Monday, April 24, 2017

NEW! Poem by Natalie Lyalin

Natalie Lyalin

SO WHAT, THE CLOUDS

So what, the clouds
with a piercing gold haze
so a red feather stuck to my foot
The gull’s squawk, so what
Mother, father, horseshoe crab
I thought I spotted them all in
the glare of sunset
So what, the smudge of life
sooting bleached branches,
disinfecting the parts that need it
So what, until we say goodbye
we had a weekend together
and I helped pick out your dress
What does it matter
The tin chandelier pocked with holes
So what the rain
I never visited or cared too much
The bottles and woven baskets full of sea glass
Hair grit, white towel snapping in the wind
Birds circling their condos
An abundance of banana bread
Celebrating America not on the fourth of July
but on the 16th, when nothing is happening
Surprisingly I am somebody’s mother
I have no council
I turn on the lights
The sun crests the bank of pines pushing on the dusk
While overhead a group of rockets take off from Cape Canaveral
making an arc toward heaven 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

2017 Tomaž Šalamun Prize

The 2017 Tomaž Šalamun Prize is open for entries until July 15, 2017. 

$500 + chapbook published by Factory Hollow Press + one-month residency in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Judge: Matthew Zapruder

The Tomaž Šalamun Prize is open to poets at any stage of their career. Previous publication is neither a requirement nor a restriction. You can enter if you've published no books or 100 books.

Translations into English are acceptable if the author is still living and has given written permission. 

Prose poetry and hybrid forms are also acceptable.

The winning chapbook will be published by Factory Hollow Press in Amherst, MA.

The prize winner will receive $500, 10 free copies of their chapbook, and a free one-month residency at the Tomaž Šalamun Center for Poetry in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

If a translation wins the prize, the translator will receive $500, 10 copies of the chapbook, and the residency, but the original author also will receive 10 copies of the chapbook.

Individual pieces in the chapbook may have been published in print and/or online journals, but the chapbook itself must be previously unpublished.

Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but please withdraw your submission immediately if your submission is accepted elsewhere.

Matthew Zapruder will judge the 2017 prize. Current/former students and close friends of the judge are not eligible. (If in doubt about your eligibility, query editorversemag@gmail.com.)

Entry fee: $12

Deadline: July 15, 2017

To enter: Submit a poetry chapbook (18-28 pages) to the link above.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

NEW! Review of Elizabeth Powell

Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter or Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances by Elizabeth Powell. Anhinga, 2016.

Reviewed by Nancy Mitchell

Elizabeth Powell’s compelling new volume of poems, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter or Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances, winner of the 2015 Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize for Poetry and published by Anhinga Press, is the saga of one psyche’s circuitous, courageous evolution to wholeness as it reclaims and integrates the fragments of its shattered self. Like a classic epic, the book is substantial; its 109 pages are divided into four distinct, yet integrated parts, and the arc of each furthers the narrative arc of the collection, the tension of which lies in “the tug of war between what you are and what you want to be.” In lines barely held in check by semi-formal constraints of rhyme and rhythm, the poems pellmell the reader through poems like “a toboggan threshing me down a hill.” The wrangle of this struggle is underscored by erratically shifting tones via inventive syntax and humorous, original neologisms/verbalizations: “I lollygagged and sofatized as I proceeded with the CNN-induced lobotomy dream of life,” and

            The world, violent full of sex,
            the movie’s zeitgeist, era after era, a new Bond
            double-o-sevening in
            (CARE PACKAGE, WITH RIDDLE AS MISSIVE)

as well as with startling enjambments:

            …This poem is made of me and I it. It doesn’t worry
            about irony or stance and only odd incidence and fact and doesn’t care
            if it tells the truth about what will happen to my face
            or behind my back….

Part One, the heftiest section, worthy to stand on its own as a separate volume, serves as the Genesis, the creation story of the collection, as it introduces the origin of the book’s structure along which uncanny parallels to the speaker’s life are plotted:

     Around then, I read my father’s 1960s Compass copy of Arthur Miller's
     "Death of a Salesman" and began to understand why his sister called
     him Willy Loman. He had eaten the dream and it made him sick...But
     my father’s sister never stopped with the Willy Loman talk, and so we
     seemed to be acting that play as our family drama.
(“AUTOCORRECTING THE LYRIC I”)

From a longstanding intimacy with the American drama—“This entire book is in love with Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, and has been in conversation with it for a good, long time,” according to Powell’s notes—and subsequent internalization, a world is created into which the title character is called forth from the a shadowy subterranean of unconsciousness, or “my doppelgänger under the bed, snoring and talking and laughing in her sleep,” to inhabit this world with full autonomy: “I read it again and again, until the doppelgänger moved from under the bed to the top bunk.”

Powell’s doppelgänger is an alchemic tour de force, deftly echoing Plath: “and then I knew what to do. / I made a model of you,” claims a poem also titled “Daddy.” Willy Loman’s daughter, paradoxically whole and black hole, becomes the self into which other selves, shattered “the way the Rolling Stones sing about” by seismic psychological pressures, are absorbed. Because the doppelgänger can successfully assimilate undifferentiated cultural identities—

            Let’s say I’m fusion of cold borscht and finger sandwiches on white. I'm
            matzo ball Jew Bagel and thrifty Campbell’s soup with dried parsley
            don’t-worry-about-me luncheon. I’m noodle kugel and I’m turkey divan
            casserole. I’m Bubbeleh and I’m Dearie. I’m Ma and I’m Mummy. I’m
            the Episcojew, and I am strong and not strong! I have a family tartan
            and a silence in the Vilnius ghetto. I cannot be buried in the holy land
            but I cannot be cremated. I am passing and have passed, heard the
            murmurs of lovely & also ... Dirty Jews, Fucking Gentiles.

—as well as the trauma of sexual abuse—

                                                …small child who is taken into a room with
             an ex-convict and made to drink peppermint schnapps and lie on his
            polyester orange and yellow bed and black out until she walks from
            the room and is shown his medals of valor from a war she doesn't
            understand. She didn’t know peppermint that way until she came
            to dislike the sunniest days. (“Sense  Memory: (Re)-Experiencing Time Travel”)

she becomes the trustworthy, although admittedly imaginary confidant, sister in Pasternak’s “sister life,” the ma souer of the speaker. Both protective mediator and arbiter of memory, the doppelgänger will become the the reliable narrator, even as she speaks as a foil to other characters throughout the book, but only with the speaker’s complicity or permission:

            My retinal flashes made no sense until I realized they were someone
            else’s story trying to live through me. That sweet doppleganger, brother-
            sister, evil other, good girl! The story kept banging at my red front door…

“Someone else’s story” is also the speaker’s; by opening the “red front door” she intuitively and courageously allows the necessary psychic split into a stronger double who, acting as a “second,” descends into the hell of the past and faces down the demons of abandonment and estrangement, before assimilating them and returning whole to tell the whole story.

In the poem “LIVING TRUTHFULLY UNDER IMAGINARY CIRCUMSTANCES,” the speaker speaks for “both of them” with, “We both want to be whole, so the story can be told.” In my notes I’ve written, “Or maybe: We want the story to be told so we can both be whole.” Elizabeth Powell’s stunning, evocative Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter or Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances, is, like any odyssey, to be read in parts, slowly, carefully, and reflectively, like a psyche recovering the shattered parts of herself.

Monday, July 11, 2016

2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize deadline

Submissions for the 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize will be accepted through July 15. Dara Wier is the final judge.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

NEW! Poem by Tiffany Higgins

Tiffany Higgins

Can Starfish?

in the form of a Googlet, a found poem formed from Google dropdown suggestions generated by a beginning phrase

can starfish bite

can starfish see

can starfish feel pain

can starfish survive out of water

can starfish get itch

can starfish hurt you

can starfish hear

can starfish reproduce

can starfish eat humans

Friday, May 13, 2016

NEW! from Stella Vinitchi Radulescu's Journal with Closed Eyes

Stella Vinitchi Radulescu

from Journal with Closed Eyes

Translated from the French by Luke Hankins



The August heat pierces me to the core. The flies too. And his patched-up pajamas. He had to sell his gold watch to some neighbors . . . Soon, very soon, his life will be over. Sitting on the edge of the bed, his breathing shallow . . . He asks me for a cigarette.

First I stand up, then I find the pack, next . . . But is there really an order to things? I’ve made and repeated these motions for such a long time, always the same, backwards and forwards, I extend my hand, I find the pack, I light the cigarette, I know it won’t burn to the end.

The sun through the windows is already making me sweat. The next room over, the children are waking up. The lapping of their little voices.

You could begin a book this way. Or end one.

~

The pages have scattered on the beach. Letters fall off, wrap around rocks, fray, twist, attach to the roots of plants, strange organisms, writhing seaweed . . .

A melody rises from the earth. Suddenly I recognize it, it’s the one I put on in the car sometimes. Then it changes. I hear footsteps underground . . .

Untangle these letters, gather them from the sand, it’s my job, I’m the one who has to do it, I know it.

I’m the one who invented them, drew them with colored pencils in my notebook.

And I can’t move, my feet, my steps . . . 

This seaweed that grows out of me . . .

~

The nights are very long and the days pass unnoticed. I hear thoughts like little motors whirring in the air. Others’ thoughts and my own. Living, keeping me company, more alive than those to whom they belong.

Over the years some have grown hard with rust; others, weakening, falling apart, still delight me. So I wind them up, set the little motors going, and I listen to them . . .  

I’d have a hard time waking tomorrow to find only silence.

~

It’s three in the morning, the dead in their graves. I think of them. Thought is alive, warm, it gathers itself, forms a kernel that attaches itself to the world, and it begins to move, to shift.

I give the dead this gift, the only one possible.


The dead—a formless mass on which we walk.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dan Ivec / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Dan Ivec

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]


The Nocturnal Biennial


Every second year

on the shortest night of the year

the prisoners are allowed

to escape it is a folk tradition

begun in the days when

we were all prisoners

and knew what it was 



to live or to want to live.

Friday, April 22, 2016

E.C. Belli / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

E.C. Belli

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

Apology

Another battering, brown
Grass. It’s hives, you see, not the sky
I want to talk about. Clean 
Sleep. Sundown is a musing 
Ruin, a tired gaze. Do you
Know it by any other name?
I am supremely content— 
Though I despise board games
And Sunday afternoons.
Put on a decent face, I’d like to say 
Some days. We’re all crushed 
With longing. Last week, 
I left the dog with someone 
Who almost let him die. It didn’t matter
To her—his trench-deep eyes,
Four sturdy legs, a trodden heart
Endless with hope; all the 
Little things that make you
You. One person in the world
Loved him, you see—made him
Less wretched, which is to say
Easier to maim without remorse. 
Love is always a good cause 

For injury.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Todd Melicker / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Todd Melicker

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

Though not to love, yet love to tell me so

list rain as an
accomplishment

list a bird tucked
in the lip

list sorrow, patience,
list spoons

list tongue-tied
lift, ill-wresting love

the people of the 
tongue—why

i should grow
pressed fog

spills in the 
valley

i should grow

hinges

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beth Marzoni / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Beth Marzoni

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

from The Driftless Is Literal

Mostly, when the locals talked, their gossip was a type of prayer. Mostly to their patron saint of the snow bank, of have-not & want-less. Mostly, measurement was the problem. Always too much or never enough—mostly humility & when it wasn’t, precipitation. Mostly I struggled with attention. Mostly, I hurled bricks, but I didn’t wake any less anxious. If anything, the ache burrowed deeper. If I believed in prayer, I’d have prayed for grace & for birdsong. I realized that I’d had it backwards all this time: the weather reports us. Mostly, when I talked, it was to myself. Who is the patron saint of the bell & who of its silence? Who is the patron saint of the song tangled in these sheets? Saint of the flood plain. Saint of the cell tower. Saint of the long haul. Saint of static, take it. You can have it all.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize open to entries

The 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize is open for entries until July 15, 2016. Writers who have published no more than 2 books are eligible. The prize is for a chapbook-length portfolio (20-40 pages). The winner receives $1000 and publication in the print edition of Verse. Dara Wier is the final judge. To submit, visit:

https://verse.submittable.com/submit

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bradley Fest / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Bradley Fest

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]


Architects and Their Books

Time’s laceration let out upon a mahogany
doorstep. The kind we make up as children
in bed, alone. As if there was another option.
As if Mr. Panda could have been a different kind
of confidant. We’ll let feeling in for a moment
only to have it sutured, impossibly, to understanding,
like a saddled-beast lounging on the quarterdeck of this,
our present colloquium. We’ll let this we we have become
stumble off into the night, infantilized like so many
un-pursued dreamscapes. Some fourth person
would have to arrive, as if on her way to the depot
like a harried harbinger of ice-cold and forgotten departures.
Systems work. Molasses drips. Sanguine yearning
churns out of the cattle-press, always. Elaborate
please. The insufficiency at work in the hazy
construction of some kind of yesterday approaches
melancholy, at best. Meaning: do not become forensic.
Take the pictures, sure, but be careful only to document
the details matching the case, the important lineaments
frequenting this, desire’s current neoliberal expression.
Not, to be sure, the relevant dripping mucus on the mirror
nor the chaste notes rippling the flag. I like tumescence
as much as the next victim, but would prefer not to get
carried away on the back of some gryphon-steed as my tail feathers
wag toward the sky. I, not you, work conscientiously for
a million little dumb show matinees. Silent, they’re performed in
parking structures made from fiberglass and patience. Stalwart,
I tell you, they house forever-notes. Next time, get down.

Be careful with the perforated letter. She’ll unhouse you,
so close to the walkway as you are. The dappled smoke
seeping out of the sun connotes not requiems nor certainty.
Canned sentiment is perhaps killing our house pets. Or else
freedom has (perhaps) deleted our houseguests. The threshold
doesn’t mind the imperative I’m giving, the command from silent structures
to the trains that pass in the middle of the day, lonely on their eastward
wandering, and working toward dental transcendence, rollicking
their rhythm forward and through the densities of fine, trellised
woodwork. Post-arboretum sale, the delicacies purchased,
the light of them, their coma-inducing glare, capsized the moment.
Sure, queens of delight strode thoughtfully down lanes of embarkation,
distances folded together in their tresses, like panoplied andromedans,
like fore-warned, miscreant saboteurs on their way to endless satisfaction.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Michelle Murphy / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Michelle Murphy

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

Rift

I know the guttural urge to walk the fog, confusing it for heaven & rummage for brothers that have stepped barefoot from memory’s curb.

Which brings us back to this fog & the believers who shake salt over their shoulders like crumbs.

An errand can take you anywhere, even into the woods, a bridge of mothers’ voices calling through a flash flood where a path is cleared to better hear the names.

We are all unsolved; bartering for faith with whatever is at hand, hoping it’s enough to keep us at the table.

He hides his head but doesn’t sleep. A parachute of air and smoke gathered in the hem of his mouth.

You know how maps recite their borders then take on a language of ledgers, average in the floods the oil spilt and spilt & all the grief on loan.

The facts of our lives are waged. We throw down for a shot of whiskey, burn our throats sweet. Who says we can only occupy one room at a time?
Pacific, we lay our debts on the table, the kisses and threads, the bad advice we gave so freely.

Love is quick like this. We forgive ourselves when the rent is due & pride’s just not able.


You’ve seen how fickle breath is, are versed in satellites’ ways, how they stretch the truth until it hurts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalists

Over the next few weeks on the Verse site, we will be publishing excerpts from portfolios by some of the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalists, whose work will appear in the next edition of the print magazine. Each portfolio is 20-40 pages long.

Submissions for the 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize will open on May 1.

Monday, April 11, 2016

NEW! Short fiction by Joanna Ruocco

Joanna Ruocco

Defense of Marriage Act


Sometimes even the best women pretend to be men. It is socially expedient to do so in certain situations. The women pretend to be men until the situation is over. Sometimes they pretend for longer, so long that they get used to it and aren’t pretending. Then they have to pretend to be women again. This creates confusion. We meet an exemplary woman, one of the very best women, and sooner or later we realize that she’s pretending. She isn’t for real, but whether she’s a man pretending to be a woman or a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman we can’t be sure. If we could go back to the beginning and establish the facts, using testimonies and also photographic and documentary evidence, we might say, look here, she started out as a man or he started out as a woman, we might settle the issue, but in the beginning, there are parents and parents often pretend that their child is a man or a woman, and why not? In the beginning, their children really aren’t much. They aren’t men or women, they aren’t stockbrokers or teachers or plumbers or store clerks, fathers or mothers, they’re balls of warm meat, tubes of warm meat, chubby bundles of cytoplasm and diarrhea, and so their parents have to pretend. They pretend the cytoplasm is a little man or a little woman, like they had to pretend in middle-school with the eggs or the bags of flour, this is my child, he is… she is…. The parents call the cytoplasm by name, they try to connect the cytoplasm with names. Very short names are best. Frederick always seems wrong at this stage. Bartholomew, Jacquelyn. My mother, Georgia, is one of the very best women, although she might be pretending. She told me the truth about my father, that my father is not a man. She told me my father is a sentient tree, a barely sentient tree, or an inert gas, or a coma patient, a lump under a sheet that doesn’t need the name its parents worked so hard to connect with it. She said I could pretend he was a man if I wanted. I could pretend he was anything, except a mother, except a good woman. He wasn’t. He wasn’t ever. She was, my mother, a good woman. One of the best, the most believable. I never saw her otherwise. She said no matter what I had to keep in mind there was a difference.  

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

NEW! two short fictions by Joanna Ruocco


Joanna Ruocco

GPS

It is good to rob a pocketbook. It is good to rob a dog. It is good to rob copper. The copper is in the walls of the house. The dog is between the dog-gates in the hall. The pocketbook is on top of the piano bench. Do not try to rob a piano alone. Yes, a canoe, a canoe rob alone. Rob a piano with friends who wear t-shirts. Piano movers wear t-shirts. Piano robbers are unheard of. If you have robbed jodhpurs the racehorse is yours. Rob the long horse to place. Do you have a plane? It is good to rob a plane. You can fill the cargo hold with comestibles. You can ransom the dog. You can ride the horse through the surf, bareback, with your hands in its mane. Let it stud in the sea cave with whatever mammal it desires. The swiftest manatees will be born. They will slip between the bars of the gridded globe.


The Mayan Calendar

Mrs. R is looking for Mr. R. Mr. R is in the bedroom touching his toes. There you are, says Mrs. R. In the bedroom. Later Mr. R finds Mrs. R in the room they call the blue room. Once it had a blue carpet. What are you doing, says Mr. R. They each visit a bathroom. Mr. R finishes first. Mrs. R follows Mr. R to the kitchen. She pours leftover coffee from the coffeepot into a jar. Mr. R leaves the kitchen. When he returns he finds Mrs. R in the kitchen. You’re still here, says Mr. R. There are no windows in the kitchen. Mr. R looks into the refrigerator. He shuts the refrigerator door. Mrs. R looks into the refrigerator. Are you blind, says Mrs. R. She shuts the refrigerator door. Mr. R visits the bathroom he visited before. He finds Mrs. R in the bedroom. Where’d you go, says Mr. R. He has to cross her side of the room to get to his side of the room. Mrs. R is lying down on her bed. Mr. R lies down on his bed. They share a chocolate bar from Mrs. R’s sock drawer. Mrs. R leaves the bedroom. She comes back with two mugs of coffee. You’re welcome, says Mrs. R. Mr. R takes his coffee. They drink coffee. Mr. R falls asleep. When he wakes up, it’s just as dark. He feels in Mrs. R’s bed. You are there, says Mr. R. Aren’t you?