Content Tagged ‘AWP’

Chumming it Up at AWP

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone contributors and Lookout authors, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on or considering. Michael Brooks Cryer’s Channels, Frequencies, and Sequences appears in Ecotone 20, the Sound Issue. His book Selected Proverbs, winner of the 2016 Elixir Press Antivenom Poetry Award, was published by Elixir Press in December.

Whenever I walk through the convention-center doors on my first day at AWP—which is usually Saturday, the last day of the conference—I think of what August Kleinzahler says about the Grand Canyon: “Nothing quite prepares you for it. Terror, that’s what it’s about.”  He also says the only reasonable response to the chasm is to back away slowly.

I wasn’t sure I was going to attend AWP in Tampa this year. I don’t think I’m ever sure I’m going to attend AWP. But, alas, I end up there most years to see old friends who are spread out across the country at various colleges and who converge on some unknowing city to add another tote to their collection.

Of course, I don’t want to sound like a total crank—I’ll leave that to professionals like Kleinzahler—so it’s worth saying I like to catch up with friends at these things. And I also decided to attend this year because I had an opportunity to give a reading to promote my book of poems. Elixir Press released Selected Proverbs in December, so it seemed like AWP was as good a place as any to get the word out.

I was about to spend way too much money on a hotel room when I went back to Airbnb one last time to see if I could find something cheaper and closer than Miami. And I did find something. I booked a yacht! That’s right, suckers. I stayed on a yacht while you stuffed yourselves into a Days Inn with a twin bed and a crusty bedspread between the six of you. I’m not usually one to rub it in, but a yacht is pretty freaking cool.

That is, it would have been cool if when I arrived the owners had evacuated all the sewage that’d accumulated in the boat’s tanks after the last group to stay there had a giant pizza party.

How do I know there was a giant pizza party? I had a long conversation with the owner and his wife about using some kind of odor-devouring yeasts in response to the devastation. And that’s not even the best part of the conversation. It turns out that boats have a mechanism called a masticator that chews boat waste into a kind of slurry when you’re out at sea so that you can dump it in the water behind you as you sail to Bora Bora. Not only had they forgotten to evacuate the tanks, but that mechanism was left on and my yacht was chumming the bay the afternoon before I arrived.

I couldn’t help but laugh when, the day after I learned about the boat’s ulterior propeller, I was greeted by a giant revolving door at the Marriott’s entrance. The door spun at a consistently slow RPM, chopping masses of conference goes into smaller and smaller groups, expelling them out of the hotel. I think all AWPs should have rotating doors of this magnitude. Maybe speed it up a little.

It rained and blew a little Saturday night, and I laid in the boat and watched Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition, which is really a pretty movie, even if it misses for the same reason, while the boat rocked and was sprinkled with light rain.

The neon hospital sign across the bay would appear and disappear in the front windows of the boat—I recorded a video of it because, next to the gangster Tom Hanks moving on the screen anchored within the boat, the sign seemed like a surreal floating advertisement that had become unmoored and was now lost in the night sky.

After the rain stopped, I stumbled off the boat onto the dock—it got tricky when the tide was out and the distance between the boat and the dock grew considerably—and I walked a short distance from the boat to a restaurant that had transformed into a nightclub the evening before, keeping me up most of the night with a strange mashup of hair metal and what I think was Gloria Estefan.

I took a seat at the bar next to a young woman who had also been attending the conference, and we effortlessly chatted about our impressions. I started to feel a little lightheaded as we talked. I was starving, so I chalked it up to low blood sugar, possibly a flashback to the panic from the book fair. But this was a little different. I started to feel a little nauseated too. The bar seemed to be on a fulcrum, listing from one side to the next. I was seasick!

And now on the flight back, I just realized the woman sitting in the aisle seat to my left and one row up is writing a poem on her computer as we fly. I only realized this when she started adding line breaks to the block of text she had just written, turning her prose into poetry with a click of the mouse. Frank O’Hara’s line, “It is even in / prose, I am a real poet,” came to mind.

I’m wondering how many conference goers are doing the same thing as I write this. The same thing I’m doing. All of us on our planes somehow excited by what we’ve just experienced. Maybe she learned this technique in a panel this week. Write a paragraph and then chop it up! Run it through the masticator! Chum the world with your poetry! She probably has a workshop tomorrow. Her classmates will love it. They all have the same poem. The one on the airplane. The one with the boat in it.

 Michael Brooks Cryer teaches writing at Arizona State University. His poems and reviews have appeared in Quarterly West, Ecotone, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cortland Review and other journals. He is also an occasional freelance music critic for Phoenix New Times. Four Chambers Press released his chapbook, Channels, Frequencies & Sequences, in the summer of 2017, and Michael’s collection, Selected Proverbs, won Elixir Press’ 2016 Antivenom Poetry Award.

 

Roundup: AWP Hot Panels Edition

Packing for AWP in Tampa next week and inundated by invitations to panels and parties? So are we! But we’re excited, too: AWP is always a big Ecotone/Lookout Books family reunion and we can’t wait to see you. We’ve whittled out a small selection of events, featuring recent Ecotone contributors. Visit us at Tables 1302 and 1304, where we’ll be getting “Craft”-y…

Remember: leave lots of room in your boes and bags for bookfair acquisitions, apply and reapply sunscreen, and hydrate! See you in Tampa.

Thursday

Intersectional South: New Perspectives in Southern Poetry. (Chad AbushanabJohn Poch, T.J. Jarrett, Adam Vines, Juliana Gray) In the 21st century, there exists a multitude of Southern poetics defined not by location, but by the variable experiences of the American South. This panel seeks to explore “Southerness” in terms of individual experience in order to highlight new identities and perspectives in contemporary Southern poetry. It brings together a diverse group of poets who will speak to the idea of “Southerness” in literature, and how they see this operating in (or against) their own work.
Room 18 & 19, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

The Art of Crafting a Chapbook from Start to Finish. (Abigail BeckelJennifer TsengDan MahoneyWilliam Todd SeabrookBrad Aaron Modlin) What makes a chapbook successful, both in terms of literary merit and sales? This panel will explore best practices for writing, organizing, and publishing chapbooks. Authors will discuss how they conceptualized and structured their chapbook manuscripts, and leading chapbook publishers will talk about what they look for in submissions and how they design and market chapbooks. We’ll also discuss the range of genres—poetry, flash, hybrid work—the short length of a chapbook can effectively showcase.
Room 5 & 6, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

The World Grows: New Directions in Environmental Writing. (Ross Gay, Camille Dungy, Pam Houston, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Diana Owen) Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously. This panel brings together an award-winning and diverse group of Orion authors who will read original work and discuss new directions in environmental writing, a genre that has become increasingly urgent in today’s world. Room 18 & 19, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Poetry, Myth, and the Natural World: A Reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Rajiv Mohabir, and Sherwin Bitsui. Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts. (Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sherwin Bitsui, Alison Granucci, Rajiv Mohabir) The layering of cultures; the complex wonder of the natural world; the riddle of faith; the deep resonance of mythology: what better place for these dimensions to wrestle and converse than in the poetic realm? The urgency inside the poems of Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Rajiv Mohabir, and Sherwin Bitsui offer a complicated empathy with the world, one that grapples with loss and is tinged with sorrow: even beauty can hurt. Yet their language, resplendent with song, also sings into being a world of joy.
Ballroom B, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Friday

The World and the Story: How Plot Maps Fictional Realities. (Leah StewartBrock Clarke, Jung Yun, Brenda PeynadoJulialicia Case) In fiction, there’s an interdependent relationship between world-building (the map) and narrative construction (the route). This panel will examine how writers employ different types of stories—the romance, the mystery, the quest—in service to different visions of reality. Why does a realist like Chekhov so often use the romance? For what purposes does a fantasy writer use the quest? How can a writer of literary fiction employ the quest or the mystery to investigate character?
Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Against Forgetting Against Forgetting: 25 Years Later. (John PochJill Bialosky, Peter Balakian, Jacob Shores-Arguello, Rebecca Gayle Howell) Twenty-five years ago, Carolyn Forche’s groundbreaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published. This gathering of poems helped to galvanize an entire generation of poets who came to believe that poems could do more than articulate a poet’s confessional hankerings and could bear witness to history itself. The poets on this panel will read a few of their favorite poems from the anthology and discuss what this book meant and means to their own work and the world.
Florida Salon 5, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Vassar Miller Poetry Prize 25th Anniversary Reading. (Caki Wilkinson, Alison Stine, James Najarian, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Jordan Windholz) The Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, founded at the University of North Texas in 1993, honors Texas poet, writer, and disability rights advocate Vassar Miller (1924–1998). To commemorate the prize’s 25th anniversary, writers of winning manuscripts will read from their collections, showcasing the formal and geographic variety of poetry published in the series. The reading will be followed by a Q&A.
Florida Salon, 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Sustainable: On Writing Long and Linked Poems. (Kathryn Nuernberger, Jenny Molberg, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Jacques J. Rancourt, Traci Brimhall) In an age of digestible snippets, we grow hungry for occasions to practice the fine art of paying attention. An art form rooted in mindfulness, the long poem is one way of practicing deliberate attention. Drawing on their own experiences writing and publishing long poems, linked poems, project books, and novels-in-verse, this panel will discuss both the rich literary tradition of long and linked poems, as well as provide insights into the process and craft of creating your own sustained lyrics.
Grand Salon D, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

A Woman’s Place: Ecotone Essayists Expand the Boundaries of Place-Based Writing. (Belle BoggsAnna Lena Phillips BellShuchi SaraswatAisha Sabatini Sloan) Contributors to a new anthology from Ecotone and Lookout Books discuss how we can continue to broaden the traditional boundaries of place-based writing to make room for more complexity: explorations of body, sexuality, gender, and race. Joined by their editor, these authors consider how women’s unique experiences and histories make them artful observers of the natural world. They will read from their essays and talk about approaches to intersectionality in the field of environmental writing.
Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

The Teaching Press: Bringing Professional Literary Publishing into the Classroom. (Holms Troelstrup, Steve Halle, Deanna Baringer, Ross Tangedal, Beth Staples) Lookout Books at UNC–Wilmington, PRESS 254 at Illinois State University, BatCat Press at Lincoln Park Performing Arts in Pennsylvania, and Cornerstone Press at UW–Stevens Point utilize literary presses as teaching tools for graduate, undergraduate, and secondary students, emphasizing hands-on experience in literary publishing. Panelists detail important practical and curricular concerns in establishing and maintaining a teaching press, as well as the local and national impact of their work.
Room 17, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A Foot in Two Cultures: First Generation American Poets. (John HoppenthalerLauren Camp, Timothy Liu, Adrienne Su) The contemporary influence of poets who were born in the US and whose parents are immigrants has been substantial and important. For these poets, there is an ongoing calibration of the distance between the culture of their parents and their negotiation with the reality and myth of an American Dream. The inherent tensions of this push and pull create a space that can be fruitful for poetry, a space from which the poets who comprise this panel continue to write.
Florida Salon 5, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Saturday

“Ballade of the Poverties”: A Reading by Beloit Poetry Journal Poets. (Meg Day, Nicelle Davis, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Sally Wen Mao, Carolyn Forché) Writers will read poems inspired by Adrienne Rich’s “Ballade of the Poverties.” Addressed to the princes of predation and finance, this piece reminds us that political poetry isn’t new or newly necessary but remains a vital force for survival, resistance, and change. Audience members will submit lines for inclusion in a collaborative response to “Ballade,” to be printed published on the BPJ website.
Room 20 & 21, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Crafting the Weird: Techniques of Fabulist Female Fiction. (Clare BeamsBrenda Peynado, Jamey Bradbury, Celia Johnson, Ramona Ausubel) Surreal, magical, or fabulist fiction has traditionally been employed to attack political systems through subversive means. Yet, women writers have adapted this genre for their own modes of critique. In this event, panelists will discuss how they use elements of the weird to address subjects such as the domestic, the female body, otherness, and LGBTQ identity. Presenters will provide examples, methods, and techniques for crafting subversive fiction that offers new methods of witnessing reality.
Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

We’re AWP bound!

Who’s finished packing for AWP? This time next week we’ll be landing in Tampa, brushing off our spring-break best, and unpacking lots of goodies for the Lookout Books/Ecotone bookfair booth! Visit us at Tables 1302 & 1304, and join the UNCW faculty and Lookout/Ecotone staff for panels and book signings.

Thursday

Readiness: Prose Poems by Mark Cox, Booksigning.
Press 53, Bookfair Table 444
Thursday, March 8, 2018
3:00 p.m.

The Gatekeepers: Behind the Scenes of Literary Agencies. (Michelle Brower, Lucy Carson, Allison Hunter, Erin Harris, Beth Staples) The world of literary agents can seem murky and impenetrable to authors beginning the publishing process, but it doesn’t have to be that way! This panel will focus on candidly exploring how authors and agents actually find each other in the real world. What do agents do, why do they do it, and what does it take to get their attention? With an extended question and answer session, writers will have the opportunity to ask our panel of actively acquiring agents their most burning questions.
Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Friday

Reading from Flash Nonfiction Funny. (Tom Hazuka, Wendy Brenner, Michael   Martone, Sandra Gail Lambert, Suzanne Strempek Shea) Flash Nonfiction Funny, edited by Tom Hazuka and Dinty W. Moore and published in 2018, provides a unique perspective on the flash genre: working within a 750-word limit, each of these nonfiction pieces is designed to make readers laugh. Satire, burlesque, farce, slapstick—all of it true, told in just 1–3 pages. The panelists will read their own stories from the book, as well as favorite pieces by other authors from the anthology.
Room 12, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 am to 11:45 am

“Things We Do When No One Is Watching” by Philip Gerard, Booksigning.
New Letters BkMk Pres, Bookfair Table 1048
Friday, March 9, 2018
1 p.m.

Vassar Miller Poetry Prize 25th Anniversary Reading. (Caki Wilkinson, Alison Stine, James Najarian, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Jordan Windholz) The Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, founded at the University of North Texas in 1993, honors Texas poet, writer, and disability rights advocate Vassar Miller (1924–1998). To commemorate the prize’s 25th anniversary, the writers of winning manuscripts will read from their collections, showcasing the formal and geographic variety of poetry published in the series. The reading will be followed by a Q&A.
Florida Salon, 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

The Teaching Press: Bringing Professional Literary Publishing into the Classroom. (Holms Troelstrup, Steve Halle, Deanna Baringer, Ross Tangedal, Beth Staples) Lookout Books at UNC–Wilmington, PRESS 254 at Illinois State University, BatCat Press at Lincoln Park Performing Arts in Pennsylvania, and Cornerstone Press at UW–Stevens Point utilize literary presses as teaching tools for graduate, undergraduate, and secondary students, emphasizing hands-on experience in literary publishing. Panelists detail important practical and curricular concerns in establishing and maintaining a teaching press, as well as the local and national impact of their work.
Room 17, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A Woman’s Place: Ecotone Essayists Expand the Boundaries of Place-Based Writing. (Belle Boggs, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Shuchi Saraswat, Aisha Sabatini Sloan) Contributors to a new anthology from Ecotone and Lookout Books discuss how we can continue to broaden the traditional boundaries of place-based writing to make room for more complexity: explorations of body, sexuality, gender, and race. Joined by their editor, these authors consider how women’s unique experiences and histories make them artful observers of the natural world. They will read from their essays and talk about approaches to intersectionality in the field of environmental writing.
Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Saturday

“Ornament” by Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Booksigning.
University of North Texas Press, Bookfair Table 1512
Saturday, March 10, 2018
11:00 a.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING: AWP 2017 EDITION

In early February, more than 12,000 writers, editors, teachers, and publishers descended upon Washington, DC for the annual the 50th Annual AWP Conference and Bookfair. Taking a break from the action (read: filling tote bag after tote bag with new books), four UNCW MFA candidates stopped by the Lookout + Ecotone booth to share with us those titles that carried them into the new year.

Station Eleven was suggested to me by a trusted reader friend after hearing my complaints about literary depictions of post-apocalyptic worlds that leave civilization in a survivalist state. The narrative follows Kirsten, a traveling performer, twenty years after a viral outbreak killed most of the human population. She tours with a band of actors and musicians who perform in the villages and settlements they rest at within the Midwestern United States. The troupe’s go-to performances are Shakespeare plays. I had my copy of the book signed by Emily St. John Mandel at last year’s AWP, even though I hadn’t finished it at the time. What I admire most about Station Eleven’s narrative is its devotion to the survival of the arts instead of just that of humans. It defines being human as preserving these arts, which make up our culture. Without drama, music, writing and art, what would our existence be?

—Will Dean, MFA candidate in fiction


George Harrison said, “Music should be used for the perception of God, not jitterbugging.” In Robert Ostrom’s latest collection of poems, Ritual and Bit, we see an artist not only challenging us to perceive a God but also talking directly to a God in prayers, an artist inserting himself into the story of creation. What is it to be homesick with spiritual memory, being fully aware that we’re reconstructing our memories every time we retell them? Ostrom leads us through with intimacy: “Trust me, says what you’re about to read to your beautiful ear.” He takes us to a place where words are relics—each one holding a little life, beauty, loss. And we leave haunted, but in a good way. We’ve felt an exquisite purpose.

—Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, MFA candidate in fiction


Over the summer I began reading What About This? Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Stanford was a Southern writer who, because of his early death by suicide in 1978, was not widely read during his lifetime. This collection was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2015 and includes previously published and unpublished fragments of poems. His poems are relatively short, usually less than thirty lines, but because of their cryptic language they speak above and beyond any single moment. Stanford has the ability to talk about these strange characters from the South and Midwest without being anchored in an exact time or place. I read his work and know that whatever sense of understanding I glean could still be so far from the vast map of meaning he had in his head at the time of writing, and that is the exciting part. I am left with raw emotional data every time I read his work. His poems are like circus freak shows moving through the night on an open train; there is a history in each word but the reader only can glimpse it for a passing second.

—Graham Irvin, MFA candidate in poetry


I’d been meaning to read Eula Biss’s first book, The Balloonists, since reading her essay collection last year. The Balloonists works as a series of prose poems, one long poem, or a lyric essay; her Anne Carson-like genre defiance is one of the reasons I keep returning to her. She studied nonfiction under three poets and after reading this book—about married couples as people “not especially interested in intimacy, who somehow ended up married,” and about Biss’s mother, who tells her that she is “not a liar, but that she is not what [Biss] writes about her”—I think poetry may be the most insistent way to learn how to write in prose.

—Rachel Castro, MFA candidate in nonfiction

 

Our AWP Picks, Just in Time

We’re heading to AWP! If you’re also going to DC this week, you’re probably doing what we’re doing: scurrying around packing and scouring the schedule for your favorite authors. We dove in to see when and where some of our recent Lookout/Ecotone contributors will be sharing their insights. The three women at our helm, Emily Louise Smith, Beth Staples, and Anna Lena Phillips Bell, will also be presenting, as will our most recent Lookout author Clare Beams. Come say hello and pick up our newest publications at tables 400-401, which we share with sister UNCW publication Chautauqua at the Bookfair. Don’t forget to pack light, and leave room to bring home books!

Here are our picks:

The Craft of Editing Poetry: Practices and Perspectives from Literary Magazine Editors. (Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Sumita Chakraborty, George David Clark, Jessica Faust, James Smith) Ecotone practicum students love editor Anna Lena Phillips Bell’s submit-a-thons. This panel expands on those, as she and other editors who publish poetry share what goes on behind the scenes, demystifying the poetry editing process. Thursday 9-10:15 a.m. Room 209ABC, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Award-Winning Professional Publications with Preprofessional Staff: Mentorship and Applied Learning in Literary Publishing. (Holms Troelstrup, Steve Halle, Emily Louise Smith, Meg Reid, Kate A. McMullen) Industry Q&As always seem to offer one solution for breaking into the publishing industry: apprenticeship. But what does the mentor/mentee relationship look like, and how do you get the most out of it? Both sides report, including current UNCW MFA student Kate McMullen and Lookout-Ecotone alum Meg Reid. Friday 9-10:15 a.m. Room 202B, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Reading As An Editor: The Intimate Hermeneutics of a Work in Progress (Catherine Adams, Peter Dimock, Mara Naselli, Hilary Plum, Beth Staples) Come to find out why editor Beth Staples’s new band is calling themselves the Intimate Hermeneuts…and stay to hear her and other top editors in a lively conversation on what happens to your own projects when your day job burrows you into another authors’ work. Saturday 4:30 pm to 5:45 p.m. Marquis Salon 7 & 8, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

Leashing the Beast: Humanizing Fictional Monsters. (Anna Sutton, Steven Sherrill, Clare Beams, Kate Bernheimer, Julia Elliott) Clare Beams has obviously knocked our socks off as a short story writer, but her craft lectures at UNCW’s Writers’ Week and on her book tour were beyond fabulous: engaging, entertaining, and helpful. Catch more pearls of wisdom from Clare, moderated by Lookout-Ecotone staff alum Anna Sutton. Thursday 10:30-11:45 a.m. Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Beautiful Mysteries: Science in Fiction and Poetry. (Robin Schaer, Amy Brill, Martha Southgate, Naomi Williams, Camille Dungy) How do we present field findings in prose and poems? Camille Dungy has done this in her nonfiction and poetry contributions to Ecotone, and we can’t wait to hear her insight in person. Thursday Noon to 1:15 p.m. Liberty Salon L, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Together with All That Could Happen: A Teaching Roundtable. (Michael Martone, David Jauss, Josh Russell, Hugh Sheehy, Deb Olin Unferth) We can’t wait for you to read Michael Martone’s “Postcards from Below the Bugline” in the brand new issue. Those of us who’ve been lucky enough to have him at the head of the classroom are eager to hear him share his take-aways from years teaching too. Thursday 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Marquis Salon 12 & 13, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

Zora’s Legacy: Black Women Writing Fiction About the South. (Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, Tayari Jones, Bernice McFadden, Crystal Wilkinson, Stephanie Powell Watts) While Ecotone publishes writers from all over the world, we’re based here in North Carolina, and continue to be interested in the discussion of Southern literature from the African American woman perspective. Tayari Jones wowed us when she visited UNCW for Writers’ Week in 2015, and we can’t wait to hear more from her. Friday 10:30-11:45 a.m. Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Looking Outward: Avoiding the Conventional Memoir. (Steve Woodward, Paul Lisicky, Belle Boggs, Angela Palm) Not one, not two, but three recent Ecotone essay contributors will talk about how they approach writing intimate nonfiction. Friday 1:30-2:45 p.m. Marquis Salon 5, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

Following the Thread of Thought. (Steven Harvey, Phillip Lopate, Ana Maria Spagna, Sarah Einstein) Ana Maria Spagna’s “Hope Without Hope” (Ecotone 19) was a notable essay in 2016’s collection of The Best American Essays, about the Maidu tribe’s stand to preserve their forest land from being timbered for energy. We’re excited to hear more about her process for bringing her ideas into fruition. Friday 3-4:15 p.m. Liberty Salon N, O, & P, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

Good Grief. (Heidi Lynn Staples, Janet Holmes, Steven Karl, Prageeta Sharma) Do you find comfort and catharsis in poetry? Heidi Lynn Staples, whose poems from her stunning collection, The Arrangement, graced our pages in Issue 18, shares her experiences writing from grief. Friday 4:30-5:45 p.m. Supreme Court, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four

I’ll Take You There: Place in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction. (Ethan Rutherford, Paul Yoon, Edward McPherson, francine harris) Ecotone’s tagline is Reimagining Place, and we frequently debate what it means for a piece to be ‘place-based.’ We are so excited to hear what these writers have to say about place, especially Paul Yoon, whose fiction appears in the new issue. Saturday 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. Marquis Salon 1 & 2, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Two

Such Mean Stories: Women Writers Get Gritty. (Luanne Smith, Jayne Anne Phillips, Vicki Hendricks, Stephanie Powell Watts, Jill McCorkle) Jill McCorkle hails from just down the road in North Carolina, and we listen to her every chance we get! Especially when the subject is why women writers are under greater scrutiny than their male counterparts when they tell tales of grit. Saturday 12:00 to 1:15 p.m. Room 202A, Washington Convention Center, Level Two

Poetry for Trash

As lovers of poetry and literary crusaders against pollution, we were so interested to hear about this new project, Poetry for Trash. We asked founder and director John-Michael Peter Bloomquist to tell us about the project, his inspiration, and what poetry and trash have in common. Here’s what he had to say.

standing on it's own, the sign

As a poet, I’ve often asked myself the question: is poetry worth pursuing? Will this poem ever get published? Is this poem trash? Many poets and myself desire to write something valuable, which can be a good thing, depending on what we mean by valuable. I value poems that make me feel beautiful, loved, or less alone.

More poetry is being written, published, and read than ever before, which is absolutely, unquestionably, unequivocally good. But I’ve become concerned that, instead of a desire to write, many of us are feeling pressure to write poems that sell—or at least that garner accolades and acclaim, earning us, for example, an esteemed teaching position that supports us financially. Poetry is also now, more than ever before, moving closer to becoming a commodity. Am I the only one guilty of asking: How much money will this poem make? Will it earn an award? Will it get me that job? Consumerism has infiltrated our poetics, and though there is a cause for despair when corporations and fashion chains look for poets to endorse them, I believe that the economy of poetry can help save us and our planet.

The scourge of a consumerist culture is pollution. Use it up, throw it out. Right now I live in Richmond, Virginia, and when I walk by the James River, I’m dumbfounded by how many bottles, cans, wrappers, and cigarettes I find. Everyone with a heart is concerned about the environment and pollution. And so another one of my questions has been: what makes an ecological poem? What is its subject matter, its line breaks, its diction, and should it be printed on recycled paper or should it be published online?

Poetry functions within the gift economy. Mauss, author of the seminal book on gift economies, The Gift, said that there are three obligations within the gift economy: to give, to receive, and to reciprocate. Nature gives us the food, water, and air we need to survive, but instead of reciprocating, we’ve been making capital and consuming. While a poem doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) make capital, it does ask us to reciprocate, not just to read and write more poems, but to love more. And this is why I see all poetry as ecological.

With these concerns in my mind, I finally arrived at another question: How much trash is poetry worth? And this question started Poetry for Trash, an interactive gift economy. Over the past two years I’ve been making various signs which ask this question, and placing them in public parks. This past year, I’ve been fortunate to work with the people at MoB studios, who have created our latest sign. The sign facilitates the three steps of Poetry for Trash:

  1. Pick a poem (open the heart—that’s where the poems are)
  2. Pick up the trash it is worth (take a bag and clean up)
  3. Add your poems (let someone else open the heart and find you)

Through these stations two dumpsters worth of trash have been picked up and thousands of poems have been given away. Poetry is a solution to pollution because purification starts in the heart.

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We were at AWP this year, at the Virginia Commonwealth University booth, modeling the new sign and giving away postcards that you can mail to your loved ones, which feature poems by some of our favorite contemporary poets in the country. Check out the work that we’ve been doing at poetryfortrash.com. Let’s keep the planet clean and our poetry free.

–John-Michael Peter Bloomquist

News Roundup

Beams WSWWHL cover FINALRGBWe’re rapidly approaching the end of the semester here at UNCW, and are trying to cram in as much learning as possible in these last few weeks, even as spring beckons us to the beach. In honor of the teaching and learning we all do, this week’s post corrals some news worth getting to know.

First up: have you pre-ordered Lookout’s new title yet? Clare Beams’s We Show What We Have Learned comes out in October, but you can reserve a copy now here. About half of the stories take place in schools–from odd assemblies to fraught classrooms–and combine the literary, the historic, and the fantastic into one fabulous collection.

Speaking of Lookout specifically, and the idea of the teaching press more generally, Lookout founder and publisher, Emily Smith, has an essay in the anthology Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century (Milkweed), edited by Travis Kurowski, Wayne Miller, and Kevin Prufer, which was officially released on Tuesday of this week. Among some really litpub21cen-texturefantastic and thoughtful essays about the work of–and challenges facing–independent presses and literary magazines, Emily’s essay documents the founding of Lookout Books; the historic success of our debut title, Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision; and our innovative teaching press at UNCW.

We’re lucky here at UNCW to have wonderful teachers, and to bring in guest writers and publishing professionals to boot. Last semester’s visitor, Michael Taeckens, interviewed editor of the NYTBR, Pamela Paul, for Poets & Writers this week.

For those in the know: if you didn’t make it to ‪#AWP16‬, we still welcome you to use our AWP subscription discount for Ecotone! The code AWP16 grants you two issues for $14.95—two issues at more than 50% off the cover price! Use this knowledge well, friends.

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For National Poetry Month, during which we all get to learn and enjoy poetry even more than we usually do, Ecotone is sharing poems from our Sound issue and archives all month long. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see when new poems are live. The first few are here, here, and here. And if you’re still hungry for more poems, Ecotone contributor Angie Macri has two poems in Terrain.org. And Ralph Sneeden has another Sound-centric poem (about Hendrix!) in the Southeast Review. Here’s a picture of Ralph reading his poetry this past week at Word Barn for its Silo Series of readings. We heard the acoustics were amazing, and it sounds like such a cool space wherein to learn about words. Thanks to Paul Yoon for the photo!

To take us out, we give you two topics we never tire of learning about: Donald Trump and mini golf. Ecotone contributor Jeff Sharlet had this fascinating story about Trump rallies in NYT Magazine. And have you ever wanted to learn more about mini-golf courses? Me too. Luckily, Ecotone contributor Sarah Bryan has an interesting audio piece up at the Southern Review about her dad’s role as one of the country’s preeminent mini golf course designers.

We hope we’ve given you lots of new things to learn and think about this week, and that your quest for knowledge never ends. We’ll see you back here next time!

News Roundup

In this week’s Roundup, we’ve got some fantastic contributor news, and a bunch of celebrity photos from AWP. By celebrity, of course, I mean our contributors and editors and students–all celebrities to us!

First up is Honey from the Lion author Matthew Neill Null, who won the 2016 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Matt’s getting a fellowship that includes a stipend and a yearlong residency in Rome. Past recipients of the prestigious award include Ralph Ellison, A.R. Ammons, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Sexton, Junot Díaz, Anthony Doerr, Sigrid Nunez, Randall Kenan, and Lorrie Moore, among others–a true celebrity lineup. We’re so happy for Matt!Matt and Emily at table

And here’s Matt looking Rome-bound with our publisher and art director, Emily Louise Smith at the AWP booth.

You might have heard some buzz from us in the past couple weeks about Lookout’s newest author, Clare Beams. We announced her cover a couple of weeks ago, and if you squint in this picture, you can see the galley there on the table. We’re so excited to share her fantastic collection of short stories, We Show What We Have Learned, with you in October.

Before we launch into the full slate of photos, some reading you should check out around the web: Ecotone contributor John Jeremiah Sullivan profiles “Shuffle Along,” one of the first successful all-black musicals, and the painful history of black performance in America. Ecotone contributor Claire Vaye Watkins has an essay up at LitHub about returning to her desert hometown and reflecting on what it means to run away from where you came from. And Lookout  author Ben Miller also has an essay up on LitHub about the greatest writers’ group to come out of Davenport, Iowa.

Have I mentioned how much we love our contributors and the students who work on our imprints through UNCW’s MFA program? Man, we do. Here are some photos to help share that love. Behold, AWP booth photos from Lynn Thompson, Jamie Poissant, J.P. Grasser, and Leslie Wheeler.

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And here are our staff: running, goofing, overhearing, eating, and partying (thanks to folks at the PEN Center for the party shots!).

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We hope your AWP was as filled with inspiration, connection, and celebrity sightings as ours was. We’ll see you next year in DC and back here next week for another Roundup!

Overheard at AWP!

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To celebrate our Sound issue at AWP16, Ecotone created a special  hashtag: #OHatAWP (short for “overheard at AWP”). Turns out, writers are great at eavesdropping! Our intrepid participants overheard gems of nonsequiturs, some truly serendipitous snark, endearing expressions of earnestness, writing questions/complaints as old as time (yes, we all commit to agony… and constantly get asked what it is that we actually write), and quite a bit of atmospheric and abstract sounds, too. We have to say, the whole endeavor made us a little better at listening!

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We also promised to reward a free yearlong subscription to the AWP attendee who overheard the sound we most enjoyed. Congrats to said winner—Anne Corbitt, a Georgia fictioneer and Twitter follower who overheard the following: “I was trying to figure out if I write better in a chateau or a castle. I don’t recommend chateau writing.”

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We don’t totally get it, but hey, we will heartily drink to that! If you didn’t win, keep heart–we’re still offering our AWP discount code: AWP16, which grants you two issues for $14.95—two issues at more than 50% off the cover price!

IMG_1833Thanks to all who stopped by our booth, participated in our #OHatAWP game, and/or introduced Ecotone or a Lookout Books title to a friend at AWP 16!

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Lookout’s AWP Giveaway

The 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP) is coming up fast, and Lookout Books, Ecotone, Chautauqua, and the UNCW MFA program are gearing up to celebrate books and writing in sunny California. For those of you who will be joining us in Los Angeles, we’ve got a fun contest to promote Lookout’s debut novel, Honey from the Lion, by Matthew Neill Null. In this lyrical and suspenseful novel, a turn-of-the-century logging company decimates ten thousand acres of virgin forest in the West Virginia Alleghenies—and transforms a brotherhood of timber wolves into revolutionaries.

Enter to win the entire Lookout Books catalog, including a signed copy of Honey from the Lion, and a swag bag! The contest is simple. Hop on Instagram, find the historical photo below in our feed @lookoutbooksuncw, and caption it by commenting on it.

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This photo, along with others from Roy B. Clarkson’s Tumult on the Mountains—a history of lumbering in West Virginia—inspired Null’s novel and our staff in creating a series of digital broadsides you can see here. We hope this photograph will inspire your captions too.

The Rules

  • Follow Lookout Books on Instagram @lookoutbooksuncw.
  • Comment on the photo with your best caption.
  • Stop by book fair tables 919/921 at 10:45 on Friday, April 1, before Matthew Neill Null’s 11 a.m. signing, for the announcement of the winning captions.

The Prize

One grand prize winner, chosen by Null, will receive the Lookout Books catalog, including a signed copy of Honey from the Lion, bookmarks, bumper stickers, and more. Three runners up will receive a Lookout title of their choice.

Matthew Neill Null’s Honey from the Lion was published in September, and his story collection, Alleghany Front, is forthcoming from Sarabande Books in May. Null will be signing Honey from the Lion at the UNCW, Lookout, and Ecotone tables on Friday, April 1, from 11 to 12, and we can’t wait to see you—and your captions—there.