Dear friends & readers & submitters,
Due to an overwhelming pool of strong submissions, submissions to our first special issue, The Covers Issue, will close on March 20th.
To make up for this, we’ll be leaving regular submissions open an extra month, until April 15th.
Send your work to us here. We still have some room in the Covers Issue and are keeping it open just for you.
Hannah Gamble is the author of Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast (Fence Books, 2012). Her poems appear in or are forthcoming from POETRY, jubilat, Court Green, Black Warrior Review, and Southern Indiana Review. She lives in Chicago.
Justin Carter: Tell us a little bit about “Glory”
Hannah Gamble: I have a very sensitive mom. She birthed many sensitive kids (with our sensitive father). I think to date, she remains the most sensitive member of our family. But it’s easy for anyone in our family (except me and my brother Josiah, maybe) to experience hurt feelings when teased (even lovingly) by other family members. I’ve always thought these kinds of stories were sad and sweet: nice people hurting each other accidentally.
JC: I’m interested in your use of line breaks & repetition in “Glory.” Specifically, you break the lines in such a way that the next line often begins on one of these three letter connecting words, i.e. the, and was. Why did you make this choice?
HG: You know, I didn’t really think about it. Of course, I wouldn’t want to end a line on a word like “the,” “and,” or “was,” but why so many of the lines begin with those words I couldn’t say. I do think that some of the repudiative impulse came from me wanting the account of the family to sound biblical. On the one hand, my family’s history is very important to me so a “thus spake the siblings in one voice, in one accord” kind of tone isn’t fully ironic. On the other hand, imagining an account of children accidentally hurting their mother’s feelings by teasing her in the timeless family annals is a little bit funny to me.
JC: I really, really loved your first book. What was the process of putting that book together like? I.e. what kind of arc did you aim to create with the arrangement you created, how close is the final product to your original conception of the manuscript?
HG: Thank you so much; that means a lot to me!
That book began as my MFA thesis at the University of Houston. What really made it the book it is now, though, was first half of the year I had after graduating where I was teaching Creative Writing at Rice University. My teaching load was light, and I got a nice little office wherein I could spend a lot of time reorganizing the manuscript. I also did a poem-a-day challenge with some friends in the early fall, and that gave me some poems to replace the ones from the early version of the manuscript that I wasn’t happy with.
It was also that fall that I decided to make the book’s arc go like this: poems that introduce the reader to the speaker, poems that talk about others who might be close to the speaker, and poems that might be about people the speaker does not know/ the world in general. So I wanted the scope of the poem to start small and widen throughout the collection.
JC: I remembering reading this post about your experience with Writers In Schools a while back and being fascinated by the work that the students were producing. What were the three best parts of working with WITS?
HG: 1. the things the kids wrote in their poems
2. good bosses who gave me the chance to teach in a lot of different settings (an art museum, arboretum, a university art gallery, and heritage museum) in addition to school classrooms.
3. the things the kids wrote in their poems
JC: What’s next for Hannah Gamble?
HG: A second book, I think! I have no idea how far from done it is, but I’m chugging away. Writing some new stuff, revising stuff from last year.
But really, I have to say that, in terms of the trajectory of my life, I’m often surprised at where I end up. I didn’t know that I was going to be a poet until I was about 25. And I had no idea that being a poet would lead to things like getting to be the poet-in-residence at a children’s hospital or designing a poetry workshop for the first arts-based program to ever be funded by the National Science Foundation.
Plus, there are those beautiful, unpredictable non-poetry things, like walking into a vintage clothing store and chatting with the guy at the register who then becomes my bandmate and (along with my other bandmates) one of my dearest friends, or making a sub-career from posing for artists (many of whom have become valued friends and acquaintances).
So: who knows! But I think there’ll be a second book….
Banango Street Issue 6, prose guest-edited by Ben Tanzer, is now live! Go forth & read excellent poetry & prose by: Raena Shirali, William Fargason, Jill Talbot, Christopher Kempf, Joseph G. Peterson, Emily Kendal Frey, Sarah Jean Grimm, Justin Brouckaert, Lorenzo Conte, Zoe Dzunko, Anne Valente & Josh Finnell, Suzanne Marie Hopcroft, Hannah Gamble, Stacy Stepanovich, Kallie Falandays, Jeanne Henry, Alex Manley, Jason Fisk, and Brian Robert Flynn. And look at artwork from Ben Austin (who did the above piece and cover art for the issue), Lucas G. Pinheiro, and Sahara Shrestha. View Issue 6 here.
And in other news:
You can now submit poetry, translations, collaborations, and artwork for Issue 7. Submissions will be open until March 15th. Please note that for issue 7, we will not be accepting unsolicited prose submissions. If you have something that you think we might like, email us at email@example.com with a brief summary of your story or essay.
You can also submit poetry written in the style of/after other poets, for a special “cover poems” issue. We are looking in particular for poems that transcend imitation and exhibit the author’s own voice as well. Submissions will remain open until the issue is full.
As always, follow us on Tumblr (here), Facebook, and @banangolit to stay up to date. And keep an eye out in the next month for an announcement about Banango Editions, the echapbook arm we’re launching.
BY: Wallace Barker
Mike Archibald is a Denver-based poet whose new collection “Milton" has been published by Reality Hands. Milton is the story of a man who “dreams/of chopping firewood.” Milton remembers “the alarming warmth/of the inside of a/dead fallen branch” and considers the countryside amidst his “Retired city life chores.”
Pastoral with a cosmic weight that feels Frostian, it reminds me of long bus rides reading “Mountain Interval” and knowing it was real— something I would keep. “And in October/’I feel the anxiety/of not having/enough money for the winter.’” Milton, slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
Milton got married
underneath the trees in a tan brown
When you turn on your computer and read tweets and scroll tumblr you will see things that are manic and weightless. But beneath all of these things there must remain some ancestral dream of a quiet field, a white mountain, a cabin puffing chimney smoke. Milton is steady as snowfall and ”filled with ancient/roman dust.”
Archie, keep writing this poetry. I’m with you in Denver, where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter. Scientists have theorized that any system with a sufficient number of inputs and switches can become a mind. And if the internet has thus achieved a kind of frantic consciousness, I hope its dreams are still Milton’s dreams.
His wife was lavender
the warm scent
of white lies
both silent senses left perfumed
Welcome to a new installment of the Alt Lit Poetry Spotlight by Wallace Barker. The Alt Lit Poetry Spotlight is a poetry discussion with a focus on the work. Please read the poems and share your thoughts in the comments section. Today’s poet is Siobhan Bledsoe.
Siobhan Bledsoe is a 25 year old poet and photographer originally from Brookline, Massachusetts who is currently living in Brooklyn. She maintains a remarkable photography website (really fantastic, actually) and a charming twitter. More of Siobhan’s poetry can be found here.
I came across Siobhan because I follow Alt Lit Press on tumblr and they posted one of her poems. August 2013 is brilliant— it’s somehow exactly what I wanted. Its narrative arc is fascinating and the details seem authentic. I read it and knew right away I wanted to say something about it.
"peeing in front of someone isn’t that vulnerable" she writes. Or is it? What do I want from poetry? I want to know something true and honest, but honesty is vulnerability. Telling the truth should be the easiest thing for a poet but it’s actually quite difficult to pee while being watched.
"i shared the toothbrushes of at least five people and carried deodorant" And I’m taken with some kind of On The Road mania— a youthful haze of impulse and expediency. Poetry can bring you this. You can have everything you ever lost or were too afraid to try "august was the month of sex, sex with/a rich hippie who had a girlfriend (surprise!) but he took me to L’Avventura."
And I hope you appreciate all this because memes, flashes, gifs, chaps etc. etc. come and go. You are inundated today with content and you will be inundated the next day with content and all of it so disposable. It will all line the bird cage of your tomorrows.
So I hope you linger with august 2013. “i was too busy/learning that change really added up to money.”
The next poem I read by Siobhan is printed in its entirety below.
it never is smart
enough to oust me,
the near death by head injury
left me crying for morphine
my unconscious spoke
fourteen hours after my
skull slammed concrete
in a schoolyard, one
we all know, with
free laughter and moping silence
stood Mrs. Trunchbull
by physicality, her
voice between a
boss and an usher she
managed the rush of
black boring bars
were two people i knew
who packed up for the
otherside but the wind then
to the tune of “Recess Is Over”
most of us ran back inside,
wondering why, it wasn’t
our destiny to die.
Although this poem is stylistically different from “august 2013” you can hear the same voice. Here it feels less constrained and more prone to whimsy. Perhaps befitting her name, this poem has the richer linguistic tone of an Irish poet like Yeats or Thomas. It’s some technique of hinted spirituality and strongly lyrical verse that reminds me of “Fern Hill” with less sentimentality.
The last Bledsoe poem I have for you is “what I learned on a wine tour.” This one seems the most straightforward, giving us a witty view (“Barns/filled with/wine urinals/exist”) of a funny life experience. And she’s once again bold, ending it strong:
study, and sophisticate.
But I miss the access and vulnerability of “august 2013.” Whereas once she let us in, now she holds us at arm’s length. She’s charming either way but she’s irresistible when she confides. Sometimes talent must reckon with its own abundance. Just frame the shot and snap the pic #nofilter.
Sad Robot Stories
By: Mason Johnson
Review by: Zack Schuster
i was supposed to write this review in two weeks. instead, i read the book in one day and then spent the next until now trying to word it right. it is now a month overdue, and i realize to my great embarrassment that mason johnson basically did my work for me in one line:
"Robot missed the toilet sound that was the human race. It had heart."
i mean, i don’t know why you wouldn’t want to read a novel that almost literally starts with that line. perhaps you need me to explain that it is shaped like a fractal in my mind, in that as a whole the emotional image presented is clear and significant, but the details cross back over themselves so many times that you feel yourself get so anxious over the unceasing complexity that you need to set down the ipad and go look at a blade of grass until you calm your nerves. and then, five minutes later, you feel yourself get anxious again because you’re not staring at the metaphorical grey and red and purple hues darting across the equally metaphorical brown and blackened backdrop. you find yourself sullen at the dinner table because you have 60 pages to go. no grandma, i don’t want cookie salad, in fact i feel quite full. mind if i go take a nap?
'sad robot stories' made me want to get a beer with mason johnson. it reminded me that mason johnson rejected a shitty poem i submitted to his “poem the news” thing he does for cbs chicago, and i'm glad for that.
i am more glad that ‘sad robot stories’ has bisexual and transgender robots.
as ebooks began to overtake the print market as the dominant medium through which literature is consumed, much was made of the fact that with a paper back or hard cover you have an intractably tactile experience; scrolling through the review pdf i was given, however, did not make me feel cold and alone, irresolvibly removed from a truly instantiated novel. i felt cold and alone because mason johnson’s words haunted me.
the main character is literally named robot.
Why God Why
By Matt Rowan
Love Symbol Press, 2013
Review by: Molly O’Brien
Would you read Matt Rowan’s short story collection Why God Why if I told you it was about what happens in the wake of uncomfortable situations? After all, discomfort is something that us humans generally try to avoid. We tote umbrellas. We put gel inserts in our shoes. We dot our interstate highways with perfectly spaced Cracker Barrels and Denny’s franchises to avoid getting hungry on long drives. We do not like dampness, pain or the growling of empty stomachs. We flee from discomfort.
But Why God Why’s discomfort is right and good the way Rowan writes it. It comes in small bursts, in fantastical packages, with the right amount of comedic exclamation points and all-caps absurd statements. Discomfort is tolerable, amusing, even revelatory in flash fiction format.
Though there isn’t anything obvious in place to suggest this, the various characters in Why God Why seem to share the same universe, and this universe follows neither the rules of physics nor any kind of social decorum. This is a place where your fingernails might start growing to the length of yardsticks, or where you lose sight in one eye but can replace the bum eye with an apple; where an oversized louse on your shoulder will sing James Taylor tunes to you; where, after an accident, you’re convinced you can replace the blood you’ve lost because you’ve caught all the lost blood in a garbage bag. Garbage bag blood.
Rowan tends to exponentially amplify the ridiculous goings-on, skewing perception and reality as if he’s filtering his stories through a kaleidoscope and then a pair of super-thick bifocals. In “The Winston Peacock Transpiration,” a man named Winston Peacock builds his own effigy with cake and sweets, a dessert corpse, raspberry jelly flowing in place of blood: “He built it up tall. He built it up equal to his height. He made it bald. Gave it the same male pattern baldness he’d been unfortunately endowed with. It looked like him, but it was edible.” In this universe, even a fantasy human cake still retains the real human’s baldness. Then the ridiculousness compounds—the girl who delivers his paper each morning murders the fake cake Winston: “He’s finally dead. I really did it.”
This happens over and over in Why God Why. In “Comprehensive Data Collection,” a boy takes a job where he sits in a room and grades papers; gradually, he and his colleagues band together and muck through a bog of bureaucratic vagueness, interrogating higher and higher-ups until they finally reach the Board. Only the Board is actually a board—a wood plank. In “The Mayor,” the mayor of a town steals chunks of pavement from the streets until his constituents complain about the potholes. Then the mayor’s car complains: “The people are right to be fed up, Mr. Mayor.”
The stories combine Vaclav Havel’s attention to absurdity with George Saunders’s mockery of institutions and formal speech, not to mention Rowan’s tendency to go wherever the hell the story pulls him, whether that has to do with a headless blackjack dealer or two friends who “cannot fucking wait” to show off their “nice and new white t-shirts.” Often the narrator addresses a crowd of unbelievers, like the one who maniacally encourages a hydrophobic populace to drink water, or the one who is convinced everyone should fear bats: “Let the slain serve as a warning. Whoa, wait, he’s still alive. THE BAT FLIES AGAIN!”
Occasionally the stories lose themselves in too much absurdity, especially if they go on a bit longer than normal “flash” fiction. The best ones are murderously brief, getting right to the point, and then stabbing you with that point. “Armies,” is one of these. It shows an ousted emperor trying to regain control with the last vestige of an army he has left: the peace corp.
General, I said to the general of the peace corp. What do you bring to the table in the way of pursuing and asserting our nationalistic interests abroad?
He said, Your eminence, we can destroy them with peace, love and understanding. We can crush them all.
I liked this and smiled, said: Show me.
This is where Rowan really shines, and where he has an apparently inexhaustible store of new and twisted characters who, despite their exaggerated situations, appear to have a real, eerie connection to the real world.