Spring Has Sprung, So Has Young

The deadline for our 2012 Poetry Prize with guest judge Dean Young is fast approaching! Make sure you get your submission in by midnight (or postmarked) on Saturday, March 31st. There’s no going wrong with this entry–for $20 you have a chance to win $1000 in our prize, appear in our next issue (even if you don’t win, your work is still considered!) and get a subscription to the one and only Indiana Review.

You can find submission details here. We can’t wait to read your work!

A graduate of our MFA program here at Indiana University, Dean Young released his most recent collection of poems titled Fall Higher. His numerous books of poetry include Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize He has received a Stegner fellowship from Stanford University, as well as fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Young’s awards also include an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His poems have appeared seven times in The Best American Poetry series. Young has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Warren Wilson College, and at Loyola University, in Chicago. He is currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas, in Austin.

 Photo courtesy the Poetry Foundation

Announcing Indiana Review’s 2nd Annual Blue Light Reading!

Image: Snapshots

Will you be in or near Bloomington, Indiana next Friday, March 30th? If your answer is yes, be sure to mark your calendars! IR contributors Vievee Francis, Roxane Gay, and Mary Hamilton will be reading at 8pm at the Bloomington Playwrights Project,and you’re invited! 


Vievee Francis is the author of two books Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University, 2006) and Horse in the Dark (winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize, forthcoming August 31, 2012). Her work will appear or has appeared in numerous journals, and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2010Crab Orchard ReviewIndiana Review, and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, among others.  In 2009 she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. In 2010 she received a Kresge Fellowship. She was the 2009/2010 Poet in Residence for the Alice Lloyd Hall Scholar’s Program at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow, she is currently an Associate Editor for Callaloo, the premier journal of African Diaspora Arts & Letters. 

Roxane Gay‘s writing appears or is forthcoming in Best American Short Stories 2012, New Stories From the Midwest 2011 and 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Salon, NOON, American Short Fiction, Indiana Review, Cream City Review, Black Warrior Review, Brevity, The Rumpus, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK, and an HTMLGIANT contributor. 

Mary Hamilton is an optician, writer, teacher, and pedestrian living in Los Angeles. Her work has been published in several journals online and in print. In 2010 she won the fourth annual Rose Metal Press short short fiction chapbook competition. Her chapbook, Kill Me Forever is forthcoming from the Lit Pub in late 2012.

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!

The Most Silent Hour

Between a multitude of panels, hundreds of booths at the book fair, and numerous offsite reading and events, not to mention catching up with friends and writers from afar, AWP keeps most people pretty busy. As an editor this year, I spent a lot of time behind our beautiful IR table, but did see a handful of inspiring panels and heard poets I admire read their work in funky clubs around Chicago.

There’s something great about writers coming together, about being in a place where so many minds are linguistically inclined, are tuned in to the language of language and believe in the power of the word to change the world. I spent the weekend a tad awestruck—as I got a drink at the Irish pub downstairs, or waited in the restroom, or ran on the mini- track in the mornings,  it was exciting to think that the strangers surrounding me were probably composing the next Great American novel, or the next gut-wrenching poem. The community of listeners too, those who appreciate poetry, who want to increase its reach, encouraged me when it comes to the future of literary arts. Yet when people in the same field come together, competition—for publication, for accolade, for attention—creeps in, and somehow sullies the beauty of what we have all met to promote and celebrate. Be it the networking I’m so woefully horrible at, or the palpable hunger for publication floating through the room, or the general name-tag eying to determine ‘who are you,’ I can’t say. But by the time I sat drinking my final Windy City coffee on Sunday, I felt distinctly inadequate, uninspired, and a smidge disillusioned.

I’ll be the first to say how important community is—I treasure my writing friends here in Bloomington. They read my work, they support me, encourage me, tell me when things just aren’t working, and I know I would be a worse writer and person without them. As I sat with a few half-started lines of a poem and a cold cup, before even leaving the conference, I received a rejection letter. And like an unexpected and welcome wind, Rilke rushed to mind. I love his poetry, (read Steven Mitchell’s translations of the Duino Elegies, if you haven’t!) but his first letter in Letters to a Young Poet called to me. I looked it up, and include an excerpt here:

“You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice)…There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse”

My impulse, too often, is to get caught up in the world of competitive mania, to forget that I am called to write, that I must do it, that it is as essential an act as breathing. It has spread its roots  to the very depths of my heart, but sometimes I think it is so deep I forget that calling, or take it for granted. This is not to say that literary journals shouldn’t exist and continue to publish poems, but that the poems must come first. That the work and the way of moving through the world as a quiet soul and as an observant being is worth something. Rilke reminds us for whom writing is a matter of life and death that writing does not equal acclaim or recognition, and that life as a writer requires an inward turning, of sorts, and a humility. Today what I hope most is that we all can embrace that solitude, can write in and through our most indifferent hours. No matter if we have one or two or two-hundred publications, if we attended this conference or not, participated in panels, readings, presentations, if we have been solicited or if we write in our closets, to our dogs, to the refrigerator, I hope we can all find solace in writing. That it keeps bearing witness. Because it must.

Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Translated by Stephen Mitchell

IR & Gulf Coast Bluesy AWP Reading

The upstairs room of Buddy Guy’s Legends was jam-packed for poetry and fiction at Thursday night’s AWP IR/Gulf Coast reading in Chicago. Special thanks to Gulf Coast for your hard work and to those of you who came out to listen and to all of our readers who rocked harder than the floor-buzzing blues jam going on downstairs during the reading.