was introduced and walked out onto the stage, she looked so small in such a huge space, but the entire audience stood up and applauded. She hadn’t spoken a word, and she received a standing ovation. And I burst into tears. It was the only time I have ever seen that reaction to a poet and the fact that she was also a feminist icon when I was really just learning about feminism was even more meaningful to me. Here was a woman telling the truth of her life, and being rewarded for doing so. It was incredibly powerful. 

I know Rich is derided in some circles—I had a graduate school professor who used to tell me my poetry was veering towards “the bad Adrienne Rich” which I always took as a compliment even though he intended it as a mean criticism—but I have always loved her courage, her sass, her wit, her clear-eyed look at the world around her. I hope people are still reading her in 100 years because she was really a game-changer for so many readers and writers and people interested in moving towards equality. 

Black: Has Rich influenced you and your work then? And, how?

Scarpino: Yes, absolutely! For one thing, she reminds me to tell my truth, to write bravely, to keep myself attuned to the world’s atrocities no matter how painful that can be. Especially as a middle-class white woman—white US culture definitely supports us in refusing to engage with the atrocities of the world. And especially as a white US poet. There have been these conversations for way too long in white US poetry about the division between the personal and the political where the personal is supported and uplifted and the political is derided and downplayed. If you’re interested in writing political poetry in the US, you have a harder road ahead of you in terms of publication and general acceptance by the “academy.” And Rich reminds me how limited those views are, that they are particularly white US American views and that most people in the world don’t share them. I find that incredibly empowering. 

Something I love about so many of her poems is that they follow Emily Dickinson’s dictum to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant—“ Take “Five O’Clock, January 2003.” That poem starts with soldiers “being hauled / into positions aimed at death” but immediately moves into a conversation about Ed Azevedo “half-awake in recovery / if he has his arm whole / and how much pain he must bear / under the drugs.” Rich never tells us who Azevedo is or why he is important to the speaker, and almost the entirety of the poem addresses his arm and what happened to him. A reader could forget entirely that the backdrop of the poem is war until we arrive at the end: “I didn’t say Your war is here.” That line always makes my stomach drop. It brings us so quickly back to war and the ways in which war creeps into our lives like an infection, a poison: it starts as a minor cut and ends with emergency surgery. 
 
And I love how Rich does this in so many of her poems: she tells us the truth, but from an angle, from a slant. She doesn’t explicitly say “war is a destructive poison” but we understand that from spending so much time with Azevedo’s arm. She does a similar thing in “What Kind of Times Are These” which ends, “because in times like these / to have you listen at all, it’s necessary / to talk about trees.” I hear Rich saying, look, I know you won’t listen when I talk about all that we’re disappearing, I know that’s uncomfortable to you, dear reader. So I’ll write about trees and hope that you understand I’m also writing about what’s missing from the trees. 

 

Black: Are there connections between these particular poems and your own work?

Scarpino: Definitely! I actually used that last quote as an epigraph to my book-length poem What the Willow Said As it Fell, which is a book about chronic pain and the medical establishment and the intersection of gender and medicine. And also, about willow trees and ash trees, both of which have traditionally been thought of as healing trees. Willow branches have a substance in them called salicin which is related to our modern day aspirin and which was used for thousands of years as a pain reliever—people in childbirth would chew on willow branches to help with the pain, for example. And in Norse culture, it was thought that if you passed a sick baby under the ash tree, the tree would heal the baby. And I loved the idea of using these two trees as foes, in a sense, to be able to focus some of the book on the trees instead of on unrelenting chronic pain. That is completely a strategy I learned from Rich! I basically took her advice literally—if I’m going to get a reader interested in reading about chronic pain for 70 pages, I better spend some time distracting them with trees. 

But more generally, Rich’s work has always reminded me that it is okay to write politically—in fact, it is necessary and important to write politically! So much of my formal education taught me to revere the personal without any acknowledgment that of course the personal is political and the political is personal. The two aren’t ever easily separated. If ICE is deporting your family, then the political is deeply personal. If the president is sending you to war, then the political is deeply personal. And Rich continues to remind me of that when I lose my way: tell your personal story with an attention to the political world in which you exist. It’s the only way. 

Black: What do you want readers to notice in particular in these poems?

Scarpino: I would love readers to notice their beauty, the beauty of Rich’s language, the beauty in a line. Even when writing about really hard subjects, Rich writes with an attention to image, to sound, to the movement of each line. They are works of intense beauty, and that is part of what draws me back to them again and again.

 

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Andrea Scarpino is the author of the poetry collections Once Upon Wing Lake (Four Chambers Press, 2017), What the Willow Said as it Fell (Red Hen Press, 2016) and Once, Then (Red Hen Press, 2014). She received a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and an MFA from The Ohio State University. She has published in numerous journals, is co-editor of Nine Mile Magazine, and served as Poet Laureate of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 2015-2017. Her upcoming edited anthology is Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (MSU Press).

Adrienne Rich was an intellectual, poet, writer, and activist, whose career spanned countless works. Her writing and activism have influenced some of the greatest minds working in literature and activism today.

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The good stuff:

Adrienne Rich at the Poetry Foundation

“What Kind of Times Are These” at the Poetry Foundation

“Five O’clock, January 2003” at the Monthly Review

Adrienne Rich’s Obituary in the Times

Andrea Scarpino’s Website

What the Willow Said as it Fell, At Red Hen Press

An Interview with Andrea Scarpino at Wordgathering

The Disability March

____________________________________________________________________

Anna Black received an MFA from Arizona State University and a BA from Western Washington University. She has served as the editor-in-chief of the magazines Hayden’s Ferry Review and Inkspeak and is a twice awarded Virginia G. Piper global teaching and research fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, Wordgathering, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others. Black has taught composition, creative writing, and/or publishing at Arizona State University, Western Washington University, Perryville Women’s Prison, and the National University of Singapore.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Reassurance in Negative Space by Elizabyth Hiscox



This selection comes from the collection Reassurance in Negative Space, available from Word Galaxy. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

Elizabyth A. Hiscox’s poetry has appeared in DMQ Review, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Matter, and elsewhere and her poetry scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature. She’s served editorial roles for New Issues Poetry & Prose, 42Opus, Third Coast, and Western Press Books. Former Poet-in-Residence at Durham University (UK), she has taught writing in England, the Czech Republic, and Spain and currently instructs at Western State Colorado University where she is founding director of the Contemporary Writer Series.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

Laura Villareal Interviews With Steven Sanchez About Debut Full-Length Collection

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Laura Villareal: I love the way Phantom Tongue weaves together religion, family, queerness, memory, and a complicated relationship with Mexican culture. With so many thematic strands, what was your approach to putting this manuscript together?

Steven Sanchez: In the beginning, I focused on writing into my obsessions rather than on creating a book—each poem was more important to me than figuring out how any particular poem might fit in with what I already wrote. My poems kept returning to the same themes and images, and my mentor Corrinne (Connie) Clegg Hales said that I should trust my subconscious, that there’s probably a reason why I kept obsessing over these particular topics. When it was time to put my thesis together, I printed all my poems out and started tracking what the main threads seemed to be and had a hard time separating them from each other.

My very first draft of Phantom Tongue had three sections. Connie asked me why I decided to use sections, and I didn’t really have a reason, other than it felt like a book should have sections. She said she didn’t really see a need for sections in this collection and I agreed with her. Then a couple of years later, I wrote more poems, replaced older poems, and tried out sections again—it was actually accepted by Sundress as a sectioned book. Sara Henning, my editor, actually brought up similar concerns about my sectioning and I re-read through Phantom Tongue and decided that the sections needed to go.

At first, I organized my poems based on their topics, but that felt too neat and sterile—I didn’t want a book that had a section of Queer poems, a section of family poems, a section of love poems, and a section of poems about language and internalized racism because those categories aren’t exclusive to each other—these categories, I realized, actually inform each other.

“On the Seventh Day” seemed like the best choice to open Phantom Tongue because a lot of the themes in the book appear in it. Next, I read that poem followed by several potential second poems in the collection until one seemed to fit, then I read that second poem followed by several third poem options, then the third followed by several fourth poem options, and repeated this process until I had a tentative order for the whole collection. (I ended up with dozens of different organizational possibilities to choose from.) The whole process reminded me of when I used to play Guitar Hero—you see the rows and rows of buttons coming towards you on the screen, but you just have to focus on playing the row of buttons closest to you. Eventually, the closest row disappears, then you can focus on the next row, then the next row, until you end up playing an entire song.

 

Laura Villareal: You have two chapbooks, To My Body (Glass Poetry Press, 2016) & Photographs of Our Shadows (Agape Editions, 2017), was the process of putting together those manuscripts different from organizing your full-length?

Steven Sanchez: I feel like I totally approached each chapbook with the Guitar Hero strategy. I definitely couldn’t focus on as many threads in each chapbook, though. For To My Body, I ended up finding all of my poems that relied on body-related imagery. For Photographs, I focused more on poems revolving around memory. Even with those two different organizational focuses, each chapbook still tried to address internalized racism and internalized homophobia, which ended up becoming the backbone of Phantom Tongue.

 

Laura Villareal: While writing Phantom Tongue were there any books that you drew inspiration from? What are some books that you love and recommend?

Steven Sanchez: Two of the books that had a huge influence on me, especially when working on Phantom Tongue, were Rafael Campo’s What the Body Told and Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language.

Campo handles bodies, particularly Queer and brown bodies, with such tenderness and compassion. His book was the first book I’d ever read by a QPOC and it blew me away by showing me the different ways a body is labeled, identified, and understood. It also encouraged me to figure out the stories my own body has told and continues to tell—it empowered me interrogate who shape(d)/(s) my body’s narratives.

Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language lead me to question not just the narratives assigned to bodies, but how language is a dangerous (yet necessary) tool. What’s named can be weaponized. But, what’s named can also give somebody control over their own identity. Dream of a Common Language begins with one of my favorite poems, “Power.” In this poem, the speaker observes that Marie Curie gained her agency through her research on radioactivity. The speaker also observes that her hands-on approach with radioactive materials ultimately killed her. In this poem, power comes from our willingness to make ourselves vulnerable to the subjects that are most difficult to handle. While writing Phantom Tongue, I kept returning to “Power,” and as a result, I still find myself returning to it in newer poems I’ve been working on—I’ve adopted it as my own personal ars poetica.

In addition to these two books, a few more books I absolutely love and continue to learn from are Coal by Audre Lorde, Slow Lightning by Eduardo C.Corral, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying by Laurie Ann Guerrero, Butterfly Boy by Rigoberto González, Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey, For Want of Water by Sasha Pimentel, My Alexandria by Mark Doty, Goodbye, Flicker by Carmen Giménez Smith, and The Taxidermist’s Cut by Rajiv Mohabir.

Laura Villareal: Something I admire about your writing is how you confront your relationship to Mexican culture. As a Latinx who can’t speak Spanish, I sometimes feel fraudulent or conflicted about my identity. I love the lines “small pigeons flying from her tongue, / carrying rolled R’s like small parcels / I’ve never been able to unwrap” in your poem “Past Tense”. I’m grateful for moments like those in your book. I guess I’m wondering, do you have any advice for confronting identity in poems when the relationship you have to it is complicated?

Steven Sanchez: That makes me really happy that you connected with “Past Tense,” I was really nervous writing that poem, especially because I felt like I was “outing” myself as a Pocho. I’ve been thinking a lot about my Pocho-ness, what it means for me to identify as a Pocho, and how this particular identity fits into larger systems of power. I don’t know if I have any advice, exactly, but I can totally share how I approached writing about my relationship to being Mexican and some of the things I got from that experience.

When I first started writing about my relationship to Mexican culture, one particular mentor was very encouraging. He pushed me to start including more Spanish in my poems, pushed me to start incorporating foods like nopales, tamales, and chorizo in my poems. He would say things like “This is so specific to your particular experiences and it’s great. You’ve really found your stride, keep it up.” And I did for a while, until I found myself writing poems to satisfy his expectations rather than writing poems that I felt genuinely connected to—I realized I was exoticizing myself and my poems to fit in with what he expected Latinx writers to write about.

Ironically, when I started writing about my queerness, he told me to stop letting my sexuality define my work and me.

I started understanding that when I was writing, I was writing with a straight, white audience in mind. I was making a Latino caricature of myself in my poems and downplaying queerness in order to reaffirm what some people think is an “authentic” representation of Latinidad. I think I fell into that trap because in workshop, we often discussed the “accessibility” of a poem, but whenever that word was thrown around, I didn’t comprehend that “accessible” has political implications—accessible for whom? People of color? Queer people? White people? Straight people?

When I started questioning who I wanted to access my poems, I realized I didn’t want to write for an audience who had a litmus test for the “authenticity” of my identities. I felt relieved, in a way, because it opened up a space for me to begin interrogating my own concerns about internalized racism, internalized homophobia, my inability to speak Spanish, and how those all affected me.
If I could give my younger-self advice, I would tell him that nobody has a monopoly over any identity. Not speaking Spanish doesn’t make you any less Latino. Write poems that matter to you. No matter what you write, people will label you whatever they’re going to label you, and that’s no longer your concern.

 

Laura Villareal: You reference religion quite a bit in your book. I feel like often religion and queerness can be at odds. I love where you say “Never forget what the Bible says: / when two people worship together, / they create a church / no matter where they are— ” in “What I Didn’t Tell You.” What’s your connection to religion and how do you feel it’s shaped your writing, if at all?

Steven Sanchez: I grew up as a nondenominational Christian, went to church every Sunday, was a member of a bunch of different Christian youth groups, and made sure to memorize the bible verse we were assigned each week in Sunday school—at one point I had memorized close to 300 verses. The interesting thing about the church I went to is that it was bilingual. The children’s Sunday school was exclusively in English, but the sermon afterwards for the whole church was entirely in Spanish, although the pastor occasionally translated some of his sermon into English. Prayers were almost exclusively in Spanish. That church also explicitly condemned homosexuality and banned open homosexuals from serving the church in any sort of capacity. In high school, I was the president of the Hanford High Christian Club and regularly attended services and youth events.

Needless to say, religion had a monumental impact on me growing up. You mention that Queerness and religion are often at odds, and that was definitely the case in my experience. When I started writing about homophobia, I noticed that religious imagery started creeping in without me even really intending for that to happen. When I started writing about internalized racism, religion also started creeping in. Religious imagery helped me interrogate the aspects of myself I was afraid to look at—as I was writing, it felt like internalized racism, internalized homophobia, and Christianity were inseparable. But, at the same time, I think my way of understanding the sacred is very much informed by Christianity even if I’m no longer Christian. I think, at least in some moments, using religious imagery in the context of Queerness was my way to reclaim and define for myself what is actually sacred.

 

Laura Villareal: The image system of your book is so tight. The visceral language makes it feel intensely intimate and resonate. All poets have linguistic obsessions, what are some of yours?

Steven Sanchez: Wow, thank you! I think one of my biggest linguistic obsessions, both now and when I was writing Phantom Tongue, is using “you.” I love the authority and force that comes from a direct address, especially in rough drafts. When I was writing about things that were particularly difficult, the second person address created a helpful distance between the subject and me. The second person made me feel inclined to write declarative sentences, and those declarative sentences built up my confidence as the draft progressed until, at some point in the poem, I gained enough confidence to trust my language, trust my images, and trust that what I had to say was important. Sometimes, the second person stays even after the initial drafts.

I think another reason I love the second person is because it fits with how I usually (attempt to) enter a poem—instead of thinking of a general audience for the poem, I find it more helpful to imagine that I’m writing the poem to a specific person—the images and language I use become my way of understanding my relationship to that person (and whatever topic that poem is trying to address). That being said, I think I’m particularly obsessed with fire, water, trees, and birds—those images made it easier to interrogate my relationships to some of the “you’s” I was writing to.

Another linguistic obsession I’ve noticed is that I love to list things in groups of three; I think it might be because of the way I was taught to end each prayer—“in the name of the son, father, and holy spirit.” It feels familiar and I get a sense of closure.

 

Laura Villareal: In June you’ll be teaching a month long workshop with Lemon Star Magazine focused on persona and social justice poetry, what made you choose those topics?

Steven Sanchez: I’m super stoked for that workshop! A few years back, Gary Jackson visited my school to read from his awesome book, Missing You, Metropolis—it’s a collection of super villain and super hero persona poems. One of my favorite poems in there is “Magneto Eyes Strange Fruit.” In that poem, the speaker is Magneto (of the X-Men) and he comes across two children who have been lynched on swing set for being mutants. The poem is a powerful response to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and it ends with Magneto imagining how he will destroy the world.

Somebody asked him why he wanted to inhabit the voices of so many villains in his book. He responded by saying that poems, ultimately, are a tool of empathy. When we read poems, we are forced to see ourselves in the speaker. But, nobody wants to see themselves in the face of villains, nobody wants to know the horrible things we are all capable of, nobody wants to see themselves complicit in violence and oppression. I think about that all the time, which is actually what pushed me write “The Gunman” in Phantom Tongue—placing myself in the mindset of Omar Mateen in the moments leading to the Pulse shooting scared me, but by the end of it, I knew I couldn’t have written that poem any other way.

Another poet, Maggie Smith, said something else about persona poems that I’ve been thinking about a lot. She was on an AWP panel in Florida and an audience member asked the question (and I’m roughly paraphrasing), “How do I, as a person with relative privilege, write about racism and the experiences of people who are subject to systemic oppression?” Smith responded by saying that if we’re entering a conversation from a relative place of privilege, why don’t we place ourselves in the poem as the oppressor rather than the oppressed? We have more to gain (and risk) by inhabiting the persona of the oppressor—systemic oppression and violence isn’t just magically inflicted upon marginalized groups, it’s perpetrated by specific individuals and when we refuse to name and identify their role in oppression, we are missing our opportunity to actually learn from and understand systemic oppression in a more nuanced way. (Of course, Maggie Smith conveyed these ideas much more eloquently.)

I wanted to lead a Persona Poetry and Social Justice Workshop because I think Jackson and Smith are both absolutely right: we need to be willing to see ourselves in the villains of the world, because then it will help us understand how each of us, regardless of who we are, are complicit in systemic oppression.

 

Laura Villareal: I know Phantom Tongue is just coming out this month, but are you working on anything new?

Steven Sanchez: I am! It’s actually related to the workshop I’m leading. I’m trying to interrogate my own privilege and the ways I contribute to systemic oppression, even as a QPOC. I’ve attempted some persona poems, I’ve leaned into the “you” a lot, and I’ve been journaling a lot about it. Nothing’s even close to ready, but I feel like these drafts—my new obsessions—are leading me to my next collection.

 

You can order your copy of Phantom Tongue today at the Sundress store!

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Steven Sanchez is the author of Phantom Tongue (Sundress Publications, 2018), selected by Mark Doty as the winner of Marsh Hawk Press’ Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award. A recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo and the Lambda Literary Foundation, his poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, Muzzle, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Creek Review, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, and other publications.

Laura Villareal earned an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark. Her writing has appeared most recently in: The Acentos Review, Freezeray, Reservoir, The Boiler, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships from The Highlights Foundation and Key West Literary Seminar. 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Reassurance in Negative Space by Elizabyth Hiscox



This selection comes from the collection Reassurance in Negative Space, available from Word Galaxy. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

Elizabyth A. Hiscox’s poetry has appeared in DMQ Review, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Matter, and elsewhere and her poetry scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature. She’s served editorial roles for New Issues Poetry & Prose, 42Opus, Third Coast, and Western Press Books. Former Poet-in-Residence at Durham University (UK), she has taught writing in England, the Czech Republic, and Spain and currently instructs at Western State Colorado University where she is founding director of the Contemporary Writer Series.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

Project Bookshelf: Laura Villareal

lauravillareal shelf

I enjoy reading across genres, but I mostly own poetry books. I love reading YA, nonfiction, and adult fiction, but I don’t usually read them again so I check them out at the library. Essay collections, short story collections, and poetry books are endless sources of inspiration for me. Those are books I like to keep on my shelves. I come back to the books on the top shelf often. I’m also a return reader of literary magazines like Poetry, Tin House, and One Story.

Here are some of my top shelf books:

Coin of the Realm by Carl Phillips

Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler

SanTana’s Fairy Tales by Sarah Rafael García

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Beast Meridian by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Hour of the Ox by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Hum by Jamaal May

All of Ada Limon’s books

In the Garden of the Bridehouse by J. Michael Martinez

mxd kd mixtape by Malcolm Friend

Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall

Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky

Under that I have one cubby for Popchyk and two cubbies for poetry books. The other shelves are for miscellaneous books. There’s really no order to them. I have books like:

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother by Amy Stewart

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

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Laura Villareal is from a small town in Texas with more cows than people. She earned an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Apogee, Black Warrior Review, Breakwater Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Freezeray, Reservoir, The Boiler, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and scholarships from The Highlights Foundation, Key West Literary Seminar, and VONA/ Voices. She’s also a reader at Winter Tangerine.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Reassurance in Negative Space by Elizabyth Hiscox



This selection comes from the collection Reassurance in Negative Space, available from Word Galaxy. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

Elizabyth A. Hiscox’s poetry has appeared in DMQ Review, From the Fishouse, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Matter, and elsewhere and her poetry scholarship has appeared in The Journal of Modern Literature. She’s served editorial roles for New Issues Poetry & Prose, 42Opus, Third Coast, and Western Press Books. Former Poet-in-Residence at Durham University (UK), she has taught writing in England, the Czech Republic, and Spain and currently instructs at Western State Colorado University where she is founding director of the Contemporary Writer Series.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: A Lesser Love: Poems by E.J. Koh



This selection comes from the collection A Lesser Love: Poems, available from Pleiades Press. Our curator for May is Natalie Giarratano.

E.J. Koh’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, World Literature Today, TriQuarterly, Southeast Review, Columbia Review, Narrative, PEN America, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from Kundiman, The MacDowell Colony, Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the Jack Straw Writers Program. She earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Creative Writing and Literary Translation in Korean and Japanese. She is completing her PhD in English Literature at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Natalie Giarratano is the author of Big Thicket Blues (Sundress Publications, 2017) and Leaving Clean, winner of the 2013 Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, Tinderbox, and American Literary Review, among others. She edits and lives in Fort Collins with her partner and daughter and is the city’s 2018 Poet Laureate.

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