Katherine Hollander wins Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize

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We’re so excited for Kate Hollander, who recently won the 14th annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize for her collection My German Dictionary!  Waywiser Press will publish the book this fall, when Kate will read alongside Charles Wright at the Shakespeare Folger Library.

Please click here to read two poems from My German Dictionary.  Below, Kate took the time to share some thoughts with us about the book, which began in our poetry workshops here at BU.  Kate says:

The seeds and roots of My German Dictionary go back to my time at BU, where I worked closely with Robert Pinsky and Louise Glück and with the really lovely members of my cohort. The book is a little pocket guide, maybe, to my own internal “Germany” which is related to but I suppose not identical with the real, historical thing. It is, in that way, precisely what the title says. Put another way: It’s all the things that inform what I do and write and teach as an historian but which can’t be expressed by me in my role as an historian.

I’d known for a long time that I was and wanted to be both an historian and a poet. Once I got to BU, it turned out that I could do both, in a way–I took a seminar in German romantic philosophy with Allen Speight at BU with a whole bunch of very very smart PhD students in philosophy, and it just so happened that that year the translation workshop was taught by the Germanist Will Waters. It was in that translation workshop that I met another student who recommend I work with Jim Schmidt, who eventually became my advisor in the PhD program in history. I took a German reading course with Silvia Beier, who unlocked some doors to the language for me. There are quite a few poems in the book that date from my time in the creative writing program, and more from my time in the PhD program, just a few doors down from the Creative Writing program, at BU.

Congratulations, Kate, and thank you for sharing with us!  We’re happy for you and looking forward to seeing your book soon.

Katherine Hollander is a poet and historian. Her poetry, criticism, and scholarship have appeared in Literary ImaginationPleiadesHunger MountainTupelo QuarterlyThe Brecht YearbookNew German Critique, and elsewhere. She is presently Faculty Fellow in modern European history at Colby College and a guest reader for Sugar House Review.

Neshat Khan wins Boston Review short story contest

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We’re so proud to announce that Neshat Khan (GRS ’18) recently won the Aura Estrada fiction prize (Boston Review) for her story “The Neighbors”!  The story was chosen by Alexander Chee, which he describes as “the story of two women figuring out the nature of a desire they don’t have words for, inventing a world between them before bringing it down.”  Read the story here.

You can catch Neshat at the Annual Faculty Reading this Monday (4/8) at 7 pm at the BU Hillel House, where she will be the featured alumni reader. In the meantime, we had the chance to ask her some questions about her work, below.

You tend to write very short stories. What draws you to that length?

In undergrad I read Chekov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” for the first time. I remember being amazed at how much is conveyed in so few pages. The opening paragraphs alone, though sparsely written, are filled with a wealth of details that inform us of who these characters are. Since then I have been drawn to stories that are very short in length.

How did you get the idea for “The Neighbors”?

“The Neighbors” was the last story I wrote for Leslie’s workshop. At the time I was reading Tagore, whose work I always return to. The widows in his tales, capable of great compassion and immense cruelty, were on my mind.

You’re teaching at BU this semester.  What’s a piece of writing advice that you think / hope is really helpful for students?

I always tell my students to keep what is essential to the story and cut the rest. This, and that writing is mostly rewriting.

Thanks, Neshat, and congratulations!  We’re looking forward to hearing more from you at the Faculty Reading.

Neshat Khan is a graduate of Boston University’s MFA program. She is the recipient of the Florence Engel Randall Graduate Award and a St. Botolph Club Emerging Artist Award. Her fiction has won Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Contest and is forthcoming in Indiana Review. She lives and teaches in New England.

Jordan Coriza publishes story in the Bare Life Review

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Great news from Jordan Coriza (Fiction ’08), who recently published a story in the Bare Life Review, a journal dedicated to immigrant and refugee writers! The story is a fictionalized account of Jordan’s early days in the US.

He says, Largely based on my own immigrant experience, “Shine” tells the story of a young man who’s recently arrived in the U.S. and takes a job as a shoe shiner in Boston’s Financial District. Although he has to master English first, he’s eager to enroll in veterinary school and prove his father wrong. Meanwhile, his friendship with the company’s driver teaches him a few lessons that will serve him well in this new land.

Congrats, Jordan!  We’re looking forward to reading your story and getting to know this new literary journal.

Jordan Coriza’s stories have appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, the Worcester Review, the Bare Life Review, and elsewhere. Though he calls Boston home, he’s lived in Argentina, Brazil, and spent time in Italy. He makes a living as a communications professional for a nonprofit global health organization and is writing a novel set in Argentina during its last military dictatorship. Find him on Twitter @JordanCoriza.

Class of 2018 Poets Publish Anthology

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Last year’s MFA poetry class was a particularly tightknit group, the kind that rooted for each other and hung out together both in and out of the classroom.  In addition to workshops every week, they could often be found having lunch and doing yoga in room 222!  The poets decided to put together a book of their own poems.  The collection, titled If You’re Not Happy Now, was published earlier this month by Broadstone Books!   Congratulations, poets!  A few members of the group will be reading selections from it on Saturday, April 20th at 3 pm in the AGNI basement here at 236 Bay State Rd.  All are welcome.

Maddie Gilmore had this to say about the book’s conception: “We came up with the idea for the anthology over drinks one afternoon (either at O’Leary’s or the Dugout) after workshop. We were talking about (I think) legacies, particularly the ones left by some of the big names from the program’s past—Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and so forth. Wouldn’t it be great, we joked, if one day people looked back at this workshop and said, “Wow, I can’t believe they were all in the same room together!” And the more we joked the more we realized there was something appealing about somehow cementing our poetry together as a group, something comforting about the thought that our brief time together could continue in some way. Someone said, “We could make a book?””

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Lauren Peat shared her thoughts on the great gift of an artistic community: “One of the most comforting things about our cohort, for me personally, was its unfailing generosity. I consistently had the sense that a victory for one person—a knock-out submission to workshop, say, or a publication or literary prize—was a victory for us all.

If You’re Not Happy Now, I think, ultimately became a way of extending this atmosphere—one of trust and collective championship—into the “outside” literary world. The one existing beyond Room 222. This world of publishers and literary journals and towering slush piles can feel daunting and competitive; the knowledge that you are part of a community whose aspirations overlap and even intertwine with yours—this makes the ocean feel a little less, well…oceanic. To be published is one thing; to be published alongside seven close friends, colleagues, and mentors is quite another.”

Congratulations, poets!  What a pleasure it is to know you and read your work.  We’re certainly happy now that your book is out in the world!

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Megan Collins publishes debut novel

MEGAN COLLINS for Web (2)We are so excited to announce that Megan Collins (Poetry ’08) has published her debut novel, The Winter Sister!  The book was released last week, and has already been a hit with reviewers and readers alike.  A contemporary suspense novel inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone, it begins sixteen years ago, when Sylvie’s sister Persephone didn’t come home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found–and years later, her murder remains unsolved. Now, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged, alcoholic mother undergoing cancer treatment, and in the process, begins to uncover the truth about what really happened to Persephone.

The Winter Sister is a 2019 anticipated read from PopSugar, Marie Claire, and Goodreads.  Kirkus Reviews called it “a bewitching thriller, with surprises detonating in nearly every chapter.”

Congratulations, Megan!  We’re so happy for you.FINAL (2)

Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.

Rebecca Levi wins Mick Imlah award

RebeccaLeviWe’re so proud of Rebecca Levi (Poetry ’18) who recently won third place in the Mick Imlah Poetry Prize!  The winning poem is called “December 31st” and was published in The Times Literary Supplement.

Rebecca says:

The thing about living in Colombia is that poems happen to you all the time. On December 31, 2017, they really did slaughter five pigs outside the apartment where I was staying, and the trash truck rounded the corner, and there was drama on my WhatsApp. All I had to do was write it down. It came out almost fully formed, and I trusted the strange stream of my consciousness.

Read “December 31st” here.

Congratulations, Rebecca!

Rebecca Levi is a musician, poet, and translator. She has lived and worked in Peru, Colombia, and the U.S. Her poetry has appeared in BorderSenses and No Tokens Journal, and her translations have been published by Princeton University Press. Her translations of Chilean poet Stella Díaz Varin won second place in Boston University’s Robert Fitzgerald Translation Prize and are forthcoming in Your Impossible Voice. If You’re Not Happy Now, an anthology of work by BU’s MFA poetry class of 2018, is forthcoming from Broadstone Books in Spring 2019. In December 2018, Rebecca won third place in the Mick Imlah Poetry Prize at the Times Literary Supplement for her poem, “December 31st.” Rebecca’s band is called Debarro, meaning made of mud and ever-changing, which also describes what she likes about poetry.

Dariel Suarez publishes story collection

A Kind of Solitude Full CoverWe’re so happy to share that Dariel Suarez’s story collection, A Kind of Solitude, is available for pre-order!  The book has received glowing reviews, and even made it onto the Kenyon Review’s Holiday Recommended Reading list.

In addition, Red Hen Press will be publishing Dariel’s debut novel, The Playwright’s House!  We’re looking forward to hearing more details about that soon.

Congratulations, Dariel!  We can’t wait to read your work.

Dariel Suarez was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1997, during the island’s economic crisis known as The Special Period. He is the author of the novel The Playwright’s House (forthcoming, Red Hen Press) and the story collection A Kind of Solitude (Willow Springs Books), winner of the 2017 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction.

Dariel is an inaugural City of Boston Artist Fellow and the Director of Core Programs and Faculty at GrubStreet, the country’s largest and leading independent creative writing center. His prose has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, North American Review, Third Coast, Southern Humanities Review, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, and The Caribbean Writer, where his work was awarded the First Lady Cecile de Jongh Literary Prize. Dariel earned his M.F.A. in Fiction at Boston University and now resides in the Boston area with his wife and daughter.

Poet Caitlin Doyle Awarded Pushcart Prize Special Mention

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“The Dress Code,” a poem by Caitlin Doyle (Poetry 2008), which originally appeared in The Yale Review, has been awarded a Pushcart Prize Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XLIII: Best of the Small Presses (W.W. Norton & Co, 2019).

The Pushcart Prize series honors the best literary work published each year by small presses around the country. Caitlin is in impressive company as the recipient of a 2019 Special Mention, along with Carolyn Forche, David Wojahn, Ilya Kaminski, Bob Hicock, and Patricia Smith, among other notable poets!

In Poetry Sunday last March, poet and critic Rebecca Foust highlighted Doyle’s “The Dress Code,” which is a villanelle, as an example of how “form can set you free in your writing and reading of poetry.” According to Foust, the poem’s “repetitions build an echo chamber resulting in sonic saturation that creates anxiety and urgency,” a series of artful aural effects that “keep tension taut in the poem.”

Click here to read Caitlin’s poem “The Dress Code.”

Congratulations, Caitlin!

Caitlin Doyle is currently completing a PhD in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati, where she holds an Elliston Fellowship in Poetry and serves as an Associate Editor of The Cincinnati Review. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Threepenny Review, Boston Review, Best New Poets (University of Virginia Press), and elsewhere. Her work has also been featured through the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series, Poetry Daily, and the Poetry Foundation’s “Poem of the Day” series. She has received awards and fellowships through the James Merrill House, the Yaddo Colony, the MacDowell Colony, the Jack Kerouac House, The Frost Farm, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the P.E.O. Scholar Foundation, among others.  She earned her MFA in Poetry from Boston University as the George Starbuck Fellow in Poetry.

Chris Amenta published in Redivider

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Chris Amenta (Fiction ’13) has published his debut story in Redivider.  Hurray!  As his former workshop-mate, I’m especially excited to feature him on the CW blog, and hear more about his writing, his teaching, and his inspiring creative habits.

Tell us about the process of writing “Catch and Release.”  How did it start, where did it come from, and what changes did it undergo from first draft to polished story?

“Catch and Release” was the first story I wrote for the MFA program. I’d recently been on vacation in Seattle, and I walked to the Ballard Locks to watch salmon climb the fish ladder. Among the tourists were two teenagers who were crossing the bridge just to get to wherever they were going. I thought they looked interesting.

The version of this story that I turned in was a mess. Leslie Epstein returned a copy to me that looked as though his pen had exploded onto the pages. But he and the cohort seemed to like these two characters, and I did, too. I revised, and drafts later—with clearer characterization, action, and dialog—it started to come together.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing it?

This story has a complex plot that’s advanced by Prete, who isn’t the point of view character. He orchestrates a turn of events which occurs to the narrator almost as an epiphany.

But, really, this story is about these two young guys. Prete’s grief has driven him to act badly. Tom is tired of looking after Prete, of cleaning up the kid’s messes. The plot—what Prete does—forces this tension to a climax, but what happens is actually a little dense and can be difficult to piece together. I put a lot of work into revealing the plot delicately so that the story can still be about the dynamic between these two friends and not about this unexpected turn.

You have a spare and direct style — short sentences, short exchanges between characters, lots of verbs.  Who would you say are your biggest influences?

I’m always trying to gobble up whatever I can. I had formative reading experiences with Dostoevsky, Joseph Heller, and the detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, George V. Higgins, and Raymond Chandler. I find myself returning often to writers like Denis Johnson, J.M. Coetzee, and Jim Shepard. I also try to remember the architects: Mies van der Rohe (less is more); Louis Sullivan (form follows function).

What are your writing habits like?  Any rituals?

I have a day job, and I teach at Boston University, and I write for Boston College and the College of the Holy Cross. Not writing fiction seems a terrifically easy thing to do. So I keep a routine. I get up at five or so and make coffee. I do some online window shopping—handmade shoes, for some reason, have become a fascination—then, I block the internet and work until I’m about five minutes late. I swim laps, hoping that the quiet might help solve whatever problem I’m toiling with. Then to work and all else.

You also have a novel on submission.  Do you prefer writing one genre over the other, and why?

I don’t know that I prefer any one genre over another. I try to find characters that interest me. Lately, I’ve been looking for them in some of this country’s stranger corners. The novel on submission is set in a man camp in fracking country in North Dakota. I’m currently working on something new which is about men and women in a modern, American militia. I’m interested in those characters and settings where realism can sidle up to the surreal.

What’s something that you tell your students in every class?

I hope that I’ve made it clear that you can get away with whatever you can get away with. We spend a lot of time reading published fiction and essays about craft. And they have to listen to me go on about my ideas about how fiction works. Craft matters, technique matters, but I try to caveat everything we study by reminding my students that there’s no wrong way to write, so long as the story works.

Congratulations, Chris!

Christopher Amenta is a writer living in Boston, MA. He is a graduate of the Boston University MFA Fiction Writing program, where he received the Saul Bellow Award and was named a Leslie Epstein Global Fellow. He completed his undergraduate degree at The College of the Holy Cross, where his fiction was recognized with the James H. Reilly Memorial Purse. He teaches creative writing at Boston University, and his writing has appeared in Redivider, Boston College Magazine, and Holy Cross Magazine. His first novel, These Bodies Become Oil is currently on submission.

A.J. Odasso publishes third book, The Sting of It

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We’re very happy to announce that A.J. Odasso’s (Poetry ’16) third collection, The Sting of It, is forthcoming in 2019!  It will be published by Tolsun Books, and is an expanded version of A.J.’s BU M.F.A. poetry thesis. The manuscript was shortlisted for the Sexton Prize in July of 2017 under the title Things Being What They Are.
We took a minute to ask A.J. some questions about working on their third book.

What challenges did you face while writing The Sting of It?

I feel like the trickiest part of bringing this book to fruition wasn’t so much the revision and expansion aspect as negotiating who would be publishing it!  In the wake of its shortlisting for the 2017 Sexton Prize at Eyewear Books, Eyewear expressed interest in publishing it in Fall 2019 alongside the winner and runners-up.  However, some complications and delays in communication from Eyewear – which were experienced by nearly all of us meant to be published by them in 2019 – resulted in a number of us breaking ties and seeking publication elsewhere.  Between July and October this year, I sent The Sting of It to a handful of other presses that generously offered to priority-read and consider newly-homeless, former Eyewear collections.  Tolsun Books felt like the best fit for my style and aesthetic out of all of them, so I was thrilled when, in late September, they offered me a contract.

Tell us about the cover.

The stellar cover design is by my editor at Tolsun, David Pischke.  David and his team have been nothing but a pleasure to work with, and it’s early days yet.  I got little say in the cover designs of my first two collections with Flipped Eye, but I got to request the inclusion of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony triptych as part of the design for this collection’s cover – and got it.  I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Who have your most significant stylistic influences been?

The earliest poems that got me to attempt writing my own were Shakespeare’s sonnets at the back of a crumbling 1920s edition of the Complete Works that belonged to my maternal grandfather.  I was about 14 when I trained myself to write sonnets using Shakespeare as a template, and swiftly branched out into experimenting with other forms (Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina,” as well as Bishop’s complete known body of work, has remained a favorite and profound influence to this day).  Through high school and into college, I picked up Geoffrey Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and other 14th-century English writers.  While completing my M.A. in Interdisciplinary Medieval Studies at the University of York, I strengthened my fluency in reading Middle English and discovered other medieval poets’ work that hadn’t been as widely available to me before.  Since then, I’ve shifted my recreational poetry reading back toward the contemporary.  Louise Glück, Ursula Le Guin, Patience Agbabi, Naomi Shihab Nye, and a number of British poets with whom I did readings on the York and London poetry circuits have been the most lasting modern influences on my style.

Congratulations, A.J.!  We can’t wait to read The Sting of It.

A.J. Odasso (Poetry ’16) is the author of two poetry collections from UK-based Flipped Eye Publishing: Lost Books (2010), which was a finalist for the 2010 London New Poetry Award and for the 2011 People’s Book Prize; and The Dishonesty of Dreams (2014), which had the honor of launching at the Grolier Poetry Book Store and Porter Square Books.  A.J.’s third collection, an expanded version of their BU MFA thesis, was shortlisted for the 2017 Sexton Prize under the title Things Being What They Are and will be published in Summer 2019 under a new title, The Sting of It, by Tolsun Books.  A.J. continues to serve as Senior Poetry Editor at Strange Horizons magazine, where they have been part of the editorial staff since 2012.  A.J.’s recent prose publications include a short story, “We Come Back Different” (in the Winter 2018 & Spring 2018 issues of Pulp Literature) and a personal essay, “Being the Dictionary” (in Knowing Why: Adult-Diagnosed Autistic People on Life and Autism, an anthology from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network launched this October).