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Interview With Lou Jones

August 5th, 2016

I was honored to interview the internationally known photographer, Lou Jones.

Lou also quietly serves on many boards to further photography and mentors multiple young photographers.  He is an artist who gives back, in his art and in his service.

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Richard Hoffman interviews Lee Hope

March 2nd, 2016

Due out on March 16th, you can order Horsefever today at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Like Lee Hope on Facebook. • MORE INFO: leehopeauthor.com

Who Sinks? Who Rises Up Again? An Interview with Lee Hope
(originally published at Fiction Writers Review)

Horsefever_Cover2.inddI have been an admirer of Lee Hope’s fiction for many years. Her widely published short stories are intricately balanced and fearlessly honest in their psychological and moral complexity. More than that, I am grateful to count her among my writer friends, those to whom I show work in progress, to whom I can go and yell “Help!” when I’ve written myself into a corner. For the past several years we have also been colleagues at Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, founded by Lee, and where she serves as editor-in-chief and I edit nonfiction. Not long ago, when my second memoir, Love & Fury (Beacon Press, 2014), was published, she interviewed me in the magazine.

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Announcing the Judges for our Annual Literary Contest

February 17th, 2016

The reading period for our Annual Literary Contest opens this Saturday (Feb 20th), and we couldn’t be more excited about this year’s judges!

Richard Blanco will be the judge for the Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry, Celeste Ng will be the judge for our Fiction Prize, and Michael Steinberg will be the judge for our Non-Fiction Prize.

Submissions will be open Feb 20th-Apr 20th, so polish your best work and send it our way!

More details on our esteemed judges are below. You can read last year’s winning pieces, and see guidelines for this year’s contest, on the Annual Literary Contest page.
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Review: Skin Music by Dennis Hinrichsen

February 10th, 2016

tn9781930508323Skin Music by Dennis Hinrichsen
Winner of the 2014 Michael Weaver Poetry Prize
Southern Indiana Review Press, 2015
74 pp., $14.95

 

 

One of the great pleasures of Dennis Hinrichsen’s award winning poetry collection, Skin Music, is watching the poet consider large questions and concepts while paying careful attention to the specific details of the world. The opening poem, “Variations on the Death by Drowning by the Poet Paul Celan,” starts with an almost professorial tone: “The heart in drowning must not be…” as if we were at an anatomy and physiology lecture, but the words that follow, “luminous/star-lit” move us into a more romantic realm which, in turn, is undercut by the next image—“but some porous leaf shape/knifing the current” and we’re back in a world in which the softness of “porous” co-exists with the violence of “knifing.” Such tonal shifts bring us up short making us pay attention, and Hinrichsen uses them to good effect throughout this collection. In, “Landscape with Desert and River,” for example, the speaker, with his acute eye, describes the riverbank, “New ice hangs from the roof of itself/and spikes/down—glacial, toothed­­—into the riverbed” (1-2) then, four stanzas later, observing the cold has drained blood from his hands, asks with an almost childlike curiosity “Where does it go—/the blood? How far backwards like vision/into the heart?” (14-16). Again and again the poet moves from observation to contemplation.

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Interview with Carmen Maria Machado

February 3rd, 2016

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. She has been nominated for a Nebula Award and a Shirley Jackson Award, and her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New YorkerGrantaBest American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.

Managing Editor, Carissa Halston, interviewed Machado for Solstice about her forthcoming collection, writing as activism, and genre vs. style.

 

CH: First of all, congratulations on your forthcoming collection, Her Body and Other Parties! Will you talk a bit about the overall project and how the manuscript came to be?

CMM: Happily! This collection has been an ongoing project since graduate school. My thesis, a collection with the same title, only shares 3 of the same stories. The majority of Her Body and Other Parties was written post-school. I’ve actually written a ton of work since then—enough for several collections, probably—but Her Body and Other Parties has a specific set of themes and concerns: the oppressed body, gender, sex and sexuality, media, myths and legends and ghosts and the uncanny. Some of the stories have been published online already, but there are a few that were print-only or are otherwise hard to find. And there’s a brand-new short story and a brand-new novella that haven’t been published at all. Overall, it’s a tight, sleek collection. I’m really excited to be working with Ethan Nosowsky at Graywolf; he’s a brilliant editor and really understands this project.

CH: In Los Angeles Review of Books, Sofia Samatar wrote, “Sex, capable of infinite variation, holds a prominent place in Machado’s fiction.” Last year, you published “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity” (also at LARB), an essay that delved into your experience growing up in a religious community and how it affected your sexuality. Do you find those experiences informing your fiction? And, as a queer writer, do you view writing fiction as a type of activism?

CMM: Certainly, my experiences with my body—as a queer woman, as a fat woman, as a woman of color, as a woman who either wanted to or has had sex, as a woman, period—have shaped my concerns as a writer. Religion was certainly part of it, of course—especially when it came to navigating sex and sexuality—but I think we’re all marinating in a toxic societal stew of some sort, even if you’re not particularly religious. Slut-shaming and homophobia and transphobia can exist outside of religious contexts, for example. Also, we’re obsessed with weight and food shaming. And people of color experience their bodies being routinely devalued, set upon, and destroyed on a regular basis. Our culture hates bodies. Its only interest is making us hate them, and punishing us if we don’t. I love my body. But sometimes the stress is too much, and I wish I could just be a brain in a jar. (But you can’t drink dirty martinis or eat soup dumplings if you’re a brain in a jar, so… it’s tricky.)

As for the question of “activism,” I think that if you’re a woman, a queer person, a person of color, a non-cisgender person, a non-able-bodied person, etc., writing is inherently a form of activism because you’re staking a claim in a world that is not meant for you. When you try and put your work into the world, you’re saying “I think that what I have to say, in the way I say it, is so important that I am willing to try and get it to other people, no matter what it takes.” And that requires ego, in the best way possible. It requires that you take yourself and your craft and your voice seriously. When you’re not white, not male, not cisgender or straight or able-bodied, that ego is a radical act. So yes, the fact that I take myself seriously as an artist and do what I can to put my work out into the world is a form of activism.

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Interview with Poet Ruth Lepson

January 20th, 2016

Ruth Lepson is poet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music. She is the author of the poetry volumes I Went Looking for You (BlazeVOX, 2009), Morphology with photographer Rusty Crump (BlazeVOX, 2008), Dreaming in Color (Alice James Books, 1980), and editor of Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 2004).  A forthcoming book, ask anyone (Pressed Wafer), will appear with musical settings.

 

Consulting Poetry Editor Danielle Georges interviewed Ruth Lepson for SolsticeLitMag in April 2015.  Excerpts of this conversation appear below.

DLG:  Ruth, your name came up several times when I began gathering work for this issue ofSolstice Magazine. Can you talk a bit about why you feel your work is seen as “experimental” by others?

 

RL:  I would call it innovative as opposed to experimental because in a sense all poets are experimental. I’m interested in the poets who have been moving the language forward and thinking about language in our time.  That means Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, especially Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, George Oppen and other Objectivist poets, and some of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets.  For me there is a strain of quintessentially American poetry other than Native American poetry that maybe starts with Whitman, and Dickinson, and then Stein, who was 100 years ahead of her time.

The first time I heard Robert Creeley read, that was it for me.  He’s been the essential person to me. And you know that he’s influenced generations of innovative poets. The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets say they couldn’t have existed without Creeley and especially his book Pieces. It still seems pretty revolutionary. I am always trying to approach that, and I hope I’ve done that more in my most recent book. I think of Creeley as being half way between lyrical and what you might call a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet, and I think that’s where I am—trying to be honest through my own sensibility and still deal with the concerns that Creeley was dealing with because those are the ones that grab ahold of me in my life.

DLG: What are some of those concerns?

RL: What does it mean to be a person?  What does it mean to be alive, knowing that we are going to die?  What does it mean to live in the moment?  What is communication? Creeley was obsessed with, and examining, the whole question of communication.  What does it mean to try to convey something to somebody else? He was unsure whether you could teach anybody anything he or she didn’t already know. Well, how did that person come to know it?  Through experience.  There is another kind of knowing that comes from reflecting on that experience; and that’s part of what a poem is.

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An Interview with Poet Irene Koronas

January 13th, 2016

Irene Koronas is a multi-media artist, painter, poet and editor of Wilderness House Literary Review.  She is the author of three volumes of poetry, self portrait drawn from many (Ibbettson Street Press, 2007), Pentakomo Cyprus (Cervena Barva Press, 2009), turtle grass (Muddy River Books, 2014) and many chapbooks.  Her visual art has been shown in a number of regional galleries.

Mary Buchinger Bodwell interviewed Irene for Solstice in February 2015. Excerpts of the interview appear below.

 

Blue Collage Grid

Blue Collage Grid

MB:  Do you think of your own work as experimental?

IK:  Most of my life my work has been experimental.

MB:  What led you to be innovative in your writing?

IK:  I think it came with painting, you know, with Dadaism and the surrealists, with looking at paintings that used collage and word.  I’ve been writing since I’ve been painting.

MB: And you think of it as experimental now?

IK:  Not as much as I used to, because I’m older . . . My experiment now is with trying to make more sense in my poems.  For so long they [the poems] were so obscure, allowing me to take these journeys. Now I’m trying to find ways to be more accessible and still be playful.  It’s not easy to be playful and to carry the thread of thought through. This is not something I’m used to doing, you know, I like to jump around.

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An Interview with Poet Douglas Kearney

January 6th, 2016

Douglas Kearney is a poet, performer, librettist, and a faculty member at California Institute of the Arts MFA in Creative Writing. He is the author of three volumes of poetry, Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014), The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), Fear, Some (Red Hen Press, 2006) and several chapbooks.

He was interviewed by Danielle Legros Georges for Solstice Magazine in May 2015.  Excerpts of the interview appear below.

DLG:  It seems that you study language from all kinds of standpoints and perspectives, from the pedagogical to the linguistic, to language as visual object.  These approaches were really fascinating to me as I read your work.  What about your pursuits and your background have given you these various lenses through which to see and to build your poems.  Where does this stuff come from?

frontispiece (designed by Douglas Kearney) of Patter


frontispiece (designed by Douglas Kearney) of Patter

 

DK:  There are a lot of different sources.  My family loved to talk and signify and make bad jokes.  My mother bought me a book when I was in high school called Get Thee to Punnery.  It was all exercises and word games and that kind of thing.  My parents also had this Reader’s Digest reference called Success with Words, which had etymologies, but they would have these microglossaries.  There was Boontling, the invented argot in Boonville up in Mendocino country in California.  They would have Appalachian and Boston Brahmin microglossaries.  I would come across a series of words, and textures and meanings.  I became obsessed with the Black American English microglossary. What’s funny is that later on I realized the problematic of it.  All these other cultures and ethnic groups within the racial groups had regionally-specific microglossaries.  You’d have Northeast, you’d have South-coastal, but Black English vernacular was just nationwide.  There wasn’t a differentiation made between, say, people of Brooklyn and people in Louisiana and people in Southern California.  Later that became an issue to me.  I think that really crystallized for me as something to be alert to through listening to hip hop.  When it became easier to find West Coast rappers, you suddenly realized oh not only do we sound different, but we’re using whole different words that you never would hear in De La Soul.

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Interview with Richard Hoffman

December 11th, 2015

Half-the-House-with-Sticker-CR_tAn interview with Richard Hoffman on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary Edition of his memoir Half the House, with a foreword by Louise DeSalvo.

An excerpt of Half the House is available here

How did the process of writing Half the House differ from your second book, Love & Fury? Do you see Love & Fury as a continuum of the first memoir? Do you plan to have a third book/trilogy?

Half the House was written over a period of sixteen years or so, little by little, writing and rewriting. I was terrified about saying many of the things in that book. First of all, there was the boyhood rape. No one had ever written about that before, at least so far as I know (I wasn’t even sure, for a long time, if that had ever happened to anyone else!) and the injunction not to tell of it was so deeply planted in me by the man who violated me, by the shame with which such silence is enforced, that I would quite literally shake and sweat when I thought of someone knowing this about me. You see, the shame is so isolating because you are taught that the rape is about you, and it is such an intimate violation that for a long time that seems true. It isn’t, of course, as the staggering number of victims coming to light, worldwide, shows. Now it’s possible to see the real nature and scope of sexual violence against kids, but back then I was in relative isolation, just sick with fear. So it took a long time.

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The Uncomfortable Part of Art: Tips for Promoting Your Book

November 21st, 2015

Yay! Congratulations your book is out! What will you do next?

Now comes the uncomfortable part of art for many of us: commerce. After all that’s a huge aspect of the book—to get people to BUY it. In a world with literally millions of books that’s not an easy task.

ebook2015I recently completed a second book of short stories, which I’m in the process of editing. Meanwhile, my first e- book, Sad Girls and Other Stories, is literally sitting there in the ether of American literature… and it’s lonely. It might even be lonelier sitting there in its tiny corner of the Internet than I was when I was sitting in my office late at night writing it.

See, you can’t just write a book. You have to find readers for it.

I spent a good amount of time watching, okay, stalking some of my favorite authors online to see how they did it. And then of course, I tried to emulate them. Here are some tips I can offer based on my first experience promoting a book:

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And now, the end is near…

November 15th, 2015

My parents loved Sinatra. I recall many Saturday evenings in the mid-1980’s sitting in the backseat of my father’s Buick Regal as we drove slowly around what was called ‘the big circle’ listening to the radio program “Saturdays with Sinatra.” Both my parents sang along as I cringed, a teenager trapped in her parent’s back seat, wishing everything—this night, this drive, time in general—would move much faster.

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In Conversation with 2015 Fiction Contest Winner Shanyn Fiske

November 5th, 2015

Wendy: Why did you decide to submit “Calligraphy,” your winning piece, to the contest? Did you see it as a good fit for Solsticelitmag and our diverse voices theme? 

ficwinnerslidesummer2015Shanyn: “Calligraphy” is one piece from a collection of related stories that I’m currently writing. The collection focuses on the four Yu daughters as they grow up and struggle with cultural, generational, and personality divisions. That being said, I don’t really think about issues like diversity when I’m writing fiction. Academic writing is all about navigating the politics of discourse, and there’s a certain pleasure to engaging in that kind of thinking. But writing fiction gives me a break from that world and balances me out creatively. It’s nice to be able to tell a story that I feel needs to be told and just allow the narrative to go where it will.

One thing that has struck me about the movement toward diversification is the way that categories intended to mark difference can actually encourage monolithic and segregational thinking. Asian-American literature, like many hyphenated sub-genres, has become bracketed within a certain set of terms and conventions that can become restrictive. I think it’s important that formulations of difference do not end up mandating homogeneity within their boundaries and that these boundaries remain fluid enough to accommodate individuality of experience.
The fact that the Yu family is Chinese is important, certainly, but not more so than the story of a mother trying to come to terms with having a child who is so different from herself.   Difference and diversity, therefore, exist on a number of levels in this story, and I was really gratified to have that recognized by the editors of Solsticelitmag and the contest judge.

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In Conversation with Michelle Blake

October 26th, 2015


David
: At one point in your contest-winning essay “A Fable for Our Times”, you write, “The call for change did not die, but its message often seemed lost amid the static roar of greed and violence that filled the next forty years, until new leaders again stirred the conscience of the nation.” As someone who was active during the Civil Rights Movement, do you think there is a similar energy surrounding our nation’s current Black Lives Matter movement?

blake_sliderMichelle: Even at my advanced age, I still believe in the idea of moral progress. So it always comes as a brutal surprise to me that we are still having to assert the basic tenet that the life of a Black woman, child or man is exactly as valuable as the life of, say, Rick Perry. The unbearable conception of the Black body as merchandise, and thus disposable, is woven into the creation myth of this country.  So the movement is always working to change something that runs deep and strong in our collective unconscious. I do believe that many people know right from wrong and want our nation to do the right thing, but most of us aren’t watching very closely. I wish that were not the case, but it is. So we desperately need the people who are watching to speak up, speak out, use bullhorns, make speeches, run for office, interrupt. Disrupt. We desperately need disruption. So, yes, I think Black Lives Matter is a desperately needed disruption, and in that sense it is a continuation of the same struggle, the same movement, calling our attention to contemporary forms of the same fundamental injustice.

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An Interview with Poetry Contest Winner Alysia Nicole Harris

October 19th, 2015

poetry_winner_summer_2015You are currently pursuing a PhD in linguistics at Yale. In what ways do you see overlap between your work as a linguist and as a poet? In what ways do you see these as distinctly separate fields? 

My linguistic work and my poetic career are both sourced in the same love of language. I am fascinated by what language is capable of, how it works, why it works the way it does. In linguistics I get to approach those questions within a scientific framework. Poetry allows me to explore the expressive and creative power of language from an aesthetic angle. But that is where they diverge. Dealing with formal semantics is dealing with proofs, logic, argumentation, and math. Dealing with poetry is like dealing with a bird, or some kind of living thing with a will of its own. So there is always more of a risk involved and consequently more of a payout.

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SolsticeLitMag MFA Voices Blog: Through the Looking Glass – MFA Style

October 13th, 2015

And on the first day, God made snow. Day one of my MFA program at Lesley University got cancelled because of a blizzard. So much for auspicious beginnings.

And on the second day, I took selfies. In my hotel room. In the cab on the way to campus. In front of the Lesley University sign. The seven dollars cab-fare was, I discovered, a waste – I could’ve walked. But I didn’t know where the school was and I wasn’t about to go exploring. Hey, I’m from Trinidad: I don’t do snow. That shit is kryptonite to Caribbean people.

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Mask of Submission: Alexie, Hudson, and Chou

October 7th, 2015

At 5:30AM on the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend, I woke up to three post-midnight text messages from friends who have the luxury of staying up late. Had I heard about the controversy regarding one of the contributors to Best American Poetry 2015? Did I read the recent blog post by this year’s guest editor, Sherman Alexie? Forgive me for sending if you’ve already heard, but . . . Scandal!

I read the articles by the glow of my phone as I brushed my teeth, as my husband made me coffee, as I ate my oatmeal, standing in the kitchen. By now, many tweets, essays, and posts have covered the incident. A white man from Indiana decided that he would make a point about race, art, and the publishing world by adopting a Chinese moniker: Michael Derrick Hudson donned the mask of some imagined Yi-Fen Chou.

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SolLitMag MFA Voices Blog: A Trip to the Planet MFA

September 16th, 2015

planetI like to tell people who ask about my graduate schoolwork that I gave up the lucrative field of journalism to take up the more practical work of creative writing. Sometimes my audience gets the joke.

Graduate MFA students are keenly aware the odds are stacked against us. Very few, we are told, will go on to be classic authors like Ernest Hemingway or Flannery O’Connor. Not many will earn the cash of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

Still, Creative Writing MFA programs around the country have increased to near 300 from only 50 in in the 1970s, according to a 2007 article in The Atlantic by Edward J. Delaney: “Where Great Writers are Made: Assessing America’s top Graduate Writing Programs.”

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An Interview with Martha Collins

September 14th, 2015

Martha Collins is a poet, translator, the editor-at-large for Field Magazine, and an editor at Oberlin College Press. She is the author of the poetry volumes, Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014), White Papers (Pitt Poetry Series, 2012), Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), Some Things Words Can Do (Sheep Meadow, 1998), A History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia, 1993), The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991) and The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1985).  Her volume Admit One: An American Scrapbook is forthcoming in 2016.

 

She was interviewed by Danielle Legros Georges for SolLit-Diverse Voices in February 2015. Excerpts of this conversation appear below.

DLG: Do you consider your work experimental? How might you label your work if asked to do so?

MC: I have never thought about myself one way or the other, though it’s true that I’ve never particularly wanted to write like anybody else, and don’t think of myself as being influenced by others. Of course that’s not true: I’m as influenced as anyone else. But I have never identified with a school of experimental writing or any other school. One important turn, though, was doing an independent study with a student on John Ashbury. What I got from that slow reading experience was license, permission. Though the permission isn’t always easy to come by. One of the best lessons I have ever learned is to listen to my internal censors. When they say you can’t do that, they often point me in the direction I should go.

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