Conversations with Contributors: Joel Hans (Prose, Issue 18) by Aidan Forster

By Eileen Huang | Interview Correspondent.

To kick things off, here’s a question for you from our last interviewee, Joshua Young: If you had the capability, time, and money, what other practices, processes, genres, and art forms would you utilize in your work, and how would you accomplish it. What would it look like, how would it sound, what would it feel like, etc. etc. etc? If you already do, can you share your approach/process/practice?

JH: I’ve been writing a lot about cognitive computing lately, both because it interests me and because I have bills to pay and people will pay me to write about cognitive computing. Under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, the various facets of cognitive computing try to use algorithms, training methodology, and truly unfathomable quantities of data to help computers understand the world around them. In near-term practically, cognitive computing will be used to make autonomous cars act more like the best of human drivers (and less distracted ones at that) or help doctors make the most informed decisions about their patients.

Researchers have even used cognitive computing to “see the future.” After feeding algorithms millions of hours of video, they could present the engine with a few seconds of video and it could guess what was going to happen next. And it worked—to an extent. The implications are both beautiful and frightening.

So, if I could throw money and capability toward something, it might be experiments in how cognitive computing could affect, create, and improve upon the work I or others do. I’m not the kind of person who would argue that algorithms are going go obsolete human creativity and art, but I do think it could change the way artists work, and how people interact with or perceive art. Maybe for the worse, but probably for the better.

What if we could ask an algorithm whether or not our twist ending is actually a surprise?

What if we could have computers investigate and fix our verisimilitude issues?

What if computers could give us new story, poem, or essay ideas based on our latest curiosities?

What if algorithms could give us a perfectly-timed compliment about our writing when we’re down about the latest rejection, or in the aftermath of a failed novel, or when impostor syndrome is flaring angrily?

What if we could feed our stories into critiquing engines built from the critiques of our favorite, famous writers who would never have the time to read our work otherwise?

If these opportunities were available to me today, I absolutely would take advantage of them. None of them could replace the network of those whose critiques I trust, or dramatically influence my vision for any given piece, but they could operate as other opportunities for exploration. It took me 10 years of hearing about the editing technique of cutting up a story into scenes and rearranging them into something unexpected before I tried it, and then it resulted in what I think is the best story I’ve ever written. Why not try the same with data and algorithms?


Your essay “Evaporation” from Issue Eighteen tackles existential topics with a quirky, anaphoric story about fictional Greek physicists, time travel, and hot chocolate. What inspired you to approach the essay in this way?

JH: “Evaporation” was part of an essay project on each of the mysterious, confounding elementary particles that make up the “particle zoo.” The project began during an MFA course on science fiction and died about a week after the semester finished, but my curiosity for these strange little creatures, which are so small that they are functionally and physically dimensionless despite having mass, remains strong. Right around the same time, I re-read and was once again enamored by Amy Leach’s essay collection “Things That Are” and its bombastic, lyrical, and kindly anthropomorphic approach to our world’s curiosities.

I love that you call “Evaporation” an essay, because I’ve been hesitant to properly label this thing during its entire lifespan. When I began this piece, I fully intended it to be more traditionally essay-like, with a structure that braided between scientific/factual and narrative/applied. I wanted to first explore the idea of when and how humankind might have first intentionally interacted with the electron (lightning strikes making up the earlier, but unintentional and unwanted interactions). Explaining that moment only made sense to me through character, hence Agapetos and his rather quixotic quest to understand how all the world’s objects acted when rubbed against one another.

With each subsequent revision, I excised more and more of the distinctly essayistic parts of the piece, until it became what it is now—a piece of prose, yes; a piece of fiction, perhaps, but one grounded entirely in our real past and present understanding of what the electron is and how it functions within the universe. It is, maybe, the first piece I’ve ever written entirely around fact.


Could you talk a bit about the novel you’re working on, What Stills Never Survives?

JH: I remember very clearly the day my wife went through her blue coat ceremony in veterinary school, which happens between the third and fourth years. It’s a moment to reflect on all the hundreds of hours of studying that will soon transition into actual diagnostics and practice. Of course I had been curious all along about what she had been studying for three years, but not until that ceremony did I hear so distinctly some of the philosophical and unanswerable questions that make the work truly unique among all our various human endeavors. One faculty member spoke at length about the class’ successes and achievements, and then asked all of us in attendance to consider questions my wife and her classmates and undoubtedly struggled with already: How does one care for something that cannot point to its pain? How does one cope with the fact that none of their patients will ever thank them?

The book first came into form just then. Those questions were a perfect amalgam of questions I had been asking myself through my fiction for a long time, such as the nature of animal sentience, how memory functions in different animal species, what it means to be a “beast of burden,” whether anthropomorphism is an act of empathy or blindness, and much more. I have always been more curious about the minds of animals that are not humans, and broaching that subject through the lens of veterinary care felt like a new, exciting, and rare opportunity for me.

Most of the primary characters are veterinarians, either owning and managing clinics of their own, or traveling to meet their patients at nearby farms and ranches, and they are all presented with a moment in which everything they recognize comes apart: in widespread but illogical fashion, animals begin to undergo mysterious and terrible change. They start to die, many quickly go extinct, leaving humankind unexpectedly alone. I wanted to explore how we all might react if the things we love and appreciate are taken away now, and not in some fuzzy future. What if extinction is not a slow atrophy, but rather an overnight binary switch?

So as to not make my book sound completely harrowing and sad, I’ll end this answer with a little observation about an old story. Perhaps my favorite trope from fairy tales and folklore is the idea that in the past, long before recorded history, humankind had the capacity to communicate with other animals. Not in spoken word, or any other kind of gesture, but something we simply have no capacity for any more. As though one of our senses simply dropped away. Different cultures that share in this belief about the past have different explanations for how we lost that capacity, but it is usually rooted in our self-absorption, our savagery against nature, and the brutal things intellect makes of us. Now, we scarcely feel the loss of this language at all.

I think we can make our way back there. And in rediscovering our oldest selves, maybe we can remember that we are one among a community of sentient creatures all brilliant in our complete improbability.


Animals, nature, and surrealist imagery seem to recurring themes in much of your work. You say on your website, “I write fables and fairy tales. I love strangeness.” What attracts you to strangeness?

JH: In fairy-tale scholarship, there’s the idea of the “tiny flaw,” a minor-but-narratively-significant flaw in an otherwise perfect world. In fairy tales, tiny flaws are put into high relief because fairy-tale worlds are often described as perfect—there is the grandest castle, the bravest man, the most beautiful woman. Tiny flaws often become the framework for the entire story, or at least the catalyst that sets the protagonist out into their world.

Our world is most certainly not perfect, but the way we each perceive the world is perfect. It doesn’t matter if we’re nearsighted, or have hearing issues, or have lost sensation in our left arm—our perception and our understanding is perfect relative to our own experience. It’s as good as it is ever going to get. Each of these completely unique perspectives congeal together in a lot of different ways to create an agreed-upon understanding—the sky is such and such color, this bird sounds like that, something dropped should move toward the earth and not away. We call that normal. We call that reality.


A lot of wonderful fiction operates entirely within those bounds, but I’m more interested in exploring the places where our different perceptions fail to agree. Where logic starts to fade. Those are the places where I see our universe’s tiny flaws emerging. Because it’s thrilling to think that even our personally-perfect perspective on the world around us is broken. It’s thrilling to think about the ways in which our world’s tiny flaws could be prodded at and opened up into entirely different realities. That’s why I write about ghosts, or the slowing of the speed of light, or an event that steals away our animals. I want to understand what it is we do when we suddenly see not in red and green and blue, but rather in ultraviolet.


Looking back for a second, we’re curious to hear about what led you to write. Was there a specific person or course that got you hooked, and is there a specific moment in your memory when you ‘became’ a writer? 

JH: I can name any number of influential teachers, favorite books, and childhood scribblings that accumulated into my becoming a writer, but none of those go deep enough. There were plenty of moments where I felt that surge of validation—someone liked a story of mine, I got into a specific undergrad workshop a year before most—but it often feels like I’m retroactively applying more meaning than the moment really deserves. Memory is tricky in that way.

Even though my work focuses on moments where constants (whether they be gravity or the speed of light or a reality we’ve decided is “normal”) become anything but, I choose to apply most meaning to my own particular array of constants. There are plenty of threads along the way, but the brightest is my dad, who always encouraged me to write, and more importantly, was the first person to give my work legitimacy. When I was in high school, he signed me up for local summer workshops even though I was going to be the youngest person there by a decade (I took a class alongside of my high school teachers, for example). He kept asking how my writing was going, and at all the critical junctions of young adulthood—graduations, jobs, displacements—he insisted that I refuse to give myself a break. Because breaks become absences that become nearly impossible to traverse again.

When my dad reads most of my work, the novel included, he offers a variation on “I’m not entirely sure what you’re doing.” And that’s fine. That’s perfect. I’m never really sure, either. Or, I don’t care if people know exactly what I’m trying to do. It’s not about his words coming together to create a definitive moment I can apply meaning to. It’s about the constant. It’s about making something true, and then keeping it that way.


Tell us about a story you’ve been wanting or trying to write.

JH: Right now I’m dreaming up not a specific story, but rather a type, or a tiny genre to call my own. I recently discovered my childhood passion for science fiction, and I have always wanted write fiction that relishes a little bit more in the technological. At the same time, the last few years of my work have been very centered on fairy tales, and I very much want to continue exploring my use of fairy-tale style in all its forms and fashions. I’ve been struggling with how I can take my favorite oddities from each, how I can merge the two. How can I explore what’s to come in a most ancient style? What is the value in embracing our storytelling roots when talking about eras that might obsolete the importance of story? What kind of new, unexpected tiny flaws could be peeled back and explored?


Lastly, if you’d like, give us a question to ask during our next Conversation with a Contributor.

JH: This has been really fun—thank you for the opportunity. How about this: If you could hand-pick or delineate the ideal audience for your work, would you? If so, is it a particular individual, a certain collective, or something you can’t quite explain? What do you think this audience, in particular, has to gain from reading your work? If you feel like you have that audience already, can you talk about how you got there, and if not, what barriers are keeping you from reaching them right now?


Joel Hans is managing editor of Fairy Tale Review. His fiction has been published in CaketrainWest BranchRedividerYemasseeBooth, and others. He received his MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona. Find him online at

Eileen Huang is a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. She served as the 2015-2016 Northeast National Student Poet, the nation's highest honor for youth poets presenting original work, and has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards and the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In her free time, Eileen enjoys reading and shamelessly watching B-list romantic comedies. She serves as an Interview Correspondent for The Adroit Journal.

Review: So Much Synth by Brenda Shaughnessy (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) by Aidan Forster

            Laughlin Award winner Brenda Shaughnessy’s fourth collection thematically contrasts her third book, Our Andromeda, “[watching] the fish swim.  In backward circles.”  What Shaughnessy maintains is her characteristic confidence within duplicity.  Nostalgia emerges as coping mechanism, while poems simultaneously elucidate routine violence against young girls and women.  The ache of being human in a world that is “so much” reoccurs within Shaughnessy’s poems with almost as much frequency as pop music from the eighties, toward which the title of this book nods.  What Shaughnessy achieves is hurt like synth beating underneath the joy of her life – that beat is constant, dynamic and—at times—unsettling.

            Shaughnessy is a confident poet; in the first poem of the collection, “I Have a Time Machine,” she flirts with form from across the bar.  The lines in this poem seem to structure themselves, couplets composed of a long and then shorter line, reminiscent of the “one step forward, two steps back,” glitch in Shaughnessy’s time machine.  Near the end of the poem, the couplets begin rhythmically, “Myself …Myself …Me …Me…I…I…” Shaughnessy is at once teasing, “Thing is, I can’t turn it off.  I keep zipping ahead” – and in control, “well not zipping.”  She is nostalgic, but simultaneously aware and embarrassed by her sentimentality.  The time machine in the poem manifests the message of the collection, “…it’s never live; it’s always over.  The fish swim / in backward circles.”

            With ‘Time Machine’ as the book’s prelude, the first section of So Much Synth begins with the poem, “McQueen is Dead.  Long Live McQueen.”  Shaughnessy draws a connection to her title when she describes a passing row of buildings in the city as, “so much lense, textures so tall.” Here, the speaker is asking us to learn the difference between “too much” and “so much.”  Both suggest inundation but only one connotes excessiveness.  A person, a girl in love with “so much” is vulnerable to “so much” – anxiety and love, trauma and friendship, Melissa Etheridge and “so much” other eighties music. 

            The setting for the second section is the speaker’s twenties, in a house occupied exclusively by lesbians.  She writes, “Cynthia got / kicked out for being bi and / then bringing a guy to the loft.”  Shaughnessy occupies this setting with characteristic duality.  Though she reveals hurt tenderly, she never entirely abandons her identity as poet – her wisdom and hindsight are ghoulishly present in the collection.  Yet, her wisdom, as the poem, “Wound” demonstrates, doesn’t protect the speaker from her shame.  She writes:

                                    As if to woo
                                    not to wow.

                                    I didn’t dazzle like I expected
                                    to.  My body,

                                    interracial & grumous
                                    either overly looked at

                                    or totally overlooked.

            Shaughnessy continues to write in dichotomies.  When she says, “overly looked at” and “totally overlooked,” her playful diction allows space for both realities to exist.  The sonic joviality of, “As if to woo / not to wow,” is undermined by the formal, “As if.”  Contrast the former two words, only a letter apart, with two other words Shaughnessy couples: “interracial & grumous.”  “Interracial” appears with a small spotlight on it and is the most explicitly Shaughnessy will discuss race within the collection.  The directness of “interracial” demonstrates at once shame, slapped across our childhood speaker’s forehead, and the measured intention of the speaker to reflect toxicity back at the people who projected it onto her in the first place.    

            So Much Synth is beautiful because Shaughnessy is a proven talent; it is gorgeous because it never allows pain to linger long without joy.  Eighties music is a perfect vehicle for Shaughnessy’s experience of nostalgia, and the third section of the collection is particularly infused with synth, Aqua Net, and Duran Duran.  Shaughnessy approaches eighties pop with a soulful simplicity in such opposition with our typical consideration of the eighties it would seem contrarian if not for its vulnerability.

            In, “Is There Something I Should Know?” a thematic fluidity of gender and sexuality cracks open into a full gender critique.  Earlier in the poem, Shaughnessy’s young speaker lusts over “really any of Duran Duran except Andy,” and it reminds of comedian Kate McKinnon, who once sang in a Saturday Night Live sketch regarding a childhood crush on Hanson, “…that’s how I could tell, that I was gay as hell.”  Here gender is a flood of expression and flexibility, humorous even.  Yet, later on in the twenty-eight-page poem, Shaughnessy confronts the consequences of sexuality in rape culture more directly:

                                    When you learn that you are supposed
                                    to feel lucky and happy because you weren’t raped and killed,
                                    you are already, in this, being truly brutally hurt
                                    in a central, deep, and formative place.  This is never admitted.
                                    This is never permitted acknowledgement.
                                    If you say this, someone will refute it.  So I will say it here.

            Shaughnessy flows effortlessly through nostalgia to pain, which she exposes to us in this moment.  The mother-daughter duality of the collection flips again and Shaughnessy is separate from her pain, critiquing, “every sentence you speak ending in a question / so as not to anger anyone who needs to be right?”  Other times her writing is simple and intense, evoking a diary entry, “Anyway, tampons were way better because you // couldn’t see them and they didn’t slip, but you also / didn’t know whether they were full or not.  So????????????????”

            So Much Synth circles its contradictions elegantly.  Shaughnessy is a realist who knows she is above excess, but also a poet swimming in synth, a woman who prefers to listen to Simple Minds than tighten the white knobs on her dresser drawers.  She deprecates the parts of her identity that make her different, like in, “Gay Pride Weekend, S.F., 1992,” when she writes, “Knowing that being / fierce and proud and out and / loud was just a bright new way / to be needy.”  Almost simultaneously she writes electrically about the same aspect of her identity, “The love we made leapt / to life like a cat in the space / between us.”  We see Shaughnessy critique herself but she lets the poem rub up against that critique like a cat.  Perhaps it is a result of aging inside that fish tank of nostalgia, perhaps of growth, which by necessity occurs outside of the fish tank, which we catch sight of when Shaughnessy mentions her son and daughter, as in the poem, “Simone At Age Three, Late Summer.”  Somehow the language in this collection, the clean lines and couplets, drip like honey with the knowledge that the people we’ve been rarely go away. They are resting inside of us, and we all have time machines.


Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016); Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) which was a New York Times Book Review "100 Notable Books of 2013"; Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Interior with Sudden Joy (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999). Shaughnessy's poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harper's, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and daughter.



Sage Calder Hahn grew up in rural Northwest Connecticut and currently lives in Boston. She recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from Brandeis University in Creative Writing and English, and currently works as a sex-educator in Brookline. Her writing has either been featured or is forthcoming in Open Letters Monthly and inderbox Poetry Journal

Conversations with Contributors: Joshua Young (Poetry, Issue 18) by Aidan Forster


Let’s jump right in with a question from the contributor we last interviewed, Carolina Ebeid: Employing the facts you know about another animal species (such as a bower bird, or a platypus, or a lunar moth), could you describe your poetics?

JY: I’m finishing this up on November 9, 2016. I’m looking at this interview and thinking why I should finish writing this? But I know that I grew up religious, republican, and full of hate for people who were different than me. It was art that changed me, and art led to education, which taught me how to articulate what I couldn’t understand, and taught me how to listen, and taught me how to grow, and education that helped me tie art and my beliefs together. I’m distraught. I’m terrified for the people I love. I’ve cried and cried this morning. But I keep turning to art to help me through this, I keep turning to the artist who I call friends and the artists that matter, and I keep thinking about how I started writing because I wanted to tell stories, and I kept writing because I wanted to address the things I was witnessing and thinking about, and I hope in some way my work reaches at least one person and it can spark questions in their beliefs/dogma (whether religious or social) and grow outside the confines of their communities. I am a protected person in this country and that makes me sick, but with this privilege, I hope do something good, even if it’s so minor only one person grows.

So, here’s the interview through the lens of someone two days ago:

Hi Audrey! First of all thanks for asking me questions and sorry for how long-winded I can be. OK. Here we go!

I once got into a pretty heavy argument with my twin brother over the use of wolves in a film we were prepping. One of our producers wanted these wolves to be nasty, vicious things seeking out humans and being violent as fuck. And then the heroes kill the fuck out of the wolves. It made me sad. Why were we killing these beautiful creatures? Why did we have to? I kept telling my twin that most wolves are scared of humans and that most healthy wolves wouldn’t eat a human. But this producer wanted the wolves of his nightmares, the wolves he grew up fearing, the wolves films told him were out there, hunting. I wasn’t having it. My twin was in the middle, trying to see both sides. When I talked to him today, he was like, “Dude, I wanted the wolves to be good, but it’s the town believes their bad.” That’s true, but I fought against the wolves being in there at all, simply because if a viewer sees a wolf, there’s that image/idea we all know of wolves there already, preset—probably linked to their position in folklore, religion, mythology, and popular culture. The myth of the wolf is so loud that they make easy villains.

I am always looking at how myths are made, and attempting to re-enact, reshape, and repurpose myth, along with creating my own within the world(s) of my work. It’s probably from all the time I spent in my youth with the Bible, from all the stories we learned and shared and repeated to each other, to others. But the more I studied, the more I learned, the more I started to question, to challenge—folks around me didn’t like that—but I was interested in WHY we told these stories and WHY we allowed these stories to tell us how to act and what to believe, and I got to a point where I couldn’t rectify the difference between what I was preaching (and trying to believe) and what I actually felt (and actually believed). This is pretty close to the time I started really writing/making things. And the more I broke apart my beliefs in order to understand them, the more I moved further away from accepting what I was told I should accept, and the further I got away, the more I kept trying to create my own narrative that would justify what I was trying to desperately to believe—I used to stay up at night and cry about my lack of faith and beg god to show me the fire all my friends felt and to rid my body and mind of the things I fought so hard to stamp down and no one answered and I kept telling myself that someone would answer and that I would be OK but while I waited I cried about it and worried I would burn for who I was—and the longer I kept at it the more my justifications become impossible, and I realized, I was just trying to take a bunch of myths that had nothing to do with me, and meant nothing to me, and believe them. And, at the end of it all, these myths (these guidelines for living) couldn’t stand up to real inquiry—they buckled under the pressure. They were falling apart, because I wasn’t made for this, all of it was too methodical and judgmental and righteous, and it was there to create power for those who followed (even though, the message of the Bible is clearly not, but its message was appropriated—shit, I’m not gonna follow this digression any further. I’m already fucking crying on this plane. I thought I was gonna love god and be a pastor with a church, and make the worship team play versions of “Our god is an awesome god” so they sounded like Mineral. But, naw.) Anyway, I was talking about Myth.

So, I guess my poetics/practice/process is always related to myths—how they’re made, how we deploy them in relationship to our lives, how do we make/change them, how does fear and dogma grow stories into myths, myths into beliefs, and ultimately, how do we break a myth to its pieces to where it came from and why.

And I try to tell jokes. I mostly fail at the last thing.


When did you start writing? What do you think has kept you writing?


JY: I started writing music in high school after hearing three records: Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary, Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, and Pedro the Lion’s Whole EP (though It’s Hard to Find a Friend made a much more important impact on my artistic life). I was just like, “Music sounds like this? I don’t have to listen to Sublime and Dave Matthews anymore?!”

Sometime after that, my father and I would watch films together, when everyone else was in bed or gone or whatever. One night we rented (from Blockbuster!!!!) American Beauty and Fight Club, and while watching those, I realized that I wanted to tell stories. I told my dad, “I think I want to be a writer,” and he reached over to the pile of books he kept by his recliner, and handed me Tom Robbins’ Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates and Herman Hesse’s Demian, and said, “Well then read these.” Then a friend of a friend got me into the Gen X writers (Coupland, Ellis, McInerney, Palaniuk, etc.), then a little later, my dad got me into Haruki Murakami.

When I finally went to college, I was writing mostly fiction, and went through undergraduate and most of my first master’s program as a fiction writer—though I started to turn to poetry (and decided to get my MFA in Poetry), thanks to Oliver de la Paz.

But in thinking about language and poetry, it was all those lyrics of all these late 90s early 00s emo bands that sort of laid the ground work (lol I know), but it’s because of bands, like Sunny Day, Mineral, Christie Front Drive, Braid, American Football, the Promise Ring, Kilmer, Pedro the Lion, Seldom, and on and on, that I started thinking about words beyond lyrics. I started thinking about music, not just as a means to say something, but songs as their own language. When I started reading the liner notes and lyrics, I started to wonder what the words meant detached from the music—there was a difference between what I was listening to before 1998 and these new discoveries.

I was a high school athlete, but burnout and injury kept me from pursuing that in College, so all I had was creation. I wrote songs, wrote stories and novels, and flirted with poems. By the time I got to college, filmmaking entered the picture too. I had all these modes. And I was trying to do all of it at the same time.

Because I starting making on my own, I didn’t have any sort of training, and I grew with all these modes of making art at the same time. So my skills at playing drums moved along with my skills writing prose, and so on. By the time, I got to College to study with professors, I was playing shows and touring too—my education in indie rock, I guess. Basically, I wanted to tell stories and make things, and I couldn’t choose one way to do it, so I tried all the ways, through whatever means I had—so in a way, the chance to fuck with boundaries came from not only the way I got into writing, but from this time in my life when I was teaching myself everything that came at me, and ultimately came from my need to make things. I have continued this practice of all-at-once—though not as intensely these days, and I think this keeps me interested.

Writing and making is harder with my work and family life, but I wrote so much in my late 20s and early 30s that I’m at a point where I’m OK with this new pace of life/work. I just work when I work, and when I do, it’s more methodically focused on one thing at a time, or more specifically one PROJECT—lately, I’ve been focus on multimedia project, called A Carnage in the Lovetrees. (I’m sure I’ll talk more about this in a bit.)

The point is, I need to keep making. Whether its poem-making, myth-making, filmmaking, it doesn’t matter. And so, because I don’t have the time, I end up thinking about it till I find time, then I work (as fast as I can).


You grew up in Washington state, and I can’t help but notice multiple small references to the state throughout your poems. How important are locations to your writing? And, since you now live in Chicago, do you think distance from Washington has affected your understanding and resulting portrayal of it?

JY: Yeah, I’m always droning on about the Pacific Northwest. I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ll get over it. It’s like faith and the church, I keep saying I’m done writing about it, but it’s always there, creeping in. Living in Washington State certainly instilled that Place is everything. Even when I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I was so invested in the landscape that, to this day, I find it sneaking into my work, in the same way that Chicago and the Midwest are beginning to poke around.

I see things through a cinematic lens. Everything, even things that are staged are seen through this lens, even songs or whatever. It starts with an image for me, and usually, that image is a place/location.

My twin created a web series, Keep it Cinematic, that is currently in production (kind of, you can ask him about it), where he films bands playing alternate versions of their songs, and talking about the process of songwriting. The locations where the bands play are beautiful in that it’s usually in nature, but then my brother and his crew inserts human things, oddities in nature. Like, one section of the first episode he has a guy playing an acoustic guitar, sitting in a plush chair, in a field surrounded by evergreens, with a lit up lamp next to him, with Christmas lights over his head. My twin is obsessed with image and that’s how the series came about, he asks the band, where a song comes from, leading them towards talking about image and where the image takes the song. The point is, we both think like that, and it’s a big part of my work, and I think that comes from living in the PNW.

When I was briefly at New Mexico State University, Carmen Giménez Smith sort of yelled at me that a poem can’t just be a camera recording beautiful wreckage—where’s the poet, where’s the implication, where’s the meaning of this beauty you keep writing about!?—I think that’s when I realized (maybe not in that moment, but eventually), it’s not just about what the place looks like, but how the speaker and/or poet feels about it, how people (or characters) behave/function/live within that space. She said something brilliant like, “Couch all this in a space that we can care about.”

That said, I need a location to find the person, to anchor the story, to anchor the myth onto something tangible. I can’t tell a story or build a myth without its source.

The landscape of PNW still very much lives in the work I do, because it was just how things were. I didn’t experience a lot of other places till much later in life. Chicago is flat. The Midwest is flat. I want mountains and its trees and rivers and roads, rivers and roads, rivers till I reach you, but there’s something about the Midwest that I like, that feels like home—differently. I don’t know, I haven’t been here long enough to articulate it, but like I mentioned earlier it’s starting to show up more and more. Chicago is my home now. I think I look back on Washington and the West Coast, specifically, the PNW, differently now, because I’m so removed. It’s not everyday life for me anymore, it’s nostalgic and massive, and moving. I think I can appreciate it more when I see Lake Michigan and know there’s not salt in that water and it’s not attached to an ocean, and I can see for miles with no mountains. The differences are palpable. But the PNW will always be a part of me and my work, just maybe less so the longer I spend away from it. Even if I wanted to get rid of the PNW, there’s no way (funny, right now, I’m on a plane to Seattle for a quick visit with my son and family).


You’ve written two plays in verse (The Holy Ghost People and When the Wolves Quit) and To The Chapel of Light, which is, arguably, a screenplay in verse. What—and who—has inspired you to experiment, to push boundaries in these ways? 

JY: So, good news—Plays Inverse Press is reprinting Wolves and Chapel along with a third play-ish collection, This is the Way to Rule, all in one book—a trilogy of plays—called Psalms for the Wreckage. Late winter 2017. Sorry, I’m excited about this!

But getting to your question, I kinda mentioned this earlier, but let’s blame all of this on one person and one thing.

Thing: Because at the beginning of my creative life, I learned how to make things in different modes all at the same time—mostly teaching myself, and because once I started this I couldn’t stop. I needed to do it. Sometimes, it’s impossible to make a poem, sometimes a poem isn’t the right way to build something, it needs a narrative, sometimes it needs a stage, or tracking shot. Sometimes it needs all of the above. But ALWAYS it needs to be made, even if it fails to live.

Person: The person is Oliver de la Paz. I owe a lot to this wonderful human being. I have other mentors in my life, but when he became my mentor, it was the single most important moment as an artist for me. Whether he wanted to or not, he became my mentor. I just started showing up to his office hours all the time—he was a busy dude (still is)—and turning in 30 more pages of work than required (oh, Oliver, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry for all the extra work! I have not forgotten your generosity). Anyway, Oliver taught a Prose Poem seminar, and let’s just say, he sparked a project (which eventually become To the Chapel of Light) that sent me veering away from studying fiction, because I realized I could do it all, and pretend it was poetry, and in doing so, I became a poet. Oliver’s the guy who took on my thesis when I dropped the fiction thesis, he’s the one who took time, he’s the one who didn’t fail me when as an undergrad when I deserved to be failed, he supported me and pushed me and when I handed him the pages of this weird little thesis, he said, “I think this is a film in verse, dude.”

I think that my first two books using genre and form as a way to couch the narrative, the poems in a space that can be seen or recognized—I don’t think I knew I was doing that at the time—but it seems clear that that’s what I was trying for, even without knowing. In later books/manuscripts, I’m much more aware of form and its relationship to the content, and I’m much more deliberate. Like THE HOLY GHOST PEOPLE is an actual play. It could be staged fairly easily with money and a committed theater company (or so Tyler Crumrine tells me). When the Wolves Quit would require the creation of a new script, breaking down and adding dialogue, cutting scenes, stunts, magic—basically it would be creating a whole new text with the book as a source or guideline. But with THGP, Tyler and I edited it so that it could be performed as is.

Anyway, I think the people who got to me early, helped me recognize what I was doing and pushed me in the right direction.

NOTE.: I have to also give credit to Richard Greenfield who realized what I was trying to do and pushed me to run towards it. He’s the one who said (of When the Wolves Quit), “This is a play in verse, stop acting like it’s not.” We were drinking beers in his backyard and the sun was in my eyes and he was yelling about poetry and about poets taking the easy route, and he was talking about this moment where a character is lost in the woods, and he goes something like, “Why doesn’t she get to the end of the woods and there’s a concrete wall and there’s ropes and lights and she’s ventured out of the play, and off the stage…?” Then he made the comment about it being a play. He made it clear that I could work in genre AND between them, by letting my work go where it wanted to, and to not worry about what I wanted it to be, but let it form itself, and accepting what that would be.


How has your experience as a filmmaker informed your poetry writing and how has your experience writing poetry informed your filmmaking?

JY: I keep circling back to the same stuff with my answers. But in all honestly, they’re infused, but it all revolves around story and myth, and HOW I deploy it.

I don’t want to repeat myself. That would be boring.

What I will say is that more and more, the separation between the genre and makeup of a project starts to fall away quickly, and for every poem, there’s a film or essay or document attached to it, and while it may not be living with the piece as it exists in the world, it is definitely a foundational aspect of it. One of my manuscripts, has a whole “Supplemental Materials” section, where I gather all the research and notes and fragments that helped me through the manuscript, including Facebook messages between me and my friend Dave, talking about hardcore punk, its history and legacy, and its bands. But even that bled into the makeup of the book. I even wrote songs for that project, and started a screenplay, and tried to get my twin to film a fake tour video (that never happened).

And then there’s my twin, who really wants to develop Wolves as a show or film, and he still talks about it all the time. He mentioned it this morning. I find it annoying, but at the same time, when I wrote it, I thought about a combination of Twin Peaks, George Washington, Days of Heaven, and The Ring, and Murakami novels. I guess, in a way my vocabulary is stitched to the language of film, perhaps in the same way it’s stitched to music, but the difference is that the image comes first. Always. The music arrives out of the place and its people/characters.


Who are you reading right now? Any additional recommendations for young writers?

JY: I don’t have a lot of time to read or write (at least not as much as I used to), but have stuff by my bed, at the office, in my bag that I pick up and read and jump around it:

All of the Plays Inverse stuff, Beyza Ozer, Alexis Pope, The Lettered Streets Press stuff (most recently, Louise and Louise and Louise by Olivia Cronk, Way Elsewhere by Julie Trimingham, and our latest, Split Series Volume 3 with Megan Giddings and Lo Kwa Mei-en), Martin McDonough, Kristoffer Diaz, Samuel Beckett, Sara Woods, Fred Moten, Haruki Murakami (especially when I’m in a funk), Amber Sparks, Shane McCrae, Talin Tahajian, Neil Gaiman, Ocean Vuong.

Young writers should be omnivores of Indie Lit. Read and buy and support like mad. Whatever they can. Stop drinking and buy books instead. Not really, but when you’re at a reading, buy one less craft beer and buy a book. Go online and order from small presses (not just amazon), we remember you and also, one book directly from a press goes a long way. It’s also just good karma. One day you’ll want people to be buying your book and it’d be shitty if you weren’t buying other people’s books. So yeah, order what you can from small presses, but even books you don’t know. Take some chances. If it’s not your thing, you’re still supporting the community, you know? But if you’re ten pages in and you’re not into it, stop reading and save it for later. There are so many books. You don’t need to torture yourself.

Please, please for the love of god, know that you should be patient! Most writers don’t publish their first book till their 28-30 (yes! I know the exceptions, I just listed a bunch). I know it feels like a long time, but it’s really not. Not in the grand scheme of life and your writing, but especially not in the grand scheme of the universe. So be patient and enjoy your writing and submit. I didn’t publish my first book till I was 29. Nick Twemlow’s Palm Trees took ten fucking years to get published! TEN! That book is incredible! If you’re good and work hard and aren’t a piece of shit, eventually, your first book will get out there. But really do your research and know where you’re submitting and be nice to editors, because a lot of us, recommend things we pass on to other publishers who would like it.

Oh and be good people. Please. I can’t take another shitty poet who thinks god created them to make poems and do what they want. Seriously GTFO. What’s the point of making art if you’re not decent and full of love for others? Be decent. Be supportive.


Can you tell us about current or future projects? What’s it like to be Joshua Young? 

JY: WELL…*takes huge breath*

I already mentioned our most recent The Lettered Streets books, so that’s exciting for me as an editor and publisher and reader—these writers/poets/books are amazing and I can’t believe we were allowed to work with these brilliant people.

The thing I’m working on now the most is that multimedia project, A Carnage in the Lovetrees, which revolves around a band of the same name. The project utilizes digital media (including social media, music videos, video series, podcast appearances), performance (including interviews, live shows and events), journalism (features, interviews, reviews), a faux-documentary, music (legit records), culminating with a feature film. [You can learn about it here:] (psst. There’s a secret page that breaks the fourth wall and explains the project in depth: hint “/carnage-mythos”)

The film is scheduled to begin shooting in late fall of 2017, and we are currently in the pre-production and developing the (there’s a running theme here) myth around the band, before the film begins principal photography. I had two previously recorded albums that weren’t released, so we appropriated those for Carnage, and I went into the studio in Bellingham, Washington to record the album myself (with some help from my twin and a couple friends, which has become a part of the narrative behind the band). We are currently mixing that record and plan to release it winter 2017 (digital and vinyl). We currently booking shows, making merch, music videos, and reaching out entities, such as media outlets, podcast, etc.

I’m exhausted. But it’s a good exhaustion. The feature film is beginning the casting process, though we’ve casted me and the person who plays my character’s sister and bandmate.

I should probably tell you the plot or synopsis: A Carnage in the Lovetrees follows a band on a US tour in support of their new record, where they are subsequently abducted. The surviving members struggle with the loss of their friends and family, as they deal with the band’s unwanted success, created by the news coverage surrounding the abduction. 

I’m also slowly revising a novel and I’m submitting to contests, because I can afford it kind of, right now, and that’s what my mentors tell me I should do.

Other than that, I write when I can, and edit when I can, and haven’t really taken on any new projects. It feels good. I’m trying to live my life, be a good partner, be a good parent, and be a good person.


Thanks for chatting with us! Now, if you’d like, please give us a question to ask our next contributor.

JY: Thanks for having me! I’m honored and thanks for letting me talk about my shit. OK…a question.

If you had the capability, time, and money, what other practices, processes, genres, art forms would you utilize in your work, and how would you accomplish it, and what would it look like, how would it sound, what would it feel like, etc. etc. etc? If you already do, can you please share your approach/process/practice?



Joshua Young is the author of four collections, most recently, THE HOLY GHOST PEOPLE (Plays inverse 2014), and the split chapbook edro-Woolley Days: A Damien Jurado Mixtape (b/w Talin Tahajian's Start with Dead Things (Midnight City Books 2015)). He is editor-in-chief at The Lettered Streets Press and works at the University of Chicago. He lives in the Albany Park neighborhood with two humans.

Audrey Zhao interviews contributors of the Adroit Journal for the blog. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Fissure Magazine, the Rattle Young Poets Anthology, Words Dance, and Vinyl. She is a Bay Area native.

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Prose Editor Named 2017 Rhodes Scholar! by Peter LaBerge

 via Facebook.

via Facebook.

Congratulations to Princeton University senior Aaron Robertson, recently named a 2017 Rhodes Scholar! From 2013-2015, Aaron served as a Prose Editor for The Adroit Journal. According to a Rhodes Scholarship Foundation press release, Aaron plans to spend his time at Oxford University pursuing a M.Phil. in Modern Languages.

This is the second year in a row a staff member of The Adroit Journal has been recognized as a Rhodes Scholar. Last year, fellow prose editor Russell Bogue (UVA, '16) was named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar, and began his study of Political Theory at Oxford.

See below for the full note about Aaron and his accomplishments, released by the Rhodes Scholarship Foundation.

Two years, two prose editors! We're over the moon for Aaron, and can't wait to see him soar to new heights.

Congratulations to all 2017 Rhodes Scholars, listed here in The New York Times.

Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2017 YoungArts Awards! by Peter LaBerge

We are so thrilled to share that high school writers affiliated with The Adroit Journal have brought home a total of nineteen awards from the National YoungArts Foundation's 2017 YoungArts Awards!

 " Carnivorous Heart " by Emily Sun, Issue Sixteen.

"Carnivorous Heart" by Emily Sun, Issue Sixteen.

From the YoungArts Website:

YoungArts is proud to announce its 2017 Winners - 691 of the nation’s most promising young artists in the literary, visual, design and performing arts. Selected from the largest pool of applicants to date, and representing artists from 40 states, YoungArts Winners receive cash awards of up to $10,000, mentorship and training from acclaimed artists, opportunities to participate in YoungArts programs, and guidance in taking important steps toward achieving their artistic goals. 

Selected through a blind adjudication process conducted by an independent panel of highly accomplished artists, the 2017 Winners represent the top 8.67% of applications and include 166 Finalists, the organization’s highest honor. 

This year’s Finalists have the opportunity to participate in the 36th annual National YoungArts Week in Miami from January 8 to 15, 2017. All Winners become part of a professional network of over 20,000 alumni artists and are eligible to participate in YoungArts’ regional programs, including YoungArts Miami, YoungArts Los Angeles and YoungArts New York.

Congratulations to recipients of 2017 YoungArts Awards affiliated with The Adroit Journal!

Aidan Forster, SC
Blog Editor / Summer Mentee (Poetry — Cody Ernst)
Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Samuel Gee, SC
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Jeff Whitney)
Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Finalist)

Julia Gourary, NY
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Molly McGinnis)
Writing – Short Story (Finalist)

Kathryn Hargett, AL
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Lucia LoTempio)
Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention) / Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Merit)

Jordan Harper, AL
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Graham Todd) / Prose Reader
Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Honorable Mention)

Angelo Hernandez-Sias, MI
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Garrett Biggs)
Voice – Singer/Songwriter (Merit)

Cassandra Hsiao, CA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Stephen S. Mills)
Writing – Poetry (Honorable Mention)

Christina Im, OR
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Aline Dolinh)
Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Katherine Liu, IL
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Jennifer Givhan)
Writing – Creative Nonfiction (Merit)

Patricia Liu, OK
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Carly Joy Miller)
Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Annalise Lozier, WI
Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Alyssa Mazzoli, SC
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Alex Higley)
Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Alisa Wadsworth, NJ
Summer Mentee (Fiction — Maria Pinto)
Writing – Short Story (Merit)

Wendi Yan, NH
Visual Arts - Honorable Mention

Alisha Yi, NV
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Cody Ernst)
Writing – Poetry (Finalist)

Lily Zhou, CA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Matt W. Miller)
Writing – Poetry (Finalist) / Writing – Short Story (Finalist)

Lisa Zou, AZ
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Nancy Reddy)
Writing – Poetry (Merit) 

*      *      *

Stay tuned for information regarding the 2017 YoungArts Week Writers' Reading, which will be live-streamed on the YoungArts Awards website.

We're With Her: An Election Statement by Brynne Rebele Henry by Aidan Forster

  " Hang On " by Blythe King (The Adroit Journal, Issue Seventeen)

"Hang On" by Blythe King (The Adroit Journal, Issue Seventeen)

Donald Trump’s criminal, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, and frankly despicable behavior has been the cause of countless media scandals during this election season. But still, somehow, he has supporters, however unsuitable he is, despite that he is, as Hillary Clinton said, a literal plethora of deplorable beliefs, actions, and principles. Naturally, there are going to be people who stand for everything that is and has always been wrong with this country.

However, a Trump election would result in the kind of disaster that futuristic horror films are based on, leaving behind a terribly frightening future (or, given Trump’s remarks on nuclear war, potentially leaving nothing behind).  Possibly the only silver lining of this election is that it’s opened a discussion about sexual assault, harassment, and the things women deal with on a daily basis on a national level in response to Trump’s horrific comments and treatment of women and girls. This discussion is vital, and while it’s unfortunate that it’s because Trump is running for president, the discussion should not stop after the election, (hopefully after Clinton wins). We’re with Her. And we really, really hope you are too.

A List of What Could Happen When You Vote by Peter LaBerge

By Christopher Salerno | Guest Columnist.

 via Right Speak.

via Right Speak.


1. You enter the voting booth and are asked to pick from a list of common feelings.

2. You enter the voting booth and, November-surprise, you find a sparrow there ruffling its feathers.

3. You enter the voting booth and are met with photographs of every sexual partner you’ve ever had.

4. It’s finally your turn to vote and you enter to find the booth is actually a Dexter "kill room".

5. Instead of candidate names you are asked to choose between species of owls found in the Western Hemisphere.

6. Instead of candidates you are presented with pictures of employees-of-the-month from the Arby's in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey.

7. You enter the voting booth and they are out of your favorite candidate.

8. Your only choices are the chicken kabobs, the sirloin tips, or the trout.

9. You enter and enter and enter only to find out you are inside a Russian Nesting Doll. 

10. While waiting in line to vote, one of your Birkenstocks gets sucked up into a gymnasium floor fan.

11. You enter and there are no political candidate’s names. Instead, you are asked to rate your pain on the Wong Baker Faces Pain Scale.

12. You enter the voting booth and discover it’s only a Pepsi Challenge.

13. You enter the voting booth and a judge asks you to choose between living with your father or your mother.

14. You enter the voting booth, are overcome by varnish fumes, and see only a little black urn.

15. You enter the voting booth and find sand sifting through an hourglass.

16. You try to enter the voting booth but Cristo has stuffed the whole thing with gauze.

17. You are asked to give blood.

18. You enter the voting booth and cast a vote for whichever candidate would make the most formidable ghost.


Christopher Salerno is the author of four books of poems and the editor of Saturnalia Books. His most recent collection is Sun & Urn, selected by Thomas Lux for the 2016 Georgia Poetry Prize (University of Georgia Press, 2017). Previous books include ATM (Georgetown Review Poetry Prize), Minimum Heroic (2010 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize), and Whirligig (2006). A New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellow, Salerno is currently an Associate Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey where he also teaches in their MFA Program for Creative and Professional Writing. He can be found at

Conversations with Contributors: Carolina Ebeid (Issue Seventeen, Poetry) by Aidan Forster

By Eileen Huang | Interview Correspondent

We’ll start by asking a question given by our last interviewed contributor, Tiana Clark: Could you explain a favorite quote or epigraph that has helped articulate or unlock your poetics?

CE: I shuffle through many quotes that I post to my office wall. The one I’d like to offer is a little long for a post-it note, but it is helping me articulate something I’ve known to be true in my work. It comes from an essay entitled “Bewilderment” by Fanny Howe, and it demonstrates a generous resistance to patriarchal values. There is a Muslim prayer that says, “Lord increase my bewilderment.” Such a prayer belongs to that I in her poems, that “strange Whoever” who sends out signals:

“A signal does not necessarily mean that you want to be located or described. It can mean that you want to be known as Unlocatable and Hidden. This contradiction can drive the ‘I’ in the lyrical poem into a series of techniques that are the reverse of the usual narrative movements around courage, discipline, conquest, and fame. Instead, weakness, fluidity, concealment, and solitude assume their place in a kind of dream world, where the sleeping witness finally feels safe enough to lie down in mystery.”


Your poems “From the M Notebooks” and Scripts for the Future” from Issue Seventeen are full of gorgeous, visceral imagery (my personal favorite line: love’s written all over your face, love”). These and other poems of yours carry a melodic, lyrical quality in them—can you speak a bit about what draws you to lyrical or confessional poetry? Where do you find inspiration for images in your poems?

CE:   You are right, I am drawn to the highly lyrical in poems. Poetry is a room for singing. I enter a poem not to explain an idea, nor to make an argument, nor am I trying to recount a story. There are moments when I believe this with a certain ardor. But then, other times, I don’t really trust my claims about poetry, especially ones that come in the form of assertions ending firmly with a period. If we can turn it into a question, then: is a poem a space for singing? As a reader, I subscribe to Louis Zukofsky’s description of poetry, that it is “Lower limit speech / Upper limit music.” This integration seems truest. But when I am writing a poem, I am not interested in saying the thing clearly as “speech” might suggest. A useful image for me: a girl holding a flashlight at night, a photonegative image of her, so that darkness beams out from the bulb she’s holding onto the bright scene. That’s what I want my poems to do, to search with darkness in a bright world. When I am writing a poem, I find the incantatory, the mutter, broken syntax, a gnarled word more compelling than clear-speak.


Your newest collection, You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior, recently came out from Noemi Press. First of all, congratulations! It has been described by Julie Carr as a book of the blues discovered in the matrilineal line.” Poems are written from the perspectives of mothers, wives, and lovers. Did you choose specifically to focus on the interior lives of women, and—if so—how did your vision for the book develop over the course of its journey into life?

CE: Thank you so much! Yes, mothers, wives, lovers—they all dwell in the matrilineal line, and all three are part of my identity. But I wouldn’t say that this book seeks to represent the interior lives of imagined women. My friend and poet Andrea Rexilious points out that the cover image of my book illustrates an important aspect of the interior as it is rendered in the poems. The cover uses the work of Peruvian artist Ana Teresa Barboza; it presents the picture of a woman with an unfinished lace pattern laid over it, which the woman is sewing into her chest. Andrea and I were talking about how much we love the underside of tapestries, richly colored & unkempt fringes that don’t depict a bucolic scene, or a medieval unicorn, as the outward side artfully does. Both are important, inextricable from the other. Every exterior bears an interior (in dialectic relationship) and each communicates differently. I don’t think of the interior as a gendered space, but perhaps the interior, much like the reverse side of tapestries, conserves that “bewilderment” Fanny Howe puts forward. It’s not a place for (patriarchal) “discipline, conquest, and fame.” I want to receive those reports of violence and fear and beauty the reverse side is transmitting with its garbled speech.   

  Noemi Press.

Noemi Press.


  Who are some of your favorite poets writing right now? What are you currently reading?

CE:  First I have to say, I live with a bonafide bibliophile. My partner and poet Jeffrey Pethybridge reads widely, and is hip on many contemporary poets. My tastes have become much more expansive because of him. It’s a promiscuous kind of reading we do. Poets right now on my desk or open in my browser are: Khadijah Queen, Ari Banias, Eleni Sikelianos, Shane McCrae, Susan Howe, Etel Adnan, Sam Sax, Aracelis Girmay, Sarah Gridley. In my backpack this week, I’m toting around Anne Carson’s Float.  


And speaking of favorite poets & inspirations, have you always been writing? What influenced you to start, and what got you hooked?

CE:  My first loves are poets I’ll never stray from, ones that I read in my late teens and early twenties: Sylvia Plath, Lucie Brock-Broido, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Louise Glück, Anne Carson, John Berryman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson. I’ve always been writing. I wish I could have a narrative to tell you in which I am a young adult standing at a stop light at the moment “when poetry came to me,” but the truth is I’ve been making poems since I learned the system of writing. There is a period in my life, however, where I met Lucie Brock-Broido, a turn of the century period when I was taking workshops at her home. Her poems, her person, encouraged me to continue making the weird, lush similes I was constructing. Hers was an unforgettable, charmed, hyacinth-scented encouragement.    


Throwing it back, what do you remember about the first poem you ever wrote? (Mine was an embarrassing sonnet from sixth grade.)

CE:      School is like a pool
            Or the wave of a sea
            It's the notion of the ocean
            That brings happiness to me.
                        —Carolina Ebeid, 1st grader


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

CE:   Employing the facts you know about another animal species (such as a bower bird, or a platypus, or a lunar moth) could you describe your poetics? 


*     *     *     *     *

Carolina Ebeid is a student in the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Denver, and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. She has won fellowships and prizes from CantoMundo, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Stadler Center for Poetry, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her first book was recently published in Noemi Press’ Akrilica Series. Recent work appears in LinebreakBennington Reviewjubilat, and in the inaugural Ruth Stone House Reader.

Eileen Huang is a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. She served as the 2015-2016 Northeast National Student Poet, the nation's highest honor for youth poets presenting original work, and has been recognized by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards and the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. In her free time, Eileen enjoys reading and shamelessly watching B-list romantic comedies. She serves as an Interview Correspondent for The Adroit Journal.

Review: Redefining Home in Allegra Hyde's Of This New World (University of Iowa Press, 2016) by Aidan Forster


 University of Iowa Press, 2016.

University of Iowa Press, 2016.

         Whether imagining the alien, nocturnal noises that await Adam and Eve outside of Eden or the public humiliation of experiencing erectile dysfunction while colonizing Mars, Allegra Hyde’s debut orbits one essential question – how do we define home? Over the course of a dozen stories, Hyde takes readers to a Caribbean campus obsessed with sustainability, a house repurposed as an antique shop, a Utopian small town necessitating its own registered trademark®, and failing communes inundated in acid, among others. Within these bizarre landscapes, Hyde’s characters struggle with the elusiveness of paradise. They partake in the quotidian sojourn for sanctuary, though—despite the fact that many physical spaces appear in Hyde’s work—her creation of the idyll is not constricted to boring Pleasantvilles. None of the settings embody trite expectations of home. Whereas fiction often attempts to take the known comforts of normal life and disrupt them, Hyde’s collection redefines expectations of comfort altogether. In many ways, these stories act against the traditional interpretations of Utopia, pushing away the universal urges for safety, stability, and routine.

         It should be no surprise that, with a balance of diverse settings and topical steadiness, Of This New World was the 2016 winner of The John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Judge Bennett Sims called the collection, “an ambitious and memorable debut,” noting its thematic cohesiveness of the “ultimate Miltonic lesson.” That is to say, these stories undoubtedly belong together, as they braid related spiritual conundrums among disparate geographies. Each story has an inexorable sense of place, but the long-term security of the setting is always in question. Home is stripped to the bare necessities of its definition or skewed into a bizarre dreamland, so that the common interpretations of its terminology become obfuscated.

          “It was the strangest funeral I’d ever attended. Sun-soaked—on the old farm field behind Sally’s house—the bereaved dressed in a rainbow of colors, the air sugared with cotton candy and the pangs of a string quartet. A downy white pony for children to ride.” Thus begins “Bury Me,” with a succinct opening that thrashes against the mundane. The doldrums of home are situated in the distance, the comforts of nature disrupted by a peculiar carnival of mourning. As the collection’s title suggests, Eden is always on the horizon, but also in the distant past. Paradise cannot easily be revisited. By exploring this tension, Hyde’s stories serve as points of entry to the ecotones between the familiar and the unknown.

         In the case of “Bury Me,” the ecotone in question seems to be the nebulous era between adolescence and adulthood. Two adult women, Maddy and Sally, are forever bonded over shared college nights of binge drinking and unapologetic one-night stands. Years later, the loss of Sally’s mother reunites the duo for one last attempt at recreating the bacchanalia of their youth. Yet, both women must address the impossibility of recreating a treasured feeling of freedom that in retrospect never actually existed. In this way, “Bury Me” not only confronts the physicality of home, but also examines how often home is lost in the past, solely found in hazy, idyllic memories.

         In “Ephemera,” a rambling mother named Vera finds home while searching for her lost daughter through a rundown “cowboy town.” Fatigued from months of canvasing, she holes up with an aging man named Carlos who has transformed his mother’s house into an antiques shop. What begins for Vera as a quick night’s sleep soon falls into routine as she rethinks her daughter’s disappearance and helps Carlos move on from the family homestead he’s never been able to sell. This setup allows Hyde to consider several elements the definition of home in one narrative. Family dynamics are morphed and reshaped, essential household items are sold off day by day. Does paradise require forks and frying pans, or can it be more abstract? The relationship between home and possession seems an unyielding inquiry that Hyde’s stories bring to light.  

         It’s important to note Hyde does not rely on motif to propel “Of This New World,” however. Sentence for sentence, this collection is chock-full of audacious prose, passages that are perfect in pitch and in rattling the terrain. The lyrical quality is sharp and one can easily be captivated by the language’s sheer beauty. Hyde’s constructions are precise to say the least—tlet your guard down would be to miss the nuances of fragility, fear, and confusion right beneath the surface.

         Hyde’s underlying message could very well be that isolated geographies only have meaning in the context of the great unknown, and that finding paradise is independent of place altogether. Whether we are natives or foreigners in this in-between space is uncertain. What does seem certain, however, is that globalization through Hyde’s eyes has existed since Adam and Eve, and that the search for Utopia is an ancient quest of rapid-growing importance in the wake of connectivity. The world is shrinking, and everyone is seeking serenity by different means and in different places, but the hope of finding peace is universal. Whether that can be done is yet to be seen.


Aram Mrjoian is a regular contributor at Book Riot and previously reviewed Michigan books and literary culture at He possesses an English degree from Michigan State University, a graduate level publishing certification from the University of Denver, and is currently working toward an MFA in creative writing at Northwestern University, where he is a reader at TriQuarterly.

Raise Your Glass: The Adroit Journal Meets Best New Poets 2016! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the fifty emerging poets selected by Mary Szybist for inclusion in Best New Poets 2016! We're pleased to share that Moriah Cohen's poem "Snow Downgraded to Nuisance on the Narrow Street," originally published in the Winter 2016 Issue of The Adroit Journal, made the list.

Other than in The Adroit JournalMoriah Cohen’s poetry has been published in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewHoot: A Mini Literary Magazine on a PostcardWord RiotBaltimore Review, and Narrative, where she took runner-up in their 30 Below Contest in 2013. She has an MFA from Rutgers University’s Newark Campus. Currently, she lives in New Jersey with her two sons.

We're cheering (loudly) for all sixteen Adroit writers selected for Best New Poets 2016:

Kaveh Akbar

Kenzie Allen
"In Which I Become (Tiger Lily)"

Anders Carlson-Wee
"To the Fingerless Man in Banff"

Stephanie Cawley
"Mary Shelly"

Moriah Cohen
"Snow Downgraded to Nuisance on the Narrow Street"

Jesse De Angelis
"American Spacesuit"
Poetry Reader

Cara Dees
"Vigil Hemming In"

Patrick James Errington
"White Lies"

Jackson Holbert
Poetry Editor

John James
"Poem around Which Everything is Structured"

Peter LaBerge
"The Newcomers"
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Max McDonough
"Makeshift Bildungsroman"

Jessica Poli

Charif Shanahan

Talin Tahajian
Poetry Editor

Matthew Wimberley
"Poem Ending with Infinity on the Glass"

Last year, ten Adroit writers were selected for inclusion, including Ian Burnette for his Adroit poem "Harvests." To view this year's full list, visit the Best New Poets website here.

Dave Harris | "When Death Sits At Your Table" (Guest Column) by Aidan Forster

  " Bird on Industrial " by Carol Shillibeer (The Adroit Journal, Issue Eight)

"Bird on Industrial" by Carol Shillibeer (The Adroit Journal, Issue Eight)

           What does it mean to be Black, and still here? I find myself at war with this question too often. To be Black and young. To be Black and alive. To be Black and unshot, neck unlynched, spine unbent. Black and still breathing. We watch our cities burn, first from the inside, and then outside too. From Pittsburgh to Ferguson. From Chicago to Los Angeles. We become familiar with loss. We befriend the dark. And yet still we are, Black and here. What do we make of this unwanted life?

            In my home of West Philly, death is a thing that breathes the same air as you. When a child dies in Philly, the mourning is public. The corner where the child was killed becomes a memorial. The parents find the nearest streetlight and adorn it with temporary, meaningful things. Teddy bears, flowers, football trophies, baby photos, double-dutch ropes, handwritten notes, report cards and anything else that can signal to the world that someone once lived here. You can’t walk a block in the city without finding yourself standing under the light of a tombstone.


            The music video for Flying Lotus’s “Never Catch Me” begins in a funeral church. Like death, everything here is quiet. A thirty-second moment of silence until finally the song begins. A lonely rain of piano notes as we are introduced to the faces of those who are still alive.  Rows of church pews filled with grievers. They are dressed in black. Large hats with lace shawls. Black blazers over white shirts. The routine of grief is a familiar one. We see a childhood memorial with photos of a young boy and a young girl, and we learn that this is a funeral for two. We see their coffins. The two children are dressed in their church clothes— their  Sunday best. They are the type of kids who are the first to the dinner table. Grandma loves them because they always clean their plates. They smile when the sun is out, and they know to come inside when the streetlights turn on. The type of kids who are still just that. Kids. Kendrick Lamar raps:

“They say that heaven’s real.”

            The faces of the funeral are layered throughout the opening minute of the music video. An old man holds his head up to the gaze of death. A woman fans herself. Two young men sit in silence. No one cries. Death is such a familiar face that eventually the living are unsurprised when it shows up. There are no more tears to give. You run out of anger. You accept that fire is the natural state of things. Death comes into your house and sits at your dinner table. It watches you while you sleep. It sits in the passenger seat while you drive. It has run through so many of your family members, so many Freddies and Michaels and Rekias and Korryns, how could we not build up a tolerance for it? And then it happens. The two children in the coffins open their eyes. And it is here that the dance begins.

            They leap out of their coffins like it’s Christmas morning and Santa has left them the best presents. They run to each other, in front of the whole funeral. Holding hands, they kick their feet in a dance of glee. A rhythmic Ring around the Rosie. The dance is a flurry of motion, stylized and synchronized, equal part possessed by something holy, equal part dancing the bliss of their bones.

“Looking down at my soul now

Tell me I’m in control now.”

Their arms wave through the air as an invisible choir claps in the background. Their dance combines the hit and precision of hip-hop with the internal sway of blues. The young boy smoothing his way through the moves and the young girl stomping her way into the melody.

“Tell me I can live long and I can live right.”

The dead children are regifted their smiles. It spreads from cheek to cheek the moment they open their eyes. Their footwork is a divine line dance. They move with their whole bodies. In death, they are so alive.

“Ain’t no blood pumping no fear

I got hope inside of my bones

This that life beyond your own life

This ain’t physical for mankind.”


            In the first grade, my uncle was shot at a gas station. Someone walked up to his car, pointed a gun at his head, and that was the end of it. This was the first time I met Death. Me and Death, we cried together. I had no idea what Death meant or where Death had taken my uncle, all I knew is that I was still here and he wasn’t. The next year, a bullet went through John’s wall and made a home where his heart was. He was in the third grade. We played football together when the sun came out. He fought for life until he ran out of fight. Death sat in my dining room as my mom delivered the news. Every time Death came back, it became less and less of a surprise. Every news story became less grand. I went from crying with Death to simply waving at him as he left with more and more people who looked just like me. Black and Death have grown close over the centuries. To be Black in this country is a constant battle between survivor’s guilt and wondering when you will meet him next.


            As the young boy and girl cheer each other through solo dance sections, we realize that no one in the church can see the dead children. None of the funeral attendees are able to watch them in their brilliant dance of life. They continue to look at the coffins as if searching for something they could never know. They stare forward in silence. The dancing pair have all that childlike hope in their eyes, but they are still gone. They are still dead. The funeral attendees hold the weight of the dead and the burden of being alive on their backs. They console each other. They hold each other. They let the quiet stay.

Soon, the dead boy and girl leave the room, their baby bowties and sundresses flying in the wind. They run out of the church, out of the funeral home and into the street. As they emerge, they are greeted by other children in a bright parking lot. These children play jump rope and patty cake.  Their sneakers light up. Their braids bounce off of their necks. They jump like nothing can hold them down. I think this is what joy looks like.

“Say you will never ever catch me no.

Say you will never ever catch me no.”

            The two children begin one final dance outside in the sunlight, surrounded by children playing.  The music pulsates with a heavy bass that sounds like an errant heartbeat. An arcade buzz is synthesized into the background. The dance, again a mixture of childlike routine and hyper-choreographed footwork, carries the children into a final fit of life. They grab their feet. They glide over the concrete. They squeeze their knees together. They do the mashed potato. And above all else, they smile, an infectious and tear bringing smile. How could such happiness coexist in the face of death? In a final gesture, the two children jump into the back of a hearse. They climb to the front seats and drive away. The other kids chase the hearse in a divine race to the end.

The final shot of the video, after the dancing is done, after the music has finished, is the young boy. Still in his church clothes. Still in his funeral uniform. He sticks his head out of the hearse’s window as the car drives down the street.

“You will never ever catch me”

The wind blows against his face. He looks up. His eyes are closed. The sun is going down. His face is a smile. Just one big smile.

“You will never ever catch me”

He holds onto the side of the car. They are driving away in a hearse. He still has his baby teeth.


            “Never Catch Me” is both a testament to our capacity to survive and a question to what beauty can exist in death. Death can chew the life out of our spirits. It is a thing that drains you until you accept that it lives here too. It is a tireless creature. It is always there. Under every streetlight in Philly. Inside each burning CVS in Baltimore. In the red white and blue of a police siren. In the trigger of a gun. On the branches of a poplar tree. At the bristle caress of a noose. It has never left us. It is my worst fear. And still, it is my strongest ally.

“You will never ever catch me”

            I wonder if John and my uncle are dancing in Death. Perhaps right in front of my face, and I just can’t see them yet. Perhaps grief kept me in a silent despair. Perhaps Death is a celebration in and of itself. Perhaps all the dead Black folk I know are drinking Kool-Aid in their church clothes, or jumping rope in the sun. I wonder if the reality of Death is something to be embraced, the final page of a story already written, the beginning of a brand new book. I wonder if Death is chasing me, or if I am chasing it.

“You will never ever catch me”

            What does it mean to be Black, and still here? It means I am fortunate. It means I am everyone who did not make it this far. Amen. I am Black. I am surrounded by Death, and it looks just like me.  I am the funeral and the dance. I am the crying mother and the angry son. I am the riot and the quiet. I sip tea with Death and ask it to go ahead and try me. I am still here. Amen. I am standing under a streetlight wondering who will get me next. I still have my baby teeth. I am best friend to the night. I sing the blues and slap the drums with my backhand. I am the saxophone that cries Naima. I scuba dive to the bottom of the Tallahatchie. I am my mother’s son. I am still here. Amen. I’m hot. Fire is my natural state. I invite the dead to come dance with me. You will never catch me. I do not apologize. I keep my friends close and my enemies closer, and damn right Death stands next to me when I walk. And I walk. I walk like Death ain’t nothing new.  I walk like it’s the dance that let’s me survive. I am Black and I am here, for as long as I can be. My anger is my greatest joy. My smile is bigger and badder than Death’s. I taste tears in my grin. I scream every time I laugh.


Dave Harris is a spoken word poet and playwright from West Philly. He graduated from Yale University in 2016 with a degree in Theater Studies. As a playwright, his plays have been featured at Philadelphia Young Playwrights, New Haven Arts and Humanities Co-Op High School, Yale Playwrights Festival, UMASS Amherst, The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals, and the Yale Repertory Theater. As a poet, his work has been published or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, Button Poetry, Upworthy, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, WordRiot, The Root, The New Journal, Blueshift Journal, Freeze Ray Poetry, Up the Staircase Quarterly and The Misanthropy amongst others. He is the 2015 Rustbelt National Poetry Slam Champion. He loves all his mothers.





Raise Your Glass: Adroit Meets the 2016 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the fourteen Adroit high school students recognized in the 2016 Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards!

  © The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.

© The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.

Each year, students from around the world are encouraged to share their best work, and an acclaimed pair of judges select fifteen Overall Winners and eighty-five Commended Winners. More than 10,000 entries from over 6,000 poets poured in this year, and judges Malika Booker and W.N. Herbert made the selections.

Congratulations to Letitia Chan, whose poem "Making Glutinous Dumplings with My Mother" was selected as an Overall Winner. Letitia, a student at Milton Academy from Hong Kong, studied poetry with Nancy Reddy as part of the 2016 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, a free and entirely online summer program for high school students. 

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

Margot Armbruster
Wisconsin, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Trista Edwards) 

Nikita Bastin
California, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Will Brewer)

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

Annabel Brazaitis
West Virginia, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Keegan Lester)

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

Annabelle Crowe
North Carolina, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Peter LaBerge)

Aidan Forster
South Carolina, USA
Blog Editor

Summer Mentee (Poetry — Cody Ernst)

Alex Greenberg
New York, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Jackson Holbert)

Allison Huang
New Jersey, USA
Previous Poetry Reader

Eileen Huang
New Jersey, USA
Interview Correspondent

Summer Mentee (Poetry — Gina Keicher)

Emily Yin
Massachusetts, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — William Fargason)

Margaret Zhang
California, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Chen Chen)

Lily Zhou
California, USA
Summer Mentee (Poetry — Matt W. Miller)


Making Glutinous Dumplings with My Mother

by Letitia Chan
2016 Foyle Young Poet

The kitchen drips with steam and in it stands my mother
whom I cannot recognize. She puts balls of sesame
inside bigger folds of dough, white in her pale cracked palms.
Under the acrylic my mother’s nails are short and small,
bent as umbrella tops. Mine are naked almonds rife with milk spots.
I think of the dust that makes its way into the ball, the dead skin
of my hands. I make small nubs of dough. Sesame paste
sticks to the crevices of my mouth, sickly sweet,
and I am always surprised to see my blackened teeth.
My mother laughs at me for taking forever. Seeing me
at the airport she laughed at how dark I’d gotten.
She suggested taping my eyelids to make a double crease,
told me when I was younger that eating fish makes your eyes bigger,
my mother who doesn’t eat fish. When I am a mother I will also
dry my daughter’s hair at two in the morning when she is limp
from sleeplessness and tears, and I will keep my inglorious self
from her. My mother at my age is unrecognizable in a photograph,
long radish shaped face, gentler than me in a polo shirt,
wet eighties Hong Kong when she was already dating my father.
I think about how I am so easily impressed. How I allowed myself
to give for a boy who only ever looked at me once,
when I was unprepared and naked and a smaller version
of myself. She does not know I know of the years my father
was fucking white girls in a place far away from her,
my mother whom I envy and know because I too know how
to be unwanted and androgynous, wordless in the way I am now,
in the way she goes on laughing. The ginger tumbles in the pot.
My mother pours her dumplings into it and they bubble
like bodies that have never belonged to us.

© Letitia Chan & The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.


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


Conversations with Contributors: Tiana Clark (Issue Fourteen, Poetry) by Peter LaBerge


We're over-the-moon excited for the release of Equilibrium, Tiana Clark's debut collection of poetry coming from Bull City Press. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tiana and ask her some questions—about her Adroit poem, about early inspirations, about exciting voices on the horizon, and lots in between.


  Tiana Clark.

Tiana Clark.

EH: To start: Growing up, what were your specific literary influences that inspired you to pursue writing?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a seminal book for me when I was a preteen. It was the first time a black female writer was talking to me, and I saw myself on the page. I was enthralled by Dr. Maya Angelou’s personal story, how she regained her voice through reciting poetry out loud, while I was an adolescent trying to figure out my own changing body and identity. I remember writing a speech about the book for class. I actually got in trouble, because my teacher thought my topic was not age-appropriate, because I discussed Maya’s recovery from sexual assault. Even then, I remember that I liked making an audience uncomfortable with the truth. Even then I witnessed the power of poetry as I recited “Phenomenal Women” at the end of my speech. I remember feeling a sense of pride and power seeing the shock on their faces: here I was, twelve years old, talking about the power of my hips and breasts—unashamed and at full volume! I still recite this poem in my head before a reading. I still have to claim that power continually, there are too many voices that tell me that I am not worthy, and this poem helps me shout back to that specific brand of darkness.


EH: Why and how did poetry become of interest to you?

I grew up the only child to a single mother who worked several jobs—IHOP, Red Lobster, Rainforest Café, Shoney’s—so I was alone with my imagination most of the time. Creating worlds within this world, and creating the characters to place inside those worlds, became an escape hatch for me. My childhood was spent speaking back into the silences that filled our apartment, imbuing them with language. I spoke to myself often—still do. That was my coping mechanism, a way to imbue my life with language. In a way, this impulse to create, to dream, and to express myself vocally was grasping towards poetry before I ever put pen to paper. I still like to think of creative writing as a form of a play, a way to re-access that childlike sense of spontaneous improvisation. It helps me self-soothe.


EH: Religious imagery seems to be an occurring theme in your poetry—your piece from our fourteenth issue, for example, warps a biblical psalm into a raw, powerful lyric about longing and loss. What do you think has led to the consistent incorporation of these images into your own work?

I am obsessed with the intersection between the sacred and sexual, because I’m obsessed with the body—the nexus: the communion I took in church, the juice and crackers, all symbols I ingested every Sunday. Conflating holy and profane images creates a kind of seduction that I like to manipulate through verse. Rilke said it best, “… the artist’s experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss.”


EH: Much of your work also deals with systematic racism and, more specifically, police brutality. What do you think we as allies can do to ensure that important work like this continues to be given increasing attention?

Honestly, I don’t know. I truly mean that, especially after the recent news about Terrence Crutcher. I’m still trying to metabolize my anger (now and for the next story). We all know the answers: listen, do your homework, read, support, share, provide platforms and opportunities, etc. But right now—all of that just seems useless if people can’t police their imaginations as Claudia Rankine illuminated in Citizen.


EH: Let’s talk about your stunning chapbook Equilibrium, which won the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition (!), for a second. How did the chapbook come together—did you have the set idea in mind for the program, or did it develop as the poems came along?

Thank you! I’m still buzzing from the recent release via Bull City Press!

Charles Baxter came to visit Vanderbilt last semester and I asked him how to order a book of poems. To paraphrase, he told us a good book should begin with unanswerable question, which wrestles with this inquiry throughout the narrative arc. That was my “A-Ha!” moment and soon afterward the chapbook clicked into formation. I began the collection with the titular poem because it ends with this unanswerable question:

                                                 What is left

whispering                   in us, once we have

stopped trying            to become the other? 

This interrogation of self becomes the catalyst for the bi-racial speaker in the poems, confronting opposing forces inside and outside of her body, history, place, faith, family, and race. This question is at the seam of every poem in the chapbook.

  Bull City Press.

Bull City Press.


EH: As a young writer yourself, do you have any advice for aspiring poets?

·      Always be reading

·      Trust your imagination

·      Start wherever you are

·      Do it scared

·      Memorize poems

·      Find a writing community (local or online)

·      Let failure make you better, not bitter

·      Submit, Submit, Submit, Submit

·      Be nice to everyone

·      Trace your aesthetic genealogy

·      Take risks in your poems

·      Treat yo’ self/practice self-care

·      Criticism: learn how to digest it and when to reject it

·      Remember everyone is scared and lonely and weird

·      Find trusted readers

·      Read inside and outside the “canon”

·      Make your own canon

·      Join a workshop or create your own

·      Be yourself, unapologetically, on the page and stage

·      It’s okay to say, “No, I haven’t read that book yet. Please tell me about it.”

·      “It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud. / Nevertheless, live. / Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.” - Gwendolyn Brooks) 


EH: Some say that poetry is a dying art form, yet 2016 has (so far) been an incredible year of strong poetry releases. What’s one recently released title you’re excited about (other than your own!), and what’s one forthcoming title you eagerly await?  

Poetry is alive and well, my friend, especially in Nashville. My music city is becoming a Lit City! 

One recent 2016 title that I am excited about:

·      My Dinner with Ron Jeremy by Kendra DeColo. Buy it and bask in all its juiciness!

I can’t freaking wait for these forthcoming titles in 2017:

·      Calling a Wolf a Wolf  by Kaveh Akbar

·      The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded by Molly McCully Brown

·      Telepathologies by Cortney Lamar Charleston

·      Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing by Charif Shanahan

·      Rail by Kai Carlson-Wee


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

Explain a favorite quote or epigraph that has helped articulate or unlock your poetics.


* * *


For more information on Tiana and her recent work, visit


Eileen Huang is a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. She served as the 2015-2016 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. She interviews for The Adroit Journal.

RAISE YOUR GLASS: Sixteen Adroit Students Featured in The Best Teen Writing of 2016! by Peter LaBerge

  The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The Best Teen Writing of 2016 (ed. Madeleine LeCesne) features selected stories, essays, and poems from the body of writing nationally recognized through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. We're so excited that sixteen students affiliated with the journal makeup nearly one-third of contributors this year, after eleven students were selected for inclusion in last year's The Best Teen Writing of 2015. Congratulations to the following sixteen students included in The Best Teen Writing of 2016

Aidan Forster (SC), Poetry, Blog Editor

Alex Zhang (MI), Poetry, Contributor

Aline Dolinh (VA), Poetry, Staff (Poetry Reader)

Alisha Yi (NV), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Angelo Hernandez-Sias (MI), Flash Fiction, Summer Mentee (Fiction)

Ashley Gong (CT), Poetry, Contributor

Ava Goga (NV), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Carissa Chen (NH), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Daniel Blokh (AL), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Nonfiction)

Jessica Zhang (MA), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Madeline Kim (CA), Personal Essay/Memoir, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Margot Armbruster (WI), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Maya Eashwaran (GA), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Noel Peng (CA), Poetry, Summer Mentee (Poetry)

Parisa Thepmankorn (NJ), Poetry, Staff (Poetry Reader)

Rachel Page (DC), Short Story, Contributor


RAISE YOUR GLASS: Adroit Meets the 2016 Ruth Lilly Fellowship & 2016 National Student Poets Program! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the newly appointed 2016 Ruth Lily and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellows, and congratulations to the 2016-2017 class of National Student Poets! 

  The Poetry Foundation/National Student Poets Program.

The Poetry Foundation/National Student Poets Program.

We're thrilled to share that Adroit contributors Kaveh Akbar (whose poem "Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)" appears in our seventeenth issue) and Javier Zamora (whose poem "There's So Much Room Underneath an Upturned Boat" appears in our fourteenth issue) are among the five poets selected to receive 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowships from the Poetry Foundation. They are joined by poets Jos CharlesAngel Nafis, and Alison C. Rollins.

Established in 1989 by Ruth Lilly to encourage the further writing and study of poetry, the prestigious fellowship program is open to all U.S. poets between 21 and 31 years of age. Each selected poet receives a fellowship of $25,800 to "to encourage the further study and writing of poetry."

Click here for more information on the fellowship and this year's awardees.

   The Poetry Foundation.

The Poetry Foundation.

Each year, The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers select five poets—one from each geographic region of the United States—to serve as literary ambassadors to broaden the role poetry and literature play in local and national communities. According to the National Student Poets Program website, "by elevating and showcasing their work for a national audience, the program strives to inspire other young people to achieve excellence in their own creative endeavors and promote the essential role of writing and the arts in academic and personal success."

  National Student Poets Program.

National Student Poets Program.

This year, we're thrilled to report that Joey Reisberg (Northeast), a junior at the Carver Center for Arts & Technology in Towson, Maryland, and Maya Eashwaran (Southeast), a senior at Milton HIgh School in Milton, Georgia, have been selected as two of the five National Student Poets. Joey and Maya participated in the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, an entirely free & online program that pairs students in high school with established writing mentors, to study poetry with Cody Ernst and Michelle Donahue respectively. They join  previous Adroit-affiliated student poets Eileen Huang (2015), Julia Falkner (2014), Ashley Gong (2014), Michaela Coplen (2013), Nathan Cummings (2013), Aline Dolinh (2013), Luisa Banchoff (2012), Miles Hewitt (2012), and Claire Lee (2012). 

A ceremony welcoming Joey and Maya hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama was held today at the White House, They join fellow appointed poets Stella Binion (Midwest), Gopal Raman (Southwest), and Maya Salameh (West). To learn more about the program, check out the video below.

RAISE YOUR GLASS: Adroit Meets the 2016 Teen Sequins! by Peter LaBerge

Congratulations to the summer mentorship students and staff members recognized by Gigantic Sequins' 2016 Teen Sequins feature! We're so thrilled to work together with Gigantic Sequins to support teen writers and facilitate mentorship and dialogue between established and emerging writers. 

We're over the moon for this year's batch of Teen Sequins! We're especially thrilled that all winners are members of the Adroit community. 

Carrie Zhang, New Jersey, Age 14 - "Home"

Aidan Forster, South Carolina, Age 15 - "Cistern"

Ben Read, Washington, Age 16 - "Barium"

Margaret Zhang, California, Age 17 - "Straw Theory"

Talia Flores, Minnesota, Age 18 - "& soil"

Brad Trumpfheller, Massachusetts, Age 19 - "Scene from a Western


Carrie Zhang and Aidan Forster studied poetry with Cody Ernst in the 2015 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, alongside Ben Read, who studied poetry with Jackson Holbert. Margaret Zhang studied poetry with Chen Chen in the 2016 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, while Talia Flores studied fiction with Alexander Cendrowski in 2015. And we're so pleased to have Brad Trumpfheller on staff.


Additional congratulations to this year's Adroit-affiliated honorable mentions!

Margot Armbruster, Wisconsin

Ariella Carmell, California

Annabelle Crowe, North Carolina

Farah Ghafoor, Canada

Allison Huang, New Jersey

Christina Im, Oregon

Emmi Mack, Chicago

Nicole Seah, Singapore

Elizabeth Seri, California

Eloise Sims, Australia

Oriana Tang, New Jersey

Caroline Tsai, Indiana

Eli Winter, Texas

Alisha Yi, Nevada

Emily Yin, Massachusetts

Lisa Zou, Arizona

Announcing our 2016 Best of the Net Nominees! by Peter LaBerge

 Blythe King, Issue Seventeen.

Blythe King, Issue Seventeen.

The editors of The Adroit Journal are thrilled to share our nominees for this year's Best of the Net Anthology


Fatimah Asghar, "Mother"
Alex Dimitrov, "Cocaine
Muriel Leung, "World's Tiniest Human
Randall Mann, "Fiscal
Hieu Minh Nguyen, "Apology, Sort Of
sam sax, "fraternity


Shane Jones, "Off Days
Jenny Xie, "Bone Meal"


Patrick Chambers, "Please Return Bottle for Deposit
Barrett Warner, "Three Men and One Dead Animal

Meet the Mentees: Rhiannon McGavin (Poetry) & Reuben Gelley Newman (Poetry)! by Peter LaBerge

As July turns to August, and Final Portfolios for the summer mentorship program begin to roll in, we're celebrating by learning a little bit more about poetry mentees Rhiannon McGavin (of California) and Reuben Gelley Newman (of New York). Rhiannon has studied poetry with mentor Keegan Lester, and Reuben has studied poetry with mentor Stephen S. Mills. 

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

Rhiannon McGavin, mentee: Grew up on Shakespeare, and that’s about it, / you’d think I’d be better at iambic.

Reuben Gelley Newman, mentee: I'll frolic through the sexy forest / of life, singing, failing, hoping for rest. 


Here’s a deceptively difficult question: What is it that keeps you writing? And what even got you writing in the first place?  

RM: I started writing poems to attract the admiration of the cute older boy in my Shakespeare group. This did not work out, as I am still writing. I’m also terrible at keeping journals, so poetry is a way for me to keep track of the weird things that happen to me, albeit processed through a lens of readership. In the last year, I’ve been able to self-publish some dorky booklets and collaborate with my friends on making videos for my poems, and figuring out how poetry can interact with visual art/film/dance/music/smearing paint on ourselves will definitely keep me writing.

RGN: Well, in the theme of the couplet I took way too seriously, writing is sort of about playing, having fun, making things – something like frolicking. Maybe writing can even be freeing or childish in a similar way. But there's another side where it's cathartic, and I think that's where the angsty, somewhat lonely teenage nerd comes in and says, "Let me write down all my weirdness and that will magically solve everything!" Then there's witness: seeing what you don't understand and trying/failing to explain it, wondering how both lovely and horrible things happen in history. Some weird combination of these impulses got me writing and keeps me going, and then of course there's the sheer pleasure of trying/failing to verbalize and conceptualize emotion.


Rhiannon—as some of our readers most likely know, you’re doing so much good work in the realm of spoken word. How do you view the relationship between spoken word and page poetry—do you think the objectives are different, or only the mediums?

RM: Well! In spoken word (whether in a competitive slam or not), the objective is more or less to make yourself understood to a live audience in 3 minutes or less. This encourages comprehensible writing and solid public speaking skills (good things for all writers, frankly), but page poetry has space to be a bit more abstract, since the reader might have more time to digest the information. I’ve found that my best writing looks nice on the page and sounds good spoken aloud, and I think it’s important for poets to have a foot in both areas. I honestly didn’t know that page poetry and spoken word were differentiated until earlier this year, because we’re all jumbled together in Los Angeles and get Guisado’s in a group.


Reuben—as some of our mentees know, much of your work revolves around sexuality and identity. How do you think your understanding of yourself has developed and been challenged by your writing?

RGN: Look at me! Lonely gay teenage nerd who dreams that the world is a sexy forest (whatever that's supposed to mean)! Or least that's the identity that I assume and play with in some of my work, wanting attention, wanting words about sexuality to somehow compensate for being lonely. Words don't compensate, but they let me take myself a little less seriously, particularly when I've experimented with sexual humor. For a guy who's pretty serious in person, the page is freeing, allowing me to joke and play in a way I wouldn't otherwise. Writing about sexuality is also an effort both to complicate and to untangle what it means to be a gay adolescent in the place and time I live in, hopefully helping me to realize some privilege and gain compassion. I've begun to appreciate more fully the complexity of my identity and queerness.


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

RM: Why is everything longer in French? Oy

RGN: I travel, questioning politics, California redwoods, America. 


I can’t believe we’re onto the week of assembling Final Portfolios! Alas, it seems the mentorship is coming to a dreaded close. What’s been your favorite part of the mentorship, and what’s one memory or piece of advice that you’ll take with you?

RM: Ice cream with poets!! I went to New York City in July and managed to be in the same places as Peter [LaBerge, co-director] and my mentor Keegan Lester! I was treated to a small ice cream tour of the city—caramel with Peter at Grand Central, and blackberry chocolate chip with Keegan and his gal pal on the west side. Keegan showed me this neat way to flip and dissect old poems for new drafts, and it was fun catching a Bulbasaur at The Strand.

RGN: It's been great meeting other young writers, and I'll always remember the hilariousness of the Facebook group chat, where we have a funny and loving support system. I was also lucky enough to meet my mentor, who's an amazing person and writer. He's helped me concentrate on imagery and revision, advising me to give the reader the unexpected, a lesson I'll keep using to push my writing further. 



Rhiannon McGavin is an incoming freshman at UCLA, and a recent graduate of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. She is a current Get Lit Player and performed with the GLP Team at Brave New Voices 2014, where they earned 3rd in the world. She has performed among esteemed activists and celebrities including Maria Shriver, Cornel West, & John Legend, in world-famous venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, The NAACP Awards, & the LA Times Festival of Books. To watch Rhiannon’s PSA videos as well as her “Condensed Shakespeare” series, you can peep her beloved YouTube channel, “The Geeky Blonde.”

Reuben Gelley Newman is a rising senior at The Dalton School in New York City.

Meet the Mentees: Scott Stevens (Poetry), Charity Young (Fiction), and Jordan Harper (Fiction)! by Peter LaBerge

It's dangerously close to the end of July, meaning we're dangerously close to the end of our summer 2016 mentorship program for high school students. But here's the good news: we're bringing you as much to learn and remember as possible, with this nifty new interview featuring Scott Stevens (of California), Charity Young (of Washington), and Jordan Harper (of Alabama). Scott has been studying poetry with Will Brewer, Charity has been studying fiction with Alex Higley, and Jordan has been studying fiction with Graham Todd. Let's see what they have to say...

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

Scott Stevens, mentee: I’ve done many things you’d think a crime / but I’ve got in my pocket a pen – a real carbine.

Charity Young, mentee: My name is Chairs / I have some hairs.  

Jordan Harper, mentee: In a small body of corn chips unrest / local four-year-old is trying his best


What led you to start writing? What made you stick with it? Tell us the abbreviated story.

SS: One night, detained in an RV with my family, I dreamed about a peripheral friend of a friend at school. I don't remember the dream, but I remember banging my head against the overhead and yelling, “I MUST BE FRIENDS WITH HER!” I decided to write her an ode describing how cool she was — not really knowing what I was doing — she wrote back, and we became best friends over poetry. 
I stuck with writing for two reasons. Writing helped me visualize the abstract problems in my head and generalize the worries and joys of my everyday life. At all my major life moments since that summer, I’ve had poetry, journaling, and, recently, fiction, to guide me through my emotions and thoughts. I also stick with it for the pleasure in mastery over language. I watched my friends train their limbs in dance, their voices in chorus, and I thought, Damn! I’m jealous. If I couldn’t sing, I’d write. I’ve been trying to make beauty ever since.

CY: I never had cable TV growing up, so for entertainment I spent weekends reading YA fantasy in the library and watching lions devour antelope on Discovery. As a child my life was full of organized activities, but with a book in my hand I could get through anything from tedious orchestra rehearsals to church to getting mowed down by aggressive soccer children/moms. Later my love of reading naturally spilled over to writing, which at first only took place in school—from grades 1-7 we had to read in front of the class, so I told stories about dragons, spies, and an evolved cunicular race enslaving humanity (though my dad is not a literary man, his apocalyptic theories subtly influenced me)—but today, instead of all those activities, I write about people because I want to tell the truth of who we are, and I would be hypocritical if my life didn’t tell the truth of who I am. 

JHAs it turns out, people with higher IQs tend to be associated with wearing glasses because they are near-sighted and turn more toward activities like books and science rather than sports and entertainment. I don’t remember if I made that fact up or not or what my IQ even is, but that was my excuse when people tried to pressure me into playing whatever kind of sportball. I was just better at reading and writing. Now that I’m well into the groove of writing, I’ll just say I do it to tell the stories no one else will. 


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

SS: Grandson/father exchange macho skills; trippy mirror play.

CYIncestuous twins stab each other debating reincarnation. 

JHMan eats Lucky Charms; it’s magically realistic!


One interesting I’ve just realized is that one of you (Jordan) goes to an arts high school, one of you (Scott) just graduated from private school, and one of you (Charity) just graduated from public high school. I was wondering if each of you could talk a little bit about how you feel your experience in school has affected your journey into writing thus far—I imagine each of you have had different experiences, and that your respective schools have played varying roles in those experiences.

SS: The Silicon Valley mythos – that exultation of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, combined into one enterprising spearhead for the future – has attached itself to the neighborhoods and schools around me. I am thankful that, though my school is at the nucleus of this culture, it nurtures writing more than some other schools in the area. I won’t speak for other private schools, but I will say that my school engrained “Be your best” into most students’ heads. This is code for high expectations. This can be positive. For me, that meant being my best at the challenges I enjoy – for example, writing. If you have the opportunity to attend a good school – public or private – it’s up to you to do what you want with that education. Nobody told me to put extra time into writing poems. Unfortunately, sometimes the surrounding mythos of what is “the best” can make some young people confused. You see these fresh college graduates at Google and Facebook (earnest, hard-working people) – the perceived image of these people is that they can materially do anything they want. But, intellectually, that path may not be right for someone with a mind more inclined toward writing. So you have to swallow the fact that your material life, the “limitless possibilities of technology” may not be in your hands. That fact, combined with the sight of your high school classmates all going off to bright-seeming careers, while you are working a double life, your day job and your determination to write, together can seem daunting.

CYThis is an interesting question. In truth I found my elementary/middle school years much more formative in my love of writing (I went to a hybrid part-time school) than my high school years, with one exception: my freshman English teacher, Mr. Farland, found potential in my work and encouraged me to pursue it. If I hadn’t met him, I might not be a writer today. 

JHMy school has given me an unbelievable support system. I doubt I’d be where I am now without it, and I sure wouldn’t be in this mentorship. Even outside the creative writing classroom (obviously my major) it’s good to be surrounded by people who believe in their artistry and are pursuing it daily, especially considering I heard a joke the other day that went like, “We are cutting this faster than a public arts school budget.” This world doesn’t want artists to win for some reason? 


If you could marry a writer (from any time period), who would it be? Why?

SS: Voltaire, because he would be adventurous in life and in editing my work – satirical comments all over my margins – because he would energize me when I’m feeling down, because I’d get to speak French (duh), and because he cheated the lottery to amass a fortune! My kind of man.
If getting burned alive for sodomy is a concern, then Virginia Woolf for sure. I would want to hear the way she described everything around her.

CYI am trying to think of financially and emotionally stable writers. It is very hard. I would marry F. Scott Fitzgerald so we can descend together in a turgid cavalcade of glamor and destruction. 

JH: The anonymous author of Beowulf. I can't be tied down.


Charity and Scott, you’re both heading off to college in the fall (Princeton and Stanford, respectively—casual!). How do you see the place writing has in your life evolving over this time period? And Jordan—what are your goals for writing in the next year leading up to your graduation?

SS: No lie, I have to be resolute in guarding my self-respect as a writer at Stanford. Coding is king there, and I’ve heard rumors that they call humanities kids “fuzzies” in contrast to “techies.” Despite the fact that there is nothing fuzzy about demands such as writing a dissertation on Finnegan’s Wake. Every day this summer I am struck with an almost crippling fear that everything I’ve built up will fall apart while I'm there. But I think that if I keep reading, keep writing, no matter whether I major in English or Neuroscience, I will be aiming to build a stored bank of writing that I’m proud of. I’ve only been writing for three years, so I still see myself as a neophyte, someone who will be trying to learn as much as I can from the professors and visiting Stegner Fellows there. This apprenticeship state tempers my currently (roiling) ambition to try and publish a book of my work. But I also hope to take more risks. Who knows what’s possible at the Coding Kingdom?

CYOh, I’m super excited to work with the English faculty! I hope to have a certificate (minor) in creative writing, so if I’m really lucky I can write a novel for my senior thesis under the mentorship of a faculty member. Regardless, I will sign up for lots of Creative Writing classes to take advantage of the resources available to me.

JHI’ve hit a pretty brutal drought in terms of producing work and submitting to places which are personal virtues I’d like to kick back up in 2016/17, even amid college apps and AP classes. Mostly, I’m going to focus on completing my senior thesis (I grew a mildly handsome first draft of a story in this very program) and I’m really pumped to be an editor on our literary magazine. 


As I was saying during the first Meet the Mentees chat of the week, it’s hard to believe this is the last week of writing for this year’s mentorship program. What’s been your favorite part of the mentorship, and what’s one memory or piece of advice that you’ll take with you?

SS: My favorite part of the mentorship has probably been the encouragement to connect our readings to our writing prompts. Sometimes it is easier for me to just head for the anthologies and read good ol’ Elizabeth Bishop, Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, so I have loved being pushed toward more contemporary writers, getting a better feel of what’s being written out there.
One memory: this past week, I had the privilege of peer-editing a mentee’s poem that shocked me with its beauty and sinister narrative arc. I remember thinking, I want to be able to write something in that style. I worry sometimes that everybody is going to turn into a computer and only write lines of Java, not poetry, but I get hopeful that the line of writers will continue when I read fantastic work from people the same age as me.

CYWe are at the dusk of our days, but my favorite part of this mentorship is the wonderful, scarily talented writer friends I have made. It’s extremely refreshing to connect with people around my age who share the same interest, and also the same (?? bad) sense of humor.
I have a very short animalistic memory, so I’m going with the most recent piece of advice from Jordan Villegas (fellow manatee): if you’re having a bad week/year/life, “Just wait for your next one. Maybe you’ll reincarnate as a wiener dog and you can just chill all the time.” 

JHGetting to know the grossly talented mentees has been so much fun. And as a young writer it becomes exciting once you begin to recognize all the names you’re among as winners of contests you’ve entered or programs you’ve applied for, that you’re a part of this community of stunning artists (which can be encouraging or demoralizing depending on what kind of person you are) who are all learning the same as you, you’re on the same playing field. As for advice, I think I’ll carry with me the work ethic of my peers and mentor, who are relentless demigods all of them. A mentee just called 15 pages “a day’s work” as I’m typing this.


* * *

Scott Stevens is a poet and fiction writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been published in literary magazines such as Textploit and Glass Kite Anthology. He is a recognized California Arts Scholar, has attended the Iowa Young Writers' Studio at the University of Iowa, and has received distinction in the 2016 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Corey Van Landingham selected him as an Honorable Mention for the 2016 Adroit Prize for Poetry, and he will be a freshman at Stanford University in the fall. 

Charity Young is a recent graduate of Union High School in Washington. Her fiction and illustrations have received national medals in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and she was included on the Editors List for the 2016 Adroit Prize for Prose. She likes to wear terrifying shoes, and will be a freshman at Princeton University in the fall. 

Jordan Harper is a senior at the Alabama School of Fine Arts as well as an alum of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and Interlochen Arts Camp where received a Fine Arts Award. His poetry and prose has been recognized by the Alabama Writers’ Forum and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. His work can be found in Best Teen Writing of 2015.

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?