Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drumroll, please

Barn Owl Review #2 will feature:

POETRY: Seth Abramson, Deborah Ager, Nin Andrews, Aimée Baker, Erica Bernheim, Jason Bredle, Robert Lee Brewer, Edward Byrne, Paula Cisewski, Elizabeth J. Colen, Rachel Dacus, J.P. Dancing Bear, Emari DiGiorgio, Steve Fellner, Brent Fisk, John Gallaher, Leslie Harrison, Anna Journey, Stephanie Kartalopoulos, Lori Lamothe, David Dodd Lee, Gary Leising, Adrian C. Louis, Greg McBride, Erika Meitner, Keith Montesano, Alison Pelegrin, Greg Rappleye, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Brent Royster, Sean Singer, Sarah Sloat, Amy Bracken Sparks, Jennifer Sullivan, Mathias Svalina, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Karen J. Weyant, Brian R. Young

CRITICAL PROSE: Kazim Ali, Megan Savage

FICTION: Christina Kapp, Sheba Karim, Edward Mullany, Tom Noyes

This year we received almost 1,500 submissions--far beyond what we'd ever imagined--and had an incredibly tough time making our decisions. Many thanks to everyone who sent us work. We only wish that we had the funds to make the issue twice its size.

Look for us at AWP: Table 724, Hilton Chicago, Southwest Hall, Lower Level

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our November 1st deadline approaches!

We'll be accepting submissions until midnight on Halloween, so don't delay. In the meantime, here's an update:

Barn Owl Review #2 Contributors as of 10/16/08

Seth Abramson * Deborah Ager * Nin Andrews * Aimee Baker * Erica Bernheim * Jason Bredle * Robert Lee Brewer * Edward Byrne * Paula Cisewski * Rachel Dacus * J.P. Dancing Bear * Brent Fisk * John Gallaher * Leslie Harrison * Stephanie Kartalopoulos * Lori Lamothe * David Dodd Lee * Gary Leising * Adrian C. Louis * Greg McBride * Erika Meitner * Keith Montesano * Alison Pelegrin * Greg Rappleye * Lee Ann Roripaugh * Brent Royster * Sean Singer * Sarah Sloat * Amy Bracken Sparks * Jennifer Sullivan * Mathias Svalina * Laura Madeline Wiseman * Karen J. Weyant

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's time for an update.

As of Tuesday, 8/12/08, we have now received 630 submissions since we opened on June 1st, and we are accepting submissions until November 1st (unless we have to close up early again this year). If you're still waiting to hear back from us, thanks so much for your patience!

An updated contributors' list for Barn Owl Review #2


Seth Abramson * Deborah Ager * Nin Andrews * Erica Bernheim * Robert Lee Brewer * Edward Byrne * J.P. Dancing Bear * Paula Cisewski * Rachel Dacus * Brent Fisk * Leslie Harrison * Stephanie Kartalopoulos * Lori Lamothe * David Dodd Lee * Gary Leising * Greg McBride * Erika Meitner * Keith Montesano * Alison Pelegrin * Greg Rappleye * Brent Royster * Sean Singer * Sarah Sloat * Amy Bracken Sparks * Jennifer Sullivan * Mathias Svalina *
Laura Madeline Wiseman * Karen J. Weyant


Kazim Ali

Friday, July 18, 2008

Breach by Anne Haines

BOR #1 contributor Anne Haines has a new chapbook, Breach, coming out with Finishing Line Press. Order your copy today, and support this fabulous poet.

The chapbook is $12 (free shipping if ordered by July 25; add $2 shipping after that date). Advance orders will ship on or about August 22.

Praise for Breach:

In this astonishingly vital collection Anne Haines moves back and forth between land and sea, exploring every possible kind of breach and blessing. Her embrace encompasses accidents, birds, bodies, "everything that whispers," "every bone and every breath," and "every form of longing." In poems displaying a range of poetic gifts, Haines stimulates the brain and plunges deep into the heart. (Diane Lockward, author of Eve's Red Dress and What Feeds Us)

In Breach, Anne Haines continues the tradition of exploring edges, the liminal territory historically mapped by Bishop, Moore and other women. Hers is a verse of in-betweenness: in-between waking and sleeping, in-between clouds and earth, in-between animal and human, in-between the sea and land, and in-between here and there. In her poetry, water appears and reappears -- it buoys up the substance of the poem and becomes a complicated surface. Haines investigates the natural with a close, but not objective eye. Her empathy for the wilderness and its processes is evident in nearly every word. Her poetry is peaceful and frequently beautiful, but most of all, this poet creates something original. The way she negotiates the limits of language when describing nature makes the reader feel as if he/she is experiencing "what is wild" in an entirely new way. (Christine Hamm, author of The Transparent Dinner, The Salt Daughter, and others)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Visible Sign by Jeff Newberry

BOR #1 contributor (x2) Jeff Newberry has a new chapbook out with Finishing Line Press: A Visible Sign. Order your copy here!

A few blurbs about this exciting new title:

In this collection Jeffrey Newberry demonstrates again and again that the language of faith is evergreen. These poems are as fresh as Eden's first dew. ~Mark Jarman, Epistles

How adroitly Jeff Newberry works with the noticing of contradictions, of paradoxes that make final sense, balance, and harmony. In this way, we welcome his new voice in poetry, his ability to discern new sight in shadow, new vision in breath, how he distills "the spaces between breaths," finding illumination and revelation in that hidden and observed place. His is a "theology of want" in which we may find ourselves reflected. Here is where we find the fine, new voice of Jeff Newberry, a welcome refreshment that gives us again to the detailed image, the new, the alien and the familiar. ~Nicholas Samaras, Hands of the Saddlemaker

Monday, July 7, 2008

Contributor list as of 7/7/08

Here's a sampling of the poets who will appear in Barn Owl Review #2! We've been open for submissions for a little over a month, and have received about 300 subs so far between the genres. Thus, we've only been able to make it through a fraction of the submissions, so do not fret if you are stil waiting to hear from us.

Poets who will be featured in Barn Owl Review #2:

Deborah Ager * Nin Andrews * Robert Lee Brewer * Edward Byrne * J.P. Dancing Bear * Leslie Harrison * Stephanie Kartalopoulos * Lori Lamothe * David Dodd Lee * Gary Leising * Erika Meitner * Keith Montesano * Alison Pelegrin * Greg Rappleye * Brent Royster * Sean Singer * Sarah Sloat * Jennifer Sullivan * Karen J. Weyant

Important news flash: Barn Owl Review #1 is now officially sold out! You can
pre-order a copy of BOR #2 now, though. We will also begin posting interviews on our website soon. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Critical prose call for submissions, and update by the numbers.

Did you hear the news that Barn Owl Review is going to start publishing critical prose? We'll have 1-2 essays appear in the print issue, and others published on our website. All essays will be made available in pdf form, as well, so that we can share your thoughts with the widest possible readership. Here are the guidelines:

BARN OWL REVIEW--CRITICAL PROSE: Submit critical work (5,000 w. maximum) to the attention of Adam Deutsch, at submit at barnowlreview dot com. We're specifically interested in essays on craft and the writing life as well as explorations into the culture and larger contexts of creating art in the contemporary world. Though usually considered to be solely produced by academia, the ideas expressed in these pieces are not under the ownership of any educational institution. We encourage and welcome prose of the vocational academic as well as the blue-collar scholar and those guided by the production of art, regardless of the notions of tenure tracks, book sales, and/or the prevailing winds of fickle audiences.

We have now been open for 13 days, and have so far received 157 submissions. Wow! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic response, and if you're still thinking about sending work, don't delay. We hope to get our first round of acceptances out next week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Contributor Interview # 3 - Bernadette Geyer

Barn Owl Review contributor Bernadette Geyer discusses her work as a free-lance writer and poet, the merits of chapbooks, and forging a community of writers.

ST: First, the basics. When did you start writing and why?

BG: I remember writing Nancy Drew-type mysteries when I was about 11 or 12. I still have some of them. I don’t exactly remember why I started, but I remember it was great fun. I wrote on the playground at recess and my classmates would take each page as I finished it and pass it around. A neighbor even paid me 50 cents for letting her read them. As for poetry, I wrote some in high school for English classes and started loving poems then, even collecting favorite poems. One of the first poems I memorized was Resume, by Dorothy Parker. After graduating from college, I moved to Washington, DC, and focused on establishing a career in public relations for the first several years. In 1996, I participated in a free poetry workshop offered by a bookstore and realized how much I enjoyed writing poetry and pretty much gave myself over to it.

ST: Where do you find inspiration? What themes or images keep popping up in your work?

BG: The full-length manuscript I’ve been shopping around has a lot to do with things we inherit or that are passed down to us – traditions, memories, stories. Also, that inanimate objects have histories important for us to seek out and pay attention to. My current manuscript-in-progress is a little wilder in that a significant portion of it consists of persona poems, many in contemporary bastardizations of traditional forms. The manuscript is currently titled “Women I Could Have Been,” so I’m delving into some of the less “amenable” aspects of myself and submerging myself in personas of women I wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward. Sort of along the lines of “There but for the grace of God go I.” There’s a much more spiritually-reflective bent towards some of my newer work as well.

ST: Who are you reading? (Or what’s your favorite book of 2007/08?)

BG: I am so behind on my reading that I’ll probably get to the 2007 poetry releases somewhere about 2010. Right now I’m reading the new issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, W.S. Merwin’s The Carrier of Ladders, and Immortal, a novel by Traci L. Slatton. I’m reviewing the last for the quarterly book review e-zine I publish. I have about 200 books and lit journals on my “to-read” shelves. As the stay-at-home-mother of a two-year-old daughter I don’t get much time to read anymore so it takes a bit longer for me to finish a book.

ST: Who are your biggest influences (literary, mentors, other)?

BG: I am particularly inspired by the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, Miron Bialoszewsky, Zbigniew Herbert, Gregory Orr, Sharon Olds, Margaret Atwood, Dana Gioia, and Louise Gluck. I’ve also been heavily influenced by the poetics of Thomas Lux, Charles Simic, James Tate and Marvin Bell, based on essays and interviews I’ve read by them. I don’t have an MFA, but I have participated in several workshops and master classes. I can’t say I have “mentors” as such, but Rick Barot and Dana Roeser were wonderful “teachers” in the Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshops I participated in; I definitely feel I learned a lot from them. I have a few close friends I exchange poems with and have found their friendships to be sort of co-mentorships.

ST: Which literary journals (besides Barn Owl Review, of course) do you enjoy most?

BG: Mid-American Review, 32 Poems, The Bitter Oleander, Smartish Pace. I’m sure I could name more.

ST: What advice would you give to writers who are just starting to send out their work?

BG: Don’t take rejection personally. Check out publications before you submit to them to make sure your work is right for them, or that you actually would want to be published by them. When I started out, some of my poems were published in journals that were actually very poor quality – both design-wise and content-wise.

Don’t be in a rush to submit your poems – let them gestate; take your time with the editing process. To me, “intent” is the key to a successful poem. Every word, every image and metaphor, every line break should have a specific purpose. A poet should be able to tell a reader why he/she broke a line in a certain place, what purpose any given image serves, and why one particular word was chosen over the thousands of words at our disposal. I believe every poem should have a reason for existing outside of mere description or as the result of an exercise.

ST: Would you tell us a little bit about your chapbook, What Remains, and your thoughts on publishing chapbooks vs. full length manuscripts?

BG: I think the chapbook doesn’t get the credit it deserves, and I’m not just saying that because my first publication was a chapbook. Many poets have published chapbooks following the publication of successful full-length collections. Louise Glück for one. I think chapbooks are a great medium for publishing a very strongly linked series of poems that might seem forced if expanded to suit a full-length manuscript.

When my chapbook came out, I had been involved in the DC-area poetry scene for about four years. I was starting to be invited to be a featured reader in various poetry series, based on poems I read at open mics and connections I was making. I had enough poems that tied together thematically to form a chapbook, but not enough to be a cohesive full-length manuscript. R.D. Baker, who published four of the poems in WordWrights magazine, invited me to submit a chapbook for his consideration, which he did accept and publish the following year.

There are a lot of chapbook publishers who really care about design. Some very gorgeous chapbooks I own include Barbara Tran’s In the Mynah Bird’s Own Words (Tupelo Press), Katharine Whitcomb’s Hosannas (Parallel Press), and Rebecca Cook’s The Terrible Baby (Dancing Girl Press). Even DIY chapbooks can be very creatively designed as well.

ST: You’re a free-lance writer and publisher of an e-zine. How do you balance these projects with your work as a poet?

BG: I don’t think of it as a balancing act, which implies that all things are of equal weight at any given moment. To me it’s a juggling act. I have a two-year-old daughter who gets about 90% of my attention when she’s awake. When she’s asleep, one project gets all my attention at a time. When I am working on poems, the house goes to hell. When I’m working on the e-zine, I don’t worry that I’m not writing poetry. When the weeds get too high in the garden, I get down on my hands and knees with canvas gloves and a trowel. I’ve learned to hone my attention to the task at hand, which has probably saved my sanity. I’m also lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who comes over four hours a week to play with her granddaughter, which allows me time to get out and work on my writing. There are things I’ve scaled back on – primarily volunteer activities – until my daughter starts school. I realized that I needed to focus on my family and my own creative activities at this point in my life. Everyone needs to take stock of where they are once-in-a-while. Reassigning priorities is nothing to be ashamed about.

ST: You mentioned that you didn't go the MFA route as a writer, but you seem to be very adept at making connections and forming/finding a community of writers to work with. Can you talk a bit more about that experience?

BG: I’ve been very fortunate that the Washington, DC, area has such a wealth and variety of poetry reading venues and literary organizations. I started regularly attending the IOTA Poetry Series in Arlington, Virginia, back in about 1997 and met Miles David Moore, the host of the reading series. It was really his friendship that led to my involvement with The Word Works, a literary non-profit organization that publishes wonderful poetry, organizes readings, and sponsors an annual poetry book competition, the Washington Prize. I met so many other wonderful writers through my volunteering with The Word Works. I served as editor-in-chief for a couple of years and had the pleasure of working closely with several local authors on their books, and with a couple of the Washington Prize winners. I had also spent a couple of years volunteering as an editor for a local literary magazine called WordWrights, which also led to friendships with many fine writers in the region. I guess if I had lived somewhere without a local poetry community, I would have had to try to forge one. But the internet has also become a great way for writers to seek communities. I belong to a couple of poetry lists, which helps me to meet other writers. Of course, there’s the blogosphere, in which I spend far too much time … but which also serves as a valuable community.


Bernadette Geyer in Barn Owl Review:
from “The Sword Swallower Finds a New Calling”

She filled herself with pearls
until her skin rivaled their milkiness.
Under the floodlights, she glowed,
audiences rapt as they never had been
when it was just another trick,
sword seeming to disappear
in the scabbard of her throat.

Ohiotica: “When I was an undergrad at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA., we used to drive to Ohio to purchase alcohol because the drinking age had just been raised from 19 to 21 and we were grandfathered in as legal.”


Still want to know more about Bernadette? Visit her website.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Contributor Interview # 2 - Gary McDowell

In the second Barn Owl Review Contributor Interview, Gary McDowell talks about writing, life as a PhD student, and the inevitable wait that comes with finishing a manuscript.

ST: First, the basics. When did you start writing and why?

GM: I started writing in high school (well, aside from the illustrated stories I’d write for my family when I was in grade school). My stepfather died of brain cancer when I was sixteen. He had been a huge influence on my life and once he passed I started carrying a notebook with me everywhere I went, jotted down “thoughts” and “memories” that I would then later turn into horrific little poems about my “feelings”: truly atrocious stuff, seriously… so bad. I think I did it because I felt like I needed a place to record what I was going through. I didn’t respond well to psychologists and writing seemed a natural way to deal with my grief, with my pain.

I also used to go to the shore of the Fox River in Illinois while in high school and write about my surroundings, the broken tree stumps, the muddy water, the frogs, the vegetation, the dead catfish that littered the inlets. So I guess maybe nature, and my connection to it, got me interested in writing a more serious poetry, a poetry more mature than adolescent grievings. And then, at Northern Illinois University I took a fiction writing course and from there found Modern and Contemporary poetry through my professors recommendations. Then I kept writing because I couldn’t stop. I still can’t stop, and I hope I never do.

ST: Where do you find inspiration? What themes or images keep popping up in your work?

GM: I draw inspiration from music, film, literature, nature, etc. The things, people, and events that surround me inspire me. Music though is where it’s really at for me: I love Muddy Waters, Metallica, Neutral Milk Hotel, Son House, Ben Webster, CLOP, Jay-Z, Leadbelly, Queen, Rascal Flatts, Silver Jews, Talib Kweli, Tom Waits, Wilco, Miles Davis, and on and on. I love the way different genres of music mix and filter through me, the images I get by going from a Billy Joel song to a Beatles song to a Blitzen Trapper song to an LL Cool J song.

Reading (anything: newspapers, historical nonfiction, poetry, fiction, etc) inspires me, too. It’s nearly impossible for me to read and not want to write afterward. Is this normal? Anyway.

As for images and themes? Fathers, sex, fish/fishing, rivers, water, childhood, birds (I love birds!!). There are so many common themes and images in my work… it’s sort of depressing, like maybe I need to invest in some new material!

ST: Who are you reading? (Or what’s your favorite book of 2007/08?)

GM: My favorite book of 07-08 was F. Daniel Rzicznek’s Neck of the World (Utah State UP 2008), winner of last year’s May Swenson Prize. Runner’s up would include: Peter Gizzi’s The Outernationale (Wesleyan 2007), Peter Conners’ Of Whiskey and Winter (White Pine Press 2007), Linda Gregerson’s Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin 2007), Alex Lemon’s Hallelujah Blackout (Milkweed 2008), Joshua Kryah’s Glean (Nightboat Books 2007), and others. Don’t even get me started on the fiction and nonfiction… so much good stuff out there this year!

I might as well mention a few others, books that I’ve read recently and loved but that didn’t come out this year: Charles Wright’s Country Music, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, all 3 of Peter Gizzi’s previous books, Seamus Heaney’s The Government of the Tongue, Louise Gluck’s Proofs & Theories, and Charles Wright’s Halflife and Quarter Notes. So many more I could name though!

ST: Who are your biggest influences (literary, mentors, other)?

GM: I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve studied with very giving, very inspirational poets at all three of the higher-educational schools I’ve attended: Amy Newman at Northern Illinois University, Larissa Szporluk at Bowling Green State University, and William Olsen and Nancy Eimers at Western Michigan University. They have all been mentors to me, provided me with insight, encouragement, and criticism… though I must say that Amy’s mentorship has been the longest lasting and meant the most to me. She’s the best—a friend, a poet, a teacher. She introduced me to poetry when I was lost and confused about my professional and scholarly ambitions as a scrappy 19-year old; she helped me understand that being a poet had a lot more to do with heart and determination and grit than with berets and coffee and black t-shirts; and to this day she continues to encourage, support, and influence me both with her literary wisdom and her unfaltering friendship.

As for literary influences… well, there’s so many. Here’s a few (though I know I’ll forget someone really important): Faulkner, Rilke, Charles Wright, Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping), Tom Andrews, C.D. Wright (Deepstep Come Shining), James Wright, Berryman, Dostoevsky, Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), Gary Young, Rosmarie Waldrop, Russell Edson, Ted Hughes (mostly just Crow), Robert Hass, Yeats, Hemingway Larry Levis, Raymond Carver, Kevin Canty, and most recently, Peter Gizzi. I also return often to Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us and all of Oliver Sacks’ books. I find that really great nonfiction influences me more than poetry most days.

And music (see question #2 above). Jackson Pollock’s art. So many influences, so little time!

ST: Which literary journals (besides Barn Owl Review, of course) do you enjoy most?

GM: I like to read any and every lit journal I can get my hands on. I love seeing what my peers are up to as well as reading writers I’ve never read before. Isn’t that feeling just tremendous, when you read a poem by someone you’ve never heard of and then immediately flip to the contributor’s notes to see where else they’ve published so you can track their work down? Oh man, I love that! Anyway, there are a few mags that I either subscribe to or at least try to read every issue of: Colorado Review, Laurel Review, RHINO, DIAGRAM, Tin House, jubilat, Gulf Coast, American Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Sentence, Poetry, Black Warrior Review. There are so many more great literary magazines than space allows here.

ST: What advice would you give to writers who are just starting to send out their work?

GM: Read. Read widely and voraciously. Also, go listen to poets read (or go to PennSound online or some other audio archive and listen and listen and listen). If you live anywhere near a city with a good reading scene, go check out some of the ‘stars’ that come through town. I saw Robert Hass read when I was first getting started in poetry and it changed my life. Also, don’t silence yourself; be honest, be forthright, be fearless in your writing and your reading. Just go for it. Write like hell. Read like hell.

ST: You’re currently looking for a publisher for your first manuscript. How did you get the project ready for the mail, and how are you handling the wait?

GM: As for getting my manuscript ready for the mail… well, I’m still working on the damn thing. I find that it’s an endless process. I’m always tinkering, I’m always refining and tweaking. But eventually I just stop and put postage on it, write a check, and mail it off. I have to. If I don’t, no one will ever read it. In all seriousness though, this is where my mentors (Newman, Szporluk, Olsen, Eimers) have been so important. I’ve shown them different drafts, different incarnations of the manuscript, and their input has been crucial to the book’s development. It’s a tough beast, the first book manuscript. I don’t know much about it, I guess. I’m not sure I ever will. I just keep my head down and write and revise the best I know how. As for the waiting, it’s tough. I wish the turnaround were quicker, but I have been on the other side of these manuscript contests as a reader and screener and I completely understand why the process can take months. And to be honest, I’d rather wait.... hopefully that means my manuscript is getting a good read, some solid consideration. But I’ll not lie, waiting sucks!

ST: You’re working on your Ph.D. at Western Michigan University. Why did you decide to take the academic route?

GM: Yeah, the Ph.D.isease. Seriously though, I went to Northern Illinois University more than 10 years ago in hopes of becoming a Computer Scientist, a video-game programmer (I know, dorksville… like poetry’s any better!?). I took one Calculus class and as soon as the semester was over I ran, not walked, but ran to the advisor’s office and switched my major to English. After a semester in the English Department I realized I wanted to teach. Teaching high school, however, didn’t appeal to me. I loved what Amy Newman and my other college professors meant to me and decided that that’s what I wanted to do with my life: teach upper-level literature and creative writing. It’s great that the profession allows writers time to create and teach, even though the jobs are nearly impossible to secure. I love the atmosphere of the classroom, of the university, of young minds working together in the humanities, using their minds and hearts to create, build, and synthesize the literature of the past, present, and future. I can’t imagine ever wanting to do anything else.


Gary McDowell in Barn Owl Review:
from “On the Death of Houdini”

Even on his deathbed,
surrounded by friends,
his appendix mangled and bleeding,
stupefying the doctors,
his forehead, at the hairline,
blistering from fever,
he wouldn’t fall down.

Ohiotica: “I spent the last two years in Ohio earning my MFA at Bowling Green State University; it’s a two-year stint I wouldn’t trade for anything. Did I mention I also got married to my beautiful wife while living in Ohio?”

Still want to know about Gary? Check out his blog or send him an email at mcdowgl (at) gmail (dot) com.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Man Suit by Zachary Schomburg

The Man Suit
Zachary Schomburg
Black Ocean

Zachary Schomburg’s debut collection of poetry, The Man Suit, features a mysterious coffin floating through the night sky. The cover captures the essence of the poetry. In the collection, whales are able to talk, monsters have human qualities, and a lung and haircut have a relationship. Schomburg’s mixture of everyday meditations and bizarre occurrences will grip readers' attention. In “Policy for Whales,” Schomburg presents readers with the bizarre idea that,“There was a whale singing a sincere and flawless rendition of The Thrill is Gone in a nightclub.” As the poem demonstrates, Schomburg exercises admirable control over his juxtapositions, and thus leaves the reader amused and satisfied.

For a debut collection of poetry, it is a longer book at 105 pages, but Schomburg has divided it into several sections. The sections are little chapbooks that intensify the strangeness of the world he has created. The first of these chapbooks tells the story of two phones. In one poem the speaker says, “There is a man around here somewhere, in the woods behind my house, who has a white telephone for a head. He has loud buzzing chainsaws for arms.” Audiences will find enjoyment in the uncanny, and be reminded of the weird things they might have imagined as children, when the world was still fresh and unexplored.

“What Everyone Started Wearing” is one of the strangest poems of the collection. It begins, “Everyone started wearing small log cabins on their heads. They opened the windows so they could see each other, and they opened the front doors so they could speak to each other.” The idea seems unreal to a reader, yet it is delivered in such a matter-of-fact manner that we may want to acquire log cabins for our own heads, becoming the newest victims of contagious fashion.

Schomburg shifts from prose poems to free verse through the collection. The first poem, “The Monster Hour,” is a prose poem, while other poems like “Letter to the Late Baron” demand line breaks in order to dramatize the narrative of the story. The shifting of styles allows the reader to simply absorb the stories and laugh at the bizarre humor. This shift in format is quite effective, as the poems never become daunting to the reader, despite the risks taken throughout.

The other chapbook sections also tell stories of the strange, with titles like “Abraham Lincoln’s Death Scene” and “[Opera Singer].” The strange becomes expected and the normal unexpected with The Man Suit, to the extent that we may begin viewing our surroundings differently, perhaps with a more suspicious eye. The phone ringing on our desk may not be a phone after all.

--Frank DePoole, Assistant Editor

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Contributor Interview # 1 - Jeff Newberry

Welcome to Barn Owl Review's first contributor interview! Jeff Newberry, who has two poems in BOR #1, has a few things to say about writing, reading, and the life of a poet.

ST: First, the basics. When did you start writing and why?

JN: I began writing stories at a young age—ten or eleven, if I remember correctly. One summer, a hurricane hit my home town (Port St. Joe, Florida), and we lost power for about two weeks. My mother, father, brother and I subsisted on canned water and Red Cross sandwiches. While my father and mother listened to the radio for any news, I began writing a story in a red composition book. It was silly, a story about a boy and a sea captain who go on a cruise around the Florida Keys, cut through the Panama Canal, and wind up somewhere in Alaska. My mother liked it, however, and showed it to the local high school’s honors English teacher. She liked it, too. Later, when I took her class as a sophomore in high school, she let me write short stories in lieu of essay assignments.

I didn’t write poetry seriously until graduate school. I was an English major throughout my undergraduate career, a rather directionless student with the vague idea of being a novelist. I’d taken a poetry workshop or two as an undergrad, but most of what I wrote was proto-Beatnik nonsense, stuff inspired by my (mis)reading of Howl and Kerouac.

My first semester as a graduate student, I began reading lots of contemporary poetry, thanks to a workshop I was in that term. The first poet that really stuck with me then was Philip Levine. I liked some poetry—scattered anthology pieces by Eliot, Yeats, and Stevens—but Levine was the first living poet that I admired. It sounds silly now, but as I read his lyrical narratives of doomed, angry young men, trapped in nowhere jobs, I thought, “This is poetry? You can write about things like this?” From there, I began to write my own poetry.

ST: Where do you find inspiration? What themes or images keep popping up in your work?

JN: I find inspiration in many places: the sound of a car, the way the sky seems a strange color of blue on certain mornings. I’ve drawn also lots of inspiration from my faith. As a professing Christian, I realize the dangers of proselytizing in my work: I try my hardest never to provide answers when I write about my faith. Answers are easy; questions are hard. Questions are urgent. Questions inspire me.

I find a lot of inspiration in music, too. I listen widely. I love jazz--Miles Davis and Bill Evans (particularly Scott Lafaro’s bass playing on Sunday at the Village Vanguard); Blues players like Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, scads of others; rock groups as diverse Nirvana and Wilco; soul singers like Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway; country artists like Allison Kraus and Johnny Cash; even hip-hop artists like MF DOOM, Paul Barman, and Ugly Duckling.

As far as themes are concerned, I think I write about the same things again and again: the past, fathers and sons, dead-end jobs in dead-end towns, the impossibility of knowing, the paradoxes of faith. In an odd way, I think that all of these things are somehow interrelated, though I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly how.

ST: What are you reading?

JN: Right now, I’m rereading Al Maginnes’s Film History, a fine book of poems. I love how Maginnes’s poetry straddles the line between lyric and narrative, the way his words dwell in the shadows of the stories he tells. I’ve also been reading Jake Adam York’s new book, A Murmuration of Starlings. Jake’s one of my favorite poets writing today. He does this whole “documentary lyric” thing that I find really cool. My major professor at the University of Georgia is Ed Pavlic, and I’ve been reading his new book, Winners Have Yet to Be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway. It’s a fine book, too, an extended mediation on music, love, and life. That sounds abstract, but I think it’s true.

ST: Who are your biggest influences (literary, mentors, other)?

JN: I think I’m influenced in a wide variety of ways by a wide variety of things. I mentioned Scott Lafaro earlier; his bass playing is a major influence on my sense of rhythm. Buddy Guy’s guitar playing influences my work, too: he works often in these florid clusters of sound, something I’ve tried to mimic in writing.

Poetically, the poets I turn to time and again are Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, T.S. Eliot, Yusef Komunyakaa, and a few others. A poet whose work is very different from mine but still inspires me is Theodore Enslin. I love the way Enslin composes with words.

However, I gain as much inspiration from prose writers, too: Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Judson Mitcham, Annie Dillard, a few others.

ST: You have a chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Would you tell us a bit about the series and working with the press?

JN: I submitted to Finishing Line’s Open Chapbook contest this past year. I’d been submitting my chapbook, A Visible Sign, to various publishers and contest for about two years.

The publisher has been wonderful. Leah and Kevin Maines keep me very informed about the book. They answer email (sometimes immediately). As the book has not been published just yet, I can’t say too much about the press. I can say that my friend John Guzlowski published his chapbook with Finishing Line and speaks very highly of the press. Finishing Line designs a beautiful book and maintains an online bookstore. Those are two of the main reasons I submitted to the press.

ST: What’s your submission strategy?

JN: I like to send to places that publish work I like: Copper Nickel, The Eleventh Muse, The Cortland Review, lots of others. If I like the work that the journal publishes, then I’ll usually submit, if I think what I have will fit with the journal’s aesthetic.

My main strategy? Read. Read. Read. And then, just to be certain, read a bit more. Know thy market, poet.

ST: Which literary journals (besides Barn Owl Review, of course) do you enjoy most?

JN: I love The Cortland Review. Their audio features draw me every time. I also really enjoy Copper Nickel. I read Image on a regular basis. I also like a newer journal called Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression. The Pebble Lake Review never disappoints. I also really like DIAGRAM, storySouth, and The Hobble Creek Review.

ST: What advice would you give to writers who are just starting to send out their work?

JN: Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read.

And then read more.

Seriously, read literary journals. Since so many are available online these days, writers don’t have any excuse not to read contemporary work (indeed, why wouldn’t you want to read?). Submit to journals that print poets you like. Submit to journals that print poems you like. I’d stay away from blindly submitting. When I first started writing seriously, about 8 or 10 years ago now, I used to submit blindly. I’d read the classifieds in Poets & Writers and carpet bomb ten or fifteen journals with packets of five poems, all simultaneous subs.

However, I got my first real hit in storySouth, a journal I submitted to because I loved. I’d been in a couple of smaller journals before storySouth. But after that, I started reading the contributor’s notes of writers whose work I enjoyed in the journals I read. Then, I began reading those journals, voraciously.

ST: How do you support your poetry habit?

JN: I am working on my doctorate at the University of Georgia. I’m in the Creative Writing Program, so my dissertation will be a full-length collection of poetry along with a long apologia on craft. I finished my coursework in Spring 2007, so now, ostensibly, I’m studying for comprehensive examinations. Like all doctoral students at UGA, I’m studying three major areas: Creative Writing (Poetry and Craft), American Modernism, and 20th Century British Literature. However, I am also a full-time Assistant Professor of English, so my time is very hard to manage. Couple these things with taking care of a ten-month old, and I’m sure you can understand how busy I am.

I teach at a small college in south Georgia, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), and I applied for academic leave in order to do my coursework. The administration assented, and I applied for an FDIG (Faculty Development in Georgia) Grant, which I received. That money helped pay for my coursework. I’m very grateful to teach in the University System of Georgia. Additionally, I’m very happy to be at ABAC. My colleagues are very supportive of my writing. They usually go out of their way to come to any readings I’m giving.

ST: So you’re a new dad. Has being a parent changed your writing?

JN: Having Benjamin has been (warning, cliché coming) life-changing. Looking at him, I can’t even express how I feel to myself, much less in poetry. If having Ben has changed my writing, I’ve not noticed those changes yet. I suspect that the changes are small: tiny shifts in perception and values. I’ve not written much about him, yet. I write so much about my own father that I’m not even sure how to address my son in a poem: in much of the poetry I have written, I am the son.

ST: I noticed sound (music, voice, rhythm, etc.) plays a large part of both “Transposition” and “Fishing the Bridge.” How does your work as a poet interact with your interest in music?

JN: I’ve played guitar for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember not playing. Over the past few years, I’ve taught myself bass and mandolin. Music is very much a part of who I am. If I’m not thinking about a poem, I’m generally thinking about a piece of music.

My mentor at UGA, Ed Pavlic, urged me to push the music in my lines. He taught me about rhythm; he taught me how to compose with my words. I think of the rhythm of a poem the same way I think about the rhythm of a piece of music: it has to feel right. The words and the rhythm have to form an organic whole. One has to blend into the other like a vocal harmony.


Jeff Newberry in Barn Owl Review:
from "Fishing the Bridge"

On the abandoned bridge, my brother & I
Cast snatch hooks, glowing lures fish strike

On instinct. We talk about this late heat,
Sip Miller Lite, keep our words weightless:
The mill's shut-down, next season's

Defensive line. We don't mention
A mildew-streaked white house. A father
dead ten years.

Ohiotica: Jeff feels that although "Cleveland Rocks" made a fine theme song for "The Drew Carey Show," he prefers the more subdued "Moon over Parma" opening.

Still want to know more about Jeff? He blogs, and you can see more of his work here and here.


Look for our next interview, with poet Gary McDowell, at the end of the month.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Only the Senses Sleep by Wayne Miller

New Issues, 2006

Wayne Miller’s first book, Only the Senses Sleep, is a city shrouded in ice like a “basket of broken glass,” an upstairs apartment with blank walls, and a desk drawer filled with living watches and black and white photographs. Drawing on international poets, photographers and artists, Senses is an intellectual study in contemporary society. But these poems are not over-thought or over-educated; each detached observation has an underlying emotional resonance, sometimes obvious, sometimes only hinted. This is one of Miller’s talents: to balance seemingly contradictory elements. In this collection, Miller composes an urban landscape that somehow feels sparse and minimalistic even as he piles layer after layer of detail in his reader’s lap.

While many first books appear to be a collection of disparate poems gathered and held together by little more than a cover, Miller’s work is a cohesive whole. His use of the colors and images of winter; snow, ice, and muted blues (like “breastmilk blue” in “Sunrise Study”) and grays (smoke, ashes, fog, the “dull gray crisscross / of moonlit tracks” in “Night Stop”) throughout Senses help each poem, even those with dissimilar subject matter, to build upon those around it. There is a chill in almost every poem, a billowing wind that makes readers want to grab the nearest sweater. And while the world of Senses is often frigid, as seen in poems like “November Wind” and “Ice Storm,” the speaker is not. The iced-over landscape allows for subtle access to emotions, as seen in here: "buried stone walls he must remember / into being. // Yesterday’s cold East River / is extant and unbreathable— // dark air in a forever /snow-sealed barn." ("Vermont")

Thankfully, Miller doesn’t leave his readers out in the cold. He invites them in, wraps them in a faded afghan, and leaves the room so they can snoop through his dresser drawers. Senses is a catalog of small things, the clutter that gathers in a room: sand, wax, blank paper, pay stubs, books that “open and close like valves.” What makes these groups of items more than mere lists is the associative quality that Miller lends them. The willingness to play with syntax and the ability to gather unlike objects in a logical manner allows the random groupings to work on multiple levels, as seen in “Elegy”:

Your phone number on the fridge

—your voice—or the baby teeth
boxed in your mother’s closet.

Or the stack of letters you left

beside your mattress, half-
covered by your blanket.

Or your blanket.

If there’s anything to critique in Senses (besides the frost-bite), it would be Miller’s tendency to leave things open-ended. Some readers may be surprised to turn a page and find a new poem instead of a final stanza, and in many of those final stanzas, Miller chooses to end with a dash instead of a period. It’s clear that his intention is to create suspense or to bring readers back to the poem for a second or third reading, but there is a sense of frustration that no conclusions are provided. Still, Miller seems to have crafted these endings as carefully as any image throughout the book and to be aware of exactly what it evokes in the reader: “I can’t / understand what I’ve learned, // except figuratively. // And why that isn’t enough.” (Elegy)

--Sara Tracey

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Owl of One's Own

Barn Owl Review #1 is now on sale!

$12 includes domestic shipping. Contributors will receive two free copies, to be sent out this week, plus $5 for additional copies (email me for this rate). Hooray!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another glorious new arrival

Anti- is alive! Look at that lineup! I'm especially fond of the poem by Jay Robinson, but perhaps I'm a little biased.

Many congrats, Steve!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Scoop

Barn Owl Review #1 is here! The journal will debut at the AWP bookfair next week, and after that we will open up paypal sales (link will be posted as soon as we're ready to go). Don't worry--we are going to stockpile a bunch so that we don't sell out at AWP, and we're already prepared to do a second printing, if needed. Thanks to everyone who has asked about copies.

It's always so thrilling to see a brand new journal. I've worked for several other magazines--RHINO, ACM, Mid-American Review-- but I've never been so intimately involved in a project. I am so happy to say that the quality of the journal (and the writing inside it) far surpassed my expectations. Thank you to all of the editors, to the contributors, and to our readers to be.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Check out this bad boy...

It's a pretty good bet when BOR rolls up at AWP in this ride, heads will turn.
To finance the BORmobile and the fuel it requires, issue 1 will sell for $2,500. Each.
(This is a joke. This is only a joke.)