In his electric debut collection, Maldonado bends poems through bilingual lyrics that present spartan observation as evidence for its exacting verdict, “We never leave when life is elsewhere. The clemency of men disappears / as does the light, tarring the roofs.”
Pavlić’s lyric lines are equal parts introspection and inter-spection, a term he coins for the shared rumination that encourages a collective “deep think” about the arbitrary boundaries that perpetuate racial and geographic segregation and the power of words to transcend those differences.
Lippman’s poems are wildly inventive yet grounded in the 21st century dailyness of parenting and dinner parties and Dunkin Donuts, all of which serve as launch pads into perennial questions of mercy and trust.
“Because it is easier to miss a stranger / with your mother’s name,” Allison Benis White instead writes about five women named Wendy as a way into the complex grief that still lingers after the death of a sixth Wendy, the author’s long-absent mother.
These poems consider how one becomes the parent of another when their own uncertainties, their own wounds — intergenerationally from war, from strained race relations, from constantly being denied a place to belong — are still healing.
This week, we had the opportunity to speak with Sailaja Joshi, founder of Mangold & Marigold Press.
Could you tell us about why you started Bharat Babies? What gap did you see?
With the impending birth of my first child, I was searching for books about my Indian culture. Upon reading the few stories that existed, I realized that many of them were inappropriate or worse, insensitive.
Knowing the power of representation, I decided that I would not raise my daughter in a world where she wouldn’t see herself on the cover of a book as the hero. So with my sister and a close friend, we set out to change home libraries. The first book we released was Hanuman and the Orange Sun. And WOW did we see some magic with kids seeing themselves firsthand.
Since we were founded in 2015, the state of diverse books has improved but there’s still a long way to go to close this diversity gap. In 2018, 50% of books depicted white kids and 27% featured animals or others leaving the remaining 23% to be divided between characters of diverse backgrounds. We are a company dedicated to closing this diversity gap and we won’t stop!
Could you talk about the name change from Bharat Babies to Mango & Marigold?
Bharat Babies started as a small, mission-driven boutique publishing house and turned into a movement. With award-winning books across multiple categories, features in national media and international tv, we’ve helped to showcase the importance of diversity in children’s literature and make a stand for representation.
When we started, our vision was to share the stories of our home, our heritage, of India. It’s why we selected our name Bharat Babies, to reflect the home of our families and the community we were trying to reach. But over the past few years, we’ve quickly realized just how much more work needs to be done. We’ve realized that the stories of the entire South Asian experience need to be told. Stories that go beyond the borders of India. Stories that go beyond childhood.
After nearly two years of reflection and conversations, our team decided to make a change to our name. A change that will reflect our broader mission and vision behind our brand. A change that reflects our path forward.
So in January 2020, Bharat Babies transitioned to the name Mango and Marigold Press, an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience.
With a new look, a new tagline, our vision is to continue to share the stories of the South Asian experience, expanding beyond children’s literature to the likes of middle grade, young adult, and more. In addition, we expand our borders beyond those of India to include countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and more.
What makes your press unique?
Our books open up the world, reflecting a broader picture of the world at large. Even in 2020, the number of books that feature non-white characters is shockingly low. We aim to close not only the diversity gap but also the accessibility gap. In 2019, we founded our #1001DiverseBooks initiative. Members of the community sponsor our new release books for just $10 and that copy is donated to nonprofit and literacy advocacy organizations who then get these books into the hands of those who need them the most.
When you buy a Mango & Marigold Press book you ensure that every child sees themselves as the hero of their story. When children see themselves in the ordinary and extraordinary, they realize that anything is possible.
Could you tell us some highlights from the last year?
Oh wow! We have had such an exciting year with starting our #1001DiverseBooks campaign, rebranding, and officially releasing our very first young adult anthology, untold: defining moments of the uprooted, and middle grade novel,Rea and the Blood of the Nectar. We have so many more books that are coming and we can’t wait to share them with the world! are in the process of rolling out more middle grade and young adult content.
Our #1001DiverseBooks initiative is the heartbeat of our expanded mission to bridge both the accessibility and diversity gap within children (and young adult) literature by providing new, high quality diverse books in underserved communities. We launched this initiative with our 14th book Finding Om and reached their goal of raising funds for 1001 books in just five short days.
What are you looking forward to with Mango & Marigold in 2021?
OH MAN! SO MANY INCREDIBLE THINGS! I still cannot believe that this year we will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of Mango and Marigold Press. Stay tuned as we have a lot of wonderful scripts coming out, and I’m so honored to be a part of that wonderful, exciting process. I also love how so many amazing new, Desi mompreneurs have come onto the scene and it makes my heart so so happy to see us paving such a wonderful path forward for our children.
I would like to see my team change the world. No, that’s too proud and broad. Or actually, on second thought, not too proud. I truly believe that there is so much power in literature to create meaningful conversations about diversity at all ages and this will change the world!
In this Q&A, we spoke with Meg Kearney, Founding Director, and Quintin Collins, Assistant Director, at Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.
What exactly is a Master of Fine Arts degree, and why do I need one?
It’s the terminal degree necessary for those who wish to teach at the college level. Most of our students want to earn an MFA for three reasons: community, networking opportunities, and—this is the main one—to become the strongest writers they can be.
What concentrations do you offer?
Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and writing for young people. We are also building a cohort to start our comics & graphic narratives concentration in summer/fall 2021.
What does “low-residency” mean, and what are the benefits of a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program?
It means you don’t need to move to Boston to earn your degree. Our students want to learn not only the craft of writing but also how to make writing and reading a regular practice alongside life’s other obligations. During our two-year program, students attend five 10-day residencies, then work 1:1 with a mentor each semester. By graduation, they have a craft foundation, an understanding of how to publish their work, and a supportive community of fellow writers, many of whom become lifelong friends.
What makes the Solstice MFA Program different from other low-residency programs out there?
Our community. You’d be hard-pressed to find a friendlier, more supportive group. And from our founding in 2006, we’ve been dedicated to a diverse faculty of world-class writers who love to teach—in a setting intimate enough to have real conversations. We’ve found that intimacy exists even when our residencies are virtual because of COVID! Our Pedagogy Track also sets us apart. There’s more—writers should contact us to learn more.
Say more about how you encourage cross-genre work.
We certainly encourage students to take craft classes across genres during our residencies. Also, students may focus on a completely different genre in semester two than they did in semester one. Writers who have an MFA can check out our Post-Grad Programs to study in another genre.
You say you support diverse voices. How?
By featuring a diverse faculty. Solstice also offers Fellowships and our Writers Helping Writers Scholarships. Plus, our flexible schedule enables students to complete our program at a pace best suited to them.
What is a typical residency like/how is it structured?
Virtual or on-campus, the basic schedule is the same: students spend three hours a day in workshop. They fill the rest of the time with craft classes, elective sessions (including publishing-related events), and readings. By day seven, students receive mentor assignments and begin creating their semester plans.
Because of COVID-19, you held a virtual residency in July 2020. How did that go? Will you go virtual again this winter 2021?
We went virtual, and we waived our application fee because of the economic stress most are under. The virtual residency went smoothly; we were all surprised by how intimate Zoom can feel. We ensured that everyone felt comfortable with the technology. So yes, we’ll be virtual again this winter; it’s best for everyone’s health and safety.
How much contact do I have with my mentors?
Quite a lot. Often, they are your workshop leaders. When on campus, students and faculty typically share meals and attend readings and social events together. Students and mentors then exchange packets once a month. By the end of the semester, students have a treasure-trove of written feedback.
So students send five packets to their mentor during each semester—please say more about that?
Year one, packets are a combination of the students’ creative work plus short craft essays based on what they’re reading. During semester three, students write a critical thesis, also craft-based—or pedagogy based if the student is in our Pedagogy Track. In semester four, students complete their creative thesis—say, a full-length collection of poems or short stories or the first 130 to 150 polished pages of a novel or memoir.
That’s the second mention you’ve made of the Pedagogy Track. What is that, exactly?
The Pedagogy Track gives students training to teach at the college level—at no extra charge. As one of the few low-residency programs to offer this Track, Solstice gives its grads a leg up as they seek work in higher education.
How would you describe the typical Solstice MFA Program student?
They hail from 15 different states and beyond and range in age from 22 to 60-plus. Their backgrounds are as various as their geographic locations! But they all share a passion for the written word and seek a community that is friendly, open-minded, and supportive.
How do you support students financially?
Through Fellowships and our Writers Helping Writers Scholarships, which are need-based. And we keep our tuition and fees low—Solstice is quite competitive in that regard compared to most other low-residency MFA programs.
How do you support students academically?
Our community is purposely small; students get lots of individual attention. Workshops are kept to ten or fewer; our student-to-mentor ratio is 5:1. And we offer students myriad resources. Again, writers should contact us to learn more.
How do you support your alumni?
We love our alums, and they love us, too! We write them monthly, feature an alumni event at every residency, crow about them in our e-newsletter and on social media, and offer a “grad buddy” program to help see new alums through those first post-graduation months. Our alumni also organize a reading at every annual AWP conference.
You mentioned a post-grad program and a certificates—say a bit more?
How do your alumni fare in the publishing and academic job market?
While a number of them are landing teaching jobs, 30 percenthave published at least one book since graduation. That amazing statistic covers many genres: books of poetry, memoirs, short story collections, and novels for adults and for young people.
Is there anything new in the works that you’d like to mention?
We’re excited about the Writing Social Justice Track launching in 2021. It’s going to be like nothing else, and we can’t think of a more crucial time to offer this sort of programming.
Game Over Books is a small Boston-based press run by nerdy artists. Our mission? Print unique books from diverse voices that push creative writing forward into the Next Level. From acceptance to publication, we give continual guidance to emerging writers as they continue to gain experience points, grow their craft, and navigate the world of publishing.
We are so excited to be a part of the 2020 Boston Book Festival and want to thank the festival staff for hosting this necessary virtual space!
I Wish I Wasn’t Royalty: A Playable Chapbook
I Wish I Wasn’t Royalty is a poetic and artistic collaboration among four bipolar poets and a bipolar poet/illustrator resulting in a functional 52-card playing card deck. A standard card deck (ex: the classic Bicycle Poker Deck) contains four suits: hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. I Wish I Wasn’t Royalty follows the same format. Each of the four poets is given a suit in which their poem is written across.
All of the cards and deck boxes will be sized like standard poker cards: 2.5″ x 3.5″.
The cards are printed in color on both sides and feature custom artwork from Catherine Weiss. The backs of the cards will all be uniform, but the faces of the cards are individually designed with an illustration and one line from a featured poet’s poem.
Living with bipolar disorder is often full of surprising juxtapositions. Mania can cause thoughts to make unexpected connections. Depression can bring confusion and a sense of distant unreality. Every line of every poem in I Wish I Wasn’t Royalty is designed to be a stand-alone thought or image, read as part of its whole poem, or combined in unexpected ways with cards from other suits. Playing a game of cards with this deck creates opportunities for poetic fragments to offer up an ever-shifting found poem, which echoes the experience of living with extreme mood-states.
Any game you can play with a standard 52-card deck, you will be able to play with I Wish I Wasn’t Royalty. For more information, click here.
Sana Sana by Ariana Brown
“I am thankful to once again be witness to these poems that welcome and make space for the people who most need it. And for how Ariana Brown sets a lens on the world that is critical, but always caring.” —Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Fortune for Your Disaster
After ten years of performing her spoken word poetry, Ariana Brown gathers her favorite poems to return to in her chapbook Sana Sana. With a tender and critical voice, she explores Black girlhood, the possibilities of queerness, finding your people, and trying to survive capitalism. All are explored as acts of different kinds of love—for self, for lovers, for family, for community. Brown’s collection refuses singularity, insisting on the specificity of her own life and studies. As she writes toward her own healing, Brown asks readers to participate in the ceremony by serving as witnesses. Sana Sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sana en la mañana.
“Dena Igusti is a poet of undying urgency – this is a bold, heart-shattering chapbook debut.” —George Abraham, author of Birthright (Button Poetry)
In a post-colonial world shaped by what is and what will be lost, what is there left to celebrate? In Dena Igusti’s debut collection CUT WOMAN, Dena is overwhelmed by the loss of her people. The loss includes but is not limited to: the deaths of Muslims around the world due to xenophobia and Islamophobia; the deaths of Indonesians as a result of post-colonialism, state violence, environmental racism, and overall media negligence due to the world prioritizing white people over her own; the mortality of friends, lovers, and family from economic disparity and gentrification in New York City; the loss of her body that could’ve been her body if she didn’t undergo female genital mutilation. She knows that one day, her time will be up too. Rather than stay in mourning, however, She tries to turn these wakes, both current and future, into the biggest celebrations of her life.
“we get to meet bodega cats, and Ariana Grande, her family and her loves, but most importantly we get to meet gigi: wholly human and wholly herself. this book is as tender as it is fierce, and will be opened like a gift by the hearts of so many.” —Andrea Gibson, author of Pansy and Take Me With You
Big Feelings is a grand tour of love and loss, femininity, and the nuances inherent in the simple messiness of just being alive. Bella masterfully works within the ambiguity of feelings that do not ever truly end, of what it feels like to be a ghost within those feelings, and she guides the reader through the origin point of every haunting. She navigates the tragedies of heartbreak, the experience of brown girlhood, the loneliness ingrained within artists, and the courage it takes to get back up again even when it feels like you have already died many times before. With compassion and much needed humor, Big Feelings allows us the necessary space to be alone with one another.
“Yet this is a collection wrought, too, with something like hope—something, at least, like the belief that new names might grow in the old one’s place.” —Franny Choi, author of Soft Science
Heavier Than Wait is a tender guide to a queer experience in mental illness. Evander challenges the idea that apathy equals stability through her exploration of dysmorphia and dissociation in mental health. Here, the body is not just a thing of flesh, but a being filled with possibility and bound by tangibility. Using hypertext, memory, and interrogation of truth, Evander showcases the pains and hopes of healing.
“These poems circle the unknown until we recognize it as already part of us. I read them & feel smaller than I realized I was, but what a gift to find the known universe granular as it travels through Pierce’s lens, at once exploding & perfected by attention. Here, the vocabulary of particle physics, of math, of medicine, of humility, of grief, of orbit, is a limitless love language we all have in common.” —Emily O’Neill, author of a falling knife has no handle
The Visible Planets is a celebration and a eulogy of galactic proportions. Simultaneously an exploration of universal joy and the mourning of a lost sister, Aly Pierce’s The Visible Planets is a reminder of all the beauty in this fleeting life. Utilizing the cosmos and its celestial bodies, Pierce exposes the juxtaposing starlight and black holes inherent in every human. Along the way the reader will meet a colorful cast of characters including Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, and Phobos who all have their own flaws, insecurities, and desires just like any body in this universe would. The Visible Planets request the reader to love as deeply as they can while they have the time and space because eventually every star must fade no matter how bright it is.
Today’s blog post was contributed by Leora Zeitlin, co-director of Zephyr Press.
Towards the end of her life, Anna Akhmatova wrote:
What is lurking in the mirror? Grief.
What is stirring beyond the wall? Calamity.
Having lived through the violent upheavals of the Russian Revolution, two world wars, and the Stalinist terror, she had chronicled both her personal grief and calamities, and those of Russia, in more than eight hundred poems. Her early poems, often expressing anguished love, inspired a generation of Russians in the years before World War I. Later, refusing to leave the Soviet Union, she gave voice to the suffering of all of Russia.
Seventeen years after her death in 1966, a proposal to publish her complete poems arrived at the fledgling Zephyr Press in Somerville, Massachusetts. Poet Judith Hemschemeyer had already spent a decade translating Akhmatova’s poems before her friend and colleague Susan Gubernat—one of five editors then at Zephyr—presented them to us. We were young and audacious enough to think we could undertake this massive task: publish what would become a 1,600-page, two-volume, bilingual edition that would be the first of its kind in either Russian or English.
No one imagined that preparing the first edition would take seven years. Zephyr editor Ed Hogan spearheaded the project, coordinating myriad details to create, finance, and design the encyclopedic edition. We enlisted Dr. Roberta Reeder, a scholar at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Center, who became the book’s overall editor, wrote a 160-page introduction, and compiled notes to the poems. British philosopher and historian Isaiah Berlin gave us permission to reprint his famous essay about his few but fateful conversations with Akhmatova between 1945 and 1965. Two of Akhmatova’s protégés, Dmitry Bobyshev and Anatoly Naiman, provided invaluable feedback on the manuscript and information about the poet. Numerous others were involved. In March 1990, The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova was published to immediate acclaim. Two years later, we published an English-only, single-volume edition.
Several tragedies befell the project, most notably the death of Ed Hogan in 1997. Diverse factors sustained it. Thirty years later, the book remains in print and Akhmatova’s fame as one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets continues to grow. To honor our book’s 30th anniversary, Zephyr Press has planned two events in one weekend:
Saturday, October 17, 1:30 EDT: As part of the Boston Book Festival, Zephyr co-editors Jim Kates and Leora Zeitlin, and former editor Susan Gubernat, will present a reading of Akhmatova’s poems—chosen by translator Judith Hemschemeyer —and a discussion about The Complete Poems.
Sunday, October 18 (time TBA): Zephyr will present a dramatic reading online of The Akhmatova Journals, a play by Ginger Lazarus based on the journals kept by Akhmatova’s associate, Lydia Chukovskaya. Through conversations between the two women and poems—notably from Akhmatova’s monumental “Requiem”—the play dramatizes the terror, anguish, poverty, and losses they experienced under Stalin. Actresses Lisa Bostnar and Gillian Mackay-Smith will perform. Full details will be posted at zephyrpress.org.
december’s Fall/Winter 2020 issue (Vol. 31.2) is in production and we can’t wait to share the contents with the Boston Book Festival! The new issue will be out in early November — you can pre-order now or save money with a subscription! Here are a few of the highlights, with order details afterward:
Interview with Marvin Bell
Veteran journalist/emerging poet Robert Lowes interviews Bell, author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry and essays. Referring to Bell as a mash-up of Walt Whitman, comedian Larry David, and your favorite uncle telling dinnertime yarns, this interview provides details of Bell’s philosophies of poetry and life.
Curt Johnson Prose Award Winners
Don’t miss the winning stories and essays from the 2020 Curt Johnson Prose Awards, judged by Dorothy Allison (fiction) and Brittney Cooper (nonfiction).
Alverdia lived with her mother at the end of Buck Run Road.
Alverdia would bring her mother a paper towel-lined Tupperware of fried turtle. When
Alverdia lifted the turtle out of the plastic, she could see through the yellowed paper towel
because of all the oil.
If her mother hadn’t smoked in two days, she’d eat the turtle with her thin hands. She’d
ask what Alverdia learned in school, and Alverdia would tell her mother that it was summer and she wasn’t in school.
From “For Fear of Thin” by award-winning writer Noah Davis
Run your blade along the lines
that keep the head intact, then down
like slicing a watermelon—
From “To Kill a Chicken” by emerging Indonesian poet Jeddie Sophronius
evening we will sleep
flush against the soft summer
ground with the scattering of
helium globes so far above us.
— From “Abecedarian at Summer Camp” by emerging poet Emma Harrington
Visit us at https://decembermag.org to buy single issues, subscriptions, or some of our great merchandise! We can’t wait to meet you — virtually for now, in-person soon!
We at Black Lawrence Press are so delighted to participate in the 2020 Virtual Boston Book Fest! Although we can’t be there in person this year, we’d like to celebrate our new and forthcoming titles by authors in the Boston area.
If you’d like to know how to hold the wide world in your heart, this book is a beginning. Jason Tandon does not offer broad brushstrokes to explain our days, but sharply cut lyrics. I love his sensibility. I love his spirit. —Richard Jones
In this full-length debut, Enzo Silon Surin traverses the turns of coming of age in the New York of the 1990s. In these sonically-packed stanzas, Surin draws scenes where hip hop and Haiti flow through the borough of Queens. He elegizes a friend named Frankie, and interrogates how masculinity is so often flexed like the knuckles of an ever-ready fist, even when vulnerability pulses underneath. —Tara Betts
In astonishing lyrics that give us more than intimate negotiations of memory, the poems in Women in the Waiting Room work an entrancing weave of Hindu mythology, ravishing songs, and the language of crisis hotlines as a means of limning the fate of women’s bodies and psychological distress.. I call this life on the page, one you’ll be happy to encounter. —Major Jackson
Lindsay Illich’s Fingerspell is not only a book of elegy, motherhood, and eros; it’s also a book of astonishing, idiosyncratic seeing—in which knee caps are like “stone fruit,” the city of Washington DC represents “the remains of an idea,” grief is an accumulation of snow “into which / the heart sinks,” the act of waiting is “a splint // my body’s wrapped against,” and the sound of a running vacuum is evidence of love. —Wayne Miller
In 1650, in Massachusetts, a woman was falsely accused of killing her friend’s child. She was immediately tried and soon hanged. The Shape of the Keyhole examines a community’s fear-driven silence and envisions the innocent woman’s days as she awaits her execution.
Check Out Massachusetts Libraries’ Upcoming Events!
We know this is a difficult time for everyone. In addition to everything else you do, you’ve had to become teachers and chefs, you haven’t been able to go to the gym or take your kids to the playground, and you’ve had to adjust to a life at home. You might be an essential worker who has to continue going to work and worry about childcare and what your kids are doing while you are not there. The world has been turned upside down, and everyone is looking for some sense of normalcy.
Since March, we have been working to create online resources for the services you love and expect from your library, directly for you, the library user, while library doors are closed. It has all been made possible by the hardworking librarians across the Commonwealth who have continued serving their cities and towns in new and creative ways to make sure that books are delivered, programs are put on, and reference questions are answered. Libraries miss their residents as much as residents miss their libraries!
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has partnered with the Massachusetts Library System, the Automated Library Sharing Networks, and the Boston Public Library to bring you online digital resources you can access from home. These include the Online Calendar of Virtual Library Events, the Massachusetts Video Library, and the LEA eBook and audiobook program.
Right now, libraries are taking into mind the safety and health of staff and their users and doing what is best for their community, which means not all libraries are offering the same in person services right now. Some are doing curbside pickup, while others are still closed to the public. Contact your local library to see what they are doing now, and take advantage of the digital resources below.
The library events that you love haven’t stopped while library buildings are closed, they have just moved online. Librarians, performers, and speakers have continued presenting the programming that you love virtually for free. Since there are so many events happening that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, we have created the Online Library Events Calendars that are searchable by Network to see what events are happening around the state that you can attend even if they aren’t hosted by your local library. Some upcoming events include:
Tarot Card Readings with Sally Cragin
Host/Venue: Bigelow Free Public Library
Start: Oct 14th 6:30 PM
End: Oct 14th 8:00 PM
Virtual Tour of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Host/Venue: Hyannis Public Library
Start: Oct 14th 6:00 PM
Virtual Yoga Class
Host/Venue: Lynnfield Public Library
Start: Oct 15th 12:00 PM
End: Oct 15th 1:00 PM
Family Singalong with Ed Morgan
Host/Venue: Concord Free Public Library
Start: Oct 16th 10:00 AM
Working with the First Lady of the Commonwealth, Lauren Baker and public libraries across the state, we created the Video Library with fun and educational videos to make home-learning a bit easier for kids and parents. These videos have been created by library staff and volunteers and feature story times, sing-a-longs, art projects and more. Mrs. Baker even recorded a story time with the book “Sleepy Mr. Sloth” by Paul Kennedy.
Massachusetts Library Networks are collaborating to bring you LEA, a new and innovative way to gain access to more eBooks and audiobooks. Powered by OverDrive, LEA makes it possible for you to borrow eContent in all Networks regardless of your home library. With LEA, you can access eBooks, audiobooks, and more from libraries across the Commonwealth using your phone, tablet, or eReader. There are 345 partnering libraries with an estimated collection of over 350,000 eBooks and audiobooks.
These are only some of the great things that are happening as we speak at libraries in Massachusetts. Just because the doors are closed, doesn’t mean the services have ended. We hope that you will check out some of the free fun that is being offered, and that when libraries reopen to the public, we can’t wait to see you inside one of the 370 libraries in the Commonwealth borrowing books, using a computer, attending a program, or just stopping by to say hi!