Series Curator: Jonathan Cardew
April Selector: Alina Stefanescu
What’s rare, what’s bright, what’s new?
This is what we ask a new writer every month in search of the best hybrid, poetry, and flash writing from the previous month. In this edition, we catch up with Alina Stefanescu, poet and author of Every Mask I Try On.
Alina gives us a little selection of her favorite writing from April 2020:
When I say favorite, I usually mean the most recent thing on my lips, or the last delicious thing I tasted. Favorites are constantly moving and fluctuating, especially this April–the slowest April ever, the savagest, most absent spring. All these pieces tore me away from the fever of wanting to be outside, to be a co-memorant of this fleeting and gorgeous season.
|“Shore Acres” by Siân Griffiths in Pidgeonholes|
|Siân Griffiths gives us the summer home of Louis J. Simpson, the legend and haints as a series of sensations and archival documents. The blending disguises the writer’s transitions, enacts the wind and scene until even the seams are airbrushed. “…where even words are whipped away on ocean winds, Simpson built tennis courts and shouted love all. He meant nothing-nothing.” I love feeling the weight of nothing when there is so much at stake.|
|“Two Monologues from Winesburg, Indiana, a small town between Fort Wayne and South Bend and not that far from Warsaw” by Michael Martone in Hunger Mountain|
|These first-person portraits of ordinary Winesburg residents fascinate me. Martone both complicates and subjects the marvel of his characters through choice of detail and syntax. Read this aloud: “That’s all I do is walk. I chalk parked car tires…” Sue Johnson, the parking enforcement officer, uses language the way one might find it on a park bench, a little wadded up but filled with the energy of possible motion. “You can say I am motivated to move even as I enforce the sustained periods of standing still.” And I think we need Martone to remind how us to listen and walk and whistle and fish simultaneously on the page.|
|“Why the Hell Haven’t I Been Raptured Yet?” by Chance Dibben in Electric Lit|
|This story caused me to neglect my kids immediately, from that first line: “The Rapture is here and I’m stuck in the bank customer service line.” I love how Dibbens toys with the concept of absolution–batting it back and forth like the plastic trinket it may well be. Maybe that’s how my head is rigged, towards fascination with big abstract words that mean so much without every really meaning anything. Either way, “how’d that asshole get into heaven” remains the question of the century.|
|“Careful” by Dan Sanders in Okay Donkey|
|I covet the rhythm of this piece–the way it moves, clicks, changes angles, clicks again. I love the narrator’s engagement of repetition as a means of characterization–the statement, the click, the qualification, the reframing. It’s brilliant and effective and memorable.|
|“The Mathematician’s Daughter” by Sonja Srinivasan in The Write Launch|
|The defamiliarization techniques and the displaced personal narration drew me into this fluid and fascinating story right away. The third-person narrator is both distant and intimate, and the weaving in of math theorems as a frame for moving plot is perfectly executed. I love stories that force me to think and churn and turn the words over again and again. I love being stunned and bewildered in the way that Sonja Srinivasan stuns and bewilders the reader here.|
Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She serves as Co-Director of PEN Birmingham. Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Prize and was published in May 2018. Her writing can be found in diverse journals, including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, FLOCK, Southern Humanities Review, Crab Creek Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Virga, Whale Road Review, and others. She serves as Poetry Editor for Pidgeonholes, Co-Organizer of 100,000 Poets for Change Birmingham, and proud board member of Magic City Poetry Festival. She won the 2019 River Heron Poetry Prize and she still can’t believe any of this is real. More online at www.alinastefanescuwriter.com
Logo Design: Olwyn Cardew
Jonathan Cardew’s stories, interviews, and articles appear or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, Flash, JMWW, People Holding, Smokelong Quarterly, and Segue, among others. He teaches at MATC in Milwaukee. He was a finalist in 2019 Queen’s Ferry Press Best Small Fictions. More at his website: https://jonathancardew.wordpress.com/.