About a month ago, Sophia Katz told me she was raped by a former friend and roommate of mine when she visited New York this past May. Yesterday, she published a piece chronicling the sexual abuse she experienced that week, using a pseudonym for her rapist. I shared the piece on multiple platforms and commended her bravery. I said, “This is very important, everyone should read this.” I said “We need to protect and support rape victims, defend young girls in the indie lit community against predatorial, privileged men.” Other people liked the post, shared it, added more supportive comments. But by the end of the day, there was no further discussion about it. No one asked who he is, even though he is an editor within a community we all participate in.
And then I realized, I hadn’t either.
I had felt afraid of ‘starting that war’ against him. I realized that maybe people were afraid to ask who he was because they already knew. Maybe he was someone they considered a friend. Maybe identifying him as a rapist made them uncomfortable and sad. Maybe they didn’t believe it.
I lived with this person for a year. I listened to the way he spoke about his exgirlfriend after she broke up with him. I listened when he told me he “didn’t see the point of hanging out with any of his female friends” because at the end of the day he doesn’t get to fuck them. I pulled my piece from his magazine that he had solicited me for because I no longer wanted to support the career of a casual misogynist.
We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss this publicly when Sophia has been brave enough to call out her abuser in a community where he has immense support and friendship. Stephen Tully Dierks should not be shielded because he is or was our friend. We should hold our friends as accountable as we hold everyone else, if not more.
The moment you’ve been on the edge of your seat for: submissions have reopened for Banango Street and will be open indefinitely! Click here to send us your work.
In addition to the normal poetry and art categories, we’re pleased to announce we’re opening our doors once again to fiction and creative non-fiction. Say hello to Banango Street’s new readers: Justin Brouckaert (fiction), Zachary Doss (fiction), and Katie Jean Shinkle (creative non-fiction):
Justin Brouckaert’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, Passages North and Gigantic Sequins, among other publications.He is a James Dickey Fellow at the University of South Carolina, where he serves as fiction editor of Yemassee. Find him at jjbrouckaert.tumblr.com or on Twitter @JJBrouckaert.
Zachary Doss lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the fiction editor for Black Warrior Review and Banango Street. His work has appeared in Hobart (online), mojo, and is forthcoming from Caketrain.
Katie Jean Shinkle is the author of one novel, Our Prayers After the Fire, (forthcoming, Blue Square Press) and four chapbooks, most recently Baby-Doll Under Ice (Hyacinth Girl Press, forthcoming). She is the Associate Editor of Denver Quarterly and co-Assistant Poetry Editor of DIAGRAM.
Send us things! Reblog this post! We are so excited to read your work.
We’re so stoked to announce the launch of a Banango e-chapbook arm, Banango Editions. Banango Editions will allow us to extend our publishing efforts into longer-form collections of poetry and prose of the same outstanding caliber as the work found on Banango Street.
Here’s the important part: we’re running a flash reading period for female-identified writers through Tuesday night 8/12, midnight CST. We welcome chapbook manuscripts of up to ~35 pages from women, queer, and non-binary writers.
We’ve all got files sitting on our hard drive that we chip away & away at. Here’s your chance to set all that aside & just send it in. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Normal Banango Editions submissions will have a nominal fee attached, so here’s your chance to avoid that as well.
We are especially interested in works that fit together narratively, thematically, or conceptually, not just collections of random poems. We want words that leap off the page and root around our insides, kicking up dirt. Work that creates a micro-atmosphere unto itself and tugs you into it. Show us your best.
and *please* pass this announcement along to the many wonderful women writers in your circles!
Rachel and Justin
Review by Candice Wuehle
Carleen Tibbetts’ “a starving music will come to eat the body” (winner of the Five Quarterly e-chapbook contest) often reads to me like Roland Barthes and early Alice Notley attempting to collaborate on a valentine to theory itself. This effort produces dream words (“gurgleprettied,” “mothervoiced playmouth antigen,” “fuguethroated,” “softboundaried” and “night-purr”) but also as a stanza that can declare:
so find the metric
eat around the bad parts & pay as you go
love that perfect kind of rot
the high monotony of –ologies
the doublecross of body
anyway, in real time, dance
It is a weird kind of energy to state that branches of knowledge themselves (“ologies”) are the “high monotony” and it grants this book—which is itself steeped in structures, theories, the idea of the void and voided “thing”—lift and flight. “a starving music will come to eat the body” asks how the body comes to history and life through it’s “ologies” but also insists context itself is corrosive. This notion is implied through epigraph by Christian Bök (“delicate words simply dissolve when immersed in their meaning”) as well as through the speaker’s own insistence that “utterance is just another word for corrosion.” What is so intense for me about these poems is that for Tibbetts, it seems there is little division between the body and the words that encompass it; the language is all possible expression when it is on the page and thus it become necessary at points to rupture into disarticulation, hyper-articulation, or the compressed articulation of neologism. At one startling point in the poem “shame makes all the warm sounds”, Tibbett’s writes “I made my body a comma” and while this clearly indicates pause, stoppage, and any of the other grammatical indicators of “comma” one might think of, I was instantly inclined to imagine the selfhood of the speaker as transfigured puncture, or punctum in the Barthesian sense. The act of writing had performed its dissolve—this is often the acknowledged work of poetry and the unacknowledged work of theory: to recognize what by its very nature cannot be articulated, in turn producing a language of intimacy which teaches a style of sensual knowledge.
One of the ways “a starving music…” achieves this sense of intimacy is through a resistance to overstate metaphor. Instead, the diction of these poems, frequently invested in the kind of sparkling glitter that becomes at once a blinding violence akin to the work of Chelsey Minnis or Lisa Robertson, is a gnawing diction that eats at the words of the poems themselves as opposed to suggesting parallel quality between object or idea. If a “starving music” is coming to “eat the body”, Tibbetts acknowledges the creepy ouroboros of her poems as music machine and music murderer. This is apparent in the semantic drift of “you’re okay with this ravenous system if we call it a charmed structure”:
how to sorrow: make a home in a fuguethroated syllable
misdial some light (a lushy lux charge in the air)
& rifle through the mica of miracle softboundaried anatomy of salvation
encrusted with the sweet ANTIgen of praise wrung from the hymn
RIFLE through not as in search as in CUT
spiral grooves within as in a cannon
with such grooves as in gun as in GUN
ning for yr mineshaft orifices
yr landmine hands
Or the defiant voids built into a poem like “something darkling”:
i recall each
___is the new night, another essential for___
you sieve your heart as you’d
separate grain from the chaff
the implications of an open window
undeveloped film canisters
the impossible crawl toward____
like cotton anticipates the combing
There is a precise instability or a very specific misdirection achieved by the ease through which words transfigure into other words in “you’re okay with this ravenous system if we call it a charmed structure”. “Misdial” slurs “mica” drifts “miracle” until we arrive at “cannon” “gun” and the spliced “GUN”/”ning” which in turn enact the “softboundaried” and “fuguethroated qualities of the poem itself. By the final effort of the poem’s ending on “yr mineshaft orifices/ yr landmine hands” the subtle conflagration between the personal possessive “mine” of “mineshaft” slipped into the underlying telluridic qualities conflated with the overly violent essence of the word “landmine” expands to asks how language can be introduced to the body before the body is itself languaged. The of “something darkling” insist that language can and should be expelled at the points when it becomes a device of limitation or boundary. A line I especially love from the book’s very first poem, “let’s start with traps”:
the sister-feeling of______
this rusting from the inside
is simply such a generative refusal of boundary, as are all the points of void or blankness in “a starving music…”. In part, this refusal is achieved exactly because at points the poems resist through void Bök’s dictum that “words when immersed in their meaning dissolve” by simply refusing immersion; in the above selection, there seems to be only “sister-feeling” and no root feeling, all “inside” and no body. In the lines “___is the new night, another essential for___” and “undeveloped film canisters/ the impossible crawl toward____”, the “essential” or orientation is again omitted. It’s in this manner, I think, that Tibbett’s “softboundaried” poetics opens up and allows for a confidence with the poems which creates a multiplicity of your own “sister-feelings”, your own “impossible crawl toward” within the distinct aura of the thing-music these poems play on their spindly thumb orchestra.
As I’ve read and re-read these poems, one of the qualities of the chapbook as a whole which has most struck me has been its harmony as a suite of poems which grows, begs both questions and demands of itself and arrives at a site upon which it can sustain its own sense of being. The final poem of “a starving music…” is titled “disarticulation”, medical terminology which means to separate two bones at their joint. However, it occurred to me that to “disarticulate” in speech would be something very different than to “be inarticulate”—it would indicate not lack of cogency or an occultism of unclear speech; rather it would herald a movement of “dis”: away, asunder, and apart. An articulation of energy both within and without, as, I think one reads within this selection from that poem:
should velveteen as does shine culled from light
should swan into spangle sounds
should hum [a bonesound slow-dancing through this soul suit] like marrow
utterance is really just another word for corrosion
While this poem spreads the bones, disarticulates them with utterance itself, it also suggest arenas for coming back together in nature, the soul and sound itself and speaks in an energetic litany of indicative tense. Perhaps the last idea I need to emphasize about this book is its relentless lushness, its compulsion to speak about scale, theory, the body, violence and the ability of language itself to function in perpetual vibrancy. This vibrancy which, for me, suggests the “spangle sounds” of language are larger, more generous, than the logic which can encompass them.
Candice Wuehle is a confident, articulate & inaccurate tarot reader. She will divine for you anytime. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City, Iowa, holds a Masters in Literature from the University of Minnesota and is a PhD candidate at the University of Kansas.
Some of her poems can be or will be found in “The Volta”, “Inter|rupture”, “NOO”, “Boaat”, “Fairy Tale Review”, “BlazeVOX”, “SOFTBLOW”, “Smoking Glue Gun”, “Similar:Peaks::” and “The Sonora Review”.
Interview by Sarah Carson.
Joyelle McSweeney writes in all the genres, and her new books include Salamandrine, 8 Gothics from Tarp Sky (Prose plus a play) and Percussion Grenade from Fence, poems plus a play. She teaches at the University of Notre Dame du Lac, Named for Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, Star of the Rust Belt.
Sarah Carson’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Diagram, Guernica, the Nashville Review, and the New Orleans Review, among others. She is the author of three chapbooks, and two full-length collections, Poems in which You Die (BatCat Press, 2014) and Buick City (Mayapple Press, forthcoming 2015). Sometimes she blogs at sarahamycarson.wordpress.com.
Welcome to “How Did You Do That?!” a series of conversations with those writers we admire/are jealous of. You know the ones—people who are always doing amazing things and make it all seem so easy.
An accomplished poet and hybrid writer, Joyelle McSweeney’s résumé is full of just those types of amazing things—from a sci-fi novel to a gothic poetry collection to a play retelling of a Grimms’ fairy tale, she seems to never run out of energy or ideas.
In 2013, McSweeney’s experimental play Dead Youth, or, the Leaks was awarded the inaugural Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Playwrights, which honors “exploratory approaches and an innovative spirit in writing for performance.”
As if winning such a title wasn’t enough, McSweeney wrote the play in just a few weeks, a feat deserving of a “How did you do that?!” if there ever was one.
McSweeney was gracious enough to answer just that question and more.
Abduwali Muse, the inspiration for Dead Youth, or, the Leaks
Sarah Carson: What was the impetus for this play? What made you choose this content matter + this form for communicating it?
Joyelle McSweeney: This play germinated from learning that Abduwali Muse – the teenage Somali ‘pirate’ who was tried in NYC a few years back—is imprisoned in a federal facility in Terre Haute, Indiana—the state where I live, the Rust Belt state whose name vaguely refers to a genocided people. That’s how misery moves around the globe and always finds its Target ™. Like many citizens of the Internet, I remember Muse for the movie-star grin he flashed at the cameras upon arrival at trial in New York. The charisma of that moment floods all through this play. I wrote it as a spell for his protection and an effort at occult communication.
In my play, a benevolent Julian Assange has hijacked a containership full of Dead Youth, a plural character made up of (un-)dead, saucy, track-suited teens who have died all over the planet from contact with violence: gang warfare, pharmaceutical industry predation, environmental toxicity, drones, suicide, johns, etc. He is steering them to his childhood home Magnetic Island where he will reboot them/upload them to the Internet. Muse and a female Saint-Exupéry (representing The Law) board the ship and attempt to wrest control from Assange. Their fortunes are all controlled by a female deity played Henrietta Lacks, the African-American cancer patient whose cells, harvested without her consent, at Johns Hopkins in 1951, have led to many important medical (and consumerist) discoveries and are used in research settings all over the globe.
This may sound like heavy stuff, but it’s actually a farce, given the many political figures who collide in this inside-out Tempest. There are many press conferences, song and dance numbers, show trials, etc, and lots of campy banter. The farce form makes your belly shake and then sticks you with its blade. Yikes!
SC: What was your process like? Where did you begin? How long did it take you? How did you know you were finished?
JM: I forced this out over just a few weeks to meet the deadline. I knew what I wanted to write about and why—as a play of advocacy for Muse and Assange, and a chance to elevate Henrietta Lacks to a position of absolute power. I had a lot of urgency driving me to write. But I also wanted to write a real play, not just a shorty poet’s play of 10 or 15 pages. So I went back and made every draft longer. This also allowed me to carry certain motifs (bees, computer code, cancer, green) from section to section.
SC: I’ve read in some of your interviews that you were a fan of Leslie Scalapino, for whom the award you won is named. Is that how you came to submit to the prize?
JM: Yes! I wouldn’t call myself a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet in terms of aesthetic affiliation, theory or technique, though I admire how they pulled off the impossible and forced American poetry to let them in. At this point I’m just an old-school early Modernist think. But I am a big Leslie Scalapino fan. I love the ballsy way she turns genre conventions inside out, her total commitment to the occasionally inscrutable, her denial that it was inscrutable, her conviction that her writing belonged in newspapers, her political commitment, and especially her technique of ‘housing’ one character inside another character, one genre inside another genre. That knocked me out in her book Dahlia’s Iris: Secret Autobiography + Fiction.
SC: What was it like to hear that you’d won such an important award?
JM: Bonkers. I had driven to Chicago for the Marble Room Reading Series, and I could barely give the reading, or drive home. I could not believe it. I felt like I was falling through the earth.
SC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into writing experimental plays like yours? Are there any authors you’d recommend?
JM: My advice is just to read like hell and write that which gives you perverse joy and which you are somewhat humiliated to present to the world. That’s a sign you are writing stuff no one else but you could write, which usually makes for the most delicious and devilish work. To write my play, I really drew on an array of plays and performances I love: Langston Hughes Scotsboro, Ltd.; Amiri Baraka The Dutchman; Suzan-Lori Parks America Play; Shakespeare Tempest and Merchant of Venice; Soyinka, From Zia with Love & A Scourge of Hyacinths; Durenmatt The Visit; Genet, entire body of work; Jack Smith, entire body of work. I researched Assange and Lacks and, to the extent I could, Muse. I made up the Exupérystuff. I had also read CLR James The Black Jacobins earlier that year and became obsessed with this short note written by Toussaint L’Ouverture, in (I assume) James’s translation here:
Brothers and friends. I am Toussaint L’Ouverture, my name is perhaps known to you. I have undertaken vengeance. I want Liberty and Equality to reign in San Domingo. I work to bring them into existence. Unite yourselves to us, brothers, and fight with us for the same cause.
The self-announcement of this note stops the show and initiates revolutionary time. I have used its tone, syntax, and cadences in all of my plays because they are works of revolution and vengeance. When Henrietta Lacks says her name in this play, it is a declaration of war. When Julian Assange says, “Hello, I’m Julian Assange”, it continually resets the play’s clock. I recite this letter to myself while driving around South Bend or whenever the spirit wavers.
Mason Johnson is a writer from Chicago who currently works full time writing and editing articles for CBS. You can find his fiction at themasonjohnson.com. Also, he pets all the cats.
I was surprised when Jason Pettus of the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography approached me at a book release I’d read at and asked me if I had anything CCLaP might be interested in. Though I did readings and wrote plenty of prose, I’d always considered what I performed at readings and the novel drafts and short stories at home to be different and separate entities. I didn’t really expect my performances around Chicago to have any substantial effect on me ever getting a book published, but it was those readings that caused Jason to hear about me in the first place.
I guess this makes sense in hindsight.
Excited, I sent Jason a few things I’d been working on.
He didn’t like what I sent him. Welp.
He suggested I try to take a piece of my Sad Robot Stories e-book, which some people liked and a decent amount of people definitely did not like (shrug), and try to make it into a serious novella.
I hated this idea, but I said I’d try it out. After two weeks of thinking that I’d never be able to do what he asked (and that I really had no desire to do it), I started getting ideas. They were mostly scenes in my head. Scenes that would theoretically work well in, say, a Sad Robot Stories novella. It got to the point where I knew I’d write the damn thing regardless of whether CCLaP wanted it, so I started writing the damn thing.
I had miscalculated. I thought I’d be able to finish this in the same amount of time it’d take College Mason to finish it, which was a huge mistake. I wasn’t College Mason anymore, I was office Mason, working 9 hour days (minimum) in a cubicle. And it didn’t matter how much time I spent in front of a computer screen attempting to write this damn thing after work, my mind was too jellified by the day to get a lot done. Still, I sat in front of my computer every night and got a tiny bit done at a time.
What I ended up doing was writing most of the book in notebooks. Every free little moment I had, be it at home, work, on the train, waiting at a bar for a friend, I’d write a sentence or two. Eventually, I had a few notebooks with a bunch of jumbled scenes that weren’t in any order whatsoever. I’d made an outline initially, to help get me going, but hadn’t stuck to it whatsoever. A lot of the initial editing was just getting shit in the right order as I typed it.
After a few months of crazed writing and reordering, I had half of the draft finished in a word document, which I sent to CCLaP. Having read this, CCLaP finally agreed to publish the thing for realzies.
From there, I was given a date to finish the book by, and I missed it. I missed the next one, too, and the one after that. What we initially thought would be a January release, got pushed back to August after I missed goddamn date after date (I still thought I was College Mason, whelp).
To my knowledge, Jason never cursed my name (over me constantly missing deadlines, at least).
Eventually, I got the book in the correct order from beginning to end. After that, I read through it and saw what stuck out and what didn’t, theme-wise (I had no real “authorial intent” before this, I just kinda wrote). The themes that stuck out the most, I emboldened a little, the themes that didn’t, I let fall to the wayside. I can’t remember exactly what got lost from that first draft, but I do remember looking at the draft and feeling very… certain about a few of the themes: gender/sexuality, loneliness/hope in nature, etc. So I sorta used those as tentpoles to hold the story up, I guess.
Photo by Don Solo, above design by Troy Palmer of Little Fiction.
Finally I sent a full draft to CCLaP. Jason Pettus, Robert O’Connor and Allegra Pusateri then read it and, while getting coffee, assaulted me with questions that might help the editing process. I don’t remember what they had problems with (I don’t think there was a lot), but this has less to do with their contribution (which was great) and more to do with my terrible memory (for example: I’ve probably forgotten key elements of the book itself, despite having written it, because I’ve got a shit memory).
After that, they edited the book chapter by chapter, sending me a chapter every few days. Robert and Allegra would pass on their comments to Jason, Jason would add his comments/tweak theirs, then send the comments over to me. Most of this was about individual sentence structure, we were making sure that the thing sounded how we wanted it to sound. We weren’t focused on grammar or punctuation yet; that was for the copy editing stage. We just wanted to get the voice right.
I remember as this was happening, I was also rewriting the end extensively, because I wanted to be a pain in the ass, I guess. So I was always slow getting back to them about edits. I have no idea what I changed in the end, but it changed pretty significantly (actually, I’ve got a slight idea, but it’s sort of a spoiler).
The biggest change Jason demanded for the book was to take out a very short chapter. In the middle, there was an interlude that was a couple of pages. I was adamantly against removing it, most of my motivation coming from the point-of-view that it was MINE and no one else could touch it.
Jason said something along the lines of, “it’s a HUGE fucking mistake” to leave it in.
After about two weeks, I realized it was more my ego that wanted to keep the damn thing, and found I could look at it a bit more objectively. Though Jason told me I could keep it if I wanted to, I saw that it was a huge fucking mistake to leave it in, and decided that, yeah, we should take it out.
Good thing Jason was so adamant!
From there, we copy edited it for about two weeks (I must of read the book a dozen times during the editing process, yet mistakes still remain, guess I’m a shit CE), then it was finally ready to be published…
Before Jason approached me about the book, I’d been thinking a lot about the forms books can/should take. I wondered: Should I even bother to attempt to make something I write into a physical novel? Should I just make ebooks? Should I find a group of humans willing to let me tattoo my gender bending, hardboiled alien-sex-romp-detective novel all over their bodies?
CCLaP’s want to publish my book kind of temporarily answered that question. Their “thing” was totally in line with what I wanted.
CCLaP had started by publishing their books exclusively in a digital format. Eventually, they moved on to making handmade books. The physical being of their books was beautiful, something I noticed with Lauryn Allison’s solo/down.
Years before, I’d make my own zines and comics the old fashioned way, folding and stapling them myself. At first, I hated this; I just wanted to write. But as writing became more and more of a job, I longed to fold and staple things, which became a sort of Zen activity that allowed me to pull my mind away from my writing. CCLaP’s hand bound books were light-years ahead of my stapled creations, a dream come true for anyone who wants care to not only exist in the words on the page, but in the entire physical creation of their book. That, combined with my preference of reading digital books over paperbacks and hardcovers (digital books weigh a hell of a lot less than real books, though I’ll purchase the physical form of a book I absolutely love), made me excited about the prospect of having both the beautiful handmade book CCLaP makes, while also having a convenient digital version.
Of course, it’s not easy to do this. By the time Sad Robot Stories had come out, CCLaP had several books that were being handmade. For an indie press, the time and work it takes to make what CCLaP calls their “Hypermodern Editions” is immense. Also, it was primarily Jason making the books. So as CCLaP became more successful, with more and more book orders coming in, it became harder for Jason to keep up. Not too long after Sad Robot Stories came out, with more book orders than ever, Jason became sick, delaying any books people had recently ordered.
Needless to say, CCLaP was becoming too successful to continue like this (not the worst problem to have).
Now, they publish their new books as paperbacks. They get the job done. You can still buy their “hypermodern Editions,” though they’re a bit pricier and seem to come in limited printings. For all I know, they may soon stop doing the “Hypermodern Editions” altogether.
Which just makes it that much nicer to see something I wrote exist in that form.
I have no clue how I’ll publish my next book, but I’m glad this is how my first was published.