blackbirdonline journalSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1

        Dedicated to the memory of Thomas B. Gay, educator, painter, poet, friend.
        (read more about Thomas B. Gay)

Each spring we use this reading loop to bring to your attention writers and artists whose work you may be encountering for the first time. In this issue, the group includes several who have already made their way to other lists, anthologies, and small presses acclaiming their remarkable work. We expect that you will be glad to discover them now—and to hear of them again later in their careers, as you no doubt will.

Michael Bazzett    
“I have a particularly thick shaft / is something a porn star might say” begins Michael Bazzett in “Aria,” a poem that, like his others, approaches the ridiculous and grotesque with a sharp eye for the humanity existing beneath the surface. These poems offer redemption for the mundane and weave tense narratives fraught with terror and beauty. Bazzett’s characters’ seemingly ordinary interactions and anxieties are complicated by the bizarre and dangerous world in which he places them, a world that, despite all of its surrealism, is comfortingly familiar. Michael Bazzett
Oliver Bendorf    
Oliver Bendorf’s poems draw unflinching attention to the process of making. In “Title,” Bendorf strips a poem to its scaffold with an honesty that is at once funny and unbearably sad. From the process of creating a poem to the arguably more difficult process of creating a self, “Blue Boy” describes the arc of a fractured bildungsroman that, like dreams, disturbs the force field of a reader’s perceptions of space and time—abandoning devotion to inhabit a fragile space between binaries: gravity and its opposite, sleeping and waking, wolf and man.   Oliver Bendorf
Adrienne Celt    
Adrienne Celt’s prose scoops readers into a world with no definitive boundaries. In “The Dimensions of the Anomaly,” her narrator’s cyclical curiosity is a device through which to examine the spaces between people, between words, between certainty and confusion. Celt moves toward a destination where “everything has an exact right place and you can get back to it and know that it is there.” Getting there, however, involves working through familiar language to discern one’s own definitions, like knowing that “green is what happens when you pinch a pine needle in your fingers.”   Adrienne Celt
Rodney Gomez    
Destruction and its fellow traveler, dissolution, haunt Rodney Gomez’s lyrically rich poems. The distinctions between the body and its surroundings collapse, simultaneously breaking both the speaker and the world. After the annihilation achieved by the repetitions in “Cassowary” and the sharp syntax of “Harvest,” the more narrative “Love” offers a turn in which the speaker, instead of confusing the self with the landscape, passively surrenders to an environment of domestic love. From broken hearts to dysfunctional homes, Gomez’s poems reaffirm the apocalyptic uncertainty inherent in caring for another.   Rodney Gomez
Sally Wen Mao    
Sally Wen Mao’s poems, their surfaces gritty with the acknowledgement that “human touch is so distant,” that “holes are the only truth,” that there is some strange violence inherent in being tethered to and living on the earth, thrum with an undercurrent that is the whisper of praise. “O, to be permanently / challenged,” writes Mao, asking us to remember that any act of metamorphosis, of transformation, requires us to shed our old defenses with an openness to the unknown, unexpected, and oddly beautiful, as “each reverie rips, sprouting lice.”   Sally Wen Mao
L.S. McKee    
In the poems of L.S. McKee, the path to enlightenment is presented, surprisingly, as transgression—though whatever illumination it brings does not come without a price. “I knew to push any harder,” she writes, “would draw blood”—and yet in these poems, which outline what drags in our hearts “like a rusty tiller / against this eroded garden’s / spine of stones,” we find that crossing the threshold of experience doesn’t shut us out entirely from our innocence, but permits us to locate a portal for reentry that provides a vocabulary for what we have learned.   L.S. McKee
Douglas Silver    
Douglas Silver gives us an unflinching portrait of the connections we make in grief, conveyed through expansive, moving snapshots—sometimes literally, as the main character flips through old photos of his son’s disappointing Epcot experience. Those photos limn only a part of the whole: his son has died, leaving behind a girl infected with a debilitating disease. The unlikely friendship that forms between the girl and the father is sustained by the stories they share, the promise of an unwritten future: “She’s waiting for a story in return. She likes to barter, before for after.”   Douglas Silver
Emily Williamson    
In “Stoney Creek,” Emily Williamson offers a fresh spin on the Southern absurd in detailing the story of Rosa Bell, a wild and violent fixture of a small, rural town. Williamson’s writing cuts deep into the rich, half-mythic landscape, and her evocative, winding cadence mimics the rush of the central creek, creating a story charged with cleansing, baptismal power. The slyly comic turns of the story only heighten the feelings of loss and helplessness that define her characters, and she never lets us lose sight of their stumbling, earnest humanity.   Emily Jones

Introductions texts appear in different sections of Blackbird but are organized in this alternative menu, a featured reading loop allowing easy navigation of related material.

A link to this “Introductions Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every Introductions-related page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features.