Photo of Brian Evenson
Recently, Sonora Review‘s 2017-2018 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Patrick Cline, interviewed Brian Evenson, writer of numerous works of fiction and our 2017 Fiction Contest judge.
First off, thank you so much for judging our Spring fiction contest. We love your choice, Kate Berson’s “Luz, Milagro,” and are thrilled to publish it in Sonora Review #72. What do you admire about this story, and what led you to choose it out of the other submissions?
I found it a subtle story, and somewhat elusive–which I mean as a great compliment. It’s the kind of story that gave me just enough to move forward but also maintained a certain amount of mystery. It’s also not necessarily the kind of story I would naturally gravitate toward, and so it had to work a little harder to draw me in. I found it an exceptionally well written story: that, above all, was what convinced me to choose it.
As a semi-frequent contest judge, can you give us a sense of your process in this role, both in this case specifically and generally speaking? What do you look for in a story, and what do you pay attention to? Do you see any tendencies in your choices?
I try to go into each contest with an open mind. It’s more that I’m waiting for the story to convince me that it should be chosen than that I’m looking for something specific–which I guess means I’m looking for something well-written, original and convincing. But, honestly, the story that I chose for the last contest I judged and Berson’s story are radically different. The only thing they have in common is that the people writing them are thinking really actively about language and what it can do.
Congratulations to the winners of the Sonora Review 2017 Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction contests!
Poetry, chosen by Anselm Berrigan: “I Want to Die in Designer” by Benjamin Krusling
Prose, chosen by Brian Evenson: “Luz, Milagro” by Kate Berson
Nonfiction, chosen by Irina Dumitrescu: “The Pace of Death: On Illness and Borders in the Sonora” by Easton Smith
The winners will each receive $1,000 and publication in the next issue of Sonora Review.
We’re happy to announce that Issue 71 is finally out in the world! To purchase a copy, check out our Store.
And from Issue 71 Co-Editor-in-Chief, Samuel Rafael Barber:
Some insist upon comparing the production of a literary magazine to childbirth (for the sake of compassion, we will preserve the anonymity of these actors). In all fairness it is true that in each context, a new entity is entering into the world. Were this book a baby, it would be arriving some three months past term (I am no doctor, but this seems concerning). Were a baby this book, it would never adopt a dog, nor would it understand its impulse to compose poems regarding the life and death of David Bowie, nor would this baby comprehend its all-consuming dread of lyme disease.
Hedy Habra has authored two poetry collections, Under Brushstrokes, finalist for the USA Best Book Award and the International Book Award, and Tea in Heliopolis, winner of the USA Best Book Award; and a story collection, Flying Carpets. She was a six-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her work appears in Cimarron Review, Bitter Oleander, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Nimrod, Poet Lore, World Literature Today, and Verse Daily. Her website is hedyhabra.com.
Jon Riccio: The many gorgeous ekphrastic passages from Under Brushstrokes have me rethinking poetry’s relationship to visual art. One of my favorites is “The bride and groom listen all night long/ to the blue notes cascading over the red-tiled roof” (“Under the Crescent Moon”). What’s your definition of writerly beauty?
Hedy Habra: The concept of beauty is complex and evades specific definitions. Some artworks may lack harmony but will trigger deep aesthetic emotions in the viewer. In the same vein, a poem may not offer a harmonious, or coherent image, but should incite readers to appropriate it and reconstruct the inter-artistic dialogue in search for meaning.
I use the image as a point of departure for an oneiric or surreal recreation departing from the original. It is at times an attempt at transforming a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional, almost cinematic rendition that involves all five senses. I also aim at offering an imagined version of what might have happened before or after the portrayed scene, oftentimes from the point of view of one of the characters in the paintings.
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan
Francisco Cantú is a former Border Patrol Agent and a 2017 Whiting Award winner. A 2016 graduate of the University of Arizona MFA program, his work has since appeared in Best American Essays and This American Life. His book The Line Becomes a River will be published by Riverhead Books in 2018.
Gabe Dozal is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at the University of Arizona. From El Paso, TX, he writes about the code-switching, camouflage, and chameleon nature of the borderlands.
(Competing with car horns, and police sirens on the patio, Francisco’s dog Walt, newly from the vet, has a cone around its head.)
G: You were just here at Five Points this morning?
F: Yeah, every month I have breakfast here, with a group of so-called “desert rats,” writers and naturalists and other friends who share an obsession with the Sonoran desert. .
G: There’s a lot to congratulate you on but I’m most impressed with your “This American Life” piece. I like where the essay starts, with a scene of Border Patrol trainees on stationary bikes, sort of a metaphor for what their role might be like.
F: It was great to be on the program. The piece I read is sort of a hybrid—all of the writing is from the book that will be out next year, but some of the scenes were written years ago before I started my MFA and others much more recently. That’s one thing that’s cool about the book, it’s comprised of all these vignettes that are easy to pull out and present on their own. An earlier version of what I read on This American Life appeared in Best American Essays 2016. But that bicycle scene was one I remembered and added to the manuscript much later. It’s funny, when I was recording it the producers kept telling me to read “more flat” for radio.