ZYZZYVA Recommends April 2020: What to Read, Watch, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

March, April, soon to be May—there’s some sense that the days and weeks are blurring together as most of the nation remains under lockdown, but it’s our hope our readers are staying safe. We’re back once again to recommend some books, films, and other works that might offer welcome relief or distraction as we all Shelter in Place: Cade Johnson, Intern: As I get more accustomed to my Shelter in Place routine, I have been turning to books and music to inject a spark of novelty into my everyday. Luckily, Fiona Apple released her new record, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, […]

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National Poetry Month: ‘Peaceful Waters’

by Paul Wilner

Run deep. The people we know, or think we know, or wish we were, if only we could find a way outside the prison of selfishness. Unlikely. One hundred years—or more— of solitude can’t break these walls. But, you know, there we have it. Other people. Maybe they can save us, maybe they can ruin us, maybe we can find a way into a twangy heaven, where people weep, and weep, and say how much they love us. What is love? Who is he, and what is he to you? Black, brown, beige and battered, like an old suitcase draped […]

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‘Ledger’ by Jane Hirshfield: An Insightful Vision

by Meryl Natchez

In the early 1900s in St. Petersburg in Russia, a group of passionate young poets came together and formed a poetic movement they called Acmeism. Its object was to strip away the florid symbolism then standard in Russian poetry, and create poems based on “the word itself.” Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova were two of the most famous of these poets, but were they around today, they would welcome Jane Hirshfield into their coterie. Her stark, powerful poems are crafted so simply they seem effortless. Constructed largely of nouns and verbs, the very things the Acmeists valued most, it’s hard […]

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National Poetry Month: ‘Northern California’

by Rage Hezekiah

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we’ll be sharing a poem a week from our archives. The following poem, “Northern California” by Rage Hezekiah, is from Issue 116. You can read more poetry by Rage Hezekiah in the issue itself, which is currently available from our Store. You stood at the edge of the stone fruit orchard while I scaled the ladder, a picking basket against my belly, brimming with shiny-ripe plums. Father, you came to California willing to farm at my side, practiced shattered Spanish with the men I’d befriended. When I left after lunch to get high, you never said […]

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by K.L. Browne

In Kate Milliken’s first novel, Kept Animals (350 pages; Scribner), Topanga Canyon of the early ‘90s is an isolated, wild place, beautiful but vulnerable to the destruction and chaos of wildfire. Two teenage girls suffer loss one summer in this rugged canyon nestled beside a Los Angeles of wealth and celebrity. As they seek solace in one another, their connection ripples through the small community with dangerous consequences. Milliken’s clear-eyed telling weaves their story with that of Charlie, a young woman who two decades later searches into the mystery of this relationship and the fire that swept through Topanga. The […]

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National Poetry Month: “Object Permanence”

by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we’ll be sharing a poem a week from our archives. The following poem, “Object Permanence” by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, is from our recent Bay Area Issue. You can read more great work from local poets in the issue itself, which is currently available from our Store. Yes, the red-tail who swooped across our windshield didn’t actually vanish in the gulley, circles still. And when the alarm wakes you, I trust that soft nest of curls will be safely conveyed  to hover at a chalkboard, fall in your eyes. But the calls keep getting closer. So straighten your tie, […]

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‘Child of Light’ by Madison Smartt Bell: Rolling Away the Stone

by Paul Wilner

Too many literary biographies are a waste of space–a cut-and-paste pastiche of previously published materials, random interviews, and unselectively edited quotes, put together in the apparent rush of getting from A to Zed and be done with things. The funeral is more important than what preceded it. Madison Smartt Bell largely avoids these obstacles in Child of Light (588 pages; Doubleday), his masterly new biography of Robert Stone, in which he adheres to the Joseph Conrad dictum that Stone liked to quote: “Fiction must justify itself in every line.’’ Bell is also the editor of The Eye You See With, […]

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35th Anniversary Issue: Letter from the Editor

by Laura Cogan

ZYZZYVA Volume 36, #1, Spring 2020 (No. 118)

The following is Laura Cogan’s Letter from the Editor in our new 35th Anniversary Issue. You can purchase a copy of the new issue from our Shop page. Dear Reader, This year marks the centennial of women’s suffrage, and while it remains a source of national shame and outrage that we came by this expansion of voting rights so disgracefully late, it will nevertheless be natural for many to take the anniversary as a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. But the passage of time has (or should have) also shifted our perspective and broadened our lens, so that […]

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National Poetry Month: ‘A Moment in Time’

by John Freeman

The following is an excerpt from John Freeman’s forthcoming book of poetry The Park, out May 2020 from Copper Canyon Press. You can also read more of John Freeman’s poetry in Issue 115. On a windy day I come upon a woman crying to herself on a bench. The park has hidden her in its embrace and I must decide how to be, to stop or keep walking by, to pretend not to see? Or should I flinch at her pain, even as she, so dedicated to caroling her despair, does not. How pain does this, makes us its instruments. […]

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‘You Will Never Be Forgotten’ by Mary South: Life in Front of the Screen

by Zack Ravas

Under typical circumstances, it’s likely the literary community would be celebrating the release of Mary South’s first book, You Will Never Be Forgotten (240 pages; FSG Originals), a collection of ten dark and crystalline stories that announces the arrival of a distinct voice in contemporary fiction. But these are not normal circumstances, and it’s difficult for any author to garner attention right now, let alone one making their debut. Yet the mordant wit and biting irony in You Will Never Be Forgotten, and its complex understanding of reality’s often cruel reversals, resonates with launching the book when the world is […]

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The Intimacy of Breath

by Tess Taylor

Here is the strange thing: I was already writing poems about the precariousness of California. I’d been writing them for ten years, since I moved back from New York and came back to the East Bay after two decades away. That was 2011. I had just had a baby. At first, it seemed like I was only trying to make sense of the difference between the California I’d grown up in and the California I came back to, but as I wrote, it seemed like I was also trying to make sense of the world, how it had abruptly shifted under […]

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National Poetry Month: ‘We Californians’

by Meg Hurtado Bloom

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we’ll be sharing a poem a week from our archives. The following poem, “We Californians” by Meg Hurtado Bloom, is from our recent Bay Area Issue. You can read more poetry from Meg Hurtado Bloom in the issue itself, which is currently available from our Store. We never admit we have a problem. We compress. We knead. We withdraw toxins. Sun-blind and blond-hearted, we hang around Valhalla, keeping old warriors alive. It’s all super-casual. Our host, the spectral Spanish king— whose every vein burned blue as winter wind, who left us names for every hillside— has betrothed […]

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