Staff Spotlight: Kinsale Hueston (Poetry) & Heidi Seaborn (Poetry) by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief.

 Kinsale Hueston (left) and Heidi Seaborn (right).

Kinsale Hueston (left) and Heidi Seaborn (right).

Let’s get right down to it: Kinsale, you’re—amazingly—still a student in high school. Heidi, you pursued poetry as a teenager, then “lost the plot” and had an (extremely successful) 40-year career in communications, and are only now settling back into poetry. I’m curious—what led you to pursue writing beyond the extent of a teenage hobby, Kinsale, and Heidi, what led you back again to the open arms of poetry?

Kinsale Hueston: There was a turning point around my sophomore year of high school that signalled my departure from poetry just as something fun I’d enjoyed scribbling out in middle school or memorized just to entertain my friends. Where I live, less than 1% of my county’s population is Native American, and I think I became very aware of this once I took on a more active role in advocating for contemporary Indigenous rights. Poetry became my way of reconnecting with my roots on the Navajo reservation, which I’d lost touch with as a preteen because of my isolation within a homogenous population that did not know very much about contemporary Native issues and identity. I dove into my culture and began to celebrate it through this art form I’d loved so much, and I used it as an accessible tool and art form to educate my peers about my experiences, history, and people. As a National Student Poet, poetry is a little more like an actual job now, but I love the work and sharing my passion for writing on a national scale.

Heidi Seaborn: A couple years ago, someone I hadn’t seen since high school called me a “poet” in greeting. It got me thinking. I signed up the next day for a class at the Hugo House—a wonderful place for all things literary in Seattle—with Jane Wong. That’s all it took. I was hooked again. Since then, I’ve been hustling to make up for decades of lost time. The good news is that I have a lifetime of experiences to sustain my writing.


What do you think is the largest misconception about teen writers today, Kinsale? And Heidi, what do you think is the largest misconception about writers who pursue careers in other areas?

KH: I think most adults dismiss teen poets because they think we lack enough knowledge of and experience with writing. However, I think every poet, no matter how old they may be, is continually learning, re-learning, and developing their skills. Poetry is inherently imperfect, which is what makes it so accessible. Especially with today’s political and social climate, teen poets are more important than ever. We are caught up in the middle of things, and around this point in our lives we are questioning everything (ourselves, identities, politics, trends) which can generate some very powerfully observative, active, and transformational work. We are the next generation of writers, and to foster our growth is to invest in the future of this art form. We are also a truly honest reflection of our time, and therefore tend to bring an unmatched sense of truthfulness and rawness to poetry.

HS: I am blown away by the opportunities for young poets today. There was nothing when I was a teenage poet, and perhaps that is why I left my writing behind for a long time. That and needing to make a living! Most writers must pursue careers in other areas to pay the bills, sadly. If there is a misconception, it is that if you aren’t writing full time, you are a dilettante—you aren’t serious. Yet, we know many of our greatest poets had other careers (think Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams) and wrote all the way through. In my case, I loved my work, and I had a very successful business career. Yes, I wish I had kept writing, but given the intensity I bring to everything I do, it wouldn’t have worked. Now I’m grateful that I am able to dedicate my time to poetry. For me, this is my second professional act.


I’ve been thinking a lot about what compels some of my favorite writers to write—fear, anxiety, outrage, love, and entirely different emotional impulses altogether. Do you find that you write more to say something to someone else, or to say something to yourself?

KH: I’d like to think that I try to do a little of both. As an activist, I lean towards using poetry as a tool to advocate and educate, but I also love developing my own voice with every poem I write. Most of my works are celebrations of my heritage—like mini “songs of myself”—or bits of storytelling that, for me, are a way to deconstruct and analyze my own identity and discuss what it truly means to be a Native teen living in contemporary America. My writing  is an invitation into my life and traditions, but simultaneously a veneration of all these beautiful bits of culture that make me who I am.

HS: Both. In some cases, I am exploring my life’s experiences to surface meaning. In others, I’m sharing observations, wisdom, my perspective and sometimes, a social or politicized message. The majority of my work tends to relate the personal to the external world—not unlike life.


From reading applications for the Djanikian Scholarships to assembling and releasing our twenty-fourth issue, it’s been quite a reading season so far. What’s been your favorite moment of being on staff? What’s been the biggest surprise?

KH: The biggest surprise for me was definitely opening Submittable for the first time as a Poetry Reader and attempting to wrap my head around the sheer number of poems that were being submitted! That was also one of my favorite moments because of how excited I was to dig in and get to know these writers and their work. Reading diverse, personal, and distinct poetry is actually one of my favorite things to do, so one can imagine how much I love settling down on a weeknight with a cup of tea, ready to dive into new submissions. I also find myself so inspired after reading that I usually end up getting sidetracked and writing my own poems!

HS: Quantity and Quality. Like Kinsale, I’ve been amazed at the sheer volume—as if everyone on earth is writing poetry (and submitting to The Adroit Journal). The best surprise is when I open up a submission and start reading, and can’t stop, and can barely breathe because the writing is magic, stunning, transporting. You have created a literary home for that kind of work. It is very impressive.


Aww, thanks! Switching gears a bit, I feel like any writer who says they’ve never experienced writer’s block is definitely lying. Do you have any advice for our readers for kicking writer’s block to the curb?

KH: Reading work by other poets and writers is a really great way to find new inspiration. I tend to have a very cemented, safe vocabulary when I’m stuck in a writer’s block, so I usually listen to some slam poems online or crack open a random book at a library to just create a little word bank for myself. Other poets tend to use words I haven’t even thought of using, or ones I haven’t heard in a while that are really useful for conjuring up memories or key information that then can motivate me to keep writing. Also, just taking a walk, taking a break, or having a change of scenery are all really helpful, too.

HS: Since I started writing again two years ago, I haven’t stopped. I find inspiration is everywhere. Recently, I completed my first full-length book and two chapbook manuscripts, and was feeling a bit spent—not writer’s block, per say, just needing a kick in the butt. Taking a generative workshop did the trick for me. I recommend The Daily Poet (Two Sylvias Press, 2013) that has 365 prompts to anyone who is struggling with getting word to page. And the best is to read poetry. Lots of poetry. Given that is what I do for Adroit, I’m in luck.


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Could you each give our readers a reading suggestion for the road? And what about this collection, publication, novel, or anthology led you to select it?

KH: Any collection of poems by Federico García Lorca is absolutely wonderful for long road trips or exploring new places. Poet in Spain is my particular favorite because it has mirrored translations in English and Spanish. Lorca is one of my favorite poets, not only for his romantic, haunting poetry, but also because he was so fascinating as a revolutionary and a modern hero. You can see his passion and love for nature and life in his work, which makes everything he writes a powerhouse. There’s such a good mix in there too—his short, sweet poems, his fiery and tragic epics, and also his fantastic, whimsical pieces. Even if you don’t understand the poems in Spanish without the translation, just reading them aloud is like music. The rhythm and rhyme are just gorgeous.

HS: Like Kinsale, I love García Lorca and spent last fall immersed in his work for a particular poem that I was working through based on my time living in Madrid. Currently, I keep picking up Nasty Women Poets (edited by Grace Bauer & Julie Kane; Lost Horse Press, 2018) when I have a spare minute. This anthology was dreamed up after Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during a presidential debate. The poems in it are varied, powerful, painful, funny, a clarion call for our times, with so many great women poets represented. While I don’t have a poem in it, friends of mine do, and I’ve had the good fortune to read alongside them on occasion. The readings are raucous. Nasty Women Poets has over 250 poems that speak loudly to what’s on the minds of American women today. It is very much today’s edition of No More Masks—the poetry anthology that captured the women’s movement in the 70’s—a book that was my bible back in the day!


Peter LaBerge is the San Francisco-based editor-in-chief of The Adroit Journal.

Announcing The Adroit Journal's 2018 Djanikian Scholars! by Peter LaBerge


In honor of the contributions renowned poet Gregory Djanikian (b. 1949) has made to the field and study of literature, The Adroit Journal is proud to announce the inaugural class of Gregory Djanikian Scholars in Poetry—six promising, exciting, emerging poets. All emerging poets who have not published full-length collections were eligible for submission—regardless of age, geographic location, and educational status. 

Selected from a competitive pool of international applicants, Djanikian Scholars will receive cash prizes and publication. A complete list of this year’s winners, finalists, and semifinalists is available online:  

The inaugural class of Gregory Djanikian Scholars in Poetry includes Kristin Chang (of San Jose, Calif.), Robin Estrin (of Santa Cruz, Calif.), Paige Lewis (of Tallahassee, Fla.), Brandon Melendez (of Cambridge, Mass.), Michael M. Weinstein (of New Haven, Conn.), and Keith S. Wilson (of Chicago, Ill.). More information about each scholar is available below.

“We’re thrilled to support the impressive efforts of these emerging writers, and to recognize their important contributions to the fabric of the literary community today,” writes founder and editor-in-chief Peter LaBerge. “We look forward to witnessing the growth of these and other writers as they continue to develop their literary gifts, talents, and pursuits.”

Finalists for 2018 Djanikian Scholar recognition include Grady Chambers (of Philadelphia, Pa.), Aidan Forster (of Greenville, S.C.), and Shelley Wong (of Long Beach, Calif.). Finalists will each receive Djanikian’s latest collection, as well as publication.  

Semifinalists include Alex Chertok (of Dryden, N.Y.), Lyrik Courtney (of Decatur, Ga.), Kate Gaskin (of Montgomery, Ala.), Matthew Gellman (of Brooklyn, N.Y.), Morgan Levine (of Houston, Tex.), Alycia Pirmohamed (of Edinburgh, Scotland), and Joey Reisberg (of Towson, Md.).  

About the 2018 Djanikian Scholars

Kristin Chang is nineteen years old, and lives in New York. Her chapbook is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press later this year. 

Robin Estrin lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, Potluck Magazine, and Miramar Poetry Journal, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Paige Lewis is the author of the chapbook Reasons to Wake You (Tupelo Press, 2018). Their poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, the Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere. 

Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is a National Poetry Slam Finalist, Rustbelt Poetry Slam Finalist, and two-time Berkeley Grand Slam Champion, and is currently an MFA student studying poetry at Emerson College.

Michael M. Weinstein holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, and has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and elsewhere. He teaches Russian literature at Yale University.

Keith S. Wilson is an Affrilachian Poet, Cave Canem Fellow, and graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. His debut collection, Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.

About The Adroit Journal

At its foundation, The Adroit Journal has its eyes focused ahead, seeking to showcase what its global staff of writers sees as the future of poetry, prose, and art. The journal hosts the annual Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, the Gregory Djanikian Scholars Program, and the free Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program.

Featured in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses, The New York Times, Teen Vogue, and NPR, the journal is home to the voices of Terrance Hayes, Franny Choi, D. A. Powell, Lydia Millet, NoViolet Bulawayo, Ocean Vuong, Eve L. Ewing, Ned Vizzini, Fatimah Asghar, and Danez Smith, among many others.

For more, visit,, or Please direct any questions or requests to

The Adroit Journal's AWP 2018 Offsite Reading with 32 Poems, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, & Quarterly West by Peter LaBerge

We were oh-so thrilled to co-host our first-ever AWP event at Tampa's very own Jackson's Bistro on Thursday, March 8th. Below, you can access a livestream of the event, complete with information about the readers and a timeline of their readings.

You can view the details of the event here. We'd like to offer massive thanks to our event co-organizers, editors from AGNIDenver Quarterly, 32 Poems, and Quarterly West. Hope you enjoy the livestream! 

Access the Livestream

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A Timeline of the Evening

Learn more about each of our readers below!

23:59 Opening Remarks by George David Clark

George David Clark serves as the editor-in-chief and executive director of 32 Poems.

27:22 Wayne Miller (Poetry)

Wayne Miller’s fourth poetry collection, Post- (Milkweed, 2016), won the Rilke Prize and the Colorado Book Award. Wayne teaches at the University of Colorado Denver and edits Copper Nickel.

30:49 - Paige Lewis (Poetry)

Paige Lewis is the author of the chapbook Reasons to Wake You (Tupelo Press, 2018). Their poems have appeared in PoetryAmerican Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere.

34:28 - Paisley Rekdal (Poetry)

Paisley Rekdal is the author, most recently, of Imaginary Vessels, and is Utah’s Poet Laureate.

38:43 - Ye Chun (Fiction)

Ye Chun is the author of two books of poetry, a novel in Chinese, and a collection of translations. A recipient of the NEA fellowship and two Pushcart Prizes, she teaches at Providence College.

48:22 - Brandon Thurman (Poetry)

Brandon Thurman is the author of the chapbook Strange Flesh (Quarterly West, 2018). His poetry can be found in Nashville Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, RHINO, and others. You can find him online at

53:44 - Victoria Chang (Poetry)

Victoria Chang’s most recent book, Barbie Chang, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2017. The Boss was published by McSweeney’s. She was awarded a Guggenheim and Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2017. She teaches at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

58:31 - Sumita Chakraborty (Poetry)

Sumita Chakraborty is poetry editor of AGNI, art editor of At Length, and weeks away from completing a doctorate in English at Emory. In 2017, the Poetry Foundation awarded her a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship.

1:26:52 - Jess deCourcy Hinds (Fiction)

Jess deCourcy Hinds was the 2014-15 winner of the Pen Parentis Fellowship, and second prize in the 2016 Stella Kupferberg Story Prize judged by Lauren Groff. Writing credits include: Ms., Brain Child and Quarterly West.

1:37:52 - Michael Bazzett (Poetry)

Michael Bazzett is a 2017 NEA Fellow and the author of three books of poems: You Must Remember This (Milkweed Editions, 2014), Our Lands Are Not So Different (Horsethief Books, 2017) and The Interrogation (Milkweed Editions, 2017).

1:43:58 - Hieu Minh Nguyen (Poetry)

Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of two poetry collections, This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) and Not Here (Coffee House Press, 2018). He lives in Minneapolis.

1:50:38 Hadara Bar-Nadav (Poetry)

Hadara Bar-Nadav is the author of several books of poetry, most recently The New Nudity and Lullaby (with Exit Sign). An NEA fellow, she teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

1:57:04 - Michael Wasson (Poetry)

Michael Wasson, a 2018 NACF National Artist Fellow in Literature and recipient of the Adrienne Rich Award, is the author of This American Ghost (YesYes Books, 2017). He is from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. 

2:05:15 - Raena Shirali (Poetry)

Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017). Shirali’s honors include a Pushcart Prize and the Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University. She currently lives in Philly, and reads for Muzzle Magazine and Vinyl.

2:10:24 - Stephen Kampa (Poetry)

Stephen Kampa is the author of three books, Cracks in the Invisible, Bachelor Pad, and Articulate as Rain. He currently teaches at Flagler College.

2:15:36 - Sarah Rose Nordgren (Poetry)

Sarah Rose Nordgren's two books of poetry are Best Bones (2014), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and Darwin’s Mother, which is recently released from University of Pittsburgh Press (November 2017). Her poems and essays appear widely in periodicals such as Agni, Ploughshares, the Kenyon Review Online, Copper Nickel, and American Poetry Review.

2:38:14 - John Jodzio (Fiction)

John Jodzio's work has been featured in This American LifeMcSweeney's, and One Story. He's the author of the short story collections, KnockoutGet In If You Want To Live, and If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home and the newly released chapbook, This Is The Only Orientation You're Gonna Get.

2:45:49 - Kathleen Winter (Poetry)

Kathleen Winter's new collection I will not kick my friends won the 2017 Elixir Poetry Prize. Poems are forthcoming from New Statesman, Prelude, Puerto del Sol and Western Humanities Review. She lives in Sonoma, California.

2:51:18 - Maggie Smith (Poetry)

Maggie Smith’s most recent books are The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, winner of the Dorset Prize, and Good Bones, the title poem from which has been translated into nearly a dozen languages.

2:55:44 - Kai Carlson-Wee (Poetry)

Kai Carlson-Wee is the author of Rail (BOA Editions, 2018). A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco and teaches poetry at Stanford University.

3:03:52 - Megan Fernandes (Poetry)

Megan Fernandes is an Assistant Professor of English at Lafayette College. Her work has been published or forthcoming in Tin House, Ploughshares, The Common, Guernica, PANK, The Adroit Journal, among others. She lives in NYC. 

3:10:24 - Analicia Sotelo (Poetry)

Analicia Sotelo is the author of Virgin, the inaugural winner of the Jake Adam York Prize, selected by Ross Gay, to be published by Milkweed Editions in February 2018. She is also the author of the chapbook Nonstop Godhead, selected by Rigoberto González for the 2016 Poetry Society of America Chapbook 30 and Under Fellowship.

Well, there you have it! I hope you'll join us next year in Portland! Sign up below for updates. 

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2018 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards! by Peter LaBerge

The editors of The Adroit Journal are pleased to announce that a total of 62 National Awards were received by Adroit-affiliated students— 34 Gold Medals, 23 Silver Medals, 3 American Voices (Best-in-Region) Medals, and 2 Silver Medals with Distinction

To put this in perspective, approximately 900 National Awards in Writing are distributed each year... from more than 320,000 submissions across disciplines. We're over the moon for the 2018 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards medalists affiliated with The Adroit Journal! See below for a complete list.


Isabella Alvarez, NH (11
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Katherine Ann Davis)
American Voices Medal (Best-in-Region) - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Silver Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Margot Armbruster, WI (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Trista Edwards)
Gold Medal - Poetry (x3)
Silver Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio

Tess Becket, PA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Kenzie Allen)
Silver Medal - Poetry

Daniel Blokh, AL (11)  
Summer Mentee (Nonfiction - Caroline Crew) & Previous Poetry Reader
Gold Medal - Poetry (x2)

Bronwen Brenner, NY (11
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Laura Citino) 
Silver Medal - Poetry (x2)

Annie Castillo, VA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Carly Joy Miller)
Silver Medal - Poetry

Katie Chen, CAN (10
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Cady Vishniac) 
Gold Medal - Short Story

Emma Choi, VA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Emily Paige Wilson)
Gold Medal - Poetry

Nadia Farjami, CA (10
Marketing Intern
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Critical Essay
Silver Medal - Poetry

Joseph Felkers, MI (12
Poetry Reader & Summer Mentee (Poetry - Jim Redmond) 
Gold Medal - Poetry

Aidan Forster, SC (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Cody Ernst) & Previous Blog Editor
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Jacqueline He, CA (12
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Dana Diehl)
Gold Medal - Poetry

Mai Hoang, NH (10
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Kamden Hilliard)
Gold Medal - Journalism
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Critical Essay
Silver Medal - Journalism

Eileen Huang, NJ (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Gina Keicher) & Marketing Intern
American Voices Medal (Best-in-Region) - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Poetry (x2)
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Kinsale Hueston, CA (12
Poetry Reader
Gold Medal - Poetry

Lilly Hunt, MS (12
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Glenn Stowell) 
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Silver Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Heather Laurel Jensen, AZ (10
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Alyse Bensel) 
Gold Medal - Short Story
Silver Medal - Poetry  

Nadia Eugene Jo, MA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Raena Shirali) 
Silver Medal - Poetry

Audrey Kim, PA (10
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Nancy Reddy)
American Voices Medal (Best-in-Region) - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry

Ezra Lebovitz, NJ (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Doug Ramspeck)
Gold Medal - Poetry

Isabella Li, NC (12
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Oriana Tang)
Gold Medal - Critical Essay

Vivian Lu, NJ (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Eloisa Amezcua)
Silver Medal - Flash Fiction
Silver Medal - Short Story

Kaley Mamo, NY (12
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Maria Pinto) 
Silver Medal - Flash Fiction (x2)
Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio

Alyssa Mazzoli, SC (12
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Alex Higley)
Silver Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Rebecca Oet, OH (10
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Gabrielle Bates)
Silver Medal - Poetry

Sahara Sidi, VA (12
Summer Mentee (Nonfiction - Caroline Crew)
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir (x2)
Gold Medal - Poetry

Emily Tian, MD (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Leslie Sainz) 
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Poetry

Stephanie Tom, NY (12)  
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello)
Gold Medal - Poetry (x2)

Valerie Wu, CA (11
Summer Mentee (Fiction - Graham Todd) 
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Alisha Yi, NV (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry - Cody Ernst) 
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Grace Zhou, GA (12
Previous Prose Reader
Silver Medal - Humor

Joyce Zhou, IL (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Poetry (x2)
Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio


Congratulations to all! And remember that like all awards, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards goes through an inherently subjective selection process. Not being recognized does not imply lack of talent, merit, and promise. Whether you're a young writer writing because of Scholastic, in spite of Scholastic, entirely independent of Scholastic, or somewhere in-between, every voice deserves to be heard.

Conversations with Contributors: Chelsea Dingman (Poetry) by Peter LaBerge

By Kwame Opoku-Duku, Guest Interviewer.

 Chelsea Dingman,  Thaw  (University of Georgia Press, 2017).

Chelsea Dingman, Thaw (University of Georgia Press, 2017).

It is said of some writers that their work cuts to the bone, that it strips you, leaves you bare and vulnerable, that it marks you. Chelsea Dingman’s work starts at the bone, and by the end of her first collection of poems, Thaw, piles of them have accumulated over the pages. Dingman’s work exists in the places that scare us the most: loss, grief, alienation, the suffering of the body. She writes with images that swirl in the mind for days and lines that imprint themselves upon you immediately. She is a poet whose work has become essential, and I jumped at the chance to have a conversation with her.

Kwame Opoku-Duku: Chelsea, I was reading one of your poems to my lover, and as I was reading it, my hands started shaking. That’s an amazing thing to be able to do to someone, and the word I kept coming back to when describing your work was “fearless.” You take risks that so many writers don’t, and the result is something that is beautiful—even while unsettling the reader, even while filling the reader with a sense of ache. Could you talk a little about what it was like to create a work like this? Was there a point when you had written a few of these poems and realized you have something special on your hands?

Chelsea Dingman: In terms of risk and trying to be fearless and trying to be in service of those poems, I was told my first year of grad school that basically women have a harder time getting published if they write anything that is “women-centric,” you know, that has something to do with women’s issues, so there was a point when I had started writing some of the poems that are in my book before grad school, and I had just decided that I was going to write in service of the poem, no matter if anyone was ever going to read it. Like, you have to be fearless enough to go where the poem needs to go, without worrying about audience, or purpose, or anything else. So, in terms of fearlessness, I’m always striving to where the poem needs to go.


Yes! So, have you always written like this, or is this a style that you’ve worked toward, in terms of the risks you take? Because for me, this is always something I’m trying to cultivate, and it’s scary, because risk is so difficult for people. We use things like irony, or the fantastic to avoid staring at that thing that scares us, as artists and as humans. Especially , considering that people told you—I guess, I don’t really understand what “women-centric” means, but—

CD: Well, you know, anything related to the female body, and things like that, because I was writing about—and the speaker is a woman in the poems—things like child birth and things that are specific to women. And one of my mentors said, “This will be really difficult,” and had me read essays by Rachel Zucker and other people who were talking about this. I think part of that, part of what you’re talking about is risking that—and I hate to use this word—but “sentimentality,” in a way. Risking going to the places where it’s scary to go is risking a level of sentimentality that isn’t always what people want in a poem. I feel like that was the line I had to learn to draw. Like, when you’re younger, and it seems like every undergrad’s poems are super angsty, or whatever. I feel like that’s where I learned the difference between craft and angst and tried to fit it all in a poem. I’ve always kind of written like that, but it was finding the craft elements that were going to be the best vehicle for them.


I think it was Allison Joseph who said that your poems “almost make you want to look away,” and I thought that would be such a great compliment, because it’s work that really leaves a mark on you. In that poem “Testimony of Hinges” you write, “I broke my wrists to give you my hands, // sawed clean through the bone. I dreamt / new hands, pink-tipped fingers / to drag over the knobs of your spine.”

That’s such a beautiful line, and I think that this is more a statement than a question, but one of the things I loved about your work is the way you focus on the body and the way you formed concepts of masculinity and femininity through your imagery. One example is the way men are imagined as trees being felled. I was curious if that’s something you find intuitive, or if it’s something that took time to craft?

CD: I think a lot of what I did in this book was intuitive. I wrote some of the poems in Thaw before grad school, and then the rest in my first year, so it really felt like I was just learning myself while I was writing this book, so a lot of the gestures, and even the images, were intuitive—much more so than the stuff I’m doing now. I think, in terms of the feminine and the masculine, the people who surround the speaker—I needed some other way to describe them other than as human, and I needed some other way to look at the body, kind of to take that one step away, rather than to have them show up as human in my poems. So it kind of gave me a little bit of distance, but I also love, love writing imagery. Images are my thing. I just love them!


The images are beautiful! I’m also curious as to how you approach form. Is that something that’s also intuitive with you? There are so many meaningful line breaks, there are so many points where there’s a little space given, or a little air added into the poem, and it did a lot for me. I was curious how you approach that. Is that something you consider as you write, or is it something you find more in editing?

CD: I think lineation is actually my very favorite thing about poetry, and that is always purposeful. That’s always something I’m working on. I can play with two lines for hours and hours. So all the line breaks, and where I use white space, were very purposeful, in terms of what I thought was in service of the poem, and what I wanted each line to deliver, and how, and the pacing. In terms of form—there’s no formal poetry—but I do that upon revision. I look at the content of the poem, and I try and figure out what box it wants to be in. I think, How am I going to deliver this content? How best can I deliver this content? Even before I decide on stanzas and everything else. But all that is purposeful and upon revision. I tend to just write and write and write in notebooks, and then I decide all that when I’m revising.


So what’s your writing process like? A lot of people say they write every day. Some people just try to write a few times a week. I know you’re super busy, so how does it usually go for you?

CD: In grad school, I did try to write every day. I felt like I had more time. I’m teaching four plus sections right now, so it’s really busy, and I have two kids, and so—I’m really busy. And so I’m trying to write on my off days, when I’m not on campus. But I’m happy if I just write a few poems a week right now because it’s such a busy time. And also, I’m trying to slow myself down. I would like to put in a little more time into different craft things that I haven’t done before: working on form, or other things I haven’t done, instead of just writing just to write.


There are some people who would just love to write! Like, I am amazed at the ways people like you, especially other poets, can manage entire careers, home lives, be on Twitter posting amazing poems for people to read, doing readings, all while the rest of us are struggling just to write a poem every once in a while.

CD: I think for me, there was a long time when I first had my kids when I stopped writing entirely, and I just didn’t have the energy, and it wasn’t until my youngest son was almost going into kindergarten that I was like, How did I miss that? And now I feel this sense of urgency, as though I lost all this time. I think that’s why I’m constantly pushing myself forward, and that’s why I’ve generated so much work in the last few years, because I was like, Oh my God, I missed so much time I have to catch up on. But I also feel like I banked all of the things that I was thinking about for a few years there, and they all just spilled out. I think the reason why I do write every week is because I fear not being able to write again, like I was in that period. And so even if I write a really crappy poem, I’m happy.


Right, and you never know. That poem might end up becoming a good poem in the next month or something like that.

CD: And I read a lot, because it really does help me generate. So, half the time, if I’m on Twitter, it’s because I’m working out and multi-tasking [laughs], or I’m stuck in traffic or something. I’m always doing five things at the same time.


What are the big things you tell your students about writing?

CD: That you need to read a lot to be able to write. Like, you have to read a lot. That is the whole key to the whole thing, I really think, to know what else is out there, whether it was 100 years ago or whether it’s now. But the best thing for my students, I think—the thing that gets them hooked on reading—is giving them contemporary writers to read. To see what’s out there right now. I try and to show them younger people who are writing, too, like Ocean Vuong, who is so young, and they’re really like, Wow, someone my age did that? Let’s go! It’s super inspiring for them. So, just read and read, and get your butt in the chair, because sometimes time management can be a thing that really gets away from them. But otherwise, I’m working with some grad students, and they’re so amazing, and for them, I think the biggest thing right now is just to discover who they are as writers. I mean, that’s what you use grad school for. To figure out what kind of poet you’re going to be. I don’t think we ever really know that, but where do you want your work to go? What are you doing in your work? Sometimes, getting them to articulate what their work is doing is difficult. And that’s the kind of thing we’re working on right now.


That’s great! I also wanted to ask you about migration, because it’s such a big theme of the book. Your [grand]father’s migration to Canada. Your migration to the South. I think of “Autumn Wars,” where you write, “Once, we armed ourselves and drove / over tundra in a twining womb / of white fields and sky / to get out. I saw then that some things can never be / made beautiful.”

Was that a theme you considered before you started writing, or more something that found its way into your work?

 CD: I think that was kind of one of the obsessions of the book, if you want to put it that way, and I think that’s one of the obsessions I write about—even the chapbook I’m putting out this spring—I have the same obsessions. It was about my grandfather’s migration to Western Canada. I think that obsession came out of feeling a little bit cut off from home, where I’m living right now, and how you can raise kids so far from where you began, and where your ancestors began, and how they can kind of lose track of their lineage that way. When I was writing Thaw, I had a lot of that. My kids were small, and I felt like they would never know my Ukrainian background, how I grew up, how my parents grew up. Like, it’s just all so foreign to them, they don’t even know my parents that well. That was a real obsession of the poems, I guess. Writing in response to that feeling.


So, do you go back to Canada a lot? I notice in some of your bios, they’ll start with “Chelsea Dingman is a Canadian citizen,” which I always thought was kind of fun. [Laughs]

CD: I know! I feel like I need to fly the Canadian flag or something. Yes, we go home, but I’m from Western Canada, so where I am in Florida, it’s a lot of travel, so we don’t get there as much as I would like. It used to be once a year, and then it became every two or three years. So yeah, I don’t get home enough. I think that’s part of why it became an obsession to write about it. People ask me, Were you writing the snow and everything from memory? And I was, because you just start missing all of the things you’re trying to explain to people.


 You mentioned you have the chapbook coming out. Is there anything else on the horizon?

CD: No, so I wrote three manuscripts in grad school. One every year.


Wow, that’s great! You’re going to have work coming out forever!

CD: [Laughs] That’s kind of why I have so much work everywhere right now. Thaw was my first year;, and then my second year, I wrote the work coming out in the chapbook. It was my thesis, and it’s the second section of that manuscript. It’s loosely based on the speaker’s immigration from Ukraine in 1924 and the second wave of immigrants to Western Canada. And then the third manuscript is about infertility and stillbirth, which I wrote last year. Now I’m working on wherever I go after that. New work.


Well, you’ve definitely got some time, since your work will be coming out for the next three years. [Laughs] My last question is kind of a serious one. You have two sons. [Beat] Do they know that their mom is a rock star?

CD: [Laughs] No, I don’t think so. You know how people don’t really understand poetry? I don’t know if you have that, too. But even my mom, trying to explain it to her…


Oh gosh, yeah. I don’t even really try. It’s just nice that people sort of know that you’re a poet, and that you’ve published work somewhere, you won some award, or whatever. People can just take that with them.

CD: Yes! I know. And my mom, she doesn’t understand everything, but she’s super proud. My kids are, too. They like to come to work with me. They think it’s fun to sit in my office and play on my computer. You know what I mean? Like, I want them to value going to college and all that. If they don’t understand poetry, I’m okay with that.



Chelsea Dingman is a Visiting Instructor at the University of South Florida. Her first book, Thaw, was chosen by Allison Joseph to win the National Poetry Series (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Her chapbook, What Bodies Have I Moved, is forthcoming from Madhouse Press (2018). In 2016-17, she also won The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Poetry Prize, The Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize, Water-stone Review’s Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize, and The South Atlantic Modern Language Association’s Creative Writing Award for Poetry. Her work can be found in Ninth Letter, The Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast, among others. Visit her website:


Kwame Opoku-Duku is a poet and fiction writer. His work is featured or forthcoming in the Massachusetts Review, BOMB, Gigantic Sequins, Booth, and Chicago Review of Books' Arcturus, among other publications. Kwame lives in New York City and, along with Karisma Price, is a founding member of the Unbnd Collective. Find him online at or tweeting @kwamethethird.


By Cassandra Cleghorn, Guest Reviewer.

  This American Ghost , by Michael Wasson (YesYes Books, 2017).

This American Ghost, by Michael Wasson (YesYes Books, 2017).

Neurobiologists have dramatically revised their estimates of when the human brain fully matures, pushing the threshold from the mid-teens to 25. According to this timeline, poet Michael Wasson's prefrontal cortex has only very recently knit together. This American Ghost is a record of the poet's fresh maturity; with great precision and tenderness, Wasson marks his developmental stages from boyhood to manhood. "So get naked & turn off / the light you've left on for twenty-five years," he writes in a poem composed of directions to his adult self. "Feel / how the rain might slow into snow & your breath / brightens from the dark held in your mouth" (27-28). But even when Wasson's poems recall childhood or adolescence, they reference something beyond the scope of a single lifespan. "The silence of the reservation / could fill me / to the point of breaking & I'd be / the boy in the front yard," he writes, locating the reader at a particular place and time in his recent past, and then swooping her off into a much more diffuse atmosphere composed of light and shadow and bodies that refract and glow: "can you see the fleshed / curving of my shoulders turned / black as near midnight?" (29) In each poem, Wasson brings his reader to the cusp of new knowledges and new ways of knowing, and holds her there, with him, expectant: "I'm waiting / in the yard for an answer to / the world" (30).

Wasson is Nimíipuu, from the Nez Perce Reservation in north-central Idaho, a piece of land that represents a fraction of the 17,000,000 acres the tribe claimed as their own before the brutal encroachment of white settlers at the start of the 19th century. When the public purchase of reservation lands was authorized by the Allotment Act at the century's end, settlers rushed in again to further dispossess the Nez Perce; today, only 12% of the reservation is owned by tribal members. According to the 2010 U.S. census, the current Nez Perce population is 3,500. Indigenous languages are the further casualties of colonialism; one of Wasson's poems begins with the recollection of Nez Perce elder Titus Paul, who was forbidden to speak his Native language at the Chilocco Indian School in 1922. The Endangered Language Project labels nimipuutímt (the language of the Nez Perce) as "critically" at risk, estimating that there are less than 50 speakers worldwide. In the past few decades, however, tribal members have worked toward language revitalization, developing language apps and online courses. As with digital repatriation (including the Nez Perce Historical Photograph Collection at University of Idaho), the Internet has opened up potentially dynamic ways to redress what Native American Studies scholar Tyler Rogers calls the "lethal archival logic" of settler colonialism. Through this resonant silence, Wasson listens for the questions of "another century": "how to change all these years of loss" (25) and "how are we remembered / in our choreography / of bones?" (145).  

In response to such questions, Wasson offers world-mending poems through which he threads phrases of nimipuutímt, sometimes accompanied by English equivalents and at other times left untranslated.  "kée píi'nekeyneks: Let us (swallow) take each other in" (7) reads the epigraph to one poem. In another, based on a traditional Nez Perce story, the poet makes as literal as possible the heat of the songs he sings:  "I confess     I'm young // & you take a flame / to my tongue // c'ic'ál is lit in the mouth   c'ic'ál again" (23). Readers may recognize in this bilingual dance a kinship with the work of Diné (Navajo) poet Sherwin Bitsui, and of Mojave poet and language activist Natalie Diaz, who enters what Diaz calls the "mausoleum" of her tribal language, writing her way into words she is only now learning as an adult. (To learn more about the challenges and rewards of bilingual creative writing, see this account of the MFA program at the University of Texas, El Paso.) Bitsui, Diaz, and Wasson follow Gloria Anzaldúa, whose work darts between multiple dialects of Spanish, English, Spanglish, and Nahuatl, calling out white supremacy by exploiting her readers' varying degrees of familiarity with and ignorance of the languages of oppressor and oppressed. But where Anzaldúa addressed a potential readership of millions of native Spanish and bilingual speakers in the U.S., Wasson draws upon a second language that most readers not only don't speak, but didn't even know existed. In this daring move, Wasson shares a sense of intimacy that defies translation, claiming likeness with those few readers who hold his endangered genealogy in common, and difference from the majority who do not. From the latter, Wasson invites a listening and a learning.  

Wasson thus expresses an expansive sense of service to his people, and of witness to those who stand beyond the circle. From the American ghost of the book's title and the Homeric dead of its epigraph, through the hauntings of immediate family members, friends, elders, and ancestors, the poet takes seriously his task, "to grieve history." This potent phrase names history as both the object of mourning and the ambivalent process by which the survivor may recollect, recover, and restore what is lost. Wasson knows that there are holes that cannot be filled by even the most fervent words of any language: "because when is the best question / I can muster" (23).

Intimations of suicide and lynching recur through the poems. The poet steps

                                                                        into a field & here is where

                                    it happened--

                                                                                                another boy

                                    held                                      dragged by the cock (7)


Before bringing the reader into the crime's horrific conclusion ("how that body burned / from the inside out"), he assures us that "we are still     so blessed to be // a wreckage of the most terrible monster" (8). In his compact and explosive chapbook, Wasson conveys viscerally and eloquently—and with seemingly infinite compassion—the intimate legacies of this genocidal empire:

                                             sometimes to remember this living


                                    we let a word

                                                fire from the opened hole in the head


                                    & tell me how to swallow what light does


                                                            to the tongue at rest (23)





Cassandra Cleghorn’s Four Weathercocks was published in 2016 by Marick Press. Her poems and reviews have appeared in journals including Paris Review, Yale Review, Poetry International, Boston Review, Tin House, Eyewear Review (forthcoming)—and (most recently) Colorado Review and She lives in Vermont, teaches at Williams College, and serves as poetry editor of Tupelo Press. You can find Cassandra at


By Mia Kang, Guest Interviewer.

  Christopher Kempf , featured in  Issue Twenty-Two .

Christopher Kempf, featured in Issue Twenty-Two.


Chris, thanks for taking the time to be interviewed. Late in the Empire of Men is a stunning collection, and I’m excited to learn more about its making. As a first question, I’m curious to know about your process—how did these poems begin to form, and at what point did you start to see them as a book? Can you describe a moment when this project broke open for you?

Christopher Kempf: Mia, thanks so much for speaking with me, and thanks, too, to The Adroit Journal for giving us this opportunity. I think highly of your own work—the razor-sharp syntax, the historical consciousness—so it’s such a pleasure to think about these questions.

I wrote the oldest poems in LITEOM—“Predictive Text: The Corn Monster” and “In the ’90s”—as part of my MFA thesis in 2009, but the current form of the book was a relatively late development. Though I’d been aware, as I worked on the collection, that the poems were circling a set of common interests, it wasn’t until I had a title for the book that I began to see it as a structurally unified project, one, specifically, that laid a coming-of-age narrative across the westward trajectory of American history. 

I like your description of the project “breaking open”—for me that happened after I wrote “Clearing the History,” what I saw immediately was a kind of keystone poem for the book, since it’s there that the speaker moves from Ohio to California, from childhood to adulthood; as soon as that poem fell into place, the book, as far as I was concerned, was finished.


What’s something you’ve had to work toward or against in terms of your skills as a writer? In what ways did these poems challenge you, whether to explore new ways of writing or to go deeper into certain aspects of your practice?

CK: One of the things I struggle with, still, is fighting against—or “breaking”—the rhythm of the poem in order to convey the specific idea I want to get across at that moment. I almost always hear the rhythm of the poem before the words themselves, and while, ideally, music and meaning should work together, sometimes the prose-sense doesn’t want to fit into the poetic container, or overruns the musical staff, or whatever other metaphor one wants to use.

I’ve always loved the way Frost talks about it. The metaphor he uses—which, I now realize, is better than my own—is hearing the rise and fall of voices behind a closed door. For Frost, it’s the music, the tone of a sentence that lets it accrue such a rich affective complexity, and I’m trying more, in my own work, to loosen the rhythm in order to achieve a more varied intellectual and emotional range.


The book deals in part with mythical themes and characters, as well as with the resonances of the Roman Empire. What’s your relationship to classical literature and history? What has hooked or repelled you about the classics?

CK: I was raised Catholic, and still consider myself Catholic to a certain extent, but what interests me in the religion is less the doctrinal or theological niceties than the underlying system of myth, which is—if one goes back far enough—pagan. That myth, the dying and rising god, is all around us, it seems to me—in the changing of the seasons, in the names we give to our children, in secular rites like Homecoming. For the ancients, the world was alive with divine energy, and I’m trying, in LITEOM, to re-enchant things like the Indianapolis 500 and high-school graduation parties and even video games, to show both their mythic importance to American culture as well as their more deleterious effects. I think your own writing about Rome, if I understand it correctly, sharply critiques these more negative aspects of myth, even while feeling compelled by them.

I’ve been inspired too, I have to admit, by the grand, civilizational histories that used to be written by people like Oswald Spengler and Edward Gibbon, another form of mythology in their own right. There’s a lot these histories get wrong, but they bespeak a desire for synthesis, for unity, that we seem, in our age of specialization and distraction, to have given up on; that desire, I think, is fundamentally religious in nature.


The poems in Late in the Empire of Men take a wide range of forms on the page. Did your use of classical references inspire any particular formal strategies in the book? Would you say you had a formal project you wanted to engage in the book as a whole?

 CK: I hadn’t thought of the form of the book as relating, much, to the classical references, but I do think of the formal movement of the book—oscillating between single-stanza, columnar poems and more fractured or jagged poems—as embodying a shuttling between wholeness and brokenness, unity and fragmentation. To the extent that the book has a formal project, it’s about thinking through, in form, the problem of how an empire holds together and how it falls apart. One could think of the book, then, as an excavation, trying to gather these mythological fragments and make them, in the present, into a kind of whole. This is, I guess, an Eliotic project, only with poems about OkCupid and food courts.


I found your book often calls upon elegy or nostalgia, but it always pushes those to become more present in the present rather than enacting a simple looking back, if that makes sense—the poems tend to collapse time in a way that creates a kind of endlessness. And the time-space of the book feels distinctly contemporary. Can you talk about what you had to work through to constellate past and future in this way, whether in individual poems or perhaps in terms of sequencing?

 CK: That’s such a keen take on the book—thank you.

Sequencing LITEOM, as a coherent narrative, was far easier than handling the temporal shifts in individual poems, since the book begins in childhood and moves through the pangs of adolescence—the speaker coming into his capacity for violence and sexuality—toward a more stable, if still unsettling, adulthood.

For me, time is always a function of place, which is why I love your punning term “time-space.” By that, I mean that place, as I experience it, is a kind of historical palimpsest, layered over with the various groups—both familial and civilizational—that ever occupied a given house or town or nation. Sometimes we’re made acutely aware of the presentness—“presence” would be the religious term—of the past, such as when we’re staring at the ruins of the Sutro Baths, or walking through a redwood forest, or lying in one of those massive, 19th century parks with monuments and greenhouses and skating ponds we’d never build anymore. The poems in LITEOM are infused, I think, with that historical consciousness, with the conviction that we are hardly the first to see what we see, even to feel what we feel. Against the foundational tenet of lyric poetry—that the individual is a world until him or herself—LITEOM asks whether we’re really that exceptional; I’d say probably not.


Masculinity—especially the way young American men are raised into it—is at issue throughout the book. I sense you worked hard to undo any strictly declarative or narrative register of language into something more indeterminate in these poems. Can you discuss how gender figures into your approach to language and form?

CK: It’s interesting that you think of the poems as “indeterminate,” whereas I tend to think of their form, precisely, as “narrative” and “declarative.” I’m grateful, though, to be seen as indeterminate, since the opposite, I guess, might be something like “self-assured” or “didactic.”

Perhaps what’s actually taking place in the poems is a formal undoing of discursive or semantic assertion; in other words, something like lineation, for instance, complicates what seems to be a straightforward statement, as in “What/ this century left us is just/ this one way to be men…” Yes, the passage suggests, it’s terrible how American imperialism inducts young men into patterns of violence, but this also makes sense on a logical level—this is how empires work.

I wanted these poems—and want all my poetry—to resist the kind of easy moralizing that mars far too much of the poetry being celebrated these days. I want my writing, rather, to examine self-consciously its own implication in injustice, the very material ways in which it—and me, and the entire poetry community—profits from those systems of violence we most vehemently object to. Brooks and Warren talk about a poem being “massive” and “multidimensional”—I want that. Poetry certainly has a role in opposing injustice, but it needn’t do so, I don’t think, at the expense of complicated, responsible thinking.


Late in the Empire of Men is your first collection of poetry, and congratulations again on such an impressive debut. What did this book teach you? What are you working on now?

CK: Thank you, Mia. And thank you again, really, for such thoughtful, challenging questions; I had to think deeply about these, for which I’m grateful.

Writing LITEOM, and watching it make its way in the world, has taught me a lot about writing poetry, but it’s also taught me to be a kinder, more generous citizen of the poetry community. The book has benefited tremendously from the kindness of others, whether friends and teachers who read early drafts, or the incredible staff at Four Way who midwifed it, or complete strangers who took the time to think with it or review it. At the same time, I’ve learned to value the work in itself independent of whatever praise or criticism it garners in the outside world; I’ve learned satisfaction can’t come from outside—one always wants one more fellowship, one more award, one more acceptance letter.

As for what’s next, I’m finishing up a second poetry collection about a year I spent living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and trying to make a significant push on a doctoral dissertation about the rhetoric of labor in early creative writing programs. That—and reading as much poetry as possible.




Christopher Kempf is the author of Late in the Empire of Men, which won the 2015 Levis Prize in Poetry from Four Way Books. Recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, his work has appeared in Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New Republic, and PEN America, among other places. A recent Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, he is a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of Chicago.


Mia Kang is an Oregon-born, Texas-raised writer, named the 2017 winner of Boston Review’s Annual Poetry Contest by Mónica de la Torre. A Brooklyn Poets Fellow and runner-up for the 2017 "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Contest, her work as appeared of is forthcoming including Rattle Poets Respond, Narrative Magazine, Poetry Northwest, and the PEN Poetry Series. Mia is currently a PhD student in the history of art at Yale University, where she studies contemporary art, constitutive outsides, and impasse.



The Ultimate Guide to High School Writing Workshops, Programs, & Camps in 2018 by Peter LaBerge

By Katie Chen, Sarah Feng, Peter LaBerge, and Amelia Van Donsel. 


We know how it goes: your friends focusing on STEM areas or sports have already got their summers figured out, and you want to write. But where? And how? And how can I learn—which programs are vanity programs, and which do the work? 

We struggled with this precise set of questions as high school students, so we set out to create this nifty guide for all student writers looking for writing workshops, camps, mentorship programs, and writing studios. Got another camp or two (or seven) in mind? Give us a shout and we'll check it out! 

In the meantime, you may wish to additionally check out our college guide for high school creative writers, as well as our tips for high school teen writers. And with that, we're off!


Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program


Duration: June 24th - August 4th
Eligibility: Grades 9-12
Opens for applications on March 1st

(Disclaimer: We are alums of this program.) The Adroit Summer Mentorship Program is definitely worth your attention! A little over a month long, this free, online summer program revolutionizes your approach to writing and consistently pushes you to approach writing and publishing more creatively. Mentors are a range of experienced and flexible professional writers across genres and across aesthetics. The program also provides a number of networking opportunities—with a shared Facebook group and weekly peer reviews, we were introduced to people who would later become our closest writing friends today. 

Application Guidelines
Sign Up for Application Period Updates

Bard College at Simon's Rock Young Writer's Workshop

  Bard College at Simon's Rock.

Bard College at Simon's Rock.

Duration: July 8th - 28th
Eligibility: Grades 9-11
Deadline: Rolling

Located at the beautiful rural campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, this three-week workshop for young writers encourages students to find unconventional, expressive, and out-of-the-box ways of writing, while encouraging peer review and assigned reading seminars. The low teacher to student ratio –– each session is only 12 students –– also encourages personalized attention.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Between the Lines @ the University of Iowa

  Between the Lines.

Between the Lines.

Duration: July 14th - 28th
Eligibility: Students aged 16-19.
Deadline: April 2nd for all American applicants

Iowa’s BTL program provides a cultural exchange program for students from the United States, Russia, and Arabic-speaking countries. With an emphasis on world literature and arts, the camp conducts workshops in students’ native languages. Evening and weekend excursions include nature sightseeing and translation events.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal (for American students –– different process for international students)

CSSSA (California State Summer School) Creative Writing Program

  Tumblr (CSSSA SYDNEY).


Duration: July 7th - August 3rd
Eligibility: Grades 9-12; California residents.
Deadline: February 28th

The creative writing program at the California State Summer School is a four-week workshop for Californian high schoolers. CSSSA includes instruction in fiction, poetry, memoir, and dramatic writing, taught by four professional writers. The approximately 70 students the program admits per year are designated California Arts Scholars; upon completion of the program, each is awarded a Governor’s Medallion, California’s highest honor for artistically gifted students. 

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Denison University Reynolds Young Writer’s Workshop

  Denison University.

Denison University.

Duration: June 17th - 24th
Eligibility: Grades 11-12
Deadline: March 4, 2018

The Reynolds Young Writer’s Workshop is a residential 8-day workshop for passionate high school student writers. Founded in 1994, it is one of the oldest summer writing camps for high school students in the country.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Duke Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP)

  Duke TIP.

Duke TIP.

Duration: 2 weeks, varies for location/course.
Eligibility: High school students.
Deadline: Varies for location/course.

Duke TIP, located in places such as Costa Rica, New Mexico, North Carolina, and beyond, provides in-depth courses in all different subject matters. In the Fine Arts track, TIP offers Creative Writing Unplugged –– becoming more professional and organized with writing –– and Filmmaking: the Art of Visual Storytelling, a project-based class about visual communication. 

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Iowa Young Writer’s Studio

  Iowa Young Writer's Studio .

Iowa Young Writer's Studio.

Duration: June 17th - 30th (Session 1), July 8th - 21st (Session 2)
Eligibility: Grades 9-12
Deadline: February 8th (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

The Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, held in the literary hub of Iowa City, is a two-week writing workshop in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. IYWS is highly touted by most young writers; it’s well-known for being very selective with applicants, and is regarded as a top provider of in-person literary community and instruction in teenage literary circles. 

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Interlochen Center for the Arts Creative Writing Summer Program

  Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Duration: June 23-July 14, July 15-August 6
Eligibility: Grades 6-12 (high school and middle school camps are separate)
Deadline: Feb. 1  (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

Hosted in the Writing House, an immersive building constructed specifically for writers, students engage in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and playwriting workshops, participate in independent study, and perform at public readings. Also, you’ll be living in a cabin with participants from all the different majors –– music, visual arts, etc. –– and outside of classes, it’s like an art haven; at night, violinists and poets host open mics, and artists are always painting against the serene Interlochen lake. In summer 2017, Interlochen even hosted its own miniature Color Run for campers.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY)



Duration: Many different sessions
Eligibility: Grades 2-6, Grades 7-12
Deadline: March 26th

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth is a nonprofit dedicated to identifying and developing the talents of academically advanced pre-college students around the world. It serves bright learners and their families through our research, advocacy, and counseling, as well as our signature gifted and talented summer, online, international, and family programs. With a few lit-themed classes like Crafting the Essay and The Graphic Novel, you may just find your summer plans here.

Application Guidelines

Kelly Writers House Summer Workshop @ UPenn

  Kelly Writers House.

Kelly Writers House.

Duration: July 8th - 18th
Eligibility: Students entering grades 11 or 12 in summer 2018.
Deadline: March 4th

At the Kelly Writers House Summer Workshop, students will spend each morning in a personal essay writing workshop led by Penn creative writing instructor Jamie-Lee Josselyn, who also serves as the Director of the Summer Workshop. Over the course of the workshop, students will read and critique one another’s writing as part of the revision process. The goal of this workshop is to provide creative high school students, especially those who have not had similar opportunities, with the chance to dedicate full days to the practice of writing. Students will develop their own work and will read and critique their peers’ writing in a setting similar to an undergraduate writing workshop. There will also be time to explore Penn and Philadelphia with fellow workshop students and program staff.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop

  Kenyon Review.

Kenyon Review.

Duration: June 24- July 7 (Session I), July 15- 28 (Session II)
Eligibility: High school students aged 16- 18
Deadline: March 1st

Located at Kenyon College, for two weeks student writers are challenged to exploring, reconstructing, and sharing their writing through daily workshops. Since it is also a residential program, students also have the chance to interact with and connect with students who love writing as much as they do. This program is an extremely highly regarded summer writing program, and should definitely be checked out!

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Kundiman Youth Leadership Intensive



Duration: July 9th – 13th
Eligibility: Rising 9th grade – 12th grade students who self-identify as Asian American.
Deadline: February 15th (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

Students will read selections from important works of Asian American literature and history and will consider how they speak to the opportunities and challenges we face in the twenty-first century. As a culminating project, they will engage in an oral history/creative writing Kavad project which will bring them in dialogue with their peers and instructors in a highly supportive, fun, and encouraging environment. Throughout the Intensive, they will receive counsel from leading writers, artists, and industry innovators.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

New England Young Writers Conference

  Middlebury/Bread Loaf.

Middlebury/Bread Loaf.

Duration: May 17th – 20th
Eligibility: Grades 9-11.
Deadline: November 29th, 2017 (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

The New England Young Writers’ Conference (NEYWC) at Middlebury College's picturesque Bread Loaf Campus is a four day writing-focused workshop for high school students in New England and from around the country. The long weekend is packed with writing seminars, workshops, readings, and opportunities to meet fellow young writers. High School English teachers or guidance counselors may nominate up to five students from their school to participate in the conference. Up to two may be selected. 

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Northwestern Center for Talent Development (CTD)



Duration: Three week programs (July 1st – July 20th & July 22nd – August 10th) as well as five week programs (July 1st – August 3rd) are offered.
Eligibility: Many different grade brackets, ranging from Age 3 to Grade 12.
Deadline: First come, first serve. Many programs begin to fill up in mid-March. (Financial Aid deadline is April 16th.) 

Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development provides challenging enrichment, honors and Advanced Placement courses taught in a highly supportive environment. From early childhood through elementary, middle and high school, Center for Talent Development (CTD) gifted summer programs encourage gifted kids to explore academic areas of interest and connect with a community of peers. The Equinox Program caters to grade 9-12 students. 

Application Guidelines
Tuition Information

Sarah Lawrence Creative Writing Workshop

  Sarah Lawrence College.

Sarah Lawrence College.

Duration: July 2nd - 7th
Eligibility: Students entering the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade.

Directed by distinguished faculty members, this program allows high school students to explore writing in a non-competitive and non-judgmental environment that values the risks and adventure of the creative process. Each day, participants attend writing and theatre workshops led by prose writers, poets, and performance artists. Included in the week are mini-workshops taught by program faculty and guest artists. Rooted in the Sarah Lawrence College tradition of one-on-one interaction, the program offers students the opportunity to meet individually with workshop leaders. Classes are limited to 18 students, with three faculty members per workshop. The program also includes faculty and student readings and a celebration of student work on the final day of the program.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Sewanee Young Writers' Conference

  Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.

Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.

Duration: July 1st - 14th
Eligibility: Grades 9-11
Deadline: Rolling

Held at the University of the South, the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference is a two-week camp taught by authors recognized by the New York Times and the Oprah Book Club, among other prestigious organizations. Small classes are put in rigorous environments and often go on local excursions, such as hiking in forests which serve as the settings for famous books. SYWC also offers classes in playwriting and songwriting, a rare trait for a high school program.

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Stanford University Summer Sessions

  Stanford Summer Sessions.

Stanford Summer Sessions.

Duration: June 23 - August 18, 2018
Eligibility: Current 10th, 11th, 12th, or gap year student.
Deadline: February 15th (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

This one comes recommended from Adroit’s editor-in-chief, Peter LaBerge. The Stanford Summer Session offer high schoolers the chance to take undergraduate-level Stanford courses in fields of their choosing; the creative writing ones, spanning all the major genres, are taught by Wallace Stegner Fellows like Adroit contributors Richie Hofmann, Laura Romeyn, Jacques J. Rancourt, and more. 

Application Guidelines
Application Portal

Telluride Association (TASS)

  Telluride Association.

Telluride Association.

Duration: June 24th - August 4th
Eligibility: High school sophomores or equivalent.
Deadline: January 9th (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

For six weeks, 56 rising juniors are able to participate in a college level seminar at either Cornell University or University of Michigan. While it's focused on critical black and ethnic studies, students who love history and social justice, or who want to learn something new, are highly encouraged apply. As someone who has been lucky enough to attend, the six weeks I spent at TASS not only challenged me to rethink my opinions but also provided me with a lifelong community.

Application Guidelines

Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP)

  The Activist Times.

The Activist Times.

Duration: June 24th - August 4th
Eligibility: High school juniors or equivalent.
Deadline: January 16th (sign up for our 2019 version below so you don't miss next year's deadline!)

TASP is a program that is perfect for any student who is in love with the tangible act of learning. Rising seniors participate in one of four seminars located at one of three campuses: Cornell University, University of Michigan, or University of Maryland. At TASP, students can expect to meet others who are just as passionate about learning, as well as being intellectually challenged every day.

Application Guidelines

UVA Young Writers Program

  UVA Young Writers Program.

UVA Young Writers Program.

Duration: June 24th - July 6th; July 8th - 27th
Eligibility: Rising 9th grade through rising 12th grade with a minimum age 13 by start of session (June 24 - July 6) or Rising 10th grade through rising college freshmen with a minimum age 14 by start of session.
Deadline: March 1st

The Young Writer’s Workshop of the University of Virginia is a nonprofit arts organization established in 1982 as the nation’s flagship program for young writers. Now in its fourth decade, it continues to bring together a community of writers from across the country and internationally with a common purpose: to create a supportive, non-competitive environment where teenage writers can live and work together as artists. The faculty of authors and residential staff bring professional experience to the development of new talent. The summer program is located on the idyllic campus of nearby Sweet Briar College where the Young Writers Workshop welcomes its participants to a retreat space where writers commune with each other, immerse themselves in creative activity, and fuel their imaginations through an innovative arts program.

Application Details
Application Portal


No matter where you choose to spend your summer, be sure to spend it with us! By signing up below, you'll receive updates each time we open a submission period or release an issue, and you'll receive our 2019 Guide to High School Summer Programs, Camps, and Writing Workshops. (Note: If you are already subscribed to our mailing list, you will already receive this content.)

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Katie Chen is a junior at Colonel By Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. Sarah Feng is a sophomore at the Pinewood School in Los Altos, California. Peter LaBerge is the San Francisco-based editor-in-chief of the Adroit Journal. Amelia Van Donsel is a freshman at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York.

REVIEW: THE HOUSE OF ERZULIE BY Kirsten Imani Kasai by Peter LaBerge

By Katharine Coldiron, Guest Reviewer.

 Kirsten Imani Kasai. Photo by Alanna Airitam Photography.

Kirsten Imani Kasai. Photo by Alanna Airitam Photography.

  The House of Erzulie , by Kirsten Imani Kasai (Shade Mountain Press, 2018).

The House of Erzulie, by Kirsten Imani Kasai (Shade Mountain Press, 2018).

Imagine a novel, mostly in journal entries or epistolary form, that unfolds slowly. Imagine that it bears witness to the deepening madness of a man who’s either a nascent schizophrenic or the victim of a voodoo curse. Imagine a sultry, blood-soaked novel haunted by the history of the American South and the complexities of Creole culture and heritage. Imagine that this novel uses a kaleidoscope of perspectives, no one view revealing all, and that its end bears destruction without resolution—more sour fruit of the Southern legacy.

If all that sounds appealing, you’re in luck: that novel exists, and it’s The House of Erzulie, Kirsten Imani Kasai’s third novel and her first for Shade Mountain Press. The plot involves a modern-day historian locating and becoming obsessed with the journal and letters of a mixed-race Louisiana couple from the 1850s. The husband of the couple, Isidore, suffers under a mysterious curse; we read of his descent first in his wife Emilie’s words, and then in his. Isidore’s journal comprises the bulk of the novel’s pages, which is a good thing, because his prose (and, by extension, Kasai’s) is extraordinary.

I saw Her last night, a vague and spectral shape wandering the cane fields, climbing among the shattered ribs of my ruined glass house. …I pushed myself through cloying lightless rooms as if wading through muddy swamp water, following the sobs of a crying child. I call his name but he does not answer except to weep and wail.

Sometimes the prose of these nineteenth-century citizens veers into melodrama, but that label is hard to avoid when considering a Gothic novel—which, make no mistake, is precisely the category in which The House of Erzulie rests. It sits on the shelf with Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca: restless ghosts, body horror, dastardly secrets, loves that should not be. The African American Gothic is often ignored in favor of the British variety, which is a shame, because there are just as many haunted houses and wailing spirits in New Orleans (more, even!) as on the moors of Yorkshire. The volume of melodrama turns up gradually as the novel progresses, both in theme and in language, but the book is so absorbing that this insistent music is hard to criticize without a particular distaste for the genre. Gothic fiction and melodrama share a lot of the same geography; this Gothic novel sometimes tips the carriage as it rides, breakneck, over its emotional territory. But in return, the reader is gifted with prose like this:

The house, the house! That cursed landlocked shipwreck. Pasted like a flyer onto my sleeping mind’s eyes, I cannot unsee it or spend a peaceful nocturne without wandering its spiraling, ruined halls.

If they are to the reader’s taste, the pleasures of this genre, and this novel, are exquisite.

If the initial, epistolary section of the book occasionally feels unpromising, it is because Emilie’s voice, perspective, and activities are appropriately limited for a woman of her era. Her letters are sometimes repetitive or trivial. But, crucially, they set down the groundwork for the horrors to unfold later in the novel. The reader needs to hear her perspective on what befalls Isidore before we hear his own. And once he begins to reveal that perspective, the novel becomes mesmerizing, clamping down on the reader’s attention and locking its jaws.

I believe little in Spirit realms, ghosts, or heathen gods, but if such powers exist, they trifle with me and take great pleasure in batting me about between their paws. Devour me now, I say! My cowardly soul has little use for this world as it is. I cannot account for my time, and my unquiet mind will not make sense of these events, nor find suitable explanation for what has happened.

What concretely connects Isidore and Emilie to Lydia, the modern-day historian reading their words and framing the novel, becomes clear only in the final pages. But what thematically connects the two stories is plain much earlier on. Lydia has had a bout with madness herself, and she practices what’s now known as “cutting” and what was once “bloodletting” in order to soothe her demons, just as Isidore does. Blood, literal and metaphorical, is front and center in this novel, from Emilie’s hemorrhaging during childbirth to the red Xs Lydia paints on a voodoo queen’s grave.

Inevitably, the topic of bloodletting in the South will invoke the spilled blood of slaves. The novel does not draw its emotional power from slavery (as does what is probably the most famous African American Gothic novel, Toni Morrison’s Beloved), but it does not ignore it completely. This is a challenging balance to strike. This novel covers a narrow emotional scope rather than a broad political one, but no author writing about the South in the 1850s can reasonably disregard slavery. Kasai negotiates the problem partially by gesturing to New Orleans as a profound melting pot, where racial lines are harder to draw than in other areas of the South, and partially by unflinchingly depicting a whipping and an auction in the course of the novel’s other, more emotionally central events. 

The House of Erzulie privileges the spaces of dreams, imagination, and sexual ecstasy (oh, no, this novel is NSFW). It does not care much whether it’s taxing the reader’s patience, or straining her credulity, and at some point, the reader must stop caring about these elements, too. Kirsten Imani Kasai wants to take you for a tour of a particular house in New Orleans, and the best option is to accept her offered hand and go along, eyes open. I suggest you leave the lights on while reading.



coldiron copy.jpg

Katharine Coldiron's work has appeared in Ms., The Rumpus, The Offing, and elsewhere. She lives in California and blogs at The Fictator.

Adroit's Best Books of 2017 by Peter LaBerge

Every year, we witness the release of hundreds of luminous and necessary poetry collections, short story collections, novels, and more. 2017 was certainly no exception. Read on for some of our 2017 favorites.

 Alice James Books

Alice James Books

Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
Alice James Books

There is a feeling of suspense amidst the pages of Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, an exhilaration present even in its most quiet moments. Akbar takes us into the narrative of addiction with an energy equal parts unpredictable and irresistable, arresting us in the very first piece with contrasts between God “coming to earth disguised as rust” and a woman who “dabs a man’s gutwound with her hijab/ then draws the cloth to her lips, confused.” From then on, nothing in this book is simply itself; the body is a dangerous instrument, Farsi a sting of childhood purity, orchids a path to longing. This book has an eye for infinity, holding its narrator to the world like a lens, each fault and beauty and grief of personal history reflecting universally. The result is a book of poems you find you must sit with, reading and re-reading the effortless movement of Akbar’s observation.

Though every page finds Akbar writing with new, unexpected angles, what gave me the greatest impression from this collection was one of the strongest and most consistent lyric voices I’ve ever encountered, a tone imbued with unabashed truth. I was overwhelmed with the power of an author who can present themselves naked and bloody and shameful, who can allow the reader to see them “graceless./ No. Worse than that.” It is not fearlessness that strips Akbar bare but persistence, a willingness to dig through himself in poem after poem, to “dive/ dimplefirst into the strange” again and again. Interesting that, in a collection largely concerned with faith, I come away sensing Akbar’s devotion to poetry; that as these pages find him struggling to come to terms with his deepest wounds, it seems clear that writing them has become a form of healing.

Daniel Blokh
2016 Summer Mentorship Student


 Coffee House Press

Coffee House Press

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
Coffee House Press

If you haven’t read Stephen Florida, and can’t claim it (yet) as one of 2017’s finest releases, then perhaps I can at least convince you it has the best first sentence of the year: “My mother had two placentas and I was living off both of them,” our protagonist Stephen declares on the first page, throwing us into Habash’s wild, voice-driven character study of a college wrestler in his senior year. Much has been said about this being a story about obsession and a story about toxic masculinity, but still this doesn’t quite do credit to Habash’s dark and mysterious debut. Stephen Florida that best kind of novel, which cannot be properly summarized into a back-cover blurb, and cannot be distilled into a 200 word “Adroit’s Best Books of 2017.” What I will say is this: Habash’s ambition in this novel is rivaled only by his big heartedness. His character building, rivaled only by his attention to language. It is a strange and special book, and by the end, you’ll be thanking Coffee House Press for helping usher it into the world.

- Garrett Biggs
Managing Editor


 BOA Editions Ltd.

BOA Editions Ltd.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen
BOA Editions Ltd.

“Aren’t all great / love stories, at their core, / great mistakes?” Chen Chen asks in the same earnestly ironic (ironically earnest?) voice that makes When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities such a heart-collapsing joy to read. In these poems populated with misidentified guanacos and “flying mango-tomato hybrids,” gay Japanese pornstar Koh Masaki and loves both lost and found, Chen straddles the line between the deeply personal and the deeply universal. He explodes off the page, wrings wonder from a universe that often can seem thoughtlessly cruel at best, flips apathy off with equal parts wit and confession. And through it all, he pieces together a patchwork self-portrait: the son ruined by a morally corrupt America, the immigrant named too foreign to make this place his own, the poet accused of only writing about “being gay or Chinese,” the poet who “write[s] about everything” -- and, most importantly, the list of further possibilities.

            Above all else, these poems burn with a searing desire for future; for the finding of “impossible honey,” for everywhere and everyone we have yet to be. And why not? Through Chen Chen’s eyes, it might just be as good a future as any.

- Matilda Berke
2017 Summer Mentorship Student


 Graywolf Press

Graywolf Press

Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf Press

Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is an explosive, genre-transcending debut. In the opening story, The Husband Stitch, Machado finds new depth in the old urban legend of The Green Ribbon, while in Especially Heinous she rewrites 272 episodes of Law & Order: SVU, with an eerie pathos that brought me, a chronic SVU binge-watcher, to tears. Machado plays with horror, science fiction, and the police procedural, revelling in traditional tropes but refusing to be limited by them. By turns both lyrical and wickedly funny, Machado’s collection is chock full of queer women who refuse to be anything but adimately alive and real. Her protagonists refuse to apologize for their demands or self-doubts, their swearing or their sexuality. In the world of Her Body and Other Parties, it feels as if some unspeakable dark is always menacing just off page, lurking in basement, or creeping beyond the beam of the headlights, but even so, Machado’s stories are full of human life, vibrantly lived, without regard for the consequences. So in a year when the news itself has felt like disaster movie, Her Bodies and Other Parties is a wonderful gift. It’s a how-to-guide to thriving when under attack, whether it is from the things that go bump in the night, or the dark inside yourself.

- Rebecca Alifimoff
2014 Summer Mentorship Student


 Copper Canyon Press

Copper Canyon Press

Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang
Copper Canyon Press

Victoria Chang’s alter ego/inner angst “Barbie Chang”, enters our imagination in tight, biting couplets and never leaves. With this poetry collection, Chang signals that she has left the stifling working world of The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013) behind with book’s first poem “Once Barbie Chang Worked” and given voice to the suburban mom. Chang’s suburban mom, Barbie Chang, is at turns overwhelmed, depressed, mournful, aspirational and hopeful. But she is decidedly cast as an outsider (“Barbie Change Wants to Be Someone,” “Barbie Chang Can’t Stop Watching) throughout the sequence that dominates the book.

Barbie stands outside the Circle—mean girl moms who dominant the children’s school playground—reporting on their meanness, “its tense at school the Circle/ignores her more than usual.” Chang’s protagonist’s outsider status spreads to the relationship with her sick and dying parents: mother suffocating from pulmonary fibrosis, leaving her one breath at a time and a father consumed with Alzheimer’s severe memory loss. Barbie is deeply involved in the care of parents who like the Circle barely know she is there. “Barbie Chang always thought/ her mother was heartless// not lungless.” Even the imaginative love affair with Mr. Darcy leaves Barbie wanting. The reader feels the pathos of Barbie in Chang’s powerful, yet constrained language.

In the two “Dear P” sections that appear mid-book and at its end, Chang steps out of character. These two quasi-sonnet sequences written to her daughter pulse with a mother’s vulnerability and love in poems written as wishes, wisdoms and warnings. Be forewarned, Victoria Chang writes in “Dear P: Someone will love you”— “one might   haunt  you   hunt you in your/sleep  make you  weep the tearless kind of/weep.” Be forewarned Victoria Chang’s poetry will haunt your sleep. This poet’s talent scrawls off the page.

Heidi Seaborn
Poetry Staff Reader


 Random House

Random House

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Random House

Lincoln in the Bardo delights in its own macabre and finds its footing in a strange curation of voices. It is at once a startling account of grief, a lesson on the human condition, and a dark comedy. Saunders experiments with a form that skirts on non-quite nonsensical, weaving historical documents with fictional accounts. The basis of the story is Willie Lincoln, who died of typhoid fever at age 11, and his arrival in the titular bardo. The bardo is a term borrowed from Tibetan Buddhism and the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a state of existence between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person's conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death.” Lincoln in the Bardo enjoys itself, revelling in its journey, as it slips between personas. The writing is exquisite and grotesque, managing to sew many distant tangents into a compelling portrait of the Civil War and its effect on the American imagination. In an odd year, an ungrateful and ugly year, Saunders is a necessary voice of clarity among all the noise: “Only then (nearly out the door, so to speak) did I realize how unspeakably beautiful all of this was, how precisely engineered for our pleasure, and saw that I was on the bring of squandering a wondrous gift, the gift of being allowed, every day, to wander this vast sensual paradise, this grand marketplace lovingly stocked with every sublime thing.” 

- Serena Lin
2017 Summer Mentorship Student


 Copper Canyon Press

Copper Canyon Press

Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
Copper Canyon Press

Unaccompanied, Zamora’s debut collection, paints an intense, personal, and empowering narrative of Latinx identity. The collection details his childhood in El Salvador, solo journey to the United States at the age of nine, and experiences of prejudice and disjointedness while living in the US.

Unaccompanied, however, is more than just “Latinx poetry” or part of the “Latinx canon.” It is about living in one country, and then another, without guaranteed safety. It is about family and war and how, without asking or apologizing, war takes away family. It is about remaining cognizant of such wars, as well as the governments and people who cause them (a poem titled “Disappeared” tells the reader to “Hold these names responsible…” which include Reagan, Bush, and El Salvadorean institutions). It is about womanhood, told through both the stories of women (“Postpartum” and “Mom Responds to Her Shaming”) and via the misogyny striking all genders (“Alterations”). It is about intergenerational violence, and love, and trauma (“Dad, age 11” and “This Was the Field”). Most poignantly, it is about the sweet and sour enchantment of youth. Take a line from “Prayer:” ““Diosito, I’ve been eating broccoli, / drinking all my milk so parents / think I’m big.” This combined nostalgia and bitterness—a sad, beautiful magic—pervades Zamora’s work. 

- Talia Flores
2015 Summer Mentorship Student


 Glass Poetry Press

Glass Poetry Press

mxd kd mixtape by Malcolm Friend
Glass Poetry Press

Malcolm Friend’s mxd kd mixtape is a book of broken bones, of living skeletons, of the wound of definitions & borders, and, most importantly, of music – his own, Héctor Lavoe’s, Prince’s, Stevie Wonder’s, Tego Calderón’s, and others included in this cohesive but expansive mixtape, in this creation of a personal mythology. I imagine mxd kd mixtape picking up where Ntozake Shange’s “now i love somebody more than” leaves off – they share the blood of music & myth & the afro-boricua encountering of the brutal simplicity of America’s racial imagination. While Shange’s Lady in Blue doesn’t find the legend Willie Colón to dance with, Malcolm magically happens upon Tite Curet Alonso at a bar & gets dizzydrunk. The way Malcolm becomes sloshed with the weight of his ancestors reminds me of the way Gloria Anzaldúa describes the vertiginous space of another of Friend’s core muses, borders: “A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is a in a constant state of transition.” This collection sometimes asks, sometimes challenges, the reader to join him in that dizzy place in which “i am not translator/ i am not mexican/ i am coquí croaks/ synchronized to/ caribbean waves”, the place of clarity that does not simplify, though may well overwhelm. It is a vulnerable place Friend invites us into, where we are privy to his failings (how many of us don’t call our mothers enough!), his reflections, his wounds, his mother’s wounds, his father’s wounds, his healing, his mythmaking. Willie Perdomo has already said it best – “[the collection] resists the violence of definitions until we have no choice but to sing.” mxd kd mixtape has left me with what I imagine is just the right feeling – that in the face of the border of a word count I have so much more to say, but should hold onto my barstool and let Friend’s music wash over me like waves.

- Andy Powell
Poetry Staff Reader


 Grand Central Publishing

Grand Central Publishing

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Grand Central Publishing

As the multi-generational story of one family unfolds across four hundred sixty-two pages, and the landscapes of Japan and a unified Korea, Pachinko accomplishes what few novels of this length succeed in doing: leaving the reader wanting even more when they’ve reached the final, hard-earned page. I read Pachinko over the course of roughly four bus commutes to school, during which I could be seen crying at various intervals of the trip. When I arrived at the last page on my bus ride home, I was as silent as the blank page that came next. The book was finished, and I couldn’t get over it.

Pachinko presents a history of joy and sorrow and emotional truth. The characters are more than characters. They’re a family that’s as real as the families we belong to, and Pachinko is as much the saga of one family as it is of the life of each individual family member. You see the inheritance of failed hopes and dreams, love and all its beautiful consequences. From Lee’s richly detailed prose, we learn that “there was more to being something than just blood” for this family and for ourselves.

- Erin O’Malley
2017 Summer Mentorship Student


Who were your favorites?! Whose collections are you eagerly anticipating in 2018?! Let us know in the comments below! 

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2018 YoungArts Awards! by Peter LaBerge

We are so thrilled to share that high school writers affiliated with The Adroit Journal have brought home a total of twenty-one awards from the National YoungArts Foundation's 2018 YoungArts Awards!

 " Flood Gate " by Sophie Hullinger, Issue Seventeen.

"Flood Gate" by Sophie Hullinger, Issue Seventeen.

From the YoungArts Website:

 The National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) is proud to announce the 2018 YoungArts winners—757 of the nation’s most promising young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts. Selected from the most competitive pool of applications to date and representing artists from 47 states,YoungArts winners gain access to one of the most comprehensive programs for emerging artists in the United States, offering financial, professional and artistic development opportunities over the course of their careers. The 2018 winners will receive cash prizes of up to $10,000, and opportunities to share their work with the public at renowned institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Sotheby’s (New York), and New World Center (Miami). A complete list of the 2018 winners, all 15–18 years old or in grades 10–12, is available online at  


Congratulations to recipients of 2018 YoungArts Awards affiliated with The Adroit Journal!

Isabella Alvarez, NH
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Katherine Ann Davis)

Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Honorable Mention)
Writing – Poetry (Merit)
Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Matilda Berke, CA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Trista Edwards)

Writing – Selection from Novel (Merit)

Margaret Blackburn, MI
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Leslie Sainz)

Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Daniel Blokh, AL
Summer Mentee (Nonfiction — Caroline Crew)

Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention)

Annabel Brazaitis, WV
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Keegan Lester)

Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Bronwen Brenner, NY
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Laura Citino)

Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Emma Choi, VA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Emily Paige Wilson)

Writing – Short Story (Honorable Mention)

Aidan Forster, SC
Blog Editor / Summer Mentee (Poetry — Cody Ernst)

Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Finalist)
Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention)

Kathryn Hargett, AL
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Lucia LoTempio)

Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Finalist)
Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Audrey Kim, PA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Nancy Reddy)

Writing – Poetry (Merit)

Eunice Lee, CA
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Cady Vishniac)
Writing – Short Story (Honorable Mention)

Rachel Litchman, MI
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Megan Peak)
Writing - Creative Nonfiction (Merit)

Tessa Rudolph, CA
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Maria Pinto)

Writing - Short Story (Merit)

Sahara Sidi, VA
Summer Mentee (Nonfiction — Caroline Crew)
Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention)
Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Merit)

Valerie Wu, CA
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Graham Todd)

Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Merit)

Zuyi Zhao, FL
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Nancy Reddy)

Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention)

*      *      *

Stay tuned for information regarding the 2018 YoungArts Week Writers' Reading, which will be live-streamed on the YoungArts website.

Review: "June in Eden" by Rosalie Moffett (The Ohio State University Press, 2017) by Peter LaBerge

by David Nilsen | Guest Reviewer. 


In Rosalie Moffett’s debut collection June in Eden, language is both a playful muse and a painful reminder of loss, a weapon and its own elusive prey. Moffett’s subject is language itself, not in a general sense, but in the fearful specificity of individual words needed and forgotten. She presents language as the skin overlaying identity; are we recognizable when that covering is ripped away by age or injury?

The catalyst for this examination is the degeneration of her mother’s memory, displayed most plainly in the older woman’s inability to remember words and names. As her mother slowly loses language, Moffett is left to contemplate who we are when our means of communication—our medium for presenting our internal selves to others—evaporates.

In June in Eden’s title poem, Moffett walks in the garden with her mother, who finds—among the constantly changing microclimate of this backyard Eden—a thing that is always just beyond her grasp, a world of lifeforms “all waiting to be named.” As often as not, those names evade her, but that is its own form of discovery.

“Here, there are things coming into being
all the time. There are so many

strawberries, as yet unmarred…”

They will be marred, of course. They will be ripe and sweet for a few days, and then rot or bruise. This tranquil poem is but a small window of peace. The broader grieving process is, of course, much more brutal. In “Taxonomy,” the loss of language has a bitter edge.

“Human brains do not renew.
No rewiring, no sweet grit to hinge

to the word pear…”

The nature of language itself occupies Moffett as she reflects on her mother’s loss of so many arbitrary sounds to which we’ve assigned meaning. In the collection’s opening poem “Revisions,” Moffett examines how tiny changes in a word—a letter added or omitted, an implication assumed and then reversed—can pull the rug out from under our sense of order and security.

“What had been
harmless, the morning dove,
looking dark and stormy, all of the sudden

that someone’s died.

You can forget even the smallest things

—a vowel, invisible, a bright drop
of blood—wheel the world
around them.”

Moffett doesn’t feel the need to complete her reader’s thoughts, trusting her carefully laid lines to form a legible fabric of meaning. In “The Family Lives on a Farm,” a late poem in a section about Moffett’s rural childhood, she tells us: 

“Most mornings,
an indigo bunting can be seen somewhere
in the orchard. The family depends on the mother

to remark nice things such as this.”

It’s a fine enough image until we think about what’s been lost beneath the mother’s slipping grip on memory and language. She filled this role, among others, for her family scraping a life from the hard work of running a peach farm in Washington. The loss isn’t announced, and it’s not the point of the poem, but it’s a subtle way for Moffett to show the quiet ways in which her mother’s descent has stolen from them all.

In June in Eden’s middle stretch, Moffett draws connections between loss of language and loss of identity, exploring her own ontology when the woman who gave birth to her and taught her to speak is being stripped of her ability to express herself. In “The Way It Works,” she struggles with disentangling her own future identity from that of the woman whose genes she shares. She says she’s aware she isn’t destined for this degeneration, but her assurances are hardly confident.

“My brothers
don’t question this, that they are separate
as moons. They don’t look

like her.”

It is here she unfolds the analogical relationship between heredity and sonic similarity. In an earlier poem, she discussed her mother’s struggle with homophones in particular, words that sound the same but are spelled differently, or hold different meanings based on context. She subtly uses this throughout the book to hint at her own anxieties over what it means for her that her mother is losing language and memory. What is a heredity but an incarnated homophone? Both play on resemblance. As “morning” turned invisibly to “mourning” in the opening poem “Revisions,” will she be her mother’s echo, fumbling in her mind for the same words that once came so easily?

She confesses she already feels this ghosting of another identity in the poem “Rosalie Ruth Moffett,” in which she relates her belief she absorbed her twin in her mother’s womb. She’s not sure what to do with this belief—it’s not a grief, or even a guilt—but it persists. She handles her middle name like a relic. Ruth is first “a kind of compassion // nobody wants anymore,” and then a name from the Bible:

“Like Ruth, the Moabite, I desire
to be something that can’t be

gotten rid of easily.”

She doesn’t want to be forgotten before birth like her twin, or to fade from community like her mother. She wants to persist, even as she sees these figures who share her appearance disappear like erased or misspelled words.

To the reader, it seems potential sources of comfort—nature, rural life—are tainted and cannot offer solace. Biology is stained with decay and predation throughout the collection, and the agrarian, pastoral life is not the simple, peaceful image it is purported to be. In “Pastoral,” Moffett almost cruelly strips rural life of its tranquil conceits, telling the reader in plain terms: 

“Don’t pretend
you would love life in the country
if you really have no idea. The days crank themselves

through that contraption that cores and peels apples.”

Despite its grim subjects, June in Eden is not without hope, or at least gentleness, which is a form of hope. It is not without beauty, though it holds a beauty that knows it, too, must fall from the strawberry vine, bruised and ruined after its ephemeral flash of sweetness. The hope is that its memory will not do the same.



David Nilsen is a writer living in western Ohio. He is a National Book Critics Circle member, and his reviews and interviews have been published in The Rumpus, The Millions, The Collagist, Rain Taxi, Open Letters Monthly, and many other publications. He lives with his wife, daughter, and very irritable cat. You can follow him on Twitter as @NilsenDavid.

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2017 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the nine Adroit high school students recognized in the 2017 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards!

  © The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.

© The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.

Each year, students from around the world are encouraged to share their best work, and an acclaimed pair of judges select fifteen Overall Winners and eighty-five Commended Winners. More than 11,000 entries from over 6,000 poets poured in this year, and judges Sinéad Morrissey and Kayo Chingonyi made the selections.

Congratulations to Margot Armbruster and Enshia Li, whose poems "Wormwood" and "unwritten letter from my great-grandmother to my great-grandfather, 1930" were selected as two of fifteen Overall Winners. Margot, a high school senior from Wisconsin, studied poetry with Trista Edwards as part of the 2016 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, a free and entirely online summer program for high school students. Enshia, a high school senior from Canada, studied fiction with Managing Editor Garrett Biggs as part of the 2017 program.

Congratulations also goes out to the following Commended Winners, whose poetry stood out in the selection process.

Daniel Blokh
Alabama, USA
2016 Summer Mentee (Creative Nonfiction — Caroline Crew)

Aidan Forster
South Carolina, USA
Previous Blog Editor

2015 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Cody Ernst)

Yuri Han
New Jersey, USA
2017 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Doug Ramspeck)

Kara Jackson
Illinois, USA
2017 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Alyse Bensel)

Isabella Jiang
New Jersey, USA
2017 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Kimberly Grabowski Strayer)

Katherine Kim
New Jersey, USA
2017 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello)

Joyce Zhou
Illinois, USA
2017 Summer Mentee (Poetry — Shelley Wong)



by Margot Armbruster
2017 Foyle Young Poet

mama, remember your cool hand
on mine. remember, I was twelve
and consumed with thinness.

remember you lay beside me
on the starchy sheets and talked
about healing. about your own

mother, how you became
a kite, straining away from her.
about the summer your hair

knotted up like moss
in the shower drain. mama,
remember I asked you why

you decided to live. and remember,
you pressed your fingers
gentle against my forehead,

remember, you spoke
in a low voice about the chapel
ringing with sound,

the amber light streaming
through the windows.
you told me you cried. I cried

with your arms wrapped
around my back. I cried
because the body can never

forget. mama, I cried because
I can never forget that winter,
the winter the body I tried

to carve out of marble became glass,
the winter I held death in
my mouth and proclaimed myself


© Margot Armbruster & The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.



unwritten letter from my great-grandmother to my great-grandfather, 1930

by Enshia Li
2017 Foyle Young Poet

In 1927, the Chinese Civil War broke out between the Nationalists and Communists. Peasants joined the fight, not knowing nor caring which side they fought on. They often joined the army for the meals. Many perished, trying to escape starvation.

the last hen died / fourteen days ago / while you puffed your chest / for faceless
men. / look. she died / beak open, tongue latched / on a broken triangle / of
night / like a babe suckling. / in the silence / her white feathers / curled, cabbage
/ limp. we were out / of cabbage / months ago, / your son’s belly / a rotten head /
to match. / look. I want you / to go back & hold / your life / in an open mouth /
like a beggar / & capture / white hills / of rice / & capture / a revolution /
revolution / revolution / break up / that word / break up / its brush / strokes /
scatter it / scatter / the pieces / across these / wrinkled fields / for us / for us / to
fill / our shrunken / stomachs

© Enshia Li & The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.


Click here to visit the Foyle Young Poets website for the full release.


Welcome to Staff: Autumn 2017! by Peter LaBerge

adroit staff fall 2017.png

We're over the moon to welcome eleven new readers to our global staff of emerging writers! Learn more about Tolu, Colin, Destiny, Lisa, Will, Hannah, Kinsale, Dan, Kathryn, Heidi, and Emily below.



Tolu Agbelusi is a Nigerian British poet, playwright, performer and lawyer. A Callaloo Fellow, she was longlisted for the inaugural Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship and recognised by Speaking Volumes as one of the Best British Writers of Colour. Her work has appeared in Brittle Paper, After Ferguson, and In Solidarity, an anthology by Mourning Glory, and is forthcoming from the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Tolu is working on her first poetry collection.



Colin Bailes is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he received a nomination for the AWP Intro Journals Project and published poems in Cypress Dome. He was a semifinalist for the 2017 Adroit Prize for Poetry, and has had work appear in Rust + Moth. Originally from Orlando, Florida, he currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.



Destiny O. Birdsong is a poet and essayist whose poems have either appeared in or are forthcoming from the Adroit Journal, the African American Review, the Indiana Review, Bettering American Poetry, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in the African American Review and the Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny is a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and Jack Jones Literary Arts, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and the MacDowell Colony. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University. Read more of her work at



Lisa Favicchia is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Bowling Green State University, where she served as managing editor of Mid-American Review. Her work has appeared in Smeuse Poetry, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Wordpool Press, and is forthcoming from Rubbertop Review, the Airgonaut, and Adelaide Literary Magazine



Will Frazier lives in Brooklyn, where he is co-founder and coordinator of the Franklin Electric Reading Series. His writing appears in or is forthcoming from Washington Square ReviewKenyon Review OnlineNo Tokens, and Cosmonauts Avenue. He is a graduate of the Area Program in Poetry Writing at the University of Virginia. 



Hannah Goldstein is an experiential educator and full-time volunteer. She is a recent graduate of Colgate University, where she studied English and Political Science. Her work has been published in the Colgate Portfolio, and in the summer of 2015, she was selected for a poetry workshop and residency facilitated by Carolyn Forché through Writing Workshops in Greece. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.



Kinsale Hueston is a 2017 National Student Poet, and a senior in high school from Southern California. An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Kinsale’s work seeks to contemporize Native American culture and address modern issues facing her tribe. Kinsale is also the recipient of the Yale Young Native Storytellers Award for Spoken Word/Storytelling, and two National Scholastic Gold Medals for Poetry and Dramatic Script.



Dan Kraines teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology and City Tech. You can find his poems in the JournalPhantomTwo Peach, the Carolina Quarterly, Salamander, and Queen Mob's Tea House, among many other publications. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Poetry at the University of Rochester. In June, he was a resident at the Betsy Writer's Room in Miami.



Kathryn McMahon is a queer American writer living abroad. Her prose has appeared in or is forthcoming from Syntax and Salt, Cease, Cows, the Baltimore Review, Split Lip, and Necessary Fiction. She is a nominee for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology.



After taking a 40-year hiatus, Heidi Seaborn starting writing poetry in 2016. Her work has appeared in Timberline, Gravel, West Trade Review, American Journal of Poetry, and Nimrod International Journal, as a semi-finalist for the 2017 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her work has also appeared in five anthologies, as the political pamphlet Body Politic (Mount Analogue Press), on a Seattle bus, and in the forthcoming chapbook Finding My Way Home (Finishing Line Press). She lives in Seattle.



Emily Tian is a high school junior from Rockville, Maryland. Her work has previously been honored by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Gigantic Sequins, and John Hopkins University, among others. She is an alumna of the 2017 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program.



RAISE YOUR GLASS: Adroit Meets Best New Poets 2017! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the fifty emerging poets selected by Natalie Diaz for Best New Poets 2017. We're thrilled about this list, and you should be, too. 

Special congratulations are in order for Christina Im, whose Adroit poem "Meanwhile in America" was selected for inclusion in this year's anthology. Christina is a Korean-American writer and high school senior (!) from Portland, Oregon. She was named a 2017 YoungArts Finalist in Writing (Poetry), and her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Adroit JournalThe Blueshift JournalStrange Horizons, and Words Dance, among others. In addition, her work has been recognized by Hollins University, the Adroit Prizes for Poetry & Prose, Princeton University, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Christina joins Ian Burnette and Moriah Cohen as contributors to Best New Poets from The Adroit Journal

We're also completely over the moon to share that Adroit poetry mentorship students—and fellow high school seniors (!)—Aidan Forster and Lily Zhou have been selected for inclusion. As high school seniors, Christina, Aidan, and Lily are officially the youngest contributors to Best New Poets in the history of the series.

We're cheering (loudly) for all twenty-one Adroit writers selected for Best New Poets 2017:

Alfredo Aguilar

Eloisa Amezcua

Mary Angelino

Fatimah Asghar

Kai Carlson-Wee

Leila Chatti
Previous Poetry Reader

Jameson Fitzpatrick

Aidan Forster
Contributor & Mentorship Student

M.K. Foster

Roy Guzmán

Christina Im
Contributor & Mentorship Student

Tyler Kline

Julia Kolchinsky-Dasbach

Kara Krewer

Edgar Kunz

Paige Lewis

M'Bilia Meekers

Xandria Phillips

Osel Jessica Plante

Keith Wilson

Lily Zhou
Contributor & Mentorship Student

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 1.13.13 PM.png

DEAR WRITER: Tips for Young Writers (Vol I.) by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge & Topaz Winters. 

I founded The Adroit Journal in November 2010, as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore. Since then, a lot has changed—both in my writing life and in the writing lives of thousands of teen writers from around the world. I'm talking expectations, communities, and opportunities. It seems it is no longer enough to be simply passionate about writing. 

Or is it? Below, take a peek into the minds of some of our favorite writers, and get inspired.

Peter LaBerge
Founder & Editor-in-Chief


What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about your own writing?

Cortney Lamar Charleston: Looking back on how I began writing, I realize now that I first approached the page with a muted kind of arrogance; my intention, in my mind, was to speak to a world that needed to hear my voice and my perspective, working from the assumption that I was who I was and knew that with certainty. In the most conventionally understood ways, I suppose that I did: I had, after all, a grasp of where I came from—a respect for the people and the environments that produced me—and I knew what I believed in, what my values were, but experience (in life and in writing) has informed me just how delicate and intricate a tapestry someone’s personhood is. Sure, you can see the beautiful design from a distance and even make out some of its patterns, but until you get close, until your eye is fixed on the subject with the intention of inspection, you won’t notice the small and unique details: one thread’s relationship to another, where there may be flaws, and where you can begin to trace them to as you follow the needle work over the object’s body.

I’ve gotten a tad abstract here, but my point is this: writing has made it more clear to me precisely how I am put together: strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, fidelities and hypocrisies. To me, this was a surprising challenge to my initial assumption, though in retrospect it seems foolish I ever expected different. If art, if poetry is the bridge to others we believe and hope for it to be, it makes sense that insight and learning would come back in the other direction on that same bridge. First and foremost, poetry is an act of self-discovery, even before self-expression, and it laughs at what you believe to know about anything; in short, you’re never smarter or wiser than the poem, even and especially when it comes to yourself, and the most helpful trick I’ve found is to never try to outsmart it, either.


What has your greatest writing-related failure been (not necessarily one you’ve already recovered from)? What has been your greatest writing-related success?

Emily Jungmin Yoon: I had to think hard for the first question because so often, what feels or seems like “failure,” in hindsight, ends up being not so much failure. One example would be when a poet gets rejected from a journal, contest, or fellowship, but later is accepted to another opportunity or another place that believes in the poet’s vision more strongly. I have felt often that I fail at being a poet, without really considering what it means to be a poet. I was sad when I wasn’t writing enough because I was under a lot of pressure from other facets of my life. This isn’t necessarily permission to be lazy, but I have to continue to remind myself that the identity as a poet isn’t measured by the amount of production. I don’t find the “So-and-so has xyz demands and if they can find time to write, you can” assertion or the “just write every morning for x minutes” suggestion helpful. People’s minds and bodies work in different ways. One should find their own way to make their time the most fruitful and to be happy at the same time. My way is to read a lot—in books, journals, and The Margins submissions pile—and be grateful that there are so many beautiful poems born every day even when I can’t make one. The inspiration from reading moves me to write, as well.

My greatest writing-related success, as cheesy as it sounds, is that I found many writer friends who will support and uplift me. We’re there for one another for failures and successes. We share opportunities and news with one another.  Some people say that writing is a lonely, solitary act, and it can be, but I feel that at least in the US poetry world, community has been very important. Writing a poem is like putting out a hand into fog, hoping that someone will take it in their hand to say they’re listening and that they feel it, too, whatever it is. I appreciate all the hands that have held mine before I had publications and awards. They’re the people who encourage me to keep doing what I believe in, whether that’s writing-related or not, and give me the boldness to be a poet.


How do you handle success when your friends are dealing with rejection and vice versa?

Maryse Meijer: I think the question of jealousy--our own and others'--is one that's best placed into a larger context, one that goes beyond the personal and into the political. Professional envy is cultivated by a capitalist society. We see ourselves as constantly in competition with our fellow artists for what we perceive as limited resources. Publishing, finding an agent, getting into a prestigious MFA program, landing a good teaching job, receiving awards or fellowships... all of these "rewards" are granted to us by institutions which, by and large, care more for themselves and their own agendas than they do for writers as human beings. It isn't possible for an institution to be truly "fair," or objective, or benevolent--the institution must build its own brand, promote the myth of its own prestige, and increase its power. Once we as artists understand that that power is often used against us--to divide us by destroying community through competition, by encouraging us to believe that success is handed down from above instead of defined and owned by individuals creating the work in the first place--we can perhaps divorce ourselves from toxic envy. When a fellow writer's work is recognized or celebrated, it enriches my community; it takes nothing away from me, but only affirms the writing world that is so precious to me. And when my own work receives recognition, I accept it without asking it to define or affirm me. Success, to me, is reaching my own standards; is producing work of which I am proud; is living as a writer with integrity and commitment within a larger community. The truth is, any success is fleeting; I can't really derive lasting pleasure or deep satisfaction from "rewards" granted to me from an institution that does not know me or truly care about me. When I form a real and meaningful connection with another writer or reader through my work, that's the true reward; and that's precisely the sort of thing others don't bother to feel jealous about.

Of course, we don't always live up to our ideals; envy finds its way in. When I find myself feeling less than overjoyed for a friend who is experiencing success, I ask myself: why do I feel threatened? Maybe it comes down to feeling that I deserve something I'm not getting; or perhaps I feel my friend doesn't deserve what I do. Has she worked as hard as I have? Has she written a story I think is "good enough"? Is it a question of feeling superior, or inferior? And from there I force myself to remember: these feelings serve no one, least of all me. They poison my friendships and my relationship to my own work. Why do I have to place myself above or below the people I care about most? Why am I thinking in terms of a hierarchy, rather than a community? Am I truly endangered by someone else's success? How am I complicit in the destruction of my own self-worth, the worth of my fellow artists?

On the other hand, if I'm the one who is enjoying a publication or other success, I am happy to celebrate and share with friends, but I don't over-advertise. I'm not on social media; I don't assume that a bit of luck in getting a story published or receiving a good review confers special status on me. It doesn't. Those successes, I remind myself, are inherently transient and without deep  meaning; I can't hold on to them or store them up like they're material goods. After a brief moment of pleasure in receiving recognition, I'm back to where I am on most days: struggling with the work in front of me. And it is a joyous and meaningful struggle; that's where my reward is as a writer. That's my success. That I'm still writing after 20+ years; that I'm still reading; that I'm ever more engaged in the community of artists I'm so proud of. I fight for my own work. I celebrate the work of others. I acknowledge moments of jealousy and then I move through them; I recognize when others might feel envious of me and I accept that, too. I deal with those issues by reminding myself what matters; not success as it is defined by institutions others have built, but as I define it for myself. Remember who has the power--you do! Your friends do. We do, together, because we create and we keep on creating, for ourselves and for each other. Just keep writing. Keep reading. Be an audience, and speak to your audience. Someone is listening. That's what matters.


How and where did you search for inspiration when starting out as a teen writer? And how did you manage your expectations when submitting to contests (specifically, high school writing contests)?

Sojourner Ahebee: Other poets have always been some of my most significant resources. As I was developing my voice as a teen writer, I looked to other poems, other models to witness how the old was made new again. In high school, with the aid of my poetry teacher, I began a practice each year which I called my “Important Excitement.” As a writer, this project allowed me to focus in on one of my many obsessions, and to intentionally create a collection of poems that revolved around some reoccurring theme. A hearty mix of rigorous research on my selected theme coupled with the drafting of poems gave me a huge sense of purpose and direction, and taught me what it meant to write with a collection in mind, to write beyond the borders of a single poem. In other words, I do not think inspiration for writers arrives at our doorsteps one day, or appears inside of us. I think writers have to will inspiration into the light, and we have to intentionally make a practice of it.

Having the courage to submit your work to publications as a young writer is certainly no easy feat. The very act of submitting one’s work indicates that we desire a meaningful engagement with our stories, an audience. I think managing my expectations around writing contests was a necessary part of my journey as a young writer. I remember receiving my first rejection, and it was easy to take it personally, to see the rejection as a reflection of my value as a writer and the value of my stories. But I think rejection is actually quite healthy and important for young writers. It pushes us to return to our works in progress with renewed energy and purpose. Rejection allows us to see that we are capable of the better story, the better poem, the better play. If you are a teen writer who is just beginning to send your work out, I would encourage you to embrace rejection. You have so much time and space to hone in on your craft, to become more sure of your voice. Do not place a high premium on acceptances into lit mags. Continue to write, to revise, to submit work and to grow and the rest will fall into place.


How many literary organisations do you work with or for? How do you navigate paid and volunteer writing, publishing, and editing opportunities?

Loma: My day job is doing criminal justice work but I do a lot of freelance work in the literary world. Poetry income is about 30% of the money I make annually. Most of that comes from touring. Some of that comes from awards, writing, editing, teaching, book sales, etc. Thus, my affiliations are wide and always changing. The one organization that has always felt like home to me is Lambda Literary Foundation. They have always provided me with artistic and editorial support. I began editing a journal with them four years ago and I frequently write for them. The other two organizations that I’m in frequent contact with are Sibling Rivalry Press (because they published my first chapbook and host the Undocupoets Fellowship, which I cofounded) and Nightboat Books (because they are publishing Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color that I founded). Maybe after my first full-length poetry book comes out then I’ll go on the academic job market. Before then, I like working in criminal justice. The other main organizations that have brought me into the poetry community are Poetry Society of America (where I once interned) and NYU (where I completed my MFA).

When I first began participating in the national literary scene, I had a policy to never say no. I would write, interview, speak as frequently as possible. Now, even though I’m prior to a first book, my schedule has gotten much too busy. I say “no” a lot to strangers who want free labor and “yes” as much as possible when it’s for a dear friend or paid appropriately. I always try to ask for compensation for everything, it adds up. I generally don’t “pay to play” in the literary world though sometimes I get suckered. I generally would rather make money than spend it.


For whom do you write? Have you ever stopped, or considered stopping?

Jane Wong: I write for you, for myself, for my family, for young women cultivating power and vulnerability, for ghosts, for the hungry ones, for the weird ones, for the laughing ones, for the fighters, for the restless sleepers, for the ones who can’t stop pressing their hands against the glass at an aquarium. I’ve never considered leaving writing; it’s a life source for me. It gives me hope, allows to me to ask hard questions, and offers me a new way of seeing the world. I write when I am at my darkest hour (not sure if kindness exists); I write when I am experiencing the utmost joy (plums ripening on a tree). It’s my way of making and unmaking sense of the world. I’ll never stop writing and I can only hope to welcome new writers into our communities as a teacher. I can only think expansively! I’m writing creative prose now, after a decade away. It seems natural to extend genres and to test out my voice in different, but utterly amazing outfits.


If you could go back in time to just before you began writing and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Dalton Day: Be patient. Don’t let any sense of community you feel become an unrealistic & toxic & competitive pressure to consistently share your work (& yourself) with the world. Be protective of it (& yourself). Don’t worry if the poems don’t “look like poems”, or if anyone tells you that they aren’t “poems enough”. They are, trust me. Take as much time as you need & know that eventually there will be a solid few who will give you permission to present the world as you see it & it will be ok to trust them. Know that you are one of those few. & oh my god, please, laugh.


Have you ever dealt with the fear of offending or upsetting someone close to you while writing—and, if so, what about the tug between sharing such work and hiding it? How did you ultimately make a decision about what to do?

Molly Brodak: When you write a memoir about dark family secrets, two things happen: one, someone will be upset about it, and two, you realize you are not alone. You realize everyone has dark family secrets, and by telling the story of your own you are shining a light on all dark family secrets everywhere. And this is such a useful and productive action that it makes up for the small pain caused by knowing some person is mad at you about it, and you take on your role as the 'betrayer' of secrets with lightness and dignity.

I was terrified of what my dad would think about me writing my memoir Bandit, which details his secret criminal life. So I had to put that thought out of my mind in order to write it, or I would have been paralyzed. I wrote the first draft of my memoir as if I were writing a diary entry, convincing myself it was utterly private and I was utterly safe to say all the things I really wanted to say. I edited it later with an audience in mind, but I was never editing it for that one person who would be mad about it. It wasn't for that person. It was for the people who needed it, the rest of us.

When Anne Lamott says, "you own everything that happened to you", she is telling the story of consciousness. We are all allowed to have this one sliver of existence for a while, and we ought to feel free to say how it really is without anyone intimidating us out of the truth. Otherwise, you lose yourself.


Would you recommend starting a publication to young writers starting out? Why or why not?

Joseph Parker Okay: Yeah, absolutely, it’s a great way to get exposure to lots of different writing styles that maybe you were unfamiliar with before, or didn’t know could be used in that way. Also, there’s a lot of talented people out there with a lot of good work they’re trying to share but are having a hard time finding a place for it, since a piece being published or not doesn’t usually rely on the quality of the work but on the publisher’s personal taste. The more people out there with different tastes running publications, the more level the playing field gets for everyone and the more writing that gets shared with the world.


What’s your biggest writing-related fear?

Khadijah Queen: My biggest writing-related fear is that I won't get everything written that I want to write before old Thanatos knocks on my door. I plan out my books loosely, and have several and I mean several in the works. But will I have time to write them, between mothering and teaching and PhD-ing, not to mention eating well and getting some real sleep? I just. don't. know. That's not a complaint, but it is a concern -- a slight fear at times, a big one at others. I don't want whoever deals with my papers once I'm gone to be publishing my terrible half-drafts. Ha. So I'm trying to finish as many of them as I can, though progressing very slowly right now. I have always felt a deep urgency to write, but now it's accompanied by a desire to take my time and enjoy life, too. It's an ever-shifting balance.


Many of us describe ourselves as “aspiring poets”, which has always felt weird to me—we write poems, we don’t aspire to write them. At the same time, there’s a tricky sense of obligation that accompanies dropping the word “aspiring”. How did you navigate this transition, and do you think there is indeed a heightened obligation to being a “poet”?

Jennifer Givhan: Growing up I didn’t know there was such thing as contemporary poetry—I’ve said this before elsewhere and it strikes me often seeing what amazing things young poets are accomplishing, as editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, for instance, where we accept knockout poems from high school students, and of course I see the same happening again and again from The Adroit Journal, which always knocks me out with its stellar lineup of editors and poets, all so young. When I was in high school growing up in a small farming community on the Mexicali border, there were no poetry readings or slams—there were no coffee shops even, ha!

My point is that I didn’t even know to call myself “aspiring” toward anything because I had no idea of the opportunities that existed for writers. What I knew was that I had to write down my lyric images and narratives and ideas or I would unravel with a thick ball of string in my throat knotting down from my stomach and pulling out through my mouth and I was choking. I’d tell people I wanted to be a poet though I was already writing. Terrible poems, yes, but they were clotting in my psyche and would be there waiting in that incipient form for when I finally said yes I am a poet and got down to the hard work of digging into the dirt for water and learning my craft, which has taken me over a decade. But it wasn’t until I said I am a poet that I got into the ditches. I was dipping my feet into the murk before, but when I finally freed myself to sink down below sea level and fill my lungs with that muddy stuff—that’s when the real work of learning began.

There’s too much at stake not to declare it: Here I am. I am. I exist. Declaring ourselves is survival, is joy, is hope. We can aspire until the cows come home though they may never come home. Now is the time. Whatever obligations exist do so whether we accept them or not. Should we give back to our peers? To those following in our footsteps? Those are decisions you’ll have to make for yourself all along the way, for there will always be those at your level and a few steps behind in the craft, no matter whether you’ve just dangled your feet into the murky ditch or you’ve flung yourself in head first. But wherever you are and whether you’re sunbathing on the sidelines or treading water or marathon swimming in the deep and nearly drowning—if you’re a poet, declare yourself so. The accolades will mean naught when you’re writing your own survival. The work is the water and the lifeboat. The work is everything.

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Conversations with Contributors: Hanif Abdurraqib (Poetry) by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge & Eileen Huang.

We're thrilled to be featuring Hanif Abdurraqib on our blog today. Hanif is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His poetry has been published in Muzzle, Vinyl, PEN American, and various other journals. His essays and music criticism has been published in The FADER, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His first full length collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Muchwas released in June 2016 from Button Poetry, and was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book prize. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, is being released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow, an interviewer at Union Station Magazine, and a poetry editor at Muzzle MagazineHe is a member of the poetry collective Echo Hotel with poet/essayist (fellow Adroit contributor!) Eve Ewing

Click here to read his poem "Just Like That, A New Black Child is Born to Replace the Buried One", featured in our thirteenth issue. 


Our first question comes to us from our recently featured contributor, Elizabeth Metzger. Elizabeth asks, “Where do your poems begin and end—in other words, what are some typical entry or inspiration points and how do you know when the work is finished, ready to be abandoned?”

HWA: What a brilliant question to open with. So, I think a thing I consider a lot is that I don’t ever truly abandon a poem once I’ve committed to it. A commitment meaning a commitment to the page, or to “The Process,” whatever that may look like for me on any given day. There is a lot to be said about a moment when a writer can feel a poem leaving their body, but not as much to be said about a moment where, instead, the body makes a new / comfortable / permanent home for a work that a writer imagined they were carving out of themselves. I think of the work as finished when I can, perhaps, walk into a day without it (or the idea of it) rattling around inside of me – which doesn’t mean (to me) that it has exited me, rather that it is fitting inside of my always-blooming tapestry of emotional absurdity in the exact manner that it is meant to. The problem I have – which I must say, Peter and Eileen, is unfortunately increasing by the day – is that I see an entry point in everything. I want to see an entry point in everything, sure. But there is no exit in everything. What, then, to make of the garden near the parking space at my apartment, and how the gardenias were stretching their wide and perfect mouths earlier this summer until I backed into them with my car one morning in haste, while running late for yet another something or the other? Is there an entry there? What might that entry allow me to explore about a little corner of my own selfishness, and am I ready to do that and still find my way out? Is there an entry for me in the two people embracing at the concert while a band plays a song from when we were all children and knew less of violence than we do now? Is there an entry in the way I call to a dog and that dog then runs to me, as I surely once ran to someone larger than me who had open arms and my name on their tongue? Of course, yes – at least I believe the answer is yes. But I’m trying to control the throws I make. I apologize for the sports metaphor, but just because a wide receiver is good doesn’t always mean that wide receiver is open. And so I’m trying to learn to check down more. Maybe hit an open running back – the entry point that is less glamorous, but might provide me with more options and more ways to move around. This is, I think, why I write so many serial poems. The Crown Ain’t Worth Much had two sets of them, and my second manuscript (which I am working eagerly on right now) also has two sets of them, and is tempting a third. I guess what I’m saying, friends, is that I don’t believe that I am ever finished with any work, though I’m sure the work would appreciate me releasing my hold on it from time to time.


Major celebrations are in order—your essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us will be unveiled by Two Dollar Radio this November, and your biography on A Tribe Called Quest is due out in a few years (though more on the latter later). I’m always interested in what motivates and governs the writing process of multi-genre writers—do ideas flow in and demand to be poetry, or demand to be essay, memoir, or a column (for your post at MTV News—so cool!)? Or does your exploration of genre tend to be more just that—an exploration?

HWA: There is this story I like about Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Right after the band made Rumours and it sold like 80 billion copies or whatever, he led them into making Tusk – this weird, noisy, experimental pop album that is beloved now, but was kind of not as much so in 1979. Naturally, he got asked all of these questions about the shift in sound and he was like “I could have made Rumours again if I wanted to. I could have made that album for the rest of our career. But I wanted to make the thing I maybe wasn’t as good at.”

My exploration is tied to this: trying to find the ways to tell stories that I’m not good at, and seeing if I can get good at them. Do the hard thing until it becomes the less hard thing and then find a new hard thing to do. My entire process is governed by a repeated survival of small difficulties. And – I really want to say – none of it feels particularly triumphant. They Can’t Kill Us was an incredibly difficult and frantic thing. I locked myself away in Provincetown last winter, when no one was there, and paced around an apartment for days on end, fretting about these essays and writing this scattershot of things. But I left it with a better understanding of what my process needs from me and what I need from my process.

Also, I only think of myself as a multi-genre writer because that’s what I’m told I am. Sports again – I apologize – but when he was at his brief and glorious prime, it got to a point with Bo Jackson where people just said “well, that motherfucker is an athlete.” And while I’m certainly not the Bo Jackson of the writing world, I have never considered the idea of genre as something that governs me. My curiosities govern me. My desire to be wrong and come out the other side of that wrongness governs me. My passion for archival and connection and storytelling governs me. Sometimes that’s in stanzas and sometimes that’s in paragraphs, but make no mistake that it’s rooted in poems as much as it can be. I know what I’m doing, even when it looks like I don’t.


To back-track for a bit, we’d love to hear about the origin of your writing. What led you to first turn to writing, and what led you to stick with it? What did your transition to writer from someone who writes look like?

HWA: I found myself really curious about language first through a lens of songwriters and song lyrics. Which explains a lot and I apologize for being a cliché. I’m so fascinated by the work of a songwriter and their ability to tell story. Someone like Bruce Sprigsteen, who can create an entire world inside of a song. I mean, “Jungleland” is a fucking novel. And yeah, that song is like 9 minutes long, but half of that shit is a sax solo. And so I found myself wondering how to bridge these worlds I was fascinated by. I stuck with it – and continue to stick with it – because I haven’t found all of the answers yet. I hope I never do.


Here comes the obligatory question—who have you been reading lately? Who’s got you feeling excited about poetry and writing out there in the world? Lay all the reading suggestions on us!

HWA: Well, poetry is a long and always shifting list. I just got my hands on my dear pal Kaveh Akbar’s Calling A Wolf A Wolf and it’s exactly what everyone says it is and perhaps more. He’s a person who has work that really mirrors his personality: on this delightful edge of playfulness but deeply contemplative. Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead is a really outstanding continuation of the work from their first book. It’s like their building a family, or a really clear lineage – much like a musician creating albums that echo each other. Eloisa Amezcua has a little chapbook called MEXICAMERICANA which is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure. There’s something about the way she really bends a word until she gets the most out of it that I really like. I think this may be due to her work as a translator, perhaps. Looking at a single word and seeing multiple possible endings. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve managed to get my hands on copies of sam sax’s Madness and Marcus Wicker’s Silencer and oh, fam. I read with my dear friend Aziza Barnes recently and the ferocity of their new work held me for days after. Layli Long Soldier is asking fantastic and riveting questions in her work, and I only look to answer them because I find out so much more about myself in the process. Khadijah Queen remains important to me. I’m reading Francine j. harris’ Allegiance for the 9th time. I have to keep buying it because I lend it out to people and, well, I’m sure you both know how that goes.

But I’m also reading a lot of musician biographies and essay collections, given the nature of my hovering projects. I revisit Lester Bangs often, who lit a path for me. I read his series of interviews with Lou Reed from the 70s over and over again, to get a sense for how a writer can approach a subject with both fascination and contempt. I just picked up a book called Dunbar Boys by Alejandro Danois. It came out last year, and is the story of the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School basketball team from the 80s, out in Baltimore. It is both triumphant and tragic. I’m thinking about the balance of those two things while writing this Tribe Called Quest book. The Tribe story is both of those things in equal measure – both triumphant and tragic I’m always working at the intersection of those things and trying to figure out how to do it better.


And speaking of poetry and the world, your website bio says you believe that poetry can change the world. What sort of advice do you have for young writers (particularly those of marginalized identities) who hope to do just this?

HWA: Well, to be fair... I wrote that bio a long time ago. I’m not as optimistic as I used to be, but I’m still more optimistic than many of my peers (who, I think, would label me as too optimistic). But I’m always thinking of this very thing: how the young marginalized writer can change their corner of the world. I don’t know if storytelling and archival can absolutely change a world at large, because while I haven’t given up on empathy, I’ve given up on the idea that empathy automatically moves people towards some kind of action that aids those they are feeling empathy towards. So I think there is a new virtue in world-building – a way to create within your work the place you want to see and live in. This is easier said than done. Especially when a writer has to re-enter a world that isn’t like the one they built, perhaps. But I’ve enjoyed chasing that dream. There are certainly worse dreams to chase.


Much of your work directly or indirectly calls upon pop culture while also invoking heavier topics of gender, race, and family. How do you think cultural references enhance our understandings of our identities and relationships with the world?

HWA: I think I just have a firm belief that no pop culture is stupid or unworthy of using as a bridge to something greater. So much of the pop culture we consume is already attempting to do that work for us, or asking us to join it in the mission of looking outward at the world. I was so fascinated by all of the people who, after November, insisted that we “need poets now more than ever” as if we haven’t been building an entire language around this political moment and other ones just like it for years. So I’m thinking, then, of how people consume this work, or how they’re being asked to consume this work. Pop culture has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has helped shape my views of gender, race, and family and it continues to. And so I have no other lens through which I can best articulate those things. I think being able to use it for all avenues is best. Yes, I can listen to the new Jay Z album and just hear an album. I can marvel at the production and appreciate the sonic landscape. But I can also listen to it and think critically about the role that gender plays in who we do and don’t allow forgiveness. I think I want to hold a space for myself, and within my work, where I am doing both of those things. Nuance is hard to come by on the internet and I understand all of the reasons why that is. But I want my work to always feel like a conversation that is being had across the table from a friend, where we can approach hard things and be unafraid to be wrong. Truly – and I know I keep returning to this – but I most want to strip the shame away from being wrong, which is hard. It’s hard to be wrong in public. But I have learned best how to write and approach things critically by being wrong and hearing from peers / readers / music fans / etc. what they’re seeing. I’m looking for a relationship wherein that kind of exchange is comfortable, and I think pop culture helps provide that.


Finally, I’ve heard wise writers say here & there that the best writing gives body to contradiction. The title of your essay collection, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, seems to do just that. What, in your eyes, is the relationship between contradiction and art?

HWA: In becoming comfortable with my many contradictions, I become more comfortable with myself and the work I’m presenting to people. The only thing consistent about my work is its inconsistencies, perhaps. I’m only proud of this because it’s a reflection of how I’m aiming, again, for a real human relationship with the reader. I love sneakers, for example. I will, upon finishing these last few sentences, find a sneaker store where I currently am (Phoenix, Arizona. Where I’m sad to report, Peter and Eileen, it is over 100 degrees – a far cry from my beloved Columbus, Ohio where it is currently a cool 77, reaching into an early fall the way only the Midwest can. I believe this to be a contradiction, as well. I am from a place of contradicting weather, so perhaps I never had a chance.)

But, I have a million complex feelings about sneakers. The way they are manufactured. The way they are valued and the violence that can cause. I’m mostly saying that I am a nesting doll of contradictions and so why wouldn’t it show up in my art? I think to exist now is to be in constant negotiation with the things you can accept and live with and the things you can’t. I am now off to buy sneakers and continue that negotiation that never seems to end, until it does. I hope the work remains exciting.

Conversations with Contributors: Shira Erlichman by Peter LaBerge

By Chloe Elliott, Guest Interviewer.

  Photo Credit: Alice Chipkin.

Photo Credit: Alice Chipkin.

1. To begin—we’d love to hear your story. What led you to first turn to writing? What led you to stay with it?

I immigrated to the US from Israel at the age of 6. Learning English was linked to learning a new world. I went through ESL and so English was intimately tied to survival, accelerating, fitting in. My earliest memories of writing are: keeping a moon journal for a 1st grade class assignment with the help of my mom (so, writing was noticing, logging, accounting for, in a together-way); writing a poem about the snow from my bedroom window (“the snow was like a man dancing in the street” - so, writing was inventiveness, delirium, joy); and a moment that left perhaps the greatest impression on me, writing a poem about my grandmother utilizing difficult words from a spelling group I was placed in (“August burned in her eyes, / May bloomed in her mouth, / April rained in her hair, / she was my grandmother.”) My mom framed the poem and still has it. But the reason it was such a pivotal moment for me was because my 3rd grade teacher was a bit stunned that a new immigrant had written it; she sort of second-guessed her decision to place me in the middle spelling group as opposed to the high one. The poem displayed control of language and depth of expression. That moment sticks out to me now not only because I was somewhat underestimated as an immigrant child, but also because language is so much more than learning how to ask “Where is the bathroom?” in ESL. It is a wild daring thing that, if we’re lucky, takes control of us. It shakes us and says, “Beyond what’s true, what’s possible?” That first poem was a symbol: I am not just getting by in your world, I’m reimagining it.

2. Since your name translates to “song” and “poem”, do you feel that your path towards the arts has been predetermined, or rather a conglomeration of decisions you’ve made?

Predetermined. My parents’ powerful love of music is what named me. My parents met on an organized camping tour of Europe in 1980. They’d sit together on the bus, became friends, and often would start singing until the whole bus would join in. My dad learned English by singing along to Led Zeppelin records. My mom was that teen with a guitar, serenading her peers in the Negev. She wanted to go to music school, but life lifed and she ended up working in the hotel industry, marrying my dad, having kids, you know, lifing. It took my mom decades, but eventually she got into New England Conservatory at age 51 for Vocal Performance. There are certain things––predispositions, I’ll call them, or callings––whether genetic, spiritual, same thing, that we simply can’t avoid. I think even if my name was Sheila, I’d be artistic. But Shira didn’t hurt. It added a dollop of destiny to the mix. Names are more than words we turn around for. Names are prescriptions. They are coded, intricate as snake skin, as DNA. Whether we’re aware of it or not, one’s whole life is a conversation with one’s name.

 "Sky Smile" by Shira Erlichman.

"Sky Smile" by Shira Erlichman.

3. Ode to Lithium #1: The Watchman is a wonderful piece to read, and incredibly rewarding, not only for its meaning, but also for its imagery—going through the poem is like unravelling a reel of old film from childhood. You’ve talked about how Pablo Neruda has influenced your ode series. In his Ode to ‘Andean Codillera’ Neruda writes, “I felt infinitely small in the centre of that navel of rocks, the naval of a deserted world, proud, towering high, to which I somehow belonged.” Did embarking on the project to write 720 odes feel similarly? And how has your approach to the odes evolved from this first poem, to your most current?

You know, I’m really grateful that you’ve drawn a parallel between that poem and the process of creating these odes. Neruda has been my guide in this project because of a tension this very line produces: how can one feel infinitely small, tiny in the centre of a thing so looming, and yet - belong? How can I face my mental illness, a ravaged decade of misdiagnoses / broken family / broken sense of self / deep denial / swallowed poison-stigma, how can I not only face it, but allow such psychic fragmentation to somehow become spiritual mosaic? How does a mosaic even become a mosaic, except for what is a single steadying hand saying you belong, you belong, you belong to each piece?

In asking me about my process, you chose a poem in which Neruda surveys the magnitude of the Andes with compassion, humility, sensuality, and multiplicity. You infer that I must also be embarking on observing something tremendous, even terrifying. Yes. Lithium encapsulates all of these things. So does Bipolar Disorder. Shame itself encapsulates these things: too huge to bear. And yet, you’ve done a great service to me by drawing this correlation. You understand that to approach this mountain one cannot only be terrified, or they miss the whole terrain. Neruda describes a “school of stone” that he can learn from. He is, first and foremost, the giant’s student. I am Lithium’s student. I’m not writing a book because I know something. I’m writing a book because I have a relationship with something. It just happens to be Lithium - salt, medicine, stigma, wound, treasure, all at once. That relationship is worthy of my eye. It is just as real and impactful to me as a person.

I take Lithium’s “bread” as Neruda puts it, “the bread of your grandeur,” seriously. I chew the immensity of my teacher’s knowledge. Ultimately, as I’ve discussed far and wide and you can find online, my first ode, the one you published, was a mistake. It was a  one-time experimental ode to something I didn’t love so much. It turned into a series because a poet’s spirit can’t help but ask, “Are you sure that’s all?” Writing the series has been a way to restore dignity to something tarnished. I joke that Odes to Lithium is really just a rebranding project. Ultimately, it’s already dignified, it’s medicine. I’m here to unfold dignity. The poet’s spirit, Neruda’s spirit, which is entangled with mine and guiding me, says: there are always more ways to love.

You’ll notice that at the end of his ode to the Andes, all of the loving language he uses about the mountain range, all of the incredible gratitude and compassion he possesses lands on something separate from the mountain, that even rises above the mountain: “the condor / raising / his powerful / wings, / his dignified / flight / over vigorous heights.” Isn’t that awesome? Like, that huge looming thing, that wilderness you’re chipping away at? There’s more to the mountain than the mountain.

4. We live in a society that still seems to carry a taboo over mental illness and its treatment. Through your Lithium Odes, it feels like you’ve been able to deconstruct this, creating a counter-link against stigmatisation. How have you balanced the personal and universal in your work? Where has your writing aimed to exist on that spectrum?

When I hear that my Lithium Odes are being discussed in group therapy by a social worker, I feel that my intentions are being realized. Over the last decade, I’ve been hospitalized twice for Bipolar Disorder, so when strangers ask me how they can get their friend or child a copy of my poems as they’re being discharged from a mental hospital, it has particular resonance. In large part, I’m writing these odes because I needed them and didn’t have them when I was discharged, newly diagnosed, deeply ashamed, and living in tangled silence.

I’ve written so many poems over my life; some are purely thought-experiments or conceptual puzzles. That just as valid, and it’s fun. A poem is, hopefully, always a thing of beauty. But with this particular project, it feels that I haven’t really succeeded if the poem is not functional: a salve, a tool, an ally, something that could be carried out of a hospital and into the world with a sense of companionship. My poems are really for these folks, the mentally ill, whose experiences of the mind are unfathomable or variant, the ones fighting for survival and voice. Their families too, the ones that love them and want to support them. It’s not exactly about being anyone’s hope or being brave, really. It’s about: We’re here. It makes me feel safer to turn to my left and right and speak with others who are Here, as opposed to all of us tip-toeing around our own existence for the sake of the Rest of the Them, those judging us. Instead of centralizing the public’s worries and ideas about Bipolar, I started to centralize my own truths. For me, to be explicit in my poems that I have Bipolar Disorder and take Lithium feels like looking at the tsunami of Shame, the culture’s toxins, which has towered high as the sky and is hovering, just ready to demolish me, and saying to it “So what?” I know who I am. Shame is afraid of that.

It’s been a process–––it wasn’t always easy to be explicitly personal in my writing. And there are poems that the public will never see, poems that may never be published, that I needed to write just for me, for my process. I still get to choose. Not everything that’s happened to me or everyone that’s been involved needs to be out in the world. And I have plenty of projects that are not confessional, expository, or even nonfiction. That is the whole point: I’m vast. Multitudes, you know. In their multiplicity and tangential-ness, that’s what the Lithium Odes are supposed to herald as well. You can’t pin me down. Again, the condor over the mountain whose wingspan is breathtaking.

 "Liminal" by Shira Erlichman.

"Liminal" by Shira Erlichman.

5. There is still a sense that we apotheosize the “tortured artist.” Do you think we’ll ever be able to move away from that trope – and, if so, how as a community can we help to dismantle the romanticism of mental illness?

Yikes. This is a big one. I see this trope all the time and it honestly bores me. For one, if you love someone, you don’t define them by their suffering. You acknowledge their suffering, which is different. If you need someone (yourself or another) to suffer in order to be an artist, you need to ask yourself what you really think art is. Is art an emotional state? Is art immersion in pain? Is art brokenness? No. Just watch any child make art.

Pain can be an incredible teacher. It can show us things pleasure will never show us. But if you think pain is the only or best teacher, that’s limited. If I serve you a delicious pie and you gobble it up: Yum! If I throw a pie in your face: Yuck! That’s the human experience, pies in the face, pies on your plate. But the artist doesn’t say: just throw pies at my face. The artist savors questions–––that’s all. The questions can be about why someone would ever throw a pie in your face or what astrological sign this pie might be.

Beautiful, necessary art has come from Van Gogh’s mental hospital window and from Beyonce’s alchemizing power re: her cheating ass husband. Beautiful, necessary art has also come from an entire album dedicated to one state (Hi, Sufjan Stevens, please marry me) and elephants playing with paint. Ultimately, I want all of it. Because I want a healthy world. Healthy means whole. Don’t give people a reason to stay sick, to believe their illness is who they are, that their talent rides on their suffering. We’re done with that world view. We now know the reality of mental illness as truly an illness, not some Realer Emotional State. We now know that you can be medicated and creative. We now know that if Van Gogh had lived today he might have had the resources to heal, maybe even had a dynamic career while alive. Had he been understood, supported, and treated we might have known a fuller Van Gogh. Why would you want to rob anyone of their fullness? What––––for a painting you like? That is beyond insulting, it’s dangerous. I’m not a darkness-a-thon. My life is sacred. Beyond what anyone else says to me about where my art should or shouldn’t come from, I’m the one living my life. I deserve to be healthy and creative and not have those be cultural contradictions.

My advice on how to dismantle the romanticism of mental illness is simple: take care of your own mental health. Allow yourself to be so sad you paint. Allow yourself to be so happy you write. Go to therapy. Trick yourself out of the hypnosis that you make your best work when upset. Challenge yourself to make something every day, whether your mood ring is purple or green. Ask your dentist if she does her best work while weeping. Find out facts about your faves (Cobain, Khalo, Lamar, O’Keefe) that illustrate their full humanity, not just their worst days. Be an example of fullness, so that when someone tells you “Oh, personally I think all artists make their best work when Depressed,” you pity them. Because at home your pile of work is growing. Because you’re not interested in just drowning along.

Simultaneously, while learning how to be proactive and real about your own mental health, challenge others when they are uninformed. Learn from the mentally ill, read our books, listen to how we support and contradict each other. Say the words Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mental Hospital. Don’t let realities go unnamed. Don’t let vagueness (fear) win at language. Don’t cloak real diagnoses, people, or stories. So many people are uncomfortable acknowledging that mental illness is real, has scientific premise, and affects literally millions of us. Be clear. This outspokenness has been a priority in my work and in my life because it opens all the windows and lets the air in. The truth is more important than comfort, or pain, always. The truth has a way of becoming a third lung.

6. We have a number of young readers in our readership audience. What would you say if you could say one thing to Young Writer Shira, and what would you say if you could say one thing to Younger Person Shira?

I’m going to cheat and do a run-on sentence for both Shiras: There’s no shame in body hair Your sensitivity is not a weakness When you’re bored in class it’s a sign of coffined curiosity not personality default I love that you’ve diligently kept a daily journal for years I love the beautiful purple stone cover what a lovely choice It’s okay to have a crush on Kathryn Your parents’ limitations are just that not your fault What frustrates you What scares you What angers you You don’t have to be as natural casual or blasé as Claire Danes to be cool Be more daring in how you protect bullied classmates The liminal space to wonder about life that you cultivate before falling asleep at night will have a lasting impact on you Ask for help more Keep collecting everything sea shells keychains rubber bands POGS baseball cards Keep reading every sad book in the library Keep honoring your quietest creative impulses But I don’t need to tell you that

7. Listening to one of your older albums Elephant Waltz (congrats on your new album, Subtle Creature, by the way!), I was reminded of two things: 1. The band Cyberbully Mom Club, and 2. The synaesthetic quality of the sound. Out of painting, poetry and music, which process do you feel is the most immersive and palpable? Any advice to young writers working also in other artistic mediums?

The Sufi mystic Rabia wrote, “It helps, putting my hands on a pot, on a broom, in a wash pail. I tried painting, but it was easier to fly slicing potatoes.” It’s really all about Presence. Isn’t writing amazing? You can get lost for hours. Isn’t painting amazing? You can get lost for hours. Isn’t music amazing? You can get lost for hours. Anything is immersive and palpable if you approach it openly, like a kid, without too many shoulds.

In another poem of hers called “Hey,” different parts of the universe, like the grass or a squirrel, say ‘Hey’ to each other; she closes the poem with, “I have been saying ‘Hey’ lately too,  to God. Formalities just weren’t working.” It’s a really radical idea to address God with “Hey.” I think we should be able to switch between mediums with that kind of casualness. Don’t put so much stock into what others say about your creative choices. Think of it as creative dexterity. You should be able to learn and explore however you want! Build tiny furniture for mice. Be a writer who paints. Slice potatoes. What Would Rilke Tweet. Rupaul said, “We’re all God in drag.” I feel that way about creative expression. Music, painting, writing – they’re Presence in drag.

I must be all about quotes today, because now I’m thinking about “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” What I really hear in that is, Everything in contradiction. I guess a lady with Manic-Depression might know a little bit about that. Contradiction strengthens you. Live in the liminal hum. Ritualize wonder. Be honest as mud. Submerge fully. Be your best audience. Enjoy doubt. Become familiar with terror. Focus on the task at hand and be eternal. Have no clue and try it anyway. Be slowly powerful. Lean into what you love. 2% Milk isn’t called 98% Water for a reason. Small efforts count.

 "Halo" by Shira Erlichman.

"Halo" by Shira Erlichman.

8. When I first draft my poems I always have to write them into my moleskin using a blue Uniball pen. What’s your writing process, and do you have any traditions?

I write most easily on the computer. Pen and paper often feel too slow for me; it’s like my hand can’t catch up to my thoughts. While pen and paper force me to slow down, it often feels stifling, like a clogged pipe. It feels too self-conscious. I like to feel loose, like I’m in the bath, or playing with a puppy. So I fly on a computer.

I don’t have any major traditions. I like to employ the practice of being able to write anywhere, anytime. I don’t want to feel like I need a fresh breeze, a quiet room and a perfect cup of coffee to get going. These help. But forcing myself into less-than-perfect writing situations is more realistic to my life, and I want students I work with to feel less like Goldilocks and more like those freaky fish on the ocean floor who over centuries start to develop their own inner-luminescent light that guides them.

I guess you could say I have internal tweaks that I do in order to get comfortable. They are very subtle, almost imperceptible and have more to do with my attitude than my environment. Firstly, I absolutely hate the idea that the blank page is our enemy, so I make a point to silently, actively befriend the blank page. I sigh, relax my shoulders, feel true relief, This is my time baby! I enjoy the possibilities before me. I tell myself that even if no one ever sees it, what I’m doing is important. I think about writers that have left a timeless impression on me (Szymborska, Anzaldua, Clifton, Lorde) and I think, ‘I’m just like them.’ I don’t mean that like, I’m a genius. I mean that ultimately, what they did was just sit down and write. Over and over. No special sauce. Just take a seat, keep your willingness fertile, and write.

Announcing our Nominees for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology! by Peter LaBerge

  Aimee Gilmore, "Honey Baby" (Issue Fourteen).

Aimee Gilmore, "Honey Baby" (Issue Fourteen).

We are thrilled to announce our nominees for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology!


Kaveh Akbar, "Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)"
Franny Choi, "Introduction to Quantum Theory"
William Evans, "Wildlife"
Christina Im, "Meanwhile In America"
Charif Shanahan, "Asmar"
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, "Just Like That, A New Black Child is Born to Replace the Buried One"


Maryse Meijer, "The Brother"
Kimarlee Nguyen, "We Gather Here"


Kayleb Rae Candrilli, "This House is Obvious"
Lucas Church, "Rural Appalachian Tour of Homes"

Welcome to Staff: Summer 2017! by Peter LaBerge

We are more than thrilled to welcome onto staff one of the largest and most robust on-boarding classes in our seven year history. Welcome to the below stunners—and let's get to work!

Olivia Alger (Prose Reader) spent three years at Interlochen Arts Academy as a creative writing major. She was a semifinalist for the 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts designation and a finalist in the 2016 YoungArts Awards and for the 2017 Adroit Prize for Prose. She was also an American participant in Between the Lines at the International Writing program, and a mentee in the Adroit Mentorship Program. She’s received two Gold Keys and an American Voices nomination from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She has edited multiple issues of literary journals and her work has been published nine times. She’s from Chicago area, but has also lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 


Walker Caplan (Prose Reader) keeps looking gift horses in the mouth. Her writing has previously been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, The Adroit Journal, Blank Theatre, and more, and her original plays have been performed in New York and Seattle. She is currently a student at Yale University.


Kathryn Fitzpatrick (Prose Reader) lives, breathes, and will die in Thomaston, Connecticut. She is a sophomore English major at Central Connecticut State University, and the recipient of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust Award for Prose.


Samantha Leigh Futhey (Poetry Reader) currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Recently, she completed her MFA in the Creative Writing and Environment Program at Iowa State University. She has poetry published in Cider Press ReviewRhino PoetrySuperstition Review, and The Fourth River, and forthcoming from Alligator Juniper and Zone 3.


Matty Layne Glasgow (Poetry Reader) is a poet and MFA candidate at Iowa State University. His queer ditties have appeared in or are forthcoming from The CollagistRattleCosmonauts AvenueThe Blueshift JournalWildness JournalRust+Moth, and elsewhere. His drag name is Sharon Stoned because he’s pretty basic and goes with his instincts on stage and in life. 


Adam Hamze (Poetry Reader) is a Muslim Arab-American journalist and poet from Austin, Texas. His work focuses on diaspora, ancestry, and living in post-9/11 America, and has appeared in The OffingVinylRadius, and elsewhere. His poems were selected as the editor's pick for the 2016 Winter Tangerine Awards and a finalist for the 2017 Adroit Prize for Poetry.


Kelly Han (Editorial Assistant) is a rising senior at Westview High School in Portland, Oregon. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, but really she is just beginning to delve into the expressive world of literature and writing. Prone to whimsical moods, she loves to bake questionable concoctions, jam out on car rides, and go on spontaneous adventures with her friends. 


Cory Hutchinson-Reuss (Poetry Reader) grew up in Arkansas and holds a PhD in English from the University of Iowa. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Pinch, Drunken Boat, Four Way Review, Salamander, and Crazyhorse, as the recipient of 2016 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize for Poetry. She lives in Iowa City with her family.


Sierra Jacob (Poetry Reader) is an MFA graduate from the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship for Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in Cream City ReviewSonora ReviewThe Louisville ReviewHawaii Pacific ReviewPretty Owl Poetry, among others. Her chapbook CANELAND is forthcoming at Atomic Theory Micro Press. She was born and raised in Haiku, Hawaii.


Wayne Johns' (Poetry Reader) work has appeared in New England ReviewPloughsharesPrairie SchoonerImageBest New Poets, and elsewhere. He is the author of a chapbook, An Invisible Veil Between Us (Thorngate Road), His first book, Antipsalms, received the inaugural Audre Lorde and Frank O'Hara poetry prize. A former Lambda Literary fellow, he currently serves on the editorial staff of Raleigh Review and as a reader for the BOAAT Book Prize.


Esther Lin (Poetry Reader & Copy Editor) was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for 21 years. She is a 2017–19 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and a recipient of the inaugural Undocupoets Fellowship. She was also a 2015 Poets House Emerging Poet and Queens Council on the Arts Fellow. Her poems appear in The Adroit JournalCopper NickelCortland ReviewCrazyhorseDrunken BoatGuernicaVinyl, and elsewhere.


Daniel T. O'Brien (Poetry Reader) is a recent graduate of the MFA program in creative writing at The Ohio State University, where he served as poetry editor of The Journal and managing editor of The Journal/OSU Press Book Prize Series. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from American Literary Review, Banango Street, BLOOM, Foundry, Prelude, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to the poetry review website SCOUT. He lives in New York. 


Meghann Plunkett (Poetry Reader) was the winner of the 2017 Third Coast Poetry Prize. She was also a finalist for North American Review’s 2017 Hearst Poetry Prize, as well as Narrative Magazine's 2016 30 Below Contest. Meghann is currently an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where she was awarded the 2016 & 2017 Academy of American Poets College Prizes. Her poems can be found in or are forthcoming from Narrative Magazine, North American Review, Adroit Journal, The Paris-American, Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, decomP Magazine, and storySouth, among others.


Andy Powell (Poetry Reader) is a Teaching Artist for DreamYard and for Cooper Union's Saturday Program. He has poems out or forthcoming from Winter Tangerine ReviewThe RialtoSOFTBLOWJerryPANK, and elsewhere. He took 3rd prize in Ambit's 2016 competition, selected by Sarah Howe.


Macrina Wang (Marketing Associate) is a rising senior at St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, and is currently the Literary Editor of the Horae Scholasticae. Her work has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Macrina spends her free time writing, barely scraping by in Calculus, and looking up HD images of a young Stephen Colbert.


Jim Whiteside (Poetry Reader) is a graduate of the MFA program at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellow. His recent poems have appeared in journals such as The Southern ReviewIndiana ReviewKenyon Review OnlinePoetry Northwest, and Salt Hill, as winner of the Philip Booth Poetry Prize. Originally from Cookeville, Tennessee, he lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.