The Community Roundup: September 10, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* Emilia Phillips, whose forthcoming chapbook Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike will be published by Bull City Press, has two poems up at West Branch Wired.

* We are thrilled to see North Carolina’s Dorianne Laux interviewed at the new website divedapper:

Well, when I was first coming into the world of poetry I saw how important it was that small magazines and presses accepted and supported my poetry, as well as the poetry of others I admired. Early on I worked with a small magazine as an editor and saw that it is really a occupation of the heart. Long hours, no pay, sitting on the floor in someone’s living room behind a box of envelopes stuffed with poems looking for a reader. I also sat around tables in kitchens with a motley crew and hand bound chapbooks, by staple or needle and thread, hour after hour until they were all finished and stacked back to back in a box or slipped one by one into envelopes and addressed. Years later, I visited the offices of APR in Philadelphia. I imagined it would be a far cry from those small living rooms and kitchens, some shining palace of poetry, and I was so surprised to walk up a flight of worn stairs to a small office packed end to end with old issues stacked against the walls, books in every cubby hole, two desks shoved into a dark space in the corner, some sickly potted plant balanced on a ledge, under watered, ill-fed, and two guys in shirt sleeves, shuffling through the envelopes on their desks, and propped on a stool, one ringing phone. It’s all work of the heart.

* Amy Woolard published some of her out-of-print poems at Ink Node last week. Check them out!

* The new issue of Drunken Boat is out!

* William Wright is San Pedro River Review‘s first featured poet, debuted in the Fall 2014 issue.

* Be on the lookout for Salt Hill Journal #33. Matt Bell has four of poems in the forthcoming issue, and they are his first poems in print.

* Erica Wright’s “Spontaneous Human Combustion” from Gulf Coast was featured at Verse Daily.

* Bull City Press’s Rebecca Hazelton published a resourceful essay at the Poetry Foundation this week for poetry teachers about how line breaks shape meaning:

The relationship between the poetic line (including its length and positioning and how it fits into other lines) and the content of a poem is a major aspect of poetry. Some critics go so far as to say that lineation is the defining characteristic of poetry, and many would say it’s certainly one major difference between most poetry and prose. In A Poetry Handbook, poet Mary Oliver says, “prose is printed (or written) within the confines of margins, while poetry is written in lines that do not necessarily pay any attention to the margins, especially the right margin.” Critic and poet James Longenbach, in his preface to The Art of the Poetic Line, also links the definition of poetry to lineation: “Poetry is the sound of language organized in lines.” But the line can be difficult to talk about because it doesn’t operate independently of other poetic elements, as sense, syntax, sound, and rhythm can. Instead, it is a modifier or an amplifier of sense, syntax, sound, and rhythm—which is precisely why an exploration of line can so illuminate poetry as a whole.

* Congratulations to Laura van den Berg for being among the winners of the 2014 O. Henry Prize for short fiction!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry AnthologyImage, PANK, and  Pea River Journal. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee and as Legal Advisor for AsymptoteFollow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: September 3, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* The September issue of Thrush Poetry Journal is out!

* TJ Jarrett discussed her collection Ain’t No Grave with Amy Woolard last year at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and the audio is now available. On a coincidental note, I interviewed Amy Woolard and TJ Jarrett, individually, for BCP and The Atlantic:

Amy Woolard: What’s the Ideal Day Job for a Poet?

TJ Jarrett: Computer Engineering: A Fine Day Job for a Poet

* Issue #61: Tribes of Tin House has been released! Friend Tony Hoagland has new work included, and INCH contributor Roxane Gay has “Readable Feast” in the issue.

* Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams’ short nonfiction piece, and P. J. Williams’ poem “Totally Undone but Singing” appear in the latest MAYDAY Magazine.

* TJ Jarrett’s poem “Of Late, I Have Been Thinking About Despair” was Split This Rock‘s Poem of the Week.

Shenandoah announces the appointment of William Wright as assistant editor!

* Christopher Martin’s poem “Feeding American Bison at the Yellow River Game Ranch” is in the new issue of Poecology.

* R.A. Villanueva’s collection Reliquaria, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, is out this week from University of Nebraska Press:

In his prize-winning poetry collection Reliquaria, R. A. Villanueva embraces liminal, in-between spaces in considering an ever-evolving Filipino American identity. Languages and cultures collide; mythologies and faiths echo and resound. Part haunting, part prayer, part prophecy, these poems resonate with the voices of the dead and those who remember them. In this remarkable book, we enter the vessel of memory, the vessel of the body. The dead act as witness, the living as chimera, and we learn that whatever the state of the body, this much rings true: every ode is an elegy; each elegy is always an ode.

* Our friends at WhiskeyPaper hope to start WhiskeyPaper Press to publish chapbooks.

* Congrats to INCH contributor Hannah Gamble and the other young poet winners for receiving 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships!

* The September issue of Poetry magazine is out and includes new work from John Ashbery, Henri Cole, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and more.

* Congrats to our friend Matt Bell for winning the 2014 Paula Anderson Book Award!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry AnthologyImage, PANK, and  Pea River Journal. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee and as Legal Advisor for AsymptoteFollow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: August 27, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* Luke Hankins’s poem “Adam” was selected as a finalist in Ruminate’s Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize.

* Rochelle Hurt’s The Rusted City was featured in post at The Journal:

Rochelle Hurt’s “novel in poems” The Rusted City also hit close to home, with an exquisite portrait of a dysfunctional family living in a city where rust coats every surface, floats in every breath, and rains down like dandruff when women brush their hair. An example of what Hurt calls the Rust Belt Gothic—a genre in which she also includes Journal-contributor Jamaal May’s work—The Rusted City will resonate with readers far beyond the region it depicts.

Rochelle’s poem “Hallucination with Bees” was also featured by Green Mountains Review!

* Wesley Rothman’s poem “Throbbing in the Bush / Pledge” is in the latest issue of New England Review.

* Our Durham neighbor Sam Stephenson’s “Bull City Summer” project was featured on The New Yorker‘s website.

* Sean Hill’s “Postcard to My Third Crush Today” was posted on Verse Daily!

Issue Sixty-One of The Collagist is out!

* Kevin Simmond’s poem “Nod” is in Summer 2014 issue of Prairie Schooner!

* TJ Jarrett’s “1973: My Mother Cleaves Herself in Two” (originally published in VQR) was featured at Poetry Daily.

* Some of Matt Bell’s poems were posted at Everyday Genius.

* Spring 2014 Black River Chapbook Competition finalists & semi-finalists announced! Congrats to Kai Carlson-Wee and others!

Issue 14: All Visual of The Economy is live!

* Check out Jason McCall’s “Roll Call for Michael Brown” at Rattle.

* BCP’s Rebecca Hazelton’s poem “We’ll Fix It In Post” featured at The Missouri Review.

* The latest issue of The Oxford American includes poems by Dorianne Laux and Fady Joudah!

* Jan LaPerle’s new collection, A Pretty Place to Mourn, is now available from BlazeVOX.

* Justin L. Daugherty and Brent Rydin have started a new press, Jellyfish Highway. “We are a press for work that floats and undulates and lingers and stings, literature that shines from the deepest blue.”

* Ada Limón’s poem “Oranges & The Ocean” was featured on The NYT Magazine blog.

* Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem “Polaroid” is in The Paris-American.

* Jeff Hardin’s poem “A Myth that Changes with Every Retelling” featured at Chapter 16.

* Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr.’s poem “In The Guest House For Pilgrims” (Series: India (Four Way Books, 2015)) is in the latest issue of The Cortland Review.

* Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams’s “A Guide to Surviving Your Father’s Homelessness” was unlocked at The Oxford American.

* BCP’s Brittany Cavallaro mentioned in Publishers Weekly‘s “The M.F.A. Workshop: From Red Ink to Published Book“:

Brittany Cavallaro attended the University of Wisconsin for her M.F.A. in poetry; it’s an intimate program that accepts only a handful of students in each genre and opens for applications in poetry only every other year (during off-years, it accepts applications in fiction). Cavallaro’s poetry cohort at UW-Madison consisted of six other writers. “We had all of our workshops together,” she says. “In short, they saw every single thing I wrote for two years. My cohort didn’t just see my poems as individual pieces (though that was a consideration); they were also always able to speak to how my project––and later, my manuscript––was evolving. If it seemed like I was just rewriting an earlier poem, they’d tell me. If a poem felt like it could be in that collection, they’d tell me that, too.”

Cavallaro’s first full-length poetry collection, Girl-King, will be released by University of Akron press in February 2015. When she began the program, she was coming off a nine-month writing dry spell. Her first workshop kickstarted her writing, and she produced nearly 40 poems that initial semester. “Not all of those poems made their way into the manuscript, but they formed its spine,” she recalls. “Nearly every poem in the manuscript was workshopped, and the ones that weren’t were looked at by my friend Jacques J. Rancourt, who had been in all my workshops and who is my first and best reader.”

Save the Alaska Quarterly Review!

Our initial elation at Monday’s news that the months-long prioritization process at UAA has determined that the university should invest more resources in arts, languages, and humanities was quickly overshadowed by their conclusion that the Alaska Quarterly Review is one of the non-academic programs needing “further review, consideration for reduction or phase out.” Say it ain’t so!

* Congrats to Tracy K. Smith for receiving the Academy of American Poets Fellowship!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry AnthologyImage, PANK, and  Pea River Journal. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee and as Legal Advisor for AsymptoteFollow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: August 13, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* BCP’s beloved former managing editor, Marielle Prince, is now a VIDA intern!

Two Dollar Radio has a new website!

PANK issue 9.8/August 2014 is out.

* Tyler Mills was interviewed about her first book of poems, Tongue Lyre:

Q: What about the publication of the actual poems in journals and magazines prior to the book being published? Was there ever a concern for you to have the majority of the poems published before you were sending out your manuscript?

A: Poets should stop worrying about this. It seems like there’s a mentality that once all the poems are taken, the book is “done.” Even if every single poem in a manuscript is published, that does not mean that a poet’s book is finished—no matter where all these poems have been taken. Think of a book like a giant poem. Ask yourself, “What does my giant poem want to be? How is it holding together, as a giant poem?”

INCH contributor Phillip B. Williams will have his next book, Witnesspublished by Alice James Books.

INCH contributor Roxane Gay is receiving lots of praise for her new book, Bad Feminist. See The GuardianNPR, and The New York Times.

Thrush Poetry Journal announces its Best of the Net 2014 Nominations!

* Nominate your favorite journal or press for the AWP Small Press Publisher Award.

* This interview with Wesley Rothman is fantastic:

I can’t think of any writers or poets I wish were taught differently, per se, mostly because I can’t say they’re taught in universally similar ways, but I wish writing and reading were taught differently, and I wish poets other than Whitman, Dickinson, Eliot, WCW, and Frost were taught in high schools. It’s important to become familiar with the canon, but teach high school students poetry that speaks about their world, not the world of their great-[great-]grandparents. Teach them Natalie Diaz, Marcus Wicker, Amiri Baraka, Wallace Stevens, Roger Reeves, Matthew Zapruder, Natasha Trethewey. Something that I can’t put my finger on at the moment is making history and historical context difficult to process for younger generations. We have to find a way to help young people find poignance in what happened 200 years ago before we can help them find poignance in Coleridge, Wheatley, Blake, Austen, and Wordsworth.

* The new issue of the Southern Humanities Review is out!

* Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam reviewed at Slate by our Durham neighbor Jonathan Farmer:

The beauty of these poems does not redeem tragedy; at times, in fact, it seems to sully it. But that sullying—the humid tangle of lives, Faizullah’s own losses pressing in alongside the stories of the Birangona, her sexual desires flaring up back at her hotel room, her feelings of shame, her disquiet in the streets of Dhaka, the company of Western authors (Tomas Tranströmer, Paul Celan, Willa Cather) amid everyone else’s words—offers an unusually persuasive image of the ways old tragedies persist.

* Sandra Beasley reads her poem “Ukulele” for NPR.

* “Hey, have you noticed the names of African American poets on several covers of Poetry magazine lately?”

Ninth Letter announces the winners of its second annual Literary Awards competition. Congrats to Anders Carlson-Wee!

* Wendy Xu’s poem “Dedication” appears in Hyperallergic.

* I was thrilled to see Carolina Ebeid’s “You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior” featured at Poetry Daily.

* Ross White’s (editor of BCP) poetry collection, How We Came Upon the Colony, is available for pre-order from Unicorn Press! Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

* Wiley Cash has a new story in Salt Magazine.

* Danniel Schoonebeek’s second book of poems, C’est la guerre, will be published by Poor Claudia in 2015. He also a poem in the latest issue of Indiana Review.

* I hope “poetry videos” become a thing. This one by  and his brother Anders is wonderful:
A few weeks ago, we received an email from our friend, poet Kai Carlson-Wee. He told us that he had spent the summer traveling, and along with working on new poems, he had created a “poetry video.” He wanted to know if we would be interested in showcasing his poetry video since the audio is “Holes in the Mountain,” one of his five poems from his 2014 Editors’ Prize winning entry. We weren’t really sure what a poetry video would look like, but we said, yeah sure we’d love to sit down and check out his work. So he sent us the link. And we watched it. Then watched it again. And again. And again.

* GRIND co-founder Matthew Olzmann has two new poems, “The Minotaurs” and “Nate Brown is Looking For a Moose”, in the new issue of Poetry Northwest.

* Rebecca Gayle Howell and Husam Qaisi’s translation of Amal al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation is Alice James Books’s book of the week!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry AnthologyImage, PANK, and  Pea River Journal. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee and as Legal Advisor for AsymptoteFollow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: July 30, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* Roger Reeves is the winner of the 2014 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection, King Me (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).

Two poems from Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam appear in Beltway Poetry Quarterly.

* GRIND’r Liz Gray reviews Eliza Griswold’s I Am the Beggar of the World for Harvard Review.

* Amy Woolard is a talented poet and one heck of an essayist. Check out her latest blog post:

There are days when I think nostalgia will be the death of me, and there are days I try to bring about the death of nostalgia—mostly as self-defense. As protection from heart-annihilation. The writing of poems, for me, is my greatest weapon in my personal war of attrition against nostalgia. In poems, I get to live outside of time. With rare exception, I don’t use time-specific markers in my poems, even when there are plenty of things described. There are houses and rooms and cars and clothes. Certainly a modern setting—electricity & all that. My poems are more of a translation—of what my sleep sees, of what my lungs see, of what my spleen or my liver or my gut sees, even. To use what my eyes see would feel far too literal to me.

Amy was also named as one of two finalists/honorable mentions for the 2014 Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest!

* Rose McLarney’s “Story with a Real Beast and a Little Blood in It” is featured at Poetry Daily.

* Tennessee poet Susan O’Dell Underwood and her husband have started a small independent publishing company, Sapling Grove Press.

* Aaron Belz interviewed at antler:

Sometimes I picture myself reading my poetry, and what I see is not too great. It’s a guy, now in his forties, stifling laughter and weeping occasionally. Then, I picture the man watching himself reading his poetry, and I feel sorry for him. Has he nothing better to do? I think art is a way to feel excited about colors, shapes, scenes, forms, that ultimately leads to feeling sorry for oneself. Everyone who looks at art is glum. They seem serious, earnest, like significance itself rests on them. They tend to wear dark clothes and nerdy glasses. I don’t know why they do it, but looking at art is definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Is it even a poem?” My answer is, I don’t know. It’s what I do.

* I can’t recommend Josh Robbins’s Praise Nothing (U. of Arkansas Press, 2013) highly enough. An insightful review by Michele Poulos appears at 32 Poems.

INCH contributor Roxane Gay interviewed in NY Times Magazine:

It was on the narrative in higher education about students being bad writers. I think that narrative is a fetish among faculty, not a reality. They fetishize the idea of bad writing, and they are more interested in the lore of bitching about students’ writing than they are in actually evaluating students’ writing as it is. But complaining can be a way of bonding.

* I’m excited to see North Carolina native Matthew Wimberley’s poems in the latest online issue of PANK!

* Nick Ripatrazone is everywhere these days. He has a poem and self-interview at The Nervous Breakdown and a resourceful essay at The Millions on Appalachian literature and poet Rose McLarney’s work.

* Watch this delightful short film based on Rochelle Hurt’s “Poem in Which I Play the Runaway”.

* See Oliver de la Paz’s book trailer for Post Subject: A Fable (U. of Akron Press 2014).

* The featured presenters at the 2015 AWP Conference include friends Roxane Gay and Adrian Matejka!

* Luke Hankins was interviewed about his new press, Orison Books.

* Ansel Elkins was profiled in The New Yorker about her recent Paris Review residency:

In May, Elkins applied for a different kind of residency, one organized by the Paris Review and the Standard East Village, a sleek hotel. The gig offered free lodging “to a writer who has a book under contract and needs three weeks of solitude in downtown New York City.” A few weeks later, Elkins was at a friend’s house, “picking ticks off the dog and throwing them in the fire, and I stopped to check my e-mail, and I won!” Her reward: for most of July, she would inhabit a twelve-foot-by-fourteen-foot bedroom on the tenth floor of the hotel, within blocks of Cooper Union, a homeless shelter, and several massage parlors and sake bars. Breakfast and coffee would be complimentary; lunch, dinner, and alcohol would not.

* The Best New Poets 2014 list was announced this week!

* The list of finalists for the 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships includes friends Hannah Gamble, Emilia Phillips, Danniel Schoonebeek, and Wendy Xu!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry AnthologyImage, PANK, and  Pea River Journal. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: July 23, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* The new issue of TriQuarterly is out, and it includes work from Sarah Blake.

Issue 3.3 of The Cumberland River Review is live!

* Luke Hankins, Senior Poetry Editor of Asheville Poetry Review, is starting a “non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad range of perspectives.” Take a look at his campaign for the new Orison Books.

* GRIND’r Reese Okyong Kwon has a story forthcoming in the 2015 NOON!

* Four Way Books profiled in the New York Times:

I like poems that have meaty yet unadorned diction; a climate that isn’t afraid to stay in its weather zone, but also shifts when the situation calls for a shift. (Think of Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay.”) I admire well-managed content more than the content itself. Really, it’s all about management of material, yes?

* David Tomas Martinez’s Hustle made Entropy’s 16 Best Poetry Books of the First Half of 2014!

* I loved Vic Sizemore’s short “Can’t a Dad Hug His Boy?” for the Seattle Pacific MFA blog.

INCH contributor Roxane Gay was interviewed by Margaret Eby in The L Magazine about sexism, Chris Brown, and Knausgaard.

​* Rebecca Gayle Howell’s 4-week course, “Translation as Creative Practice,” with 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center Online Writing Program, is now taking applications.

* Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams and Rochelle Hurt answer a few questions for the Literary Blog Tour.

​* Emily Wilson, 2013-2014 Kert Green ​Fellow in UNCW’s MFA program, has a poetry translation in the new issue of Asymptote.

* Stories from two talented women appeared in WhiskeyPaper last week! See work from Amanda Miska and Leesa Cross-Smith!

* The newest issue of Baltimore Review is full of good work, including a contribution from Justin Brouckaert.

​* In the spirit of North Carolina poetry being ​a hot news item, a throwback to Sam Stephenson’s 2012 piece in The Paris Review Daily on Betty Adcock, Raleigh poet:

I asked Betty what odds a young female poet faced in 1960s North Carolina. “Poetry,” she said, “had a hard time gaining traction among women writers in the South. Part of the reason is that there were so many good models to follow in fiction—Katherine Anne Porter, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Doris Betts. They were like comets. But the poetry world was controlled by the universities in the South, and women didn’t have access to the faculty lounges and English departments back then. I never considered myself a feminist poet, as it were, because I don’t write out of that drive. But perhaps my work helped change the way the Southern experience is seen in poetry.”

​* ​Durham neighbor Jonathan Farmer responds in the Los Angeles Review of Books to the Sunday Times‘ “How Much Does Poetry Matter”:

Maybe because poetry is so small in the culture at large, and maybe because it looks so massive nonetheless, we never get tired of making the case for poetry. But I imagine it would be healthier, at least once in a while, to answer, “Have you seen what’s going on in the world? Who cares?” and then, if it helps, if it matters to you, go back to the poem again.

​* Kate Angus’ essay, “Americans Love Poetry, But Not Poetry Books” (product of May and June GRINDs!) was published by The Millions:

Although the audience for poetry is vast, despite the very hard and creative work being done by publishers, this wider audience hasn’t yet crossed the bridge from reading poetry into buying poetry books.

​* Check out C. Dale Young’s 2014 commencement speech to Warren Wilson MFA graduates.

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology series, Image, PANK, and  Ruminate. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.

A Life in IT and a Life in Writing: An Interview with TJ Jarrett

By Win Bassett

A version of this post was published by The Atlantic.

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What’s a writer to do when writing doesn’t pay the bills?  A default option seems to be teaching, but as Jamaal May said in a recent interview, “Being a teacher is not for everyone, and if we had less writers out there doing it because it seems to be the correct path, there would be more jobs for the people who live for being in front of a class.”

Poet Amy Woolard, who I interviewed last fall, is one example of a writer who has forgone the academy, spending most of her days advocating as a child-welfare attorney and lobbyist. Recently, I emailed with emerging poet TJ Jarrett to learn about the working life of another acclaimed part-time writer.

In June, Jarrett had poems published in Poetry Magazine and The Virginia Quarterly Review. At the end of this month, she’ll attend the Sewanee Writer’s Conference on one of its coveted fellowships. In approximately three months, her second poetry collection, Zion (winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition in 2013), will be published by Southern Illinois University Press. She’s managed to accomplish all of this while also serving as a senior poetry editor of Tupelo Quarterly—and while working as a Senior Integration Engineer at HealthTrust in Nashville.

A condensed, edited version of my conversation with Jarrett conversation follows.


You were born in Nashville, did some “wandering,” and came back. Tell me about your wanderings.

I went to school in Boston and then worked for Greenpeace in Nashville for a summer and then in Boulder, Colorado. Then, I moved to Denver for a while and did a lot of odd jobs. I came back to Nashville after being busted broke and worked at Vanderbilt’s orthopedic department filling out purchase orders. Then, I moved back to Boston. I worked in logistics and operations for a medical transportation company for four years and then worked in IT in earnest ever since. It’s secure, and it keeps my mind occupied. I describe it as solving puzzles every day.

My 20s were a little crazy (like everyone’s), and I dated a guy who said that I should probably work with data because I’m good at it, and because the way we deal with data moves a little slower than more operational programming languages like C or Java. He was right about that and wrong for me. Everything happens for a reason.

What does a “Senior Integration Engineer” do?

I move data from one place to another. The specific toolset involves doing ETL (extract, transform, and load) for data in source systems to various data warehouses. The point is to move data in such a way that end users can discover correlations between systems. For example, let’s say that you sell widgets. You have an ordering system and a delivery system, but they’re not housed in the same application. Maybe you want to see how soon you ship an item after you book a PO (purchase order), or how your inventory supply and demand affect how people purchase items or which items they purchase. I specifically work on a pharmaceutical and a medical/surgical equipment decision system that analyzes how facilities purchase these items to determine how they can best save money.

Which came first: poems or software code?

Poems. I wrote them almost every day when I was 12 until my early 20s. My mom worked at Hampton University with Paula Rankin, who was an awesome poet. After seeing me writing every day after school, she asked to look at it. She read a few, declared them awful, and gave me a reading list and some assignments. If she had to read them, she said, they should at least be good. I was young enough to not know how good she was or how generous she was. When I was 16, she talked my mother into letting me attend her seminar. She really nurtured and loved me into being a poet.

She did all of this even though I told her that I was going to be a lawyer. She shook her head and told me, “No, that’s not going to happen at all.” I ran off to college in a fit of rebellion and then realized that I couldn’t be a lawyer if I tried. It’s not in my nature.

What is your nature, and how does it correspond to that of a developer and poet?

In regards to being a lawyer, I’m not terribly combative. Or to be clearer, I don’t have the patience to argue. I don’t know how people live like that. I know that it would exhaust me. I am forever questioning, and I do more than enough arguing with myself. And I have an artist’s temperament: I’m so sensitive sometimes that I astonish myself.

I call it a crisis of empathy. All poems have an element of rhetoric, but I find it best to approach this humbly so that your reader doesn’t feel bludgeoned. I’m always putting myself in someone else’s shoes and trying to see the world as they see it. I see the world as a system, many parts coming together to make the whole work. To troubleshoot code or to ask the question of “how did we live under Jim Crow?” means that you have to watch the parts coming together like gears and ask good questions. How did it come to be like this? How can we make this better without dismantling the whole? If we are going to replace it all, how does this one part function within the whole? What were our fundamental requirements?

How does writing lines of computer code relate to your writing lines of verse?

I tend to break things up into functions. If I were building a cash register, I’d build the “add” and “subtract” and “running total” functions. If I were building a book about lynching, I build “how the crowd gathers” function; “how fear works” function; the “grieving” function; the “questioning if this is the best way” function. If a poem is a tiny machine, then a volume of poetry is a car or a plane—a bunch of parts that come together to perform a larger action.

Have you held any other jobs while writing poems?

I stopped writing poems from about 20 until 33, but I would always tell a friend of mine that my dream would be to go to Columbia’s MFA program. Finally, my friend got tired of my saying this and said that I could write anywhere and asked what was stopping me. This is a long way of saying that I’ve only written poems “professionally” while working in IT.

Does this mean you have a trove of poems prior to your life in IT?

I wish it did. I lost most of them (my mother claims to have some), and I burned some of them. I don’t have much early work. Sometimes I run across attempts to write before this time period, and I cringe. I think I was very clever but not very wise. The sound is there, and some stylistic tics remain, but the clarity of thought and the sincere reaching to a reader are absent. I think being unconcerned about your reader is selfish.

How do you they think these earlier poems differ from the poems of your life in IT now?

When I was younger, I wanted to hear myself speak for my own sake. I’m not sure if it’s because working in IT is a team sport, but I am always worried about the reader and how they will interpret what I’m saying. Right now, I think I’m one of two Americans on my work team, and it greatly colors how I say things, not just in tone but culturally. I’m more concise. I’m more measured. I go for meaning more than rhetorical flourish.

A pastor and a professor raised you. Tell me about your upbringing and how it affects your writing.

Oh, there were no words left un-interrogated in that house. My mom filled the house with books, and where she left off, my dad continued. Funny fact—my dad still memorizes every sermon each week. He writes it out on Thursday and Friday night and practices on Saturday. I can’t believe he still does it that way. Mom let me read anything. There was no such thing as verboten books. There were times where she wondered if something were too mature for me, but I absorbed only what I could understand.

Have your father’s sermons’ pastoral, religious, or spiritual themes ever found their way into your poetry?

Absolutely. I believe in redemption. I believe some poems are really prayer. I believe one is called to write poems because God knows it’s not for money. I believe the words move you and not the other way around. I believe that one should submit humbly to hearing what the soul has to say. I’m not terribly religious, but I know some poems come, and I just stand by and attend their journey into the world.

There are poems I’ve written that feel like I had very little to do with getting them on the page. I start writing and get my ego out of the way. I don’t know if that’s spiritual, but Dad and I have often talked about doing the reading and preparing only to have magic happen when we’re sitting down to write about it. I realized only after the fact that all the Bible reading I did as a child (if you don’t want to be in church, no one ever raises an eyebrow if you’re recreationally reading a Bible) comes through all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll hear a Bible verse attributed and hit my head and realize that I quoted it almost verbatim in a poem.

When do you do most of your writing?

After work. Late and in bars. Specifically at the Red Door Saloon. I don’t know why that bar, but it’s my place, and it gets really loud. I know I should leave around the time that Ronnie or Danny gets on shift at 8 or 8:30 p.m. If I stay longer, I’m really only watching baseball or basketball. And drinking.

How does your current work schedule affect your writing schedule?

Christ. I don’t sleep. And I can really only write in bars. I need the ambient noise. I tried cafes, but I can’t drink coffee after 3 p.m. I’d never sleep at all if I wrote there. This year, I plan to write a little slower because I have tasked myself to re-certify on the BI (Microsoft’s Business Intelligence) stack. It’s something that I’ve needed to do, but was too busy writing to get it accomplished. I’m striving for balance.

What do your co-workers think about your writing?

Some people know that I write, and others don’t. Because I’m the only American developer on my team, I can’t be a “grammar Nazi” when I speak only one language fluently. I’m more impressed with them and the myriad ways that English is spoken between them. It’s like being in a linguistic mixing bowl. Sometimes (and I’ve never told them this), I sit back in meetings and listen to the musicality of them talking back and forth about an issue. Then, I snap out of it and realize that there’s work to be done.

Have you ever written while on the job?

Not at my current job. Sometimes, I’ll get an idea and write it down to work on later. Frankly, I’m much too busy to even start a poem at work. This, I’m sure, will make my boss very happy, but it’s the honest answer. I have done some writing during lunch at other jobs or while running a batch load that I had to watch too closely to actually start real work but not so closely that I can’t tool around with a poem. The same thing might happen during long software installations. For the most part, writing and working don’t mix. Most writing happens after work and before sleep. I get a lot less sleep than I should.

What would be your ideal job be?

I have moments when I realize that I’m working at my dream job. I never have enough time to enjoy both as thoroughly as I’d like, but I really like my job. I love writing, but there’s so much ebb and flow with it. I need things that are more stable, and I don’t have the patience to teach on a regular basis.

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology series, Image, PANK, and  Ruminate. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: July 16, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* The new issue of Tupelo Quarterly is packed! Friends Oliver de la Paz, TJ Jarrett, Anne Barngrover, Matt Bell, Amy King, and others all grace this issue with their talent.

* Megan Mayhew Bergman’s interview at Style Hawk is everything you need to make this hump day, or any day, right:

I can’t do complex math, but I can memorize poems easily and so I teach my girls poetry. We do Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Recuerdo”, her Figs, and “The Fawn,” and Lord Byron’s “We’ll Go No More A-Roving.” Have you ever heard a five year old recite that poem with feeling?  It’s cool. Sort of like when a six year old belts a Whitney Houston song on Star Search.  Where do they get the intonation?For me, though, I very much admire Dean Young’s work, as well as Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, Walt Whitman, and two poets who teach at Bennington’s MFA program, April Bernard and Mark Wunderlich.

* Check out Leesa Cross-Smith’s short story, “Surreptitious, Canary, Chamomile” in Issue 2 of Lime Hawk. Leesa also spoke on the Otherppl podcast over weekend about her debut story collection, Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press).

* I love Matthew Lippman’s “Slowly in Prayer” featured last week on poets.org:

I tried to be thankful for my eyes this morning
even though one of them is filled with puss
and the other with marigold juice.
Marigold juice is the stuff that comes from the flower
when you put it between your palms and rub, slowly in prayer,
even though nothing comes out.
It’s the imagined juice of God,
the thing you can’t see when you are not being thankful.

* Rochelle Hurt interviews poet Cori A. Winrock at Best American Poetry, and her poem “Débridement” won’t let me go:

Down here my new cluster of cells can’t echo or mirror.

It lullabies me with replication. Tells me to revisit the rooms I flooded
just to peel off the wallpaper, to uproot the ugly azaleas from the family

before & before. When I arrive at my childhood I undress
the house like a wound.

* A big congratulations to our Durham neighbor Sam Stephenson for having his book Bull City Summer (a project that stems from a collaboration with The Paris Review last year) featured in The New York Times!

* Luke Johnson has a poem in the new issue of The Southern Review! Listen to him read “The Hike is Marriage, the Water is Love“.

* GRIND’r Elizabeth Scanlon’s poem, “For Matthew the Elder“, appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Sixth Finch.

* Rachel Mennies’s poems from Linebreak and Witness are featured in the Saturday Poet Series at As It Ought to Be.

* Humanities Tennessee announces the author lineup for the 2014 Southern Festival of Books! Friends Kim Church, Alexis Coe, TJ Jarrett, Phil Klay, William Wright, and others will be there!

* An interview with BCP’s Rebecca Hazleton about her writing career, her collection Vow, and forthcoming chapbook, No Girls No Telephones (Black Lawrence), with Brittany Cavallaro:

Most of the credit for the venture goes to Brittany Cavallaro, who conceived of the idea of writing “opposites” to Berryman’s Dream Songs and who kept us on track. We were neighbors, which helped immensely, as it was easy to meet up daily at the local coffee shop and tackle a poem for the day.  We hadn’t ever written together, but had exchanged work before, and that familiarity and mutual respect was key to collaboration. For this project, one of us would write an “opposite” to a Dream Song and then the other would write an opposite of that opposite. An “opposite” isn’t something we strictly defined, and we each had our own way of interpreting that form. So, if Berryman wrote “night,” the most obvious opposite might be “day.” But Berryman isn’t rarely that straightforward in his language. What’s the opposite of “rustlers,” or “Ben Hur”? What’s the opposite of a barracuda? These poems were a real challenge, and incredibly fun to write, allowing us to spend time with his work, to really live in his language, as well as each others’.

* Anthony Opal’s project, TAG, has a new phase out. Check out work from Samuel Ray Jacobson and David Hadbawnik.

* Christopher Martin was interviewed about writing, publishing, and promoting chapbooks:

My discovery of poetry chapbooks more or less paralleled my discovery of myself as a poet. In large part I owe both discoveries to Thomas Rain Crowe, publisher of New Native Press, who put out my first chapbook (A Conference of Birds, 2012). The first two chapbooks I ever owned are Poems from Snow Hill Road (New Native Press, 2007) by Brent Martin and Every Breath Sings Mountains (Voices from the American Land, 2011), co-authored by Thomas Rain Crowe, Barbara Duncan, and Brent Martin, and these chapbooks remain two of my favorites.  Shortly after reading these, I read Quraysh Ali Lansana’s bloodsoil (sooner red) (Voices from the American Land, 2009) and Thomas Rain Crowe’s The Sacred Land(Benevolent Bird Press, 2010), and a few others along those lines—chapbooks that Thomas had either written or published, or had led me to in some way.

Guernica Poetry Editor Erica Wright interviewed by the Poetry Society of America:

There are other notable websites that publish long-form journalism alongside interviews, poetry, fiction, and visual art, but we put equal emphasis on every section of the magazine. You don’t have to hunt to find the latest poem or story. There’s a bit of magic that happens with, say, an essay on satire in Egypt appearing next to a poem ending with the line “I would work myself into the dirt if I could stay.” (That’s from Elizabeth Metzger’s “Courtyard of a Most Embarrassing God.”) Every piece is made better by its neighbors.

* Matthew Wimberley’s “Elegy Written in Dust Kicked Up along a Back Road” is Narrative‘s Poem of the Week.

Summer 2014 issue of Mojave River Review is out!

* BCP’s Brittany Cavallaro’s debut collection of poetry, Girl-King (University Of Akron Press), is available for pre-order!

* Friend Amanda Miska guest-edited the new issue of Storychord.

* I love Leah Umansky’s travel notes from her southern tour for her second poetry collection, Don Dreams and I Dreams. It also serves as a travel itinerary for southern lit hotspots like East Side Story in East Nashville.

* William Kelley Woolfitt’s “H.D. at Point Pleasant Beach” in Radar Poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net. On a related note, Radar Poetry Issue 3 is out!

Issue Sixty of The Collagist, co-edited by Matthew Olzmann (also co-editor of BCP’s Another & Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series) is live! I dig Landon Godfrey’s “Mooon“:

Sometimes I do wish

for brilliance
blindness, that I wouldn’t see

whiteness in bathroom door silhouettes
anymore, so I’d exist perfect-

er back on Earth.

* Portia Elan’s poem “Settle For A Slowdown” appears in the latest issue of Banango Street, and it “would not have been possible without Dierks Bentley.”

* Rochelle Hurt received an honorable mention for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference 2014 Betty Gabehart Prize in poetry!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology series, Image, PANK, and  Ruminate. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: July 9, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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INCH contributor Roxane Gay has a new short story, “Noble Things,” in A Public Space!

* BCP’s Rebecca Hazelton has a poem, previously published in The Notre Dame Review (Issue 22, 2006), now up at Ink Node.

Betterissue five, is better than ever.

* Tarfia Faizullah’s “after Jon Pineda” is The Buffalo News‘s poem of the week.

* Thrilled to catch Tess Taylor on David Tomas Martinez’s Hustle on NPR’s All Things Considered:

In fact, Martinez’s poems are heavy with memory. Martinez recounts the evening of a failed drive-by: “homemade tattoos thickening with age,” a homie who “spoke of his woman / the way some spoke of their Impalas” and a neighborhood where “afternoon / stands on her hind legs and opens wide, showing / missing teeth.” In other poems, wild syntax dances between enchanted frogs and border crossing, and between the mystery of life and the mystery of recounting it. “The world brims with signs,” Martinez writes, and in his hands the landscape of the past keeps being open to rereading.

WhiskeyPaper (“Drink Words”) is “updated once a week on after-church Sunday afternoons,” and it continues to be one of my favorite publications for short fiction. Don’t miss Steve Edwards’s “Milk,” paired with Bruce Springsteen’s “Jesus Was An Only Son.”

* Rebecca Gayle Howell, Ada Limón, and Marcus Wicker–all in one event! Check them out at this Field Office Conversation, hosted at The Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington, Kentucky.

* BCP’s Rebecca Hazelton’s “In the Castle of No Satisfaction” in Cartridge Lit.

* Dorothea Lasky has a new column at the Los Angeles Review of BooksFive Questions and Five Answers:

where I (you guessed it!) interview a new poet each column about their poetry, poetics, and other related issues. In it, I hope to broaden the discourse surrounding contemporary poetry.

* Friend Elliott Holt writes a letter to her literary mother, Alice Munro.

* Nick Rapitrazone talks to NPR about his recent essay on writing and teaching for The Millions.

* Anna Claire Hodge interviews Jamaal May for The Southeast Review:

Then there’s just the practical job issues. There are too many poets graduating for everyone to work in the academy, so much of that is working itself out right now on its own. More and more people are wondering why they adjunct for schools with awful labor practices when they could bartend and get more work done, make more money, and have something more interesting to write about. It’s more important than ever for people to figure out if teaching is something they want to do, or something they’ve assumed they have to do to be a writer. Being a teacher is not for everyone and if we had less writers out there doing it because it seems to be the correct path, there would be more jobs for the people who live for being in front of a class.

* The title poem of Kevin Prufer’s Churches is now available at The Paris Review, and it is gorgeous.

* We have many friends in this year’s group at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference!

* Check out Rochelle Hurt at The Best American Poetry on “The Aesthetics of Ruin.”

* Phillip B. Williams brings his poem “Birth of the Doppelgänger” to life at The Kenyon Review!

* Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s gorgeous “Self-Portrait as C-Section Scar” is posted at The Kenyon Review.

* Two Sylvias Press is publishing INCH contributor Michelle Penaloza’s project, landscape / heartbreak.

* Jason Tandon says about BCP author Jill Osier,

I don’t know about “should” (and I don’t know what most people know!), but a recent collection I enjoyed very much is Jill Osier’s should our undoing come down upon us white. I imagine she will be well known, if she isn’t already, very soon.

* Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet’s The Greenhouse is now available for pre-order from BCP!

* Check out Kenji Liu’s video poem, “A Son Writes Back,” at Luna Luna Magazine.

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology series, Image, PANK, and Ruminate. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.

The Community Roundup: July 2, 2014

by Win Bassett

In an effort to be a charitable citizen of the independent publishing community, we’d like to give a little love to our contributors, friends, and fellow members each week!

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* The July 2014 Edition of Thrush Poetry Journal is live!

* After nineteen years, C. Dale Young is stepping down as Poetry Editor of New England Review. Thank you for your incredible work, C. Dale!

* Devil’s Lake has a new domain name and a new issue!

* Why “write every day” doesn’t work for Amy Woolard:

There is nothing anyone can do to me that my brain slipping me a note that reads “Maybe you can’t write this” can’t do ten times worse. Sometimes it comes in the similar format of “Maybe you shouldn’t write this” or “Maybe you’re not the one to write this.” That’s the demon, and writing every day will not stake its heart.

* S. Hope Mills on Shirley Jackson at The Rumpus:

Perhaps that’s what was becoming too familiar in The Haunting of Hill House: the fine line between natural and supernatural. I woke, more than once, in the middle of a night—no familiar streetlights to orient me—just the wind giving hell to a branch outside. My thoughts tumbled to Jackson. I googled her obsessively in the dark from my little bed on my little phone in the middle of—have I mentioned?—nowhere, the window screen flapping. Am I smitten? Possessed?

* A Q&A with Nick Ripatrazone:

My novellas have been pared down from novels. This Darksome Burn, which was published last year, is more than 200 pages less than its longest version. I’m a big fan of almost maniacal line-revision on the printed page (with as sharp a pencil as possible). I like to pare away, clear the chaff, and add more.

* Christopher Martin was a finalist in the Byron Herbert Reece Society’s 2014 Bettie Sellers Poetry Contest, judged by Chelsea Rathburn, for his poem “A Privy on the Appalachian Trail.”

Guernica names Lisa Lucas as the full-time publisher!

* Amy Woolard has a poem in the Summer 2014 issue of Indiana Review!

* GRIND’r Jessica Plante has new poems in The Philadelphia Review of Books and Gingerbread House.

* Audio of Rochelle Hurt’s poem “Nightmute, Alaska” is up at RHINO Poetry.

* Don’t forget! We just made shipping on all orders $1, and put two books on sale: Another & Another and Lithopedia!

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Win Bassett‘s nonfiction has been published online in The Atlantic, the Paris Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and  Guernica. His fiction and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology series, Image, PANK, and Ruminate. He’s a former assistant district attorney and serves on the PEN Prison Writing Program Fiction Committee. Follow him on Twitter @winbassett.