Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekly Updates: Heron Tree, Family, & Sister

50º ~ bright sun, clean skies, trees at about 1/4 leaves remaining, highs around 60º, lows around 40º for the week to come



The biggest news on the block is this:  Heron Tree accepts submissions through December 1 (next Saturday).  If you haven't sent us poems, we really, really, really want to see your work.  Remember, we read blind, so I can't tell if you've submitted yet.  We are sending decisions on a rolling basis but had so many submissions in September, that I think we are still responding to poems from the beginning of the reading period.  Our guidelines are here.

We will start publishing poems the first week of January 2013!  So exciting!

I have to say, serving as a co-editor has been a game changer.  I plan to blog about that exclusively after the reading period (meaning after the semester is over!).  Still, if you have any inclination to help read for a journal and get the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

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Most of this week has been filled with family, so not too much poetry going on.  My folks were down from Iowa and Mom & I planted pansies, which she just couldn't get over, since they are a summer flower in Iowa.  She has been such a huge help in the front yard as I did not inherit her gardening skills!  This year we were especially thankful for my dad's surgery, which happened a year ago in December.  He now has a fully operational Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy computer running through his brain and it has improved his quality of life by leaps and bounds.  Parkinson's can be such a frustrating disease, but this has made a world of difference.  (Disclaimer: This is not a miracle cure and does not alleviate all PD symptoms; however, the change in his demeanor and mobility has been wonderful.)

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I did manage to finish a book of poems Tuesday morning.  Nickole Brown's Sister has been on my desk since April, when I picked it up at the Arkansas Lit Festival, and it is a stunner.  Nickole moved to Little Rock 18 months ago to teach at UALR, and having her in town has been wonderful.  On her website, Sister is referred to as a novel-in-poems.  It traces a speaker's relationship to her mother and her sister who is 10 years younger.  The speaker is at a loss for who her father is and envies her sister for that knowledge, all the while hating the man who fathers her sister, as he sexually abuses the speaker.  It is an emotionally complicated journey but the poems never succumb to relying on that emotion alone.  They are finely crafted, in fact, so finely crafted that the pain cuts that much deeper.

The most prominent thread woven throughout the collection is the idea of sex, pregnancy, and the fetus in the womb, then birthed.  Here is a bit from "Sticky Fingers."

Unborn we...........listened.

We were covered
with an okra fuzz of hair.........fed cravings
of white bread.........fried chicken..........tomatoes
straight from the can...............all through
a pulsing straw.....a braided beam of light
to our navel.

While the speaker feels a great distance between herself and her sister whom she both loves deeply and envies just as deeply, it is often through imagining these similarities in utero that she manages to cross the distance between them.

And because the speaker's mother plays as important a role in the story as her sister does, here's a bit from "Somniloquy."

Mama sleeps, her jaw knocking all night on the same
..........closed door, her canines worn flat with the pop and grit
..........of chewing a thing impossible
..........to swallow.

Sister is a difficult book on the emotional side but a necessary one.  These poems take all the speaker's pain, regret, and longing, and create something startling beautiful in the end.   

4 comments:

Molly said...

Sandy, HOORAY for the improvements your Dad has experienced. So glad to hear that! And I'm still shocked to see pansies blooming this time of year, too. :)

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly!

FYI: The pansies are adding new blooms and although I've lived in the south since '99, it's still just a bit freaky!

Anonymous said...

I bought Sister online and I read it within 1.15 minutes. I heard it was best to read it all in one sitting. It was so haunting that I had to take a nap afterward. My favorites were Trailer Park Psalm and Splitting Fences.

I agree with your sentiments that this collection is needful.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Anon. Glad you found the book as compelling as I did.

Next time, feel free to give me a hint about your name! :)