Maurya Simon interviewed by Poetry Flash
Meryl Natchez conducts a wonderful interview with Red Hen poet Maurya Simon on Poetry Flash!
Latest Blog Post...
Red Hen Recommends
We hope everyone is safe and healthy during these unprecedented times!
If you find yourself stuck at home with little to do, or if you’re looking for new books to read or listen to while you practice your social distancing, Red Hen is here for you! We’ll be highlighting new books for you to check out at highly discounted rates, as well as updating this post with ideas and suggestions on how to keep yourself busy, productive, creative, and sane.
Work-From-Home Log, Week 3
From the [remote] desk of Tobi Harper, Deputy Director
Three weeks into the new world, and I’m finally starting to settle into remote work/life.
I prefer being in the office for reasons I would have guessed, but others I wouldn’t have. Obviously, I miss working with my team face-to-face, especially how Monica and I could talk to each other from our desks (our office doors face each other). I did not expect to miss my commute of 1.5–2 hours per day, but this turns out to have been my “me” time, my time to call friends, to listen to audiobooks, to gear up for work, or to unwind after a long day. Now I’m readjusting to daily phone calls with the team and check-ins over Google Chat, weekly video meetings, talking to friends while I walk the dog, and listening to audiobooks while I do dishes.
While “Safer at home until further notice”, I remember to walk my dog every day and I’ve taken up extra gardening projects. I’m growing green onions cut from last week’s soup, seeding bell peppers in an egg carton, and just started nurturing seeds from this week’s butternut squash. I’ve even started my long-procrastinated-on project of cleaning out the garage!
In general, I’m doing my best to stay positive and help those around me to do the same. My life has changed in almost every way, and I find myself often curious about the future. What will going “back to normal” look like? I think we’re likely to be moving into a new normal, and I’m taking this opportunity to make my own “new normal,” a new and improved Tobi! A Tobi who washes their hands for 30 seconds every time, who cooks at home, who exercises every day, and who is grateful for all of the things I used to take for granted—like other people!
I am grateful to be healthy and safe and to know the same is true for the Red Hen team as well as my family. I hope that you and yours are healthy and safe, and I wish the best of luck to all of us and we enter this new world.
Best wishes for all,
Just in time for our upcoming Red Hen Press Poetry Hour with The Broad Stage, here are two collections from the five featured poets we’re having on tomorrow’s broadcast! Purchase the e-books and follow along when they read!
BRIGHT STAIN by Francesca Bell may or may not become the Sex and the City of poetry, but this knock-your-socks-off debut will likely inspire debate–perhaps controversy―as it inhabits some startling points of view, including those of pedophile priests, serial killers, and prison inmates. Those who miss reading these breathtaking, visceral poems won’t know what their friends are raving about. Unapologetically sensual and forthright, Bell explores desire, loss, faith, doubt, tenderness, and violence; and sex as experience, metaphor, and magnifying lens for relationships.
WAYWARD by Katharine Coles: Since her early poems, Katharine Coles has been known as a poet who isn’t afraid to tackle big subjects that occupy the intersections of art and science, including how we know what is true (if we do). Driven by her insatiable curiosity and relying on a use of form and elision so deft it amounts to sleight-of-hand, Coles brings these big questions into small spaces in her seventh book, Wayward, moving the reader at mind-speed through brief meditations on love, marriage, and family; the permeable boundaries of the self; death; and perception. Though her subjects are deeply serious, Coles’ primary tools for addressing them include her wry wit and agile intelligence, which, taking nothing for granted, she deploys to examine our basic assumptions about the world and our experience within it. As always, Coles here uses technical skill to move her thinking in new directions–many of them at once.
We did it. We made it to April! Yes, it is only April. March truly came in like a lion bringing us a pandemic, two earthquakes (in Utah and Idaho), and killer tornadoes throughout the South. Apocalypse much?
Although the idiom refers to weather, it seems an appropriate way to describe the attitudes of March 2020. The beginning of March felt chaotic as news of the virus’ spread changed each day, regulations escalated, and our lives were disrupted. And, of course, there was the panic buying. As we greet April, things feel calmer. We’ve adjusted to our new rhythm of life. Experts appear to have a better understanding of the virus we face. We are thankful for all of the healthcare professionals and essential workers who are keeping us going. Through it all, it’s inspiring to watch our country come together by choosing to stay physically apart. Out like a lamb.
April is also poetry month! We look forward to sharing poetry with you, old and new, throughout this month. For now, here are a couple suggestions of unique fiction reads to help you escape and get you through April.
UNDER NUSHAGAK BLUFF by Mia Heavener
In 1939, everything changes for Anne Girl when outsider John Nelson grounds his sailboat on the shores, into Anne Girl’s skiff, and into her life during a rare storm in the Alaskan fishing village of Nushagak. When Anne Girl and her mother Marulia find their skiff flattened by John’s boat, Anne Girl decides she both hates and wants him. Thus begins a generational saga of strong, stubborn Yup’ik women living in a village that has been divided between the new and the old, the bluff side and the missionary side, the cannery side and the subsistence side.
FIRE SUMMER by Thuy Da Lam
You can go home again. When twenty-three-year-old Maia Trieu, a curator’s assistant at the Museum of Folklore & Rocks in Little Saigon, Orange County, is offered a research grant to Vietnam for the summer of 1991, she cannot refuse. The grant’s sponsor has one stipulation: Maia is to contact her great-aunt to pass on plans to overthrow the current government. The expatriates did not anticipate that Maia would become involved with excursions in search of her mother or attract an entourage: an American traveler, a government agent, an Amerasian singer, and a cat. Maia carries out what she believes is her role as a filial daughter to her late father, a former ARVN soldier, by returning to their homeland to continue the fight for an independent Vietnam. Along the way, however, she meets a cast of characters—historical and fictional, living and dead—who propel her on a journey of self-discovery, through which she begins to understand what it means to love.
When we first started practicing social distancing, I felt as though I had to come up with a list of goals to stay busy, and I wasn’t alone. My friends and family started sharing how they would pass the time over the weekends with New Year’s Resolution-esque aspirations. For myself, I would emerge from social distancing fluent in Spanish. My mom decided to take up knitting and craft an entire blanket. Friends decided they’d finally write that book or take up water color painting.
I hope others are faring better than I am with their new-found hobbies. After only a week, old habits kicked in and my idealized social distancing self started to dissipate. With the bombardment of daily news, the fear of making a mistake that could put someone’s health at risk, and adjusting to a new normal—I’ve decided that maximizing my time isn’t necessary. Staying healthy and in good spirits is good enough right now. And there’s no better way to do that then curling up with a good book. Here’s what we are reading right now to stay sane. Get all of the books below for 30% off with the code RHR30!
THE RIB JOINT by Julia Koets is a collection of linked, lyrical essays. Koets writes, “When you date in secret, the pressure is different. You’re weightless. You’re stuck in between jumping and landing. You exist in midair. Your bones start to thin.” Growing up in a small town in the South, Julia and her childhood best friend Laura know the church as well as they know each other’s bodies—the California-shaped scar on Julia’s right knee, the tapered thinness of Laura’s fingers, the circumference of each other’s ponytails. When Laura’s family moves away in middle school and Julia gets a crush on the new priest’s daughter at their church, Julia starts to more fully realize the consequences of being anything but straight in the South. After college, when Julia and her best friend Kate wait tables at a rib joint in Julia’s hometown, they are forced to face the price of the secrets they’ve kept—from their families, each other, and themselves. From astronaut Sally Ride’s obituary, to a UFO Welcome Center, to a shark tooth collection, to DC Comic’s Gay Ghost, this memoir-in-essays draws from mythology, religion, popular culture, and personal experience to examine how coming out is not a one-time act. At once heartrending and beautiful, The Rib Joint explores how fear and loss can inhabit our bodies and, contrastingly, how naming our desire allows us to feel the heart beating in our chest.
TOWARD ANTARCTICA by Elizabeth Bradfield documents and queries her work as a guide on ships in Antarctica, offering an incisive insider’s vision that challenges traditional tropes of The Last Continent. Inspired by haibun, a stylistic form of Japanese poetry invented by 17th-century poet, Matsuo Bashō to chronicle his journeys in remote Japan, Bradfield uses photographs, compressed prose, and short poems to examine our relationship to remoteness, discovery, expertise, awe, labor, temporary societies, “pure” landscapes, and tourism’s service economy. Antarctica was the focus of Bradfield’s Approaching Ice, written before she had set foot on the continent; now Toward Antarctica furthers her investigation with boots on the ground. A complicated love letter, Toward Antarctica offers a unique view of one of the world’s most iconic wild places.
Work-From-Home Log, Week 2
Remote Work in the Time of COVID-19
After the hubbub of an unusual first few days transitioning to remote work, the Red Hen Press staff just finished our second week of working remotely. I (Editorial and Development Assistant, Rebeccah Sanhueza) am finding the transition to be a bit of an adventure, though not one I’m taking lightly.
I grew up in a multigenerational family that collectively saw the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, and Japanese internment. I’m also a California native with several military veterans in the family, so we’ve always been prepared for water shortages and earthquakes by having a nonperishable inventory at home and being ready to ration whenever necessary.
Since going remote, I’ve tried to impart what I know to others of my generation who have felt uneasy and unsure of where to start. Setting aside my own anxieties about the current situation has kept me focused on doing what I can to help others, even if it’s simply offering an ear or learning how to manage my time and resources more effectively to ensure someone else can reap the benefits of calm during times like these.
That said, I’m the type of person to go with the flow on a lot of things so long as I have a fixed schedule while doing so, but I normally prefer not to work from home because I know myself well enough that I—like many a person, I’m sure—can get a bit too cozy at home. For example, I particularly like wrapping myself up in my weighted cooling blanket while I work. Have you tried those things? Amazing.
I returned to my parents’ nest for a time while my siblings are away at school to help them should they need it during these strange times. Being back in a familiar environment has made me keenly aware of the many distractions in my life such as my gaming library and my recipe library and my book library and . . . sigh.
Anyway, I’ve felt quite productive and focused, even more so while I listen to ASMR and background music from some of my favorite video games (Witcher 3, Skyrim, and Ori and the Blind Forest to name a few). On my off-time (and when I’m not reading or offering to do grocery runs), I’m responding to the many blips from my few devices notifying of me of messages from friends and family; watching a handful of movies with my parents that I’ve been putting off for . . . well, years; slowly working my way through my library of 200+ video games; and attempting new dishes for my parents.
At the moment, I suppose the only cons to remote work would be my overly comfortable bed enticing me back to its marshmallow confines at every minute, missing everyone at the office, and being unable to go to the gym.
On the flip side of things, one of my favorite pros of remote work is having greater opportunity to take my editing cap off and read many of our authors’ works simply for the pleasure of it. It’s always a treat to savor the fruit of an author’s craft, especially if it’s in relative quiet. But don’t take my word for it; you can get all of the books below for 30% off with the code RHR30).
This is a road many of us have not yet taken, so I hope you all are staying safe and healthy as we weather this storm together!
AGAINST THE WIND by Jim Tilley is an elegantly written story of relationships involving six principal characters, strands of whose lives braid together after a chance reunion among three of them. A successful environmental lawyer is forced to take himself to task when he realizes that everything about his work has betrayed his core beliefs. A high school English teacher asks her former high school love to take up her environmental cause. A transgender adolescent male raised by his grandparents struggles to excel in a world hostile to his kind. A French-Canadian political science professor finds himself left with a choice between his cherished separatist cause and his marriage and family. An accomplished engineer is chronically unable to impress his more accomplished father sufficiently to be named head of the international wind technology company his father founded. The Quebec separatist party’s Minister of Natural Resources, a divorce, finds herself caught between her French-Canadian lover and an unexpected English-Canadian suitor.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
WILD HONEY, TOUGH SALT by Kim Stafford offers a prismatic view of Earth citizenship, where we must now be ambidextrous. The book takes a stern look inward calling for sturdy character and supple spirit, and a bold look outward seeking ways to engage grief trouble. The book begins with poems that witness a buoyant life in a difficult world: wandering New Orleans in a trance, savoring the life of artist Tove Jansson, reading the fine print on the Mexican peso and the Scottish five-pound note. Clues to untapped energy lie everywhere by the lens of poetry. The book then moves to considerations of the worst in us–torture and war: how to recruit a child soldier? How to be married to the heartless guard? What to say to your child who is enamored by bullets? In the third section, the book offers a spangle of poems blessing earth: wren song, bud growth, river’s eager way with obstacles. And the final section offers poems of affection: infant clarities of home, long marriage in dog years, a consoling campfire in the yard when all seems lost. The book will soften your trouble, and give you spirit for the days ahead.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
We promised some tips and tricks to get through quarantine, and you got ‘em! It’s hard to compete with all of the various lists coming out from places like The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and USA Today, so pardon us if our tips seem a bit redundant to lists you’ve seen before!
- Catch up on those TV shows you’ve been meaning to watch but have never been able to find the time to! (Though admittedly, I’ve been feeling less motivated to binge watch shows, choosing instead to spend countless hours refreshing news apps on my phone, BUT we could all use a distraction from times like these. Television or movies are a good way to escape the anxieties of reality).
- Family game night! It’s probably rare that you and your family are able to spend so much time together. Take some time once or twice a week to play a board game or two.
- Dust off those old puzzle, scrapbooking, diamond painting, Bob Ross painting projects and get them done. Listen to an audiobook while you do it!
- Miss live shows or concerts? Plenty of actors and musicians are putting on free shows, readings, or hangouts.
- Clean out your closet or bookshelf and donate any unwanted items to charity.
And, of course, get some new Red Hen books like the ones below! 30% off tradepaper and ebook versions with code RHR30 at checkout!
Bestseller PIGS by Johanna Stoberock is an excellent book for you educators – a modern take on Lord of the Flies, Pigs asks questions about community, environmental responsibility, and the possibility of innocence. Four hildren live on an island that serves as the repository for all the world’s garbage. Trash arrives, the children sort it, and then they feed it to a herd of insatiable pigs: a perfect system. But when a barrel washes ashore with a boy inside, the children must decide whether he is more of the world’s detritus, meant to be fed to the pigs, or whether he is one of them.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
In THE QUESTION AUTHORITY by Rachel Cline, Nora Buchbinder–formerly rich and now broke–would be the last woman in Brooklyn to claim #MeToo, but when a work assignment reunites her with her childhood best friend, Beth, she finds herself in a hall of mirrors. Was their eighth grade teacher Beth’s lover or her rapist? Where were the grown-ups? What should justice look like, after so much time has passed? And what can Nora do, now?
Nora’s memories, and Beth’s, and those of their classmates, their former teacher, and members of his family, bring to light some of the ways we absorb and manage unbearable behavior. From denial to reinvention, self-pity to self-righteousness, endless questioning to intransigent certainty, readers will recognize the ripples sent into the lives of others by one broken man.
How’s everyone doing? Hanging in there? Today starts the second week of Red Hen’s remote working adventure, and let me tell you, Monday’s don’t feel any different at home than they do at work. BUT, here are two new book recs to cheer up your Monday blues! And, because it’s Monday, here’s a BONUS THIRD BOOK, because you really can’t have too many books when you’re stuck in the house. Use code RHR30 for 30% off these titles and ALL of the ones below!
THE FALLS OF THE WYONA by David Brendan Hopes, our 2018 Quill Prose Award Winner, is a gorgeous love story between two young men set in the Appalachians just after World War II. In The Falls of the Wyona by David Brendan Hopes, four friends growing up on the banks of a wild Appalachian river just after WWII discover, almost at the same time, the dangerous, alluring Falls and the perils of their own maturing hearts. Seen through the eyes of his best friend Arden, football hero Vince falls in love with the new kid, Glen. They have no context for their feelings, and the next few years of high school become a tense, though sometimes funny, artifice of concealment.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
In FLANNELWOOD by Raymond Luczak, our Quill Editor’s Choice, spontaneous combustion occurs when Bill, a forty-year-old barista and a failed poet, meets James, a disabled factory worker and a daddy hunk, at an OctoBear Dance. For six months they share weekends of incredible passion at James’s house up north in the country. Winter has never seemed hotter in their flannel sheets. But on the first day of spring James abruptly informs Bill over the phone that it’s not going to work out and hangs up. No further explanation: just the static of silence.
Feeling haunted like Djuna Barnes while she wrote her novel Nightwood in the 1930s, Bill searches for answers in his recollections of James and others who’d departed too early from his life. When he does discover why James left, the answer comes from a mysterious stranger with secrets of his own.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
Set in 1918 in the farm country at the heart of America, THE MEANING OF NAMES by Karen Shoemaker is the story of an ordinary woman trying to raise a family during extraordinary times. Estranged from her parents because she married against their will, confronted with violence and prejudice against her people, and caught up in the midst of the worst plague the world has ever seen, Gerda Vogel, an American of German descent, must find the strength to keep her family safe from the effects of a war that threatens to consume the whole world.
Work-From-Home Log, Week One
The Red Hen Press staff just completed our first week of working remotely. I can only speak for myself, though (Monica Fernandez, Media Manager 😉 ) when I say it’s definitely been a challenge. I’ve taken a day or two to work from home before, when I felt the distractions of the office were too much for me to handle and I needed some time to really hunker down and get work done. But working remotely as a permanent (or semi-permanent, fingers crossed) gig has definitely proven to me that I 100% prefer an office environment.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, I thought working from home would be a breeze. I’d get so much more done, I thought. Nah, not really. Maybe I’ll break it down for you in a Pros/Cons list.
-I don’t have any pets, but a few Red Hen staffers do, and I am jealous every day of the cute cuddles they get with their beautiful animals.
-Break time? Crawl back in bed.
-Always snacking, no judgment, and no need to share.
-No free snacks in the break room/kitchen
-Can’t wander around the office when you need a break
-Too much butt-to-chair time, no visit-coworkers-in-their-office time
-I miss everyone!
It’s only been a week. Thursday night, the entire state of California was put on a “Safer At Home” order, closing non-essential businesses until at least April 19. We still have a month left of telecommuting, and there’s a lot left for me to learn when it comes to effectively managing my time and adjusting to the solitude as we hunker down and practice this social distancing.
It’s certainly an adventure that we’re all living through, a moment in history that we’ll be telling stories about for the rest of our lives. I’m fortunate to be working in an industry, with a company, that can continue to operate from home. It’s a difficult time of uncertainty and anxiety for all of us, but I take heart in the fact that we are all going through this together.
I look forward to finding myself on the other side of this. Who knows? Maybe after this, I’ll finally get over my #MillennialFear of phone calls.
Anyway, enough of my rambling! Here are two more captivating Red Hen short story collections to check out during quarantine. They’re also added to the Red Hen Recommends sale, so use code RHR30 at checkout for 30% off print and ebook versions!
LIVING THINGS by Landon Houle, our 2018 Red Hen Press Fiction Award Winner. Black Creek, South Carolina: a small town in the swamps that convinces itself that nothing bad has ever happened and nothing bad ever will. Black Creek is the sort of place where young girls roam the streets free to imagine who they are and who they’ll become. Where women sell pies and plants at the courthouse square. Where the fire department rescues cats from the tops of electric poles. And what trouble there is, they’ll tell you, stays past the town limits, in the run-down house-turned-strip-club and Lake Darpo, where certain birds are going extinct. These eleven closely related portraits show that the real threats have long taken root. Black Creek is a place of poignancy and absurdity, love and loss, loneliness and the brief charges of connection. Its residents will do almost anything to protect what they think is theirs. Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK!
SEX & TAIPEI CITY by Yu-Han Chao, a manuscript we accepted from our General Submissions on Submittable, is a short story collection about the underground sex lives in Taipei City. Sex in Taipei City is not what one expects: it is repressed, traded for cash, vengeful, sometimes awkward and almost always secretive. A young Taiwanese man goes on his first real date with a British man he meets online, a uniformed schoolgirl sells her body for cash in an odd form of revenge, a grandfather becomes obsessed with Japanese porn, and a pregnant mistress offers her lover’s wife five million NT in exchange for her to divorce her husband. Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK!
Looking for some queer poetry? Our next two recommendations come from two amazing, award-winning queer poets. They’re added to the RHR sale, so use RHR30 at checkout for 30% off the tradepaper or ebook version!
RATTLESNAKE ALLEGORY by Joe Jiménez, is our most recent Letras Latinas Prize Winner. Using land and South Texas’s flora and fauna as references, these poems explore aloneness and manhood as articulations of want, asking the reader to “take a moan by the hand, see what good it does.”
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
DECIDUOUS QWEEN by Matty Layne Glasgow, our 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award Winner. Through the creaking of bedazzled branches and the soft rustle of jeweled leaves, deciduous qween explores the queer world all around us–how we, like our environment, wear and shed different identities in our performance as human, as drag queen, as ancient tree. This collection reveals in the natural world those ephemeral moments which reflect our own truths and confront our fear of death, of loneliness, and of failure.
Available in TRADEPAPER and EBOOK versions!
First up: LIKE WINGS, YOUR HANDS by Elizabeth Earley, our 2018 Women’s Prose Prize Award Winner and recent finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction, which explores a mother-son relationship in the context of disability and interdependence, while also raising questions about the nature of time and space and the limitless capacities of the human mind. Also available as an AUDIOBOOK and an EBOOK!
Print edition and e-book 30% off with code RHR30 in the links above!