CUBIST STATES OF MIND/NOT THE CRUELEST MONTH, poems by Marc Jampole, reviewed by Alessio Franko

Whereas his previous book references artists, movements, historical figures, and myths, Jampole has made the bold choice here to work from two overarching cultural touchstones. Rather than searching for the vocabulary it shares with the reader, Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month undertakes the creation of a new such vocabulary altogether. The result is two series of poems that sit on the edge between the particular and the universal, the everyday and the extraordinary, the true and the beautiful.

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THEY WERE BEARS, poems by Sarah Marcus, reviewed by Nathan O. Ferguson

The poems in Sarah Marcus’ book, They Were Bears follow a young woman, the speaker of most of the poems, who pursues discovery and sensation in the remote corners of the American wilderness. The narrative shapes this wilderness into a wide-open expanse characterized by uncertainty, wonder, and menace. The backdrop also shifts from unpeopled natural settings to the speaker’s agricultural childhood home and to the industrial sprawl of Cleveland. The book’s three untitled segments each alternate between lyric poems and prose poems, and all use bears and other animals as central to their imagery and symbolism. Poems in the book discuss a variety of themes, including family, sexuality, and womanhood. The primary foci of the work as a whole, however, seem to be overcoming trauma and embracing nature. Together, the poems tell the story of a woman defined by her passion and resilience in the face of a harrowing past.

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COOP by David Nolan

Martha screams and runs to the bank of the cow pond when she sees her four-year-old boy walk into the murky water. His head is submerged by the time she arrives and her husband, running from the horses, peels off his shirt and dives in. She screams her son’s name for what feels like hours to the sky doming endless Oklahoma plains.

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THE BONE PLATE by Jacqueline Gabbitas

She took the partial denture from her mouth and passed it to the boy. He’d lost two teeth in the scrum to leave the boat and even though the gum had healed it was hard for him to eat. He stared at it like it was a thing alien. She nudged his hand and, smiling, gestured with her own what to do. She was not an old woman, and so he wondered how she’d lost the teeth herself. He saw in her eyes tenderness and the knowledge of being hungry.

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DESTIN by Ron Riekki

It was a cold afternoon in Florida.  December is often occupied by a pain-in-the-ass wind, but today the air was relatively humbled.  This was after I’d just finished EMT school and was nearly fifty-years-old, the alcoholism under control again.  My partner was a child, a teen who wouldn’t let me listen to the radio, insisting that he play some sort of robot music on his telephone.  He was hyperactive with sleep deprivation.  We were on a twelve-hour shift.  The cows off to our left weren’t eating grass, weren’t walking, weren’t sleeping, were just standing there with a sort of monstrous close-to-suicidal depression.  My partner looked at them and penetrated the sky with a horrific fake moo. 

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CHORUS by Mary Lou Buschi

Bloody Mary was neither skull nor naked bone.
………….Sister of blood and flesh
they said your name 3 times,
………….walked backward up the stairs,
followed you to the weed choked creek

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ACTIVE CONFLICT ZONES by Francesco Levato

I found hidden within the language of security in Executive Order 13780 the underpinnings of a xenophobic worldview that simultaneously aspires toward empire. In the text of the poems I sought to lay bare the underlying mechanics of power inherent such colonial impulses, and in the visuals I sought to subvert the legitimacy of claims to security from an administration compromised by foreign power. In attempting to hide the Soviet origins of the film Nebo Zovyot the American director of the retitled Battle Beyond the Sun replaced Soviet spacecraft with U.S. ones, obscured all text that appeared in Russian, and replaced the names of Soviet actors with those of English voiceover actors in the film’s credits; the screen-captured compression artifacts, the bleed through of data between the video’s keyframes and the P and B frames (usually hidden and containing only partial information from the surrounding frames), for me served as visual metaphor. 

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NUMBERS by Joshua Wetjen

“What is the lowest number?” my daughter asked.

“There is no lowest number,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “It’s zero.”

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THE AUGUST TEMPLES by Jennifer Solheim

In the photo half my face is showing but the focal point is a streak of silver white. I dye my hair dark but last year when I began growing out my pixie haircut, I let my temples keep their natural color. I had cut my hair short when my daughter was a toddler and I couldn’t stand a thick knot at my nape. But time was passing. My hair was growing. I was about to go for a run and when I tied my hair back I liked the look of it, the distinguished white and gray streaks.

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APOCALYPSE THEN by Sahalie Angell Martin

On July 20th, an article appeared in the New Yorker detailing the specific ways in which my hometown will be wiped off the face of the earth.

The article, entitled “The Really Big One”, described an earthquake that is due to devastate the Pacific Northwest within the next fifty years. Everything west of Interstate 5 will disappear, including my own city of Eugene as well as most of the major population hubs in Oregon. The piece was well-researched, visceral, and packed the hard-facts punch of any other apocalyptic warning: Billions will die. Cities will burn. Don’t bother with the hazmat suits.

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BEING THE MURDERED ACTRESS by Cathy Ulrich

The thing about being the murdered actress is you set the plot in motion.

Your picture will be in the tabloids, your parted mouth, your half-closed eyes. She was so beautiful, people will say. So young. You’ll be loved, desperately. Photos of you cut out of magazines, pasted on bedroom walls; your name tattooed onto forearms, upper thighs. I’ll never forget her.

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THE FALL ZONE by Laura Moretz

First thing that morning, a woman told Henry his crew must not cut her tree’s branches. She looked as though she wouldn’t survive if he cut the thinnest twig from the huge willow oaks in front of her house. Fully dressed and made up before eight a.m., she clutched the notice that his crew had hung on her door knob a few days before. She argued for the integrity of the tree as though he had suggested cutting the arms off her grandchildren. A branch as large as a trunk had shot over the power lines. He gave her his supervisor’s phone number. Her hands shook as she dialed the number on her flip phone, murmuring, “murder, murder, murder.” They moved their trucks to the next house—on this road, almost all the properties had tree limbs extending over the wires.

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BARREN by Lynn Oseguera

I walked in my grandfather’s garden while my sisters took their turns saying goodbye. The peony bushes, now barren, were my grandmother’s favorite and, for her, he had always tended them. She had long forgotten who we were, but just that morning had told my sisters and I how much she missed peonies in the springtime. I walked past her still staring at the empty bushes through the window when I came inside to take my turn.

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A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski

A HISTORY OF WASHINGTON, D.C. IN NINE SCENES by Nick Kolakowski June 1792 My Dear Elizabeth, This is beautiful country. The hills are a verdant green & the river Potomack bountiful with fish & amenable to navigation & it seems agreeable that the Capitol of our new nation should find itself erected on this spot. Yet the ferryman conveying me across the muddy waters displayed a surly nature worthy of Charon. When I informed him of my intent to survey the boundaries of the federal district, he snorted & spat & declared the area a fetid swamp unfit for Civilized Man. Losing four fingers to a cannonball in our most recent War—so he informed me—seems to have put him off the idea of Governments in general. Once ashore I found a buzzing legislature of insects awaiting me with each one a hellion anxious to sip my blood. The humid air … chop! chop! read more!

THE BODY THAT ENSURES SURVIVAL by Erin Blue Burke

This is what you do when you are out of diapers: you go to the store.  You go to the store because your husband is out of town and can’t stop by on his way home from work.  You go to the store despite the news warnings, despite the way the air has sunken into a disquieting yellow.  You go to the store because last night the baby cried for two hours, kept you up from one to three, before you finally pulled him into your bed and placed him on your husband’s side, nestled him in a pillow that wouldn’t let him roll over.  You go to the store because maybe someone will talk to you; maybe someone will wonder how you are doing while they hand over your change, and you will be able to smile and laugh and roll your eyes because, Well, you know how newborns are.

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[A BLOCKED VALVE FACILITATES PRAYER. A BLOCKED AIRWAY INSPIRES A] by Levi Andalou

A blocked valve facilitates prayer. A blocked airway inspires a
sudden reinvestment in the communicative powers of miming. A
blocked pathway introduces the stern demands of an omnipotent
being. Palms should be dry, mouth wet, or is it the other way
around? Like the soldier the child imagines himself becoming,

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FROM HERE TO THERE by Gloria Yuen

  ­FROM HERE TO THERE by Gloria Yuen Barrier on, the device declares. “When you initiate the force field,” the Head Agent instructs, “you lock yourself in an impenetrable membrane. It will keep danger out. But it will also keep you in.” Barrier off, the device declares. I engage Search: Force field, noun. Popular Articles. The invention of the force field (neochrome). The invention of the force field (electromagnetic). History of force field usage in Post-Contemporary warfare. [New in TECH] ‘Defense Fields’ for Civilian Homes in Final Stages of Development. The Head Agent claps her hands. I exit Search. “Field practice with the neochrome next week. Dismissed.” We salute in unison. “What happens if you walk through a force field?” M-2 asks at my left. I turn to examine him. Raised eyebrows, slightly open mouth. Inquisitive. He is one of the preliminary cadets to join the M garrison and is … chop! chop! read more!

THOSE STRIKING SHADES I :: THE MAGICIAN. by Cait Weiss Orcutt

those
various yellows, golden-rods, butter-fat, chrysanthemum wax-wings
..sprung from thin etchings of faith, is it just random—
….the rabbit/sleeve disguised: the magician’s headband
white as an Olympic
………..jogger’s, woolen shawl red as the gore in a dog-fighting ring?

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THE HIGH ROAD TO TIFFIN by Jake Montgomery

moves in gravelly time, so that the words I say here
have been said before, and my car
is covered with the dirt and dust of little cabins
where people live on the sun,

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THE SECOND MOTION by Elaine Cannell

In the first motion, I wrapped everything in newspaper,
emptied glass stones from the bottoms of fishbowls,
recycled the recyclables, bandaged my raw hands,
cut up ancient credit cards and plastic valuables,
braided the sheet rags, the scarves, the silk slips.

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DISCONNECTED by Hedia Anvar 

When the seabird completed its third circle, the only cloud in the sky parted in two just as you said it would, and once the topmost layer of sand, thin like a vapor, blew across the beach and into the sea as an enormous wave collapsed on the shore, there you stood, like you’d been swimming under the wave all along, your trunks glistening black as you stepped forward, above me, your hair dripping cold sea on my sun-warmed skin, the two of us alone on the beach, pretending we’d been there together since morning, you swimming while I bathed in the sun, and our embrace and my tears that followed, were simply acts of impulse between us, then switching to laughter because for the first time that day…

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DEATH IN AUGUST by William Hengst

In 1944, at the age of five, I invented the magnifying glass. The end of a Coke bottle, when held up to the sun, could make anything burn and vanish. First, bits of paper—cellophane from my dad’s Chesterfield packs, and my bubble gum wraps—then live things like slugs, worms, the hind end of ants. Once I torched a whole village, many casualties, dead ants smelling like burnt tires. I needed to hurt something that couldn’t hurt me back.

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QUARRY by Emily Wick

On the night the hunter shot the moose, they asked me to hold the lantern. Three men struggled to hold the body so the hunter could make the cut, and I cast gold light over them as he sawed along the ribs of the bull. There was no smell but male sweat and the crush of dead leaves under the tarp around us. Death hadn’t been there long enough to diffuse its odor into the night.

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LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS by Jonathan Louis Duckworth

In the silver heart of everything
there is a constant quivering.

We think the sky is boneless
only because it hides them well.

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TO EACH HER OWN by Natalie Kawam

The world, I never thought, was worth its wake
In my image alone, kicking storms about itself
Like me, a bright desert whore in plain, my face

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THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese

THE CAT APOCALYPSE by Mariah Gese When it happens we are prepared. The way we know it’s a real apocalypse: the portents of headless voles on our pillows. We divine it in the depths of carpet vomit, in the bones of small birds they bring us. The glorious future in the spilled water bowl. If it wasn’t meant to happen, then why the adorable begging eyes, containing within them the tantalizing fullness of our futures, round and perfect, like globes of sweet fruit that grow huge and pop on the vine? Why the delicate rasp of tongue, the ephemeral curl of tail? Their fur, too, that velvet smoothness we are forever petting for the drugged feeling it awakens in us. Cats are better than caffeine and sugar, chemically, they are better than mimosas or wholesome friendship or anything we used to love. They rearrange and better us inside, ideal parasites. … chop! chop! read more!

CHESHIRE CAT by Sarah Bradley

The winter when Lucy was nine and her brother Nick was 12, he taught her to play chess. They bent over the crosshatched board on the living room floor in front of the fireplace, blonde heads nearly touching, all through Christmas break and into the new year. Wool socks and hot cocoa and Bing Crosby late into the night, the Douglas fir in the corner shimmering with tinsel.

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EXECUTION by Hussain Ahmed

There is a ceremonial volley over a grave
I climb on the branch of an olive tree
to peep at the field where unarmed men
faces the firing squad, their prayers clamped
inside their mouth. from over the fence
I chose my favorite prisoners

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ODE TO THE RECORD HOLDER by Z. Shuff

You will score 135 points in your next high school basketball game. January 26, 1960 is the night it will happen. Hello hoops history. Guinness Book of World Records, here you come. Your name is Danny Heater, and your record, 135 points, will last. But, this does not come as straight victory. It does not come without problems. And which problem is worse: that your mother missed the game or that you didn’t even get to enjoy your record? Your world record, the one that congeals and permanently attaches itself to you. It’s basketball. It’s a game. But your record makes you proud and embarrassed. It makes you happy and sad.

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THE ZOO by Matt Whelihan

A week after the classes ended, the community service started.

Seven of us stood in a small lot outside of a small zoo. It was the kind of place single dads with child support payments take their kids because it’s close and cheap.

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RETREAT by T.C. Jones

The church retreat is the last bit of bullshit before we get confirmed. We are at a bunch of crappy cabins on the dumpy shores of Lake Erie. They call it a holy camp, gave it a fancy name too: Camp Gold Field. They got the field part right, but I don’t know where they got the gold. Everything here is barren and gray. Last night there was a thunderstorm, but today the sky is defeated and a blanket of grey snow clouds have replaced the horizon. The seasons are theatrical in these parts—especially during April.

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[IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BANJO –THIS CHAIR] by Simon Perchik

It has nothing to do with the banjo –this chair
aches for wheels that will rust, wobble
the way riverbeds grow into something else

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THE RELIC ROOM by William Wells

A Civil War cannonball dug from a field
near Petersburg now props open the door.

He shows me in. The room was purpose-built
to house his large collection. In matched pairs,
bullets are bedded like lovers and displayed
by battle, Antietam through Yellow Tavern.
After closing the door, he cradles the ball
on his lap and strokes it like a hefty kitten.
No explanation why it didn’t explode,
or won’t someday. Should ammunition purr?

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I AM NOT JEREMY LIN by Christina Sun

I was driving smooth along I-205 in the brand new GS F Lexus because I needed a car, not a bike, according to my parents, and Brad’s asking me, “Jeremy Lin? Like the basketball player?” because maybe Brad was wondering if I was the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, but he didn’t want to be racist in case I wasn’t and he was also trying to sell me this car and silent rides weren’t good for a sale. I explained that while my name was Jeremy Lin, I was in fact, not the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets who went to Harvard without a scholarship and averaged twenty-six points per game. I didn’t even hit six feet. I knew all this because I knew everything there was to know about him (as I assumed most people would if they shared their name with a celebrity). I’d lived in his shadow for the past six years he rose to fame.

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HEAVY LIFTING by Jennifer Turnquist

A guy comes into the drugstore and goes to the snack aisle. Early twenties, longish hair, patchy beard like he never learned to shave properly. He glances at me so I look away quick, busy myself with straightening the packs of Life Savers on the counter. I’m not watching him because he’s attractive or anything. He isn’t. He’s skinny and stoop-shouldered. I’m watching him because of how his eyes dart around and because he keeps fidgeting with a buckle on his canvas backpack.

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PAUSED by Emily Steinberg

PAUSED by Emily Steinberg with an introduction by Susan Squier My own menopause was a surgical one. It surprised me over the course of several months, with excruciating pain, then finally a diagnosis of ovarian torsion, then a hysterectomy/ovariectomy. It announced itself so dramatically that I felt entitled to give it the proper respect. To pause. To rethink everything (which is what I did, which is another story.) But reading Emily Steinberg’s remarkable comic Paused, what grabs me is her remarkable recognition: her gripping ability to see the Dark Horse Menopause approaching (“unbidden and unwelcome”) amidst the dailyness of a young woman’s life, to envision Menopause announcing herself in her calamitous lability, her flow of symptoms (waking, drenched, freezing, stuck, and then raging heat surges/broiling/sweating), and finally her mythic multiplicity. …she’s a banshee; she’s La Belle Dame sans Merci in her fully cloaked and unwelcome glory; she’s a desiccated Madame Frankenstein … chop! chop! read more!

LADIES’ NIGHT by Erin Pienaar

It’s inevitable—they order wine for the table and the topic turns to death. Three drinks in and they’re all tipsy and tender. Ladies’ night out isn’t supposed to be about death. It’s about looking and acting alive—youth and vibrancy signaled by rouge on the cheeks, pink on the mouth.

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GASLIGHT: Lantern Slides from the Nineteenth Century, essays by Joachim Kalka, reviewed by Katharine Coldiron

With a title and subtitle like Gaslight: Lantern Slides from the Nineteenth Century, the reader will be forgiven for thinking Joachim Kalka’s book is a collection of visual art. It is not. Though it does contain a handful of visual descriptions, it bears not one illustration, woodcut, or photograph. No lantern slides, and no visual depictions of gaslight. What it has instead are words, many of them, artfully arranged. Kalka’s words, assembled into eleven essays and a preface, are densely packed and remarkably pointed. Although his purpose is to glance back at the nineteenth century, not to historicize it, or even to theorize about it with a particular agenda, Kalka is a highly organized thinker. His insights prove scintillating, if specialized.

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AARDVARK TO AXOLOTL, essays by Karen Donovan and TALES FROM WEBSTER’S, essays by John Shea, reviewed by Michelle E. Crouch

Karen Donovan’s Aardvark to Axolotl and John Shea’s Tales from Webster engage with this paradox via the dictionary, that great alphabetizer of language. The dictionary is the reference-book-of-all-reference-books. It is writing broken down to its most basic components, as a color wheel separates out the most basic tools of the painter. It also makes for dry reading. As far as plots go, it’s lackluster.

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ASK JUNE: The Reluctant Bridesmaid and The MFA Marriage

About two years ago, Luke went off to the Midwest to get an M.F.A. He just moved back home to take a job at our old high school, where I also teach.

This would be great except that “Elaine,” the woman he has been seeing since about Day Two of his Master’s program, moved here with him. Now he tells me they are getting married in September. I am not crazy about Elaine and have no doubt that life will not be as much fun with her in the mix, but I can live with the situation.

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DIFFICULT WOMEN, a memoir by David Plante, reviewed by Susan Sheu

Acclaimed writer David Plante’s book, published originally in 1983, is an account of his friendships with three women central to the artistic and intellectual world of the 1970s. It is a rare act of memoir writing to describe oneself as the shadowy sidekick to other, presumably greater and more interesting characters. In nonfiction writing classes, this point of view would be discouraged.

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IVORY PEARL, a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

Ivory Pearl is Jean-Patrick Manchette’s final and unfinished novel, now available in an English translation by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Manchette was known during his lifetime for his 1970s crime novels, noir that gained popular movie adaptations and made him a standard among French crime writers. This translation features endnotes on how Manchette envisioned the novel ending, and an introduction written by Manchette’s son, Doug Headline, which is as affectionate as it is informative.

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TART HONEY, poems by Deborah Burnham, reviewed by Claire Oleson

Divided into four sections, Deborah Burnham’s poetry collection Tart Honey seems cut into citrus slices— edible, organic, and aware of some lost and bodily whole it re-composes in the formation of its parts. The poems feature modern relationships with too much absence, a dissolving picture of Apollo 13 soon taken over by a persona attempting to collect her body into experiencing her partner, and paintings with colors that spill into cells, among other simultaneously harmonizing and divisive images.

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A Conversation with Janet Benton, author of LILLI DE JONG, interviewed by Colleen Davis

Janet Benton’s debut novel, Lilli de Jong, has received praise from critics and readers alike. Kirkus Reviews called the book a “monumental accomplishment.” Both National Public Radio (NPR) and Library Journal recognized it as a Best Book of 2017. Lilli de Jong was also a 2017 Goodreads semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction, sharing space on the list with works by Pulitzer Prize winners Michael Chabon and Jennifer Egan.

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THE JUNIPER TREE, a novel by Barbara Comyns, reviewed by Allegra Armstrong

The Juniper Tree is a mid-twentieth-century retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same name, though Barbara Comyns has made the story all her own. Originally published in 1985, The Juniper Tree tells the story of Bella Winter, the unwed mother of a biracial daughter, through her quest to live life on her own terms in a world where she is patently disapproved of for being who she is.

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THE KREMLIN BALL, a novel by Curzio Malaparte, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

In his introductory comments for The Kremlin Ball, Curzio Malaparte claims that his novel is “a faithful portrait of the USSR’s Marxist nobility.” Such a thing should be anachronistic: a Marxist nobility? A communist high society?

But that is exactly what Malaparte, as the novel’s narrator, is describing.

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A MONTANA MOM IN MANHATTAN A Travel Essay by Lea Page

I left the chicken simmering on the stove and stepped out onto the balcony. I wasn’t sure if I had heard the front door buzzer or not, but there was a tall young man—my daughter’s apartment-mate was tall, she had said—standing outside the building, fiddling with his keys. Maybe he had gotten locked out. I propped open the apartment door with a mop and ran barefoot down the three flights of stairs. So many things to adjust to in New York City: locks, shoes.

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A Conversation with Ayelet Waldman, author of A REALLY GOOD DAY. Interview by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

“The only thing that matters is the work you do. It’s nice to have a narrative of beshert. It’s useful to have as a model in a long marriage. That kind of can float you through difficult times. Times when you could give in. It is irrelevant to the strengths of your marriage. The only thing that matters is how much you’re willing to prioritize your partner. That is what marriage—all the wonderful ties. Even when you don’t feel like it. The only thing that matters is the work.” —Ayelet Waldman

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Two Poetry Chapbooks from Doublecross Press reviewed by Rachael Guynn Wilson

Headlands Quadrats and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad speak to anyone who appreciates poetry, and lovingly handcrafted poetry chapbooks. Both works strike a delicate balance between lyric and narrative modes—the former leaning further into lyric and the latter into prose narrative. Headlands Quadrats will be especially notable to those with an abiding interest in ecopoetics, and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad to those drawn to feminist poetics, Marxism, and humor.

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ASK JUNE: The Wedding-Wrecking Sister and the Loose-Lipped Teacher

Dear June,

Zeb, a guy who works at my office, just gave notice because he got a job teaching art at a private school. Today when we were all sitting around after our monthly all -staff meeting—which is one of the only times I’ve ever seen him, since he’s in another department and building—somebody asked him about the school. After telling people where it is, how many kids go there, and so forth, he summed it up as “a fancy school for spoiled fucked-up rich kids.”  

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