Meet the Mentees: Katherine Liu (Poetry), Lizzy Lemieux (Fiction), & Daniel Blokh (Nonfiction) by Peter LaBerge

It's July, so you know what that means: we're knee deep in our wonderful summer mentorship program! We're committed to giving you a peek inside, this week in the form of mentees Katherine Liu (of Illinois), Lizzy Lemieux (of Maine), and Daniel Blokh (of Alabama). Katherine is studying poetry with mentor Jennifer Givhan, Lizzy is studying fiction with mentor Michelle Ross, and Daniel is studying Nonfiction with mentor Caroline Crew. Read on, and learn more about them and their mentorship experiences!

Introduce yourselves, if you would, in a rhyming couplet.

Katherine Liu, mentee: Introductions make me nervous / I wish this line had more purpose. 

Lizzy Lemieux, mentee: Dedicated to my aesthetic / so please forgive me if I wax poetic.

Daniel Blokh, mentee: His knowledge of puns makes everyone gawk. / After all, he’s the coolest kid on the Blokh.


Why do you write?

KL: To reclaim and preserve, document and depict, destroy and reinvent. 

LL: My parents say that, before I knew the alphabet, I carried around a pencil and notepad and wrote with scratch marks. My unprofessional analysis of my behavior at age two is that writing had an allure beyond story telling or expression of emotion. I “wrote” because I was in awe of the process and the dedication to craft. The only thing that’s changed is that I’m now able to form coherent sentences. 

DB: Writing is how I get to know myself better. I write because of that zone I’m able to achieve sometimes, when I’m working on a piece, and suddenly, relevant images and memories start appearing in my mind. It’s this weird, trippy, wonderful look into things I never knew went on in my mind, and I’ve got to write it down. And then, when I’ve finished up a piece, I have this moment of relaxation and discovery. I sit back and think, “Woah, I never knew I felt like that.” I write to reach that point. (I think I jut had one of those moments writing this response.) 


If you could hang out with any writer (from any time period) for a day, who would it be and what would you do?

KL: I'd spend a day outside with Sylvia Plath. We'd paddle boat and go hiking for scenic views. Or I'd introduce her to Chinese rail travel and we'd ride the maglev train back and forth through Shanghai. 

LL: I’d lounge around with Sappho on Lesbos, drinking wine while she read me her poetry. I’d ask her to fill on the blanks in my copy of “If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho” by Anne Carson. Maybe we’d do it mad-lib style. She’d say “I don’t remember what I wrote here, maybe a verb?” and I’d say something that would make us both laugh when she it read it back. 

DB: I’d watch an old cheesy horror movie with Kafka. I think we’d both love it.


Interestingly, all three of you write in multiple genres—poetry, fiction, nonfiction/essay, etc. How do you think this has influenced your work thus far—and what do you think ties your work across genres together?

KL: My writing process changes depending on if I’m writing poetry or prose, so I like the versatility of going into different genres with different final expectations. For me, prose offers a more drawn-out exploration of ideas, while the goal of poetry is to convey complex ideas concisely. And I’ve never really thought about this before, but I incorporate imagery/poetic language into my prose and love writing poems with narrative arcs. I definitely return to the same themes – e.g. identity, relationships, alienation – regardless of genre. The driving impulses behind my work don’t change. But more explicitly, sometimes I’ll recycle the same images across genres. (Oops.) 

LL: When I write in a single genre, I get stuck on conventions and tropes. Writing across genres reinforces my ability to break boundaries. My poetry becomes character heavy and my fiction hinges on poetic devices (pun, alliteration, the works). I also tend to write on similar topics or with overlapping settings and characters. For example, my Jewish heritage, my sexuality, and my family (among many others) are recurrent themes no matter the mode. 

DB: Writing in multiple genres relieves literary frustration. When I’m writing in nonfiction, I get mad that I can’t make things up, so I write fiction for a while. When I’m writing fiction, I get mad that I can’t be more abstract, so I switch to poetry. When I’m writing poetry, I get mad over length limitations, so I return to nonfiction. Because of this, I feel that my literary voice develops simultaneously across the genres, and my pieces often have the same tone throughout different forms.


In seven words, describe your most recently penned piece of writing.

KL: Speaker journeys through various cities feeling uncomfortable. 

LL: East coast road trip with redneck angel. 

DB: Russian? American? Jewish? I’m angry, that’s what.


I feel like a wise literary philosopher has at some point said that time spent away from writing is just as important as time spent writing (if not, I’ll say it). What do you do when you aren’t writing?

KL: Aside from reading, I scroll through news and social media on my phone while alternating between lying on my bed and selected couches. I spend an alarmingly large amount of time messaging friends. During the school year I prepare for various sciences competitions (#sciolyforlife), though I have yet to successfully write about science. This summer I've developed a penchant for gardening and now I obsessively prowl through my three blackberry bushes for ripe berries. 

LL: At boarding school, where I study creative writing, I’ve tried a lot of different activities in an attempt to spend time away from writing. There was a brief stint with yoga, some theater going, a stop in at the school dance. The one thing I’ve stuck with is a skit competition called Odyssey of the Mind, where I can try my hand at visual art, acting, singing, and any number of other art forms.

DB: Aside from reading, thinking about writing, and finding advice about writing? Usually spending time with friends. Listening to music with them, going to a movie, or just chatting. Conversation, like writing, is a way for me to discover new things about myself and other people. It’s like writing, but instead of opening yourself up to a page, you’re opening yourself up to a person. Also, it helps me write better dialogue.


I can’t believe that this is the last week of writing before we begin working on Final Portfolios! What’s been your favorite part of the mentorship, and what’s one memory or piece of advice that you’ll take with you?

KL: The mentorship community is absolutely catalytic—there’s such a huge support network of writers, and my fellow mentees continuously amaze and inspire me. I’m going to miss being so excited about sharing my work! As for advice, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to always focus on a poem’s “beating heart.” So even if I think a line or image is really pretty, if it doesn’t advance the narrative, I’ll have to cut it. 

LL: The mentorship program has provided me with a confidant, and better yet, a confidant who had answers. On days where writing seemed too difficult or my work felt insignificant, there would be an email from my mentor, Michelle Ross, asking what difficulties I’d encountered so far and what questions I had for her. When I struggled with plot, she replied that for her, plot was an ongoing exploration—but it wasn’t simply commiseration, it was an acknowledgment of process with insight on how to move past obstacles. It seems simple, but the hardest thing for me to keep in mind about the writing process is that it’s a process. Michelle reminded me that I don’t have to master plot, or craft, or character, at age seventeen in order to be a writer. I simply have to explore. 

DB: My favorite part of the mentorship has been group discussions of work (aka geeking out together about artists we love). There's only one other nonfiction mentee, so our group was pretty small, which led to discussions being personal and friendly. Really, every discussion in the mentorship felt like this, even the mentee group-chat. I’ll always remember hilarious and insightful conversations with other young authors. It has been a place for writers to get advice and knowledge, a place where we could bring our work for review or help one another out of writer’s block. (Or should I say, Writer’s Blokh?)


Katherine Liu is a rising senior at Adlai E Stevenson High School in Illinois. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Princeton University, Gannon University, Brigham Young University, and IGGY & Litro, among others, and nominated for Best of the Net. Katherine enjoys sweatpants and certain amphibious memes.

Elizabeth Lemieux comes from a small town in Maine, where churches outnumber traffic lights. She attends Interlochen Arts Academy, in Interlochen, Michigan, as the recipient of the Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Scholarship. Her work can be found in Best Teen Writing of 2015 and The Adroit Journal, among others. 

Daniel Blokh is a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama. His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, and have appeared in Gigantic Sequins, Cicada Magazine, and Longridge Review. His book of essays In Migration was selected as the winner of the Books-A-Million Publishing Contest, and will be available soon.

Feminist Fridays: "Girls & Other Animals" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

  " Horse"  by Adam Amram (Adroit   Journal, Issue 9)

"Horse" by Adam Amram (Adroit Journal, Issue 9)

In popular literature and songs, women’s bodies or sexualities are often compared to animals. Take, for example, “I want to fuck you like an animal/Iwant to feel you from the inside” in Closer by Nine Inch Nails. Or the incessant comparison of pretty girls to Bambi, or women’s bodies to racehorses. Women’s fear is often compared to that of a deer in the headlights. This form of zoomorphism in our culture is extremely common, and, while often women being compared to animals is a typical literary tactic, it’s interesting to think of the underlying dehumanization: a woman is not a woman with big eyes, she’s a virginal baby deer; a woman afraid is not a woman who is afraid, she is soon to be road kill. The simultaneous romanticizing and dehumanization of female beauty is common: when you are beautiful, you are an ideal, viewed as someone almost holy or above others, and simultaneously seen as something not human, as in you’re not a person, you’re a body part, a commodity.


In almost every YA novel, girls are compared to burning fires, birds of paradise, deer, horses, roses, lions, tigresses, parrots, and so on, and in this way, beauty and womanhood are turned feral. I’m sure if you Googled me, you could find multiple poems and stories and novel excerpts where I compare bodies to oceans or fires or sick animals or burning buildings, so I’m not necessarily saying that there’s anything wrong with doing so, or using Zoomorphism as a literary device. However, the concept of beauty or womanhood or desire for girls, or a girl’s desire or fear as something animalistic, un-human, is a disturbing topic. In our culture, girls and women’s bodies are used as commodities or warfare or advertisements, and in this way, it’s like beauty and womanhood negate your personhood, turns you into something usable, something animal, that can be consumed.


The music video for Animals by Maroon 5 consists of a man breaking into a woman’s apartment repeatedly, photographing her half naked and sleeping, and then, in a meat bunker, smearing himself in animal’s blood, like he’s preparing himself for the hunt. He then follows her to a club and presumably takes her home, as they can next be seen entwined and dripping in dark red blood. Their desire has turned them into the hunter and the hunted, and, apparently, the prey has been caught.


Older women who date younger men are referred to as “cougars” (I have yet to find the lesbian equivalent for this, but I assume it would involve some kind of large cat as well).  Virgins are compared to pure flowers, petals that have not yet crumpled or withered or dried out which is apparently what happens when a girl loses her virginity: she withers, her petals fall off. In this context a woman’s desire both punishes her and gives her power (a dying flower, a threatening hunting cat). In most of the literature I’ve read, men are never flowers or road kill deer, they’re usually portrayed as either primitive hunters or predatory creatures, and, on the brief occasion that women in literature are referred to as predatory animals, it’s derogatory (“she’s a cougar, watch out,” “she’s a shark” etc).


The question in this article, is why are girls dying fires or withering roses or Bambi-eyed ingénues or helpless but decorative birds? Why are we always the prey?


Meet the Mentees: Eileen Huang (Poetry) and Angelo Hernandez-Sias (Fiction)! by Aidan Forster

If you enjoyed last week's peek into the mentorship program, you'll love this one! It's time for round two of Meet the Mentees, this time with Eileen Huang (Poetry) and Angelo Hernandez-Sias (Fiction). Read on to hear their thoughts on inspiration, art outside of writing, and their goals for the future. 

Introduce yourselves, if you would, in a rhyming couplet.

Eileen Huang: My rhymes are the worst / That's why I write free verse.

Angelo Hernandez-Sias: I'm a writer who raps and makes beats. / When I walk I make cracks in the street.


Tell us the story (the abridged version, perhaps) of how and why you began writing. What is it (whether a person, event, etc.) that has led to your further pursuit of it?

EH: As a kid, my parents would drop me off at the nearest Barnes & Noble so that they didn't have to deal with me for a few hours. I read anything from Judy Blume to George Orwell. I then started making up these little stories for my younger sister. I wrote one about a magical pond and another about two girls who discover a hole leading to the underworld in the middle of Ohio (??? very questionable), and I guess that's how I found out that writing stories could be pretty fun.

AHS: I began with listening. When I was a child, my parents read to me and my grandmother told me stories about her life. I loved the way stories changed me and thus, despite their permanence, seemed to be ever-changing. In the first grade, I learned to read and write, and my natural response to reading was engaging in conversation through stories of my own. My family encouraged my habit of writing, so I kept telling stories. Today, the process doesn't look much different than when I was ten years old; I read something so compelling that I want to say something back, and fiction/rap/poetry are the most natural ways for me to respond.

On a broader level, reading and writing have helped me to recognize my worth as a human being. In a world where I don't regularly see people of my race positively and/or complexly portrayed in the media, reading the works of authors like Junot Diaz, Claudia Rankine, and Ta-Nehisi Coates has reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles as a body of color-and as a human being. Writing is an act of defiance and optimism, a means of convincing myself and readers of our humanity.


Three writers who have inspired each of you thus far?

EH: I don't really have favorite authors, but I really enjoyed reading Catcher in the Rye—it was one of the few books I brought with me when I studied abroad in Beijing for a year. I reread it several times, and that's when I really noticed the nuances in literature. This year, I've also been exposed to contemporary poets like Richard Siken—I love that his work is so raw and original. Also, I love Sylvia Plath, who taught me that poetry can be both ugly and beautiful.

AHS: Toni Morrison, Roberto Bolaño, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


Eileen, you're just finishing up your reign as a National Student Poet representing the Northeast region through the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards—which is so cool! Congratulations. I'm sure, through such an expansive and meaningful opportunity, your writing has grown and matured in some ways. What are some of these ways, and were these the ways you expected when you were inducted?

EH: My year as a National Student Poet has been completely unpredictable and exhilarating. I dove into the year expecting to improve mainly improve as a writer/on technical skills, but I think it was the experiences and people I met that impacted me the most. I was able to se just how deeply poetry affected people. I did these writing workshops for high school students in New Hampshire, and their english teacher suddenly stood u and read this poem he wrote about having an argument with his daughter. I remember the lines: "I called you a bitch / Saw the tears in your eyes, the slammed door / You thought you'd lost the fight / I thought I'd lost you forever."


Angelo, you've just graduated from high school (congratulations!), and you're heading from home in Western Michigan to Columbia University in New York City. Often, changes in landscape affect writing style and content in a lot of interesting and valuable ways but—for now—how do you think growing up where you have has affected your writing?

AHS: Muskegon, MI (my hometown) is a city of about forty-thousand people on the shore of Lake Michigan; home to Pere Marquette, the largest public beach on the east side of the lake; ex-lumber town; nineteenth most racially segregated city in the United States (as ranked by Business Insider). As it does with any writer, the language of my hometown has influenced the settings of my stories (many of which occur on the beach, in the forest, or in the car). It is my experience of residential segregation—especially in relation to the public educational system—that has affected my writing/sense of writer's purpose on a broader scope. For instance, my protagonists experience overt racism, micro aggressions, a search for racial/ethnic belonging, police brutality, colloquialisms-all themes that wouldn't even be on my radar had I not lived through them myself.


In seven words, describe your most recently penned piece of writing.

EH: Women in the Bible get super existential. 

AHS: Sandaled brown boy doesn't feel like breathing.


If you weren't a writer, what sort of artist would you want to be? Why?

EH: I would actually love to be a filmmaker—I've always loved movies and I'm constantly fascinated by how good directors frame and create images. I also feel like there are a lot of things that can be communicated through film better than writing (and vice versa)—in writing, not that many things can go unsaid. In film, however, one look at the camera can say more than a whole chapter in a book.

AHS: If I weren't a writer (including the writing of music and lyrics), I'd want to be an actor. Writing is like acting in that both the author and the actor must occupy another character's mind. Acting, I imagine, would be another way to become someone else, something I enjoy doing.


AJ: And finally, what's one goal (hopefully there are many!) that you have for your time in the mentorship program?

EH: I hope to both improve my writing skills and become a part of a diverse community of writers. I've only been participating in the mentorship for a few weeks, and I've already discovered new authors and some amazing work by writers my age!

AHS: I hope to establish lasting connections and friendships with peer reviewers and mentors, people whose work I can use to practice the skill of peer review and who can offer valuable critique on my future works-in-progress.


Eileen Huang is a rising junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. She is currently the 2015 Northeast National Student Poet, the nation's highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. In her free time, Eileen enjoys reading and shamelessly watching B-list romantic comedies.


Angelo Hernandez-Sias is a writer who raps. His fiction has received a national gold medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing awards, two National Merit Awards in Writing/Selection from Novel from YoungArts, and a gold medal from the West Michigan Student Showcase. His forthcoming work will appear in The Blueshift Journal. He is participating in The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program while completing a six-week summer bridge program at Columbia University, where he will attend college this coming fall. His work is available at

Meet the Mentees: Jaclyn Grimm (Fiction) and Joey Reisberg (Poetry) by Aidan Forster

Summer's in high gear, and so is the 2016 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship! To kick things off, we interviewed two of our mentees: Jaclyn Grimm (fiction) and Joey Reisberg (poetry). Read on to learn more about these stellar young writers!

The Adroit Journal: Introduce yourselves, if you would, in a rhyming couplet.

Jaclyn Grimm, Fiction Mentee: I only write prose / because my poetry blows.

Joey Reisberg, Poetry Mentee:  He came from outer space— / scribbling poems, shoving snacks in his face.


J: Here's a perhaps deceivingly complicated question: why do you write? 

JG: Because it’s something I can do in my pajamas. Actually, I’d like to say the reason is something fantastic or inspiring, but it really stems from my desire to control things. Life is unpredictable and chaotic and my writing is a way to make sense of it. Although the pajama thing is pretty great, too. 

JR: I write because I feel an urgent need to communicate using the power and beauty of words. I write because my brain gets too busy. I write as therapy and as a way of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I write as discovery, escape, resolution, empathy, riddle, magnifying glass, telescope, retribution, surprise, jigsaw puzzle, confrontation, synthesis, and contradiction. I write because finding an answer to the question “Why do you write?” is so impossibly hard and I never want it to be easy. 


AJ: Three writers who have inspired you thus far?

JG: Lorrie Moore, Junot Díaz, and Kevin Wilson. There are so many other writers I adore, but I feel that these three have influenced my work the most. 

JR: Emily Dickinson for the wonder and revelation she brings to our world. Mark Doty for his lush, layered language and deep emotion. Frank O’Hara for the exuberance and passion that shine through his poems. 


AJ:  How did you find out about The Adroit Journal? Often we find hesitance among some of the strongest young writers—what led you to take that leap and first get involved? 

JG: One of my best friends told me about The Adroit Prizes and encouraged me to submit a couple of my stories! At that point I knew nothing about Adroit, which was definitely for the best because I doubt I would’ve submitted if I’d realized how talented everyone here is. After I heard I was being recognized, I read just about everything in the journal, absolutely fell in love with it, and wanted to be in the mentorship program more than anything. 

JR: An important mentor in my life, Ms. Shirley Brewer (literal poetry goddess), first told me about the mentorship. I got even more excited when I read back issues of The Adroit Journal and saw “bizarre” listed on the “About” page. I had been craving to be part of a community of writers for so long. Meeting other people who are nerds for words has been thrilling and inspiring. So that’s why I dove headfirst into the Wacky World of Adroit. 


AJ:  Let’s pretend, for a second, we’re on the Bachelor/Bachelorette (this can’t end well). You’ve narrowed it down to your two favorite literary characters—who are they, and which one do you pick? 

JG: This can only end well. I’d narrow it down to Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) and Joe Kavalier (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), although I think I’d end up picking Joe because artists are #nextlevel.

JR: First option is Rochester from Jane Eyre. He’s dark, he’s brooding, and he’s rich. Perfect!  Next we have Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Beautiful bisexual prince! He challenges Rochester to a duel, promptly slays him, and then whisks me away to his Dornish vineyard where we eat tropical fruit and watch “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”  


AJ:  In seven words, describe your most recently penned piece of writing. 

JG: Chicken factory needs safety regulations and feminism.

JR: This persona poem gets hella angsty. Wow! 


AJ: What’s something you’re interested in besides writing?

JG: Sometimes I like to pretend I’m good at acting even though I’m mostly in it for the pretty costumes. I’m really interested in politics—not in a potential career sort of way, but I think it’s interesting/important to learn about. I also enjoy random dance breaks, watching too much television, and reading crappy novels (along great ones, of course).

JR: I love drag! Big hair, glitter, pounds of makeup, rhinestones, stilettos, lip-syncing to ‘80’s divas. I love the element of rebellion (breaking outside of gender norms) as well as the fun and kitsch and camp of a drag performance. 


AJ: And finally, what’s one goal (hopefully there are many!) that you have for your time in the mentorship program? 

JG: To stretch my writing ability as far as I can, learn to incorporate feedback into my editing process, and join a community of awesome people/writers. That’s more than one goal, but another goal of mine is to break rules so it seems fitting.

JR: One goal would definitely be to build up a strong body of work that I can start sending out to places. I would also love to keep the connections between fellow writers strong. A support system like this is incredible to have. (I realize that this is two goals but I have a #rebelheart, just like Madonna.)


Jaclyn Grimm lives in Orlando, Florida and is a rising senior at Lake Highland Preparatory School. Her writing has appeared in The Adroit Journal and is forthcoming in decomP and CHEAP POP.  She likes using lower case letters way too much and thinks she's funnier than she actually is. 


Joey Reisberg studies creative writing at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, where he is on the editorial staff for the school's literary magazine Synergy. His poetry has been recognized with a Gold Medal from the 2016 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. He lives near Baltimore, MD with some plants and an adorable schnauzer named Stella.




Feminist Fridays: "The Dead Lesbian Trope" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

 "  A Shrill Majesty"  by W. Jack Savage (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)

"A Shrill Majesty" by W. Jack Savage (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)

Lesbian representation in television could at best be compared to one of the reality shows (Naked and Afraid, Out of the Wild, and so on) in which normal civilian people face near death experiences for the gratification of the viewers, only, in this analogy, the lesbians don’t survive, however the civilians in such shows do.

A count recently released by Autostraddle lists the number of all 155 LGBT women on various television programs (dating back to 1976) who have been killed, and their various causes of death (car accident, toxic envelope glue, self inflicted stabbing, beheading, electrocuted in a bathtub, breast cancer, mall bombing, various supernaturally sustained injuries, angry men, mentally unbalanced exes, and so on). The often seemingly random or punish-killing of LGBT women on popular programs has become a trope, or a plot device, that is used by TV writers to the point that it seems that gay women are either strangely susceptible to ridiculously bad luck, or that their writers view them as less important than their deaths.

Such tropes raise the following questions: Why, in television as well as the real world, is it so hard for gay women to stay alive, or at least remain not grievously injured by either angry men, cruel chance, as if in some sort of biblical punishment? Why are queer women’s lives valued less in both spheres? Is this representation (the constant murdering of LGBT women or prominent LGBT women’s partners in popular TV programs) supposed to be a glimpse into the lives of many queer women through out various time periods and areas, or is it merely a homophobic plot device?

I’ve watched almost every title in lesbian Netflix, and the only two pieces that have relatively happy endings are Jenny’s Wedding (a nauseatingly confectionary story of a closeted woman with extremely homophobic family members who may or may not come to her wedding after finding out that—surprise she’s not marrying a man). And The L Word, (an offensive soapy mess of a television show that is difficult to look away from, though even this piece ends with a murder, albeit of a character so supremely unlikable it is difficult to feel anything but relief at her demise). It often seems as if Hollywood is stating that if you are a queer women, specifically, if you are a queer woman who does not fit into the steadily supplied tropes of what a lesbian or bisexual woman should be like, you will be punished, often by some formerly improbable deadly fluke.

Lesbians in film have barely evolved since the fifties pulp novel and, later, movie mandated representation: either you’re a woman so beautiful that a man could never be near her, a woman who has been hurt by a man so beautifully that she can never be near them, a villainous, hyper masculine, often predatory woman, or, a woman so undesirable that the only person who could conceivably desire her would be a similarly unfit for the male gaze woman.

Since this time, lesbian sexuality seems to take three forms: either, an asexual, almost sisterly relationship, in which most of their time is spent knitting, adopting rescue cats, fulfilling various stereotypes, and so on. Or, alternately, their sex is violent, flashy, usually femme/butch, or, alternately, two extremely beautiful women who are so beautiful they are relegated to lesbianism as men cannot handle them, their beauty makes them grotesque, or, maybe they’re just being punished (a maddeningly and unfortunately realistically disproportionate amount of women in the Autostraddle count were killed by angry men).

Alternately, a large number of lesbians portrayed in the media or in literature identify as gay because of trauma, which in itself is perfectly valid, but which is contorted by the media to make the woman in question a martyr, beautiful in her blood and suffering, the general homophobia in regards to her queerness is washed away by her martyrdom, how delicately and almost holy her suffering seems. As standards for conventionally attractive actresses have evolved, it seems almost like the queer woman who are being killed are being punished for their beauty, for being inaccessible to men. Every beautiful woman in the world can recount being compared to Helen of Troy at least once or twice within her life (beauty as suffering, war, casualties, deception, punishment).

The question I keep coming back to, is, why are queer women’s lives and characters seemingly so disposable, both in the real world and in television, and what would it take to change both?


Brynne Rebele-Henry's poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. 


RAISE YOUR GLASS: Alex Dimitrov's "Cocaine" wins Pushcart Prize! by Peter LaBerge

  via Alex Dimitrov.

via Alex Dimitrov.

The editors of The Adroit Journal are thrilled to share the news that Alex Dimitrov's poem "Cocaine," originally published in our Fall 2015 issue, has won a Pushcart Prize. Click here to read the poem, and click here to read an interview between Alex and correspondent Audrey Zhao & editor-in-chief Peter LaBerge. 

Stay tuned for the release of Pushcart Prizes XLI: Best of the Small Presses 2017, which will hit shelves come November.

RAISE YOUR GLASS: Three Adroit Seniors Named 2016 United States Presidential Scholars! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the brilliant Isabella NilssonAudrey Spensley, and Rachel Page on being crowned 2016 United States Presidential Scholars in the Arts this morning. 

From the website:

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation's highest honors for high school students. 

The 20 Scholars in the Arts, all YoungArts Winners, were nominated to The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars by YoungArts for their artistic achievement, and then selected based on academic achievement, personal characteristics and leadership and service activities. The award, presented on behalf of the President of the United States, is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students and symbolically honors all graduating high school seniors of high potential.

Each year, the U.S. Presidential Scholars are invited to Washington, D.C. for several days of recognition activities. The scholars meet with government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other leaders. Scholars also visit museums and monuments in our nation’s capital and attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies held in their honor. 

In addition to these activities, the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts have the opportunity to display their artwork in an exhibition and perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 


Isabella Nilsson is a senior at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and plans to study English at Columbia University. She is a graduate of the Iowa Young Writers Workshop, a National YoungArts Finalist in Short Story, and a National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Medalist in Short Story and Creative Nonfiction. Her writing can be found in Aerie International and Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2015, as well as Hathaway Brown’s own nationally-recognized Retrospect. Isabella joined the prose staff last year, and currently serves as a Prose Editor.



Audrey Spensley is a senior at Avon Lake High School in Avon Lake, Ohio, and will be a freshman at Princeton University in the fall. She has been named a Foyle Young Poet of the Year and a National YoungArts Finalist for Poetry, and her work has received four national Gold Medals and a Best in Grade Award from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her poetry is published in or forthcoming from Magma, The Blue Pencil Online, and The Best Teen Writing of 2015, among others. Audrey participated in the 2014 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program under the direction of Alexa Derman, and currently serves as a Poetry Reader for The Adroit Journal



Rachel Page is a senior at Woodrow Wilson Sr. High School from Washington, DC, and will be a freshman at Columbia University in the fall. She has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards—most recently receiving a coveted Scholastic Gold Medal for Writing Portfolio—as well as by the National YoungArts Foundation, PEN/Faulkner, and The Washington Post. Prior to being recognized as a YoungArts Finalist in Writing (Short Story), she contributed one of her prize-winning pieces "Islands" (an excerpt of which is available above) to Issue Fourteen of The Adroit Journal.

Congratulations, Isabella, Audrey, and Rachel!

RAISE YOUR GLASS: Congratulations to the Adroit Class of 2016! by Peter LaBerge

Every year, we at The Adroit Journal witness a brilliant class of high school seniors apply and head off to college. We're honored to share the matriculation list of this year's class of senior mentorship students and staff readers!

Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania snagged the most Adroit students this year, with five seniors headed to each. In their wake, Stanford UniversityPrinceton UniversityBrown University, and Yale University each snagged three Adroit students.

We wish each of the below thirty-six students the best as they embark on their next chapters, and hope they'll stay in touch! (We have a feeling they will.)

Mentorship Students

Rebecca Alifimoff (IN — '14, Poetry), University of Pennsylvania

Walker Caplan (WA — '15, Fiction), Yale University

Catherine Cheng (TX — '15, Fiction), University of Texas — Austin

Jordan Cutler-Tietjen (CA — '15, Journalism), Yale University

Lindsay Emi (CA — '14, Poetry), Princeton University

Griffin Blue Fay (CA — '15, Poetry), University of California — Berkeley

Maeve Flaherty (CT — '15, Fiction), Columbia University

Talia Flores (MN — '15, Fiction), Stanford University

Ava Goga (NV — '15, Poetry), Smith College

Erica Guo (CA — '14, Poetry), Brown University

Anastasia Hutnick (DE — '15, Dramatic Script), University of Pennsylvania

Anna Kramer (PA — '15, Fiction), Brown University

Jane Levy (CT — '15, Journalism), University of Pennsylvania

Jessica Li (NJ — '14, Fiction), University of Pennsylvania 

Abigail Minard (PA — '15, Poetry), Princeton University

Alyssa Mulé (GA — '14, Poetry), University of Pennsylvania

Taylor Petty (VA — '15, Poetry), Virginia Commonwealth University 

Lucy Silbaugh (PA — '14, Fiction), Columbia University

Jane Song (NJ — '15, Experimental Prose), Emory University

Sarah Tran (CA — '14, Fiction), Pomona College

Lucy Wainger (NY — '15, Poetry), Emory University

Eli Winter (TX — '15, Journalism), University of Chicago 

Erintrude Wrona (SC — '15, Poetry), Kenyon College

Emily Zhang (MD — '15, Poetry), Stanford University

Jessica Zhang (MA — '15, Poetry), New York University 

Audrey Zhao (CA — '15, Poetry), University of Washington

Staff Readers

Aline Dolinh (VA — Poetry Reader), University of Virginia

Isabella Nilsson (OH — Prose Editor), Columbia University

Scott Szpisjak (VA — Prose Reader), Vassar College

Parisa Thepmankorn (NJ — Poetry Reader), Brown University

Chelsy Jiayi Wu (CHN — Poetry Reader), Columbia University

Tiffany Xie (IN — Prose Reader), Indiana University (Hutton Honors & Wells Scholar)

Staff Readers & Previous Mentorship Students

Maddie Kim (CA — Prose Reader; Poetry Mentee, '14), Stanford University 

Emily Mack (IL — Poetry Reader; Poetry Mentee, '14), Columbia University

Meghana Mysore (OR — Poetry Reader; Poetry Mentee, '15), Yale University

Audrey Spensley (OH — Poetry Reader; Fiction Mentee, '14), Princeton University

Caroline Tsai (IN — Reviews Editor; Poetry Mentee, '15), Harvard University


As usual, Britney knows what to do:

Feminist Fridays: "The Language We Use For Love" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

  "Busts"  by Katiuscia Gregoire ( Adroit Journal , Issue 9)

"Busts" by Katiuscia Gregoire (Adroit Journal, Issue 9)

Think of the limits of language, of all the words that have yet to be invented, the emotions not classified or felt clearly enough to have a place in a dictionary, or, emotions that have not yet been translated from one language to another (take, for example, the Japanese word, Koi No Yokan, which describes the sensation upon meeting another person who you realize you will inevitably fall in love with. Or, the Norwegian word, Forelsket, which describes the sensation before falling in love, or the sensation directly at the time that you first fall in love). 


We do not know what the first love poem ever written was or what the first recognized sensation of love was, or, if in the time before language, love existed without the words used to describe or define it, or if instead emotions were only developed after the invention of the words used to describe them. Or, if emotions existed and were communicated via touch or some other form of non-verbal gesture.


Now, the language we use for love has become Hallmark, commercial, a series of nouns used on rhyming Valentine’s Day cards and widely purchased and distributed by millions.  While the words have more or less stayed the same, the way love is viewed by most parts of society has finally albeit slowly begun to evolve from a heterosexual expectation, to a multi-faceted (and now legally recognized) acceptance (however the majority of commercialized Hallmark card sections have stayed excessively suburban and heterosexual and will probably remain that way eternally).


Culturally, however, love, or the loopholes you apparently must go through to be loved if you are a woman-girl (or at least the loopholes according to most women’s magazines and the media) require a thigh gap, conventional Eurocentric beauty, and various virgin/whore complex inspired maneuvers.


Love sells, almost more than sex, and the average consumer wants a perfect glossy love story, hence the various multi-billion grossing love flicks, Grammy winning pop songs, bestselling books, and fairytale come to life media sensations turned minor celebrities.


Interestingly, love seems to now be considered creatively passé, as if the language used for it has expired from over-usage, and, often, seems to have been replaced by other forms of expression as with heart emojis, text acronyms, some repurposed forms of slang (i.e.: from “baby” to “bae” ). However, despite the rapidly evolving words we have for love, the sexist expectations and alterations that women are told to undergo have stayed the same save for being updated to fit cultural shifts and modern technology.


 It is possible that eventually love will become extinct, or, as we enter the age of the machine, become too un-evolved, and will instead be replaced by a new emotion, gesture, language, or phrase that has not yet been conceived. 


Brynne Rebele-Henry's poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. 

Reminder: Adroit Journal's Summer 2016 Mentorship Program OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS! by Aidan Forster

 "Patches: Unfinished" by Emma Jo Shatto ( The Adroit Journal , Issue 11)

"Patches: Unfinished" by Emma Jo Shatto (The Adroit Journal, Issue 11)

A common idea about writing is that it is a solitary art, that the writer exists in a space alone and writes. Here at Adroit, we'd like to shatter that misconception. We believe a strong artistic community is vital to the growth of writing, and so we nurture one here: The Adroit Journal's Annual Summer Mentorship Program.

The idea of a mentorship predates us, but the application is entirely contemporary. High school writers are paired with experienced writers and interact through a technological platform, building a lasting partnership and a close group of emerging and established writers. 



The application process is competitive, as there are only so many available spaces. Here's what previous mentees have said about the program:

"Having seen the mentorship program from both sides, as both mentee and mentor, I can honestly say it’s a profoundly beautiful and affirming experience for both parties.  Not only did the program improve the quality of my writing, but also it introduced me to an incredible community of writers that has been a critical support network as I and my writing have grown."

-Oriana Tang, Mentee '14 and Mentor '15
United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts (Poetry & Short Story)


"The Adroit Journal’s mentorship was incredible! The mentorship really helped me find a steady poetic voice and learn how to intensively edit poems, and was generally an amazing experience. I also made some lasting friendships with other mentees and mentors (one of the other mentees, Aidan Forster and I, went on to create an online community for young LGBT+ writers once the mentorship ended). The mentorship helped me find a writing community for the first time.  I would strongly recommend this mentorship to anyone who is trying to pursue writing, better their work, or surround themselves with incredible writers. Adroit, never mind its network of emerging and established writers, never ceases to astound me."

-Brynne Rebele-Henry, Mentee '15
Author, Fleshgraphs (Nightboat Books, forthcoming)


"The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. There, I found a community of young writers who were interested in engaging with poetry in an exciting way and in growing as people and writers. The mentorship helped me find/develop my poetic voice, explore my poetry and stretch the limits of what poetry could be for me, and make lasting friendships with like-minded artists (I created an online community for high-school and college age LGBT+ writers after the mentorship with one of my fellow poetry mentees, Brynne Rebele-Henry). I recommend the mentorship to anyone who wants to strengthen their understanding of their own work and build long-lasting, wonderful friendships with other young writers. 10 out of 10, Adroit."

-Aidan Forster, Mentee '15
National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Medalist

Click here to visit the Summer Mentorship Program.

Click here to access the Summer Mentorship Information Booklet (PDF).

*Apply by April 1st for preference. 

Conversations with Contributors: Keith Leonard (Issue 14, Poetry) by Aidan Forster

By Audrey Zhao, Blog Correspondent

Winter may be coming to a close, but there's still an abundance of talent we'd like to explore from our Winter Issue. Our first contributor conversation of 2016 is with Keith Leonard, poet extraordinaire. Read on for his interview with our very own Audrey Zhao to learn what he does and why he does it so well.

 "Garcia Sans Cherry" by Mavis Figuls ( Adroit Journal , Issue 10)

"Garcia Sans Cherry" by Mavis Figuls (Adroit Journal, Issue 10)

We asked our last interviewed contributor, Alex Dimitrov, to come up with a question for you! So, to start: What do you have for breakfast and dinner? What do you think about when you’re taking a bath? 

Nearly every morning of the week, I get to cook up three eggatillas for me and the fam. The whole thing takes maybe 10 minutes to make. Easy-peasy. Here’s the recipe:

1) Sautee a big handful of spinach on a cast-iron skillet

2) Meanwhile, in a blue bowl, whisk three eggs with a generous helping of feta

3) Add the sautéed spinach to the blue bowl

4) Place a tortilla on the skillet and pour 1/3 of the eggy/spinach/feta mix on it

5) Flip once and salt 

6) Serve and eat sort of like a healthy slice of pizza

Eggatillas work equally well for dinner too. 

As for what I think about when I’m taking a bath, I try to think of nothing, which is mostly impossible, so of course, there’s the warm water, and there’s my naked body surrounded by water, like amniotic fluid, like the first home of my mother’s womb, and there’s the image of my mother suddenly preparing her garden beds 1000 miles away from here, and she’s kneeling on the dirt and not wearing gloves, so the dirt is under her fingernails now, she wipes her forehead and there’s earth smeared just above her right eyebrow, and that’s her loving toil, and there’s nothing to say the garlic she’s planting won’t outlast her, and I’m 1000 miles away from the place my thoughts take me, and isn’t the imagination horrible, and isn’t the imagination wonderful?  


Your poems Becoming the Boy and Dead Man Float in Issue 14 seem to both address masculinity and, specifically, the challenges associated with ascending into manhood. What was the inspiration behind these poems?

Those poems were both written in response to finding out we were pregnant with a boy—which, honestly, terrified me. I hate the narrative for men in this country—the toxic, fearful, and possessive narrative that serves as a training manual for egotistically aggressive leaders and emotionally deadened adults. And maybe that’s nothing new, but personally, it took me some time to realize how my every action and thought have been dictated by (and still often are) that false story of boys. So, I guess I wrote those two poems to think about possible ways one might explain to our little, impressionable human that most likely everything he’ll be told about who he should be in this dominance-obsessed culture will be false. And maybe this means, I’m realizing now, that those poems were written for myself, not him, really—out of fear that I won’t be an adequate father because teaching him to question the narratives infused in so many advertisements and in how history has been written feels like an impossible job. But it isn’t impossible, of course. Of course it isn’t—because it can’t be. 


These poems, of course, come from your forthcoming collection Ramshackle Ode, which will be out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April. (Congratulations! We at the journal are so excited.) Many of our readers may be contemplating embarkation on first collections—what do you think was the biggest challenge in this process, and how did you overcome it? 

Thanks. The biggest challenge for me wasn’t putting together the book, but rather finishing it, by which I mean finding a way to value poetry when I was writing outside of the academy. Most of these poems were written in the year after finishing my MFA when I was spending my days in a dairy freezer stocking milk. It wasn’t a bad job, I really liked the people I worked with, but I was depressed that I’d taken out all these loans and gotten a job I could have probably gotten before graduate school. So I had to keep going with writing or live like a sad sack of grump, which would probably destroy my marriage and friendships. I came up with a strategy. I’d write out a poem by a poet I loved in the morning before work and try to have it memorized by the end of my shift. At least that way I’d stay active in poetry. I’d pull that poem out and place it on the shelf I was stocking, and do both my physical work and mental work at the same time. And—this is strange—but I remember it began to feel like I was eating poems, that they somehow converted to energy I could then use to write when I woke the next morning. So I kept eating poems and I kept writing in-between shifts. Soon, I’d write lines of poems on strips of cardboard I’d tear off boxes which held chicken breasts. I began to care deeply about the poems I memorized by Marie Howe, and Gerald Stern, and Terrance Hayes, and Steve Scafidi not just because they were good poems, but also because when I threw away the poem on the page at the end of the day, it stayed inside me—which meant they were part of me like a memory is part of me.Their poems became extensions of pure empathy—the words nuzzled up in my mind and are still there. I don’t really know how to explain it. But I realized that I had to finish a book because I wanted to participate with a reader like those poets unknowingly participated with me. And those writers probably questioned themselves a hundred times. But they finished their books and those books deeply changed my life. So my advice is to keep writing your poems because there’s someone out there in a dairy freezer that needs you to.


We have a potentially deceptively complex question: What is your definition of poetry?

As I’m sitting here trying to answer the question—typing out my answer then erasing it again—I’ve come to wonder about the purpose of a definition for poetry. It seems to me that definitions are most often used to place a thing within a hierarchy of importance. We love definitions because they attribute purpose, and that purpose is attached to a service, and that service is then more easily monetized. But poetry can exist without money because poetry can exist without materials. It takes a mind and a tongue to speak. So I’m hesitant to attribute any definition because I think poetry has the potential to break the hierarchy created by definitions. 

But let’s try for the simplest definition for the hell of it.Let’s say “poetry engages the senses to relate experience.” I like the broad simplicity of that. But is that definition really that simple? Our senses are based on neural structures in the brain, and those neural structures evolved to reflect this particular planet, which revolves around a particular sun in a particular galaxy, which has very specific conditions. It could be easily otherwise. Our world could be nothing or a more potent brand of chaos. But we’re here, we’re alive, and we’re using these limited senses to interpret the strangeness of experience in this unimaginable universe. So poetry could be seen as a celebration of this living, the sheer luck and paper-thin nature of it. And being so, it is also a necessary critique of anything that prevents one fromliving this gift of a life well.


What is your approach to writing? When is the best time to write? Also, now that you’re a father (congratulations on that, too!), how have your writing and process of writing shifted? 

So, it used to be that I’d try to write from 5am-8am. I’m an unashamed morning person. (In fact, when I used to live in a house that threw parties every once in a while, I had to disappear up to my bedroom for 20 minutes every couple hours so I could take a “party nap”). But having a baby changed all that pretty immediately. He caught on to my early morning routine and one-upped me by waking an hour before that. So I’m out of a routine at the moment, which can be difficult and frustrating sometimes. But then again, I get to play all day. I get to watch someone gaining access to language. I laugh a lot more. All that is instructive for poetry in its own way. And moreover, I’m under the impression that all good poems are written without knowing their end. They don’t know where they’re going. Being out of my own routine and responsible for this crawling, wild little boy means I never know what the hell is going to happen next. So, I like to think it’s a similar energy. I like to think that sometimes I’m living inside a poem.


If you could recommend one poet to our younger readers, who would it be and why? 

Lynda Hull—her poems are electric and under-read.


Give us a question, if you would, to ask during our next Conversation with a Contributor.

What’s the best imaginary museum you’ve never visited?


Keith Leonard's first collection of poems, Ramshackle Ode, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016. He is also the author of a chapbook, Still, the Shore, published by YesYes Books.

Audrey Zhao is a high school senior at Marin Academy in California. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and Words Dance. She has participated in the 2015 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program and is a Blog Correspondent for The Adroit Journal. When not writing, you can find Audrey tending to her plant, Ribbon Gibbon.


Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2016 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards! by Peter LaBerge

This year, Adroit-affiliated high school students took the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards by storm—and Scholastic took notice! The editors are pleased to announce that an unprecedented total of 68 National Awards were received by Adroit-affiliated students—28 Gold Medals, 4 Silver Medals with Distinction, and 19 Silver Medals. 

Highlights include two National Gold Medal Writing Portfolio winners (the top recognition offered!) and four National Silver Medal with Distinction Writing Portfolio winnersfour American Voices (Best-in-Region) Award recipientsfour Best in Grade Award recipients; and a Gedenk Award for Tolerance recipient

To put this in perspective, only approximately 2,000 National Awards are distributed each year... from more than 320,000 submissions. We're over the moon for the 2016 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards medalists affiliated with The Adroit Journal! See below for a complete list:


Rebecca Alifimoff, IN (12)  
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Poetry

Carissa Chen, CA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Painting
Gold Medal - Poetry  
Silver Medal - Photography

Maya Eashwaran, GA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) - Poetry
Best in Grade Award - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry

Aline Dolinh, VA (12
Poetry Staff Reader
Gold Medal - Poetry

Sophie Evans, LA (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Short Story

Maeve Flaherty, CT (12
Summer Mentee (Prose) 
Silver Medal - Poetry

Aidan Forster, SC (10
Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Blog Editor
Best in Grade Award - Poetry
Gedenk Award for Tolerance - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Poetry

Ava Goga, NV (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Silver Medal - Mixed Media
Silver Medal - Poetry

Kathryn Hargett, AL (11
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Poetry

Madeline Kim, CA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio

Abigail Minard, PA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Critical Essay
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Alyssa Mulé, GA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Meghana Mysore, OR (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Silver Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal - Writing Portfolio

Mia Nelson, CO (10
Poetry Staff Reader
Gold Medal - Flash Fiction

Taylor Petty, VA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Silver Medal - Poetry

Shannon Sommers, NY (10
Summer Mentee (Prose) & Business Development Associate
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir

Audrey Spensley, OH (12
Summer Mentee (Prose) 
Best in Grade Award - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry

Parisa Thepmankorn, NJ (12
Poetry Staff Reader
Silver Medal - Poetry

Caroline Tsai, IN (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) - Short Story
Gold Medal - Short Story
Silver Medal - Poetry
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Sarah Tran, CA (12
Summer Mentee (Prose) 
Silver Medal - Flash Fiction

Rebecca Tseng, Taiwan (12
Poetry Staff Reader
Silver Medal - Poetry

Lucy Wainger, NY (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Gold Medal - Poetry

Jessica Zhang, MA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) 
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Audrey Zhao, CA (12
Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Blog Correspondent  
Silver Medal - Poetry



Further congratulations to contributors of The Adroit Journal recognized at the national level of the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, particularly Writing Portfolio Gold Medalists Alex Zhang (Phillips Exeter Academy, '16) and Rachel Page (Woodrow Wilson High School, '16)

Maddie Clevenstine, SC (12
Silver Medal - Poetry

Ashley Gong, CT (12
Gold Medal - Poetry

Elizabeth Lemieux, ME (11
American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) - Poetry
Gold Medal - Poetry
Gold Medal - Short Story
Silver Medal - Poetry

Annalise Lozier, WI (11
Gold Medal - Science Fiction/Fantasy

Rachel Page, DC (12
Gold Medal - Writing Portfolio

Anna Sheppard, SC (12
Gold Medal - Poetry

Erin Stoodley, CA (12
Silver Medal - Poetry

Rona Wang, OR (12
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Poetry
Gold Medal - Short Story
Silver Medal w/ Distinction - Writing Portfolio

Alex Zhang, MI (12
Gold Medal - Writing Portfolio
Best in Grade Award - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Personal Essay/Memoir
Gold Medal - Poetry

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. Every voice deserves to be heard.

Best of Adroit: 16 Poems for Valentine's Day 2016 by Aidan Forster

By Aidan Forster, Blog Editor

Happy Valentine's Day from The Adroit Journal! Here at Adroit, we love all writing, but poetry is our first love. To celebrate, we've compiled a list of sixteen of our favorite love poems from past issues. We've specifically aimed for different types, different flavors, different vibes, different manifestations, and different levels of love. This is no usual list, so whatever your plans are on this Valentine's Day, make sure this list is a part of them. 

DISCLAIMER: We do not encourage the utilization of these poems to 'woo.' You might not get the best results...

  "Pacemaker (Heart)" by Marc Sexton (Adroit Journal Issue 10)

"Pacemaker (Heart)" by Marc Sexton (Adroit Journal Issue 10)

1. "At Pegasus" by Terrance Hayes

"A young man slips his thumb / into the mouth of an old one, // & I am not that far away."


2. "The Green Hotel" by Matthew Thorburn

"We've left the familiar behind--far / from home, newly married--awake now / for twenty-seven hours and falling in love / with a country that never goes dark."


3. "On the Nights My Lover Dreams of Drowning" by Amber Rambharose

"I have learned // that there are times when the decision must be made not to cut / through muscle, to let shrapnel swim forever."


4. "Year Without Dusting" by Brandon Courtney

"She pours pot after pot into the tub, pours / blood-warm water over me."


5. "Renovation in the St. Cecelia School Gymnasium" by Lauren Berry

"For weeks, / the wet paint scent / surrounded / our white necks."


6. "How We Make Love" by Cheryl Julia Lee

"'Look! I made something! / I am not quite sure what it is, but look! / I made something.'"


7. "Kindling" by Sarah Rose Nordgren

"Better, // maybe, to leave him like this, / unfeeling and questionless."


8. "Orientalism" by Tory Adkisson

"Blood. Now is a time for romance, // comedy, maybe even a little / catharsis."


9. "The Twist" by Ian Burnette

"I remember it / like a bullet / remembers the bone."


10. "Fraternity" by Sam Sax

"& here I am: somewhere / in the middle of my life / in the middle of Texas..."


11. "As From the Corpse, No Door" by Diana Khoi Nguyen

"Pale girl, fat carcass; boy uncut, unhooved."


12. "Grime" by Jeanann Vertee

"Maybe it was the way we forced / our eyes to unscramble porn, or the sweetness / we discovered in the meat of each other's breasts / deep in our mouths."


13. "Love Poem for Scarecrow" by Kathleen Radigan

"Kissing you feels like leaves. / Fall is near."


14. "Equinox" by Siobhan Phillips

"For milk and the morning paper, I walk / down this crooked arm of road / around the woods."


15. "Demeter" by Michelle Chan Brown

"Once she was a drop of dark blood in a man's water / glass. Once, she made the primary artery in his neck // botch a tango." 


16. "Lament with Rhinestones and Wonder" by Stevie Edwards

"Say the glass pipe tasted like diamonds and Paris. / I'll listen."








Human Writes: Interview with Elizabeth Sampson, Director of the Hands On Stanzas Program by Aidan Forster

  "Radioactive" by Jenn Moon (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)

"Radioactive" by Jenn Moon (Adroit Journal, Issue 14)


What was the inspiration for this unique project?

On a daily basis, walking into a school and hearing young people (whether 8 or 15 years old) exclaim “Yes! Poetry!” is an awesome ongoing inspiration.

The program started in the 1990s when the Poetry Center of Chicago staff became concerned with the lack of arts-focused literary curriculum in the schools. The Poetry Center worked with poet and teaching artist Kenneth Koch and the Teachers & Writers Collaborative of New York City, the program on which Hands On Stanzas is modeled, to build this program. Hands On Stanzas has been placing Poets In Residence (our teaching artists) in Chicago Public Schools ever since.

Our initial inspiration continues to be a driving force. In addition, there are few programs in which a teaching artist is with the same students for nearly the full academic year, and this extended length allows the Poet In Residence to build trust and nurture their student’s creative voices in an impactful way.


What do you see for the future of this project? What is the ultimate goal of this project?

Our dream is for a Poet In Residence in every Chicago classroom. In the last few years we’ve added a scholarship program, so schools that can’t afford the program receive it at no cost to them. We’d love to grow the scholarship program to support more classrooms!

Hands On Stanzas is big in our hearts because at once it allows us to provide paid teaching opportunities for Chicago poets, and bring poetry to Chicago’s students. The more working poets and student poets we can support, the better.

If any of your readers would like to see a super cute video of some of our student poets reading poetry about what poetry means to them (their very own Ars Poetica, if you will), you can check it out here, and of course, feel free to support the cause! This video is good for your heart, I strongly recommend a viewing!


Before this, you taught creative practice workshops in Cairo and Sinai in Egypt. How does this compare to teaching in Chicago?

I’ve taught all ages, and in many different educational environments. They all seem to boil down to the same core elements, as a teacher. If I am prepared and eager with my material, but also open and ready to be flexible after meeting my students, if I show up with love and eagerness to meet the other people in the room, things go really well.

My favorite teaching environments are those where my teaching leads to other’s making, and so in that sense, the creative workshops I taught in Egypt (focused on maps and place as creative practice) and the Hands On Stanzas residencies I teach now, are the most fun I’ve ever had as a teacher.


How did you choose the other Writers in Residence for the schools?

We are lucky to have awesome teaching artists that stick around for a long time. Larry O. Dean, Kenyatta Rogers, and Rachel Javellana pre-date my time as Executive Director! Our newest Poet In Residence, Timothy David Rey has that perfect combination that our other PIRs have: years of experience as a teaching artist, and he’s active in Chicago’s writing and performing communities.

We look for working poets with a strong teaching background. As a teaching artist you need knowledge of poetry, but you also need a personality that can walk into a room of 3rd graders, or 8th graders, or sophomores, and hold their attention, have fun, and earn their trust.


Do you have any favorite lines that students have written?

So many! Here’s a few—

After reading “Blake’s” Tyger, this second grader was asked to write a poem to a mysterious animal. One couplet went: “Are you tall like the Sears Tower? / Or small like a tiny doctor?”

The other day I encountered: “I wish I can have all of the watermelons / I wish I can be a god”

Those are from the more humorous end of the spectrum, I love how kids combine two ideas that would be such a non sequitur to an adult, and something beautiful appears in the juxtaposition.

A short poem written by one of Larry O. Dean’s student poets a few weeks ago really floored me:

Body Language
Ibrahim B.

I feel like
being speechless.

Using my body,
you know what that means,

it means


There’s too much to list, but if your readers want more, they can find a whole archive of student work at


Who are your personal favorite poets? Do you find that their particular qualities influence the kind of work you encourage in your students?

Hmm… I have special love for hybrid-form writers, like Bhanu Kapil and Claudia Rankine, and I’m sure their leanings inform my teaching style. One of the exciting things about this program is that I find I can reach way back or go totally contemporary, and the students are game. Sylvia Plath, it turns out, really speaks to people of grade school ages. Before teaching here, I might have thought she was too intense or… adult? But it turns out students love her.


Why does your project focus on students in particular? What, do you believe, is special, about young people and poetry?

This program was built out of the belief that poetry is good for everyone, that creativity is vital to a good education, and that everyone deserves the same resources in their education. Our Poets In Residence, our classroom teachers, and our students know first hand what a benefit it is to the whole community, as well as one child’s life experience. To watch students move from very little confidence in reading towards flourishing self-expression is a gift.



RAISE YOUR GLASS: Adroit Meets the 2016 Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards! by Peter LaBerge


Note: Some students are not included on this list because their regional awards are not accessible online. They will be added to this list as their results are released. 


Total Writing Gold Keys Awarded: 112

Writing Portfolio (Seniors Only): 16

Critical Essay: 3

Dramatic Script: 1

Flash Fiction: 11

Humor: 1

Journalism: 2

Personal Essay/Memoir: 9

Poetry: 59

Short Story: 10

American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) Nominations: 3

Total Art Gold Keys Awarded: 15


Rebecca Alifimoff (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Flash Fiction 

Gold Key - Journalism 

Gold Key - Personal Memoir 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 10) 

Gold Key - Short Story 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio (x 2) 


Walker Caplan (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Dramatic Script 


Carissa Chen (Junior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Painting (x 5)

Gold Key - Photography (x 7)

Gold Key - Poetry  


Catherine Cheng (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Flash Fiction (x 2) 

Gold Key - Short Story (x 2) 


Maya Eashwaran (Junior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) Nominee - Poetry

Gold Key - Poetry 


Aline Dolinh (Senior) 

Poetry Staff Reader

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio


Maeve Flaherty (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Short Story


Aidan Forster (Sophomore) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Blog Editor

Gold Key - Poetry (x 8) 


Ava Goga (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Art Portfolio

Gold Key - Mixed Media (x 2) 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Kathryn Hargett (Junior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 3) 

Gold Key - Short Story 


Madeline Kim (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 2) 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Emmi Mack (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Poetry Reader

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Abigail Minard (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) Nominee - Critical Essay 

Gold Key - Critical Essay (x 3) 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 2) 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Alyssa Mulé (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

American Voices Award (Best-in-Region) Nominee - Personal Essay/Memoir

Gold Key - Flash Fiction 

Gold Key - Personal Essay/Memoir 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 3) 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Meghana Mysore (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Flash Fiction 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio (x 2) 


Mia Nelson (Sophomore) 

Poetry Staff Reader

Gold Key - Flash Fiction 


Isabella Nilsson (Senior) 

Fiction Staff Editor

Gold Key - Dramatic Script

Gold Key - Flash Fiction

Gold Key - Short Story


Taylor Petty (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Poetry 


Brynne Rebele-Henry (Junior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Blog Correspondent

Gold Key - Flash Fiction 


Lucy Silbaugh (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Short Story 


Shannon Sommers (Sophomore) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) & Business Development Associate

Gold Key - Personal Essay/Memoir 


Audrey Spensley (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Flash Fiction (x 2) 

Gold Key - Poetry 


Parisa Thepmankorn (Senior) 

Poetry Staff Reader

Gold Key - Poetry


Caroline Tsai (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Critical Essay 

Gold Key - Poetry (x 13) 

Gold Key - Short Story (x 3) 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Rebecca Tseng (Senior) 

Poetry Staff Reader

Gold Key - Poetry (x 4) 


Sarah Tran (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Prose) 

Gold Key - Flash Fiction

Gold Key - Humor 

Gold Key - Poetry


Lucy Wainger (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Dramatic Script 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Eli Winter (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Journalism)

Gold Key - Journalism 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Erintrude Wrona (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Personal Essay/Memoir (x 3) 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Jessica Zhang (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 


Audrey Zhao (Senior) 

Summer Mentee (Poetry) & Blog Correspondent  

Gold Key - Poetry 


Claire Zlotnicki (Senior) 

Previous Poetry Staff Reader

Gold Key - Personal Essay/Memoir (x 3) 

Gold Key - Poetry 

Gold Key - Writing Portfolio 

The Adroit Inspirational Artist of the Month: TROYE SIVAN (Jan. 2016) by Peter LaBerge

By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

In 2014, I founded a column on the blog of my publication The Adroit Journal. It was called "The Beat Converses," and it was an interview series. Through that wonderful column, I was fortunate enough to speak with Louisa Wendorff before she became Social Media Famous (TM) via Taylor Swift, and India Carney before she stunned us all on The Voice USA. Ultimately, however, the journal's blog underwent changes and the column was phased out. 

I'm here to bring it back—with a couple of adjustments, and a swanky new title. Through this column, I want to devote a space to sharing the startling, intimate, necessary work that web-based artists are doing. (As an online publication ourselves, Adroit might be biased here.) 

The first-ever Inspirational Artist of the Month title simply has to belong to Troye Sivan.


Twenty-year-old Troye is an Australian actor, singer and songwriter who rose to fame through his tremendously popular YouTube channel. He's been named one of Time's 25 Most Influential Teens of the Year, and for good reason—his most recent album Blue Neighbourhood is delicious and beyond inspirational; in conjunction with Lana Del Rey's immortal Born to Die, it's been #fuelingthepoems and #fuelingthefeels since I listened to it last month when it came out. (Five days before my birthday—totally not a coincidence at all.) 

Troye Sivan is proof that web-born artists and writers can—and should—be taken seriously. Heck, he was just on Ellen earlier this week (performing his *incredible* song "Youth"), and was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon earlier this winter. 

Watch the above recording if you haven't yet. 

No, seriously. 

I'll wait. 

Through this album and earlier work, Troye has also contributed to the visibility of the queer arts community. Particularly, his stunning music video trilogy from last year—which served as a sort of opening sequence for Blue Neighbourhood—embodies his identity as a queer musician and human, while inspecting the harmful presence of societal masculinity, and thank the powers that be for it: 

So, readers, when listening to Troye's new album, don't be afraid to write. Or feel. You'll be glad you did. 

Feminist Fridays: "The Supernatural Powers of Young Women: Lesbian Vampirism and Queer Teenage Sexuality" by Brynne Rebele-Henry by Aidan Forster

The lesbian vampire has become a trope, the sullen counterpart to the portrayal of heterosexual desire in horror, a genre that is rife with queer subtext/text. Historically, queer vampires are used as either anti-gay, anti-feminist propaganda, such as Regiment of Women,  a popular novel published in 1917 around the peak of the Suffragette movement, which involves a sadistic lesbian headmistress of an all girls boarding school who corrupts the girls under her charge with both feminism and undead powers until a good man rescues the other headmistress (whom the former has seduced).  It’s not clear what happens to the girls. Or, alternately, as a form of titillation that is safe in its heterosexuality/disapproval. The myths and rites surrounding the portrayal of lesbian vampires are startlingly similar to the myths and rituals surrounding menstruation and the expected behavior of teenage girls, and the general reception towards their sexual desires (especially queer desire). The portrayal of the lesbian vampire is almost parallel to the portrayal of the lesbian teenage girl in both the ever-present tropes and expected punishment/repercussions.


Lesbian vampires are almost always portrayed one of three ways:


1. The Mature Woman: she’s usually a countess/somehow rich and dresses in a way that, if not masculine, is certainly not feminine. She’s the lesbian version of a patriarch (money is a substitute for male-ness when it comes to power), and she usually seduces newlywed brides, wait staff, or generally impressionable young girls, who quickly take to the blood-sucking lifestyle, therefore abandoning their veneer of innocence/virginity/heterosexuality.


2. The Promiscuous Teenage Lesbian: she is either voluptuous and/or blonde, or she is titillating and rebellious looking in a way that remains consumable for the male gaze. The  trope is that The Promiscuous Teenage Lesbian is seduced by a vampiristic power figure, and is now living a life of homosexual-sexual perversion, converting other girls to both lesbianism and vampirism.


3. The Dominatrix/Butch: she’s not a man, but she plays the role of one, while simultaneously fitting into the safe, heterosexual-approved stereotype of a manly lesbian, whose masculinity makes up for her sexual identity.


The feminine woman-girls are always beautiful, in a safely conventional way, while the masculine woman-girls are portrayed as all hard edges or their beauty is unconventional in a way that looks dangerous, not like the all-American pin-up of their femme counterparts. The lines between beautiful but dangerous queerness, and beautiful and comforting heterosexuality are always especially apparent in vampire films/literature. On the other hand, excessive beauty is often portrayed as a form of depravity or the supernatural.


Much like the vampire, queer women are expected to be either paranormally beautiful to the point that their beauty overtakes the rest of them, or un-beautiful, not fit for a man’s gaze. In parallel to this trope, gay men, who are rarely portrayed in such films, when they are they portrayed, are always extremely beautiful in a way that doesn’t overshadow the rest of their character. However, they are often to some degree closeted.  Their beauty is an object, erotic in its excess.


Queer horror is safe for the heterosexual, cisgender viewers, it allows them to bask in otherwise taboo sexual fantasies or desires that are presented in a way that, while not pornographic or overtly explicit, cut it pretty close. The queer vampire is also palatable in another way: before their vampiric conversion, the women-girls are always safely heterosexual and innocent, and who can blame such a girl for being seduced and then converted by a power figure? Their lesbian desires are explained as caused by their metamorphoses into vampires, creatures who sustain themselves by homoerotically sucking blood out of their victims, which draws symbiotic parallels to the consistently taboo practice of period sex. Newly bloody teenage girls are simultaneously revered and feared, much like the vampire, who is newly drunk on blood-lust. Teenage girls are considered filthy from their desires, pumped full of blood-hormones, dangerous from their excretions and sudden mood swings and sexual activity or desire.


Menstruation is often portrayed as another form of vampirism, a taboo secretion or desire that manifests after a sudden metamorphoses (in this case, puberty). In keeping with traditional vampire oriented superstitions (garlic, mirrors, permission to enter houses, Holy Water), similar practices are used with menstruating women and girls. Take for example, one old fashioned but still occasionally practiced myth from India where it is advised that a menstruating female not eat spicy food because it will give her “firepower.”


In some villages in Nepal  and Ethiopia girls are isolated in huts for the duration of their periods. In the vast majority of cultures, menstruating women are considered unholy or unclean (this belief is practiced with various degrees of extremity, from the general American taboo towards the discussion of menstruation to extreme ostracization or excommunication if women-girls do not exile themselves while menstruating).


Other cultures consider first menstruation a cause for celebration and throw miniature weddings in which they announce their daughters’ fertility and newfound availability for marriage.  They believe that menstruation is pollution, and women-girls are not allowed in kitchens, houses, or near others food while menstruating. Orthodox Christianity advises women not to receive their communion while on their periods.


In an interesting conundrum, however, hymeneal bleeding is considered something pure, clean, in relation to the just-taken virginity. Traditionally, marital bed sheets would be proudly displayed after the post-wedding de-virginization took place. The blood in this case is considered clean because it is mainly heterosexual blood that has been drawn via the penetration of a previously chaste woman-girl. Given that the de-virginization is, in legends, painful, the woman is like the innocent women in horror films who fall prey to the demonic whims of vampires. They are not supposed to enjoy it, but rather are supposed to be passive but inevitable victims.  Heterosexual sexual penetration could be said to be symbiotically mirrored by vampire staking in terms of the physical act of penetration by a phallic object and the subsequent dissipation or expected loss of autonomy.


In various folklore and sexually explicit books/films, menstrual sex is an act akin to the changeling becoming a vampire. The sucking of blood through the neck is also enacted via hickeys, a stereotypical symbol of teenage sexuality that is traditionally viewed as a claim of possession/marking another person’s body with your presence.


The trope of the lesbian/queer vampire or the newly menstruating person as beautifully out of control teenage girls is further emphasized by these popular beliefs and practices. These beliefs and practices still hold on to the comforting excuse of demonic or supernatural possession (something that homosexuality was once/occasionally still is diagnosed as) as an explanation for lesbian sexual desire, or un-innocent girls, and their new-found queer desires, these responses are designed to circumvent the supposed havoc they wreak on heterosexual institutions and systematic societal sexual repression.


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s poetry, fiction, and visual art have appeared in such journals as The Volta, Revolver, Souvenir, Pine Hills Review, Open House, Powder Keg, So to Speak, Ping Pong, The Offending Adam and other magazines, and her work is forthcoming in Adroit, Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Dusie, Poetry Crush, and Prairie Schooner among other publications. Her book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Fifteen Adroit Moments of 2015 by Peter LaBerge

1: The Adroit Journal transitioned from a biannual publication to a quarterly publication. 


And featured a stronger contributor batch than ever before—Dennis Hinrichsen, Alex Dimitrov, Tyler Mills, sam sax, Alexandra Teague, Joseph Fasano, Nick Narbutas, Meghan Privitello, Brian Tierney, Zach VandeZande, Claudia Cortese, Ocean Vuong, and so many more. 



2: The journal's network of staff readers, contributors, and summer mentorship students hit a collective home-run at the YoungArts Awards. They filled an astounding fourteen—out of twenty-four—Finalist seats, three Honorable Mention seats, and five Merit Award seats. 

Special congratulations to the 2015 journal-affiliated finalists—Bindu Bansinath (Short Story), Walker Caplan (Short Story), Carissa Chen (Poetry), Noah Dversdall (Poetry), Julia Falkner (Poetry), Nancy Huang (Short Story), Hannah Knowles (Short Story), Adina Lasser (Creative Nonfiction), Aaron Orbey (Creative Nonfiction), Maia Rosenfeld (Short Story), Audrey Spensley (Poetry), Talin Tahajian (Poetry), and Oriana Tang (Poetry & Short Story). 



3: For the first time in its history, The Adroit Journal was represented in the Best of the Net 2014 anthology. Twice. 

Richie Hofmann's poem "Midwinter" was selected by Kathy Fagan for inclusion, while Madeleine Cravens' essay "Girls and Boys: Growing Up in Four Parts" was selected by Michael Martone for inclusion. As an eighteen-year-old college freshman, Cravens is the youngest inclusion in the Best of the Net series to date. 



4: Another first in the journal's history: the staff and contributor network of The Adroit Journal met and united at the 2015 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Minneapolis, MN. 

Poetry Editor Talin Tahajian & Founder and Editor-in-Chief Peter LaBerge recounted the most priceless moments here in their collaborative post "Overheard @ AWP 2015." 



5: India Carney, interviewed by Peter LaBerge for the Beat Converses blog series, placed fifth on the eighth season of The Voice

Click here for the interview, and click here for our favorite bits of India's time on The Voice



6: Summer mentorship students Oriana Tang and Christina Qiu were named 2015 United States Presidential Scholars in the Arts....

...and became the first two students to ever be simultaneously named Presidential Scholars from the same non-arts public high school for the same genre and sub-genre. Oriana, who studied poetry with founder and editor-in-chief Peter LaBerge in the 2015 summer mentorship program, was named a Presidential Scholar in Writing (Poetry & Short Story). Christina, who studied fiction with then prose editor Kaitlin Jennrich in the 2014 summer mentorship program, was named a Presidential Scholar in Writing (Short Story). Click here for the announcement of the designations. 



7: Prose Reader Julia Falkner successfully completed her time as a National Student Poet for the Western Region of the United States. 

We're so proud of Julia, and especially love her emphasis on LGBT poetry and poetics. She joins Adroit-affiliated National Student Poet Program (NSPP) alums Michaela Coplen, Nathan Cummings, Aline Dolinh, Luisa Banchoff, Miles Hewitt, and Claire Lee. 



8: The Adroit Journal completed another successful online mentorship program, which paired 42 high school poets, fiction writers, and journalists from around the world with mentors for the summer. 

Truly an unforgettable, fantastically talented bunch! For more information, visit the mentorship program online here. If you are an adult poet or writer, check out our call for mentors for the summer of 2016 here. 



9: The Adroit Journal's 2015 Adroit Prizes for Poetry and Prose, designed to recognize the best student (secondary or undergraduate) writers, were selected from thousands of merited submissions by Tarfia Faizullah and Alexander Maksik. 

Congratulations to poet Ian Burnette (of Kenyon College, selected by Richie Hofmann as the runner-up for the 2014 Adroit Prize for Poetry) and prose writer Lydia Weintraub (of Princeton University). Read Ian's prize-winning poem "dear radio" here, and read Lydia Weintraub's prize-winning fiction work "Feelies" here. And click here for submission guidelines for the 2016 Adroit Prizes, which are open to submissions until February 1st! 



10: And speaking of the best, staff readers, contributors, and summer mentorship students took The Best Teen Writing of 2015 by storm. 

And—of course—it was guest edited by Issue Eleven critical reviewer Michaela Coplen. Congratulations to the following journal-affiliated inclusions: Sophie Evans, Aidan Forster, Henry Heidger, Emily Mack, Isabella Nilsson, Rachel Page, Maia Rosenfeld, Audrey Spensley, Caroline Tsai, and Emily Zhang. To even be considered for  the anthology, contributors had to receive national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, so congratulations to them for that, as well. Special congratulations to Grant McClure, recipient of the top honor—a $10,000 Writing Portfolio Gold Medal from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Click here for the journal's original announcement. 



11: In addition to being named a United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Adroit's very own Oriana Tang was named a 2015 Davidson Fellow in Literature for her writing thesis Writing Tears from the Stars: A Linguistic Revitalization of Human Empathy

After being selected by Richie Hofmann as an Honorable Mention for the 2014 Adroit Prize for Poetry, Oriana studied (as previously stated) with Peter LaBerge in the 2014 summer mentorship program, and subsequently joined the journal's prose staff and body of summer mentorship prose mentors. As a 2015 Davidson Fellow, Oriana received $25,000, and was honored in Washington, DC. Currently, she is a Yale University freshman, and needless to say, we're fans. Click here to visit her project online—you'll be a fan, too. 



12: The Adroit Journal shared work from four contributors at the New York City Poetry Festival for the third year in a row.

 From left to right: Laura Romeyn, Keegan Lester, Jeanann Verlee, Peter LaBerge, & Joseph Fasano.

From left to right: Laura Romeyn, Keegan Lester, Jeanann Verlee, Peter LaBerge, & Joseph Fasano.

Despite nerve-wracking reports of rainfall for the day, we're happy to report that our reading was a success! Click here to watch recordings of the reading, which featured poets Joseph Fasano, Laura Romeyn, Keegan Lester, and Jeanann Verlee. 



13: Last year, The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom recognized ten Adroit-affiliated students in its 2014 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards. And this year, we matched it. 

Congratulations to Ben Read, of Spokane, Wash., whose poem "Mario Kart: Brain Circuit"—published in The Guardian, and penned while studying poetry with poetry editor Jackson Holbert in the 2015 summer mentorship program!—was selected by judges Liz Berry and Michael Symmons Roberts as one of 15 Overall Winners for the 2015 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Further congratulations to the staff readers, contributors, and summer mentorship students commended in the 2015 FYP Awards: Rebecca Alifimoff, Ava Goga, Alex Greenberg, Kathryn Hargett, Mia Nelson, Audrey Spensley, Caroline Tsai, Lucy Wainger, and Chelsy Jiayi Wu. For more, visit the announcement here

14: Ian Burnette's poem "Harvests," originally published in The Adroit Journal, was selected by guest judge Tracy K. Smith for inclusion in the Best New Poets 2015 anthology

"Harvests" was also selected by Richie Hofmann as the runner-up for the 2014 Adroit Prize for Poetry, and was selected for inclusion in plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing of 2014. Joining him in BNP 2015 are eleven other journal staff readers and contributors: Mary Angelino, Leila Chatti, Tiana Clark, J. Jerome Cruz, Jaydn DeWald, Cody Ernst, J.P. Grasser, Trevor Ketner, Eduardo Martinez-Leyva, Elizabeth Onusko, and sam sax, whose Adroit poem "fraternity" was nominated for inclusion. 



15: You might remember that in 2013, when we geeked out over receiving 8,000 cumulative submissions. You may remember that in 2014, we geeked out over receiving 16,000 cumulative submissions. Well, we've done it again—we're proud to have once more doubled the amount of cumulative submissions received. 

As a plus, we're thrilled to have snagged the #2 spot on Duotrope's Most Response Times Reported list. Thanks, Duotrope!

And thanks to our loyal readers, staff members, contributors, summer mentorship students—thanks to all in the Adroit family—for more than four years (!) of happiness, connection, and (if we may say so ourselves) some damn good writing

Stay tuned for Issue Fourteen, comin' at ya next week. Don't miss it; join our mailing list below. 

Best of The Adroit Blog: 2015 by Aidan Forster

By Founder & Editor-in-Chief Peter LaBerge.

We've had a pretty incredible year here on the Adroit Journal's blog—from the arrival of Blog Editor Aidan Forster, to a series of important, brave op-ed's, to interviews that shed light where we didn't know light could be shone. Check out some of our favorite posts. 

Alex Dimitrov’s Conversation with Peter LaBerge and Audrey Zhao

What does it mean to be a person? The questions are large and our lives are small.


Amanda Silberling's I’m Not Laughing: Why We Need Diversity in Comedy

Close to thirty comics performed, spending three minutes on stage each. That's about an hour and a half of open mic comedy. Gena, a college-aged, first-time comic, was the only female who signed up to perform.



Benjamin Goldberg’s Conversation with Joanna Moley

I'd like to shred the memos from society telling me I should be ashamed to discuss mental illness. I'm sick of how the topic rarely seems to enter public discourse except as a means of explaining away the crimes of mass murderers. I'm sick of how it's used in the wake of heinous acts as if to suggest that only people with mental illness are capable of horror.


Brian Tierney’s Conversation with Jane Levy

Grief, for a while, is a blindness that elevates dark matter into the allegorical, the narrative, the symbolic, and the metaphoric, and through the metaphoric especially, into the poet's capacity for empathy.


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s “Feminist Fridays” Column Men Try to Make Me Disappear

On December 8, 2014, I ceased to exist. I submitted my manuscript, Fleshgraphs (a hybrid book in fragments that rotate around the unifier of the body), to Tarpaulin Sky Press. Upon reading it, the "man behind the curtain" at the press decided that I was not real.


India Carney’s Conversation with Peter LaBerge for “The Beat Converses”

The voice is an instrument, and it's a vehicle for emotion. Thinking of the voice as an instrument causes you to take a different perspective on how to treat it. Many times, singing is the only way I can truly emote something and get my message across to an audience.


Lathan Vargason’s Conversation with Amanda Silberling for “Staff Spotlight”

I think I'm just now refining the technique of creating inviting work that has a deeper connotation, which I see as being very in line with the 50-70s era. The pieces were fun for me because they served as my coming out, and gave me a lot of inspirational reactions from audiences including certain family members who decided they couldn't be associated with a sexual deviant. Sorry, Aunt Kim.


Michael Broder’s Conversation with Aidan Forster for “HumanWrites”

I started writing poetry when I was 30, when I had recently become infected. So whereas the fiction I left behind tended to be about coming out and gay coming of age, my poetry tended to be, implicitly or explicitly, about living with HIV. Even if the poem seemed to be about a young gay man who was sad and lonely, the subtext was that he was sad and lonely ultimately because of living with HIV, losing lovers, feeling like a pariah, fearing for his life, feeling his mortality so very deeply, palpably. It colored the way he looked at his past, present, and future.


Peter LaBerge’s “Adroit Visits the 2015 New York City Poetry Festival, in Review”

If you couldn't make the festival, don't fret. We've managed to bring the reading to you, courtesy of prose mentee Shannon Sommers' iPhone (Thanks, Shannon!).



Peter LaBerge’s “Letter to Kate Gale of AWP is Us”

In the same way panels are not labeled “white,” are not labeled “inclusive of men” or even “exclusive of women,” we do not want to be defined by something as physical as one aspect of our identities—because there is so much inside each well of identity, each race, gender, socio-economic class, religion, and everywhere else.


Peter LaBerge & Talin Tahajian’s “Overheard at AWP 2015” List

“Is hooking up with an editor still a thing?” “No, that’s so Seattle.”  


Sam Sax’s Conversation with Audrey Zhao

I’d say write everything & lean into what most terrifies you. Try & focus on what it is about language that brought you to the page to begin with, drag what you’re most afraid of out into the light. & once it’s all there, you can decide what it is that you want to share -- hold on to what would do more damage than good & consider the rest. 

Adroit's Best Books of 2015 by Aidan Forster

One of the best feelings is picking up a new book, particularly one that's been anxiously awaited. Every year brings an onslaught of new talent and beauty in literature, and this year was no exception. With 2015 drawing to a close, we asked our staff and mentorship community what their favorite books of the year were, and they answered.

Jessica Zhang, 2015 Summer Mentee

Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips



If there were proof of the existence of heaven, it would be the experience of reading Rowan Ricardo Phillip's gorgeous second oeuvre. How we define heaven tells us what we idealize, what we strive for and what we yearn for; in that way, Heaven--both the concept and the collection--raises a mirror to our deepest natures. "Mirror for the Mirror" gives its name to two separate poems. Though sharing the same structure and narrative, one calls heaven "a continent of light, called Paradise," and the other calls it a starry night "unreeling and unreals like Paradise." Phillips draws from this dichotomy and others throughout the book. Imagery of snow-covered landscapes or balmy ocean shores, allusions to boyhood memories or Homer and Shakespeare, day and night or hell and heaven: opposites are, after all, merely reverse images of each other, so which reflection is the real heaven? "the Kingdom of Heaven... the mute light, mute church, mute choice" says the second-to-last poem; "the lake of light. The bed like inner thigh / Of empyrean buttermilk and gold," says the last. If you don't read heaven for its dialogue, read it for Phillips's lyricism. Read it for its aural swells and iterations that reflect and refract within the house of mirrors contained between Heaven's covers--it's the closest to literary heaven you can get.


Aidan Forster, Blog Editor

The Uses of the Body by Deborah Landau


Deborah Landau's collection The Uses of the Body is positively beautiful. You know that moment when you read something really good, something that really strikes you or resonates with you and makes you close the book and look out a window for a second and it feels like lots of tiny bees are swarming in your stomach, or you're slowly filling up with water? I felt this way reading the entirety of this collection. Her poems, which range from biting to solemn to sexy, are full of a physical and emotional urgency the likes of which I've rarely seen. Landau manages to see the body as something she inhabits and to look at it from the outside, straight in the face, and tell us with simple yet striking language what she sees: "The uses of the body. Rinse, repeat. / To make another body." Throughout the collection, she explores marriage, motherhood, sexuality, and domesticity with intensity and honesty. Read this book to discover the beginning of things, the end of things, the fumbling-in-the-dark, sex-and-love-and-lack-thereof middle. 


Brynne Rebele-Henry, Feminist Friday Contributor

Tender Data by Monica McClure

Tender Data is quite possibly the most brilliant, gritty, bratty book that I've read this year. Every word is like an antique fish knife, diaphanous but still metal, sharp to the touch. McClure's poetry is reminiscent of a burlesque show, all the glitter and shards of broken glass that explodes out of her work, every word a piece of shrapnel. Take "Petocha," for instance: "Virginity is $$$ / in a vintage velvet pouch." And, from "Adderall": "I would do addy over cocaine any day / Let's take a long ride on the A train snorting / orange crush time release beads." Tender Data takes the language of girlhood and distorts it until it shatters into a million tiny stars.  


Rebecca Gyllenhaal, Prose Reader

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

I first heard of The Wake when a couple of my linguist friends posted about it on Facebook, all of them eager to get their hands on a copy. With a little research, it became obvious why—The Wake is written in what author Paul Kingsnorth calls a “shadow tongue,” an adaptation of Old English that has been made accessible to the modern reader. Kingsnorth claims that “To put 21st-century sentences into the mouths of eleventh century characters would be the equivalent of giving them iPads and cappuccinos: just wrong.” At first, the language can seem daunting—take the first paragraph, for example: “the night was clere thought i slept i seen it. though i slept i seen the calm hierde naht only the still. when i gan down to sleep all was clere in the land and my dreams was full of stillness but my dreams did not cepe me still.” But Kingsnorth’s biggest accomplishment is not his invented language—rather, it is his ability to make us forget it in only a handful of pages. I was rapidly drawn into the tumultuous story of Buccmaster of Holland, a proud, possibly unhinged English landowner determined to drive the Franks out of England in 1066. The Wake has everything—one-eyed wolves, ancient gods, green men, hallucinations, warrior monks, gruesome violence, pagans vs. Christians, delusions of grandeur, eleventh century dick jokes—and can fit comfortably within a multitude of genres—apocalyptic fiction, historical novel, war memoir, psychological thriller, revenge tall, comedy of errors, elegy. Best of all is that The Wake is surprising until the very last page—quite a feat considering we’ve known how the Norman conquest goes for the last thousand years or so.


Garrett Biggs, Prose Editor

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

Much has been said about the way The Story of My Teeth was written (super abridged version: Luiselli wrote it in installments for the workers at a Jumex factory in Mexico City), but what has been lost through the discussion about her writing process is the fact that Valeria Luiselli has crafted not just a first, but a second masterpiece. And she did it in back-to-back years. Faces in the Crowd, her debut novel, was my favorite book of 2014, as well. It tells the fiercely original story of a mother in Mexico City reflecting on her past as a translator in New York, as her voice intermingles with the poet Gilberto Owen, and they become interchangeable. Faces in the Crowd is quiet meditation on the porosity of time and borders. But whereas this work was notable for its introversion, The Story of My Teeth is diametrically opposed in its bombast. While Faces in the Crowd was about the melding of identities, The Story of My Teeth is an absurd character study of Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez, the self-proclaimed “greatest auctioneer in the world.” He is a man with a voice so distinct, it could be mistaken for no one else, and the careful work that Luiselli spends developing his speaking patterns pays off. The Story of My Teeth is the type of literature we need more of today: it is a wildly entertaining story that manages to be intellectual while completely unpretentious. What begins as a man wearing Marilyn Monroe’s teeth turns out to be an excavation on the value of art. What begins as an auctioneer reciting Japanese turns into something of an elegy.


Peter LaBerge, Editor-in-Chief

Paradise, Indiana BY Bruce Snider

 I'm cheating, because this collection was published in 2012—but Bruce Snider's Paradise, Indiana might just be my favorite poetry collection I've read this year. I read it this year for an independent study I did of contemporary American poetry. Its lyric twists and turns expose the fragile, haunting beauty of queer experience nestled within Midwestern adolescence in a way that could reduce anyone—let alone emotionally-fragile poets—to a pool of emotions and poems-to-be-written. If you've got tissues left over from the release of Adele's album, you should probably get them out, though beyond the sadness there is an undeniable energy to Paradise, Indiana that renders it a worthy read no matter who you are.