Monday, June 29, 2009

Atlantis Meets Mir

On this very day in 1995 the American space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir to create the largest man-made satellite to ever orbit the Earth. It's amazing the things that can be accomplished when people, teams, and astronauts work together.

While sometimes writing may seem to be a solitary effort, we must not forget the fun, the inspiration, the craft lessons, and the new words we learn when writers come together and share their words, their thoughts.

At IR we love to celebrate collaboration. It is a collaborative effort to read through all the submissions, to figure out where commas go, and in the end, most importantly, the finished copy is a coming together of many voices in poems, in stories, and essays, to create a unified (and beautiful) issue.

Just look at the fruit of collaboration: the largest man-made satellite, our latest issue of 31.1. Have you not seen it yet? You can order it online.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lucia Perillo

The Poetry Foundation has posted an interview with MacArthur "Genius" Fellow Lucia Perillo. Maria McLeod talks to Perillo about her beginnings as a poet, her relationship to her work, and her identity as a "disabled poet."

IR has long been a fan of Perillo's work. Her poetry was first published in Volume 20.2, which featured the poems “Beige Trash,” and “Home.” Volume 25.1 featured four of her poems: “Given unlimited space, the dead expand limitlessly,” “Poem without Breasts,” “Fizz Ed,” and “Viagra.” Volume 26.1 featured “Juarez,” and “Wormhole Theory.” Her most recent appearance in the magazine was in Volume 29.1, with "Martha" and "Rebuttal."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ouroboros to you!

Ouroboros kind of sounds like a greeting to me or perhaps the name of an important piece of lawnmower (as in "The ouroboros broke and I need to fix it ASAP").

However, the dictionary cleared things up for me.

As stated by the Oxford English Dictionary Ouroboros (also spelled uroborus) is:

The symbol, usu. in the form of a circle, of a snake (or dragon) eating its tail.

and may have first be written in: 1940 by H.G. Baynes in Mythol. of Soul vi. 221 "Thus the uroborus symbol represents our psychic continuity with the immemorial past."

One of the great things about being a part of IR is reading everything that comes across my desk and the opportunity to learn new words. I love to learn a new word because once I learn it, I start to see it everywhere: on the sides of buses, in poems, in prose, in shiny coupons in the Sunday paper.

I wonder if I will start seeing this word, or depictions of it, when I leave the office today.

10 points* for anyone who writes it into a poem. 15 points for anyone who finds it in a poem. 20 points for anyone who finds the word graffiti-ed on a brick wall.


*Please note these points have no monetary or tangible, redeemable value, but supply a large amount of good-happy feelings (exact amount is at the digression of the winner of said points).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Week in Bloomington

The Indiana University Writers Conference! June 14-19th. Check 'em out!

Also check out their reading series. All readings are free, open to the public, and take place at 8 p.m. in the Rose Firebay at the John Waldron Arts Center 122 S. Walnut Street, Bloomington, IN 47404

Their website also has video of last year's readings, including IU's own, Ross Gay.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Review from 30.2

Lynn Aarti Chandhok. The View from Zero Bridge. Tallahassee, Florida: Anhinga Press, 2007. $14.00 paper (ISBN 978-0-938078-98-2), 77 pages.

Reviewed by Jenny Burdge

Lynn Aarti Chandhok’s debut collection of poetry, The View from Zero Bridge, is gorgeous. The poems work their truths, half-truths, and debatable facts through both the magic of sensual detail and words and phrases crafted into rhythms and rhymes usually so subtle, you often only awaken to their power by the end of the poem, when Chandhok wants you to know that yes, you’ve been under a spell, and perhaps you should question the veracity of everything the poem has told you, everything you’ve ever been told.

Chandhok was born in Pittsburgh, and raised there as well, but she spent many summers as a child in Kashmir with her father’s family. This upbringing in more than one place, more than one culture, echoes through the book’s situations and motifs, but dealing with multicultural existence is not, per se, the book’s theme.
From the cover image and title and through the poems themselves, the book announces itself as one concerned with place (Zero Bridge) but also perspective (the view). After reading Chandhok’s note regarding the cover, it also becomes clear that the book is concerned with just what we consider fact in the first place. Chandhok says, “Like many of the ‘facts’ in this book, the title itself is wrong.” That is because, although Chandhok somehow came to understand that the cover image, a photograph taken by her father, was taken from Zero Bridge, she finally learned in 2007 that this couldn’t have been the case, for there is no boat landing under that bridge.
The idea of truth, then, amongst all the book’s other concerns, is primary. In this way, an epigraph by Derek Mahon serves as the bottle of champagne for this book’s maiden voyage—both thematically and formally. It reads:

Ah, but words on the page aren’t the whole story
for all my hopes and fears are fictions, too
and I live in a virtual fever of creation—
the whole course of my life has been imagination,
my days a dream; when we wake from history
may we find peace in the substance of the true.

So, often being incapable of knowing truth—that “whole story”—the hope is that we can be satisfied with its substance—the essence of truth, which we still find ourselves unsure of, given the delusion of history; that is, the stories we’ve been told and the stories that we’ve read are untrustworthy, and only when we recognize this can we find something essentially true. This essence of truth is difficult and troubling, as the first poem, “Marketplace” (set in Kashmir, 1999), expresses:

My loss is trivial: a childhood home
to which return would be a senseless risk
just to confirm that paradise was real.

On either side, the only truth is loss,
and blame is strewn like wreckage or debris,
the storylines, disputed maps, redrawn.

Through all five of the book’s sections, this difficulty and trouble of knowing truth is returned to, rehashed, reestablished. In a sonnet of two septets titled “Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 10/01,” the speaker encounters a woman painting the staged nature “as if it’s not / already art, or dream, or plan, or real.” In another sonnet, “Trust,” the speaker says, “We’ve pulled it off again,” and then remembers dreaming frightening fires as a child, which she’d been told could happen, then concludes: “I’m undone by what children believe: / the ones who dream of martyrdom, or mine— / who trust that what I tell them is the truth.” In “Revision: the Bandh,” the speaker revisits a poem that appears early in the book, realizing the memory that occasioned the earlier poem was imagination: “Was it a dream or vision that such lengths / could spread themselves, so beautifully, on the banks?” In a number of elegies, that “only truth,” loss, is even more direct. It becomes clear that this “only truth” is what unites us, in spite of ourselves, in spite of whatever “blame is strewn like wreckage or debris.”

The poems in this collection do not, however, dismiss the delusion or illusions of history as being without value. The longest poem of the book, and perhaps my favorite, spreads out over the book’s middle. “The Story of the Palace,” set in Fatehpur Sikri, April 2001, is formally more intricate than the other poems. It is written in iambic pentameter, just as almost all the others in this book are; however, with its lines being broken, either mid-line or with the more usual enjambment, the meter is more difficult to detect. Similarly, rhymes, both true and slant, weave subtly through the poem, sometimes with the chiming word at a distance from its partner. These weavings are a reminder of the book’s epigraph (both formally and thematically), and they imitate the intricate and broken threads of which history and stories are also woven. The poem tries to find the true story of the title palace, but the speaker’s guidebook, stories she heard on an earlier visit, and the stories her guide tells her during the current visit often diverge. There is no way to know the truth, no way to know what pieces of it to trust. A line from the guidebook describing the palace applies just as well to the stories of it: “Its parts are better than the whole.” What this poem suggests, then, contradicts the book’s epigraph.

Perhaps we can’t find peace in the substance of the truth, because we may never see what that is. Perhaps peace comes in viewing all the diverging parts of history’s dream, hoping one of those parts is true, while delighting in all the others.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's here it's here it's here!

Our newest issue has officially arrived! Summer 2009, Issue 31.1: it's bright, it's bold, it's beautiful! Opening up those boxes was like opening a box full of pink sunshine--a welcome sight on a rainy Bloomington afternoon. It's hard to believe that a few short months ago, the issue looked like this:
And now it looks like this:

A very big thank you to all of our contributors and staff for all of their hard work on this issue! The issue includes work from Campbell McGrath, Trinie Dalton, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ander Monson, Melanie Rae Thon and many others, including our 2008 1/2 K Prize and 2008 Fiction Prize winners.You can find a copy in these bookstores or you can buy it online here. And it is sure to brighten your day!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Matthew Dickman wins 2009 Kate Tufts Discovery Award

Matthew Dickman's first book, All American Poem recently won the 2009 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.


In IR's Winter 2008 issue you can find his poem "Archeticture Poem" and in our soon-to-be-delivered Summer 2009 Issue you will find a review of Mr. Dickman's collection All American Poem by Ryan Teitman.

We always love to hear news about IR contributors.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Review of Boy with Flowers from 30.2

Ely Shipley. Boy with Flowers. New York, New York: Barrow Street Press, 2008. $15.95 paper (ISBN 0-9728302-5-1), 84 pages.

Reviewed by Esther Lee

A scrim—a gauzy curtain often used in theater—can simultaneously reflect and filter light, resulting in a delicate, porous visibility from either side. In his debut poetry collection, Boy with Flowers—winner of the 2007 Barrow Street Press Book Award, selected by Carl Phillips—Ely Shipley achieves a similar intimacy in his treatment of the performative “gauze” of our notions of identity in order to explore the complex perceptions of transgender experience. In Boy with Flowers, the speaker’s self-recognition shifts, as if it were a light reflecting against the cubist body, which is alluded to in the speaker’s remark about the moon that “...glitters dully, but only / if I tilt / my head just so.” The recognition of the self becomes a bewildering, subterranean dreamscape, like a “milky shadow shaped like a door,” whereas the looking and perceiving committed by others is often stifling and interrogatory.

Occasionally veering toward surrealism but always returning to the sensual, these poems jolt us back to the fierceness of the lived experience, of the sublime and of terror, and the hinterlands of memory. If “light is / only a gauze, hanging inside so many / strange faces...,” then Shipley’s arresting and lyrical poems combine the emotive motifs of lighting and the social masks we wear, along with the film technique of montage; thus illuminating the mirrored layers of our own complicated psychology.

In the opening poem, “After the Carnival,” a scene of disorientation ignites dizzying tension, palpable as the memory of a traumatic accident, which provokes a feeling of impending disaster as it unfolds in slow motion:

It’s night. Each of us wears

a mask. I am
the pig, and you
the hawk. Children hide,

folding into their mothers’
skirts, as we kiss

one another and sometimes
them. Beak and snout smear

spread open lines of red

And later in the poem, the manipulation of breath takes on a panicked, eerie tone when the “you” in the poem, during an attempt to avoid drowning, instead becomes smothered, ironically, by a forced kiss:

at thirteen, a high school boy
held your head
under water at Lytle Creek. Inside

you couldn’t swim
so clutched his neck, his arm
until he lifted

your face, smashing his face
into your mouth, sucking

your breath...

Like “birds siphoning secrets from the lungs of men,” the breath is portrayed as a kind of flitting presence in the throat, one that may carry secrets of the speaker. Whether it be during a moment of visceral panic while staring at the “eye of God” of a disco ball (“tiny / in squares until I can’t breathe”) or while sipping from a wine glass that is “the shape of someone’s / breath, held,” the breath—as a means of coping or source of physical comfort—hovers inside the throat, and serves as a liminal conduit through which the breath channels between the speaker’s body and the outside world, where, ultimately, the voice might “choke / out its notes, its high-pitched / scream, its pop.”

Whether implied or overt, the violence that the poems address pervades the speaker’s reality and diverts away from the innocence of when the speaker, at ten, “played barefoot / in the backyard desert...took naps in the patch of grass / we kept trying to grow” to a stark eeriness, as illustrated in the dream of “Boy with Flowers”:

...Today I wake from another dream
in which I have a beard, no breasts
and am about to go skinny-dipping
on a foreign beach with four other men.

I’m afraid to undress, won’t take off my shorts,
so they grab me, one at each ankle, the other two
by each wrist. I am a starfish hardening.
The sun hovers above, a hot
mirror where I search for my reflection.

I close my eyes. It’s too intense. The light
where my lover is tracing fingertips
around two long incisions in my chest. Each sewn tight
with stitches, each a naked stem, flaring with thorns.

In this collection, such remembered moments of crushing violence often trigger temporal shifts, transporting the reader from Echo Park and the dyke clubs of LA to “a window somewhere in Montana,” or driving in a ’76 Chevy Monte Carlo—places where fists are bitten and a roll of dimes can be transformed into a weapon with which to punch “while my own fingers got crushed / over and over again, between / all I held and wanted / to push away.”

Boy with Flowers
attempts to remember what is unbearable by casting it against the intimate scrim of language, of intimate moments held up to the light. Objects that we may take for granted are de-familiarized, and, ultimately, we are left with the speaker’s acute wonderment of the “body of the bird against the glass,” a cigarette’s “long finger of broken ash,” of magnolia petals that “would no longer be / white, but darkening everywhere / they’d been touched.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tweet Tweet

So I was browsing some of the past copies of IR and in the Summer 2004 issue there was a non-fiction peice that made references of someone's desire to make all emails a maximum length of 20 words. It's now 2009 and everyone has heard of or is addicted to I've heard it called microblogging, and"like facebook, but only the statuses" and"like sending a text message to everyone all at once" and "the communication method we never knew we needed."

Whatever Twitter is, it seems to be taking over. Just last week someone asked if IR had a Twitter account. We don't as of yet, but who knows what the future holds. And in the meantime I find myself wondering about the effects of Twitter: Is tweeting an opportunity for haiku? What does it mean to know what that someone "out on their backporch reading poetry" or "boarding plane headed for Costa Rica" or any other array of intimate details we now have readily available? What are your thoughts on Twitter? The exercise in brevity? The networks it creates? What does it mean that I have blogged much more than 120 characters about Twitter?

Speaking of limited word counts: today is the DEADLINE for our $1000 Prize for 1/2 K (500 word) short short/prose poem. Check out the guidelines here.