Flashback Friday featuring Devi Laskar from issue 294.2

Necessity breeds invention!

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I was in an online poetry boot camp and had a few hours to come up with that Tuesday poem. Everything I had written that day stunk like raw fish baking on a dry dock. I overheard my children discussing their favorite movies at the time. My oldest said “Little Mermaid” and my middle said “Sleeping Beauty” and my youngest said “Snow White.” When I asked my youngest why, she said the wicked stepmother had the best laugh. And a poem was born.

“Cackle like a Wicked Stepmother” first appeared in issue 294.2, March-April 2009. Here is a flaskback of the poem as well as link to purchase your very own issue.

How to Cackle like a Wicked Stepmother

First you’ll need the accessories,
dazzling with mischief and ill-
intent: poisoned apples, floor-length
mirrors that talk back in iambic
rhyme; sinuous black evening
gowns, eye-shadow the color
of a bruise, lips too crimson to
be kissed, a castle with a working
dungeon; stone stairs always in need
of mopping, henchmen, preferably
hunchbacked, a charcoal forest whose
trees disappear into the abyss
of moonless nights, a thunderstorm
thick with jagged rain; oh, and a man
with a charmed life standing before
you, confessing his abiding
love for your sister, or best friend
since the second grade. The rest
is easy, look into the glass, bite
through to the core, delicious,
forbidden down to the guttural,
and feel the crows’ wings fluttering
in your belly finally rise.


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DEVI S. LASKAR was born and raised in Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds a BA in journalism and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MFA in writing from Columbia University. Ms. Laskar is a photographer and writer—and a former crime reporter in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Illinois. Her poems have been published in the Atlanta Review, the Squaw Valley ReviewPratichi, the Tule Review, and the North American Review, where her poems were finalists for the James Hearst Prize in 2009 and 2011. 


CLAIRE STIGLIANI (b. 1983) is a drawer and painter known for her works inspired by paintings, photographs, magazines, posters, YouTube clips, literature, performance and plays. These works explore the act of watching and being watched and blur fiction with reality. Her recent shows include The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, (WI), The Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, (WI), RussellProjects, Richmond (VA), and the Jenkins Johnson Gallery (NY). She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking and Photography in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

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From Poetry to Fiction: The Imagined Self by Sarah Kennedy


Poetry was my first genre.  The pleasures of metaphor, compression of expression, and the controlled line appealed to me in ways that prose did not, and when I first began writing—and then publishing—I never thought I would write anything but poetry.  Of course, critical essays and book reviews were part of my work, but those always felt as though they came from a different quadrant of my brain.  Poetry was my genre.

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My first poems were also very personal, and my early books, taken together, are almost a memoir in verse.  Those poems felt urgent, needing to be written before I could do anything else creative.  Maybe it was therapy; maybe it was self-discovery; maybe I was using my own life as a way of understanding what cultural imperatives do to an individual personality.  Maybe all of the above.  I don’t know, but what I do know is that I was also feeling my way through my own narrative, in tight, often quite short, pieces.

Writing about the self has its limits, though.  By the time I was writing my most recent book of poems, The Gold Thread, I was writing about historical people and situations, using characters and situations from my scholarly work in Early Modern British literature.  The shift happened during a trip to Wales one summer.  I had a grant to investigate the recipe manuscripts left by seventeenth and eighteenth-century women in the National Library at Aberystwyth, and my intention was to get as much information, for my teaching, about domestic life from that period as possible.  And I learned an enormous amount—but what came of my time in Wales was not an academic book but a series of poems about those women, some largely imagined and some based almost entirely on details that they’d recorded.  That experience changed my poems. Continue reading

The Artist’s Vision by Jeffrey Ethan Lee

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Recently, I heard the results of The Fifth Annual James Hearst Poetry Prize sponsored by the North American Review (573 Entrants 2,583 Poems). I was a finalist with one poem, which is below. I did not think the judge Billy Collins was going to pick my poem as the winner, to be perfectly honest, because the poem I sent wasn’t really up his alley, so to speak. I was glad to make the finalist group though because that means they will publish this poem. I have always liked this poem despite the fact that it is “difficult.”

I’m going to do an unusual thing and actually say how this poem was created. It began like, jesuschrist (!) more than twenty years ago. Yeah, it was 1984, and I was staying at a friend’s house due to being somewhat temporarily destitute (okay, okay, I was homeless for a while after I was a literally starving artist in a real third-floor garret with bullet holes in the windows, blah blah blah. It may sound romantic, but it really was mostly ugly and nasty. Stuff that makes you prone to anti-social habits and rots your teeth, etc.) Continue reading