February: Poetry Picks & Prompts

Rebecca FeaturedAs an avid reader of literary magazines, I am embarrassed to say that I just learned about Five Dials a few weeks ago. Perhaps it’s one of those subtle, colonial snubs that folks in the U.S. don’t talk much about this phenomenal British mag, but I realized nearly as soon as I stumbled upon it that I was dealing with a very prestigious magazine, and that somehow it had escaped my attention for all these years. As a kind of apology for being such a dope, I subscribed to the magazine, as if that would serve as suitable penance for this gaping hole in my lit mag knowledge. Regardless: mea culpa.

What struck me most about Five Dials was its focus on translation – something that is  lacking in U.S. based lit mags. Both of the poems I selected for this column were translations – from Greek and German, respectively; perhaps because Five Dials is an imprint of Penguin, there’s an ease of access to original publication rights. The magazine covers everything from lists to “reportage” to poetry and fiction, and leaves a pleasant amount of space for “experiments.” It was almost as fun to explore the site as it was to read the work, which is always an added bonus.

Though there’s no shortage of interesting work in this magazine, I narrowed it down to two poems. The first, “Variations on Anne” from Greek translator and poet Eftychia Panayiotou, discusses the experience of translating Anne Carson into Greek as a series of “ifs;”

“If you must choose, you will choose to be a woman.
If he must choose, he will choose to be a man (though not a husband).
If you are a woman (then surely he’ll never see you as wife).
If he can choose, he will surely choose mistress (but where then is the wife?).
If dialogue demands roles, then you are the killer, I am the victim.
If he has given the key to the wrong woman.
If he says something witty, such as ‘Desire doubled is love and love doubled is madness.’
If she replies even more brilliantly: ‘Madness doubled is marriage.’”

I loved that this piece is a hybrid – part essay, part poem, all doubling back and turning around. It depicts in its writing the complicated nature of translation, and the simultaneous distance and connection the translator feels to the author. It’s both a process piece and a poem, simple and yet complicated. I love its twists and turns.

The second poem is by German author Marion Poschmann, a piece called “Self-Portrait as a White Lady.” It was the pacing and the lyricism of this poem that struck me. Poschmann writes:

“I shone

an igloo lit from within, in the spray zone
of star clusters, the cold extracts
of former community centres,

streets soused in alcohol, slow, gentle:
I made halls,
phantasms of origin”

This poem flows and flows and never stops until it’s last, breathless ending. The translation is intricate and beautiful, and I read the poem over and over, trying to navigate the rapid-firing of disparate images. It was a lovely, intriguing piece.



Write a poem where each line begins with the same conjunction, as in “Variations on Anne.” For inspiration, reference this list. Try to be comfortable with the incompleteness of each line.


November: Poetry Picks & Prompts

Rebecca FeaturedA weekly column featuring our favorite poems from recently published lit mags & a related prompt to inspire your writing.

This month I’ve selected 3 poems by women, all of them with both a hint of magic and a hint of darkness. I got into a mystical, spectral sort of mood with my reading in October for the Halloween season, and it seems I’m riding that wave well into November. This time around, I hope you read and enjoy poems by Caitlin Scarano, Sue William Silverman, and Breauna L. Roach, from two literary magazines who I often fall back on when I’m jonesing for lyricism with a surreal flair.

Pick 1: For the Occasion by Caitlin Scarano (Bellingham Review, Issue 72)

“I can’t name the master.
I cannot recognize
this room for a house.

Girls with chandelier
vacant faces. Is there a bone
that most resembles you?”

Caitlin Scarano published two poems in this issue from Bellingham Review, but I selected “For the Occasion” because it sits uncomfortably in its own imagery. This poem is an unsettling one – at one point the narrator even says, “You refuse to / imagine, so I will.” But within that discomfort is a challenge, the opportunity for a deeper, more visceral connection. This is a poem about grief which does not shy away from grief. It’s staccato lines are direct, and it sits in this surreal, macabre series of images which unsettle with intention, like a ghost story when you know the ghost is real.

Pick 2: If the Girl Receives a Caress From a Man Without Hands by Sue William Silverman (Bellingham Review, Issue 73)

“In air scented by olive trees,
the girl dreams of hands severed
by bayonets – the man entering
her chamber dripping blood –
a kind of tenderness
like cancer curling up
snug inside bones…”

This poem from Sue William Silverman, also published in November in Bellingham Review, has this gorey, cringe-inducing (in a good way) imagery that stuck with me long after I’d finished reading. It comes in a series of three poems, but there’s a magic in this poem in particular that reminds me Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s novel Madeleine is Sleeping, in which the grotesque nature of a wound becomes something to touch, to marvel over, to heal. Though a bloody poem, I left this piece feeling hopeful – it makes room for absence in a way that I found quite beautiful, and though dark in so many ways, the last stanza is a ray of light.

Pick 3: Life of a Black Woman as Furious Flower by Breauna L. Roach (Winter Tangerine, “Love Letters to Spooks”)

“This is a longtime Southern tradition. How do you know when’s the right time to beat the lemon tree? How often should you switch the okra? Many species can be induced to flower by responding to stress factors. They flower under long days of labor or in response to the onus of poor nutrition or low exposure to fortuity or blinding light past what can be healthily absorbed. The seeds germinate, but do the progeny of the strained plants develop normally?”

This beautiful essay poem by Breauna L. Roach was a slap in the face when I first read it. Here we are, talking about flowers, and then suddenly we are not talking about flowers anymore. This is a mournful, matter of fact poem about race and the history of slavery that sneaks up on you, lays itself down with the force of a well-researched allegory, snags you with it’s lyricism as it elucidates a difficult truth. This poem is beautiful and it is political. It has a unique, almost academic voice, which adds to the chill of the last few lines, when the reality of the poem hits you full on and you realize how relevant Roach’s words are to America’s current historical moment.


Recently, I’ve fallen in love with a sporadic email newsletter of short essay-poems by Rhiannon Admidas Conley called Smol Talks. Breauna L. Roach’s essay-poem reminded me of the power of transforming fact into metaphor, and vice versa, and so this month’s prompt is to write a short essay-poem of your own, using random tidbits of information from the world around you. I highly recommend exploring the depths of Wikipedia for your tidbits – you may be surprised what you can find on the most inconsequential of pages.

October: What Our Editors Are Reading

It’s that time again! And it has indeed been an eventful month in the area of books.

I’ve been scanning through as many articles as I possibly can on the Publisher’s Weekly website, because I’m quite the book article addict (especially the book deals). It’s probably my favourite publishing-related resource. Most notably of all, I’ve read that:

While all these authors are ruling the world, we editors are staking our own claim in the publishing biz by reading more precious, precious books!



I haven’t really been reading much of anything as of late, but I’ve slowly been progressing through Sarah Lindsay’s Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower, published by Copper Canyon press. I absolutely adore Copper Canyon’s poets and collections, and this poetry collection in particular is no exception.

I’m currently up to a poem called Milk-Stone, which originally appeared in issue two of Cave Wall. Sarah Linday’s mastery of language is simplistic yet very elegant, honest yet secretive; qualities that I love. Here’s an excerpt of Milk-Stone:


The space our town fills is a thin one

between the haunted hill and the sea.

We climb the slope when we must, especially

women seeking help with our bodies’

tides of too much, too little.

Under thornbushes, beside tilted rocks,

we scratch the uneven dirt, where

scraps of scratched pottery work their way out

like splinters of bone from a broken arm,

and sometimes we find ourselves milk-stones…


Just judging by this poem, I’ll definitely be finishing Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower soon– whether it be curled up in bed, or on a twenty-minute bus ride. Each line is a treasure chest waiting to be opened; for its meaning and purpose to be discovered.

If you’re new to poetry, this honest and raw book is for you.


This month I’m reading a few books at the same time, because I’ve been trying to cram as many young adult books into my repertoire as possible.


The first is Jackaby, the first book in William Ritter’s series about a paranormal investigator and his assistant in a fictional New England town in 1892. Jackaby- a Sherlockian detective with the ability to see supernatural beings- and his discerning and courageous assistant, Abigail Rook, solve complicated mysteries that span realms real and ghostly.


I’ve also been listening to the audio book of Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society during my commute in the morning, which has been a wonderful, quirky adventure into a magical world of absurd characters and plucky children. The book follows four children who are uncommonly clever and have a yearning toward truth, who take on evil villain Ledroptha Curtain and his henchman in their plot to take control of the populace with subliminal messaging technology. I’ve loved listening to this book because Stewart has created an incredible world for his characters, and because his writing is full of the kind of light-hearted whimsy that makes authors like Roald Dahl eternally appealing to both children and adults.

Someday I’ll actually write about poetry for this column, but until then I highly recommend reading both of these young adult series if you’re looking to be transported away from dreary autumn weather into worlds with a bit more magic in them.



In my Women in Literature class, we are reading Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Morrison’s novel serves as a commentary on the drastic and traumatic effects of slavery in America, citing its broken families, lost hope, and broken humanity. The novel follows one family as they confront the pain and sorrow of their broken pasts, while balancing their fear of remembering with their life in the present. Throughout the story, the reader ponders whether the Beloved is a tale of a haunting, or a haunting tale that mimics that un-selfed nature of slavery.

Beloved twists and tumbles, circling in on itself like a hedged maze until the reader reaches the centre, finally finding rhyme and reason and a conclusion to the heart-wrenching clues and tragedies Morrison has cleverly sprinkled throughout the novel. This book is a must-read; not only is it accurate historically, but Toni Morrison crafts her writing so beautifully and so strategically, there is power and beauty in her words.

September: What Our Editors Are Reading

Continuing the meme tradition from last month, here’s another gem (which I hope people think today):

Our editors have picked up vastly different types of literature this month. From fiction to philosophy to opinionated pieces, it’s all there. Since we’re spread out around the world, there’s a lot of different tastes in the mix. I hope you all enjoy and pick up one of these fabulous reads!


leave me.jpg

As I picked up a few books for my brother for his upcoming birthday, I also purchased this book: “Leave Me,” by Gayle Forman. You may be familiar with her other young adult books, “If I Stay” (which has been adapted into a movie), and its sequel, “Where She Went.”

This is apparently Gayle’s first adult fiction book, and it’s been a good read, judging by what I’ve read so far. The main character, Maribeth Klein, is a hard-worker with twin children and not much time on her hands. If the blurb gives any insight, it says that “Leave Me” is for any mother who has considered not going home to her many commitments. I’m expecting a compelling read.


raisins and almonds.jpg

It’s been more than a year since I first discovered the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s adaptation of the Phryne Fisher murder mystery series, but I picked up one of the original novels by Kerry Greenwood for the first time at the library last week. I’ve been reading Raisins and Almonds – Greenwood’s book about Zionism in Melbourne in the 1920s – and while at first I was worried that Miss Fisher on paper couldn’t live up to Essie Davis’ performance of the character, I quickly realized that the wit and liveliness of the show was pulled directly from Greenwood’s writing style. I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers, period-piece devotees, social justice warriors, and those who yearn for the Roarin’ Twenties. If you don’t fall into any of those categories, you may find that once you pick up one of Greenwood’s novels, you’ll end up a convert.



In my English Literature class, we are currently covering Victorian Literature. Never having heard of this piece, or even author before, I set out on an adventure of reading excerpts from Thomas Carlyle’s “Sartor Resartus”. Immediately blown away by the calibre of philosophical content, I was far from deterred by its archaic language and historic references.

“Sartor Resartus” Is Carlyle’s pseudo-biographical manifesto of his journey with faith, during a time of extreme tumult – the Industrial Revolution. During this time, every ideal held close became decimated. “How can the ‘Son of Time,’ in any case,” he observes, “stand still?” With the technological progress came the inevitability of societal change. Life transformed into a monotony of ‘cogs in a machine’ and the overarching strength of an unquestioned Christianity was destroyed. Carlyle examines this shattering in his piece, using his own experience of Unbelief as the medium of exploration.

Throughout Carlyle’s work, he pens deeply inquisitive statements, such as the following: “How then could I believe in my Strength, when there was yet no mirror to see it in.” Through this, he comments on the importance of one’s accomplishments as a mirror of one’s self. He asserts that accomplishments give man dignity, make man humane. Carlyle sees this in himself, but also England as a whole. 

Carlyle’s piece journeys through trials and temptations given the new nature of society, echoing cries for a Christian morality, both society’s and his own, being overshadowed. “Sartor Resartus” is filled with wonderful snippets of wisdom, still applicable almost 200 years later. If you’re looking for a deep commentary on the use of faith, Thomas Carlyle is definitely one to check out.



I recently have been reading a few articles on why millennials are choosing to not have children. I find it a really interesting topic because the responses are really varied and thought out, and many have reasonable concerns about procreating. There are many articles which take a really serious approach to the topic, listing the various impending ecological disasters or just the general shitty state of the world, and others that take a more satiric approach. I absolutely loved this article by Isabelle Kohn, ‘9 Brutally Real Reasons Why Millennials Refuse to Have Kids’. What I love most about this particular article is how the author just doesn’t hold back at all and raises valid points that I have either thought of before or that I really relate to as someone of that age group who doesn’t want children. No matter what side of the fence you sit on in regards to children and having them, I think everyone will be able to appreciate the brutal hilarious honesty in this particular article.


August: What Our Editors Are Reading

It never ceases to amaze me just how many book memes are out there, so why not just be out with one now?


I couldn’t resist.

It also never ceases to amaze me just how wonderfully inspiring, empowering, and emotional-breakdown-inducing books there are out there. Our editors are reading some of those at this very moment. Here’s what we’re all saying!


the emotion thesaurus.jpg

I came cross a mention of this book over at Aeryn Rudel’s literary blog, Rejectomancy, and I got it for my birthday earlier this year.

“The Emotion Thesaurus” acts as a very useful kind of writer’s reference dictionary, to help you with finding many different ways for one of your fictitious characters to show their emotions. For each of the many dozens of emotions- like curiosity,  anguish, or conflicted- Angela and Becca detail their definitions, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long-term [emotion], what the emotion may relate or escalate to, and cues of suppressed [emotion].

I highly recommend this book for any fiction writer who uses the glances, smiles, and knitted eyebrows to the point of redundancy.


incorrigible children.jpg

These last few weeks I finally got to take advantage of the warm weather, and while I was lounging under an umbrella with my feet in the sand I devoured the first book in Maryrose Wood’s series “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place”. The series follows ‘plucky’ governess, Penelope Lumley, who is hired by the wealthy Ashton family to care for three children they discovered on their property, who the Lord and Lady believe were raised by wolves. The book is clever and self-aware in a way that is reminiscent of Daniel Handler’s children’s literature, and I love the way that Wood fills the world of Ashton Place to the brim with fictional literature and aphorisms from Agatha Swanburne, the founder of the esteemed Agatha Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. (A favourite Swanburne quote: ‘If it were easy to resist, it would not be called chocolate cake.’).

After studying literature in school for a few years, I often think of young adult novels as a guilty pleasure, but this book was so smart and imaginative that I was absolved of all guilt, and all that was left was the pure joy of reading it. I’ll definitely be buying the next few books in this series.



On my first trip to the library this summer, I was on the hunt for the first book in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series, as recommended by my good friend, Joel. I went a little overboard and picked up five books, instead of just the one. As I was looking for Wuthering Heights, I wandered off into a section of writing craft books, and I came across Alicia Rasley’s The Power of Point of View nestled on a shelf. I hadn’t yet read a craft book on point of view, so I decided to give this one a go.

As her title indicates, Rasley’s book delves into all types of point of view and analyzes the impact of each type on reader experience – which, as she declares, “Participation is the ultimate triumph of story writing.” To strengthen her points, Rasley uses an extensive amount of passages from novels to demonstrate the effect of each different type of point of view. She explains that point of view is the soul of a piece of writing. Highly controlled by the author, POV dictates what the readers feel and how they respond to a given text. In a section about blocking character emotion, Rasley advises: “The reader can cry because the character won’t.” The way an author manipulates the POV directly influences the entire dynamic of the piece – yet is a highly overlooked construction while writing a text.

Rasley’s technical advice about perceptional behavior of a character struck me the most. As with real people, each character has a dominant sense, and their experience of the world is dictated by it. If a character’s being is shaped by it, so is the language and perceptions that will be put on paper.  By reflecting this in the text, it makes the character more authentic for the reader. As simple as this seems, it has the power to change one scene immensely.

The Power of Point of View takes a writer’s gut feelings and puts them into concrete words. Rasley’s insights are excellent, delving deep into the mind and motivation of a writer. She encourages fellow writers to ponder the purpose of their artistic choices before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). She encourages writers to branch out of their gut, and explore a second point of view in a scene, which usually leads to the better narrative.

Rasley’s technical advice about perceptional behavior of a character struck me the most. As with real people, each character has a dominant sense, and their experience of the world is dictated by it. If a character’s being is shaped by it, so is the language and perceptions that will be put on paper.  By reflecting this in the text, it makes the character more authentic for the reader. As simple as this seems, it has the power to change one scene immensely.

The Power of Point of View takes a writer’s gut feelings and puts them into concrete words. Rasley’s insights are excellent, delving deep into the mind and motivation of a writer. She encourages fellow writers to ponder the purpose of their artistic choices before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). She encourages writers to branch out of their gut, and explore a second point of view in a scene, which usually leads to the better narrative.