Sunday, December 18, 2011

Poetry in Australia

In biology, isolation results in advantageous adaptations. Plants, animals, and--as I was recently reminded--even texts, evolve in unique ways as a result of geographic separation. While sensational works of Literature criss-cross the globe as fast as text messages between eager teens the underground, innovative phenomenon (the bacon and eggs of critics and professors) are often known only within their national or regional location, their "scene." These texts often develop differently depending on the nature of their particular scene.

This is a topic (among other interesting subjects) addressed in an interview with recent Bellingham Review contributor Kent MacCarter, an American expatriate living in Australia. I'll admit that before reading this interview, I had never considered that there was such a thing as an Australian poetic enclave, but poets in Australia are thriving, writing interesting, innovative work in their hemisphere.

MacCarter recently compiled a list of notable Australian poets and presses for SPUNC: The Small Press Network, an organization, founded in 2006, that represents "small and independent Australian publishers." The winter, spring, and summer features highlight Australian poems of interest recently published in SPUNC member presses.

These lists provide a small sample of Australian poetry. My favorites include "A Shanty" by Judith Beveridge, "Dying to Meet You" by Michelle Cahill, and "5:15" by Paul Hardacre, but every poem on the list is fascinating. I recommend you visit the features to find some of your own favorites from down under.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bellingham Review Annual Contests

Bellingham Review is now accepting entries in our annual contests, The 49th Parallel Award in Poetry, The Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction, and The Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction.

  • Each contest carries a $1,000 prize!

  • Entry costs $20. Each additional entry in the same genre costs $10.
The contest judges are as follows:

The 49th Parallel Award: Linda Bierds
The Annie Dillard Award: Sheila Bender
The Tobias Wolff Award: Robin Hemley

Contestants can enter via Submittable, a link to which is available on our website. Please make sure your address and contact information on Submittable are up to date. Your name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript.

We also accept mailed entries. Please include a SASE and a 3x5 index card with the following information: your name, the title of the piece, your email address or phone number.

For more information, please visit our website.

We look forward to reading your work!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I love poets (or at least Robert Hass and Brenda Hillman)

University of California, Berkeley's famous poet (and former poet laureate) Robert Hass has been showing his support of the Occupy movement. This first link shows Hass getting pushed around by police, as he and fellow faculty, students, and supporters of the Occupy movement formed a human chain to safeguard occupiers from the police.
The second link is to Hass' New York Times article about this incident, how he and his wife, the poet Brenda Hillman, arrived at the campus to protect the students from police brutality--Hass gives a chilling description of the violence used by police. He also critiques the state's neglect of education and unwillingness to pay more in taxes to fund the university.
Way to go Hass!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rochelle Hurt discusses "Uncle Al"

The author of "Uncle Al," Rochelle Hurt, offered us a few thoughts on this flash fiction story, its origin, and the significance of the phrase pena ajena. "Uncle Al" recently appeared in the first online, short form issue of Bellingham Review.

While watching an Academy Award winner give a particularly crass and awkward acceptance speech on television, a friend of mine used the term ‘pena ajena’ (sometimes called Spanish shame) to describe how embarrassed she was for the blathering actress. I started to think about all of the instances in which a phrase like that would be appropriate, and I kept returning to the idea of pity. Feeling another’s embarrassment seems like a manifestation of aggressive pity more than sympathy, almost as if you are forcing your own fear of shame upon that person. This happens all the time, but I find it most interesting when the exchange between the pitied and the ‘pitier’ is complicated by an unexpected power dynamic. In ‘Uncle Al,’ the narrator is just old enough to adopt the values of most of the adults around her, which tell her to feel embarrassed for her uncle, who still acts like a child and wears cheap clothing. Although she is not quite old enough to realize the true source of the shame that she has adopted for her uncle, she finds it almost by accident, as children often do, when she confronts his childlessness at the family lunch table. Though the question is never answered, she immediately learns that this too should be a source of shame, according to adult cultural norms, as she witnesses the entire table’s sense of pena ajena for Uncle Al.
-Rochelle Hurt

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on "Drafting the Beast"

Joe Bonomo, author of "Drafting the Beast," a short form that recently appeared in our online edition of Bellingham Review shared with us a small piece about the origins and writing experience of "Drafting the Beast."

Air conditioning fascinates me. It changes things, and changes us as we move through the air. AC creates boundaries and divisions—between me and the heat, between the basement and the attic, between the house and the yard, between the calm and the crazed. I read recently in a novel where a character couldn’t imagine another character as a kid; I have difficulty imagining generations before AC. We lived in an un-air-conditioned house for many years, but all the while I knew that AC existed somewhere out there, and could begin humming for me as soon as my luck changed.

I wrote “Drafting the Beast” as a response to AC, and more generally to the suburban experience, from where many of my prose poems and essays originate. The piece explores a few memories that I can’t shake. One is of lifting my buried hand out of sand and noting how the sand that remained created a kind of outline of bones, a skeletal silhouette. Humans are animals, creatures behind our skin, and when, as a kid, I did as so many kids do and drew an outline around my hand to render a barnyard animal, something sparked inside. Questions I asked before I realized I was asking: Is my hand a microcosm for a turkey? Am I drawing a kindred spirit? Is there an animal in my hand?? In bed that night, I played a favorite game: pressing down my thumbnail until it turned white, what I pretended was light coming from somewhere inside of me, a natural source of luminosity illuminating a dark room.

In “Drafting the Beast” I essay the feral body. That body contains light, and can speak in sounds familiar to the speaker but also foreign. When I’d walk into our air-conditioned house as a kid, I’d step between and among all of these identities that the body owns, and imagines, slipping from wild to suburban, from animal to human, and back again.
-Joe Bonomo

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Pages Review

Bellingham Review recently received a complimentary review in New Pages. The website provides details on our latest print issue (Spring 2011) and the works published in this edition. Click here to read the full article.

Many thanks to New Pages for their support!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A few words from the author of "Requiem in Laramie"

Kevin Simmonds, author of "Requiem in Laramie," a prose poem recently published in our short form, online edition of Bellingham Review shared with us a meditation on his poem and its significance.

We have such short memories. Soul-grabbing atrocities only momentarily command our attention and call our consciousness to larger responsibilities.

I'd like to think that art can be a residue, a re-membering that plays as refrain inside us. My poem "Requiem in Laramie" is relatively short and, I hope, tiny enough to aggravate memory without calling too much attention to itself.

The poem is for us, not Matthew Shepard. The mother and the missing child are many of us or people we've known or heard about. The poem is representation of something else, a stand in. That's not to say it isn't fully itself as a poem, a piece of artwork. But I swear I've failed in many ways if that poem is only about itself.
-Kevin Simmonds

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Out first online issue

Hello readers,
We're pleased to announce that our first online issue in short forms will be published November 7, on our new website. Check out the issue for work by Jessie van Eearden, Mark Wagenaar, Anne Kaier, Robert Miltner, and more!

Poets and Writers

Hey everyone,
Our Editor-in-Chief, Brenda Miller is featured in the latest issue of Poets and Writers. She and the editors of three other journals were interviewed for a discussion on literary publication.
Check it out!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writing the other

Writing the Other
Because of my interests as a writer (and an occasional critical scholar) I oftentimes find myself in a tricky subject position--as someone who wants to write about the other, without actually being an other. While I suppose that I am marginalized in the sense of being female, the rest of my experiences typify white, middle-class America. So I start to feel uncomfortable, or insensitive, when I write stories with characters whose place in the world is less secure than my own (either because of their geographic location, race, religion, sexual orientation, or class). I feel like a fraud, a phoney. I worry that I am objectifying and exoticizing someone who is historically disempowered or that I am embarrassingly ignorant regarding experiences that are different than my own. As a writer, I struggle with my desire to tell important stories, but I also want tell stories authentically. How can I do both of these things? How can I write about a culture or group of people to which I don't belong?

Publishers Weekly recently posted an
article about the intentional exclusion of gay characters in YA Literature, and a friend of mine responded to this article on Facebook. She wrote: "I've always wanted to write a gay character, but because I'm not gay, I feel that I don't have the authority." Apparently I'm not alone. It seems that certain stories are exclusive. We think that they can only be told by certain authors, and those authors must belong to the group they are trying to represent. Otherwise the work is crude or inaccurate.

To give another example, while perusing the Internet for publications that might be interested in my work, I noticed that Jersey Devil Press offers a
behind the scenes take on the editor's preferences. One of Monica's "justifiable grounds for homicide" is men who write as female narrators. To be fair, Monica qualifies that statement, writing that the reason for her disdain is the number of offensive submissions her press receives, stories in which male writers rely on chauvinist cliches or sexist stereotypes. Still, I somehow feel that by making certain subjects exclusive, we're promoting the same problematic boundaries.

I'm interested in this question of who "owns" the right to marginalized content because I am currently at work writing my thesis, a collection of short stories centered around the 2007-8 election crisis in Kenya. I'm not Kenyan, nor am I of African ancestry, and as I work through this project, I've begun to question my right to tell this story. I wasn't there. As I said, I'm not African, and I don't have much (any) experience with political unrest. Part of me wants to stop writing about Kenya, for all of these reasons that make me feel small and somewhat ignorant, but I also think that it's wrong for Literature to have exclusive subjects, for it to have boundaries, or limits.

I don't really have an answer to the question of whether or not it's okay to write about the other, but because it's been bothering me, I thought I would put my thoughts out there.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Congratulations to Colin Rafferty

Hey Bellingham blog followers,
I wanted to let you know that Colin Rafferty's essay, "Phantoms (A Correspondence)" will be republished in this November/December issue of Utne Reader. Bellingham Review is thrilled that we had the chance to publish this work first, and we are so excited for Rafferty.

I love Utne Reader. Their insightful essays leave me feeling intellectually invigorated with the turn of each page.
I hope you will enjoy seeing Rafferty's essay again in the pages of this excellent magazine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We are now accepting electronic submissions

Dear readers,
Bellingham Review is pleased to announce that we are now officially accepting electronic submissions via Submishmash.

This is part of our transition to accepting only electronic manuscripts. We hope to have made the switch to only electonic submissions by the beginning of the next academic year, 2012-2013.

As much as we appreciate the beauty of story, essay, or poem captured on a clean, crisp piece of paper, we 've decided to go digital because of the ease of the online submission process. Thanks Submishmash!

We hope that all of our readers enjoy this new, streamlined submission process. As an editor, I can say that I look forward to reading your digital submissions. If you have any questions regarding the submission process, please review the submission guidelines available on our website, or feel free to send me an email at


Monday, August 8, 2011

New Submission Guidelines

Hey Everyone,
Bellingham Review is now accepting electronic submissions. Check out the new submission guidelines on our website!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Contest Winners

Congratulations to our 2011 contest winners!

Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction
Jay Torrence

The 49th Parallel Award in Poetry
Jennifer Militello

The Tobias Wolfe Award in Fiction
Lauri M. Anderson

For more information on out contest finalists and the latest issue of Bellingham Review, check out our updated website.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Contests Reminder

Hey Loyal Blog Readers,

I wanted to remind you about our annual contests. The deadline is coming up on March 15th (postmark deadline). We have prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, each worth $1000. For more information and complete guidelines, see:

Thanks a lot. We look forward to reading your entries.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Future of Publishing

Hey all,

Just wanted to take a quick moment to point you to this post at McSweeney's. Basically, it argues that publishing isn't in as much trouble as is popularly assumed. Their evidence is interesting and it's worth going through the whole of their article (especially the three links in the middle) to see what they're talking about.

I'm a bit believer in the power of the internet. What I mean by this is that the internet is not reality, but has an effect on reality that cannot be denied. Look at the dissemination of information about the problems in Egypt or at the tracking of celebrities on gossip blogs. That being said, the internet has the power also to put blinders onto the eyes of otherwise rational people; claims can be made in a vacuum and statistics (my old friend) can be warped to "prove" whatever point you're trying to make.

So I'm going to take with a grain of salt McSweeney's analysis. But that's not to say I'm not hopeful it's true. Obviously, as a writer I have more than a little stake in the future of books. And I agree that things cannot be as dire as the media reports insist that they are because I know people, lots of people, who are passionate about books (whether e-books or print books), and the written word isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Truth versus Facts

One of my favorite blogs is bark, the blog maintained by the MFAers over at Eastern Washington University's Inland Northwest Center for Writers. There is a cacophony of voices. Posts are created by individuals and they meld together into an aesthetic at once inviting and critical. Some of this may have to do with my fondness for the program. I studied under some of the graduate faculty while an undergraduate at EWU and loved my time there. I have a few close friends from EWU's program and it helped shaped my life in ways I couldn't have predicted when entering the program.

I was perusing bark the other day and came across this post by Monet Thomas, which discusses the ethics of poetry in the confessional vein. This is always a tricky subject and makes me think of the scandals of nonfiction: what?! that didn't really happen? Well, yes and no, is usually the answer. The facts of the situation were different, but the emotion of the situation was exactly as I wrote it (the machinations of James Frey aside). And the fact of the matter is, I have zero problem with this kind of fabrication. Sometimes details might be alterred to create mood, not because lying makes the story stronger, but because the ultimate goal of art is communication. The lies help to better communication the truth, even as the facts take a backseat.

Whenever the ethics of writing are brought up, I get a little uncomfortable. A lot of times the discussion turns to "authority"—whether an author has the right to talk about something. Which is patently ridiculous in some respects. It might be because I've done a ton of workshops, but I'm a bit of a formalist at heart, meaning I think the words on the page have to be the final arbiter of writing. Whether a man can know what it's like to have an abortion is an odd question. The question is, or should be, did the man write the story of the abortion in a way that's believable and engaging? Was there an interesting story behind the fact of the abortion? In short, whether a man or a woman wrote the story should have no effect on one's reading of the story.

When we do our contests here at the Bellingham Review (which we're doing now; please submit), we assign every entry a number and read them without the context of gender or a cover letter. Ideally, I think this is the way that all contests would be run, and all submissions periods, but that's a little far-reaching for most. Obviously there can be problems with liberties taken when one's talking about nonfiction, but this concern filters into fiction and poetry, too. Monet Thomas's post references Sylvia Plath's "Daddy." A lot is made of the autobiographical content of this poem, but there's plenty in there that's invention. And I think that's the lesson, a little bit. Yes, things have to be true, but not all the time. Otherwise you'll never get to something that means more than the mundanity of your life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Celebration of AWP Starting Tomorrow

AWP starts tomorrow, so I thought I'd post a video for you to watch. I ran into this a couple of weeks ago (I think) on bark, EWU's MFA blog. Enjoy:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Contests Reminder

Hey everyone,

This is a quick post reminding you that we're still running our contests:

The Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction: $1000 PRIZE
The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction: $1000 PRIZE
The 49th Parallel Award for Poetry: $1000 PRIZE

Submission to each contest costs only $18 and we're open for submissions until March 15th. We'd love to see something from you and remember you get a copy of the Bellingham Review with your entry. Good luck!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Photography and Time

Almost a year ago, I took a class from Brenda Miller, my current boss and the Editor-in-Chief of our esteemed journal, on Autobiography and Photography. It was a class on memoir, more than anything, and on nonfiction generally, but photography took up a not-insignificant portion of class time. Each of us had to do a presentation on a photographer—I chose Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work has resonated with me for years, for its queerness, certainly, and for the still quality so many of his images have, but also for the way his photos are composed and for more esoteric reasons—and as a result I was introduced to many photographers whose work I had never heard of.

The exposure to new artists was nice, but what I really got out of the class was a renewed interest in photography as an art that *I* could practice. I bought a film camera (cheap, used, on eBay), I bought some film, and I started taking pictures. To be sure, when I started I was terrible. I hadn't taken film pictures in over a decade and I marvelled at the cost of printing these photos only to discover that most of them weren't fit even for display on my (then bare) walls.

I mention this because only twenty years ago there was very little going on with digital photography. People used film, had to deal with film, and accepted as part and parcel of remembering family times and special places the cost of printing pictures out. I bring this up because of a post on bark I read the other day. For those who don't want to click through, the post discusses the discontinuation of Kodachrome film by Kodak and the closing of the last Kodachrome processing lab, which means this form of art (slide photography) is one step closer to extinction. This saddens me a little, but it does raise some questions for me as well, particularly about whether I should even be sad at all.

Digital photography—especially for those things everyday, but also for professional/artistic work—is frankly speaking a better way of doing things than its film counterpart. There's instant access to the art you've created. If you need a better shot, you know right away that you need a better shot; you know if the shot came out blurry; you know if the lighting was bad for the shot. And of course there are people who still process their own film who can still make the art that way if they're driven to do so.

This seems to me to be an analogous situation to what is currently happening in publishing. The AWP conference is in a couple of weeks and the Bellingham Review will be in attendance. We'll hand out fliers telling people about general and contest submissions, and this year we'll have copies of BR to sell and bookmarks to give out as well. It's going to be a good time. But I expect to see a lot more online journals there than in years past. We'll be directing people to the blog this year, and to our online short forms submissions period. Are we looking toward a day when journals will move more and more online? Printing costs can be crushing for a small journal, as well as shipping. With an online journal, web-hosting is the main fiscal concern, and since almost all journals have a web presence, they could easily move to online only. And this idea makes me sad, too, because I so much love looking at my name in print, at seeing my name in journals and in other peoples' hands. But am I being anachronistic? Am I about to become the literary equivalent of a vinyl/8-track enthusiast?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moral Ambiguity

Sometimes I'm unsure of what exactly being a writer really means. I mean, who am I to think that other people would want to read my scribblings? A hearty dose of the usual medicine quells such concerns and allows my mind enough space to write. I mention this because these are the kinds of thoughts that often keep me up at night. One of the many thoughts that doesn't keep me up at night has to do with how my personal conduct will reflect on my (potential) future publisher. This does, however, appear to keep them up at night, at least in the case of HarperCollins.

I direct your attention here.

Now, on the one hand, I can sort of see Harper's point. The anecdote about Eliot Spitzer really shows how a morals clause might protect Harper from that kind of behavior. They could feasibly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on such a contract, just as an advance, before the book is even written. I would say it's possible the outlay would be millions of dollars for certain books (particularly celebrity memoirs and such). However, they're going to be giving Mr. Spitzer a much, much larger advance than me, and I very much doubt that his contract would be boilerplate.

I write queer things for people interested in reading queer things. I write, on occasion, blog entries about publishing. I am in the middle of a novel which I hope will be picked up by a publisher someday, which I hope will make me a little money, but we're talking, at best, about Stuart Dybek money, and probably more along the lines of now-I-can-afford-the-extra-toppings-on-my-pizza money, not Eliot Spitzer/Sarah Palin money. Harper's need to protect themselves from indiscretions I might (and most of their authors might) commit is minimal at best. This sort of a clause belongs in a contract with Eliot Spitzer. It does not belong in a contract with me or with you. Infamy can only serve to help my sales, since it cures me of that worse sin: anonymity.

So mostly I am confused by this move. Mostly I wonder if it's not something the lawyers insisted in as a precaution, not as something they intend often to enforce. But, as such, I rankle at this kind of stricture—I think contracts should be as clear as possible and contain nothing extraneous. This is of course at odds with what Harper's lawyers probably feel, since the primary purpose of a lawyer in such a position is to make sure that Harper's liability is as limited as possible, both legally and fiscally. Still, I'd urge them to reconsider. Clauses like this one scare me as a writer to no real benefit for the publisher, since they could potentially be abused beyond their intended purpose.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Short Forms Submissions Period

The Bellingham Review is proud to announce our first venture into electronic submissions. We welcome electronic submissions of flash fiction, prose poetry, and brief essays via Submishmash for online publication.

Submissions Guidelines:

This is an open (free) submission period and runs from January 1st, 2011 through April 15th, 2011. Pieces can be up to 1000 words in length and can be on any subject. Submissions must be submitted via Submishmash at

Please, no more than three pieces per submission, only one submission per author during this period. Please include a cover letter with your contact information, submission genre(s), and publication history (if applicable) on the first page of your submission. Please submit all pieces in a single file, preferably a Microsoft Word Document. Simultaneous submissions are accepted and encouraged so long as you are prompt in informing us of any acceptances by other publications. All work must be previously unpublished. We look forward to reading your work. Payment is dependent on availability of funds. Any questions can be sent to

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to 2011 and Contests Reminder

Hey Everyone,

I hope you're all having a good start to 2011, getting lots of writing done and that your merriment in celebration of the new year was satisfactory.

I wanted to remind everyone that submissions are open for our 2011 contests, guidelines for each of which can be found here. We have three contests in the Spring each year, one for each genre. The details are as follows:

49th Parallel Award for Poetry
1st Prize: $1,000
Final Judge: Lia Purpura
The 49th Parallel is the nickname for the US/Canada border that stretches from Washington State to Minnesota. Bellingham, Washington, the home of Western Washington University and the Bellingham Review lies just shy of the border.

The Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction
1st Prize: $1,000
Final Judge: Ira Sukrungruang
Born April 30, 1945, Annie Dillard is best known for her nature-themed writing. She has explored her past and present dealings with nature through poetry, essays and novels. Often compared to Thoreau and other transcendentalist writers, Dillard is unique in her defiance of any strict categorization. As she examines the natural world, her subjects move between wildlife, God and the human condition. Among the nine book-length publications Dillard has published over the past twenty years, her use of multiple genres allows her to seamlessly move from Virginia creeks, to the Puget Sound, to the Galapagos Islands.

The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction
1st Prize: $1,000
Final Judge: Adrianne Harun
Born in 1945 in Alabama, Wolff has been regarded as the master of memoir and short stories. His best known work, This Boy's Life, recounts the story of his early childhood years in the Northwest and was the basis for a 1993 motion picture starring Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio. A three-time winner of the O. Henry Award, Tobias Wolff is celebrated for his collections of short stories, novels, and memoirs. Wolff's second collection of short stories, Back in the World (1985), was hailed as a sensitive work of fiction focusing primarily on the experiences of returning Vietnam veterans. In literary circles, Wolff is revered as much as a teacher as he is as a writer. After completing a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, Wolff served as the Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing at that institution (1975-1978). He later spent 17 years leading the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University (1980-97). In 1997, he returned to Stanford where he currently resides and teaches.