AWP: What Is It Good For?

Teapot

We go.

We freefall down the rabbit hole. We squish like funhouse mirrors in hotel lobbies and conference room floors, and we shrink to pinpricks in grand ballrooms. We rubberneck and get cowed and chicken out. We chase the fat cats. We heed advice from caterpillars. We drink and grow big; we drink and grow small. We shake and shimmy and scrimp, scribble and scrabble. We talk and we talk about writing, but for three lost days at the mad tea-party, we do not write.

 

So why do we do it? AWP: What is it good for?

 

We can’t answer for all ten thousand writers, editors, publishers, students, teachers, and lovers of literature who will attend (and the thought of trying makes us dizzy), so we’ll tell you what we look forward to at AWP:

 

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Back Issues in Boston

It’s late February, which means that those of you not entirely preoccupied with polishing your poesy for our Poetry Prize (poets like alliteration, right?) are probably thinking more and more about heading to Boston for AWP, which is coming up in…holy crap, it’s next week! And I haven’t even picked out my tuxedo yet.

Besides the boozing and schmoozing (do poets still like rhyme?), one of the best parts about AWP is the Bookfair. I like having the opportunity to meet those of you who read IR and submit your work to us, and I also like meeting the editors of others journals I’m fond of. But I especially like that the journals at the Bookfair sell their back issues for low, low prices that help to somewhat offset the cost of my tuxedo rental.

IR will of course be offering our own array of back issues at the Bookfair, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to give you one good reason to buy each of the back issues we’ll have at our table. So here’s a quick look at some of my favorite stories that have appeared in the pages of IR over the last few years: Read more…

The Next Big Thing: Corey Van Landingham

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From all of us at IR, congratulations to past contributor Corey Van Landingham for winning The Ohio State University Press / The Journal award for her book, Antidote! Van Landingham won our 1/2 K Prize for her piece “When You Look Away, the World,” which appears in issue 34.1. (Speaking of contests, our annual poetry contest, judged by Nikky Finney, is open until April 1st!) Following is her installment of The Next Big Thing interview series.

 

First of all, thanks so much to Michael and all the other wonderful folks at Indiana Review who have been so kind to me over the past couple years, and for adopting us internet orphans sans website for this interview!

What is the working title of the book?

 Antidote

 

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I suppose there are a couple tiers for this answer. There are Events and there are Ideas, and while I will attempt to recall them, I fear it may be like retracing an episode of Lost, where some kind of logic is being imposed on utter chaos just to make you keep watching.

I. Events

The death of my father. Breaking up with my fiancé.

II. Ideas

That there is no antidote one can take for grief or heartbreak. That there are various forms of valediction and one may never get better at saying goodbye. That guilt can feel like a disease. That love can, at times, feel like violence. That love can be cruel. That I can be cruel. That there are multitudinous selves. That sometimes these selves may confront each other. That this may be in a dark forest. That one self may be burying or choking another self. That the moon sees this, and is a jerk. That no matter how many different combinations of words one puts together, it will never make anything whole.

 

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry.

 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

All I can think of is that it would be one of those movies I’d feel like I’d have to watch for reasons artsy or hip but would have to pause every ten minutes to get another beer if I was going to finish the damn thing.

No, but really, I say this because of the lack of characters. Yes, there are various people being addressed, and yes, there are various speakers, but they all feel like they stem from a similar emotional space.

But I’ll be good and try to answer. It would be delivered in a series of monologues given in some eerie outdoor space with unidentifiable men constantly lurking in the shadows. The actresses delivering the monologues would be Jean Seberg, Michelle Williams, Felicia Day, Janeane Garofalo, and Natalie Portman’s character in Closer.

 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

In Antidote, love equates disease, demons are inverted gods, every animal wants something sinister, valediction is a contact sport, and someone is always watching.

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Most of these poems were completed in fits of writing furiously during my thesis year in the fall of 2011.

 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

X-rays, rafting trips with my father, holding séances in the ravine by my house in Oregon as a young girl, microscopes, animal documentaries, dreams of homesteading, Paul Celan, feeding my father’s ashes to small fish in the Rogue River, diving into that water, PBS’s Art 21, claustrophobia, Sappho, playing with Petri dishes in my mother’s lab, missing the mountains, word hoards, listening to Bill Callahan, being the daughter of a microbiologist, being the daughter of a photographer, being a girl who was never as happy as the other girls, big and lusty Midwestern storms, bourbon, Amy Hempel, cadavers, hunting for owl pellets in the forest with my mother, Isadora Duncan, epoché, always having cold feet, listening to Julianna Barwick, the moment at the Portland Zoo when my father was so thin he resembled the giraffes or the long-legged birds and I thought he might fly off, and then later that summer when he did.

 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interests?

I quoted Yeats three times by accident. Also, some of these poems are actually supposed to be funny in a vitriolic sort of way, so it’s not all doom and gloom!

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 To my utter delight and astonishment and for which I am forever grateful, Antidote was chosen by Kathy Fagan as the winner of The Ohio State University Press/The Journal award in poetry, and will be published by OSU Press in October.

The Internet and the Evolution of English

yolo carpe diemI recently came across an online comic titled “Great Literature Helps Us See Just How Lame Internet Slang Is.” The strip pokes fun at the poor grammar and strange phrasings of ‘tumblr-speak’ and the like, comparing slang with the prose of canonical writers such as Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and J.D. Salinger.

The comic illustrates what some view as a deterioration of the English language. For example, many people have been annoyed at some point by the flash fire spread of phrases like “YOLO” that take the place of meaningfully expressing the idea behind them or others’ failure to learn the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.’ The comic raises valid questions: When people can so easily communicate by using popular slang and stock phrasing, why go to all the trouble of giving thoughts elegance through a fresh choice of words? What implications does this have for the world of literature?

What this view fails to take into account, perhaps, is what makes a language so useful and powerful (for literature as well as daily use): its ability to evolve to help us continue to communicate clearly and effectively. The internet, while propagating certain kinds of language, also allows English to adapt to a modern world. An article by the BBC at the end of 2012 commented on the phenomenon of fusions of other languages and English appearing due to the Internet. Hinglish (Hindi/Punjabi/Urdu/English), Spanglish (Spanish/English), and Konglish (Korean/English), among others, show that the Internet is doing more than just providing a forum for new memes. Some of these new hybrid languages, according to the article, are creating new meanings for words that already exist or shifting the way grammar uses those words. Through the Internet, English is growing steadily more flavorful.

It is easy to forget how much a language changes over the course of time. Anyone who’s tried to read Chaucer, however, quickly realizes that modern English has shifted quite a bit from its roots. So while the Internet might not be producing new Shakespeares in every forum, the English language is far from broken. The universal community of the Internet might be expanding our definitions and augmenting our vocabulary in more complex ways than we appreciate yet.

What do you think: Is the Internet having a detrimental or beneficial effect on English? Leave a comment below.

Lauren Conkling is the current Publicity Intern of Indiana Review.

 

The Next Big Thing: Sally Wen Mao

photo by Van Nguyen

photo by Van Nguyen

 

All of us at Indiana Review would like to congratulate contributor Sally Wen Mao on winning the 2012 Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books! Her poem, “The White-Haired Girl,” appears in issue 34.2. Here’s her installment in The Next Big Thing interview series which is currently sweeping the internet.

 

Thank you to Michael Mlekoday, author of the forthcoming book of poems The Dead Eat Everything, out from the Kent State University Press, for tagging me in this series called The Next Big Thing! Also a big thanks for publishing this on the Indiana Review blog, because I am an internet dummy.

What is the working title of the book?

Mad Honey Symposium.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Poetry books usually come from entire constellations of ideas. Here are some of the most pervasive ones, for me:

1. When researching names for an angry third world feminist girl band in 2007, I stumbled upon the fact that honey badgers aim for the scrotums when attacking larger animals.

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