By The Seventh Wave

We're excited to introduce 15 new voices to the TSW community.

Solstice has arrived, and with it, the first half of Issue 16: Proximities. And what an abundance of talent it is! Within this issue, you’ll read about one contributor’s relationship to material possessions; flit between poems about the strain of diaspora and the distance between generations; sink into one writer’s rumination on queer motherhood; and contemplate how close friendships can fall apart over time. 

Read the issue in full

There are poems about climate change, gender, borders, and flowers; pieces about agency, selfhood, and the sort of grief that rips right through your inner scaffolding. Our contributors tackle topics as wide-ranging as freedom amid oppression and the detritus found at the dry cleaners. What unites all 15 contributors’ work is an attention to detail and a dedication to witnessing, a direct response to our call, which asked: “What are we as humans surrounded by — do we choose to surround ourselves with — and how do we situate ourselves in language?”

Our editors had these words to share about our contributors:

  • Shaiq Ali‘s poems ‘If Memory Could Speak a Language’ and ‘Delicate Freedom’ explore the power of the stand-alone image, accrued into a compilation of narrative. Shaiq’s writing is unhurried, reflective, and reverently lyrical.”
    Emilie Menzel, senior poetry editor
  • Isaiah Yonah Back-Gaal‘s ‘Body Party City’ pulls thunderstorms with gauze, lip stain, wigs, and a sharp examination of what it means to prepare for beauty. This poem examines how we dress up for both the fun of beauty and for the necessity to survive, and how these aims are deeply intertwined.”
    Emilie Menzel, senior poetry editor
  • Jody Chan’s poems ‘abundance, abundance’ and ‘maybe trying to rest means no more escaping’ are odes to the warmth of the quotidian. Drawing inspiration from Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, these writings relish in a sensory and naturalistic lyricism that pulls the reader into a peaceful atmosphere of home.”
    Emilie Menzel, senior poetry editor
  • ZY Chua’s voice is both youthful and poignant, really driving home the idea of distances and hunger. Working with ZY was a delight, because it was evident what a strong voice she has, informed by socio-political realities.”
    Stuti Pachisia, poetry editor
  • “With unmatched beauty and precision, Jules Chung effortlessly depicts the vast and intricate underpinnings of female relationships through the powerful scope of Korean American womanhood. The harmony between formerly-inseparable friends Karen and Jin is put to the test by time, distance, jealousy, and stubborn pride, and tensions between the two are only exacerbated by a spur-of-the-moment reunion with their families in Jin’s new LA villa. What begins as an attempt to rekindle a flickering bond evolves into a lesson that Karen will never forget: old memories and outward appearances never seem to run as deep or true as the sting of a bad betrayal — and sometimes it’s okay to let go.”
    Briana Gwin, senior prose editor
  • “Reading Ayling Dominguez’s poem ‘We Discover a Thing Called Growth’ is like sitting with your best friend as she tells a meandering story over a cup of coffee. This poem is both smart and warm, and pulls into a delightful clipping pace.”
    Emilie Menzel, senior poetry editor
  • Alex Duringer’s poem ‘I Worked Part Time at a Dry Cleaner’s’ captures the inelegance and dreaming necessary to survive the mundanity of service work, while also using it as scaffolding for time traveling through memory and the alternate worlds of the customers in the shop. His second poem, ‘Potpourri’ is a decadent poem, tracing lines of desire from first glance at a bar to the heady scent of the bedroom. These poems are both working towards and achieve a sensory envelopment of the reader, for a lush, evocative, and totally mesmerizing experience.”
    Elizabeth Upshur, poetry editor
  • “’What do you call the distance of a mother who has never been all the way there, and is now gone?’ So writes Katie Lee Ellison in her gorgeous and heart-gripping essay on the aftermath of her mother’s suicide. As she moves through the turbulence of mourning, she does so with the grace of a swaying breeze: at turns strong and passionate, and at other turns soft, stirring, and relenting. If this essay is an elegy, it is also a rebellious ode to the beauty we find in shattered spaces, to the likenesses that keep our lost ones close, and to the memories of water that cleanse, hold, and nourish us through grief and growth.”
    Briana Gwin, senior prose editor
  • Sarah Kaplan Gould’s work is visual and tactile, with threads carrying over and literalising the bloodlines they write about. Their work is immensely personal yet cuts through to a wider audience with brevity and power. I loved working with Sarah, and watching their scholarly and personal approaches to history create this wonderful piece.”
    Stuti Pachisia, poetry editor
  • “Dear Reader: never will you find more gorgeous and urgent ruminations on one woman’s relationship to her tangible possessions — which are, as Amy Hirayama reveals in her work, so much more than simply material. As she vacillates between every honest emotion that is central to the essence of the human spirit (pride, joy, wonder, shame, guilt, trepidation, and finally, reclamation), she interrogates the fine line between a legacy and a habitual compulsion to keep. But it is not merely in forming a separation between ourselves and our material things that we define who we become: this is as much a love letter to release as it is a critical entreaty to channel both tenderness and discernment when choosing what to hold onto.”
    Briana Gwin, senior prose editor
  • “With a pastoral frame and language cut from glass, Juleen Johnson’s sonnet ‘Glacier Wildness’ is constructed with crystal precision. It is beautiful in its haunting.”
    Emilie Menzel, senior poetry editor
  • Indu Parvathi’s experiments with form are unmatched. What stood out to me when I first encountered her work was the rib shape of the poem, corrected by a perfect syllabic link, the visual conception of breathing in sleep. Each word is so carefully thought and wrought.”
    Stuti Pachisia, poetry editor
  • Ivy Raff’s poem ‘No Children’ is a poignant juxtaposition of the Uvalde school shooting and the dismantling of American abortion rights. This poem wowed me from the moment I read it in the queue with how it captures moments of sharp, aching interiority — frustration, anger, helplessness — in visually evocative couplets and prose-y stanzas. A necessary indictment of American school shootings, this poem manages something phenomenal: to hold us accountable for these victims and to demand hope as part and parcel of what will change our systems that allowed it to occur. I am honored to have lent my editing chisel to Ivy’s vision and work, she’s one to watch!”
    Elizabeth Upshur, poetry editor
  • “There is something haunting about Renée Rhode’s essay ‘The Granary,’ and it is equal parts her language and her clear-eyed way of turning a thought over and over in her mind until its intricate details are laid bare. The experience of reading Renée’s exploration of queerness, motherhood, erasure, and desire is like watching raindrops cause ripples on a still pond: a meditation, a movement, a stirring.”
    Joyce Chen, executive director
  • “TW: assault. In Hannah Schoettmer’s poem ‘Hallway Song’ the speaker — an assaulted female student — recognizes, recounts, and confronts the authority figures at her summer camp attempting to stifle her story. That’s what happens, but it is in the how that this poem steps on your neck, demanding that we look at the dangerous, coddled boys the patriarchy seeks to absolve at the expense and personhood of the speaker. An evergreen poem confronting who is allowed to wield power and who is divorced from wielding power in our society.”
    Elizabeth Upshur, poetry editor

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Going forward, we’ll be publishing just one issue a year, but open twice for submissions — once in the fall/winter and once in the spring/summer — so that we can uplift more voices within each issue while also creating a time capsule for two distinct cohorts of writers, artists, and activists. These 15 contributors submitted to our call back in November/December 2022, and have been working on their pieces with our editors over the past four months. The call for the second half of Issue 16 is currently open through the end of June, and will publish in December.

Explore the issue by author, by genre, or by title. Read each piece more than once or save one for a rainy day; let our contributors’ words get under your skin in the best way possible. We know we’re biased when we say this, but the waves that these 15 contributors are making with their work is incredibly powerful, and we can’t wait for you to experience the issue in full.

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