HSWC Profiles: Lindsay Emi

Lindsay Emi’s non-fiction piece “Latin Class in Seven (VII) Parts” won first place in the non-fiction category and is included in the 2015 edition of the Sierra Nevada Review.

I’m unfortunately not one of those kids who loved writing since they were very young, knew they wanted to be writers, etc. I was actually very resistant to the idea of creative writing until eighth grade, when I somehow ended up in a Creative Writing elective (not by choice). But I loved the class and by the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to continue writing.

I try to read as often as possible, and so I’m always inspired by what I’m currently reading, whether it’s a news article, a poem in my email inbox, a section of my textbook, pieces I’m reading for a journal, etc. I’m also inspired by the things I learn in my classes and the conversations I have with friends and family. My piece “Latin Class in Seven (VII) Parts” came out of my Latin III class, of course; at the time I was writing it, I was inspired by my hilarious classmates, all four of them, who made me realize that the contrast between the very academic, somewhat pretentious-seeming subject of Latin and the high school environment was a great one to explore.

I remember being at school when I got the email from June Saraceno. The first person I told was my friend whom I was with (and who was actually with me in that same eighth grade Creative Writing elective), and I was just so shocked and thrilled to have been recognized. Validation is great, but there are also plenty of contests in which I don’t place at all, and whether I win or lose, I try to remember that the world of teen contests and awards is so strange and subjective and that I need to keep writing for myself, and not for panels of judges. I’m grateful, though, that I got to attend the reception at SNC in January. It was lovely to see the college and even more so to meet my fellow readers Ava, Catherine, and Gabriel, who I learned were all wonderful writers and people.

Of course, being able to write for a living is the dream, and I would love to pursue writing in college. I’m fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents who encourage me to go down the writing path, but I also feel like I have to plan on majoring in something that’ll keep me out of their house when I’m in my thirties.


Lindsay Emi is sixteen years old and a junior at Viewpoint School, CA. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Sierra Nevada Review, Winter Tangerine Review, National Poetry QuarterlytheEEEL, The Riveter Review, the Young Poets Network, and elsewhere. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop, and the The Adroit Journal Mentorship Program. She currently serves as an editor for Polyphony H.S. and a reader for multiple publications, including The Blueshift Journaland Transcendence Magazine. When not writing, she enjoys playing piano and studying classics.

The Writing Dejection and Fear of Rejection


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

As I navigate my MFA program I find myself surrounded by great people with a great talent in writing. Sometimes this can be quite intimidating. Even more so is the news that yet another one of my peers has had one of her pieces published.

When I entered my first semester, I went armed and ready, or so I thought, to take on the literary world. I thought I’d be sending in pieces left and right, to anyone who was accepting them, because, after all, I’m a writer, right? But after my first experience of having a piece of my writing work shopped I decided I was far from ready to submit anything. And what resulted from that experience was a temporary withdrawal from writing due to an overwhelming fear of rejection.

I’ve heard that emerging writers should submit pieces like crazy but to be prepared for rejection. Rejection is good, I’ve heard. On the flip side I’ve heard that new writers should be choosy because it’s quality not quantity that publishers look for when deciding on whom to take a chance.

So which is better?

As a writer of non-fiction I frequently hear how hot the genre is right now. It’s what publishers are yearning for, I’m told. So submit stuff. Get your name out there. And while I believe this is true, 8496338840_83408a459e_zI can’t help but think that as picky as I should be with the pieces I submit, I should pay equal attention to where they’re being sent.

With all the periodicals, online magazines, and journals out there, that might prove to be more difficult than it seems. You’ll want to get familiar with the outfit that you plan to submit to.

What kind of pieces do they tend to publish?

Does your piece seem like a good fit?

Below I’ve provided links to some potential online publishing opportunities. It’s a list I jotted down in a workshop with Roxane Gay so it comes from a great source.

Pieces on Women:

XOJane http://www.xojane.com/page/contact

Experimental Essays

Pank http://pankmagazine.com/submit-2/

9th letter http://www.ninthletter.com/index.php/journal/submit-to-ninth-letter

General Interest:

Missouri Review http://www.missourireview.com/submissions/

And for an excellent source of literary journals that spreads across all genres visit the Poets and Writers Database: http://www.pw.org/literary_magazines





Rebecca Victoria Ramirez resides in Northern California with her partner, children, and an assortment of pets. She earned her BA in English May 2013 and will earn her MFA in Creative Writing January 2016.

HSWC Profiles: Ruohan Mio

 Ever since I was a child, I have always been intrigued by language—the way it has evolved and grown over time to fit our needs, its subtle quirks and nuances. As a result, writing came naturally to me — it wasn’t really a conscious decision to choose to write; it was more like something I had been doing all my life.

There is something very therapeutic about writing. I often use it as a form of release. My inspiration most often comes in the form of the experiences I’ve had in my life.

Winning an award was both a confidence-booster and a form of validation that people were willing to listen and read my words. It gave me the courage to continue writing. I hope to continue creating poetry and improving my writing.


 Ruohan Mio won third place in the poetry category for his poem “Dust Bowl.”


Show Me The Money


By Rebecca Victoria Ramirez

As writers we have certain goals in common like getting published and being acknowledged. Getting a little cash in the process doesn’t hurt either. Many online magazines pay writers for pieces published, but some of these also charge nonrefundable submission fees.

What other options are there you ask. How about writing contests?

True a lot of contests also charge submission fees, but the prize amounts are substantial, significantly larger than what online magazines and journals pay.

Below I have provided information to some upcoming contests.

Now get writing and good luck!


Contest Website Fee Prize Deadline
Masters Review Emerging Writers Contest http://www.writermag.com/contests/masters-review-emerging-writers-contest/ $20 $5,000 3/31/15
Minnesota Emerging Writer’s Grant https://www.loft.org/programs__awards/grants__awards/mn_emerging_writers_grant/ $0 $10,000 grant 4/03/15
10th WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest https://writeradvice.submittable.com/submit $15 per submission (Three max.) $200 1st place$100 2nd place$50 3rd place 4/21/15
PEN Canada New Voices Award http://www.pen-international.org/pen-internationalnew-voices-award/ $0 $1,000 5/22/15




Rebecca Victoria Ramirez resides in Northern California with her partner, children, and an assortment of pets. She earned her BA in English May 2013 and will earn her MFA in Creative Writing January 2016.

Book Review: Paul Killebrew’s Ethical Consciousness

$14; 120 pages
Canarium Books
ISBN: 9780984947126





“I am in the human world and not in the human world.”
Paul Killebrew’s Ethical Consciousness
By Bryce Bullins

Paul Killebrew’s latest collection of poetry, Ethical Consciousness, is statement of experience and of uncertainty, of anxiety and surefootedness, and of the ability of the human mind to process everything and nothing simultaneously. Killebrew’s verse is terse beyond measure yet reads in a flowing, precise manner. We become lost, overwhelmed even (in the best senses of the word) in the menagerie of language Killebrew has collected. Its construction is deliberately deliberate with single lines like “dark compromises” (“Exclamations in Earnest”) or “meticulous pagination” (“Muted Flags”) carrying their own gravity within the gravity of the poem at large. On their own, complexities are ripe within the tangible worlds Killebrew creates via the explorations of the metaphysical and subconscious desire of not only himself as a poet but the narrators of each poem (arguably the same but room for interpretation is vast). With the addition of the reader, invariably involved in the progression of the poem, these connections become immediate and resonant.

Killebrew has the ability to produce devastating lines of poetry that come unexpectedly but are immediately welcome and pummel a reader with deft weightiness. For example, in the title poem:

It’s as if the self
were a series of
occasionally arranged
in dizzying
complexity but
mostly repeating
ten or eleven sentences
from the brief oeuvre
of a personality
that grows only
like a balloon—

The meta presence of this particular excerpt is overwhelming: Killebrew is using a blanketing statement to make reference to the very thing we are doing at the moment of discovery in the reading and what Killebrew has already put on the page here and the preceding 22 pages: a series of mostly the same thoughts, despite variations, repeating again and again, and yet are still utterly engaging and relevant precisely because of their repetition. This is brilliant verse.

There is a tremendous strength in the language of Ethical Consciousness. It’s common language but not in a risible sense. The language presented here has a color palette all its own, unique to the worlds Killebrew is painting via his fast firing neuron verse. Despite these previously unknown shades, his verse is cogent and striking.

With its fast paced, line of flight construction, attention to emotive details while navigating away from sentimentality, and its ability to pull one into the world of forms it creates, Ethical Consciousness sits in an ether all its own. This is poetry that speaks best when it speaks for itself. To superimpose meaning or theory on to it outside of the personal experience of reading it for oneself would do disservice to it. This is intimate poetry that demands attention and rightfully deserves it.

Book Review: Partyknife by Dan Magers

$15 Print; $5 PDF; 92 pages
Birds, LLC
ISBN: 9780982617779




Shut Up and Play the Hits1: Dan Magers’ Partyknife
Bryce Bullins

“Tamaki asks me to talk dirty to her without being degrading, / but I don’t know the difference.”
“Love is a prelude to an afterthought.”
“I had an anxiety attack during the three-way. / I see through all appearance and know abundance.”

These are opening lines to poems in Dan Magers’ collection Partyknife, the collective sigh of palpable dread of being an up-and-coming adult in a world none of us will ever be able to get in touch with again while simultaneously bursting at the seams with the joy of being alive in such an insane moment.

Partyknife is nuanced poetry in readers digest post-ironic form. Magers’ verse is melodramatic, angry, and hopeful in the most modern sense of the word. It is filled with the directness of language we only fantasize of using out loud because we are too aloof in our own shoes at the byzantine carnival of the 21st century. The brusqueness of his content and its blasé approach to more or less everything captivates a reader in such a way that we both marvel and make faces of disgust at the seemingly cavalier attitude of Magers’ narrator. Scathing but poignant remarks such as “we were not fuck buddies. / We were not even buddies. / We were just fucks.” leaves a reader slack jawed with its audaciousness to simply say it as it is. At a deeper level, Magers mines into the vein of language most of us could only hope to use to express our inner turmoil. Magers has managed to acquire the gall we lack and in taking such a risk, his verse pays dividends in its delivery and resonance both on and off the page. These are poems catchy enough to remember for weeks after reading.

Fitting then that Partyknife is designed as a 7’’ vinyl and presents itself as an EP for a band that ought to exist but never will. The poems even have track lengths. It’s a playful anachronism in that despite the common conception of vinyl being an archaic form in the age of digital formats (primarily MP3), analog recordings and pressings remain of a higher fidelity.

For the uninitiated, MP3s are subpar to vinyl, or any analog based recording for that matter, because MP3s are compressed audio while analog recordings are not. In being compressed, the vibrancy and dynamism that can be heard in analog recordings is lost (this assumes you have the proper equipment to get the most out of that analog, however). CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg sums it up nicely: “An analog recording corresponds the variations in air pressure of the original sound. A digital recording is a series of numbers that correspond to the sound’s continuous variations, but the numbers have to be reconverted to analog signals before they can be listened to. Listening to a well-recorded LP, you hear humans making music; with digital it’s more about sound for sound’s sake.”2

Naturally then, the only viable form for Partyknife is that of the 7’’ vinyl. Partyknife would never be found on the iTunes store because its quality would be diminished in that garbage compression. The ability for abrasiveness is lost in digital formats. The language of humans is lost in compression and tiptoeing niceties. Partyknife is essential reading/listening because it’s the best kind of dangerous: it captures an emotional zeitgeist and it doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of it. It exists for itself and on its own, within and without the temporality it defines.

1 Also the name of a documentary about the final show of the seminal NYC band, LCD Soundsystem and there are arguably parallels to their music/lyrics and Partyknife.

2 http://www.cnet.com/news/why-does-analog-sound-better-than-digital/

Erin Stoodley: HSWC Profiles

This week we are presenting Erin Stoodley, the local’s prize winner in fiction for her story “Ghost.” Here is her response to our interview.

When I was younger, I wrote because I needed to write. Writing served as a means to better understand humans and our complexities.

My mother exposed me to the literary realm at an early age. When I was a child, she read to me from her favorite Victorian novels. Many afternoons, we would pick through the books at the local library. My mother introduced me to a world that, as Faulkner wrote, recognized the prevailing of the human spirit. Today, I write to be a part of that world.

In addition to desiring to study the human experience, I also want to produce work that resonates with an audience. We have all experienced loss, but we may feel emotionally detached from the world until we read of someone else’s pain. For example, after finishing such books as The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, I was able to place my suffering into context and realize that my experiences only reinforced my humanity.

Receiving such validation as I have in the Sierra Nevada Review High School Writing Contest has greatly motivated me in pursuing a writing career. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the contest.


Erin Stoodley is a student residing in Ventura, California. She has received recognition from such organizations as the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and the National YoungArts Foundation. Her poetry is published or is forthcoming in The Adroit JournalBelleville Park Pages, and Euphony Journal, among others.

Isabella Stenvall: HSWC Profiles

We asked this year’s High School Writing Contest winners to tell us more about their writing process. Here is Isabella Stenvall’s response.

Inline image 3Writing has been my source of expression since I was quite young. I devoured as many books as I could obtain and created a love for words and patterns that communicated my ideas. I have always been quite creative, thriving in my own imagination. Writing allowed me to take my introspective world and share it with those around me.

I can be inspired to write by practically anything. More frequently I take strong emotions or influential experiences and turn them into narratives that help me understand what has taken place. Other times I write to capture a memory or time, in fact every day for the past three years I have been recording every day of my life for future recollection. This includes small conversations, defining moments, immature comments, silly jokes. Writing stories protects some of the brightest and darkest days of my life.

Knowing that I won an award for “Wars with Numbers” brings me immense joy. The piece describes my painful battle with anorexia and first steps to recovery. It is incredible that my work was read and recognized, especially a narrative that was somewhat difficult to allow myself to send in.

After high school I hope to travel from my small California town to a university in an East Coast big city. My dream is to be accepted to Columbia University, located in my favorite city in the world providing me an opportunity to continue my life-long passion for dancing and receive an exceptional Ivy League education. I want to explore courses in international peace relations and possibly travel the world working as a diplomat.


Isabella Stenvall is a seventeen year old contemporary dancer from California who fosters an intense love for ocean-swimming, alt-j, and chocolate-covered strawberries. She won the local’s prize for her non-fiction piece on anorexia, Wars With Numbers.

Book Review: The Goldfinch

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others,

 that in the end, we become diguised to ourlves.”

-Francois De La Rochefoucauld

the goldfinch

Review by Courtney Berti

Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch

Little Brown

ISBN 978-0-316-05543-7


Why would anyone want to read a novel about the typical American teenager: after his mother dies, a promising thirteen-year-old moves in with his gambling drug-addict father, falls in with the wrong kids at school, does drugs, becomes an alcoholic, grows up, repeats father’s mistakes…It sounds like the plotline for a dramatic television series for teenagers. But the truth is that Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is less for an uninformed teenaged audience, and more for a jaded and cynical adult audience. How does one figure?

Written from the first person perspective, readers are plunged inside the head of thirteen-year-old Theodore Decker at the moment when his upright, stable, fairly happy world is turned upside down forever. Initially, we see Theo making his first bad decision with his friend Tom, leading him to be suspended. His mother is escorting him to school to address the suspension and his behavior with his teachers when they are caught by a rainstorm. The two of them duck into The Hague to take shelter, browse for a bit, and in the moment we are introduced to the subject in the title (The Goldfinch, a painting by Carel Fabritius 1654) an explosion occurs that kills Theo’s mom and brings him face to face with fate in the form of an older gentleman by the name of Welty. Welty, in his last moments, gives Theo a ring that later leads him to an antique shop where he meets a lifelong friend by the name of Hobie who remains for Theo, and readers, a stable moral compass throughout the rest of the novel—a necessary character for a novel that tries to tackle questions such as: What is good or evil? Does fate exist? Is there a god? Does any of it mean anything?

It is in the stating of these questions, and in the stylistic choices that Tartt makes, that a number of risks are taken in the realm of what constitutes literature. For example, the twists of fate and the surprisingly happy ending are what have led more than one reviewer to identify (and criticize) The Goldfinch as Dickensian, in nature. Stephen King goes so far as to call Theo a “21st century Oliver Twist…” The criticism is that all of the loose ends of the novel are tied in a nice neat bow in a manner typical of Dickens as well as pop fiction and genre writers—pleasing to the unlearned reader of fiction but infuriatingly predictable to the student and writer of literature. In her essay, “The Breakout Element: Unpredictability and the Novel,” writer Lan Samantha Chang calls this neat wrap-up, “resolution of plot, at the expense of characters.”

Because of this tendency to break away from character for the sake of resolution, the end of The Goldfinch is, perhaps, the most notable risk taken by Tartt. The narrative style of the last chapter of the book changes drastically so that the main character, Theo, and his friends are indirectly addressing the reader while the characters are basking in the reverie of disasters righted and lessons learned, very much like the end of A Christmas Carol. In some cases Theo actually does address the reader (who he, ironically, suspects does not exist) but a good example of the tone near the end is when his best friend Boris says, “And I know how you think, or how you like to think, but maybe this is one instance where you can’t boil down to pure ‘good’ or pure ‘bad’ like you always want to do—? Like, your two different piles? Bad over here, good over here? Maybe not quite so simple” (745).

It may be that Boris is challenging Theo (and readers) a little too bluntly to abandon strictly black-and-white thinking (along with all the other little things the reader is asked to think about), as if the lesson of the book was not already learned by readers in the telling of it. Perhaps this is why some critics will call it a masterpiece like the artwork upon which the story is based, and why other’s will call it a children’s book for adults. Only in children’s books is the underlying lesson so tediously re-stated, but I think that Tartt pulls it off. The happy note on which the book ends is exactly what is needed as the reward for the reader who has experienced so much misery along with Theo for ten years of his life and at least a couple weeks of our own.

Not to say that the book is a miserable read, by any means. Tartt manages to draw readers so completely into the psyche of Theo via long, meandering, almost stream of consciousness paragraphs that we are sympathetic with his cause and feel as tortured as he throughout the novel. While this doesn’t sound particularly fun, I would argue that Tartt takes a risk by daring readers to explore the uncomfortable places of one’s own consciousness by writing in the first person, but also by creating a highly introspective, philosophical character who feels separated from the goings on of his everyday reality.

For starters, the book is divided into separate sections with their own labels, indicative of Theo’s emotional climate contained therein, (i.e. “Morphine Lollipop,” or “Wind, Sand and Stars,”), and Tartt manages, through her writing, to help us make sense of why each section is labelled as it is. For example, in the chapter entitled, “The Idiot,” we see Theo talking to himself: “…I hated being around people, couldn’t pay attention to what anyone was saying, couldn’t talk to clients, couldn’t tag my pieces, couldn’t ride the subway, all human activity seemed pointless, incomprehensible, some blackly swarming ant hill in the wilderness, there was not a squeak of light anywhere I looked, the antidepressants I’d been dutifully swallowing for eight weeks hadn’t helped a bit, nor…” etc.

Upon further examination, one sees that the title of this chapter (and its contents) is a criticism of modern American culture, which Tartt shows us throughout the novel—from New York to Las Vegas she uses pop-culture, art, film, and literature references to show their impact on Theo’s psyche. His choices and responses to this culture are demonstrated through his highly-conscious, deeply poetic, and philosophical persona.

Like this passage in which Theo is harried in the thrum of typical, every-day life for possibly the first time since he was thirteen, we see that it is not only the chapter headings, but the style of these long and winding passages, which are carefully crafted to reflect Theo’s state of mind. I believe that this is why, initially, the book feels slow and drawn out—reflecting a young boy’s half-stunned half-dead state of grieving almost too closely without giving any sense of a way out. But, once the story gets rolling and the reader is allowed to feel some relief along with Theo when he meets his friend Boris, these passages start to feel more natural, and then, dare I say, more like the stream of one’s own thoughts. Such is Tartt’s ability to display the vast emotional landscape of her main character.

As I said, I think that The Goldfinch is geared towards an audience of cynical and jaded adults. Not only does Tartt show readers how very little Theo is helped in tending to his emotional stability as a child, but also how this emotional state is carried on through adulthood. Tartt shows us the fast pace of the world and a man so caught up in it since he was thirteen that he must keep going or be overcome entirely, but by what? Theo acquired a painting, The Goldfinch, from The Hague on a day it was blown up. The explosion killed his mother and the painting serves as a metaphor for his emotions concerning her death—wrapped up tight in duct tape, a secret, hidden forever from himself and the world. The turnaround of the novel comes when Theo discovers that his friend Boris switched the painting for a magazine when they were kids and it has been sold to a person in Amsterdam. This metaphorically puts Theo in a place so distant from his feelings that he doesn’t even recognize them anymore—they are so far away that they are foreign.

Perhaps the ultimate criticism of American culture, therefore, is in the neat and risky resolution. Perhaps Tartt decides to “spell it out” for her readers because the point of the novel is to show how people have lost the emotional understanding to intuitively garner the meaning of the novel for themselves due to constant exposure to a culture that is too fast-paced, too dependent on drugs to drown out emotional problems, too distracted to feel—just like Theo. If this is the case, then the neat ending is the perfect ending to wrap it all up.

What makes The Goldfinch so brilliant, apart from the beauty in the writing itself, the complexity (and simplicity) of language, the depth of thought and emotion, is that by the end of an otherwise harrying tale, the reader feels relief, a sense of freedom from his or her own thoughts and the anxieties surrounding the belief that, “We don’t get to choose the people we are. Because—isn’t it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture—?”(761). And here, in this sense of relief, we understand why the book is named after and centered around a painting of a finch that is shackled to a perch by a chain drilled into a piece of wood by the culture of the man who maintained it.



Courtney BertiCourtney Berti lives in South Lake Tahoe with her dog and her boyfriend, Kelley. She will receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College by January 2015.

Book Review: House of Deer by Sasha Steensen

$15.95; 88 pages
Albany: Fence Books
ISBN: 978-1934200773





Knocking at the Door: Sasha Steensen’s House of Deer
Bryce Bullins

Sasha Steensen’s latest poetry offering, House of Deer, is a fascinating exploration of language, family, the self, the other, and connections both internal and external to all of those things. It continues Steensen’s exploration and deconstruction of language to its purest forms and parts, and in doing so establishes an approachable framework for both critical analysis and aesthetic enjoyment.

House of Deer is entrenched in the past. Nostalgia and memories drip from this book like a noxious nectar that beckons the reader to visit moments of time they may have never even lived through. Steensen’s excellent awareness of the line, attention to detail, and tone transport us to rural Ohio circa 1970. From the typeface on both the book cover and the titles of poems, which is reminiscent of the title cards to Little House on The Prairie, the collection makes no qualms about what its intentions or aims are. House of Deer doesn’t expressly stick to this 1970s homage however. For example, the lengthy and prose based “The Girl and the Deer” creates a narrative that dances back and forth from the perspective of deer and girl with aptly named sections “The Girl”, “The Girl and the Deer”, “The Deer”, etc. all while unfolding what reads like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. While there are hints of time contextualization, nothing leads one to believe that this poem is expressly set in a specific time or place. Its narrative is capable of existing at any time. Framed another way, poems like “The Girl and the Deer” and “Fragments” exist in all places at once escaping our dogmatic expressions of time and memory.

At its best moments, House of Deer is frank and sparse. Steensen’s delivery is sharp, poignant, and at times jaw dropping in its ability to express authentic darkness so succinctly. As an example:

house of saud’s
daughter stoned to death
&one Burchfield sister (9yrs old)
locked in a closet
while the other (13 yrs old)
aborts her father’s baby

What’s so strange about this from a reading perspective is that her objective tone isn’t anything new or experimental. Rather than write in a manner that intentionally obfuscates and confuses a reader, Steensen grounds her work in a tangible and present way few other poets can achieve. Its beauty lies in its ability to be visceral without feeling affected.

The non-spacing of words adds to House of Deer‘s already rich texture of language. As in “1804woodsmen”:

1804woodsmen &woodswomen &woodschildren
cut a road right before you
ahistory of Garrettsville, Ohio:

Rather than feeling arbitrary or intentionally confounding, the tightness and closeness of the words represents a quick thought much in the vein of Cummings or of Williams; something that is meant to be read briskly, as much of our own thoughts are when they are finally strung together. In the case of “1804woodsmen” this tightness may refer to the close knit community of Garretsville, Ohio. The word associations and sounds that come out of these connection of seemingly unrelated words opens gateways to new avenues of language we would have never gone down otherwise. The brilliance in this lies in its deceptively simple execution. It’s not enough to simply tie any two words together in such a manner; it’s the deft selection of those words. Language is repetition and so it stands to reason that the poems in House of Deer can be read and re-read a hundred times and each time something new could be gleaned from its pages.

The complexity of language, of reminiscence, of past as present and future as one, commingle and make House of Deer a collection that is as captivating as it is melancholic. It demands a reader’s attention with its noise and subtlety. House of Deer beckons at its closure: “Come forth peril, little pearl in the darkness”. The peril Steensen speaks to is not necessarily a dangerous one, but rather one that is capable of vast illumination. Though it carries a heavy burden with it, its undertaking is essential.



Bryce Bullins is a first year graduate student focusing on poetry but has worked previously on the Sierra Nevada Review as an undergraduate student. He received his BA in English with a minor in Music from Sierra Nevada College in 2014.