In Jennifer Martelli’s recently released poetry collection The Queen of Queens, an epigraph from Sally Wen Mao’s “Nucleation” notes that women “wear the trauma of other creatures around their necks, in an attempt to put a pall on their own.”
Which is to say, among other things, that one creature’s trauma can be another’s decoration.
That pain-pleasure dichotomy, symbolized by pearls, flares up throughout The Queen of Queens. The Kenyon Review’s Kathleen Aguero observes that “pearls and female ghosts reoccur to bind the poems like the ropes of beads the speaker twists around her neck. Taking the vice-presidential candidacy of Geraldine Ferraro as a starting point, these fierce poems seamlessly braid politics, culture, and personal experience.”
For all these reasons, we’re thrilled in this issue to feature both an interview with Jennifer and a review of The Queen of Queens. The book, I should note, came out before the Roe reversal—but was prescient about its possibility. Jennifer herself, meanwhile, conducted an interview with our Poetry-in-Translation Editor, Barbara Siegel Carlson, whose extraordinary chapbook of powerful poems, Between the Hours, debuted earlier this summer. Barbara presents “a journey of the heart through dreams, or through those liminal spaces we find ourselves in while barely awake,” Jennifer writes. “We find ourselves exploring the rooms of a house that may be a memory or may be a dream. Carlson distills these experiences, presenting ‘half-visions and swiftly moving scenes of a story entire in each fragment, a voice, road, part of a room or door half open.’”
There is the pleasure-pain dynamic as it is encapsulated by pearls, and then there is the pleasure-pain dynamic as it is encapsulated by the pandemic: serendipitous joys discovered despite the shutdown, the sickness, the solitude. Solstice Contributing Editor Richard Cambridge’s contribution to this issue is a stunning tale of such joys. In the winter of 2020, Richard reached out to musician George Hennig after hearing the latter’s version of “John Barleycorn.” “I am new to your work, and it moves me profoundly,” Richard wrote, offering George a bouquet of poems. George picked one and replied: “May I make this a song?”
From that swirl of dust, a pen pal collaboration was born. One year later, their album Songs From The Crossing came out. In a video interview with Solstice Nonfiction Editor Richard Hoffman, Richard Cambridge and George discuss how they made this album without ever meeting in person.
It was Richard Hoffman who first brought Helena Rho to Solstice’s attention. In Spring 2020 we became one of the first journals to feature Helena—who had spent most of her career as a doctor—publishing her essay “Becoming Korean.” This past March, in Philadelphia, Helena approached Solstice’s bookfair table at AWP to share the news that her memoir, American Seoul, was coming out in May. It was our pleasure to interview her about the book and the process of becoming an author.
Another member of the Solstice community, Contributing Editor Patricia Ann McNair, reached out to tell us about another remarkable debut in the past few months. The author, Toya Wolfe, was a creative writing student at Columbia College Chicago where Patricia taught for decades. In this issue, Patricia interviews Toya about her novel Last Summer on State Street and “the stories that knock in our chests.”
In yet another interview with a decorated debut novelist, Fiction Editor Anjali Mitter Duva talks to author Namrata Poddar about Border Less, which was released in March and was a finalist for Feminist Press’s Louise Meriwether First Book Prize. The title, Anjali pointed out, alludes to borders between nations, cultures, social classes, gender roles. Namrata agreed—and raised the possibility, as well, that the “border” of the title could be interpreted as an imperative verb.
Rounding out this edition of Reviews & Interviews is a conversation with not one author but two: Contributing Editor Dzvinia Orlowsky spoke to Jeff Friedman and Meg Pokrass about their “deliciously humorous” collection of flash fiction, The House of Grana Padano (2022). This interview is a must-read for writers who love all forms of “micro” fiction, and who might be wondering about what it’s like to collaborate with another writer—not just on individual pieces of writing, but on an entire collection. Dzvinia’s wonderful interview is followed by three exciting pieces of flash fiction: two from the collection, and a third from a new sequence of work.