M. NourbeSe Philip visits Rachel May’s CW class


Rachel May’s Creative Writing/Nonfiction class was honored and delighted to visit with M. NourbeSe Philip via Skype, to talk about her book Zong!. Philip is the author of three previous books of poetry, two novels, and many essays and stories. She’s been awarded the Guggenheim and residencies at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, among other honors.

Zong! is based on a 1781 court decision, to determine whether or not owners of the slave ship, Zong, could collect insurance money after 150 people were pushed overboard, murdered, by the ship’s captain. Philip, a lawyer as well as a poet, used the language of the document to tell the story of the Africans who were killed that day. She fragmented the language, recombined words, and moved them into the shape of what looks like water drifting across the page.

You can read an excerpt of the text, and an explanation of the book and Philip’s process here: Fascicle.

One issue with which May’s students grappled is the horror of this story, the details of what happened on-board Zong, much of which is given voice in the text. Class questions centered around whether or not this was poetry, history or historiography, how we take on another person’s voice to tell a story, and what it means to erase and fragment language, either found or our own.

Philip said, in response: “One of the things I was really interested in was that the reader was going to be allowed choices in how they read this. If you wanted, you could read it diagonally down, or when I read with some colleagues, one of my friends started reading backwards. There’s no right way. But there’s a shadow side to that, and the shadow side is that as we make our choices, we become contaminated by what happened on-board that ship. So, do we read this to avoid seeing some of the things that happened there? They’re happening in these fragments: Is a baby being cut out of a mother’s womb? Is somebody being raped? Are these people gambling for a woman? You can read the book in a way that you avoid that story or you sink into it.”


The visit concluded with a powerful reading by Philip — followed by complete silence as the class processed her embodiment of the text.

The full transcript of the visit will be published in the Summer 2014 issue of The Ocean State Review; please look for it there.

Many many thanks to M. NourbeSe Philip for her work and for making time for this life-changing visit.

Afaa Michael Weaver, 2014 Kingsley Tufts winner, visits URI


On Wednesday, March 26, the URI community was delighted to welcome Afaa Michael Weaver and to celebrate his recent award of the Kingsley Tufts prize. The Kingsley Tufts is “the world’s largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry,” and “was created to both honor the poet and provide the resources that allow artists to continue working towards the pinnacle of their craft” (from the CGU site). He won for his book, The Government of Nature, from which he read at URI.


The room was overflowing with students, who sat on the floor and crowded together to hear Weaver read and then tell stories of his life in Taiwan and the trajectory of his writing career. He explained how came to write about his troubled childhood, for example, and how his life as a Professor is in conflict with his working class childhood. Weaver spoke of his life as a poet (this is his 12th collection), his past as a factory worker, the experience of living in Taiwan for a year and learning Mandarin, and how his meditation practice influences his writing. He was especially generous in responding to students and engaging the community in conversation around the work.



A Professor and the Alumnae Endowed Chair at Simmons College, Weaver has also been awarded the NEA, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright, and a Pew Fellowship, among other honors. He read at URI as part of the Read/Write series, coordinated by Professors Peter Covino and Mary Cappello. We’re grateful for his visit and send our congratulations for his most recent well-deserved recognition!

Julia Lisella comes to URI & Sharon Dolin in the news

Last week, poet Julia Lisella visited Peter Covino’s poetry class to talk about her work. She read from her book, Terrain, and chapbook, Love Song Hiroshima, and talked with the class about the rhythms of her work, how she revises, and themes of motherhood, miscarriage, and friendship that run through the collection.

She and Covino talked about their connection as Italian-American writers, and her scholarship on modernists, in particular her recovery Genevieve Taggard’s work.

Also in the news this week is OSR contributor Sharon Dolin, who gave a reading to celebrate the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. Hoorah, and congratulations to Sharon and the other contributors! Also included in the anthology is Jacqueline Osherow, whose work we’re honored to get to publish in the upcoming issue of the OSR. Stay tuned!


We are thrilled to present the Ocean State Review and Barrow Street at AWP this year.  A small correction on this week’s announcements: You can find us at booth #709 in the book fair.

Stop by and browse our current and past OSR issues.  Look over the many poetry titles published by Barrow Street.  Thanks, and we hope to see you there!

Plan your AWP Week–Panels with Mary Cappello

One of our OSR advising faculty, Mary Cappello, will be speaking on two panels at AWP this year:

1. “Courting the Peculiar: the Ever-Changing Queerness of Creative Nonfiction”               

Room 3B, Washington State Convention Center, Level 3                Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:30 am to 11:45 am

        What do we mean when we claim that creative nonfiction is a queer genre? Four queer-identified panelists collectively position creative nonfiction as a genre welcoming of writers and writing that embraces the peculiar, courts the unconventional, and opens to forms yet to be imagined. At the turn of the 20th century, Gertrude Stein in Tender Buttons proposed: “Act so that there is no use in a center”; how can practitioners of creative nonfiction today use language to express truths still to come?
Find more info about the panel contributors here.

2. ”Modernism and the Lyric Essay”             

Room 615/616/617, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Saturday, March 1, 2014 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
        What can Joyce, Woolf, Pound, Eliot, and other modernists teach us about the poetics of the lyric essay? And can answering such a question help the lyric essay find its aesthetic roots? Join us as we discuss how modernist preoccupations with impressionism, self-consciousness, fragmentation, and free association (among other things) can not only inform the way we read, write, and teach lyric essays, but can also help us place this popular genre in the larger tradition of western poetics.
Find out more about this panel of contributors here.
Learn more about Mary Cappello’s recent readings in New Queer Writing series; her workshops on “archaeologies of the actual”; and her numerous presentations at various medical schools, including U/Penn, Brown, and Yale, please visit her website: www.marycappello.com
Also, see her work as Professor of English and Creative writing at the University of Rhode Island.


OSR author Signings–AWP

While you are checking out our latest issue of OSR and books by Barrow Street, plan to have your OSR copy signed by some of our dazzling past contributors:

Meg Day–Thursday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Meg Day was recently selected for Best New Poets of 2013 and is a 2013 recipient for the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry.  Find out more about her work here.

Page Hill Strarzinger–Friday from 11:00am to 12:00pm

Page Hill Starzinger is a Barrow Street 2012 Prize Winner and author of Vestigial and unshelter.

Claudia Keelan–Friday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Claudia Keelan is the author of six books of poetry, including Refinery (Cleveland State Poetry Prize), Utopic (Alice James Books, 2001) and Missing Her (2009) from New Issues Press.  A book of translations, Truth of My Songs: The Poems of the Trobairitz, is forthcoming from Omnidawn Press in 2015.



Josie Sigler Recieves Literature Fellowship from NEA


 We are pleased to announce that Josie Sigler, one of our advising URI faculty for The Ocean State Review, has been awarded a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced that Josie Sigler has been selected to receive a FY 2014 $25,000 Creative Writing Fellowship in Prose (fiction). The creative writing fellowship is one of only 38 awarded nationwide.  Sigler is the author of living must bury (poems, Fence Books, 2010) and The Galaxie and Other Rides (stories, Livingston Press, 2012).

Sigler was awarded the fellowship based on the manuscript submitted in the application and reviewed through an anonymous process in which the only criteria for review are artistic excellence and artistic merit. She will use her time as a fellow to work on her forthcoming novel, which has also been funded by URI’s Center for the Humanities, the Provost Faculty Development Fund, and the Beaupre Hope & Heritage Fund.

“This is a formidable group of both emerging and well-established writers,” said NEA Acting Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “They demonstrate an impressive range of styles and subject matter. We are proud to recommend each of them for an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship.”

“This amazingly generous fellowship comes at the perfect time as I complete research for my upcoming novel,” Sigler said. “I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected.”

February 22nd – Fiction and Poetry Reading – Josie Sigler & Janaya Kizzie

University or Rhode Island English faculty, Josie Sigler, and fellow writer Janaya Kizzie will be reading on Saturday, February 22nd, at 6 pm at Ada Books (717 Westminster St., Providence, RI)

About the readers:

Janaya Kizzie is a historian by trade; she writes short-form horror fiction in her spare time. Influenced by writing from both worlds, from the personal papers of Maimie Pinzer and Nikola Tesla to the works John Hawkes and Clive Barker, her words come from different places and times, like a ransom note. 

Josie Sigler’s collection of stories, The Galaxie and Other Rides, was selected for the Ruby Pickens Tartt First Fiction Award and published by Livingston Press in 2012. Her book of poetry, living must bury, winner of the 2010 Motherwell Prize, was published by Fence Books. Her stories and poems have appeared in Story Quarterly, Prism International, Fugue, Water-Stone, Hunger Mountain, Redivider and others. Josie  holds a dual PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She teaches creative writing at University of Rhode Island in Kingston and is currently a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow.  Josie is also one of our advising faculty for The Ocean State Review.  You can read some of her work on Josie Sigler’s faculty page.

AWP: the Ocean State Review Goes to Seattle

The staff of the Ocean State Review will be in Seattle, WA this year!  We will be representing our fine literary journal from the University of Rhode Island, now soon to be publishing our fourth annual issue.  We will be at the 2014 annual conference for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs from Wednesday, February 26th to Saturday, March 1st.  Join us to talk about our last issue and our upcoming one for 2014.  Also, you can purchase a 2013 issue at our booth.  You might consider the Ocean State Review for teaching or personal use.

While you’re visiting us at AWP, check out the many other events and presentations available:  https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/overview

More details to come…