World Cup and TSR Fever: It’s Going Around

It’s almost mid-July, which I cannot believe. The summer passes so quickly. It’s been relatively quiet on campus—most of the students are on break, there’s a few movies being filmed in and around LSU’s lovely, oak-shaded quad, and even the employee parking lots have spots available occasionally. No one seems to be in much of a rush, unless it’s getting close to game time for one of the World Cup matches. Everyone seems to have the fever.

This very minute, as I write this, my six-year-old daughter is in camp for soccer because she wants “to play on Mama’s team” when she’s old enough. Her camp, in Baton Rouge, has about two hundred kids in it, including nearly thirty three- and four- year-olds. Soccer is serious here, now: so different from when I was growing up in the South, when the only sports seemed to be football and baseball, sometimes basketball. I’m happy to immerse myself in the game, though, whether I’m watching the World Cup on TV or computer or playing with my daughter or team, which I am thrilled to say my coeditor, Emily Nemens, now plays on with me. She’s an impressive player and claims to have scored a goal during a game I had missed when I was at the beach. (I’m still waiting for the video-footage proof!)

I came to play the game when I was an adult and have enjoyed it ever since I first heard the phrase “What you see,” called out by teammates, letting the ball carrier know that the field in front was clear of immediate challenges and that it was time to look around and go to goal. This phrase also provides a good approach to reading the summer issue of The Southern Review: our readers have many options from which to choose in order to have a satisfying experience that ends with what feels like a score. To begin, the vibrant cover and accompanying suite of abstract oil paintings by José-María Cundín are thought provoking with their politically-charged titles—and just plain beautiful. Inside, there’s a lot of wonderful poetry, including the last translation W. D. Snodgrass wrote before his death, in 2009, as well as new poems from Anna Journey, Bob Hicok, Sara Watson, and David Hernandez.

The audio gallery, which grows more popular every issue, features five short pieces that feel very summertime in small-town America from the entrancing Charles Simic. Mark Williams’s “Fractals” is a wandering piece that opens, “July 4, 1973. I’m the guy driving the blue Ford Pinto/ with the flammable hatchback and white vinyl top.” I brought this line up when we were having beers on the field after our last soccer game, and everyone exploded with memories and stories of their own Pintos and Gremlins. Becky Hagenston, whom we are happy to have back in our pages, has “Love Letter to Irresponsibility,” about a tired mother who daydreams about stealing away on a rock star’s tour bus. Many of us can with children (the lights of our lives that they are) who are home all day from school for the summer can identify with that daydream. I smiled when reading it, imagining, Bon Jovi? Mick Jagger? No, he doesn’t play guitar. Bon Jovi it is. Others in the gallery this time include poems from Luke Johnson and Christine Rhein and fiction from Richard Lange and Aurelie Sheehan.

Of course, when looking to see what else is open on the field of the summer issue, I recommend everyone read Inés Fernández Moreno’s “Miracle in Parque Chas,” translated by Richard V. McGehee. A sweet story about the soccer rivalry between Argentina and Brazil, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time for the story, as Argentina plays in the semifinal this afternoon and Brazil was so brutally eliminated from competition by Germany yesterday.

And now it’s about that time: time to start looking for a TV and planning a late-afternoon lunch before returning to work on a campus that is quiet but for the construction on Tiger Stadium, being readied for the other football that is to come in a few months. Until then, there’s plenty of summer and summer reading to be had, including some TSR issues from summers past, which are currently available for free in our summer subscription special, right here.

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The Spring 2014 Issue of The Southern Review, National Poetry Month, and Taxes: All Paths Lead to Pharrell Williams

An advance copy of the spring 2014 issue, adorned with glorious birds—the vibrant colored pencil and watercolor work of artist Mary Lee Eggart—sits next to me on my desk this morning. As I write this, we’re midway through April. Tax day has passed earlier this week, and the entire month, since 1996, has been declared National Poetry Month. That makes it eighteen years old (I’m good at math!), which, coincidentally, is the age when most of us probably started filing tax returns. What better way to have tax day, National Poetry Month, and the arrival of the latest issue of The Southern Review share the stage than with a blog celebrating a few of the new poems in our pages which happen to be about work in America?

Ryan Teitman, who has three wonderful poems in this issue, writes about work—both his father’s and his own—in two of them: “Sonnet with Horses Where the Turn Should Be” and the aptly titled, “Work.” The sonnet opens, “I was afraid of my father. Each night,/he came home from work, set a Piels/on the desk, and paid bills . . .” But the speaker is not afraid of his father, who after a hard day at work comes home to the routine of bills and beer, because he is subsequently mean or abusive or even neglectful. If the poem were presenting a cliché, the reader might expect this to be the result. But because Teitman doesn’t disappoint, the poem, instead, reveals the father never “raised his voice to me/more than once or twice . . . [and] never spared me/any affection.” Here, the speaker fears his father as he does horses—strong, mysterious, noble creatures. Like some children who grow up to finally understand the sacrifices their parents may have made to protect their children from the hard realities of the world, the poem ends with the image of “My father had the look of a horse worked/years too long, laboring to falter.”

In “Work,” Teitman, like so many writers whose parents were laborers and who make this difference in vocations the subject of their poems (I’m thinking especially of Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” at this moment—whose own father “. . . could handle a spade. /Just like his old man”), reveals his father “. . . woke/hours before sunrise/each morning and worked/until long past sunset.” This was a man for whom “Sleep was a country/to retire to . . .” Like Heaney, who writes, “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them” and, instead, uses a pen and must “. . . dig with it,” Teitman closes with the reconciliation that “I still have countries/left to discover . . . /. . . work/for my hands to learn.” To justify one’s work with hands that blister from pens—and even, now, from keypads—rather than from hammers, spades, or blowtorches, is often both the internal and external struggle for writers who emerge from families where work has always been muscle and sweat.

But to give other very hard work its due, the new issue also includes the always inventive and inspiring David Kirby, who provides tributes to the work of writers—especially Emily Dickinson in “Old Poets” and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in “All My Jellies.” Likewise, adding to her series of poems about teaching, which we’ve been privileged to publish several of previously, Wendy Barker unspools heartfelt tales of the profession in three poems: “Rereading The Golden Bowl after Thirty Years,” “Ending the Semester in Am Lit,” and “The Morning after Our Second Ecopoetry Class.”

As we continue to be fortunate, there’s tremendous poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and such beautiful visual art in one issue. And right here, online, just a click away, we have our audio gallery, where the terrific voices of many fine contributors can be heard—this time including Mika Taylor reading her story, “Camera Obscura,” and Lance Larsen reading his essay, “I Am Thinking of Pablo Casals.” Of course, as always, and not just because it is National Poetry Month—but what a bonus!—we have poetry from Joshua Poteat (“Department of Acoustic Appliances”), Bonnie Jo Campbell (“Teakettle” and “Scribblers”), Keith Ekiss (“Target Practice” and “Flowers and Runaways”), Bonnie Bolling (“Stars, Moon, Rooster” and “Maybe That Good Cherry Jam”), and Andrea Selch (“Early Berry Picking”).

Selch’s poem about a mother and daughter picking strawberries—not always harmoniously—is perfect for spring. As I have been patient and followed the wise advice of my elders and the farmers (whom I thank for Daylight Saving Time), I will take next week to do some annual gardening with my daughter, who has been asking for months when Easter will pass so that we can finally plant flowers. We can bring the computer outside and listen to poems from the audio gallery (and maybe even Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on repeat because it’s good to dance!) as we work in our small, city yards. Although it is not always easy gardening with children, it is certainly rewarding and a reward for all the hard work we do and the taxes we pay. Happy April! Happy spring!

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WE ARE MOVING!

We are moving on MARCH 24th.

LSU Press and The Southern Review are moving their books and digital devices, personnel and PCs*, to a more centralized location on LSU’s campus. Please make sure that any mail for LSUP or The Southern Review’s editorial or administrative staff is sent to:

For USPS:

LSU Press / The Southern Review
3rd floor, Johnston Hall
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

For couriers:

LSU Press / The Southern Review
3rd floor, Johnston Hall
Map location #139, Field House Drive
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

*The MACs are coming too, our book designers wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A busy season at The Southern Review

 It’s been a busy time at The Southern Review. The journal staff will, once again, be at AWP at the end of the month. If you are in Seattle attending, please visit us at Bookfair booth 1304.  We are currently in the thick of copyediting the spring issue, set to feature new poems by Bonnie Jo Campbell and David St. John, stories by Peter Levine and Aurelie Sheehan, and artwork by Baton Rouge–native Mary Lee Eggart.

Also, this past week marks the six-month anniversary of Emily Nemens’s appointment to The Southern Review as coeditor and prose editor. As her coeditor, I couldn’t be happier. Her contribution to the journal has been tremendous. In addition to editing prose and reading her way through this year’s fiction and nonfiction submissions, she’s been busy on other fronts. This week, Sibling Rivalry Press is releasing Butcher Papers, a digital chapbook of Nemens’s cross-genre writing. Included in the collection is “Some facts about sculptors,” which Eleven Eleven published in their latest issue. Her interview with Writer’s Digest appears in the March/April issue, which will be hitting newsstands soon. Lastly, she was just notified that her story “The Derrotero Method,” featured in the fall 2013 issue of The Gettysburg Review, was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize!

All of us here are proud of her accomplishments and grateful for her terrific service to the journal.  Follow @emilynemens on Twitter for more editing—and writing—news from Emily!

 

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¡Más!

I was recently joking with my daughter’s father after seeing the usual Keep Christ in Christmas reminders that she actually keeps the “mas” in Christmas, that is, the Spanish “más”: more. Like a lot of five year olds who are also only children, she received an abundance of gifts (to understate) from Santa at both her home with me and her home with her father. Additionally, being the youngest grandchild in my family (with the next youngest at twenty-six), we could barely fit her gifts from my parents and siblings in our Mustang. My oldest brother teased that we could always drive with the top down (if only it wasn’t so unusually cold here this year!). Her father had a similar situation with his truck after they spent the evening with his family. Our daughter was thrilled by the sight of everything but was also truly appreciative of every book, Saints shirt, and board game (yes, she loves board games) she unwrapped.

I know the spirit of Christmas isn’t about more presents, of course. But, for me—and a lot of people—the spirit of the holiday season is about more: more time with family and friends, more generosity and care for those less fortunate, more time thinking of others, just generally more love. I’ve read a lot about how important it is to teach and model these values to your children, but honestly, I think I have one of the sweetest children ever born. She’s been kindhearted and generous from the start, no great thanks to me. This holiday break, we spent many days sorting stuffed animals and toys into piles that she designated “for Kennedy” (my nephew’s infant daughter) and “for kids we don’t know.” She also helped me pick lemons from our tree and deliver them to our elderly neighbor across the street—who wanted them for her nonagenarian mother! During the days leading up to Christmas, she made cards and paintings for numerous family members, including a painting of the Superdome for her father. The point being that, while she was clearly anxious for Santa’s visit and wanted a lot of things, she also wanted to make sure other people had whatever they might need. She’s five. If only we all could think and act this way more of the time, wouldn’t that be astonishing and wonderful?

So that was how I spent my holiday break. I could not have wanted more. But here is more for all of you readers of fine literature: the winter issue of The Southern Review. With our offering of prose and poetry—eleven prose pieces and twenty poets—it’s perfect for hunkering down under the blankets and reading on long, cold nights, which seem to be more plentiful than ever. There’s a sweet essay from longtime contributor Gary Gildner about how he met and then married, many years later, his wife, Michele. Such a tale of love finding its way is a great carry-over from the holiday season. And to counter that feeling, to ruminate about the loves that didn’t work out, there’s Thomas E. Kennedy’s story “Beneath the Eyes of Venus and Jupiter,” in which the speaker ends up alone under a lonely sky, the possibility of love slipping away for now (just as Venus has, coincidentally, said good-bye to our own night viewing sky for a while).

Likewise, a lot of the poems address loves that didn’t work out, whether it’s a wife’s killing of her husband in Rebecca Dunham’s skillful and incisive “Whetstone”; the tinge of pain that remains between a couple decades after a miscarriage in Joan Murray’s “Wracked Blue Suitcase”; or the heartrending exploration of a daughter’s grief when her father, after a skydiving accident in which he is severely injured, commits suicide in Julia B. Levine’s “Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight.”

The winter issue also contains the love and loss of a horse. Ciaran Berry’s poem, “For Shergar, neither Ode nor Elegy,” details the quick rise of the champion racehorse Shergar and subsequent kidnapping and killing by the I.R.A. Berry’s telling is so precise and vivid that it feels like a movie, one surely starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

But as I close, to bring this note back from that of loss to that of what endures, I’ll mention Chana Bloch’s poem, “The Joins,” which opens the winter issue and which also appears in our audio gallery along with contributions from many other fine poets and prose writers. In her poem, the speaker says, “What’s between us/ is made of clay,/ like any cup on the shelf./ It shatters easily. Repair/ becomes the task.” Like all relationships, delicate and tentative, there is the choice to either sweep it into the bin and move on or reglue time and again to the point that “Scar tissue [becomes] visible history,/ the cup more precious to us/ because/ we saved it.” When it’s at all possible, why not opt for a more interesting cup? I’m opting to keep más in my cup every day.

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