Celebrating 10 Years in Print

This past Sunday, Little Patuxent Review celebrated 10 years of publication by hosting a reading at The Writer’s Center. Thank you to The Writer’s Center and everyone who attended and made the event a success.

Readers included Steven Leyva who introduced each speaker, but also read a selection of his own work, several poems and a selection of an early manuscript. Steven Leyva is also the co-creator of Kick Assonance, and his work has been published in the Light Ekiphrasis, Welter, and The Cobalt Review. Currently, he is the head Editor at Little Patuxent Review.

Emily Rich, who has written for r.kv.r.y, the Delmarva Review, and The Pinch, read a non-fiction selection from her piece “Retrieving my Belongings,” currently only available in the Delmarva Review. Her work has appeared in the 2014 and 2015 Best American Essays and she is the current Non-Fiction Editor of Little Patuxent Review and an editor for the Delmarva Review.

Also reading was new Fiction Editor, Lisa Lynn Biggar, and Desirée Magney, board member of Little Patuxent Review. Both read longer selections of their work. Lisa Lynn Biggar’s work has appeared in Little Patuxent Review, Main Street Rag, Bluestem Magazine, The Minnesota Review, Kentucky Review , and Newfound, and she currently teaches English at Chesapeake College. Desirée Magney is a former attorney and writes poetry and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in bioStoriesBethesda Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Jellyfish Whispers, among others.

Joseph Ross closed the event with a reading with various poems, including “If Mamie Till was the Mother of God,” winner of the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize.

We hope to see you all again for Little Patuxent Review’s 11th anniversary.

The Meaning Behind Our Words: Joseph Ross’s Thoughts on Poetry

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry, Meeting the Bone Man (2012), Gospel of Dust (203), and Ache (2017). His poem “If Mamie Till Was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review poetry prize and his work has appeared in Poet Lore, The Los Angeles Times, and Beltway Poetry, among others. He and other will be reading at The Writer’s Center on Sunday, August 21st to celebrate LPR’s 10th anniversary.

Joseph was willing to give some insight into his work and his thoughts on poetry.

With three books of poetry under your belt, one of which releases in early 2017, what do you believe are the signature traits of your poetry?

When readers explore my work, I hope they discover three main traits; I hope they find poems that say something, use surprising language, and are moving. To me, these are the marks of a strong poem. I teach these three traits to my students and they  seem to help them make meaningful poems.

The poems I love most are poems that keep opening up to me—and with whom I keep opening up—sometimes over many years. I can love a poem for its language, but if it really doesn’t say anything—or if I can’t understand it—then it’s not going to matter as much to me as a reader. After taking time with a good poem, a reader has at least some sense of the poem’s meaning. That meaning, if the poem is really good, can deepen and even shift in time.

The language of a poem cannot be common or ordinary and it certainly cannot be predictable. Surprising language can evoke strong emotions and helps the reader see things. It can take the reader deeper than literality and into meanings richer and more complicated than fact. A good poem only achieves this after a lot of work on the part of the poet.

Finally, I believe a good poem moves the reader. I think of Ross Gay’s amazing poem “A Small Needful Fact” about the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York Police Department. His poem describes the fact that Garner worked “for some time for the Parks and Rec” and he goes on to say in that work Garner probably planted flowers. He closes the poem with a reference to what the consequence of that kind of work might be, also referring indirectly to the words Garner spoke as he was dying in police hands. Eric Garner is remembered for saying, “I can’t breathe.” Gay ends the poem by telling us that Garner’s work might have made it “easier / for us to breathe.” This poem moves me profoundly. It evokes a sorrow in me, but it also makes me angry. It makes me want to change things in my country. Ross Gay’s poem achieves this in the quietest and gentle way. It’s hard to imagine anyone coming away from this poem unmoved. A good poem does this. It moves us.

How do you approach your work from a craft standpoint? Does the form or the subject inspire you first?

As you might predict from the last response, a poem’s subject gets me started. I see something, I read something, I feel something, and then I want to write about. To me, that’s the poem’s core. From there, the poem’s form supports what the poem tries to do. I sometimes see young poets using a dozen poetic devices in one poem. It’s like they’re trying to show me they can rhyme, use alliteration, assonance, and metaphors all in one poem. To me, that’s getting it backwards. If a poem needs to say something, then the form and devices it uses are merely tools to help it say what it needs to say. In my view, form and craft support the poem. Not the other way around.

Here’s an example that might help. In Ache, a book of poems coming out in March 2017, I have a series of poems about John Coltrane songs. One poem is about Coltrane’s epic composition “A Love Supreme.” This amazing song contains four sections and the whole song is built around a four-note sequence. In writing a poem that responds to Coltrane’s song, I thought it might help the poem give the reader an experience of “A Love Supreme” if the poem itself mirrors Coltrane’s container, his four sections, using his section titles as well. To me, that small echo, helps the poem do what it needs to do.

A final word about craft. I discovered a few years ago that when I drafted poems using two-line stanzas I could see the possibilities for interesting line breaks and surprising language more easily. I’m not sure why this works for me but it seems to. These days, I almost always draft in two-line stanzas and while the poems don’t always stay that way, they often do. There’s no right or wrong way to write a poem, this just seems to work for me.

Many of your poems touch on social issues from race to LGBTQ rights, with poems like “If Mamie Till was the Mother of God” and “For David Kato: A Love Poem.” What role do you think poetry plays when engaging with social justice issues? What unique entry point do you think poetry has?

Poetry plays many roles in our world today. So, within various struggles for justice, poetry plays crucial roles. Sometimes writing a poem simply helps the poet sort through thoughts and feelings, towards clarity. Sometimes a poem moves readers in such a way that it fires them up to get more deeply involved in a particular struggle. Sometimes hearing a poem read beautifully moves you to tears. This might deepen one’s experience of the poem’s topic and might further move that listener to make a deeper commitment to that specific struggle.

Consider the simple and clear questions in Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.” When I first read that poem back in high school, many years ago, it gave me my first opportunity to see the damage and destruction of “a dream deferred.” I don’t think I understood the deadening and explosive results of holding Black people down until I studied that poem carefully. That poem enlightened me and moved me. I am diligently mindful of poetry’s power as I teach my American Literature students these days. When students or readers are ready, a poem can transform the ways we think and feel about the world.

I should say too that I don’t think we need to make poetry responsible for healing the world. It probably can’t. But I know we should never underestimate the power of a strong poem to move its readers into action and sacrifice.

What do you hope is conveyed through your work?

I hope readers might feel this idea pulsing through my work: that although our human capacity to hurt each other is obviously great, our human capacity to love is greater still. I hope both of these realities are conveyed in my work. But we must not flinch when exploring our ability and willingness to make others suffer. I believe a deep understanding of the depths of our cruelty can lead us into lives that build a more just and peaceful world.

In my first book, Meeting Bone Man, I hoped that trajectory came through. I opened the book with a quote from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Kindness.” She speaks of the need to “lose things” before one can know kindness. The book closes with a quote from Chris Abani’s poem, “Sanctificum.” He writes “This is not a lamentation, damn it. / This is a love song.”

Your work has been featured in many journals anthologies from Poet Lore, Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. What future projects do you have in mind?

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Joseph Ross on the steps of Langston Hughes’s former home

Many years ago, I immersed myself in the work and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. At Notre Dame, I taught a Freshman Seminar course and later at American University, here in Washington, D.C. about his life and work. I built a composition course around three of his books. I am convinced of the truth and rightness of his ideas. I am also convinced that if more people knew his view of the world, his commitment to nonviolence, his diagnosis of our condition—we could begin the work of healing the world, our communities, and ourselves.

 

So, I’m writing a book of poems drawn from three of his books which scholars call his political autobiographies: Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can’t Wait, and Where Do We Go from Here? This project differs from anything I’ve done before so I have no idea where it will go, but I love the process of writing it so we shall see. The fiftieth anniversary of his assassination will come in 2018 and I would love for this book to be in the world at that time. We will see.

 

End of Summer Events

Before we all give in to the eventual tide of Back-to-School ads, let’s celebrate the last hurrah of summer with a literary focus. From Howard County to Washington, DC, there are several upcoming performances, exhibits, and festivals celebrating the arts, whether from local artists or the works of Shakespeare. Here is a short and sweet list of five events that should hold you over until the pumpkin lattes start rolling out.

Montgomery Portrait Artists – July 11 – August 19th

The Howard County Arts Council is hosting two exhibits of juried work of portraiture and figurative art by five artists. Howard County Arts Council was established to promote the appreciation of art and provide a space for regional artist to grow and develop their work. Admission is free.

LPR at The Writer’s Center – August 21st

Celebrating their 10th anniversary, LPR will host a reading of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda Maryland. Readers will include Steven Leyva, Emily Rich, Lisa Lynn Biggar, Jen Grow, Joseph Ross, and Desirée Magney. The reading will be followed by a reception.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company present Othello – September 16th to October 9th

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company kicks off its 15th season with a production of Othello. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has been a staple of the Maryland performing arts circle and is a leader in the community theatre with their various performances across the region and commitment to theatre education for youths. See the full 2016-2017 listing here.

National Book Festival – September 24th

The annual National Book Festival returns to Washington with events for all ages. As one of the largest literary events in the nation, the festival hosts several panels, events, readings, and special guests, including some of the nation’s most prominent authors. Stephen King has been announced as a guest for this year’s event.

Carolyn Forché – The Lucille Clifton Reading Series – October 30th

Sponsored by the Howard County Poetry & Literature Society, Carolyn Forché will be conducting a reading at Monteabaro Recital Hall, HCC Campus. Forché has been a ground-breaking voice in poetry and her body of work includes The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, and Blue Hour.

 

Turning Over a New Leaf

After more than a year as a fantastic online editor for Little Patuxent Review, Deborah Kevin is moving on to new adventures. All of us as at LPR want to thank her for all her hard work improving LPR’s website, sharing interesting and informative blogposts, expanding LPR’s outreach on social media, and much more than what can be listed here. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors and she will remain a part of the LPR family helping behind the scenes as a fiction reader.

At the same time, Little Patuxent Review has added some new names to the masthead. Taking on the position of online editor is Jessica Flores. Lisa Lynn Biggar is our new fiction editor and Dominique Cahn enters the role of nonfiction editor. Emily Rich has transitioned from nonfiction editor to deputy editor.

If I could take a few moments to talk about myself, taking on the post of online editor is both daunting and exhilarating. While I am excited to take on the mantle of online editor, I wonder if I can live up to the example Deborah has left behind. Deborah has been supportive in helping me transition into her former role, and I hope that I can live up to the precedence she leaves. It has only been a few weeks, but already everyone at LPR has been so kind and supportive.

I graduated from American University last year with a bachelor’s in literature. I recently completed an internship at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and my hope is to make this blog an active forum for the artistic and literary community. I enjoy any type of fiction, be it genre fiction, short stories, novels, or flash fiction.

One of my fondest memories of my undergraduate studies was the sense of community built around my university’s student literary magazine. During review sessions, everyone took time out of their own schedules, usually weekends or after class, to get together and go over submissions for the upcoming print issue. Sometimes these sessions were late at night in the middle of the week or during prime weekend hours when the campus classrooms felt deserted without the usual student body walking about. There was a sense that each piece deserved equal attention during review, but also that everyone present deeply cared about the quality of the magazine and what it represented about the work generated on our campus. Even though I am out of school, I sense a similar but even larger sense of community with LPR.

If I can foster even a sense of that type of community through this blog, then I think I’ve done my job.

Feel free to reach out to the LPR staff through comments and suggestions for future blog posts or the content you would like to see on our blog. Submissions are open for LPR’s themed Winter 2017 issue. Submit your work today.

August Submissions are Just Around the Corner

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Submissions open August 1st

It’s that time of year again. On August 1st, submissions open for Little Patuxent Review’s themed Winter 2017 issue. This year’s theme is prisons. The theme is open to interpretation and we highly encourage participants to think outside the box. After all, imprisonment has inspired many groundbreaking works of fiction and nonfiction.

The first book that comes to mind when I think about prisons is Elie Wiesel’s Night. The book has stuck in my mind ever since I read it in middle school, and is probably more present after Wiesel’s passing. It has stayed with me because the book is not simply about a single story of confinement, but of a time of horror that must not be forgotten. George Orwell’s 1984, Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings use imprisonment to ponder deeply on the human condition. Orwell presents his fears of an impending bleak future, Johnson attempts to understand one of the most mysterious countries in the world, and Angelou describes the yearning of the soul after trauma.

Prisons dominate our mainstream culture and news. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow is a New York Times bookseller and highlights the racial bias built into our criminal system. Netflix’s acclaimed Orange is the New Black (based on Piper Kerman’s memoir) centers on a cast of incarcerated women, each from a different background and history. The growing popularity of Young Adult dystopian fiction enacts a desire to escape oppressive systems. In the abstract, there have always been prisons of the mind or prisons built into our social order from class, race, or gendered discrimination. Charlotte Woods’s The Natural Way of Things proves misogyny is the cruel and inhumane prison for women of all ages, as the female characters are incarcerated for sexual crimes.

The list can go on and on, and you can be a part of it. LPR accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photography, and art. Participants are encouraged to think broadly and creatively about the theme. Guidelines can be found here. Submit work through our Submittable page.

For a sense of Little Patuxent Review’s quality, please take a look at our excerpt archive and past issues available for purchase on our website. Listen and watch past readings on our youtube channel.

Little Patuxent Review Reading at The Writer’s Center

WCSqPlease join contributors, editors, and staff of the Little Patuxent Review (LPR) for a reading at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Sunday, August 21st from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM. Readers will include Steven Leyva, Emily Rich, Lisa Lynn Biggar, Jen Grow, Joseph Ross, and Desirée Magney. The reading will be followed by a reception to celebrate LPR’s 10th Anniversary.

Steven Leyva is editor of Little Patuxent Review. He is the co-creator of the poetry reading series, Kick Assonance, which was named a “critic’s pick” by Time Out New York in 2011. His poems have appeared in Welter, The Light Ekphrastic, and The Cobalt Review, and his first collection, Low Parish, was published earlier this year. His poem “Rare in the East” won the 2012 Cobalt Review Poetry Prize. He holds an MFA from the University of Baltimore, where he teaches in the undergraduate writing program.

Emily Rich is the current deputy editor and former non-fiction editor of Little Patuxent Review and an Editorial Advisor at Delmarva Review. She writes mainly memoir and essay. Her work has been published in a number of small presses including Little Patuxent Review, r.kv.r.y, Delmarva Review and the Pinch. Her essays have been listed as notables in Best American Essays 2014 and 2015. Her story “Black Market Pall Malls” won the Biostories 2015 War and Peace essay contest.

Jen Grow’s debut collection, My Life as a Mermaid, was the winner of the 2012 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Competition. She is the Fiction Editor of Little Patuxent Review. Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, Other Voices, The Sun Magazine, The GSU Review, Hunger Mountain, Indiana Review and many others including the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (City Lit Press, 2010). She’s received a Rubys Award for the project “My Father’s House” from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance; two Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council; and her stories have earned nominations for Best New American Voices and a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Baltimore. You can reach her on Twitter @Jen_Grow or through her website: www.jengrow.com.

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry, Ache (forthcoming 2017), Gospel of Dust (2013), and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Sojourners. His work appears in many anthologies including Collective Brightness, Poetic Voices without Borders 1 and 2, Full Moon on K Street, and Come Together: Imagine Peace. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, just outside Washington DC. He is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee and his poem “If Mamie Till was the Mother of God” won the 2012 Pratt Library/Little Patuxent Review poetry prize.

Desirée Magney is a former practicing attorney who writes narrative nonfiction and poetry.  Her nonfiction work has been published in bioStoriesBethesda Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine (Washington Voices column), and The Writer’s Center – Art Begins with a Story. Another nonfiction piece will be published in the upcoming issue of The Delmarva Review. Her poetry has appeared in Jellyfish Whispers and was included in the anthology, Storm Cycle 2015:  The Best of Kind of a Hurricane Press. She was honored with a “Best in Workshop” reading at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a Board member for Little Patuxent Review, contributes to their blog, and has been one of their fiction readers. She has two adult children, Daniel and Nicole, and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband, John, and their dog, Tucker.

Lisa Lynn Biggar is pleased to be the new fiction editor for LPR. She received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and is currently working on a short story collection set on the eastern shore of Maryland. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Little Patuxent Review, Main Street Rag, Bluestem Magazine, The Minnesota Review, Kentucky Review and Newfound. She currently teaches English at Chesapeake College and co-owns and operates a cut flower farm on the eastern shore of Maryland with her husband and four cats.

The Writer’s Center is located at:

4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815

 

Enoch Pratt + LPR = a winning contest

When Shaileen Beyer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library contacted Little Patuxent Review to inquire if we’d be interested in partnering on a statewide poetry contest for a fourth year, we jumped at the opportunity.

By the time the contest concluded on March 1, 300 entries from 93 cities and towns, representing 22 counties plus Baltimore City, were submitted in the blind contest. Little Patuxent Review editor Steven Leyva and LPR poetry editor Evan Lasavoy judged the poems. Although they chose three finalists, all of whom appeared in our Summer 2016 issue, “Charlotte Darling” by Saundra Rose Maley was the winning poem.

Enoch Pratt-LPR contest

Contest winner Saundra Rose Maley has had poems in Dryad, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington D.C., and D.C. Perspectives. Her first book of poems, Disappearing Act, was published in 2015, by Dryad Press. She co-edited A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright with Anne Wright and is currently working again with Anne on a book about Wright and translation, tentatively titled Where the Treasure Lies. She also published Solitary Apprenticeship: James Wright and German Poetry. She teaches Composition and Research at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Join poets Le Hinton and Laura Shovan on Wednesday, July 20, from 6:30-8 pm at the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library as they read in the company of the 2016 Pratt Library Poetry Contest winner and finalists—Saundra Rose Maley, Maggie Rosen, and Sheri Allen. The host is Steven Leyva, editor of Little Patuxent Review, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.