Katy Haas

Ekphrastic Poetry Bringing New Meaning & Depth

Guest Post by Madhuri Palaji

In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson is a book of poems about love, nature, spirituality, and dreams.

The specialty of the book is the amazing paintings from historic to contemporary presented in it. There are paintings done by Lenoir, Kandinsky, Dali, Somov, and many more. Some poems are inspired by these paintings, though not all.

Each poem is unique and deep. There is a beauty in the way the author has woven the words. I have seen most of the paintings in the book in some art books and exhibitions but when I look at these paintings after reading the poems, I feel like I’m seeing the painting for the first time. The author has brought a whole new meaning and depth to the art. It’s like the author has translated the painting and colors into words.

There is one poem named “Vanished” where the author says:

there was no fish
that day
but even worse
for the fisherman
there was no sea

This made my heart clench, literally. How true, given the kind of world we are living in right now; there is major destruction happening all around and we are left with too little to fix.

In The Dark, Soft Earth has many wonderful poems which I have read again and again because they make so much sense. The magic, love, pain, dreams and hope in the book give a whole new meaning to the way we look at life!

In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson. Independently Published, July 2020.

Reviewer Bio: Madhuri Palaji is a writer and book reviewer from India. Her book ‘Poems of The Clipped Nightingale’ is available on Kindle. Find her at http://www.theclippednightingale.com/

Kenyon Review – May/June 2020

The May/June 2020 issue of the Kenyon Review features the sixth edition of “Nature’s Nature” includes twenty-nine new works by eighteen poets, selected by Poetry Editor David Baker. Featured contributors include Madhur Anand, Elizabeth Bradfield, Stephanie Burt, Stuart Dischell, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Paul Guest, Christian Gullette, Leslie Harrison, Didi Jackson, Devin Johnston, Joanna Klink, Phillis Levin, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Carol Muske-Dukes, Atsuro Riley, Nicole Stockburger, Hannah VanderHart, and Shelley Wong.

A Quick Yet Powerful Read

Magazine Review by Katy Haas

In the Spring 2020 issue of Southern Humanities Review, Heather Corrigan Phillips dives into the use of language in “A Scattershot Approach.” Broken up into different sections, this piece looks at the idioms and metaphors relating to gunfire that English uses. Each section is a different phrase or word.

This nonfiction piece looks at a span of time immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Her brother-in-law was a first responder at the school that day and we learn about him and the way his health and family were impacted. Phillips writes about this while living out of the country and learns more in spurts through Skype and phone calls, and readers subsequently learn about this in similar ways. Little bits of his story are revealed and then explorations of gun-adjacent language is placed in between.

Reading this really does bring to light the amount of idioms and metaphors that we use which relate back to guns, and this only scratches the surface. There are plenty more that weren’t included. We’re lead to question why this language is so prevalent while also seeing into the lives of humans who have gone through a traumatic event. Here is the perfect balance of fact and emotion, a quick yet powerful read.

Sponsor Spotlight: Cutthroat

Have you visited Cutthroat lately? They publish an online edition and an annual print anthology with high-quality poetry and prose with an edge.

They offer three awards every years: the Joy Harjo Poetry Award, the Rick DeMarinis Short Story Award, and the Barry Lopez Nonfiction Award which open for submissions in August.

Readers can look forward to Issue 25 which will drop sometime this month. You can learn more about Cutthroat and their past contributors at their listing on our website.

Jenni(f)fer Tamayo Answers “The Citizenship Question”

The Georgia Review - Spring 2020Magazine Review by Katy Haas

The Spring 2020 issue of The Georgia Review was released around the time U.S. citizens were receiving census information in the mail, and the work inside the issue relates back to this: the census and citizenship. Jenni(f)fer Tamayo’s “The Citizenship Question” is a stand-out among these.

The piece reimagines the Application for Naturalization, or the U.S. Citizenship Application. This piece spans three pages, and Tamayo rewrites the questions and options given. The first two pages are straight forward enough, with the third falling into a more chaotic format with text written upside down, overlapping other text, or fading away into blank space.

I always enjoy this type of writing that mixes the cold format of a form (Marissa Spear does something similar with her medical reports in “How Many Ways Can One Spell Hysteria?” found in Moonchild Magazine) and reworks it with heart, feeling, and poetry. It can be a bizarre feeling to see personal information about yourself reduced to a few lines and checkboxes in someone’s files, and Tamayo takes that information back, reclaims it as hers, and connects it back to her life and identity in an inventive and enjoyable read.

2020 Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference Moves Online

This year the Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference will be held online. With this change, the conference will still involve the same great faculty, craft discussions, readings, and literary camaraderie that the face-to-face conference promised.

The dates stay the same: July 15-18 with a similar schedule, and the price to participate has been discounted. Scholarships are still available.

Learn more about this year’s conference at The Rose O’Neill Literary House page on the Washington College website.

Documenting Awakening

Aimee Liu’s Glorious Boy opens in 1942 but begins in 1936 New York when Claire, aspiring anthropologist, meets Shep, a young British doctor being punished by exile.

They soon marry and depart to his duty station, Port Blair on the Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal. The island serves as a penal colony for political prisoners. Once there, they hire eight-year-old Nalia to care for their mute son, Ty, the “glorious boy” of the title. Nalia possesses “an uncanny ability to intuit whatever Ty wanted or needed—as if the children had their own spiritual language.”

As British hold over the island falters, they hear more of Japan’s rallying cry of “Asia for Asians.” When Rangoon, a neighboring Burmese city, falls, civilians are ordered out of Port Blair with a single standing order: “No local borns or natives.” Because of the connection between Nalia and young Ty, Claire promises to find a means of getting Nalia off-island as soon as she can.

During the departure, however, an earthquake separates Claire from the rest of her family along with Nalia. Not long after, the island falls to the Japanese army as Nalia hides Ty among the tribes Claire began studying. Claire dedicates herself to retrieving her son. Meanwhile Ty becomes more a creature of the jungle than a child of the empire, seeming to straddle the “primitive” and “civilized.”

Glorious Boy documents the awakening of Claire as nations dive into World War II. She learns “that ambition is worthless unless it’s rooted in human understanding” and is astute enough to understand that “prosperity” is often aligned with, almost synonymous with “slavery,” that those who are politically powerful and connected find deference to their desires, and that “colonial rules [prove to be] a tyranny of injustice, not to mention ineptitude.”

Glorious Boy by Aimee Liu. Red Hen Press, May 2020.

Reviewer bio: Bill Cushing writes and facilitates a writing group for 9 Bridges. His poetry collection, A Former Life, was released last year by Finishing Line Press.

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Only Nature Reveals Our True Colors

Guest Post by Helen Zapata

“. . . all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence.”Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is a powerful essay filled with complicated sentences that I had to read over and over again to make sense (and make some justice) to the real meaning behind Emerson’s Nature.

Emerson was in love with nature and for him, we need to truly look at it, observe it, respect it, and acknowledge that nature and humans are the same. Although at times this seemed a little too philosophical for me, I still felt related to this beautifully portrayed subject.

Through every stage that divides this book, Emerson describes nature as the only mirror in which humans should trust, the same one that represents our behavior, personal relationships, and the way we communicate with each other.

There is a chapter regarding language and its links to nature that reminds me of an Intro to Linguistics class, but with a little less theory and a lot more of spirituality. “Language” sums this essay perfectly and makes you really think about the way the earth gives us everything we need to exist, even in the early stages of our lives.

I guess by the time he wrote this essay, grammatical structure and syntax were different than they are now and that definitely adds another layer of complexity. But I also think that the way he built the relationship between men and nature couldn’t be phrased in any other manner.

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Penguin Books, September 1995.

Reviewer bio: I’m Helen Zapata, a freelance copywriter and editor specialized in independent digital publications.

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