The best way to end September is to finish the month with an evening featuring three of the smartest women we know. On September 28, 2022 at 5:30PM (Pacific) via Zoom, we have the pleasure of listening to a combination of poetry, memoir, and fiction. Please join us. And before you do, take a minute to learn a bit about our featured writers.
Lizz Schumer is the senior staff writer for Good Housekeeping, Prevention, and Woman’s Day and her freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, HuffPo, Bon Appetit, The Spruce, VinePair, SELF, and others. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goddard College and is also the author of Buffalo Steel (Black Rose Writing 2013). Her essays, poetry, fiction, and hybrid text have appeared in Punchnel’s, Wordgathering, Ploughshares.com, Ghost City Review, Entropy Mag, and elsewhere. She teaches journalism and communications courses as an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Professional Studies and as a writing consultant at the NYC Writer’s Room.
BIOGRAPHY OF A BODY is a lyrical meander through the development of a messy, flawed, imperfect human and what it means to live in a society that both pulls a person into itself and fiercely pushes back. In personal essays and snippets of verse that shift back and forth through time and place, it fidgets with the puzzle pieces of a life that are at once starkly unique and glaringly obvious. The narrator probes the influence of religion on a person’s psychological development, how the legacy of traditional femininity works their way under her skin, and the many pitfalls of living in a body that doesn’t always conform to expectations, both from within and the world pressing on it.
Tara Stillions Whitehead is a filmmaker and multi-genre writer living in Central Pennsylvania. Graduate of University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television Production and San Diego State University’s Creative Writing MFA Program, her writing and films work to subvert the toxic cultural narratives endorsed by popular media and the institutions that profit from stigmatizing and disadvantaging marginalized and historically oppressed groups. Her writing was included in the 2021 Wigleaf Top 50 and has been nominated for various awards, including Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, AWP Intro Journal Awards, and the Pushcart Prize. A former DGA assistant director for television, she is currently Assistant Professor of Film, Video, and Digital Media Production at Messiah University, where she serves as production faculty for narrative filmmaking. Her hybrid chapbook/concept album, Blood Histories, was published by Galileo Press in 2021.
A 2023 Aspen Words Literary Prize Nominee, The Year of the Monster (2022) explores American culture as commodity and comorbidity. From black holes and animal extinctions to death row trauma porn and the redacted scripts of Hollywood abuses: these sixteen stories subvert traditional notions of justice, challenge vulnerable characters to survive in transgressive spaces. Mixing traditional prose with screenplay and script-hybrid, and certainly not without hope, The Year of the Monster encourages close examination of how American media and our complicity in its marriage of violence and culture perpetuate the human and environmental crises.
Jennifer Sparkman is an expert in the film industry as well as a profession al writer and magazine publisher. Her chapbook LET'S BREAKUP was released in 2018 and explores the aftermath of profound loss.
This Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at 6:30PM, two great authors, Jackson Bliss and Frances Badalamenti will be conversing at the illustrious Rose City Book Pub in NE Portland. If you are unable to join, we will be livestreaming the event via Jackson's IG account, @jacksonbliss.
Jackson Bliss and Frances Badalamenti will be sitting down with each to talk writing as well as the release of DREAM POP ORIGAMI. Dream Pop Origami is a beautiful, ambitious, interactive, and engrossing lyrical memoir about mixed-race identity, love, travel, AAPI masculinities, and personal metamorphosis. This experimental work of creative nonfiction examines, celebrates, and complicates what it means to be Asian & white, Nisei & hapa, Midwestern & Californian, Buddhist & American at the same time. In this stunning collection of choose-your-own-essays and autobiographical lists, multiracial identity is a counterpoint of memory, language, reflection, and imagination intersecting and interweaving into a coherent tapestry of text, emotion, and voice.
Jackson Bliss is the winner of the 2020 Noemi Press Award in Prose and the mixed-race/hapa author of Counterfactual Love Stories & Other Experiments (Noemi Press, 2021), Amnesia of June Bugs (7.13 Books, 2022), and the speculative fiction hypertext, Dukkha, My Love (2017). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Ploughshares, Guernica, Antioch Review, ZYZZYVA, Longreads, TriQuarterly, Columbia Journal, Kenyon Review, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Witness, Fiction, Santa Monica Review, Boston Review, Juked, Quarterly West, Arts & Letters, Joyland, Huffington Post UK, The Daily Dot, and Multiethnic Literature in the US, among others. He is the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University and lives in LA with his wife and their two fashionably dressed dogs. Follow him on Twitter and IG: @jacksonbliss.
Frances Badalamenti was raised in Queens, New York and Suburban New Jersey, but she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son. Her essays, stories and interviews appear in The Believer Magazine, Longreads, Vol.1 Brooklyn, Entropy and elsewhere. Salad Days (2021) is her second novel; her debut novel I Don't Blame You released in 2019
Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino was a 2014 Emerging Writer's Fellow at the Center for Fiction in New York City. He graduated with honors in the Undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. He has had work published in Liars' League New York, Akashic - Mondays are Murder, Gargoyle Magazine, Joyland, Slow Trains and Plain Spoke. His chapbook Alphabetica: The Other Side of Love was published by Corgi Snorkel Press.
The stories in The Guide to Being a Dictator’s Mistress are meant to capture a reader’s imagination and take the familiar, and unfamiliar, and provide for an enjoyable reading experience. In the title story and the companion story The Guide to Being a Dictator’s Body Double, characters who are caught in the orbit of those ruling with an iron fist have to find ways to survive. In In Character, a man finds himself in trouble after trying to translate the Batman we all know from the comic books and the movies to real life. And in the last story Alphabetica: The Other Side of Love, the slow disintegration of a marriage is laid bare as a couple comes to the realization that getting married was the easy part. As a range of normal, and somewhat normal, characters navigate familiar worlds, often with a slight twist, the stories aim to engage the full range of human emotion in a thought provoking, and unique, fashion.
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Lisa Badner is the author of the forthcoming book of poems, FRUITCAKE. Lisa’s writing has appeared in Rattle, the New Ohio Review, TriQuarterly, Mudlark, The Satirist, PANK, Fourteen Hills, the Mom Egg Review, Ping Pong, New World Writing, Mohave River Review, #TheSideshow and others. She received a Pushcart (2018) Special Mention. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Brooklyn Law School and coordinates the tutorial program at the Writers Studio. She lives in Brooklyn with her teenager and her chihuahua.
FRUITCAKE is a collection of poems that follows a persona through various jobs as an Administrative Judge and civil servant, the adoption of her son and her relationship through the years with her parents and in particular, her father, who worked as a macaroon baker.
While the subject matter varies throughout the collection, the thread of the narrative voice is wry, humorous and sharp.
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The event is free and you can join by heading over to our EVENTS calendar. Click on the ready to find the Zoom link.
This week we are happy to host a reading wit Jason Fisk and Joshua Roark. The reading is held on Zoom at 5:30PM Pac Time. You can access the event on our calendar.
Jason Fisk lives and writes in the suburbs of Chicago. He has worked in a psychiatric unit, labored in a cabinet factory, and mixed cement for a bricklayer. He currently teaches language arts to eighth graders. He was born in Ohio, raised in Minnesota, and has spent the last few decades in the Chicago area. He recently had a collection of poetry published by Kelsay Books: Sub Urbane. He also had a number of books and chapbooks published: Sadly Beautiful, essays, poems, and short stories published by Leaf Garden Press; Salt Creek Anthology, a collection of micro-fiction published by Chicago Center for Literature and Photography; the fierce crackle of fragile wings, a collection of poetry published by Six Gallery Press; and two poetry chapbooks: The Sagging: Spirits and Skin, and Decay, both published by Propaganda Press.
In The Craigslist Incident, Edna Barrett takes an advertisement out on Craigslist: I'm an 18-year-old female and I want to take a hit out on myself. Joe Dolsen, a 20-year-old who has suffered from periodic blackouts his whole life, answers the ad. What would bring two people to such ominous points at such young ages, and will they actually go through with it?
Joshua Roark is the author of Put One Hand Up, Lean Back (Unsolicited Press), a chapbook of sonnets recollecting and investigating his experience as a middle school teacher in the Mississippi Delta. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Frontier Poetry, a magazine for new voices in poetry. He and his wife live happily in the desert of Joshua Tree, CA.
Joshua Roark's poetry is crisp and refreshing -- a book of freshly squeezed lemons -- poems that reach out and grab you. Make you laugh. Fill you up. "Buy Your Own Classroom Supplies" Your classroom binder should be big, beefy, yellow maybe, or red, easy for spotting, smudged with something like chocolate, coffee splashed across the pages and set in the rings. Your pens should be sunset colored, show that you mean business, even from your pocket or dry, chapped hands—oh, and don’t forget the bottle of sanitizer. It’ll sit fatlike a trophy at the edge of your desk. Your closet should hold four white button-up shirts, two pairs of heavy polyester pants, black, creased, and a single ink-black clip-on-tie, bought at an army surplus store. Trust me, full length ties are not worth the risk.
Unsolicited Press is inviting you to a reading and conversation with Francis Daulerio and Kelli Russell Agodon.
This virtual event is to celebrate the launch of JOY by Francis Daulerio. Joy is the new full-length collection of poetry by Francis Daulerio, author of If & When We Wake, Please Plant This Book, and With a Difference. Beginning with one pregnancy and ending with another, Joy examines the ways in which we keep ourselves alive, centering around the birth of Daulerio’s first child while coping with the loss of friend and collaborator, Scott Hutchison. With a foreword by acclaimed author Maggie Smith (Good Bones, Keep Moving), and cover art by UK artist Helen Ahpornsiri, this life-affirming collection highlights what Bon Iver’s Sean Carey describes as “Daulerio’s relentless hope and love,” encouraging readers to push through hardships to find their own sense of meaning.
The event is on Zoom on 6/23/2022 at 5:30PM Pacific Time. Join the reading by clicking on the event on the calendar: https://www.unsolicitedpress.com/events.html
Francis Daulerio is a poet and teacher from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University in 2014 before releasing If & When We Wake (Unsolicited Press 2015) and Please Plant This Book (The Head & The Hand Press 2018), both with illustrations by Scottish artist, Scott Hutchison. Francis has also released All Is Not Lost, a collaborative vinyl EP of poetry-infused music to benefit the Tiny Changes charity organization, and With a Difference (Trident Boulder 2020), a split book of ‘covers’ with Philadelphia author Nick Gregorio.
Francis is a mental health awareness advocate, and has performed across the United States and abroad to raise money for suicide prevention.
He lives in the woods with his wife and children. He finds a good bit of joy there.
Kelli Russell Agodon's (she/her) is the author of four collection of poems, including the award-winning Dialogues with Rising Tides, which was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021.
She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press as well as the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women. Agodon lives in a sleepy seaside town in Washington State on traditional land of the Chimacum, Coast Salish, S'Klallam, and Suquamish people. She is an avid paddleboarder and hiker. She teaches at Pacific Lutheran University’s low-res MFA program, the Rainier Writing Workshop.
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Guess what's happening on Wednesday? Our weekly literary reading, that's what! This week our managing editor will be hosting Gary M. Almeter and Matt Daly. The reading is free to attend and open to anyone who loves to hear writers read from their books and talk about their processes.
You can join the event at 5:30PM Pacific time via Zoom. The link is on our events calendar.
On May 25, 2022, we are hosting a wonderful virtual event with authors Elizabeth Vignali and Kami Westhoff. Unsolicited Press has partnered with them as co-authors, and separately for their own collections. Feminist and evocative, this is an evening you will not want to miss. You can login to the event via our events calendar. No RSVP needed.
Elizabeth Vignali is the author of Object Permanence (Finishing Line Press 2015) and Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019), and coauthor of Your Body A Bullet (Unsolicted Press 2018). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she works as an optician, coproduces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.
Her latest book, HOUSE OF THE SILVERFISH, explores the reckoning of inevitable loss on both a personal and global scale, from learning to loosen our hold on children as they grow older to coming to terms with our annihilation of vast swathes of species. The story of an unraveling marriage is interspersed with poems questioning ownership of all kinds—of place, of people, and of time itself.
Kami Westhoff lives in the Pacific Northwest where she teaches creative writing at Western Washington University. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Sleepwalker, winner of the Minerva Rising Dare to Be Contest; Your Body a Bullet, co-written with Elizabeth Vignali; and Cloud-bound, forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry and prose has been published in journals including Booth, Carve, Hippocampus, Fugue, Passages North, Redivider, Waxwing and West Branch.
The soon-to-be-published book The Criteria explores unconventional, and at times highly problematic, motherhood. The characters struggle with impossible choices that often lead to heartbreaking behaviors. In the titular story, the main character takes on the burden of breastfeeding infants whose mothers have fallen in while at the same time struggling with the fate of her own infant. Another story imagines a scenario in which the mother/child bond is prohibited, and drastic measures taken to ensure its prevention. The characters are asked to suffer many tragedies, as well as to embrace hope in the most unlikely places.
HOUSE OF THE SILVERFISH by Elizabeth Vignali
HOUSE OF THE SILVERFISH explores the reckoning of inevitable loss on both a personal and global scale, from learning to loosen our hold on children as they grow older to coming to terms with our annihilation of vast swathes of species. The story of an unraveling marriage is interspersed with poems questioning ownership of all kinds—of place, of people, and of time itself.
Publication Date: February 28, 2021
Your Body a Bullet by Kami Westhoff and Elizabeth Vignali
Mistletoe sinks its tendrils into the oak tree, a cuckoo lays her murderous egg in another mother’s nest, a worm slips into the grasshopper’s gut and convinces it to drown itself. Green leaves unfurl, the warbler feeds her accidental child, and the pond continues to shimmer. From the slick burrow of the snubnosed eel to the human autosite brushing her sister’s teeth, Your Body a Bullet lifts the veil between the ghastly and beautiful relationships of parasites and their hosts. All are given equal measure here, inviting us to face our own extremes and urging us to think about what really drives our behavior. A spider says “I have no questions/about God, just the irrefutable alchemy/of your infant apothecaries.” The female anglerfish “can no longer discern where my body ends/and yours begins.” Where is the line between instinct and decision? What are we willing to do to one another; what are we willing to sacrifice? These poems are an homage to the brutality of survival, the nuances of love, and the exceptional lengths mothers will go to for their children.
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
THE CRITERIA by Kami Westhoff
The Criteria explores unconventional, and at times highly problematic, motherhood. The characters struggle with impossible choices that often lead to heartbreaking behaviors. In the titular story, the main character takes on the burden of breastfeeding infants whose mothers have fallen in while at the same time struggling with the fate of her own infant. Another story imagines a scenario in which the mother/child bond is prohibited, and drastic measures taken to ensure its prevention. The characters are asked to suffer many tragedies, as well as to embrace hope in the most unlikely places.
Publication Date: 5/31/2022
You are invited to a literary reading with Emily Paige Wilson and Laura Kiesel.
Emily Paige Wilson is the author of Jalubí (Unsolicited Press, 2022) and two chapbooks: Hypochondria, Least Powerful of the Greek Gods (Glass Poetry Press, 2020) and I'll Build Us a Home (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.
Laura Kiesel is a longtime poet, essayist and journalist. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, the Washington Post, Vice, Vox, Ozy, Narratively, Salon, The Manifest-Station and many others. Her poems have been featured in upstreet, Medulla Review. Fox Chase Review, Blue Lake Review, Stone Highway Review, Noctua Review, Naugatuck River Review, Wilderness House Literary Review. Originally from Brooklyn, New York she now lives in the Boston area where she teaches creative nonfiction, literary journalism and poetry at Grub Street and Arlington Center for the Arts. She is the servant of two adorable but demanding cats and has a habit of staying up way too late at night, usually reading.
The reading will feature readings by both authors followed by an open Q+A window. You can join the reading by going to our events calendar and joining via Zoom.
On May 4th, we are hosting a reading with two poets that write poetry in two very different ways. The reading will be held live on Zoom at 5:30PM Pacific Time. You can join on our events page (just click the event and then the link).
Grace Marie Grafton
Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six books of poetry. Jester (2013) was published by Hip Pocket Press. Author Mary Mackey writes that this collection of poems “links us to a communal imagination which transcends the conventional limits of both poetry and fine arts.” Whimsy, Reticence and Laud (2012) was published by Poetic Matrix Press. Poet/novelist Tobey Hiller writes of this book, “In these lush sonnets.....the wild and the cultivated often collide.” Other Clues (2010), composed of experimental prose poems, was published by Latitude Press. Of this collection, poet Melissa Kwasny writes, “There is wisdom amidst the chaos. Eros. Nature. There are tutelary spirits of the plants and the nouns.” Ms. Grafton's chapbook, Zero, (1999) won the Poetic Matrix Press contest. Her poetry has won honors from “Bellingham Review”, San Francisco PEN Women's Soul Making contests, “Sycamore Review” and “Anderbo.” Her poems have recently appeared in “Fifth Wednesday”, “Cortland Review”, “Ambush Review”, “Askew'”, “The Offending Adam”, “Sin Fronteras”, and “basalt”, among others..
For over three decades, Ms. Grafton taught children to write poetry through the CA Poets in the Schools program, winning twelve Artist In Residence grants from the CA Arts Council for her teaching. She was awarded Teacher of the Year by the River Of Words Youth Poetry Contest, sponsored by Robert Hass, US Poet Laureate.
Author of two chapbooks--Resonance of Kin (PuddingHouse 2013) and Between Worlds (Foothills 2013)—Bill Neumire’s first full-length book, Estrus, was a semi-finalist for the 42 Miles Press Award. He regularly reviews books of contemporary poetry for Vallum, and for Verdad where he works as poetry editor.
Celebrating the launch of a book is a momentous occasion. This summer we invite you to experience Francis Daulerio's JOY by attending a book tour event. Francis will be touring the East Coast as well as making several virtual appearances.
The lineup goes from Philly to Brooklyn. The team at Unsolicited Press and Francis would be honored to have you in the audience. You can buy tickets HERE. This is one book tour that you will not want to miss. All virtual events are free and accessible on our Events page.
JOY is Francis Daulerio’s second full length collection of poetry and fifth release in the last seven years. Beginning with one pregnancy and ending with another, JOY is a meditation on the ways in which we struggle to stay alive, live among each others’ wreckage, and hold each other up. Through what Bon Iver’s Sean Carey describes as “Daulerio’s relentless hope and love,” JOY explores the challenges of seeking happiness while living with depression and anxiety, frequently settling in the mundanity of normal life, hunting for beauty in the plain and celebrating each bit of it. While the title may suggest a lighthearted read, the book is more about the seeking than the finding, centering around the birth of Daulerio’s first child while coping with the loss of friend and collaborator, Scott Hutchison. Though painful at times, it is a life-affirming book that encourages readers to push through the hardships we all face to find their own sense of meaning.
JOY is packed tight with fifty-four poems, a few which have been previously release through magazines, but most of which are brand new. It also has a foreword by author Maggie Smith (Good Bones, Keep Moving), and stunning cover art by UK artist Helen Ahpornsiri.
JOY is due out June 21, 2022. Preorder a copy today and have it in time for the tour. Francis will have a limited amount on hand at each stop.
With April coming to a close, we want to end National Poetry Month with a bang by hosting a reading with the darling Rowe Carenen, the poet who wrote FIRST DRAFTS FROM THE BREWERY.
You can join the virtual event by heading over to our events page (click on the event and the info for the Zoom meeting is in there). The reading is at 5:30PM Pacific Time.
First Drafts from the Brewery explores the ends, and beginnings, of relationships, the value of true-blue friends, and the delights of the seasons. Less a how-to guide to divorce, and more a long and lingering porch-chat complete with good beer or a strong whiskey, this collection embraces simplicity while staring down pain without flinching. But not to worry, there’s plenty of cats, puppies, and cozy blankets.
Rowe Carenen is a graduate of Salem College and the University of Southern Mississippi. When asked, she'd say that poetry has been her passion ever since she realized that words could convey more than just the facts. Her poems have appeared in various literary journals and magazines, including The Revenant Culture, GERM, Terrible Orange Review, the Running with Water anthology, and her first collection, In the Meantime, was published by Neverland Publishing in 2014. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with her cat Minerva Jane and dog Neville Jameson.
Born in Texas and raised in Chad, Aaron Brown is the author of the poetry collection, Acacia Road, winner of the 2016 Gerald Cable Book Award (Silverfish Review Press). He has been published in World Literature Today, Tupelo Quarterly, Waxwing, Cimarron Review, and Transition, among others, and he is a contributing editor for Windhover. Brown now lives in Texas, where he is an assistant professor of English and directs the writing center at LeTourneau University. He holds an MFA from the University of Maryland.
John W. Bateman lives in the Deep South, chasing words and finding stories. Influences include comedian and writer Bob Smith, photographer Duane Michals, his fairy godparents, and coffee. His work has appeared in OneNewEngland, The Huffington Post, Glitterwolf Magazine, Nately's, the SFWP Quarterly, and lots of notebooks stacked in a bookcase somewhere. He has won a few awards for screenwriting and received a 2018 Emerging Filmmaker grant from the Mississippi Film Alliance. Who Killed Buster Sparkle? is his first novel.
Who are you as a poet? What do you represent?
BB: I hope I never have an answer for this. I can tell you what other people would say about my voice. There are patterns, images that come again and again—flying, disappearing, dancing, jumping. Peacocks and racoons and fire escapes. Stellar nurseries. Blankets and threads. Wildness, mostly, strangeness, dream-like stuff—the mirror you find in the woods. The black widow you find crying on the windowsill. Buddhas and shadow goddesses. But I also have poems about discrimination and politics and Taco Bell. I don’t want a fixed idea of who I am as a poet or any other way, because once you have that idea you start living or writing within those boundaries, and one of my favorite things about writing is how my own poems surprise me and take me to new places.
My best work is about moments when we become more than we are. There is a place for poetry on every topic and emotion, but my favorites are triumphant, a reminder to myself that I can fly, I will fly regardless of my wounds or fears or mistakes or other obstacles. That we are vastness, that separation is an illusion. That the destiny of consciousness is enlightenment. And when I feel the truth of it in my gut, that means it’s true for everyone, and I think everyone needs to be reminded sometimes that they are perfect, they are beauty, they are power and courage and they can fly too, because it’s easy to forget that in this world.
What is your proudest poetic accomplishment?
BB: My first published poetry collection, Only Flying, came out in November. In one sense, it’s something I’d been trying to do for two years, revising it and sending it out again and again to small presses. Unsolicited Press was the fifteenth place I had sent it, and I didn’t have much hope for publishing it anymore—I just kept doing it anyway.
But in another sense, it’s something I had been trying to do for forty years, since I wrote my first poetry collection in first grade.
My daughter was five months old when I signed the book contract, and I was teaching almost full time at PPCC. So for the entire process of editing, cover design, marketing, and all the other stuff that goes into making a book, I was working from a corner of the bedroom from 2-5 in the morning. My office is a divider in the room with a lamp with a blue light bulb in it, and I had to be careful not to type too loud. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my husband and the rest of my family. I still don’t know how I did it, really, but that’s what my life was like when it happened. It had been my dream since I was a little girl, so not doing it just wasn’t an option.
Talk to us about your process writing and, if applicable, performing.
BB: There are two ways for me, the mystical way and the conscious way. Just before the pandemic, I had my students compare the Nobel Prize for Literature speeches of Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan. Toni Morrison is incredibly conscious—she knows exactly what she’s doing and why she’s doing it. And next to her, Bob Dylan looks like an idiot—when you think of good stuff, you put it in a song, he says, because it looks good. Water flowing down a ladder—it looks good. You don’t know why, you just write it down. He’s not really an idiot, though. His process is just different—mystical.
Some poems are gifts. Words and images just come sometimes, come through you, and then your job is to get out of the way so they can be born the way they want to. This is the poem that comes at three in the morning, half dream and half vision, words or just an image, water flowing down a ladder. Even if I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, I scribble it on a sticky note because it’s my job to write it down. These are some of the most surreal pieces, the most mystical. Poetry is the furthest words can bend. Poetry uses words to go beyond words. That’s the magic of it—poetry hotwires the brain, bypassing the logic circuits and electrifying the heart directly. One misunderstanding about poetry is that it has to be understood with the head. You can feel it, experience it without that. Sometimes the head is the problem. You don’t have to know what it means; it’s moving through you into the world.
I work both ways: other times ideas come from the mind or imagination or the news. On a conscious level, poetry is an attempt to communicate feeling, insight, vision. My most conscious poetry is an attempt to recreate a flash of insight—a moment of vastness, or beauty, courage, rebellion, love, gratitude. Truth. Oneness between people or with the world or with the self. The trick is to make it a journey for the reader’s own imagination, so they have their own flash.
Before performing my work, I practice at home. I print it out in a big font and number the pages and highlight every other line. And if I get nervous, I picture somebody like Sarah Silverman making fun of me, like, “Oh, poor widdle baby! Are you scared to wead at the open mic? What do you think this is, The Tonight Show? Just do it, dummy.”
How would you describe the poetry community in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region?
BB: Most of my involvement in the local poetry community has been through Pikes Peak Community College, where I teach poetry and creative writing. When I finished my MFA, I immediately missed the deadlines, audience, and feedback on my work. Someone gave me the idea of starting a faculty writers’ group, and I did that—it’s called the Nearby Universe. But I made it for all employees, not just faculty, and I’m so glad I did. We have members from the testing center, admins, financial aid office, all over. Math and psychology teachers. It’s been all the things a community is—friendship, motivation, inspiration. A place to get honest feedback on our work. For almost five years now, we’ve been meeting once a month, taking turns workshopping and talking shop about publication, agents, imagery, style—really all things writing. Every winter, we have a write-in, too. We get together and just write next to each other for four hours, like parallel play for grownups. We used to do it downtown at a coffee shop, but the last few years we’ve been doing it on Zoom.
Every class I teach is a poetry community, too. My students are amazing—they get me excited about writing again and again, challenge my ideas, and provide me with excellent reading. My students have written the best creative nonfiction braids I’ve ever read.
How has poetry been a vehicle for activism, change, or advocacy in your life and community?
BB: I have a few explicitly anti-racist and anti-sexist and anti-homophobic poems, and a lot of poems and stories about daring to be yourself and love yourself no matter what. So I hope their publication in literary magazines and in my collection has been a drop in the bucket somewhere.
Within academia, change has been slow. Nationwide, college curriculums are starting to be more diverse, but the canon’s walls are thick. It has to start sooner than that. By the time they get to college, half my writers already think poetry’s not for them, not about them. Every semester I ask my students what poetry means, who they think of, and nobody says Lauren Hill or Kendrick Lamar. The answers are always the same: Sonnets. Rules. Shakespeare and Robert Frost and Edgar Allen Poe. What do they all have in common? They’re all dead, they say. All men. And all white.
I use my classroom as a vehicle for change. In my poetry class, we study rap specifically, and 75% of the authors we read are people of color in all my classes. And when anybody questions that, I tell them I’m making up for lost time.
What’s missing in our poetry community?
BB: More emphasis on the arts and the imagination in education. More events and poetry play for kids and teenagers. I have 18-year-olds telling me they’re just not creative people—where did they learn that? The ideas that poetry is for everybody and that poetry is a way to freedom, a way to be yourself, not a dusty room full of rules, has to come sooner.
What advances in poetry have you witnessed during your time in the poetry community?
BB: The first poetry community I was a part of was my own group of friends in high school and college. Art was part of our connection—we would sing together. We would draw and paint and make sculptures and show each other. We wrote poetry—sometimes about each other—and we read our work to each other. We gave each other feedback, but mostly we uplifted each other and encouraged each other to keep writing and creating. So, in that sense, I’ve been in one poetry community or another for about 30 years.
In that time, the biggest advance in the form itself has been the rise of prose poetry into the mainstream, the breaking of the only thing that was really holding poetry together, the only rule left: the line. This contributed to a psychological shift, I think, making poetry a little less pretentious and intimidating, and opening it up to new angles and voices.
Now, boundaries between forms and genres are the thinnest they’ve ever been—there are graphic novels of poetry and computer games that should be called novels. There are novels written in hypertext, novels made of bites of prose poetry, and a thousand other hybrids and experiments happening. It’s an incredible time to be reading and writing poetry.
What would you say to folks interested or just starting to engage with our poetry scene?
BB: If you love it, do it. And don’t count yourself out until you’ve put your ten thousand hours into it. I get students who tell me they like poetry, they’re just not good at writing it, and when I ask how many poems they’ve written, the answer is five or ten or twenty or one. It takes time and effort. Take a class, and read it, and listen to it, and talk to other people who want to write it. Join a writers’ group, online or in person.
How do you find and access our poetry community? Who are the players and places of connection?
BB: My first poet friend was my grandmother, from as long as I can remember. Now I have a few close writer friends, people I can send drafts and fragments to and talk about ideas with, and I do the same for them. There’s also my writers’ group at PPCC, the Nearby Universe. There are literary magazines I follow and submit to regularly, like A Story in 100 Words and Loud Coffee Press.
There’s a lot of community out there that I would love to explore if I had time, like The Pikes Peak Writers Association and Ashley’s group, Poetry 719. I want to go to AWP. But I’m a mom and my babies come first. I have two kids and I have a trampoline. So my plate is very full right now, but it’s delicious. I wouldn’t change a thing.
You can support Brook Bhagat by ordering a copy of her book ONLY FLYING.
We are hosting a special reading on Tuesday, April 12, 5:30pm – 6:30pm in honor of Ted's book coming out! Head over to the events page to access the event. No RSVP required.
Ace Boggess is author of the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody, but is known more for his four books of poetry: I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled. His writing, both poetry and prose, has appeared in hundreds of literary journals, including Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, The Bellingham Review, Rattle, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly, J Journal, Mid-American Review, and Southern Humanities Review. He received a fellowship for fiction from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison, an experience he writes about with intensity and humor.
Theodore Worozbyt has received grants from the NEA, and the Georgia and Alabama Councils for the Arts. His work appears widely, in such publications as Antioch Review, Bennington Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Poetry, Po&sie, The Southern Review, and TriQuarterly. His books are The Dauber Wings, Letters of Transit, winner of the Juniper Prize, and Smaller Than Death. He teaches at Georgia State University.
I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So by Ace Boggess
I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So is comprised of poems the author wrote as responses to questions he collected over the years, whether asked directly or mined from other poems, novels, billboards, surveys, Facebook memes, leaflets, and many other places. He used these questions as a way of looking inside his life, the lives of the askers, and the world around him.
Release: August 28, 2018
TUESDAY MARRIAGE DEATH by Theodore Worozbyt
The first poem in this fourth full-length collection by Theodore Worozbyt closes with an image that suggests a mythical bird, transcendence, unending wealth and success, caesarean birth, violent death, a surgeon lurking in the name of an ancient fish, and an end that comes as a beginning: “Golden eggs /slit from a sturgeon's belly finish it.” So begins the undertaking, in this volume, to compress language itself into a ball, to roll it forth, not toward one overwhelming question, but to scores of them. If the title arcs a life with astonishing and unnerving brevity, and if most of those overwhelming questions remain unanswered, the title poem turns to us, on the final page, to offer the only human consolation we ever get to keep: “Let us begin again.”
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Enjoy a Reading with Alex Miller
Alex Miller is a Pittsburgh-based writer, journalist and graphic designer. His fiction has been published widely in print and online journals, including Maudlin House, Whiskeypaper and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. He is the author of the novella, “Osama bin Laden is Dead,” a coming-of-age story set in a small town in post-9/11 America. He is the former head of design for Fifth Wednesday Journal and has lived and worked in Nashville, Chattanooga, Daytona Beach and the Big Island of Hawaii. A Florida native, he grew up in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Miller is the author of How to Write an Emotionally Resonant Werewolf Novel.
The stories in How to Write an Emotionally Resonant Werewolf Novel were written during the tumultuous years following the global financial crisis. They show us glimpses of ourselves as we fold shirts for minimum wage at the mall, scrape together rent money from tips earned waiting tables, stay up until 3 a.m. playing video games, skip school, skip work, smoke cigarettes, watch resignedly as our nation marches to war, cheat on the people we love, linger at night on their social media pages, and find ourselves suddenly alone and at peace, standing on a hilltop with birds.
You can join the virtual event tonight, March 30, by popping over to our events calendar and clicking on the event. Invite your friends!!!
MATT LAFRENIERE is a husband, father, teacher, poet - not always in that order. He lives in Baltimore and teaches English at the Boys' Latin School of Maryland. His work has appeared in Dunes Review, Rat's Ass Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Main Street Rag, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spry and elsewhere.
Matthew is the craftsman of DON'T TURN THE PROJECTOR OFF!.
Phillip Hurst is the author of a novel, Regent's of Paris, as well as a book of nonfiction, Whiskey Boys: And Other Meditations from the Abyss at the End of Youth, winner of the 2021 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize. His writing has appeared in literary journals such as The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, River Teeth, Cimarron Review, and Post Road Magazine. He currently lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.
Phillip is the author of The Land of Ale and Gloom: Discovering the Pacific Northwest.
Rachel Elliott is a native Canadian who migrated south (like the geese) to escape the cold. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Brent, and dog, Swagger, and is a proud mom to two grown daughters. She would rather be at the beach than anywhere else and loves to find an adventure. An avid reader, and recreational writer, LOVE AND GENETICS is her first published work.
Mark MacDonald lives in Beaverton, Oregon with his wife of twenty-one years, Tina, their two children, Zoe and Alaska, and seemingly countless pets. His day jobs are engineering technology development and education. He is an unabashed science nerd and an avid supporter of women in STEM fields. An author of numerous academic publications and patents, LOVE & GENETICS is his first popular non-fiction work.
Joseph Allen Costa is a freelance writer and adjunct English professor in Tampa. He received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Tampa and his BA from the University of South Florida. His short fiction has appeared in BULL men’s fiction, Rabble Lit, the HCE Review, The Write Launch and in December Magazine as a finalist for the Curt Johnson Prose Awards. Costa is the author of three novels (The Good, The Bad and The Goalie, Discovering Dynamite! and Eye of the Storm), and one linked collection of short fiction (Comets, published by Unsolicited Press).
Mick Bennett is what most writers start out as: human. A person with a rich background and an ever-shaping imagination that eventually unleashes itself onto paper.
Bennett grew up in Belmar, NJ, two blocks from the beach. From moments as a lifeguard in New Jersey to bar tending in Pennsylvania to teaching English at all levels, Bennett is currently living his life building characters, plotting climaxes and kickin' ass wherever he goes.
Mick Bennett holds an M.A. from Shippensburg University. But who cares because that didn't make him a writer. His dedication to the craft and ability to describe rich worlds make him a writer. Prior to publication with Unsolicited Press, Bennett self-published The Bread of Teaching in 2009. The book demonstrates Bennett's forward push toward publication with a press.
Bennett has been married to his wife for nearly 31 years, and they have two children, Nathan, 26, and Erin, 20. His life is simple and simplicity is divine.
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, performer, and playwright, John Biscello, has lived in the high-desert grunge-wonderland of Taos, New Mexico since 2001.
He is the author of four novels, Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, Nocturne Variations, and No Man’s Brooklyn; a collection of stories, Freeze Tag, two poetry collections, Arclight and Moonglow on Mercy Street; and a fable, The Jackdaw and the Doll, illustrated by Izumi Yokoyama. He also adapted classic fables, which were paired with the vintage illustrations of artist, Paul Bransom, for the collection: Once Upon a Time, Classic Fables Reimagined. His produced, full-length plays include: LOBSTERS ON ICE, ADAGIO FOR STRAYS, THE BEST MEDICINE, ZEITGEIST, U.S.A., and WEREWOLVES DON’T WALTZ.
Some of his primary influences and creative heroes include: Henry Miller, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante, Anais Nin, Jack Kerouac, Knut Hamsun, Yasunari Kawabata, William Saroyan, Dr. Seuss, Dylan Thomas, Julio Cortazar, Patrick Modiano, Marguerite Duras, Dylan Thomas, Haruki Murakami, Paul Auster, Raymond Carver, Sylvia Plath, David Lynch, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and the list goes on and on and on.
Books by the Authors
Join us tonight at 5:30PM Pacific for a reading with authors Kadzi Mutizwa and Jennifer Clark. Our reading series is a yearlong expedition featuring authors with books just out or books that we published years ago.
You can join the event by heading to our events calendar. No RSVP needed.
About the Kadzi Mutizwa
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kadzi Mutizwa now lives in New York City. Living of Natural Causes is her first book.
About Living of Natural Causes
In these 12 humor-laced personal essays, Kadzi Mutizwa (a midwestern New Yorker) reflects on her trajectory as a high(ish)-functioning outlier. Themes taken up include mounting self-awareness, facing your foibles and failures, not giving up while becoming more measured about giving in, sucking at yoga, and gradually rising into your full authenticity. Living of Natural Causes is about recognizing how complex each of us are and should be.
About Jennifer Clark
JENNIFER CLARK is the author of three full-length poetry collections, most recently, A Beginner’s Guide to Heaven (Unsolicited Press). She is also the co-editor of the anthology, Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors (Celery City Books) and editor of Michigan Roots, a Poetry Society of Michigan anthology. She’s authored a children’s book on college awareness, What Do You See In Room 21 C? (Celery City Books), and her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her website is jenniferclarkkzoo.com.
About Kissing the World Goodbye
Clark’s latest book, Kissing the World Goodbye, is a memoir infused with recipes that invites the reader to crouch down and notice the small things in life we too easily overlook. Everything in this world, no matter how small, is worthy of consideration for Clark, from isopods barreling through Tasmanian soil to the origins of childhood nicknames. Big things matter, too, like siblionic love, a term she coins in an attempt to describe the indescribable connections between siblings. Within this funny, poignant, and often tasty memoir, Clark weaves in serious issues such as the perpetual closeness of various forms of loss, and family members, particularly her sister’s, easily moving on in the face of matters that weigh Clark down. And much weighs her down: naming fish, Ernest Borgnine’s eyebrows, cell phones, instapots, and more.
Bottom line: this lyrical journey reminds us life is messy, funny, fragile, and fleeting. For even as we kiss the world hello, we kiss it goodbye.
In just one month we are releasing a long-awaited title from Mark MacDonald and Rachel Elliott: LOVE AND GENETICS. To celebrate the launch, a virtual book launch/reading will be hosted by Annie Bloom's.
If you've never been to Annie Bloom's, it's a local bookstore in Multnomah Village. The reading will be held on March 22, 2022 at 5PM PST. You can RSVP here!
To support the bookstore, we ask that if you plan on attending the event and buying the book, to purchase a copy from them, if possible. That's the best way we can show our appreciation for supporting authors and small press literature.
About the Book
When a family secret comes to light, lives are changed forever in this honest, beautiful, and sometimes painful memoir. When Mark, adopted at birth, set out to find his genetic family as an adult, he found something he never expected-three full-blood siblings, including a persistent sister who would alter the course of his life. He finds himself faced with the emotional task of coming to know his entire birth family, along with the unintended impact it has on his parents and his marriage. This raises age-old questions around the understanding of his own identity and his place in the world-now framed in extraordinarily real and explicit terms: What defines family? Nature or nurture? Life rarely affords such an opportunity for self-examination.
The story focuses on the relationship that develops between Mark and his sister, Rachel, as they discover each other through constant letters and eventual face-to-face meetings. When Rachel learns that Mark and his wife are struggling with having children, a radical idea takes over-could she, a sister he never knew and still barely knows, one who lives on the other side of the country, possibly carry their child? Would they trust her to? Including original correspondence between Rachel, Mark, and their biological mother, Marilyn, Love & Genetics follows the events of a tumultuous year in an astonishing story of love, loss, and the meaning of family.
About the Authors
Mark MacDonald is an adjunct professor at Portland State University and a principal engineer at Intel Corporation. He has authored more than forty scientific publications, for which he has received multiple awards, including the Martin Hirschorn Best Paper Prize from the International Acoustics Congress (2010).
Rachel Elliott grew up in the prairies of Alberta, Canada, yet somehow (miraculously) finds herself living outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and became a US citizen in 2016. She works in mortgage lending and is a voracious reader.
Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have been published in Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Notre Dame Review, The Malahat Review, The Puritan, Oxford Poetry, Asymptote, and elsewhere. She is the author of five other poetry collections and four chapbooks, most recently Twoxism, a collaboration with visual artist Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea’s poem My Father’s Quiet Friends in Prison, 1958-1962 received the New Letters Readers Award. She won the Levure Littéraire Award for Poetry Performance, and she was featured in the documentary Poetry of Witness (2015). Serea’s poems have been translated in French, Italian, Arabic, and Farsi, and have been featured in The Writer’s Almanac. Her collection of selected poems translated into Arabic, Tonight I’ll Become a Lake into which You’ll Sink, was published in Cairo, Egypt, in 2021. Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month, and she co-hosts The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Readings in Rutherford, NJ.
Darci Schummer is a writer and educator living in Duluth, Minnesota. Primarily a fiction writer, she is the author of the story collection Six Months in the Midwest (Unsolicited Press), co-author of the poetry/prose collaboration Hinge (broadcraft press), and her work has appeared in Ninth Letter (web edition), Folio, Jet Fuel Review, Matchbook, American Fiction 17, Necessary Fiction, Midway Journal, Paper Darts, and Pithead Chapel, among other places. She has been nominated both for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her work has also been selected as a Longform Fiction Pick of the Week. She teaches writing and edits The Thunderbird Review at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and lives in a big old house with her husband Tanner, pitbull Turnip, and cat Cokie Roberts. Currently, Darci is working on a novel, another short story collection, and a chapbook of poetry.
Douglas Cole has published four collections of poetry. His work appears in journals such as The Chicago Quarterly Review, Chiron, The Galway Review, The Pinyon Review, Solstice, Eastern Iowa Review, Kentucky Review, Wisconsin Review, and Slipstream. He has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net, and has received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry; the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House; First Prize in the “Picture Worth 500 Words” from Tattoo Highway. His website is douglastcole.com.
Dan Gutstein is the author of non/fiction (stories, 2010), Bloodcoal & Honey (poems, 2011), and Buildings Without Murders (novel, 2020). His writing has appeared in more than 100 journals and anthologies, including Ploughshares, American Scholar, Best American Poetry, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, TriQuarterly, The Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner. He has been the recipient of grants and awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the University of Michigan, where he was a Colby Fellow. In addition to writing activities, he is vocalist for punk-jazz band Joy on Fire, who will be performing a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR in July 2020, and co-director of a forthcoming documentary film, Li’l Liza Jane: A Movie About A Song. At present, he is a nomad, dividing his time between the crashable couches of Trenton, N.J. and other scenic overlooks.
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