Watershed Review

Est. 2012

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Carole Simmons Oles


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

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Matthew Gavin Frank


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present, poet, travel and food, and nonfiction writer, Matthew Gavin Frank, Thursday, February 26th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Frank is the author of Barolo (The University of Nebraska Press), a food memoir based on his illegal work in the Italian wine industry, and Pot Farm (The University of Nebraska Press / Bison Books), about his time working on a medical marijuana farm in Northern California. His poetry collections, The Morrow Plots and Sagittarius Agitprop are available from Black Lawrence Press/Dzanc Books. His poetry book, Warranty in Zulu, is available from Barrow Street Press. He is also the author of the chapbooks Four Hours to Mpumalanga (Pudding House Publications), a poetry sequence about his initial visit to his wife’s homeland in rural South Africa, and Aardvark (West Town Press), a poetry sequence that strangely engages the alphabet. Recent work appears in The New Republic, Field, Epoch, The Huffington Post, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, The Iowa Review, The Poetry Foundation, North American Review, Pleiades, The Best Food Writing and The Best Travel Writing anthologies, Creative Nonfiction, Gastronomica, Plate Magazine, and others.

Frank’s latest work, his book-length essay, Preparing the Ghost, is a creative nonfiction exploration of obsession. The essay’s protagonist, the 19th century Newfoundland reverend, writer, and amateur naturalist, Moses Harvey, is a modern-day Captain Ahab, consumed by his pursuit of one the sea’s most fabled monstrosities, the giant squid. In exhaustive, free-associative lists; in in-depth, anatomical studies; in disturbingly erotic dreams; and, most rarely, in physical form, the giant squid maintains a constant, lurking presence throughout each vignette of the essay.

However, obsession seems to operate on multiple levels in Preparing the Ghost. If a man’s obsession with a monster is the essay’s subject, then a man’s obsession with another man is the mode in which the essay operates. Entire sections of Preparing the Ghost are devoted to exploring Harvey as a character—dissecting his mind, pulling apart his childhood, his origin, piece by piece and hypothesizing the influences and intentions behind the man who—after years of searching, studying, and finally finding the mythological creature of his dreams—slung it over the top bar of his bathtub and snapped a photograph so indelicate, it seems more reminiscent of the dark corners of the internet than the dark depths of the sea.

Matthew Gavin Frank is visiting campus in support of the Humanities Center’s theme of Food and Culture. His book, Barolo, is a travelogue detailing an American removed from the microwave-centered cuisine of his youth in search of a deeper, richer experience. Frank nurtures a passion for food—and, indeed, life itself—from a rent-free tent in Barolo, Italy, where he hones his passion and palate on the region’s delicacies and transmits them across time and culture with carefully-cultured metaphors and descriptions that left this reader grumbling for a meal well outside his student budget. Most notably, it is Frank’s pride in life that shines through the brightest. Barolo—like its namesake—is a fulfilling experience unto itself.

Check out Frank’s website and his essay, “Qualifications on Twenty Things Said About Dover Cake” from issue 35.2 of Watershed Review.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Matthew Gavin Frank, Thursday, February 26th at 7:30 pm in Colusa 100B. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the Humanities Center, this Writer’s Voice reading is free and open to the public.

By Zach Phillips and Matt Skripek

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Christopher Cokinos


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present, naturalist, poet, and nonfiction writer, Christopher Cokinos, Thursday February 19th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A.

Cokinos’ writing expresses concerns on many issues–climate change (especially geo-engineering), extinction, traditional natural history, space sciences, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and improving science communications. One recent afternoon, I sat on my back porch, among the trees, the bugs, the deer and the visiting foxes in order to fully experienced Cokinos’ book, Bodies, of the Holocene. In this book you start your journey quietly immersed in the healing heartbreak of nature and poetical prose. I remember thinking I’ve never read anything quite like this before. But, I can handle it. It’s a book of lyrical prose, after all. But the work escapes those boundaries and becomes your world. Through it, I was able to see the expanding sky with its joys and dangers. Experience the incredible loneliness of pain and separation and not turn away. I was hooked. The speaker in this book is hurting and he turns toward and relies upon the prairie of eastern Kansas to experience and come to terms with that pain. You can see yourself in his words. It was sunset by the time I turned the final page and completed our journey. I can’t wait to meet the author.

Cokinos is an author, a poet, a professor, and the Director of the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Arizona. He has been a crew journalist at the Mars Desert Research Station, and a researcher on a journey that brought 600 miles north of Artic circle to the South Pole. Currently he is an Udall Center Environmental Policy Fellow, and an Associate Professor of English at the University of Arizona. His writing has won many awards, including, the Jon Burroughs Prize for Best Nature Essay (2007), a National Science foundation Antarctic visiting Artist and Writer Fellowship and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.

Christopher Cokinos is the author many works, including The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars (Tarcher/Penguin), and Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds (Tarcher/Penguin). With Eric Magrane, he has co-edited an anthology of contemporary nature writing called A Literary Field Guide to the Sonoran Desert (Arizona, 2016). Conkinos contributes essays to High Country News, and the Los Angeles Times. His current projects include Recivilization: Six Heresies to Keep a Planet Running. Which is an essay collection on massive technological approaches to contemporary environmental conditions. His work has been featured in a wide variety of venues, such as The Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The American Scholar, Science, and All Things Considered.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Christopher Cokinos, Thursday February 19th 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 Sylvia Bowersox


A Walk to Wild Ink Press


DSC_0207English 415 Field Trip52014

In our English 415: Editing Literary Magazines course, we’ve come to the much anticipated point of the semester where we create broadsides from block prints and excerpts from our own work. After the hard work of researching literary magazines, completing our editorial process and collecting all the pieces that will comprise the upcoming issue of Watershed Review, we’re feeling ready to switch gears. Here, Sarah Pape walks students through some examples from last semester.


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Looking through various examples of letterpress broadsides, as well as “handmade” versions of peer’s work, English 415 students begin to think about choices they will make for their own. We consider the relationships between image, type, layout, paper, and color.


In English 415, we cover a lot of ground, reading about the history of literary publication, the social and artistic importance of those early efforts, as well as the present day innovators in online publication. To get a better sense of the machines and processes necessary to produce early literary publications, we headed to a local letterpress studio, Wild Ink Press, where they produce sundry paper products–from cards to coasters to art prints.




Upon arrival, Wild Ink’s pressman, Rik Pape, gave students a thorough overview of the parts and procedures involved in making a letterpress print. Here, he brings out examples of copper plates used for embossing.



DSC_0353English 415 Field Trip282014Wild Ink’s main workhorses (besides their dedicated owners and staff) are the Heidelberg Windmill presses. Nicknamed “The Prince of Presses,” when this one kicked into gear, we stood back in awe of the precision and power behind the whirring mechanics.


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Between ink color, locking the plate and calibrating for the exact imprint, Rik shows the class how little room for error there is when setting up a job. On this particular day, he was working on a custom Christmas card.


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We were given a sample print to inspect, looking specifically at the high quality cotton paper and how the silver ink creates a opalescent effect.

We learned so much on our field trip to Wild Ink Press. Most notably, we left with a genuine sense of wonder and admiration for those early publishers of literary works, laboring over handset type and big iron presses to bring those voices we now take for granted into the world for the first time.

Though we will be working with hand-carved blocks, brayers and a typewriter for our foray into broadside prints, we hope to import some of the precision, intention and beauty that resides in the Wild Ink products we explored.

Thank you to Matt and Rebekah Tennis for allowing us to visit during their preparations for the opening of Wild Ink Press’ new studio/shop space. Thanks, too, to Rik Pape for the tour of inks, plates, type and presses.

Photos by Sylvia Bowersox and Sarah Pape.

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Wendy C. Ortiz


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present author, Wendy C. Ortiz, Thursday November 6th at 7:30pm in Colusa 100A.

Recently, I picked up a copy of Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz and was unable to put it down until I reached the end. In Excavation, Ortiz narrates the years-long relationship that she had with a teacher, starting when she was 13 years old. Her memoir flips the script on how society dictates someone in her position should act. In an interview with Hector Tobar in the LA Times, Ortiz says, “I’m writing about something that people prefer to see as black and white, but I really want to expose the grays.” The grays emerge in the way that her story is told, unapologetic and never shying away from taboo. Her story is about much more than her relationship with her teacher. It is also a coming of age story about a girl who is trying to find her place in the world. The raw and at times uncomfortably honest story kept me turning each page.

Memoir often relies on a dual perspective–the voice of innocence and the voice of experience. In Ortiz’ book, she accomplished this through mining journals from those years the relationship was happening and by creating formal elements that contain the adult perspective. While reading you feel as if you are inside the mind of teenage Ortiz as she is experiencing these events and grappling with what it all means. The soundtrack to this time in her life can be heard in the background with her use of song titles and lyrics to describe her moods. The second voice comes from the present-day Ortiz as she performs an archaeological dig on her past. This is the voice of experience that questions and tries to make sense of what happened. Those moments are presented as “Notes on an Excavation.”

The upcoming issue of Watershed Review will also feature a short creative nonfiction piece from Ortiz titled “Mud Myths.” It is a unique piece that stood out from the other nonfiction pieces because it is written in the third person. Like Excavation: A Memoir, the language in this story is very lyrical. We are honored to have a piece of her work to include in our Fall issue.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014) and the forthcoming Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, spring 2015). She wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane” for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus, among many other places. Wendy is co-founder, curator, and host of the decade-old Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. She is a registered marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.

Check out her website and her Tumblr to read more about her current projects.

Please join us for an exciting evening with Wendy C. Ortiz, Thursday, November 6th 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.

By Jill North

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Doug Rice


CSU, Chico Writer’s Voice is proud to present author, Doug Rice, Thursday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm in Langdon 300. Rice has authored more than a half dozen books including Between Appear and Disappear, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist, A Good Cuntboy is Hard to Find, and his first novel, Blood of Mugwump that was selected by Kathy Acker as a runner-up for the FC2 First Novel Award. He has been published in numerous literary journals, anthologies, and magazines including Avant Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation, Biting the Error, Discourse, Zyzzyva, and Gargoyle.

Doug Rice earned his BA in English from Slippery Rock State College, a MA in creative writing at SUNY-Binghamton, a MA in English Literature at Duquesne University, and studied for his PhD in Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent some earlier years teaching at La Roche College and Kent State University-Salem and is currently teaching Creative Writing, literary theory, and film history and theory at Sacramento State University. He is also an artist-in-residence at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany. His work has been translated into Polish, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German.

Rice will be reading from his two recent publications, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist and Between Appear and Disappear, as well as showing work from his book When Love Was. Though the genre distinction “memoir” is used in title and description of his more recent work, it is far from the traditional notion we are drawn to when we hear that word. These books share and explore the story through text and photograph, between narrative and poem. Threads of identity and relationship between individuals are layered upon the relationship between the author to the words on the page with consideration to the reader being an integral part of the pages, words, photos, and structure in the landscape of the physical book itself. Rice wants the reader to be aware of the importance of their interaction with what he is offering in the conjunction between story and art.

When asked about Rice’s more recent work, Professor Paul Eggers said, “He’s unlike any other writer we’ve brought to campus, in that he’s avant-garde. Though his two latest books are called “memoir,” they represent, to my mind, the farthest reaches of what you can do and still call something in the realm of memoir. His work combines narrative—I don’t think it’s possible with Doug to further classify it as fiction or nonfiction—photography and even, in the case of Dream Memoirs, incorporating a tactile element to the act of reading. I think it’s fair to say that he attempts to break down our habitual distinctions between self and other, between gendered identities, between memory and reality, and between language and the material world.”

For a peek into his handmade book, Dream Memoirs of a Fabulist, check out this video about his collaboration with Stephanie Sauer of Copilot Press.

Here he discusses his unique approach to storytelling

Please join us for an exciting evening with Doug Rice, Thursday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm in Langdon 300. 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 Charles Walker

2014 Best of the Net Nominations

Watershed Review is pleased to announce our nominations for the 2014 Best of the Net anthology. Thank you to our contributors for the honor of featuring their work in the the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 issues!


“Poem That Contains an Emotional Truth” by Mark Haunschild, Fall 2013

“Worksheet” by Natalie Peeterse, Fall 2013

“Summertime on the Family Farm” by Nathan Slinker, Fall 2013

“CATCALL #27” by Michelle S. Reed, Spring 2014

“Designation” by Caitlin Scarano, Spring 2014

“At Thirty-Seven, In Bed” by Neesa Sonoquie, Spring 2014


“What Harold Saw” by Christie Hinrichs, Spring 2014

“Glass-Bottomed Boat” by MaryRose Lovgren, Spring 2014


“Qualifications on Twenty Things Said About Dover Cake” by Matthew Gavin Frank, Fall 2013

“49: The Last Five Days” by Eva Saulitis, Spring 2014


Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Joanne Harris Allred


Chico State Writer’s Voice is proud to present poet, Joanne Harris Allred, on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7:30 PM in Colusa 100B. Allred is the author of three poetry collections, Whetstone, winner of the Flume Press Chapbook award, Particulate (Bear Star Press), and The Evolutionary Purpose of Heartbreak (Turning Point Books). Allred spent many years teaching in the English department at CSU, Chico, and currently lives just outside of Chico with her husband, dogs, and a few chickens.

Allred’s work delves deeply into the human condition and explores the interconnectivity between the self and nature. Her words are a quiet meditation on living, loving, and losing. She often takes something ordinary and reveals its extraordinary essence by using metaphoric language to zero in on a specific experience or emotion. The speaker of her poems is often an observational one that acts as a guide into this meditation and connection to nature. Her poem “Plum in Early Spring,” from Whetstone, for instance, does this:

For three rainy weeks my plum tree

keeps a thousand small fists.

Then one warm day it explodes.

The sweet tethered cloud blazes

angel white, innocent of consequence,

not caring for how long the rain

has gone or if frost lurks

a few days away. The blooms don’t inquire

have the hives dried, will bees be out

in time to nuzzle their open hearts.


Unconcerned with plans for harvest

they ignore my pleas to be patient, to reflect

before taking an irrevocable step.

Trees simply answer the season’s necessity,

unable to deny the spirit

moving through by drawing silly

distinctions between the self and soul.

This poem begins with the simple image of a plum tree, but as the poem progresses a parallel between what is happening to this tree and what sometimes happens with humans emerges–a sudden burst of inspiration and an urge to follow one’s desires, to be wild in spirit without stopping too long to think about it, to “simply answer to the season’s necessity.” This poem also unveils the yearning and sometimes impatience humans have to control the natural world, which cannot be contained. Even though this poem starts off simply, it makes leaps to ultimately arrive at something much larger.

Please join us for a lovely evening with Joanne Harris Allred, Thursday, April 10th at 7:30 pm in Colousa 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 Kris Wheat

Book in Common Reading: Brian Turner


The Book in Common Committee presents a reading of poetry and memoir by Brian Turner, Tuesday, April 1, 7:30 p.m., PAC 134.

Brian Turner is the author of My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir (W.W. Norton & Co., September 2014; Jonathan Cape/Random House UK, August 2014). His two collections of poetry: Here, Bullet (Alice James Books, 2005; Bloodaxe Books, 2007) and Phantom Noise (Alice James Books, 2010; Bloodaxe Books in October of 2010) have also been published in Swedish by Oppenheim forlag. His poems have been published and translated in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 10th Mountain Division (1999-2000).

His poetry and essays have been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Poetry Daily, The Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and other journals. Turner was featured in the documentary film Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He received a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. His most recent book of poetry, Phantom Noise, was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in England. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Here and Now, and on Weekend America, among others. He is the Director of the new Low Residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and he lives in Florida with his wife, the poet Ilyse Kusnetz.

Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Daryl Farmer


CSU, Chico’s Writer’s Voice is proud to present author, Daryl Farmer, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 7:30 PM in Colusa 110. Farmer is author of Bicycling beyond the Divide: Two Journeys into the West, which won the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer’s Award and was a Colorado Book Award finalist. Along with his book, Farmer has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Laurel Review, Quarter After Eight, and Isotope. Farmer also had a short story published recently, “Where We Land,” which ran in the Summer 2013 issue of The Whitefish Review. Currently, Farmer is a Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and teaches Creative Writing and a Film and Literature course that examines the short story in relationship to film adaptation.

Farmer’s first book, Bicycling beyond the Divide: Two Journey’s into the West, is a beautifully woven piece of literature that seamlessly grounds its reader in time and place, allowing for us to follow him on his journey amongst the diverse population and ever changing physical and social landscapes that make up America, as well as the most difficult leg of the trip through his previous, current and projected self. But as we follow along with Farmer, we realize that part of the load he’s carrying is us, the reader, whom he’s placed on the handlebars of his Trek 520 and given us a firsthand view of the world as he sees it unfolding, opening our eyes to the world around us and forcing us to find ourselves within it:

I looked up at the mountains now as I rode through the falling snow. The aspen trees that once covered the hillsides were gone. In their place stood condominiums packed together so tight, it was hard to tell if there were many buildings or just one, fortress-like and stretching for what seemed miles.

Was it the world that had changed, or was it me? Now, during a time of heightened security, it was difficult to imagine that I would get away with camping on a resort town golf course. Terrorism and war. Civilian Minutemen with guns “protecting” our southern border. It was a time when a government-issued color code was used to gauge our risk, and freedom itself was being reconfigured to fit the changes. A dosage of fear was fed to us daily. Vitamin or sugar pill, who could say? The news seemed gloomy, yet in 1985 the news had been of starving children, environmental degradation, crisis in the Middle East.

At twenty I had feared nothing.

From this brief excerpt, we see how Farmer puts the physical surroundings into perspective with brief descriptive detail, yet leaves enough room for us to fill in the scenery with our own experiences of diminished vegetation and urban sprawl within our community. He paints a vivid picture of the social climate that we reside in, while reflecting on what it was like for him and all who were there in ’85, prodding us to ask the very question he asks of himself:  “Was it the world that had changed, or was it me?”

Please join us for a wonderful evening with visiting author, Daryl Farmer. Thanks to contributions made by the Department of English and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, our readings are free and open to the public.


By Jeremy Wallace


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