All My Rowdy Friends: A review of Whitaker by Watterson


by Cassandra Watterson

PunksWritePoems Press out of Chesterfield, VA, is one of the many print on demand independent presses that challenge the (bigger) small presses for talent and audience. Social media outlets boast active poetry communities that rival the small press and academic scene that has dominated American poetry for decades. While academics might scoff at Tumblr poets who have thousands of readers and sell hundreds of print on demand books, it’s hard to ignore that a social media account on Wattpad might net a young writer hundreds more readers than a publication in a regional small press magazine.

If Stephen Scott Whitaker’s All My Rowdy Friends, $12, from PunksWritePoems Press is any indication of what the independent press is bringing to the table, then small and big presses should take note. Whitaker’s collection tackles addiction and transformation head on, whether personal or second hand. Friends’ realistic and unsettling poems seek to marry the dark and the light, the art of alchemy, and goes for the jugular without flinching.

Friends’ cover features a coiling snake skeleton against an Infinite Jest sky-blue that catches the eye. The snake turns out to be a central motif to the re-imagined Tiresias tales Whitaker conducts throughout Friends’ movements. Here’s how the old myth goes: once a young man saw two snakes mating and he took a stick and knocked them apart. They turned out to be Hera’s favorite pets and she punished him, Tiresias, by turning him into a woman which he remained for seven years. Whitaker takes this ancient gender bending tale and drags it through the gutter, pun intended. Whitaker examines gender dysphoria from a variety of angles using the lens of the old myth. We see a young boy cross dressing in his mother’s clothes, we see a confident woman eager to give into desire, we see a loving parent showing shame at her self-abuse, a drag queen on a bender, etc. Tiresias, Whitaker reminds, becomes so attuned to the Gods because she can see both sides of the human perspective, and even bore two children. Tiresias, the first transgendered person in literature, is brought back to life with punk rock verve.

What’s fantastic about All My Rowdy Friends is how the tension and static between male and female ripples out of the Tiresias stories and is magnified throughout the book. The transformation process, that transition, is the most important part of a story whether the subject is an addict, a transgendered woman, or a pop culture icon. (Batman recast as a sadist in leather is both hilarious, dangerous, and creepy. And also dead on.)

Stylistically Whitaker gives us tight controlled lines, long and short breaths, and wears his influences on his sleeve; the book is footnoted, almost a modernist throwback to encouraging a side conversation with the asides. Occasionally Whitaker employs long breathy lines that recall classical compositions, notes that trill and repeat. “Winter Fever” and “Surrender” are the best examples where Whitaker delivers knotty lyricism. But Whitaker also excels at shorter lines, the clipped brilliance of “Incantation” and “How to Find the Edge of the Atlantic” put sound and breath up front and center.

Whitaker also uses theatrical tropes, not only masks, but even semi stage directions in “Fever Dialogue” a hallucinatory poem that is staged, and choreographed, and that echoes the book’s main themes, addiction, illness, and desires of the flesh (i.e. “Water, the first mother of us all.”)

Like Ocean Vuong (See Watterson’s review in TTR Craft Talk), Whitaker’s poems are not some trumped up moment of clarity about the emotional impact of hanging pictures on a Saturday afternoon, or mowing the lawn and discovering the natural world has crept into your yard. No, like Vuong, Whitaker offers up poems where life is in danger. Both Vuong, and Whitaker create a slippery middle ground where gender, death and life, and survival are recast as poetry with classical bones. Vuong’s poems feature a war torn landscape, while Whitaker gives us the rural south, at war with opiates, alcohol, and poverty.

Whitaker gives us several characters to follow. We have Tiresias, who shows up throughout, and Christy, according to the notes, a composite character. The main character of the “Christy” poems is hanging on by a thread. Her mother’s “disappointed mouth cocked at <her> like a gun. Later, abandoned, addicted, and writing to her sponsor from jail, she still manages to find peace in the simplest pleasures: fields, pastures, a lone radio. All My Rowdy Friends delivers on the grit, and showcases Whitaker’s softer side. It’s both refreshingly challenging at the same time that it is accessible.

PunksWritePoems, Whitaker, and the pod-casting duo, the Alpine Strangers, collaborated to bring us a set list of many of the poems as interpreted by Alpine Strangers, which are Nate McFadden and Cody Grimm. These stories, told with ambient sounds, or even punked out in a snarling snaking song called “Two Snakes Fucking,” are a fantastic companion piece to the book.

It makes me wonder why don’t more publishers do this? You can listen to them here:

Brooke's Wedding cropCassandra Watterson lives north of Philadelphia, and makes a living as a freelance writer and a part-time teacher of English literature. She was educated at Towson University and the University of Scranton.

Read Cassandra’s Review of Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, an author with large publishing house Copper Canyon Press, here and now.

Ocean Vuong is hot property!



by Cassandra Watterson

Ocean Vuong is hot property. The young poet’s newest book, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, $16, Copper Canyon Press, is one of those volumes of poetry young hipsters at the coffee bar are likely to describe as an “instant classic” or “genius.” It did win the Whiting Award, after all, and is a mythic, ecstatic collection of poems about love, family, and the impact of history. Copper Canyon ordered a second printing of this book in April, when his readings at AWP, and trending sales during National Poetry Month colluded to raise Vuong’s temperature to hot, hot, hot.

Night Sky With Exit Wounds is fantastic. Big and grand and pretty. This isn’t precious poetry, or poetry that is concerned with capturing the epiphany of the suburbs. No, Vuong fuses sex, gender, myth, and family history into a brilliant, sad, and sometimes-lonely collection of poetry.

Part of the fun of Night Sky With Exit Wounds is Vuong’s use of classic mythology to subvert his own narratives. Telemachus, Eurydice, Odysseus, and the Trojan horse, among others, find new life in Vuong’s poems. And what’s so refreshing is that Vuong’s visions of these classic tropes are sensual and slippery. It’s not only the psycho-sexual internal drama of Telemachus going through his Oedipal urges, but also an expression of our strange bodies, how they are joyful, and also confounding. This motif, the backbone of Vuong’s book, infuses his familial mythic lyrics with an inviting lushness. We identify with the boy in these poems, one who carries the weight of his father as if his father was a king, a war hero, something bigger and brighter and more dangerous than a suburban father, can of beer at his side, mowing the lawn. The classical imagery echoes the shadows of the Viet Nam war that Vuong’s generation inherited.

Vuong, who is gay, and an immigrant, establishes his role as outsider from the beginning. The opening poem, “Threshold” finds a speaker who describes spying on his father through a keyhole, saying “In the body, where everything has a price,/I was a beggar.” The tension in “Threshold” and the use of modifiers “the man,” and “that morning,” give us a sense that the boy has a history of being a peeping tom of sorts, and has been drawn to such furtive behavior. The peeping becomes a moment of discovery. The boy’s caught by dear old dad who would “listen for my clutched breath/behind the door.” His father, like a gateway, his singing deep and strong enough to ‘“fill <him> to the core/like a skeleton,” suggests what a terrible power fatherhood is.

Vuong’s vision in Wounds shows us that because we were all children once, every act towards us from our parents, from the worst to the greatest, becomes the mythologized ways we experience love. This is not to say that Vuong is psychoanalysis in metaphor, but rather that his poems about family and particularly his father ripple outward, psychologically. It’s hard not to think of Vuong’s father as being some fearful presence, an image often coupled with an AK-47, or blood, or a bullet wound. The very language the poet uses is as loaded as Sylvia Plath’s Nazi imagery in “Daddy.” Whether it’s “here is your father inside/your lungs” in “Deto(nation)” or “the way I seal my father’s lips/with my own, “ or even fatherly love projected outward as “another man leaving/into my throat” in “Devotion.” Vuong sets the reader off down this sometimes elusive, and elegiac path from the get go.

One of the more powerful poems in the collection is “Aubade with Burning City,” which strips Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” into lines that are cut between the narrative of the fall of Saigon. It captures the surrealism of that Christmas song playing as magnolia blossoms fall and also the way people fall, cut down as they try to flee. Vuong uses striking imagery, the surprising contrast of the music and the death, all without preaching. Like the best of the political poets, Vuong shows, and lets the images do all the telling.

Stylistically, Vuong shows off his chops, playing with lines, form, and even the absence of lines in the “Seventh Circle of Earth,” a poem composed entirely of footnotes. The narrative is placed at the bottom of the page, while the footnotes hang like ashes in the air. Though Vuong channels elegy, many of the poems, and many of the lines are ecstatic frenzied exhalations. Not only is there the Whitmanesque impulse for long breathy notes, there is also the Dickinsonian control and flute like trills.

Rimbaud’s mischievousness sneaks into Vuong’s narratives. Vuong’s lush syllable play is erotic, and many of his poems are sensually charged; his images are rooted in the body. Even when not sexual, the language is classically erotic, a fascination with the physical body, and its relation to the spirit. Vuong’s poems inhabit the body, our desires. Many of the poems rely on the old French tradition of likening sex and death, le petit mal, and also express that to be queer is to fight a war for what you love.

Poetry is part preening, part magic, a glamor of words and theatrics, and Vuong does not disappoint. Night Sky With Exit Wounds flies; its wings make broad shadows across the landscape.

American poetry is infused with young vibrant talent thanks to the writing workshops that have become ubiquitous across college campuses. Regardless of how one feels about writing boot camps, the capitalist higher education salon culture creates readers, audiences, consumers of its own interests. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, it shows that American poetry is in resurgence. Making a comeback. Of course it never really left. Vuong isn’t the only young bright star ascending, and if you are a fan of poetry, it’s a great time to be a reader.

Keep an eye out for Cassandra’s Review of Stephen Scott Whitaker’s All My Rowdy Friends, from small publisher PunksWritePoems!

Cassandra Watterson lives north of Philadelphia, and makes a living as a freelance writer and as a part-time teacher of English literature.

She was educated at Towson University and the University of Scranton.


Review of Paul Griner’s “Hurry Please I Want to Know”

train track

Hurry Please I Want to Know (Sarabande Books 2015)
168 pages

Review by Jen Corrigan

image001Patient, meticulous readers will be rewarded. Paul Griner’s depiction of America in his short story collection, Hurry Please I Want to Know, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Literary Award, is, at once, delicate, robust, and familiar, bewildering, exotic, and entirely foreign. While readers may feel disoriented and on uneven footing as they pick through the pieces, I think those who continue on will be pleased with the journey they take through this odd and eerie land of Griner’s unrelenting, unapologetic prose.

Griner’s range as a fiction writer is expansive. He experiments with microfiction, longer pieces, first person and third person narration, characters, places, temporalities, magic realism, traditional narratives. Pinpointing a particular thread, image, voice, or style that ties together these varied stories presents a challenge. While this may create a jarring sense of inconsistency for the reader at first, this grab bag of fiction shorts is ultimately satisfying. If a reader doesn’t feel a connection to one story, she stands a likely chance of being profoundly moved, inspired, or taken aback by the next.

The crowning achievement of Griner’s collection is, without a doubt, the gut-wrenching “On Board the SS Irresponsible,” a story that centers on a father taking his three children on a fishing outing one summer afternoon. The piece explores family dynamics around the rift of divorce, the complex and overlapping relationship of hope and sorrow, and the inescapability of paternal guilt. It is a story that first appears quiet and unassuming, a traditional narrative that is sandwiched in the collection between two flash fiction pieces with experimental flavors; however, this piece, which appears about a third of the way into the collection, has a climatic energy that serves to speed the reader’s pace onward. Not only did I find the story intricate and complex on a purely textual level, it climbed down my throat and made a nest inside my belly, resonated inside my bone marrow and rattled the teeth in my gums; it was all so unexpected. Griner took my readerly expectations and turned them up and over. By forcing my focus onto the significance of a boat through the title and the situation of the family around the vessel, I was unable to predict the arrival of a train, the unapologetic catalyst for the final tragedy of the story. I read the last sentence: “For a few seconds more, he wanted to spare her that knowledge” and my soul ached. I put down the book, exhaled, and gave thanks I had not gone my whole life without reading it. Picking up this collection is worth it if only to read just this one story.

Part of what characterizes Griner’s range as a writer is his ability to suture together the comedy and the tragedy that so often appear alongside one another in life. What makes the prose itself especially elegant is the way in which he takes chaos and loss and places them so easily within the controlled structure of his narratives. After drawing the reader into and out of a sense of comfort with “On Board the SS Irresponsible,” his stories begin to thematically fade into subtlety and quietude, but never relief. The crux of “Separate Love” is the beauty and sadness of fleeting relationships, of reaching out and trying to be a bit less alone. An older woman, Gwynn, meets handsome Terry at a grocery store while buying mustard and attends a local dog show in hopes of running into him again. “Loneliness,” Griner writes, “was a terrible gnawing thing that age only intensified.” By means of the carefully selected diction, Gwynn, a nice-looking but otherwise unremarkable woman, is juxtaposed against the painstakingly and purposefully bred dogs that are much more beautiful to Terry. Griner respects but does not coddle his readers; the collection he assembles is one that is deliberately uneven, forcing the reader in and out of vastly different worlds over and over again, but Griner holds faith that his reader will keep up. Most importantly, Griner has an intense compassion for his characters even as he manipulates them into an emotional space of touching, overlapping, and becoming, once again, sorrowful strangers.

Not all of Griner’s stories in Hurry Please I Want to Know affected me as did these I mentioned. Some pieces are so esoterically crafted that they may resonate solely with the author or readers who have an inside look into the narrative. Others I forgot after I closed the book. However, I think this collection, with its diverse nature and broad scope, contains a story for every reader, a story that echoes one’s regretful humanity, a story that will make the reader, at least one time, close her eyes and exhale.

Jen Corrigan is a graduate student and instructor at the University of Northern Iowa, and former editorial intern at the North American Review. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Heather; Apocrypha and Abstractions; The Gambler; Change Seven Magazine; Hypertext Magazine; Cease, Cows; and elsewhere. She serves as a jury member for Mash Stories. Visit her at

The Beauty of Curved Space



By Maria Elena B. Mahler

The Beauty of Curved Space
48 Poems / 83 pages
Glass Lyre Press

Stephen Linsteadt is a painter and a poet whose work is inspired by the archetypal feminine in both her physical form and her numinous overtones.


The Beauty of Curved Space, a collection of his poems, traces the curves, the joys, and challenges of painting along the inner landscapes of his struggles, dreams, and aspirations: a long and pleasant journey, a safari of untamed expectations.

Stephen’s muse is the voice of the archetypal feminine. Like Sophia, she calls from behind the veil of our everydayness, beckoning mankind to a path of self-discovery. She is always present in his studio and in his verse as he struggles to find himself below the surface of his intuitive pigment and his cerebral nature: Each line a new revelation/a mystic curve or splash.


Lines have a life,
a beginning and an end. They have joys and sorrows
in between. Like the line that contours a woman’s hip,
it tells us it is hip by its proportion and context.

The line speaks through its undulations of her many lovers,
her aspirations, disappointments, and regrets.

I am uniquely qualified to speak about Stephen’s work and his search for the feminine. I am his wife. I am his model, his muse, and the occasional interrupting voice in his studio. I am a witness to his search for wholeness. I am a witness of his realization that he could never have attained inner peace without embracing the feminine. My husband gives me hope that humanity will once again embrace, reconnect with, and honor the feminine that is necessary to our survival as a species. This ‘returning to the feminine’ is pervasive in Stephen’s painting and poetry.

I am not the only female to make this observation. Poet and editor Lois P. Jones, in her essay about Stephen’s painting in the anthology, Woman in Metaphor, says of Stephen’s work: “Woman symbolizes man’s continued magnetic pull toward creation on this earth and his struggle, perhaps, between free will and the tug of attraction. Here, beauty is not the permanent home of perfection but holds the power to turn the hunter inward.”

You press my cheek against your breast
where I lay and wait for the cunning huntress
to turn me inwards upon myself.

Jones further explains, “Linsteadt’s focus speaks to the larger alchemic metaphor of woman as an archetype of our ancestral experiences and the collective female psyche.” Stephen’s view is that our life’s experiences, disappointments, and difficulties are the alchemical and tempering fires that transmute and guide us to higher possibilities.

Poet Laureate of Ventura County Mary Kay Rummel says, “Linsteadt’s words describing painting also describe his poems. Tangible, painterly landscapes become journeys of the mind, moving from, to and towards mystery, haunted by the woman, human and divine, who slips out of paintings and into poems of the body and of the soul. This gifted poet’s voice is lyrical, both visionary and grounded, often dryly aphoristic.”

Poet Kate Kingston says, “Merging the artistic line with the poetic line, Linstead’s poems honor the female form while creating an awareness, a sixth sense, that resonates beyond the physical body. His voice takes us into the beauty of the line’s curve, its thickness and thinness, its sorrow and joy, its expectation and addiction.”

Stephen is a constant student of the cosmos, which can be felt in all of his pursuits often scattered about our home where we live under the baking sky of the Sonora Desert. The desert is Stephen’s landscape upon which he sheds his prejudices and from which his canvas takes him on mystery tours with the ‘unknown woman’ and her elusive world just beyond his grasp.

My soul is busy transferring material of the outside world
into the interior—

I can’t tell if I’m in the interior
floating on the essence of my life’s experiences
or drifting on what’s left over.

Other poems take us to umbral landscapes, like Van Gogh’s Saint-Rémy de Provence. A place where madness is the language: only warm iris blossoms understand.

the backdrop to “Starry Night”
painted close to where green bathed
the artist’s vision in a yellow
tainted room.

The scent of Languedoc
still warm about your neck.

Thunder uncoils over the night.

Rain on my umbrella
drops of deep mystery.

We once spent a few days in Saint-Rémy, where we fell madly in love with the scent of lavender, the persistent mist, and the olive groves Van Gogh painted. We walked on the pebbled paths around the asylum to the garden with the irises, the ones we imagined Van Gogh had contemplated from his bedroom window on the second floor. Like Van Gogh, Stephen’s poetry searches for an ungraspable light: Their light whispers/and won’t hold still. And: Admittedly Van Gogh never captured light/moving through cypress/But I can always count on the wind to blow.

As Stephen’s wife, I can attest to his dauntless pursuit of the feminine goddess and all the mysteries she holds.


Maria-Elena-MahlerMaria Elena B. Mahler is the author of the forthcoming bilingual collection of poetry Sweeping Fossils (Glass Lyre Press). Her poetry has been published in English and Spanish in Badlands, Saint Julian Press, Under the Radar (UK), Fredericksburg Literary Review, Fire Tetrahedron, and others. Her poetry has also been included in the anthologies Beyond the Lyric Moment (Tebot Bach 2014) and Poeming Pigeons (The Poetry Box 2015). She was a finalist in the 2011 San Francisco-based Primer Concurso de Poesía Latinoamericana en Español. In 2016, she was also a finalist in the annual competition by Bordersenses. Her poetry was selected for four Spanish anthologies published by El Centro de Estudios Poéticos in Madrid, Spain. Maria Elena has two fiction short stories published in Conclave (Balkan Press 2016) and Red Earth Review (2016). She was the editor of the poetry anthology Woman in Metaphor (NHH Press 2013). Maria Elena was raised in the South of Chile. After graduating with a degree in Communications, she lived and worked in Mexico and Canada, and currently resides in the Sonoran Desert of Southern California.


Sudden Death



by Steven Stam

Álvaro Enrigue’s novel Sudden Death, translated to English after its original Spanish publication, is so unique in structure and intent that writing a review presents a challenge. The chapters resemble works of flash fiction. Each varies wildly in location, era, and characters. At one moment we are in New York, the next we watch simple ball games in Mesoamerica through the eyes of Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes. We sit with Cortes’s wife in Europe only to later read the crude details of his affairs during the conquest. Yet somehow each chapter, each story, is interwoven with the theme of tennis.

Enrigue works to paint a picture he admits in emails to his publisher that even he doesn’t fully understand and includes the email correspondence as a chapter. Despite his purposeful lack of clarity, he deftly explores culture, politics, and conquistadors. On the surface, the novel is about tennis and a history thereof, but tennis is far from the only subject. Primarily, the reader is treated to a point-by-point tennis match between Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo. The two are locked in a duel of honor, the true nature of which is revealed during the novel’s closing pages. The result of the match stimulates reader interest, but the events surrounding the duel tell the real story. Ranging from papal politics to the use of courtesans as models, Enrigue explores the lives and motivations of both artists. Adding to the intrigue, his game, this challenge for both money and pride, is played with a tennis ball crafted from the hair of Anne Boleyn.

In the early pages of the text Anne Boleyn is executed by Jean Rombaud. In preparation for her execution, her hair, praised for its beauty by both the author and history, is cut off. Capitalizing on a fetish, Rombaud steals the hair and uses it to make tennis balls, balls Enrigue describes as “by far the most luxurious sporting equipment of the Renaissance.” While today the tennis ball is rubber covered in felt, in the past it was filled with what this felt resembles: hair. Rombaud presents his creations to the French King, Francis I, in exchange for nobility, a gift Francis grants before having Rombaud killed in disgust. The Boleyn balls sit at the center of the narrative as Enrigue traces them through an elaborate and peculiar history, pointing out their strange journey through the courts of European dignitaries and papal leaders to the shelves of a New York library.

Across the Atlantic, Hernan Cortes is fascinated by Mesoamerican ballgames and ceremonial Aztec headdresses. His lover and translator La Malinche both loves and hates Cortes. She detests his crude awkwardness and colonial ways; yet, she clings to the hope that his potential greatness is bound to escape and take hold. She downplays Cortes to the very Aztecs that he will one day conquer and even debates negotiating an end to the conquistador.

Enrigue traces Cortes’s imprint in both Europe and the Americas, examining his children (all bearing the same first name), detailing his slow invasion and destruction of the Aztec empire, and his strange fascination with iridescent headdresses. Somehow these headpieces find their way into the same royal hands as the Boleyn tennis balls, into the hands of popes, and even into Caravaggio’s workshop. Be they characters or plot points, no matter how obscure, each branches out and reconnects, each circles back to craft the central narrative that the author himself struggles to fully explain. None of the overlaps feel forced, none of the coincidences coincidental, and through it all the tennis game rages on and on into Sudden Death and a final tennis point neither poet nor painter fully want to win.

Steven Stam is a teacher, writer, and runner from Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives with his wife Adriana and two small children. Steven tends to focus on his home of Florida and the oddities therein. In doing so, he writes primarily flash fiction, believing the model fits modern society’s desire for instant gratification. His work can be found in Fiction Southeast, Kudzu House Quarterly, and the Rappahannock Review, among others.

Barrett Warner on Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s “There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air”


by Barrett Warner

One way to examine ancient Greek myth assumes that Mount Olympus represents consciousness. If so, then it is a consciousness preoccupied with its extremities—underworlds and heavens, and distant geographies. And to reach them one doesn’t need a shrink; one needs a boat and an enigmatic guide. One needs a ghost in a machine of air.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s new volume of poetry is an important evolutionary step in this way of thinking about place and traveling in one spot. In her poems, time is a layered outcrop and discovery occurs when the layers edge over and under themselves. Space and time, consciousness and desire, and apple groves add rich dimensions. Leaving only one question, she writes, in “The Llano de Santa Rosa Rancho, 1843,” How will we emerge from the story we have fallen into?

Dunkle is an intimate poet. There’s a Ghost in This Machine of Air begins with a letter to the originating place, “Dear Sebastopol,” a small town in Sonoma County, California, once a plum and apple growing region. The poet signals us about the moving shapes of time: “Hard not to get dizzy, here, under tides of scent— / how they grade and terrace the air.” Her description of the land—“salt thick tang of wet earth fat with limestone / against sweet rot of wind falls”—is not a glance out some train window from someone in a hurry to be somewhere else.

Nature is Dunkle’s great love and she knows its body well. She isn’t trying to colonize its spirit but to divine her own. The poem concludes:

Once, your accepted story swallowed me under its bell glass sky.

Now, I wake slowly. Learn to waver

in the air above what history we’ve learned, sense what’s pushing up underneath.

The poet admits to once believing in Sebastopol’s creation myth (trains and groves painted in a mural on the post office wall), and perhaps to some bell jar myth of herself, but this is a poem asking for truer consciousness, the waking slowly to sense the layers. “Here,” she seems to be saying as these poems continue, “let me show you, not with stories, but with narrative meditations.” In “A Language Is a Map of Our Failures” the chief failure is the way our literal minds use language to forget associative experiences. When we lose our empathy for the world which preceded ours, we lose the land “covered in thick redwoods; / their dizzying tops spindled the wool of low fog…Close enough to the sea to dream of salt and the muscular bodies of fish.” Even the first ship—a word that doesn’t exist to the native peoples—is described as a hollow whale.

Yes, there is a dizziness to reading these poems, and some of that has to do with Dunkle’s use of many points of view: the shore, someone on shore approaching a ship, someone on a ship approaching shore, someone centuries before who developed the Gravenstein apple, the point of view of seeds stowed in passenger trunks, and too, a kind of voice-over narration that pops up to re-orient us: “In the 1850s, those who didn’t find gold farmed.” While a number of her poems read like dramatic monologues, they are not written in service to character, but to place. In this, her poems lean towards ekphrastic poetry, wherein the work of art being touched upon is Earth itself.

In “Planting Gold Ridge mid 1800s,” the sensuous Dunkle fitfully describes slash and burn destruction to prepare the fields, and the joy that comes from it: “Hint of pink buds like perfect tongues. / Then, hillside igniting into confetti of delicate pink blossoms.” The hills just beyond where “seas try to reclaim the land,” speak to the undulations in time where water and air and land are one indistinguishable element:

I must watch the hills roll out toward

somewhere else where the fog rests. I must

site a single tree rising on the hill’s

sloped, broad back, and know it as a sign.

The mythic symmetry of competing natural elements bends a kind of internal logic. “The Washoe House” is a “House made of dawn, house made of thunderous hearts; / bricked in; gone cement silent; mouths full of dust; / walls still whirring, still breathing like hummingbird wings.” The saloon straddles a creek and its walls harbor the many ghosts of intimacies paid for with “a small pinch of gold dust.” The women’s “breath fogging the glass between truth and what we chose to tell.”

The clarity of everyday truth and the obscurity of fog are prolific tropes for Dunkle, especially in an era of exploitation. In “There Lies the Thing I Most Desire,” a dramatic monologue of a Japanese American man who loses his harvest when he’s removed to an internment camp, Dunkle observes:

trust is difficult to plow here—

…There is no way to dig it out like the oaks

we cleared from our field before we planted.

There is only the stiff wind,

the press of powdery stars into our longest night.

Taking from the land, we rob from ourselves because we are the land, we are the sea, and we are the air. We are the fog we are trying to see through in the same way that a basket woven from sedge stalks is a prayer for the roots of the sedge.

In some ways, There Is a Ghost in This Machine of Air feels like a “project.” I intend this, by no means, as a slight, since some of the most remarkable works result from a brief, passionate exploration (such as Carolyn Forche’s The Country Between Us). Dunkle can be forgiven if she crosses the line at times between focus (which draws the reader into the art) and tunnel vision (which can make her subject feel claustrophobic). And, too, she’s written a few of these poems in clusters that both bring out her best work and muddy it with arrangements in series. Maybe for this reason her poems that mark transitions—where matters leave one dizzy with heart song—were some of my favorite selections.

“Moon over Laguna de Santa Rosa” begins the book’s second section, Laguna de Santa Rosa, a river that “flows both ways carrying history heavy on its back” and offers these deft ending lines:

Today, the moon hangs low in the sky.

Not full, just a thin crescent illuminating a single path back,

past the remaining oaks, past forgetting.

Dunkle is skilled at ending without closing a poem so that every last line or stanza can also be the beginning of a new poem, a new way “in” to Sebastopol where every new and old wound “at its center, is a mouth.” A mouth meant for singing and language and kissing to wake us slowly to the Other—the Sebastopol—within us. She writes in “Finding Lake Ballard”:

When they ask you who ruined this place

answer with a tongue made of peach peels

and a mouth full of sewage. Your eyes backlit

with dynamite and the smooth shine of dirt.

Barrett Warner is a lecturer; book reviewer; essayist; unique, witty, and masterful poet; and co-editor of the Free State Review, a literary journal. His poetry collection Why is It So Hard to Kill You?, Somondoco Presswas published in 2016. In addition to The Tishman Review, his recent work can be found in these publications: Coda Quarterly, Adroit Journal, Consequence Magazine, Chiron Review, Entropy Magazine, and Cultural Weekly.

The Golden Gate: A Book Review

There isby Suhasini Patni

Most people recognize Vikram Seth as the author of the frightfully long A Suitable Boy, one of the longest books written in the English language in a single volume, touching almost 1500 pages. Yet people overlook his other commendable feat, The Golden Gate, a novel written completely in verse, including its acknowledgements, dedication and table of contents. In fact, even the title is in verse: “The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth.” Vikram Seth acknowledges that attempting to write an entire novel in the form of modern poetry is a risk and inserts his personal struggles into the narration from time to time.

A week ago, when I finished
Writing the chapter you have just read
And with avidity undiminished
Was charting out the course ahead,
An editor- at a plush party
(Well-wined, -provisioned, speechy, hearty)
Hosted by (Long Live!) Thomas Cook
Where my Tibetan travel book
Was honored- seized my arm: “Dear Fellow,
What’s your next work?” “A novel…” “Great!”
We hope that you, dear Mr. Seth-“
“..In verse,” I added. He turned yellow.
“How marvelously quaint,” he said,
And subsequently cut me dead.

The Golden Gate is simple, elegant, thought provoking, and moving. It is a great way to start reading or rereading poetry. Its straightforward plot unfolds in the form of sonnets in iambic tetrameter, defying all norms of what can and cannot pass as a novel and surpassing every expectation. For the longest time, I avoided the novel, fearing long, complexly structured verse. However, once I started—in the middle of my first semester in college no less—I found it a breeze as the words glided through the pages and I could read through and understand every sentiment they meant to portray. It was an experience to remember, a pleasant yet heart-wrenching journey through emotions.

The story begins with the discussion of the lack of love in the life of the workaholic protagonist. He is set up on a date with a lawyer, through an advertisement in a newspaper placed by his former girlfriend. Though he is furious at the medium through which he is set up, he and the lawyer turn out to be the perfect match as she appreciates his extreme ambition in the workplace, and also identifies with it. However, there is soon trouble in paradise, with both of them continuously fighting over her cat Charlemagne. Meanwhile, the lawyer’s brother is involved in a homosexual relationship with one of the protagonist’s colleagues. However, the brother’s faith in Jesus Christ proves an obstacle to their relationship.

The plot of the Golden Gate revolves around unrequited love and ends on a sentimental note, that at times, left me with a lump in my throat. However, Seth’s verse in this novel has a way of distracting the reader from the sentiment and concentrating on comedic and absurd moments that take place in these “real-life relationships.” He adds many seemingly irrelevant yet witty passages about how bad Charlemagne smells, how to feed an iguana, and many more. The storyline concentrates on simple gut-wrenching reality, and uses sophisticated and uncomplicated poetry to draw in the reader, providing a blissful journey seen through the eyes of many different characters and events. Not only does Seth distract his readers through comic passages, he also uses his book as a medium to discuss life in the 21st century with its fast-growing technology and obsession with war and fanaticism.

Killing is dying. This equation
Carries no mystical import.
It is the literal truth. Our nation
Has long believed war was a sport.

The Golden Gate addresses themes of changing values and morals, the confused state of youth, finding love in this consumerist culture, and surviving under the ordeals of a cruel non-accepting society. Seth splendidly portrays feelings of insecurity and desperation through his characters in this beautifully written and powerful commentary on today’s world. The book starts and ends with sexuality and its place in the world: Is it wrong to have a same-sex relationship? Does religion teach love? Does it only teach a sort of conditional love? Can people survive without love? Does everyone even want love?

The Golden Gate is a masterpiece that uses verse to question different perceptions and emotions; it remains one of a kind.

IMG_2863Suhasini Patni is a 19 year-old first-year undergraduate from Rajasthan, India, studying at Ashoka University. She loves reading and is studying English literature. Vikram Seth is one of her favorite authors.

The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make

FaceBook Post

by Steven Stam

From a toddler watching a flock of birds attempt to resuscitate a fallen brethren to a father mowing around dandelion islands of lawn weeds out of paternal love, the chapbook The Mistake Tea Can Sometimes Make by Brittany D. Clark from ELJ Publications confronts the clash between the odd and mundane of familial life. In this terse collection, Clark blends the poetic subtlety of flash fiction and the novella form.

Arranged around a series of short vignettes, many of which have been or could be published as singular stories, the narrative follows the life of Julia Carlton, a once-promising child prodigy who steamrolls through life, falls in love during college, and then drops out to marry Eric Gardner. This union lands the couple in Julia’s dead-end home town, Douglass, New Jersey. Douglass rests at the terminal end of a long New Jersey road. There is one way in to and one way out of this town founded by man who was at the end of his rope and before stumbling upon flocks of birds that later fascinate Julia’s young son Benjamin.

Benjamin becomes the success story here, the metaphorical phoenix to rise from Julia’s failures. He is a child that gleans French from language CD’s, detests the faux sophistication of sushi, and finds himself at MIT at age sixteen. Benjamin sits at the center of Julia’s life and the novella’s action, the success story in an otherwise desolate and boring rural municipality. Early on in her marriage, Julia takes to reading tea leaves only to run from the act, afraid of the futureless stasis they reveal. From then on, she fears her life’s inertia, she wants more, and this forces her to focus on Benjamin, a child worthy of her once promising life’s work. She wants to give him everything, and looks toward the future, eliding over the past. Success eludes her, for she fails to stop and read the tea leaves for what they are.

Beyond the familial discourse, the town of Douglass comes to life, first through Julia and the Gardner family’s stories, and then through the town newspaper. A parade of newspaper articles dot the narrative with updates that advance time and space, while cementing the town itself as a character. Libraries, dances, science fairs—each bland event passes time, marking a plateau of small town ennui. The articles alert us to the town’s oddities, the movements of hunters and birds, and in the process letting Clark’s creation live and breathe.

I read this chapbook in a single sitting before turning to the front cover to read it once more with a fond fascination for these, my favorite lines:

“As she lay there, aware of her failures, her exposed body seemed all at once to lurch towards something.”

“He let the rest hang there in the stale air, absorbing all the years of waste and confusion until there was nothing left but a breeze.”

“He would cut the yard around patches of the flowering plant, creating islands Julia would soon run to with her gardening sheers, cutting the few blades to match the freshly cut grassy waters around them.”

“They fluttered as Julia said, ‘like a heart murmur.’ She came up with this metaphor when one of the semi-trucks pushed straight into one of the birds.”

“It wasn’t because their families didn’t have the money; Julia liked these kinds of projects, and Eric liked making Julia happy.”

Steven Stam is a teacher, writer, and runner from Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives with his wife Adriana and two small children. Steven tends to focus on his home of Florida and the oddities therein. In doing so, he writes primarily flash fiction, believing the model fits modern society’s desire for instant gratification. His work can be found in Fiction Southeast, Kudzu House Quarterly, and the Rappahannock Review, among others.


Copy of Pears Twitter Post

by L. Shapley Bassen

Tyro authors learning how to cook up a story would be well-served by sous-chef Iain Pears, whose novel Arcadia, together with Chef Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, would make a cordon bleu semester course in any MFA writing program.

Last Christmastime, I missed my chance to see J.J. Abrams’s new Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 3-D and didn’t see the point of going to a 2-D showing. “The medium is the message” has never been more zeitgeist-true than now.

Turns out, in 2013, J.J. Abrams published a co-written hardback tome titled just S. It came packaged (perfect for that Christmas) in a cardboard book slip and worked very hard at being multi-dimensional as a novel (Ship of Theseus) with notes in the margins that made up an ongoing conversation/love story between a student and scholar studying the text. Plus, there was the editor of the book who appeared in an introduction and footnotes.

image003Also three years ago, British author Iain Pears was invited to give a seminar talk at Oxford, which he called “Egos in Arcadia: Telling tales in a digital age.” The clever pun of the title of his then work-in-progress book/iPad app alluded to the 17th century Poussin paintings of a tomb in a pastoral idyll, and echoed the classical phrase, Et in Arcadia ego, whose translation (“Even in Arcadia, there am I”) is a reminder of 4th dimensional, temporal perspective: in the midst of even the best of Life, Death is present.

Pears’s work-in-progress was published in England in Autumn 2015 and in New York in the New Year as Arcadia, as a 21st century, double 3-D version/vision. It took the Abrams concoction up a notch, BAM! Gluten-free and delicious utopia/dystopia, Time, and Story are major ingredients in this Arcadia. No need to rue the roux: mixtures of metaphor and everything else stirred together in Arcadia make it a truly movable feast. Also no need for me to repeat the rave reviews that the novel received last autumn; they do a fine job of guiding you through the book’s Möbius strip structure (see Escher’s famous portrait of Relativity). The hearty takeaway/takeout I’d like to share is that tyro authors learning how to cook up a story would be well-served by sous-chef Pears, whose new novel Arcadia, together with Chef Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays would make a cordon bleu semester course in any MFA writing program. Bon appétit!

The Ingredients: Arcadia is Faber & Faber’s first novel to have been written primarily with digital readers in mind. The British publishers believe it to be the first book of its kind in existence. “While the hardback is 180,000 words, the app comes to 250,000, offering additional stories and expanding those told in the hardback.” Iain Pears summed up: “The three plot lines in the book are a realist spy fiction set in the 1960s; a sci-fi one set centuries later in a nightmarish overpopulated world; and a fantasy one in a rural paradise, Anterwold … Woven in with this are landscapes derived from Claude Lorrain, a curious girl (named Rosie) rather like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, scenes from As You Like It (starring Rosie/Rosalind), and asides on and references to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The fantasy bit is without gods or magic. Tolkien almost did that, but he always slips in a bit of magic, and C.S. Lewis depends on magic. But I didn’t want any talking lions. The point about Anterwold is that it’s an attempt to create an ideal, stable society that could actually exist.”

Arcadia‘s solo author, Pears, was inspired by a science article that said that many of the problems of physics would be solved if time dropped out of equations and everything happened simultaneously (alright, alright, alright, more zeitgeist! Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar). One reviewer exhorted readers to “treat this novel, and its app, as a meme-park where a whole menagerie of tropes, themes, myths and motifs from centuries of fantasy and romance can frolic.” As Rosie remarks about Anterwold, ‘You steal ideas from everyone.’ Shakespeare, Sidney, Carroll, Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell, Tolkien-and-Lewis, Le Carré, Fleming—to label Arcadia as ‘derivative’ would be both to miss and to make Pears’ point. In a world (or worlds) menaced by terminal risks, Pears builds a story-ark: a granary or seedbank of genres.” That’s my underlining to emphasize the novel’s primer/cookbook possibilities as well.

About Time & Taste: When you read the novel in hardback, the stop-start intercutting of chapters becomes an experience of time travel in/of itself. 19th century Dickens and 20th century Asimov are more consistently linear, but 21st century Pears intentionally leaps from locales/characters to others so that your first experience of every chapter is getting your bearings again, literally finding yourself at the same time as you do the characters/story lines. The hardback reading results in a real suspension of routine experience of linear time reality. The digital rendering of the whisked-together stories allows a reader to follow the addition of one ingredient at a time, but that freedom implies that 2-D is an illusion. At the same time contrasts with one at a time to great cumulative effect: (1) recognition of the questionable reality of our primate-evolved, cause/effect linear assumptions about Time; (2) recognition that Arcadia moves free of time just as subatomic particles do and we can in memory and speculation. This is real fun and food for thought.

And now, to the Fry[e]ing pan: Iain Pears plays a game of friendly Three-card Monte not only with space-time, but also with storytelling formats. One of the most influential literary critics of the 20th century, Northrop Frye, would frolic through Pears’s pages/screen. Frye’s four Anatomy modes are the destinies manifest in Arcadia

Just follow the seasons:

image005Spring: Mistaken identities and disguises revealed at story’s end come right out of Comedy mode, as does the Angela-mother/Emily-daughter generational handoff. Comedy is the vernal promise of reconciliation of the old generation with the new, and it usually ends with a celebration/wedding/party.

Summer: The Asimov-worthy sci-fi plot (consider the time travel novel The End of Eternity and short story “Spell My Name with an S”) pits a dystopian evil villain Oldmanter (name out of Dickens) against a dynamic duo of time machine maker mother and her daughter, an environmental/cultural conservator reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451. When superhuman good defeats superhuman evil, you’re reading/writing Romance.

Autumn: Tragedy is the story of homicidal disorder caused by flawed superiority with order restored at great but ennobling cost. In Arcadia, time travel enfolds the tragedy of atomic apocalypse within its overriding Romance plot.

Winter: When dystopia prevails or utter confusion of definitions of identity/reality takes over (also momentarily in Star Trek Next Generation’s Moriarty holodeck episode, “Ship in a Bottle”), you’re in Irony.

But since Pears serves up the wish fulfillment half of Frye’s wheel (Comedy/Romance) rather than the realistic quadrants (Tragedy/Irony), freedom relieves entrapment in most, but not all, cases.

MFA Alert/Servings: Frye’s catalogs in The Anatomy of Criticism mean that readers, students, and writers of stories need not reinvent the wheel, but just keep the one above snowballing into the future just as Pears does in Arcadia. There, nothing is ever lost but stays afloat in his “story-ark” when a time-traveling scholar-author meets a facet of himself in a future society where Storytellers are its most valued citizens. Consider the creative power of recognizing pattern: you need not get lost in history, nor repeat it. Instead, it can be a guide to your own story.

And in case you thought I forgot: here is a different delicious recipe for fried pears:


L.S. Bassen, a native New Yorker, now lives in northern RI. 2014 saw the publication of a novel and short story collection, and April 2016, her second novel, MARWA. A Fiction Editor at Prick of the Spindle: A Journal of Literary Arts she also writes book reviews for THE RUMPUS and others and is a prizewinning, produced, published playwright. Find her more complete bio at:

What Happened Here, a book review by Michelle Vardeman



What Happened Here, a collection of linked stories by Bonnie ZoBell, can be said to be a meditation on chaos. Like passengers on a plunging jetliner, the characters within flail about. They rarely know who they are, why they do what they do, where they are going, or how to proceed. They are plagued by self-doubt, fear, anger, and loss, and are so confused that the readers who briefly share their world might genuinely ask, “What did happen here?”

The novella “What Happened Here”—which opens the collection, serves as a narrative “home base,” and links the short stories that follow—is based on a real-life air disaster that occurred in September 1978. PSA Flight 182 collided mid-air with a Cessna over the neighborhood of North Park in San Diego. 144 people died, both in the aircraft and on the ground. Thirty years later, Zobell’s residents of North Park are gruesomely spellbound by it. The narrator, Lenora, tells it this way:

“The explosion was instantaneous—an enormous fireball whooshed into the sky, a mushroom of smoke and debris. Scraps of clothing leaped onto telephone poles, body parts fell on roofs, tray tables scattered across driveways. Airplane seats landed on front lawns, arms and legs descended onto patios, and a torso fell through the windshield of a moving vehicle . . . The accident was posed to me as a ghoulish fringe benefit by the previous owner of my house . . . I did my part to maintain the lore, relaying details I’d read online to curious visitors.”

The residents even throw an “anniversary party” to commemorate the event. The question that ZoBell leaves unanswered, however, is, why? Lenora says, “I worried about how the annihilation of these bodies that landed on my property would affect me. Would I feel engulfed by doom simply living on this patch of earth?” Spoiler alert: She doesn’t. Nor do the other residents of North Park. So therein lies the mystery—Why are these characters obsessed by something so wholly disconnected from themselves?

For the reader in search of neat and tidy character arcs, such a contradiction can be unsettling. But perhaps that is the point—to be unsettling, chaotic, mysterious. Indeed, there is an unmistakable note of the gothic throughout the collection. While the many, repetitive descriptions of dismembered bodies in “What Happened Here” is more akin to horror, allusions to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” are explicit. Take this scene where Lenora first meets the man who will become her husband:

“What’s your name?’ he said, teetering dangerously far back on the legs of his chair.

I burned everywhere. “Lenora.”

. . .

A strange expression materialized on his face, before he said, “’And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore!’”

That sewed everything up right there.

“Merely this and nothing more,” I replied, smiling back.

The allusion is not quite “sewn up” for the reader, however. In the end it is John who succumbs to his bipolar disorder while Lenora, contrary to Poe’s “lost Lenore,” survives his ups and downs quite well.

Nevertheless, the gothic tropes of dread, doom, and fantastic events pop up in various stories. In “People Scream,” the main character, Heather, herself a “goth” in dress and demeanor, hears disembodied screams behind the doors at the Center of Life—a meeting place for addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, overeaters, sexaholics, and rageaholics—where she works as a receptionist. Are the screams real or imaginary? Clarity comes at the close of the story. They are emblematic of the many who are lost, like Heather herself: “Then she hears it, the scream, the inconsolable cry of a child who has lost both her parents forever, a girl irretrievably alone, a woman trying to accept this but who still yearns for something more.”

In “Sea Life,” we meet another “teen-angst” character. Sean is a would-be surfer who spends the weekend in horrible dread of Monday. His inability to surf and his mistaking dolphin fins for shark fins, much to the delight of the true beach bums, serve to dramatize his internal struggle: “Sean’s head throbs not only from the last night’s ecstasy, but from the nameless infinity he faces now that he’s spent four years getting A’s in classes he didn’t like for a degree he wasn’t sure was his idea and has ended up with a girlfriend who wants to buy matching dinnerware.” The impending doom he feels approaching? A job interview that his parents expect him to attend; this is the gothic made mundane.

Gothic-esque literary allusion also features in “This Time of Night.” Husband and wife Willy and Annie go camping to San Onofre State Park: “Everyone in Southern California calls the big concrete mounds on the San Onofre Nuclear plant near Camp Pendleton the boobs.” The two mounds loom menacingly over their campground, a radioactive symbol of Willy’s impending death from HIV. One cannot help but be reminded of the spectacles of T. J. Eckleburg in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which loom over the Valley of Ashes, bearing sullen witness to the corruption of the American dream.

“A Black Sea” is the most overtly gothic tale, featuring a fantastical creature from south of the border. Artist Alexa and her business executive husband, Eduardo, attend a business conference in Baja, Mexico. Married just one year, there is already tension in the marriage. Eduardo is handsome and attracts the attention of other women. He is the breadwinner, working long hours while Alexa teaches art classes to kids part-time. Alexa’s temper rises to the boiling point when a blond woman from El Paso flirts openly with Eduardo. “I’m feeling wild,” Alexa said, “locked up. I need to get outside and smell the ocean.” The friction is palpable as they head out into the late afternoon for a drive:

What she wanted was for Eduardo to feel what she felt when she was alone with a canvas in their garage, boxes piled up in the corners, old sleeping bags, golf clubs. She needed to be able to see without interference from the world, to see inside herself, to see what mattered . . . She longed for how he used to be the one person she could count on, who shared her belief that life was bigger than all the daily nonsense.

As they bicker, Eduardo veers from the highway, steering “them off even the side road, as if he could get away from the argument altogether, stopping abruptly in a dirt gully, the tires hitting loose soil, whirring, not going anywhere.” It’s near dark now and we are fully in the realm of the gothic. The landscape is wild and threatening: “Spiky trees ben[d], trying to reach them.” Soon they find a dead, mutilated dog and blood spattered around an abandoned campsite. As they explore the area further they find another dead dog and a burro. “Blood seeped from the neck of each of the dead beasts. The skin around the wounds was ashen. They’d been exsanguinated.” Then, out of the murk springs a creature—“An owl with an incredibly large wing span? . . . A kangaroo?” No. It’s a chupacabra! When they make their escape and later tell their tale to the manager of a ratty roadside motel, the creature that pursued them is named: “They live in the hills and leave goats and other animals in their paths. They suck the organs of the animals through very small openings. Especially the heart. They like the heart.” In “A Black Sea” ZoBell departs from the symbolic use of the gothic and veers into the literal. Alexa is “mesmerized” by the chupacabra, “even attracted to it—the passion, the way it ripped what it needed from life and moved on.” The story closes with the couple finding their hunger for each other again, as they make “love for hours, scratches swelling on each other’s skin from holding each other so tight, their blood leaving its mark on the sheets.” Who knew a creature from nightmare could serve as marriage counselor?

From beginning to end ZoBell’s characters in What Happened Here struggle with themselves, with each other, with the world at large and the meaning of life. Very little is resolved, but perhaps that is the point of the collection. “Shit happens,” as the saying goes, and there is very little we can do about it.

Michelle Vardeman earned a Master’s degree in English literature from Southern Methodist University. There she specialized in creative writing, medieval and gothic literature. She worked as a writer and editor in educational publishing for more than a decade, developing print and digital textbooks in the humanities. Michelle continues to write and edit on a freelance basis from her home in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband and six dogs.