Categories
book review

Hush by Nikki Ummel Review by Cid Galicia

Hush by Nikki Ummel

Review by Cid Galicia

Belle Point Press
Publication: October 2022
28 pages
ISBN: 979-8-9858965-2-7

In the chapbook Hush, Nikki Ummel guides readers through the neighborhoods, bars, and backyards of New Orleans–while simultaneously the streets, alleyways, and rooms of her own life as a partner, mother, sister, and queer woman. Readers travel the lived realities of medical recovery and support for her sister, hurricanes, and the ever-stretching diversity of today’s family dynamics. There is joy, but that joy is not a shield of denial to hide behind from real-world experience. Through these poems, she offers us truths of living with struggle and love in the heart of The Big Easy.

Many writers use their first pages to coax the reader’s attention and adoration–offers of pleasures, happiness, or wealth of life that can be lived vicariously. Truth is never avoided in New Orleans, and truth is never avoided in Nikki’s writing. Her opening poem, My Sister’s Double Mastectomy, adheres to this. The reader follows Nikki’s observations of her sister’s recovery as she struggles to identify with her new body that looks and feels now so distant and strange.

                      She is relearning comfort…
                      This is not her body, or wasn’t,

                      but now is…

                     She pulls his four year old body
                     to her recessed chest but us unable to staunch his giggles.

To the many readers who have experienced the same personally, or have  had friends/siblings that have, in which they also had to painfully observe–Nikki’s poems offer a sanctuary of empathy.

At the same time, Nikki is also a laughter igniter. One of my favorite poems is Eleven. In this poem, Nikki writes through the narrative lens of a young adolescent girl nearing one of the physical thresholds of womanhood, her first period and also through a mother with concern for this coming too soon for her daughter. What I love about this poem is the simultaneous dialogue of prayers to the Virgin Mother.  Spoken as a reflection of the two, one of high anxiety and the other of youthful female ferocity!

               Hail Mary / full of grace / am I blessed
               amongst women too? / And my fruit / 
               Buds / Holy Mother / but it’s too soon.

               Hail Mary / full of grace / bless me
              Mother of mothers / make me a woman too.

The narrative poetic craft of setting, characters, symbols, and humor are so strongly etched within this poem. We are pulled into the duality of the two characters so deeply, we cannot help but leave this poem with hope and a bit of laughter.  

Throughout this book Nikki artfully covers the full canvas of poetic expression as she guides the reader through her words and stories down the pages and into the hearts, hopes, worries, and fears of each poem.


Nikki Ummel is an active advocate of poetry in her New Orleans community. She is a writer, editor, educator, and laughter-igniter to those who find themselves in her creative wake. Assistant Editor for Bayou Magazine, UNO & Xavier University Instructor, and most recently co-founder of the reading series lmnl lit. Nikki has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and twice awarded the Academy of American Poets’ Andrea Saunders Gereighty Poetry Award. She is the 2022 winner of the Leslie McGrath Poetry Prize. Nikki has been published, or will soon be, in Painted Bride Quarterly, The Adroit Journal, The Georgia Review, and more. Her second chapbook Bayou Sonata, NOLA DNA, is forthcoming Spring 2023.

Hush is available now from Belle Point Press.

Categories
announcements

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominations

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominations

November 30, 2022

With one day to spare, our 2022 Pushcart Nominations have been signed, sealed, and are on the way to Wainscott, New York. Huzzah!!

Pushcart is one of the most honored literary series in America and each year editors of small book presses, magazines, and journals are invited to nominate poetry, short stories, essays, or stand-alone excerpts from novels. As such, we are grateful for the opportunity to send six pieces published in 2022 for consideration. The following are this year’s nominations:

Congratulations and best of luck to all!

Cheers,
The Good Life Review Team

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announcements team member spotlight

Introducing Tacheny Perry

Introducing Tacheny Perry

November 26, 2022

2022 has brought a number of BIG changes to our growing TGLR fam and with those changes, a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our organization and mission. As we glide toward 2023, I’m excited to introduce/re-introduce new and existing team members and shine a spotlight on them, their writing lives, and their contributions to our efforts as a budding literary journal. Up first, is the lovely Tacheny Perry who is an editor on our flash fiction team and who also recently stepped into the role of Managing Editor.

Tacheny joined our team in 2020 shortly after we released our 1st issue but it really feels like she has been with us since the very beginning because of the time we spent together in the MFA program at UNO. In truth, when Tacheny volunteered to take on more work for the journal, we were not yet operating with all the traditional roles of a publication, so I’m grateful she’s been open to assisting as we learn and grow. 

I’m also grateful she took the time to answer some questions so I could share more about her and her thoughts on writing. The first question, and one of my favorites, is about when she first discovered her love of writing. 

I was in grade school when I first fell in love with writing, first grade, to be exact. We had been assigned to write and illustrate a story. Mine was about a dinosaur I rode to school and was maybe eight sentences long. Nevertheless, I was hooked.

I then asked what prompted her to get an MFA.

It was a couple of things. First, I wanted help with the manuscript I was working on (a manuscript that quickly got put aside for other projects once I really got into the program). Second, I had just spent the last eight or so years as a full-time stay-at-home mom and I wanted to nourish a different side of myself and seek out intellectual challenges. Plus, the low residency program gave me the opportunity to get out of town and have someone else cook for ten days a semester! 😊

I also asked Tacheny some of the same questions we’ve asked our contributing authors over the past year including what the most difficult and satisfying parts of the artistic process are for her. 

It varies, but currently, it’s difficult to carve out enough time to be able to get words onto the page. Life is busy, motherhood is tiring, and sometimes Netflix is easier at the end of a long day.

As for something satisfying, I really love editing. I like taking an initial idea or a sloppy story and turning it into something meaningful. I love seeing patterns and significant details rise to the surface and making a story shine.

I asked what her biggest fear is, as a writer.

I think my biggest fear as a writer is that I can’t actually write. Of course, we all have stories that don’t work and drafts that are embarrassing to read in the morning, but sometimes I worry that even the pieces I like are terrible and everyone around me secretly wonders why I even bother. Then I have to remind myself that even if that is true, I like the stories and I am someone. Worse case, I’m enough of an audience.

I then asked what fuels her desire to write. 

I write for two main reasons, first because I’m called to. I don’t mean that in a vain way. I simply mean it’s how I process emotions, events, thoughts, and dreams. My brain constructs and organizes through storytelling. Second, I write because I want to connect with people. There have been times in my life when I have felt very isolated and during those times what I needed most was to know there was another human out there who’d felt the same. I want to be that for someone else. I want to connect through the characters I create.

I think this answer is both relatable to most writers but also gets at the very heart of why we’re so passionate about publishing other people’s work. Those human connections are so valuable, I daresay vital, to our existence. We (TGLR) want to be a conduit for those connections and when we see it in action, it can be pretty amazing.

And, in a way, each story, poem, or shared experience shapes who we are. Following that line, I wanted to know more about author(s) or other persons that have influenced her writing.

I think it would be too hard to pick only a few authors, there are so many I admire and try to emulate in my own way, but it’s easy to pick my biggest influence: my family. When I was struggling with reading in grade school my mom was there to encourage and read with me. When I finished writing a story or a poem in junior high or high school my dad, an author himself, was there to praise a specific phrase or creative character. And when life rolled forward and writing got buried under other obligations, it was my children who helped me find my voice again and my husband who told them to stop yelling long enough for me to get a thought onto the page. 😉

And of course I could not end without asking the classic Nebraska TGLR question, which is what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.” 

When my relatives from California visit Nebraska they love waving at everyone they pass because the people smile and wave back. That is what I think of when I hear the phrase “The Good Life.” I think about living in a place where people ask how you are and really care about your answer; where family is a phone call and a short drive away; and where there is always a neighbor who grocery shops better than you do and who has the sugar you need to finish your cookies.

When the cookies are done, Tacheny, let me know and I’ll come get some. 😉 And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being on the team, for helping with calendars, meetings, and communication, and for conspiring with me about the future!

Cheers,
~Shyla

Categories
announcements

Issue #9 ~ Autumn 2022 is Now Live!

Issue #9 ~ Summer 2022 is Now Live!

October 24, 2022

Today, friends, we are thrilled to present Issue #9 ~ Autumn 2022. We’re grateful for all the writers who sent us work and recognize that our organization could not exist without their dedication, passion for creating, and their courage to share.We’re eager to showcase and celebrate thirteen incredible pieces from eleven writers as well as artwork from a number of talented artists.

This issue marks the start of our 3rd year of publication and with each quarterly issue, it gets more and more difficult to narrow down the bounty of submissions received to just these few. Especially since the number of pieces finding their way to us has increased considerably in such a short time. As a result, we’ve felt the need to expand the team to ensure we maintain the status quo of having multiple people reading and deliberating the merits of each piece. We have also created new roles to aid in operational processes and improve communications. You can read more about some of these changes in the editor’s note that accompanies this issue.

The note also briefly touches on hope for the future of TGLR. At this juncture we are eager and charging, full-speed, into our third year of operations. We have already begun formulating grand plans for 2023 which is just around the corner, and are pleased to announce that we will be increasing payment to contributors this coming spring. Stay tuned for more details on that and other exciting news coming soon!

In the meantime, we hope you will dive into all this autumn issue has to offer. On behalf of our entire team, we thank you for visiting, reading, and supporting the arts!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review

Categories
book review

Voice to Voice in the Dark by Tim Hunt Review by Cat Dixon

Voice to Voice in the Dark by Tim Hunt

Review By Cat Dixon

Broadstone Books
Publication: August 2022
Paperback, 112 pages
ISBN: 978-1-956782-13-4

The spirit of the Beats pulses throughout this new collection from the poet Tim Hunt. The Beats, as we all know, were focused on genuine lived experiences and often protested against traditional modern life while celebrating art, music, and freedom. Tim Hunt has painted vivid scenes of the everyday with his imagery coupled with the hunger for travel, adventure, and hope. The poet calls out to the voices of the past—excellent poetry collection title—and gives the reader a glimpse into our current American life and its landscapes, both natural and manmade, with reminders of the near-distant past.

The collection opens with an invitation to the reader to go on a walk. The first section, “Poetry for Bread,” introduces Kansas on the verge of harvest. Hunt offers us nourishment for our journey in the form of imagery, prosody, and metaphor. He explores risk as well. In the poem “Here in the New West: American Canyon, ‘Gateway to the Napa Wine Country’ (August 2016),” he describes a game room and writes, “Here, each card matters. Win. Lose. Here, / they do not think about which can to open for dinner/ or what to pretend they want to watch on the TV…” The scene of the cardplayers absorbed with their cards mimics how each of us loses ourselves in something—be it film or literature or even a card game. As we latch onto distractions and devotions, Hunt reminds us that there is more to life than winning or losing, consuming and hoarding. Each day, each interaction matters.

In the poem “Between the Highway and Train Tracks (Vallejo, CA, August 2016),” Hunt brings us to a liquor store. He writes, “Here…. The upturned hand/ receiving the brown-bagged pint—/ the breadless communion/ of temporary salvation:/ blood of my blood: morning, / noon and night:/ forever and again. / Amen.” This quick detour has turned into a prayer, a lamentation. There is no sustenance in those bottles and pints; instead, the poet points us to what we can do, and what we should do. In the next poem “A Tomb for Melvin, Who Has None,” we’re reminded of the brevity and randomness of our lives. This line stays with me, “So, I offer this as if it could matter, as you once mattered..” What else can we give to our deceased loved ones and friends but our words, our memorials to those who once journeyed along the road with us? I thoroughly enjoyed Hunt’s take on Ginsberg’s famous poem “A Supermarket in California.” The poem, titled “A Truck Stop in Kansas,” is part portrait of the Midwest, part call to transcend the everyday.  

As we move through the second section, we stop in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The imagery here, focused on light, ends with this important ponderance about childhood ignorance/bliss:

         And as the setting sun winks the streetlights on
         and you wait for the Grand Parade to begin,
         you do not think to wonder whether your parents believe
         or pretend, because here, in this Magic Kingdom, you
         do not have to worry about that. 
         Yet. 

Despite the happy setting, something is looming in the distance. Throughout the poems the reader catches glimpses of some kind of concern. There’s the “dark of the moon,” “fallen fruit,” the missed turn on the road, and “the lake’s spring-thinned ice.” All remembrances of the past are coupled with the pain of humanity’s selfishness and the hope for a better future. 

The third section, titled “In That Time When Time is Not Measured,” begins with childhood, younger days of innocence. My favorite piece here is “The Story,” which opens with, “This is the story you were told/ when you were too young to understand the story/ but could tell from the telling that you were meant to remember/ and carry it forward…” Later Hunt writes, “Even why a war?” This—paired with the “brown shirts and military caps” from the previous section and the poem “The Boy is Taken to the Soldier’s Grave,” which begins this new section, and the long poem “The Circle”—captures how our American history is marred by war, how our society is built on struggle, and how if we consider the whole picture of our past, we, too, may question how it has come to this. But Hunt doesn’t criticize the soldiers who served and are serving our country; instead, he recognizes their painful sacrifices and honors them. Hunt writes about how soldiers became great fighters in the poem “The Circle.”  He writes: 

         Because we learned to Hate—
         the t snapped like breaking a dried stick, 
         and this not a sign or memory but the thing,

         a never forgotten: brighter than pain,
         grief—a truth. The truth. The hate.
         And leaning back, arms closed, silent again. 

Hunts ends the collection with imagery that is carried throughout the poems: light, travel, and a boat returning to shore once again. These poems invite the reader to journey with the poet as he strolls a gas station with Allen Ginsberg, travels from Kansas to California, hops on a railcar, stops at a soldier’s grave, and ponders America’s past along with its vast landscape and its promise of a better tomorrow.


This book is available now in the Broadstone Books Catalog.

Categories
announcements

2022 Best of the Net Nominations

2022 Best of the Net Nominations

September 30, 2022

Hello friends. Autumn is in the air and that means it’s “Best of the Net” season again. Yes, we are aware that those other journals have already had their nominations in for WEEKS but, here at The Good Life Review, we are seasoned procrastinators!

For those who don’t know, Best of the Net is an annual contest by Sundress Publications designed to elevate and celebrate a growing collection of writers and publishers who are opening the door to transformation through art. More about the contest can be found here.

This year we were allowed to nominate two fiction stories, two creative nonfiction essays, six poems, and three pieces of art published between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. For us, this includes any work appearing in issue #4, 5, 6, or 7. We’re thrilled to announce the following nominations:

Congratulations to these fine artists and best of luck snagging that prize!

Cheers,
The Good Life Review Team

Categories
announcements

Issue #8 ~ Summer 2022 is Now Live!

Issue #8 ~ Summer 2022 is Now Live!

July 28, 2022

Today, friends, we are thrilled to present Issue #8 ~ Summer 2022, the Honeybee Prize Issue. We’re grateful for all the writers who sent us work and recognize that our organization could not exist without their dedication, passion for writing, and their courage to share.We’re eager to showcase and celebrate nine incredible pieces from this year’s winners as well as artwork from a number of talented artists!

In releasing this issue, we’d like to acknowledge and express deep gratitude to the judges of this year’s contest: Kwame Dawes for Poetry, Charlene Donaghy for Stage and Screen, Mary Kuryla for Fiction, and Jessica Hendry Nelson for Nonfiction. These fine folks not only volunteered their time and expertise but were also kind, thoughtful with their endorsements of the pieces, and wonderful to work with. 

Thanks also to the members of our editorial team who carefully considered each of the hundreds of submissions we received to narrow the field to a short list of finalists: Annie Barker, Pamela Broadman, Suzanne Guess, Erin Owen, Michelle Pierce Battle, Carina Faz, and Emily Marvin. Special thanks to guest editors Terry Belew and Cid Galicia who collaborated with us on the effort and are officially joining the team as poetry readers for our next issue (welcome!).

In addition to the issue release, full contest results are available here. And stay tuned for news of some exciting changes happening at TGLR coming soon….

On behalf of our entire team, we thank you for visiting, reading, and supporting the arts!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review

Categories
announcements translations

The 2022 Honeybee Prize Results!

2022 Honeybee Prize Results

June 30, 2022

Background Image: Malia Nahinu

Thank you again to everyone who participated in our 2nd annual contest. We’re grateful for all the writers who sent us work and recognize that our organization could not exist without their dedication, passion for writing, and their courage to share.

We also want to extend our gratitude to this year’s judges who were wonderful to work with:
Kwame Dawes ~ Poetry
Charlene A. Donaghy ~ Stage & Screen
Mary Kuryla ~ Fiction
Jessica Hendry Nelson
~ Nonfiction

The results for all genres are as follows…

Poetry Winners:
First Prize: For Those of Us Forced to Flee by Jane Muschenetz
Runner-up: dear sister, by Sequoia Maner

Other Finalists:

  • I return to you, mother by Liz Holland
  • In Memoriam for a Chronic Pain Sufferer by Gillian Freebody
  • (un)inhabited by Moni Brar
  • HOMO by C.W. Emerson

Stage and Screen Winners:
First Prize: Camp by Jennifer Downes
Runner-up:  Road Music by W. W. Webb

Other Finalists:

  • Willa Cather Would Not Approve by David-Matthew Barnes
  • Scenes From a Breakup by Don Faust
  • Prom Court by Michael Towers

Fiction Winners:
First Prize: Love, Dad by Alex Sese
Runner-up: The Children by Adeline Lovell

Other Finalists:

  • Waiting for Jim by David Margolis
  • To Dust You Shall Return by Katharine Bost
  • Seth From Poison Control by Kaylee Schofield

Nonfiction Winners:
Winner: Connect : Disconnect by Suzi Banks Baum
Runner-up: Where All My Sick Things Go by Liliana Rehorn

Other Finalists:

  • Assembly Line by Michael Cannistraci
  • Backwards and Blind by Helyn Trickey Bradley
  • Reinventing the Circle by Jill Littig

This year’s winner of our Editors Choice Award is Helyn Trickey Bradley for her nonfiction essay, Backwards and Blind.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners! Stay tuned… All the winning pieces will appear in our Summer issue, coming in July. We’re extremely excited to showcase this amazing work!!

Cheers,
~Shyla Shehan and The Good Life Review Team

Categories
announcements

The 2022 Honeybee Prize Finalists!

2022 Honeybee Prize Finalists

June 12, 2022

Background Image: Cityscrape
© 2022 Lindsey Morrison Grant

Today friends and fellow lovers of the arts, we are tickled to announce the finalists for the 2022 Honeybee Prize.

Thank you to all who submitted to this year’s contests in fiction, nonfiction, stage & screen, and poetry. We had an impressive number of submissions to consider which made it tough for our editors to select the pieces that would be sent to the judges (more about the prize and judges here).

After much deliberation, the following finalists were chosen…

  • Willa Cather Would Not Approve by David-Matthew Barnes
  • Road Music by W. W. Webb
  • Scenes From a Breakup by Don Faust
  • Camp by Jennifer Downes
  • Prom Court by Michael Towers
  • Waiting for Jim by David Margolis
  • Love, Dad by Alex Sese
  • To Dust You Shall Return by Katharine Bost
  • Seth From Poison Control by Kaylee Schofield
  • The Children by Adeline Lovell
  • Connect : Disconnect by Suzi Banks Baum
  • Assembly Line by Michael Cannistraci
  • Where All My Sick Things Go by Liliana Rehorn
  • Backwards and Blind by Helyn Trickey Bradley
  • Reinventing the Circle by Jill Littig
  • I return to you, mother by Liz Holland
  • In Memoriam for a Chronic Pain Sufferer by Gillian Freebody
  • dear sister, by Sequoia Maner
  • For Those of Us Forced to Flee by Jane Muschenetz
  • (un)inhabited by Moni Brar
  • HOMO by C.W. Emerson

Congratulations to all the finalists for their wonderful pieces!! We will be announcing the winners and runners-up very soon. Stay tuned…

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

Categories
announcements

Issue #7 ~ Spring 2022 is Now Live!

Issue #7 ~ Spring 2022 is Now Live!

May 10, 2022

Today friends, as we open our windows and doors wide to let more light and fresh air in, we are thrilled to present Issue #7 ~ Spring 2022. We appreciate all the patience our contributors have had with us as we’ve worked through compiling their amazing pieces into this wonderful and bold issue. We’re eager to share and celebrate their work!

Though we have not had and did not intend to have a themed issue, it is interesting to note, that as our editors’ selections came in, a theme of death and dying emerged organically. I believe that these themes are not a coincidence, but rather an anomaly created by the upheaval the world has endured these past two years; hardship felt by both writer and reader. 

Emile Estrada’s fiction, “Waiting for Things to Die” sets the tone for the issue as it reveals a young boy’s experiences witnessing his grandfather’s life in rural Venezuela. In Georgia White’s flash fiction her character, Iphigenia, is forever stuck at fourteen and forced to repeatedly remember the sacrifice she had no choice in making. 

Suicidal thoughts are explored by Sola Damon in her short nonfiction, “Under a Calm Wave, Not Killing Myself” and Craig Moeckly’s stage play, “Dakota County,” involves two characters that are dealing not only with death and loss but also with what it means to have lived life according to someone else’s expectations. 

Rounding out this issue are four evocative poems by three new GLR contributing authors, and one returning poet, Stelios Mormoris, sharing his poem, “Mass in Harlem.” Each of these pieces is accompanied by artwork by artists whose work can be found together here.

With this release, available now from our home page, we have crossed the threshold into our second full year of operations. Although we are still working to establish exactly who we are as a literary journal and organization, we believe we have found our stride with the collaboration, curation, and production required for these quarterly issues. Our hope is to provide a positive experience for all and enjoy The Good Life as much as possible as spring turns into summer.

On behalf of our entire team, we thank you for visiting, reading, and supporting the arts!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review