June 11, 2019

In March, in Portland, a young man in a wheelchair asked me if I shape my poems the way I often do—long lines, a continuous strophe down the page—as a means of experiencing velocity, speed, and I said, yes, smiling, gratified by the insight. We were in a crowded space, the din of passers-by almost too much to hear his quiet voice, and I leaned over to better hear him. To give my attention in the b...

June 6, 2019

 I picture the opening of a movie. A medium shot of the Santa Fe Motel. It is white stucco, with palm trees around it, the sky layers of pink and yellow as the sun rises.  A title card superimposes over the shot:

National City

California

A woman with dark hair swinging right above her shoulders walks out from the motel. Maybe she walks to the corner and takes the bus. Maybe she walks the six mil...

May 13, 2019

Several years ago, Iron Horse published Anne Valente’s short story, “Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down,” about the connection between a school shooting and a series of mysterious fires.  It was one of our favorite pieces ever – it was later anthologized in our Best of IHLR Anniversary Issue.  Now, Valente’s second novel, The Desert Sky Before Us, is being released from William Morrow, and we could...

April 29, 2019

Years ago, when I was an undergraduate taking my first poetry workshops, writing bad poems and nursing agonizing crushes on girls I had classes with—I remember one who had the distracting habit of applying lotion during lectures—I would take seminars in the morning and afternoon, reading Homer and Hawthorne and Faulkner, then waiting around on campus for my evening workshop. The library was kind o...

April 18, 2019

As a new mother hungry for poetry about motherhood (especially the struggles inherent in it), I found Joseph J. Capista’s debut collection satisfying and refreshing in large part because his poems are saturated with his complicated and verisimilar experiences as a father. Capista's poem “40” situates us, like the opening of Dante's Divine Comedy, in the middle of life, and indeed, we learn, o...

The question of joy has been on my mind. When my father first decided to come across the border, he was caught and brought back to Mexico. He was running away from his home, chasing the idea that things back home were too boring. Life in America would be more thrilling. Too anxious and arrogant, he wasn’t as careful as he should’ve been. His desire was thwarted and he went back home to his dull vi...

April 4, 2019

Walk Six

My friend the writer Sara Renee Marshall introduced me to the work of Lisa Robertson, recommending her Occasional Work and Seven Walks and the Office for Soft Architecture. Sara, also a walker, is a keen and sensitive observer of space. I like the way she sees. And I see what she sees in Robertson, a writer for whom, according to critics Ryan Fitzpatrick and Susan Rudy, “space is not reduc...

March 20, 2019

I’ve come to Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, the cartoon heart of mid-century cartoon America, where the moose and the flying squirrel roam, and where seldom is heard a word that isn’t some kind of dad-blasted pun, and where Natasha Fatale, infamous spy and elusive saboteuse, resides. I should note that I’m cartoon, myself, in this dimension. I have eight fingers total. My nose is too small and body’s...

March 12, 2019

The door to my bedroom squeaked open on its own my first morning living in Chicago. It moved slowly. The noise wasn’t that loud—just enough to wake me up. The room was small; the bed, just big enough. I’d be close to anyone or anything wavering through the door. It was July 2015. I’d been in Logan Square less than twenty-four hours. Driving the two and a half hours from Central Illinois, where I h...

February 27, 2019

The first poem I ever wrote—besides a few I wrote in a yellow notebook by hand in the sixth grade, that were really little more than reconstituted song lyrics—came to mind in my junior year of high school, in A.P. Biology. It was the last week of classes, and I think Mr. Leather had run out of lesson plans (all these years later, as a teacher now, I can empathize). He had sent us out onto the scho...

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