BURN PILE: Celebrity Writers

Who ever said you had to be a poor, highly-educated, no name to be a writer? Who said you had to struggle through a sea of ramen to one day wield the authorial power of an MFA and/or PhD?

Why not just be a celeb?

Mick Jagger wrote a memoir apparently. But he also forgot he wrote a memoir. That might be the most Mick Jagger thing I’ve ever heard.

But this begs the question: what celebrity books do we really need to have? Fortunately, the good folks at Literary Hub have answered this question.

If we were to follow this line of questioning further down the rabbit hole, who is the best fake novelist on TV? Electric Literature hands out their fake Pulitzer.

All right, all right. Let’s reel this back in. Did you know that the one and only Marcel Proust starred in a movie? Take a gander here.

And for all you celeb and not celeb writers out there, Brain Pickings has compiled a list of famous advice on writing to help you as you slog forward with your next prize-winning manuscript.

As always, keep scribbling.
 

Our Brand-Spanking-New Winter Edition

Our stunning new winter issue, CutBank 86, is here!

CutBank 86 features the winner of our Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Fiction Contest, Alysia Sawchyn, with her piece "Riverbanks and Honeysuckle," along with runner-ups Daryl Scroggins and Derek Updegraff.  

Other contributors include Kyle Ellingson, Rae Winkelstein, Juliana Gray, Roxanne Banks Malia, Rachel Morgan, Alison Ruth, Lacey Rowland, Patrick Kindig, and Michael Parker. The issue closes out with an interview by our online managing editor, Nicole Roché, with Gregory Pardlo, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Check out a preview of the issue here. Order your copy now through our online store

AWP 2017: Success!

Is this year's conference really already over? What a weekend. 

Everyone knows the offsite events are where it's at. Thank you to everyone who came out for ours this past Thursday night at the Colony Club, where we heard the winners of our 2016 chapbook contest read their amazing work—Raven Jackson (our winner, pictured), Lisa Hiton, and Wendell Mayo. We're so jazzed to publish these authors and to be able to meet you all in the flesh!

If you didn't get your copy of these gorgeous books, you can purchase them through our online store

Our reading period for the 2017 chapbook contest, which has a $1,000 cash prize, is currently underway through March 31. Read more deets here and send us your work!

Until next year, everyone. TAMPA.

BURN PILE: Dystopia, America

Things I said way too much this week:

1)    He did what?
2)   Have you seen Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men?

Are you ready for the Cheeto-glazed descent into the dystopian future? Did you get your copy of 1984 before Amazon ran out of copies?

The Los Angeles Times reminds us that dystopias are “a great place to be a tourist. Not a great place to be a permanent resident.”

So, what can we do to help?

Hope? Yes, yes, a story of hope! A story of resistance. No, not Rogue One. How about the story of an all-but-forgotten American diplomat who resisted the Armenian Genocides of 1915 and 1916?

Or perhaps you would like a drink? The fine geniuses at McSweeney’s have compiled a list of presidential cocktails for every occasion.

Not thirsty? Maybe a trip to the movies can cure your growing despair.  I Am Not Your Negro hits the big screen today. Go see it. The screenplay was written by the great James Baldwin.

But really, why not just join the resistance? AWP is in D.C. this year, and numerous protests and rallies are being organized to coincide with the arrival of over 12,000 writers, editors, students, teachers, and publishers.

Above all, resist.

Make America Read Again.

We'll See YOU at AWP 2017

A week from today, our fearless CutBank editors will be setting up our table at the 50th (!) annual Conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs in Washington, DC, February 9-11.  

Come to our table and say hi! We'll be there chatting with fellow writers, MFA students, editors, CutBank contributors, and all the rest of your smiling faces. Our latest issue, CutBank 86, is hot off the press, and will be available for purchase at our table, along with the winners of last spring's chapbook competition, our rad new shirts (wait 'til you see these puppiesmore than a few of us will be sporting them), and other swag.  

We hope you'll also join us for our offsite event, where we'll celebrate the publications of our most recent chapbook contest winners: Raven Jackson, Lisa Hiton, and Wendell Owen. See you there.

  • Thursday, February 9, 2017
  • 8:30pm10:00pm
  • Colony Club (3118 Georgia Ave NW, Washington DC, 20010)

CUTBANK REVIEWS: How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball

How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball  (2016)

Review by Bryn Agnew

Jesse Ball’s How to Set a Fire and Why is a novel of loss and destructive redemption. Told with his narrator’s searing wit, How to Set a Fire and Why is both a work of fiction and a timely treatise on injustice and resistance.

Ball’s teenage narrator, Lucia Stanton, deservingly takes her place among fiction’s most captivating and radical characters. Reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, Lucia is introduced to readers as she is being kicked out of her most recent high school for an incident involving a pencil and the neck of the town’s young basketball darling. Her father dead, her mother in a mental institution, and her impoverished guardian aunt barely scraping by, Lucia has seemingly lost everything. Yet driven by a will to tell the important truths, she becomes involved with a secret arson club and sets out to burn down representations of hypocrisy and injustice.

Fragmented into short chapters, the novel’s prose is accessible, inviting, heartfelt, and honest. The language proves that simplicity, clarity, and subtlety carry great power when each paragraph, sentence, and word build to the totality of the author’s intent. Lucia and Ball present us with clear and painful truths, but also talismans to cling to. In a pamphlet on arson, Lucia writes, “The world is ludicrous. It is famished. It is greedy and adulterous. It is a wild place we inhabit, surely you agree? Well, then we shall have to try to make some sense of it. That is part of the reason why I have made this pamphlet. It is a kind of grip that you can have on the world.  You can hold on to this, and find your way forward. That’s what I’m promising you.”

In many ways, How to Set a Fire and Why seeks to prepare all of us for the fires we must set—the work we must do. The novel begs our minds and hearts to see the truth and burn away the cruelty and greed of our world. Lucia tells us, “Do not be in a hurry. Remember—there is all of your life prior to the great fire you will set, and all of your life thereafter. That transition will require grace, thoroughness, and a deep compassion that stiffens into an unbreakable resolve. If it takes you some years to become the person who can burn a building, so be it. Carry your matches in your pocket, look at the faces of those who surround you in the crowd. Are we not all the same? Do we not all strive to simply have enough?”


Jesse Ball (1978–) was born in New York and is the author of fourteen books, including The Curfew, The Way Through Doors, Samedi the Deafness, Silence Once Begun, A Cure for Suicide, and How to Set a Fire and Why. His works have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. He is on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, won the 2008 Paris Review Plimpton Prize, was long-listed for the National Book Award, and has been a fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Bryn Agnew is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Montana and a bookseller at Missoula's Fact & Fiction. His stories and essays have appeared in Mid-American Review and North Texas Review. He received an MA and BA in creative writing from the University of North Texas. 

BURN PILE: A New Year, a New President, and a Writer's Call to Arms

Today, amid simultaneous outcry and applause from a deeply divided country, Donald Trump was sworn in as the forty-fifth U.S. president. The day after the election, Dan Piepenbring of the Paris Review posted the following under the headline “Writers, Start Writing.” His call to arms bears repeating today:

“This site is dedicated to literature, arts, and culture. Electoral politics are usually beyond our remit. On a morning like this, when America has chosen a bigot and a xenophobe as its next president, my job feels pointless. But I don’t want to add to the chorus of despair, because I do believe there’s a role for art at a time like this, and I don’t say that lightly—words like these don’t come easily to me. I would rather make fun of things, and I’m struggling against an inborn fatalism. (My iPhone just reminded me to water my plants, and I thought, why bother?) The creative impulse is such a fragile thing, but we have to create now. We owe it to ourselves to do the work. I want to encourage you. If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes. Forget the tired axioms about showing and telling, about sense of place—any possible obstruction—and write to destroy complacency, to rattle people, to help people, first and foremost yourself. Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. And read, as often and as violently as you can. If you have friends, as I do, who tacitly believe that it’s too much of a chore to read a book, just one fucking book, from start to finish, smash every LCD they own. This is an opportunity. There’s too much at stake now to pretend that everything is okay.”

Entropy Magazine, beloved by writers for its lists of "Where to Submit" throughout the year, has included a section for "Post Election Calls for Submissions." (Deadlines include Jan. 27 and Feb. 28., with Anti-Heroin Chic taking submissions through midnight tonight "on Trump, the election and the trauma/coping/resistance surrounding this event.")

If the muse fails you, and you instead feel the need to turn to the writing and wisdom of others, (a move Piepenbring also suggests), you might pick up one of (former!) President Obama's recommended books, as shared with New York Times chief book critic Michiko Katukani in a recent interview, itself well worth reading.

If all else fails, try my recipe for an essential oils blend I call "Feel Better":  Frankincense (6 drops) for grounding, Cedar (6 drops) for grieving, Lavender (6 drops) for calming, Ylang Ylang (6 drops) for boosting mood, and Mandarin (2 drops) for energizing.

CUTBANK REVIEWS: "How to Unfeel the Dead" by Lance Olsen

Review by Claire Venery

How to Unfeel the Dead by Lance Olsen is an assemblage of new and selected fictions that are expressive, emotional, and entertaining. The volume is split into five different sections from different books Olsen has written.

My Dates with Franz (1993) opens with “Two Children Menaced by a Nightingale,” a lyrical tale filled with meticulous color and detail. With post-apocalyptic undertones, multiple points of view, and vivid descriptions, Olsen couldn’t have picked a better story to introduce the reader to his haunting and memorable style.

The same details reappear throughout Olsen’s stories, like little breadcrumbs the reader can pick up along the way. There is something satisfying in recognizing a character from one story to the next. In “Watch and Ward,” the narrator is an English professor who meddles with his neighbors’ lawns, gutters, and houses with the best of intentions, but his actions have severe consequences. Later, in “Moving,” Murphy is also an English teacher who, after losing his job, clears gutters for money. “Small But Significant Invasions” mirrors “Moving” in tone. Both contain a couple that care deeply about each other, and each ends with the couple leaving their home hand and hand. The reader cannot help but feel like they know these couples. They feel like old friends.

As seen in the third section from Sewing Shut My Eyes (2000), Olsen’s tales often contain fantastical elements inserted into modern-day moments. “Cybermorphic Beat-Up Get-Down Subterranean Homesick Reality-Sandwich Blues” and “Strategies in the Over-Exposure of Well-Lit Space” do not disappoint. These stories are both a little bizarre in content, and the lines between reality and fantasy blur, where a poet is actually a robot and the infamous Zodiac Killer makes an appearance. It is a whirlwind of activity, and by the end, the reader no longer knows what is real and what is not.

No event or person in history is out of reach for Olsen. He mentions Wittgenstein, Donald Barthelme, Hegel, Bataille, Czeslaw, John Cage, and Alexander Pope, among many more prominent figures. However, perhaps the most notable historical character appears in “16 Jackies” from Olsen's Hideous Beauties (2003). The protagonist of “16 Jackies” is none other than Jackie Kennedy, and the story follows how she deals with the aftermath of her husband’s assassination. Jackie recalls “coming awake in [her] nightgown in the middle of the night in [her] room at the Whitehouse, and how [she] just stood there watching [herself] cleaving, coming apart like amoebae do under the microscope.” This tale once again calls upon the reader to accept the impossible. Perhaps, in this piece, Olsen is commenting on how grief can split a person into different versions of themselves.

Olsen’s description remains excellent throughout, especially in “The Doll,” where the narrator describes the day as a “frisky blue Sunday afternoon.” The word “frisky” implies the characters’ sexual activities before Olsen reveals what has just occurred in their apartment. This story describes two characters in an unhealthy relationship who begin removing their toes and eating them for dinner. Gradually, this activity morphs into cutting off all their body parts until only their heads are left. Olsen could be using shock value in these gruesome actions to represent what happens when a person gives too much of themselves away in a relationship.

In “Where Does the Kissing End?” Olsen finally has reality fall upon his characters, where fantasy can no longer be sustained. The main character is a young girl who has just heard the tale of a princess kissing a frog and how the act turns him into her prince. The girl is enamored by the story and takes it upon herself to kiss every frog she can find. As each kiss fails, she realizes her mistake. Upon kissing her last frog, she reflects, “you retract your tongue and wait and stoop and fan your fingers open and set the frog among the weeds and watch him watch with his dead gold eyes watching and wait till you realize only gradually that the world has not changes one mite because the frog is still the frog and you are still yourself and the sky is still blue and your heart is still your heart.”

The fifth and final section of How to Unfeel the Dead showcases eight new fiction pieces from the years 2004–13. At this point the writing becomes experimental, both in structure and content. The first three pieces are the most obscure. “Art Lecture” is less of a story and more of a snapshot of historical moments. The second story is called “Status Updates” and is composed of a steady stream of sentences with a different character in each one. The story begins and ends with ellipses, suggesting the never-ending flow of information being posted day in and day out.  Here Olsen comments on the mindless and endless drone of social media outlets of today.

Although Olsen’s writing grows and changes throughout the years, he is consistent in his unique descriptions, stark character voices, and distinct word choices. “Maybe” and “über” are uttered by many characters and he never misses an opportunity to describe the “blue sky” in his multitudes of stories. Lance Olsen is clever, articulate, funny, and thought provoking, and his short stories are nuggets of wisdom that should not go unread.


About the Author:
Lance Olsen’s more than twenty books of and about experimental fiction include the novels Theories of Forgetting (2014), Calendar of Regrets (2010), Head in Flames (2009), Nietzsche’s Kisses (2006), and Girl Imagined by Chance (2002), as well as the anti-textbook Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing (2012) and critifictional meditation [[there.]] (2014). His short story, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies. A Guggenheim, Berlin prize, N.E.A., and Pushcart recipient and Fulbright Scholar, he teaches innovative narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah.

About the Reviewer:
Claire Venery is an undergraduate majoring in English at the University of Montana.

BURN PILE: Fake It 'Til You Make It

Sometimes, you just have to fake it.

Whether you need to wing that last-minute term paper or just charm a stranger at the office holiday party, Lit Hub humbly offers “An Incomplete Guide to Proper Literary Name-Dropping.” If this nifty article doesn’t do the trick, you can always turn to Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read, which extols the virtues of skimming and/or gleaning information from what others say about a text, among other approaches.

Recently, the editors of the New York Times offered up their picks for the ten best books of 2016—perhaps, in a pinch, these shall be your favorites too? Of course, there’s always the chance you won’t have to talk about the books themselves, but can get by on a critique of their covers.

Meanwhile, over at Book Riot, Michelle Anne Schlinger presents her ode to “dirty books” and the good old fashioned reading that makes them so—books that have been read to death, books with broken spines and torn pages, books that take on that beloved “old book smell." Schlinger notes, “To be in such disrepair, for a book, means that you have been enjoyed.”

As the holidays approach, and with them a handful of precious lazy afternoons, I ask myself, Remember reading for pleasure?

LONG WAY FROM, LONG TIME SINCE: A Letter to Carl Sandburg


Long Way From, Long Time Since features letters written from writers, to writers, living or dead. Send us your queries and inquiries, your best wishes and arguments, and help us explore correspondence as a creative form. For letter submission guidelines, visit cutbankonline.org/submit/web. To submit to our chapbook contest, please see cutbankonline.org/submit/print or email cutbankonline@gmail.com for more information.


Dear Carl Sandburg,

I looped and wandered across the continent for twelve months. In the thirteenth, really the last of the year, I live in a single spot again. My childhood home sits seventeen miles from your childhood home, door to door. You’ve left yours, but I’ve returned to mine, for a bit.

Living in one place for more than a few days feels less odd than I thought it might after fifty thousand miles on the road. I swim each morning at the YMCA and then read and write until dinner. Winter means that temperatures dropped fifty degrees overnight but not enough to freeze memories.

Apropos (I never get to use that word) of this letter, I read your long poem, several times now. “Honey and Salt”—

Is there any way to measure love?
Yes but not till long afterward

Not as much time needed as you’d think, Carl. I have to start measuring with a bigger stick and remembering more softly because these forgotten girls suffocate.

Oh, the ghosts eased me back in, sure. The old high school. (Did you ever visit?) The park where Lesley and I played on the swings at sunset. My first vehicle, the pickup where Nevine and I first fogged the windows—hauled off on a flatbed to the junkyard when it died last week, outliving the relationship but not the echo.

As I settle into the familiar specifics of this place, though, memories surge ahead guided by increasing abstraction. A scratched silver car becomes her scratched silver car, with Kailey and I and the tire flat at 4 a.m. miles and years away. A sidewalk becomes the sidewalk of distant city where Alexis sat and I spoke, but not the right words.

Even at the pool, every push off the wall washes into my mind faces I thought I’d left in oblivion and also delivers an underwater view of legs. The morning water walkers. No torsos and nobody younger than seventy. Maybe they have some answers.

Do you still believe, like in that poem, that love endures in the forever-space of oaths between hydrogen and oxygen? I’m drowning over here and searching for my next breath.

Yours in small-town truths,

Zak


Dustin Renwick runs, writes, and does not drink coffee. He is a Tupelo Press 30/30 Project alum, and his latest nonfiction book, Beyond the Gray Leaf, is a biography of a forgotten Civil War poet. See more of his work at dustinrenwick.com.

CUTBANK REVIEWS: "A Bestiary" by Lily Hoang

A Bestiary by Lily Hoang  (2016)

Review by Nicole Roché, Online Managing Editor

From its opening line, A Bestiary interrogates and subverts myth. “Once upon a time—,” author Lily Hoang writes, “shh, shh—this is only a fairy tale.” From there readers are thrust into Hoang’s world, a world both deeply personal and achingly universal.

The acclaimed collection, which won Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s 2015 Essay Collection Competition, reads like pastiche, collage, glimpse memory. Its form follows in the tradition of works by Jenny Offill, Mary Robison, and David Markson, works which play with fragmentation and white space while eschewing a traditional narrative arc. Hoang’s contribution to the form comes via the power of nonfiction, the resounding, undeniable ring of truth—of Hoang’s truth.

Throughout A Bestiary, various motifs are interwoven, both in individual sections and throughout the work as a whole. Loss, friendship, divorce, body image, ambition, the writer’s life, assimilation—it is the culmination of these motifs, and the nuances of meaning they accumulate, that gives the collection its power. The white space separating each section invites readers to consider the connections between them, the invisible thread that completes the web of not just Hoang’s experiences, but those of us all.

Hoang draws on myths from Ovid to Vietnamese folklore to Hans Christian Anderson. At times she refers to herself as the Little Match Girl standing outside her own life, salivating over “all that is not [hers].” Elsewhere, she creates an alternate mythology through a character she calls Other Lily. This alter-ego lives life perfectly, altruistically, and above all in accordance with her parents’ wishes. Hoang writes, “Other Lily doesn’t fail at marriages, and her husband is Vietnamese. He respects her too.” Yet this is one fairy tale Hoang rejects outright, stating, “Face the facts: There is no Other Lily, and I’m pretty satisfied with my life.”

Toward the end of this stunning collection, Hoang admits, “I have tangled the fairy tales I write with my life.” What is the purpose of myth if not to trace, to explain, to validate? Like the best of literary nonfiction, A Bestiary does not pretend to offer answers. Rather, it invites readers to step back from the chaos of a life, to see it for what it is, and to stand in awe rather than despair. 


Nicole Roché is a second-year MFA student in fiction at the University of Montana. 

EDITOR'S BOOKSHELF: Woods etc. by Alice Oswald

By Anna Blackburn, CutBank poetry editor

The woods of Alice Oswald’s Woods etc. at times yield pathways like those I walk here in Montana. Glacial creeks cutting through the abrupt yellow tamaracks, giant Scots pines fur to the tailbones of mountains; in her poems we are sensitized to the immensity of granite and ether. Yet at other times I find myself in landscapes like the deciduous northeast, where each curled fern and dislodged rock seems wakeful to my presence, in the way that a dull stone becomes luminous if dipped in water. Amidst the simple objects of Oswald’s terrain the mind opens into surprising chasms of feeling, those insights “like glass, concealed but not lost in light” (“Poem for Carrying a Baby Out of a Hospital”). Through her organically pitched rhythms, we are shuttled into deeply inhabited lyrics of the natural world, untethered mythologies, and whimsical fable-like meditations on the circularity of life. Poems of earthiness and imaginative reach.      

Oswald’s logic is ecological: consciousness migrates through animal, vegetal, and mineral forms. As metamorphosis counters the gravity of death (a stone becomes a flower becomes a circle of light becomes…), we feel the tension between the eternal whole and the perplexed groping of our lives; in these poems the individual must travel “the whole series of endurable pains” (“Autobiography of a Stone”). Oswald summons elemental personalities with violent intimacy:  

              This is the dandelion with its thousand faculties

              like an old woman taken by the neck and
              shaken to pieces.

              This is the dust flower flitting away. 

              This is the flower of amnesia.  It has opened its
              head to the wind,  all havoc and weakness,  as
              if a wooden man should stroll through fire… 

How fragile our connections, she argues.  Like “the wind-bitten dandelion,” each thing “a flower of no property… / worn away to its one recalcitrant element” (“Head of a Dandelion”).  

Yet, as Simone Weil writes in Gravity and Grace, “stars and blossoming fruit trees; utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity.” Reading these poems, I feel myself invoked in states of acute limitation (as Sisyphus, who “has to think one pain at a time, like an insect / trapped in a drop of water”), even as I am asked to occupy the field (“Sisyphus”).  The field may be an artery of consciousness, a birch grove, a system of galaxies.  Though full of their own voices, such spaces assert the pressure of silence. This silence functions like the creative landscape of a canvas; though the world in its instability is the medium of exploration, Oswald’s poems also celebrate the void between forms, the potential underlying each expression. Against this eternity we feel the awe and humility of mortal life: traversing “Five Fables of a Length of Flesh” and floating with Voyager 1 “among those homeless spaces gathering in that silence / that hasn’t yet had time to speak” (“Sonnet”).


Anna Blackburn is an MFA candidate in poetry and a writing instructor at the University of Montana. She grew up in Vermont and earned a B.A. in Writing and Literature at Marlboro College.   

BURN PILE: Curing the Election Blues

Well, the election happened, and Donald J. Trump is going to be our next president. That is a sentence I never thought I’d write, and it is a sentence, so many of us fear, in more than one sense of the word.

The L.A. Times argues one way to weather the Trump presidency is to head to your nearest public library. Why? Because it is the one institution most Americans still champion. In the meantime, you can read a collection of post-election-results tweets from famous authors—everyone from Stephen King to Joyce Carol Oates (who in turn quotes Samuel Beckett)—compiled by the Times.

Garnette Cadogan, a Jamaican immigrant and Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, speaks about the importance of “staying and fighting” despite Trump’s well documented stance on immigration, as well as the importance of “finding strength in poetry.”

But maybe it would be better to just slip into cushy escapism. This week the New York Times listed its top illustrated children’s books of 2016, along with a review of two new nonfiction publications, Following the Dog into the World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz and How House Cats Tamed Us and Took over the World by Abigail Tucker.  

Dogs v. cats? Now that’s a debate I can always get into. 

The WOODSHOP: Tayler Heuston

The Woodshop is a feature examining the work spaces and habits of writers both big and small. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, and how, do you work? Our latest contributor is Tayler Heuston.

1. Where do you do your work?

I work in the living room of my apartment where there's tons of light and space. My desk is in the corner of the room next to the doors that open out onto my balcony. 

2. What do you keep on your desk?

My desk has shelves built into its hutch where I have the start of my library (organized by color, genre, then author right now), postcards of paintings I found really moving when I visited the MoMa in NYC this summer, a picture of me jumping into my mother's arms as a toddler, a picture of the kids I nannied all of last year, the oatmeal box I painted to look like an oven last Halloween so I could go as Sylvia Plath, and post-its with lines I want to remember:

"...work is / keeping the wolves from your door..." Kwame Dawes

"Mother, I / understand how you have could have..." Leila Chatti

"You'll never know what your mother went through." Sarah Manguso

"What are you pretending you don't know?" Rachel Eliza Griffiths (by way of Leila Chatti)

"Rise to the occasion of your one and only heart." Steve Almond

My desk changes every so often. I might re-arrange my books, or replace the postcards, or find new lines that resonate with what I'm thinking about. I've also got practical things here like my stapler, desk calendar, the flash drive I keep misplacing, and a ceramic hedgehog that holds my mail.

3. What's your view like?

The view to my right, just outside the glass panes in the balcony doors, is the courtyard of my apartment building. It's full of light most days, and I can see stands of oak trees just beyond a neighboring parking lot. To my left, the wall is hung with a framed photograph that I bought from Emma Tillman when I turned twenty-five, a celestial map, and an illustrated calendar of the local, seasonal foods in North Carolina. 

4. Have you made any rules for how you use this space?

My only real rule is to be flexible. I've been working very hard in the last two years to shed all of the early notions I had about writing, discipline, and structure. My process has to change a lot so I don't feel stagnant. Lately, I've been revising old work at the desk, or transcribing new work that I handwrite in my notebooks at a coffee shop in the heart of downtown that I love to walk to on the weekends. 

I also pay attention to how my body feels in the seat, how tired I've been after a long week or intense pair of workdays, or if I'm feeling stir-crazy or flat when I come to the desk. Then, I know I need to step back and meet those physical or emotional needs before I'll have a good day of writing. 

Some nights, though, I'll have that moment where a line that I really like occurs to me and I'll rush to my desk to type it up the way I used to when I was getting my MFA and I'd be half-awake in bed at 3 a.m. with the start of a story that I had to get down and I'd write past breakfast time, not even brushing my teeth or getting dressed, until it was all done around mid-afternoon. I can't write that way anymore, though—my body and work schedule just won't allow it. Now, I'll write down that one line and maybe it'll turn into an opening paragraph, but I let myself walk away and go to bed. I think I've learned to trust that it won't vanish forever if I don't set it all down now. I've also learned how to enrich my work and to write fewer drafts by pacing myself, letting things simmer.

5. Do you have any routines that help you get into the flow?

I write primarily in the morning, so it's usually a quick breakfast, turn on some music that is familiar enough to fade but still suits the tone of what I'm working on, and then I sit down with my cup of coffee and read over what I've already got on the page until something sparks. If I'm writing away from home, I get my coffee and, before I start drafting in my notebook, I open a books of poems—right now I'm reading Tarfia Faizullah's Seam and Safiya Sinclair's Cannibal. I've always loved poetry for its focus, urgency, and attention to language. I find starting with poetry really re-centering in terms of craft and the emotional terrain of a story.  

6. What do you eat/drink while you work?

I drink coffee with way too much cream and sugar—really, I'm a total monster and will ruin a beautiful cup of locally roasted, full, fresh coffee with very little remorse. I usually eat before I sit to write, but I might snack on something easy and contained like a bowl of yogurt and granola or those to-go apple sauce packs for children.

7. Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I might not have any superstitions, but in a small jar that I keep in my bedroom next to hand-drawn portraits of Jane Austen and Wonder Woman, I've gathered every fortune from every fortune cookie I've eaten in the last five years, all the four leaf clovers my friend and mentor Belle Boggs has given me, and thick pieces of metallic confetti from the Beyoncé concert I just went to. They're items that feel very auspicious to me. I like having them in the same space.  

8. Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

"At night, when Kate was sleeping, I stretched out on the ground and touched every part of my body, reclaiming its terrain – brushing the fine hairs on my arms and legs, memorizing the ridges in my bones, reciting the names of the veins and arteries that carried my blood through me, feeling for the organs hiding beneath my skin, and dreaming of what it would be like to eat the flesh of my own hot heart."


Tayler Heuston, a California-native, holds an MFA from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in At Length, Carve, NANO Fiction, and Two Serious Ladies. Her story Hostages—winner of the 2015 Kore Press Short Fiction Award judged by Roxane Gay—is forthcoming through Kore Press this November.

INTERVIEW: David Naimon, Host of the Literary Podcast/Radio Show "Between the Covers"

Interview by Hamish Rickett, CutBank Fiction Editor

I know you’re an accomplished writer in your own right. What brought you to writing? What influences most helped you to advance your craft? 

As a reader, before I was a writer, I was mainly reading Kafka, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, and modernists like Joyce, Woolf, and Faulkner. I knew very little about contemporary literature, even less about creative nonfiction and poetry. So, years ago, when I took a seminar called “Writing Inside the Box: Constraint-based Writing in Poetry and Fiction,” co-taught by the poet John Beer and the fiction writer Leni Zumas, it really changed my trajectory. Reading Juliana Spahr, Lyn Hejinian, and the OuLiPians Perec, Queneau and Mathews, and then having to write using formal constraints, created all sorts of writing I wouldn’t have recognized as my own prior to the class. It’s a type of writing I’ve really come to love, writing that often doesn’t easily settle into one genre or another, writing that often makes the presence of the author’s mind visible, writing that might not be weaving a fictive spell but instead might be inviting you into a peculiar and strange wilderness with no obvious way out. It’s a rabbit hole I’m still in myself, one that includes a lot of poetry, nonfiction, and hybrid texts, both contemporary and otherwise.

 

How do you prepare for your interviews? It seems like you have often read all of the work as well as nearly all of the criticism/reviews of your subjects' work. How long do you typically take to prepare? Do you have any strategies for keeping the flow going? Icebreakers? Do you have different strategies for different types of authors?

If I have enough time I try to read more than the book the author is touring for, particularly if they have a really varied writing history. For instance, with Eliot Weinberger, who I’m preparing for now, his book 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei is a classic book about translation, An Elemental Thing is a collection of essays like no essay collection you’ve ever encountered before, and What Happened Here is a book of political analysis and commentary on the Bush era. Given that his latest book, The Ghosts of Birds, shares qualities with both An Elemental Thing and What Happened Here I felt like the discussion would be richer if I had read these books too. 

I do also try to read other interviews with the author. I’m doing this mainly to avoid repeating the questions that are always asked. You don’t want to avoid these questions altogether because the listener isn’t spending their time reading past interviews and some common questions are, in fact, important questions. But I also want to find a line of inquiry that can get an author out of auto-pilot and make the conversation seem fresh and alive.

No matter how much you prepare though, you never know how comfortable an author will be talking about their own work, how much you will have to draw them out, how much or little rapport you will have when sitting face to face in the studio. I don’t have any conscious strategies to keep the flow going or to use as icebreakers but sometimes you can figure out author-specific strategies from your research prior to the interview.  For instance, I knew that sometimes Lorrie Moore was a tough interview. She had given an interview for the Chicago Tribune, just before I was to interview her, that went off the rails, where the interviewer was called to task for his poor questions. But I also noticed in other interviews, that she would really open up and be forthcoming if she were talking about writers she loved versus her own work. So I went into that interview with the strategy to talk about Donald Barthelme if things got cagey. We did talk about Barthelme in the end, but not because the interview was difficult. But it was something I definitely thought about going in. 

 

How do you structure your interviews? Are there questions you always ask? Never ask? How tailored are they to the individual? Do you have a rough framework that you start with? As you interview more and more well-respected authors, has your process changed?

Structuring the interview is the part of the process that hurts my brain the most, that takes the most time for me. Much more than the reading. The interviews are definitely tailored to the author and the concerns they raise in their work. I don’t come to the interview-structuring phase with a framework of any sort. What takes time for me is figuring out what line of inquiry, or lines of inquiry, I want to pursue, so that the listener feels connective tissue from one question to the next, can feel a picture being put together piece by piece because the thought-process of the interviewer is apparent in the construction of the interview. 

I’m not sure the stature of the authors I’ve interviewed has changed over time. Colson Whitehead, Anthony Doerr, Nicole Krauss and China Mieville were all early interviews.  If my process has changed at all over time it is more because my interests have changed regarding the types of books I prefer to engage with in a radio interview. I’m more and more interested in books that blur genre, are hybrid texts, or that somehow make the process of their making part of the book experience itself. Also, questions of translation.  I’d like to get more books in translation on the show. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to interview someone who has written a conventionally told novel, it is just becoming a smaller percentage of the shows that I do.

 

I know that you do almost all of your interviews in person. How does that change the process? What are the benefits and the drawbacks to that?

The news coordinator at the radio station requires the book interviews to be done in-studio. The upside of this is that you are sitting across the table from the author. You are able to read facial expressions and body language, to more easily establish rapport, to feel like you are having a conversation just between the two of you. And sometimes you are sitting with an author like George Saunders or Claudia Rankine or Ursula K. Le Guin, which is quite an honor. The downside of this requirement is that there are authors who either don’t come through Portland, Oregon, or who don’t tour at all. So if Zadie Smith or Toni Morrison have a new book out but aren’t coming here I’m out of luck.

 

What mistakes did you make early on that you could help fledgling interviewers avoid?

I wouldn’t consider this a mistake per se but in the first year of my show my interest in experimental literature far outpaced by knowledge of it and its history. I’m sure I would do a much better interview today with Sheila Heti or Chris Kraus (whose books How Should a Person Be? and I Love Dick are fabulous) than five years ago. Also in that first year, I didn’t pay enough attention to the diversity of guests I interviewed, whether in regards to gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or country of origin. It’s something I’m very engaged with now.

 

I know for me, a big part of my enjoyment of your interviews is your willingness to ask difficult questions and your focus on craft. As a writer, interviewing other writers, I find this particularly helpful and interesting as I work on my own writing. How has doing these interviews changed your own writing?

I definitely read differently now because of the podcast. When I’m preparing for an interview I’m not disappearing under the fictive spell in the same way as I used to.  Instead there is a part of me looking for questions to ask, examining choices made by the author, noting the things that make them unique. This has carried over to all my reading and I’m sure it has affected my writing. Perhaps it affects it in a similar way to developing the ability to articulate what is wrong with someone else’s story draft, pushing oneself to move beyond “this is bad” or “this doesn’t work for me,” and finding the evidence of why that is in the text. I suspect that developing this ability to articulate is helpful in recognizing the problems (and the solutions to them) in one’s own work. 

 

Having interviewed all these great writers, are there any gems of writing advice that stick with you? Are there any commonalities you’ve noticed between successful authors (and here I don’t mean monetarily successful but accomplished in their art forms)?

That’s a good question. Jami Attenberg did say something that stuck with me. She had a chapter in The Middlesteins that her editor wanted her to cut out but that she felt attached to. She said instead of following her editor’s advice if she felt resistance to it, she’d instead use the editor’s comments as an indicator that that section needed her attention.  She’d endeavor to improve it so much that it justified its own existence in the end. And in this case it ended up being one of the more memorable chapters of the book. Ursula K. Le Guin says that one of the benefits of having lived a long life is having a much broader view of the arc of literature. That the popularity of certain writing choices, for instance, short sentences, present tense, and first-person point of view today, doesn’t make these choices better than others. That too many writers limit themselves to a diminished number of craft options without knowing it, based upon what is en vogue, on trends that come and go. I also love how Mary Ruefle talks about how a poem isn’t necessarily addressing the person reading or writing it. That when you are writing a poem, the lines are talking to each other, not to you, until the conversation between them comes to an ending place. Kyle Minor, who wrote a fantastic genre-bending collection, Praying Drunk, that includes both fiction and nonfiction, talked about how important studying poetry was for his prose. That certainly has been the case for me, perhaps more than anything else.

 

After an interview and you’ve completed your editing, do you share with the subject the podcast or the transcript before releasing it? I would assume you own the rights to interviews and subsequent releases (for example I notice that you are often published in Glimmer Train’s “Writers Ask” and elsewhere) but if they are going to be presented in an alternative form do you give the interviewee a heads-up? I’m a bit of an ignoramus about these things.

For the broadcast and the podcast, the guest doesn’t hear the interview again until it airs.  But sometimes, as you mention, I do transcribe interviews and place them in magazines like Glimmer Train. I do get the author’s approval before I do this. The transcription process is pretty laborious so I don’t want to transcribe anything before knowing that the author is happy to see the conversation appear in a new form. They almost always are.  And they are also given a chance to do a light edit on the transcription prior to publication. This is mostly, I think, because what sounds fine spoken out loud doesn’t always read well when transcribed. 

 

I know your podcasts are becoming increasingly popular. How many interviews do you average a year?

Right now I’m doing fifteen to eighteen a year. Being a radio and podcast interviewer isn’t my job, so I can’t imagine it ever going above twenty a year unless it somehow became something I could do for a living. That would be my dream. There certainly are many more authors I’d love to engage with each year.

 

Can you share what current projects you are working on? Goals for the future?

For most of my writing life it’s been small projects, essays, stories, and poems. But I did just start working on a book-length project this fall. I don’t want to say too much about it at this early stage but I will say that it centers around a gap in my memory, an absence of experience regarding an event that has turned out to be a pivotal one in my life. Inspired by writers like Sarah Manguso, Eliot Weinberger, and Nathalie Sarraute, it will use white space, have a poetics, and move obliquely, through association and allusion, as much as forward through narration. 

With my podcast, my main goal is to continue to develop a strong base of listener support for the long-term sustainability of the program. I’m amazed and thrilled by the continued growth of the show’s audience but with that growth has come growing costs. So I hope people will both check out the show and check out the ways you can support it too.

 

Any parting words of advice for would-be interviewers?

Not to follow a formula, or even the way someone else does it. When you think of memorable radio interviewers, whether Michael Silverblatt or Brad Listi, or magazines with great interviews, from The Believer to The Paris Review, they all stand out for how unique their approach is. You’d never mistake one for the other. I think that uniqueness is part of what draws the author out and makes the conversation dynamic and alive. 


David Naimon has interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin, Junot Diaz, Maggie Nelson, Mary Ruefle, George Saunders, and many more for his radio/podcast Between the Covers. His writing has appeared in Tin House, Fourth Genre, American Short Fiction, Fiction International, Story Quarterly, Zyzzyva, and others. He has received a Tin House Writers Fellowship, an Oregon Regional Arts and Culture Council grant, and a Pushcart Prize 2016 Special Mention. His archived interviews can be found at http://davidnaimon.tumblr.com/interviews.

Hamish Rickett is a fiction editor at CutBank and an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Montana. 

Big Sky, Small Prose: Flash Contest Winners

Congratulations to Alysia Sawchyn, winner of the 2016 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest! Her piece, "Riverbanks and Honeysuckle" will appear in CutBank 86. Here's what our judge, Chad Simpson, had to say:

"The narrator of 'Riverbanks and Honeysuckle' dredges the Potomac in search of something like truth, but her memory won't cooperate. What the reader gets instead is an investigation of 'overcoming and omission' that is both lyrical and poignant and seems as though it may never end."

About Alysia Sawchyn
Alysia Sawchyn currently lives in Tampa, Florida. She is the managing editor of Saw Palm, and her writing can be found in Indiana Review, Midwestern Gothic, Barrelhouse Online, and elsewhere.

Congratulations also to our two runners-up, whose work will appear in CutBank 86 as well:

"Planning to Be Amazed" by Daryl Scroggins
"At the Dog Park" by Derek Updegraff 

CUTBANK REVIEWS: "Leave Your Body Behind" by Sandra Doller

Leave Your Body Behind by Sandra Doller

Review by Claire Venery

Sandra Doller’s book of poetry, prose, and nonfiction, Leave Your Body Behind, lures the reader in with a sense of nostalgia. Her scenes are constructed like memories, where what comes before or after seems of little consequence, but in which one specific moment in time becomes vivid and clear. What matters is the emotion behind the events Doller describes, rather than the reality of what may have occurred. Each new section is preceded by excerpts from other authors and artists that set the tone for Dollar’s own writing—everyone from Gertrude Stein to Yoko Ono to Iggy and the Stooges.

The language is fluid and it is often ambiguous who the narrator is addressing. Doller states, “If you haven’t caught the rhyme you must be stupid.” Is “you” the reader? An unnamed character? Does it matter? Doller tells readers, “The only reason to read anything is to find out what to do. Instructions. The command. What’s that called, Imperative. See.” And we do see. As the book progresses, the reader begins to piece together the disjointed scenes to discover an honest depiction of the human experience—whether that experience is Doller’s or our own is unclear. Doller uses axioms like “no one I is more no one than I” and “so many past times so little past,” which hint at her personal journey and need for self-reflection. Doller plays up her coyness, stating, “I know you’d like to know more but this is what I’ve got.”

Doller’s anger comes through in lines such as “the patriarchal pus belts” and in sections about women’s fights for equality, such as when she writes, “My parents hated Amy Carter. Don’t follow Amy Carter they said. She’s a protestor. She marches. She resists. Don’t resist, rest. Don’t march, starch!” One memorable quote is, “If you can protect a girl in the world, good luck.” Her tone changing throughout, Doller also attacks the problem of racism, mocks teenagers by writing in a text-message format, and draws parallels between poetry and politics. She asks, “What is the distance between cynical or sarcastic? Do I have to choose? Can’t I be both? At the same time? Can I be frank. Can I be listful.” The answer is yes she can, and she is.

Some sections are denser than others, leaving the reader breathless and perhaps a little disoriented. Doller enjoys a good play on words, as seen when she says, “This is my most political poem. I think I’ll send it to Politico. Talking about political poetry is the same as being political. Poetical. I’m so poetical I’m political. I’m so of the people I’m for the people. I’m so peopled I’m in you.” The constant reuse and restructuring of the words “political” and “poetry” is as entertaining as it is disorienting. By the end of the thought process, the two terms become interchangeable. Doller reaches the core of her message when she concludes, “I’m so peopled I’m in you,” suggesting we are all one in the same. Another clever use of words is seen when she writes, “as a monetary reward I offer this. A dollar saved is a dollar. Burned. A Doller in the hand is worth two.” In the last line Doller cleverly switches the spelling of “dollar” to that of her own name, possibly a play on her earlier comments about a woman’s worth.

Leave Your Body Behind is part autobiographical, part lyrical critique on American society. Throughout, Doller’s collection masterfully gets to the heart of memory. This is a dynamic piece where the language rises and falls, thoughts divide and merge, and each poignant scene gets filed away in the reader’s brain, ultimately becoming part of our own memories.


Sandra Doller is the author of three books and two chapbooks, including Oriflamme and Chora (both from Ahsahta Press), Man Years (Subito Press), Memory of the Prose Machine (Cut Bank), and Mystérieuse (Anamalous), a translation of Eric Suchère. She frequently collaborates with her partner, Ben, and their book of visual anti-sonnets is published on Editions Eclipse. Doller’s work appears often in literary magazines and anthologies such as Thermos, The &Now Awards, and Fairy Tale Review. With a background in performance, Doller has completed degrees in women’s studies, cinema, and poetry, and is the founder and editrice of a small magazines & press called 1913. She lives in California, at the bottom. 

Claire Venery is an undergraduate majoring in English at the University of Montana.

THE WOODSHOP: Danny Caine

The Woodshop is a feature examining the work spaces and habits of writers both big and small. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, and how, do you work? Our latest contributor is poet Danny Caine.

1. Where do you do your work?

I write poems generally whenever they hit me, and it's often quick. "When" becomes "where," and "where" could be on a napkin, in the periphery doodles of class notes, on the back of a cardboard coaster, or on the NOTES iPhone app like an apologizing celebrity. But if there's a single place lately that has a statistically higher percentage of sentences originated therein, it'd be the record-player half of my living room. My living room is split in two by what's basically an invisible hallway from my front doormy apartment is big but it's an architectural nightmare, as is the case with rentals in a college town. Anyway, one half has a couch, a piano, and a bookcase, and the other has a craigslist armchair and a record player. I frequently write in the record player half. 

2. What do you keep on your desk?

It's not really a desk, then, is it. The craigslist armchair has a vintage Danish side table next to it, which frequently has my writing beverage of choice (cold brew, bourbon, sometimes both). There's also a rotary phone with an old poison control sticker, and some vintage trophies, plus a few candlesticks. It's all for decorationmy wife Kara has a great eye for vintage knickknacks.  

3. What's your view like?

There's a weird little cut-out into my kitchen (again, weird architecture). Sometimes my cat sits up there and stares at me while I work, demanding to be fed. If I turn around and look out the window, I can see the McDonald's that's very close to my house. I can sometimes hear the drive-through speaker.

4. Have you made any rules for how you use this space?

Not really, though sometimes the cat tries to take the armchair when I get up. 

5. Do you have any routines that help you get into the flow?

I feel like inspiration is fickle and sporadic, but when I absolutely need to get something written, usually reading jogs things up a bit so that something can happen. Poetry begets more poetry; it's a blessing and a curse.

6. Do you have any superstitions about your work? 

I don't think so? Now that you ask, I'm wondering if I should. I can't write poems if I'm wearing blue or prose if I'm wearing red. I can't write if the Cleveland Indians lost by more than five runs the previous night. I can't listen to music from 1998 if I'm trying to write poetry. How do those sound?

7. Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

I wrote a poem here two days ago, probably called "In the Bathroom of the Ritz Carlton Downtown." Here's most of the first stanza: 

"Hey fuck you automatic faucet

no matter what your shitty laser

eye thinks, I am a body"


Danny Caine's poetry has appeared in New Ohio ReviewHobartMid-American Review, and other places. He's music editor for At Length magazine and has reviewed books for Los Angeles Review and Rain Taxi. He hails from Cleveland and lives in Lawrence, Kansas where he works at the Raven Bookstore. More at dannycaine.com.

CUTBANK REVIEWS: "Tall As You Are Between Them" by Annie Christain

Tall As You Are Between Them by Annie Christain (2016)

Review by Eve Kenneally

Annie Christain’s utterly enjoyable debut poetry collection, Tall As You Are Between Them (Conscious & Responsible Press), buzzes with an immensely fierce and intellectual energy.

The first poem in the book, titled “The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews: I’ve Seen You Handle Cocoons” and prefaced with Leviticus 18:22, allows the reader to wade into the collection at their own pace: “The first time I touched a boy, / I glimpsed pomegranate arils / in the bowl / and felt beetles walk across my chest” (4). Leviticus is familiar, but this visceral blend of piety, violence, and sensuality is a welcome surprise.

Throughout the collection, Christain deftly switches from traditional syntax to the unexpected. In “Thorns to Rescue Their Bodies,” she says, “This is a strange apple. I said he hits it. It changes to his evil and the rainbow cider” (38). She also toys with how her words and lines occupy the space of the page, alternating successfully between dense prose and sparse line.

Each section in the book is prefaced with a quote about Pleiades; the Seven Sisters make several appearances throughout Christain’s poems. Additionally, the second section“White House Tapes”is a series of prose poems modeled after transcriptions of three different dialects. Christain dips in and out of different narratives with jolts of charged diction. In “XXVII – Kipper Want,” she says, “Once I was young, I didn’t know words for me, but now I can speak and I will.” While entirely reflective of Christain’s ability to blend contrasting narrative voices, if section two has a fault, it is the inclusion of too many characters. It’s easy for the reader to become overwhelmedat the same time, being overwhelmed in Christain’s space is still a strange and enjoyable experience.

The third section includes the poem “Puteum Abyssi: Till I get to the Bottom and I See You Again” which states, “Out the window, I saw a woman running / across Russia until her kneecaps / were on the opposite side. / She screamed: Stop stabbing; / I’m already dead” (101) one of many lines that display Christain’s ability to show a uniquely nuanced and highly characterized violence consistently throughout her collection.

“Under John Wayne’s Hat” is a particularly memorable and remarkable piece. This prose poem places Stalin and John Wayne together, eating fish and playing mancala. A frying pan of fish “leads Stalin and John Wayne to lovingly admitthrough direct rock tweakingthat they are not afraid to know exactly how they or the fish began” (34). Christain’s blend of the familiar with the surprising and slightly Biblical creates a host of odd and stunning moments.

The titles were also one of my favorite elements of Christain’s collection; for example, “Wondering If I’m a Descendant of the Nephilim While Lying on a Merry-Go-Round at Prentis Park,” “God Wants You to Go to Jail,” and “We Must Kill All Rats Before We Can Kill Your Rats” are unusual and wry.

Christain mines through newspaper headlines, quotes, and pop cultural phenomena with a sharp and striking eye. Her poems are prefaced with lyrics by Metallica, the Eagles, and John Lennon; quotes from Cold Case Files; lines from the Bible and the Qur’an; and even a description for a Marilyn Monroe snowglobe.

In the penultimate poem, Christain muses, “The idea for manifest destiny didn’t just happen” (114). Her poems display elegance, humor, and a strong and grounded sense of development and craft. I can’t wait to see who and what else Christain visits and skillfully constructs in her following collections.


Annie Christain is an assistant professor of composition and ESOL at SUNY Cobleskill. Her poems have appeared in Seneca Review, Oxford Poetry, the Chariton Review, and the Lifted Brow, among others. She received the grand prize in the 2013 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2013 Greg Grummer Poetry Award, the 2015 Oakland School of the Arts Enizagam Poetry Award, and the 2015 Neil Shephard Prize in Poetry. 

Eve Kenneally (from Boston by way of DC) is a recent alumna of the MFA program at the University of Montana. Her chapbook, Something Else Entirely, will be released by Dancing Girl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Yemassee, Parcel, decomP, Star 82 Review, Blue Monday Review, and elsewhere.

CutBank 85, Fresh off the Press

Our latest print issue is finally here! Dare we say, it's been well worth the wait.

Along with our usual choice selections in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, CutBank 85 features the winners of our Montana Prize in Fiction, judged by Claire Vaye Watkins; the Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, judged by Oscar De La Paz; and the Montana Prize in Creative Nonfiction, judged by Amanda Fortini. 

Read a preview of the issue here.

Score your copy through our online store here