Katy Haas

‘Out of Speech’ by Adam Vines

Out of Speech by Adam VinesGuest Post by Adrian Thomson

Adam Vines’s Out of Speech, a poetry collection comprised of ekphrastic poetry based upon famous paintings as well as personal experience, draws on Vines’s travels from southernmost Argentina to the Louvre. Each poem begins by naming the art piece it takes as a subject, then moves toward unpacking their visual elements often through fascinating uses of enjambment.

More than just describing the artwork, Vines peels away surfaces to encounter shavings of shocking humanity lying beneath. In “My View From Here,” a poem responding to Yves Tanguy’s Les Vues, Vines sees an abstract red vista of segmented alien pillars the cancer polyps hidden in a barstool acquaintance he meets by chance outside the gallery. “Holes and Folds,” based on the group portrait The Swing by Jean Honoré Fragonard, finds a narrator focused on the most innocent of the lounging young men in order to question his objectives as a hand slides up a woman’s dress.

Vines’s visual inspection of minutiae leaves his reader questioning the subjects presented in the paintings. Will the awoken businessman in Hopper’s Excursion Into Philosophy leave before his lover stirs? What has made his countenance so dour? What of the open book forgotten on the bed? Is his shoe slipping into, or out of the light? The reader feels unsure even after turning away, and Vines leaves them contemplating in silence.


Out of Speech by Adam Vines. LSU Press, March 2018.

About the reviewer: Adrian Thomson is a creative writing student at Utah State University.

2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award Winners

december‘s Fall/Winter 2019 issue features the winners and honorable mentions of the 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award in Fiction and Nonfiction.

This year’s Award in Fiction was judged by Rita Mae Brown, and the Award in Nonfiction was judged by Amy Chua. Contest Editor Lauren Lederman introduces the winners, and readers can find a full list of finalists inside the issue.

2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award in Fiction
First Place
“The Land Behind the Fog” by Andrea Eberly
Honorable Mention
“The Augmentation Dilemma” by TN Eyer

2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award in Nonfiction
First Place
“Gumdrop Electric” by Sarah Treschl
Honorable Mention
“The One Who Didn’t Stay” by Samantha Rogers

Ekphrastic Work in Valley Voices

Valley Voices brings readers a special edition on ekphrastic poetry with the Fall 2019 issue. Fifty-seven poems by forty-two poets follow the theme, and John J. Han pens the essay: “A Verbal Response to Visual Art: The popularity, Types, and Composition of Ekphrastic Poetry.”

Opening the issue is a sort of call and response between husband and wife duo Leo Touchet and Elizabeth Burk in “Louisiana: A Duet of Photographs and Poems.” Touchet’s photographs serve as inspiration for Burk’s poetry. After the selection, the two speak with Editor John Zheng about their work, both as individuals and as a creative pair.

Zheng introduces the issue with, “[ . . . ] ekphrastic expressions are not simple interpretations; they are, instead, reinterpretations that experiment with imagination, language, and synesthesia in the creative process of writing poetry.” Check out the creative experimentations in the Fall 2019 issue and let it inspire you to experiment with your own ekphrastic work.

Three Questions for Joy Harjo in WLT

World Literature TodayLearn a little more about current U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo in the latest issue of World Literature Today. In addition to a featured poem by Harjo, “Bless This Land,” there is also a mini, three-question interview with the poet.

Harjo answers the questions:
What recent book has captured your interest?
What outside the realm of literature has drawn your attention of late?
What current writing projects do you have underway or have planned in the near future?

The interview is brief but informative and gives readers jumping off points for what to pick up next.

Plume Publishes 100th Issue

Plume lit mag

Plume has hit quite a milestone this month. Their December 2019 issue is their 100th publication. As usual, they bring readers a fine selection of poems (some with audio recordings), a smattering of book reviews, and one essay. However, they stray from their usual format with their featured selection. While readers will normally find one poet interviewed with a selection of their poetry in this section, this month the staff has chosen to feature favorites selected from the past 100 issues.

These selections include: Rasha Abdulhadi (Issue 88), Angie Estes (Issue 46), Stephen Dobyns (Plume Anthology Number 7), Amy Beeder (Issue 67), Tom Sleigh (Issue 17), Justyna Bargielska translated from Polish by Benjamin Paloff (Issue 77), and Stephen Dunn (Issue 2).

If readers are feeling especially ambitious, they can find their own favorite poem among the full archive of all these past issues.