Monday, December 09, 2013

New Featured artist at caraballo-farman

New on our site: a text performance by collaborative art team caraballo-farman, "That's What the Tumor Says"

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Pushcart Prize nominations

Ninth Letter is pleased to announce our 2013 nominations for the Pushcart Prize!

From Vol. 10, no. 1, Spring/Summer 2013:
Anne Valente, "A Field Guide to Female Anatomy" (fiction)
Daniel Story, "In Need of Assistance" (nonfiction)
Geri Doran, "The Observable World" (poetry)

From Vol. 10, no. 2, Fall/Winter 2013 (forthcoming this month):
Jessamyn Schnackenberg, "A Scatology" (poetry)
Nalini Jones, "You Are Looking Almost Good" (nonfiction)
Robyn Joy Leff, "The Dilemma Olympics" (fiction)

Congratulations, and good luck!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Mark Yakich on "What Is a Poem?"

Contributor Mark Yakich (vol. 5 no 1) has a terrific piece featured in The Atlantic's Object Lessons series, "What Is a Poem?"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Philip Graham Remembers Oscar Hijuelos


Normally, we at Ninth Letter love to use this blog as a way to announce the continuing successes of the writers who have been published in our magazine.  It’s a way to celebrate writers we admire, and a way of keeping in touch, too.

Now, however, we are faced with the sad task of saying goodbye to Oscar Hijuelos, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.  In our sixth issue (v. 3 #2, Winter 2006) we published an excerpt from Oscar’s novel-in-progress, Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise, accompanied by an interview with him about that excerpt.  Sadly, Oscar wasn’t able to complete the novel before his sudden death on October 12, 2013.

In the excerpt, the journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley (who was indeed a friend of Twain’s), says that, “if there is such a thing as ghosts, literature will be the only verifiable version of them.”  In the interview, Oscar elaborated on this intriguing idea:

“Its source is a kind of tautology that has to do with the sense that even as I am writing these words now, someone will be reading them, perhaps (well, not in my case, but say someone like Twain), a hundred years from now.  But when I assume that what I am writing now will be preserved in a book (or a journal) I always get the image of some library stack—could be two hundred years from now—and of a student or librarian reading this over and thinking, So that’s what it was like back then.  And I guess it’s informed by my feeling that literature is a way of preserving voices from the past: I mean, even as I tried to imagine what Twain might think or say in a given situation, I not only thought that his books contained his spirit, but I also had the odd sensation that he was somewhere nearby, sort of like a ghost.  And I think that he must have surely been aware of it himself while reading his favorites, like Carlyle’s history of the French Revolution. (It was the book he had by his deathbed.)

“That I have Stanley saying this has to do with his own passions—he read everything—junk novels, Greek and Latin works in the original, countless kinds of books, as well as all current literature, from Tolstoy to Twain, as if reading was an absolutely necessary part of existence, as essential as breathing.  By then, the 1890s, photographs and primitive film making were also preserving images of human life, but I guess the line just conveys my own feeling that nothing will ever quite capture the human inner voice and spirit the way that books do.”

You can hear something of Oscar Hijuelos’ spirit in this interview, and even more so of course in his critically acclaimed novels, which are now the afterlife he imagined, the place where his very human inner voice can best be found.

--Philip Graham

Philip shares more memories of Oscar at his own blog,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ninth Letter partners with Disquiet International Literary Program

Ninth Letter is proud to be partnering with the Disquiet International Literary Program for their 2014 annual conference and contest. The Disquiet Literary Prize is currently accepting submissions in fiction nonfiction, and poetry; the winning selection in nonfiction will be published on as a Featured Writer in the summer of 2014. The fiction winner will be published in Guernica and the poetry winner in The Collagist. All three winners will receive a full scholarship, including tuition, lodging, and airfare, to the 2014 Disquiet conference in Lisbon. For more info and to enter the contest, visit

Friday, November 08, 2013

Amy Sayre Baptista Interview at The Conversant

9L contributor and U of I alumna Amy Sayre Baptista was interviewed, along with fellow writer Millicent Borges Accardi, at the monthly online journal The Conversant. Both writers, interviewed by Rosebud Ben-Oni, discuss their explorations of their Portuguese heritage and other influences on their poetry.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thomas McNeely Wins Gival Press Novel Award

Congrats to Thomas McNeely, whose novel Ghost Horse has been awarded the 9th Annual Gival Press Award and will be published in 2014. His essay "The Burning Bed" appears in our most recent issue, vol. 10 no. 1.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Douglas Glover's New Book Is Out!

9L contributor Douglas Glover's new collection of stories, Savage Love is now available in Canada. The National Post calls it "one of the best books you will read this year." How can you pass that up?! U.S. readers can order from or directly from Goose Lane Editions.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Bryan Furuness Interview on Fiction Writers Review

9L editor Philip Graham has a fascinating discussion with 9L contributor and long-time good buddy Bryan Furuness over at Fiction Writers Review. If you haven't read Bryan's debut novel The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson, you need to do so ASAP!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

2013 Award Winners Announced!

Ninth Letter is proud to announce the winners of our 2013 Literary Awards!

Poetry winner: R. A. Villanueva, for his poems "Aftermaths" and "Sacrum"
Fiction winner: Caitlin O'Neill, for her story "The Change Over Day"
Creative Nonfiction winner: Jessica Wilbanks, for her essay "On the Far Side of the Fire"
Literature in Translation: Eleanor Goodman, for her translation of excerpts from Shen Wei's A Dictionary of Xinjiang

Other honors accorded by our judges include:
G. C. Waldrep selected "Three Expressions of El Tio" and "Five Characteristics of the Genus Tragelaphus" by Zoey Farber as the Runner Up entry in poetry

Alexis Levitin selected Olga Nikolova's translations of "A Birthday Between Two Seas," "A Formula for Infinity," and "Toast" by Krasimira Zafirova's as the Runner Up entry up in translation

Margot Livesey named "Pinprick" by Christie Heinrichs, "Charcoal" by Rachel Unkefer, and "Here Where the World Is Greening" by Rachel May as Honorable Mentions in fiction.

Many thanks to our judges G. C. Waldrep, Lia Purpura, Alexis Levitin, and Margot Livesey, and to all the terrific authors who submitted work.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Philip Graham interviews Angela Woodward at Fiction Writers Review

Creative Nonfiction Editor Philip Graham interviews Angela Woodward about her novel End of the Fire Cult (Ravenna Press) at Fiction Writers Review. Excerpts from End of the Fire Cult appeared in Ninth Letter's Spring/Summer 2010 issue.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Visiting Writers Series: Interview with Frank Montesonti

I am happy to say I had the chance to catch up with Frank Montesonti, the featured reader for Saturday's Visiting Writers Spring Reading, and ask him a few questions. Montesonti is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope, Winner of the 2011 Barrow Street Book Prize chosen by D.A. Powell, and the book of erasure, Hope Tree (How To Prune Fruit Trees) by Black Lawrence Press. A long time resident of Indiana, he now lives in Los Angeles and is lead faculty at the MFA program at National University. 

Natalie: If you had to, how would you describe the aesthetic associated with Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope? From where do these poems originate?

Frank Montesonti: Well, it will be nice reading in Champaign; the poems in Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope are mostly located in the landscapes of the Midwest--from the lush, humid summers to the bleak winters of endless miles of frozen, harvested corn fields. I grew up in Indianapolis and the quiet desolation of the Midwest has definitely infected my imagination and voice. The title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but with a serious core. Many of the poems are heavy in humor and language play, but their ultimate goal is to earn moments of real emotional exigency. I think that is the aesthetic core of the collection, and I think definitely it comes from a Midwestern sensibility.

Natalie: What are some of your big creative influences? Who inspires you?

Frank Montesonti: Well, it would be a very long list to include every poet who has inspired me or taught me something, so if I had to choose one poet only, it would have to be Walt Whitman. It’s not just because of his innovations in American poetry, but because of his outlook on the world, his sense of praise and his vulnerability. I go back to Whitman again and again because I feel like my poems start with the same impulse, the sudden appreciation of the abundance and beauty of life. It is that impulse that gives me the bravery to break the silence of the page.

Natalie: Do you enjoy teaching? How do you interact with the process of introducing students to poetry?

Frank Montesonti: Yes, I enjoy teaching immensely. I believe poetry is a conversation, and I like to introduce my students to a wide variety of poetic voices and then listen to hear what conversations they are compelled to enter; then I try my best to be a guide for them into those conversations. I feel it is often counterproductive to insert my own personal aesthetics into a workshop too strongly, though I suppose it is inevitable to some extent. But I digress; my point is that I enjoy helping students find their own voices and their own artistic projects. That is the primary source of joy in teaching to me.

Natalie: What kinds of poems are you working on right now?

Frank Montesonti: The poems I am working on now are quite different from the poems in my first or second books. They involve a series of overlapping scenes that build and develop each other interspersed with a series of exuberant love poems. The collection’s title is For Oh, Yvonne, I Am!

Natalie: If you could have dinner with any poet, living or dead, who would it be?

Frank Montesonti: Forget dinner, I just want to hang out in a dive bar with John Berryman.

Thanks again to Frank for taking time off during his book tour to answer my questions. Once again, don't miss his reading this weekend!

Line Assembly Poetry Tour

Coming in Summer 2013 to a place near you! The Line Assembly Poetry Tour, featuring poets S. E. Smith, Anne Marie Rooney, Zachary Harris, Adam Atkinson, Ben Pelhan, and  former 9L assistant editor Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, is a new kind of poetry adventure. From their Kickstarter page:

"Unlike most reading tours that focus on the presentation of the author’s work, our tour will combine readings with free poetry and literary arts workshops at libraries and community spaces around the country."

Line Assembly will also donate contemporary poetry books and develop a resource magazine with tips on organizing reading and writing groups, hosting productive workshops, and more! Click on the link above to support this fantastic project.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

UIUC Visiting Writers Reading: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

As part of the annual Boneyard Arts Festival, the University of Illinois will hold its first Visiting Writers Reading, featuring students from the PhD in Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and special guest Frank Montesonti, as well as students from UIUC’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

Please join us on April 13th at 5:30PM for this special event, to be held at Mike 'n Molly's in downtown Champaign. Learn more about our readers here:

Ching-in Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press) and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press). A Kundiman and Lambda Fellow, Ching-In is part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities, and has been a participant in Sharon Bridgforth's Theatrical Jazz Institute. Ching-In attends the PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is Cream City Review's editor-in-chief.

Loretta McCormick is a native Angelino and creative writing PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studies and writes about freakery, disability and death. She is a fiction editor for Cream City Review, and her work has appeared in The Northridge Review. 
Khaleel Gheba is an MFA candidate in Poetry, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He grew up in Maryland. He once used a poem to lift a burning car off of a baby. He's very tired. Please don't wake him.

Natalie Mesnard is a student in the Creative Writing program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work is forthcoming in Copper Nickel and Kenyon Review Online.

Greg Rodgers is an author and Choctaw storyteller who appears at schools, libraries, universities, museums, and tribal events throughout the country. He has written two books, The Ghost of Mingo Creek and One Dark Night in Oklahoma. Additionally, he is a contributing writer for the graphic-anthology, Trickster, an ALA Children's Notable Book for 2011. Greg is listed as an official Smithsonian Associate and is currently a Graduate Assistant in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kara Van de Graaf is a doctoral student in creative writing at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a miniature silverware enthusiast. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthology Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Alaska Quarterly Review and other journals. She is a poetry editor for Cream City Review.  Her favorite animal is the goat.

Special guest Frank Montesonti is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope, winner of the 2011 Barrow Street Book Prize chosen by D.A. Powell, and the book of erasure, Hope Tree (How To Prune Fruit Trees) by Black Lawrence Press. He is also author of the chapbook, A Civic Pageant, also from Black Lawrence Press. His poems have appeared in journals such as Tin House, AQR, Black Warrior Review, Poet Lore, and Poems and Plays, among many others. A longtime resident of Indiana, he now lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at National University.