Barcelona Journal #1 

in the charcoal drawing the musclebound hero enacts his instrument

the purposeful silence of an unplayed guitar
as even now
he continues

dodging a glance under his cap
he ignores the one who has come to see him

it is sweet
sunset
and the city, a corral of dormant codes
a flush on the instrument
her roseate cheeks
signing out the gloom

Poem by Austin Ely

APRIL IS NOT THE CRUELEST MONTH

Despite the fluctuating Mojave weather and grueling desert allergies, this April (Asian-American-Pacific-Islander-Poetry-Awareness-Lenten-Jazz-Appreciation-Month!) has been a literary joyride for the UNLV Creative Writing program and Black Mountain Institute.

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To kick off our April cavalcade of literary events, BMI Emerging Poet Lynn Xu visited on April 8 and gave a craft talk on the aquatic nature of lyric poetry at the UNLV Student Union. At Greenspun Hall Auditorium the same evening, she read from her poetry collection, Debts & Lessons, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize — an elegant collection of bilingual poetry, lullabies, and intimate poems that engage with short lines and wild, vivid images. 

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Following Xu, one of America’s most innovative post-modern writers, Robert Coover, set foot in Las Vegas and began his week of UNLV events! First, he facilitated Prof. Unger’s fiction workshop, and the following day, at the Student Union, he presented the history of hypertext and a project entitled Cave Writing

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For his last event, on April 17, Coover read at Greenspun Hall Auditorium, first a short story entitled “Going for a Beer" published in The New Yorker, then several compelling excerpts from his new novel The Brunist Day of Wrath, Coover’s sequel to The Origin of Brunists.

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If the visits of two excellent writers — an established fiction writer, an emerging poet — were not enough, following Coover’s visit, Claudia Keelan, our very own celebrated poet and Creative Writing professor, presented her verse drama O, Heart at Greenspun Hall auditorium on April 24th: 

"In the 19th century, 
People believed that emotions 
came from the heart
But now we know
That they come from the brain—
Emotions, and that helps us to—”

An energetic cast of MFA and PhD creative writers and faculty members — in full costume and make-up — gave a dramatic reading of poems which appear in her latest collection published by Barrow Street Press. 

Keelan is the author of six full-length poetry collections, which include Missing Her, The Devotion Field, Utopic, and Refinery. Her new collection O, Heart is defined by the American critic and poet James Longenbach as “a tale at once historical, scientific, musical, [and] literary — … a wrenched lyric cry, the cry of a particular woman in a particular place …” 

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…And after all the theses and dissertations had been carefully defended, and all the Greenspun Innis & Gunn beer and wine bottles had been fully consumed and responsibly recycled, and everyone’s allergies had been properly Flonazed and Claritin D’ed (you have to get the ‘D’), we were fully prepared for the last NeonLit of the school year! Eight wonderful UNLV Creative Writers Jessica Durham, Jim Earp, Sam Samson, Jean Ho, Amy Mayo, Dana Killmeyer, Brittany Bronson, and Colby Gillette read their work for a large, happy audience of their peers and faculty members, and Becky Robison, first-year fiction writer, was our witty emcee. 

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All in all, the reading was a wonderful celebration of the work of this year’s graduating writers. 

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Las Vegas does not pride itself on being a “literary” city. It is a city of Instant Soup Fun (salty; microwaveable; add water and Britney Spears and an acrobatic Smokey Robinson will appear from the rafters, tossing glitter and reclamation fountain water into your eyes!). However, this month of literary events is a testament to the power of the UNLV Creative Writing program, as well as the dedication of the Black Mountain Institute, to believe in literature and to make it a priority.

Written by Marianne Chan

Announcing the 2014-15 Incoming Class

We’re so excited to announce the twelve new writers who will be joining the UNLV graduate creative writing program this fall. A warm welcome to the following poets and fiction writers:

PHD/BLACK MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE FELLOWS

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Leia Penina Wilson is from equal parts Kansas City & St. Joseph, Missouri. She has an MFA from the University of Alabama, and she likes all her cups of coffee to be giant. She loves animals of all sorts (her dog Kiba and cat Kalsifer can testify to this). Her book, i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown), is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She also likes to bake.

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Maegan Poland lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where she teaches composition. She holds degrees in fiction and film from the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern California, and has a story forthcoming in Pleiades.


MFA IN POETRY

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Christine Bettis is a poet from Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from Wayne State University with a BA in English Honors (2014), where she was a member of the Wayne Writers’ Forum and served as Poetry Editor for the 2014 issue of the Wayne Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Pork & Mead Magazine, Spread ‘Em, and the Wayne Literary Review. She has lived in Philadelphia, PA where she worked with Americorps, as well as Boulder, CO as a student of Naropa University. She likes poetry, parties, and the internet. She’s cooler on the internet than IRL.

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Kristian Einstman was born on Long Island, New York. A frequent traveler, he has visited many places, including Spain, Mexico, and Ireland and has lived for extended periods of time in both Germany and Peru. He is currently residing in Potsdam, NY where he is finishing a BFA in Creative Writing at SUNY Potsdam College. He writes to explore questions and consistently has to feign satisfaction with his work without having reached any answers. His work has been published in North Country Literary Magazine, and he leaves undergraduate study having received the Sylvia Angus Creative Writing Award, one of the SUNY Potsdam English Department’s highest accolades.

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Kathryne “Kaz” Gargano is a Yiddish grumbling, tea-drinking, vegan-living poet from Portland, OR.  She enjoys white wine and whiskey, loitering in coffee shops, and mulling through dusty thrift shops in search of treasures.  She received her B.A in Middle Eastern Studies from George Washington University, and enjoys writing poems about love and Jews.  The founder and managing editor of The Swanlike Review, an online literary magazine for queer youth, her poems have been published in journals such as Alchemy, Pointed Circle, Perceptions, and CALYX.  Warning: don’t get her started on her love of Doctor Who or Leonard Cohen.  She looks forward to joining the UNLV community in the fall, adopting a pair of rats, and naming them Amy and Melody Pond.

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Danielle Henry is a poet and (somewhat) recent graduate of Virginia Tech, currently residing in her hometown of Vienna, Virginia. Besides poetry, her interests include old movies, Thai food, scotch, and the Washington Capitals. Does anyone in Nevada watch hockey? Danielle hopes so.

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Ariana Turiansky comes from West Grove, Pennsylvania. She received her BA in English from Shippensburg University as well as an undergraduate research grant to study contemporary poetics and pedagogy. In June 2013 she received a fellowship from the Stadler Center for Poetry to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. She’s spent the last four summers immersed in the equestrian world. Her poems have recently appeared in likewise folio and are forthcoming elsewhere.

MFA IN FICTION

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Noha Al-Badry was born in Cairo, Egypt and received her B.A. in both Journalism and English Literature from the American University in Cairo. Her fiction attempts to integrate the clash between eastern and western cultures, to explore the thin line separating poetry and prose, and to make horrible things happen to her characters. She began writing when she was 13 and taught herself almost everything she knows about literature. She doesn’t know why she chose to write in English rather than Arabic, but feels that her use of language sometimes reflects the structure of Arabic lit. Her interests—shockingly—include short stories, novels and poetry. Other more mundane interests include indulging her oddball nature, cooking, autoimmune diseases, mythology, film and music.

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Matthew Kollmer is a fiction writer from a rural town just east of the Twin Cities. He grew up skiing, playing baseball and football, riding horses, trap shooting, and kayaking. He attended Winona State University, where he earned his BA in English, and where his writing became an integral part of his identity. Since his undergrad, he’s worked a variety of jobs. He has been a carpenter, chairlift operator, Zamboni driver, riverboat deckhand, and standardized test scorer. He enjoys new activities and expanding his life experience.

Jessica Sadler was born in “Charm City”, hon, home of John Waters, The Wire, great music, and Artscape. Jessica studied English lit as an undergraduate at UMBC, then returned for a Masters in TESOL, and in between she taught English to high school students in the U.S. and in Thailand. Jessica has traveled throughout Southeast Asia, loves Thailand, and hopes to return soon.

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New Yorker René Solivan moved to Los Angeles in the 1990’s to pursue acting and ended up writing plays that have been seen in L.A. and N.Y.C.  He received an Emerging Artist Commission from the Tony Award-winning Mark Taper Forum where he was also an LTI Playwriting Fellow.  He was a finalist for the 2008 Sky Cooper New American Prize.  His stories have appeared in The Northridge Review, Mosaic, Stumble Magazine and River Poets Journal,among others.  René is the winner of the 2009 Northridge Review Award for Outstanding Short Story and a 2005 MetLife National Playwriting Award.  Since 2009 René and his partner have been hiding out in Las Vegas dabbling in real estate.  They were about to move back to L.A. when Rene was accepted into the MFA program and he will forever be grateful to UNLV.  The L.A. smog and traffic would’ve killed him this time, he’s sure of it.

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Ernie Wang was raised overseas as a military brat, then studied engineering at Cornell. He worked in finance for fifteen years before deciding to focus on writing fiction, something that makes him feel at once exposed, baffled, and restored. He figures now is as good a time as ever, and so here goes.

Defense Season

We congratulate the MFA and PhD students in the UNLV graduate creative writing program who have successfully defended their thesis/dissertation!

TAKES DYING ANIMALS, Brittany Bronson (MFA Thesis, Fiction)

COMBINING THE NAMES OF ANCESTORS WITH THE NAMES OF BIRDS, Jessica Durham (MFA Thesis, Poetry)

MORNING’S PORCH, Colby Gillette (PhD Creative Dissertation, Poetry)

OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR, Jean Ho (MFA Thesis, Fiction)

ALL IS RIPE FOR FIRE, Dana Killmeyer (MFA Thesis, Poetry)

A MORE PERFECT WORLD, Amy Mayo (MFA Thesis, Fiction)

BEFORE YOU KNEW ME, Isabel Ontiveros (MFA Thesis, Fiction)

ONE WAY TO LIGHT A CANDLE, Samantha Samson (MFA Thesis, Poetry)

NeonLit Reading, Friday March 28, 2014

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Join us for this month’s NeonLit Reading on Friday, March 28!

Featuring poets & fiction writers in the UNLV graduate Creative Writing Program:

Brett Finlayson
Oksana Marafioti
Elee Oak
Rosemary Powers
Michelle Villanueva
Denise Weber

Brett Salsbury will emcee.

Where: Trifecta Gallery in the Arts Factory, 107 E Charleston Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89104
When: Friday, March 28. Cocktails & snacks at 6:00 p.m. Reading starts promptly at 7:00 p.m.

Poster by Austin Ely

Reno, Risk, and 7-Hour Car Rides

By Brett Salsbury

For a short weekend, a few from my cohort and I indulged in a conference road-trip to Reno. Summarizing the trip succinctly is impossible, but it was memorable, maniacal and invigorating in the best ways imaginable.

We eagerly hit the road on Friday morning. Kayla’s car is small, so the drive was intimate and elicited many stories and laughs. Along the way, we contorted around Walker Lake, close to the nearby military-mystery city of Hawthorne.

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In-between scant cell-phone reception, Joshua trees, and possible desert-cow mirages, we encountered the ghostly and desolate town of Goldfield. It endeared us and left us spooked and mesmerized. On our return trip on Sunday, we stopped and spoke to a resident at one local gift shop, and learned that the town was once a booming gold-mining spot. At its apex, it had a population close to 20,000, but a couple of town fires and a flash-flood left much of it in tatters. Around 200 people still live there (occupying themselves with God-only-knows-what habits and hobbies). The tangible must of history ushered us out.

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Eventually, we reached Reno, and located our snazzy Super 8 motel across the street from UNR. In the mood to satiate, we trekked to the The Wolf Den, famous for its “Awful Awful” burger. From there, the night salooned and coalesced into drinks and conversation. The city treated us kindly.

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The next morning, we composed ourselves and made our way to the “On the Brink” conference itself at UNR. Our panels – one expressing the “ecstatic” creative work of Shaun, Kayla, and myself, and the other with Michael discussing erotic risk in the work of Samuel R. Delany – led to wonderful dialogue among us and our attendees. For myself, it was nice to continue the practice of talking about my work in an academic setting. It was also great to hear the insightful hard work of others.

After leaving the conference, we grabbed lunch and decided to make our way to Lake Tahoe for the rest of the afternoon. Our misguided mindsets led us to believe we could swim in the lake, and heaps of snow on the upward drive shook their heads at us as we traversed. The weather was thankfully perfect enough to lay on the beach, ponder, and skip rocks on the unceasingly-still water.

From there, tiredness from the weekend set in, and sketchy plans for an evening in downtown Reno were thwarted. We went to bed early and made our way home the next day, retracing our wheel-steps and retuning our internal compasses. A Kayla-led chorus of “Viva Las Vegas” welcomed us to the Valley when we returned on I-95.

Truly and totally, I am very lucky to have gone on this journey with my comrades. Our inside-jokes will linger (go ahead, ask any of us about Jeff Goldblum and/or Japanese Hide-And-Seek). The soul-stirring sights we saw that ranged from desert Dust Devils to the calm lake water of Tahoe reconnected me to many of the reasons why I came here.

In short, I will always return to this trip in my memory with fondness.

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(from left to right) Kayla Miller, Brett Salsbury, Michael Berger, Shaun Leonard 

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