Tag Archives: Sundress Publications

Interview with Danielle Sellers, Author of The Minor Territories (Sundress Publications 2018)

Jessica Hudgins, an editorial intern for Sundress Publications, asked writer Danielle Sellers about her 2018 poetry collection The Minor Territories. It is available for sale here.

Jessica Hudgins: In the first half of this book especially, we get the sense of something happening that can’t be stopped, even though we wish it could be. Later on, that’s not so much of an issue; it’s done. When, if it’s not too much of ask, were you writing these poems? Did they guide you out of a bad situation as it was happening, or did they help you understand what had happened, afterwards?

Danielle Sellers: I began some of the poems in the first section of the book while still a graduate student at the University of Mississippi over a decade ago. They’ve gone through many revisions over the course of the years. Many are rather new, like “The Germany Poems,” looking back, and trying to make sense of who I was then and why I stayed. That’s the central question women who are abused are asked: Why did you stay so long? The answer is never simple, and I’m not sure it can ever really be answered to anyone’s satisfaction.

JH: “Memorial Day” is an interesting poem because it uses the context of a patriotic holiday to remember the awful things that this veteran has done to the speaker. Then, your next poem, “Civil,” remembers the same person as capable of tenderness. This is done for “our daughter’s sake.” Yet, the poem still ends on the line, “While I was pregnant, he sometimes rubbed my feet,” which of course is ironic, but still, to my ear, has some regret in it. We hear that regret later in the collection, too. As a poet who is not a parent, but who might want to be, I’m curious about the relationship that parenting has to the truth, or at least to honesty, as compared to the relationship that poetry has to it. I think this might be related to my first question.

DS: I’ve heard many people say it’s important to never badmouth a parent. This is very good advice, but is it still advisable when that parent has done unspeakable things? At what point do we stop protecting monsters and call them out? Monsters don’t deserve our protection. They should be rooted out; their crimes should be announced. That being said, people have many different sides to them. They aren’t just one way all the time. This is what women who are abused struggle with. If their partners were always monsters, it would be easy to leave. Monsters can be angels, too. Perhaps it isn’t the monsters of which we should be afraid, it’s the angels.

JH: We both studied at the Writing Seminars. “Late Inventory” reminds me of a prompt that Greg Williamson would assign, to write a portrait using only metaphor. Is this where the poem originated? What was your experience at the Writing Seminars like, and in an MFA program in general? You teach now – can you tell us a prompt you’re especially proud of, and assign as often as you can?

DS: I loved my time at Johns Hopkins, and several of the poems in the second section were inspired by my time there, but none of them were written while I was a graduate student there. “Late Inventory” is inspired by Dorianne Laux’s “Face Poem” which appears in her collection, Facts About the Moon.

Imitation is a tool I sometimes use when I’m stuck, and is an assignment I give to my creative writing students faithfully. I love to see how a form can be changed with new words. It is often one of the most successful poems my students write because they give themselves permission to use syntax and punctuation they might not ordinarily use.

 


JH: This book has incredible scope. Between poems we might jump decades. How long were you working on The Minor Territories? It comes eight years after your first collection. How did these books take form during the writing of individual poems?

DS: Well, my first collection was largely written pre-baby, as it was my graduate MFA thesis for the University of Mississippi. Being a working single parent takes a toll on your writing life. I worked on the poems in The Minor Territories for about ten years, often submitting it as a collection to contests before it was ready. I really credit the poet Carrie Fountain, with whom I worked as a mentee from a generous scholarship from Gemini Ink, for helping to shape the collection in its current form. Carrie told me to drop twenty poems and write twenty new ones, which I did over the course of about 6 months. It was a tall order, but the collection was much better for it. Sundress accepted it not long after that.

JH: You shift, in the last third of the book, from thinking about your relationship with your ex-husband, to your relationship with your daughter, your daughter’s relationship with her father, and, briefly, your relationship with your mother. What are you interested in writing about now?

DS: For the last few years, I’ve been working on a series of historical poems born out of ancestry research. There are pirates and Cherokee Indians, Bahamian spongers and shell-mongers, West Tennessee farmers, unnamed women who know only hard work and childbirth. It is endlessly fascinating to me. I’m having fun with it.

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Danielle Sellers is the author of two poetry collections: Bone Key Elegies (Main Street Rag, 2009) and The Minor Territories (Sundress Publications, 2018). Her work also appears in many journals and anthologies. When not teaching at Trinity Valley School in Texas, she can often be found writing or cooking.

Jessica Hudgins is a writer currently living in Mansfield, Georgia.

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Interview with Rodney Gomez, Author of Citizens of the Mausoleum

 

Sundress Publications: The first poem in this collection begins with a quote from the Los Angeles Times, and several later poems also draw from newspaper articles. How did you make this decision? How do you see your work as a poet connected to, and interacting with, the work of a journalist?

Rodney Gomez: Well I think that poetry can and should serve as witness, especially for marginalized communities. I believe it’s a powerful way to document narratives that might otherwise go untold. So some of what you see in the book with reference to news articles is an attempt at preservation of some narratives that might not otherwise survive, or even be told at all. I don’t see this work as similar to journalism, however, because I am creating the story. I am not really telling the story. On the contrary, I am telling a story—the one that the poet hears and is then inscribing on the page. I can’t replicate, but only propagate, the narrative. Therefore, I felt that with these poems there was a need to point the reader to the actual news. In another sense, by drawing from news stories I am doing a very basic job—giving the reader some context that might be helpful to understand what is going on in the poem. In some cases, understanding might be necessary (“Checkpoint Aubade”). In others (“Zuihitsu of the Mesquite Virgin”) it’s helpful but not essential. I am indebted to other writers who uncover new realities. These shape my consciousness, and the poems themselves are also forms of gratitude. I see this relationship as parallel to an ekphrastic one, where another work of art serves as the impetus for my own poem-making.

SP: Your poem “Love” is so funny because it has this perfect twist at the end. It’s also notable because it’s a one-sentence, two-page monologue. Can you say a little about your process writing it?

RG: So “Love” actually arrived in the world pretty full-formed. There are autobiographical elements in it and the part about my friend and his girlfriend stem from an actual conversation, and so the style of the poem mimics that. It started off with a lot of conceptual leap-frogging and refusals to stop the freewheeling of imagination. I tried to focus the theme in subsequent drafts but I wanted to let the speaker’s point of view roam freely. It’s a bit neurotic, too, and I wanted to give the sense that you are hearing a monologue spoken on a therapist’s couch, but there’s a lot of room for empathy there.

 

SP: I feel like, in my own writing, I tend to do the same thing over and over again: the speaker’s voice is always my own voice, and I am usually writing about relationships. I can’t tell if this is just who I am, and that I should accept it, or if I need to push myself to experiment more. Reading through this collection, I’m so struck by the variety in form and tone. Is this something that comes naturally to you? My question is mostly one of admiration: how do you do it??

RG: Well I don’t like to be bored. I like surprises. I like to be delighted. I read so many collections that seem to operate exactly how you describe your own writing—the same voice, the same concerns, and the same way of telling the same stories or discovering the same concepts. So part of the reason for the variety in the book is a willingness to have fun. I have no allegiance to a particular conceptual framework or theoretical approach, so each poem starts anew.

On the other hand, I think development of a singular voice is not easy, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that your writing has a unity of voice. The voice you hear may be your own, or it may not. I would only consider the situation problematic if there were some lack of authenticity there. Is there something missing? Some people never find their voice, and this may be what you see going on in the collection. Maybe there are many voices because I haven’t found a voice. I might want to say that. Or I might want to say, instead, that I’ve developed a better ear for how a poem wants to develop than I had when I first seriously started writing poetry. So variety may be a consequence of developing the ear, or empathy. And the empathy is directed toward the poem—its concerns, its speakers, and its language.

SP: You have another book, Baedeker from the Persistent Refuge, coming out next year. Congratulations! Are you working on a new project now?

RG: Thank you. So yes, Baedeker will be out in February, I think, from YesYes. That’s the plan. That collection is about identity and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. It’s a much more place-based book, a book about subverting conventions when it comes to Chicanxdad. I am working seriously on a third book right now, too, which is roughly based on the way we react to and make sense of acts of violence. It’s a horrible book in that it is depressing to write and really drains me, but I think it’s a book it is necessary for me to write. At this moment I am working on the one of centers of the book, a series of poems based on the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, which is a series of dollhouse dioramas created by Frances Glessner Lee to assist criminal investigators in their training. The scenes are ghastly — for example, one of them shows a bloody crib with a trail of blood leading out to the hallway from a child’s room. That book is a sister collection to Citizens and you can see some of the same concerns already in the first book. I’m not sure, ultimately, what kind of conceptual orientation the new collection will have. I only know that I have a rough operating theme and have certain contours of it in mind.

Citizens of the Mausoleum is available for sale at the Sundress store.

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Rodney Gomez is the author of Citizens of the Mausoleum (Sundress Publications, 2018), Baedeker from the Persistent Refuge (YesYes Books, 2019), and several chapbooks. He is the recipient of the Drinking Gourd Prize from Northwestern University and the Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. His work appears in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Verse Daily, and other journals and anthologies. A proud member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop and the Chocholichex writing collective, he is also an editor at Latino Book Review and works at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

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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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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Valerie Lick

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In elementary and middle school there were three things I was practically guaranteed to have on hand: a fruit-flavored tube of lip balm, a book, and a backup book in case I finished the other one. I would read practically anything; my literary opinions weren’t refined beyond the point of “romances are gross” and “dragons are cool.” All I wanted was to be a writer. I scrawled my first “novel” in a spiral-bound notebook—it wasn’t very good. My parents said I was creative, and my teachers said I should stop daydreaming and get better at math.

I did eventually get better at math, but I never stopped daydreaming. Even in the couple years after middle school, when I went to great lengths to avoid getting caught reading, daydreaming was a creative skill that never left me. There are people and things in the world that just call for daydreaming or writing (which is just a more tangible form of daydreaming)— the old bearded pastor who tells you his small town gets smaller every year, the great blue heron flying over the county swimming pool, the abandoned barn turned canvas for spray paint. There’s a multitude of stories behind everything, and so many of them are worth imagining or even telling.

And what about my own story? I’m not sure where I’m going yet, which is why I’m exploring fields like writing, publishing, and journalism through internships. I’m also working on my BA at the University of Tennessee, where my major is English, my minor is Journalism, and my passion is literature. I’m considering a second minor in “making corny statements.”

If I want to work in the publishing industry it’s high time I demystify the publishing process for myself. That’s why I’m thrilled to work as an editorial intern at Sundress Publications this summer and fall. The raw material of stories doesn’t go through some mystical, arcane process in its journey to be published, but I know I’ll need some practical experience to bring my knowledge of the publishing industry past “here there be dragons”.

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Valerie Lick, the artist currently known as Val, loves those tall, weedy plants that are kind of like daisies except the blooms are really small. She can be found looking mean and studying literature at the University of Tennessee, where she is a rising junior. She thinks that there should be more intersections between science fiction, Appalachian folklore, and fashion journalism.

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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Jessica Hudgins

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I started this internship at kind of a strange time. I’m living now in my grandparents’ house, where my aunt also lived until she passed away in January. I’m getting things settled and trying to figure out what I want my life to look like.  I’ve never been out of school. The house is beautiful, on 25 acres in a town called Mansfield. My grandparents built it in the seventies, and a pond. I drive a few days a week to my new part-time job in a library, reshelving books and checking out patrons. I have two dogs: a rat terrier named Mitzi, who was my grandpa’s, and Roxanne, my aunt’s Yorkie.

When I graduated with my MFA, I applied to several fellowships but didn’t get any. I went to a couple residencies, the Albee Foundation and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and worked odd teaching jobs. I’m glad for the opportunity to do editorial work, especially with Sundress Publications, which I’ve known about and admired for a year or so.

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Jessica Hudgins is a writer currently living in Mansfield, Georgia. 

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Meet Our New Editorial Intern: Laura Villareal

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I wasn’t always a reader. I remember looking for picture books about kids with the same skin color as me but there were very few. At some point I think I internalized the idea that books weren’t for kids like me. This idea was reinforced in school when we only read books by white male writers, and when my teachers expressed doubts about my writing being my own. They believed it was “too good” for someone like me. I was detrimentally shy, but I refused to be underestimated so I continued to work hard. Looking back now I realize that those experiences had less to do with me and more to do with how the world perceives people who look like me.

My parents never stopped encouraging me to read and write. They played audiobooks in the car, gave me books they loved, and let me read whatever I wanted.  Eventually, I learned to love exploring the lives of people different from me. Each new book taught me empathy. I fell in love with the limitlessness of language and how it costs nothing to tell a story. My mom used to tell me that if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read, then I should write it.

It wasn’t until I was in grad school at Rutgers University-Newark that I discovered a community of writers. Everything was new to me. I grew up in the middle of nowhere Texas and had limited knowledge of all things literary. The closest library near my home only housed poetry books by white poets and dead poets. It didn’t occur to me that the world of poetry continued moving and growing like the world of fiction did. That’s naive to admit, but I’ve been lucky; the kindness and generosity of my peers and teachers saved me. Their book suggestions, conversations on writing, and invitations to readings exposed me to a world I couldn’t imagine back home.

After graduation, I moved back to Texas and felt displaced. I continued reading and writing, but didn’t feel like I had a community anymore. By living in a house surrounded by fields instead of my fellow writers, I’ve learned that writing shouldn’t be done alone. I believe that it’s essential to build community, support other writers, and champion their work.

Last summer, I found a community that allowed me to do all those things at VONA/ Voices. All 9 poets who were in my workshop are brilliant and the best people I know. Every day I feel grateful for their support and friendship.  

All of this has led me here to Sundress Publications. I’m always looking for ways to participate and learn more about all the work put into presses and journals. The hard work of writers, editors, and readers at presses and literary magazines is what sustains the writing community. I’m excited to go behind the scenes as an editorial intern with Sundress Publications.

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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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Meet Our New Editorial Intern, Samantha Isler

sam-w-maitaiI was born in 1992, exactly twenty years after Bewitched aired its final season. Coincidence? Yes. But my parents named me after Samantha Stephens, the nose-twitching witch at the center of the show, so it is a weird coincidence. I cannot wiggle my nose, which is probably the one thing holding me back from my magical destiny.

I once saw a ghost in my undergraduate college’s theater. He followed me for a month and would appear directly in my line of vision, not at all like the stories of shadow men in the corner of your eye. A year later, visiting alumni were discussing their own sightings. One woman described exactly who I had seen. “That’s Harvey,” she said. He had been appearing for at least thirty years.

I started college as a biology major before switching to English/Theater. I’m now a second-year graduate student in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program, but I still love science. My best friend mapped the genome of a species of lactating beetle. Did you know some beetles lactate? You do now.

A well-made video game can be one of the best storytelling tools in the modern world. However, I am an absolutely dreadful gamer. Years of practice have done nothing. I have owned every generation of Playstation and still forget where the buttons are. If you ever see me on Destiny, run away. It’s for your own good.

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Samantha Isler loves thunderstorms, campfires, and most cheeses. She lives for science fiction, horror, and fantasy in any medium, including comics and theater. Sam is a student in the Writing, Literature, and Publishing graduate program at Emerson College.  Before coming to Emerson, she worked in a bookstore for four years. Her bookshelves have not recovered since.

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Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents Form in Fiction: A Workshop

Join us for an exciting writing workshop, “Form in Fiction: How to Use Form to Your Advantage,” which focuses on the ways we can use form to help generate new works of fiction with our own Katherine Bell. This workshop will run from 1PM to 4PM on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at Firefly Farms, the home of the Sundress Academy for the Arts.

In this workshop, participants will look at a variety of formal short stories, including epistolary stories, fragmented or braided stories, and “unusual” point-of-view-driven stories, to see how the authors work within and beyond their chosen forms to craft successful and impactful short stories. Workshop participants will generate their own short stories inspired by the formal work we’ll encounter and share their work in a creative environment. We will use this workshop to create new work and celebrate the joy of creating while under constraint.

Katherine Bell

Katherine Bell is the current Writer-in-Residence at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee. Originally from Frederick, Maryland, she earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University in 2017 and has been published in The Fem, Welter Literary Journal, Connotation Press, and others.

Tickets are $25 or $15 for students, and include instruction, snacks, and drinks.

Reserve your space today!

 

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Laura Page’s epithalamium Named Winner of 2017 Chapbook Competition

 

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce that Laura Page is the winner of our sixth chapbook competition. Among a record number of strong and engaging manuscripts, Page’s collection, epithalamium, stood out. Judge Darren C. Demaree had this to say about the chapbook:

unnamed-1epithalamium is an incredible dancer working beautifully, relentlessly, spasmodically on a stage that was constructed small enough that the artist must at some point jump into the crowd to make their work the whole scene. The poems in this chapbook are dynamic and unique. The language, music, and energy used caught me off guard many times, and I can think of no better goals than that for poetry. None of these poems are “that blushing thing.” All of them are working and questioning the archetypes and mythologies that deserve to be questioned, and through that process something larger emerges. Through that process we learn to “forget stardust. / think transit. think love.” This chapbook approaches the real world with an otherworldly understanding of its machinations, and despite that deep look into our workings it emerges with a passionate idea of where this could all be headed.”

Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of the poetry journal, Virga. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Crab Creek Review, The Rumpus, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TINGE, and elsewhere. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, Children, Apostates (dancing girl press, 2016) and Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana (Anchor & Plume, forthcoming).Visit her at www.laurapage.net.

We also are excited to announce that Sarah Einstein’s A Tripart Heart and Grey Vild’s Chickenhawks & Goldilocks were also selected for publication – both collections will be available later this year on the Sundress website.

Other Submitted Chapbooks of Note

Finalists
Sarah Cooper — 89%
Sarah Einstein — A Tripart Heart*
Alexis Olson — A Girl Fell in Love With a Shark
Grey Vild — Chickenhawks & Goldilocks*

Semi-Finalists
Sara Adams — Swallowing Shark
Kelli Allen — Lyrebird Keeps the Peace
Zeina Azzam — Bayna-Bayna
Kristi Carter — Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem
Melissa Fite Johnson — A Crooked Door Cut Into the Sky
Mary Moore — Amanda and the Man Soul
Shannon Mullally — Perpetual Travel

*Selected for publication

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Meet Our New Editorial Intern, Cheyenne L. Black

This is how far I have come to be a Sundress Intern:

When I was five, my mother took me to see The Lawrence Welk Show, live. He picked me out of the audience, did a little dance with me and complimented me (to my mother—not to me) and then kissed my cheek. The left side of my face is still my best side, photogenically speaking, and the right, not so much. My mother thought the kiss had something to do with it, and I still wonder if he should have kissed the right, too.

Since then, and probably not because of that kiss, I dropped out of high school; had three kids; raised them as a single parent (until I married again in 2013); buried my mother; traveled full-time in an RV for three years with three kids, two cats, and a dog; was diagnosed with a disability; enrolled in community college at 39 (first generation students rock!); bought a house; subsequently went to university where I graduated with a double-major in creative writing and interdisciplinary studies at 42; and am now pursuing my MFA at Arizona State University where I am the editor-in-chief of Hayden’s Ferry Review and a Virginia G. Piper fellow. Although I am enrolled in the poetry program at ASU, I write cross-genre and my current projects are a novel-length experimental long poem about growing up in the Sonoran desert, and (when I have time) a novel.

I’m pretty interested in the ways that our lives interact with space and place, with nature and our seeming need to conquer or tame or label as a means of taming (and by this I mean not just nature but children, women, and everything we put in this “wild” category)—so most of my work is place-based as a foundation to explore these ideas, and I’m also fascinated by the ways we create and destroy utopias and dystopias in reality. The intersections I can see for all of my work are women and primitivism; place and pain; naming and taming; spit and anger.

In what seems like another life, I owned a tea company and was also sea kayak guide in the islands off the coast of Washington state (which I still call home) and where I still love to paddle (and drink tea). So if I’m not writing or building something out of mud (vernacular architecture buff), I’m probably swimming, kayaking, or canoeing, or otherwise trying to catch a ferry to the islands. I’m an advocate for women in every area, a community activist for disability rights, for the importance of the arts, the right to equal food access, and a puzzler of the ways we hold and make space.

Honestly, I could not be more excited to join the Sundress team as an intern. This is a collective organization which I admire deeply. To be a part of things which we love already is a treat and an honor.

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Cheyenne L. Black serves as the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is a third-year MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelterand In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobilityamong others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children where she brutally and with much zeal strikes the ‘s’ from directionals like toward, afterward, and backward.

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