“You Are No Damsel in Distress:” An Interview with Susan Vannatta by Bianca Glinskas

A Brief Disclaimer: Susan, author of Whiskey Letters (Arroyo Secco Press 2018) and I met in college while attending California State University of Long Beach. We had just about every class together, and so our friendship was sealed by fate. I have heard many stories from these pages firsthand and I have seen many of the pieces which appear in Whiskey Letters in their earliest drafts. I have also witnessed her personal growth and artistic development as a friend and fellow poet.

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Review: Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor

Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions by Sheila O’Connor (Rose Metal Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

We are not taught to think of women in prison. The cells which contain women, we are told, are physical, social – women are victims, and men their assailants. Like so much gendered terminology, we have prisons, and then we have women’s prisons. As if an afterthought, as if a near impossibility that a woman might have the ability, the audacity to act against the norm. Have we not, we ponder, created enough of a cage for women out of invisible walls – out of the nuances of our socially constructed expectations, exploitations? And what to do with a girl who is not considerate of the walls we have put up for her? What to do with a girl who wants something else?

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Review: Northwood by Maryse Meijer

Northwood by Maryse Meijer (Catapult, 2018)

Reviewed by Michelle Mitchell-Foust

Where to begin? Some novels, upon first reading, begin a return.

The return I make when I read Maryse Mejia’s Northwood unravels as I keep reading. I am driven to return to a place and time, to a person, not merely to remember. And I am driven to “answer” the novel….

One “answer” to the novel Northwood is a return to a bundle of leaves, a bundle of love letters.

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Review: The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks (Hachette Books 2007)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Horrifying delusions and auditory hallucinations did not deter Elyn Saks from her Oxford University Master’s degree studies. Compassionate psychiatric care in England squired her through. But, later, as a law student at Yale University and in a psychotic state, Yale psychiatrists “bound both legs and both arms to a metal bed with thick leather straps” and forced medication down her throat. Multiple times. She plummeted into despair.

“A sound comes out of me that I’ve never heard before—half groan, half scream, marginally human, and all terror. Then the sound comes out of me again, forced from somewhere deep in my belly and scraping my throat raw. Moments later, I’m choking and gagging on some kind of bitter liquid that I try to lock my teeth against but cannot. They make me swallow it. They make me.” (4)

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Review: Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

moon tiger by penelope lively (andre deutsch 1987)

Reviewed by Emily Nelson

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s seminal essay on writing, feminism, and everything that lies between, Woolf writes extensively against “masculine” history, which favors stories focused on war and patriarchal politics and dismisses “feminine” history that “deals with the feelings of women in a drawing room” (77). Instead of perpetuating such a one-sided view of history, Woolf argues, it is the job of writers — particularly female writers — to explore and celebrate a more subjective and inclusive version of history that emphasizes and elevates the history of the individual above the history of the political. And in my opinion, there’s no better example of this principle in action than Penelope Lively’s 1987 novel Moon Tiger, which explores a fictional female historian looking back on life on her deathbed.

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Review: Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty

51C4Sad+45L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty (Finishing Line Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Michelle Mitchell-Foust

Derived from the ancient word for “watching,” waiting seems especially relegated to the human animal. Waiting implies the existence of a thought process as well as biology–a stasis, a trance. The state implies a wish, as a reaction to time and action. It makes sense that the literature of waiting has ancient origins, and that the sub-genre thrives during war. The world’s most important epics are also part of the body of the literature of waiting. The Odyssey and Penelope’s wait, and The Aeneid and Dido’s wait are two of our most essential examples. Naturally, the literature of waiting thrived during World War II, when Yehuda Amichai wrote the marvelous poem I heard him read in Hebrew and in English at the Hillel Center at UCLA in the 1990’s, where he said, in essence, that the war was not worth the poems made by the light of warfare. It begins

Out of three or four in a room,

One is always standing at the window.

Forced to see the injustice among the thorns,

The fires on the hills.

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Review: Moon: Maps, Letters, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng

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Moon: Maps, Letters, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2018)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

At a poetry reading in September at a planetarium on the Amherst College campus, Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov talked about astrology – in particular, they talked about moons. Our individual moons: closer to us than other planets and yet too far to ever touch, milky and always changing their shape to match the rhythm of months,. Moons in Scorpio, Aries, Leo, Capricorn. Our moons, they told us, are where our poetry comes from. They were sure of this. Continue reading

Review: One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

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One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg (Little, Brown and Co., 2016)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

Before I begin, I should admit that I am absolutely the intended audience for Isabel Greenberg’s latest graphic novel One Hundred Nights of Hero. It is a book which revolves around stories and the women who tell them, and as a poet and long-time reader currently making her living as a children’s librarian, it’s not exactly a wonder that I’d be tickled by this book. That being said, I find that the people who enjoy reading book reviews tend to be those similarly pleased by books that valorize story-telling (i.e. writers, librarians, peddlers of books in all shapes and forms). So I’ll begin, then, by saying that this is a book for story-lovers. It’s littered with tale tales, it’s characters are story-tellers. There is (fortunately) just no avoiding it. Continue reading