Posts Tagged ‘Redactions


Redactions: Poetry & Poetics 2022 Pushcart Nomination

Redactions: Poetry & Poetics has made its nominations for the 2022 Pushcart Prize. In the order of appearance in issue 25 are:

  1. Jeannine Hall Gailey: When I Try to Write an Elegy (page 12)
  2. Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas: The Wheelchair (page 14)
  3. Cliff Saunders: Blank Page (page 16)
  4. Xiaoly Li: What Language (page 23)
  5. Susan Cohen: Lost in Sutzkever (page 27)
  6. Melody Wilson: When it comes down to it (page 38)

For two years in a row, the poems that appeared on pages 14 and 38 were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

To read these poems go here: or order a copy of issue 25 from here:


Introduction to the Sitcom Section of Redactions Issue 27: A Rough Draft

Welcome Back, Kotter

Below is a draft for the introduction of the sitcom-themed section of Redactions issue 27, which is due out in early summer 2023. I am posting it here to give people a better sense of what I am looking for in submissions for the sitcom issue. I hope you enjoy it, and if you are submitting, I hope it helps provide directions for my expectations.

For submission information, please visit: Redactions: Poetry & Poetics: Submissions and Ordering.


Many of us grew up watching sitcoms. For some, it was a family bonding experience. For me, that was about the only time our family got along and were quiet. Also, for me, having returned to America from England midway through second grade, a sitcom allowed me to have something to talk about with fellow students in an attempt to make new friends.

Sitcoms are still a way to interact with others. Who hasn’t bonded with someone or someones by singing the theme song to The Brady Bunch, Cheers, or Gilligan’s Island? (According to critics the Gilligan’s Island theme song is the best theme song because it is catchy and because it informs the viewers of the situation and the characters they will soon encounter. It informs the viewers of the show’s premise.) For me, sitcoms were also a learning experience. My parents were quite distant, and I hated reading, but sitcoms taught me. The Fonz from Happy Days taught me ethics. Yes, the Fonz had a code. One Day at a Time and Alice taught me about the increasingly frequent situation of a single mother raising children. (Julia, however, was the first to cover this topic from 1968 to 1971, but I was unable to watch that show.) Welcome Back Kotter exposed me to a neighborhood of diverse students that I was unfamiliar with. Good Times showed me the life of a struggling black family, and The Jeffersons celebrated a wealthy black family and the mother (Louise “Weezy” Jefferson) who was uncomfortable with her wealth.

Sitcoms, especially in the early seasons of their run, tried to explore issues of the day. For instance, The Brady Bunch in season one tried to explore an increasingly common experience of two formerly married people with children remarrying, and the issues that arise when two families combine. After season one, the show slowly became ridiculous and a little absurd. All in the Family explored many topics, especially racism via Archie Bunker. Archie, though compassionate, would argue about many topics with his liberal son-in-law, Meathead. I usually thought Meathead won the arguments, but I had my doubts when he left Gloria for another woman. Archie and Meathead were so contentious that they even argued about how to put on socks and shoes. Kate and Allie proposed a new definition of what constitutes a family. Who’s the Boss challenged gender roles in adults as it presented the idea that a man could perform “woman” chores without the stigma of castration being present, and it presented gender fluidity in children. And The Golden Girls and Valerie (later Valerie’s Family and then The Hogan Family) addressed AIDS in unique ways that undermined the bigoted idea that AIDS could only be transferred via gay sex or drug addicts. All of this was important because sitcoms reached a large audience of people who were uninformed on these issues. As a result, the sitcom with its huge audiences had huge responsibilities. Sitcoms became an active learning experience. Sitcoms attempted to teach serious topics through a comedic approach, and I, like many others, was an avid student ready to learn without having to read.

No place was this more evident than in M*A*S*H. Robert Frost once said about the poem, “If it is with outer seriousness, it must be with inner humor. If it is with outer humor, it must be with inner seriousness. Neither one alone with the other under it will do.” I didn’t know this at the time, but I intuited this about M*A*S*H. Rather, I was shocked. I thought a sitcom was just supposed to be funny, but M*A*S*H was humorous on the outside and serious on the inside. This, in a sense, means sitcoms are more than just ha ha laughs. Sitcoms can be used to explore serious issues that one might not otherwise encounter, especially for me as a non-reader for about the first 19 years of my life. Sitcoms are tools that help the viewer explore . . .  at least in the early seasons, as noted above. Eventually, most sitcoms will jump the shark. Initially, however, they have serious goals: “If we happen to laugh hysterically along the way, all the better because humor has always been a successful way to look at our differences and find our commonality” (Robinson, 99). This is what I hoped this section would explore.

I find it challenging to write about a sitcom. One reason is that a sitcom seems so antithetical to poetry, and perhaps it is. However, many poets of my age have ingested sitcoms, and those television shows are part of them like real memories. The nostalgia plus the antithetical spirit creates the difficulty of writing a sitcom poem with integrity. M*A*S*H is important to me, but I can’t yet find a way to bring it or its characters into a poem. This might be true of all subjects, but tv and poetry have historically been judged at opposing ends. In this issue of Redactions, I hope the ends will meet. I hope when reading these poems, you will find humor outside and seriousness inside, or even seriousness outside and humor inside. Perhaps a bit of both. //




Works Cited

Robinson, Mark A. Sitcommentary: Television Comedies that Changed America. Rowan & Littlefield, 2019.


The Brady Bunch – Marcia







On Diane Thiel’s Questions From Outer Space

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


Diane Thiel -- Questions from Outer SpaceDiane Thiel is the author of eleven books of poetry, nonfiction, and creative writing pedagogy, and Questions from Outer Space (Red Hen Press, 2022) is her third collection of poems. I purchased this book when I was visiting Asheville, North Carolina, and wandering around a bookstore. I liked the title as I assumed it would reveal poems about astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics, etc., which are topics I enjoy. I read a few poems, and it appeared my assumptions were correct. When I eventually sat down with the book, I found more interesting topics. Questions from Outer Space has four sections, and each section behaves a bit differently, but all seem to be revolving around the idea of the last lines of the last poem in the book “Time in the Wilderness”:

not to miss the trees
for the theory of the forest,

turning an old saying
around a child’s observation,

the simplest question
opening the world again.

It is the final line, really, that this collection of poems achieves. More specifically, a major theme of this book is meaning making, such as making meaning on this small planet that is remote from other life forms, meaning making as a child and a family, and meaning making while living during a pandemic and ever catastrophic and self-destructive world.

One way section “I: Questions of Time and Direction” attempts meaning making is through Martian poetry. For instance, “The Factory (Questions from Outer Space)” examines the harmful effects of the internet, such as the lack of personalism or abundance of people being impersonal. (The poem also brushes up against the issues of free speech and pollution.) In observing human life like a Martian might, it “perform[s] the service of reminding poets that part of their job was to look afresh at what was in front of them” (Paterson, 160), and in turn the reader must reexamine what they experienced and, as a result, create new meaning in a seemingly declining planet of humans.

Section “II: Notice from Another Dimension” turns, for the most part, to domestic issues with an underlying theme of choosing. This section also implements form poems, such as: a tritina (A condensed sestina consisting of three tercets and a one-line envoy. The teleutons are repeated in each stanza ABC, CAB, BCA, and the final line contains A, B, and C.) that appears in “Tritina in the Time of the Machine”; a poem where the line on the left side of the page mirror the words on the right side of the page in “In the Mirror”; and a sestina in “Changing Reality.” In “Tritina in the Time of the Machine,” Thiel treats the coronavirus particle as if it were a machine trying to replicate itself and survive and creating its “meaning of alive.” In doing so, the poem overlaps the anxiety of the virus with the anxiety of technology in our lives and how both seem to be a on a path of unstoppable growth.

Section “III: The Farthest Side,” which also has formal poems, such as a pantoum, villanelle, and haiku, turns, for the most part, to issues of family and children, memory, and meaning making. For example, the “Library of Veria, Greece” is about Syrian children, who the speaker is teaching how “to think about the future and the past.” To do so, they draw maps and “some had the past falling off the page” as if it had fallen off the edge of the flat earth into “monsters circling beneath.” It is a past they choose to forget or repress. They then turn to drawing a future hopeful place with the “possibilities in their hands.” Thus, there is an underlying idea of how art can create meaning and hope for those who need it, as the Syrian children did.

Section “IV: Time in the Wilderness” focuses, for the most part, on children, aliens, and meaning making. “Living with Aliens” begins mysteriously with aliens somehow inhabiting people until the aliens suddenly reveal themselves. The people in turn become submissive to the aliens. (It feels almost like Star Trek’s Borg species.) The aliens quickly evolve as a baby might by “star[ing] at their own hands” and “acquir[ing] the sense of object permanence.” The aliens then plan to take over the world, and they do so by asking questions that undermine humans’ everyday assumptions until one dawn the people “step . . . / on an unrecognizable planet.” So, it is questions, even the simplest ones, that help create new meanings and understandings.

While the book title is Questions from Outer Space, there are questions right here on Earth that need asking, especially as we come out of the pandemic and with our new lens on life from the James Webb Space Telescope. Diane Thiel, in the end, provides hope.//





Thiel, Diane. Questions from Outer Space. Red Hen Press, 2022.





Works Cited

Paterson, Don. Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre. Faber & Faber, 2018.



Redactions: Poetry & Poetics 2021 Pushcart Nominations

Redactions: Poetry & Poetics has made its nominations for the 2021 Pushcart Prize. In the order of appearance in issue 25 are:

  1. Steve Mueske “Scar” (pages 8)
  2. John Gallaher “Your Number (Architecture 64)” (page 17)
  3. Erica Gross “Portal” (page 21)
  4. Ronda Piszk Broatch “Upon Discovering She Is Irreversible” (page 22)
  5. Angie Macri “Marcesence” (page 24)
  6. Kelli Russell Agodon “Heartland” (page 38)

To read these poems go here: or order a copy of issue 25 from here:


Jeannine Hall Gailey Interviews Kelli Russell Agodon

This interview first appeared in Redactions: Poetry & Poetics issue 25, which is available for order here:


Jeannine Hall Gailey Interviews Kelli Russell Agodon

About Her Upcoming Book From

Copper Canyon Press, Dialogues with Rising Tides

Kelli Russell Agodon – Dialogues with Rising Tides

JHG: Nice to talk to you, Kelli! How have you been during the quarantine?

KRA: Pretty okay. My family and I have found new ways to exist in the world without a playbook and I have a new love for smoked cheese and hearty sandwiches – my pandemic comfort foods. I’ve found the little things are what are getting me through and I look for small joys and feel grateful for what I can.

JHG: So, your new book, Dialogues with Rising Tides, is coming out in the spring of 2021 with Copper Canyon Press. Could you tell me about how this book came to be?

KRA: This book began around 2013-2014, which was the beginning of a sort of dance with melancholy that I would experience for a few years. I was struggling with deep anxiety then, and the book began as a series of “waltzes” (as you read, you’ll see several “waltz poems” which are narrative poems defined by their 3-line indented stanzas to mirror the dance steps of a waltz). I created this form as it felt as if I was trying to waltz as the ship (a.k.a. my life) sank.

As the book continued, I kept seeing the water/sea/environmental/climate change poems emerge in my work and instead of saying, “Those poems are for another book,” I allowed them to enter this manuscript to see how they would converse with the darker poems about anxiety, melancholy, and family suicide – it turns out they had a lot to say to each other.

I realized the book was ultimately about the things that take us under, yet also about hope.

Once I had it “finished” (always in quotes because quite honestly, what is ever finished?), I sent it to Copper Canyon Press’s open submission period. It turned out one of the readers, an intern, really connected with my work and advocated for it to the editors. I received a note in December 2018 that my book was still being considered and at the end of March 2019, I learned at the Portland AWP that Copper Canyon wanted to publish it. I believe this story also needs a post-it note that reads “sometimes dreams come true,” because while I always hoped to be a Copper Canyon poet, I never expected it to actually happen.

JHG: How do you think it is different from your previous books?

KRA: In all of my books, I try to come to the page with openness, honesty, vulnerability, humor, and of course, craft – this book I definitely arrive more vulnerable and I try to explore tougher subjects in my life and world. I allowed more surrealism, sub-consciousness, and surprise into my work (the 3 S’s I guess!). I also allowed myself to write about melancholy in a more open way. People see me as a very happy and friendly person, but there is a part of me that wants to press against that notion that just because someone appears happy on social media or in real life, that they aren’t struggling with something deeper.

While I was writing this book, Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Chris Cornell, and Kate Spade all committed suicide. From the outside, they appeared to be living their best lives. Kate Spade was described as “bubbly.” Robin Williams was known for his humor and big laughs. Anthony Bourdain was seen for his passion of travel, food, and living in the moment. I’m always interested in the mask we wear for the public and how we can hide the more uncomfortable feelings, but also how we never really know what anyone is going through.

So I wanted to explore this melancholy, but not in a way I feel is negative, but in an acknowledging way, realizing that one can move from dark to light in a day or over several years. And also how we sometimes allow both feelings in.

JHG: As the publisher of a small press, Two Sylvias Press, what have you learned about editing and publishing poetry books that you think has helped you on your own poetry book journey?

KRA: I understand how challenging it is to publish a book, to proof it, to create a cover for it, to promote it, and to get it out in the world. Because of this, I tend to be an easygoing author. I’m not someone to email an editor to either ask for things I can do myself or because too much time has gone by since I’ve heard from them. I understand if I’m not hearing from my press, they are most likely working on another book or on mine.

I think I learned to say thank you more and be less of Janet Jackson’s “What have you done for me lately?” and more of Aretha Franklin’s “I say a little prayer for you.” Because I am an editor, as a poet I learned to have gratitude for anything that is done for my book.

JHG: You have an interesting philosophy about the attitude of competition and scarcity in the poetry world. Could you talk a little about that?

KRA: I guess I do have an interesting philosophy in that regards – I believe in the poetry world, there is enough for everyone. I reject the scarcity mindset that the field is only big enough for so many of us and only so many can come to play. That’s nonsense, we can always use another poet. And we don’t have to feel threatened by them, that now there will be one less spot for me to publish my poems. I think it’s why I rarely feel jealous of other poets because I never really feel myself competing with them because poetry paths are so unique and poetry prizes are so subjective.

Just because a poet doesn’t win a prize, doesn’t mean that their book isn’t changing someone else’s life this very moment or having a profound effect on someone. I have never believed success can be measured in art – people try to measure it based on American beliefs such as “this book is better because it 1) sold more copies 2) won a prize 3) was published by a certain press 4) was featured in a certain journal or magazine 5) got an excellent review 6) made the author earn X number of dollars” and so on. . . . Who said that was success? Who wrote that definition? That’s not my definition of success – my idea of success isn’t built from opinion and numbers.

I definitely fall into the world of the woo-woo, in meditating and manifesting. Reading The Artist’s Way as a young poet was a gamechanger for me. It made me understand some things I still take with me, “Serious art is born from serious play,” “Leap and the net shall appear,” and “Pray to catch the bus, but run as fast as you can.” But mostly, what I took away was that art is not a competitive sport. And you never have to believe that someone’s gain (a book, a publication, a prize, etc.) is your loss. But also, as poets and writers, we do not know the future or can see the big picture from this point in our lives.

Here’s a quick example – before my book was picked up by Copper Canyon Press, it was a finalist in two prizes. It lost both prizes to another poet who is a friend of mine. I could have been terribly jealous of her, gone full-on, “HEY, do you really need TWO books? Can you dial-down the prizewinning, sis?” But my thought was, “Well, that didn’t work out. I guess I’ll believe something better is going to come along.” We can have many responses to losing something. One is “I’ll never get anything, I always lose, why do I bother?” Or we can think, “I guess that wasn’t meant to be and maybe that means something better is on the way.” Had my book been picked up by either press, I wouldn’t be at Copper Canyon, which has been my dream press since I was a young poet.

We do not know what’s ahead for any of us so why not hope for the best and believe there’s another scenario around the corner for you that’s better.

(Now I must add this note – after writing this all out I may sound like some enlightened poet, but I’m not. I’ve definitely had “this sucks!” days or the “why do I put myself through this?!” I’ve definitely felt bad about not having my book chosen, but when I feel this, I remind myself to keep the faith and keep doing the work. But I do always believe there’s room at the poetry party for all of us.)

JHG: Your new book has more poems about the environment than previous books. Could you talk about your new relationship to the environment and why those poems came to be?

KRA: It’s interesting as a younger poet, I was always called “a nature poet” (which at the time, seemed to carry a little insulting tone to it). As the climate crisis really began to come into view, I was called an “environmentalist poet” and even recently an “ecofeminist poet.” I am still writing about nature and my connection/relationship with it, but nature has changed and is changing.

On the West Coast, each year the wildfires move a little more north, and we have a fifth season around August called “Smoke Season,” when we’re stuck indoors. It’s like I’m still dating Mother Nature, but she’s older now, a little more pissed, and ready to burn things down, ready to say “what the fuck?!” and send a hurricane into a coastline. I’m just responding to her through my poems in new ways, I’m responding to how we need to think about her and what can happen to our communities.

For me, nature and rising tides are other ways we can be taken under. One of the hardest parts for me as a human is to see animal species going extinct due to our harm of natural environments and for the business belief to put money and development before the forests, untouched landscapes and environments. It’s backwards. I always correct people when they say, “We are killing the planet” – nope, the planet is going to be here and recover in its own way, what we are killing is ourselves, the human race.

JHG: You also write about family, politics, and the secrets we keep from each other – to protect others or protect ourselves. It’s a tension that plays a lot into this book. Could you talk a little about the nature of secrecy and how it propelled itself to become a big theme in this book?

KRA: I came from a Catholic family, and the “Catholic shame” taught many in my family not to talk openly and to hide things. All my childhood, growing up, I was always digging in drawers, I always felt something was hidden from me. I wasn’t sure what, but I was continually seeking it. I think that is why I was always playing “spy” in my house and in my neighborhood. I was Nancy Drew trying to figure out mysteries, I was Harriet with her notebook from one of my favorite children’s books.

It became a big theme in my book because several of the things I wrote about were hidden from me as a child (the suicides, my family history), and then while I was writing the book, my husband secretly bought a gun and hid it in the house and this action almost destroyed our marriage (and it definitely changed it).

Because of my history with shame, for a long time it was very hard for me to discuss certain things about myself or my life because I was embarrassed of what I struggled with and even who I was and am. I have mostly made peace with shame (though occasionally, I feel it peeking behind the corner saying – you will never be good enough), and maybe this is why this book feels like my most personal and vulnerable because I am directly addressing some things that were never really talked about. I am using my art to say – you do not have to be embarrassed about who you are or where you came from.

JHG: What do you want your reader to take away from this book?

KRA: Wasn’t it Anne Sexton who shared: “One of my secret instructions to myself as a poet is: ‘Whatever you do, don’t be boring’”? I always hope my reader is engaged, interested, entertained, and definitely compelled to turn the page. But overall, I think with all my books, I have wanted my readers to feel less alone. I think that’s what I write towards. It’s ultimately what I hope for with each book.

JHG: I’m hoping that by April of 2021 we will get to see each other in person to celebrate your new book! Thank you so much for your time! I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. The best of luck with your new book!

KRA: Yes, let’s hope for champagne and cupcakes together in our future. We can give a cheers IRL – in real life! I look forward to all of us being together again. Thanks so much, Jeannine!




JEANNINE HALL GAILEY is a poet with MS who served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. Her work appeared in journals like The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.

KELLI RUSSELL AGODON’s fourth collection of poems is Dialogues with Rising Tides (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). (The poems that appear in this issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics first appeared in Dialogues with Rising Tides.) She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press as well as the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women. Agodon lives in a sleepy seaside town in Washington State, where she is an avid paddleboarder and hiker. You can write to her directly at kelli (at) or visit her website:


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