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Redactions: Poetry & Poetics 2018 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry & Poetics has made its nominations for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. In the order of appearance in issue 22 are:

  1. Megan Wildhood’s “Oral History” (page 8).
  2. Bill Tremblay’s “To One Who Fears Cameras” (page 18).
  3. Caleb Tankersley’s “Fish Bones” (page 23).
  4. Kelly Russell Agodon’s “Temporary Cathedral” (page 34)
  5. Lauren Camp’s “Hush, Then” (page 36)
  6. Steve Coughlin’s “The Idea of North” (page 39)

To read these poems, stories, and more, order a copy of issue 22 from here:

You can also read the Pushcart Prize nominated poems here:


Happy Birthday Walt Whitman

Walt WhitmanToday is Walt Whitman’s 199th birthday. Yay!

Redactions will celebrate his 200th next year at this time.

Please send us your poems inspired by or relating to Walt Whitman and/or short essays (1000 words or fewer, preferably around 500) about Walt Whitman, such as his influence on you or what he means to you or an interesting or personal insight about him and his work. When submitting. Please be sure to include “Whitman” in the subject line of the email, as well as in the cover letter.

Deadline is December 31, 2018.

For more information:



Redactions: Poetry & Poetics 2017 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry & Poetics has made its nominations for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. In the order of appearance in issue 21 are:

  1. Jennifer MacBain-Stephens’ “Robot #6 (Vent).” Page 9.
  2. Theodora Ziolkowski’s “The Flowers Herself.” Page 15.
  3. Stacey Balkun’s “Lost Surrealistas, Also Known as Los Expecialistas (1960).” Page 34.
  4. Jeannine Hall Gailey’s “Self-Portrait as Appalachian Ballad.” Page 46.
  5. Jessica Melilli-Hand’s Baby Jane’s Body-Less Name.” Pages 51-53.
  6. Babo Kamel’s “Wedding Song.” Page 60.


To read these poems, stories, and more, order a copy of issue 21 from here:

You can also read the Pushcart Prize nominated poems here:


On Bonnie Bolling’s The Red Hijab

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.


bonnie-bolling-the-red-hijabBonnie Bolling’s The Red Hijab (BkMk Press, 2016, and winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry) is set in Bahrain, a kingdom of more than 30 islands in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. According to H. L. Hix’s “Foreword,” “Of what happens in the Middle East, most North Americans receive little word except from what news media present. Consequently, the readily available image of the Middle East is biased toward conflict and violence” (7). Bolling, who lived there for several years, provides a unique view of Bahraini culture, an insider’s view, a journalistic view but with empathy.

The first image of empathy occurs in the opening poem, “The Red Hijab.” After describing an ancient area in the Persian Gulf (perhaps Diraz) with an “abandoned double-wide” trailer, a “tangle of razor wire,” stray cats, dirty windows, and a man “wrapped in a potato sack” picking through the trash, a woman appears walking in the rain with a laundry basket and an umbrella. Images like this of people trying to go about their daily business and tasks occur throughout the book, but here, in the poem “The Red Hijab,” a housemaid wears a “red hijab.” It immediately, at least for me, conjures images of the girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List. In that movie, the girl in the red coat enables Schindler to fully understand that the Holocaust is happening around him, and she inspires him to do everything he can to stop it and to save as many Jews as possible. Bolling, who I assume is the speaker in these poems, however, does not act as a savior. She also does not try to simplify or generalize the Bahraini culture, as western news media might. Bolling’s observation of this housemaid allows us to see a side of life we may not hear about in North American media. In effect, Bolling becomes something like a journalistic embed, who “stand[s] on the corner, leaning next to the sign / that says in three languages: no uncovered women allowed / adjusting and re-adjusting my black hijab, me [a white, female, United States citizen] / on this narrow, broken footpath keeping my silence and distance” (“In Diraz” 7). The woman wearing the red hijab is the reader’s entrance point into the book and Bahrain.

As part of her journalistic acclimation, Bolling uses cultural signifiers, such as Bahraini foods and words like hijab, azan (a call to prayer five times a day by the muezzin), muezzin (the crier who calls for azan from a high part of a mosque at stated hours), Shahada (the Islamic profession of faith), Shamaal (a northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, which is often strong during the day but weaker in the night), among others, as points of cultural exchange, or at least points of cultural encounter. The encounter for the reader is the disorientation he/she feels when experiencing the unfamiliar and looking for a translation (as I did above with This defamiliarization helps the reader shake off the stereotypes of those who live in the Middle East. The speaker must have experienced something like this, too, but now these signifiers are familiar to her. With all this said, one may wonder if Bolling is just wearing a comfortable mask – trying to act like Bahraini while holding on to the security of her white, American privilege. In part I, this may seem the case, but later we realize, part I was just a tour inside the walls of Diraz, and an intimate tour as we sometimes feel the “Oh, we want it all, don’t we?” (“Above the Azan” 28) judgmental disdain some Bahraini have of American tourists.

Perhaps the thematic thesis of part II is best stated in “Gathering Plumeria,” the last poem of section I, when the speaker says, “I am taking / it all in, every side because stories / from the heart don’t lie” (32). By taking the reader behind the walls, deeper into the community where she lives, Bolling introduces us to a few of its citizens and tries to get inside their hearts, such as a woman at home, a young man who will suicide-bomb a coffee shop, “young boys wearing black” harassing an older man because they are bored, and a family whose father’s tongue was cut our and the people who cut it, among others. In “Stars, Moon Rooster” (37), one of the poems I return to most, Bolling, referring to herself in the third person, walks at night and looks into a “house with linoleum,” where she sees a woman and imagines what the woman is feeling and thinking. Using the same third-person “she” to describe herself, Bolling shifts into the woman thinking about hope and how a new born baby is “the embodiment of hope,” until the baby is “thrust / into the arms of another,” and how over the years of life hope “doesn’t matter so much.” Eventually, the wind wakes her from trance, and she returns to her own night journey.

One might consider this presumptuous to assume what someone else is thinking. Perhaps they would be correct. However, she lived in the community for quite some time and observed and listened to the people. She was a poetic embed, unlike the disembodied “they” providing commentary and generalizations. Frequent phrases in section II are “they say,” “they are saying,” “someone says,” and other variations, and this “they” often makes statements about the Bahraini. Because we don’t know who the “they” is, the statements become almost Orwellian. For instance, in “A Silencing” (49-50), the poem opens with an active voice describing the speaker cooking a meal, then there is the volta “Deep in the village / the blind rooster’s / crowing.” This volta hinges on the apostrophe in “rooster’s.” Do we read “rooster’s” as subject and verb, “rooster is,” or as possessive, “the crowing of the rooster”? Perhaps both as the poem then segues into “This village / is said to be ancient.” This sentence is in the passive voice, as we don’t know the subject, or who is doing the saying. It’s just stated, and the reader wonders if that voice is the same as the next sentence’s voice, “Been the same for centuries, / they say, except for air conditioning.” The community’s character, personality, and culture are anonymously inscribed. This unknown speaks for its citizens. Even the local news realizes that “Someone from outside is fooling them / into going up against each other,” where the “someone” is the unknown voice and the “other”s are at times the young and the old. That “someone” is so strong, it can command young people to cut out the tongues of old people:

     Then, they were on him.
     Do it, someone said, do it now.
     So they did it with scissors.
     They cut-out his tongue –

In essence, the unknown “they” and “someone” are performing a type of erasure on its citizens by telling them what they are and not allowing the citizens to have an ability speak back, while at the same time also erasing their religion, as evidenced by cutting out the tongue of a man who memorized the Qu’ran.

What Bolling does in section II’s other poems and throughout the book’s poems is to give voice to the people who have been erased or overwritten. Through her journalistic end-paused and end-stopped lines (there is very little enjambment in these poems), and her movements between physical and psychological realism, she allows us to read below this anonymously created palimpsest to reveal more than “conflict and violence” and to show how

                       so many stories separate us.
     So many nations.
                       We search our tongues,
     desperate for a phrase, some scrap
                       of language or utterance
     that will allow our worlds
                       to come together for a moment (“Only Bread, Only Water” 51-3),

Perhaps this is why we hear a rooster announcing morning so often in The Red Hijab. It’s a language we all understand, as well as the food and love that persist throughout this collection of poems.//




Bolling, Bonnie. The Red Hijab. Kansas City, MO: BkMk Press, 2016.



Palettes & Quills 5th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Contest

I am not a reader for this contest, but I do help to promote it, and I do the layout and design of the winning chapbook, such as Michael Meyerhofer’s Pure Elysium (2010), Meg Cowen’s If Tigers Do Not Come (2012), and  Carine Topal’s Tattooed (2014).


Palettes & Quills

5th Biennial Poetry Chapbook Competition

With Judge Alan Britt

Open to All Writers

Palettes & Quills Logo


Prize: A $200 cash award plus 50 copies of the published book. Additional copies will be available at an author’s discount. All finalists will receive one free copy of the published book. All contest entrants will be offered a special discount on the purchase price of the published book. Deadline: September 1, 2016. Manuscripts postmarked after September 1 will not be read.


A complete submission should include:

  • Manuscript between 14-48 pages. Poems must be typed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper and bound with a spring clip. Use a standard 12 pt. font, such as Garamond, Arial, or New Times Roman. Manuscripts should be in English and contain no illustrations. Please do not submit your only copy. Manuscripts will not be returned.
  • A cover sheet with the contest name (The Palettes & Quills 5th Biennial Chapbook Contest), your name, address, telephone, email, and the title of your manuscript.
  • You must also include a statement that all poems are your own original work.
  • A title page with just the title of the manuscript. Your manuscript’s first page should be the title page but without your name. Your name should not appear any place in the manuscript. The next page of the manuscript should be a complete table of contents.
  • An acknowledgements page. Poems included in your manuscript may be previously published, but the book as a whole may not. Please include an acknowledgements page listing specific publications.
  • A complete Table of Contents.


Two Submission Options:

  • Mailed Submissions: Mail your entry to Donna M. Marbach, Palettes & Quills Chapbook Contest, 1935 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY 14526-1434. Include a $20 check or money order made payable in U.S. dollar and made out to: Palettes & Quills. You may also pay for your mailed copy online at (In header, click More, then click Reading Fees). Please include receipt number in cover letter. An email will be sent to you upon reception of manuscript. If you do not have email and want confirmation of receipt, please include a self-addressed stamped postcard. (International submissions must include an IRC.)
  • Online submissions: Email entry to: Subject line: “Chapbook Contest. [Last Name].” Include two attachments as Word docs or PDFs: Attachment one: cover sheet, acknowledgements, and statement of originality. Attachment two: your manuscript. Online entry fees is $25. You may pay online at: (In header, click More, then click Reading Fees), or you can mail your entry fee to the above address by sending a check or money order made out to Palettes & Quills.
  • All payments are non-refundable.
  • We prefer hard copy submissions, but accept emailed submissions.


Manuscripts by multiple authors will not be accepted. Translations will not be accepted.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted. If your manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere, you must immediately notify Palettes & Quills. Multiple submissions are accepted but must be submitted individually.

Winners will be announced on the Palettes & Quills website in December 2016.


Alan_BrittFinal judge is Alan Britt. Britt teaches poetry/creative writing at Towson University. His recent books include Parabola Dreams (2013), Alone with the Terrible Universe (2011), Hurricane (2010), Greatest Hits (2010), Vegetable Love (2009), Vermilion (2006), Infinite Days (2003), Amnesia Tango (1998), and Bodies of Lightning (1995). He also served as editor at Black Moon.


To download the guidelines as a PDF, click here.


The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

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Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

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After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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