An Exciting Announcement!

Hello to all!

On the behalf of CALYX, I get to make an exciting announcement… we have an upcoming project: the publication of our new Social Justice Reader! No title yet, the reader is still young, just a sapling of an idea being tended to, and at the moment we vaguely refer to it as the “SJR project” in our meetings. A large portion of my work of CALYX has been centered around helping this project grow, so I’m thrilled to finally be able to share this news with you!

This book will be an anthology of outstanding creative writing, both the poetry and prose of women previously published by CALYX, that revolves around the theme of social justice. Our hope is that apart from being a beautiful and emotionally moving experience for readers everywhere, this anthology will be able to serve as material for college courses, as fodder for discussion, and as balm for our activist souls. 

Spoken from the voices that are shaping international conversations on issues of race, class, colonialism, nation-building, motherhood, and sexuality, the materials for our anthology consist of beautiful and intensely thought out pieces that cover a vast range of experiences. With the Social Justice Reader, we hope to produce a timeless book that outrages, pierces, and ultimately inspires a new generation of activists.

Here’s to the incredible writers and history of CALYX and our new hopes and plans for the future!

Rhiannon Schaub, Intern

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A Feminist Utopia Reading List

Unless you have been contentedly nesting your days away under a rock, I’m sure you have witnessed the all-pervading media buzz surrounding Hulu’s new TV series based off of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a great watch, but also a great read. Befitting the resurgence in attention to Atwood’s feminist dystopia, I’ve put together a summer reading list of more imagined societies for you to explore. I originally read these books for my own casual literary research, which concentrates on ecofeminist criticism, and consequently every book covers both feminist and/or environmental themes in some regard. In addition, there’s a mix of both blissful utopias and disturbing dystopias, emerging cultures and *post-apocalyptic struggles. So if you need something to occupy your afternoons this summer (other than binge-watching netflix), take a trip to your nearest bookstore and buy a ticket to one of these strange lands, which might not be so far-off from future realities of our own…

*(And of course, if eco-apocolypse is your thing, check out Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest, originally published by CALYX Books.)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
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“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.”

Just in case you have been living under that rock, I’ll make this quick pitch: read The Handmaid’s Tale! It’s a contemporary classic of feminist literature, and in view of the skillful and chillingly memorable writing, it’s no mystery why.

The Cleft by Doris Lessing
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“In the last years of his life, a Roman senator embarks on one final epic endeavor, a retelling of the history of human creation. The story he relates is the little-known saga of the Clefts, an ancient community of women with no knowledge of nor need for men. Childbirth was controlled through the cycles of the moon, and only female offspring were born—until the unanticipated event that jeopardized the harmony of their close-knit society: the strange, unheralded birth of a boy.”

As always, Lessing’s sharply raw and unusual writing widens eyes. After finishing a book of hers, you’re left with a slight seasickness, as if your world has been tilted a few degrees and everything you thought you knew grips uneven terrain– The Cleft is no exception to this, but rather a prime example. The women, who once lived a placidly uneventful and synchronized existence with their environment, are suddenly faced with the emergence of man-against-nature struggle when the first human boys are brought into their society.  However, while I expected this book to be a black and white ode to feminine power in its original and unoppressed state, what I received instead was a complex picture: of the countless mistakes made by two imperfect genders in an emerging humanity, and how these genders came to fall into the distinctly structured roles that dominate our history.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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“Gilman employs humor to engaging effect in a story about three male explorers who stumble upon an all-female society isolated somewhere in South America. Noting the advanced state of the civilization they’ve encountered, the visitors set out to find some males, assuming that since the country is so civilized, “there must be men.”

Upon finishing the first third of this book, I easily knew it would become a new favorite of mine. If you’ve read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, you already know how wonderful her writing is. Herland paints a world so vivid and incandescently beautiful that you’ll immediately want to go run away and live in it. And it’s more than just a pleasant fairytale daydream– although this book is set in an earlier time period, the themes are far from antiquated; the explorers’ struggle with overcoming masculine ideals, the ground-breaking visions of environmental compassion, and the unconventional reverence for motherhood all strike home in both mind and heart.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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“The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters.”

Now more than ever the constructs of gender are being critiqued and rethought, which makes the fact that Ursula K. Le Guin published this book 48 years ago even more impressive. As a stirring anthropological exploration of sexuality from the standpoint of an alien culture, The Left Hand of Darkness has irrevocably imprinted itself in the realm of science fiction. It was within the borders of this entirely gender neutral and sexually shifting society that I first became an ardent Le Guin fan, and I now recommend it to anyone else willing to immerse themselves in its pages.

Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
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“Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. A woman-dominated government has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. On a sanctioned visit to Ecotopia, New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.”

Out of my reading list, this environmental classic is the only novel written by a man, and Callenbach certainly satisfies my ecofeminist agenda with his layering of feminist overtones. In fact, Ecotopia features the same archetype as Herland and The Left Hand of Darkness: a skeptical male protagonist entering a utopia whose core values and beliefs entirely conflict with his own, whereupon his worldviews are altered through the influence of progressively-minded women. Embodying the principle of “show, don’t tell”, Callenbach models to us that the socially constructed concepts we take for granted are best restructured through a submersive experience in the foreign mindset. And as a reader, you get to accompany Will Weston on his exploration of Ecotopia, not only watching his opinions change, but feeling your own preconceptions evolve along with his.

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
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“Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is facing apocalypse. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.”

 The Parable of the Sower, the first book in Butler’s unfinished Earthseed trilogy, explores themes of both women and nature. From what I’ve seen, reviews of this book are almost entirely high praise. Admittedly, I haven’t read this yet since it’s at the end of my summer reading list, so we’ll have to read this one together! I’m personally planning on finishing at least the first of Butler’s two Earthseed books before college starts up again.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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“Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.”

As things begin, so they should end. Perhaps you’ve already read The Handmaid’s Tale, but have yet to quench your thirst for Atwood’s writing and would like to read some more of her work. In my opinion, Oryx and Crake is a fantastic follow-up. In Atwood’s construction of a world rampant with genetic modifications and riddled by questions of love, Mother Nature occasionally meets with themes of maternal devotion. And if you can make it to the second book, The Year of the Flood, the plot is even more female-centric. Familiar themes of environmental concern are made fresh with dry humor, so give it a go.

Read up, and enjoy!

– Rhiannon Schaub, Intern

Another Summer, Another Day of Sun

 

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Rhiannon Schaub

Ah, summer. A season that inspires an increase in sunbathing and ambitious writing projects– let’s be honest, how many of our early-June selves made a (laughably) stoic promise in the mirror to finish that stunning debut novel or poetry collection? Unfortunately, the warm, warm sunshine makes us so… sleepy. Perhaps a nap in the gloriously golden outdoors might help our case of writer’s block? Personally speaking, this blog post is my first feat of writing since the thirty-five page research paper marathon I trudged through during college finals week.

Well, enough of that, because speaking of personal matters, I should introduce myself! I’m the new summer intern at CALYX, and even though I’ve only been here in Corvallis for two weeks, I’ve already begun to make myself a nest in the towering piles of books and dusty publishing ephemera. In the office, I’ll either be archiving journals (via tapping away on a giant excel spreadsheet), writing blog posts (like this one), or helping to plan an upcoming CALYX publication!

To share a bit about myself: I’m an English Literature major at Scripps College for Women, a lush oasis in the desert terrain of California and probably the most overtly feminist campus you will set foot on– at orientation, our dorm walls were laden with hand-painted “smash the patriarchy” signs. Needless to say, with the feminist focus of CALYX, the press has turned out to feel like a home away from home. And with that, I look forward to spending the next two months here!

Until next time, enjoy this wonderful summer sun!

– Rhiannon Schaub, Intern

 

 

 

Barbara Baldwin, In Memoriam

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On May 5, 2017, Barbara Baldwin—poet and founding editor of CALYX—passed away.

I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Barbara long enough, although I’d been hearing about her for years as a pillar of the Corvallis community. She was a patient at my father’s optometry clinic, and he would often come home and ask me if I knew her. “That’s the sharpest woman I’ve ever met,” was the running phrase I came to associate with Barbara.

I came to CALYX in 2013, long after the original founders had moved on, pursued other work, or retired. As a third-wave feminist, I was hungry to learn more about the incredible tenacity, nerve, and creative force required to make CALYX not only a reality but a lasting presence in the literary world.

Barbara was my window into that history. Although she was already ill, she responded to my inquiries for information with both depthless grace and keen insight. For our Summer/Fall 2016 issue, Vol. 29:2, she wrote a captivating essay on her own journey as a poet and the struggles that CALYX faced in its early years (including running production out of her own home and receiving condescending dismissals from major bookstores). I was also introduced to her stunning collection of poetry from the last forty years.

Barbara’s poetry made me realize why CALYX started as a “Pacific Northwest” journal. The northwest—with its brilliant greens and its heavy, dismal greys—saturates her work. Meaning is found (or simply pursued) in nature, which itself is tangled up in memory and spirituality. From the moment I read lines like “This emptiness we mend and mend / is wind that blows / between the legs of the stars” and “God / like a fat white cloud / waddling in and out,” I was hooked (“Huérfano”). I knew immediately that this was work that had helped establish CALYX’s mission and direction, and that it would be an ideal way for us to restart publishing books.

A collection a Barbara’s work, Harvest, will be released this fall from CALYX Books. It is one of the great disappointments of my career that Barbara will not get to see it in print. However, her eagle eye and exacting sense of meter and tone carried us through the initial stages of pagination and copyediting, and the final product will be better for it.

My father was absolutely right about her.

I didn’t get to spend much time with Barbara in person. It was my tremendous pleasure, instead, to get to know her through her incredible work. As we put together Harvest, I hope that many, many readers will be able to share that pleasure as well.-

– Brenna Crotty, Senior Editor

This Is Not An Ad. I Promise.

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Well, 2017 has been a rollercoaster so far. The lows I imagine you can guess (I’m losing sleep over funding but more on that later), and we maybe haven’t been as good as we could have been about sharing the highs, but I have some good news. CALYX Journal has been expanded into over 200 more Barnes and Noble stores!

The good: We were picked up by B&N last year for some stores and we must be selling well enough that they want more. As in tripled their order more. As a sizable retailer they do their research and know what sells and they feel that CALYX Journal is worth it.

The scary: They order, we print. Whether those copies sell or not we pay to print and ship them—800 more of them.

The quandary: We love independents. We are an independent publisher and independent bookstores have kept us alive, they nurture local readers and writers, and are dedicated to their communities. We hold events there, we sell there, and we support them in all the ways that we can.

So. If you have an independent bookstore head in and pick up a copy of CALYX Journal (due out in the next week or two!). Then go to Barnes and Noble and buy another copy. Tell your friends and family to buy one from each. If one of these places doesn’t have us on their shelves share your interest with the staff. Request it online; take to twitter! One way or another, get your copy—you can’t miss it, this issue’s cover is powerhouse:

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(you can also pre-order from us online at www.calyxpress.org)

The most exciting part of this for me is that it is a powerful nod to Brenna and our editors. They put together incredible volume after incredible volume that people actually want to read. So show them your love and get (several) copies!

Thank you from the excited and slightly freaked out CALYX office.

 

“The Groves” by Sandell Morse

Morse,SandellSandell Morse’s work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Ploughshares, the New England Review, Fourth Genre and Ascent. She has won second place in the 2015 Tiferet nonfiction contest and has been named a finalist in the Orison Books Anthology 2015, nonfiction contest. “Hiding” is a notable essay of 2013, listed in Best American Essays, 2013. Essays have been nominated for of the Net and for a Pushcart Prize. Current work is in the anthology, A Pink Suitcase, 22 Tales of Women’s Travel.

What piece/ pieces are you working on now?

My current work is a memoir about the last four years of my life, in which I, a woman of a certain age with a patchy relationship to Judaism, travel to France, discover a village’s hidden Jewish history and am propelled on a journey that leads me back to my own faith. Finally, I will become visibly Jewish. Two essays dealing with this material are available on line in ASCENT http://www.readthebestwriting.com/hiding-sandell-morse/ and http://www.readthebestwriting.com/houses-sandell-morse/

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, Virginia. Away from the dailyness of life, I fall down into my work in the deepest way possible. The VCCA is a rural retreat steeped in quiet. After working all day, I delight in the camaraderie of other writers, artists and composers at dinner. At home, I work in my study, my two standard poodles lying on beds behind my desk.

Who are you currently reading (and/or) which author has inspired your writing the most?

Right now, I’m reading—I should say rereading—The Same Sea by Amos Oz, an Israeli writer. The Same Sea is a novel, I suppose, because it’s fiction and a narrative, but it is also a prose poem—or perhaps, it is composed of many prose poems. The different characters speak for themselves, as does author/narrator who breaks into the text.

I love the way Oz breaks boundaries. This book bears the weight of history and of profound personal loss. Ultimately what counts here is character and Oz’s insights into the people he creates illuminates us all.

 

 

Fixing the Phoenix by Rebecca Keller

Rebecca Keller is an artist and writer. She has published in New Fairy Tales, Calyx, Public Historian, “Crossing Lines”(MainStreet Rag Press), Alimentum, Great Lakes Review and other journals. “Excavating History” is her book of art and essays.  Her awards include two Fulbrights, grants from the NEA and the Illinois Arts Council, the Jakobson Award from the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference, a Pushcart nomination, the Betty Gabehart prize, and a finalist for the 2013 Chicago Literary Guild Prose Award. 

What piece/pieces are you working on now?

I am working on several projects, including a group of short stories in which folks in professions and situations one doesn’t usually associate one with poverty are suffering serious money troubles, their (sometimes creative) responses, how this destabilizes their sense of self. I also hope to get back to a book about an elderly woman in an assisted living facility with an unusual situation on her hands.

Where is your favorite place to write?

It depends on the season. I love to write in bed, my legs straight out, leaning into pillows propped against the wall. In nice weather I enjoy writing in my backyard, but am not always productive there.

Who are you currently reading (and/or) which author has inspired your writing the most?

Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and Alice Walker, as clichéd as that list might be. I also have an abiding affection for Collette.

“To My Little Sister, Driving Drunk,” by Caitlin Scarano

This week we are excited to share Caitlin Scarano’s poem “To My Little Sister, Driving Drunk,” which was published in CALYX’s 27:3 issue.

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. She was a finalist for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and the winner of the 2015 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eduardo Corral. She has two poetry chapbook. This winter, she will be an artist in residence at the Hinge Arts Residency program in Fergus Falls and the Artsmith’s 2016 Artist Residency on Orcas Island.

What piece/pieces are you working on now?

The other day I was walking home from the university where I take classes and teach, and I passed a house shrouded in yellow police tape. I thought the house had been the scene of a crime. When I looked closer, I realized that the downstairs windows were boarded up with plywood, the upstairs windows were blown out, and the roof had collapsed; the house had recently caught on fire. The blue exterior siding was streaked with ash. This was on a residential street, with other houses and hundred-year-old trees nearby. But somehow the fire, the loss, had been contained within the structure of this home. I only live a few blocks away, but I never would have known about it if I hadn’t passed the house on my walk that day. When I got home, I started a poem about that house and how loss (the initiating spark or match) can begin at the center of a thing and spread, sometimes so quietly. The house was what Richard Hugo would call the triggering or initiating subject of the poem. As I wrote it, the poem transformed into a reflection on the recent end of a four-year relationship I was in — the fire was a metaphor for the circumstances (inside and outside of our relationship) that caused its end. I’m interested in how poems transform and reveal themselves through the actual act of writing or composing, how meaning is made in the moment through image and language, especially the strangeness of language.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I try to write several mornings a week (with coffee, of course) at the desk in my studio apartment. It is right below a window that looks out over a busy city street in the east side of Milwaukee, so there is always something to see or hear. 

Who are you currently reading (and/or) which author has inspired your writing the most?

This is my favorite question! For poetry, I just finished Safiya Sinclair’s Catacombs and I’m currently reading Richard Siken’s War of the Foxes. I used to live in Alaska and I’m interested in how humans imagine and understand wilderness and wildlife, so I’m also reading Sherry Simpson’s Dominion of Bears: Living with Wildlife in Alaska.

 

“From White Space to Black Letter: Taking My Place in the Women’s Torah” by Ada Molinoff

Ada_9460  Lyons 26 Dec 2013 (1)This week we are pleased to have Ada Molinoff reading her short story “From White Space to Black Letter: Taking My Place in the Women’s Torah.”

Ada Molinoff earned her MFA in nonfiction from Pacific University. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, newspapers, and anthologies. This is her first published memoir piece, and it will appear in Calyx’s 40th Anniversary Anthology. A retired clinical psychologist, she writes from Salem, Oregon.

Her favorite place to write is her study, where she feels freed by its hot pink and bright blue hangings, photos and poems tacked to the walls, and piles of papers bordering the floor. The rest of her home is neat, and is decorated in neutral tones with calm art.

Ada currently works on a series of brief memoirs generated by her first trip to Israel in 2014, the pieces aiming to capture setting, relationship, and identity. Periodically, she revises a poem for her first poetry chapbook. She feels blessed to be a member both of a prose- and a poetry-critique group, supportive places she takes her work.

When she’s writing, Ada doesn’t like to read, not wanting to risk an author’s voice quieting her own. Inspiration has come from the memoirs of Judy Blunt and Bernard Cooper, and from the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye, narrators who convey emotions in word-pictures of sensory experience.

 

“Identity” by Airica Parker

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Airica Parker

Today Voices of CALYX is proud to bring you Airica Parker’s poem “Identity,” which appeared in Volume 28:3 of CALYX.

Airica Parker’s work appears most recently in Camas, Driftwood Press, CALYX, The Fiddlehead, and Lalitamba. The Poetry Foundation selected her as a 2011 finalist for a Ruth Lilly Fellowship. An accomplished performer, instructor, and healer, Airica makes her home in Colorado. Learn more at airicaparker.com.

What are you currently writing?

“Identity” comes from one of the central pieces that I am working on right now, Body Bridge. Body Bridge is a collection of poems that pursues common ground as an expression of compassion and curiosity fueled by my experiences as a healer, traveler, Christian Taoist, and lifelong environmentalist.   

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is realistically at my ergonomic desk and spiritually anywhere quiet and outside, especially if trees are involved.  

Which authors have shaped your writing the most and who are you reading?

It is difficult to short list the poets who inspire me, but Walt Whitman, Adrienne Rich, June Jordan, Joy Harjo, Mark Doty, Pablo Neruda, and Gary Snyder are among the names that come easily to mind. As a reader, I was recently impacted by H is for Hawk, about how a woman’s relationship with a hawk helps her survive enormous grief, and Hunger Mountain is on my nightstand – a must read for anyone who loves meditative language or has interest in Chinese poetry or philosophy.