Manual TURNS: A Collection of Memoir Chapbooks

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During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry chapbooks and full-length collections , short fiction again, both chapbooks and full-length collections , novels, novellas, nonfiction CNF, biography, cultural studies and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions. This is a memoir of constant becoming, through several languages and two religions, told through the lens of single motherhood and translation of fairy tales and poems , agriculture and eating. I grew up in community of Czech immigrants on a rice farm five miles outside of a town of about people, less than a mile away from where my father grew up, on the same rice field, and about 5 miles away form where my mother grew up on a cotton farm.

I did not leave the state of Texas until I was about 22, for graduate school in Indiana. I was a first generation university student.


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Most of my early life was informed by the alchemy of agriculture and gardening, as well as Czech fairy tales and folkstories. I wrote this memoir as an act of translation. On my birthday my mother writes me: What is it about you that allows you to pick up, with your little daughter, and leave all your former life behind?

Your background, your family, nationality, religion, friends, siblings, parents, your roots, and just start a new life in a new country? I am studying theology at a Jesuit university and discover that the and papal commissions on modernism found no legal reason a woman cannot be ordained a priest. But, according to the documents, since God chose to inhabit the body of a man, not a woman, priests should be men, not women.

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Ever after, when I saw a figure of a male hanging from a cross in a church, I would feel waves of nausea. I liked the candles and incense and ritual and liberation theology. I loved Mary, the mother. I did not deify the son. This probably would disqualify me from Jewish Motherhood.

Luckily I gave birth to a daughter. I meet a man at a wedding. He asks me about my child. Is the father Jewish? He tells me he is a cohen, that if the father of my child had not been Jewish, well, then maybe…. He pauses for maybe three beats. He explains the kabbalistic idea that the soul of a convert was always a Jewish soul.

Literary Style and the Lessons of Memoir

It simply got lost and was born into a non-Jewish body. Conversion is tikkun. It is making something whole, repairing it, making my body Jewish to house my Jewish soul. But if the soul was always Jewish, why does my now-Jewish female body become flawed in the presence of your priestly Jewish body? He would be offended if he knew that at that moment I suddenly had an image of a naked bloody man hanging on a cross.


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It shocks me. And it continues to shock me after all these years of being alive. But our ideas would be the physical representations of our selves in the world. Our bodies, the physical elements, would be accessible only through our minds and our actions. When we moved them to fulfill an intention or thought. Over all that bursting into tears when strangers yell at me for no reason in the street.

A challenging poem might be followed by a brief poem, for example. I think sometimes the steps writers take are imperceptible until we can look back and see them all in hindsight. I might give myself one task or question to pursue the next day, but I never give myself word counts to write up to or anything like that. I also never, ever get down on myself for not writing.

How do I know if something is a prose poem versus just prose? I think a prose poem can have very loose associations, whereas a piece of prose has to make stronger connections between ideas. My approach to these different genres is identical in the early stages just get the ideas and images down on paper , but it does shift in later revisions. For prose, I flee into research for many mid-stage drafts, so that the bigger ideas in the piece come from a conversation with scholarship and culture, not just a conversation with myself. Talk about the collaborative process.

Is it startling? Is the timeframe similar or different? How did the collaboration evolve? The timeframe and emotional commitment for the videos and collages was much, much different. I basically just asked her to do it, and then about ten days later she started sending me clips and segments that were amazing.

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Funny story: I had no fox photo to give her to work from. But a few days after many text messages lamenting that we had no fox photo for a poem about seeing foxes, I saw one in the middle of the day, by the dog park. And I had my good camera. And I got photos of it. Talk about the creative karmic vibes all coming together! The images are then just photos and short video clips that attempt to loosely illustrate or directly reference the engineering of these old brick walls.

While Tina was using a more advanced video editing program, I just dropped my brick ideas into Windows Video Editor, had Paul narrate into a cheap but useful microphone I bought a few years ago. The final version is, I think, the fifth or sixth revision, but it did not take more than a week to get it done. Your chapbook Too many questions about strawberries has a provocative and playful title. What strategies do you follow for selecting titles for individual poems and collections? I like long titles, and I guess that comes from my nonfiction background.

I also like how a long title makes it unique enough that anyone searching online might land on my book and only my book. As I write this, there are no other books in the world with the title of my book. But titles are not copyrighted, so that might change, of course. When it comes to titling poems, I often go through three or four titles based on my favorite line during any given revision.

I also like to have the title serve as the first line of the poem. How do you define chapbook? What chapbooks inspire you these days? Any with an old-school touch.