Q&A with Rage Hezekiah: ‘Yearn’ & Dispelling the Secrecy

by Chiara Bercu

Rage Hezekiah’s Yearn (65 pages; Diode Editions), the winner of Diode’s 2021 Book Contest, makes an active inquiry into notions of bodily autonomy and limitation, resilience, and an evolving sexuality—charting what Nate Marshall describes, in his blurb of the poetry collection, as a stunning exploration of “the erotic, the familial, and the mundane.”  Hezekiah is a New England-based poet and educator and a recipient of Cave Canem, Ragdale Foundation, and MacDowell Colony fellowships. She is the author of the poetry collection Stray Harbor (Finishing Line Press) and the chapbook Unslakable (Paper Nautilus). Her poetry has appeared in the Academy of […]

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The Murmuring Killed Me

by Peter Orner

Every few years or so I go to visit my dead at Beth El Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts. It’s across the street from a Cumberland Farms. My grandfather always said that being dead didn’t seem so bad if he could run over and grab a pack of cigarettes and the Fall River Herald. On

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Watch our City Lights Bookstore Event for Issue 123: The Poetry Issue

by ZYZZYVA Staff

In case you missed it: you can now watch our recent remote event celebrating the release of Issue 123, our Poetry Issue, with iconic San Francisco bookstore City Lights! Enjoy readings by contributors Maggie Millner, Victoria, Adukwei Bulley, Ruth Madievsky, Chris Carosi, and Joan Baranow. The event was emceed by Zyzzyva’s Managing Editor, Oscar Villalon. You can watch it via the embedded video below. […]

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends August 2022: What to Watch, Read, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Isabelle Edgar, Intern: I had never seen a movie that felt so much like a poem until I saw Petite Maman (2022), directed by Céline Sciamma. Like a poem, the movie is quite short –at just seventy two minutes– and quiet, with only one song in the whole movie (a trademark of Céline Sciamma; think Portrait of a Lady on Fire). Like a poem, Petite Maman’s silence is as meaningful as its words. You have to lean in, kneel down, and listen closely: a whisper from a child’s lips. As the lead in the movie says to her father and […]

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Deadline Approaching for our next Workshop: Writing Across Cultures with Vanessa Hua

by ZYZZYVA

Vanessa Hua

Our next remote Writers’ Workshop is Writing Across Cultures with Vanessa Hua on September 17th, 2022. (11am to 2pm PST via ZOOM). The deadline to purchase a ticket is September 15th. “Can I write about that?” The question of cultural appropriation is a complicated one, and so too its answers. In this discussion-based Writers’ Workshop, students will examine strategies for researching and portraying lives unlike our own, that reflect social and historical context and the fullness of a character’s humanity. Students will work on writing exercises and discuss texts by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Toni Morrison, Elaine Castillo, among others, along with […]

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Q&A with Robin Carlson: ‘The Cold Canyon Fire Journals’ and Rebirth from the Flames

by Rebecca Rukeyser

When Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, an ecological preserve in the California Coast Ranges, was ravaged by the Wragg Fire in 2015, Robin Carlson found herself struck by a sensation of loss. “Although my mind understood fire’s importance in the ecosystem, my heart did not,” she writes. The way to reconcile her contradictory feelings—those of a Californian haunted by a well-founded fear of fires and of a trained biologist with knowledge of fire cycles—was to return to Cold Canyon, notepad in hand, to observe the devastation and first stages of regrowth. And she kept returning. Sometimes she was accompanied by scientists, […]

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‘Blithedale Canyon’ by Michael Bourne: On the Ragged Edge of Hope

by Emma Tavangari

Michael Bourne’s first novel, Blithedale Canyon (292 pages; Regal House Publishing), is in many ways a story about California. It is a treatise on the nature of class in one of Marin County’s wealthiest cities, the psychological costs of gentrification, and the harrowing trials of a young man in the throes of addiction. Bourne finds an unlikely hometown hero in Trent Wolfer, an alcoholic and ex-convict who returns home to Mill Valley following a stint in jail. Trent is twenty-nine years old, flipping hamburgers, and spending his work breaks downing miniature bottles of vodka and gin in his car. Thoughts […]

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Part of a Deer

by Lucy Corin

Here it was suddenly ninety degrees, and across the country it was suddenly frozen. I’d been texting about it with Basil all morning, getting my stuff together for running errands. In the car, I swapped into my sunglasses, setting everything up to follow the driving instructions I’d texted to myself by trying to balance the

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‘Nightcrawling’ by Leila Mottley: Oakland on Its Own Terms

by Emily Garcia

Kiara Johnson, the scrappy protagonist of Leila Mottley’s transfixing first novel, Nightcrawling (288 pages; Knopf), lives in East Oakland, in an apartment complex called the Regal-Hi, where money is sparse and trauma is abundant. Kiara’s father died years before; her mother’s currently in a halfway house following a prison stint; and her older brother, Marcus, who is also her legal guardian (Kiara is seventeen when the novel begins), is pursuing a rap career in lieu of a job that might help pay the rent—which has also recently more than doubled. Beyond her fears of eviction and homelessness, Kiara is pulled […]

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Watch Our Booksmith Event for Issue 123: The Poetry Issue

by ZYZZYVA Staff

In case you missed it: you can now watch our recorded live event with The Booksmith from last week! This event celebrated the launch of Issue 123, the Poetry Issue. Enjoy readings by contributors Colin Winnette, Heather Altfeld, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Troy Jollimore, and Victoria Chang. The event was emceed by Zyzzyva’s Managing Editor, Oscar Villalon. You can watch it via the embedded video below. […]

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Q&A with Lou Mathews: ‘Shaky Town’ and the Way It Was

by Oscar Villalon

One of the best books of fiction to have come out in recent memory is award-winning author Lou Mathew’s novel in stories, Shaky Town (246 pages; Tiger Van Books). Published nearly a year ago, it is one of those rare works that carries an assuring integrity, showing evidence of a writer who understands the bafflement that is the human condition and has the capacity to articulate inchoate sadness and hurt and anger. In Mathews’ case, it is the thoughts and travails of working-class Los Angeles that interest him. Many of his characters are lower middle-class Mexican Americans, a community to […]

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Q&A with Staci Greason: ‘All the Girls in Town’ and Making the Grief Bearable

by Christine Sneed

My first encounter with Staci Greason’s writing was in the fall of 2020 after we met at an online feature-script retreat organized by CineStory, a screenwriting-focused arts organization. I read her screenplay Treed and was particularly impressed by her assured comic touch and her ability to write about complex themes—environmental conservation and marital anomie, in this case—without being heavyhanded. She had also written Treed as a novel—albeit with a different title, The Last Great American Housewife. Soon after we met at the retreat, Greason, who has also acted, sold a different novel, All the Girls in Town, to indie publisher […]

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