Q&A with Kaveh Akbar: ‘Pilgrim Bell’ and Learning Out of Order

by Ray Levy Uyeda

In his new book of poetry, Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf Press; 80 Pages), Kaveh Akbar plays with the spiritual, familial, and corporeal. The poems meditate on the places of our origins; the land from which we came, the people through which we arrived, and the languages we spoke among and after those places and people. Kaveh is the winner of a 2017 and 2018 Pushcart Prize and is the Poetry Editor at The Nation. ZYZZYVA spoke to Kaveh, whose poems appeared in Issue 107, to discuss the book, God, and miracles. ZYZZYVA: The first and the second to last poem of […]

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Q&A with Matthew Clark Davison: ‘Doubting Thomas’ and Our Need for a Pariah

by Adam Winograd

Matthew Clark Davison’s first novel, Doubting Thomas (272 pages; Amble Press) tells the story of a fourth-grade teacher, gay and out, named Thomas McGurrin, who—while navigating the familial turmoil of his brother’s recent cancer diagnosis—is falsely accused of inappropriately touching one of his  students at a private school in Portland. The community, however unintentionally, goes from promoting Thomas as a symbol of their own progress to casting him as a pariah. Thomas, even after being found innocent, is forced to leave his job.  Davison’s writing has been published widely, including in Guernica, The Atlantic Monthly, Foglifter, Fourteen Hills, and other […]

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Q&A with Ashley Nelson Levy: ‘Immediate Family’ and Diverging from the Adoption Narrative

by Oriana Christ

In the opening pages of Immediate Family (192 pages; Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the unnamed narrator’s brother calls and asks her to give a speech at his wedding—and so begins the complex and careful family portrait that is Ashley Nelson Levy’s unshakeable debut novel. The time between this phone call and the impending speech is spent grappling with questions of what she should say, what she won’t say, what she has a right to say. In her attempts at finding answers, the narrator takes us through her life in the form of a letter to her younger brother Danny, detailing […]

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Q&A with Cedar Sigo: ‘Guard the Mysteries’ and Knowing Your History

by Ray Levy Uyeda

In his new book, Guard the Mysteries (126 pages; Wave Books), comprised of five talks presented for the Bagely Wright Lecture Series, Cedar Sigo draws from his experiences as poet, teacher, writer, and thinker to tell us about the life of a poet and the work of his poetry. In the lectures, inward reflections become outward, and what elements start as external (such as a listener’s question) are absorbed into the inside. In other words, poetry is revealed to be a metaphysical, transitive process, always in movement, and always capable of connecting dual sides of a truth. “More and more, […]

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Q&A with Mick LaSalle: ‘Dream State’ & the American Soul

by Zack Ravas

Local readers likely know Mick LaSalle as the longtime film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he’s worked since 1985. What they may or may not know is that he’s also an accomplished author: we featured his short story “Fresh Kills” in Issue 108, and he has several books to his name, including Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, about the actresses who rose to fame during that brief window of time before Hollywood censorship took hold; and The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses. His latest book, Dream State: California in the […]

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Q&A with Kelly Cressio-Moeller: ‘Shade of Blue Trees’ and the Presence of the Body

by Alana Frances Baer

Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s debut poetry collection, Shade of Blue Trees (79 pages; Two Sylvias Press), consists of thirty-seven poems, broken into four parts. Cressio-Moeller has long established herself as both a visual artist and writer, with her widely published poetry earning nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net awards. Having spent most of her life in San José, California, Cressio-Moeller draws heavily from California terrain. She points to the heavy knots of human relationships, reminding us that love comes with grief. And she writes of and from daily life, mapping the jagged edges of relationships […]

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Spotlight on Issue 120: Q&A with Benjamin Voigt

by Owen Torrey

What do an iPhone and a lyric poem have in common? It’s a question that animates the work of writer and technologist Benjamin Voigt, whose poems forge nimble, unexpected connections between the poetic and the digital. In Voigt’s new poem, “Walden Two”—which appears in our Technology-themed Issue 120—we encounter a speaker sorting through layered circuitry of memory, thought, and language. “I’ve held onto that last line for a long time,” Voigt reflects, mid-poem, “and don’t know if I’ve used it right, / or if this is a glitch / in my programming I’m still debugging.” We recently spoke with Voigt […]

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Spotlight on Issue 120: Q&A with William Brewer

by Chris Carosi

As a poet originally from a former steel-town outside of Pittsburgh, I have a thirst for stories and writers coming out of the area, especially Appalachia and what is known, by turns accurately and inaccurately, as the “Rust Belt.” I am most interested in the writers from this part of the country that have been writing essential books that highlight the personal experiences of working-class communities. I’m thinking of presses like Belt Publishing and West Virginia University Press, not to mention the dozens of books from other small and university presses that seek to give writers from these areas platforms […]

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Q&A with Carribean Fragoza: ‘Eat the Mouth That Feeds You’ and the Wounds We Carry

by Ray Levy Uyeda

Carribean Fragoza’s debut book of fiction, Eat the Mouth That Feeds You (144 pages; City Lights Publishers), is a collection of supernatural, almost mythical short stories. Set in Fragoza’s home town of South El Monte, a suburb east of Los Angeles, the collection explores what kind of violence is exchanged intergenerationally and what happens when the resulting wounds are not attended to. Fragoza’s characters, all of whom are Chicanx or Mexican women, explore the many worlds of their bodies, minds, and lineages. Carribean Fragoza recently spoke to ZYZZYVA via Zoom about Eat The Mouth That Feeds You. ZYZZYVA: The first […]

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Q&A WITH MEGAN CULHANE GALBRAITH: ‘THE GUILD OF THE INFANT SAVIOUR’ AND DIORAMAS OF A CHILDHOOD

by K.L. Browne

In Megan Culhane Galbraith’s hybrid memoir, The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book (288 pages; Mad Creek Books), she investigates our desire for belonging with generosity and an eye for hidden truths. Galbraith was adopted as a baby in the late 1960s, and through a dual lens of subject and observer, she considers this tumultuous period of sexual freedoms for women and its consequences. The book’s unique form bridges the private and historical. Galbraith looks at programs for women and infants that echo an unconscious disregard; Catholic charities claimed to save unwed mothers, a domestic economy […]

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Q&A with Gabriela Garcia: ‘Of Women and Salt’ and the Cost of Survival

by Kyubin Kim

Of Women and Salt (224 pages; Flatiron Books), the first novel by Gabriela Garcia, follows four generations of women, from 19th century Cuba to present-day Miami. While the book primarily concerns Cuban American Jeanette’s journey to recover her matrilineal family history, Garcia weaves in the characters’ personal testimonies with a delicate understanding of how women’s lives are preserved incompletely, lost in migration, or erased. Training her eye on the Cuban diaspora and humanizing the nascent debates about U.S. immigration, Garcia meditates on the strength of women and frames motherhood as not mere sacrifice for the future generations, but affirming the […]

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Q&A with Joshua Mohr: ‘Model Citizen’ and Pointing Out the Frictions

by Kyubin Kim

Model Citizen (336 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is Joshua Mohr’s memoir on addiction, sobriety, and fatherhood. It’s a brutally sincere addition to his repertoire that includes the previous memoir Sirens and five novels. Told in a series of non-chronological vignettes, Model Citizens begins with Mohr’s jagged path to recovery in episodes of self-destruction and regret. We’re pulled so viscerally into San Francisco bars where one drink turns into a blacked-out night that we feel like the gears in Mohr’s brain, trying to make sense of how we got here. We also experience the anguish of recovery and relapse, drawn […]

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