IR + Gulf Coast + Writers We Love + AWP 2012 = A Reading You Won’t Want to Miss!

Image: smartdestinations.com

As Barbie says, “Math class is tough,” and like Beyonce, I don’t know much about algebra, but I do know this: when you add together the collective energies of Gulf CoastIndiana Review, and five writers that have been featured in recent issues of both journals, you’re sure to come up with exciting results. That’s why we are thrilled to announce our first GC/IR reading, which will take place on March 1, 2012at AWP’s annual Conference & Bookfair.

Plan to join us for an evening of incredible readings by Michael Czyzniejewski, Ross Gay, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Leslie Parry, and D.A. Powell at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago (just around the block from Hilton Chicago & Palmer House Hilton), at 8:30pm. There is a suggested donation of $4.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Why the Internet is great for literature ★

In the newest DIAGRAM (11.5), Eric LeMay’s nonfiction piece, “Losing the Lottery,” is presented in Flash. You click six lottery numbers, and while you read through each of the forty-nine sections, you’re also playing a simulation of the lottery with your numbers, at a rate of $100 a second. It’s a clever and powerful construction, and also incredibly hypnotic—I was unable to stop staring at the screen as I plowed through thousands of dollars. I wondered if the code was really random, if I might strike the six-match jackpot early. I had nothing to lose but time. I didn’t have to insert a coin or swipe a card or even click a button; the numbers rattled through without me. My eyes glazed as I considered what I could have bought instead of the tickets: a jetski. Five years’ worth of gas. Six laptops. I finally left the page after I lost thirty thousand dollars.

“Losing the Lottery” is an excellent example of what the online format makes possible. I admire this piece because it’s something that can’t happen on a static piece of paper. It’s interactive; it moves; it’s ambitious. “The Switch” by Pierce Gleeson is another terrific example.

Photo by Madonovan via flickr.

Public Poems

Here’s a project for your weekend: Write a poem and then send it off into the world — into the hands of a stranger, maybe, or chalked into the sidewalk.

This can be difficult for us writers who want to keep our poems safe and warm until they are nestled into the pages of a respected publication, so consider it a brave and generous thing to let one of them wander into the unknown.  The GOOD people want you to take that leap, and then send them a photo of it.  Are you up for the challenge?

Of course, if your poem gets shy, you can always send it to us.

Photo by miki via flickr.

Contests Off the Beaten Path

Last week, I received an email from the Missouri Review about their 5th Annual Audio Competition, which welcomes audio submissions in poetry, fiction and audio documentary. It was a welcome reminder that literature exists not just on the page, but also somewhere else—in sound, and in memory. Then, this morning, I got a notification from Geist, the fabulous Canadian quarterly, about this year’s Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest. For this year, their eighth, Geist editors are requesting that each entrant hand-make a postcard, then write a story inspired by it, finally submitting both elements together.

Inspiring stuff!

Missouri Review and Geist’s original, multimedia approaches to the literary contest got me thinking about how contest call-outs can serve as encouragement for writers to work outside their comfort zone. Would you ever hand-make your own postcard prompt, if no one suggested it? Would you think of recording a short story, weaving it together with music? We writers are solitary beasts. Contests—especially themed ones—offer us lonely folks both an opportunity to expand our repertoire and a way to connect with wider communities.

In fact, there are contests out there specifically for writers who identify with particular groups. The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Short Fiction Contest is open for work with LGBT content about—what else?—saints and sinners. If you’re a lady writer, you’re in luck: WOW! Women On Writing is sponsoring a Flash Fiction Contest this fall; there’s another flash fiction contest, Feminist Flash 2011, is open to any genre of work, 200 words or less, with a feminist theme; and the organization A Woman’s Write is holding two contests, one for previously unpublished novel manuscripts and one in creative nonfiction.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more writing contests out there, each with a slightly different slant. If you have a favorite themed contest, feel free to share it with us!

Head Off and Get Head Off and Split

In case you haven’t heard,  2011 National Book Award nominations were released in mid-October, and among the five titles (the winner will be announced November 16th in New York) named is Nikky Finney’s latest collection, Head Off & Split. I read the book this summer after attending a workshop with her, but have been surprised to discover many of my colleagues do not know her work at all.

In Head Off & Split, Finney invokes many influential African-American figures–Rosa Parks, and Condoleezza Rice, for example, in addition to a girl struck by lightning and a woman stranded in the floods of Katrina. While the collection deals with particular historical moments and people, and while she engages in a specific dialogue, these are in no way limiting; rather her collection serves as a much needed light in contemporary  American poetry. Finney’s dedication to what can be salvaged, her unfaltering consciousness and conscientiousness, and her dedication to the sublime power of language demand our attention. This fourth book is stunning, a definite must-read.

You can find more of her work here, or listen to her read     the poem “My Time Up With You” from Head Off & Split