Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bellingham Review on the Radio!

Lauri Anderson, the winner of the 2011 Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, was recently interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. During this interview, Anderson discussed her prize-winning story, "A Saint and a Criminal," which won NPR's three-minute fiction contest. She also mentioned her recent win of Bellingham Review's annual award in fiction.

In addition, Bethany Carlson, a finalist in the 2011 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, read her poem "If truth is a dreamcatcher, then" on WIFU, a local NPR station in Bloomington, Indiana. Both Anderson and Carlson's works will appear in Issue 64 of Bellingham Review.

Way to go ladies!

This year's contests, Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction, the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, as well as the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction, are still open for entry. The contests close March 15th. Please visit our website for our full contest guidelines, as well as a link to Submittable:

Friday, February 24, 2012

On (Not) Writing

I am going to write! White space. Cursor blinking. Teach. Facebook. Eat. Play Angry Birds. Sleep. Grad seminar. I need to make words! Play Words with Friends. Grad seminar. Sleep (maybe). I miss writing! Guilt. Repeat.
Somehow, I was lucky enough to study Slam and Spoken Word Poetry this quarter with Bruce Beasley, an amazing writer and fantastic professor. In my many years of schooling, I have had several wild and memorable classes, but this one is placed so very near the top. Last Friday, poet Anis Mojgani visited our classroom. Mojgani is kind of a big deal: National Poetry Slam Individual Champion for 2005 and 2006, nominations for a National Book Award and a Pushcart Prize, amongst others. During the two hour class, Mojgani talked to us about the life of a full-time poet and the feel of the poetry slam. What he read was lush. His performance vivid. So many of his poems made my eyes water. He asked us what our experience was with writing and performing and I shared that performing terrifies me. That during our first class slam, my body felt that it was going to collapse and I will probably never do it again after this class ends.

It felt strange and lovely to talk to someone our class had been studying, but his arrival was so timely. What he spent a great deal of time on was talking about process. He would love to and tries to write every day if it's at all possible, but going on the road as he does for almost 4-6 months out of the year breaks the consistency that he needs and he's not good with interruptions. He will sit at a coffee shop with a computer in an attempt to "work his way in" to the act of writing. Much of this work consists of a blank screen and lots of time on Facebook (Note: Anis Mojgani and I have the same writing process. YES!). He shared an anecdote that ended with the sentiment that the day will come when you have to write, either because of a deadline or some other obligation, and you will just need to write, regardless if you feel it or not. Sometimes inspiration comes in a dark movie theatre and by the time you find a pen, the moment is gone. He related that the days are rare when inspiration sticks around long enough or perfectly enough to where you can say "Ah! Look at this thing that I've observed! I will mold this later into a poem!"

If Anis Mojgani has those days too, I don't feel so bad anymore. I haven't slept much the last few days. I'm behind in my grading. I'm graduating next quarter. I often don't remember to eat. I have been neglecting my family and friends. I have a collection to work on and I haven't been writing much, if at all.


My sister just played "BORE" on Words with Friends for 14 points. My tiles: HQENVNT. I will work my way in one letter at a time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Staceyann Chin

Our nonfiction editor and poetry aficionado, Danielle Smith, discusses her love of slam poetry, specifically the slam poet Staceyann Chin, in this lively post.

"I wish every c*nt had the courage to bear public witness. I wish every woman had the pen, the clear view, and the support she needs to scream, 'What happened to me was not my fault!'" speaks Jamaican-born writer, performance artist and activist Staceyann Chin, during a guest performance at the 2009 Campus Progress National Conference.

I cannot begin to tell you what YouTube web led me to find and watch the performance, but immediately, I was awed by Chin's humor and stage presence. Chin begins by relating her thoughts on George W. Bush's second term in the form of haiku ("How can you fuck up / So many times and still be / voted president?").

From there, Chin reads a chapter from her memoir The Other Side of Paradise in which she describes getting her first period. Now, one might think that a girl's first period is such a completely "normal" experience, one that is not at all the stuff of memoir. What Chin does is make the normal remarkable. Chin ends with a poem "about [her] va-jay-jay," the same poem that holds the lines I quoted at the start. In it, she references the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a relative but that is not the whole of it. Chin does not attempt to occupy the position of victim and instead demonstrates how she began to see her body as a source of strength and beauty. At times heartbreaking and wildly funny, Chin's reading captures the intersections of womanhood, race and sexuality beautifully.

The Other Side of Paradise was published in early 2009 and I wonder what I was doing in 2009 that made it possible for me to miss out on it until now. The book is on its way to me via Amazon and once it gets here (and my busy schedule allows me to read it), I will share more with you.

--Danielle Smith