Issue 91: Madison Jozefiak


About Madison Jozefiak

Madison Jozefiak is a fiction writer and copywriter from Boston, MA. She graduated from Colgate University in upstate New York with a degree in English and creative writing. Her short fiction also appears in Inscape Literary Journal, The Baltimore Review, and Thin Air Magazine.

“Slow” in Inscape Literary Magazine, 2021, print

“Day One” in Baltimore Review, 2021, print and online

“Why My Matches Aren’t Responding to Me on the Dating App” in Thin Air Magazine, 2022, online

INSTAGRAM: madison_jozefiak

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "A Tour of the Mural at the Merari Public Library"

Like anything else I’ve written to date, a lot of really random stuff went into this piece. But walking is one of the most important parts of the process. During the pandemic winter I used to walk on Carson beach, in Boston’s south end. One day I started imagining a town where each person had the soul of a different sea creature and became very invested in creating a myth about this. I wrote a whole legend about the sea falling in love with the land and infecting all the fish with a fatalistic land-longing, an octopus who was the head of an underwater council, and a sea witch who tricked them into becoming human and losing their memories so she could exploit them. There was a lot of dialogue, a lot of description, and even a seagull who served as the sea witch’s assistant. When it was finished, I didn’t like it very much.

Sooner or later I asked myself if the myth didn’t resonate with me because it was out of context. Who would care about this octopus? So what if the townspeople used to be fish? I decided to put the myth where it was supposed to be, in the past, and have it be told in the present day by one of the sea creatures’ direct descendants. The library mural was a useful storytelling device. And Christopher helped me out with everything I felt the piece was lacking: energy, humor, relatability. I’m very grateful to him and his many decided hours of volunteering. Initially, he was giving a sort of lecture, but I got some feedback at a virtual workshop that led me to think of ways he could interact more with the audience. That’s where the question-and-answer sections come from.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Music: The duo Cafuné. They’re a little under the radar, but I’ve been a huge fan for years, and their song Tek It recently took off. They’re going on tour for the first time, and I can’t wait to see them in concert next month!!

Food: Ratatouille. It’s not so difficult to make, you just have to chop a lot of vegetables.

Booze: Mad Elf Ale.

Tattoos: Just one. It’s a seagull. Pretty on-brand, I’d say.

Kittens/animals: I have two dogs in my life. One is a 14-year-old Dalmatian. She is my family dog. She is pampered yet constantly dissatisfied in the manner of an aged French heiress. The other is my boyfriend’s cute ginger-colored Australian cattle dog. She’s a menace, and barks at everyone. She’s very good at climbing mountains, too, which can come across as intimidating. But she’s got a good heart. Once you’re part of the pack, she’ll protect you no matter what.

“A Tour of the Mural at the Merari Public Library” by Madison Jozefiak

Found in Willow Springs 91 Back to Author Profile ON THE LEFT-HAND SIDE of the Western wall, painted waves roll towards us in swells of green and grayish blue. A lattice … Read more

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Issue 91: Randall Watson


About Randall Watson

Randall Watson is the author of No Evil is Wide, (Madville Publishing), which received the Quarterly West prize in the novella, The Geometry of Wishes (Texas Review Press), a finalist in the Juniper and Tampa Review Poetry Prizes, The Sleep Accusations, which received the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize at Eastern Washington University, (currently available through Carnegie Mellon University Press), and Las Delaciones del Sueno, translated by Antonio Saborit with an Introduction by Adam Zagajewski, published in a bi-lingual edition by the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Mexico.

To find out more, check out his website.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on Three Poems

So. I ask myself, where is it poems emerge from, what locus of influences, what subterranean roots, like an Aspen grove, the hidden, often obscure indefinable interactions out of which a form emerges, the rhythm and image, like leaves and branches swaying in the wind? To fix, to name, such presences, with any definitive parameters, is akin to naming the ineffable forces that have shaped the person we are at any present moment. What shadow on the leaf of a strawberry hovers in our forgetfulness? What cruel word, or gift, delivered by a well-meaning parent, a drunken friend? What shattered or consummated love? What vision of the sea an hour before dusk, something that drives us into a kind of silence, that sinks into the pool of memory only to resurface, unexpectedly? What burden or release, abandonment or arrival, those inscrutable twins?

The constellation of such events, their immeasurable complexity, whose accumulation makes up our very being, this being from which a poem arrives in its raw and inconsolable forms, half inexplicable, half will and distance and scrutiny, shaped, given a beat, something slow that races, something racing that slows, a field of juxtapositions, forces, images, that moves us, we hope, that pleases the eye, the ear, the humane part of us that loves and grieves. All unnamable. Except for the poem itself, which is our act of naming.

Thus, as to the 3 poems here, in a limited way, for they speak for themselves:

“Little League”, from a real event, that moment in a child’s life—a poem of love and grief and hope—and ultimately—of communality. The analogy resonated so naturally in so many ways I was surprised to discover it. The smallness of some people, how change can be perceived as both welcome by some and threat by others, hurtling towards us like a ball thrown by an eager child. How relation—personal, and intimate, individual--that knowing--is our salvation?

Or “The Future of Nostalgia”, a kind of landscape of decay, and our tendency to romanticize our pasts, a kind of sentiment that rejects the impulse toward sentimentality while still feeling affection for the worlds that produced us, with all their shadows. The paradox of the open-armed rejection?

And then “Losing the Self”: I thought—what would it be, who would we be, if we found ourselves suddenly ‘selfless’, endlessly decentered and mutable? What would be revealed? Confusion? Dancing? The immediacy of the beauty about us, unencumbered by projection, definition, “iridescent” and manifest?

I could say more, but a poem is, fundamentally, inexplicable, in the sense that whatever meanings we can discover and explain, which have their value, (and I would never dismiss interpretation), it retains its otherness, its immediacy, its beyondness. I think this is the source of its power. The mystery that sometimes occurs when we meet it, when we enter into it as it enters into us, like a shard, an artefact, where words are the repository of a transcendent potential, a fracturing and a compression that subdues space and time and division and elides every distance into a kind of unity, a concordance, once hidden to us, and for a moment, at least, revealed.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Ah . . . music:

There’s Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations, Bach’s Prelude from Suite No1 for cello in G Major, Tom Waits, Hendrix, Keith Jarrett live at Cologne, Talis Scholars, Ohio Players, John Gorka, Otis Redding, Henryk Gorecki, —the list would go on for pages and pages . .

And Birds: the lovely scrub jay, the pine siskin, mountain chickadee, evening grosbeak, juniper titmouse, rufous sided towhee, rufous hummingbird, an aggressive, greedy flash among the pinyons. . .

Then wild cats beneath the house, who let you pet them only when they are eating . . .

And what would the world be worth without one blind dog groaning with pleasure when you rub his ears?


Three Poems by Randall Watson

Found in Willow Springs 91 Back to Author Profile The Future of Nostalgia     Not your town but a townby the sea, a little village, maybe, namedClean or Bay Shore … Read more

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Issue 91: Jeffrey Higa

Orange Shirt arms crossed ID1A6006 corrected

About Jeffrey Higa

Jeffrey J. Higa is the author of Calabash Stories, which won the Robert C. Jones Prize, and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. His short story, “The Shadow Artist,” was a finalist for the Italo Calvino Prize and received an honorable mention in the Kurt Vonnegut Speculative Fiction Prize from the North American Review. He has published widely in literary and commercial magazines, including Zyzzyva, Sonora Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Willow Springs, Bamboo Ridge, Salt Hill, LitQuarterly, Honolulu Review of Books, Honolulu Magazine, Business Today, Poets & Writers and others. He was a fiction fellow at the Sewanee Writers Conference and his full-length play, Futless, won the Hawai’i Prize from the Kumu Kahua Theatre. He lives in Honolulu with the biologist Marguerite Butler, the actor Raine Higa, and the good dog Tim Tam.

He can be reached at or on twitter @higatweet.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "The Boy, the Carpenter, and the Risen"

Let me tell you a little story about this story. Sometimes when I need some inspiration, I’ll re-read the shorter works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One night, I was lying on the couch and reading the story, “Blacaman, Vendor of Miracles” and if you know this story… well let’s just say when you get to the end of the story, it’s not the end of the story. And I remember finishing the story and my very next thought was that I knew exactly what I was going to write.

At that moment, I had a decision to make. I could get off the couch and start writing it, or I could try and remember what I was thinking the next time I sat down to write. As a younger writer, I probably would have relied on my memory to recall what I had been thinking. But being an older writer, I knew the countless times that path had failed me. So I got off the couch and spent the next 3 or 4 hours at my desk crafting the voice and writing the first page.

Thinking about it afterwards, I was never more of a writer than when I got off that couch. Because we all know people who have told us, “I could be a writer if I just had the time,” or “I wanted to be a writer,” or “If I could be anything it would be a writer.” And I always answer, “Yes, you’d be a great writer’” or “Yes, you’d probably be a better writer than me,” because I know the difference between them and me. I get off the couch.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

For several years now, I have become obsessed with artifacts from my Gen X childhood. For example, I believe Generation X is the “Made from concentrate” juice generation. Nobody drank fresh squeezed anything. Fancy for us was when you went to your rich friend’s house for a sleepover and the next morning their parents served you defrosted frozen concentrated orange juice. Anyway in Hawaii, during the reign of Kool-Aid and Tang, there existed a competitor called Orange Exchange that came to us in slim steel 6-ounce cans. They were insanely cheap. I think they were 25 cents each but on sale, you could grab them for 6 for $1. Everyone I knew drank the bright orange stuff, and the rule for making it–1 can exchange and then 5 cans of water–was the only mathematical ratio we valued. Even the jingle from the commercial, “The Exchange goes round, round, round, and down, down, down…” was part of the indelible soundtrack of our lives. Then, one day, it suddenly seemed to disappear. Whether it was a fatal fickleness of fashion or the demise of the Exchange conglomerate, I’ll never know. But I do know there were no more leaning towers of Orange Exchange at the grocery store and more tragically, its existence and lore of its recipe passed out of kid knowledge. I would say I looked for over a decade before I found an empty rusty can of it from a seller with an eye-watering markup that would have netted me 30 cans back in the day. But at least now, I have this little memento of my childhood, hermetically sealed in a glass display vessel that my Gen Z child will throw in the recycle bin once I inevitably go the way of the Orange Exchange.

“The Boy, the Carpenter, and the Risen” by Jeffrey J. Higa

Found in Willow Springs 91 Back to Author Profile   THE VILLAGE. There was a time before the plantation cleared a road to the village when we were known as the … Read more

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Issue 91: Lis Sanchez

lis sanchez

About Lis Sanchez

Lis Sanchez is a grateful North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship recipient. Her poetry may be found in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Cincinnati Review, The Bark, and Copper Nickel. She has received Prairie Schooner’s Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing, Nimrod’s Editors’ Choice Award, and The Greensboro Review Award for Fiction. Her most cherished people are her husband and her plott hound.


A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Seaquake"

In 1899, Hurricane San Ciriaco pounded the island of Puerto Rico with a brutality never recorded there. Thousands of people drowned. My great grandparents, like so many Boricuas, not only lost their home but their means of livelihood. The coffee plantations and agricultural industry were all but destroyed, the distribution of relief food depended on the pleasure of new U.S. corporate overlords, and the bodies of those who had starved to death appeared on the roadsides.

My poem "Seaquake" is an attempt to comprehend that moment in 1900 when my great grandparents, my bisabuelos, met their son, my future grandfather, for the first time. Adrift among the wreckage, how did they cope? Did dread underlie their great resilience? I imagined myself in their place as I wrote this poem. I hope it honors their spirit.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

During the first year of the pandemic, I lived in a tent in my backyard. I had to. Like many people with environmental illness, I'd learned that my home was unsafe for me.

While outdoors, I listened. The backyard, while within the city limits, sloped down to a wooded ravine with a creek running through it. Nights, animals came to slake their thirst. They wandered around my tent. Cocooned in my small space, I heard footfalls, soft or loud, disconcerting at first.

Frequently, barred owls jarred me awake with fervent calls. Not those "who cooks for you" suavities—these were gruesome cacophonies—gargles, snorts and hisses, horrors my imagination mistook for creatures tearing the heart from other creatures.

Eventually I came to recognize the sound of deer moving through leaves. Of possums scaling the wooden fence and flying squirrels latching onto a poplar. I could distinguish fox from cat or coyote. I welcomed the sounds of their movement and wondered at my good fortune.

I heard human sounds too. At two a.m. I was wakened by a vehicle screeching to a halt. A man hollered from the street, "You wanna know what matters to me?" Seconds passed. The car door slammed. The engine roared down the street, then it hushed while the lone voice shouted curses at the sleeping houses. Next day, neighbors posted online that their Black Lives Matter yard signs had disappeared.

Weekends, my neighbors across the ravine blasted golden oldies from their patio, shaking the walls of my little space. My blood boiled: were these the Covid parties I'd heard about, intended to hurry the spread of the pandemic? By midnight, bouts of laughter gave way to shouting and delirious howling. I remember lying alone in the dark, wondering what it took to abandon oneself so completely.


“Manuél Sánchez. Seaquake” by Lis Sanchez

Found in Willow Springs 91 Back to Author Profile   Son of mine, little Borikén, buttingYour bloodhead along a blind chute, child who breaksThe saltwaters of your mother’s loneliness,Cyclone spawn, spume … Read more

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Issue 91: Adam Scheffler


About Adam Scheffler

Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his Ph.D. in English from Harvard. His first book of poems – A Dog’s Life – won the 2016 Jacar Press book contest. His second book of poems – Heartworm – won the 2021 Moon City Press Prize and just came out this winter. His poems have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Poetry ReviewNarrativeVerse Daily, and many other venues. He teaches writing and about hell and the underworld in the Harvard College Writing Program.

You can buy his new book Heartworm here.

His website is

You can find more poems by him here, here, here, or here.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Advice From a Dog"

Well, I’d just reread Amy Gerstler’s fantastic poem, “Advice from a Caterpillar” and I loved the conceit of presenting a bunch of super specific things caterpillars do as advice (“Spin many nests,” “Alternate crumpling and climbing”). I liked how sometimes these pieces of advice from the caterpillar sound like aphorisms (“Don’t get sentimental/about your discarded skins”), but often don’t, and how overall this strategy allows for a kind of playfulness and weirdness that's also very matter-of-fact. So I thought I’d try that out as a writing prompt with my poodle-mix Bee Gee.

I started making a list of dog-specific “advice,” but then got slightly derailed or sent off on a (hopefully fruitful) tangent when I got to the moment about giving Bee Gee heartworm pills. Dog owners have to give their pets regular medicine so they don’t develop parasitic worms in their hearts, yet we also often seek “treatment” of a sort from our pets for our sadness and anxiety. It seemed to me that “heartworm” might also provide an apt image or metaphor for the poison and bitterness that can build up in the human heart over time, and for which I at least often turn to animals and the natural world (not just to dogs) for relief.

In doing some research, it also turns out that the technical name for the number of worms in an animal’s heart is “the worm burden” – which seemed like a fantastic phrase to me, since it speaks to what we all carry with us as mortal beings.


Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

You know how goats eat almost anything? Well, I tend to like almost all music no matter how “good” or “bad” it is. I have a true ignoramus’s bliss when it comes to music in that I don’t know anything about how it works, and am constantly being delighted by it. For instance, I finally & belatedly discovered Leonard Cohen and have been devouring his music, but I’m also very fond of Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen. I used to be embarrassed about my lack of discrimination, but now luckily I’ve read Susan Sontag’s essay on camp and Frank O’Hara's line about wanting to be “at least as alive as the vulgar,” so I have a fancy sounding defense of what I would like to be doing anyway.

I also recently read Rax King’s book Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer which opens with an un-ironic defense of Creed. I’m not quite brave enough to defend Creed myself, but I’m happy to have Rax in the vanguard protecting us more vulnerable philistines.

I would add that I really love it when ‘serious’ musicians do covers of pop songs as in the band Postmodern Jukebox which does jazz age covers of “All About That Bass” and Selena Gomez. I also heartily recommend the whole Folksy Covers section on Spotify, particularly the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ cover of “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”

And I can’t stop singing the praises of Amanda Palmer’s “Ukulele Anthem” which quite seriously suggests that silly joyous creativity might not only be a survival technique, but also prevent people from becoming murderers.

“Advice from a Dog” by Adam Scheffler

Found in Willow Springs 91 Back to Author Profile   I Piss expressively. Detect the aura of seizures. Judge objects first by movement, then by brightness, then by shape. Impersonate a … Read more

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Issue 90: Elizabeth Tannen


About Elizabeth Tannen

Elizabeth Tannen is a writer, educator and fundraiser in Minneapolis. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of New Mexico and has published poems and essays in places like Copper Nickel, PANK, Salon, The Rumpus, Passages North and elsewhere. You can find more of her work at her website. She tweets on occasion at @TannenElizabeth.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Riddle, six weeks" and "Liz Phair, fifteen weeks"

I wound up writing a book’s worth of poems when I was pregnant, which I didn’t anticipate. I always knew I wanted to have a child, but I wasn’t attached to having one biologically (it just happened to be the easiest path for me, in the end) so I didn’t know anything about pregnancy and found myself completely astounded by its utter weirdness. I think there’s a fascinating tension between the common-ness of pregnancy (as well as birth and child-rearing) and also how completely wild and strange and miraculous they all are. I just couldn’t (can’t) get over it. Also, I’ve written very few poems since my son was born, and it’s not an issue of time because I have worked on essays. Maybe there’s something more lyric or poetic about a potential life than an actual one? (There is a line in Lydia Millet’s novel “The Children’s Bible” that gets at this but for the life of me I can’t find it, please help if you can!) 

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

  • Music: Becoming a parent, as “Liz Phair” references, can make you prone to erratic bouts of nostalgia–so in addition to the typical Raffi and Beatles and Peter Paul and Mary I’ve also been playing a lot of Joni Mitchell, Grateful Dead and James Taylor. My partner plays a lot of Leonard Cohen and Talking Heads. We both play a lot of classical. It’s the Jewish High Holidays and I’ve also been listening to the traditional melodies played in shul. (See nostalgia comment above.) Sidenote - a friend got me a copy of this songbook called Rise Up, Singing with lyrics to every song you’d ever want to sing to your child - big recommend! That was an extremely peripatetic response!

  • Food/Booze: Fall makes me want to chug apple cider or, on occasion, that absurdly delicious “chaider” hybrid drink that some fancy coffee shops seem to have. On the booze front, as I’ve gotten older I’m leaning more and more into spending some money on red wine that I actually like drinking. I recently schlepped my ten month old to a suburban Costco immediately following Rosh Hoshanah services to stock up (I usually just get a bottle or two at once) and I felt very adult and also very ridiculous and sketchy.

  • Kittens: I hate cats. (Sorry.) But I do have a shepard/retriever mix (actual genetic heritage unknown because we’re too cheap to find out) named Elsa. She is extremely sweet and tolerant of the baby’s constant (and I mean quite literally, constant) harassment but clearly would prefer it if he was removed from her life tomorrow. This weekend we’re having our first baby-free overnight so dropped him with my in-laws and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Elsa so happy as when we pulled out of their driveway without him! She’ll be in for a disappointment come Sunday…


Two Poems by Elizabeth Tannen

Found in Willow Springs 90 Back to Author Profile Liz Phair, fifteen weeks   On the same morning I learn the fetus is developing folds that will become ears I also … Read more

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Issue 90: Joan Murray

Joan Murray Photo for WS

About Joan Murray

Joan Murray is a (mostly narrative) poet who’s published prize-winning books with Wesleyan, Beacon, White Pine and Norton. Her favorite is Queen of the Mist, a first-person novel in verse about the first person to go over Niagara in a barrel. Her poems have been in The New Yorker and The Atlantic and lots of wonderful smaller journals; her new fiction will be in River Styx, her non-fiction in Alaska Quarterly Review. A two-time NEA Fellowship winner, she’s been Poet in Residence at the New York State Writers Institute, and is editor of the Poems to Live By anthologies and The Pushcart Book of Poetry.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "To Appreciate Squires"

In writing poems, I’m usually trying to understand something, rather than tell what I already know—which happened in my squirrel poem. The “dramatic situation” was a walk I took with a poet named Eric Gamalinda when we were at the MacDowell colony in New Hampshire. We were newly arrived (Eric from the Philippines, I from New York) and we didn’t know each other. But Blake Tewksbury, MacDowell’s groundsman-gardener, lunch-basket deliverer, and unobtrusive shaman, recognized some spiritual dimension in us both and invited us to dinner at his house in town.

As Eric and I were headed there, down a long steep road, an epiphany ran across my path—in the form of a squirrel. My consciousness, with its received opinions, barely took in the squirrel and swatted it away. But Eric regarded it with open eyes and allowed himself to be amazed. Which allowed me to pause and be amazed too.

The next day as I wrote the poem, I was riffing along as I usually do, when up popped my ur-squirrel—the one who came into my bedroom when I was very small. And up popped my mother across the room. And there I was, stretched out in wonder, until my mother started feeding me her negativity. I had pictured that scene often, but never grasped its meaning, until I started writing about Eric’s ur-squirrel: “as if we were in Eden and it had no name.” In most of my poems, I’ll spontaneously make connections like that. Things that strike sparks to reveal things. What a gift—to suddenly break free from an old prejudice.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I want to say I’m a connoisseur of ambient electronica, saffron dishes and stirred martinis, who sported a lizard tattoo and rescued a baby raccoon. But here’s the more complete truth: At night, I listen to ambient sounds on PRX’s Echoes, but when I’m walking, driving, or at the gym, my sounds are Bach, Santana, and Yellowman. And while I’ve made saffron risotto a few times, the food of my native land is junk food. My go-to’s are Cheez-its, Fritos, and Snickers. For real meals, I favor vegetarian. Every evening after a mile-long walk (where I sometimes see eagles), my husband makes me a gin-and-tonic so I can sit on the side porch watching hummingbirds until it gets cold. As for martinis, I’ve gotten smashed on Cosmos a couple of times with a couple of friends singing show tunes.

Once at Yaddo, I had a lizard around my bicep, until an artist told me she was envious, and I scraped it off. Back in the Bronx, we had raccoons on our balcony, and recently in the country, I rescued a baby one—long enough so a professional could collect it. But my major animal relationships have been feline. When we bought our rambling, crumbling house, it begged for cats, so I adopted two. The sign in the Country Store said “they like to curl up in your lap when you read” (it wasn’t true). A third came along that December when we had cat food and compassion. The fourth appeared with a broken hip, a missing eye, and two kittens inside. Time went by, and then there were none. Please don’t send kittens; Snickers will do.

“To Appreciate Squirrels” by Joan Murray

Found in Willow Springs 90 Back to Author Profile To appreciate squirrelsyou have to walk toward Peterborough with Eric Gamalinda,down the steep part of High Streetwhere there are woods on both … Read more

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Issue 90: nicole v basta

nicole v basta

About nicole v basta

nicole v basta's poems have found homes in Ploughshares, Waxwing, Plume, Crazyhorse, North American Review, The Cortland Review etc. She is the author of the chapbook V, the winner of The New School's Annual Contest and the chapbook the next field over, out now from Tolsun Books.


A Profile of the Author

Notes on "and thank every hour" and "prayer"

While I was an artist-in-residence at the magical Art Farm Nebraska, I read a lot of old books that had been kicking around the farm for probably decades, one of which taught you how to identify birds, bugs, among other things. I think “and thank every hour” really did begin with a deep appreciation for the sound of the word warbler. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard says “Why didn’t God let the animals in Eden name the man…” So I think I am trying to say something like that, or I am always saying who the hell put humans on a pedestal above the rest. These poems are part of a larger manuscript that contends with ancestral stories including the disappearance of my great-great grandmother at the hands of Russian soldiers. I also deeply care for a person who was a soldier. The complexity of militarized violence includes how a soldier is also a kind of victim of that violence. The final two lines of the poem surprised me but they were there from the start and I knew that they belonged.

99.9% of the time, my poems have 10-30 drafts before I start sending them out. “prayer” is one of maybe two poems that I wrote in almost one fell swoop. This praying mantis came to visit me at my studio in the middle of a field on Art Farm. I guess I was thinking about control and chance that day while this mantis performed a bunch of cool moves in front of me. I read in the book that a praying mantis can grab a butterfly mid-flight for a snack. Sometimes I want to be the mantis, sometimes the butterfly, sometimes the little bugs that nip at your ankles. I always want to believe all of it means something

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Well, it is suddenly too close to winter so I am trying to lean in. I’ve been eating a lot of roasted veggies and thai chili peanuts and night cap cheese. I’ve switched to whiskey from tequila, but mostly I’m drinking lemon balm and skullcap cinnamon tea. I’m currently not a mother to any human or fur children but an auntie to two beauties: Spudzy and Beanie, an elder pup (you’re so smart, Spudz) and an actual puppy. Loretta Lynn died today and I wouldn’t be a coal miner’s (grand)daughter, if I wasn’t honoring her by listening my way through her years as a honky tonk angel. Also, my poet sis Sophie Klahr turned me on to Ethel Cain and I’ve been listening to her a bunch. Townes Van Zandt and John Prine are always on repeat in my world and I’m in a big Brandi Carlile, Valerie June, and Kate Wolf (Across the Great Divide!) season of my life.


“and thank every hour” and “prayer” by nicole v basta

Found in Willow Springs 90 Back to Author Profile “and thank every hour”   the small yellow gods that are warblers are skimming the scum at the top with their wings … Read more

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Issue 90: Lauren Osborn

Lauren Osborn

About Lauren Osborn

Lauren Osborn is a Ph.D. candidate in OSU’s creative writing program and a graduate of the MFA program at Queen's University of Charlotte. Her fiction and nonfiction are published or forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review Micro Series, The North American Review, Fourteen Hills, Lake Effect, The Laurel Review, JMWW, and elsewhere. She resides in Stillwater, Oklahoma with her collection of tarantulas and other unusual pets.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Gossamer Girl"

Spiders are among the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. Once, while explaining how spiders don’t seek confrontation—how they throw their legs up in warning, flashing their fangs before using them—a man responded with “it’s funny how their threats look so much like dancing.” It struck me then how much women and spiders are alike; Our fear often overlooked or mistaken. While writing this story, other themes such as isolation and exclusion bled through, and I found myself reckoning with what it means to be part of a collective but also separate. What do we lose when we mask ourselves for other’s comfort, for acceptance? What part do labels play in our identity and actions? I imagine more than a few of us have felt like a mass of arachnids wearing human skin at some point in our lives. I certainly have.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I recently reared silk-moth caterpillars as part of a summer job for the entomology department at Oklahoma State University. Polyphemus caterpillars are jolly-rancher green, have suction-cup feet, and eat handfuls of oak-leaves each hour. In other words: they’re delightful. At the end of the summer, they wrapped themselves in silk cocoons, and now have begun to emerge this fall as mature moths. The adults are suede-winged with large purple eyespots mirrored on each side. Beautiful. Yesterday, I snuck one home and held it in my hand, amazed at how something that was once an egg—half the size of a split-pea—now filled my entire palm, quivering its downy scales against my fingertips. In other words, it felt like holding a miracle. I’m fortunate to spend my life surrounded by wonderful creatures, whether they be moths, spiders, or my beloved three-legged chinchilla, Emmerson.

“Gossamer Girl” by Lauren Osborn

Found in Willow Springs 90 Back to Author Profile   ONCE, THERE WAS A GIRL. But she wasn’t a girl, she was a spider. But she wasn’t a singular spider, she … Read more

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Issue 90: Emily Schulten


About Emily Schulten

Emily Schulten is the author of The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar (Kelsay Books) and Rest in Black Haw (New Plains P). Her poetry and nonfiction appear widely in national journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Tin House, among others. Currently, she is a professor of English and creative writing at The College of the Florida Keys.

Twitter: @emilyeschulten

A Profile of the Author

Notes on “Dismantling” and “Motels We Stay in While Trying to Get Pregnant: The Gables”

“Dismantling” is a poem that moved from a question of where the past has gone, tangibly, toward the question of where it has gone intangibly. So often, when something moves into the realm of the past, it seems emptiness – or something lesser – has been left in its place. I think the part of coming of age that involves the loss of things that were iconic – the end of icons – is a macrocosm for the personal losses that a person starts to realize are part of aging, particularly in middle age. The poem is an inspection of nostalgia’s truth and lies.

“Motels We Stay in While Trying to Get Pregnant: The Gables” is from a series of three sonnets, each based on a different experience of staying overnight in or near Miami for failed fertility treatment. This one progresses from the speaker’s current mindset which, like the motel, is uncomfortable and vulnerable, to the speaker’s physical failure, to the speaker’s emotional deterioration. The poem ends in the discomfort of both waiting and not being able to be in control of the situation. I suppose there is some hope there – in that irritation of waiting and the unknown, but at the center is this feeling that something you have never had, something you can almost feel to the touch and that has been part of your identity your whole life, has been lost.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I’ve been making a playlist for my son for the past two years. The idea began as a way to impart taste, or to brainwash him into positive associations with tunes I’m partial to, but I think I chose those first songs to bring him closer to some ideal time or times in my own life. From the moment he was born, perhaps before, there is this urge to keep him close: you give birth to this little gremlin, and he goes from being so completely dependent on your body to immediately learning how to be independent from you. Immediately. I think instinct tells us to keep him tethered. The first songs were a lot of folk rock, Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan and Patsy Cline and Neil Young, some Elvis ballads and lots of Roy Orbison. Now, though, he has opinions. (Independence and all.) I’ve added jams he prefers, like “Fool in the Rain” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” But I have to say, he seems to take after his dad here, surprising us with an affinity for Black Sabbath from infancy. The saving grace is that he’s always been soothed by Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. But that’s a whole other playlist.

Also I have a toddler, so wine. I’m drinking lots of wine.


Two Poems by Emily Schulten

Found in Willow Springs 90 Back to Author Profile Dismantling   They’re taking off the head of the snake,and we are watching to remember what we … Read more