Just a quick post to share that Salamander is hosting a virtual reading on Friday, March 26, from 6-7 PM EST, featuring readings from three contributors from Issue #51: Jinwoo Chong, Natalie Shapero, and B.M. Owens.
This event is free and open to the public; registration is required. Register here, and after registering, you will receive a confirmation email allowing you to join the reading.
This week, I’d like to take a moment and highlight the good people at The Offing for their continued efforts to raise awareness within the writing community and engage us in initiatives against systemic racism. This past June they released “We Stand With the People” an open letter stating their commitment “to the work of Black, Indigenous, POC, Women, GNC, LGBTQ+, Disabled, and all marginalized peoples” and asking others to join them in taking a stand against white supremacy. The editors invited other literary journals to sign the letter and join them in their work, which I promptly did on Salamander’s behalf.
Part of their continued work after this public statement is to start a series of 10 letters dedicated to “engaging The Offing’s literary network in social justice and a value shift toward equity within our respective organizations.” Last month, The Offing published the first of ten letters written by Aurielle Lucier and “hope each letter acts as a wake-up call.” In this first letter, along with offering resources, Lucier makes clear:
This project is…an invitation to focus your attention and extend your support beyond platitudes, legislative Band-Aids or monetary contributions. I am not asking that you simply carry Breonna and Tony and Rayshard and George and Ahmaud’s memories close to your hearts. Rather, I implore you to, not unlike protestors, shift your behavior to match your beliefs. I invite you to orient yourself toward justice, to move as one who believes that your freedom is inextricably linked to mine, and act beyond your comfort or convenience.
Of the many things I admire in this quote, the core one is how Lucier posits the work to be done as both outer and inner, social and personal. This multiplicity of stakes, awareness, and investment is something that as a marginalized person I have always lived with. It is something marginalized folks are born into having to reckon with. Political conversations–however formal or informal, in person or online–are never theory, but rather grounded in experiences. That the election was as close as it was means few marginalized folks are breathing easier.
I encourage y’all to read these materials and also to check out The Offing. Also, take time to reflect. Are you taking time to consider the welfare of others? To learn about them? To connect, we need to see each other as well as see ourselves, know their stories as we know our own.
I’ll leave you with two poems to check out. In working with a student on an essay about the Black Lives Matter movement, I shared these poems and spoke of poetry as a space of presence. Words, inside of us as outside of us, are where we can be present with others. Thank you for taking the time to be present here.
Just a quick post to share the recordings from last week’s events!
First up is the Far Villages Anthology Talk, “Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World.” I joined Gillian Parrish, and Kathryn Hummel for a conversation moderated by the insightful Abayomi Animashaun. Our conversation included a discussion of what we termed the “empathetic imagination” as well as working across different languages, different countries, and different practices. Check it out below! Also, check out the Far Villages anthology here.
Next up is the Salamander Issue #50 Virtual Reading with readers: Rajiv Mohabir, Joan Naviyuk Kane, and Anne Kilfoyle. I had a great time hosting this first virtual event for the Salamander community. As part of my intro, I included a few words in memory of Leslie McGrath who passed away this summer. I also read her poem “Ars Poetica” which I encourage y’all to check out. Here’s the event itself!
Lastly, I am writing and posting this a little later than usual for me. Main reason being that my mind’s been overwhelmed with the election which has yet to be called. It’s been a trying year already and this seems to be taking us deeper into the crucible. Whatever the results, it shouldn’t be this close. The gravity of what it being this close truly means is crushing. I wish you all sleep and peace of mind.
One of the big changes in my life that I was unable to share about during an academic year full of transition (including the present pandemic-related interruption) is how it’s been going during my first year as Editor-in-chief of Salamander Magazine. While we are currently in production for our 50th issue–and also running our annual Fiction Contest through the end of the month–I thought I would take a moment to share a bit about the first issue experience.
I am proud of the final product on a number of levels. This issue contains amazing work from poets Naomi Ayala, Francesca Bell, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Caylin Capra-Thomas, Emily Rose Cole, Brian Clifton, Jackie Craven, Chard deNiord, Alexa Doran, Moira Linehan, Nora Iuga, Adeeba Shahid Talukder, Madeleine Wattenberg, and many more. On the creative nonfiction front, this issue features pieces by Marcos Gonsalez and Rochelle Hurt, while on the fiction front this issue features stories by our 2019 Fiction Contest winner Christina Leo as well as Michael Howerton who placed second, a flash fiction by Russell Dame, and an excerpt from David Maloney’s novel-in-stories Barker House (Bloomsbury). The issue rounds out with reviews of poetry collections by Lola Haskins, Brett Foster, Fady Joudah, and Tom Sleigh as well as a short story collection by Hadley Moore.
Another outstanding part of this issue is the art portfolio by our featured artist, Karla Rosas (KARLINCHE). Her piece “La Puerta Negra” is on the cover. I’d been a fan of her art for about a year before getting this gig. Especially this being my first issue at the helm, I wanted to feature art that hits me on the intersection where I and many others exist, where the personal meets the political, and shows how one can’t be seen without the other. I feel the Latinx community has had a number of awful and unjust narratives hanging over us. Featuring Latinx artists creating strong work in the face of such narratives is vital in pushing back against those narratives.
We had the issue 49 out mid-December and were able to celebrate in February with a reading featuring two of our contributors, David Maloney and Moira Linehan, as well as acclaimed fiction writer, Sonya Larson, who joined this year as a member of our Advisory Board.
David Maloney: Image description – A man standing at a podium reading from a book.
Sonya Larson: Image description – A woman standing at a podium.
Moira Linehan: Image description – A woman standing at a podium.
Last thing I’ll share is that I’ve had a great time getting to teach this issue this past Spring in my introduction to creative writing course. Students have enjoyed interacting with these pieces of contemporary literature and learned a lot from them. I enjoy teaching the journal both to share my enthusiasm about the work but also as a way to share insights about the editing process.
Thank you to all the contributors and all our staff and readers who have made the success of this first issue possible!
To further celebrate this first issue, I’ve created a cento based on lines from poems in this issue. Expect another issue-related post when the next one comes out. For now, enjoy the fun collage/homage below!
by José Angel Araguz
(a cento based on lines from Salamander Magazine, issue no. 49)
The heart is a wormhole—
limited to the path
you never had to become.
But grief’s like a cat, leaving then returning
our eyes lilac-bearded, our toes-daisy rich.
Today I will polish my own damned self.
I can begin to believe that you won’t come back again. Listen,
I saw their ghosts slither with the wind,
with the blood and birth. Popcorn-sad,
I step over stones and believe
the answer was in the moths
watching from above with small black eyes.
First and foremost, apologies for the radio silence. Totally unintended. A lot of life has happened, good and bad. It has been strange not being here in this space. I look forward to doing a bit more now that I’m getting life in order. I’ve got a few reviews in the works as well as some posts.
For now, please check out this interview at Mass Poetry where I talk about my latest collection, An Empty Pot’s Darkness, as well as disclose my love for Netflix’s The Witcher.
I’ve been absent from this space for about a month now. Lots of good, necessary upheaval in my life. The recent passing of W.S. Merwin has stirred me out of silence, however, not just here but in life. His work always inspires a kind of active silence in me, a listening that’s helped on and off the page.
I have written about Merwin’s work a number of times here. In a previous post I shared these words from a journal entry where I had copied by hand Merwin’s “A Letter to Su T’ung Po”:
I heard Merwin read this poem a week after filing for divorce from my first marriage. Ani was with me , both of us full of questions. This poem is a river in itself. The last line crosses centuries in a gasp, like one stepping away from the face of a river.
Similar to when I wrote these words, my life’s been carried forward on necessary currents – all of which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve accepted an Assistant Professor position at Suffolk University. This new job also has me taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief of Salamander Magazine. Needless to say, I’m shocked at my good fortune and grateful for the opportunity to join the dynamic community at Suffolk and contribute on a number of levels.
As can be imagined, a move like this is bittersweet. I do find myself in a similar place as when I was filing for a divorce, and when I saw Merwin in person. However turbulent life was for me then, hearing Merwin do his thing – his nuanced, metaphysically and emotionally complex thing – afforded me some calm. His example, then and now, braces me for the good work ahead.
While I have written about the poem below before, the poem remains a favorite. I also share it because it’s the poem I had in mind while I taught during the teaching portion of my campus visit at Suffolk and I made a passing reference to writing in syllabics and the path forged by Merwin. Looking at this poem now and considering his passing, I’m moved by how the lack of punctuation has me as a reader coming closer to the page. That in itself, bringing another closer to language, is an accomplishment in itself.
Thank you, Merwin, for bringing us closer to words.
Youth – W.S. Merwin
Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for
or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I
have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me
as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let
me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I
began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already
part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you
Just a quick post to share the most recent review of my book Until We Are Level Again (Mongrel Empire Press) by Valerie Duff-Strautmann over at Salamander. Duff-Strautmann reviews my book alongside Natalie Shapero’s Hard Child (Copper Canyon Press). Please check it out!
Thank you to Valerie Duff-Strautmann for spending time with my work and for all the support throughout the years!
I have several “unofficial” sonnets throughout my manuscripts, but this one is one of my favorites due to how I came to write it. I was reading heavily into Norse mythology at the time and came across the story of Odin who willingly hung himself from a tree for nine days only to come back with the rune alphabet. I spent hours afterwards on the running trails of Eugene, Oregon standing under large trees and looking up, trying to imagine what nine days of only branches and sky must have felt like.