Posts Categorized: Uncategorized

What My Last Man Did by Andrea Lewis: Excerpts

What My Last Man Did won the Indiana Review / IU Press 2016 Blue Light Books Prize and is forthcoming from IU Press in March 2017. Read excerpts from two of Andrea’s stories below, and pre-order your copy of What My Last Man Did today!

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Andrea Lewis’s work has appeared in many literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Cutthroat, Cold Mountain Review, and Catamaran Literary Reader. Three of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a founding member of Richard Hugo House, the place for writers in Seattle. She lives with her husband on Vashon Island, Washington. More of her work is available at www.andrealewis.org. Read more…

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Microreview: Rickey Laurentiis’s Boy With Thorn

Boy with Thorn by Rickey Laurentiis (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Review by Yael Massen

Rickey Laurentiis’ debut poetry collection, Boy with Thorn, arrives at a crucial time in American literary discourse, engaging the oppressive and harmful legacies of our nation with clarity and intelligent critique. Laurentiis’ collection as a whole is honest in recognition of a life lived through violence. The reader must praise the landscapes in this collection, in the midst of its terror and destruction, for also producing Laurentiis’ lyric beauty and wisdom. His relentless recognition of personal truths and reclamation of narratives formerly silenced is an example of poetry at its highest form.

Introduced by Terrance Hayes, who selected the collection for the prestigious 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, Boy with Thorn deliberately engages with crises and politics few contemporary poets discuss with self-reflection. In “I Saw I Dreamt Two Men,” the speaker addresses Anti-Homosexuality bills proposed in Nigeria and Uganda with the support of conservative American Christian organizations, as well as recognition of his own inaction: “I stayed with southern silence.”

The silence of the American South is the landscape that haunts this collection. A Louisiana native, Laurentiis returns to the environmental destruction and social dispossession in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in “No Ararat”: “I didn’t dream this. There was a storm. Then there wasn’t. The day after came like a hammer through glass. The sky shook off his clothes and it was brilliant. I tell you it was necessary: Violence had to preface such beauty.” Religion, like the south, is embedded into the geography of the collection. Laurentiis’ speaker is in constant conversation with an ideology that brought him to live “the way a problem lives, openly, so much / earth wanted [him] closed” (“Epitaph on a Stone”).

I was most moved by Laurentiis’ poems that directly engage rape culture, particularly “Black Iris,” a poem that transforms Georgia O’Keeffe’s eponymous painting. Here, Laurentiis crafts narratives and representations of sexuality complicated by violence and trauma formerly silenced and denied by the “Old Masters” (to quote “Vanitas with Negro Boy”) of art and white supremacy.

and when the iris shakes in it,
the lips of the flower shaping
to the thing that invades it, that will be
me, there, shaking, my voice shaking.
like the legs of the calf, who—out of fear?
out of duty? —is sitting by his dead
mother because what else will he do, what else has he?
Because a voice outside him makes him.

The title poem of the collection, “Boy with Thorn,” exemplifies Laurentiis’ technical mastery, social consciousness, fearsome imagination, and self-awareness. The ekphrastic poem transforms a first century B.C.E. bronze sculpture into a meditation on violence and a reclamation of the self in the aftermath of trauma:

                        11.
              I keep thinking of the thorn as
a marker, scrawler, what shapes the places both excused
              and forbidden
in his body’s swamp.

                             12.
          Violence thou shalt want. Violence thou shalt steal
and store inside.

The poem concludes on the speaker’s negotiation of these internalized, external voices.

                        28.
          This was his body, his body
finally his.

                        29.
          He shut the thorn up in his foot, and told his foot
Walk.

Laurentiis’ speaker pronounces a final resolve to inhabit his body as is, with an understanding of the pain that must be managed as a part of its existence.

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IR Online Fiction: “Mikey’s Flag Shirts” by Amzie Augusta Dunekacke

“Mikey’s Flag Shirts”

by Amzie Auguta Dunekacke

I don’t like American flag shirts much. Something about them seems gaudy to me, perhaps forced. I mean, I’ve been conditioned for patriotism since preschool taught me to begin every weekday morning with the Pledge of Allegiance. The routine carried on until high school graduation, the same emotionless recitation, the unconscious “One nation under God.” Maybe a red, white, and blue shirt is a more sincere offering of pride. Then again, maybe not. Read more…

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Interview with 2016 Poetry Prize Judge Camille Rankine

Our 2016 Poetry Prize judge is the phenomenal Camille Rankine, whose first full-length collection of poetry, Incorrect Merciful Impulses, was published by Copper Canyon Press this month. Here, Rankine discusses themes in the collection, her obsession with the ocean, sound and silence in poetry, and what she might be looking for in the prize-winning entry.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Camille Rankine’s first book of poetry, Incorrect Merciful Impulses, was recently published from Copper Canyon Press. She is the author of the chapbook Slow Dance with Trip Wire, selected by Cornelius Eady for the Poetry Society of America’s 2010 New York Chapbook Fellowship, and a recipient of a 2010 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Atlas Review, American Poet, The Baffler, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Octopus Magazine, Paper Darts, Phantom Books, A Public Space, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is Assistant Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College and lives in New York City. Read more…