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An Interview with Mark A. Pritchard

Mark A. Pritchard grew up in the New Forest, Southern England, a village with more sheep than people. He is the eldest of four siblings, whom he assures are recovering well. Mark holds a degree in drama from King Alfred’s College, Winchester. Tired of suffering Mark’s essays, the Head of Drama suggested he try a screen play as his dissertation. Words magically ceased to be mortal enemies and he has been captivated by story telling ever since. Rose Solari discovered him at the Oxford Literary ‘Fringe Festival’ in 2008 reading from his then work in progress, Billy Christmas. Mark lives in Oxford where he writes, acts, and patronizes the better pubs. His daughter is now old enough to despair in public!

ASP: For those who know nothing about Billy Christmas, could you summarize the basic idea in a paragraph or two?

Mark A. Pritchard: Billy faces the first Christmas since his father vanished, without any explanation, the previous Christmas Day. He comes into possession of a magical Christmas tree which offers him a wish in return for the completion of twelve tasks. Each task is represented by a decoration (or ornament if you’re in [the US]!) and Billy takes them from the tree each night after midnight. However, the tasks spiral into dangerous territory, releasing unseen enemies and forcing Billy into the unknown to try to recover his father.

"I do chuckle when adults look and me with surprise and announce. “Mark, I loved it. It’s just like a real book!” Perhaps they were expecting a battered cod?"

ASP: What brought you to write the story of Billy Christmas?

MP: I’d been chasing an idea for a novel for some time. When you’re starting out you tend to seize on ideas which are really not much more than scenes. A novel needs an idea with legs!

ASP: You being a UK native, would you say BC has a distinctly British feel?

MP: That’s a hard one to answer as a native. Rose Solari and I mulled over whether the novel would serve readers better in US English, where Billy is published, or UK English where it is set; we went with the latter. I think that finally planted the sense of tone. The Oxford scholar, Diarmaid MacCulloch, was kind enough to compare the book to novels by Alan Garner, which I think probably settles that! Now I’m writing for the screen, particularly in science fiction, I find I’m writing much more Mid-Atlantic dialogue, which I find interesting and unexpected.

ASP: The description of BC on the ASP website reads “Billy Christmas is a boy with a man’s problems.”

Is this accurate? What does it mean to be a boy with man’s problems?

MP: Sometimes you need to be outside a thing to sum it up well, or see something quintessential about it. Alan Squire have a knack for doing this really well – and it’s not an easy. If I were to tweak this phrase I’d simply [say] that Billy has to struggle with challenges beyond his years. I’m not explicit, nor would I wish to be, about what a man’s problems might be – but if the reader finds something true in that, I’d be flattered.

ASP: Could you explain the concept of the 12 tasks in BC and where that idea came from?

MP: The original idea came when a roommate spurred me on, to enter a writing competition. When the idea landed I knew it was expansive enough to sustain over a book. That structure was a gift for a debut novel, which mentally are monumental efforts. For me to literally complete Billy’s tasks, allowed me to see the book emerge and solidify in a way previous attempts simply had not.

ASP: Who do you envision to be the audience for BC?

MP: I read Stephen King when I was nine years old. I believe young audiences should be largely self-selecting in judging what is right for them. Almost all are perfectly capable of closing books which take them to places they’re not prepared for. Parents, however, are a different matter. For sensitive parents I explain that there are scary themes within Billy Christmas, but if their child has read the final Harry Potter, then there is nothing they need worry about.

ASP: What do you want young adults who read the book to take away from it?

MP: That’s none of my business. The contract between writer and book, and reader and book, are two wildly different matters.

ASP: What do you want adults or parents who read the books to take away from it?

MP: Largely the same answer as above. However, I’ll add that I do chuckle when adults look and me with surprise and announce. “Mark, I loved it. It’s just like a real book!” Perhaps they were expecting a battered cod?

Billy Christmas is a boy with a man’s problems. Since his father disappeared mysteriously last Christmas, Billy’s mom has withdrawn into her grief, neglecting him and everything else. Now, in addition to his schoolwork, Billy must also keep the household running for both of them, paying the bills from their ever-dwindling bank account. Meanwhile, his father’s departure has become the chief topic of conversation in the small town of Marlow, and most of Billy’s classmates either ignore or bully him. He relies on his best friend Katherine for strength, and on his own inner certainty that somewhere, somehow, his father is still alive and wants to come home. Then, twelve days before Christmas, Billy is given a magical challenge, a series of twelve difficult and dangerous tasks. If he completes them all, his dream of being reunited with his missing dad might come true.

This is a book destined to be battered, much thumbed, read and read again until its pages come loose. It will graduate into the packing crate going off to college, then to the shelves at home, because Pritchard treats his young audience with emotional and literary respect. Pritchard understands that children’s emotions are as genuine as those of their parents, dark and foreboding in places, but never without hope. — James Clark, writer and former Sunday Times journalist

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Rose Solari

Don’t let a Poet Burn Down Your House: A Cautionary Tale for the Holidays

WHETHER YOU LOVE IT OR LOATHE IT, there’s no denying that the holiday party season is all-consuming. Hosts everywhere order mistletoe, peruse catering menus, and search for just the right poet to read her work at their swank event.

What’s that, you say? Never heard of that last one? Indeed, of all your artist friends, a poet pal might be last one you’d think to ask to recite a few pieces at your holiday shindig. Musicians of all stripes are pressed into service this time of year, lending their flutes, guitars, or voices to the general mood of conviviality. A brave host with a nice wooden floor might even invite a ballet dancer to trot out the Sugar Plum Fairy solo. But I am here to tell you that poets, too, can be invited to “perform” at this time of year.

So here’s some advice: If you’re a host, don’t ask. And poets, if you do receive the call, don’t do it. Learn from my mistakes.

I was a naive young sprig of a poet when I first received such an invitation. My first book was just out, and a wealthy friend who fancied herself a kind of grand dame of the arts world wanted to turn her holiday party into, as she put “a real old-school French-style salon.” (I hold this woman responsible for the fact that, ever since, whenever anyone suggests holding a salon, my eyelid starts to twitch like Clouseau’s Inspector Dreyfus. But I digress.) Her plan was to scatter artists of various stripes throughout the main floor of her house, so that guests could sample a little original music here, a little live-action painting there, and then me, reading my introspective, coming-of-age poems.

“For maybe ten or fifteen minutes,” she said. “You’re really a guest, of course.” Translation: You’re not getting paid for my little experiment in entertaining, but you can drink and eat your fee. She plunked me in a chair in her den and let me go to it.

When I began reading there were perhaps ten people in the room. I started with a short, funny poem. They laughed, then half of them left. As I commenced my second, more serious piece, the other half slowly drifted out. I closed my book, and headed to the bar for a much-needed drink.

“No, you’re supposed to keep going,” my hostess said, accosting me in the hallway. “People will find you.”

I pointed out that all such people were either rocking out in the music room or, from the smell of it, getting stoned with the painter. She sighed a deep sigh, and I toddled off to get drunk. The food, of course, was distinctly un-French, and lousy.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson. But a few years later, I was invited, along with a few other poets, to read my work in a new downtown shopping mall during the holiday season. The enterprising young real estate mogul who built it came up with this clever notion. Folding chairs and a podium were set out in the mall’s main hall, the idea being that exhausted shoppers might sit and refresh themselves with a few minutes of verse before going forth to spend some more.

The flaws in this idea were apparent by the time the second poet got up to read. No one sat, but a passing folks did say, quite loudly, “What the hell?” or some variation of that sentiment. Then the heckling began. Fortunately for me, we were reading in alphabetical order, and chaos descended long before I was supposed to take the stage. I slipped out quietly, vowing, never again.

So of course, it happened again — but in my defense, this one snuck up on me. My husband and I were invited to a New Year’s Day party at the home of a couple we’d just met. Both are professional, performing musicians, and therefore, one would think, too wise for such shenanigans. One would be wrong.

The food was terrific, the wine superb, and the festivities had reached their height when the male half of the hosting team decided it was time for his guests to hear some poetry. He took me aside, asked if I would recite something from my most recent book.

“Sorry, I don’t have anything memorized,” I lied.

“No problem!” He replied. “I’ve got your book right here.”

Before I could stop him, he was shuttling his guests into the house’s small front room, telling them they were in for a real treat. He pressed me into a corner between a window and the fireplace, where small flames were giving off what seemed an inordinate amount of heat. In my wool dress and tights, I was sweating before he put the book in my hands. I flashed distress signals to my husband with my eyes. He slipped up to me with a strong drink.

“Give ‘em one good one and get it over with,” he advised.

I decided to take his advice. But first, I leaned over and opened the window about two inches. A burst of very cold air did just a little to relieve my discomfort. OK, I thought, I can do this.

A few of the guests slipped out of the room and back to the food almost as soon as I started. I envied them. Ever the pro, I raised my voice a little to be heard over their chatter when I heard another, less familiar noise – a kind of crackling, growing louder and louder, followed by what sounded like a small bomb going off. Smoke filled the room.

“Oh, my god,” somebody said. “The house is on fire!”

“Don’t be silly,” our host responded. “It’s just an old fireplace. Keep going, Rose!”

Another exploding sound sent us all running outside. Above us, flames were leaping out of the chimney.

Someone called 911. Some other enterprising soul ran back inside to dump scoops of flour onto the flames. (Better than water, he told us. Who knew?) As the fire trucks pulled up, our host turned to me.

“This is your fault,” he said. “It was the breeze from the window that started this.”

“But that’s not possible.”

“Of course it is. It’s an old house. You should have known better. You opened that window.”

“But, but…”

By now, my husband was at my side with our coats, pulling me toward our car. But my erstwhile fan pointed to me, and announced to the rushing firemen, “It’s her fault! She opened a window!”

One of them stopped to take this in.

“Sir,” he said, “When was the last time you had your chimney cleaned?”

The answer, of course, was never.

The new friendship took a hit, but the house, at least, survived. And now I have one excellent excuse at the ready, whenever someone asks me to read my poetry at their holiday party: My work will set your house on fire.

Rose Solari

Rose Solari is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, The Last GirlOrpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather(re-issued by ASP in 2014); the one-act play, Looking for Guenevereand the novel, A Secret WomanShe has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, St. John’s College, Annapolis, The Jung Society of Washington, and the Centre for Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Kellogg College in Oxford, England. Her work as a journalist includes numerous free lance assignments, as well as positions as staff writer and editor for SportsFan Magazine and Common Boundary Magazine. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, The Columbia Book Award, and an EMMA for excellence in journalism. She is currently a member of the Advisory Panel for the Centre for Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Kellogg College.

Rose Solari

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Two Poems by Reuben Jackson

Kelly Recalls 1963

I still call
The year 1963
Season of Nightmares
After Medgar Evers
Was killed I
Would lie awake
And wait for
My uncle Joe
To get home
Safely he and
My Aunt Blanche
Had the same
Carport Mr. Evers
Had I know
Because I read
The story concerning
His assassination over
And over in
Ebony magazine even
When he my
Uncle was safely
Seated on the
Couch I could
Not sleep because
I now knew
That we were
Hated for being
Who we were
And are then
The four little
Girls in Birmingham
Died in that
Bombing who will
Protect us I
Asked the moon
On more than
One sleepless night

Kelly's Ode to Gamal

My man Gamal
Who was born
Lawrence Williams in
Newark New Jersey
Also loved to
Write about listening
To the rain
Especially around 2
AM he’d eat
Cold egg foo
Young and sit
By the open
Window just like
Your boy Amir
One fall night
He told me
That rain like
All things of
Profound substance was
Created in Africa.

Reuben Jackson

Reuben Jackson served as curator of the Smithsonian’s Duke Ellington Collection in Washington, D.C. for over twenty years. His music reviews have been published in the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Jazz Times, and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Jackson is also an educator and mentor with The Young Writers Project. He taught poetry for 11 years at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland and taught high school for two years in Burlington, Vermont. He is also a founding member of the New Music-Theatre workshop and currently works for the organization as a librettist. His poems have been published in over 40 anthologies; his first volume is fingering the keys, which Joseph Brodsky picked for the Columbia Book Award. Reuben Jackson is currently an archivist with the University of the District of Columbia’s Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. From 2013 until 2018, he was host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio.

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Shanghaied By The Past

SHANGHAIED BY THE PAST appears in Navigating the Divide (ASP 2019)

SOME CALL SHANGHAI THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT. And, in many ways, it is—organic, iridescent, a nacreous gemstone wrapped around a suffering center stuffed into the belly button of China. Behind it, China’s umbilicus, the great Yangtze, crawls through the fat middle of the country all the way from Tibet. Shanghai is young as great cities go. A murky backwater for centuries, its origins as a cosmopolitan center are rooted in the 1843 Treaty of Nanjing and trade concessions won by the British in the ignominious Opium Wars which allowed British merchants to continue to pollute the Chinese populace with opium imported from India in the name of balancing trade. Shanghai, like Xiamen, Canton, Fuzhou and Ningbo, became a “treaty port” where foreign powers (the British and later the French and the Americans) were granted autonomous, self-governing settlements. Extraterritoriality— freedom from Chinese law and a great distance from their own—came with a license and licentiousness that lent Shanghai all the gravity of a frat party thrown in someone else’s house.

Fortunes were made there, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the Manchu dynasty breathed its last, money poured into the city. It was the place for youngest sons to go to make a fortune; for adventuresome women to find freedom and a leg up, so to speak; for anyone fleeing from an unjust history or a sordid past to hide; for teachers and preachers in search of a flock. Righteous, avaricious, British, French, American, Russian, Indian, Japanese—the world, it seemed, swarmed to the muddy mouth of the Yangtze to mingle and mix with abandon in a wild, feeding frenzy. And while Chinese revolutionaries plotted and uprisings rose and fell, Shanghai real estate shot upwards in a rash of high-rise edifices with skyhigh prices.

In 1925 when my mother, Genie, a.k.a. Georgiana Mildred Hughes, moved to Shanghai at age four, the city was booming, divided up into a singsong of settlements belonging to multinational communities that had over the past eighty years developed their identities and expanded their reach. At the center of this universe was the Bund, a classy cummerbund of banks and trading houses situated at a bend in the Huangpu River on what was once a muddy towpath. Gateway to China via the sticky fingers of the British and American Concessions known collectively as the International Settlement, it was an imperious one-mile strip bounded in the north by Suzhou Creek and the Garden Bridge and in the south by Avenue Edward VII.

Symbols of status and wealth abounded on the Bund. Here rose the port city’s all-important Customs House with its grand clock, a replica of Big Ben sarcastically dubbed Big Ching; the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation building, home of the second largest banking institution in the world at the time; and the opulent art deco Cathay Hotel, erected by millionaire trader Sir Victor Sassoon, a testament to the rewards of international drug sales. Beyond this impressive sweep of powerhouses stretched an elitist world of private clubs, expensive shops and hotels where wealth was flaunted and the city’s first park was closed to dogs, bicycles, and the Chinese.

This is the Shanghai my mother remembered—the Shanghai she called home until 1937. It was a dazzling world to child and adult, alike, a world filled with chauffeurs, dressmakers, pastries, parties, movies, movie stars, and electrifying sporting events, but there was also poverty and a prejudice to which my mother, daughter of a Welsh professor of English Literature and a Japanese actress, was hardly immune.

Mother lived on Avenue de Roi Albert in the French Concession. At the time, the French Concession was the place to be. Even the wealthy Taipans, flush from their business dealings in the banks and “hongs”—the trading companies on Nanjing Road—made their homes in the French Concession, surrounding themselves with thick walls, ample gardens and armies of servants. A bohemian center that drew artists, entertainers and their well-heeled patrons, the French Concession also supported a refugee population that included White Russians, European Jews and others down on their luck or quite literally at the end of their rope. To the north, in the International Settlement, activity centered around Nanjing and Bubbling Well Roads, the large east-west artery that extended from the Bund to Bubbling Well Cemetery with the fashionable and much frequented racetrack in between. But it was Avenue Joffre, sometimes called “Little Russia” because of its large Slavic population that was the city’s emotional center. Just south of Avenue Edward VII, it was a welter of Mom & Pop businesses where elegant but impoverished immigrants harnessed their courtly credentials by serving up fashion to the local hoi polloi in a struggle to make ends meet. The public schools were crowded with the children of these parents in distress. Edith, a Czechoslovakian girl and contemporary of my mother’s, whose family were among the 25,000 European Jews who found asylum in Shanghai, remembers the bakery her parents opened on Edinburough Road. Edith’s family was relocated in 1943, when the Japanese took over Shanghai, to the Jewish ghetto in Hongkou, in the old American Settlement, where they were confined along with thousands of other Jews until 1945 when Chiang Kaishek and the Kuomintang took back the city.

Dire as these circumstances were, they weren’t as bad as the situation for the indigenous population and for the thousands of Chinese refugees who had flocked to Shanghai’s well-fortified western enclaves in search of protection from a merry-go-round of political skirmishes and rebellions. They lived in abject poverty, supplying the city’s colonial keepers and their Chinese partners with an exploitable, expendable and seemingly endless source of manual labor and a market for their drugs. At one time there were close to 1500 opium dens in Shanghai and over 50 shops that peddled it openly. Gangsters like “Big Eared” Du Yuesheng capitalized on this depravity, making financial killings in opium, prostitution and labor racketeering and finding acceptance and even respectability in a governing body with similar values. Shanghai was a desperate place.

Children, like many of my mother’s cousins and friends, fell prey to illnesses and epidemics: malaria, influenza, pleurisy, leukemia. Adults fell prey to other maladies like profligacy and the temptations of alcohol, drugs and gambling. Factory workers died of lead and mercury poisoning; porters and rickshaw drivers dropped dead in the streets; beggars starved; and brothels filled up with young women with no other means of support. The destitute were ignored. It’s no wonder that the push for a new order took hold and that when the occupying Japanese were finally ousted in 1945, it was the Red Chinese who eventually took control.

Today, after decades of social penance under the scouring influence of communism, Shanghai has resumed its capitalistic course, this time with Beijing’s blessing. The French Concession is again the place to be—hallowed, in a way, by its significance as a cradle of communism. Radical young intellectuals were part of the scene in the ‘20s and today you can visit the site of the first National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party at 76 Xingye Lu, as well as the former residences of early revolutionary Sun Yatsen and Zhou Enlai, first premier of the People’s Republic of China.

In an irony that is impossible to miss, Huaihai Lu (it used to be Avenue Joffre) has re-emerged as a key commercial strip, though the Old World gentility has been all but expunged and replaced with super-sized fashion franchises brokering brands to the terminally trendy. Side streets like Shaanxi Nanlu (old Avenue de Roi Albert), and neighboring Maoming Nanlu and Changshu Lu feature, as they did so many years ago, a host of little shoe stores and dress shops. New cafés, restaurants and nightclubs beckon. The often tree-lined streets still sport a continental color, and the concession-era ambiance of backstreets dotted with small businesses, boutiques and art galleries attract tourists and serve as an oddly welcome reminder that Shanghai, once the Paris of the East, is back in business.

Other old habits have resurfaced. Western visitors again gravitate toward the Bund with its antique symbols of European dominance and savvy developers have been happy to comply, dusting off colonial haunts and reframing them for a new generation of devotees. The Peace Hotel, which in its former Cathay Hotel incarnation was home away from home to such notables as Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward, still draws sentimental admirers with romantic notions of Shanghai in its decadent heyday and Nanjing Lu and Nanjing Xilu (once Nanjing and Bubbling Well Roads) with their big department stores, museums, top-of-the-line hotels and high-end shopping are as popular as ever with the local and international set.

But for a look at old Shanghai, the crowded lanes and alleys of Nan Shi are the traveler’s best bet. This is the Old Town, where the Chinese first settled in a walled encampment constructed to deter Japanese pirates. Cramped quarters, crowded lanes, back alleys strung with laundry and a cacophonous and odiferous tangle of sights, sounds and smells suggest the heady combination of sensory stimulation that surrounded residents of old Shanghai. Here you’ll find recently restored neighborhoods like the area around Fangang Zhonglu and temples and tenements and street vendors selling the same snacks—dumplings (xiaolongbao), baked sweet potato, shaved ice and syrup (bingsha) and roasted chestnuts (in winter)—that tempted children back in the ‘20s and ‘30s when my mother was a girl.

But Shanghai also has a new face. Developed by the Chinese government in an attempt to make the port city the financial capital of Asia, the Pudong New Area on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River has sprouted from the bog that in the past served alternately as a farmland supplying pigs and vegetables to Shanghai and a storage area where the port’s godowns (warehouses) and compradors (buyers) shifted and sorted the sources of trading house fortunes. In 1990, when Shanghai became an autonomous municipality, Pudong was identified as a special economic zone. Today, clearly the result of a great deal of attention and investment by the central government, it has evolved into a kind of Buck Rogers-George Jetson City of the Future complete with two billion dollar airport, superlong suspension bridges, MagLev train service and soaring superstructures that vie with other Asian skyscrapers for the title of tallest. At eighty-eight stories, the observation deck of the Jinmao Tower, the fifth tallest building in the world, offers the best views of modern Shanghai. The Shanghai Municipal Historical Museum in the basement of the shocking-pink, scifi-style Oriental Pearl Tower—the world’s third tallest tower— provides an interesting glimpse of Shanghai’s past. Both structures are located in the Liujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, home to China’s stock market and headquarters for foreign banks. Pudong, which is actually larger than urban Shanghai, is mainly a place for business, though it also home to the city’s most modern hotels. The Park Hyatt, which occupies the fiftythird to eighty-seventh floors of the edifice, is certainly one of the most spectacular places to stay in the city. With its international investors, tax-free foreign trade zone, hi-tech zone, export and processing zone, Pudong is a celebration of capitalism that puts other centers of commerce to shame.

In fact the new Shanghai has a great deal in common with the old. The communist regime was particularly hard on Shanghai, believing the western loyalties and bourgeois values it promoted were especially pernicious. Maybe they were on to something. The beggars are back. So are the expats, the drugs, the sex, the shopping and the real estate boom. The Chinese would say that places have personality, an energy and a spirit that is the product of their geography. If this is the case, Shanghai will always be the head of the Yangtze dragon: powerful, irrepressible, optimistic, wealthy, ambitious, dangerous. Oh yes, and a little vain.

Navigating the Divide is a career-spanning, multi-genre collection from the award-winning indie literature legend, Linda Watanabe McFerrin. In poetry, essays, and fiction that are often profoundly personal and astoundingly surreal, this world traveler and literary explorer busts walls, erects bridges, and ambiguates genre. This multi-faceted collection sets out to attempt its namesake, to “navigate the divide” – between spiritual and physical, between thought and desire, between individual and collective.

Navigating the Divide is the third volume in ASP’s Legacy Series. This series is devoted to career-spanning collections from writers who meet the following three criteria: The majority of their books have been published by independent presses; they are active in more than one literary genre; and they are consistent and influential champions of the work of other writers, whether through publishing, reviewing, teaching, mentoring, or some combination of these.

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Love Poem

I love you changes me
into a tree falling

after erosion has its say.
This process does not

simply take away
the cliff’s edge— it creates

new space, frees me
from fear of stasis.

It tells me I’m still
young enough to be

surprised. I first believed
the tree was dead,

but months later
it blossomed, this emblem

of possibility prostrate
across our path,

this tangle of limbs
like a castaway

clawing her way back
from the sea.

Elizabeth Hazen

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

Elizabeth Hazen

Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value.

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