Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing about Loss

Looking for something else on the internet, I came across this short piece by Jessica Handler about writing of loss and how she decided if she should read her dead sister’s diary while she worked on her memoir:

I couldn’t deny that I had the rare opportunity to see into my beloved sister’s heart and mind. She was no longer here to answer my questions in person, and I missed her terribly. Maybe the answers would be on those pages, in her deliberate, rounded, cursive handwriting, but I couldn’t shake the mental image of my little sister not-so-playfully slapping my hand and laughing, telling me, “that’s private!” She wouldn’t have let me read her diaries if she were alive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Best American Poetry Reading 2014...." by Sean Thomas Dougherty

Best American Poetry Reading 2014 or a Plea to Stop Talking Trash on American Poetry and Maybe the Problem Isn’t American Poetry or the Anointed (and yes of course there are some who are anointed) but maybe the problem is you.  Read the work and shut up motherfucker.

By Sean Thomas Dougherty   


Everyone always talk shit on  American Poetry, as a dead art form, as solipsistic, elitist, stuck up, part of the 1 percent power structure. And who does it more than the poets themselves? And actual that is true, but what isn’t implicated in some form of oppression these days in America the Prisontocracy.  But what these critics forget or chose to ignore is American Poetry is huge, pluralistic and often and always an argument with itself and America.  It is both elitist and anti elitist at the same time, and it is this prismatic sense of itself that makes it one of the most alive and living art forms in the world right now, and an affront and insult for example  to the far greater elitist and Nobel driven European poetries.

On September 18th I drove down from my small working class city of Erie, PA to participate in my first ever appearance in Best American Poetry.  My poem was chosen by recently awarded McArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes.   Terrance lives down in Pittsburgh. I know Terrance. He’s cool.  But he had never done anything for me, it wasn’t like the lauded great younger writer was my patron or anything.  So it was a grand surprise to be selected.  You see, I turned my back on things academic years ago.  I don’t apply for jobs, don’t go running off to conferences, rarely ask my publishers to submit my books for awards.  But I do perform, I perform like a banshee.  I travel like a gypsy.  I’m searching for something else you see, I’m searching for something through language that only poems can explain.

A lot of my friends on the other hand are mostly caught in the poetry system, fighting for jobs, tenure, publications mean something more to them than just a cool book to be in.  The subtle jabs and insults I received from some of them were so hurtful.  Their jealousy direct.  They said things like “I wonder why I haven’t been in there.”  Or bizarre statements about me as a “semiotic indicator that the elites can manage.”  I have no idea what that means.  “I’ll never be published by BOA.”  Or the really insulting thing “well of course, because you know Terrance” who I have seen face to face once in 5 years despite him living a couple hours just down I-79. You have to understand these “friends” of mine have multiple books, teaching positions.  I haven’t been able to find a full time job in years and finally just gave up.  What more do they want? 

But I learn from them.  I learn how dead they already fucking are, how they are actually everything they pretend to hate.  And how truly free I have become.

I have to say all of this because it points to the sense of hierarchy and desperation that the system of American poetry both enables and dissipates and also to the great disappointment I often feel with other artists.  Envy, jealousy, back stabbing, all the attributes of artists in Ancient Rome, the new 21st century artists for the New Empire in Decline.  Why wasn’t I admitted to Breadloaf?  Why didn’t I get that Fellowship at Princeton?  All the poets of color get everything?  Or the Old White Men.  There is always someone in poetry getting something you deserve. But do you?  Yes those are the kinds of things so many poets say.  And yes, I know plenty of young poets of color with one book and a fancy job, The Anointed Ones.  And could point out plenty of the white old Guard still there.  Or the old Gay guard.  Or… but those are institutional questions of power and privilege I have no interest in.

I leave that to my jaded friends.  I leave them to the Anointed ones and the Gatekeepers and the Norton Anthology makers, to the professors and the police.  But you have to realize sometimes the Annointed ones are anointed for a reason.  They are really great artists.

So just leave me alone and let me write I often have to say. I live along a big dirty lake.  I try as best I can to take care of my kids and my slowly dying girlfriend.  I talk to Ritsos in the basement.  I play poker with Frank Stanford.  We wager the blues.  What I am searching for only a few can understand anyways.  Except you, Dear Reader.  You know what I am searching for.  You are searching for it too.

And so finally this gets us to the idea of Best American Poetry.  Or anything Best.  What is a Best poem?  Or even a better poem?  Honestly I haven’t thought about those terms in over a decade.  I simply make.

But let’s remove the idea of Best and simply look at Best American Poetry as an indicator of what is happening.  And we see in this 2014 such a diverse range of aesthetic, race, gender, language that speaks a deep health of the art form.

That tells me both at the center, and on the edge, what I am searching for, yes they are searching for too: That light inside the language.


I drove 7 hours that morning to Bronxville to visit my old friend Jeffrey McDaniel’s class at Sarah Lawrence.  I’ve known Jeffrey for decades, he too came out of the American performance poetry scene and is one of the poets whose language drives me and teaches me.   He’s an old friend who makes me feel safe, and he’s very aware and inside of the power structures of poetry but he rarely talks that talk with me.  He knows I live somewhere else, lost in that light along the lake.  When we talk of poems we talk of the inside of a poem, of how things are made, of life.  Of a sandwich.  We know a sandwich is a kind of poem.

I am often lost so having Jeffrey with me made my chance of getting to the Best American Reading good odds.   I was honestly a bit scared.  I was going to be reading with some huge American poets and who am I?  It wasn’t their prestige that made me nervous, but my admiration for their work

Not everyone was nice.  Don’t expect everyone to be nice.  But expect everyone to be professional. 

And they will surprise you.  Cordial goes a long way.

Here is a breakdown of  some of the reading.    

Lucie Brock Broido read quietly and beautifully.  She has the When I AM A Cool Old Woman artist-ness to her that could get her mistaken for a crazy old lady but instead she is just a genius artist.  Long on the all hair poetry team she had her amazing blonde gray hair around her like a dangling BOA as she recited from her poem “Bird, Singing”

Then, every letter opened was an oyster
Of possible bad news, pried apart to reveal

The imperfect probable pearl of your death.

Then Joel Dias Porter nailed his bluesy song  “Elegy Indigo”

How long does it take to hear what silence can say?
I stand at a stoplight, waiting for the colors to change.

Natalie Diaz read her tough mythological love poem “These Hands, if Not Gods”

Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light
over the seven days of your body

Mark Doty asked us in his poem “Deep Lane”

If you don’t hold still, you can have joy after joy,

but you can’t stay anywhere to love.
That’s the price, that rib rattling wind
waiting to sweep you up,

that’s the price the wind pays.

Sean Thomas Dougherty

When I got up to read a bunch of people cheered which really surprised me.  I saw BAP even sent a twitter out at that moment on the pre applause.  I mean who am I, just some old punk from the shores of Lake Erie?   I read my poem like I might punch the air.  I read it twice as slow as I meant to.  I have no idea how it went over but I read it clear.  It’s a bitter poem.  It’s made of Rust and unemployment. It leaves a feeling like chipping a tooth.

All the street assassins know you can break
A man’s neck in a second flat, they grin
At their electronic palms.  They enter and exit
Through broken arteries….

Cornelius Eady is a poet I’ve turned to since the late 80s for inspiration.  He has long been the leader of the New Guard in American poetry with his founding of Cave Canem, working to change American poetry for the better. He read  his small lyric with a cool ease a cool breeze of a poem reminding you maybe of what you’ve “Overturned” along the way

Maybe the wrong story,
Palm trees where  there should
Be pine.  And now you doubt

Everything.  Don’t you hate
Doubting everything……

Ross Gay  is a cat I’d never meet, one of the anointed in a lot of ways.  But his poems groove.  He wasn’t exactly overly friendly but he read wonderfully.  He passed out Figs before his reading then read his lyrical, thin lined Nerudesque poem, “To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian”

Tumbling through the
city in my
mind without once
looking up

Le Hinton I’d met at Elizabethtown College where he attended an afternoon talk I gave, a real Pennsylvania gem I was so happy to get some notice.  He read “No Doubt About It (I Gotta Get Another Hat)

how does a poet
fall back into the sky
(what time is it)

Yusef Komunyakaa I had never met, he signed my book.  His graying hair is like God, and he invoked for me both in presence and word the ghost of Aimé Césaire

My negritude is the caul worked into the soil

Frannie Lindsay  I did not get to meet. I missed her in the arrival room and couldn’t find her afterwards.  I was sad because she is one of my favorite poets and  she read my favorite poem in the book “Elegy for my Mother,” it was so utterly moving and full of astonishing metaphors:

But I still have my river-mother
and all her glittering fish,

my sycamore mother who never is cold,

Major Jackson

Is just a Dear.  There is no other way to say it.  He actually gave me a hug.  I had only met Major once, very briefly, even before he had a book, and I used to do a teasing formal imitation of him.  I also used to unfriend him on Facebook just to mess with him. Because I so love his poems.  He’s the best poet to come out of Philadelphia since Tim Seibles.  Which is saying a whole lot.  He DID NOT though have on a cool hat and I was disappointed.  Later he would read “OK Cupid” a series of leaping similes that filled out loud our ears and hears with wonder and surprise that began “Dating a Catholic is like dating a tribe” and moves to such wonderful absurdities and connections as

“and dating a fireplace is like dating a mantel
and dating a mantel is like dating a picture frame
and dating a picture frame is like dating Martin Luther King with Jesus

Cate Marvin was perhaps the coolest poet there, in dress, demeanor, attitude.  She was super nice to me, and I got to talk to her a little bit. She blew me away.  her amazing opening lines from her amazing “Etiquette for Eyes”:

I don’t know
If I wore you
When I met you

But I know
the last time
I saw you you

Drank a drink
I bought you
With another

Woman who
Was far uglier
Than I have

Ever been.

What a devastating poem. 

I have run out of time when this blog is due so I will close by simply mentioning Shara McCallum powerful voice you have to read.  Valzhyna Mort who gave a beautiful and angry recitation.  Mort is a world class poet and a beautiful person.  I recommend her books to everyone.  Eileen Myles was her usual amazing self.  She is now one of the grand masters of our art.  D. Nurke, a really kind soul read a quiet lyric that was exemplary of his best work.  Greg Pardlo,  read his poem about a powerful human collision.  It was so so moving.

My friend Patrick Rosal read in B-Boy baddest voice, one of his best poems ever “You Cannot Go to the God You Love with Your Two Legs.”   The great performance poet Jon Sands  made the funniest line of the night when he walked to the stage, and said, “well I just found out I’m allergic to figs.  Everyone cracked up.  They were still wipping the seeds off from Gay’s luminous figs.  Then he read his inventive poem “DeCoded.”

Jane Springer, Afaa Michael Weaver, Rachel Zucker brought the night to a close with poems of history and language.  So marvelous.

And on the stage with us was the spirit of Jake Adam York, who sadly died last year.

If this night was indicative of the health and breath of American Poetry, than rather than lamenting its Death, the critics should acknowledge its ongoing inventiveness and courage.  Yes people we are living in a Poetry Renaissance and that night in mid September in New York City, on a stage far from the shores of Lake Erie, I heard it sing itself.   And drove away down the highway toward home the next day, still humming, still singing, with a heart full of ghostly words.


Buy the book (and honestly, don’t you absolutely feel compelled to right now??).


Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of thirteen books including All You Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 (2014 BOA Editions) Scything Grace (2013 Etruscan Press) and Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line (2010 BOA Editions) He is the recipient of two Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowships in Poetry, an appearance in Best American Poetry 2014, and a US Fulbright Lectureship to the Balkans. Known for his electrifying performances he has performed at hundreds of venues across North America and Europe including the Lollapalooza Music Festival, South Carolina Literary Festival, the   Old  Dominion Literary Festival, the Dodge Poetry Festiva, and across Albania and Macedonia where he appeared on national television. He has taught creative writing at Syracuse University, Penn State University,  Case Western University, Chatham University and Cleveland State University.  He currently works at a Gold Crown Billiards in Erie, PA and tours for performances.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

10/17: PEN/Faulkner Hosts VQR Emerging Writers

Here’s an event I won’t be able to attend, but since I love the PEN/Faulkner organization so much, I’m going to post it anyway!  Check out their whole series of upcoming readings at the link below…lots of good writers coming to read.

A Storied Future: Ann Beattie in conversation with emerging writers from the Virginia Quarterly Review

Friday, October 17, 2014
7:30 PM

Lutheran Church of the Reformation (across the street from the Folger Shakespeare Library)
212 East Capitol Street NE
Washington, DC 20003 (map)

Tickets are now on sale for $15. Click here to subscribe to the PEN/Faulkner Reading Series for a discounted rate.

Since 1925, the storied literary and cultural journal, Virginia Quarterly Review, has been publishing thought-provoking works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and journalism. The fall 2014 issue of VQR has a theme of “Big Breaks,” and this collaborative event between PEN/Faulkner and VQR will feature a moderated conversation between Ann Beattie and four gifted writers — Tope Folarin, Onyinhe Ihezukwu, Greg Jackson, and Brendan McKennedy — at the start of their careers.

Ann Beattie has been included in four O. Henry Award Collections and in John Updike’s Best American Short Stories of the Century. In 2000, she received the PEN/Malamud Award for achievement in the short story form. In 2005, she received the Rea Award for the Short Story. She and her husband, Lincoln Perry, live in Key West, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is Edgar Allan Poe Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.

Tope Folarin won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his story “Miracles.” In 2014, he was named to the Africa 39 list of the top African writers under 40. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and Oxford University, where he earned two Master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. Tope lives in Washington, DC and is currently at work on his first novel.

Brendan McKennedy, a former fiction editor at the Greensboro Review, has published short stories in Epoch, PANK, and Night Train. He’s at work on a novel set in the American South during the early years of the recording industry. He lives in North Carolina.

Onyinye Ihezukwu was born and raised in Nigeria, where she worked as a journalist and broadcaster. Her work largely explores changing socio-spiritual themes in the urban Nigerian setting. She is a Poe/Faulkner fellow with the MFA program at the University of Virginia, where she received the 2014 Henfield Prize. 

Greg Jackson grew up in Boston and coastal Maine. He has been a Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center and a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he won the 2012 Henfield Prize. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, and his first book is a story collection entitled Prodigals (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). He has worked for the literary journal n+1 and with investigative journalist Ron Suskind on several bestselling works of political nonfiction.

Monday, September 22, 2014

“Bruce Covey Is in Love with Language”: Poetry Review by Gabrielle Freeman

Bruce Covey, Change Machine
Noemi Press, 2014
122 pages
[ordering information below]

I’m just going to come right out and say it. My favorite poem in Bruce Covey’s new collection Change Machine is a one-liner, in both senses. Here is the entirety of “I’m a Bitty Cupcake”: “But if you fuck with me, I’m gonna kick your fuckin ass, you know what I’m sayin?” This poem makes me laugh out loud. It’s not often enough that humor is used in poetry. But it isn’t just the unexpected hilarity that combining a frosting-topped bit of wonderful with an f-bomb laced threat that makes this poem stand out; it’s also the unexpectedness of the single line. In a book this full of poems that bring in every manner of topic and spit them out in reconfigured pieces, where every line presents a new idea, where each page brings yet another surprise, it would seem unlikely to find something so completely different all the way on page 109. But Covey does it.

The sheer volume of poems that all look different on the page is just one of the things that makes Change Machine a compelling read. The collection begins with “Chunks of Or,” a 24-line free verse poem with no stanza breaks that plays on the words “or” and “ore”; and it moves through prose poems in blocks, prose poems in a series of single sentences, sonnets, numbered lists, poems of unrhymed couplets, of unrhymed quatrains, and the fantastic dialogue poem “A True Account of Talking to the Moon in Atlanta, GA.” The reader is constantly challenged to refocus and to face the poem as a stand-alone piece within the larger whole. Not that there isn’t a thread holding all of these poetic surprises together.

Change Machine is divided into two sections that echo the title and theme: “Tails” and “Heads.” The idea of a literal change machine, a machine that takes in whole dollars and spits out coins, is present in multiple representations of the idea of currency. “Currency is nickels & dimes & quarters” (“Chunks of Or”); “Change for a 5, a monster caffeine or cherry soda / Hmm I’d rather have the fruit, chocolate” (“Local Box Score”); “I wrote some lines about metal but lost them / Roughly equivalent to losing  a half dollar / Or a dollar coin -- there have been so many different versions” (“It Might Take a Long Time to Partition Googolplex”). This idea is furthered in the concepts of metals becoming currency through physical change, human appropriation of metals through the use of machines, human use of metals as metaphor and symbol, and equivalencies. “Is being worth one’s weight in gold something that one earns? [...] Gold’s atomic mass is roughly 197. The 110 lb. Olympic Barbell Weight Set from Gold’s / Gym costs $104.00 at Walmart, where customers have rated it with four gold stars” (“Earn/Steal”). Language itself becomes a machine which effects change through manipulation of raw materials, of words.

And it is this that is evident throughout this collection: Bruce Covey is in love with language. He is fascinated not only by words themselves, but also by what those words can do when combined in unexpected ways, when the words undergo change. What happens when Covey juxtaposes a list poem with the literary canon? “29 Epiphanies” happens. One of my favorites is number 8: “If someone suggests you sell your children as food for the rich, he’s only kidding.” What happens when Covey butts a deep knowledge of metals up against his experiences with death? “Gilded Elegies” happens. “Rather soft and malleable, copper is a ductile metal, with very high thermal and electrical / conductivity. // An hour before class I received a slip of paper in my departmental mailbox informing me / that one of my students was dead of a suicide, a shotgun blast to his face.” The elegies are gilded, but not in the sense that they are shined up and made pretty. In fact, they are presented plainly. The elegies are gilded in that they are physically surrounded by descriptions of different metals on the page, yet another surprise for the reader.

The poems in Bruce Covey’s Change Machine challenge the reader. They ask us to change our perspectives, our methods of thinking, often with a lovely sense of humor. Expect nothing less from each and every page than a trash-talking cupcake or epiphany number 21: “It sucks to have a big red A.”

Read an excerpt:

Buy the book:

More about Bruce Covey: 

Gabrielle Freeman blogs about the use of humor in Covey’s work: http://whythewritingworks.com/2014/09/13/jab-cross-uppercut-humor-in-bruce-coveys-poetry/

Gabrielle Freeman's poetry has been published in many journals including Beecher’s Magazine, Chagrin River Review, The Emerson Review, Gabby, Minetta Review, and Shenandoah. She earned her MFA in poetry through Converse College, and she teaches at East Carolina University. Gabrielle lives with her family in Eastern North Carolina where she blogs about writing and all things random at www.ladyrandom.com.

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Choose the MFA Program That Is Right for You

Here’s a thoughtful list of twelve things writer Pam Houston suggests you consider when selecting your MFA writing program:

1. Do the professors who teach in this program actually know how to write?
I know, it sounds crazy, but very few first-year grad students have actually read the work of the faculty they are about to study with for the next two-to-three years. Just because somebody got a teaching job at an institute of higher learning does not mean they can write well and, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t mean they write in a way that is going to make you trust and respect them to evaluate your work, or in a way that is going to inspire you to do your best writing while you are in their company.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Celebrating Converse Students and Graduates: A List of Online Pubs

Even I am weary of the constant me-me-me of the blogging/social media life, so I thought it would be fun to help spread the word about some of the publications of the fabulous Converse low-residency MFA students and graduates. And to stave off impatience, I decided to focus on online pubs only…so you can check out their fine writing RIGHT NOW, which I urge you to do.

Presented in random order:

Sarah M. Cooper, Poetry
Graduate, 2014
“Grandma’s House”
 “…Your stairs leading down had one loose board where we would hide pebbles from the lake and bird feathers, ingredients we called them for spells….”

Philip Belcher, Poetry
Graduate, 2011
“Donnie with Baby and Cows 1999”
“…After a minute under the lamp / on my desk, the Guernsey began to glow…”

Lisa M. Hase-Johnson, Poetry
Graduating, June 2015
“…Grandmother preferred them large and a little tough, / refrigerated with a bit of salt….”

Kathleen Nalley, Poetry
Graduate, 2012
“…Baby John Doe they called you, placed / you, once the janitor blew life /
back into your lungs, in a hospital incubator…”

Travis Burnham, Fiction
Graduate, 2013
“The Bone Washer”
“On my very first day I’d been forced into the Preparation Chamber, in amongst the beetles, and the stench and the flesh, and the bones….”

Jeffrey R. Schrecongost, Fiction
Graduate, 2011
“Killing Carol”
“…Jett knew Carol was bringing ugly news. It was her voice, how her voice tottered when she called him that Saturday morning.”

 Scott Laughlin, Fiction
Graduating, Winter, 2016
“The Strange Question of Alberto de Lacerda” [essay]
“…I walked into Alberto's class, called ‘Poetry from Symbolism to Surrealism,’ in 1991, the fall of my senior year at Boston University, and here was a man with a wisp of white hair sort of floating above his balding head, his head turned in slight profile, thus displaying his most prominent feature: his nose. Two pillars disrupted the classroom, and after I sat in one of the only empty chairs, which happened to be behind one of these pillars, he exclaimed, aghast, ‘No, not there! I must see everyone!’ He instructed me to move my chair, which I did, blushing as I screeched the chair across the floor while other students cringed….”

Kyler Campbell, Fiction
 Graduate, 2012
“Caretta, Caretta”
 “…Sometimes when I think about those vacations, I think about Mom and how she’d smile at me and act like Dad didn’t exist at all. I think about how after my tenth birthday, she left us for good….”

 Cinelle Barnes, Creative Nonfiction
Graduating, 2015
“We have banana leaves and we have hands.  We eat with them, these forest-green blades and ten digits. We take the time to wrap our rice, wrap our fish, wrap our yellows, greens and reds, in steamy pockets made of folded foliage….”

Melissa Dickson, Poetry
Graduate, 2012
“A Poem in Flight: Memory and Truth” [essay]
 “…Fortunately for the poet, facts aren’t essential, and the slanted truth is often preferred to the straight. But who is immune to the alternate realities of another’s memory? Who can still the startling in his bones when a lover says, ‘No, your suit was blue and the sky was gray…’”

David Colodney, Poetry
Graduating, 2016
“Her cigarette dangles; she uses puffs for punctuation, / Musky breath floating to me, she calls for another drink…”
Gabrielle Freeman, Poetry
Graduate, 2013
“The Happily Married Woman Boards the Plane”
“…Please don’t order Maker’s Mark and ask if I’d care for one, too, and then toast to new friends and clink the little bottles and say ‘clink’ and wink at me…”
Matthew McEver, Fiction
Graduate, 2014
“Yonder Comes a Sucker”
“…Henry Lee, the darkly pomaded one, lean and muscled, well-read, fiery-eyed and yet infected with misgivings about himself and considered a nobody in a no-name town—circled his enemy, sidled left, missed with a wild swing and tottered sideways….”

Rhonda Browning White, Fiction
 Graduate, 2013
“Good Friends”
“…Doesn’t seem fair that she’s got a grown son and still has a flat belly and perky… well, you know. I don’t talk like that. No sense in mentioning body parts the Lord told us in the Good Book to keep covered….”

I am so proud of all of our fine students, published and soon-to-be published. What a smart and hard-working bunch.  I raise a glass to you!!  (I mean, of course, that after 5 I will…it’s barely 8AM right now!).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Me-Me-Me! And MY Story in Tahoma Literary Review!

Thanks to Tahoma Literary Review for publishing my story “Gratitude Journal.”  It’s a rather bitter and angry story, so I’m happy to find such a delightful home for it…and it’s always exciting to be published in the inaugural issue of a literary journal, almost like getting to crack the bottle of champagne on a new ship sailing off to the deep blue ocean.

And thanks to Tahoma Literary Review for including these sentences in their mission statement: “We at Tahoma Literary Review are committed to producing a literary journal from the professional writer’s perspective; we feel that writers deserve compensation for the weeks or months it takes to compose a publishable poem or story. A major goal of Tahoma Literary Review is to show that writers and publishers can support each other not only artistically, but also financially.”

To top it all off, work by one of my fabulous spring semester Johns Hopkins students, Stefen Styrsky, also appears in this issue:  “Men in White.”

While print and Kindle copies are available (and I recommend you purchase one!), Tahoma Literary Review also offers free PDF downloads.  Information about getting your copy of the journal is right here. (My story is on page 24.)

Here’s the opening to “Gratitude Journal”…perhaps you will get a teeny-tiny glimpse of that bitterness I alluded to??

I’m grateful that—as of today—I am a fifty-year-old woman in America. I’m grateful that when I express distaste for turning fifty, someone will chuckle and say, “Better than the alternative.” I’m grateful that no one listens when I speak—my opinions, my thoughts, my feelings: all are talked over and dismissed—and I’m grateful that a fifty-year-old woman in America might as well be a cockroach, skulking along the dark corners of the culture, something objectionable, an unseen thing scurrying under sudden and blinding light that might illuminate a crepey neck, raised veins, and crow’s feet. I’m grateful for the phrase “crow’s feet” because it’s preferable to have chosen the ugliest, most obnoxious, nastiest bird to stamp all over our faces, so I’m grateful the phrase is not “mockingbird feet” or “chickadee feet.” I’m grateful for birthday cards that joke about adult diapers and being “over the hill” and that claim to have sex secrets for old folks and then open to a cutout mask of a hot blonde twenty year old girl. I’m grateful for my sense of humor because if I couldn’t laugh I would have to find an alternative and that alternative might involve a gun; I’m grateful there are gun laws in my state that make it difficult for me to get a gun because I don’t know what I would do if I had one.

Read more!  And send in your work…Tahoma Literary Review is reading until September 30.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.