Monthly Archives: December 2015

‘Chumship’ by Kristopher Jansma: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter 2015

Kristopher Jansma’s first novel, “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards” (Viking), was the winner of the 2014 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award and a finalist for the Prix de l’Inapperçu, as well as a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick and an ABA “Indie Next” Choice. His work has appeared in Electric Literature, the New York Times, the Believer, The Millions, and other publications. His novel “Why We Came to the City” will be published by Viking in February. His story “Chumship” appears in the Winter issue.

“Chumship” lays out the friendship between two boys, Clark and the narrator, through high school and into college. The narrator is in thrall of droll Clark, who has an innate gift for spinning fictions, including a plan for hatching an imaginary girlfriend as a ploy for getting an actual one. Funny yet tender, Jansma’s story makes the most of its theme about the lies we tell others and ourselves. The following is an excerpt.

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‘Letter to Galway From Tahoe’ by Heather Altfeld: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter Issue

Heather Altfeld’s first book, “The Disappearing Theatre,” won the 2015 Poets at Work Prize, judged by Stephen Dunn. Her poems have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Northwest, Okey-Panky, among other publications, and in ZYZZYVA No. 92 and 99. Her poem “Letter to Galway from Tahoe” is in ZYZZVA No. 105.

Addressed to the late great poet Galway Kinnell, who directed the poetry program at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the speaker of the poem finds herself seeking the ear of Kinnell, who has died only months ago. “I turn to you because I think you were one of the ones a little like me,// for whom terror and beauty were like the green languages of birds/ we longed to interpret, and felt, if we could not do so,/ that we had failed.” The following is the poem in its entirety.

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The Poison of a Long Imprisonment: Liu Xia’s ‘Empty Chairs’

Loneliness is palpable among the stark emotions of Beijing artist and poet Liu Xia’s Empty Chairs: Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 118 pages), The collection, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, spans from 1983 to 2013, and shudders under the weight of political and psychological violence: the 1989 Tiananmen massacre; the multiple (and current) imprisonments of Liu Xia’s husband, poet and activist Liu Xiaobo; the eleven-year sentence of her younger brother, Liu Hui. At the center of these circumstances sits Liu Xia, who has been living under strict house arrest since her husband received the 2010 Nobel …Continue reading

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‘Paddle to Canada’ by Heather Monley: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter 2015

Heather Monley’s fiction has appeared in Crazyhorse and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and her story “Town of Birds” won the annual Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her story “Paddle to Canada” appears in our Winter issue.

Though under 2,000 words, “Paddle to Canada” is a rich and nuanced telling of a family’s breaking apart, and how we wonder if our happy memories from the past were truly that, and how me carry the weight of experience. The following is Monley’s story in full.

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‘The Snake That Always Bites My Ass’ by Paul Madonna: ZYZZYVA No. 105

Paul Madonna writes and draws the weekly series “All Over Coffee” and is the author of “All Over Coffee” (City Lights Books) and “Everything Is Its Own Reward” (City Lights Books). His work has been published internationally in numerous books and magazines, exhibited in galleries and museums, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the Oakland Museum of California, and he is a contributing editor to ZYZZYVA. His story “The Snake That Always Bites My Ass” appears in the Winter issue.

Though known as an artist, Madonna also writes fiction, such as his story “Hero,” which was published in ZYZZYVA No. 100. “The Snake That Always Bites My Ass,” which is also accompanied by Madonna’s art work in the Winter issue, is set in Thailand among ex-pats. The following is an excerpt from it.

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‘Eldorado’ by Lauren Alwan: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter 2015

Lauren Alwan is a staff contributor at LitStack, a literary news and review site, and her fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, the Alaska Quarterly Review—and next spring—in the Bellevue Literary Review, for her story “The Foreign Cinema,” which won the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction. Her essay “Eldorado” appears in the Winter issue.

Set in the mid-1970s in Northern California, Alwan’s writes of the time she was a young woman, building a house with a boyfriend in Siskiyou County. This slice of memoir isn’t just about that, of course. It delves into the culture of people trying to live off the land, the harsh realities of rural life, and what it means to have a home. It also thoughtfully examines her relationships with her father and with her boyfriend (whom she knew she’d never create a life with, despite their house). The following is an excerpt from “Eldorado.”

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‘The Cave’ by Austin Smith: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter 2015

Austin Smith, who lives in San Francisco, is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford and the author of four poetry collections, including “Almanac,” which was published by the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. His poems and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, and in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 83 and No. 100. His story “The Cave” appears in the Winter issue.

Relating the arrival of a new kid to a small farming community in Illinois, “The Cave” centers around its young narrator going to the boy’s house for dinner one evening. But around that event, which leads to them exploring a cave at night, is an examination of a child’s rural life, one not immune from the hardships true for children everywhere, including the menace of bullies. In the following excerpt, our narrator talks about the red-headed twin sisters who, for whatever reason, decide one day while getting on the school bus to single him out for their cruelty. The following is an excerpt from “The Cave.”

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A ‘Dirty Old Man’s’ Defiant Stories: ‘The Bell Tolls for No One’ by Charles Bukowski

Early on in the Charles Bukowski compilation The Bell Tolls For No One, a narrator named Bukowski pulls his car over to the side of the road to stop and marvel at a hideous-looking farm animal. “When one ugly admires another,” he muses, “there is a transgression of sorts, a touching and exchanging of souls, if you will.” It could be said that much of Charles Bukowski’s writing is devoted to this moment when two imperfect forces collide – whether it’s drunken lovers helping each other endure a cold night or a downtrodden man recognizing a kindred spirit in the …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Dean Rader

Dean Rader (whose poetry has been published in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 93 , 98 & 101) is the author of several books, including the poetry collections Works & Days (winner of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize), Landscape Portrait Figure Form, which was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2013, and the forthcoming Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, to be published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press. ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon talked to Rader about what makes for a “successful” poem, how his work has come to be shaped, the attraction …Continue reading

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On Concluding Our 30th Anniversary: Letter From the Editor: Issue No. 105

Dear Reader, In 1946, Lionel Trilling penned a barbed sort of defense of “little magazines”: “They are snickered at and snubbed, sometimes deservedly, and no one would venture to say in a precise way just what effect they have—except that they keep the new talents warm until the commercial publisher with his customary air of noble resolution is ready to take his chance, except that they make the official representatives of literature a little uneasy, except that they keep a countercurrent moving which perhaps no one will be fully aware of until it ceases to move.” In her introduction to …Continue reading

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