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ARCADE SEVENTEEN: A PREVIEW

Video by Emily RawStory & voice by Megan Giddings
Automatic images (in response to stories by Megan Giddings read by Natalie Eilbert at Brokenland, Greenpoint)
drawn collectively by Dolan Morgan, Siena Oristaglio, & Emily Raw
 


The flash stories that make up Megan Giddings’s Arcade Seventeen are anything but quick. Megan guides us through a garden of conspiratorial asparagus, a dream diary of centaur sex positions (his name is Harold; one of her favorite positions is the Sugar Cube), a quick trip through real terrifying America, one high school’s liberation of a dead pop star icon, and maybe a few too many Michael Keaton references (KIDDING: never enough). Megan’s pied beauty is absolutely dappled, glory be, but it also makes clean perfect sense, the way you might never notice an egregiously long nipple hair while your body is busy doing so many other things—and then one day, there it is, almost speaking to you, a strong thick thread you can be proud of. Megan’s prose is very smart. There’s a controlled transcendence that occurs on the page, and you know two things immediately: Megan knows where she is taking us, and she is having a blast doing so. When you read Arcade Seventeen, if you are lucky, you will experience an out-of-body order of things: the wind will seem to sing and its voice will only be mediocre; a deli will chuckle with you about life’s waning possibilities; maybe you’ll get into your car and find yourself in another animal’s heaven. We don’t know what will happen to you, only that they will lift you into the epiphanic, a reality that finally makes sense but for its absurdity of human truth.

On a night back to New York City, I (Natalie Eilbert) sat down with the new co-editor Emily Raw, Siena Oristaglio of The Void Academy, and Dolan Morgan, and together they draw image after image using pastels as I read aloud Megan’s book (as seen in the trailer, above). We laughed and moved with her stories, making concentric circles around the gesture of a plant life. And perhaps that is the most wonderful aspect of Megan’s aesthetic: The gestures of life, the troubles of life within those gestures. It’s as Vilem Flusser defines gesture, “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation.” That’s where the joy in Megan’s work is: There is no explanation, there is no big terrible truth. We pass down the memory of cheese from generation to generation. We love the woman across the table from us and that realization is not a conclusion at all. Whatever happens in this life is already happening. But there Megan is, giggling as she assures us that indefinite chaos is probably the best we can do. Make sure you buy Arcade Seventeen right away.

Here’s one story from the book, originally published in New South. Come for the story preview, stay for the conversation between Megan and Natalie.


THE NEW AUDACIOUS LINE

Dana is obsessed with finding the perfect pink lipstick. She has been watching enough TV for teens and women who like purses to have an idea of what she wants: a pink that looks like a fancy-named rose, that looks like the inside of a conch shell, that looks as if it could’ve fluffed out of a box of Lucky Charms. She takes a day off work and goes to the new restaurant/make-up store in the fashionable part of town.

First a gorgeous woman, one who is robot-bald and extra-sexy, hands Dana six different prosthetic lips. She places them over her own mouth. They taste like plastic. They make her feel like a living Mr. Potatohead. It doesn’t feel worth missing out on answering a phone and saying, “Hello. Janet Blair’s office. She’s not in right now.”

Janet Blair is always in. Janet Blair just prefers e-mails and texts.

Each of the replicas is a different shade of pink. Magenta. Gender-obsessed new parent pink. Pink Starburst wrapper pink. Audubon rose. The goth girl in high school algebra hair color. Knock-off designer purse lining pink. But none of them are quite right.

Dana says, “Think romantic. Think the look of someone who has just made out with a strawberry popsicle on a too-hot June day.”

The gorgeous woman takes off Dana’s real lips. She puts on new full plump lips. They’re a little smaller and fuller. Still the wrong pink. These are the pink of a strawberry milkshake with malt and whipped cream. She walks off to see what they have in the back.

A man comes over and tries to flirt with Dana. She pulls off the fake lips. They wriggle like goldfish in her fingers. The man drops his martini glass. Gin, olive, glass, and vermouth shatter. He goes back to his table. She knows her no-mouth head will be in his dreams for the next month. The man lifts a fork to his mouth. There is no food at his table. He cuts at air, his eyes on her face.

“You’re more of a red anyway,” the gorgeous woman says. Her teeth shine. She hands Dana a new set.

She slides them on, pushes them in. Dana’s mouth looks like embers in a dying campfire. Not perfect. But beautiful enough to fade into ash.


A CONVERSATION WITH MEGAN GIDDINGS

Natalie Eilbert: Arcade Seventeen manages to be extremely smart and extremely charming throughout. It is also very fun. You seem to experience a lot of joy in the flash fiction genre and I wonder if you could tell us more about the form in this book. What about these stories necessitated a flash?

Megan Giddings: I think flash (for prose) can be the easiest place to get right into your imagination. The brevity necessitates a playground mentality: you are going to be the tornado, okay? And I am going to be the town that you destroy. And you over there, you are going to be the monster that wants to eat the tornado to become the strongest monster in the world. Everyone knows their roles. The game-story starts.

The form forces me into having the confidence to not overexplain. And to find the absolute right details to explain everything.

And to get into particularities about the necessity of flash for these stories, I’d interviewed two people who had written flash collections or collections that mixed flash super well into stories of varying length, and both were saying the same thing about what people call traditional realism at this time: it’s often too rigid to capture the realistic emotions of every day. And I was like that’s true. God, even my cats feel a wide-range of things every day.  I hate you, I love you, give me chicken, you dummy.

And I realized that one of the reasons why all these stories worked together–but might feel too overwhelming in a standard-size collection–is that they’re often so emotionally and reality flexible. I think sometimes when people read, one of the pleasures is that people, except on a plot level, stay kind of inert. Characters rarely swing from laughing at videos to being furious that people are still very let’s pop the champagne and motherfucking dance because we just furthered inequality in this country to wow, this lavender candle makes me feel so chill.

I thought despite being short in length, together, these might feel actually, pretty long. You’re jumping from places where people want to have sex with centaurs to dealing with the considerations of police brutality to having very suspicious thoughts about cheese.

I love cheese, but what I have learned is that a part of me distrusts it. I’m not entirely sure why.

NE: You are a great titler. Whether it is a pert title such as “Dream Lover” or something more energetic like “We Are a Remake of a Movie Starring Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell” or a more complicit mystery of a title like “Family Secret,” your titles feel like the last line of defense before a massive converging of parties and ideas. There is a ton of power here, which speaks to your control as a writer. I wonder if you could talk briefly about this process.

MG: That’s super nice to read, Natalie, that you think that about me.

I do think, in general, that people could put way more thought into their titles. I’ve read and edited for a lot of magazines and contests now and I think what people forget is that it’s sometimes a long line of stories in a queue. And the way Submittable is set up is that we can see many stories at once. And often all the titles are so samey: something about a husband, after (blank),  you are the heart, what remains, something beauty, some pithy variation on what we talk about when we talk about ____. And I mean, there are some bland titles that upon reading a story, I’m like whooooa… that’s incredible. Like “Story of Your Life” (by Ted Chiang) is a real oatmeal without milk or brown sugar title. But in context, it’s genius.

What a great title can do is not just introduce the story, but also introduce the the story’s style or tone. I try not to think just about story plot or character when titling, but also its mood. Sometimes, it’s also a way for me to joke.

I also use titling as a litmus test for whether or not I think the story is actually done. If I can’t title it in a way that pleases me, I have to do another revision.

One other thing, if that doesn’t work, is I write a list of titles, cross some very bad ones out, and then hand the list over to my husband. One of the smartest choices I ever made was marrying someone who was a reader, but not a writer. I have him circle the three titles that make him most want to read that story. Usually, we agree on 2 out of 3. And with the choices much smaller, I can figure things out from there.

NE: I think my favorite story in AS is “Lower Your Muzzle,” a story about a horse and a man and I’ll say nothing more. It’s also the final story. That you began with a centaur (“Dream Lover”) and end with a horse makes me very happy, the equine synchronicity of it all. Both the horse and the centaur merge with certain human understandings about love and death and whatever junk lives between love and death. A lot of animals and objects speak in this collection. What about the anthropomorphic compels your stories, here and beyond?

MG: A good alternate title for this collection could probably be The Equine Synchronicity Of It All.

I think while not all people are writers, all people tell stories about themselves through their objects. Even when people reject things, that’s still another way of telling.

Not that long ago (and still to some complete failures of people) because I am black, because I am a woman, I would have been considered an object. Farm tool, sex tool, be quiet tool.  I think I am always thinking a little bit about ownership, about the distinctions people make, and how to subvert them. How to give a voice. I mean, the person I am today, probably would seem as realistic as a door being able to talk to many adults one hundred years ago.

NE: The longest story in this collection (“Twenty-Five Minute Wait”) is six pages, which, given what we’ve discussed, should come as no surprise. Similar to the first question, are there stories you write that refuse to be brief? Of course, my ulterior motive is that I’m wondering if you’re working on longer-form writing at the moment. Bonus question: Why or why not?

MG: I am actually working on a polished draft of a novel for my agent to take out to sell. And most of my full-length short story collection is actually not flash. I’m actually a little antsy about the novel: because it’s the first time in a long time where I’m not working on multiple projects at once. For the past few years, I’ll write a draft of a flash of a story while working on a longer story while dipping into the novel. I write at least five days a week (although if it’s not happening, I read and consider that also writing time. I am getting better at being patient with my brain and not feeling bad about those days)

Recently, somewhat out of fear that I wouldn’t finish and somewhat out of feeling like I needed some pressure to keep my idea of the novel focused, I set up a pretty rigid timeline with Taylor (my agent). I’m not sure if that’s the best-worst or the worst-best idea I’ve had in a while yet.

I’m working on a novel because I need to push myself to try new things. I could be very content writing flash and short stories forever, but I would rust out eventually. I need new challenges. I’ve been working on this novel for three years now and I’m having a hard time with the idea that it could be a complete failure (I could have been writing so many other stories!). But I think in small doses that anxiety is necessary.

Anyway, to be very frustrating about the initial question, I have no rational, craft-based response on length. I just feel like I know based on story. I could explain why some specific stories are in the tense and POV I chose, why I wrote in a nonlinear or modular style, etc. But most of the time, length is a gut-feeling. It rarely changes that much in the revision process. A story might go from 4,000 words to 2700, but never down to 500.

NEYou wear many fabulous hats—notably now as the coeditor of fiction for The Offing. What is something you read recently that absolutely gutted you? And are there flash fiction collections that readers should look out for? (Arcade Seventeen is one obvious answer, folks.)

MG: I am currently, very slowly, reading Max Ritvo’s Reincarnations and Solmaz Sharif’s Look. They were both christmas presents and I’ve found that I can’t read either for a sustained amount of time. I can read one or two of the poems in each (for very different reasons) and then I am just in my feelings for a while. I think that’s my definition of gutted. I feel so much that I have to pull away and then I keep coming back to feel more and pull away again.

I think a collection that includes flash in it that more people should read is Kathleen Founds’ When Mystical Creatures Attack! It’s a collection that’s in a weird space where Kathleen won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for it, it was a notable book on the New York Times list, but I know very few people who actually bought and read it. It’s a collection that is so well-written, one that made me laugh and tear up, and one of the rare collections where the writer was so good at playing at form and voice that I could admire her talent and not be taken out of the story while feeling that admiration.

I think it might be regularly classified as prose poetry, but Sawako Nakayasu’s The Ants (and a lot of her work) has really influenced me. She’s funny and strange and a great line to line writer. I also think Wastoid occupies that same area for me, prose-poetry, but can pretty easily be read as flash.

And I mean, I think more people should be reading Threadcount. Yeah, I really like (and know) the people running it, but it’s one of the few magazines I know that is consistently interesting in their choices. And for readers who are trying to get into flash, I think the Best Small Fictions series is the place to start. Tara Masih, the series editor, works really hard to get a range. And I think it’s a way to see how many different ways people can interpret the form.

SELFLESS: A PREVIEW

Video by Emily Raw
Starring Zoe Dzunko
Cinematography: Zoe Dzunko
Words & Whispers: Zoe Dzunko


To call Zoe Dzunko’s poems wild is a temptation I have fallen for so many times and it would not be inaccurate to describe them as such. But these words and their bevy of applications occasionally miss the point, misrepresenting a complex and cerebral journey as a feral wilderness, removing agency (re our heroine) from the epic, and presuming an analog between the natural and the inscrutable darkness of the troubled mind. Nothing wrong with that, except that in being captivated by the frenzied lyric, one might not hear the knotted thread of her rhetoric and academic insistence. It is true that you experience these poems from your guts outward and it is true that you experience a deliciously rare sublime rush while reading, but it is also true that Zoe writes hard, with unequivocal precision and might. She is smart as hell, and the medium of the poem only demonstrates one small surface on which she capitulates and recapitulates her intellectual grievances. Insofar as these poems also address trauma, hunger, consumption, and a quasi-religious disbelief, Selfless is a chapbook of remarkable trouble. It is with the utmost pleasure that we present a small preview of Zoe Dzunko’s Selfless by publishing one of her most harrowing emblematic poems, “Pudendum.” In addition, Zoe and I had a great conversation about her chapbook, which follows the featured poem. Also included in this blog post is a chapbook trailer conceived of and edited by Emily Raw, a transpacific collaboration between Emily and Zoe (Zoe lives in Australia; Emily, Brooklyn). If, upon experiencing this trailer, the hairs stand straight up on your neck and you feel you have become a bereft witness of the private life lived, that’s a completely normal sensation. Emily, n.b., is also the cover designer of this gorgeous book. I hope you have the opportunity to pick up Zoe’s chapbook before they disappear. This is a poet of extreme talents. Remember her name.

—Natalie Eilbert, publisher of TAR Chapbook Series/The Atlas Review


PUDENDUM

Yes, I have crawled. Splayed the bed,
been fucked or flushed to red-raw

by the domestic. I’ve had my finest ideas turning
dishes in the sink. I dry them off.

Take my sleep on silk to stave the sagging. I did
I do because of guilt — a shame I can never sever,

a limb I cannot cut from limbs
of which it ballasts: one for my mother,

another for my daughter, already blushing
at the thought of her own life. Did I gape,

breathe in time with the bleeding? Did I tear
with the tear when I birthed her,

this notion of mine, or was it yours all along?
i.e. stay very hungry, i.e. remain on the brink

crumbling with starvation. I have housed
and wifed and tried to grasp within the loop.

You do not wish to hear the truth,
the ways it might ruin for you the taste of meat.

We have not always been willing. By we:
your girls. By you: the world. I did not elect you

president, I did not, although I did invite you
to the party of my body. You looked at me,

you saw a hole. A void from which you might be
filled, unfledged, or unfleshed — a riviera

of rich potential. You could announce yourself,
having been mine and from being mine

found yourself. The way you like your body
touched, the way you like your coffee creamed.

The way you need to be assured — reassured.
I is the gap I bridge bodily between us;

a vessel for your emptiness. For your civilisations
I wear atop my skin the depilatory creme,

tasked to unravel the carrion odor from the bloom
of freshly bared flesh: every mother of a son,

every woman who loved one, who felt insides dented
by tremoring tissue. My fantasy, to no longer exist

under these terms, you can give it to me: only you
can ease yourself above, fall atop to blank me

with neutral tones. An eye closed against the nape
of your neck, fifty pale lashes, all that is left.


A CONVERSATION WITH ZOE DZUNKO

Natalie Eilbert: Selfless feels like a book that has been processing in your mind for a very long time. The impression I’ve always gotten is that these have been inside you like primordial goo and you’ve only just begun exposing these poems to harsh, surface elements. Could you tell me the journey of these poems? When did the project coalesce?

Zoe Dzunko: As far as the historicity of Selfless goes, primordial seems an appropriate descriptor because, like you’ve mentioned, there is an atmosphere of exhumation clouding the whole work. I say atmosphere because I perceive of it less as a considered action of digging and more to do with the sensorial elements I attach to the interring/unearthing of self, as it occurs within personal history. Many of the poems are found at the brink of self—certainly they were composed from this psychological space—and I likewise imagine the external mechanics of writing them as akin to being alone in some dense night, the hole having been dug, and confronting the moment of in/decision before the dirt is wiped finally away. For this reason, I place the book temporally, in the momentary pre-present-post which acknowledges the body as being episodic rather than a linear sequence.

I think of the book as quintessentially autobiographical—it is very inward looking, of course—but rather than a reflective account of history it broaches the past as a process of rediscovery. Often these discoveries are forced or reluctantly made, and this might contribute to the primeval undertones in Selfless, in that it feels like a work hauled from deep recesses, is a work extracted from the abyss. Ultimately, the poems span the entirety of my human history to date, and there are some I consider as being distinctly pre-body, speaking from a germinal space.

The journey of writing them feels inextricable from history and for this reason a part of me wants to say that they have been composing themselves for decades. Clearly that isn’t the truth. The oldest poem in the manuscript is the first, “The Impossible III,” which was written early 2014, and about 50% of the remaining poems were composed in the period of a year following it. The other half, which comprises the poems we added to the book, was written this year and is a more deliberate dredging of the basin of memory, as framed by the exigencies of the present. To say the project coalesced would be to suggest it feels complete, and we both know that is something I struggled with. Because it is so bodily, Selfless resisted containment and I found it difficult to close the lid on its world. It’s a world I’m still living, of course, but the book is full of selves splintered and irreconcilable, so I think it is almost defined by a lack of cohesion; that is the shape it took and the one it was most destined to embody.

NEThe other day while writing to a magazine about the possibility of reviewing your work, I casually described Selfless as “stoked with the femme fires of redemption.” (Pretty sure I convinced them, btw.) I think “redemption” is an accurate term for your poetry as you simultaneously demand and revoke apology (read: tear the mother fucking walls of the patriarchy down) for the powers that be. One can grasp right away what the themes are of Selfless, but how would you name them and what they’re up to here?

ZD: Ha, I like that phrase. To my mind, the more interesting aspect of redemption occurs after the fact, in the forfeiting of purpose. The passage of vindication necessitates a certain vulnerability, but it also delivers meaning and determination. Sometimes this provides sustenance enough to live on, and I think many of the poems in Selfless draw breath from that resource in their presumption that justice will provide resolution. On the other hand, what does it mean to demand accountability from the redeemer and how does that exchange reinstitute their power? This dynamic is present in my mind and one, I think, the poems tackle in their simultaneous tearing down/rebuilding of those institutional walls. There is a lot of outrage in the book, but there is just as much conflicted complicity. The overarching sentiment of the poems might be contained in the notion: I’m playing by your rules/ why am I playing by your rules? So while the theme of redemption is undeniable, it is fraught with self-censure and disquietude, i.e. I wrapped this ribbon around my nature and I bent myself backwards; I did these things to assert my value and to expedite my liberation and now I am liberated, but I am still decorated with these artefacts you pressed into my palm.

I’m interested in the internalisation of sentiment, that’s a major theme. Which preferences occur intrinsically, which are externally mandated, and which are insidiously assimilated into my character? I think this is maybe the depersonalised self of Selfless, one of many tiny gaps that are illuminated by the rays of external lights. I think the last poem, “Excision” takes up this issue most explicitly when it states ‘I never wanted any of this you never asked me.’ The I is the me, but the you denotes an amalgam of external you and internal I—there are many I’s, their values and desires are vastly different, the self is not a cohesive entity. This is more interesting to me than ideological cohesion, it feels closer to how I experience my own living.

NEI’ve wanted to ask you a question about hunger, about indulging a body that is noted in this book as “the flesh of your wounded nature” (from “Solecism”) and a “nugatory creation myth of sagging edges” (from “Excision”). To talk about these poems is to talk firmly about the body, the unfairness in having one at all. And so hunger feels like a supreme politic, a sensation as much as a need for nourishment that adds shape and dimension to its court. What is hunger doing in this book? What is starvation doing? What about food in general?

ZD: Hunger, as it occurs in Selfless and in the world at large, is extraordinarily political. It is the ultimate politic because it is bound to so much catastrophe: environmental, economical, social and imperial reprobation. I will focus upon the Selfless universe, though, because my feelings go for miles. The first thing that occurs to me is the question of what it means to be hungry in the western world, and which dimensions of that state are tempered by the relative certitude of satiety. Food is political, yes, but it exists here where in other places it does not. As such, that inevitability potentiates other hunger states—be they emotional, spiritual, philosophical, or elected—and conceptually it recognises a wandering that occurs when base needs are removed from the equation. There is a beautiful simplicity to actual hunger, the way it usurps ancillary needs, and while this is privileged thinking it really derives from an exhaustion in the face of frenetic desire.

In Selfless, I think hunger occurs in a couple of distinct ways. One, the idea of elected hunger is often power seeking and effectuates control, both political and personal, wherein the choice to remain as such impacts the way the body is felt, lived, and seen. There is also an attempt to unpack how this preference might reflect external systems because it stems from a lack of agency, and so the assertion of power over our own selves is both a redressing and a reinvigoration of the larger dynamics which impose so much in the way of violence and expectation. For this reason, the body in Selfless is more a system of meanings than anything else, and its big question is what it means to be drawn to fast, or to experience the body in such a way that this choice becomes apparent or appealing. Alternatively, what does it mean to occupy a body that has never once considered this decision, and therefore what does this infer about the involuntary ingestion of larger social systems that demand and necessitate hunger? These are all questions that interest me, and they get a lot of airplay in Selfless.

I think the biggest hunger-related theme, though, stems from the way interoception re-bodies (this is not a word but I’m using it) us. Selfless, being acutely disorientated, as it is, uses hunger as a provocation that forces an immediate and often inconvenient confrontation with form. In this way, hunger is an alarm that restates corporeality, shifting the focus from mind to body, and in the poems it occurs as a refrain that breaches periods of disembodiment with its pull back to vital instincts. Of course there are dysmorphic aspects to this fixation, too; hunger and the female body are bound in a treacherous binary, so it is often an unpleasant and simultaneously agreeable burn when it arises.

NEMany of the titles in Selfless are latinate and connote a religious root (“Absolution,” “Apostate,” “Boterismo,” “Solecism,” “Indolic,” “Pudendum,” “Excision”). They certainly set a grand tone and the product itself is grand as hell. I’m curious about your manner of engagement with these terms and what exploring their dimensions has done for the work within the poem and the work at large? 

ZD: Because the poems in Selfless are less interested in the body, period, and more curious about its place in a sequence of events, or the way it makes and is made of meaning, there is a strong pull towards progenitorial language. The patency of institutionalised misogyny can often be found therein, and it feels possible to convey the scope of specifically female-inherited burdens by playing with semantic applications in this way. When we were discussing the etymon of Pudendum, for example, we were both horrified but also kind of unsurprised. It’s like an ugly heart that gets wrapped in layers of removal. So, for that reason, etymology feels like a propitious way to undertake this tangling and untangling of the body in the poems—its layers, its nearness and its distance from incipient associations.

The religious derivation is much more explicit. “Apostate,” “Excision,” “Solecism,” in particular, are part of a larger sequence which recollects a particularly wayward excursion into a fundamentalist Christian sect during my adolescence. I was raised staunchly atheistic, so this experience was confusing for everyone involved, most of all myself, and layered with isolation upon isolation. After I re-renounced, I disregarded and moved on, became a teenager again, behaved badly etcetera, and didn’t acknowledge the impact of its experience: I completely excised this moment and this version of myself from my cognitive landscape. It wasn’t until recently, when a friend asked why I hadn’t written about it, that I became aware of my desire to do so. I think the place of these poems in Selfless is important, because my brief flirtation with organised religion introduced me to my first feelings of female shame, during a period of serious teenage transition. That shame occurs in a sequence, where non-male flesh is figura for subversion and connected to the licentiousness of the secular world, while being unreservedly open to internal critique and comment. This was my experience, anyhow. One day I was a child and the next I felt ashamed to pray for fear of bending over.

NETalk about the I here. You say in “Pudendum” that “I is the gap I bridge bodily between us.” Such lines call us back to the title of the chapbook. Mostly the I is addressed in first person, but as above, it occasionally revs a more abstracted engine. What does the self want? What does it want to remove beyond itself?

ZD: I think I may have answered this in an earlier question, but I imagine Selfless as introspective and reaffirming of a lyric I, while also a clear of evisceration of the I as it occurs within and beyond the frame of the work. I called it an autobiography before but it might be more accurate to consider it a self-authored prosopography, for the ways it connects and imposes distance between self/I/archetype. I want to say that Selfless is like an embodied MSR test I fail again and again, but really it is about an apperception which promotes discomfort. There is a lot of discomfort for me, because I have to confront myself from the outside.

NEBonus question: Who were your main poetry influences in the writing of this chapbook?

ZD: The first half, I was very involved in Lucia Perillo’s Inseminating the Elephant, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, Traci Brimhall’s Our Lady of the Ruins, and The Helen’s of Troy, NY, a Bernadette Mayer chapbook I’d recently stumbled across. Later, I was almost exclusively reading Alice Notley’s Culture of One, the collection Selfless’s epigraph was lifted from, and which was crucial for the ways it emboldened me to present such an isolated, blatantly female-centric world, without fear of self-indulgence.