Review: Jessica Pierce’s Consider the Body, Winged

by Eric Stiefel

Jessica Pierce’s debut collection of poetry, Consider the Body, Winged (First Matter Press, 2021) is earnest, contemplative, and hauntingly elegant.  Perhaps most importantly, the poems in Consider the Body, Winged are unflinchingly honest; they say what a less courageous poet might shy away from, what a less thoughtful poet might hide behind unnecessary flourish.  Throughout the process of reading it, I found myself thinking of Jessica Pierce’s collection as a collection of meditations, each poem devoting its unfettered attention to the subjects at hand, from divinations and incarcerations to postpartum depression and lapsed faith.

The collection opens with a poem called “What do we know of endings?” (p. 13), which begins with an extended hypothetical: “And if the earth could gather up all / it contains, all its clouded greened / burning dusty torrential glory and grit…” the poem continuing on with bloated vultures and scrawny cats drawn into the image, new blues and crescent moons and wicked gods alike.  Near the end, the poem turns toward introspection, asking if the world has room for “my grief / and my longing and your grief.”  Then, after a pause, the poem makes a point to include “And maybe, / maybe, forgiveness.”

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“The Way You Might Search a Dark Attic”: A Conversation with Faith Shearin, Author of Lost Language and winner of the 2021 NOR nonfiction contest

By Kay Keegan

Kay Keegan: Describe your writing practice and how you sustain it. Has your process changed over the course of your writing career? How about during the pandemic?

Faith Shearin: I write in little notebooks. I keep one in my bedroom under the bedside table, two in the study, one in the kitchen where it is frequently stained by soup, and one in the back seat of my car. These notebooks are full of images that seem to require my attention. One of my professors in graduate school, Thomas Lux, recommended writing ten pages a week about anything that captured my imagination; he though the act of putting pen to paper regularly kept a writer in touch with their own unconscious and creativity. (Two of my favorite books for writers The Artist’s Way and Writing Down the Bones offer similar advice.) He taught me to revisit this stream of consciousness writing with a highlighter the way you might search a dark attic with a flashlight if you were seeking love letters or fine china. I have managed to keep this habit in place, mostly because I enjoy routine and solitude. I write, in part, to see what I think since this is not always immediately apparent. In a letter to [her] literary mentor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Emily Dickinson wrote: “I had terror since September, I could tell none; and so I sing, as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid.” Like Emily, I also write because I am afraid. I wrote much less than usual during the pandemic; my daughter came home from college and we went hiking together among the rows of slate headstones in old New England cemeteries; we hiked through the remains of four towns that were drowned to create the Quabbin Reservoir; we made soups, and tie dyed masks, and watched every rerun of Northern Exposure and M*A*S*H.

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Review: Taylor Byas’s Bloodwarm

by Eric Stiefel

Taylor Byas’s debut chapbook, Bloodwarm (Variant Lit, 2021), does the work that a good chapbook should: It’s bold, concise, and daring, and it hones in on what it wants to say, collecting its poems as variations on a theme without spending too much time retreading worn territory.  Bloodwarm dances between the formal and the formally engaging, from sonnets to pantoums to erasures, to poems written from the past, to poems written as voicemails, as highway exit signs.

The collection starts in media res with “My Twitter Feed Becomes Too Much” (p. 1), opening with a pair of violent images from 2020’s George Floyd protests against police brutality (and the further police brutality inspired by the protests).  “I come across pictures of two rubber bullets / nestled in a palm,” the poem begins, later telling us “The caption reads These maim, break skin, / cause blindness.”  These lines are contrasted with the next image: “Another photo—a hollow / caved into a woman’s scalp, floating hands // in blue gloves dabbing at the spill.”  

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Make Sure There Is Breathing Room: A Conversation with Tania de Rozario, author of And The Walls Come Crumbling Down and winner of the 2020 NOR nonfiction contest

By Kay Keegan

Kay Keegan: Describe your writing practice and how you sustain it. Has your process changed over the course of your writing career? How about during the pandemic?

Tania de Rozario: I am not a very organized person by nature so I work really hard to set detailed schedules and deadlines for myself because if I don’t have a schedule to look at, I am unable to get anything done. Setting aside daily time for my personal writing becomes part of my overall schedule. That said, I am not one of those people who has output goals. Like I don’t have a word count I need to meet every day. I am actually a very slow writer -slower than most, I think- and I need a lot of time for things to percolate. So in that time that I set aside for my writing, I am not necessarily literally putting words on paper – I could really just be sitting with an idea and dwelling on it and letting it develop in my brain. And when I am blocked, I use that time to do something that activates a different part of my brain (like drawing or baking, for example) so that the writing part of my brain can continue to solve the issues it needs to solve subconsciously without me bothering it. Once things are on paper, I try to make sure there is breathing room between edits – again, this is to let things percolate, and to make sure I come back to the draft with fresh eyes every time. I don’t think my process has changed very much over the course of the pandemic. One thing that has changed over the course of my writing career is that I am now in much less of a rush to get to the “final product” and more focused on giving every piece of work enough breathing room to develop into the piece it wants to be.

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New Ohio Review Issue 29 (Originally printed Spring 2021) is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.

Issue 29 compiled by Brady Barnhill, Benjamin Bird, Sarah Hecker, Callie Martindale, Ellery Pollard, and Julia Smarelli

Ode to the Fresh Start

By Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Featured Art: Untitled by Joseph Taylor

Sock drawer with its moth husks, limp mismatches,
____rank refrigerator’s stink of shame, closet
________whose back wall I don’t remember . . .

In Sanskrit abhyasa means practice, discipline,
____not giving up, but starting over
________and over and over again. Just start. Abhyasa.

So when I unroll my yoga mat
____and it promptly rolls back up, I flip it over,
________fling myself down on it, grunt “abhyasa.”

Veteran of fresh starts. I’ve trained myself
____to believe there will be dustless bookshelves,
________push-ups, French refresher courses, kale.

This time will be different. It always is.
____Maybe the trick is shorter and shorter gaps
________between the restarts until they run together,

like rolling out the lawn mower in May,
____working to get a cough, another, three, and with a roar
________it starts again. Once more that green smell rises.

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By Elton Glaser

Will this be one more summer spent
Among the ornamental mailboxes and garden gnomes,

As if I’d come down with a dose of lassitude,
Too much muck in the bloodstream?

That’s better, I guess, than a long month in Lubango,
Not far from the hovels and dead dogs,

With something strange steaming in the heat
And a bad case of the squitters,

And no worse, in its own way, than hearing someone
At the next table praise the taste of

Extra virgin truffle oil on the rutabaga fries,
Parsley butter sliding down a bison steak,

When what I crave is cruder: ecstasy of the unraveled,
Loose elations in a rumpled bed.

I’ve got nothing against sampling a farmer’s stand,
All those honeydews nestled in straw

And peaches fat and pink and above reproach,
Or an afternoon rocking on the front porch,

Sipping a tall cool glass of julep and watching
The dappled daze of sunlight on the leaves.

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A Summer Wind, a Cotton Dress

By Kate Fox

A glance held long and a stolen kiss,
This is how I remember you best.
—Richard Shindell

Little fires light themselves in the hearth, like tongues
____of flame that reclaim the Holy Spirit, like pitchforks

in this clapboard house where mayflies swarm and crackle
____against the porch light. On down, a gas station, a five-and-dime,

and your house, which I can see from the kitchen, where
____clothes on the line billow and collapse, billow and collapse.

This small town holds everything I will ever know and have
____to leave behind: bidden and forbidden glances,

voices from the second-floor landing that warn, Go no further.
____Night will fall and you will fall with it. Which is what I want,

for the universe to take up where I leave off, this longing
____so deep it can hold entire planets in its bottomless pocket,

yet shrink to the size of a finger at the hollow of your neck,
____heart drawing blood from the branchwork of your breathing.

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By Jon Fischer

The 3D printer made a man and gave him a beard
to rub thoughtfully. It printed a book on mortality,
a pamphlet on sin, a monograph on time, and many other
fine things to keep in mind. Then it spun out two
of each animal and a boat around them. It printed rain
so long we thought it was broken, then
it printed an olive leaf. Its final act
was to print a 4D printer, which printed a memory
for the man, who said with his rubbery tongue,
I remember there were olive trees,
and he released one of the doves from its cage
below deck, where it spent the time we were given
under the gaze of two housecats and two weasels.
But the 4D printer started to print more
than the time we were given. Weeks rolled off in pairs, still
warm from the furnace of creation,
and wedges of space to move the stars apart
so the man had room to fill the weeks with many
fine things to keep in mind. That’s how we turned the world
into a dream, where time doesn’t know what to do with itself,
and you always end up falling.

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Heron or Plastic Bag

By Jon Fischer

Far off in a vacant field beside an irrigation
canal alights a stately gray heron

or a plastic bag. The plastic bag flaps
and in the tricky light thick clouds leave behind

trembles in and out of translucence,
just like a heron. The heron flew here from another

land in search of a plot to fill and warmly
fulfill and mute the Sisyphean rhythm of restless

creatures’ lives, across countless miles
that would never do, just like a plastic bag.

Close up it’s clear the field holds both
a stately heron and a plastic bag, each

studying the other like figure and reflection.
Now the difference is obvious. The heron’s eyes

recognize the predicament he’s in, the infernal
froglessness of all this wiregrass, the length

of the horizon, the lean of a eucalyptus. Behind
his eyes is the continent where he first

leapt into a crystalline gust, and at beak’s end wriggles
a continent uncharted, fleshly, ready to be snapped up

like a young shad. But this time of year his wings
know everything there is to know about south

and nothing else. Whereas the bag simply is
the predicament it’s in and billows

with all the joy that has ever flown through
a thousand years of wind.

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What the Drawing Explains

By Jon Fischer

It’s hard to describe a drawing of a millennium,
but you know it when you see it

on a sticky note fallen to the speckled tile
near the lockers in a high-school hallway

It’s rendered half of the social commentary
inherent in a peach-colored crayon, half

of ablative carbon fiber and iridium dust,
the artist’s signature a sketch

of the human genome. This millennium is half past,
half future, neither all that great.

The drawing smells like a philosopher’s feet.
It tells a story that rises off the paper

and reads the palms of passersby, turning life lines
jagged and love lines into spirals. It tells a story

that sinks deep inside the paper, seizing
for its fibrous heart the best and most harrowing

plot twists. Nonetheless, the drawing explains
why the Nile changed course, why tornadoes

and the sea found fancier homes,
why we made no new religions

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Spring Reflection

By Stephanie Choi

Featured Art: Scarlet by Joseph Taylor

___You crave
For the wheels to ride across the puddle, muddied
With pebbles & all your past lives too

___You want to find again
That sky blue that’s been shut tight
All winter long

___You don’t know why
When you finally do
The birds mistake each strand of your hair for a branch

___You wish for the pecking to stop
And for the stillness of a bud before blossom
To return to you

___You ask for a taste
Of the warm cold wind on your wet lips
Just once more—

___You try to remember
What everything was like before
But you take a sip from the cup filled with dust
& ash, instead

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In the Garden

By Kelly Rowe

Featured Art: Mimic by Dylan Petrea

When you were small,
we lived in a tropical state,
and you spoke fluently
a language only two could understand.

It had one word
for bean or ball or m&m or kiss,
three for water, six for dream
or any other risk.

When we talked, the dog danced on hind legs,
and the house sailed down the river,
waving its red and white flags.
The rain took you wading under the live oaks

and mispronounced your name,
but showered you with opals,
while high in the branches invisible birds
whistled back and forth in code.

Now, you live somewhere else,
I’ve gone a little deaf.
I press the phone to my ear
as your voice cuts out, fades,

and like the last speaker
of a lost language, I grope
for one of the hundred names for river,
or the single shouted syllable: Ma!

Meaning flash flood, meaning ark,
meaning the one we need
no words for, the one who flies to us
when we cry out in the dark.

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Garden Sitting

By Jennifer Dorner

for my mother

Season of moths in the strawberries.
An apple or two fallen from the tree.
Plums not yet ripe, through the cornstalks
are burdened with silk,
the vine tomatoes split,
and the sunflowers track the sun,
a bee in each dark center.

Late to the tasks you left me
I unfold the watering instructions again,
late to harvest the beds circled
on your hand-drawn map.

The evening is a haze,
sheets of starlings stretched
over the mown grass field,
a brush of red beneath
the shadowed tree line.

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How to Peel an Orange

By Stephanie Wheeler

Featured Art: Peeled II by Samantha Slone

The dryer was making a monstrous sound. The repairman stood with his hand resting flat on top.

“I feel the vibration,” he said. He was a fat man with a three-day stubble sprouting in uneven patches on his face. His uniform shirt was belted into his trousers around the front and haphazardly untucked in the back. Hazel could see his milky eyes shifting rapidly through smudged glasses. She hated him a little.

Hazel nodded. “And you can hear it, too.”

He squinted his eyes, then squeezed them tight, concentrating.

Hazel decided that she hated him a lot.

“The grinding sound,” Hazel said, straining to make her voice heard above the din. “It’s quite obvious, really.”

“Ah, yes. The grinding. I hear it.”

Hazel’s cell phone chimed then, and she looked at the screen. The name Walt appeared in white letters, glowing.

“Excuse me,” she told the repairman, “I need to take this.”

He waved her away. “Go ahead. I’ll keep at it, love,” he said.

She looked at him, glared, and considered saying something. Something clever about how he shouldn’t call her love. Who was he to call her love? They’d only just met and he was charging a $100 service fee simply to walk in the door and provide diagnostics on the dryer. The $100 was charged before and apart from the repairs. She didn’t feel any love. But her phone was insistent. Hazel left the laundry room, glanced over her shoulder, and pulled the door tight behind her. She went into the kitchen.

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Raw Numbers

By Jasmine V. Bailey

During his reign, four hundred bears.

On the bloodiest day, twenty-four.

On a hunting trip with friends, staged,

as they all were staged, twenty-two

and eleven for his friends. No one

tallied the boar and deer.

Ceaușescu sitting in his perch above a clearing a gamekeeper chases the bears through,

firing an automatic rifle.

One hundred thirty bears

in those last six years.

Brown bears, grizzlies in our West,

eat mostly plants

but Ceaușescu’s bears ate pellets

fed to them by the gamekeepers

who say they don’t like hunting anymore. 

He will die next to Elena

in December, nineteen eighty-nine, 

the shortest day of the year.

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Ocean City, New Jersey

By Jasmine V. Bailey

I drove to meet you the first day of the year
at a B&B fifteen miles east of my childhood
on the White Horse Pike.
For three mornings we had a German pancake
and three cups of coffee 
with the black-haired innkeeper
whose husband coughed in another room,
whose philodendra vined her walls
and ceilings like a cage.

You led me down the beach that first night 
all the way to Longport Bridge
keeping secret what we were after.
Everything seemed a candidate—
the armor of some crab picked clean,
Polaris beneath the moon
like Marilyn Monroe’s mole.
When we got to the bay
I thought we might swim it.
Your face fell realizing
what we’d come to see was gone,
that you would have to tell 
what you’d brought me there to show.

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All Animals Want the Same Things

By Jeanne-Marie Osterman

Featured Art: “Catpurnia” by Julie Riley

I had a sickly cat whose cure,
said the homeopath, was raw meat 
so I replaced the canned food with scraps 
from the butcher and overnight 
her gingerly eating turned feral devouring.
She’d yowl as I took the jiggling red flesh
from the fridge, pace as I cut it into pieces, 
then suck it down before I could rinse the knife. 

This so exhausted her, she’d lie on the sofa 
for hours before getting up to prey 
on the dustbunnies under my desk. 
While I was watching Shark Tank one night, 
a ball of Kleenex walked across my living room floor. 
It turned out to be a mouse 
who was carrying it to the bookcase 
where she was building a house 
behind my dog-eared copy of Balzac’s Lost Illusions

Seeing the mouse brought my cat back to full health. 
She stalked the tiny creature, crippled it 
with her jaws, sat back to watch it struggle. 
I called the building super and asked him 
to take the mouse away, signing 
the creature’s death warrant. 

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By Maura Faulise

Featured Art: “I Feel Like Pieces” by E’Lizia Perry

Pulling out of Dingle Bay 
in the rental van that rainy day 
after singing to the tunes 
of the fiddle player in the family pub, 
my father drove red-faced 
and under the influence 
of what I now know 
was nostalgia 
for the affair he’d just ended 
before flying us over the ocean
to kiss the Blarney Stone. 
He mumbled her name at the wheel,
and something about O’Shaughnessy’s
fine music and the fountain of tears
and the Celtic rain.
When the van slid off the road
and into a field of peat, he punched
the gas to get us out
but the wheels stuttered in the cold mud.
Unconcerned with our fate,
we four kids sat stiff
in the backseat, doe-eyed
and glued to the rhythm
of our mother’s timorous noises.

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By Justin Rigamonti

With a bouquet
of ferns
and lemon
yellow roses,
she looks
in the dug-up
photo of
“the time I
got married
the first time.”

pain followed
hot on this
happy woman’s
heels. Meaning,
don’t think
her life has
hummed along
ever since.

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