Lauren Gordon wants your poems “with bite”

In the summer of 2011, Jen Lambert and I put out our first call for submissions for burntdistrict, and we were honored and gratified at the work you shared with us. We’re asking you to trust us once again as we transition burntdistrict into an online format. We have loved so much about the physicality of a print journal but our commitment to sustainability (both fiscal and environmental) has pushed us to reconsider. So much about the journal will be staying the same—the excellence of the work, the careful selection of diverse voices, and our vision of community will remain unchanged, as will our twice yearly publication schedule.
One change the online format will offer us is the ability to broadcast your poems farther and wider, and we are delighted about that.

One other change that excites us is the opportunity to reinvigorate the journal with new visions and passions. We are so excited to announce that poet and former burntdistrict contributor Lauren Gordon has agreed to guest edit this very first on-line issue. Jen and I are tremendous fans of Lauren’s work and we can’t wait to see her vision come to life.

Lauren Gordon is the author of four chapbooks, Meaningful Fingers (Finishing Line Press, 2014), Keen (Horse Less Press, 2014), Fiddle Is Flood (Blood Pudding Press, 2015) and Generalizations About Spines (Yellow Flag Press, 2015). She is also a Contributing Editor to Radius Lit.

Of “poems with bite” she says: I’m talking about the kind of poems that demand a third and fourth reading… The kind of poem that stays in your consciousness long after you’ve read it. A poem you feel in your body when you read it.

Submissions are open. Send us your poems.

Look for the new issue to launch with a fully redesigned website in Spring of 2016.


Poem of the Week: October 27th, 2015

Savannah Thorne graduated from the University of Iowa where she studied in the Writers’ Workshop. Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Potpourri, The Wisconsin Review, Rhino, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Lyric, Parabola, and The Atlantic Review. Her work can also be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Savannah Thorne

Rotting leaves and stones
And sticks fill the hole. There are
Bones down there, the rotted
Stump half-covers them, but there
They are, blank as verse. This were part
Of our lives once, even the leaves.
Detritus blows and we are part of it.
How did we lose so much?
The dark earth will upheave these
Things, like shameful secrets.

Poem of the Week: October 19th, 2015

Caroline Tanski is a native of Bar Harbor, Maine. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, and received her MFA from Chatham University. She is primarily a non-fiction writer whose interests include travel, libraries, and mid-century fashion. Her poem, “Counterbalance,” first appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Caroline Tanski

In forward bend my back seizes, horizontal
muscle on sacrum. In savasana I cry.
The mat beneath me smells like sweat, like an effort
plied from this warm and humid air and I wonder
for the first time how many others cry here, break
in downward dog, in warrior two, how many
release not only their tension but the wild thing
that’s chased them, sniffed out the vulnerability
in these wide-apart breaths. I think I’m prettier
than I used to be, and worry there corresponds
some opening interior deficiency.
Seems right to pay for it, pay for everything.

Poem of the Week: October 7th, 2015

Steve Langan is the author of Freezing, Notes on Exile and Other Poems, and Meet Me at the Happy Bar. He lives in Omaha and on Cliff Island, Maine, and he teaches in the University of Nebraska MFA program. His poem, “So This Is Where It All Began,” was first featured in Volume 1, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Steve Langan

and this is where the magic happens
and here’s the shitty nine to five grandpa told us about,
and this is the little wand he sets down on the glass
counter when he says, right after the procedure, ta-da,

and these are the headphones I wore running
all those miles,
and these are the many of the mile markers,
some shot through with many shots
          or a single bullet,
I ran by, mouthing this or that song,
trying hard to forget or remember,

and this is the path from the big house to the little house
          where you’re staying tonight,
and here is the flashlight, indispensable at night,
I swear, even if the moon’s full,
and especially if my uncle, and it’s no secret,
breaks out the bourbon,

and this is the photo of us when we were thin,
twenty eight years old in Fayetteville,

and this is the chart of the bay, and this is how far
we traveled today and our route,
and this is the best way to respond
          when they ask, What are you doing these days?,

and this is the book on dreams,
not to be confused with the book on mysticism
          or allegory,
and this is what happened to the book our mothers
told us not to read
I saw you once holding in your tiny hands,

this is me looking at you in love
and this is me looking at you out of love
and these are the names you called me when we were in love
and these are some of the names you called me when we
          were no longer in love,

I was so sorry when her child died
and I could not put into words my sorrow,
and I was so happy when he said,
driving down Route One,
          I think she is my soul mate,
and I could not put into words my happiness,

and this is the crime I committed in 1982,
the one I did not tell anyone about until 1996,
when I sat with my sponsor at the diner
after the meeting and told him
all my sins, and he said
          They aren’t sins let’s use other terminology.

Around the corner is a nice café they serve
a great seafood salad, a wonderful pasta,
very good sandwiches, though I suggest you
avoid the soup, it’s usually watery.

Poem of the Week: September 28th, 2015

Weston Cutter is from Minnesota and is the author of Enough, All Black Everything, and You’d Be a Stranger, Too. His poem, “New Fit,” appears in Volume 4, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Weston Cutter

Even weeds know better than
to let go. Some dull bird

sits in the branches of the dead
red oak, dumb roots

still cupping dirt as it sits like
a cherry

on top of the stack
of dismantled branches we add to

after storms. Even the bird knows
better than

to trill. Even singing knows to
break to make

way for facts.

Poem of the Week: September 15th, 2015

Jessie Janeshek’s first book of poems is Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). She co-edited the literary anthology Outscapes: Writings on Fences and Frontiers (KWG Press, 2008). Crime Scene 9, our poem of the week, can be found in Volume 2, Issue 2 of burntdistrict along with more of her work.

By Jessie Janeshek

                      If Eddie did it
it was a pepperbox
phone hanging limp on wire

a cop-yellow coatrack
                      electric cigar and a piano

                      a ghost-secretary
          lard-hard tessellate

                      an escritoire decked
          in memorial violets

Poem of the Week: September 7th, 2015

Lillian Kwok’s work appears or is forthcoming in Hawaii Pacific Review, Salt Hill, NANO Fiction and other journals. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. More of her work can be found in Volume 3, Issue 2 of burntdistrict.

By Lillian Kwok

You are not a river, it disappoints me. You are incapable of drowning me, flooding your shores, turning my skin blue. I can’t drink you from my two hands. For a while though, we were happy, swimming in the water, your hands in my hair, my legs around your waist. But now I’m on the rocks watching you swim, and I don’t care if you stay there underwater, if you never come up again.

Poem of the Week: September 1st, 2015

Emma Lister is a winner of Foyle Young Poets 2013 and the National Trust’s first under-sixteens poetry competition in 2011. More of her work is forthcoming in The Blue Pencil Online. “Home is in the Wind” was originally published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Emma Lister

I ask myself only this each greying morning:
are you pure yet? Usually the answer is:
it’s a no from me. But like they all say, before I get there
there’s no way I’m leaving.

Yet I’m not like those talent-show never-gos –
I don’t cry, just clench my jaw
and concentrate to disappear beneath
the fine coffee-mug ring of instant, true-fold grit
that circles daily further round this life.

That means nothing much but I’m going to try again.
I smoke and smoke and wash my hair in ash.

[Give me the valley of an actress’s beach hipbones,
the love of my grudging mother,
a white ward light I can vanish underneath.]

But the nights get more boring the less I sleep.
Under the moon it resolves itself to me:
I want to be feather-light. I’ve got
a lot of hope for this.
Need to be crescent slight.

Poem of the Week: August 24th, 2015

Francesca Bell’s poems have appeared in many journals, including Willow Springs, North American Review, River Styx, 5 AM, Passages North, and The Sun. More of her work can be found in Volume 2, Issue 1 of burntdistrict.

By Francesca Bell

In the beginning,
every last one of them
overshadows like a god.
Their flesh, with its insistent power
of resurrection, rends easily
your inadequate membrane,
silly shroud that surrenders
as destiny is foisted upon you.
A woman’s door is always ajar.
A child makes itself at home,
swelling her, as death does
the body, leaving it belching
and bloated. Be it not unto me,
you’ll beg, to drag this weight
through the marketplace,
made to love what excruciates.

Undo the indelible.
Speak your belated No
to the great god –
His rigidity, His swarming,
innumerable spermatozoa.

Poem of the Week: August 17th, 2015

Another poem from our latest issue: Volume 4, Issue 1. John Andrews’ work has appeared in The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on The American South, Columbia Poetry Review, Eunoia, Short Fast & Deadly, and others. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Oklahoma State University and an associate editor for the Cimarron Review.

By John Andrews

Last night, I made a map of my bed,
sandbar where everything ends up
without cellphone reception.
I can hear you now,
crying in the bathroom.
The tile breaking against –
I kissed you.
I am sorry, I’ll say it again.
St. Elmo’s fire: sailors swear
comes all at once, the sky
burning for something that isn’t
there. I wanted to find something
at the end of the world. We lie,
strangers floating on soft
water stuck inside the bed.
The ocean is mostly made up of ash:
my grandmother, your uncle,
it doesn’t matter who.