BMR Goes AWP 2020 (Pt. 2)

Welcome back for part two of BMR Goes AWP 2020! Today, the Blue Mesa Review staff embarks on a roadtrip from Albuquerque to San Antonio for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference that starts Thursday morning. Check out the list of panels below our incoming editors have scoped out, and make sure to visit us at our table (T1914) at the bookfair!

Mikaela Osler, Incoming Nonfiction Editor

R244: Women in Open Spaces: Life after the (Un)remarkable Journey

My memoir is mostly concerned with my experiences as a woman on a journey; I write about my thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail. These hikes were certainly transformational, but I feel uncomfortable representing them as exclusively experiences of forward progress and redemption. I worry that I’m either trying to force my journey to follow the example set by male heroes like Jack Kerouac or Chris McCandless, or trying to turn my journey into a more acceptable, feminine narrative of personal growth a la Cheryl Strayed. How did having almost exclusively male archetypes through which to understand my own experience impact the way I understood my journeys as I was on them? How does this literary tradition impact the boundaries of my imagination as I try to capture my experiences in memoir? Are there ways of writing about journeys undertaken by people of all genders that subvert the expectations for journey narratives established through stories about men? I could not be more excited to hear a remarkable group of authors discuss these questions, and more.

Rhea Ramakrishnan, Incoming Poetry Editor

R195: The Dynamic Line: Poets on the Craft of Lineation

The only time I would describe myself as “detail-oriented” is when I’m writing a poem. I can tinker around with a single article in a poem for an hour and a line for a whole day. The manipulation of a single line in the poem can really make or break the experience I have reading that poem. Robert Lowell once wrote, “It’s much easier to write a good poem than a good line.” I’m excited to learn about how some really talented poets, including Jake Skeets and Kathy Fagan, craft lines in their poems. Hopefully I can transfer those skills toward revising a stack of poems I want to organize into my first collection!

Jennifer Tubbs, Incoming Fiction Editor

S175: Writing the Difficult with Fabulist Elements

As a writer of magical realism, I was thrilled to see a panel that explores the coexistence of “myth and magic with domestic concerns” in literature. Writing the Difficult with Fabulist Elements will bring authors and poets together to discuss fabulism in women’s writing, particularly as it relates to trauma. I’m especially excited to hear from panelist Paula Neves, whose work focuses on the Portuguese diaspora because one of my goals for this year is to learn Portuguese. Fingers crossed I can catch more than a few words in her poetry!


If you’ll be attending AWP 2020 this week, remember to stop by Table 1914 at the bookfair to meet the current and incoming BMR staff, see our latest issue, pick up some swag, and find out which phenomenal authors we have lined up for our summer contest judges. See you in San Antonio!

BMR Goes AWP 2020

Next week, Blue Mesa Review will be roadtripping the Southwest from Albuquerque to San Antonio for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference. In anticipation of AWP, the BMR staff has been scoping out the panels we’re most looking forward to checking out when we’re not working our table (T1914) at the bookfair — check back next Tuesday for our incoming editors’ lists of panels!

Tori Cárdenas, Editor in Chief

F234:  Pushing Boundary: Trans and Genderqueer Poets Beyond the Page
F173:  New Poetry from Graywolf Press

As a newly out transmasculine poet who is about to graduate, I’m nervous. On the one hand, I feel more connected to poetry as a genre/channel for queerness and emotion and love than I ever have before. On the other, I’m unsure about work after my MFA (what else is new?). Except now, I also need work with health insurance (see previous parenthetical) that has trans benefits so I can stay on my HRT. So, nervous almost covers it.

However, I’m hella excited for Pushing Boundary: Trans and Genderqueer Poets Beyond the Page, a panel of trans/NB/genderqueer poets who are out there DOING THE DAMN THING: writing, working, and creating, in spite of all this daunting life stuff. I’ll also be reading with a whole squad of new queer friends that I can’t wait to meet! We’ll be at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (922 San Pedro Ave. San Antonio, TX 78212) from 7-10 pm on Friday March 6th, raising our #QueerVoices!

I’ll also be at F173: New Poetry from Graywolf Press, clutching copies of “Postcolonial Love Poem” and “Homie,” and crying queer tears.

Ari McGuirk, Managing Editor

R200: From Darkness to Light: Unearthing Family Secrets in Memoir

I’m fortunate to have a family that supports me writing about them. Since I started writing my memoir a little over a year ago, I’ve been something of an investigator digging up mysteries surrounding my parents and my adoption. Writing this book has been an exhumation—several of its key characters have been dead since I was a teenager. I’ve learned secrets that have been kept from me for decades, most of them unpleasant. Determining which are necessary to write and how to render them has been a difficult process, one I’m still working through. This panel sounds like an incredible resource for memoirists, like me, who are navigating the ethical and moral minefields that accompany this kind of writing and reflecting on the secrets we’ve unearthed with honesty and empathy.

Mitch Marty, Associate Editor

R242: Five Writers Walk into a Bar: Using Humor in Fiction
F140: Make Yourself at Home: Writing the Familiar from a Distance
S274: You’ve Got It Wrong: Writing against Misperceptions

This will be my third trek to AWP, and I’ve finally learned that there’s no way that I can attend all the events I’d like to, so this year I’ve narrowed it down to one panel each day that I’d like to hit when I’m not tabling for Blue Mesa Review, or wandering the Book Fair or San Antonio River Walk.

On Thursday, I’m looking forward to Five Writers Walk into a Bar: Using Humor in Fiction (Cara Blue Adams, Danielle Evans, Kristen Arnett, Jennine Capó Crucet, Courtney Maum). Of late, most of my nonfiction has been an act of juggling heavy personal history with a sense of levity and lightness, so this panel seems a perfect way to mesh pre-AWP therapy with post-AWP writing (and I’ll be honest, Mostly Dead Things was my favorite book in 2019, in part because of the way Kristen Arnett balances heaviness and humor). My writing is also largely centered in rural Southwestern Wisconsin, and I’ve given to a lot of thought about setting from my current perch in the middle of the desert. Friday I’ll be checking out Make Yourself at Home: Writing the Familiar from a Distance (Jennine Capó Crucet, Helena Maria Viramontes, Laura van den Berg, Tiphanie Yanique, and Manuel Muñoz). Last but not least, I’m excited to check out You’ve Got It Wrong: Writing against Misperceptions (Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Carmen Maria Machado, Ander Monson, Paul Lisicky, Fiona McCrae) on Saturday.

Mario Montoya, Fiction Editor

R157: AWP Program Directors’ Southwest Council
R285: Disabled and D/deaf Writers Caucus 

At AWP 2020, there’s a lot to engage. Every day is action-packed and eventful. So, with that in mind, I’ll limit my commentary to the first day. First, I plan on sitting in with the AWP Program Directors’ Southwest Council, a gathering of badass writers from the states of KS, MS, NV, NM, TX and UT. Since I’m a NMer, this might be a great place to make connections. Also, as a writer who uses a wheelchair, I’m looking forward to the Disabled and D/deaf Writers Caucus, which gives is a space for those who are disabled or living with chronic illness to network and discuss all things identity, writing, and teaching.


If you’ll be attending AWP 2020 next week, remember to stop by Table 1914 at the bookfair to meet the current and incoming BMR staff, see our latest issue, pick up some swag, and find out which phenomenal authors we have lined up for our summer contest judges. See you in San Antonio!

How Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir Changed the Way I Think About Writing

As a nonfiction writer, I oftentimes *dream* about my finished memoir, face-out in chain bookstores across the globe. Then I start thinking of the people who I’m writing into my work who will read said book, and I’m crushed by anxiety/guilt/nervousness. Common questions that my mind loops include (but are not limited to): What will happen if so-and-so reads this? Will they be hurt? Will they agree with what I wrote? Will my mother/father disown me?

I’ve contemplated tattooing Anne Lamott’s famous quote, “You own everything that happened to you. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better,” on the back of my hand so I can read it over and over while I type. But it doesn’t make me feel better about possibly hurting anyone’s feelings. (I’m a 2 on the enneagram, if you’re wondering who your narrator is).

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (Book Cover)All this changed for me last fall, when I read The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. Something inside me has always resisted the idea of books about writing books, but this one changed my mind. I read the whole thing—cover to cover—pen in hand, underlining a quarter of the text, and about 75% of the chapter, Dealing with Beloveds (On and Off the Page). Karr shares her process for managing her loved ones’ feelings about being included in her work in generous and thoughtful steps, 11 of them to be exact! Two of my favorites include a Herbert Selby quote, “If you’re writing about someone you hate, do it with great love,” and never claim authority over how people truly felt. Karr also recommends sharing parts of your work with the subjects on the page, especially if you think it “might make them wince.”

Easily influenced by all things I consume, I followed Karr’s advice by sharing a chapter of my manuscript with my sister over the summer. The best thing happened—she laughed when I poked fun at her credit score! “This is all sad, but true,” she said.

It felt pretty damn good. I can only write from my perspective. And I can only be honest. And be loving. But I own my story, so I get to write it.

An Interview with Idris Goodwin

Idris Goodwin, author of Can I Kick It?

Idris Goodwin taught for several years at my undergraduate alma mater before shifting to theater full-time. I was always disappointed I never got to have him as a professor (he started after I graduated), but luckily Idris has been out here doing the work. There’s no shortage of ways to learn from him. He has a Pushcart-nominated collection These are the Breaks. He co-wrote Inauguration with Nico Wilkinson; the book won a 2017 Literary Arts Award from the Pikes Peak Arts Council. He’s been on Sesame Street and HBO’s Def Jams. He has written and produced more plays than I can list here. He wrote a monologue for the Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments collection that responded to police brutality and particularly the murders of Michael Brown and John Crawford. He most recently adapted the Young Adult novel Ghost by Jason Reynolds for the stage.

His newest project is the poetry collection Can I Kick It? (after the A Tribe Called Quest song of the same name). This book is part homage to rap and sampling in hip hop, part celebration of Black art and life, part indictment of the difficulties of living in a Black body in America. It’s a book you don’t want to miss.

You call yourself a “break beat poet”. What does that mean? 

So Break Beat Poetry emerged during one of my many conversations with fellow poet Kevin Coval, who like me came up on 80s and 90s hip hop. For us hip hop was our gateway to a deeper engagement with the poetic. But make no mistake, we were interested in a poetic that felt like the rap ciphers we participated in.

Since hip hop music, whose foundation is the break beat, was the spark and fire for us, Slam Poet didn’t quite apply, nor did Hip Hop poet or any other labels. We wanted to define ourselves.

I put out an album in 2010 called Break Beat Poems, I wrote an essay in my 2011 book called Break Beat Poetry, How We Got On, the first in my series of Break Beat Plays premiered in 2012 and a few years ago the first Break Beat Poets Anthology was released on Haymarket Books. There have been two more since and there are two more on the way. And more and more  poets of color such as Jose Olivarez, and Camonghne Felix are seeing their books published under that imprint.

How does writing from a history of hip-hop make you think about the line in poetry differently than most poets would? 

I appreciate the direct intimacy of the reader and the writer but first and foremost I write for sound and rhythm and audience. What can I say that will engage and hold the ear for the duration?

And I want the line on the page to reflect the way in which I’d recite it.

How did you decide whose work/which snippets of pop culture to sample? Did the idea of the book as a whole grow out of the idea of sampling? 

One day I realized that every time I crafted some pithy remark on social media I was basically giving away content. Perhaps there is more to say that 140 characters cannot contain? And every single time, that pithy remark would transform conceptually into something more specific, personal and complicated.

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea that somehow pop culture is separate, or only lives in the silo of entertainment. It’s about us, whether they get it right or they don’t. What does the popularity of superhero films say about us? What do all of these icons and symbols say about us? And what was the pop that raised me? What does it say about me?

Pop is the accumulated consciousness. But also artistically, by drawing from the creative landscapes of these icons and touchstones, allows me to pull from everything that was on their aesthetic palette.

That’s what sampling is about—I’m in conversation with another artist but also the people that influenced them, that they “sampled” from in their own way.

I’ve been to a lot of bad events that try to take on how poetry and hip-hop are similar or do similar things. People really struggle to talk about this, but I think your book does a beautiful job of making similarities clear, particularly in the poem “Break Down” After Kurtis Blow.  Here you use the common “after” style to indicate that you are riffing on Blow’s style. If the reader knows hip-hop or does a little research, they will realize that you’re riffing on his song “The Breaks”. You’re essentially sampling his song in a blazing indictment of white people wearing blackface. It’s a really masterful way to create an emblematic piece that shows how poetry and hip-hop are related. How did this poem come about? 

I often say “Sometimes the poem writes itself”. Once I read that quote from Mark Herring I was like, “Come on, there’s only one way this piece can go!” Kurtis Blow himself was a poet, so it was a no brainer. You got blackface and old school rap?! Poetry Gods sent me a gift!

Several of the poems at the end of the collection are beautiful and difficult poems about being Black in America. This is a thread that is present throughout the book, but I think it was really important you ended on this painful reality, especially in a book about Black art. Too often American society wants what Black people create but not to hear about the struggle of racism. Did you set out to end with the poem “Breaking Sweat”?

I think that’s spot on, Brenna! Black Art has been not only the production of objects–its been the mode of survival. The songs served as veiled maps of escape. The poetry as protest and rallying cry. It was illegal for black folks to read and write so the first published book by Phyliss Wheatly in the late 1700s was illegal! There were spaces black musicians could and couldn’t play and for a long time the places they could play, only white folks could attend. Fast forward now, we’re having conversations about inclusion in creative spaces, writing rooms, publishing houses, theatres, etc.

There is still a chasm to fill. I believe I was chosen by my ancestors to tell the stories best I can, with as much precision, heart and hope as possible. So that is what I do even when it’s painful. Even when there is a voice in my head saying, “you’re just going to bum everyone out with this.”

In addition to the poetry books you’ve published, you’re also an acclaimed playwright. How does your work in theater impact your poetry or vice versa? 

There is no theatre without poetry. Poetry is the root of all creative, non literal expressions. The actors are poets, scenic, lighting and costume designers are poets, dancers are poets, DJs are poets.

Certainly all the amazing actors I work with have shown me a thing or two about how to make something feel new every time. I used to find doing the same poems more than 12 times laborious. But now I am happy to do poems like Say My Name or These Are The Breaks until folks are tired of hearing them.  Theatre has shown me ways to keep things exciting and interesting for myself.

You’ve said you are “committed to using the arts to cultivate more diverse and equitable spaces for all.” How do you see art being used to create equity outside of artistic spaces in the larger world? 

I work in the realm of live performance primarily. You can galvanize groups of people from different walks into the same space, then show them something that awakens their sense of humanity, curiosity, empathy and passion. We need that badly. We have never been so connected and yet ironically, we’re very isolated, splintered and terrified. We have to play a part in healing and reconnecting us.

The Break Beat Poetry/Play movement is about bringing communities together through storytelling. Very very dynamic poetic culturally specific and honest storytelling. But we position the story at the center, not the storyteller if that makes sense. The listener is in the cipher with us. It’s about the collected perspectives coalesced in the middle of the cipher, and if we listen close enough and let the stories do their work—that’s how we evolve.

Advice to Young Writers

One of the things I’ve repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don’t
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn’t go very well, to press on then

I thought about this poem, Ron Padgett’s “Advice to Young Writers,” a lot over the summer—especially during my nightly Netflix binges of Sugar Rush or Orange is the New Black. Midway through one of these viewings, I’d get a nagging feeling—I got to get off this couch and start writing because if I don’t this manuscript will never get completed. Eventually, I get up. I sit at the desk and I try to make something that will satisfy my intentions as a writer. Sometimes beautiful things will come out. Other times it’s like scrolling through a procession of hot-word garbage. Lately, nothing has been coming out—I’ll type a few words, erase, type again. By the end of the session, I’ll be looking at a blank page. In truth, I do not want to ‘press on.’ I simply wish to sit on the couch sandwiched between my partner and dog and enjoy some mind-numbing television together like a family. But I don’t think that’s how Don’t Call Us Dead or Unaccompanied got written.

Writing is the only way I know how to discuss my experiences growing up in rural Mexico. However, I feel that the activity of writing gets in the way of other aspects of my life that are just as valuable—something as monotonous as watching television with a loved one.

My uncle passed away over the summer— a hardworking welder who shaped my family’s future. I haven’t been able to thoroughly process his death because I am too busy writing about myself. It sounds weird and selfish, but it is ultimately my truth. I would have liked to just sit on the couch with him one last time, watch Sabado Gigante and ask him how he was doing. Since his death, I have begun doubting the merit of my own writing and been focusing on my selfishness. Why do I write if not for people like my Tio? What would my uncle have done in my place? Would he have pressed on, nose against the computer screen and finished the piece, or returned to his family to enjoy a little bit of time together?

I began to realize how important stepping away from the page can be and to simply enjoy the monotony while it lasts. In the last couple of months, I have submitted three pieces for publication—which is considerably less writing than I am accustomed to. Perhaps, what I have accomplished this summer is sitting down with my mother, talking and getting to understand who my uncle was when he was a boy in Mexico. Maybe it’s okay to not write that great poem or story tonight. Maybe it’s okay to take breaks, to process how you are feeling and how you are affecting those around you.

It’s alright, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don’t.

The Colonial Complex in Literary Submissions

Owning a culture is problematic. That is one of the fundamental flaws of white power. Many of the authors we read as editors believe witnessing, visiting and experiencing implies ownership. For example, because I was there for the birth of my child does not mean I can speak for – or rather, own – the female experience of childbirth. Likewise, just because someone watches Disney’s Coco and takes a trip to Cancun does not certify them as Mexican. That is to say, when a white author speaks with a voice of ownership as it pertains to another culture and then filters that ideal through the lens of power, that text inherently becomes whitewashed. As readers of a prominent literary journal, in a white majority slush pile, we are forced to endure countless assimilationist submissions.

We enter whitewashed universes that promote the constant fetishization of Asian culture via the “spiritual” white experience of yoga. How can an entire story base itself around yoga and not include one minority character? We wander across western plazas with characters whose described appearances could only be explained as caricatures of Native American culture. Likewise – like a broken record – the white, middle-class, high-school character arc seems to be the most common basis of plot. Perhaps, these high-brow narratives have stepped away from the brown boyfriends being hyper-masculinized and the black boyfriends toxically sexualized. However, exoticizing a minority student to give the white, middle-class, high school character the identity they so desperately crave is arguably just as toxic.

White authors, can you please stop going on vacation! Editors cannot take the magic of your inherently white experience in these places. Unless you are writing commentary about characters at Burning Man or Coachella, take a pass on appropriating someone else’s culture and romantically writing about your inauthentic, mixed tribe, pseudo-Native head dress and howlite (fake turquoise) jewelry. Remember, just because you went to a Native American casino does not classify you to be the voice of Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears.

This does not mean you should include a simple disclaimer – I AM A WHITE MALE or FEMALE OF PRIVILEDGE AND AM ABOUT TO SPEAK FOR MEXICAN FEMINITY – that is immediately abandoned; rather, write with the awareness that the culture you are writing about is something that is shared with you. You do not own it. You cannot manipulate it. And you will never sell it as purely authentic. Acknowledge that your experience is true, only for you, not for the collective culture. Therefore, if you ever visit Jamaica you do not become the owner of the Rastafari voice and you do not have to come back smoking weed, wearing beanies, and growing out your dreads. Be authentic to yourself and I will not forget after I visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in California that I did not attend Hogwarts and I am not of English descent.

The real issue seems to be fear. Minority authors are afraid they will be avidly rejected because of the last names on their submissions, and often that still happens. However, as it comes to journals you would actually be proud to have your work in, editors welcome authors’ voices that are not inherently cursed with the colonial complex. On the other spectrum, most white authors believe that without a minority culture they wouldn’t have a culture of their own. Yet, too often this fetishization and exoticization leads to unconscious assimilation. Minority authors, it is time to lose your fear and just PRESS SEND. Save future readers and editors from insurmountable submissions filled with cultural appropriation and let us hear your voices instead.

Blue Mesa Review: 30 Years and Counting

rudolfo anaya

Rudolfo Anaya

Blue Mesa Review was founded by Rudolfo Anaya in 1989. Anaya, a Creative Writing instructor at the time, wanted a space for New Mexican and Southwestern writers to publish their work while helping creative writing students gain experience in the publishing industry. With this goal in mind, Anaya approached the Dean, and said out of the clear blue sky, “Can you give me $5,000 and we’ll do a literary magazine everyone will be proud of? It’s a logical outgrowth of our Creative Writing program.” This magazine would be a way to develop not only writers in the program, but also writers in the reading and writing communities that surrounded the university.

The Dean said yes, and we’ve been going ever since.

These 30 years have been ones of learning. Reading submissions, copy editing, contacting authors—all of these duties and more are handled by the Blue Mesa staff, which includes graduate editors, a faculty advisor, and our team of graduate and undergraduate readers. But they have also been years of storytelling and connecting, both through the development of our own work and craft, and the work we as editors select for the magazine. The tradition of sharing and exchanging through voice, tradition, and craft is what has made Blue Mesa Review the literary platform it is today.

Blue Mesa Review Issue 5

Blue Mesa Review Issue 5

From faculty editors, including David Johnson, Marisa P. Clark, and Julie Shigekuni, to student editors, like Steve Howe and Hayley Peterson (our last two EICs), Blue Mesa Review’s baton has been passed down through UNM’s Creative Writing ranks for 30 years. And in our 30 years and soon-to-be 40 issues, our contributors have included Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sandra Cisneros, Joy Harjo, Sherwin Bitsui, and other top-notch writers. Blue Mesa Review’s history of publication has boasted strong and diverse line-ups, and those voices have brought their identities, cultures, and creativity to an international arena through BMR. Whatever role we have played in Blue Mesa Review—editor, author, reader—each of us has contributed to a tradition of storytelling, cultural identity, and craft.

As a landscape of intersectionality and diversity, the Southwest is the perfect place for beautiful intersectional art to grow, and we are here to help tend those roots in our community and beyond, into the global cultural and literary community. At Blue Mesa Review, we will continue to support and publish voices of the Southwest and the world at large, and foster connections between our academic circle and the rich literary traditions of Albuquerque and New Mexico. Here’s to another 30 years.

<3,

Blue Mesa Review Staff


Would you like to be featured in the 30th Anniversary Issue (Issue 40) of Blue Mesa Review? There’s still time to submit to the 2019 Summer Contest! For full information, please check out our Submittable: https://bluemesareview.submittable.com/submit

Summer Reads with Blue Mesa Review

Classes are back in full swing at the University of New Mexico, but we’re not quite ready to let summer go. Keep reading to find out what each of our editors recommends you pick up from their summer reading list!

Tori Cárdenas – Editor in Chief

This summer, I’ve been reading Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark to prepare for my comprehensive exams. I first heard about the Golden State Killer on my favorite podcast’s very first episode, My Favorite Murder. It’s the first true crime book I’ve read front to back—partly because true crime has always frightened me, but also because McNamara’s style of writing is so compelling (Karen and Georgia are also the funniest ladies on the planet, so that helped too).

McNamara employs these immersive POV shifts that connected me emotionally with the action, but still let me keep a detective’s objective distance when it got to be too much; she echoes these chilling metaphors and images throughout the text, creating tension and a nagging paranoia. This book is helping to give a depth and substance to my dissertation that I couldn’t have developed on my own, and I’m glad I overcame my fear of true crime enough to read it. I also recently moved into a new house and am currently suspicious of everyone.

Check out I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara here: https://amzn.to/2Nwulqz

Mario Montoya – Fiction Editor

Recently, a good friend (and BMR Associate Editor) Mitch Marty, gifted me a book that I can’t set down. Anybody who grew up bumping rap in the nineties will feel the same. It’s called Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib, his third, and it focuses on exactly what it says on the cover: “It is a love letter to a group, a sound and an era.”

The group is A Tribe Called Quest, the highly influential rap collective from Queens, New York, that changed the sound of rap forever, introducing a hip-hop, jazz fusion. For rap fans who experienced “The Golden Era” of rap, ATCQ’s music is considered a soundtrack to that time, a blueprint of sorts. And Abdurraqib takes us through his own fandom, from childhood to young adulthood, alongside the rise and sudden fall of one of rap’s most iconic groups.

Check out Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib here: https://amzn.to/33Qkxgv

Michelle Gurule – Nonfiction Editor

The first book I jumped into off my summer reading list was Danzy Senna’s, New People. The novel is set in Brooklyn and follows soon to be married interracial couple, Maria and Khalil, on a bit of a downward spiral. Senna tackles race, identity, stereotypes, lust, and—what I perceived as the sort of existential restlessness of being a 27-year-old woman—through wickedly smart characters and hilarious subplots, which are both true to life and occasionally so outlandish (and yet, totally plausible) that I couldn’t be pulled away. New People is equal parts comedy and wit, which, as a humor writer, I find to be a challenging balance to bring to the page. I loved this novel for its premise and craft. There is so much to learn from Danzy Senna.

Check out New People by Danzy Senna here: https://amzn.to/2KMrCHy

Darren Donate – Poetry Editor

The books that stood out to me the most over the course of my summer-reading were Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Maurice Manning’s One Man’s Dark. I believe that Vuong’s work pushes the language of the contemporary novel to its absolute edge—it’s impactful, but not ornamentary. There are no dull moments in On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and I hope to be able to teach it in the classroom one day.

One Man’s Dark is a testament to Manning’s vision of Kentucky. Reading Manning’s poetry had me reflect on hyper-regionalism (and its representation) in contemporary poetics. Manning is able to capture his roots with poise, empathy, and humor—something that I wish to capture in my own writing. And now that I have One Man’s Dark in my hands, I have a model I can endlessly learn from.

Check out On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong here: https://amzn.to/2KW7rWy
Check out One Man’s Dark by Maurice Manning here: https://amzn.to/2z88Y6r

Seth Garcia – Poetry Editor

This summer (read: my whole life) I’ve been coping with my anxiety by reading poetry. I finally picked up Leaves of Grass in honor of Whitman’s bicentennial birthday. Forrest Gander’s Be With was also a sad and memorable collection.

And yet, one of the most impressive standouts has been Shane McCrae’s The Gilded Auction Block. Apart from being a poetry-producing machine (this guy churns out a book every other year like clockwork) McCrae writes some of the most syntactically interesting work today.

In stuttering language which masterfully mimics both the Trumpian rhetorical style and the distressed mind of one who has to put up with it, McCrae pays homage (read: brilliant critique) to the present moment. Whether in poems examining his past experiences with his neo-Nazi grandmother, or fantasizing about what death would look like if God turned out to be aligned with our dogmatic administration, McCrae proves (like all other great poets) that the personal is political.

Check out Leaves of Grass here: https://amzn.to/2NrNqKt
Check out Be With by Forrest Gander here: https://amzn.to/2P6u9QX
Check out The Gilded Auction Block by Shane McCrae here: https://amzn.to/33MKrll

Ari McGuirk – Managing Editor

I read twelve books this summer to prepare for my comprehensive exams and for a seminar I’m taking this fall. Memoirs, essay collections, novels, and even a comic—they begged me to reconsider the limitations I’d placed on my own project. But one stood out to me above all others: Tommy Orange’s There, There.

This novel weaves over a dozen character arcs together with stunning precision. Each line drips with voice while juggling numerous points of view. Orange’s characters are flawed, winning, fully fleshed, human. More importantly, they’re all native peoples. As the book points out, too often people have antiquated notions, based in stereotypes, of what it means to live as a native person in this country. Orange banishes those colonialist ideas into oblivion, writing his characters and their struggles as they exist in modernity, all the while reminding his readers of the history of native peoples on this continent.

Check out There, There by Tommy Orange here: https://amzn.to/30kDUw1

Mitch Marty – Associate Editor

Love, death, and taxidermy. Or Mostly Dead Things. If I left it at just the title, the vibrant green cover with its stark pink flamingo would be enough to entice a fair number of people, but Kristen Arnett packs worlds into this novel set in a central Florida town that feels on the edge of ruin. The narrator, a queer taxidermist named Jessa-Lynn, finds her father splayed out in the back of their family shop with a suicide note that tasks her with keeping her family together. The broken family dynamic, the haze of cheap beer, and the dilapidated state of the town not only reminded me of life in the rural Midwest, but about how place becomes a character in its own right and drives a compelling thread of this story that borders on leaving, staying, a sense of obligation, and an inability to escape from yourself and your choices.

Grief, history, and death cling to these pages like the thick humidity of Florida’s summer. They could be as suffocating as the smell of roadkill once the sun breaks over the asphalt, but Arnett creates such a fantastic web through the narrative of these chapters as they bounce between the present and the past that I kept wanting to see what fresh kill might be stuffed next in the back of the family shop, what new hybrid display of sex and taxidermy crafted by Jessa’s mother might appear in the gallery across town, and how the burden of family might be rectified.

Check out Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett here: https://amzn.to/2PgkWG6


Lastly, don’t forget to submit your work! We only have eleven days left of our Summer Contest judged by Jake Skeets, Lesley Arimah, and Francisco Cantú. To get an idea of what we’ve published previously and what we might be looking for, make sure to read over the editor blogs that we’ve been publishing since June first and check out our most recent publications on our website.

Transitions

Mitch Marty Editor Photo

Mitch Marty, Associate Editor

Over the last couple months of blogs, a few of the new editors have hit on the recurring theme of looking back at the roots of Blue Mesa Review with our founder Rudolfo Anaya’s original vision for the magazines in mind. I’ve been thinking about how to pull in a renewed focus on the Southwest while transitioning from Managing Editor to Associate Editor. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about home. What that looks like. What it feels like. The types of stories that represent the feeling of a place more as a character than as a backdrop.

For me, the heart of the heart of the country is the open road. It’s most vivid in low elevations with high humidity, rolling hills with expansive dreams misplaced in the burgeoning farmlands of the Midwest. It’s where I was born and raised, but I know it doesn’t look the same to everyone. I see it everywhere I go: in the high desert of Albuquerque as a roadrunner plucks a lizard from the side of a house and darts across Ridgecrest; in the reservoir streaked with sunlight along the Willamette National Forest at dawn in Oregon; in the closed maw of an alligator patiently waiting for a visitor at the Alachua Sink in Florida. In the Southwest, home is in the Sandia sunsets, golden hour clipped with hues of orange and pink like scoops of sherbet in a Tupperware bowl, flecked with watermelon seeds of trees all across the mountains. No matter where you’re from, where you’re going, you can see it, feel it, smell it, if you slow down to let it wash over you. And that’s what I want to read in your work, whether poetry, nonfiction, or fiction. Work whose electric breath radiates a new pulse through my fingertips as my hands rest on the keyboard while I read your submission. Work that tells your story with specificity, like what it means to hear your neighbor blast ”Jumper” by Third Eye Blind at 7:00 am every Sunday morning, stories that speak multitudes. Honest work that balances the dark and light parts of who you are and what you’ve experienced.

As the new Associate Editor, I take care of a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at Blue Mesa Review. Like last year, I’ll design the new issues of the magazine and create other flyers and promotional material (for the Works in Progress Reading Series in Albuquerque and our table at AWP San Antonio this Spring). I’ll manage and maintain the website, and alongside Ari McGuirk, curate blogs that speak to the Southwest, Literature, Politics, and the landscape where all of these intersect. I’ll read the work you submit as I think about how to best design an issue that reflects the nuances of the work we’ll publish.

I’m also drumming up new ideas for the 30th Anniversary of Blue Mesa Review. If you’ve been following our social media accounts, you’ll already know that we’ve been touring some of the Little Free Libraries around Albuquerque, dropping off back issues of the magazine. And this week, while on a trek back to my homeland in the Midwest to kick up memories for my creative work, I’ve brought a little piece of the Southwest with me. If you can’t make it to Albuquerque to catch the sun set off the Sandias and grab a back issue, you may still be in luck, because I’ll be dropping some off in Little Free Libraries along the way (as far East as Lafayette, Indiana, and as far North as Richland Center, Wisconsin). Make sure you’re following us on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook to see if you might be able to pick up a copy of Blue Mesa Review in your own town.


Lastly, don’t forget to submit your work! We only have a few weeks left of our Summer Contest judged by Jake Skeets, Lesley Arimah, and Francisco Cantú. To get an idea of what we’ve published previously and what we might be looking for, make sure to read over the editor blogs that we’ve been publishing since June first, pick up a back issue from a Little Free Library near you, or check out our most recent publications on our website.

Manage This

Ari McGuirk, Managing Editor

I’m entering my final year of UNM’s MFA program as Blue Mesa Review’s Managing Editor. My editorial responsibilities probably aren’t interesting to someone curious about what to submit to our magazine. Not that I wouldn’t be happy to walk you through my process for complex decisions like “bold or italics?” in meeting minutes. But I think, as a submitter, you’ll likely encounter me as a reader. If I like your submission, I can drop your manuscript in the Genre Editor’s inbox for immediate consideration. And since I write prose, that’s usually what I read from our contest submissions and from the slush pile in the spring (sorry poets).

Like other editors have written, we’re looking for Southwestern voices – what we mean is that we do not want underrepresented writers from this part of the country to feel discouraged from submitting to us. We are Blue Mesa Review, and if you’ve read our EIC Tori’s blog, you’ll know we aim not only to be an Albuquerque-based magazine, but to represent New Mexico nationally and internationally. But if you’re not from here, don’t sweat it – we want to read your work and hear your voice, too. I’m a transplant who has called more than a dozen places home in my not-yet-thirty-years, and I’ve learned that if you show this land the respect it deserves, it will teach you a new beauty.

If you haven’t read Michelle’s thoughts about voice or Mario’s hunger for singularity, for the unique story that only you can tell, you should. And not just because I agree with them. By allowing us to read the individual encounter that you have with reality, either through short story, memoir, flash, or personal essay, you’re generously allowing me to learn more about the world.

I’m not the most complicated reader: I like pieces with high stakes. I like urgency, specificity, sharp dialogue, and lyric conciseness. I like figuring out why the narrator is telling me their story. And if for some reason the piece is not doing what I usually like, I like figuring out why I don’t understand it, and how it’s successful beyond my traditional sensibilities. Show me structure that veers away from the plot pyramid. If you’re using the plot pyramid, great—but make sure to populate it with rich descriptions and interesting characters with intriguing conflicts. Above all, be fearlessly loyal to your vision. Even if we can’t publish your piece this issue, we still admire a genuine voice with a compelling story, and there’s always the next issue.

I’m humbled to be the Managing Editor for the 40th issue of the literary magazine Rudolfo Anaya started thirty years ago. It’s a privilege to read the submissions you share. Your writing and reading make this magazine possible. You probably have a million things to do and a million more after that, yet you took the time to write a piece and send it to us. I think that’s rare and beautiful and I thank you for it, very much.