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