Bacopa Literary Review

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Voice That Sirens Our Souls

By Bacopa Literary Review Editor in Chief Mary Bast

We've raved before about Stephanie Emily Dickinson's work, with a sample story from her lyrically charged chapbook, Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg. In response to Dickinson's latest work, Bacopa Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden says "The amazing skill in Stephanie's use of language is that we don't even realize her voice has sirened our souls."

Below are comments from the back cover of Dickinson's The Emily Fables:
Stephanie Dickinson's homage to her grandmother and the lost world she inhabited . . . These beautiful, strange "fables" can read at times almost like scenes from Grimms' fairy tales yet are very American and barely a century gone. Catherine Sasanov.  

Her works are all about the lucid, arresting turns of phrase that make language as surprising and re-readable as it should be. Chila Woychik, essayist and editor of Eastern Iowa Review

Sometimes we feel it is a spirit that lives within the narrator, a dybuk, that shares her mind, strums her emotions with its willful dissonances. Rosemary De Angelis, Director, New York Drama Desk, Award Winning Actress
With permission, here is "Emily and the Ewes" from The Emily Fables:
1887. Someone left me in the orchard, my father said, and since it was January when they waded through the new snow beneath the apple tree, the one that had always favored us with red fruit, their boot prints iced solid. My father was carrying water to the old ewes, whose tarpaper shed leaned against the gnarled tree. Its branches that in spring would blossom blush-pink, with each petal seeping a filthy sweetness, had stiffened, bare-knuckled. It was below zero when my father spied a black-haired baby--such a full head of hair, coiled as if the fleece of a dark sheep. I would have frozen, had not the old ewes crouched next to me, one on either side, their names Libbie and Esther, their pink eyes dimming as if cherries slowly sinking in cream. "Ladies, what have you there?" he'd asked. The old ewes could not answer in his tongue for they lived in time that had already passed. They'd gotten on their knees, their blackened legs under them, one on either side, like a hot tickling breeze. I clung to the long straggling fleece. The ewes' wool was scented with bark, fierce wind, and damp earth soaked in the cider of a thousand apples dying. I shivered when my father plucked me up for I wore not even a rag. The snow had begun again, thick drops that felt like edges of burlap. A snow that pricked. When he carried me into the kitchen, my mother mistook me for an animal he'd skinned and brought home for dinner. "Shall we keep her? Or let Libbie and Esther bring her up?" And then my father would throw back his head and laugh for I was his favorite, it was only a story to tease me with. I had been born from my mother's body like my brothers. I would always love the ewes, as if they alone knew the truth of me. My mother once asked what side of the family had given me my terrible hair. Like an Ethiopian's or a sheep's. No relative had such kinkiness. In Sunday school, the girls poked fun. I thought of the ewes sharing with me visions of the apple tree, the slow seep of minutes, the strange roots hauling up water. Worm rot drawing the wasps. My husband-to-be said that God had given me the most beautiful hair and he would die if I cut it, then closed the window shade like flypaper the first time I let it down. After my third child I began to dream of that place between two sheep. And I hugged the ewes' bedraggled heads. Their offspring had been taken and meals made of them. Still the ancient mothers did not call down a pox upon our house or plagues of locust and toads. In my sleep the frozen sky's no color at all. The trees clatter. We eat the snow apples. The ewes' broken teeth hold the fruit. They bah. I am their January lamb.

Stephanie Dickinson was raised on an Iowa farm and now lives in New York City. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Oregon. Her work appears in Hotel Amerika, Mudfish, Weber Studies, Fjords, Water-Stone Review, Gargoyle, and Rhino, among others. Heat: An interview with Jean Seberg is available from New Michigan Press. Her novel Half Girl and novella Lust Series are published by Spuyten Duyvil, as is Love Highway, based on the 2006 Jennifer Moore murder. Her work has received multiple distinguished story citations in the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Mysteries.

Dickinson won the Flash Story First Prize in our 2017 Bacopa Literary Review. Other links to her work: Eastern Iowa Review:"Emily Overhears a Mourner," "Emily and the Spring Cleaning," Emily and the Mother-in-Law." Kestrel: "Emily and the Whooping Cough," "Emily and the Norsemen," "Emily and the Missionary," Emily and the Blizzard." Verse Daily: "Emily and the Bobcat." Penduline Press Interview with Stephanie Dickinson; Gravel: "Chicago Insomnia."

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