Shining a spotlight on recent UPK New Poetry & Prose Series publications

Last month, the University Press of Kentucky opened submissions for the New Poetry & Prose Series, which seeks to publish contemporary works emphasizing profound language and inventiveness. This series has previously published several works, equally haunting and hopeful, that continue to deeply impact readers. Former New Poetry & Prose publications do not shy away from heritage or literary roots; each story forges its own special place in the modern literary tradition, from explorations of intersectionality in Appalachia, to the elusive search for cultural belonging for a young white-Palestinian woman.

Interested applicants may submit complete manuscripts of poetry or fiction (novels, short story collections) alongside a cover letter, author bio/CV, and contact information, at UPK’s website. For those simply wishing to learn more about these beautiful stories, please enjoy these recent Poetry & Prose publications.

“Fernandez’s stories engage questions of identity and belonging within the Cuban exile community of Miami. The narratives in this collection are character-driven, delving into complex psychology that helps to paint a vivid picture of the interior and exterior worlds the characters inhabit. Filled with concrete details, vibrant interiority, and smart collisions between internal and external conflicts, the stories challenge readers to feel the power of the characters’ grief and longing.” – Joanna Luloff, author of The Beach at Galle Road and Remind Me Again What Happened

In GRIEVING FOR GUAVA, Cecilia M. Fernandez explores the unintended generational cost of immigration. Through ten vividly told and beautifully imagined stories, Fernandez paints a picture of intense happiness and immense grief among Miami’s population of Cuban immigrants. Although varying wildly in age, gender, and status, each character embodies the same deep desire for something unattainable and fleeting. Propelled by the desire to move forward, these families struggle to remedy who they are with who they have been, and who they need to be with who they must become.

Fernandez’s GRIEVING FOR GUAVA is a beautiful ode to heartache and hope; it was published in the New Poetry & Prose series in 2020.

“In this outstanding collection, Puerto Rican poet Elidio La Torre Lagares’s shrewd use of literary appropriation and postmodern sense of irony samples the work of T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Sylvia Plath, among others. But La Torre Lagares’s book is not about poetry alone; it centers primarily on his life under the forces of Hurricane Maria, which made a wasteland of the island, the death of his mother, and his father’s betrayal of the family. The lyric cry rises from La Torre Lagares’s helplessness, and it is powerful. The poems also speak to the planet’s future at this dangerous time.” – Paul Hoover, editor of Postmodern American Poetry

Lagares’s WONDERFUL WASTELAND AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS is an ode to pain and loss in the aftermath of physical destruction. Using emotional, profound language, Lagares navigates the turmoil of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, where thousands of lives were lost, and infrastructure remains in recovery today. Through the lens of Lagares’s memory, WONDERFUL WASTELAND attempts to rebuild the emotional landscape of Puerto Rico; it is an enduring landscape filled with hope and love, loss and devastation, all communicated through Lagares’s poignant language.

WONDERFUL WASTELAND was published in the New Poetry & Prose series in 2019. It is Lagares’ first publication of poems written in English.

“Both wise and humorous, Mahmoud’s debut novel is an intimate portrayal of an early Arab American marriage, filled with passion, loss, and ultimately forgiveness. Readers will be moved by the fierce but fragile Isra, who refuses to be defined by her family, her husband, and her society.” – Susan Muaddi Darraj, author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home

Lena Mahmoud’s AMREEKIYA stars Isra Shadi, a young Palestinian-white American attempting to forge her own path in two unique storylines. In one, Isra is a young girl living with her amu and amtu – aunt and uncle – and struggling with the death of her mother and the abandonment of her father. In another, she is a young woman adapting to married life with her new husband, Yusef. In both, she attempts to define womanhood, loss, and pain, in the terms of the multi-faceted life she inhabits.

Mahmoud’s AMREEKIYA was published in the New Poetry & Prose series in 2018.

“Heartening, and unusually thoughtful, this collection of stories places the young women, their feelings and minds (not just their bodies) at the center. In that way, it seems more true to what adolescence in young women can be: full of mistaken attachments, questioning actions, and, sometimes, provocative men who may be a wrong choice, may appear to represent freedom that, in fact, will be due to the young woman’s own agency and growth.” – Crystal Wilkinson, recipient of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for The Birds of Opulence

The myriad stories in MAKE WAY FOR HER by Katie Cortese explore common themes of love, identity, and human imperfection, each through a wildly unique lens. In one story, a young pyrokinetic girl attempts to stifle her abilities long enough to dance with the boy she likes; in another, a woman with marital issues fantasizes about the ex-con in her cooking class. These perspectives, though markedly diverse, speak to the same unspoken desire for love, even if said love is far from picturesque or ideal. Cortese’s writing excels in painting vivid characters that we root for, understand, and identify with as they succeed – but especially as they fail.

MAKE WAY FOR HER was published in the New Poetry & Prose series in 2018.

“This is a powerful book that illuminates one more complex, disturbing chapter of the African-American experience, a nineteenth-century white male physician’s gynecological experiments on female slaves. Mend is a brutal story, lyrically told in the voices of three of those women, and its author has memorably created both a painful reminder and a beautiful tribute.” – Kim Addonizio, from the runner up citation for The Donald Hall Prize

Although honored as the “father of modern gynecology,” J. Marion Sims’s legacy is tarnished by grim reality. Sims’s advancements were made through the suffering of eleven enslaved African American women, who he experimented on without consent or care. History has lost all but three of the names of these women. In MEND: POEMS, Kwoya Fagin Maples embodies these three named women and navigates facilitated memories and experiences, each relayed from hospital beds. The poignancy of this collection rests in its completeness; these women, Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy, are not merely victims or tools. They are human beings who suffer, triumph, and love. Each of these emotions is capture beautifully by MEND’s pages.

MEND: POEMS was published in the New Poetry & Prose series in 2018.

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About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission—the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. The Press is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of the University of Kentucky and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.

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