A curated literary guide

Week #9 / 27th February – 5th March, 2017

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Five Things with Topaz Winters

1. The last thing that made you smile.

After eating dinner last night, I walked to the kitchen to wash my dishes & happened upon my dog lying sprawled on the floor, dozing with eyes half-closed. As I manoeuvred around him I rather absentmindedly said “bonjour, mon chéri”—& nothing about his body position changed at all, his eyes didn’t even open, but his tail simply started wagging furiously the moment he heard my voice. I think perhaps he thought he was dreaming.

2. A secret.

I am very deeply in love.

3. The last thing you wrote.

Scribbled on a post-it note, one reminder for tomorrow & another for always: buy milk & toilet paper. also, you are good enough.

4. Favourite city.

New York City, of course.

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

Pressed flowers. Winter. A mixtape of my favourite songs. Robert Hass’ “Meditation at Lagunitas”. Heritage. The last painting my baby sister made in art class. A selfie. A love letter. A telephone. A jar of monsoon rain. The sound of her laugh. A moment of quiet. A copy of Half Mystic. The moon. Hope.


Topaz Winters is the author of Heaven or This (2016) & Monsoon Dream (Platypus Press, 2016). At 17, she is the youngest Singaporean ever to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was born in 1999 & resides at topazwinters.com. At this moment she is learning of California poppies, the difference between warm milk & forgetting, & how magic behaves in times of desperate measure.

New Interpretations of Faith

poetry from Devin Kelly

There’s a cross between who you are / & who you want to be.

I’m forever in love with poems that contain or express religious imagery. Even so, there is a challenge in approaching the cross, the blood, and all those old-as-time symbols without falling into cliché or forced evangelicalism. Devin Kelly’s poem is reflective and refreshing in its aesthetically pleasing stanzas and ampersands.

Bodies of men and women, even the speaker, are present here, along with their interactions of material and immaterial—always in conflict with what we need or want for ourselves and the world around us. ‘New Interpretations of Faith’ is just that. What I see in this poem will be different from what you’ll see, and that in itself is beautiful.

Visit Glass to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Hannah Cohen

Seshat

poetry from Scherezade Siobhan

Don’t look for coherence in Siobhan’s poem, just give yourself up to it. Just read each couplet as a stand-alone—a bright bloody scene in a dream sequence. You may be tempted to stop, to look up the slightly antiquated words, the “damsons” the “mortise,” but don’t stop. Don’t look up words on your first read. Just stand in the water and take ceaseless pummeling of image and sounds, and words, until you are dizzy with the emotion of it. For at the end, you’ll feel, whether you’re a writer or not, what it means to be gripped by the passion to write.

Visit Anthropoid to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

So Often the Body Becomes a Distraction

poetry from Kaveh Akbar

See how / I am all rosejuice and wonderdrunk? See how / my throat is filling with salt? Boil me. Divide / me. Wrap me in paper and return me to earth.

I’m cheating a little since this poem has already been mentioned in Monday’s post, but a second reminder to read it definitely won’t hurt you. In this poem, Kaveh explores the tentative nature of the body, of where the line between self as mind and self as physicality is drawn, all ragged earth and cracked stone. There is a peculiarity to the body. Is it something you inhabit, clumsily manning the wheel to a ship that’s prone to drifting astray? Cohabitation? Or, is the body you? No line to divide the mind and the physical, no way to see where the seams have been hidden. It’s strange to think of how fragile we are, how oddly resistant; the way cells can turn in on themselves, or out against the world.

The tone of the poem is enough to stop you, to draw out from you the unexpected. Ending in brisk certainties, it grows instructional, becomes command. The only thing you can ever ask of or be certain of, is that one day we will be something less, or more, than just our bodies. We forget ourselves, sometimes; the spaces we take in the world.

Visit Diagram to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong

Fat

poetry from Steven Leyva

I didn’t wake up yesterday morning expecting to feel the full-bodied warmth of a good party from my desk at work, but it happened anyway when I was brought into ‘Fat’ by Steven Leyva. There is no hesitation here; the poem throws the door open before you knock and you’re inside the thick energy of New Orleans and its local blend of existential joy, where “darkness fat as hamhock” and Zydeco basslines and fool’s gold all occupy the same space. The craft of this poem is so tight, so specific in its meter and emphasis, and yet it still brings a certain ecstatic delirium within its joy, death, history, bodies, music, and tongues. The wrecking ball at the end of it all is unexpected, devastating, and perfect.

Visit Queen Mob’s Teahouse to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

Interlude

poetry, fiction & nonfiction

As a courtesy I write this; as an act of love. So much has been said about the ills of the world, of which there are many, but I seek not to add to that here. Instead, in an attempt to soften them, I choose to draw attention to the most captivating words I have recently encounted.

The first is the latest fiction from Brandon Taylor, ‘We’re Just People’, a beautifully written story of love and letting go. The next is a poem, ‘So Often the Body Becomes a Distraction’, from Kaveh Akbar.

(Aside: the latest Divedapper interview with R.A. Villanueva is a must-read.)

Another must read from last week is the Roxane Gay profile featured in Brooklyn, ‘The Rise of Roxane Gay’. If you care about the literary landscape, and Roxane’s importance to it, this in-depth piece will not disappoint. As xTx states in the feature, “Roxane is many things to many people and depending on who you are, you will get certain facets of her.” The last piece, another poem, is ‘the middle east is missing’ by Marwa Helal. I think Wendy Xu described it best in her recent interview:

The formal conceit (in this case, what is literally missing) is both integral to the poem and somehow secondary to the poem’s daring multilingual acrobatics, its unstoppable speech. I wish it were not so heartbreakingly relevant to the political moment, and yet it is. But it defies.

Art Director / Peter Barnfather