blackbirdonline journalSpring 2017  Vol. 16 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.

Graham Hillard    
Graham Hillard’s poetry is a testament to the fallibility of memory. “The Polygrapher” intuits that emotional reactions are unreliable. Here, Hillard’s subject reminds us that truth-testing and trial by pain are sacred rites of poets, and “Devotee of their language of shudders, / he will know them each in turn.” In “Oldest Squirrel Monkey in Captivity,” the title creature’s body has survived spaceflight and celebrity, and so earns the poet’s veneration: “Returned, you are emeritus, / ornamental, yet luminous as one who is / transfigured.” Graham Hillard
Cindy King    
In Cindy King’s poetry, to reconcile oneself with the past is to “Return once again to blindness.” King knows what lies beneath the surface of selfhood, what it means to “Dig down past the roots / and hide” as we do, “from the sun’s unforgiving.” Where there is the need to bury a memory, there is also the need to uncover the wound of its making—to reclaim a voice, to embrace the ego without apology. “I can tighten the knot at my throat on my own,” her speaker asserts, “Turn away from my swagger and sway; / it’s not for you that these wing tips sing.”    Cindy King
Caitlin McGill    
The narrator of Caitlin McGill’s “Beyond Grief” watches as her neighbor hauls junk, idly and endlessly, through his overgrown yard. He walks past his “rotting car whose interior is so packed that sometimes you cannot tell that the windows . . . are not darkened by tint but instead by items stacked high.” In that darkness, the narrator recognizes the same grief her mother has nursed since the death of a loved one. Here, McGill evokes her characters through traces, impressions—but her careful, almost voyeuristic attention imbues them with complexity.   Caitlin McGill
Colin Orr    
Colin Orr’s “Cant” follows a graffiti artist in Philadelphia who adopts the tag “Cant” in an attempt to distance himself from the hubris of his competitors—to “embrace [the] negation” with which they greet his fledgling genius. The packed, energetic prose reflects the narrator’s simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from his daily grind. In his eyes, a wall of graffiti becomes “an artificial aurora borealis," and the “reaching arms” of a gang of street Neanderthals become “the tentacles of the beast known as One Unceasingly Unlucky Day for You, Motherfucker.”            Colin Orr
Dustin Pearson    
Dustin Pearson’s epistolary poems, addressed to a “Mr. Hen,” offer a provocative take on the chicken-or-egg paradox. It invites us to reconsider the act of inception, as the animal’s anatomy “stretches and thins as if to grope and slow the thing’s momentum, to deliver it safely.” In this series, all bodies bear the mark of their stark, frightening creation. Pearson holds the origin story in his palm—it is the innocent weight of an egg, the bird inside the cage. “That’s why if you were to call me a monster,” he says, “I’d believe you.”   Dustin Pearson
Heidi Vornbrock Roosa    
Taking up questions of class, race, and privilege, Vornbrock Roosa’s “She Negative” follows a high-achieving student, Shondrae, to her first college interview. Inside the cramped admissions office, prompted by standard interview questions, the young woman grapples with her past judgments of her mother, who, visible in the waiting room beyond the office window, engages with another parent, “yapping, eyes round, voice probably too loud.” Pride and shame sit down next to each other here. Which one will stand up?   Heidi Vornbrock Roosa

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.