Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From Volume 35: A poem by Kevin Pilkington

Kevin Pilkington

Flu Shot

I try not to look at the woman

walking towards me but her skirt

is no bigger than a bandage and

her heels are so high she might need

an oxygen tank rather than the suitcase

on wheels she pulls behind her.

I just hope the two assholes she

is walking next to aren’t with her.

The guy on her right is in a suit

and wears a toupee that looks

like a black squirrel fell off a tree,

In the Spotlight: Kevin Pilkington

Kevin Pilkington is a writer and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. Here, he gives advice to aspiring writers, and discusses his work as a writing instructor as well as writing itself. His poem, “Flu Shot,” appears in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review.

You studied literature at St. John’s University where you earned a BA and at Georgetown University where you earned an MA. Can you talk about what you have learned from these programs? What advice do you have to aspiring writers applying to a BA or MA/MFA program?

I received a BA in Literature from St. John’s University and went on to receive an MA in English Literature from Georgetown University. In fact, although I have been teaching writing classes for most of my adult life, I never took a writing class on the undergraduate or graduate levels or had a writing mentor. My writing teachers were on the bookshelves–I learned to write through reading. To this day, I tell students that the best teachers are the writers you read. I have always felt that writing teachers save students time by telling them whom to read and usually not what to put into their writing but what to take out. The poet Robert Lowell said, “Learning to write is learning what to leave out.” Hemingway said it another way: “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” On a very basic level, writing workshops are time-savers by showing students what not to do in their writing so they have more time to work on what will enhance whatever genre they are working in. If I knew my life was going to turn this way, I certainly would have enrolled in an MFA program. I am sure I would have matured faster as a writer and achieved more goals that much sooner. However, studying literature, mostly classical, at both universities was invaluable to me as both a human being and a writer. I can’t imagine how my writing would have progressed without reading Philip Sidney who tells us in The Defense of Poetry, written in 1595, “The aim of poetry is to teach and delight.” This is a phrase I still keep on my writing desk. At Georgetown I first came into contact with Horace’s Ars Poetica, probably the first and best creative writing handbook although in reality it is a letter-poem. Later I was introduced to the visionary lyricism of William Butler Yeats, a poet whose poems I have read almost every week since then. Studying great literature seeps into your own writing, as I hope it did mine, through osmosis. However, I don’t write poetry in traditional or given forms; I chose to write in open or organic forms since like many contemporary poets, I want my poems to sound closer to everyday speech and flourish in their own time and place.

I believe Sarah Lawrence College where I teach was the first, or certainly one of the first, to offer workshops for undergraduates taught by professional writers. There are now many fine undergraduate writing programs across the country. I would recommend to any aspiring writer who is looking to major in writing not to apply if they have stories to tell in prose or poetry. Only apply if you truly love language. Then you will succeed and thrive. Do your research; see which writers are on the faculty and are actually teaching classes. Many high profile writers only teach sporadically even though a given school will use their names as recruiting tools. Visit the school you are interested in and visit classes to make sure it is the right fit. Majoring or having a concentration in writing enables you think critically and to communicate your thoughts clearly and effectively, which is beneficial studying across the curriculum and prepares you for a variety of careers once you graduate. For those considering an MFA, I would offer some of the same advice as above–make sure you research programs thoroughly and speak to students in the program who will offer truthful insights into its strengths or weaknesses. Remember the best programs create an atmosphere that allows you the time to explore and concentrate on your craft and is taught by professional writers in the classroom who are not just names on a catalog, writers who love and are passionate about language. I can’t think of time better spent than paying homage to language.

You are a writing coordinator at Sarah Lawrence College. Can you discuss what this entails? What is the best part of your job?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From Volume 35: A poem by Yulia Issa

Yulia Issa

La Malinche

Without the help of La Malinche we would not have understood the language of New Spain and Mexico.

—Bernal Díaz del Castillo

Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España

On Higuera Street my house stands unmarked,
Stark steps of passersby are hastened
With fear locking their spine, with hatred,
While I stand Janus-like between two worlds.

You wrote me in the history a traitor
Chingada, lover of the foreign men,
Weeping Llorona, Spanish toy,
A ploy of treacherous ambition my survival.

In the Spotlight: Yulia Issa

Yulia Issa is the winner of the Worcester County Poetry Association College Poetry Contest 2014 Manuscript Prize. In her poem, “La Malinche,” which appears in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, she challenges convention and gives a voice to a woman who is traditionally condemned for having aided the conquistadores. 

Before graduating from Quinsigamond Community College in May 2014, you earned two B.A.s from Lebanese University. Could you discuss any cultural differences or similarities you have encountered in your travels? How has this contributed to your writing?

The subject of cultural differences and multiculturalism is very broad and hot right now. We welcome writers who highlight unusual experiences in exotic locations and the struggles that tag along with them. Coming from a background where I spent my childhood in Ukraine and then teenage years in Lebanon before finally settling in the U.S., I believe multiculturalism lends itself to a deeper understanding of human nature and seeing beyond the superficial. As a writer, it interests me how a character develops and interacts regardless of the regiment of ethnic behavior and how individuality emerges when faced with non-routine problems. The heroine in “La Malinche” does exactly that. She is born into a wealthy Nahua family and is ironically given away into slavery while still a child. Then, she ends up as a gift to the Spaniards who had just begun tackling the American shores. Despite the obvious hardships that Malinche endures and the unique historical situation she is put in, which obviously her cultural background cannot prepare her for, she rises to the challenge and manages to earn the grandiose respect of her contemporaries on both sides of the conflict.

When researching and writing about events that occurred roughly five centuries ago and following the life of a woman about whom relatively little facts were recorded, it takes unbiased imagination and understanding to relate to her experience. I think that my background helps me with this task. With time, Malinche’s character has been misinterpreted and vilified. She has been single-handedly charged with the betrayal of her nation in popular culture. Again, being multicultural makes it relatively easy to see through such constructs and understand the driving forces that generated them.

“La Malinche” is, in part, a poem about language. In addition to speaking English, you speak Russian, Arabic, and French. How do you believe being multilingual has influenced your writing?

I truly believe that proficiency in multiple languages exponentially enhances understanding of different cultures and opens doors to a broader spectrum of writing. Apart from anecdotal language misunderstandings, consider, for example, that you want to know more about an Arab writer. You will probably find that more has been written about him in the Arabic language. However, when you resort to the translations, you might be getting a skewed view of the topic not only because there could be inaccuracies in the translation itself but also because of the translator’s choice of which documents to interpret and which to leave out. On top of that, a different language opens up a different perspective on writing not just with respect to grammar and idioms but also tone and stylistics. Since I am fluent in the languages that I know, it creates an interesting amalgam of thought, which I believe allows me to have different takes on the expression of things like dramatization and humor. To explain it more, let’s say you were to tell a joke in three different languages. You would end up with three different recounts of the same story. However, if you were to only translate the words themselves, it would probably only be funny in the original language.

How did you choose the subject for “La Malinche?”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pushcart Prize XL Nominees

Each year, editors of literary magazines are invited to nominate up to six selections published in that calendar year for inclusion in the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses anthology. This year, the Pushcart Prize celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Worcester Review has nominated the following pieces from Volume 35 (2014):

"Rules for Telling a Ghost Story" -- Tom Howard
"Cancer" -- Dmitry Berenson
"Verum and Factum" -- Michael Trocchia
"A Hike" -- Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia
"The Loneliness of the Heart is Forever" -- Helen Marie Casey
"Two Men and a Gun" -- Frank Scozzari

Congratulations to all nominees and best of luck!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Congratulations to BILiNE Nominees!

Congratulations to the following contributors whom The Worcester Review has nominated for inclusion in Best Indie Literature in New England (BILiNE), Volume 2.

Nominees had to be published between July 2012 and June 2014, which for us means from volumes 33 and 34. The nominees are:

Dmitry Berenson -- "The Fishing Village, Vol 34
Colin Dekeersgieter -- "Gutting," Vol 34
Judy Ireland -- "My Pillow, a Stone," Vol 33
Phillip Lloyd -- "Big Tom," Vol 33
Brian Simoneau -- "From Too Much Dwelling on What Has Been," Vol 34
Lisa C. Taylor -- "Cathedral of Shadows," Vol 34

Timothy Mudie -- "When the Aliens Come Back," Vol 33
Douglas Margeson -- "Barton's Pipe," Vol 33
Karen Nunley -- "Thirteenth Summer," Vol 34

Best of luck to all the nominees! We hope to see your works republished in BILiNE in early 2015.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Press Release: The Worcester Review announces Volume 35

For Immediate Release
Contact: Diane Mulligan,
October 16, 2014

WORCESTER, MA. Please join us on November 16 to celebrate the release of the newest issue of The Worcester Review, Volume XXXV: Michael Harper Sacred Geometries. Celebrations will begin with a reading of Michael Harper’s poetry, followed by a Q&A and panel discussion. Come meet the editors and contributors to our feature section. The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. 

When: Sunday, November 16, 2:00 – 4:00 PM
Where: Salisbury Labs 104, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road

Issues of The Worcester Review are available through the website at Copies will also be sold at the event.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

from Volume 34: A poem by Jennifer Freed

Jennifer Freed





If you were that woman, sitting

every Friday in the public library, one week working

through the who and how and why

of simple questions whispering from your tutor’s lips,

the next week learning price and pay and sale and save

and How much does it cost?—

if you were that woman,

then you, too,

would ask for repetition of bag and back and bank,

of leave and leaf and left and live,

and you would struggle to produce the English sounds

that held the meanings you still held

inside your head: the dappled murmuring of leaves

outside your childhood home, the trees

full of sweet yellow fruit you could not name in this new life,

the lives you left so you could live,

and as you moved your lips in all the unfamiliar ways

to make the sounds your tutor made, she would nod

and you would smile, but you would never

write, for you’d not yet know how

to form or read those fast, firm letters you watched pouring from her hand,

and so you’d have no way to store what you had learned

except in memory and hope,

alongside memories of why you’d never needed written words

in your native world, where your mother had taught you all the skills

of planting and harvesting and weaving and singing that you would ever need

for living in a lush, good place,

and alongside memories

of gunfire echoing beyond the trees,

of rebels begging for or stealing food,

of soldiers from some distant city standing in your

village, barking about loyalty

and able-bodied men,

and then the memories

of jungle paths for five long nights,

of sharing food and whispered hope with others who had dared

to flee,

and the memories of the daughter and the son, both

born and grown high as your eye in the refugee camp on the border.

The English words would nestle in amidst

all this,

get lost, be found again, and you would have to try

to pull them out but leave the rest behind, try

to let the new sounds tell you 

not only the hard-edged names and places

of this brick and concrete life, 

but also how to live in it:

how to take

a city bus, how to

pay for


and you would sit again, again, again

in a mauve chair at a round table in the library, 

amidst the shelves and worlds

of words,

struggling with your who and how and why,

and you would not allow yourself

to figure how much it had cost

or how much you still had to pay.

You would just smile and thank your tutor,

and come back

next Friday.

In the Spotlight: Jennifer L. Freed, poet

Photo credit: Sharon Freed
As an English Second Language teacher and teacher-trainer, Jennifer L. Freed currently volunteers her time to help resettled refugees in the Worcester area learn English. Her poem, "Lessons," which appears in The Worcester Review Volume XXXIV, is at first glance a response to those who wonder why it takes so "long" for someone to learn the English language, but ultimately, it is to get into the mindset of a person who struggles to overcome the language barrier.  

Was “Lessons” based on a personal experience?

Before having children, I worked as an ESL teacher not only here in the U.S. but also in China and the Czech Republic. Since 2010 I've been volunteering as an English tutor for refugees who've been resettled in the Worcester area. The poem comes from all that background. More specifically, though, it was inspired by a few of those refugees. I didn't want to name them or their country because I didn't want to limit the poem to those specific women only, or even to people from their country only; the many difficulties of learning a new language, especially when you do not come from a culture that allowed you much of an education, would be the same for all of us. Add culture shock and the burden of past traumatic experiences, and the task is far harder than many people in the U.S. might imagine.

How did you decide that the subject of learning a language was something you wanted to write about for your poem?

The refugees I have been tutoring know how to weave their own clothes, how to build a home out of bamboo, how to grow their own food. But none of those skills serve them here in their new lives. Upon arriving in this country, they not only had to find a way to support themselves in what is to them an alien place, but also to learn an entirely new language.

Yet I've met people who, in spite of having sympathy and good will toward immigrants, nevertheless don’t understand why it may take so “long” to become proficient in English. The poem was my response to that.

You've written about your experiences in China and The Czech Republic. Did living in other countries influence the poem?

Yes, especially my time in China. When we English teachers arrived there, none of us had any ability to speak Chinese. We were told we would have a chance to learn the language when we arrived at the university where we were to work, but our promised Chinese instructors never materialized.

In addition, we were fairly isolated from Chinese people, presumably for political reasons. We were in a separate dorm for foreigners only, and visitors had to sign in at a guard’s desk, which may be why we had very few visitors. We had our meals separately too, just the five of us in a little dining hall set across the campus from the student cafeteria. We never got to mingle with or even meet the rest of the university faculty. So, for most of a year, we mainly interacted only with each other—and, in a very formal, controlled way, using English only, with our students during class. We had to ask how to say various useful phrases—“I want...,” “I don’t understand…,” “how much…,” and so we learned how to do practical things—how to count money, to order our favorite soup from a street vendor, to mail a letter home—but other than that, we had little opportunity to deal with Chinese people, and they didn't seek us out.

So I had the experience, right out of college, of hearing the sound of foreign speech all around me, and yet of having no entry into it. You don’t just “pick it up” by being in its midst. If you do not have a community of people who can interact with you in the new language in any kind of patient, daily, sustained way—as immigrants often do not—then the sound of that language becomes like traffic sounds. We all tune out what is unintelligible to us. So in the right (or wrong) circumstances, it is surprisingly natural to live in a foreign place and yet not learn its speech.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Volume 34: A poem by Jaydn DeWald

Jaydn DeWald            


The One Time I Saw Monk Playing at Minton’s



He looked like a drunk hammering on a typewriter. Me and Corwell in gray silk suits, black-on-black shirts, and Butcher Boys shoes. Cigars and whiskies and little hotties on our shoulders. Did his “angular rhythms clash like gods in the smoke overhead”? Come on, kid, I wasn’t even listening.

In the Spotlight: Jaydn DeWald, poet

Jazz. The theme for Volume XXXIV of The Worcester Review. Jaydn DeWald titles his poem after the famous jazz pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk who played at Minton's Playhouse in New York.

The Worcester Review: Why did you decide to write "The One Time I Saw Monk Playing at Minton's" in open form rather than something else?

Jaydn DeWald: Because [it] is the product of an assignment—Write a piece of prose in 50 words or less—put to me by my terrific friend and fellow writer Kyle Bilinski (whose work can be found here: There was far less freedom, less openness, involved than one might expect. But I feel impelled to mention that, for me, “open form” poetry, or “free verse,” tends to produce too many choices, too many possible (and equally alluring) paths. Preferring my choices to be fewer and more susceptible to the vagaries of chance, I almost always adhere to some self-imposed requirement(s), whether traditional (rhyme, meter, syllabics) or non- (lipogram, found poetry, N+7).

Furthermore, since we’re on the subject of jazz, I find it somewhat odd that “free jazz”—the music equivalent of free verse, one might argue—should be reserved for our most virtuosic and most eccentric musicians (the Ornette Colemans and Cecil Taylors among us), while verse libre should be so ubiquitous and, in general, dull.

TWR: Did you actually see Monk perform live himself at Minton’s? Or was the inspiration for the poem the desire to experience the music from a perspective of that time period?

JD: Monk died in ’82, the year before I was born, so I never had the opportunity to see him perform live at all, much less at Minton’s Playhouse—the club Miles dubbed “the bebop laboratory”—where he (Monk) served as house pianist during most of World War II.

For better or worse, I also think it’s impossible for me to “experience the music from a perspective of that time period.” While I can appreciate the historical freshness of the bebop vocabulary, for instance, I would struggle to hear its historical freshness; it even strikes me, in certain moods, as quaint.

More precisely, “The One Time I Saw Monk Playing at Minton’s” is a quick exploration of conflicting interests and temperaments: the juxtaposition of a jazz enthusiast (“Did [Monk’s] ‘angular rhythms clash like gods in the smoke overhead?’”) and a stereotypical club-goer (“Cigars and whiskies and little hotties on our shoulders”).

TWR: Do you enjoy writing about the small moments in life as you did with “The One Time I Saw Monk Playing at Minton’s?” If so, is there a particular reason as to why that is?

JD: I do like to write about small moments, particularly moments of fantastic, life-altering interiority in which nothing, outside of a person’s mind, happens. Lyric poetry often seems to have been created for, or to have arisen out of, these moments, and though it’s unfashionable to admit it, I tend to think of myself as writing old-fashioned lyric poems.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Poet Interview: Lisa Taylor

Each post on Lisa Taylor's blog is a story; they are "observations about the ordinary and extraordinary in literature, life, and teaching."  Taylor encourages people to expand their creativity. She believes poetry is written from a deep emotional and personal place and fiction is from the imagination. Sometimes people need to slow down in order to analyze and appreciate those life's moments' importance. Two of her works, Necessary Silence (2013) and The Other Side of Longing (2011) have been published Syracuse University Press.

Do you remember the first poem or creative story you wrote? Did you ever go back to them for revisions? What were your thoughts upon your return to them?

I began writing at age 12. My first effort was a poem called “The Storm.” My sixth grade teacher put it up on the bulletin board. In high school, I won first prize in the National Scholastic Writing Awards for poetry. I wasn't very good at revision then. Now I’m an ardent reviser of my work, going through sometimes thirty or more drafts before I consider something worthy. Even then, I’m often dissatisfied. When I look at what I wrote as a child or a teenager, I think it is clumsy but still representative of my love affair with language. I came from a family where I was read poetry. My father was a visual artist who loved poetry and literature. My mother was an English teacher.

You wrote on your website that “[w]riting matters because it is how we communicate.” In this time and age, people are short-cutting through writing by abbreviating or shortening words, particularly in the dimension of texting. What do you think of the world we live in where technology is constantly developing and texting is the fastest way for people to communicate? Is texting defined as writing, talking, or both? Or something else entirely? feel encouraged by the trend of texting because it is getting people to write more. As a professor, I do not accept texting shortcuts as writing, but as a person in the world, I appreciate it because I have always found writing easier than speaking. I think technology will continue to redefine our methods of communication and I’m okay with that. Communication has changed throughout history. That said, I will always prefer letters to emails, and I am saddened that the process of sending someone a letter is quickly disappearing.

As we live in a fast-paced world. I know that for you poetry is one way of slowing down. How do you suggest others take a moment and jot down their thoughts and feelings? 

Poetry is not only a way to slow down; it is also a way to encourage observation. We miss so much in our fast-paced lives. I don’t believe that a person has to be a writer to benefit from writing. Some people keep journals or jot down poems without any desire to publish or even share their work. Creativity can be cultivated, and really, it is necessary to keep pace with the changes in our culture. The employers of tomorrow will want employees who can think critically and creatively, and becoming a good observer and writer are skills that can benefit everyone. Reading, analyzing what you see and read, and writing are ways to develop critical thinking and creativity.

As a creative writer and poet, is the emotional truth the same for both prose and poetry? Or does it vary? 

Emotional truth simply means that my first allegiance is to the emotional viability of a situation rather than the literal truth. The emotions must feel authentic, revealing some aspect of human nature. It is less important that anything else in the story or poem be plausible. I do think poetry allows for more leeway with experimentation. It is a very different process for me than fiction. To me, poetry comes from a deeply emotional place while fiction is completely the work of the imagination. There is something very freeing about writing fiction. I can create characters who bear no resemblance to anyone I know.

Can you talk about the fiction you’re currently working on? Is there a correlation between your creative stories?
I am currently working on a collection of short stories as well as a novel. My short stories have a range of topics and settings but one thing that is consistent about my writing is my fascination for unreliable narrators and the complexity of deception people can unleash on each other. One of the stories in my collection came from a painting by an artist I met at Vermont Studio Center in 2012. My narrators range from a recently deceased young man to a teenager meeting her absent father after ten years to a woman whose dreams reveal brutal truths. My novel is a character-driven love story between two childhood friends from different backgrounds who meet again twenty years later. I use an experimental narrative form with repeated lines, some from his wounded past or her memories. PTSD, the Vietnam War, mental illness, and the changing definition of family all play a part in this story. I am about halfway done with the first draft.

The Worcester Review would like to thank Lisa Taylor for her time to participate in the interview and her contribution to the publication. 

From Volume 34: A poem by Lisa Taylor

Lisa C. Taylor


Cathedral of Shadows



The saddest lies

are ones we tell ourselves.


Church doors

inviting the disillusioned


who imagine


answers rest

in the chisel of stone

or lead seams on cobalt blue.


Eyes follow, someone

is speaking; we decipher


the language which sounds

both familiar and unfamiliar.


Does truth speak in tongues?


Ask the windows looking out

on the shifting shoulder

of day. Each step


leading us closer

to the mirrored hall,

cathedral of shadows.


One woman lifts a bronze arm,

another has no mouth


but we hear

a psalm; her name.

We chant liturgy,

disguise ourselves with veils,

fickle light.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Poet Interview: Brian Simoneau

Brian Simoneau, a contributor to Volume XXXIV of The Worcester Review, currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and two daughters. He finds inspirations for his poems through the everyday life's moments that stick out to him. These moments can be a memory, an observation of the people at a bus stop, or a bug on a windshield.  

What’s the procedure you use when writing a poem? What comes first? For instance, does a topic come to your mind first and then you choose which form to use, and so on?

The process is different for almost every poem. Sometimes a poem emerges from a memory, or from an idea, or from something I've noticed in the course of my day, or simply from a word or phrase that catches my imagination somehow. Once I've figured out where the poem is trying to go, I might think about what forms will help to get it there. Other times, I might give myself a formal challenge—write a sonnet, or write lines that break after seven syllables, or write a poem that would fit on a postcard to an old friend—in order to help myself break out of habit, to push myself out of a rut. Even then, as I revise and rewrite over weeks and months (and sometimes years), I might try out several different forms until I find the one that seems the best fit for what the poem’s language is trying to do.

How did you decide which format and form was right for “From Too Much Dwelling on What Has Been” and “Minute” (both of which appear in The Worcester Review Volume XXXIV)?

After the first few drafts of “From Too Much Dwelling on What Has Been,” I noticed some similarities to Robert Frost’s “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things.” Instead of editing away from Frost’s influence, I decided to try emphasizing it. While my poem uses shorter lines and somewhat clipped rhythms, the quatrains are straight out of Frost and the title is borrowed directly from one of his lines. I really liked the idea of trying to steal Frost’s poem from its rural setting and to fit it around my experience of the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, where I grew up.

In “Minute,” once the language began to feel settled, I wanted to use a caesura similar to the one we see in Anglo-Saxon verse, a space that would open up each line on the page and emphasize the alliterative connections between the halves of each line. Breaking the lines this way—single lines becoming staggered couplets—also seemed like a way to make a line that was both long and short, a way perhaps to mirror the conflict between the improbably small and impossibly large that plays out in the poem.

I enjoyed reading your poems because of how relatable they are.  We all have moments when our minds wander off and question the little things that might not be immediately relevant. What does writing poetically about these moments mean to you? 

“From Too Much Dwelling on What Has Been” came out of a childhood memory of a fire in Lowell. In my father’s car, waiting to cross one of the bridges over the Merrimack, I asked about the dark smoke and orange glow in the sky, and my father told me what it was. I don’t know why that moment has stayed with me, but it began to seem especially important to me as I moved away from home, as the city continued to change, as even my memories of home began to fade.

I originally wrote “Minute” as part of the poem-a-day challenge during National Poetry Month. About two weeks in, I was already running out of steam, already feeling like I was straining for something to write. As I drove home from work, I happened to notice a bug smeared across my windshield. Later, after several failed attempts to start a poem, I wrote, “I want there to be metaphor in the bugs on my windshield.” With another anniversary of my father’s death on the way, questions about mortality and consciousness weren't far from my mind, and the poem began to take shape.

I’d like to believe that writing about these moments leads to the “momentary stay against confusion” that Frost says a poem should offer. But really, poems are often more interesting to me as attempts to acknowledge the confusion, to enact the mind as it wrestles with the mysteries of the world around me.

Two poems by Brian Simoneau from Volume 34

From Too Much Dwelling on What Has Been



How many pigeons, blackbirds,

phoebes took flight when the eaves

caught fire and fell, the night sky

glowing red? One of the mills


was burning. Heavy air smoked

over the river, strands of

shadow drawn across the stars.

Did the birds peer through rising


pillars of ash? Could they see

flickering lights of untouched homes

below? Would we hear their songs

like sighs against the din of


sirens, or only whispers

of flames, the cold air rushing           

to reclaim its place? And how

many nights would pass before


they’d circle back, alighting

among the faded embers

as if they’d simply fallen

through rays of a setting sun?






For a moment there’s

                        metaphor in the collision


of insect and windshield,

                                    moths and mosquitoes


pressed to the grill

                        when I arrive after midnight


where I want to be, held

                                    in the embrace


of a lamppost’s light—

                                    a shared irrelevance,


such smallness useless

                                    in a universe spinning


away from itself,

                        each of us careening along


unable to see forest

                        or trees for the dark—


but the difference hits me

                                    square, aware of what’s coming


and the impossibility

                        of getting out of its path.

Saturday, January 18, 2014




    • Previous first place winners are not eligible.


      The 2014 judge is poet B.J. Ward

      • First Place: $100 / Second Place: $50 / Third Place $25
      • Winning poems are published in The Worcester Review, after which all rights revert to the poet
      • Contest winners will be announced June 2014
      • The Winners' Reading and Award Reception will take place in September 2014
      • Winners will be notified by phone. All other entrants will be notified of the results electronically.
      • WCPA does not pre-select poems. All entries are seen by the judge.

      ENTRY FEE:

      • There is no entry fee for active WCPA Members, although a one-time administrative fee of $1.50 to Tell it Slant applies if you enter online. This is comparable to the cost of postage for a traditional mail submission. If you enter as a member but our records indicate that you are not a member, your work will be disqualified.
      • Non-WCPA Members: Submit 5 poems for a fee of $5.50 (plus a $1.50 administrative fee to Tell it Slant if you apply online). Note that if you are not a WCPA member, you are only elgible if you reside, work, or attend school in Worcester County. Submissions from people who do not meet this criteria will be dismissed. We cannot refund the submission fee for those who fail to read these directions.
      • You may join also WCPA now to be eligible to enter.  To become a member of the WCPA, visit our website and follow the instructions ( As long as your membership form and check arrive by April 1, your work will be eligible. 


      • Poems must be the original work of the entrant, in English, and not previously published.
      • DO NOT put your name ANYWHERE on your manuscript. If your name appears anywhere on the manuscript, your entry will be disqualified.


      • Enter online via The Worcester Review's submissions page on Tell it Slant or by sending your submission via traditional mail to The Worcester County Poetry Association, Attn Contest Chair, 1 Ekman St, Worcester, MA 01607
      • For traditional submissions, include a cover letter with your name, mailing address, and phone number, as well as a list of the titles of your poems. Non-WCPA Members, include a check for $5.00 to the WCPA. 
      • For online submissions: WCPA MEMBERS: Enter in the "WCPA Member Contest Entry" Genre. In the "submitters comments" field, enter your name, complete street address, and phone number so that we may verify your membership status. Be sure your name does not appear anywhere on your manuscript. Non-WCPA MEMBERS: Enter in the "Non-Member Contest Entry" Genre. In the "submitters comments" field, enter your name, complete street address, and phone number. If you work or study in Worcester County, but do not live in Worcester County, indicate that as well, so that we can verify your eligiblity for this contest. Be sure your name does not appear anywhere on your manuscript.

      Wednesday, January 8, 2014

      Poet Interview: Jody Azzouni

      Jody Azzouni has a Ph.D in Philosophy and a M.S. in Mathematics. His first philosophy book, Metaphysical Myths, Mathematical Practices: The Ontology and Epistemology of the Exact Sciences, was published in 1994. Since then, he has published more philosophy, which can be found here. He also enjoys writing fiction and poetry. 

      As a philosophy professor at Tufts University, what do you think is the hardest aspect of your subject to teach to the students?

      Patience. That’s the hardest thing to teach. That’s the hardest thing to learn too. Philosophical problems are difficult. They’re difficult in the sense that none of the easy answers work. By “easy answers” I mean the sorts of answers that really smart people come up with between half an hour and half a lifetime of thinking about them. It’s really tempting to try to undercut these problems with some offhand glibness; but if you take your time you learn to appreciate what it is about philosophical problems that make them so resistant to quick moves and cheap shots. Why some of them have lasted a thousand years or so without being solved.

      Can you explain how anyone can find relations between philosophy and another subject (e.g. math, science, language or logic)?

      It’s not so much that there are relations between philosophy and other subject areas; it’s that thinking about those subject areas (or how we do what we do in those subject areas) gives rise to philosophical problems. Logicians simply “do” logic: they prove results about logic or in logic. Mathematics is similar.

      But philosophers, for example, worry about the kind of knowledge we have in logic and mathematics, and how that kind of knowledge fits in with other kinds of knowledge. For example, proof (when you think about it) is really quite amazing. It has quite peculiar properties. It doesn't look the same in mathematics as it does elsewhere. Mathematical proofs are quite intricate and can be, especially these days, extremely long. They are also very convincing. It seems impossible to generate the same kinds of successful and convincing proofs, that we do about mathematical objects (triangles, Hilbert spaces, etc.) if we instead use ordinary concepts such as house, or snake, or wrongful behavior, and so on. But why exactly?

      At just this point the question has become philosophical. This is, in part, because no one else wants to take up the problem and really try to appreciate how hard it is to answer it. (So that brings us back to my answer to your first question.) Philosophical issues arise in pretty much the same way with respect to other subject matters. A rough rule of thumb: if the question you've raised looks intractable and conceptual, then no matter what vocabulary it’s couched in (biological, mathematical, aesthetic, etc.), it’s probably a philosophical problem.

      How do you make the subject fun for the students to learn?

      Well, a big part of it is showing why what you’re talking about is interesting. (So this is surely true: If you don’t find it interesting, don’t try to teach it to anyone else.) But a lot involves all the standard pedagogical tricks: move around a lot, make sure the room is coldish (not warm), make jokes. (By “jokes,” I mean real jokes—not those pedantic things some people think are funny.) And most important, listen to the students, and watch them. See what they’re getting and not getting. Ask. It’s just like having a conversation with someone, really. How do you prevent yourself from boring the other person when you explain something? Watch them to see when they've lost you. Be entertaining (at least a little bit). And, of course, be on top of what you’re talking about. (That helps too.)

      What interested you in pursuing a career in philosophy? When did this interest come about?

      When I was twelve I found a box of books and read all of them. One of the books was by this guy named David Hume. It talked about ideas and how they were copies of impressions—except for a certain shade of blue. It talked about the various ways that ideas are associated in the mind. I thought it was a psychology book: sort of like Freud but without any sex. I didn't know until years later who Hume was. And you’re right—I did a lot of “studying” but all my life most of that studying has been idle reading. I've read constantly from the time I learned how. And I read whatever I wanted to. It just happened to be that most of what I wanted to read was “highbrow.” Unless it was assigned to me in school. Then I usually refused to read it. (This was my problem until college.)

      I certainly didn't intend to “pursue a career in philosophy.” That was a complete accident. To me a career in philosophy just meant being a professor. (I had no interest in teaching as a career.) I intended to major in English when I went to college: I wanted to continue writing fiction and poetry—and eventually live in a hotel somewhere in Switzerland or something once I became famous (and rich). But I didn't like the English major requirements: too much of them telling me what I was required to study. I knew what I liked and what I didn't like.

      The philosophy department, instead, required only ten courses in whatever I wanted—nothing specific. I liked that. So I majored in philosophy. I took more than enough undergraduate English courses to have majored twice over—at least as far as the number of courses was concerned. But I wasn't going to take a course just because I was required to. An actual commitment to philosophy came slowly—I deviated into higher mathematics for a couple of years. I've kept all these specific interests; but I also eventually realized that I had a lot to say that was philosophical. I needed to recognize that many of the issues I was raising about whatever I was studying were philosophical issues. My issues didn't come with labels telling me what academic discipline was the best place to study them.

      Sample Poems from Volume XXXIV

      Jody Azzouni


      The reflection yearns



      Winged grace

      echoed in the water:

      a ripple fishing for attention.


      You deny its hope: sidelong

      it out of existence.


      We don't remember the twin

      we bury.




      When that last snowflake has been stamped out



      We come to

      our senses; green

      explodes.  The blinking dew

      feeds us awake.


      Hope is

         eternally spring.