KNB : Katherine Nelson-Born


Katherine Nelson-Born grew up in New Orleans and currently lives and writes in Pensacola, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alyss, Birmingham Poetry Review, Emerald Coast Review, Excelsior ReView, GSU Review, Longleaf Pine, Maple Leaf Rag and Penumbra.  Her poetry earned “Honorable Mention” at the 2015 Alabama Writers Conclave.  Her poetry also previously won the University of New Orleans/ Tennessee Williams Ellipsis award for poetry and placed twice among finalists in the Agnes Scott College Writer’s Festival.

Katherine’s premiere poetry chapbook, When Mockingbirds Sing, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press,  Currently she is working on a novel and consulting for K & K Manuscript Editing.

Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

I have not one but two favorite female characters, both historically real figures recreated in numerous ways throughout the centuries, but always undeniably strong women, Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I.  Both women not only persevered in male-dominated worlds, but also kept their heads (for the most part) and climbed to the top despite lives fraught with very real murderous relatives, lovers, spies, and whole hosts of enemies out to bring them down.  Their lives still intrigue and inspire, whether through song, poetry or drama, and I like that.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

When I first discovered Anne Sexton’s Complete Poems 30 years ago, her frank treatment of women’s bodies and mother issues in her poetry inspired me as a fledgling poet, and later I wrote my dissertation on her work.  I must say, however, that Sharon Olds’ Satan Says (1980), with its sexual candor and evocative imagery of the female body in particular had quite an effect on me, and I remain a staunch fan of Olds although I also love the poetry of Jane Hirschfield.  Since I also am fascinated with the nature and depiction of good vs. evil, angels, demons, and apocalyptic or dystopian visions, Hirshfield’s Of Gravity & Angels (1988) and Carolyn Forche’s The Angel of History (1994) remain my favorite oldies but goodies.

How did your work/works in Alyss come about?

Finding the Way Back” was inspired in part by reading Robert Edsel’s Monuments Men (2009), in part by worrying about the world my daughter will inherit (which is all too scary between the 2016 US presidential elections and climate change), and in part from a poetry workshop with Carolyn Forche.  Working with Forche and the wonderful women poets who were in the December 2014 24PearlStreet online workshop gave me the confidence to polish the poem and pull together my chapbook being published this year by Finishing Line Press.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

Well, the day ranks pretty high when I learned about winning the 2013 NCTE raffle to attend an online workshop with poet Carolyn Forche at 24PearlStreet Learning my premiere chapbook, When Mockingbirds Sing, was accepted by Finishing Line Press for 2016 publication would be the MOST exciting thus far, which you can purchase at

What is your favorite piece by another writer from a previous issue and why?

America as a Room” by Cassandra de Alba in Alyss Issue Deux is a favorite for me because she deftly captures the paradox of the US in poetic lines of “exquisite workmanship.”

What are you currently working on?

Awaiting arrival of my poetry chapbook, When Mockingbirds Sing, from Finishing Line Press,, I currently have submitted to several publishers my first full-length poetry book, Bone Geometry, for publication consideration, so wish me luck!  With a little more luck and a lot of fortitude, I shall complete this year as well my first novel tentatively titled Burning Down the House: Battle Royal in the Big Easy, so this year has had a lot of “firsts” for me, including my first publication in Alyss.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

Well, I suppose it would be pretty self-serving to say Alyss Issue Tre, in which my own poem appears, is my favorite, but there, I’ve said it.  If there is an Alice character I prefer, it would be the Alice-in-Wonderland turned Joan of Arc in the 2010 fantasy film.

GIRLFIRE : Erin Slaughter


Erin Slaughter is a native Texan currently pursuing an MFA at Western Kentucky University, where she teaches undergraduate writing classes. In 2016, she co-edited an anthology, Lavender Bluegrass: LGBT Writers on the South, won the Heartland Review’s Flash Fiction contest, and was a finalist for Rabbit Catastrophe Press’ REAL GOOD POEM Prize. You can find her work in Indianola Review, River Teeth, Boxcar Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Harpoon Review, and elsewhere. She lives in downtown Bowling Green with a cat named Amelia.

Who is your favorite female writer and why?
I would say that my favorite writers change pretty often, as I read and discover new things and as the direction of my writing evolves. Right now, I really admire Zadie Smith. The scope of her work is so varied in theme, genre, stylistic choices, etc. but everything she writes retains something that’s distinctly her. As a writer who works in multiple genres, that’s been a useful lesson for me.


What literary work by a female writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?
Miranda July’s short story collection No one belongs here more than you. That pretty yellow book destroyed me in the best way. July condenses the incredible weirdness of being a person and injects it directly into the atmosphere of each story.


How did your work in Alyss come about?
My piece Unfamiliar Skin originally began as a project for a Sociology of Sexuality course I took in college. I had an incredible professor who cultivated an atmosphere of openness, humor, and respectful debate in the classroom. It was a place where people felt comfortable sharing stories about their experiences with their own sexuality and gender identity, and even stories about being victims of sexual violence. All in all, it was one of the most important classes I’ve ever been a part of.


The essay I turned in at end of that class contained some sections that remain in “Unfamiliar Skin,” but it was very different. At different points, the essay has been a series of vignettes about every person I’ve slept with, a contemplation on body image, a story about struggling with sexual identity, and an exploration of impulsiveness. I think as it is now, it retains parts of all of those themes, and maybe a bit more. It’s now part of the memoir I’m working on, so it’s still not really complete. It continues to evolve as I evolve in relation to myself and others.


What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?
Winning a contest (my first), selling a story for actual money, and being named a finalist in another contest were all big accomplishments for me this year. But I think the most fulfilling experience was meeting my MFA cohort, and realizing that everything I’ve pursued with writing–from being the weird kid reading poems to my fourth-grade class, to my first publication at nineteen in a (now defunct) online magazine and onward–has brought me to these five beautiful people who I click with so well, who support me and challenge me, who make me a better writer and person.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from a previous issue and why?
Almost Someone Coming Home” by Alexandria Smyth in Issue Deux. It gave me chills as I was reading. So, so beautiful.

What are you currently working on ?
Right now I’m writing a book-length memoir called The Dead Dad Diaries, and putting together two separate poetry chapbooks, which I hope to finish and send off to publishers very soon.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?
Comedian Alice Wetterlund.

Issue 4 Contributors

Karen Barton lives in a quarryman’s cottage – held together with ancient mud-and-hair mortar – in the heart of Wiltshire, UK, close to Stonehenge. She is currently studying a BA in the History of Art with Creative Writing at the Open University and her work can be found at Matryoshka Poetry, The Curly Mind, Thank You For Swallowing, Quatrain Fish and I Am Not A Silent Poet amongst other outlets. Her website is

Anna Cabe is a MFA candidate in fiction at Indiana University and the web editor of the Indiana Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Toast, Necessary Fiction, matchbook, Gingerbread House, Reservoir, Racialicious, and Cease, Cows, among others. She was a 2015 Kore Press Short Fiction Award semifinalist, a finalist for Midwestern Gothic’s Summer 2016 Flash Fiction Series, and a finalist for the 2015 Boulevard Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers. You can find Anna on Twitter @annablabs.

Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, coming from Moon City Press in fall 2016. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s AlmanacVerse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is

Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). Her work has been featured in Best New PoetsVerse Daily, NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, and Motionpoems. This summer she will be an artist-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve, where she will continue work on a manuscript about the death of her uncle as a mountain climber on Denali. Jessica lives and teaches in Japan.

Katherine Hoerth is the author of four poetry books, including Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014) which won the Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her work has also been included in journals such as Concho River Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and the Texas Poetry Calendar. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and serves as poetry editor of Amarillo Bay and Devilfish Review. Her next collection, The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue, is forthcoming from Lamar University Literary Press in early 2017.

Wynne Huddleston is the author of From the Depths of Red Bluff, A Collection of Poems. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Snapdragon Journal, Birmingham Arts Journal, Danse Macabre, and Halfway Down the Stairs. She was selected as Mississippi Poetry Society’s 2014 Poet of the Year, and served as workshop leader for the Mid-South Poetry Festival in Memphis in 2011. Ms. Huddleston is a National Board Certified Teacher with a Master of Music Education degree. When not writing, she is teaching elementary music or playing with her grandchildren. For more info, please see

Jessie Janeshek’s second full-length book of poems, The Shaky Phase, is forthcoming from Stalking Horse Press. Her chapbooks are Spanish Donkey/Pear of Anguish (Grey Book Press, 2016), Rah-Rah Nostalgia, (dancing girl press, 2016), and Hardscape (Reality Beach, forthcoming, 2017). Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010) is her first full-length collection. An Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Writing at Bethany College, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. She co-edited the literary anthology Outscape: Writings on Fences and Frontiers (KWG Press, 2008). Read more at

Jen Karetnick is the author of three full-length poetry books, including American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, May 2106) and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), as well as four poetry chapbooks. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner and Spillway. She works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School; a freelance dining critic and lifestyle journalist; and a cookbook author, most recently of Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014).

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.

Tanis MacDonald is the author of three books of poetry, including Rue the Day (Turnstone Press). Recent poetry has appeared in Iron Horse Review, PRISM International, Canthius, Prairie Fire, Contemporary Verse 2, and Best Canadian Poetry 2015 (Tightrope Books). She lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016. She is also the author of the chapbook, Apostrophe. Her poetry has appeared in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Vector Press, and Tar River Poetry. Her prose has appeared in Drunken Boat, The Green Mountains Review, and Gravel: A Literary Journal. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as an associate editor for The Compassion Anthology.

A. Non, artist, poet and member of a number of intersecting marginalized communities, acknowledges that naming – of ourselves, of others – remains an act of power and of longing. Most of the material world that shapes us survives content in its namelessness. Namelessness is not a tragedy, but a fact of identity solidified long before language arose on the planet or arises in a human being. The multiplicity of the unnamed, human or otherwise, have things to teach. By coming up under the skirts of language, art enables me to learn; learning is my chosen purpose. I am therefore A. Non.

Tricia Park is a concert violinist and the violin/viola professor at the University of Notre Dame. The recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a graduate of the Juilliard School, she has appeared in concert on five continents and is also Artistic Director of MusicIC, (  a chamber music festival based in Iowa City that explores the connection between music and literature. Her writing has appeared in Cleaver Magazine. To hear Tricia play, visit:

JC Reilly publishes across genres, and is the author of the poetry chapbook La Petite Mort (Finishing Line Press). She is the incoming managing editor of The Atlanta Review, and has work published or forthcoming from Donut Factory, Riding Light, Glassworks, the Citron Review, the Xavier Review, and Naugatuck River Review. Read her blog at or tweet at her @aishatonu.

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s poem, “when I turned fourteen, my mother’s sister took me to lunch and said:” was chosen by Edward Hirsch for inclusion in The Best American Poetry of 2016. Find her poems in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles, Hobart, Chiron Review, Quaint, Fjords Review, Broadzine,Cleaver and elsewhere. She’s the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen, (Sybaritic Press, 2014) and State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (KYSO Flash Press, 2015). Since 2013 Alexis has been nominated for 7 Pushcart Prizes and 4 Best of the Net Awards.

Lois Roma-Deeley is the author of three collections of poetry: Rules of Hunger, northSight  and High Notes—a Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist. She has published in numerous anthologies including Villanelles (Pocket Poets Series) and Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity. Further, her work has been featured in numerous literary journals including, Spillway, The Transnational,  Windhover, Bellingham Review, Water~Stone, and many others. She is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts 2016 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Renee Rossi’s first full length collection of poetry, TRIAGE, was published in 2016. She has published two poetry chapbooks, STILL LIFE, winner of the 2009 Gertrude Press Chapbook Prize in poetry, and THIRD WORLDS.  She is an Otolaryngologist and holds an MFA in Creative Writing.  A native of Detroit, she currently lives and teaches in Dallas.

Lynn Schmeidler’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous literary magazines including Barrow Street, Boston Review, Fence, Cider Press Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and New Delta Review. Her chapbook, Curiouser & Curiouser is available from Grayson Books.

Sagirah Shahid is a Minneapolis, Minnesota based writer. She is a 2015-2016 winner of the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series Award in poetry, Sagirah’s work has been published or is forthcoming in: The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Mizna, The Fem, Bluestem, For Harriet, Black Fox, Knockout Literary Magazine, Paper Darts, Switchback, and Qu Literary Journal.

Austyn Wohlers lives in Atlanta, where she is an undergraduate in the Creative Writing program at Emory University. “The Art of the Blues” is her first published story.            

Brutal Grief – Review of Mary Lou Buschi’s Awful Baby

Awful Baby
Red Paint Hill Publishing, 2015
Reviewed by Leslie Rzeznik

Mary Lou Buschi’s first full-length book of poetry, Awful Baby opens with a start – “When the Wreck Has Been” is a flight of brutal images – a suicide, shared lives remembered, and a letting go that looks like a chasing after.


. . . My hands reach into a bag of cool ash, bone

that my fingers search for and recoil from as once, like a tongue rooting
for a raw nerve at the base of a tooth. It’s your body I toss from my hand

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . .always just beyond my reach

“When the Wreck Has Been” gives a nod to Emily Dickenson, setting a tone of grievous isolation that weaves through the collection. It’s a smart move that was likely as intuitive as it is cunning – Buschi describes her writing in an interview with Swarm ( “I usually have no idea where I am going when I write. I let the poem find its way.”

Split into three parts, Awful Baby follows the speaker through stages of grief. The opening section wanders between memory and fantasy. Many of the poems have a surrealistic feel – indeed, “Persistence of Memory” begins with an ekphrastic response to Salvadore Dali. “Worn-off legs / a watch resting / like a saddle or face”. The poems mostly favor the short line, mimicking the days and weeks after a death (especially an unexpected and violent one) that are as fragmented as the family unit. “If a family is a body / how does the brain / deal with a missing limb?” (“The Mirror Box”) Before the section closes, another amputation.

The middle section utilizes mostly prose poems, mirroring the running narrative that emerges as the fog of initial loss dissipates – anger, longing and (not-quite) regret competing for the speaker’s attention. Many of the poems travel – by train and by car. In “Drive 2”

Robert proposes a miracle. You can no longer feel the wheel you
are holding and the fitted white gloves make stars of your small hands.
There is an inch of glass between you and rest of the world. A drifting
backdrop―wind whispering your name, for several nights, or for several
thousand nights.

There’s a feeling of disembodiment, especially when the speaker reminisces, and like an oily film over a camera lens – you’re never quite sure of the veracity of the memories.

In the final section, the speaker begins to emerge from their oppressive grief to explore their own mortality. Longing for their world to untwist itself, the speaker in “Oh Poem, Hopeful Body” imagines

All the chains inside of your jewelry box untangle,
agree never to commingle with other chains,
so that you can easily choose an intimate object for your neck.
(Maybe the diamond earring you lost will know how to find you,
and will once again light up your face.)

Even the poems in this final section seem to breathe easier. They have shorter lines, more white space, are trying to reach past the ghosts who haunt their pages. The past and present remain entangled, despite the desire for separation.

As a whole, Awful Baby is a haunting mirror to the long-term effects of loss, suicide, survival, loving, and longing. Buschi’s language is enticing and even though you may want to – you just can’t look away.

Post Modern THOT : Natalie N. Caro


Natalie N. Caro is a Bronx-born poet and the 2013 recipient of the Bronx Recognizes Its Own Award in Poetry. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Lehman College/CUNY and an MFA in Poetry from City College/CUNY where she was selected as one of the first recipients of the Creative Writing Fellowship. Sometimes, she swears that school saved her, but then she thinks about colonization of the mind and feels some type of way. Natalie likes to tweet at bars about teeth and trauma. Follow her and her scattered thoughts on twitter @scatteredstanza.

Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

I can’t pick one, and so my favorite renegades are Edna Pontellier, Jane Eyre, and Sula. There’s something about the way these women live their lives, a rawness to their experiences in context. They also have this deep connection to the earth. They feel every bit of the world in them, and perhaps it’s because they understand its language that they are so brazen.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

Nayyirah Waheed’s SALT has pretty much changed the way I view language and my own relationship to it as a reader coming out of the postcolonial condition. Her ability to pack so many ideas and images into a couple of lines of poetry is nothing short of brilliant. Her work is as rich and real as it comes.

How did your work/works in Alyss come about? 

Date-Rape emerged out of many discussions. A lot has been said about the under reporting of campus rapes and sexual violence against women, in general; the narrative is, unfortunately, often one-sided. Much of my reading on consent and duress has forced me to come to terms with the reality that young men can be raped too. The conversation, I felt, needed additional voices and perspectives.
What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

My most memorable writing moment is being anthologized for the first time. I have two poems in the forthcoming Afro-Latino Anthology from the University of Houston Press. Many of the authors I find myself in the company of are pioneers and legends; it’s humbling, to say the least.
What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue Deux and why? 

Making choices is difficult for me, and so I have two poems that stirred me: Almost Someone Coming Home by Alexandra Smyth & Baptism by Jamie Lyn Bruce. In the interest of full disclosure, I took workshops with these two powerhouses, and even then I was a huge fan of their work. They both arrest the reader with a strong sense of place; once they captivate you, they whisper something big and rippling in your heart.
What are you currently working on?

I’m working on getting my first chapbook published “Post Modern THOT,” It’s a collection of poetry that deals with trauma of being of being a woman caught in the Male Gaze, or something like that. In the meantime, I’m experimenting with my website/blog:

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

At the risk of sounding trite: Alice in Wonderland has always appealed to me—mostly, because her curiosity was always stronger than her apprehension.

Issue Tre Contributors

E. Kristen Anderson is the author of seven chapbooks including A GUIDE FOR THE PRACTICAL ABDUCTEE (Red Bird Chapbooks 2014) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press, 2015), 17 DAYS (ELJ Publications) ACOUSTIC BATTERY LIFE (ELJ 2016), FIRE IN THE SKY (Grey Book Press 2016), and SHE WITNESSES (dancing girl press, 2016). Her nonfiction anthology, DEAR TEEN ME, based on the popular website of the same name, was published in October of 2012 by Zest Books (distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and her memoir in verse, THE SUMMER OF UNRAVELING, is forthcoming from ELJ. She’s currently a poetry editor for Found Poetry Review and also edits at Nonbinary Review and Lucky Bastard Press. She lives in Austin, TX and blogs at

Prerna Bakshi is a Macao-based writer, scholar and translator of Indian origin. Her work has previously been published in over three dozen literary journals and magazines including Silver Birch Press, Wilderness House Literary Review, Peril Magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Culture and Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, among several others. Her full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, is forthcoming from Les Éditions du Zaporogue (Denmark) later this year. She tweets at @bprerna.

Farah Ghafoor is a fifteen-year-old poet and a founding editor at Sugar Rascals. She believes that she deserves a cat and/or outrageously expensive perfumes, and can’t bring herself to spend pretty coins. Her work is published in places like alien mouth, Really System and Synaesthesia, and has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Find her online at

Courtney Jameson is The Bowhunter of White Stag Publishing. Her chapbook “the unrequited <3<3 of red riding hood & her lycan lover” is forthcoming in 2016 from dancing girl press.

Katherine Nelson-Born lives in Pensacola where she writes and consults for K & K Manuscript Editing.  Her poems have appeared in the Birmingham Poetry Review, Ellipsis, Emerald Coast Review, Excelsior ReView, GSU Review, Longleaf Pine, Maple Leaf Ragand Penumbra among others.  Her poetry previously won the University of New Orleans Ellipsis award for poetry and placed twice among finalists in the Agnes Scott College Writer’s Festival, with a recent poem earning “Honorable Mention” at the 2015 Alabama Writers’ Conclave,

Amy Meckler received her MFA in creative writing from Hunter College where she garnered the Academy of American Poets Award. Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Rattapallax, Margie, Lyric, Brooklyn Review, Whiskey Island, Cider Press Review and Portland Review among other publications. Her first collection, What All the Sleeping Is For, won the 2002 Defined Providence Press Poetry Book Award and was published that year. Amy has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has taught poetry at Hunter College and currently works in New York City as a Sign Language interpreter.

Penny Montague writes fiction and poetry. She’s a Londoner who has just completed an MA in Literary Linguistics, during which she gatecrashed the Creative Writing classes and corralled her fellow students into creating an anthology. Her work has been published by Bunbury Magazine and Ink Pantry. She tweets at @pjmontague.

Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming in The No Se Habla Espanol Anthology, Elephant Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Rust+Moth, Maudlin House, Blackheart Magazine, Red Fez and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review. These days you can find her kayaking the Brazos in Waco, Texas with her partner. You may reach her at http://www.sarahfrancesmoran.comJulianne Neely

Sam Regal is a poet in Brooklyn. She is currently working toward her MFA at Hunter College.

Erin Slaughter holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. After spending a year working as a publishing intern for a non-profit poetry press in the Pacific Northwest, she is currently an MFA candidate at Western Kentucky University. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction has previously been published in The Harpoon Review, The North Texas Review, Hemingway’s Playpen, The Yeah Write! Review, Emerge Literary Journal, and S/tick.

Elizabeth Theriot is a Louisiana-native and enthusiastic feminist. Recently graduated from the University of New Orleans with an English degree in tow, she is currently in her first year as an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Elizabeth is also a mother to two small kittens, Simon and Mr. Darcy, and would like some lime with her whiskey, please. If you’re feeling brave, find her on Twitter at @elizavacious.



We are ecstatic (and slightly exhausted from all the glitter tossing) to announce our nominations for the 2015 Pushcart Prize.  Due to the rules of the contest only work published in Alyss Issue Deux qualified for this year.  However, even that one issue gave us a great group of work to chose from and it wasn’t easy.  We’re extremely grateful to all the writers who support our little zine.

This year’s nominees are:

everytime I speak my gums bleed by Amber Atiya

America as a Room by Cassandra de Alba

Grundy County by Tammy Bendetti

Almost Someone Coming Home by Alexandra Smyth

Allen at 25 by Alyssa Yankwitt

Date-Rape by Natalie N. Caro

The Mayor : Merie Kirby

Merie Kirby

Merie Kirby lives in Grand Forks, ND and teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of The Dog Runs On (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and The Thumbelina Poems (Red Bird Chapbooks, forthcoming 2015).  Her poems have been published in Willow Review, Midwest Poetry Review, Avocet, and other journals; she also writes operas and art songs in collaboration with composers.


Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

I have spent at least a week thinking about this. It is the hardest question in this interview! But I keep coming back to Jane Eyre – a book I first read when I was 14 because an aunt told me she wasn’t sure I was ready to read it. Which seems a very Jane thing to do, actually. And later I read it in school. And I’ve taught it several times now. What I like about Jane, what keeps me thinking about her, is that she is very contrarian (as she is accused of being) because she is very intent on being herself. All around her is a society that would very much prefer her to be otherwise, and she might waver, might try on something else, but ultimately she must be herself. Her inconvenient self.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

The poems of Emily Dickinson are one answer, but I think I have to give equal time to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Eve Curie’s biography of her mother, Marie Curie. I feel like each of these works taught me something about writing – about poetry, fiction, and memoir/biography – but also gave me models of women who followed the work or life they were passionate about.

How did your poem in Alyss come about?

The poem At six I wanted to marry Godzilla came about through that always curious mix of truth and fiction – I distinctly remember being, at around six, madly in love with Godzilla. Now, of course, that potential relationship is clearly problematic, but perhaps, I thought, there are ways that it might still be true. And, perhaps, sometimes I want to be able to be the hurt and angry monster and experience the safety net of another’s love.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

Holding my first chapbook, The Dog Runs On, was a pretty great moment. Hearing my daughter read her favorite poem of mine to a friend was also pretty great. But I think the greatest moments of my writing life have actually been moments spent with poet-friends, writing together and enjoying hearing each other’s writing, and talking poetry with each other. Those are the moments that feed me.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue Deux and why?

There are a lot of great pieces to choose from in Issue Deux! But I think Moth Queen by Ellie Slaughter, with it’s wonderful fairy tale imagery nestled up against very modern references is the piece that really caught at my imagination.

What are you currently working on?

Last September I participated in Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project, writing a fresh poem a day and posting it. It was so much fun, and I could not believe that not only did I write a poem a day for 30 days, but I ended up with about 23 of them that I felt had a lot of potential. I went in hoping for maybe 10, so 23 is fabulous. I’m revising those 23 now, working towards another chapbook, or perhaps the kernel of a full-length manuscript.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

I think it has to be Alice who passed through the rabbit hole portal – I have always particularly loved her encounter with the pig baby and the pepper.

Brooklyn Afrekete : Amber Atiya

amz at open expresions sept 2015 crppd

Amber Atiya is the author of the chapbook the fierce bums of doo-wop (Argos Books, 2014). Her work has appeared in Black Renaissance Noire, Boston Review, the PEN Poetry Series, Nepantla: A Journal for Queer Poets of Color, and been featured on Poetry Foundation’s radio and podcast series PoetryNow. Her poems have been selected for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and nominated for Best New Poets. A proud native Brooklynite, She is a member of a women’s writing group celebrating 13 years and counting.

Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

I can’t say that I have one.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

I fell in love with the poet Chrystos when I read her poem “I Like a Woman Who Packs” in an anthology of Lesbian Love Poems.  Her Book Not Vanishing reaffirmed for me the importance of art-as-activism, as a mode of healing. The first time I heard June Jordan’s “A Poem About My Rights” was in a college writing workshop for women. To hear lines like “I know in my single and singular heart that I have been raped” and “I am not wrong/wrong is not my name/my name is my own my own my own,” that in your face, that unaffected and urgent, I thought I’d burst into flames. Some people might call this a perfect example of righteous indignation, and is it. My professor called it a rant, plain and simple, a term that I fully embrace.

How did your poem everytime i speak, my gums bleed come about?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how, although English is the only language that I speak, I come to it as a Black woman born in America who craves a language, a system of sounds, more compatible with my creative instinct, my voice and tongue and lips and teeth, which are unequivocally African. The conqueror’s language cannot fully capture the (out)rage, the grief and heartache I feel reading headlines, coming to the defense of Black youth who are verbally assaulted and harassed on the streets of New York (which has happened more times than I care to count), coming to my own defense when people try me because I’m Black/queer/female. I think about how my mothers’ tongues were snatched from them, how the ancestors don’t care about English grammar, and how in Black English, all we have is the present, is now. The ancestors are not the past, they are now.

I was invited to participate in a poem-a-day group during Ramadan this year and my preoccupation with all of that led to the piece published in Issue Deux.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

I’m going to say the launch of my chapbook the fierce bums of doo-wop published last October by Argos Books. I put a lot of time and love and effort into this chap o’ mine–gutted half of the original manuscript, added new poems, and proceeded to revise. I had no idea what I was doing, was making it up as I went along. I think the final version of the chap is more woman-centered, less random, although there’s nothing wrong with that if it works. Argos created these lovely pocket-size works of art, hand-stitched. One poem is even a fold-out page, it’s so good. And I’m proud to say that, outside of the handful that I have left, they’ve sold out.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue One and why?

I am fixated on black and brown bodies in America, how this country chews them up and spits them out, how my own consumption of death through television and social media has made me feel quite unstable (emotionally) at times. And yet if I didn’t tune in and log on, I wouldn’t know about Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice. I wouldn’t know about about the nefarious deeds of Monsanto, and the healthcare industry at large, the prison industrial complex at large, The ongoing plundering of African resources, the propaganda created by the west to demonize Islam and the Middle East.

Chrystos, who I’ve been thinking and writing about lately, insists that “poetry with politics is narcissistic and not useful to us.” All of this was going through my mind reading A Palestinian Elegy by Nazia Jannat. Also, I think it’s important for art to speak to the times, here, a lyric of mourning, a torture, “hysteria, the burning carousel,” the narrator asks “are we masochists?” We’re confronted with the consequences of terrorism, the determination of its handlers to destroy everything pure and good in this world, and don’t know what to do with ourselves: “…no time for sleep, no time for bread.”

And from Issue Deux?

If there’s such a thing as a perfect poem, then America as a Room would be it–not a false note to be found.

What are you currently working on?

I like to say that I’m working on a full-length. Perhaps I should simply say that I’m writing and put no pressure on the poems to make sense as a unit, though it does seem that that’s happening anyway. (Our obsessions are what they are.)

I hate paying for tampons and pads with wings. I hate walking out of a drugstore twelve dollars poorer every month because corporate thieves just HAVE to profit off of the shedding of my uterine lining…currently cooking up a visual poem that tackles this in some way. Also, I’d like to incorporate text into the sonogram photo of a fibroid. It simply has to be done.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

Off the top, I’d have to say the singer Alice Smith. Her music is rhythm & bluesy folk-funk-cabaret. Love her.

Translatress : Samantha Pious


Samantha Pious  is studying for a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her specialties are medieval French and English [courtly poetry and women’s writing]. Some of her pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in Mezzo Cammin, Lavender Reviewbroad!, Lunch Ticket, PMS (PoemMemoirStory) and other publications. Others are available on her blog at


Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

Consuelo, from the novels by George Sand, embodies everything I would like to be in life and writing. Reading La Comtesse de Rudolstadt (The Countess of Rudolstadt) was like coming home.

What  literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

The “Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc,” by Christine de Pizan, inspired me to begin learning French, studying medieval literature, and translating poetry.

How did your work/works in Alyss come about?

Chaucer by Candlelight” is a response to the murders and other acts of violence which police have been committing against African-Americans and other people of color. A certain verse from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “The blood out crieth on youre cursed dede” (Prioress’s Tale 578) kept echoing through my head during the weeks after I heard about the murder of Tamir Rice, who was twelve years old. To write about police brutality in my own voice (white and well-to-do) would have been deeply appropriative, and I’m concerned that even adapting Chaucer may be harmful in ways of which I’m not aware. The piece struggles to consider what the study of the humanities, in particular medieval literature, could possibly have to offer social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter. I’m coming to think more and more that the reverse proposition is true. Black Lives Matter has much more to offer Medieval Studies — not to mention the humanities in general — than medievalists could ever hope to give back. This may seem obvious to lay-people, but for academics it bears repeating: there’s more to life than our fields of study, and there’s so much more to our fields than the back-woods of western Europe.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

In terms of writing as a practice or in terms of publications and acceptances? If the former, I’ve had some wonderful moments of looking at half-written drafts and realizing just how many directions the drafts could go before they become finished pieces. It’s a feeling of euphoria, of enormous power. If the latter, I’m always thrilled to see my name in print.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue One and why?

The sound and the imagery of Meg Matich’s Cellar Violin leave me feeling sick, as they’re intended to.

And from Issue Deux?

If I had to choose, my favorite would be Cassandra de Alba’s poem America as a Room. The nineteenth-century home as a metonym for “America” (whether nation-state, geographic region, or culture) is deeply resonant for me.

What are you currently working on ?

I’m currently translating Christine de Pizan’s Cent Ballades d’Amant et de Dame into English as 100 Ballades: Lover & Lady. It’s a narrative sequence of lyric poems about a courtly love affair, alternating between the voices of a lady and her lover. Also, my translations from the French poetry of Renée Vivien are forthcoming from Headmistress Press. Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) was a lesbian writer of the Belle Époque and one of the first modern European women writers to publish poetry for, by, and about lesbian women. Vivien’s work should be essential reading for anyone interested in lesbian “herstory.”

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who names herself as “Alisoun” in her Prologue.