Watershed Review

Est. 2012

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Robert Krut

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I recently had the pleasure of reading Robert Krut’s poetry for the first time. The experience was both enlightening and inspiring. Krut’s writing conveys feelings that are familiar and yet somehow indiscernible. Images speak, melting into emotions that cannot be articulated, kindling the smolder of latent imagination.

Just one of the many themes present in Krut’s poetry I found particularly fascinating was the supernatural elements, and I found myself spellbound by his use of imagery. There were moments of surprise in Krut’s poetry in which I had to stop and ask myself “Did this seemingly regular imagery really just take that turn?”

Here are five of my favorites:
“Gargoyle” and “You are a Jellyfish, Ghost,” (Packingtown Review)
“Hold Me, the Walls are Falling,” (Vinyl Poetry, with an accompanying video)
“Heart Holds Lake,” (A Dozen Nothing)
“Phantasmagoria at Six AM,” (Night Block)

In preparation for his upcoming visit, I was lucky enough to ask Robert Krut about his writing process and creative life:

What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?

I just try to write whenever a phrase or image jumps out at me—sometimes that happens at a time when I can type it right out, sometimes it is written into a bedside notebook, sometimes it means recording cryptic words into my phone. Then, later I can pull them all together for the actual writing. In terms of routine, that changes up periodically—for a while I will only write at the crack of dawn, which will prove to be very productive. Then, I’ll mix it up and write at the end of the day, when my inhibitions are down a bit. The key, as everyone will say, is to try to write every day whether it is crafting a full-blown draft or even just a few lines.

I will say the most productive I am is when I have a schedule to stick to—and why I don’t manage to always stick to it is a great mystery of either a busy life or laziness—but when I do, I write a lot more. Wake up, write for a while before coffee in the morning. That helps. When I’ve given myself a strict regimen, I always wind up with workable material in the long run.

This year you were A Dozen Nothing’s selected poet for March. One of the poems published in that issue was Bomb the Subtext. What about this poem is special to you or led you to write it?

I had been working on a long, long—ridiculously long—poem, designed to be something of an epic piece (in my mind) of interlocking sections with a driving narrative. But the farther I got into it, even mapping out the trajectory of a plot and setting details, it felt less like poetry to me and more like something else. And not something I thought was heading in a particularly interesting direction—it had started with a burst of excitement, but by the end point, it felt stale. So I scrapped the whole plan, and then just tried writing a few poems that would be moments in what had been my initially exciting world for the piece. About four short poems made it out of that process—“Bomb the Subtext” was one of them. My hope is that those remaining poems evoke the larger “story” or “themes” or whatever else it might be called better than where the longer piece was headed.

In terms of what makes it special, I don’t know if there’s anything special about the poem itself, but I am glad that it appeared in A Dozen Nothing, which is such a great new journal. Pete Miller and Jeff Sirkin—both incredible poets themselves—are really onto something there, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

What was your biggest mistake as a writer?

When I was younger (not to jump the gun on your next question), it was thinking that I had to pick one particular style or approach and stick with it, which can shut you off to trying new things. I write like this, and not like that, or (worse), this is the way it should be done, etc. That lets you get boring very quickly.

These days, if I’m not reading as much as a I want—as much as I should—I feel that mistake in both my daily life and, of course, my writing.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger writer self?

Talk half as much, and listen twice as much.

What is a measure of success for a poet?

I’m not sure how to define success, really, but personally I feel (temporary) satisfaction when I’ve been editing and revising a draft of a poem for a while and then get to the point where I feel safe enough to walk away from it. As I just wrote that sentence, I was reminded of one of your Chico State alumni, in fact—Raymond Carver—who wrote about a similar feeling in his piece “On Writing.” I read that essay religiously when I was younger, and it clearly stuck. There is always a little blink of time after letting the poem set in place that feels rewarding, and then you get back to work.

______________________________

Robert Krut is the author of This is the Ocean (Bona Fide Books, 2013),which received the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Award, as well as The Spider Sermons (BlazeVox, 2009). His work has appeared widely in print and online, in journals like Cimarron ReviewBlackbird, Smartish Pace, and more. In 2007, H_NGM_N released his chapbook Theory of the Walking Big Bang; subsequently, he began serving on the press/journal’s Editorial Board. He teaches at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lives in Los Angeles.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Robert Krut, Tuesday, November 29th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100A. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

Written by James Howard

 

Visiting Author Spotlight: Michelle Tea

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Michelle Tea’s memoir How to Grow Up exposes a vein of humor that can be found in life, even in the zany and unsettling conditions offered to those who live at the intersection of unfamiliar and unfortunate. The memoir consists of a collection of essays, with topics ranging from alcoholism, poverty, fashion, queer culture in the 90s, and sex. As is mentioned in Kazim Ali’s essay “Genre-Queer: Notes Against Generic Binaries,” people are looking to break down the expectations that might be imposed on a body of work just as they would be on a person. Tea adds her own color to this discussion with her genre-bending novel Black Wave, blending elements of a memoir into a fictional universe, and with the novel-turned-film, Valencia, which became a collaborative effort with 21 different directors whose unique vision led to a sold-out premiere at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

In the first chapter of How to Grow Up, Tea identifies herself with a persimmon tree due to its unsynchronized flare of life:“As all the other trees lose their leaves and begin their winter dying, the persimmon flares up brighter than any of them have ever been, bearing fruit, even. That was me. I wasn’t on the same timetable as the other trees in the garden, but I was alive, coming into a certain prime, even.”

Tea associates this image of the persimmon’s belated blooming with a positive note that is sustained throughout the memoir. Although she often approaches her past self with humility and insight, she never apologizes for being different and even dedicates a chapter to “Young Michelle.” In this chapter, she simultaneously ridicules and adores Young Michelle (velvet body suit and all), but never placed her in a box. This strain of self-love, almost edging on maternal, resonated with me and came off as deeply unique. Having been raised working class in Chelsea, Massachusetts, she is able to contextualize her actions in a way that brings her readers together, despite the sometimes obscure events in her life, such as living in a house where none of the roommates cleaned. Ever. Seeing that I am the type of person who saves old toothbrushes in order to scrub the grout lines along the tile floor, I was horrified.

This image of the persimmon tree is subtly repeated when her sobriety acts as a conduit for moving in with partying twenty-year-olds and again when her “biological time clock” begins tolling with the desire to experience pregnancy. These situations play at readers’ expectations of recovery and of their own understanding of when milestones should occur.

Michelle Tea is a memoirist, poet, editor, founder of the online publication Mutha magazine and the non-profit organization RADAR Productions, and a literary citizen, having dedicated a portion of her career to creating opportunities for queer writers, such as Sister Spit. She has also written for multiple blogs and magazine, including xojane, where she documented her experiences with pregnancy. A particular favorite of mine was called, “Getting Pregnant With Michelle: I had a Baby.”

Butte College, Butte College’s Diversity Committee and the 1078 Literary Committee are proud to welcome Michelle Tea to the 1078 Gallery (820 Broadway) on October 11th, 7:30 pm.

Written by Samantha Smith

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Martha Collins

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In her introduction to Writing White, Martha Collins states, “I think we go a long way toward understanding why white poets don’t address racial issues more often when we acknowledge that it’s almost impossible for poets of color not to write from a racialized experience.”

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Collins grew up with a keen understanding of censorship with her writing. In an interview with Michael Simms for Coal Hill Review in 2012, Collins stated that she “learned that I’m usually onto something when I hear the censor’s voice.” It is Collins’ ability to push past the mental censorship that was developed deep within her from parents and teachers, critics and society that has made her so successful as a writer who understands what it means to “write white.”

My first taste of Martha Collins came subtly, in the form of a book called Blue Front, a book of poems that took me by surprise. What unfolded in front of me was not “just a book of poems” but a fantastic artistic move in which Collins uses poetry to tell a story unlike any I have ever read. Collins brings us into a scene that is both horrific and raw and adds to it a reality that we often try not to talk about. She does not balk in the face of censorship, but instead, looks it right in the eye and says what she means to say and does so eloquently and passionately.

What Collins does is, as Chico State Creative Writing professor Jeanne Clark states, “engages questions of race in utterly harrowing, necessary and compelling ways.” A great example of her ability to “engage questions of race” can be seen in her book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006) where Collins uses white space, historiography, fragmentation and interpretation to describe a lynching her father witnessed when he was only 5 years old. Her father was known for selling fruit in front of the Blue Front Restaurant in Cairo, Illinois, the town in which the lynching took place. The poems create a feeling of frenzy, chaos, hurriedness, and violence. It is done both simply and stunningly, pushing the limits of poetry by using evidence of postcard descriptions, the legal history of the event, and even Collins’ own speculation of what happened.

Collins’ ability to push censorship and art comes together in her work in a cohesive and deliberate form. In her poem “White Papers” she gives a stunning account of the issue of race with simple but raw statements like, “Because my father said yes/ but not in our lifetimes” and “Because among the crayons/ there was one called Flesh.” Her use of anaphora brings to light the arguments that have taken place for generations. Her use of language recreates the ways in which we have talked about race in the past and even what we may still talk about it in the future.

With three Pushcart Prizes, the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Lannan residency grant, the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize and many fellowships, it is hard to deny Collins dedication to her craft and importance as an American poet. Her most recent book, Admit one: An American Scrapbook (Pittsburgh, 2016) has been praised by Writer’s Chronicle for poetry that is stated to be “poised at the juncture between the lyric and ethics.” Her other works include Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014) and White Papers (Pitt Poetry Series, 2012). After attending Stanford University for her B.A. and then the University of Iowa for her Ph.D., Collins taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she founded the Creative Writing Program and for ten years was Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College, and is also editor-at-large for FIELD magazine.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Martha Collins, Tuesday at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

Written by Kyleen Bromley

2016 Best of the Net Nominations

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Watershed Review is pleased to announce our nominations for the 2016 Best of the Net anthology. Thank you to our contributors for the honor of featuring their work in the the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 issues!

Poetry:

Nathan Slinker “In the Play, We Are Blossoms That Close Each Night” (Spring 2016): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-spring/poetry/slinker-nathan.shtml

Nicole Stellon O’Donnell “A Reply to the Obtrusive Narrator” (Spring 2016): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-spring/poetry/stellon-odonnell-nicole.shtml

Jeff Burt “In Honor of Big-Bellied Men” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/poetry/burt-jeff.shtml

Rikki Santer “Andy Warhol’s Buffet of Thoughts at the Kahiki Supper Club; Columbus, Ohio” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/poetry/santer-rikki.shtml

Clint Smith “Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/poetry/smith-clint.shtml

Jessi Lewis “I’m sorry, Bunny” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/poetry/lewis-jessi.shtml

Fiction:

Rebecca Boyd “Miss November” (Spring 2016): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-spring/fiction/boyd-rebecca.shtml

Ann Stewart McBee “Little Cities” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/fiction/mcbee-annstewart.shtml

Nonfiction:

Thomas Hallock “Coyote and the Kid” (Spring 2016): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-spring/nonfiction/hallock-thomas.shtml

Kristin Rajan “Eight Candles in September” (Fall 2015): http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2015-fall/nonfiction/rajan-kristin.shtml

Good luck to our contributors!

 

Photograph by Sheri Wright, “No Way Home”

 

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Valerie Fioravanti

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CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice reading series is proud to welcome fiction writer Valerie Fioravanti on Thursday, September 22nd.

One of Valerie Fioravanti’s most recently published stories is “Loud Love,” winner of the inaugural Tillie Olsen Short Story Award and published in the July 2016 issue of The Tishman Review. This story is also part of Fioravanti’s second linked collection, Bridge & Tunnel.

“Loud Love” was a pleasure to read. The main character is a riot, endearingly imperfect and human, with a proclivity for hysterical honesty. All of the characterizations are complex and unique in a plot that keeps us engaged. The narrative tone in “Loud Love” is realistic and believable, with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that enfolds a story, not just entertaining, but meaningful as well.

Fioravanti is the author of the linked collection of short stories titled Garbage Night at the Opera, winner of the 2011 Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Her published short stories have earned a total of six Pushcart Prize nominations and a Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XXVIII. Currently, Fioravanti lives in Sacramento, California, where she works primarily as a creative writing coach and leader of writing workshops.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Valerie Fioravanti, Thursday at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Heather Stogsdill

2015 Pushcart Nominations

Watershed Review is pleased to announce our nominations for the 2016 Pushcart Anthology. Thank you to our contributors for the honor of featuring their work in the Spring and Fall 2015 issues!

Spring 2015 Issue:

Oaxaca Night,” Matthew Gavin Frank (nonfiction)

The Bottoms,” Dustin Heron (fiction)

First Lesson from Grace: At Twelve,” Marie Pavlicek-Wehrli (poetry)

Fall 2015 Issue:

Crisis Girl,” Augie Gold (fiction)

Eight Candles in September,” Kristin Rajan (nonfiction)

Andy Warhol’s Buffet of Thoughts at the Kahiki Supper Club; Columbus, Ohio,” Rikki Santer, (poetry)

2015 Best of the Net Nominations

Watershed Review is pleased to announce our nominations for the 2015 Best of the Net anthology. Thank you to our contributors for the honor of featuring their work in the the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 issues!

Poetry:

“For Simone” by Kathleen Kilcup, Fall 2014

“Rise” by David Ishaya Osu, Fall 2014

“East of the Sun and West of the Moon” by Kathleen Winter

“You searched for: aubade by Christopher Cokinos, Spring 2015

“First Lesson from Grace: At Twelve” by Marie Pavlicek-Wehrli, Spring 2015

“Ode to the Name Mark” by Adam Tavel, Spring 2015

Fiction:

“It’s Not You, It’s Jesus” by Annie Josey, Fall 2014

“The Bottoms” by Dustin Heron, Spring 2015

Nonfiction:

“A Dream of Clean Sheets” by Felix Kent, Fall 2014

“Oaxaca Night” by Matthew Gavin Frank, Spring 2015

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Troy Jollimore

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Often in poetry we find authors trying to connect larger existential and philosophical themes with nature and concrete, tactile imagery—that melding of abstraction and the physical. Few poets, however, get at that fused space with the essence of the human condition, moving beyond beauty into the sublime to find that extra dimension or flavor like literary umami. Troy Jollimore is one of these poets.

I was first introduced to Jollimore’s work with his book, At Lake Scugog. I perused the “Table of Contents” to find titles such as “The Solipsist” and “Imperceptibility.” These titles and my vague understanding of Troy’s profession as Professor of Philosophy made my insides lurch and groan. Another poet waxing philosophical, or rather a philosopher waxing poetic . . . great. But my initial hesitation was put at ease after reading that aforementioned poem, “The Solipsist.”

Jollimore expertly starts the poem with a simple image, a person holding a seashell to their ear, trying to hear the ocean’s “sea-song.” He then moves inside the person’s head to relate how we can only ever know the self, that reality is only ever a reflection of the self just like the shell reverberating sounds from inside the ear. Each poem after the next asked me to consider what it meant to be human through the confluence of image, sound, and a healthy dose of humor. (“Advisory” is downright darkly hysterical in its treatment of warning labels.)

Syllabus of Errors continues the philosophical and material trends found in Jollimore’s previous collections, but ties the poems together through the use of birds and birdsong—the birds flit from poem to poem as if they were moving among neighboring trees. Whether the subject of a poem or an object of attention within the world of the poem, birds appear all over this book. They ground the reader in the corporeal, and Jollimore’s specific focus on birdsong suggests the essence of life, truth, and art can be understood through music and flight. Sounds abound throughout the collection—true rhyme, near-rhyme, slant-rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance among others are all accounted for. These devices (and poems) evoke a playful spirit that, along with humor, is more than welcome in any poetic existential examination or analysis.

Troy Jollimore received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University in 1999. After leaving Princeton he taught at Georgetown University and UC, Davis. Since 2001 he has taught at California State University, Chico, and was selected as CSU Chico’s Outstanding Professor for the academic year 2009–2010. Jollimore’s first collection of poetry, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. At Lake Scugog, his second collection of poetry, was published in 2011, and his latest collection, Syllabus of Errors, was just released in April through Princeton University Press to stunning reviews. His poems have appeared in such publications as Poetry, McSweeney’s, The Believer, and the New Yorker. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2013 and was awarded the Theodore Roethke Prize by Northwest Poetry in 2014.

Troy Jollimore will be reading selections from Syllabus of Errors at the first Writer’s Voice reading of the semester. Please join us for a rousing evening with him, Thursday, October 1st, at 7:30 pm in Ayres 120. Thanks go out to the contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Nicholas Monroe

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Dimitri Keriotis

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CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present author and alumni, Dimitri Keriotis, Thursday, April 30 at 7:30pm in Colusa 100B.

Coming up on the end of the semester and school year, I figure several of us would truly enjoy a little time for ourselves. I know, for me, being able to escape for a few moments here and there during the past week (thanks to Dimitri Keriotis and his collection of stories in The Quiet Time) I have been able to get out of my head, go to other places and be “away from it all”—have a little “quiet time” of my own. I have been fortunate. Unfortunately for the characters within the book, they don’t find themselves in such relaxing situations. They seem to be precisely entrenched in key moments where they must pause and take a drastic turn. Each short story in The Quiet Time is unique, different from the others, yet they all share this same, powerful similarity.

Most of the time, I didn’t necessarily like these characters or the positions they put themselves in, but I loved reading about where they would wind up. I loved getting to know them and what made them tick. I loved escaping into their self-made worlds of drama. Each complex character seemed to be searching, wanting to get it right or understand, but couldn’t quite get there. And if they did, their eventual decision made me cringe—but even at that, I couldn’t help but smile.

I was excited to discover some other things Dimitri Keriotis and I have in common. Keriotis teaches at Modesto Junior College and I grew up in Oakdale where MJC was my Junior College growing up. He is originally from Yuba City and I currently live in Yuba City. We both have worked with Paul Eggers and Rob Davidson here at Chico State as graduate students—he earned an MFA here and I am about to finish my MA. I am sure I am not alone in feeling truly pleased to have him present to us so we can applaud his writing, specifically his debut book The Quiet Time.

More about Dimitri Keriotis and his work can be found on his website. Also, take time to read more about his current projects, including the High Sierra Institute, which he co-founded and co-coordinates. Information, like the following, can be found there: The Quiet Time consists of eleven stories. Some of the pieces take place in foreign countries—Zaire (Congo) and Greece—and center on interactions between a host nation and an American visitor. Others, mainly set in the US, focus on human relationships. The Quiet Time was released by SFA Press. Keriotis’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Georgetown Review, Evening Street Review, Flyway, BorderSenses, and elsewhere. Raised in Northern California, he was educated at UC Santa Cruz, University of Nevada, Reno, and CSU Chico and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire and Bolivia. He and his family live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Dimitri has to share with us and know you will all be “taken away” as well. Please join us for an exciting evening with him, Thursday, April 30th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Tomie Bitton

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Carole Simmons Oles

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CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to welcome poet and retired English department faculty, Carole Simmons Oles, Monday, March 30th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A.

Oles will be reading selections from her latest book of poetry A Selected History of Her Heart. Her work has been featured in notable publications such as Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, Touchstones and others. Her poems speak about life experiences, inviting the reader to feel and connect with our human struggle and hard-won peace.

The greatest gift an artist can do for another artist is to inspire. In reading the breadth of Carole Simmons Oles’ poetry, I was left not only with the courage to go forth and tell my own story, but also carries with me the feeling, the heart, and the emotion of the speaker in her collections. Oles brings the reader into her own heart, and creates an empathic bond with them. She speaks of her own unique experience, her own family, and yet the reader connects with that motherly instinct, that love and fear. A connection they can feel to their core.

One of the most striking poems I encountered was “Rape Counseling, the 60’s,” found in her book, Sympathetic Systems (Lynx House Press, 2000). The title alone evokes a tightness in the chest when considering what will unfold. Oles is never predictable, or reliant on familiar tropes. Instead, she makes a bold statement about the act, the time, the treatment of victims, and challenges the idea of what a rapist is. The poem is intelligent and true to life, a feminist statement that reclaims power over a situation that does not end with the crime itself. Oles brings intention to the most incremental shifts in language when the speaker says, “At the Health Center, the woman psychiatrist / let me talk about / what I had / let happen.” And hints that still, today, the speaker suffers with the insinuations that perhaps she was to blame saying, “then she bore her gray eyes behind glasses into me / “Well…you’re not exactly Marilyn Monroe…”/ a verdict I’m still deconstructing.” The poems in her catalogue often leave you feeling as if you’ve been offered some bit of mysticism, and require you to return again and again to the page.

Oles speaks with a voice of wisdom, wit, and authority. This reading is not to be missed. Please join us for an exciting evening with Carole Simmons Oles, Monday, March 30th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Writer’s Voice readings are free and open to the public.

By Natalie Windt