A Review of Piotr Gwiazda’s Aspects of Strangers

Aspects of Strangers coverBy Abby Dockter

I am on another plane trip. Patchwork farms, webs of highways, wide rivers and furry green mountains, all pierced by the wing of the plane as we glide into a new port. That’s the outside—inside the plane are a middle-aged couple speaking soft Turkish and eating chocolate bars, a young man holding his suit jacket, and a woman next to him sleeping with her brightly-colored scarf wadded up as a pillow. I am taking Piotr Gwiazda’s injunction to “Look at this city—”, “Look at these people” as I go, and it’s remarkable how the traveling experience parallels Gwiazda’s Aspects of Strangers, a book that opens with an observer’s entrance to a new place. Alienation is on the table immediately:

You see their other faces.
You hear their other voices.

You pass them in the airport
or the subway station

or any street and plaza…
Are you a part of them?

Your face gives you away.
Your voice denies you.

I could object to the blunt instrument of dichotomous Yous and Thems, but I’m too busy agreeing with the poet. I am already self-conscious that people abroad know where I come from as soon as I open my mouth, if not sooner. Okay, definitely sooner. But hiking pants that zip off at the knees were still a good American idea, dammit.

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Gilded Flux: An Interview with Iliana Rocha

By Jon Riccio

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Iliana Rocha is originally from Texas. She earned a PhD in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and she holds an MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry from Arizona State University, where she was Poetry Editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her work was chosen for the Best New Poets 2014 anthology and has previously appeared in Bennington Review, Banango Street, Blackbird, Third Coast, and elsewhere. Her first book, Karankawa, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and is published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Jon Riccio: Karankawa opens with the poem “La Llorona as Andrea Yates,” a blend of folklore and modern infamy (“Somewhere in Texas, a crowd/ predicts my death. They say it will sound/ like the scream of a tuba being born.”). Why is today’s gallery of rogues so readily interchangeable with the centuries old?

Iliana Rocha: In a broader sense, I think it is because our mythology concerning women has not evolved much past the dichotomy of monster/angel—either women are destroyers or creators—the nuance and complexity of women’s identities is a deep erasure women writers are still desperately trying to rewrite back into grand narratives. To open the collection with two notorious female figures (one from Mexican folklore and the other from American pop culture) is not only an attempt to bridge hyphenated gaps between identities, but also to illuminate the one-dimensionalized approach we have to writing about women, particularly “bad” women.

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2016 Contest Winners!

Sonora Review is proud to announce the winners of our 2016 Poetry, Essay, and Fiction Contests. Each winner will receive $1000 and publication in SR Issue 70, forthcoming this September. The editors would like to thank all contestants for sharing their work with us as well as the judges for their generosity of time and spirit. We received 356 submissions across three genres. 2017 contests will open in the spring.

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Congratulations to winners Renia White, Danielle Zaccagnino, and Sean Gill!

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Supersedent Bouquet: An Interview with Robert Carr

By: Jon Riccio

Carr_Amaranth Cover Carr_Author Photo

Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, a chapbook published in the spring of 2016 by Indolent Books. His poems appear in a variety of publications including The Good Men Project, Pretty Owl Poetry, The Pickled Body, White Stag Journal, Bewildering Stories Magazine, Front Porch Review, Canary Literary Magazine, 4ink7, Dark Matter Journal of Speculative Writing and numerous other publications. He has led public health infectious disease efforts in Massachusetts for over 30 years and lives with his husband Stephen in Malden (MA). He continues to learn from their son Noah and the community of poets in the Boston area. His published work can also be found at robertcarr.org.

Jon Riccio: Congratulations on Amaranth’s publication. I’m not the most botanically inclined, though I did learn the amaranth is an “imaginary, undying flower,” and chemists have assigned its namesake to an “azo dye used chiefly to color pharmaceuticals, food, and garments.” Do these definitions serve more as lenses or launching points for your collection?

Robert Carr: The launching point for the book was the Keats epigraph, “The spirit culls unfaded amaranth, when wild it strays through the old garden ground of boyish days.” I knew this first collection would dig the ground of my childhood though today, age 56. The shadow field of sexual fantasy and reality, the deaths of men through the AIDS epidemic, the death of my mother, sexual excess and physical survival.

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