Midwest in Photos: Best Steak House, St. Paul, MN

December 23rd, 2017

“It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in.” – Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep.

Photo by: Steven Lang

Interview: Stuart Dischell

Stuart Dischell author headshotMidwestern Gothic staffer Sydney Cohen talked with author Stuart Dischell about his poetry collection Children With Enemies, writing dramatic monologues, the importance of determination, and more.


Sydney Cohen: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Stuart Dischell: I attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, from 1972 to 1976 and the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from 1976 to 1978. Those were formative years in my development as a writer and a person. Yellow Springs was an alternative enclave and was not as representative of the region surrounding it as it was of the experimental tradition of the Midwest and certain of its colleges. Going to Big Ten Iowa City was a culture shock for me, but I came to love Iowa. I often took long drives into the countryside, sometimes to Lone Tree, where I visited friends. Iowa was a very progressive state in 1976.

SC: Children With Enemies, your newest collection of poetry, grapples with the themes of time, history, and memory. More specifically, your treatment of time is flexible in that your characters can step fluidly through history. What interests you about the malleability of time, and which periods or moments in history do you gravitate towards in your writing?

SD: I am most interested in how time as in historical time affects a given location. For instance, if I am walking down the Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris, I am walking down the Roman cardo where elephants once labored and later on the same street where the victims of the Terror were led to the Guillotine. For me, this kind of knowledge increases my experience of a place and makes me wonder whether others who have not read or been told of history still feel its ambient presence. Even the blood on its stones. A city is an aggregate of its stones.

Of course, there is the more personal form of time which takes its form as age. One has a hard time often adjusting to one’s age, and one has a harder time accepting the deaths of friends and family.

Children with Enemies book cover

SC: The cover of Children With Enemies, a terrifying hairy tarantula suspended against a shocking green background, is at once playful and menacing. What was your inspiration for the cover, and how does it inform the larger work?

SD: I asked the book designer for a cover that was “bright, child-like, and menacing.” I certainly got what I asked for and more. Rather brilliant. I like it because it appears vital. I am no fan of book covers that depict high art and proclaim the seriousness of the work within.

SC: Your award-winning collection Good Hope Road opens with a sequence titled “Apartments,” in which you explore the range of characters in a contemporary urban setting and construct a landscape of urban consciousness. How much of “Apartments” is imagined and how much is a reflection of your real life experience? Do you view urban spaces with sentimentality or frustration?

SD: The people and circumstances in the “Apartments” series are a mixture of experience and imagination. It is true that for over a decade I lived in a wonderful apartment building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that was occupied by some very interesting people. As in much of my writing, what you might think is fact is fiction and visa versa. I originally wrote twice as many in the series, but cut it back to the ones that were most essential in their characterizations. I don’t think “sentimentality or frustration” are my only choices for urban spaces. I am an urbanist at heart. In relation to your question about the fluidity of time, I love how one’s own actions take on the significance of the deeds of history when one stands at certain intersections.

SC: The second section of the collection, “Household Gods,” includes two dramatic monologues that stand out for their length and point of view. How does the process of writing a monologue differ from that of writing a shorter poem? What was your thought process behind choosing to include monologues in your collection, and how do they shape the work as a whole?

SD: The greatest problem in writing dramatic monologues is to create and sustain a distinct voice, especially when speaking through an identifiable figure such as Henry Adams. Over the years I have written poems in the voices also of Columbus and Macbeth. In each I have tried to make the poems distinct also by making them formally different. I included dramatic monologues as a counterweight to the many more narrative strategies at work in the “Apartments” section.

SC: Your poetry largely deals with the human condition and the minutiae of everyday life, exemplified in collections such as Good Hope Road and Dig Safe. Is there anything particularly Midwestern about your portrayal of the human experience?

SD: Midwestern writers have had a great impact on my formative reading, particularly James Wright, Sherwood Anderson, Robert Bly, Willa Cather, and of course Ernest Hemingway. From each I learned about craft and the human experience that allowed me to translate these things into my own landscape of childhood, the Southern New Jersey coast, and my subsequent experiences in Boston and Paris.

SC: Who are some poets that inspire you, and why?

SD: Ah, so many. Today I have on my desk the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer translated by the great Midwestern poet Robert Bly. This is a new selection of poems I have read in other volumes over the course of my writing life. I remember reading them in my dorm room at Antioch and at the Hamburg Inn in Iowa City. Reading Tranströmer’s poems bring me back to the person I was when I started writing. I guess that’s good.

SC: With eight collections and chapbooks, you have an impressive repertoire of published works. Is there anything you wish you would have known when you started writing that you know now?

SD: Writing has been my great friend throughout my life. Sometimes when I have not been creative, my writing has waited for me to arrive, as it were. Being anything in our culture requires determination. Perhaps being an artist or writer requires more fire in the belly. My friend, the poet and non-fiction writer Jeffrey Greene, told me when we were graduate students that you have to want it bad enough. I wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager and I am grateful to have published my books but even more grateful to want to keep writing. If I had known something before, it would be a small thing: I would have kept better journals of my days and always wrote out my early drafts of poems in them. I have done so periodically but not methodically.

SC: What’s next for you?

SD: I am just finishing a novel with far too many characters.


Stuart Dischell is the author of Good Hope Road, a National Poetry Series Selection, Evenings & Avenues, Dig Safe, Backwards Days, Standing on Z, and Children with Enemies. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Agni, The New Republic, Slate, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and anthologies including Essential Poems, Hammer and Blaze, Pushcart Prize, and Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems. A recipient of awards from the NEA, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.


No Comments


Submissions Opening January 1st!

We’re excited to announce that submissions are opening in just a couple weeks for Midwestern Gothic‘s Summer 2018 issue!

From January 1st until February 28th, 2017, send us your fiction, poetry and nonfiction inspired by the Midwest!

Never submitted before? Please read through our Submissions Guidelines—it only takes a few minutes and they’ll fill you in on what Midwestern Gothic is all about. Or you could check out one of our previous issues to get a sense of our aesthetic.

Please make sure you submit through Midwestern Gothic’s Submittable page. (All the relevant details are there, too.)

We can’t wait to read your work!


No Comments


Midwest in Photos: Indiana State Fair

“And the nation calls for its soul, / calls for its blood and belly, / and we, we number the five / fingers of our fists and try / anything to stay alive / without poems.” – Philip Levine, “My Poets.”

Photo by: David Thompson


No Comments


Interview: Carol Smallwood

Carol Smallwood author headshotMidwestern Gothic staffer Sydney Cohen talked with author Carol Smallwood about her book Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms, the subconscious roots of writing, working with formal verse, and more.


Sydney Cohen: What is your connection to the Midwest?

Carol Smallwood: My connection to the Midwest goes back to homesteaders and I’ve always lived in Michigan and my children also live in Michigan.

SC: During your career as a librarian you wrote and published works that provided guidance and advice to other librarians in the field, including outreach programs and budget-saving methods. What changes did you work to implement in the field of library science, and how do you believe this field has evolved since your time as a librarian?

CS: My first book was on Michigan resources after teachers asked me what was out there to use for Michigan Week. There was so much available that was free it ended up being published by Hillsdale Educational Publishers and it was followed by an updated edition. The library field has of course been impacted by technology like every other profession and I was part of doing away with the card catalog and setting up the collection online.

SC: Your book of poetry, titled Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms, addresses varying spheres of life spanning from nature to domesticity to mortality. How did you go about tackling such a diverse breadth of topics in your collection? Is there a common thread running through each realm of your book?

CS: The title was used because that grouped the topics of the poems I’d already had written and which are really related to one another. Using a foreword, introduction, prologue, epilogue in my poetry collections is probably a reflection of being involved with nonfiction.

Compartments Poems on Nature Femininity and Other Realms book cover by Carol Smallwood

SC: Your newest collection, Prisms, Particles, and Refractions, blends together the seemingly disparate worlds of art and science. Your writing explores the metaphorical and literal texture of light in three sections that put physics and poetry in conversation with one another. What was your inspiration for writing this collection? What, if anything, did you discover about art or science that you did not know before?

CS: As a fan of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, I was made even more aware in the meeting of science and philosophy. As he noted: “We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.” It is exciting to live in times that have made such strides in the exploration and understanding of the cosmos. In Hubble’s Shadow (Shanti Arts, 2017) also examines the influence of discoveries. Understanding the human brain is also an exciting new frontier.

SC: The Midwest plays an important role in your family history, with your lineage rooted in Michigan. How does the Midwest feature in your writing, whether overtly or subtextually? What works of yours do you consider particularly Midwestern?

CS: We cannot get away from where we’re from: even the composition of our teeth is directly related to water as a child and our culture is so much part of us we do not see it. As far as using the Midwest in titles, I wrote an essay, “Midwestern Spring,” about the coming of the season in the Midwest for Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction (Shanti Arts, 2017). I edited the third edition of Michigan Authors—the last print edition before it became a Library of Michigan and Michigan Association of Media in Education database online: authors and illustrators are eligible for inclusion in Michigan Authors and Illustrators if they are born in Michigan, live or have lived in Michigan or have works about or set in Michigan.

SC: You have written an extremely impressive and extensive array of works, including poetry, fiction and nonfiction. What do you find is the most challenging aspect of the writing process? What comes easily for you?

CS: Nonfiction was what I started with, then I did fiction, then poetry. The most challenging is finding what you want to write about, or rather what you are capable, ready to do. Most writing I believe happens in our subconscious, that subterranean wild place of dreams: it is at odd times it pops out when it isn’t convenient, like when driving, trying to fall asleep. Brooding (often not knowing it) brings about the most finished work, that is, much of it has formed and you just need to let it go into words even if it only begins with a line, a concept.

SC: In the film industry, directors who have achieved a large amount of success are sometimes afforded a “blank check,” which they use to create whatever projects they want. As a writer who has achieved immense success and acclaim, do you find you have the agency and professional backing to create your own passion projects?

CS: Unfortunately, the poetry I often use is the formal or classical kind such as the pantoum, villanelle, and others, and editors sometimes prefer free verse, that is, nothing with rhyme and form. My poetry collections combine forms to appeal to different taste and am composing the rondeau now with the help of the great paperback: How to Write Classical Poetry: A Guide to Forms, Techniques, and Meaning

As far as library anthologies, they are topics I know will be popular, serve a need, and sometimes co-editors or publishers suggest topics; after editing, writing, or co-editing over five dozen, they still are enjoyable as librarians come up with wonderful work.

SC: When teaching English, what was the most important piece of advice you would tell your students?

CS: Read closely and be curious about word choice. I remember in the second grade the wonder of words came to me when the reading book had the word “suddenly” after all the one syllable words. It had power, mystery, was grown up, and couldn’t believe words could have such musical magic.

SC: If you could sit down with any author or book character, from any point in history, who would it be? What would you discuss?

CS: John Galsworthy is the one author I would really like to meet after reading him since high school. I’ve got most of his short stories, plays, essays, novels and keep learning from him. Over and over his novels never lose their relevance—the Nobel Prize Winner died before I was born but the world he creates is a place always new.

SC: What’s next for you?

CS: Next is more library anthologies and poetry collection under contracts. Hopefully another poetry collection now making the rounds will be accepted: A Matter of Selection and another collection inspired by a quotation is underway. I enjoy doing interviews more than book reviews and as poetry judge for the Women’s National Book Association am helping spread the word about its 2018 Writing Contest. Thank you very much for this opportunity.


Carol Smallwood’s over five dozen books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers. Recent anthologies include: Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014); Bringing the Arts into the Library: An Outreach Handbook (American Library Association, 2014); Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences (Lamar University Press, 2014), Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Editions, 2015).

Her most recent literary collections are: Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction (Shanti Arts, 2017) and In Hubble’s Shadow (Shanti arts, 2017). Prisms, Particles, and Refractions (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Library Outreach to Writers and Poets: Interviews and Case Studies of Cooperation (McFarland, 2017);and Gender Issues and the Library: Case Studies of Innovative Programs and Resources (McFarland, 2017). Carol has founded and supports humane societies. She’s received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and appears in Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in the World, Wikipedia.


No Comments


Interview: Curtis Crisler

Curtis Crisler author photoMidwestern Gothic staffer Sydney Cohen talked with poet Curtis Crisler about his collections THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS] and “This” Ameri-can-ah, pop culture inspirations, the relationship between poetry and theater, and more.


Sydney Cohen: What’s your connection to the Midwest?

Curtis Crisler: I am a Hoosier. I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, a.k.a. “Little Chicago” when I was growing up—part of the tri-states—Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Now, I live in Fort Wayne—the second largest city in Indiana.

Also, to chronicle urban Midwestern life, I have coined “urban Midwestern sensibility (uMs).” An uMs “examines the Great Migrants who’ve migrated from the south to the north, from about the time of 1915 through the 1970s (even though some have written it wasn’t a fluid migration, but more broken up into two periods). Urban Midwestern sensibility examines the black migrant’s past, present, and future.” I am now submitting the manuscript, Playbook for an Urban Midwestern Sensibility (Crafting Work Cross-Genres), for publication. It is a book on craft, and “illustrate[s] my vision, through craft, and what an ‘urban Midwestern sensibility’ (uMs) fully encompasses through the genres of poetry, fiction, drama, and essay.”

SC: Your upcoming book of poetry, THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], is a playfully inventive manipulation of form and sound with influences from history and pop culture. What was your inspiration behind the collection? Which pieces do you find particularly moving, and why?

CC: My initial inspiration was a manny (manuscript) I was submitting and trying to get published called The Black Album [poems]. It was a play on all The Black Albums done by artist like Prince, Jay-Z, and Metallica that played off The White Album of the Beatles. It did make it to the finals of the 2014 Omnidawn Open. After that, I put the manuscript away. I was thinking I wouldn’t publish it, and maybe after I died, it could be one of those treasures found and later released. A couple of years later, and the death of Prince, connected me to myself. What I mean by that is that I feel I live in the grey area of life, not the black or white so much. So, I put together THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], writing some new poems to replace some in the original, The Black Album [poems], and I dedicated the manny to Prince. I wanted to address my headspace on the times, the passing of one of my favorite artists, and poems that wanted to play in the ether of existence. So, I let them loose.

I feel all the pieces are moving in THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS]. In the first section, called “Grey Hot Tracks,” the first poem, “Living in Grey Matters (a pattern),” along with the poems, “living in the grey matter cento,” from the third section, and “Living in the Greyz Redux” (the sixth and last section), are three poems that were seminal to a thematic lyrical throbbing of me living in the grey matter (this life). These three occurrences (poems) were detrimental to the book’s existence. These three sections pulse in a reality that is so uber-realistic that they become surreal. Also, the first poem, “Living in Grey Matters (a pattern),” addresses how we are desensitized to people being killed on video due to technology, and how it renders such a disassociating occurrence to many that the effect of death seems tame in our social construct. The poem ponders an implied question I can’t seem to answer, Why can’t some trained police officers get an unarmed person from point A to point B without them ending up dead? The poem goes on to pose more philosophical questions we never seem to reconcile. The “re-” throughout the poem plays on the denotation of the prefix: 1) indicating return to a previous condition, restoration, withdrawal, etc.: rebuild, renew, retrace, reunite, or 2) indicating repetition of an action: recopy, remarry (dictionary.com). For me, the recurrence of killings in our public space is not a reoccurrence but a continuation, and we can view the loss of lives like tutorials on YouTube. Yet, it’s nothing new, especially from a musical representation of brutality—good, bad, or indifferent. From Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to Tupac and Biggie; from Public Enemy to NWA and Ice-T; from Prince and Sweet Honey in the Rock to Marvin Gaye and the Temptations; from Jimi Hendrix to Aretha Franklin to Stevie Wonder to Sam Cooke to Nina Simone; from Billie Holiday to Paul Roberson; to Mahalia; to Armstrong, back to Buddy Bolden and King Oliver, back to Robert Johnson and Lead Belly; back to the slaves moaning in the cotton fields, there has been music about the conflicts between blacks and many of the authorities in America.

The second section, “The Grey Singles,” makes the surreal real. The fourth section, “Top 10 Greyz,” is like dreaming underwater. And the fifth section, “The Grey 12-inches,” springboards romantically through the lens of Junior’s song “Mama Used to Say,” and represents the most linear theme within the book. The combination makes for a great conception album—I think, but I could be crazy.

SC: You graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne with a minor in Theater. As poetry is largely a performative art, how does your theater training play a role in the way in which you write, understand and share your work?

CC: The mechanics of performance: stage presence/awareness, articulation, projection, breathing, and body control—the body as an instrument—is so apropos in theater and poetry. The poem works through the body, lives there, and then is released like breaths a woman has when giving birth. If Betty Davis really said something to the extent that acting is being on stage naked, and slowly turning around, I feel her statement embodies poetry as well, where you get to see, hear, feel, the truth of words coming to life. Like Lucille Clifton, I am open to poetry, so poetry comes to me. Also, like a friend and poet, Eric Baus, I am obsessed with the poem, the object, the subject, the words, until I’m not. The call to write can come at any time, and usually does, but just like theater, you live with a character, become the character, know the character, the same can be said with a poem. Maybe it’s why I believe when my books are published that they are my children graduating from high school, and going out into the world—some go to college, work at libraries, bookstores, middle schools, high schools, travel overseas—some have fast tongues—some are clever and slow—some don’t care what you think of them—some just want to look you dead in your eyes, and say, “Hey,” just so you can feel their breath on your face.

This Ameri-can-ah book cover by Curtis Crisler

SC: Another one of your collections, “This” Ameri-can-ah, is comprised of eclectic and humoristic poems that work to illustrate American life. How does your writing subvert, or reaffirm, notions of “American” poetry? How does your work contribute to the discourse around what it means to be American? In your definition, what is Americana?

CC: “I have always been enamored by the relationship/s of man and woman, woman and woman, woman and child, woman/man and son/daughter, man and animal, nature and nurture, poor and privileged, the ‘other’ and the status quo, religion and science, sci-fi and comics, insider vs. outsider, and so on. This comes from examining my surroundings—the people around me, the environment around me—my community—local, regional, and global” — Playbook for an Urban Midwestern Sensibility (Crafting Work Cross-Genres). America is built on relationships, good, bad, indifferent. Along with all the controversy of our differences, we tend not to notice the things that make us alike. We trust each other more than we think we do: think driving, and for the most part, everyone doing what they need to do to get to where they need to be—most times this happens without fault. Think buying food from grocery stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants, etc. Even when things go badly, say we get in a car crash, or meat, milk, and vegetables get tainted with something bad, for the most part it is a blip on the screen of our lives in the milieu of all the people that make up America. That’s not to say that people don’t die or get maimed in car crashes, or that people don’t die and get sick from viruses. Yes, those can and do happen, but far less than we think. Most Americans have access to the above mentioned; still, many don’t. I worry about them. I believe America is both circumstances: being alike, functioning alike, for most of us, but the other side of the coin are those who aren’t in that majority—they have problems functioning (be it inadequate education, job opportunities, housing, health care, lack of viable transportation, living in food deserts, etc.) compared to their counterparts.

The Americana part, for me, is how we manage to get through this messy existence. Somehow, we do get through it, or we don’t get through it, or we just keep trying to get through it—living with the memory of it all.

SC: Your poetry is rife with historical and pop cultural references. Which cultural figures inspire you the most? Is your integration of these figures conscious or subconscious? What work do these references do to ground a poem in a specific historical or cultural moment?

CC: I wish I knew which cultural figures inspired me the most, but I’m always moved by a person’s artistry, and how a person does what she/he does. I wouldn’t know who would come up in a poem, per se, until I was conceptualizing the poem. For example, with “Richard Pryor and me,” I have always felt Pryor shifty when too many people were around, but when it’s just us (that us is me, but it’s a universal we too)—with us, he could be real. And, it felt like he was more real on stage than he could be in real life. With “Boxing Arethas,” Aretha Franklin’s singing knocks it out the box, and is home as well because she connects me to every house I’ve ever lived in, and reminds me of weekends, and my mother. Aretha’s singing places me, viscerally—is happy, dark, soothing, angry, and punchy. She shows up in the last section of the book too. Prince died. Wow! Prince, M.J., and Madonna were all born in 1958. I was born 7 years later. M.J. died in 2009. Prince died 7 years later. If Madonna dies in 2023, I’m done. I won’t know what to do with all the 7s (thinking of Prince’s song as I say this).

I can’t say if it’s conscious of unconscious—probably a combination of both, at least in the case with Prince for this book. An exception would be my book Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press). It is a book with poems of wonderment and praise for Stevie Wonder.

I am at a time in my life where family members, friends, peers, and the cultural figures I grew up with, die. That’s just a fact of life, and one that sucks. I think people can see death has a huge presence in this book, and it does, but in many interesting ways—death turns people into birds, has us reneging on our dietary choices when we become zombies, has your Greek teacher and his son sharing pie with your grandmother, has you not calling Stuart Scott back in time, or has you visit Donny Hathaway’s daughters in verse. How I got to these gems took a lot of mining. Death and Life are symbiotic. But sometimes, I’m like, “DAMN!”

SC: What are the greatest challenges to writing poetry, and what comes easily to you?

CC: I think the weirdest thing that challenges me the most is when I finish a project. I always feel like I will not be able to do anything productive again. And, since I address books like they are my children, maybe subconsciously I feel another child is out of the question. This is rather scary to think that it is all gone—verve, creativity and the like. Yet, the lady in my head gets me going again and again and again, until she tells me we have a baby on the way. That’s crazy, right?!

Unfortunately, the things that come easily to me are my mother’s voice and those voices that live in the margins. My mother’s voice works like a tuning fork for me. The voices in the margin, I feel like I speak for them, or that I have a platform where they can be heard. Narratives are always there, I just need to pay attention to them. Like I stated earlier, I really enjoy writing about relationships.

SC: What is your ideal writing environment—the sights, sounds, and smells?

CC: Okay, this is weird, but I’m going to answer this with an answer I gave to Chris Rice Cooper for her blog, “Celebrating 20 years of National Poetry Month from Around the Globe: 113 Poets on Sacred Spaces, Sacred Places…” I was one of her featured 113 poets on April 6, 2016. She posed a question, like yours—

What is your sacred space/place where you do most of your writing? Describe that sacred space/place using all of the five senses.

Now, I can write anywhere. I think you have to be mobile, and with our new technology, I can wake up out of the night and text myself on my phone when I get one of those images or lines of words that bombards my subconscious. I’d just like to state that first, but I do have a favorite place to write. My favorite sacred space is laying on my couch. I’ve always wanted a couch where I can relax or fall to sleep on after a long day of work, after a good workout and, a couch that accepted my body and wanted me there. I have that with this couch. When writing, I am adorned with my fantabulous throw cover and a myriad of pillows holding up my head and my legs for the most comforting experience I can have while writing. This way, my circulation doesn’t get cut off like when I’m sitting in a chair at my desk. I love the noise of the wind moving the trees to the left of me, as I hear birds, squirrels, cars, and voices in the distance, or just the moaning of my abode when the snow, rain, and sun encroach and play upon it. The environment around me plays heavily on my writing experience, for I know when I need something, and I can’t see it or hear it, I open my senses to where I am, and my environment comes rushing in with answers. But there is the ultimate experience, like when I’m in the zone. I have completely become one with my couch and my stirring for a more comfortable position as I type and type with a madness and the words that I will fuss with like a wife and husband fussing over finances. When in the zone, all sound is lost, and there is a whiteness around me (as best as I can express/explain it), and the couch is the foundation of where this takes place. For example: I always tell my students, and audiences now, that Black Achilles (Accents Publishing: an independent press for brilliant voices) was written on my back, with my left leg on top of the back of my couch since I had to have it elevated to control the swelling after my Achilles tear. My mother was in one of my comfy rocking chairs to my right, talking to me, talking on the phone, talking to the television, eating, snoring, and caring—the music of the chapbook, and a once in a lifetime experience. That is the truth! No need to embellish. Mama is my love. Also, there’s nothing like waking up out of the zone, or a needed nap, with the imprint of decorative pillows or couch on my face. Somehow, when I do come back to life, it’s the smell and feel of the couch, and the requisite markings on my face, arms, and legs that let me know I’ve put the work in. I then sigh, and murmur into the day, or night. I need to write an ode to my couch—give my couch a name.

SC: What’s next for you?

CC: I am working on quite a few things. THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS] will be a new kid on the block, so I will be marketing and promoting it heavily through interviews like this, readings, etc. I have another book coming out, Indiana Nocturne(s): Our Rural and Urban Patchwork that Kevin McKelvey and I have been working on for around 10 years, give or take. Kevin is from Lebanon, Indiana—a rural farming area, and I am from Gary, Indiana—an urban city area. We are friends, and met in grad school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Our book brings our rural and urban histories together, through poetry, and illustrates that even with our differences we are Midwestern and Hoosiers. Oh, we will also have an artist from Indiana who will do the artwork for our cover. We wanted to keep it all in house, so to speak. Playbook for an Urban Midwestern Sensibility (Crafting Work Cross-Genres) is a book on craft the elaborates on my urban Midwestern sensibility (uMs) through poetry, fiction, drama, and essay. Currently, I am looking for places that would be a good fit for Playbook for an Urban Midwestern Sensibility (Crafting Work Cross-Genres). The last thing that I am working on is a young adult book called Cheetah and Earl. I hope to start submitting that to places soon.


Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theater, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Crisler’s book, THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], was picked by Steel Toe Books for their 2016 Open Reading Period, and will be published in 2018. His recent poetry books are Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press) and “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing). His poetry chapbook, Black Achilles, was published by Accents Publishing. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, and Spill (which won a Keyhole Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of a residency from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, a guest resident at Hamline University, and a guest resident at Words on the Go (Indianapolis). Crisler has received a Library Scholars Grant Award, Indiana Arts Commission Grants, Eric Hoffer Awards, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and he was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award and the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award. His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He edited the nonfiction book, Leaving Me Behind: Writing a new me, on the Summer Bridge experience at IPFW. He’s been a Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press and a Poetry Editor for Human Equity through Art (where he’s now a board member). Crisler is an Associate Professor of English at IPFW. He can be contacted at www.poetcrisler.com.


No Comments


Anna Prushinskaya Interviewed by Pulp

We’ve got another interview to share with y’all!

Anna Prushinskaya did with Evelyn Hollenshead of Pulp – Arts Around Ann Arbor about her book A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother, where she discussed her essay collection, motherhood, and how becoming a mother has changed her writing.

“…becoming a mom made me want to have more direct impact through my writing.”

Read Anna’s full interview about A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother here.


No Comments


Anna Prushinskaya Interviewed at Electric Lit

More good news to share! Anna Prushinskaya, author of the recently-released MG Press title A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother, was interviewed by Juliet Escoria of Electric Lit!

“The title of the book is A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother in part because I was thinking about the categories of ‘woman’ that I have contended with in my life — motherhood being one of them — the broader implications of those categories, and about the power of a woman’s story.”

Check out the full interview on Electric Literature’s site.


No Comments


A Woman Is A Woman Listed on Entropy’s Best of 2017


A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother book cover by Anna PrushinskayaWe are beyond thrilled to share with y’all that MG Press book A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother was chosen as one of Entropy magazine’s “Best of 2017 Nonfiction” titles! We’re so proud of Anna Prushinskaya, and so honored that she trusted us with her beautiful collection of essays. Join us in saying congrats to Anna!

Here’s what the Entropy staff said about the collection:

“Anna Prushinskaya’s A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother is a frank, courageous, and beautiful meditation on the strange alchemy of migrating from one identity to another.” — Helen Phillips

The “Best of 2017” List is based on nominations from the staff at Entropy and nominations from readers. In no particular order, the list highlights the best nonfiction has to offer from the year. For more information on Entropy‘s “Best of 2017” List, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about A Woman Is A Woman Until She Is A Mother, check out our book page!


No Comments


Midwest in Photos: Beginning and End

“What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices?” – Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays.”

Photo by: Lindsey Steffes


No Comments