M.L. Liebler/Photo: Mandi Wright
By Amy Danzer
Rare is the writer who has an easy time of it making money or getting their name out there. Writers are often grossly underpaid, uncomfortable about self-promoting and already juggling too much to take on extra work that does not pay. When money for the arts is especially hard to come by, as is the case in Detroit or anywhere really these days, it’s a particularly special thing to have someone like M.L. Liebler in one’s corner.
Poet and professor at Wayne State University, director of The Ridgeway Press, and co-editor of the Made in Michigan Writers Series, M.L. Liebler has an extensive history of organizing programs to bring community together to support the literary arts in Detroit and has created opportunities, paid opportunities, for writers’ voices to be heard for decades. Read the rest of this entry »
Satori Shakoor/Photo: Bruce Giffin
By Toni Nealie
Humans have always needed stories to entertain, instruct and uplift. Walter Benjamin once said that storytelling was reaching its end because wisdom is dying out, but communities like Detroit demonstrate that there is no shortage of wisdom or storytelling. The city has several storytelling initiatives including The Moth, the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers, and The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.
Satori Shakoor, an actor, stand-up comedian, playwright, writer and storyteller created the Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers in 2012. The curated event is held ten times a year at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in midtown Detroit. Five storytellers tell a ten-fifteen minute story on a pre-selected theme. The event includes music and dance performances. It is live-streamed globally on a YouTube channel and is soon going to podcast. So successful, the event outgrew four venues in eight months before finding its current home. Read the rest of this entry »
One of summer’s delights is to leave here and travel there. The thirty-six authors whose poems and stories are collected in “Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” fully dwell in the very diverse personal, natural and cultural landscapes of the Upper Peninsula, and they will guide you through this undiscovered country.
If your idea of the Upper Peninsula is a cabin in the woods, you will certainly find lakes and streams and trees in Ronald Riekki’s anthology, but be prepared to visit cow barns and technical colleges, cozy trailers and stripped living rooms, barrooms and gas stations. Read the rest of this entry »
In the opening poem of her collection of the same name, “Made in Detroit,” Marge Piercy describes the influence the city had on her as a child: “I was formed by beating like a black/ smith’s sword, and my edge is still/ sharp enough to cut both you and me.”
Detroit is a place Piercy escaped from and, in this collection, mournfully looks back on. “Oh my city of origin, city who taught/ me about class and class warfare.” Even “The scent of apple cake,” a poem about her mother’s baking, is soaked in bitterness: “In the oven she made sweetness/ where otherwise there was none.”
While Piercy’s childhood in Detroit grounds this collection it only represents about one sixth of the content, and the spectrum of topics covered is vast. Piercy reflects on her life in Cape Cod, her marriage, the dying of friends, growing older, politics, feminism and her Jewish heritage. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Cynthia Post
This Saturday, June 27, the Spudnik Press Cooperative will host the eleventh annual Printers Ball. In a conversation held via email, Angee Lennard, the founder and director of the Spudnik Press Cooperative, explained that this year’s festival will be unlike the ones that preceded it in two distinct ways: “First, this Printers Ball will be more hands-on and tactile than ever.” As Lennard notes, one such example of this is evident in the number of workshops that the Spudnik Press Printshop will run, allowing this year’s attendees multiple opportunities to create their own prints. Read the rest of this entry »
“Two” is a compelling book of photographs by Evanston photographer Melissa Ann Pinney. Edited and introduced by Ann Patchett, interspersed throughout are ten essays on the theme of twoness written by some of our best contemporary writers, including Barbara Kingsolver, Edwidge Danticat and Richard Russo. Read the rest of this entry »
By Toni Nealie
A young man argues about how to make a martini. It’s a performance, both in the bar and on the page. The man’s friend says, “Look at yourself. Look at how you’re acting.” So the writer does, commenting: “Young people have a flair for, a tendency toward the tumultuous.” In “Regret,” his first prose collection, Ryan Spooner examines ideas about selfhood, social class and masculinity, the male gaze and the tumult of becoming adult. Read the rest of this entry »
By Brendan Buck
When during the summer of 2014 Bill Hillmann made the news for getting gored by a bull, I was shocked but not surprised. When I heard him read publicly months before, my former Columbia College classmate had told a harrowing tale of a pileup he had witnessed during his 2013 trip to Pamplona. Despite the terrible scene described to us that evening, one where he had to drag a body out of the tunnel leading into the arena, Bill said he planned to return and run with the bulls. Later I’d learn Hillmann wasn’t surprised by his goring either. As he writes in his new book “Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain,” his first thought after the horror of it was “Accept it. You knew this day would come.” Read the rest of this entry »
Some anthologies are guaranteed to be piles of good literature. Edited by a trio that includes James Thomas and Robert Shapard, editors of the influential “Sudden Fiction” anthologies, “Flash Fiction International” is such an unlikely disappointment. Given their history with flash, it is unsurprising that the stories are excellent.
The duds are few, while the strong ones stab unexpectedly, sometimes literally, like Edgar Omar Aviles’ “Love” in which a mother suddenly stabs her daughter to save her from a life of poverty. Read the rest of this entry »
Rebecca Makkai / Photo: Ryan Fowler
By Kim Steele
In the final story of Rebecca Makkai’s collection “Music for Wartime,” “The Museum of the Dearly Departed,” a young graduate student inherits his grandparents’ apartment when a gas leak kills them along with nearly all of their neighbors. The student busies himself by creating a replica of the building complete with artifacts from the homes of each of the deceased. The art piece works well as a symbol for this book. It is as though each story in this collection exists in one house. They share similar themes and Makkai’s uniquely intelligent and affecting voice. And yet each story—like each replicated apartment—also manages to be full of its own distinguishing details. Read the rest of this entry »