Thursday, December 31, 2015

Denise Low Reviews Mihku Paul's 20th Century Powwow Playland

                “We speak a strange tongue. / We are ghosts haunting ourselves.” Wow. This is how Mihku Paul ends “Mother Tongue,” part of 20th Century PowWow Playland. This collection of verse concerns itself with histories of displacement—personal and tribal. Mixed-blood Native people are a central topic, and she coins the term “Amerindia” (in the poem of the same name) for the place where “Those hybrids roam from Mexico to Montreal.” Erasure of language is one concern, and physical changes are another as she writes:

In a thousand years, whose captive
face will hover, imprisoned in silvered glass?
What name will you call her,
whose eyes were you own, staring back,
as the mirror shattered and
the tree bore this new fruit? (53)
The North American diaspora aftermath leaves children “honey-dipped, tea-stained” and with “green eyes.” Paul explores what is lost in communities with disrupted narratives as she writes, “We are, all of us, cast on a burning wind.” Such phrases as “Ghosts haunting ourselves,” “captive faces,” and “burning wind” illustrate the strength of the poet’s voice.
                “The Anishinaaabe and other natives have endured in virtual cartography, the certain mete of native sovereignty,” writes Ojibwe author Gerald Vizenor, who comes from a similar Algonquian language tradition as Paul. She re-maps the continent, the shore, the rivers, and the cities. “Acadia” is a love poem to a person and to a place. She asserts personal as well as community sovereignty as she creates a literary work that reimagines form. She selects her own subject matter.
                This book is an act of courage. “Before the ships, nature was our only mirror” is another zinger (from “Bright Colors from the Earth and Sky). The poem continues to catalogue the colors of nature:

A scarlet-feathered cardinal
perched on a spruce tree.
Umber-striated quills on
a grumbling porcupine’s back.
Silver winter’s whiteness, snow and ice.
Black shadow of a bear’s silhouette.
Purple sheen, chokecherries
drooping from a thin branch.
Pale green skunk cabbage
sprouting from the brown earth.
Orange ochre riverbank clay,
indigo night and robin’s egg.
Golden, the morning sun’s eye. (60)
These images reclaim a worldview. The poem continues from mapping land to reconfiguring time into “Beaver Moons.”
                Throughout this collection, Paul is startlingly original. Never does she fall into easy, homogenized lines. Always, her intelligence is at work. She joins other Native poets of the Northeast who revitalize Indigenous traditions.

20th Century PowWow Playland by Mihku Paul (Greenfield Center: Bowman Books, 2012)
ISBN-13: 978-1105786105, Paperback: 82 pages

Mihku Paul is a Maliseet poet, writer, and visual artist with an MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Her poetry appears in Cabildo Quarterly Online, Maine Wabanaki REACH, Native Literature: Generations, and others. Paul’s first multi-media installation “Look Twice: The Waponahki in Image & Verse,” went on exhibit in October 2009 at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. The exhibit is a compilation of twelve panels that combine archival images of Waponahki history and culture with original poems. She is an enrolled member of Kingsclear First Nations, New Brunswick, Canada. She lives in Portland, Maine.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jackalope by Denise Low--Good reviews, some copies available!

Thanks for the good reviews of my short fiction/poetry book JACKALOPE,  by public radio station Wichita Eagle, Mysha Phelps of the UDK, George Martin, and others!
KCUR's Ben Pfieffer, Lisa McClendon of the
The first printing is sold out, and another is on the way. While we wait, I have copies available.Links to reviews, excerpts, details of purchase are on my website Jackalope:  Thanks for the good sales of the first printing!
The book has been unavailable at Small Press Distribution, the publisher, and Amazon (they have return policies that undercut literary publishers like Jackalope's Red Mountain Press). I have some copies available and can ship in a day or two.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lisa McClendon of the Wichita Eagle reviews Jackalope by Denise Low

The jackalope of Denise Low’s creation is a friendly, gender-changing, juniper-juice-drinking storyteller but also a bit of a trickster – as rabbits tend to be in Native American lore – whose worldview is tinged with both humor and the occasional world-weariness.. . . See more:

Monday, November 16, 2015


Dennis Etzel, Junior, agreed to answer a few questions about his new book and his memoir/documentary-based writing projects. He is a fabulous reader and advocate for the arts, if anyone needs a program. He inspires me both with his community contributions and fine work. I recommend his book, available from his website (below) and FaceBook. He is one of the reasons Lawrencians haverespect for our upriver neighbors in Topeka!
 DL: Please list the titles of your books and chapbooks (and where to get them).
DE: My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015); The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013); My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press 2015). Available at The Raven, Prospero’s, and my website
I do like selling them from my website for people who can’t come to readings, as I sign them and include other fun memorabilia. For My Secret Wars of 1984, I include a pack of cards, buttons, Pop Rocks, or other things that are from 1984 or 1984-inspired.

 DL: I notice your books have thematic unity. How do these book-length topics come to you?
DE: I enjoy working out of my memoir, writing about topics of survival, LGBT communities, pro-feminism, class, Patriarchy, etc. I often come up with a project and go through with it. For example, My Secret Wars of 1984 is an alphabetized 366-sentence poetry-memoir collage, using texts from
the year 1984 (Lyn Hejinian, Ronald Johnson, bell hooks, Marvel Comics, Dungeons & Dragons, President Reagan, etc.) with sentences of my own—within the context of political and personal struggles of that time (my mother coming out in the midst of living in a conservative neighborhood, America in a recession, daily nuclear bomb threats, etc.).
                My Secret Wars of 1984 developed from the Ronald Johnson Reading Group in Lawrence back in 2011. After thinking about how that was one rough year for me, I thought I could examine that time through documentary poetics strategies. i knew the sentences should have tension, play with words, etc. to describe my personal story. At the same time, I looked for texts from 1984—texts to reflect what I was reading (comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, Orwell, etc.), as well as what inspires me now (bell hooks, Hejinian). As it was an election year, Ronald Reagan had to work his way in, as he scared me! He truly scared me with his talk about nuclear war, as if he was ready to show those Russians!
                Using different texts--the appropriation--along with my sentences to create a collage, I was worried how I could put a stop to my collecting. I figured, 1984 was a leap year, so I would collect 356 sentences. Also, if each sentence was a part of that year, a part of me, then no sentence should be lesser than any other. Based on a poem by Carolyn Forche called "Blue Hour," I realized I could alphabetize the whole thing and that would be that—to mimic what I used to do with my music, comic books, and such.
                It took time to locate and read through the texts after I got home. I also included song titles, movies titles, etc. I placed each sentence in an Excel spreadsheet, along with where I found the sentence, if it was my own, etc. in different columns. This allowed me to alphabetize the sentences within moments, but could return back to the original sequence by source (alphabetizing the column of sources). When I started playing with the idea of stanzas, it truly worked as a book-length piece. What I love about the collection is that it was fun to write, to collect, to create. The surprise of going from one sentence to another sentence creates its own metaphor—placing two unlike things together to say they can be compared or are the same. Prose Poetry seems to work on that level, from sentence to sentence for enjambment.
                Another thing I love about the collection is it does what I set out to accomplish--to pull off a memoir as text as representation, borderlining the confessional mode. It's hard for me to read confessional poetry anymore, but the experimental mode seems the best way to convey true emotions without pointing the finger or dropping a ton of lead onto someone's foot.

DL: What made you want to be a poet?
DE: A young boy told me that people write poetry to say the things they normally wouldn’t say, to share feelings they wouldn’t normally feel. I wanted to do that. During my first years at Washburn University earning a degree in Computer Systems Analysis, Dr. Jorge Nobo from Washburn’s Philosophy Department gave me advice on how to improve my writing: carry a thesaurus and write in a journal daily. I did, and that journal became really personal. It was a way to get my deeper voice on paper, to examine my life and wish to connect with others. The journal held my first poems. I then went to an open-mic poetry night at the Classic Bean and realized poets were alive and well, not only being published around the country, but living in Topeka. I was dedicated from then on.

DL: You have an MFA and other degrees. What helped your writing from your education?
DE: Each degree in English helped me further to realizing I wanted to write out of memoir, to play with what the “I” could do, and to write something past post-Confessionalism. Working with all of my mentors showed me different ways of exploring form based on each person’s preference in her or his own writing.

DL: What did you learn on your own?
DE: I read everything I could—wishing to be as well-read as possible. My own studies of various writers taught me how form and context serves the poem’s intent in different ways.

DL: What do you want to accomplish in your writing?
DE: I am still exploring those things from the past, as well as wanting to explore the Patriarchal, racist, sexist, anti-LGBT, classist culture we are a part of. They are intertwined—the public and the private. If I can write as a form of activism, I want it to be a part of the many other voices speaking now.

DL: What poetic form in your poetry is interesting to you and how/why?
DE: I vary in forms. My chapbooks are lyrical, and I’ve began making those poems into a full-length collection. I also love how My Secret Wars turned out. I have also started experimenting with poems as footnotes to other poems—embedded like Matroyshka dolls.

DL: Please give a sample poem in that form.

yearbook pages5 surveyed



I alienate myself on this planet
 but record as an anthropologist
every name of each lifeform
as this was my world


as a closed-off street I walked
sometimes as a clown
to put on a face
recognized with
two outcasts hung out with me
one my best friend I knew
the first and last name
of every last student
the first thing I think about
when looking back
down the blocks of photos
names like house-markers
streets I ran to escape
after the final bell to Comics
& Fantasys [sic], I am sick
of being Orpheus
I look back every time see
your own middle school for details


Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has an MFA from The University of Kansas, and an MA and Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Kansas State University. He has two chapbooks, The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) and My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press 2015), and a full-length poetic memoir My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015). His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar for the Kansas Humanities Council and leads poetry workshops in various Kansas spaces. Please feel free to connect with him at



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry Explains Poetry

Eric McHenry, the fifth and current Kansas Poet Laureate, recently shared insights about poetry at Kansas City Kansas Community College. He described the unique place of poetry among the arts: ““A poem is composed of words. A song is composed of notes, and a painting is composed of paint. But the historical function of paint is not to mean. The historical function of notes is not to mean,' he said. 'However, the historical function of language is to mean, to communicate, to express, to convey and to make things clearer.'” Here is the article about his visit to KCKCC, with more of his insights about poetry:

                 Eric McHenry, the Poet Laureate of Kansas, visited Kansas City Kansas Community College Oct. 29 to share his talent and love of poetry with students, faculty, staff and community members. “The best poems, for me, are the opposite of page turners, they are page don’t turners,” he said. “When I finish a page of poetry that blows me away, the last thing I want to do is turn the page. I want to stay there with it, re-enter it, and continue digging until I have gotten to the bottom of it. Some of the best poems I know on the surface are the furthest things one can imagine from a page turner.”
Denise Low, Eric McHenry, Wyatt Townley, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
                McHenry was named the 2015-17 Poet Laureate of Kansas by the Kansas Humanities Council in April. As poet laureate, he will work to promote the humanities as a public resource in Kansas through appearances, presentations, public readings and discussions throughout the state. His visit to KCKCC was jointly sponsored by the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Division; Institutional Services; the KCKCC Library and the Intercultural Center.
                One of the poems McHenry recited was “The Bean Eaters” by Gwendolyn Brooks. Born in 1917 in Topeka, Kan., she was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950. McHenry said he had the honor of meeting Brooks in the late 1990s when she visited Washburn University.
                Another poem that he shared was “After Apple-Picking” by Robert Frost. He described the poem as “an experience. It is a world we can enter and inhabit. The point of the poem, to me, is its existence,” he said. “This is not to say this is a poem without meanings that we can apply to our own lives and experiences. One of the reasons the poem seems so real, so true, is because it speaks to experiences so many of us have had.” . . . .  McHenry said many times when reading poetry, people look to find the meaning. He said looking for that meaning might be an unreasonable to ask of a poem. “A poem is composed of words. A song is composed of notes, and a painting is composed of paint. But the historical function of paint is not to mean. The historical function of notes is not to mean,” he said. “However, the historical function of language is to mean, to communicate, to express, to convey and to make things clearer. It is a natural human reaction to a poem to say what does it mean. What is it trying to say? I think when you ask those questions, you risk restricting what the poem can be a little too much.”

Bio: "Known throughout the United States as a poet, McHenry is an associate professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including Poetry International and Yale Review. In addition, publications such as the New York Times and Columbia magazine have published his poetry reviews. His third book of poems, Odd Evening, will be published in 2016. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry seven times and is the recipient of the Theodore Roethke Prize. In 2007, he received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for his first book of poems, Potscrubber Lullabies. It is the largest American prize for a first book of poetry."
Eric McHenry named Poet Laureate of Kansas by the Kansas Humanities Council.
McHenry Interview with Miranda Ericsson. Same Interview as a link.
Eric McHenry on Wikipedia
Eric McHenry and his book, Potscrubber Lullabies on Waywiser Press'swebsite
Eric McHenry on Washburn University's website
Potscrubber Lullabies on Powell's Books' website
Nov. 13, 2015, Kansas City Kansas Community College 7250 State Ave. Kansas City, Kan. 66112, press release.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Alarie Tennille Responds to a Writer’s Survey

Thanks to Kansas City poet Alarie Tennille for allowing me to post her responses to my writers’ survey. I created this for several professional workshops. Tennille is a force in the Kansas City literary scene. She recently was runner-up for the prestigious Thorpe Menn Award for her book Running Counterclockwise (Aldrich Press, 2014), which I reviewed for the Kansas City Star-- A quartet of locally rooted poets  She is a thoughtful person; her wise responses are helpful for writers and readers alike.

 Personal Writing Style
1. Where do you do your best writing? Describe the table, chair, keyboard or tablet, and room or place. AT: My best first drafts are usually written somewhere cozy, usually I'm sitting on my sofa with my legs up. I write in long hand in a magic notebook. (It's magic because it seems to expand and never fill up...well, not for years anyway. I favor large sheets of lined paper in a spiral bound book that will lie flat. Cat on lap optional (at cat's discretion). Usually I have a hot mug of tea beside me, sometimes a different beverage. After that I move to my computer in my upstairs study to type it in. The room is red, and I'm surrounded by bookcases.
2. What audio environment works best for your writing? Silence or background chatter? AT: I definitely don't like chatter. I prefer silence or very soft Classical music (nothing with lyrics!). Nature sounds are fine: birds, fountains.
3. What is the feeling you get when you do your best writing? Does this happen often? AT: It doesn't have to be my best writing, just writing that pleases me at that moment. (I sometimes change my mind later.) At times, it's a peacefulness, because I can let go of my guilt about procrastination or writer's block. Other times, it's an adrenalin rush. I almost want to share it with the world right then, though I know that's not a good idea. (The adrenalin rush is typically after I hear my critique group's reaction.) Thankfully, the feeling comes pretty often and never gets old. I wrote professionally for many years and didn't have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. Now I don't pressure myself to write every day, but enough to be ready for my critique group.

Public Writing Experience
1. What kinds of experience do you have with publicly sharing writing (besides this class)? AT: If it's bringing a homework assignment in for a critique, I generally enjoy it. If it's sharing what I just wrote on-the-spot, I don't like feeling pressured to do that. My best writing rarely happens sitting at a table of strangers and working on a tight deadline.
2. What do you enjoy about public situations that involve sharing of writing? What is your favorite type of activity? AT: I love to share my writing at public readings and open mics. However, it took me many years to get over my stage fright. I like hearing and seeing the crowd's reactions. I'm often surprised which poems seem to be the evening's favorites. I can feel shy about sharing in a workshop if I don't feel I've had time to polish my work a little.
3. When you participate in a public activity you like, do you have any feelings similar to your good writing times? AT: YES! The satisfaction of reading my poems to an audience is really the culmination to my original feeling of wanting to share the poem.
4. What can you do to improve your personal satisfaction from writing? From public sharing of writing? AT: The best way to improve both craft and satisfaction is to work at it and repeat the process. If you'd told me 10-11 years ago that I'd one day enjoy giving public readings, I wouldn't have believed you.

 Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia with a genius older brother destined for NASA, a ghost, and a yard full of cats. A Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class that admitted women (B.A. with distinction in English). She met her husband, graphic artist Chris Purcell, in college. She still misses the ocean, but loves the writing community she’s found in Kansas City. After a career ranging from technical editor to greeting card writer, Alarie is retired and has more time to focus on her poetry writing. She serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her poem, “The Quilters of Gee’s Bend” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2010, she published a chapbook, Spiraling into Control (The Lives You Touch Publications). In 2014, Alarie celebrates her first full-length poetry collection, Running Counterclockwise (Kelsay Books: Aldrich Press), a Thorpe Menn Award finalist. Her work appears in The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers and in numerous journals including Margie, Poetry East, Coal City Review, I-70 Review, English Journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Southern Women’s Review. Website: Reviews
A quartet of locally rooted poets.The Kansas City Star.



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stephen Bunch Publishes New Post-Pop Work in Mudlark

Read a generous selection of recent poems, an online chapbook, by Lawrence cult figure Stephen Bunch at Mudlark Flash #97 (2015), entitled DisquiEtudes | Poems. It has three sections, or more accurately, movements: "Dyspepsia" | "Domestic Disturbances" | "Perturbations." Pop culture appears mashed up with ingredients of ennui, quotidian moments, and startles of Zen-Tao awareness. Bunch has been a presence in the Lawrence beat-experimental scene for decades, one of the best voices and most dissident. Watch out if you run into him at the grocery store. You might end up cross-haired in his word-scope. Don't miss this online bundle of poems from a wise fool. I take the liberty of quoting one of his short poems from "Domestic Disturbances":
     Man Takes Out Trash

He rolls the receptacle out
     to the curb—
     not Sisyphus exactly.

 Stephen Bunch lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas, where he received the 2008 Langston Hughes Award for Poetry from the Lawrence Arts Center and Raven Books. His poems can be found in Autumn Sky Poetry, The Externalist, The Literary Bohemian, Fickle Muses, IthacaLit and Umbrella. From 1978 to 1988, he edited and published Tellus, a little magazine that featured work by Victor Contoski, Edward Dorn, Jane Hirshfield, Donald Levering, Denise Low, Paul Metcalf, Edward Sanders, and many others. After a fifteen-year hibernation, he awoke in 2005 and resumed writing. Preparing to Leave, his first gathering of poems, was published in 2011. Bunch can be found on the Map of Kansas Literature near L. Frank Baum and Gwendolyn Brooks. (He reports that property values tanked when he moved into the neighborhood.)


Monday, October 19, 2015

Denise Low reviews Natasha Ria El-Scarri for the KC Star

Here is the beginning of my 10/18/2015 Kansas City Star review of Natasha Ria El-Scari's book, 9th in the 2015 series by Spartan Press:
"Screaming Times: Poems by Natasha Ria El-Scari is the newest book in the monthly POP Poetry book series. Its verse illustrates the vibrancy of this community project. The POP Poetry series, sponsored by Prospero’s Books on West 39th Street, highlights one poet each month by holding debut readings at the store and supporting Spartan Press, which publishes the collections. Jason Ryberg, an editor at Spartan Press, says, “Kansas City is known for its music and art scenes. We bring attention to the writing scene.” Other editors are Will Leathem, who co-owns Prospero’s Books, and Stephanie Powers. El-Scari, a native of Kansas City, uses a consistent, strong voice throughout the poems in “Screaming Times.” Poems lift off the page, almost reading themselves. Unlike some performance poetry, her words translate well to the printed page. . . ."  See more at the KC Star website until 11/5/2015.
 Natasha Ria El-Scari is a writer, Cave Canem fellow, and educator for over a decade. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals.  She has opened for and introduced many great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and a MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry and performance pieces. Natasha brings the fire! She is a divorced mother of two awesome children. Once asked in an interview what makes her unique she replied, “…most people lie to themselves, but I like to reveal myself.”

Read more here:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Interviews Denise Low for the TLA Network

Denise Low, second Kansas Poet Laureate, had a chat with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, third poet laureate, about the writer in the public square. Denise is teaching an online class for the TLA Network starting Nov. 9 and running until Dec. 20, “The Word Artist in the Public Square,” focusing on being a writer for life. She’ll be covering public reading basics, publication and personal balance, reviews, blogs, blurbs, conferences, workshops, residencies, contests, grants, and building community.

 Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (CMG): How did you learn to be a writer in the public square?
Denise Low (DL): Oh, this is a long, long story. Before I was 30 years old, the editorship of the nationally known University of Kansas journal Cottonwood Review became vacant, and I volunteered. Volunteer work is a great starting point. The quick, on-the-job experience was invaluable. They had 35 subscribers, and when I left, we had 100s, including libraries. I found grants for our income stream, and I had added book publications. I learned that reliability, clean writing, and meeting deadlines were seriously important. Since that analog cut-and-paste era, I have adapted to digital media, but the basics of public interaction remain—be dependable, consider audience and polish style, and be on time.

CMG: What gifts and challenges are there to being “out there” as a writer?
DL: Gifts are many—self-awareness, great friends, appreciating enduring works of art, travel (both physical and intellectual)—I love the writing life. Writers are my favorite people, because of their interest in history, science, gossip (really, human behavior anecdotes), cultural geography, and more. Yes, writers can be a tad egotistical, but heck, they are worth it. The main challenge is self-absorption. The good writer has a sense of what appeals to an audience, not just what is fun to write. I’m working with a new fantasy writer, self-taught, who loves to spin out his stories. Now he wants to publish. I feel a bit sad that his joy in creating tales will be tempered by demands of writing—point of view, grammar, character development, and so forth. Yet these technical issues make our work comprehensible to others. Also, when he publishes, he will have to promote his works. Now writers have to know how to prepare press kits, approach reviewers and media, schedule readings, and so much more. Cutbacks at most presses plus the rise of self-publishing make it necessary for writers to generate their own publicity. Further, years ago it was permissible at a book launch for writers to mumble passages from their books and get drunk at receptions. Now author presentations are quite professional, often including PowerPoints. This is an exciting time to be an author, and also a challenging one.

CMG: How do you balance your writing time with putting yourself out there in community?
DL: Writing is a solitary, self-reflective act. Paradoxically, we introverted writers participate in so many community activities— readings, conferences, workshops, reviews, blogs, social media commentary, residencies, and more. Keeping a schedule helps me out. I divide my time into blocs for book biz, revision, and drafting new work. Usually, I spend Mondays on promotion and other business, plus office management. Keeping a fairly clean workspace helps me stay productive. Yes, I have lost checks and lots more in piles of papers. Time management people advise us to schedule clean-up time, and they are right. The rest of the week I spend only an hour or so on incoming business. Then I turn to writing chores, including revisions. The end of the week is for drafting new work, my favorite. I never do business or chores on weekends. That way I truly have some quality writing time scheduled. Other people divide up their days differently. Each of us is individual, so the challenge is to find what works best. No one has the exact formula for how to write. This is the delight of the writing process.

CMG: What do you see as the possibilities for the writer in the public square? What can and should a writer's role be in community?
DL: Most of us writers are not content to put our work into a drawer. Self-validation is what draws many of us to writing, and this is good work. Personal development through writing also makes us better community members. I started with journals. Writing has helped me a lot— Caryn, you knew me when we both were new writers with stars in our eyes. I had a vague idea of becoming “famous.” Now I understand that I want to contribute to a heritage of literary arts that began with human speech and will continue long after I am gone. Being part of that tradition—whether for self, family, community, region, or larger audiences—is a privilege. Writers contribute in so many ways as literary citizens—to organization newsletters, workshops, blogs, and formal publications. Any participation in the literary realm adds to cultural literacy. I define literacy as knowing the literary works and histories connected to our languages. This study leads from our ancestors forward to future descendants. What a privilege.

Denise Low is an award-winning author of 25 books of prose and poetry, including Jackalope (short fiction, Red Mountain Press); Mélange Block (poetry, Red Mountain Press); Ghost Stories (Woodley Press, a Ks. Notable Book; The Circle -Best Native American Books); and Natural Theologies: Essays (Backwaters Press). She has British Isles, German, Delaware (Lenape/Munsee), and Cherokee heritage. She edited a selection of poems by William Stafford in an edition with essays by other poets and scholars, Kansas Poems of William Stafford (Woodley). Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She blogs, reviews, and co-publishes Mammoth Publications. She teaches professional workshops nationally as well as classes for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies. Her MFA is from Wichita State University and PhD is from the University of Kansas. More at,,, and

Friday, October 2, 2015

CONGRATULATIONS! Red Mountain Press Announces Prize Winner Irena Praitis and Finalists Israel Wasserstein and Linda LeGrande Grover

Winner of the 2015 Red Mountain Press Prize was Irena Praitis. She wins $1000 and publication. Finalists, whose work may be considered for publication by the press, are Israel Wasserstein and Linda LeGrande Grover. Honorable mentions are James K. Zimmerman, and John Surowieki.

The 2015 Red Mountain Press Prize was judged by Denise Low, author of Jackalope and Mélange 

 Block, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate. She comments on the winning submission:

“In her extraordinary book The Last Stone in the Circle, Irena Praitis examines the nature of evil as a central paradox of human experience. The Holocaust is the poet’s occasion for an appraisal of social destruction. “The camp Römhild/ is not like Buchenwald./ It goes faster here…,” she writes in the opening, quoting a commandant. Beauty entwines with pain. “Chord” is an amazing poem, intermingling sounds of execution with opera. This serious, substantive topic is an essential addition to the genre of tragic literature.”  Based on eyewitness accounts, The Last Stone in the Circle chronicles experiences of prisoners in a WWII German work re-education camp. Delving into the murkiness of human experience in the face of suffering, the poems consider the complicated choices people make in impossibly difficult circumstances and explore the sheer resilience of survival. Irena Praitis has authored five books. She is a professor of literature and creative writing at California State University, Fullerton, and lives in Fullerton with her son, Ishaan.
The two outstanding finalists are Israel Wasserstein for When Creation Falls and Linda LeGrande Grover for To the Woman Who Just Bought That Set of Native American Spirituality Dream Interpretation Cards.

 Israel Wasserstein Beginning from a childhood in a Kansas trailer and expanding to face a possible apocalypse, When Creation Falls explores what it means to have everything one thought one knew fall away, and asks what can take that place. Israel Wasserstein was born and raised in Kansas, and holds an MFA from the University of New Mexico. His first book, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a Kansas Notable Book.

 Linda LeGrande Grover To the Woman Who Just Bought That Set of Native American Spirituality Dream Interpretation Cards: This book weaves traditional Ojibwe teachings and beliefs into the collectively traumatic intergenerational experience of the Indian boarding school era. Themes of loss and survival, compromise and salvation, breakage and resilience, spiral throughout the stories of Ojibwe families and communities of the past century. Linda LeGarde Grover is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and associate professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She has authored several prize-winning books.

Two more outstanding works have been awarded Honorable Mention. Terra Incognita by James K. Zimmerman of Pleasantville, New York and Man Made Out of Cornflakes by John Surowieki of Amston, Connecticut