A curated literary guide

Week #11 / 13th – 19th March, 2017

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Five Things with Morgan Jerkins

1. The last thing that made you smile.

A funny video on Twitter.

2. A secret.

When I was younger, I used to think I had narcolepsy.

3. The last thing you wrote.

A piece for The New Yorker on Jessie Fauset.

4. Favourite city.


5. What you’d place in a time capsule.

All my journals and drafts.

Morgan Jerkins’s debut collection, This Will Be My Undoing, is forthcoming in 2018 from Harper Perennial.

The Gates

poetry from Gabrielle Bates

You weren’t alive to me yet, father, / even my fingers tasted like plums.

I admit that I chose this week’s poem out of selfishness and vulnerability. As a reader of poetry, I find myself looking for an abiding image, or some unanswered question that long sticks in my mind after the last word. ‘The Gates’ satisfies this desire and yet leaves me exposed to the coldness of this poem. Images of barbed wire, dead owls, and mothers create a grotesque family narrative, one that I am personally familiar with, and often struggle to write about. ‘The Gates’ is not an easy poem to read, but it’s the one that will stay wrecked in your chest week after week.

Visit The Adroit Journal to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Hannah Cohen

Looking Back, September

poetry from J.L. Conrad

As an editor, I’ll usually seek dark, complicated thickets of language, but Conrad’s clean, direct poem—honed spare and sharp as a blade—sliced me. There’s little embellishment here, a few lines of unadorned statements, “I still remember / the body laid upstairs and / entertaining a stranger in the kitchen.” Each observation, a moment of anguish, layered one on to the other cumulate into a bright and blinding last note. The poem may be small in words, but is big and exquisite in grief.

Visit Birdfeast to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

Grocery Girl

prose from Lily Zhou

Years ago, her mother washed herself clean of Lux, and Lux, unclean and glassblown, wakes up every morning with the scent of dishwater in her mouth, like a dream she can never hold onto for very long. Lux goes to school with this caught-dream mouth, words spilling into a yellow paste.

With beautiful prose, shifting from surreal imagery to uncertain identity and visions and images and memories that may or may not have happened, this finalist piece for Winter Tangerine’s prose award earns its title. The ambiguous, the not well-defined, has never been so crisp, so strange and vivid. The use of second person is an unexpected turn in this story, shifting focus from Lux as main character to you, the reader, and your sudden uncertain identity. The wide open spaces where “you” exists, the spots where the illustration is left unfinished.

Water, too, is a form of connection: teeth and hands, tongue and fist, like pressing your mouth against the dampest part of the sidewalk and expecting it to flow back to you.

There is the underlying theme of inevitabilities, or curses, or destiny. Of obsession and mystery and disappearances, the way people leave so many stories left unfinished, simply by leaving. The imagery cycles, overlaps and repeats and morphs with the prose. Every cycle reveals a new secret, something only mentioned sideways, through a break in the clouds; a sliver of truth. There is a purpose to this repetition, the rich disconnect of imagery streaming assuredly from one to another. The sensation is almost like rushing through a dream, too strange not to be real.

Visit Winter Tangerine to read the piece.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong

Women Are Doomed to Be the Angels of Love

poetry from Nikki Wallschlaeger

Almost a month to the day when I first wrote about a heart poem, I’m back at it again. ‘Women Are Doomed to Be the Angels of Love’ by Nikki Wallschlaeger is a wide-ranging associative riff on hearts that evolve from lighthearted to macabre to deadly political. We have Lisa Frank hearts, hearts on a dorm pillow, hearts in a Nirvana song and we have: “On good days I submit to being a committed student of the heart. On bad days I am paranoid and anxious about my heart being kidnapped by intruders in blue uniforms.” The poem occupies multiple narratives at once without breaking a sweat.

Without the title I have a feeling you’d know where this poem ends as soon as you start reading it—and even then, it still brings the hammer down and you’re just not ready for it.

Visit The Georgia Review to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

How Do You Raise A Black Child?

poetry from Cortney Lamar Charleston

From the dead. With pallbearers who are half as young / as their faces suggest

Cortney Lamar Charleston’s first poem in his latest collection, Telepathologies, creates the frequency he requires of you to process his work. From the opening stanza there is a teasing & confrontation of language & meaning that upends & unsettles the subject & reader. Charleston creates a new language for myth, allowing so much ground for possibility. He gives each a sonic & linguistic weight. This skilled formation of language translates to the screen in the short film adaptation of the poem. The simple but highly detailed video, directed by Seyi Peter Thomas of Station Film, gives Charlestons’s text a needed & expansive world to live in. I think of the voice. The act of conjuring & raising of the dead. I think of how this poem is able to work, live & breathe on multiple planes. While there is a need for urgency, it is also the timeless work—like that of ‘How Do You Raise A Black Child?’—that fortifies the canon.

Visit Beloit Poetry Journal to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / jayy dodd