CWW Presents: Fertile Ground for Celebration at the Democracy Center, Cambridge, MA – May 5, 2017 * 7-9 pm

CWW Presents: Fertile Ground – A Literary & Musical Celebration
7 p.m. – 7:45p.m. Literary Readings/Performances

– intermission & book/album signing-
8 p.m. – 9 p.m. Musical Performances

Join us for a night of creative writing & music by and for diverse voices from NYC to Boston! Our evening will feature lyrical readings and musical performances by Matthew Wallenstein, Rita BanerjeeErini S. Katopodis, Sounds in Bloom (Diana Norma SzokolyaiDennis Shafer), Fawn (Anne Malin Ringwalt and Will Johnson) and Elizabeth Devlin, and will take place at the Democracy Center in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.

Tickets are available for pre-purchase in advance on Eventbrite, and will be available for purchase at the door starting at 6:30 PM. Sliding scale: $5-10. Your ticket helps us support the artists and the Democracy Center. Please note that the Democracy Center is not wheelchair accessible.

Here’s more about our performers:

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Matthew Wallenstein‘s writing has been published by the University of Chicago, the University of Maine Farmington, Bowling Green Sate University and others. He lives in a small Rust Belt town. “Tiny Alms,” his new release, covers a range of topics from growing up in poor rural New Hampshire to mental illness to the deportation of his wife. It is his first book and was Published by Permanent Sleep Press.

 

 

ritabanerjeeRita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and teaches at Rutgers University.  She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016.  Her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will release in March 2018.  She is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a collection of lyric essays.

Erini S. Katopodis is a Greek-American poetry, fiction, and music writer from Los Angeles, CA. She’s graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in Fiction this May. Erini loves her music to be dreamy, folky, and intimate, with a touch of the strange, and loves making new sounds with new people. Performing with her are Shelby Marnett and Rob Luzier.

 

 

 

Sounds in Bloom (Diana Norma Szokolyai & Dennis Shafer)

Parisian literary life and contemporary art & music laid the groundwork and inspiration for Sounds in Bloom, a poetry-music-movement-art ensemble co-founded by poet Diana Norma Szokolyai & saxophonist Dennis Shafer in 2006. The Boston Globe has called their work “avant-garde.” Originally participating in David Barne’s Spoken Word nights in Paris and featured by Paris Soirees Salons, Sounds in Bloom now performs in NY, Boston and & Paris. Some places they have performed include The Firehouse Space, Pete’s Candy Store, Barbès, The Boston Conservatory, The Outpost, Theatre Salle Edmond Michelet, and the Cité International des Arts.

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Fawn is Will Johnson and Anne Malin Ringwalt. Combining elements of banjo, guitar, ukulele, synth and poetry, the duo explores the often-ignored spaces between pre-established genres. Fawn’s debut EP, “Neither Dog Nor Car,” was released on November 5, 2016, and their first music video, for “Good Earth,” premiered on NPR’s All Songs Considered TV in January 2017.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Devlin, with her haunting combination of lilting voice and enchanting Autoharp, is a self-produced NYC singer- songwriter. Devlin defies traditional musical structure with many of her songs, building miniature narratives and magical worlds where characters, fantasies and time collide. Devlin has toured nationally, internationally, & performs in venues throughout NYC’s 5 boroughs. “Orchid Mantis,” her newest full-length album, was released in February 2017 at Sidewalk Café’s Winter Anti-folk Festival in NYC.

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Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Presents: Fawn (Boston, MA)

A few weeks ago, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop hosted a night of poetry and music at the beautiful Church of the Covenant for our first CWW Presents event in Boston, MA.  The Church of the Covenant offer a massive yet warm and welcoming space to all who enter. We sat in the pews amongst others gathered to appreciate art in all its forms and listened to the art of Audrey HarrerJanaka Stucky , and Fawn.

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The night was opened with Audrey Harrer, a composer, harpist, and vocalist who bridge the gap between traditional music and new technology to create haunting melodies that linger with you long after the notes have dissipated into the air. As she plays on the harp or sings during her performance, Audrey records the melodies and melds them into her work, creating harmonies and dissonances that create music that fills the space of a cathedral.

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As Audrey left the stage, Janaka Stucky stood before us. Janaka is an American poet, the founding editor of Black Ocean, and the poetry journal Handsome. He opened his performance with poetry that both commanded the attention of his audience, but turned to soft intimacy that knocked the wind out of the audience with each new poem. He talked to the audience almost conversationally at one point, and we laughed for a moment, unknowing that a conversation about mechanics would turn to poetry of an army of insects made out of his own body. His performance that evoked imagery that was both unnerving yet so personal reached into a part of people that we are almost afraid of acknowledging, the mortality of our bodies but the permanence of what we leave behind.

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The final performance of the night was by the light, melodious strings and vocals of the group Fawn, led by Anne Malin Ringwalt and Will Johnson, who released their debut EP Neither Dog Nor Car in the November of 2016. Their music, a balance struck between the strings of ukulele, banjo, and guitar is so carefully struck with synth it is seamless, yet symbiotic in its need for the other. One song performed was a version of Amazing Grace whose lyrics had been changed to a version the created a connection with the air in our lungs and its connection with the world we inhabit that nearly brought me to tears. It is the nature of their music’s composition and lyrics that brings light into turmoil and releases the tension that comes with the passage of time.

Voice is the oldest way to tell our stories, words and sounds passed down from generation to generation that linger long in memory. We are so grateful to these artists for sharing their voices and music with us, and the Church of the Covenant for giving us such a beautiful welcoming space to share the art of music with the city of Boston.

Our next CWW Presents evening will take place on Friday May 5, 2017 at the Democracy Center and will feature poetry, fiction, and music performances by Elizabeth Devlin, Diana Norma SzokolyaiErini Katopodis, and Rita Banerjee!  Stay tuned for more information on our upcoming CWW Presents evening in Cambridge, MA!

Photos by Yasmina Hilal

Shannon O. Sawyer
CWW Media Development Intern

CWW Recommends: Reading for Resistance – Winter 2017

hannaharendt-onrevolutionIn this volatile political and moral climate, reading can serve as a refuge. However, as I continue to amplify my acts as the agent of change I know myself to be, I’m using my reading as both weapon and armor—a constantly expanding and empowering force. That being said, please take this list of recommendations for post-Inauguration reading not as comprehensive but as communal—to add onto continuously over the next four years. One of the best catalysts for vigilance, after all,  is awareness. We at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop invite you to challenge your boundaries, listen to the myriad voices around you—and share with us. We’d love to learn more about what you’re reading to nourish and charge your own acts of resistance. In the meantime, many thanks to Emily Smith, Alexander Carrigan, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Anna-Celestrya CarrRita Banerjee and Shannon Sawyer for sharing their suggested reads for the resistance.

AM Ringwalt, Curator

The Grass Dancer by Susan Powersusanpowergrassdancerbig
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Susan Power honors the the Dakota Sioux in this novel of magic and dreams through a retelling of tribal stories, which are often haunted by the dead. Power is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe and a descendant of Sioux Chief Two Bears. While Power is a highly regarded writer, she also has a background in law; using her degree, she founded the American Indian Center in Chicago, which offers relief and education services to one of America’s largest Native American populations.

 

plague-of-dovesThe Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
(Recommended by Emily Smith)
Although Louise Erdrich’s novel was published in 2009, its central narrative is fit for contemporary news. The story opens on an act of racism in mid-century North Dakota: after a white family is found murdered, a group of men hang three American Indian men and one boy. The real villain goes unpunished.
The novel is a Pulitzer-Prize finalist that unfolds a century later from the perspective of multiple family members a la The Sound and the Fury. By the close of the novel, it’s clear that suppressing injustice has resounding consequences, even generations later.

38447The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel from 1985 is still relevant today, as women are policed for their bodies and their autonomies, usually being mistreated under the guise of “religious freedom” or underlying misogyny in various social and political institutions. The novel follows Offred, a woman who has had her name, her family, and her body taken by a totalitarian theocracy that only values her for her fertility. The book is equal parts speculative fiction and horror, one that can terrify both women and men with its protagonist’s incredible voice and its raw look at a world that seems imaginary but rings close to home. With an upcoming miniseries adaptation airing on Hulu in April, more people are sure to discover The Handmaid’s Tale and see how its depiction of religious extremism, misogyny, women’s health rights, and bodily autonomy compare and contrast to our new government.

cover_bad_feministBad Feminist by Roxane Gay

(Recommended by Alexander Carrigan)

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by black feminist author and teacher Roxane Gay. In it, she discusses issues of race, politics, sexuality, literature, media, and Scrabble tournaments, all while keeping her clever voice and personality. This was a book that made me laugh, tear up, and pay attention to various sections of society that I don’t often read about. It speaks to those who are often disenfranchised, and does so in a way that makes it easy to read and enjoyable at the same time.

The Boston Review and Black Ocean Press
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 8.28.29 PM.pngIt’s crucial to support literary presses, particularly these two Boston-based ones, in anticipation of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Both the Boston Review and Black Ocean Press are committed to “our shared commitment to the rights and values essential to a democracy” (see Greater Boston Writers Resist, which took place on January 15, 2017 at the Boston Public Library).

It’s worth noting, too, that in his poignant farewell address, Barack Obama warned against numbing ourselves to the “battle of ideas” essential to politics —and a creative life—in “selective sorting of the facts,” the sectarianism inherent in having news sources catered to one particular political viewpoint versus another (take Fox versus PBS, for example), the rise of social media catering to each member’s biases and the tendency of popular news sources to operate on omission. Obama said, “. . . increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”

So, as a challenge to both myself and everyone reading this, consider these two literary presses in conjunction with media and art that challenges your ethos. If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely appreciate presses like the Boston Review and Black Ocean even more after immersing yourself in other perspectives.

In the wake of the election, the Boston Review continued the call for defending independent nonprofit publishing. In recent publications, the journal asserted that “poetry is a counterattack” and began curating literary works representative of “Global Dystopias.” On December 15, 2016 the Boston Review published an article by Vivian Gornick entitled “Feeling Paranoid,” a piece not dissimilar from Obama’s farewell address. Gornick writes, “the struggle of any society—but especially one that calls itself a democracy—is to honor the existence of those not like ourselves.” The Boston Review shares texts like Race Capitalism Justice and Poems for Political Disaster, a collection of “both new poems and selections from the Boston Review archive that record, refract, subvert, or otherwise respond to political trauma, catastrophe, or terror—both here at home and abroad.” The Harvard Book Store and Boston Review will host an evening of readings from Poems for Political Disaster at the Cambridge Public Library on January 30, 2017; I invite you to join me there.

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Black Ocean Press boasts a catalog of innovative poetry, featuring works by Elisa Gabbert and Tomasz Salamun, among many other crucial voices. The press recently opened a brick-and-mortar space in Somerville, Massachusetts. Janaka Stucky, poet and founder of Black Ocean, describes the space aptly in a December issue of the Boston Globe, as a “‘third space’ — a space neither the home space nor the work space. ‘In the discourses of dissent,’ Stucky says, ‘the third space is where the oppressed plot their liberation.’” In 2016, Black Ocean supported resistance camps at Standing Rock by having all of its proceeds on “Black Friday” be sent onto Standing Rock in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. With books—and an overall ethos—as artfully constructed as they are dissenting, Black Ocean Press proves to be a necessary ally in anticipation of the Inauguration. Stucky will join me for CWW Presents on February 3, 2017, too, where he will share his poetry alongside musician Audrey Harrer and Fawn,  my folk duo. 

51totttrsjl-_sy346_We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores what “feminism” means today. This eloquent book-length essay examines not only outright discrimination, but the subtle ways that inequality is made manifest through our institutionalized behaviors. The author balances philosophical pondering with humor and offers a nuanced explanation of the gender divide. Using her own experiences in both the U.S. and in her native Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shows how sexism is harmful not only for women, but for men as well. This is a good read for these times when leaders are normalizing sexism. It is a rally cry to continue the fight for what our feminist predecessors have fought for in the previous century.
411zkErhn2L.jpgThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
(Recommended by Diana Norma Szokolyai)

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is a novel & T.V. series based on the book that creates a time-shifting alternate history, exploring what might have happened if FDR was assassinated in 1936 and the Nazis won WWII. Twenty years into the future, the Nazis and the Japanese Empire have taken over the U.S., and instead of the free spirit of the 1960s, we see the grim atmosphere of a fascist state. The Resistance is alive and carries on subversive activities, having some cells on both of the occupied halves of the country, as well as in the Neutral Zone, which is geographically in the Midwest. The characters are artfully complex, and their moralities are tested against the backdrop of this harsh world. We hear familiar songs and see cultural icons appropriated by those in power, and these similarities are just as eerie as the differences from the actual historical reality. Moreover, this world takes a look at how we Americans became Nazis, whether through passive acceptance, by conscious choice or by force.

51wNIH14zyL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgNews From Nowhere
by William Morris
(Recommended by Anna Celestrya Carr)

William Morris’ novel is a combination of science fiction and utopian socialism. The narrator Guest awakens in a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. In this society, there is no private property, no big cities, no authority, no monetary system, no divorce, no courts, no prisons, and no class systems. In the story, Morris’ belief is that all work should be creative and pleasurable defeating the most common criticism of socialism of the supposed lack of incentive to work in a communistic society. It is easy to find novels based on dystopian societies,News From Nowhere is not a perfectly written work but with too few utopian stories to choose it is an interesting read that focuses on beauty.

411pTaHocLL._SX260_.jpgIt’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
by Jim Henson
(Recommended by Anna Celestrya Carr)

Sometimes we all need a reason to smile. It’s Not Easy Being Green is a delightful collection of quotes from and inspired by Jim Henson. Funny, sweet and uplifting it is a fantastic way to take a break from all the chaos.

“I believe that we can use television and film to be an influence for good; that we can help to shape thoughts of children and adults in a positive way. As it turned out, I am very proud of some of the work we’ve done, and I think we can do many more good things.” – Jim

51XfilV9rJL._SY346_.jpgQueer: A Graphic History
by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

(Recommended by Shannon Sawyer)

All Songs Considered: Poet & CWW Intern AM Ringwalt’s Folk Duo Fawn feat. on NPR

AM Ringwalt, our Programming & Development intern, saw her folk duo’s debut music video premiere on NPR’s All Songs Considered this morning.

Ringwalt and her partner Will Johnson, also known as Fawn, were described as “only 21-years old but [they] sound like they’ve been making music together for decades.” NPR’s Anna Marketti notes the video’s “recurring themes of religion, relationships, trauma, and tradition.”

The music video for “Good Earth” was largely a collaboration with Ringwalt’s peers from Emerson College, namely Nydia Hartono, Ariana Anderson, Hunter Dimin and Saoli Nash.

Fawn’s debut EP, “Neither Dog  Nor Car,” is available on their Bandcamp. Be sure to see them live at CWW Presents from 7-10 pm on Friday February 3, 2017 at Boston’s Church of the Covenant.  Tickets can be purchased for CWW Presents: Faun in Boston on Eventbrite.

Happy New Year 2017! -♥️- Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

happynewyear2017-cwwHappy New Year 2017 from the directors, staff, and board of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop!  We hope you’re all as excited for 2017 as we are!  We’re planning a delightful, productive year for our writers and artists with plenty of opportunities to travel, write, practice yoga, and network, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at our retreats, workshops, readings, and literary fest events in 2017!

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop had a wonderful year in 2016.  Over the last twelve months, we’ve had a chance to hold retreats and readings across America and the world, meet exciting writers and artists, and have found new ways to inspire our own writing.  Our year began with  the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Los Angeles, California. At AWP 2016, we got a chance to promote CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos & Sourcebook for Creative Writing, advertise our new literary internships, and discuss our Summer Writing Retreats in Granada, Spain, Barcelona, Spain, and Narbonne, France, as well as our Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We also hosted our third AWP event at Sabor y Cultura. At our event, there were featured readings from authors such as Rita BanerjeeJess BurnquistJulialicia CaseAriana KellyGwen E. KirbyKatie KnollEllaraine LockieOndrej PazdirekHeather Aimee O’NeillBrenda Peynado, Esther Pfaff, Jessica PiazzaJonathan ShapiroEmily Skaja, and Emily Smith.

After AWP 2016, we were off to our second annual Spring Writing Retreat in Newport, Rhode Island. We were joined by award-winning and internationally-renowned authors such as Jade SylvanDiana Norma Szokolyai, and CWW yoga instructor Elissa Lewis. The event was a chance for writers to spend a long weekend in historic Newport and near the beach, participating in writing workshops (such as Sylvan’s workshops on “writing yourself naked”) and craft of writing seminars, yoga classes, and cultural tours of the historic Newport village. We live blogged the entire event as well, sharing dozens of photos from our trip while also allowing our writers to share their thoughts on the experience.

During the summer we hosted our Summer in Granada and Summer in Barcelona and Narbonne Writing Retreats. In Barcelona and Narbonne, we explored the cities and all of their historical, literary, and romantic charm. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of the cities, and one-on-one manuscript consultations. We were also joined by writer and professor Bret Anthony Johnston and literary editor Heidi Pitlor. CWW directors Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai taught workshops on spacial poetics and world building, and also led workshops for participants to share their work and use the Liz Lerman method for critiquing writing. We live blogged our retreat on our website, so be sure to check out the sights and classes from our trip. We were really happy to experience this with all of our participants, who traveled from all over to come write and explore these cities with us.

In Granada, wrote in the city’s winding streets, absorbed its Moorish history, and were inspired by its evocative landscapes. The retreat included craft of writing seminars and writing workshops and yoga classes. We were joined by novelist Alexander Chee and poet and activist Frederick-Douglas Knowles II, who taught classes on historical fiction and hip-hop and poetry, respectively. Rita Banerjee led workshops on narrative stakes and emotion and suspense. We also live blogged this trip, so you can see all the exciting things we did on this trip.

We also hosted creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education throughout the fall. In addition to Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, we were joined by Jade Sylvan and Cambridge writer Laura van den Berg for creative writing workshops and craft of writing seminars every other weekend in Cambridge, MA. This is something we hope to repeat this year, and we hope we can bring in new faculty and participants as well.

We hosted a Brooklyn Bookend Reading at Molasses Books during The Brooklyn Book Festival. Some of the writers had emerged onto the literary scene with a bang, while others had recently published their first or second books, and had received prestigious awards in the past. The event featured Stephen AubreyRita BanerjeeMadeleine BarnesEllaraine LockieBen PeaseAnne Malin Ringwalt, Kate McMahon, Emily SmithBianca Stone, and Diana Norma Szokolyai, along with a beautiful interludes of music from accomplished songwriters Erica Buettner and Elizabeth Devlin.

We also hosted a literary crawl event during Lit Crawl NYC 2016. Our Literary Vaudeville event featured performances and readings from Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Megan Fernandes, Claire Ince, Emily Smith, Christina M. Rau, and Frederick-Douglass Knowles II.

In 2016, we welcomed our second round of interns to the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and these interns include the wonderful AM Ringwalt, Anna-Celestrya Carr, Erynn Porter, and Shannon Sawyer, all of whom have helped the CWW greatly this year. They’ve helped manage our social media and written up posts about our events, shown their talent for graphic design, grant writing, audio/visual media development and corresponding with writers and hosts in French, Spanish, and English, and have provided much valuable assistance on our retreats and literary events this year.  We’re excited to have, on our team, and we can’t wait to show you what they’ve helped us plan for 2016!

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While 2016 proved to be a very exciting year for all of us, our staff is quite ready to move on to our next round of exciting events. The CWW will once again table at AWP in Washington DC from February 8-February 10, 2017, and will be announcing our AWP Reading in downtown Los Angeles shortly!

neworleans2017posterwcThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in New Orleans Writing Retreat will take place from March 23-26, 2017, and will coincide with the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.  Known for its Spanish and French architecture, live jazz, cajun food, and street festivals, New Orleans offers an inspirational and one-of-a-kind environment for creative writers. During the retreat, we will be staying in the lovely Algiers Point neighborhood, just a short ferry ride away from the Historic French Quarter.  Our retreat features multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write.  The faculty includes award-winning writers Dipika Guha, Emily Nemens, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

portland2017posterThe Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Spring in Portland Writing Retreat will take place from April 22-24, 2017.  While you’re in the home of writers Cheryl Strayed and Ursula K. Le Guin, feel free to go bicycling and explore the terrain, hike, or relax at local cafes for people watching—no matter how you choose to spend your time, this city is full inspiration. We will be staying in the Alberta Arts District during the retreat, an area that is sure to inspire our participants and help them create.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Adam Reid Sexton, Kerry Cohen, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

granada2017posterAnd the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Granada Writing Retreat will take place from August 2-6, 2017.  Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucía, Granada is one of the gems of Spain and has inspired writers from Washington Irving to Salman Rushdie to Ali Smith. Let the old city stimulate your writing with its winding streets, Moorish history, and evocative landscapes.  Work on your existing manuscript, or look to the beauty and warmth of Granada to inspire all-new projects.  During the retreat, we will be staying at the Hotel Guadalupe, just a short walk from the Alhambra.  The retreat offers multi-genre workshops, as well as craft seminars and time to write. The faculty includes award-winning writers Tim Horvath, Alexandria Marzano-LesnevichRita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai. Genres include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

We hope you are all as excited for our 2017 events as we are. If you have any questions we may not have answered, you can email us at info@cambridgewritersworkshop.org, and for inquiries, please email the CWW Directors, Rita Banerjee and Diana Norma Szokolyai, at directors@cambridgewritersworkshop.org.  You can also follow us on FacebookTumblr, and Twitter for more information and updates on any of these events. We look forward to making 2017 a year full of creativity, writing, and renewal, so join us as we make 2017 rock!

— Alex Carrigan, CWW Managing Intern

CWW Grant Writing & Program Development Intern AM Ringwalt’s Folk Duo Featured on Sound of Boston

wwaibGrant Writing & Programming Intern AM Ringwalt recently recorded a single and a five-song EP at The Soul Shop in Medford with her partner Will Johnson. The Cambridge Writer’s Workshop is thrilled to announce that the single, “The Good Earth,” premiered exclusively on Sound of Boston earlier this month. The song is now available for free download on Fawn’s Bandcamp page.

Fawn, Ringwalt and Johnson’s duo, combines elements of banjo, guitar, ukulele, synth and poetry in exploration of the often-ignored spaces between pre-established genres. Neither Dog Nor Car, the duo’s debut EP, will be released in early November.

From Sound of Boston:

Johnny Cash’s version of “The Good Earth” is jaunty and playful, with guitar, strings, and percussion chugging along beneath Cash’s rich, resonant vocals. Fawn takes a different approach, opening with Ringwalt’s delicate voice and Johnson plucking along a nearly stagnant bass line. Fawn adds a heaviness to “The Good Earth,” exploring the depth of the song’s lyrics. “I’ve traveled far and traveled wide/I’ve seen a lot of things./But looking back on all the years/I don’t know what they mean,” Ringwalt sings, adding pauses and drawing out the refrain Cash hurries through.

The duo adds a profundity to the lyrics by taking the time to enunciate each word, with the bass pushing back to support its weight. “This song is a prayer, a celebration of Cash, and, to the best of our knowledge, one of the few (if not the only) female-voiced versions of this song,” said Fawn in a press release.

On Shaping and Reshaping: In Conversation with Z.G. Tomaszewski

4fb29487fe4c6c7af8c349366222f9e1Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Grant Writing & Programming Intern AM Ringwalt recently sat down to chat with Z.G. Tomaszewski, a poet and musician living in Grand Rapids, to discuss his writing. Check out the interview below.

 

Z.G. Tomaszewski and I met last summer in Missoula, Montana, at a small retreat organized by our long-time mentor Chris Dombrowski. During our time together, Z.G. was deeply influenced by readingand sharingthe work of Li-Young Lee. At our nightly dinners and campfires, he would ofteneither by memory or with book in handrelay bits of gleaned wisdom. When I learned that Z.G.’s manuscript All Things Dusk had been selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the Hong Kong University International Poetry Prize, I knew how much this honor meant to him.

The reader of All Things Dusk ought to take heart in Li-Young Lee’s assertion: “These visionary poems suggest that every world is manifold worlds, that mundane experience is saturated with the sacred if we practice using the heart’s and soul’s eyes to look and see. In this book, the world is measured by the heart’s scale and the soul’s rule, and the result is a beautiful human singing.” I certainly did. I, taken by the blurb and the mission of Z.G.’s literary work, desired to learn more.

Last month, Z.G. and I found ourselves back in Dombrowski’s Montana, this time at the 406 Writers’ Workshop’s Beargrass Retreat. The retreat, which successfully aims to “gather some of the West’s most celebrated and promising writers at this storied ranch for four days of readings, workshops, craft talks, and generative writing opportunities that connect writers of all experience levels with self and place,” was a conduit for our friendship to grow and long-awaited discussions of our respective creative work to come to fruition. This interview began over email and ultimately came together by way of more campfire talks. It came to a bittersweet conclusion over jasmine green tea at Missoula’s Caffe Dolce, right before Z.G. turned to the mountains of Glacier National Park.

Z.G. and I share a deep love for Michigan. Born within bicycling distance of its lake, he lives in Grand Rapids as a self-proclaimed poet-rambler, handyman, and musician, as well as co-director of Lamp Light Music Festival and a founding member of Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. I, too, spend my summers on Lake Michigan by way of Petoskey. Naturally, my first question centers around that magical lake.

AM Ringwalt: In “Summer Song of Lake Michigan,” you write, “Who could resist / the temptation of centering oneself?” Do you consider the act of centering to be spiritual, or something else?

Z.G. Tomaszewski: Sure, the act of centering is at once spiritual and practical. It’s a tuning into the logos of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I like being tilted, leaning over, scaling the range, but there’s a return inherent in me backing away from polarity. Balance. Moderation. Picture a buoy.

AMR: How does the temptationthat tilting, leaning over, scaling the range, and final backing away from polarityinform your creative process?

ZGT: For one thing, temptation seems never-ending. I’m intrigued by its nature, its place in eternity. I often think that temptation is not just lusting for something else, craving the other, but an end in and of itself. Or am I speaking about desire? Desire fills moments of forgetting, wanting to be shattered and rebuilt. These are two trimmings from a cloud I cannot quite grasp yet. All I know is that when temptation is quieted I am hollow of impulse for a moment. What’s great about temptation is not always relieving it, but seeing what we are and are not capable of, and then learning to be disciplined accordingly. And thus our shortcomings are windows into the soul of how to be whole, with and without.

AMR: Had All Things Dusk already been selected as the winner of the Hong Kong University International Poetry Prize, since it’s dated back to 2014?

ZGT: I did not know All Things Dusk had been chosen by Li-Young Lee at that time. It wasn’t until a week after returning home from the big sky state that I received the acceptance letter from Hong Kong University Pressit was probably in the mail and I tapped into that wave of energy headed my way! I remember I had with me Book of My Nights while we were there in Missoula. Chris Dombrowski saw I was reading it and asked if I ever read the book of collected interviews with Li-YoungI had not. He let me borrow it for a spell, I read most of it then and there.

AMR: Fascinating. Did your perception of the manuscript change during or after Montana? If so, how? If not, how did Montana solidify your pre-conceived notions of the text?

ZGT: I recall the premonition I had while in Montana that I was “on the cusp of something big.” I felt a breakthrough was happening, but I wasn’t certain what exactly. I can surely say that I was not thinking about All Things Dusk during that week. Instead, prior to coming out [to Montana], I was focused on a second full volume: fixing it up and tearing it down. I wrote a handful of new poems while at the initial retreat, brought them back, continued to hammer out the second manuscript. I knew what I had in All Things Dusk should not be touched, lest it break off and sink altogether. It was the work being done on a new volume that informed me I had completed something and needed to continue moving away.

AMR: It’s important to trust in such premonitions. Speaking of: you have a chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (congrats!) called Mineral Whisper, which I understand you wrote inand inspired byCounty Clare, Ireland. What called you there?

ZGT: I traveled to Ireland first during the Summer of 2012 and then revisited the following Spring of 2013. Somehow I was invited by Thomas Lynch, given a chance to stay in his ancestral cottage in Moveen, minutes walking and at cliff’s edge on the Atlantic coast. Pastures for miles, centuries, lifetimes. The polychromatic palate of grays and greens! I have been called to places that I have trouble voicing why I was called there. It’s elemental. A deeper knowing that gets lost to language. Reclaiming this through poetry—that’s one reason I keep writing. An act of archaeology: uncovering the spirit, brief invisible bit of consciousness, bringing forward awareness of what pulls us onward, elsewhere.

AMR: Can you pinpoint the moment of the chapbook’s inception?

ZGT: Mineral Whisper was composed in large during my first stay in Ireland. I wrote most of the poems during that time (minus the beginning two weeks, in which I was studying the place, not able to write, not wanting to hurry speech, needing to adapt to the land, its vibrations) and found upon coming home that there was far too much cohesion to let them lay alone, scattered, in notebooks, in drawers. So, when I ventured back I brought all the poems with me (every one had been edited by this point) and found a thread pretty soon after unpacking. The sequence came together without much difficulty. I had a lot of space and time to focus on it.

The precise moment: Waking early one morning, rain, looking out the window and seeing a white horse perfectly framed, the window wavy and it seemed a unicorn was standing there looking in. I was working on the title poem at that moment. I trusted what passed between us as a sign.

AMR: Back to the first premonition! The poems of All Things Dusk deal with uncovering memory. Is this uncovering part of centering, or something else entirely?

ZGT: Memory is the brain’s faculty of most efficiently processed stimuli, compacted and stored for easy access, but always failing. In some fashion it’s like gravity, we know it by its ever-presence, or its absence. Voice is the flashlight by which we explore the caverns of the mind. Memory thick with stalagmites, impassable trenches.

AMR: How does memory shape your poetic voice?

ZGT: Sometimes we can walk right up to an experience and blind it or be blinded by it, touch it, but most often we’re steering our light past a bend, watching the beam curve and break off, so we reach (or not) into the dark and imagine the connecting details. Poetry is connectivity even if it’s by way of deranging the senses.

AMR: I see the narrator of these poems as a dexterous force, particularly through the recurrence of direct relationships with the earth and with the metallic (“I take the scythe, sharpen its blade”). These themes, of course, are only made more evident in “Again, My Grandfather Chops Wood.”

An aside: I’m reminded of Galvinwho is with us at Beargrassespecially his poem “Coming into His Shop from a Bright Afternoon.” I noticed, in my research, that Dombrowski actually interviewed Galvin about this very poem in an old issue of Orion.

In the poem, Galvin writes about shaping the earth. Your poetry is, in many ways, the spiritual manifestation of the physical shaping the earth. How (and why) do you aim to shape, to reshape?

ZGT: Yes, I like that: “the spiritual manifestation of the physical shaping the world.” And I value that poem of Galvin’s, it’s in a similar vein as Seamus Heaney’s “Digging.” I am fond of the inner-workings of the world and our connections in it. Like the pagan and cold mountain poets I find that the truer, more lasting realizations in my life have been by observing and then learning how to participate within it. The materials of language are no different to me than a landscape, its ecosystem. I see something beautiful, sometimes I touch it, maybe take it with me, sometimes I leave it, mostly I leave it.

Anything can be a poem, but not everything is one. It’s a matter of wading out into the water, not just staring at it, and then, now you’re in the river, you cast, and cast again, who really knows what the catch will be. In other words, I have no other aim than to go out into the world and it seems I simply tend to reshape the world in reflection of the way it has shaped me.

Z.G. Tomaszewski‘s writing has appeared in RHINO, diode and Inverness AlmanacMineral Whisper will be released December 9, 2016 from Finishing Line Press.

New Poetry from CWW Intern AM Ringwalt in Banshee and Hobart

AM Ringwalt, our Grant Writing & Programming Intern, recently saw her poems “Of Your Dark” and “Apocalyptic” published in Banshee and Hobart.

Banshee, a Dublin-based literary journal, has been featured in the Irish Times due to its focus on innovative and accessible work. Edited by three women under the age of 30, Banshee is an inherently feminist and political literary force.

Hobart, an American literary journal, releases poetry, fiction and nonfiction on a daily basis, proving quantity and quality are not mutually exclusive categories.

To read Ringwalt’s “Apocalyptic,” please visit Hobart. 

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Ringwalt with her partner and bandmate, Will Johnson.

AM Ringwalt is a Boston-based writer and musician (Fawn). Her words also appear in Rogue Agent, The Grief DiariesVinylWhole Beast Rag and DUM DUM Zine: Punks and Scholars. “Like Cleopatra,” Ringwalt’s debut poetry chapbook, was published in 2014 by dancing girl press. Fawn’s first single, “The Good Earth,” will premiere this fall, and will be followed shortly thereafter by their debut EP, entitled “Neither Dog Nor Car.”

 

“Transformations & Disobedience” – A Brooklyn Book Festival 2016 Reading

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The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is proud to announce our partnership with the Brooklyn Book Festival.  Join us our Brooklyn Book Festival 2016 Reading, “Transformations & Disobedience,” an evening of stories, poetry, and song, at Molasses Books (770 Hart Street, Brooklyn, NY 11237) on Saturday September 17!  The evening will kick off at 8 pm, and will feature readings from a wonderful array of talented writers such as Stephen AubreyRita BanerjeeMadeleine Barnes,Ellaraine LockieBen PeaseAnne Malin Ringwalt, Kate McMahonEmily SmithBianca Stone, and Diana Norma Szokolyai, along with a beautiful interludes of music from accomplished songwriters Erica Buettner and Elizabeth Devlin!

Stephen Aubrey descends from hardy New England stock. He is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, dramaturg, lecturer, storyteller and recovering medievalist. His writing has appeared in Publishing Genius, Commonweal, The Brooklyn Review, Pomp & Circumstance, Forté and The Outlet. He is a co-founder and the resident dramaturg and playwright of The Assembly Theater Company. His plays have been produced at The New Ohio Theater, The Living Theater, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, The Flea Theater, The Collapsable Hole, Wesleyan University, The Tank, The Brick Theater, Symphony Space, the Abingdon Theater Complex, UNDER St Marks, The Philly Fringe and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where his original play, We Can’t Reach You, Hartford, was nominated for a 2006 Fringe First Award. He is also the editor of two ‘pataphysic books, Suspicious Anatomy and Suspicious Zoology, both published by the Hollow Earth Society. He has an MFA from Brooklyn College where he received the Himan Brown Prize and the Ross Feld Writing Award and a BA with Honors from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. He is an instructor of English at Brooklyn College and holds the dubious distinction of having coined the word “playlistism” in 2003.

ritabanerjee-smRita Banerjee is the Executive Director of Kundiman and the Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her writing appears in The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, The Fiction Project, Objet d’Art, KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali (Spider Road Press), is forthcoming in October 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel and book of lyric essays.

Barnes_Headshot (1)Madeleine Barnes is a writer, visual artist, proud Pittsburgher, and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at NYU. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like Pleiades, Jai-Alai Magazine, Rogue Agent, BOXCAR Poetry Review, The Rattling Wall, Yew Journal, Washington Square Review, Cordella Magazine, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Her chapbook, The Mark My Body Draws in Light, was published in 2014. A New York State Summer Writers Institute Fellow, she was named an Emerging Writer by the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. Aside from poetry and art, she is very interested in cheese.

ellaraine-lockieEllaraine Lockie is a widely published and awarded author of poetry, nonfiction books and essays.  Her chapbook, Where the Meadowlark Sings, won the 2014 Encircle Publication’s Chapbook Contest. Her newest collection, Love Me Tender in Midlife, has been released as an internal chapbook, in IDES from Silver Birch Press.  Other recent work has received the Women’s National Book Association’s Poetry Prize, Best Individual Collection from Purple Patch magazine in England for Stroking David’s Leg, the San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest win for Red for the Funeral and The Aurorean’s Chapbook Spring Pick for Wild as in Familiar. Ellaraine teaches poetry workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh. She is currently judging the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contests for Winning Writers.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 5.49.21 PMErica Buettner is an American singer-songwriter from New England who moved to Europe at the age of 19. She landed in Paris, France where she studied French and literature and wrote the songs on her debut album True Love and Water over the course of a four-year stay in the City of Lights. In 2010, seeking sunnier shores, Erica moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where she is currently based. Over the summer of 2015, Pierre and Erica recently reunited in Paris to record their second full-length album together, to be released in 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 5.52.32 PMElizabeth Devlin, with her haunting combination of lilting voice and enchanting autoharp, is a self-produced NYC singer- songwriter. Devlin defies traditional musical structure with many of her songs, building miniature narratives and magical worlds where characters, fantasies and time collide. Devlin has toured nationally, internationally, & performs in venues throughout NYC’s five boroughs. 

IMG_2265 (1)Ben Pease is a board member of the Ruth Stone Foundation and an editor of Monk Books. His first full-length collection of poems, Chateau Wichman, is forthcoming from Big Lucks Books, and more work can be found online at fugitivesofspeech.tumblr.com/works. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the poet and artist Bianca Stone.

AMR24Anne Malin Ringwalt is a writer and musician (Anne Malin) currently studying in Boston, Massachusetts. Her words appear in Vinyl, Talking River, Rogue Agent, The Grief Diaries and DUM DUM Zine: Punks and Scholars. Like Cleopatra, Ringwalt’s debut poetry chapbook, was published by dancing girl press in 2014. She has performed throughout Boston, New York and Miami, most notably via the YoungArts Foundation (2016) and Rookie Magazine’s Yearbook Two launch at the New Yorker Festival (2014).

kateKate McMahon is a fiction writer who also moonlights as a full-time attorney. Before law school, she was chosen to participate in the selective creative writing concentration at Boston College, where she won the Cardinal Cushing Award for best short fiction and also completed a novella. Most recently, her short story “Swapped” was published in Post Road Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two small sons.

 

EmilySmithPictureEmily Smith is a Managing Editing and Communications Intern for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Originally from Sarasota, Florida, she holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the New Hampshire Institute. She writes for The Ploughshares Blog and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bustle, Brevity, Luna Luna and more.

black & white window 2 (1)Bianca Stone is a poet and visual artist, and the author of Someone Else’s Wedding Vows, and Poetry Comics From the Book of Hours. She runs the Ruth Stone Foundation & Monk Books with her husband, the poet Ben Pease in Vermont and Brooklyn.

 

 

11193261_10102624354743941_8682467326975061659_n-2Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop.  She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows and Roses in the Snow.  She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers. Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause led to their collaboration “Space Mothlight” hitting the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive.  Szokolyai’s work has appeared in VIDA: Women in the Literary ArtsQuail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, and Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as anthologized in The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering and Teachers as Writers. 

CWW Recommends: Books for the Dog Days of Summer!

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There’s just a few weeks of summer fun left, and the Rio Olympics are underway!  The beginning of a school year is upon us but there’s still some time left to spend with some great books this August!  So here are some recommendations from the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop on what to read before hanging up the surfboard and headin’ on home 😉  Thanks to Anna-Celestrya Carr, Alex Carrigan, AM Ringwalt, David Shields, Emily Smith, and Laura van den Berg for their wonderful recommendations below!

–Alex Carrigan (Curator)

StationElevenHCUS2Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(Recommended by Anna-Celestrya Carr)

Station Eleven is captivating and beautiful in a subtle way. I’m known to read the last page first of any book I pick up. I like having an idea of where a story is going to go. For this book I resisted looking ahead. I found myself enthralled and surprised the entire time.  Dystopian fiction has become one of my favorite genres and Station Eleven stands out in its category.

The novel opens with a famous actor having a heart attack and dying on stage while playing King Lear. That same night, there is a massive outbreak of a deadly virus called the Georgia Flu, and within weeks, 99 percent of the world’s population is wiped out. In a world decimated by a global pandemic, where the few survivors live in scattered communities without electricity, the Traveling Symphony goes from town to town in the Great Lakes region, performing Shakespeare and classical music. The story plays around with time and perspective, jumping back and forth between After the Collapse and Before the Collapse. We circle around different characters’ lives and sometimes see the same scene from a different person’s view. A gorgeous read.

91lUeBR2G1LThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is one of my favorite recent “popular” books, and a book that helped remind me how much I love modern mysteries. I heard that The Girl on the Train was similar to Gone Girl, so I checked it out. What I found was a mystery novel I had to read in one sitting, causing me to spend nearly four hours in a cafe reading the entire book one rainy Sunday afternoon. The novel follows a woman named Rachel, an unemployed, alcoholic, divorcee, who spends her train rides fantasizing about what she thinks is the perfect couple living in one house along the tracks. When the woman of the couple goes missing, Rachel discovers that she has a connection to the mystery, and through her interference comes to confront her personal demons and sees how dangerous her involvement is. Hawkins makes a very flawed and relatable protagonist in Rachel, and creates a mystery that, while maybe not the most unique, is still quite thrilling to read, and only leaves me excited for the film adaptation coming out this year.

51fS0HCyAQL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room,
The Greatest Bad Movie Ever
by Greg Sestero, and Tom Bissell

(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is one of the worst movies ever made, but has one of the most devoted fan followings ever due to how hilariously awful the film is. The Disaster Artist, co-written by one of the leads in the film (Sestero), is a tell-all that reveals how the film was made and goes into the bizarre culture surrounding it. What follows is a book that veers from painfully hilarious to just plain painful. At the heart of the story is the odd friendship between Sestero and Wiseau, which paints Wiseau as a creep, a fool, a dreamer, an enigma, an entrepreneur, and an artist all at once. What could be a book that exists to bash Wiseau for his egomania, his misogyny, and his deep misunderstanding of how to act as a person is instead a book about art itself. It shows that even the people who make bad movies are sympathetic and have dreams they want to fulfill, even if they aren’t very good at it. The books shows that everyone involved in The Room (except for maybe Wiseau depending on how you read him) deserved better, and is quite enjoyable to read after seeing the movie. It shows that even misguided passion projects can still create beautiful, inexplicable, and valued art despite every possible obstacle in the way.

Everything+I+Never+Told+You+-+Celeste+NgEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

Most stories that deal with mysterious deaths focus on the mystery and the investigation, but often don’t focus on the impact the death has on the victim’s family. Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You follows a Chinese-American family in 1977 after their daughter is found dead in a lake. What could be a Twin Peaks-esque mystery is instead a meditation on race, gender, and loss. By focusing on a mixed race family in a small town during the late ’70’s, Ng shows how the era played into the attitudes of the characters, from the father who tries to downplay his Chinese heritage and blend in, to the mom who wants nothing more than to ensure her daughter doesn’t fall into the same mistakes she made. At the heart is the dead girl, Lydia, and it’s through her death and the time leading up to it that the reader realizes that what doesn’t matter is why or how Lydia died, but rather what her death reveals about the family and the time they lived in.

51mSJNECGyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Recommended by Alex Carrigan)

When my brother read Americanah, he said Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie instantly became his favorite living writer. I recently picked up the book, and I found that he was completely justified in believing that. Americanah follows two young Nigerians, Ifemelu and Obinze, and they grow up in Nigeria and move on with their adult lives. Ifemelu travels to America for college and starts a successful blog dealing with her facing race for the first time in her life. Obinze becomes an undocumented worker in England, and his story provides a contrast to Ifemelu, who flourishes in her new environment while he finds it difficult to settle into the first world. The book taught me a lot about Nigeria in the 90’s and 00’s, and is a really good book for dealing with race relations, primarily for how non-American blacks deal with race. Adichie imbues her characters with such spirit and detailed voice that it becomes easy to see them as real people, so I have found her an author I really want to read more of in the future.

APS_24_COVER_RGBA Public Space: Issue 24
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

This issue of A Public Space focuses on artists creating outside of their primary mediums; Etel Adnan writes in epistolary prose about weaving and David Lynch is interviewed about his paintings. A devoted Adnan fan, I excitedly picked up this issue to absorb more of her voice. As she shares images of trees “yellow, but haloed” . . . “still [with] a green heart and golden edges, such tender vegetal icons,” I realized that summer is the time of weaving–gathering light–before colder seasons and a scarcity of unburdened hours.

PIR_cover_118_smaller_image_visual_220_331Poetry Ireland Review Issue 118: The Rising Generation
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

In early 2016, I lived in Dublin and worked as an intern at the Irish Writers’ Centre. While there, I fell in love with its myriad journals (Guts and Gorse to name a few). While journals with names like Poetry Ireland Review connote tradition–and thus old white men–I never read a copy until I saw their Rising Generation issue, published in sync with the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Honoring “rising” poets (new and successful in the field, not necessarily young), this issue highlights poets including Jessica Traynor (of the Centre’s A Poet’s Rising) and provides accompanying questionnaires, prompting its featured poets to extrapolate on ideas such as: “Would you rather be the poet or the poem?”

51Ec+CJgOOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations
by Hafiz and Daniel Ladinsky
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

I first saw A Year with Hafiz on Ariana Reines’ Tumblr. Always spiritual, always prophetic, her website is a well of meditation and insight. (A recent post highlights Muhyiddin Ibn ’Arabi’s  “Our heart holds within it all forms, that our hearts created. We have made a meadow there for gazelles, children, music, dance and dreams.”) Immediately after reading Reines’ chosen excerpt, I ordered a used copy of A Year with Hafiz online. Though a devotional style book isn’t necessary to read one Hafiz poem a day, the book itself is beautiful and compiles Hafiz’s writing in a way that compliments the changing months and seasons. Starting this “devotional” in the summer has allowed me to more deliberately meditate on certain phrases each day with the freedom inherent in the season. Take May 25, for example, as a preface to the summer: “Like a great starving beast my body / is quivering, fixed on the scent of light.”

51uHU-PRXQL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All
by C.D. Wright
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

C.D. Wright, described by Ben Lerner as “an utterly original American artist,” is a bright angel reminding me, time and again, how the act of writing is the act of salvation. Writing, after all, is a saving force, one that evokes internal and external revolutions. Though I was never lucky enough to meet Wright, I felt her brightness near upon the publication of The Poet, The Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All. This book, with its multitudinous worlds (the first poem, among many others, is titled “In a Word, a World”) is a manifesto of the spiritual potency of poetry. This book, at home in her canon of nonconforming literature, is a call to push boundaries beyond experimentation and into innovation. The Poet, The Lion…, published very the month of Wright’s passing, is a reminder of mortality and, beyond life (and death), the endless power of poetry.

Last Sext Cover 092815.inddLast Sext by Melissa Broder
(Recommended by AM Ringwalt)

I picked up a copy of Last Sext while on a date with my partner at the Harvard Bookstore last month. These dates always go the same–I say I won’t buy a single book and I leave with more than one. Always fodder for an empty wallet and, most importantly, for, at its best, transformative inspiration, I’m thankful that I found myself squatting in the poetry section absorbed in a copy of Broder’s book. I’ve never read a collection of poems containing cunnilingus, boring angels, clock-obsessed Americans, third eyes, centaurs, gypsies, “Me saying more and the light saying yes.” The intersections between dark and light, as they both illuminate sex, farting, hallucinating and “childhood feeling” (among countless other phenomena), remind me that darkness, too, can be an illuminating force. I urge you to read her poem “Salt,” published in Poetry in 2014. Then, I urge you to say more and get a copy or two or three of Last Sext.

41sMfxQdi6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Pharmacist’s Mate by Amy Fusselman
(Recommended by David Shields)

The book fluctuates wildly and unpredictably from Fusselman’s attempt to get pregnant through artificial means, her conversations with her dying father, and his WWII diary entries. I don’t know what the next paragraph will be, where Fusselman is going, until—in the final few paragraphs—she lands on the gossamer-thin difference between life and death, which is where she’s been focused all along, if I could only have seen it.

51psU3H7kSL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Humiliation by Wayne Koestenbaum
(Recommended by David Shields)

Humiliation runs like a rash over the body of Koestenbaum’s work. Here he confronts the feeling directly and the result is an extraordinary meditation on—I don’t know how else to say it—the human condition.

 

 

 

maggienelsonThe Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Maggie Nelson makes the public private in this genre-bending, poetic recollection of her pregnancy and husband Harry Dodge’s transition. Like her previous works, Nelson draws from critics like Judith Butler and Roland Barthes to explore her personal perspective on sexuality, gender, queer family making and the radical idea that motherhood never has to be equated with the loss of individual freedom.

halfformedA Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Elmear McBride
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Although A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was just recently published, it’s already been hailed as a classic. In this novel surrounding sexual abuse and a sister’s relation to her young brother diagnosed with cancer. Elmear McBride, who spent ten years trying to publish the novel, has been compared to James Joyce and Virginia Woolf for her experimental style, which has often been described as “electric.”

2d0d11c0-51a0-0132-0b3e-0eae5eefacd9Binary Star by Sarah Gerard
(Recommended by Emily Smith)

Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star follows the story of an anorexic young woman and her neglectful, alcoholic boyfriend. The two feed off of each other’s negativity until taking a road trip and discovering vegananarchism. The short, lyrical novel tackles diet culture and the illness that, as a result, the two love to keep company. Like its title, the novel shines bright and fast, held together by its own gravity until its shocking, explosive end.

Heartbreaker by Maryse Meijer and Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho
(Recommended by Laura van den Berg)

978037453606051rnEnLhHyL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heartbreaker is Maryse Meijer’s debut collection, with stories following a wide variety of characters as they deal with desire, vulnerability, sex, heartbreak, and survival. Barefoot Dogs is a series of connected stories about the members of a wealthy Mexican family after the patriarch goes missing.  These collections are wildly different in style and approach, and are wildly successful in creating a singularly absorbing world for the reader to inhabit, from the first story to the last.