Joyce Peseroff reviews HOW HER SPIRIT GOT OUT

hhsgo_blue_Joyce Peseroff, author of five books of poetry, most recently Know Thyself (Carnegie Mellon, 2016), wrote a knockout review of How Her Spirit Got Out. Here’s a peek at the beginning, and then a bit from the end:

Krysten Hill’s chapbook is as fresh as today’s headlines. It calls out a culture where women continually risk abuse, invisibility, and soul-killing erasures, and where black women are particularly threatened….

Hill’s poems include allusions to foremothers like Audre Lorde, Sylvia Plath, and Zora Neale Hurston. Like Lorde, she responds to sexism, racism, and injustice with passion and perception. From Plath, she’s learned to figure the details of her life in images that are fierce and arresting. Hill understands the power of narrative and savor of vernacular speech, both loved by Hurston. The result is a voice that is beautiful and raw, intimate yet public, both confident and vulnerable.

We couldn’t agree more, and there’s no time like the present to head over to the Aforementioned shop and pick up your copy of How Her Spirit Got Out.

Best American Essays 2017 + Best of the Net 2016

bestamericanessays2017-1508446780-4657Earlier, we heard from our contributor Michael Nagel via Twitter, who asked if we’d heard that his essay “Beached Whales,” which we’d published last summer, was included among the notable essays in this year’s Best American Essays?

We hadn’t heard! And it was featured on LongReads! It was an exciting hour or two.

Then I checked our site stats and saw we’d also had referring traffic from the fine crew at Sundress Publications, who publish the Best of the Net anthology each year. Lindsey Harding and her short story “List Lard Label” was a finalist for fiction this year!

So I ran off to email Lindsey with the good news.

Then I wanted to see the table of contents and the rest of the notable essays for this year’s Best American Essays, so I looked it up on GoogleBooks, and found that apt appeared more than once. Philip Arnold’s essay “Stereoscopic Paris” was also among the notable essays published last year.

All of which goes to say it’s been an astoundingly busy day for apt news.

If you haven’t read Michael’s and Philip’s essays or Lindsey’s story, head over to apt and catch up on what you’ve been missing.

HOW HER SPIRIT GOT OUT wins 2017 New England Poetry Club award!

hhsgo_blue_We’re thrilled to announce that Krysten Hill’s chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, is the winner of the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award from New England Poetry Club!

From Sara Backer, this year’s judge:

What struck me most were poems from Krysten Hill’s How Her Spirit Got Out: whether she’s recording a sister’s reaction to the shooting of her 12-year-old brother or the wreckage of a sweet potato pie, her words are fierce and fearless. Hill confronts us with the dangerous reality of the lives of black women, who may “go missing” because “they knew if they didn’t leave, they’d kill/ what they couldn’t afford to nurture” or go missing in another way when they hear a writing workshop leader ask “Is there any way/ you can write this poem/ from his perspective?” Hill’s words are precise and potent, and each time you read them, her poems mean more.

If you haven’t yet picked up your copy of How Her Spirit Got Out, there’s no time like the present!

And if you’re in the Boston area, you can hear Krysten read tonight at 7 at Porter Square Books for the release party of Simone John’s debut collection, Testify!

Aforementioned in AIDS Walk Boston 2017

AP_AW2017We mentioned this a few months ago, but now we’re just one month away from this year’s AIDS Walk in Boston. We’ve assembled an Aforementioned team to raise money and awareness for those living in Boston and Massachusetts with HIV and AIDS.

As we said before, we feel this cause is particularly important now, with the Affordable Care Act at risk of being eliminated. People with pre-existing conditions will be particularly vulnerable to losing their access to health care. And even more so, now that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed a $4.8 million cut to the state’s funding for HIV patients. The House budget committee got it down to a $3.8 million cut, but that’s still quite a gap. So we’re working to do our part to offset the deficit.

Even if you’re not in Boston, you can still help us by donating via the Aforementioned team page. And even if you don’t have the means to make a donation, we hope you’ll spread the word and help us reach as many donors as possible.

Recap of ICHH marathon reading

image1It snowed. It sleeted. There were 40 mph winds. If I didn’t believe in climate change, I’d say it was as if someone wanted to stop our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here. But we started with a crowd of 50 people, many of whom stayed for the first several chapters.

People came and went throughout the event. Friends showed up. Strangers showed up. Most stayed for 50-60 pages. A handful of people came at the beginning, left, and came back for the end. A couple said they went home and read some there, then came back for the finale.

One audience member named Alex stayed from start to finish.

Around chapter 29, I’d been awake for 24 hours.

We discovered the best way to stay alert was to move around. So people paced. Slow laps, circling in the back. We all wanted to hang in for as long as we could.

Shortly after the middle of the novel, Shuchi started streaming the reading via Facebook Live.

Toward the end of chapter 30, I was falling asleep. I took a 20-minute nap, and woke up not knowing where I was. Then, I heard Ann Leamon reading chapter 31. I remembered what was happening. I rejoined the reading and stayed awake through the rest of the event. After I read the final chapter, I reminded everyone of how we began.

The night started with a presentation, an overview of Lewis’s career, covering who he was and who he wasn’t (a writer who refused a Pulitzer Prize, and later was awarded the Nobel, Lewis never said “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”), also covering what the novel was and wasn’t. It wasn’t hindsight after World War II. It was a warning of the potential danger on its way. Lewis wrote ICHH before concentration camps were synonymous with extermination camps. He wrote it before Hitler’s capacity for malice was fully realized. Lewis wrote during a period of self-assured apathy—people were so sure that America had seen the worst there was of humanity (during the first World War). Of course, it could and did get worse. But that didn’t keep Lewis from rendering his warning.

I have a list of highlights from the marathon reading, but I need to be clear: it’s hard to say that any single amazing moment outweighs my amazement at the event overall. The book is rough. It’s filled with hateful, scared people carrying out orders and making decisions motivated by hate and fear. There’s personal violence and political violence. And, as the novel goes on, more people die by grisly methods.

And beyond that, of course, there are the parallel threats we face now:

The authoritarian in the White House. The constant distraction (Mexico, a dangerous religion, regular allusions to his election rival, etc.). The potential that the president has conflicts of interest (in the novel, he’s embezzling millions). The silencing of journalists, potentially by force. The hunting and killing of people who know more than the government feels they should. We’ve only seen it in Russia thus far, but it’s tied to our election.

ICHH is a difficult book to read just on its own. It’s harder still to handle with the current political climate. I was worried going in that people wouldn’t spot Lewis’s message, and the indomitable spirit of those who would resist attempts at silence. But I was grateful to be wrong.

One woman came up to me after the reading and said her book club had read the novel right after the election, but it hadn’t struck her as funny until she heard us read it aloud.

I laugh at all sorts of inappropriate subjects and times, so I blurted out, “Really?” She said it had been too soon.

More than one person in the audience said the relevance was hard to take. And I understand—I agree—but that’s hardship I think we need right now. This book is not easy, but neither is the situation we’re facing.

In the novel, the authoritarian government sabotages itself due to in-fighting. That could potentially happen to the current administration, but even before that, we’re still facing suppressed speech. Last week, the administration banned the words “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” and “Paris Agreement” in memos, briefings, and other written communication. What can we do in response? Lewis rendered a skeptical journalist who had to be faced with murder of someone he knew before he would speak out against an authoritarian regime. Let’s not wait that long.

If you’re a teacher, a writer, a parent, you can reach a community (even a community of two) who trust you. You can insist on remaining committed to facts. You can write about climate change. You can describe it, define it, make an easy-to-read overview of the Paris Agreement. You can write about how the lives of people of color are more adversely affected by climate change. You can explain to anyone—anyone, your neighbors, your kids, your family members who might be supportive of this administration—the dangers inherent in censorship.

This reading was fun, but it was also more than that—it’s a simple blueprint of what we need to do. Resist, despite the threats. Remain committed to facts, despite the dishonesty we’re fed on a daily basis. And remember that this doesn’t have to be a dour fight. We can fight and still experience joy. And just because we’re tired—and I’m speaking from experience here—we can still rally and make a difference.

And now, as promised, here are the highlights from the reading:

Aaron Devine’s decision to channel Drumpf through Buzz Windrip for the election chapter.

Simeon Berry’s rousing impression of Bishop Paul Peter Prang.

Nathan Gray’s quiet fury in reading the chapter when Lorinda decides to leave.

Tim Hoover doing justice for the Jessup daughters in two different chapters several hours apart—Sissy, still funny and lighthearted at that point, and then the sober fearlessness of Mary’s death

Ann Leamon’s astounding (and consistent) commitment to lending literal voice to every man at Trianon Concentration Camp.

Shuchi Saraswat’s dual dead-of-night chapters (the near escape to Canada, and the formation of the resistance publication the Vermont Vigilance), both read with the tension required by both the late hour and the content.

And every reader who pounded the podium with exasperation when the chapter seemed to call for it (Rob Arnold, Josh Cook, Randolph Pfaff and many others that I’m likely forgetting.

I feel so indebted to all the readers—Molly Howes, Kurt Klopmeier, Simeon Berry, Danielle Jones-Pruett, Maria Hugger, Ric Amante, Julia Kennedy, Rob Arnold, Aaron Devine, Josh Cook, Tim Hoover, William Pierce (who bravely took on another chapter!), Lindsay Guth, Joell Beagle, Travis Cohen, Currie McKinley, Shuchi Saraswat, Randolph Pfaff, Nathan Gray, Sam Cha, Catherine Parnell, JoeAnn Hart, Ann Leamon, Nicole Keller, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, and Molly Mary McLaughlin. A hundred thousand thank yous especially to the staff of Brookline Booksmith, and doubly (triply) Shuchi Saraswat and Lydia McOscar for helping me in innumerable ways to plan and shape this event. And so much gratitude to Randolph, who kept running to get coffee through the night. And to every single person who came, despite the atrocious weather, I thank you.

To watch some of the readings, check out Brookline Booksmith’s Facebook page, as they were kind enough to capture some of the readings via Facebook Live.

And for more photos and videos, head to our FB and Instagram feeds.

Simone John and Krysten Hill in Gramma Poetry

hhsgo_blue_A few months ago, Simone John (author of the forthcoming collection, Testify) spoke to our own Krysten Hill about How Her Spirit Got Out.

As we continue to face so much malice and racism from the current administration in Washington, we’re finding it’s increasingly important to heed these artists’ words:

SJ : You and I have talked about how it feels like there’s something in the air right now for black creatives and makers. Like the atmosphere is charged. What’s your take on the situation? What does that look like, to you, in the poetry world?

KH : We talked about how black creatives and makers have always been doing work to document the time with a hard eye. Nikki Giovanni and Audre Lorde both document their truth and love for their community, while using their voices to shape the future of their community. For me, they’ve also reflected how creativity and imagination are essential to shaping the future. I’ve seen this future-work in poets like Danez Smith and Porsha O that are part of a rich tradition of poets that unabashedly speak to the realities of the black experience. I see this in young poets I teach and other youth poets in the Boston community. In all of their work I see and feel a continuous revolution against the damaging forces of racism, misogyny, and queerphobia. For me, poetry has always been a space for active resistance, testimony, learning, and unlearning.

As I develop my identity as an artist, I find myself seeking artistic spaces that are talking to each other and crying with each other and showing up for each other in a way that makes ferocious art possible. Personally, one way that I survived 2016 was through communities and intimate friend spaces invested in conversations about social justice and witnessing. I made decisions to leave spaces in Boston that were too cliquish or that allowed hate speech and discrimination to happen under the guise of “free speech.” At times, this made for a lonely creative life. Productive creative spaces build people up and welcome in strangers so that they can make brave art together. I’ve seen this life-changing work in spaces like the House Slam at The Haley House Bakery Café and in organizations like The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP) and Whole Soul Health in Boston. Even when I can’t make it out to events, I see how these spaces affect and transform my students and community and promote healthy practices for creatives. This atmosphere is what I’m responding to and finding courage in as an artist.

Read the full interview at Gramma Poetry.

And we’re not the only ones taking solace in Krysten’s words.

Janice Worthen at Small Press Distribution praised HHSGO as an SPD staff pick:

Jill McDonough calls this sharp little collection “a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.” A middle finger, yes, and a fist held up, black and beautiful… But these poems are also hands held, palms out, hands cuffed behind, flesh that can’t stop the bullet, tears mixing with blood as the calendar turns. They are the voice that rises even as it breaks, radiant with power, “beautiful / and frightening / and free.” Hill writes “we told to be silent / about our magic…our wild I spawning / this flourish without their approval.” But the words, the ghosts, will get out: “Gonna learn how to speak because silence / is father to son to mama to brother to / sister to cousin to friend to rape and / they ain’t gonna tell us what we remember anymore.” This is a collection to be carried along, yes, and spoken aloud.”

We’re heartened to see Krysten’s work finding its audience. Check out the full list at SPD and order your copy of HHSGO today.

DigBoston interviews Carissa Halston for the ICHH marathon reading

ICHH_posterLess than ten days from our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here and we’re so pleased to announce that DigBoston is our media sponsor for the event!

They’ve interviewed our own Carissa Halston about marathon readings, the First Amendment, and the role writers play in defending democracy:

“The tenets of democracy speak directly to freedom, but US laws and legal documents have often been written (or interpreted) according to a privileged bias, so, for every right and civil liberty we’ve got, there have been at least two amendments that had to be introduced later to make it clear that women and people of color are also entitled to that basic human right. To that end, in any country where democracy is touted as the foundation of society, the writers of that country need to chronicle the many ways democracy fails. Who democracy fails and how often and why. It’s deadly important information, especially when democracy fails so many people on a regular basis.”

They also asked their readers to suggest more novels about fascism, so once we’re done at the Booksmith on 4/1, we’ll all have more to read.

(Isn’t that always the way?)

Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook so we’ll know to save you a seat—and some pizza and coffee and maybe some cake—and we’ll see you next week!

 

Boston Cultural Council grant + two readings at Brookline Booksmith!

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If you didn’t know, Aforementioned Productions is based in Boston. We’ve lived in a few cities now (Boston, New York, Baltimore), and Boston has our heart. So, late last year, we had immense pleasure of receiving news that we’ve received an organizational grant from the Boston Cultural Council for 2017. It covers a small portion (5%) of our operating costs, but it still feels rewarding to be recognized by this city that has meant so much to us.

The best part of that grant is that we’ll get to spend it on all the great authors and performers whose work we want to support, like Krysten Hill, whose galvanizing new chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, is already in its third printing. She’ll be reading next month at Brookline Booksmith with Ben Berman, so if you’re in Boston, and you missed her release party and her inspiring reading at the Boston Public Library for the GB Writers Resist event in January, you won’t want to miss this event!

Also, because we love the crew at the Booksmith, we’re especially excited to announce that they’ll be hosting our marathon reading of It Can’t Happen Here! So, please join us for an event of literary resistance when the fine crew at Brookline Booksmith will be hosting us overnight, March 31 at 7pm-April 1 at noon (ish). Readers include AP founders Carissa Halston and Randolph Pfaff, as well as Shuchi Saraswat, Josh Cook, Catherine Parnell, Kurt Klopmeier, Karen Locasio, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Aaron Devine, Maria Hugger, Julia Kennedy, Sam Cha, Simeon Berry, and more! This event is free and open to the public, and will involve resistance, subversive classic literature, a table of books you’re going to want to buy, plus free cupcakes (and probably wine). So, join us at Brookline Booksmith at the end of next month and stay up all night while we read Lewis’s sharp-sighted and sharp-tongued classic about one journalist’s fight against fascist America.

And if you need another reason, check out this promo image, designed by our ringleader and AP co-founder, Carissa Halston:

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AWP recap, an upcoming marathon reading, plus the 2017 AIDS Walk in Boston

It’s been nearly a week since we got back from DC for the annual AWP conference. We felt strange being in DC, happy to see so many friends while many of us feel unsafe in the nation’s capitol due to the current GOP administration.

But we found ways to act up and to resist. We asked apt contributors who stopped by the table to start a conversation [heart] with the administration. We were lucky to see so many apt contributors take part—Ray Shea, Glenn Shaheen, Suzannah Russ Spaar, Lucia LoTempio, Simeon Berry, Alex McElroy, Kurt Klopmeier, Elisa Gabbert, Andrew Bertaina, Aaron Brown, Gillian Devereux, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Lena Bertone, Yun Wei, Emily Jaeger, Shannon Austin, Danielle Evennou, Meghan Lamb, Kendra Fortmeyer, and Gregory Crosby, and you can read their Conversation Hearts at our Instagram page.

We also had the opportunity to host five great apt contributors and AP authors at a reading on Friday night at the Black Squirrel.

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Everyone was at the top of their game, and you can watch a snippet of Krysten Hill’s reading, specifically her poem “Prayer” from her recently released chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out.

We also co-sponsored a candlelight vigil for free speech on Saturday night across the street from the White House, where we heard so many heartening speeches and readings from astounding writers, including Literary Firsts  alum, Melissa Febos, whose speech ended with, (our paraphrase) “A vigil means staying awake and alert during the time when you would normally be asleep. Don’t go to sleep. This vigil is going to last long after we throw these candles away.”

In keeping with that sentiment, we’re committed to staying awake and continuing to resist. We’re working on two events in the Boston area:

First, a marathon reading of Sinclair Lewis’s satirical (though now potentially prescient) political novel, It Can’t Happen Here, which involves a journalist’s fight against the fascist regime of a new president in 1930s US. The reading will be free and open to the public and take approx. 16 hours, but we’re looking forward to it, and we’ll have more info on the date and location soon.AP_AW2017

Second, Randolph and I (Carissa) are taking part in the AIDS Walk in June. We’ve done so before as course marshals, but now we’ve assembled an Aforementioned team to walk and raise money and awareness for those living in Boston and Massachusetts with HIV and AIDS. If you’re interested in walking with us, we’d love to have your support! Just visit our page at the AIDS Action Committee site, and click “Join Team.”

And if you’re too far away, or you can’t make it, we hope you’ll consider sending a donation. You can read about where your donation goes at the AAC site.

We feel this cause is particularly important now, with the Affordable Care Act at risk of being eliminated. People with pre-existing conditions will be particularly vulnerable to losing their access to healthcare. We want to help them as much as we can, and we’d love to have your help. Even if you’re not in Boston, and even if you don’t have the means to make a donation, we hope you’ll spread the word and help us reach as many people as possible.

How to find us at AWP 17

Dear readers, AWP is just 3 days away.

During the book fair, you can find us at table 431-T. We’ll be there with copies of every issue of apt, as well as all our chapbooks and full-length titles. We’ll be giving away some readerly and writerly gifts every day of the conference, and there’ll be a special discount on subscriptions to apt!

Plus, on Friday night, we’re hosting a reading in the tap room at The Black Squirrel. Featuring Joanna Ruocco, Dolan Morgan, Tracy Dimond, Elizabeth Wade, and Krysten Hill! Free food (while it lasts), and blood and roses from our host and EIC, Carissa Halston, who is (more or less) the cat you see pictured below.

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And, on Saturday night, immediately following the conference, we’re co-sponsoring a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Square for the First Amendment. Check out more details on Facebook, and if you can make it, we’d love to see you there.

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