The Blog

Steve Tomasula's IN & OZ

Alex Flesher

In Steve Tomasula’s geographically ambiguous locale called OZ, there are no yellow-brick roads, no munchkins, and no witches, wicked or otherwise. Perhaps more frightening than cackling hags, though, there are “connoisseurs” of elevator music. In OZ, Vanilla is called “Crema de Las Angelitas,” and all books are “devoted to the beauty of Auto.” The counterpart locale in this dystopian world is called IN, where just across the bridge myriad factories and plants plume up a thick haze of smog, where “carcinogenic” is among the most useful words, and where “The Tractor Trailer is King, and the Mobile Home Queen.” Tomasula presents twenty-seven brief scenes from this world with an alarmingly distinctive style that avoids many of the pitfalls of contemporary fiction which tend to invite the label “experimental” as a kind of bitter afterthought.

Six Poets. One Van. No Quit.

TIR staff

You know how, when you go out for drinks with writer friends, the conversation always devolves into a lament about the state of literary culture in America, and someone makes a zealous fist and says we need to go further than lit mags, we need to bring poetry to the people! and someone else says wouldn't it be great to just get in a van and, you know, just go DO that? 

Well, six poets are.  

This summer, Adam Atkinson, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Zachary Harris, Ben Pelhan, S.E. Smith, and Anne-Marie Rooney (a TIR alum!) are climbing into a van and driving across the midwest, mid-atlantic, and northeast U.S. to give readings, performances, and free poetry and literary arts workshops at libraries and community spaces.

Robert Garner McBrearty’s LET THE BIRDS DRINK IN PEACE

Jack Smith

Robert Garner McBrearty has authored two previous collections, A Night at the Y and Episode, winner of the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award. In this third collection, published by Conundrum Press, McBrearty continues to prove himself a master storyteller.

His stories tend to be about isolated people hacking it out, doing their best to feel upbeat about things, reinventing themselves if necessary, clutching onto imaginative possibilities. The urgrund of McBrearty’s fictive world is invariably the absurd: a primordial principle of chaos—the anomalous, the bizarre—governing the nature of the human lot, often originating from without, but sometimes from within.   Out of his rich sense of the absurd, McBrearty creates a comic vision that swings between two poles: the zany, outrageous, and the more subtle, sometimes darkly comic. 

A World Just Outside of Tangibility: Lauren Berry's THE LIFTING DRESS

Carrie Chappell

Certain topics are so heart-wrenching that we find them difficult to express in literal terms. Lauren Berry’s debut collection The Lifting Dress—winner of Penguin’s 2010 National Poetry Series, selected by Terrance Hayes—explores the possibilities of figuration in post-traumatic narrative by opening up a broader palate of symbolism to confront the violence of one of the most monstrous human transgressions: rape.

Set in the humid-yawn of a watermarked Gulf Coast city, not unlike the small Florida town of the poet’s childhood home, Berry’s collection is grounded in the representation of a young girl’s emotional derangement and eventual coming-of-age in the threatening stalk of memory. The poems take us directly inside her synthesizing head.


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