Literature is so pathetic. We peddle fabric with a sun painted on it and no one even looks up.
Street Cred isn’t esoteric; it’s actually rather blunt. Many of the selections here have an explicit, even literalistic, relationship to the title, which itself is literalistic. …read the whole letter here
The Neon Touch
In critique we were supposed to talk about space, composition, lighting—I said I thought the pills looked pretty and Sophia’s mother looked sad. Most people, admissions officers at elite schools especially, thought growing up black and poor meant the same thing as growing up deprived… read the whole story
She was only one girl. They had other girls to watch and they were hurrying to meet someone, someone with a truck, further north. If there were a diversion, a moment in which to run, she could get behind the wall
Walser on Fire
Strange to be dreaming of him, the joke she told at parties about her small-town Texas teendom—his overcompensating black truck, his Wrangler jeans, the menthol Skoal pouched in the side of his cheek, how she’d lost her virginity to him under a pool table. She couldn’t have stayed with Walser… read the whole story.
Miha Mazzini, Slovenia
Remnants of Love
Translated by Maja Visenjak Limon
I had seen that face somewhere before.
I calmed my breathing and relaxed the facial muscles that are most prone to resistance.
I practiced my own instructions, the ones I had lectured on in the morning.
I thought the glass in front of the statue was opaque.
A woman in the rain?
Gauz, Ivory Coast
Sale at Camaïeu
Translated by Tegan Raleigh
THE HANDBAG LAW. In a women’s clothing store, all women are attached to their purses, especially those who are thieves.
All Good Working Parts
We skated down the road. Skitch, skitch. We weren’t fast. We fell and got back up. Under the ice was snow. I could see tire tracks. The city didn’t send plows to our street because the city didn’t care about our street. Today, no plows for anyone. Just ice and ice.
First I heard the uptempo jazzy ballad leaking from her headphones. Then her sneakers smacking against the pavement. Then her labored breathing, at which point I closed my eyes and ambushed the love of my life.
Bored Without Brodsky: An Open Letter to the Russian Diaspora
I would tell him dirty jokes and he’d say he “admired” my pumpernickel and butter lox sandwich, often taking a few of the gray ends for his cat, Kissa, which I named Ashtray after the way it smelled, pointing at its nicotine-stained paws and yellow asshole the color of my wife’s burnt mayonnaise.… read the whole story
Romulus was cursing me out, his bark booming as if there were no walls between us. I walked into the living room and eyed him down through the sliding glass door, the access point to the badlands; the backyard that housed the nastiest dog on the planet.
Lonely Just Like Me
Lewis was magic. He could talk to animals, see into hearts, turn water into liquor, make the blind see, all the miracle-making he’d learned about in Sunday school
When the cat was dying, sitting on his haunches
in the dusk sun, he told me the story of a mouse.
Poem of Chance
Yeah, I know I was vegetarian because the God inside us wants it. But then I quit and started to buy, cook, eat meat all the time.
The Spirits of Suicide Forest
[The Black Cat Stares Back at Me]
[The Black Cat Tells Me]
It is clear the witnesses who tell their stories have become, in many cases,
like the disoriented spirits, strangers to themselves.
Not All Faggots Bump Themselves Off at the End of the Story
I’ve talked friends into staying,
told students that I won’t glorify suicide in poems, that if they
say they’re going to hurt themselves
I’ll report them. So many days of truly
Sally Wen Mao
The heart is a fluorescent unpeopled auditorium.
A garbled film reel. A cuckold. A fogged aquarium.
Murder, sex, dogfights, and barracuda.
Nance Van Winckel
Scare Crow, you infidel
For every button I understood,
there were many others
that baffled me, and levers
that moaned like cellos.
Naseer Hassan, Iraq
Dialogue . . . (Final)
Translated by Jon Davis with the author
Here are the words that gather in lines again, to draw—through the gaps—a face, and when the lonely person beholds his face, he finds out that it was every face—and no one’s.
Self-Portrait as a Fish Head in a Pot of Water
You will say there isn’t much left of the brain,
but what’s here is tender. Careful
when you eat around my mouth, how my teeth
can sting the gums.
Sonny Rollins Explains the Apocrypha to Judas
Even when the music is shot in the leg for its foolishness and bleeds out.
Motherfuckers kill songs and raise others because they’re easier to sing.
Robin Beth Schaer
Even coral must dream of cobwebs.
Every breath powdered down
Allison Eir Jenks
The Bearded Man
With all of my weight on you
I want you to feel how man was
Look! How much past we have
to cover this evening—
Bodies of Water
Central to this synapse is the coin itself, the consensual, two-faced imagining used in the mapped world to measure want. The problem, however, as Lewis & Clark discovered, is that the coin can’t do what it promises. Two-faced, always half-true, the coin provokes want, kills it, brings it back. A coin desired, like a woman, signals (tails, you lose) want.
Monica Sarsini, Italy
Alice, the Guard, and the White Donkey: Tales from Sollicciano Women’s Prison
Translated by Maryann De Julio
I come to you unclear as to whether to see you as victim or culprit; where has justice gotten you, this firm stand on privations hasn’t served to create order, to right wrongs—even those that you’ve suffered. I would have wanted my father to hunt down the boy that shot my brother
Albert Abonado (poetry) is the director of adult programs at Writers & Books. He is the author of the e-chapbook This is Superbook. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Big Lucks, interrupture, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. He lives in Rochester, NY with his wife and a hamster.
Graham Cotten (“Lonely Just Like Me”) lives in Birmingham, AL. “Lonely Just Like Me” was the title of a much worse story he wrote in college about completely different characters in Illinois, a state he’d spent one weekend in. But he’s always loved that title, and the rest of Roy Orbison’s lyrics.
Laura Cronk (poetry) is a poet and essayist who works with writers at The New School in New York. Her street smarts come from Jersey City.
Jon Davis (translator) is the author of five chapbooks and three full length collections of poetry: Preliminary Report, Scrimmage of Appetite, which won a Lannan Literary Award, and Dangerous Amusements, for which he received the Lavan Prize. His most recent publication is a letterpress collaboration with artist Jamison Chas Banks entitled Heteronymy: An Anthology. Davis directs the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM.
Maryann De Julio (translator) is a professor at Kent State University in Ohio. She believes that knowing another language makes us perceive our own language differently. She organizes bilingual reading events in downtown Kent at libraries, art galleries, and bookstore/cafés.
Daniel Elkind (“Bored Without Brodsky: An Open Letter to the Russian Diaspora”) is a writer and translator of Russian poetry and prose. He lives in San Francisco with his fiancé and is working on a book about beekeeping and globalization.
Miranda Field (poetry) was born in North London, UK, where she grew up a dual (US/UK) citizen, coming to the United States as an undergraduate. Married to poet Tom Thompson, with whom she has two children, she teaches poetry (and occasionally fiction) at NYU, Barnard, The New School, and privately. Her first book of poems, Swallow, will be followed by another in the fall of 2017. She is currently working on a third manuscript, Imaginary Royalty.
Piotr Florczyk (poetry) is a translator of six volumes of Polish poetry and the author of Barefoot, a chapbook of poems; and Los Angeles Sketchbook, a collection of brief essays and photographs.
Gauz (“Sale at Camaïeu”) was born in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) as Armand Patrick Gbaka-Brédé. He immigrated to France with a degree in biochemistry and worked many different jobs, including that of a store security guard. This experience primarily involved standing—hence “stand-by-the-hour”—and refining his powers of observation. “Sale at Camaïeu” is an excerpt from Gauz’s novel Ossiri, full of incisive but tender insights that lampoon hypocrisy while tenderly describing moments of compassion and authenticity.
Naseer Hassan (poetry) is an Iraqi poet and translator of poetry and philosophy. He has published four poetry collections in Arabic: The Circle of Sundial, Suggested Signs, Being Here, and Dayplaces, an English translation of which is forthcoming from Tebot Bach Press.
Mark Irwin’s (poetry) eighth collection of poetry, American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014), was recently published. Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award and two Colorado Book Awards. He teaches at USC in Los Angeles, also lives in Colorado, and visits France whenever possible.
Allison Eir Jenks (poetry) Her first book, The Palace of Bones, won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, published by Ohio University Press. She is founder of the organization Poets at Work and has a PhD in poetry from Florida State University. She has published poems in New Letters, Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, and Gulf Coast, among others.
Sarah LaBrie (“The Neon Touch”) is the editor of the California Prose Directory 2015 and a writer for Hopscotch, a mobile opera for 24 cars, to be produced in fall 2015 by Pulitzer Prize-nominated opera company The Industry. Her fiction appears in Epoch, Encyclopedia Journal, and Joyland, and she has written for the L.A. Weekly, The Millions, Dossier Journal, and The Verge. She lives in Los Angeles.
Maja Visenjak Limon (translator) has spent half her life in England and half in Slovenia, living between two cultures and trying to reconcile two very different ways of seeing the world. She started translating in 1998 and most of her work is for museums and cultural institutions, but she also regularly translates literature. Maja now lives in Ljubljana with her husband David and daughter Anja.
Sally Wen Mao (poetry) is the author of Mad Honey Symposium. Her work has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2013 and is forthcoming or published in A Public Space, Poetry, Black Warrior Review, Guernica, jubilat, and The Missouri Review, among others. She is a Kundiman fellow.
Miha Mazzini (“Remnants of Love”) is a writer, author of twenty-nine published books translated into nine languages. His work was selected for many anthologies including a Pushcart Prize in 2011. He is also the screenwriter of two award-winning feature films; a writer for TV, film, and documentary; and writer and director of five short films.
Tegan Raleigh (translator) is a lecturer at the Université de Paris 8 and a translator, part-time bonne vivante, and full-time vivante. Renowned for her ceviche and witty banter, she is a common fixture at potlucks. She grew up in the Silicon Valley and as a teenager wrote articles on the computing industry and also avoided volleyball as much as possible.
Carlos Rivera (“Romulus”) lives in New Jersey with his wife and their two children. He is a high school history teacher and is currently working on a collection of short stories.
Monica Sarsini (essay), contemporary writer and multimedia artist, lives and works in Florence, Italy, where she was born. Her work addresses social and political concerns, mixing fantasy with memory and everyday life.
Robin Beth Schaer’s (poetry) recently published her first book of poetry, Shipbreaking. She has received fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, Saltonstall, and VCCA. She teaches writing in New York City and worked as a deckhand aboard the Tall Ship Bounty, a 180-foot ship lost in Hurricane Sandy.
Douglas Silver’s (“Healing Pain”) fiction has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Narrative Magazine, Hobart, The Southeast Review, Blackbird, Callaloo, Epoch, and elsewhere. He lives in New York and is at work on a novel.
Aaron Smith (poetry) is the author of Appetite, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Award; and Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Ploughshares and The Best American Poetry 2013. He is an assistant professor in creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
René Steinke’s (“Walser on Fire”) most recent novel, Friendswood, was named one of National Public Radio’s Great Reads of 2014. Her previous novel, Holy Skirts, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel is The Fires. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, O Magazine, Salon, Bookforum, and in anthologies. She is the former editor of The Literary Review, where she remains editor-at-large. She is currently the director of the MFA program in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She lives in Brooklyn.
Christian Teresi’s (poetry) poems and interviews have appeared in several literary journals, including The American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Copper Nickel, Kenyon Review Online, and the Writer’s Chronicle. He is the director of conferences for AWP.
Susan Thornton (“Border Crossing”) is the author of On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner. She is inspired by Ambrose Bierce and admires Lyudmila Ulitskaya. Susan lives and writes in Binghamton, NY where she teaches high school and middle school French.
Eli Todd (“All Good Working Parts”) lives, writes, bikes, and sleeps in Brooklyn. He is interested in ghosts, accents, and weather patterns, especially in relation to his native New England. He is currently working on a collection of short stories involving those things.
Nance Van Winckel’s (poetry) newest books are Ever Yrs., a novel in the form of a scrapbook; and Pacific Walkers, her sixth collection of poems, which was a finalist for the 2014 Washington State Book Awards. A book of visual poetry is forthcoming in 2016. The recipient of two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner, she has new poems in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Field, Poetry Northwest, and Gettysburg Review. She is on the MFA faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She and her husband, the artist Rik Nelson, live on the banks of the Spokane River and regularly chase away raccoons, marmots, and porcupines from their back yard. She drives a classic 1991 electric bike.
Leon Weinmann (essay) lives in Massachusetts and teaches literature and creative writing in Connecticut. He is the author of Afterwords, a book of poems, and is working on a book of linked essays about poetry and memory.
Jenny Xie (poetry) teaches in the expository writing program at New York University. She currently resides in Brooklyn and has lived in Hong Kong and Cambodia.