Dedicated to the memory of Thomas B. Gay, educator, painter, poet, friend.
(read more about Thomas B. Gay)
Each spring we use this reading loop to bring to your attention writers and artists whose work you may be encountering for the first time. In this issue, the group includes several who have already made their way to other lists, anthologies, and small presses acclaiming their remarkable work. We expect that you will be glad to discover them now—and to hear of them again later in their careers, as you no doubt will.
|“How do you re-frame the body’s conversation / with itself or other selves?” Joshua Bennett is concerned with autonomy, detachment, and the body. With an ear for beautiful language, his poems pursue the metaphysical, “daring this flesh to be its own / system of stars & gas giants,” conferring a sense of confinement. While he writes of lacking certainty in most matters, these bodily worries fail to stifle Bennett’s confidence in the unknowable—here is the pursuit of a sharp philosophical musing regarding the distance between self and body, body and others, choice and circumstance.|
|In the poetry of Anders Carlson-Wee, agency is as subversive as fate: “I’m torquing my leg underwater,” he writes, “toward the darkness.” Cue the countdown chime from 24, the epic conflicts of the Odyssey. A destroyed community, a train yard, and a fishing raft all feel distinctly behind-enemy-lines under the influence of Carlson-Wee’s pulsing syntax, and the self in survival mode is never more palpable or confessional than when it seems not even brotherhood or adrenaline can best the endurance of legend: “I felt crazy. / I thought about being found like this. / I tried to imagine what my story would be.”|
|Michelle E. Iwen|
|Michelle E. Iwen’s prose is as methodical, tempting, and teasing as the processes wound together in her story, “The Joy of Baking.” Exploring the inner worlds of baking and blood-borne pathogen research with fervor, no possibility is left unturned and no twisted connection unexposed. Through her undulating, subtle licks of morbidity and softening moments of human tenderness, Iwen creates a sincere space for her reader to relish in the contagions of past lives, dichotomous relationships, and the plague narrative strung together from the stories of others in the sterilized haven of a lab.|
|Hiba Krisht, in “A Cocoon That Would Break,” recalls a pre-civil war Beirut in which Leila and Ibrahim, two lovers separated by class and sect, struggle to find a way to be together in the face of an increasingly unraveling society. Spanning decades, Krisht’s story probes the fraught lines of family and faith that weigh heaviest on Leila and other women, forced to believe the things men tell them, “because to hold disbelief in your heart when your hands and body were forced to comply to the whims of fathers, brothers, sheikhs, and lords was to be torn in two.”|
|In the poems of Celeste Lipkes, we are reminded that almost everything essential for us to live is also painfully ephemeral: memory, intimacy, even food. No wonder, then, that these poems at once resist and embrace sensuality, that they almost completely inhabit experience while they simultaneously work to mediate it through tight formal structures, chants, even calculus formulae. These poems are indeed small meals that, as she writes, “cultivate an emptiness,” that, despite themselves, desire “an eye unafraid” to let everything in.|
|Jon Chaiim McConnell|
|In “Learned in the Old Ways,” Jon Chaiim McConnell embroils his audience with a story about manhood, survival, growing up, and passing on, but he presents these time-tested subjects within an original narrative—the story of a father attempting to ready his son for a life of kangaroo hunting as occupation. McConnell’s prose is subtle and clean but expansive like the dry, open nature of the story’s setting. Though the narrative takes place in a foreign land during a foreign time, it asks a familiar question: when you’re forced into adulthood and the consideration of your life to come, will you do “with it what your father did,” or is this even a choice?|
|One quote from twelve different artists, writers, activists, or a combination of the three, repeats as a line in each of the twelve triolets comprising Kat Mead’s “P’town Triolets for the Poet Maisel (1942–2006).” Mead’s poem whispers when it references the gender imbalance within divorce, but it screams as it declares a woman’s freedom within self-sufficiency. This theme tips its hat to the writers whose words take part in the creation of each stanza—our daughters should not “be taught / To dwell on men, to ascribe.” But who will inspire our daughters? Perhaps the great feminist writers, because “Language is always a matter of force.”|
|Emily Vizzo brings us face-to-face with the wit of a love-hate consciousness harpooning itself, rapid-fire, with contradictions. “I have stepped / inside my intuition . . . no / love there, & little / talent,” but “My sex is the best. I claim the double rainbow.” Vizzo mixes a powerful cocktail of humor and declaration to reveal a self admirably held together by the vibrance of metaphor, while also tallying the absurd like a critic, so we too feel both vulnerable and guilty when she leaves us with such realities: “you pretended there was no / cell phone camera,” and “maybe a poem will say anything / to be loved.”|
Introductions texts appear in different sections of Blackbird but are organized in this alternative menu, a featured reading loop allowing easy navigation of related material.
A link to this “Introductions Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every Introductions-related
page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features.