Even More 2016 Books From Former Moon City Review Contributors

Now that we have recognized the former Moon City Review contributors who published book-length works of fiction and poetry in 2016, we will wrap up the list with one who gave us a new collection of nonfiction:

Charles Harper Webb, A Million MFAs Are Not Enough (Red Hen Press)

Also, Neil Mathison‘s Volcano: an A to Z and Other Essays about Geology, Geography, and Geo-Travel in the American West (Bauhan) is forthcoming in 2017.

One last time, congratulations!

Visit the Authors page for a complete list of the work these authors (and many others) contributed to Moon City Review.

More 2016 Books From Former Moon City Review Contributors

Having already honored the former Moon City Review contributors who published book-length works of fiction in 2016, we would now like to do the same for poetry. Here is the impressive list:

Jeffrey Alfier, The Red Stag at Carrbridge (Aldrich Press) and Southbound Express to Bay Head: New Jersey Poems (Grayson Books)

Benny Andersen, Benny Andersen: Selected Poems (Princeton University Press), translated by Alexander Taylor

Darren C. Demaree, Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (8th House Publishing)

Nandini Dhar, Historians of Redundant Moments (Sundress Publications)

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the 2015 Moon City Poetry Award, available here

Donald Illich, The Art of Dissolving (Finishing Line Press)

George Looney, Hermits in Our Own Flesh: The Epistles of an Anonymous Monk (Oloris Publishing)

Sandra Marchetti, Heart Radicals (with Les Kay, Allie Marini, Janeen Pergrin Rastall) (ELJ Publications)

Melanie McCabe, History of the Body (David Robert Books)

Nancy Carol Moody, The House of Nobody Home (FutureCycle Press)

Alan Michael Parker, The Ladder: Poems (Tupelo Press)

Mary Quade, Local Extinctions (Gold Wake Press Collective)

Marc Tretin, Pink Mattress (NYQ Books)

William Trowbridge, Oldguy: Superhero (Red Hen Press)

Also, there are two former contributors with books forthcoming in 2017:

Jim Daniels, Rowing Inland (Wayne State University Press)

Mark Irwin, A Passion According to Green (New Issues Poetry & Prose)

Once again, congratulations to all for a great year!

Visit the Authors page for a complete list of the work these authors (and many others) contributed to Moon City Review.

2016 Books From Former Moon City Review Contributors

With the year drawing to a close, the editors of Moon City Review want to recognize all of the former contributors who published books in 2016. Fortunately for all, it is a rather long list, so instead of presenting it all at once, we will do one genre at a time, beginning with fiction:

C.D. Albin, Hard Toward Home (Press 53), short stories

Ace Boggess, A Song Without a Melody: A Novel of the ‘90s (Hyperborea Publishing), novel

Matthew Fogarty, Maybe Mermaids & Robots are Lonely (Stillhouse Press), short stories & novella (including “We Are Swimmers” and “Meteors,” which appeared in MCR 2014)

Katy Resch George, Exposure (Kore Press), short stories

Becky Hagenston, Scavengers (University of Alaska Press), short stories (including “Puppet Town,” which appeared in MCR 2013)

Britt Haraway, Early Men (Lamar University Press), short stories (including “Lilly the Kid,” which appeared in MCR 2015)

Allegra Hyde, Of This New World (Iowa Short Fiction Award, University of Iowa Press), short stories

Richard Newman, Graveyard of the Gods: A Novel (Blank Slate Press), novel

Amber Sparks, The Unfinished World (Liveright), short stories

Of course, there was also Laura Hendrix Ezell‘s story collection, A Record of Our Debts, winner of the 2015 Moon City Short Fiction Award (includes “Fugue,” which appeared in MCR 2016), available here

There are also two former contributors who will publish books in 2017:

Meg Eden, Post-High School Reality Quest (Rare Bird Books), young-adult novel

Michelle Ross, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, winner of the 2016 Moon City Short Fiction Award (includes “Rattlesnake Roundup,” which appeared in MCR 2016), available for pre-order here

Congratulations to all for a great year!

Visit the Authors page for a complete list of the work these authors (and many others) contributed to Moon City Review.

2016 Pushcart Prize Nominations!

Moon City Press and Moon City Review are pleased to announce their 2016 Pushcart Prize Nominations, which include the following authors and their work:

Poetry

Reese Connor, “Thank You”

Jeannine Hall Gailey, “Notes from Before the Apocalypse”

Sara Graybeal, “Point Breeze, 2015”

Fiction

Michael Ramberg, “Last King of the Gorilla Suits”

Michelle Ross, “Rattlesnake Roundup”

A.A. Weiss, “Challenger”

Congratulations and good luck!

Abandoned Homeland by Jeff Gundy

Abandoned Homeland, by Jeff Gundy. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog Press, 2015. 92 pages. $16, paper.

“How else to describe this absurd, lovely world?” is the question Jeff Gundy poses in the titular poem of his seventh book of poetry, Abandoned Homeland.

Gundy attempts to answer that question, and succeeds, in poems that feature the poet as the main character. They are poems concerned with observation, contemplation, and rumination on the past and time, as well as meditation on humanity’s place in the grand scheme of nature and the sublime. In fact, the book starts off with such observation and contemplation about the human body in the poem aptly titled “The Body.” It is a belief and a trust in the importance of our soul and of miracles, even in places we don’t often look:

… The body is more than some clay jar

with a dismal eternal glob inserted. It is to be trusted,

 

especially when it says Not too fast. The waterfall twists

and rumbles, alien, unstoppable, coming up stunned

 

and foaming on the rocks, broken into froth and magic

every second, hurrying onward as if not changed at all.

 

Though Gundy casts himself as the main character, other characters that figure prominently in these poems, either at the forefront or whispering quietly in the background, are the people and places throughout the Midwest. Whether it’s listening to a three-piece band in the Underdog Café or speaking of literary theme in an Ohio classroom, Gundy uses words and phrases that lets his reader experience the setting along with him, such as in “Rhapsody at the Underdog Café”:

 

Run your fingers through my soul, reads the poster, but I don’t

Believe I will. We’re barely even friends. A happy three-piece band

 

is playing in a corner of the Underdog Café. My new friends

didn’t know any of their songs, but I knew them all—“Wagon

 

Wheel,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” “I Can See Clearly Now.”

The second cup of coffee is a dime cheaper and better

 

than the first. …

 

Gundy also wants to remind the reader that the place he, and everyone else, comes back to is “the country of the mind.” Preoccupations and meditations on his family, his past, and specific places serve to remind us that though we are all different, we seek to escape the world through such thoughts. No matter what we might do to escape, Gundy reminds us that we are all exiles in an abandoned homeland, and if anyone tries to stop us from being ourselves or from leaving, he tells us, “They’ll have to let us go.”

—Brandy Clark, Moon City Review

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One Blackbird at a Time by Wendy Barker

One Blackbird at a Time by Wendy Barker. Kansas City: BkMk Press, 2015. 78 pages. $13.95, paper.

In this collection, Wendy Barker takes us on a journey through eyes of a teacher, exploring all the complexities of what it means to simultaneously be a poet, educator, woman, and bibliophile. Each poem presents a speaker who filters her world through the work of Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, and many, many more. The literary worlds of the page and of the past imprint on the speaker’s world of today, not just in the classroom but also in the seemingly mundane tasks of everyday life.

In “Books, Bath Towels, and Beyond,” the speaker reflects on teaching “Song of Myself” and the ambivalence it brings:

[T]his time—not even Gary—grumbled about
Whitman’s disgusting ego, and yet when we came to
the place
where God is a “loving bedfellow”
who leaves “baskets covered with white towels
bulging the house with their plenty,” I was the one
who
wanted to stop.

The speaker continues to ponder how towels could be like a god. A lover, yes, the speaker asserts. But a god? It is not until the speaker traipses from classroom to the cleaning sprees of her mother, to Hawthorne’s Phoebe, to divorce, and finally to a new marriage and home, that she is led to the department store to buy towels. There, standing in line to pay, the image of Whitman returns:

And as I
pulled out my MasterCard to pay for the contents
of my brimming cart, a gaunt, wizen man entered
the check-out line, hands pressing
to his chest two white towels just like mine,
eyes lifted to the ceiling as if in prayer. I doubt that
Gary
would think it normal to greet the divine
while clutching terry cloth. But now I see
that Whitman knew what fresh towels could mean
for a dazed
and puffy face, white towels unspeckled by blood
or errant coils of hair, towels that spill from a basket
like sea-foam.

This poem, like the rest in Barker’s collection, details how for the lover of literature, not just the teacher, that poetry and the novel do not separate from life. As the speaker remarks in “Rereading The Golden Bowl,” “We live our lives through objects.” The poem or the book always begins as physical object—something to be picked up, handled, and consumed—but yet it is more. Barker’s collection flirts with some elements of magical contagion, that everything we’ve come in contact with in the past will stay with us in some form or fashion for the rest of our lives. For the speaker, poems express our being and our very being expresses poems. This is concept eloquently arises aptly in the homage to Bishop in “About That ‘One Art’”:

 

It’s a perfect poem, I say, and though no one
in the class is over twenty-five,
everybody
nods. They’ve all lost: the Madame
Alexander doll fallen into the toilet, silky
hair never the same, the friend who
moved away to Dallas, a brother once
again
in juvie.

The speaker continues to list what has been lost over the years: photo albums, people, breasts and husbands to cancer, etc. The poem concludes as she asks the class why Bishop wrote the poem as a villanelle:

… [S]o we
parse the form, say how such echoing
slows us, keeps us focused on each single
disappearance, so at first we hear lightheartedness,
a witty irony—but then the sounds grow
vaster, catch us off guard. And quicken.

This collection is not simply about teaching literature: it is about living literature. The words come from the lives we live, and as we live it is the words that keep coming back to us. Every poem in Barker’s collection exemplifies the inherent connectivity and the art of all the loves and losses that arise. One Blackbird at a Time is a map of influence, a capsule of memories, a personal canon, and love letter. You would be remiss not to take the tour.

—Trista Edwards, University of North Texas

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Space Traveler by Benjamin S. Grossberg

Space Traveler by Benjamin S. Grossberg. Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 2014. 130 pages. $14, paper.

Space Traveler, Benjamin S. Grossberg’s third full-length poetry collection, revolves around the journey of the stoic and perceptive Space Traveler. The book is split into six sections, each poem a tightly compacted rocket ship filled with the delightful energy of the speaker’s articulate psyche; each poem fires up quickly and takes off with clever precision.

Space Traveler is a knockout for Grossberg, who has busted out of his shell into a mature, outgoing poet-thinker. His previous two collections represented a poet very much entrenched in the Earth: water, soil, vegetation, but also mindfulness; he courageously put himself into his work through philosophical and classical dilemmas of the mind, heart-wrenching frustration of sexual and familial relationships, and even humor. In this collection, Grossberg reworks those strengths into poems that execute skillful ironic tension: a speaker who is estranged from the human world but turns out to be intensely human himself. Grossberg plays with a new kind of ecosystem that is both abstract and concrete, and he pulls it off wonderfully.

A fundamental strength of Space Traveler is the use of plainspoken language, which serves as the engine for many of the poems. Casual voice is a new element in Grossberg’s work; it punches up this collection significantly. What works particularly well is the way in which several poems begin with a conversational burst. Here are some first lines: “No hoax. They just didn’t / hang around very long …,” or “It was me. An accident,” or “I’m not laughing at you. Really.” However, the true genius of this plainspoken style occurs when the Space Traveler speaks to the reader like a friend over a cup of coffee and then cleverly slips in thoughtful musings. The best example happens in “The Oil Spill,” when the Space Traveler says,

It’s all right. My species ruined
our planet, too. Chewed it, gouged it,
stewed it in any of a dozen flavors
of port, then ate it on toast. When all
was said and done, damn near
a billion of us stood back to back
on a tiny island, surrounded
by floating towers of plastic—
skyline of blues, greens, yellows, reds
bleaching in sunlight, and squadrons
of tern-like creatures circling above us,
squawks deafening. …

This passage excels in conversation, music and precise image. The engaging banter in the first two lines works stunningly, but the phrase “damn near” is achingly perfect. Conversational tone is everything here, employed ironically to talk about the environmental destruction of a planet. Further down, the Space Traveler elaborates: “You do your best to halt the black / hemorrhage, pinching your side / between thumb and forefinger. Good luck.” Again, the tone is spot-on, well timed, and humorous, as it is all throughout Space Traveler.

Perspective is another great element of Space Traveler. Poem titles are repeated throughout the collection, which creates the feeling of multiple realities. “Home,” “Wandering,” “Earth,” “His Husband,” “He Pities Humans,” “Black Holes,” “The Promised Planet,” and “Heaven” are all repeated titles; this is a smart move on Grossberg’s part because the twin poems create extra layers of meaning. For example, in “Wandering,” the reader experiences two perspectives on how the Space Traveler views his departure from Earth. In the first “Wandering,” the last lines of the poem employ relief and humor laced with pain:

When my afterburn ignited
what was left of the place, I
allowed myself a small smile. Then
I set the toaster for deep
space. It didn’t ding for years.

However, in the second version of “Wandering,” the tone changes:

… There was
a field that was my home, a world
I understood in the long silences
of its dawns. Now there’s this:
stars thick and old as fire. In all
their history, none have cracked
open, no golden thread of roots
unwinding beneath them.

The Space Traveler cannot dissect this new system; he spends the rest of the book attempting to articulate that challenge through an endless series of perspectives.

Later in the book, other space travelers appear. The reader discovers how the Space Traveler views himself in relation to them. In the poem “Meaning,” the Space Traveler grapples with the difficulty of self-perspective:

In the distance, space travelers
lounge on deck chairs and sip
fruity drinks through long straws.
They’re not even sweating.
They either know more than I do
or have found more pleasant ways
to know the same things.
But then I realize it’s also possible
they look at me through their own
gritted-up fishbowls, imagining
a little Acapulco where cabana
boys fan me, bring me ice
shavings sticky with peach juice.

One of Grossberg’s strengths as a poet is his willingness to acknowledge and inhabit emotional and physical vulnerability. In this passage, other travelers are included in this conversation, turning vulnerability into a universal feeling.

Space Traveler thrives on emotional and philosophical depth, but it is also an empowering book. Venturing into the unknown can be frightening and isolating, but also highly gratifying. An empowered voice shines through in “Earth,” “The Promised Planet,” and “His Duende” (which also cleverly flirts with the idea of annihilation), but the desire for autonomy is the strongest in “Runaway Stars,” where the Space Traveler remarks,

A space traveler’s dream? To hitch
a ride on one of those stars: to clutch
chaps-clad legs around its pulsing heat,
hold on with one hand while the other
reaches up toward the coolness. How they
buck and flare in their disentangled fury,
how they charge off suddenly and terribly
alone. That’s the dream: not to be
the one burned, the dolt in its path, but
the mount, to ride the swelling fire.

The language is sexually charged and maverick-like, but ultimately, empowerment is the dream: life as an uninhibited journey full of imagination, courage, and adventure.

Space Traveler is an impressive breakthrough collection for Benjamin S. Grossberg. He trusts his natural voice, and he exhibits just the right combination of wit, intellectual depth and emotional complexity to keep the reader entertained and engaged.

—Andrea Syzdek, University of Houston

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Moon City Review 2016 Has Arrived!

Moon City Review 2016 is here! The 2016 edition features work by BJ Best, Sarah Browning, Jim Daniels, Nandini Dhar, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Laura Hendrix Ezell, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Mark Irwin, Sandra Marchetti, Lee Ann Roripaugh, William Trowbridge, and many, many more writers.

MCR16 front cover

Click here to order right now!

Pushcart Prize Nominations

The editors of Moon City Press are pleased to announce Moon City Review‘s 2015 Pushcart Prize nominations, which are as follows:

Kate Belew: “Go Down to the River”
Kelly Davio: “Pantoum for Someone Else’s Child”
Leonard Kress: “Boginski Finds a Bride”
Mary Quade: “The Middle-School Cheerleader”
Pablo Piñero Stillmann: “The First Man in Space”
Hananah Zaheer: “A Video Store Called Desire”

Good luck to these authors and congratulations to them and all of the writers who had work in our 2015 edition!