Posts By: Rachel Lyon

Vievee Francis: Coming to the “I”

Vievee at breakfast with IR staff and friends in Bloomington this past April

Vievee Francis is one of those poets who is often described as ‘visionary.’ Her poetry is deep and rich and so strong, and as a fiction writer I feel pretty inadequate trying to describe it. I was amazed to discover, when I sat down and spoke with Vievee in Bloomington (when she was in town for the 2nd Annual Blue Light Reading this past spring), that her voice in conversation is as complex, thoughtful, and passionate as it is in her poetry. You can hear the audio of our interview on The Bluecast page (forthcoming!), or read it below.


Vievee Francis: My name is Vievee Francis, I’m a poet, I live in the city of Hamtrammack, which is a small town—2.2 square miles—in Michigan, completely surrounded by the city of Detroit.

Rachel Lyon: Your poems have a distinct relationship to both city and a rural or country sort of landscape. Can you talk about landscape in your poetry a little?

VF: Landscape plays a strong role in my poetry. I’m from Texas originally—from West Texas, but I’ve also lived in East Texas off and on through my early childhood—but then, I’ve lived in cities as well—Atlanta, Detroit. And I think the play, back and forth, between the rustic and the urban, as well as what is Southwestern or Southern and what is Northern, those are always being juxtaposed in my work.

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Roxane Gay: Where There’s Wit, and Also Darkness

From her gut-wrenching short stories to her incisive humor pieces to her no-bullshit cultural criticism, Roxane Gay is a writer who writes in many forms, all brilliantly. I was lucky to get to sit down with her when she came to Bloomington for IR‘s 2nd Annual Blue Light Reading. You can hear our long-form interview on The Bluecast (forthcoming!), or read it below.

Roxane Gay: I’m going to take a picture. I take pictures of everything, so don’t be alarmed.

My name is Roxane Gay. I’m a writer, and an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois University.

Rachel Lyon: Can you describe your work a little bit?

RG: I’m a Libra, so I like a little bit of everything, so I write a little bit of everything. So I’m always just trying to write things that will move people in some form or fashion, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction.

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Tom Swifties and Rule-Bending Prose

A couple of weeks ago, I gave my undergraduate students a strict talking-to about comma splices and run-on sentences. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a grammar grandma. It’s true; I can’t help it. I was born with the grammar gene. But my conversation with my students made me second-guess myself. I’d caused an avalanche of determined questions: “What if your character talks in run-on sentences?” “I think comma splices are beautiful.” “What if it’s your style to write in run-ons?” Of course, I gave the old stodgy answer, “You have to know the rules in order to break them.” But somehow that didn’t resolve the problem. I have colleagues who use comma splices constantly–and yes, beautifully–to channel fascinating, obsessive voices. Cormac McCarthy’s run-on sentences have become so iconic they’re almost a meme. And what about Hemingway?

Rooting around on the Internet after AWP, inspired by all the great writers I’d heard and met, I came across a link on Christine Sneed’s Web site that led to her collection of Tom Swifties, phrases in which quoted sentences are linked by a pun to their attributions. (They were originally called ‘Tom Swiftlies,’ from the following example: “‘We must hurry,’ said Tom Swiftly.”) Tom Swifties are yet another example of a grammatical no-no that nonetheless can be used for good, with humor and fun.

Do you have a favorite rule-bending writer? A pet grammar error? A groan-worthy  Tom Swifty? Share it here!

IR’s Fabulous Interns

Two weeks ago, I posted a link to the first of a series of interviews I’m doing for the NPR station WFIU with one of IR’s lovely interns, Kelsey Adams. This week, I’d like to feature the rest of our awesome team!

Avery Smith is our  prize intern. Here’s what she says about her writing, her work at IR, and her studies at IU:

I write poetry in every facet of my life: in classes at IU, on my own time, and also in my work at Women Writing for (a) Change. I love writing poems to explore perception: how people perceive, how places, words, and events can be perceived on various levels, and what exists beyond the surface level of perception. I think my work has taken on a more philosophical bent due to the classes I’ve taken at IU, and in response to the work of many of my favorite poets: Kazim Ali, W.S. Merwin, Wallace Stevens, Naomi Shihab Nye. Working at IR gives me exposure to what is new in literature, and it gives me hope that people still read and care about the written word, that the written word has the power to engage and change whole lives.

Shilpa Reddy is our publicity intern. She primarily writes fiction. Of her own work, she says,

I like focusing on the small things and overlooked details in life. I love to spend time describing places I see daily, because it allows me to appreciate the space around me in new ways. I’m also interested in the way that science and literature intersect. As a student of both the sciences and humanities, I’m always looking for connections between the two, and I’m fond of authors who do the same. Writing has allowed me to realize what I really care about, and to find resolutions to problems I wouldn’t be able to solve in real life. It helps me distance myself from myself, so that I can be more honest with my life.
“IR is a hidden gem at IU,” Shilpa says. “I always wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a publication, and it’s exciting to be a part of the process.”
Emily Mullholland is our subscriptions intern. She’s not a creative writer herself, but she is a voracious reader. Here’s what she has to say:

When I was in middle school, I used to dream about being a writer. I was convinced I would have a published novel by the age of 18. Things changed, however, when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. From that point on, I began directing my attention toward the writing of others (friends, authors I enjoyed). I tweaked my dream, deciding I wanted to go into editing and publishing. Things just took off from there.

I was a fan of IR before I even knew that internships were offered here! When it comes to opportunities to gain experience in this world, IR has been the culmination of all of my work. Working at IR has convinced me that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, if I can.

We are so lucky to have such fabulous interns here at Indiana Review. Thanks, ladies, for all that you do.