blackbirdonline journalSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1

        Dedicated to the memory of Thomas B. Gay, educator, painter, poet, friend.
        (read more about Thomas B. Gay)

Each spring we use this reading loop to bring to your attention writers and artists whose work you may be encountering for the first time. In this issue, the group includes several who have already made their way to other lists, anthologies, and small presses acclaiming their remarkable work. We expect that you will be glad to discover them now—and to hear of them again later in their careers, as you no doubt will.

Caleb Braun    
In the three poems collected here, Caleb Braun moves between past and present as he reflects on the way experience becomes an emblem of being. In his poem “Objects, Permanence,” he writes, “We try to keep what makes us / memory, yours sealed / in their stilled craft, mine what smothers me soft in their telling.” These poems navigate the process of making meaning, a history, a self. The speakers of these poems are not individual, yet they are distinct. His poems ask, “What is it when it rains,” and ultimately, who are we? Caleb Braun
Catharina Coenen    
In her essay “Ulcerations,” Catharina Coenen creates space for us to witness the hardships her family faced in Germany in the wake of World War II. The essay focuses on her grandfather, Alfred, who suffered from stomach ulcers, and who “carried the body of his newborn daughter to the cemetery from the hospital three times. The first two times the earth was frozen too hard to dig a grave.” Coenen’s pared-back prose allows the reader to experience the narrative as if it were one’s own family history, linking us to the author and in turn, to Alfred.   Catharina Coenen
Colby Cotton    
Colby Cotton’s poems attempt to resolve the dissonances between the speakers’ lives and the worlds they inhabit. Vision is made, changed, and with it, the state of existence of the poems’ figures as they try to reconcile their perceptual mediations of reality. At times, being becomes tenuous. “Existence / is what populates these houses populating the hills. / Little clicks and sounds. That’s all living means.” In a continuous movement toward meaning, the poems and poet “lean [their] head . . . see new things in the old.”   Colby Cotton
Patricia García Luján    
In her story “People Like Us,” Patricia García Luján investigates class dynamics and a desire for belonging in a woman’s journey as an illegal surrogate for a wealthy couple in Madrid. Luján’s Andrea is surrounded by successful families in every facet of her life—her best friend, her roommate, and her ex. Luján examines what it means for Andrea to be tethered somewhere. “My mind starts to consider whether I’m capable of doing what they’re asking. Can I go about my day knowing a child of mine sleeps under another roof and calls someone else their mother?”   Patricia García Luján
Simon Shieh    
In these poems, Simon Shieh attempts to reconcile the role of masculinity in life and in writing. “I was in your house. I was wearing your son’s clothes. / You fed me steak—too rare— / and I felt wanted” Shieh writes in “exercise in keeping it all in,” as the speaker contends with violence, and the loss of his innocence. In Tracking the Muse Shieh writes of his poem “Self-Portrait:” “[the poem] tries to rescue the speaker from the cycle of violence and anger . . .” as the speaker thinks, “I have finally found myself beneath all this skin.”   Simon Shieh
Arhm Choi Wild    
Arhm Choi Wild’s poetry engages with the complex emotions and narratives of how the body and gender are perceived in the social sphere. In “It Is 6 p.m. on the 2 Train Downtown” they write: “a person will stare at me too long in the mirror / in the bathroom before leaving with lipstick smeared / across their teeth.” Their poems confront the tension between one’s body and one’s gender. In “When You Put on Your Binder Smelling Like Lavender,” they write: “You soothe your dry skin, flatten your chest so you can
bear / the mirror, and walk out the door.”
  Arhm Choi Wild
Lena Fultz    
Lena Fultz’s “Signals” examines a young girl who acts as a caretaker to her older brother, grappling with the idea of the two being separated. At the center of the story is the fear of the ever-present “you” taking her brother away from her. “Every time Nana’s hands shake more than usual or Papaw starts choking in his sleep, I get scared for the day you’ll try to take my brother away from me.” Fultz explores the effect socioeconomic disadvantage has on a family and a childhood, as well as how siblings sometimes need each other more than parental figures.  

Introductions texts appear in different sections of Blackbird but are organized in this alternative menu, a featured reading loop allowing easy navigation of related material.

A link to this “Introductions Reading Loop” menu appears at the bottom of every Introductions-related page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features.

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