“In the Form of Birds,” a memoir by AJ‘s founding editor, Melanie Bishop, beautifully explores loss and grief throughout the process of caring for one’s parents. This story, intimate, lovely and profound, can be read in full at Vela Magazine.
You can also read an interview with Melanie on The Vela Blog.
For Valentine’s Day, as some people celebrate their love and some question what love really is, I decided to feature a story about two people with a spooky sort of deeper connection. In “The Double,” published in the 2013 issue of AJ, author Andrea Jackson brings two characters together in a way I never could have expected.
The customer was staring at Corinne.
Can I help you? Corinne asked again.
You look like me, said the customer.
A little bit, Corinne acknowledged.
You look exactly like me, the customer said, with the definiteness Corinne would expect of such a businesslike person. Is there a mirror here? The customer stood and craned her head.
Corinne led her into the back room, once a private place for brides and matrons to check the fit of their garments in a tall three-way mirror.
Corinne began seriously to entertain the thought that she and Brenda were the same person. The idea felt right and true. How simple it was, and what a relief from the early days when she had been always anxious, uncertain whether Brenda liked her as much as she liked Brenda, and whether Brenda truly believed, as Corinne did, that they were soulmates.
Brenda said: Something’s happened to Steve. He’s been so sweet, I can’t believe it. She smiled a happy, secret smile. The pain of exclusion lasted only a moment for Corinne.
She was Brenda. Brenda was she.
Andrea Jackson expertly entwines these two women in a strange relationship as they struggle with a rocky marriage, try out online dating, and wait for a decrepit old employer to pass on. In the end, just when I thought all was lost, the lives and relationships of Brenda and Corinne become even deeper entangled in a kind of spooky happy ending.
Are Brenda and Corinne really soulmates? Is it just friendship? Is it love? Is it stalker obsession? To find out, pick up a copy of the 2013 issue of Alligator Juniper. You can subscribe here.
I hope you’re as surprised by the ending as I was!
If you’ve never read one of Connie Voisine’s poems, you may be pleasantly surprised by the elegance and beauty in her imagery. We were pleased to find just such beauty in something seemingly industrial and plain in her poem, “Medical Plaza,” featured on page 191 of AJ 2013.
Connie Voisine is an associate professor of English at New Mexico State University. Educated at Yale University, University of California at Irvine, and University of Utah, she also coordinates La Sociedad para las Artes, an English Department outreach organization. Her book, Cathedral of the North, was selected winner of the AWP Award in Poetry, and Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream was published by University of Chicago Press in 2008 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. She was a Fulbright Fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2012.
Here is a teaser from “Medical Plaza”:
Oh secret volume—so
this is the other,
the failing life? The truer
eye? Tests and brown-tiered
balconies, five stories
of early risers? Hours 8-5. A man
with cane leans on the railing, floor
Following the poem is this dialogue with Connie:
The piece takes place literally in the quiet before the day’s rush, and metaphorically, it touches upon a more substantial, existential waiting. What fascinates you about these in-between spaces?
That’s lyric itself, isn’t it—the in-between spaces. The stopped clock. The emotion, the thinking, the psychology that pauses the busy narrative of the world …
To read the full poem and dialogue, pick up a copy of AJ 2013. You can subscribe on our website.
High Desert Arizona
Like an old-timer
easy with hard luck
will roll up pantleg
to show what
a snapped cable
or a black widow
the land here
bares its stories
about where wind
makes its rounds
has taught ridgeline
junipers to twist;
about where water goes
and by fancy,
where water went
where a scrub oak
wanted so bad
it lay down on
its side and
to have it.
From Southern Poetry Review, Poets of the West and West Coast, 51:2, 2014
Keeping Even, Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2011
Southern Poetry Review, 47:2, 2010
This special edition of Southern Poetry Review can be found at http://www.southernpoetryreview.org/
ABOUT KEEPING EVEN: A POETRY COLLECTION BY POETRY/CREATIVE NONFICTION EDITOR, SHEILA SANDERSON
Whether the scene happens to be the wildebeest migration trail through the Serengeti, or a pond in Kentucky “growing every minute greener,” or a stand of saguaro in the low desert of Arizona, the poems in Sheila Sanderson’s Keeping Even convey a strong sense of place. Grounded “on an actual, factual, earth,” the poems in Keeping Even call attention to the various balancing acts that living requires, to the desire to define and locate the center of gravity.–Stephen F. Austin State University Press
Sanderson understands that you can’t get to the metaphysical without first experiencing and enduring the physical. She straddles the known and unknown planes of existence buoyed by a voice that’s at once ironic and sincere, in a word, genuine. Sanderson swirls her personal myth with Biblical myth to reveal the essential, but seldom revealed, truth that they’re one and the same. Muezzins and hobos exist side-by-side in Sanderson’s world . . . . Wherever we are, and whoever we’re with, she reminds us-no, convinces us-that “the closing argument is faith.” –Alexander Long, author of Light Here, Light There and Still Life.
Sheila Sanderson writes a mature and committed poetry–a poetry that cuts to the bone, a poetry committed to cherishing the elemental wonders surrounding her life. Sanderson pays close attention to nature and her appreciation is specific, fresh, and hard-won, for Sanderson is a poet who, through hands-on observation, realizes the ironies and inequities of experience. And so her vision is subtle, wry, and realistic. The experience of a Sanderson poem is always essential. Her voice is uniquely her own, and a reader will hear Biblical overlays at the edges, in her poetry’s fierce music, in its gravity and concern. Sanderson commands a consistent and sophisticated syntax, and her voice, her style, support and include the contradictions of hope–which is where her poems brilliantly lead.–Christopher Buckley, author of Varieties of Religious Experience, Rolling the Bones, Modern History, Star Apocrypha and others.
Keeping Even is a brilliant book. Written in a wondrous blend of the vernacular and the philosophical, the poems . . .glow with radiance and wit . . . . Sanderson beautifully meditates on the epiphanies of travel, the knotty loyalties of family and home, the bewilderment of grief, and the complex gratitude for being “temporarily employed by the species.”–K. L. Cook, author of Love Songs for the Quarantined and Last Call
Keeping Even is available at Stephen F. Austin University Press, Texas A & M Consortium Catalog, and Amazon.com. It is also available locally at the Prescott College and Peregrine Bookstores.
SHEILA SANDERSON lives in the high desert mountains of Prescott, Arizona and teaches writing and literature in the Arts & Letters Program at Prescott College. She serves as poetry and creative nonfiction editor for Alligator Juniper. Her work has also appeared in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Miramar, Southern Poetry Review, and Spillway.
It is such a pleasure to have our state and our authors recognized. Please tell us below what you love most about Arizona or the Southwest!
Announcing the January publication of
My So-Called Ruined Life
Tate McCoy Series • Book 1
by Melanie Bishop
Last summer was the worst summer of Tate McCoy’s life. Last summer, Tate’s mom was murdered—just as their damaged relationship was about to mend. Now, with her dad in jail as the prime suspect and her future unsettlingly uncertain, most people think Tate’s life is ruined—but Tate is not most people. Determined to make the most of her seventeenth summer, she’s spending plenty of time biking around town with her best friend, Kale, finding her buoyancy at Barton Springs, camping and hiking at the Grand Canyon with her Aunt Greta, and not following her “no boys for now” policy.
But a horrifying truth about her mom’s death puts Tate’s resilience to the test yet again. Full of refreshingly blunt teenage wisdom, bawdy, between-friends humor, and plenty of pool time, this debut novel explores the tightening and unraveling of relationships—and the rocky, empowering journey of realizing one’s own strength in tough times.
We received word months ago that Laura Hitt’s piece, “Grown-Ups,” was selected for publication in plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing 2012 and we have been waiting excitedly to see it online.
Here’s what they said:
BENNINGTON, VT – Bennington College has launched the fourth issue of its annual anthology of premier poetry, fiction, and nonfiction selected from more than 80 American undergraduate literary journals. The new, year-round production schedule features new work posted monthly from publications of American University, Bard, Bennington, Boston College, Brown, Columbia College Chicago, Grinnell, Harvard, NYU, Susquehanna, Swarthmore, University of Tampa, and UC Berkeley, to name only a few. This is the fourth year of the anthology’s publication.
Issue Four includes work from Colorado, Dartmouth, Emerson, and Prescott Colleges, It also features an honorable mention in poetry—selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith—and artwork from Quinnipiac University, Oberlin, and Colorado Colleges, and the University of Vermont.
As poetry judge and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith commented, “These young poets make me glad for the work that is in the works, all the poems that will begin, in the next few years, to make their way into wider circulation”— a sentiment that extends to prose writing as well. Check it out.
Read Laura’s beautiful story here: http://plainchina.bennington.edu/pieces/grown-ups/