Our Winter Solstice Offering

As we move toward the longest night of the year, what better time to settle in with some poetry to go with your hot chocolate? Your glass of wine by the fire? Your mug of coffee, warmth spreading from your first swallow?

We have just the thing. And maybe you’ll want to share a copy with someone on your gift list. The year-end anthology is in the works, friends. We have compiled all four issues for the year into one giant edition.  Groundhogs, Crones, & Other Poems will be available through Amazon starting this weekend for $20. That’s a big discount over buying our individual issues for the year and we hope that you find it just too enticing to pass up. Because this issue is so large, we are not offering a PDF version. It will be available in print only, ready for its place on your bookshelf or, better yet, in your hands open to your favorite poem. At the time of this writing, we don’t have the link yet, but a search for Gyroscope Review Groundhogs, Crones, & Other Poems on Amazon will bring you to the right place. In fact, here’s a link to our available selections as of right this minute: 

Gyroscope on Amazon

Happy holidays, everyone. Thank you for reading.

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December Poetry Prompts

Need some inspiration for the last, two week crunch before we close submissions for the Winter issue? Here are some photos to jump start your creativity. Go wild, be imaginative, take us someplace we’ve not been before. Looking forward to seeing what you poets come up with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Second Helping of Pie Before I Get Back to Work

Today, our assistant editor, Josh Colwell, shares a craft essay with writing tips for the holiday season.  We thought it was time for a little encouragement for all the writers out there.

The holidays are the time of year to gather around the table with loved ones, eat belly-bursting meals, and . . . write?

As writers, we often like to find routines, whether that be waking up an hour early every day to work on our next best seller or typing a few lines of a sonnet into our notes app at work during lunch. We like to find things that work for us, and we don’t like when those things get interrupted. 

The holidays have a funny way of interrupting us, of taking us out of our routines and leaving us pulled between what we should do as polite hosts/guests and what we should do as writers. I’ve compiled a list of different ways to get the most out of your writing time this upcoming stretch. 

  1. Have a plan. Nothing can derail a writing session more than not knowing where or when it will happen. If you’re going to be traveling during the holiday season, make note of how long you’re going to be away and what daily activities you’re going to be taking part in. Like to get 1,000 words in after dinner during your normal writing schedule? Check with your family to see if that’s practical. If not, you might need to wake up a little earlier to get those words in. Have set goals and write them down to keep yourself accountable – and to help you remember once all the festivities begin. 
  2. Wake up earlier. One of the easiest ways to get more writing done is to wake up an hour earlier than usual. The early morning hours are generally the most peaceful and can help you keep a clear mind as you work. If this isn’t something you normally do, try getting into the routine a few days before so your body clock is used to it. 
  3. Outline. We all want every writing session to be as productive as possible. Adding people to the house or being in an unfamiliar place can interrupt the writing process, leaving us frustrated and likely to close up shop saying we’ll try again tomorrow. Outlining can help maximize the precious time we have to ourselves. It might even be as simple as jotting down a few bullet points the night before, but outlining and knowing what comes next before you actually sit down to write can be extremely beneficial. 
  4. Keep your phone charged/carry a notebook. The notes app in my phone has saved me more times than I can count. I can easily jot down notes, a few lines of a poem, or even an important bit of dialogue during a car ride or while waiting to be seated at a table. I will occasionally bring a small flip-up notebook and a pen if I notice my battery is running low; that way, I won’t be kicking myself later for not remembering an important detail.
  5. Forgive yourself. Hitting your word count is hard enough when everything goes right, let alone during the two most hectic months of the year. It’s easy to let yourself fall into a slump and to say you’ll start again the first of the year. There’s nothing wrong with being human. Dance to one more song, drink a little more than you should, fill up on that homemade pumpkin pie. The writing will be there when you get back. Some days you might only get a few sentences written and others none at all. The important thing is to keep looking forward, even if it sometimes feels like you’re standing still.

 

 

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Poetry Book Review: A Morsel of Bread, A Knife by Roberta P. Feins

 

 

A Morsel of Bread, A Knife
by Roberta P. Feins
Center on Contemporary Art
Occasional Monograph Series
84 pp., $18.00

 

Of all the topics poets tackle, the topic of the mother-daughter relationship ranks high on the scale of interest. Writers endlessly probe memories, conversations, events, inherited traits and objects, rights of passage. Mother, our first goddess, holds power over us for our entire lives. Even after she’s gone. Even after we think we’ve moved on.

Roberta P. Feins’ collection, A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, offers a series of images and moments that evolve from her connection to her mother and her mother’s connection to Feins’ grandmother. The poems weave pieces of each woman into the family tapestry, with each woman’s differing values and sensibilities glinting in the fabric. Artwork and travel overlay their significance within the family narrative, satisfying the narrator’s hunger for beauty in this world. The work raises the questions of what it is to be a mother, to not be a mother, to reclaim the self and walk away from pre-determined definitions of womanhood. The work goes beyond family history as that which shapes us in the beginning to the inevitability of our own paths into territories of our own choice. We move into a place where we let the voices of childhood fall to a whisper as we raise up what we know fulfills our deepest selves. And in that place, we find our own peace.

The thirty-nine poems in this collection dedicated to the author’s mother are divided into four sections: The Mother Country, Paysage, The Bitters, and Winter’s Bargain. The first section begins with the question of where sustenance might be found in, “The Cuisine of the Mother Country”:

My Romanian grandmother made mamalige —
pouring out a coarse yellow moon of cornmeal
onto a wooden board. I never tasted
this polenta from my mother’s hands.

The reader is immediately faced with complicated history and longing, food and love sought after from the start, as well as the sensory details that are part of every poem in this collection. Something as simple as polenta illustrates the connections of three generations. Placed between the sections are collages, both of the author’s own making and those of two other artists, offering another layer of imagery for the reader to consider. Feins’ understanding of visual art and her use of the language often reserved for that field make these poems explode in the mind’s eye. Feins demonstrates an ability to wield line breaks and caesuras at the perfect moments for heightened emphasis. Readers can see things clearly as they move from grandmother to mother to daughter, from New York to France and beyond. Feins’ understanding of feminism, the definition of the feminine from preceding generations to now, is also illustrated in stark terms as the daughter in the poems accepts that she will have no children of her own. Through it all, she never leaves behind the connection to the mother-daughter dynamic with its complicated gifts and frustrations. Several poems place the reader in front of famous pieces of art, while the mother remembers bits of what came before, as in, “Mother Muses at the Louvre – The Annunciation”:

Which aunt emptied the closet,
which uncle moved the double bed?
I lost faith, no longer worshipped.

Occasionally, the character of Aunt Sylvia shows up with sharp words for the daughter. In, “Aunt Sylvia’s Advice, 1971,” Aunt Sylvia cracks words like a whip to make the daughter behave after she has a fling:

Keep this up,
you’re wavin’ bye-bye to your family.

Aunt Sylvia’s appearance brings up the way older women might resent a younger woman’s definition of femininity when it goes against the norm, how it might threaten their own sense of balance versus missed opportunities. An aunt can say things a mother cannot or would not. An aunt can open old wounds, change how the picture looks. In another piece, “Kaffeklatsch,” the way aunts talk to each other in front of children has just as much chance of wounding as a direct conversation:

Minnie sniffs Yes, but she’s a liar,
as bad as her mother! Behind me,
they begin another round. And what about
 
her brother? I’ve always said
with that blonde hair, 
Bertie can’t be his father’s son.

But, ultimately, this is the daughter’s path, the daughter’s interpretation of history, and the daughter’s search for answers that make sense. 

In all, A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, is a complex, rich read that will perhaps nudge readers to remember the sensory details that make up their own complicated histories, and how lovely and bitter it all is.

 

For more information or to purchase a copy of A Morsel of Bread, A Knife, click HERE.

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