We are happy to announce that SR contributor, Kirsten Voris, was one of fourteen semi-finalists in Hippocampus Magazine’s 2017 The Remember in November Contest. In addition to making the top fourteen, “Swimming with Headscarf Ladies” is also featured in Hippocampus’s December issue of 2017.
Last week, I had a conversation with a visual artist about the challenges of making art as we age. I’ll turn forty-six in December, and my friend is near there. I’ve read the statistics: the average poet peaks in her twenties; artists tend to be more in line with novelists, creating their best work in their forties (lucky guy). Still, with modern life and its distractions (see Anthony Varallo’s good post on interruption), finding inspiration tends to become more problematic with age.
The artist and I briefly discussed strategies we’ve tried to keep the wheels turning. He’s a pro: a gifted painter who reinvented his artistic identity by trying—and mastering—a new genre (video). He’s secured artist residencies. He’s earned a sabbatical. Yet he juggles a full-time teaching gig with a brilliant, lively family, which is to say, he drinks a lot of coffee. He’s constantly weighing appropriate balance and space—responsibilities galore, but good ones, ones crackling with depth and possibility. I struggle to find space—and inspiration within that space—for art in similar ways. In recent years, it’s been in the playgrounds of other art mediums, which sometimes means excellent live music shows, but often means wherever fresh contemporary visual art can be found locally; when on the Flagler College campus, where I teach, I frequent CEAM (the Crisp Ellert Art Museum). This is nothing new: poets have written ekphrastic poems since the beginning, many of them great and lasting (ie. Auden’s “Musee Des Beaux Arts”). And this is perhaps because there’s a certain kind of attention required of visual art—how color works to convey mood, for instance, or how vital a fresh concept to the work’s success—that helps remind us of important elements in poem-making. Not every poet has the same hurdles when it comes to making poems, but one of mine tends to be getting hyper-focused on the linear argument—that which I find most interesting, chasing the a-ha! moment—and therefore getting lazy about filling in with lush details. Or filling in the details, but not presenting them in strange or original ways. Another challenge is finding new themes: my obsessions have gone through the wash twenty times; all that hot water has faded and shrunk them. Spending a few hours with a visual artist’s work tends to get fresh angles spinning. For instance, one of my more recent riffs came courtesy of Anna Von Mertens, a highly-accomplished multi-media artist, currently living in New Hampshire. In this series, she’s taking well-known portraits (often self-portraits by artists like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo) and from them, creating auras, using cloth, stitching, and homemade dye. Gorgeous. Mind-blowing. When I saw some of these in a CEAM exhibit, I immediately wanted to talk back to them, create a kind of tribute to them in poems. The result was a series of “aura” poems, using largely the Confessional poets. Here’s one:
aura: james wright
the head and torso shape that of a supplicant,
a nonbeliever in prayer, the eyes closed below
their frames, hands clasped at the heart, but the heart’s
red is the opposite of the dominant pigment, green: sap green
that breaks into flowering, o, Monet’s fields and water lilies
seeding and bursting beneath surfaces, all grown-blessed
in permanent green light . . . . Jenny the muse in hooker’s green:
river-rising just enough to be seen, he will wade in over
his head into the snake’s viridian venom, in the background
Van Gogh’s mother portrait, where the world’s players
smash against each other, competing terribly–
who wouldn’t waste a life for the naive green just breaking
into gallop? the wild fields blossoming?
As you can see, I’ve selected a dominant color palette that represents the poet/his work (green, with nods to significant painters who worked famously in green) and made allusions to Wright’s most well-known poems. What I’m most interested in is the conversation, the stimulation that arose from it. A familiar paradox, but one that bears repeating: artists must carve out vacuums in order to make art, yet art is not inspired by such vacuums, but life itself. In support of the collaboration of visual art and poetic inspiration, I bring my students to CEAM every semester, to view what riches our director has procured and to respond in poems; part of my own making process comes in designing prompts unique to the artist’s work. This experience is for them, for me, the dominant lesson: that the art-making engine runs on nouvelles idées, that we must constantly see potential inspiration everywhere and seek it out. If we’re young, the challenge comes in developing the habit; if we’re older, it’s in sustaining it. The irony, of course, with this particular mode: that the new ideas come from ideas already examined, though differently, by other makers. Another paradox (the soul of poetry).
To me art must tell a story, whether it is a complex one or a simple one. Looking at a piece of artwork and having an emotional response means the artist did his or her job. One of my favorite leisurely activities is to go to an art museum with my dad and try to figure out the story behind what the artist is conveying through the piece. Whether we come up with serious stories or sometimes silly ones, everyone sees art differently and that is what I love about art: it speaks to us all in a different way.
I enjoy a variety of mediums when it comes to art, but the two I enjoy a little more are photographs and oil paintings. Photographs can take you back to a memory you long to relive and a gorgeous oil painting can make your wildest dreams take flight on a canvas.
There is a beauty to complex pieces of art as well as beauty in simplicity. Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” So create it- any way imaginable. Tell a story in the craft, complexity and simplicity of it all.
Ashlee Cunningham is a sophomore at Arizona State University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Intermedia Art. She is the Art Editor for Superstition Review and has loved growing her knowledge of art. When she is not in class you can find her capturing life through the lens of her camera.
My definition of a “good poem” is expanding and shifting every day. As I continue to read, write, and learn poetry, I find that my understanding and appreciation for the art also continues to grow exponentially.
I believe that the poem, at its very best, is a discovery. I find that the best poems are invitations to see an object, an idea, the self, the very world, in a different light. Gaston Bachelard describes poets as individuals who are unafraid to take even the corners of a house and bring them to life. I am interested in the corners, in the ordinary that is explored and made meaningful through poetry. The unexpected image, the lyrical line, the compelling thought, the voice that flows familiar—these are all ways in which I am immediately drawn into a poem. I leave the poem not quite the same as when I entered it, and the poem still never quite leaves me.
I also believe the poem is an intellectual pursuit. I believe that art is meant to be constantly challenged within its own forms and notions—Dean Young says that we must “disrupt the habitations of use”. There is incredible importance in this, but ultimately, it should still be done well. As writers, we are always faced with this question in the revision process: did I say this well? Is this worthy of the page? Whether it is the utilization of form and technique, or the challenge of such through the experimental, our choices on the page should reflect our investment in the craft. I am interested in poems that are well-crafted and conscious of technique, but more importantly I am interested in poems that are meaningful enough to make the technique worthy. To quote Mary Ruefle, “It is not what a poem says with its mouth, it’s what a poem does with its eyes.”
Ultimately, I am always drawn to the honesty of a poem. The poem that is unafraid to explore simultaneous vulnerability and strength, authority and hesitancy, directness and tenderness. As Dorianne Laux writes in her poem “Tonight I Am in Love”: “I am wounded with tenderness for all who labored / in dim rooms with their handful of words / battering their full hearts against the moon.” Like Laux, I too appreciate poets and their ability to constantly bare themselves open through words.
Mary Lee is completing her Bachelor’s degree in English at Arizona State University. She is in Barrett, The Honors College and is currently the poetry editor for Superstition Review.
Greetings, true believers! We here at Superstition Review have an extra-special announcement: Our dear friends over at diode have released their 10th Anniversary Issue, replete with the profoundly excellent poetic stylings of more than a few past contributors to Superstition Review, including (but not limited to);
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Patricia Colleen Murphy
Do yourself the immense kindness of taking a lil’ poetry break with the 10th Anniversary issue of diode, and to the goodly gaggle over at diode, Superstition Review says congratulations! Here’s to a hundred more years of poetry.
This semester, I had the opportunity to be a trainee for Superstition Review, and when they announced a group of interns would be traveling to LA to AWP, I didn’t hesitate to join them in their adventure. Even though I wasn’t 100% sure what AWP really was, I knew I heard of it before in some other conference. I’ve heard that thousands of writers go there to meet, to talk, and to share their love for written words.
For someone who can barely pronounce “literary,” going to AWP was more than a fun and glamorous trip to LA. This was a great opportunity to interact with different writers and publishers from all over the world. I had a lot of firsts: it was my first experience with Uber (great storytellers). My first time in my 30’s sharing another room with girls I barely knew, who at the end of the first day I was lucky enough to call them my friends. When you share a passion like writing, becoming friends is easy, unproblematic, and so natural that it seems a little magical. And life sent me the best roommates I could ever ask for, Jess, Alexis, and Leslie! And I realized that when a passion unites us, age doesn’t matter.
It was also my first time in a book fair with more than 800 exhibitors. Even though at the beginning, my mind compared it with the Phoenix Women’s Expo, but with authors, literary magazines, and MFA programs, it soon became overwhelming and a little challenging to see it all. However, I was still able to learn new things. I learned there is a bilingual press here at ASU, how did I not know this? I obtained information on MFA and literary presses from around the globe. Also, from the book fair I got different freebies, including enough tote bags to give away to my entire family, and a t-shirt that I was able to use in a non-planned 5k race on Saturday morning. I also was able to start my own pin collection.
One of the best parts of AWP (besides having the compulsive feeling of wanting to buy every book, and wondering if the next J.K. Rowling is in the same room) was being able to represent Superstition Review in different ways: at the table giving information about the magazine, being engaged on Twitter documenting our AWP experience, and basically at every moment during the conferences interacting with people. The greatest thing about representing Superstition Review is realizing that I’m luckier than I thought I was, being able to work with Trish, founder and pretty much the soul of the magazine who has attended 13 different AWP conferences, is rewarding and inspiring. I was only for a few hours at the s[r] table, but during that time I had multiple people come by and ask about her; they wanted to meet her, they were excited and honored to be published in Superstition Review, they were grateful to be read and heard.
Besides the book fair, there were more than 500 readings and panels. One of the advantages of having multiples panels to choose from is that you can invest your time in topics that really matter to you and contribute with your own ideas. One of the panels I attended to, was Latinos in Lotusland, where I was able to share my opinion about Frida Kahlo not being “cool” in Mexico anymore and I shared my opinion on staying true to our own voices and to not follow what it is “cool” on the market. And my favorite part of this is that I was heard. I was reminded that even though I come from a different culture and I speak another language, I have a story worth telling and that I should never stop my writing spirit.
For many writers, AWP is a reunion; an excuse to see each again, for me AWP was a warm welcome to the literary world. It was like I was being told, “Welcome Ofe, welcome to the literary world where you really belong.”
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Muriel Nelson.
Muriel Nelson’s publications include Part Song, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize (Bear Star Press), and Most Wanted, winner of the ByLine Chapbook Award (ByLine Press). Nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal,Four Way Review, Front Porch Journal, Hunger Mountain, National Poetry Review, The New Republic, Northwest Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Superstition Review, and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Italian Culture published her critical essay on Eugenio Montale. She holds master’s degrees from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the University of Illinois School of Music.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Meg Johnson.
Meg Johnson is the author of the full length poetry collection Inappropriate Sleepover (The National Poetry Review Press, 2014) which was recently a NewPages Editor’s Pick. Her poems have appeared in Hobart, Nashville Review, The Puritan, Sugar House Review, Verse Daily, and others. Meg started dancing at a young age and worked professionally in the performing arts for many years. She is the editor of Dressing Room Poetry Journal and recently received her MFA in creative writing from the NEOMFA Program. Meg is currently a lecturer at Iowa State University.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work.
Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Les Kay.
Les Kay holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati’s Creative Writing program. His first chapbook, The Bureau, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2015. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of literary journals including The McNeese Review,Redactions, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Wherewithal, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review,Southern Humanities Review, Whiskey Island, and Sugar House Review.
We are currently reading for our next spring issue. We accept a wide range of genres including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, theatre and art. If you have work you would like to share with us, now is the time! For more information on submissions guidelines, please visit our website.
Finally, Post Road will be trekking out to AWP in Minneapolis this month. If you’re planning to attend, we would love to see you at our table, talk all things Post Road,and maybe even convince you to take home an issue (or two!). For more information on what’s brewing in our home office and any shenanigans we may plan for AWP, you can follow us on Twitter @Post Road or find us on Facebook.