Friday, April 24, 2015

2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize

Submissions are now open for the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize.


The Tomaž Šalamun Prize honors the great Slovenian poet, who inspired several generations of poets around the world. Because Tomaž was especially supportive of emerging poets, the Tomaž Šalamun Prize is open to poets of any age who have published no more than one full-length poetry collection. (Publishing multiple chapbooks or books in other genres is not a disqualification.) Previous publication is not a requirement. Translations into English are acceptable if the original author is still living and has not published more than one full-length collection. Prose poetry and hybrid forms are also acceptable.

All submissions will be considered for publication in the print edition of Verse, which has been publishing only chapbook-length portfolios since 2009. All finalists will receive offers of publication in Verse. Published portfolios receive $10/page, $250 minimum. The prize winner will receive $1000.

Because the winning portfolio will be published in Verse and because every submission will be considered for both the prize and publication in Verse, everything in the portfolio must be unpublished. Response times to submissions will be 3-4 weeks (longer for finalists).

Entry fee: $15

Deadline: July 15, 2015

Requirements: Do not include your name anywhere on your submission. (Manuscripts will be read blind.) Your name should be listed only in the required fields in Submittable. Your submission must be a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.

Contest Process: 1st round: all manuscripts will be read blind, and up to 10 portfolios will be selected as finalists (finalists will be notified at the time of selection) / 2nd round: finalists' manuscripts will be read blind by the judge, who will select the winner

To submit, click on the link above or follow the SUBMIT TO VERSE link on the right.

Monday, April 20, 2015

NEW! Poem by Michael Odom

Michael Odom

Nuptials

There are no songs, no cars, no dogs barking, 
No talk. No rock can hit on rock 
Without these words ringing out,
And no words are spoken to hear this vow.
White forever means your dress
Descending the aisle, a diving bell 
In my oceanic blur of a world.
Our home is nothing fire can burn
Or poverty dissolve, time ruin. 
War & Plaque & Death ride by
Outside in their thundering city.
Our city exists in bed before breakfast, 
As rumpled streets, avenue bustling,

The population, two. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

NEW! Poem by Carolyn Guinzio

Carolyn Guinzio

Thirteen Husbands

1.
My first husband bought this house. He worked his way through the ranks. We moved to some terrible towns, but now I know if I have nothing else, I have these Great rooms.
2.
If you thought there was no skull-cavern vast enough to hold the many woes I pour forth, you have not met my second husband.
3. 
When I am making quick work of the Haagen Daas, my third husband will gently take the carton from my hands.
4. 
Why is my fourth husband not standing on a ladder to switch the fixtures’ incandescent beams? Because he is tall.
5. 
When confronted with a sticky aesthetic wicket, my fifth husband is the go-to guy to guide me through such agonies as Should the you be he?
6.
My sixth husband has been out of town for twelve of the last fourteen days. I powder my nose to Skype.
7. 
Why, when I talk about other people, my seventh husband asks, do I always seem to talk about myself?
8.
When I am collecting the dirty plates left on the table by my eighth husband, I feel a rush of gratitude for his slumped shadow on the couch.
9.
Sometimes, one needs to be stonily reminded of how much worse it could be. That’s when I welcome the comforting gloom of my ninth husband.
10. 
My tenth husband has twelve other wives.
11. 
Between my eleventh husband and me, there are no words.
12.
Between my twelfth husband and me, there are the same nine words, over and over.
13.
If only I had access to the beautiful, heightened language I need to explain my unknowable thirteenth husband. Perhaps number five can help me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Lluís Roda


Fornícula 

          n. niche left in the body of a wall
          in which to place a statue, 
          an altar, etc.

I am a thurifer. I come and go…
To no effect. Elemental, I’ve got this.
We’re ignorant of Petrarch, ignorant of so much.
Where we’ve been, where we’re going…
Who we are at heart, what we want.
In any case, I was your fornícula.
Even so, it might have been the reverse.
And to be statuary, lifeless, is not funny at all.
But how much worse to be the hole with a plan.
Because, the sincerity of the hyaline soul,
No one will live in that space.
But if, by chance, someday you walk past
Where a crowd observes a statue inert,
Try using your coins, use your tears…
Perhaps she is only posed,
And, with a touch, she’ll move.



Translated from the Catalan by Michael Odom




Tuesday, April 07, 2015

NEW! Review of Colin Winnette

Coyote by Colin Winnette. Les Figues, $17.

Reviewed by Brigid Riley

In the opening page of Colin Winnette’s Coyote, predators wander the threshold between the wild and a house that seems to stand on the cusp of civilization. In contrast to the family enjoying an evening at the house, the animals appear as threats to the security of human society. Yet as the safety of home collapses from the inside, Coyote picks away at the constructs of humanity and uncovers the ugly brutality harbored beneath, peeling back the thin veil of civilization in this unnerving exploration of the animalistic nature of humans. 

Over a series of fragmented entries into the mind of the narrator, ranging from no more than a couple of sparse sentences to more fully fleshed-out batches of memories, Winnette pieces together a mosaic of the narrator’s troubled life. The narrator is in a turbulent relationship with a man she perceives as utterly pathetic, but she strives to keep things together for their small child. However, when their daughter vanishes and the months slide by with no sign of her, the volatile family unit dissolves into a shadow of life, slipping into a listlessness broken only by the occasional act of desperate grief. The narrator oscillates between numbing depression and frantic bursts of determination to find her child by any means possible, shifting through memories, thoughts, and days like someone looking through a pile of snapshots as she attempts to work through her current situation. All the while her fragmented narrative prickles with a sense of instability that threatens to upset what little structure remains.

From the first page, Coyote is fraught with images of violence laced together with the narrator’s everyday life. Winnette places the narrator and her family on the edge of humanity, balancing an image of normalcy while the wild presses in around them. A mother with her little girl curled on her lap while the father heats buns on a grill gives way to the grisly killing of a coyote, all told in the same matter-of-fact tone as the narrator recounts one last evening with her daughter. The narrator gives voice to a suspended sense of horror looming around the corner as she searches for dangers to herself and her daughter: coyotes crying in the night, bears hunkering just beyond the walls of the house, or strangers coming to kidnap or attack. Yet as the narrator turns her eyes toward the outside, the mercilessness of nature pervades her world. Comparisons between humans and animals sprinkled throughout the narrative position everyone within a dangerous realm of prey and predator; the girl’s father transforms into a small animal attempting to puff himself up in a show of false might to ward off stronger predators; the audience of a talk show become “a chorus of animals” feeding on tragedy; and even children perpetrate acts of violence, displaying an uncomprehending, inherent cruelty as they bully other children into submission and inflict harm on animals. At the same time, animals take on human-like associations as the narrator describes coyotes howling “like some hysterical woman lost out in the woods.” Bit by bit, the boundary between civilization and nature crumbles into a bleak vision of the world.

Far from moral questions of good and evil, Winnette seems more interested in exploring a harsh Darwinian truth under the surface of civilization in Coyote, and his narrator carries the story with the right mix of subtlety and underlying tension to make it work. She pulls the reader in with an easy, conversational voice while her unflinching and unfiltered gaze documents the brutal reality of the human condition. The narrator that Winnette has crafted is one who believes that pretty ideals of “one man lending one thing to another and everybody profiting in some unique and personal way” are a fantasy, and she tears down rosy notions of masculinity, motherhood, and love with the raw honesty of someone beyond caring. Recalling the time when her husband brought back a boar from a hunting trip, the narrator says, “…I think the truth of the matter is that everyone is a killer, given the right order of things.” Through her eyes, no one comes out untouched by primal desires and instincts, not even herself. 

Caught up in this quiet storm is an underlying critique of an equally predatory media ready to pounce on any whiff of a story. As the narrator encounters the media in her search for her daughter, the world of talk shows and reality TV brims with an artificiality just as twisted as the unpleasant reality that the narrator lives. While the narrator eats up the charming act of a certain talk show host and believes him to be compassionate and purely motivated, her tragedy becomes fodder for a sensational show, as well as entertainment for the gluttonous audience. Obsession with a moment of stardom rears its head even in the midst of grief, and fuels the media’s insatiable desires for the next big story. The criticism is sharp, but delicately weaved into the narrative.  


Winnette’s choice to leave the characters and location of this novel nameless acts as the final breach of barriers to complete this autopsy of the human condition. As the veil of normalcy quickly slips off the image of the family, so too does the reader’s ability to easily compartmentalize the characters as “other.” The picture of a mother, father, and child having a quintessential cookout with which Winnette begins the story could be the people next door, or even one’s own family. Coyote implicates everyone in its spiral of desperation, madness, and violence as the concept of humanity implodes. As the novel speeds toward its shattering conclusion, the reader will be left hungry for a second read in order to put the pieces of the narrator’s haunting tale back together again.  

Friday, April 03, 2015

NEW! Review of Tom McCarthy

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy. Alfred A. Knopf, $24.

Reviewed by Daniel Hatt

Not long into Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island, the narrator, U., offers a piece of advice about the sort of book Satin Island is: “events!” he scoffs, “If you want those, you’d best stop reading now.” And even before the first page is turned, the cover acts as something of a warning. Set sharply against brightly colored inkblots, the worryingly dull words “treatise,” “essay,” “report,” “confession” and “manifesto” are all crossed out before finally settling on “a novel.” Yet as it progresses, some sort of generic hybrid emerges that manages to cast doubt even on the most trustworthy of labels.
Satin Island is McCarthy’s fourth book, coming after the Man Booker Prize nominated C. As well as being a writer, he’s also the general secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious organization he started with a friend. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, his work has been criticized in the past for seeming a bit too pleased with itself or, at times, a bit too indulgent. Fully ignoring these criticisms, in preparation for his latest venture he took up residency at the International Artists Studio Program in Stockholm, as noted in his acknowledgements, where he dedicated a few days to sitting around staring at projections of oil spills on big white walls. Then he spent a while in New York, thinking “about the general impossibility of writing a novel about the general impossibility of etc.” By most sensible presumptions Satin Island should probably be left well alone. But, as it happens, this is a book that takes these sensible presumptions and has a clever, slightly crazed dance with them, leaving little choice for the reader but to gape at what McCarthy has done in this “novel.”
The narrator of Satin Island, U., is an English anthropologist who briefly shot to fame with a book about modern clubbing culture. So he is not, as he explains, an anthropologist in the studying exotic tribes in Papua New Guinea sense of the word, but one who collates and synthesizes the patterns, rituals, and—most importantly—the narratives of the contemporary: put differently, an incredibly vague discipline, which is exactly the problem that U. encounters during the course of the book. He works for a mysterious company, which he aptly calls The Company, where he puts his ethnographic talent to use in order to sell the product of a given client. The Company has recently won a contract, the Koob-Sassen Project, of which the reader learns little due to “legal reasons.” Despite McCarthy neatly sidestepping a more revealing description, the Koob-Sassen Project is clearly a pretty big deal, so much so that following this apparent coup, Peyman (the boss of The Company) tasks U. with writing the Great Report, or, more precisely, the Great Report. In Peyman’s mind, the Great Report is the “Document,” the “Book,” the “First and Last Word on our age.” U. is posed with an all-encompassing ethnographic task to collate and synthesize everything. Of course, the question soon arises: how the hell do you write about everything?
McCarthy considers this tricky question through a series of recurring images, events and asides, primarily grounded in the language and various philosophies of anthropology. If not for his solid grasp of the discipline, the novel would quickly fall apart. Instead, the multifaceted symbols that U. identifies in the familiar, yet strangely alien, world of Satin Island, which he then carefully picks apart, are deftly conveyed. For instance, the news story of an experienced parachutist who fell to earth after his parachute detached from him mid-air is considered with forensic detail: 

Yet, as at least one article I had read stated, the man’s death was, in this instance—in this country devoid of tall pine trees, this terrain quite unamenable to upgusts, this snow-less season—a foregone conclusion from the moment the cords had been cut. Thus, although he hadn’t actually been killed until the moment of his impact, to all intents and purposes, he had. 

U. attempts to squeeze every last drop of sense out of such tropes in a comparably obsessive, compelling, manner. This desperate search for meaning sometimes results in McCarthy falling victim to somewhat desperate descriptions (the page and a half dedicated to the “carnivorous and booming” ventilation system comes to mind); but what develops is an impression of a man enveloped by the paranoia of failing to complete his Great Report, and so, in his mind, failing to truly understand the world. 
Attempting to defy these likely failures, U. enlists an entire tradition of anthropological thought that informs much of the narrative. In a recent article for The Guardian, McCarthy explains his draw to the figure of the anthropologist: “What he or she embodies for me is a version of the writer minus all the bullshit, all the camouflage or obfuscation—embodies, that is, the function of the writer stripped down to its bare structural essentials.” Despite the lofty ventilation system descriptions, Satin Island is drawn to this clean style of writing, even the novel’s structure resembling an ethnographic paper with its academically numbered subsections.
Of particular interest, though, is what anthropology has to say about the contemporary writing process. U. contemplates the principle of Bronisław Malinoski that the ethnographer should write everything down, no matter how irrelevant something might initially seem. Quickly, however, he realizes that in this modern world of live streams, social networks and digital clouds, one way or another, “it is all written down.” In a world of multiple narratives that are forever being systematically mapped onto various platforms, what is left for U. to write about? And what about the poor novelist? Another famous anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, writes in The Interpretation of Cultures that “man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun.” As for actually trying to read these webs, most are probably not worth the bother; McCarthy’s Satin Island, on the other hand, is a web worth reading.