Monday, January 24, 2022


 by 2021 Poetry contributor Carolyn Martin

Stories from National Geographic have often inspired my poems including the one published in the 2021 edition.

"Warning" was prompted by a statement in Jodi Cobb's article, "Strange Reflections" (March 2019), which I used as the poem's epigraph:

When confronted with the limits of the known world,
a 16th-century European cartographer inscribed the warning
"Here Be Dragons" on a small copper globe. Beware: What lies
beyond is unexplored--and perilous.

"Warning" begins with the challenge to find a vantage point high enough to see the horizon where we can ". . . wait   for flames   four legs/ a scaly frame. . ."

It ends, however, with the realization that the perils in this century are not unexplored dragons, but they lie in realities ". . . like love/and loss   grief and regret   prejudice and hate . . ." These are "lurking nearby" in the "world-at-hand" and need to be explored.

Here's another poem prompted by the National Geographic and links to poems recently published in The Phare, One Art, and The Headline Review.

*    *    *

Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 130 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. She is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more at Carolyn's website.

Enjoy Carolyn Martin's "Warning" and other fine Poetry,
Prose Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021


Monday, January 17, 2022

In Front of the Full-Length Mirror

 by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 Creative Nonfiction contributor Jennifer Lang

"In Front of the Full-Length Mirror" was many versions before this one. I started it during my MFA as a rough guide to my body, each scar with its own story, twisting and turning through time. 

Only years later did I understand how un-unique my story is after reading Dana Jennings' "Our Scars Tell the Stories of Our Lives" in The New York Times and David Owen's "Scars: A Life in Injuries" in The New Yorker. 

Still, I stuck with it. Compelled to write about my marks. Despite numerous iterations, the structure stayed intact: from foot to head, nonlinear, that ended where I intended.

But between the time I started this essay in 2015 and finished it in 2020, I had a wake-up moment that altered the focus and changed the tone: the phone call from my dermatologist about the melanoma, followed by nine stitches and cancer screening. I went back into the story to add the first scar, the hardest one to live with, the one of morbidity and impermanence, adding lines like:

"Death is like looking in the mirror, seeing our deeper selves, the bare-bones truths. I am dying, my wounds evidence of this promise. They remind me of my fragility, my inability to stop nature."

After loads of rejections, I am thrilled my essay found its home in Bacopa Literary Review.

*     *     *

Jennifer Lang's essays have appeared in Under the Sun, Ascent, and Consequence, among other publications. Read more of her work at Israel Writers Studio and reach out to Jennifer on her Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Read Jennifer Lang's "In Front of the Full-Length Mirror" and other
compelling Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, and Prose Poetry
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Oh. There Is No Going Back

 by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 poetry contributor Megan Wildhood

"Oh. There Is No Going Back" came to me in an instant, nearly whole, on the day in April 2021 when I realized that we as a society are never going back to normal. I had long since stopped wiping down every screen and surface with hydrogen peroxide and I wasn't washing my hands raw every 12 hours anymore like I had the previous year, but I had truly thought that the end of this would at least be in view by the second Easter after the dawn of COVID.

It was starting to happen anyway, but the pandemic turbo-charged the demolition of my self-concept politically, which has ended up rewriting everything else about who I thought I was up until the advent of the pandemic era. 

On that unusually clear day, Oh. There Is No Going Back came to me in almost the exact way it was published. I felt my relationship to the future change. It was bigger than no longer being able to walk people up to the gate at the airport. So much was being disfigured about current life and the future.

Too much.

And I hadn't seen it. Until the day Oh. There Is No Going Back came to me. I had still been trusting that there was.

*     *     *

Megan Wildhood is an erinacious, neurodiverse lady writer in Seattle who helps her readers feel genuinely seen as they interact with her dispatches from the junction of extractive economics, mental and emotional distress, disability, and reparative justice. She hopes you will find yourself in her words as well as The Atlantic, Yes! Magazine, Mad in America, The Sun, and elsewhere.

Read Megan Wildhood's "Oh. There Is No Going Back" (p. 1) and other compelling
Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Prose Poetry
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021


Tuesday, January 4, 2022


 by 2021 Fiction First Prize winner Tomas Baiza

I've loved hummingbirds ever since I was a child. I was never obsessed with them, but whenever one buzzed by, I would stop whatever I was doing and watch in mute awe. 

Everyone I knew seemed to infantilize them as cute or adorable, as if they existed for our entertainment. To me, though, they were fast, strong, and courageous. 

Their aggressiveness was somehow benevolent, serious but good-natured, and their jewel-like colors were so bright I could see their sparkling feathers even after I closed my eyes.

We spin and joust. Our kissing shrieks bounce off the kitchen window. Her long beak jabs and thrusts, black eyes wild and dancing in her emerald green crest.

I can't remember when or from whom I learned that the native people of central Mexico venerated hummingbirds as the reincarnated souls of fallen warriors, returned for but a short time. All I know is that it made perfect sense--there could be no better explanation for their furious energy, their frantic need to hurry before being called to their next adventure.

Hummingbirds didn't simply exist. They had a purpose.

I'm trying to teach you," my Papi said. "When we leave this world, He waits. He is patient. Your abuelita taught me that He lets us rest for exactly four years to the day and then brings us back to help Him. Since the beginning, m'ija, He honors us as huitzilin, as hummingbirds, His most honest and loyal warriors."

The first hummingbird I saw after my son died stopped me in my tracks. I stood motionless on the sidewalk near my home, silently pleading for it to come closer. It dipped to drink from a flower in someone's front yard, spinning round often to survey its surroundings. I started to shake with memories of holding my son, of humming a Mexican lullaby to him as the life passed from his body--and then reminded myself that this meeting was a blessing of sorts, that this huitzilin could have chosen anywhere to feed, but it chose this garden just as I walked past. I slowly approached and it rose to hover above the flower bed. The little warrior turned to face me, its wings a blur.

"Hi," I said, and it was gone.

I aim myself at the Sun and race to the only war that was ever worth fighting.

Above Tonatiuh's roar, Papi's last shout comes through. "¡Arriba, m’ija!"

And so, I become light.

*    *    *
Tomas Baiza was born and raised in San Jose, California, and now lives in Boise, Idaho. He is a Pushcart-nominated author whose short fiction and poetry have appeared in Parhelion Literary Magazine, Peatsmoke Literary Journal, The Rush Magazine, Obelus, [PANK] Magazine, The Meadow, The Good Life Review, Passengers Journal, Kelp Journal, The Write Launch, and elsewhere.

Read Tomas Baiza's "Huitzilin" (pp. 156-160) and other Fiction,
Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, and Prose Poetry
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Examining Chance and Fastening it with Future

 by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 contributor Mandira Pattnaik

When I was asked to write what led to my fiction piece "Box," I really had no clue. Did it germinate out of the cookery shows on TV I'd watched as a young girl growing up in India, newly open to global cultures, and international icons through the liberalization of the economy? Or was it fancying an unachievable dream that's bound to collapse, given the constraints under which children in these parts grow up? 

I'm not sure which, but to write it in future tense, as if happening in an imaginary time through the eyes of this motherless boy, felt the most natural thing to do.

The small-town conversations I've heard on my commutes form an essential part of this story:

     Once inside the bus, he'll survey the passengers' faces, boarding and de-boarding, in the dim light of pre-dawn. The 5:45 will snake down the curve of the hill, climb onto the next and next. Most will not bother about the boy travelling alone, but the butcher will recognize him.
     "Where to?" he'll ask. The boy will cook up a story about an ill grandmother.

     "Never had a Granma, did you? She lived across the border, been dead long, no?"
     "Sorry, she's--she's--an aunt, mother's third sister. Fractured hips."
     "Oh, I see. But where's your father?"
     "Home. Old enough to go alone!"

The picture of an exquisite countryside, the bustling eatery by the roadside, the apple orchard are all drawn from my travels within India.

     The bus will leave the perches of the hills, slither into the plains where the district town the boy has never been before will have just woken up. At a bustling eatery, he'll get off with the others, trailing one particular family with three howling toddlers...

The story ends with a note, open to interpretation:  

     The tight box in life nobody escapes out of.

These themes of fate, choices, and one's own endeavors find expression in several of my published stories available online through my blog

*   *   *

Read Mandira Pattnaik's "Box" (pp. 30-32) and other Fiction,
Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, and Prose Poetry
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021

Monday, December 20, 2021

Dying Back

by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 Poetry contributor, Patrick Cabello Hansel

I wrote "Dying Back" after several days of walking through my neighborhood, and sitting on our porch watching the beauty of autumn. It struck me, as I say in the poem, that the process . . .

. . . ordered by an ancient
call: earth and her creatures
loosing what they love to die back
into winter

I don't understand it, and maybe they don't either, but . . .

                               Every autumn
their goodbyes ravish our eyes
with color.

*   *   *

Patrick Cabello Hansel is the author of the poetry collections The Devouring Land (Main Street Rag Publishing) and Quitting Time (Atmosphere Press). He has published poems and prose in more than 70 journals and has received awards from the Loft Literary Center and Minnesota State Arts Board.

Read Patrick Cabello Hansel's poem and other exciting
Poetry, Prose Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021


Monday, December 13, 2021

Disagreeing with Gandhi

by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 contributor Jessica Barksdale

My poem, "Disagreeing with Gandhi" emerged from an online writing workshop put together by the good folks at Two Sylvias Press.

The prompt asked us to examine a quote, and I found one from Mahatma Gandhi: "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

At the time, his words did not sit well. Of course, who was I to argue with Gandhi? But it was my feeling that we are all turned from clean to dirty by the acts of a few. Things seemed, at the time, to be going wrong in so many ways: politically, environmentally, personally.

Most pointedly for me was writing about my mother, who continues to slip into a different and new person due to dementia, one who doesn't know who I am. In that way, my connection to her, the world, and the planet seemed to be growing faint. 

My poem lists a number of other wrongs, highlighting the fact that if things are broken, it is our collective fault. I wrote:

Hear the gulls caw
their hunger. Step over
bits of plastic, twists
of dried kelp.

Things are discordant, empty, trashed, but I called for a fix with the last lines: "The ocean is dirty now. / We are all part of the ocean," meaning we are all affected by each other's actions. We are living in "dirty" times, and we have to accept and move onward, together.

As for my mother and my understanding of her and her experience, I keep writing. Recently published in Revolute, my poem "Alice Takes Her Mother to a Funeral" continues my examination of my confused feelings. We are all still in the ocean, swirling together, dirty and living.

*   *   *

Jessica Barksdale's fifteenth novel, The Play's the Thing, and second poetry collection, Grim Honey, were published in Spring, 2021. Recently retired, she taught at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.

 Read Jessica Barksdale's poem and other exciting
Poetry, Prose Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction
in Bacopa Literary Review 2021


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

You Don't Always Know Where a Poem Will Go

by Bacopa Literary Review 2021 Poetry Second Prize winner Shoshauna Shy

When I began the poem "Key Lime Pie," I had no inkling of where I wanted it to go, not even what I needed to say. I just knew I wanted to capture an overwhelming happiness that I felt--something I hadn't felt for awhile--before it slipped away. It was that same kind of heady glee that compelled Joni Mitchell to write "Chelsea Morning," so that's what I referred to.

I could not have predicted that in a poem about joy, lone snipers would make an appearance, and manage to fit: . . . another snubbed American male / sprays a school, a theatre, a hot yoga studio with bullets. Nor that Nazis would, as well: . . . when / Anne Frank's diary was yanked from her hands . . . but somehow this poem was about them, too. 

And from there came the bigger references to God's involvement, and a visit from my deceased father: . . . in my joy the way when last December, my dead father joined / me . . . That's what I love about writing poetry: You don't always know where it will take you, nor where you'll end up!  


*   *   *

Shoshauna Shy's poems have been published widely, made into videos, displayed inside taxis, and plastered onto the hind quarters of city buses. Author of five collections of poetry, she is the founder of the Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf program, and the Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Awards. Recent publications include "Comfort Words & Cherries;" "No Encore, Christmas Eve at the New Girlfriend's Parents' House," "Tidings of Comfort and Joy;" and "What Happened to My Parents After They Gave Me Up."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

There Are No Bad Genres

 by Bacopa Literary Review Associate Editor Mary Bast

". . . realism was the preferred mode of twentieth-century modernism. By relegating fantasy to kiddylit. . . The word genre began to imply something less, something inferior, and came to be commonly misused, not as a description, but as a negative value judgment. . . There are many bad books. There are no bad genres." 

~Ursula K. Le Guin, "Genre: A Word Only a Frenchman Could Love," Words Are My Matter

I'll admit, I've been one of those literary elitists who relegated anything but realism to the trash, in spite of being in awe of Ursula le Guin since I was able to read, and a devoted follower of Margaret Atwood since I saw the light of feminism. (Even Atwood has argued that her works are "speculative fiction" and not "science fiction").

As with any change in opinion, only continued expsure will break down the grooves our brains have carefully dug over lifetimes of being influenced by family, teachers, and literary society's votes about the "best" authors (those who vote being part of the social system that has defined "best" in the first place).

That change is now--however slowly--happening. I've recently finished reading Anthony Doerr's  novel, About Grace, whose protagonist wanders the world trying to change the fate his prophetic dreams have proven will come to pass. The New York Times, obviously considering this work a "good" genre (Doerr later won a Pulitzer Prize for All the Light We Cannot See), described About Grace as "an infinitely subtle algebra of resonance and sympathy between minds, lives, objects, light, senses, weather." 

While Doerr's brilliance as a writer makes it easier to expand our view of what kind of writing can be considered "literary," it wouldn't be fair to expect all writers who toy with so-called reality to reach his level of eloquence. In fact there are many excellent writers who "speculate" about possibilities, and we offer several in this year's Bacopa Literary Review, including both of our Fiction prize winners.

Fiction First Prize winner Tomas Baiza's "Huitzilin" begins with a rebirth:

Sunlight pools, trickles, and then begins to spill over the edge of the mesa. No sooner am I reborn than I am drawn to it, as I am drawn to the flowers that grow in my father's yard. Sun and nectar, Tonatoih and xochinecutli, both of them fuel for the returned warriors, we who have been summoned to face our shames before being called to fight. . .

Already curious about the nature of these "warriors," readers are given an intimation in the second paragraph that this beautifully rendered story will take us somewhere entirely new:

In the kitchen window, my reflection, an orange spark and wings that slash like the flint knives of our ancestors, the obsidian blades that opened veins of eternal life onto the tongue of the Sun Stone.


In "The Vanishing Heart," Fern F. Musselwhite's Fiction Second Prize winning story, the author leads us to believe we're reading about the protagonist's husband Jake's reaction to "the latest variant" that has sickened millions, fifteen years after "the last coronavirus scorched the planet." Only after a page and a half of familiar medical details does she invite a stretch of imagination:

At the hospital they'd cracked open Jake's chest. As they continued to shock and compress, to strain and rotate hands, they noticed Jake's heart was shrinking. Dwindling before their eyes until nothing remained. Nothing to shock or compress. Gone.

In neither story could readers possibly predict what comes next, because we're viewing the world through a different lens that invites us into a deeper truth.

For these and other fine works of Fiction, Creative Nonfiction,
Poetry, and Prose Poetry,
see Bacopa Literary Review 2021

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Searching for the Heart of the World

 by Mary Bast

Blake Kilgore's "Fluttering Bones of the Fireless Serpent" (below) published in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, is included in his upcoming debut poetry collection, "Leviathan" (12/8/21, Hapless Hip Books, Burlington, New Jersey).

"To enter into the poems of Blake Kilgore's collection Leviathan," writes Ralph Pennell, editor at Midway Journal, "is to be consumed by them, is to all at once race toward exaltation and brace oneself for the fall. At every step, we are met with challenges of faith that invariably become our own, where each of us must 'clamber down into the dark, searching for the heart of the world,' or suffer the consequences of our refusals."

From Jay Armstrong (Bedtime Stories for the Living): "Dripping with the ink of a preacher's Sunday sermon, Kilgore's diction crosses sacred with secular. Exaltation with sadness. Earthiness with the divine. These poems testify while questioning faith, redemption, identity, and love in tightly crafted verses reminiscent of Emily Dickinson."

You can see, in "Fluttering Bones of the Fireless Serpent," these elements of Kilgore's writing--the sacred and the secular: exaltation, earthiness, love--as he has described a sighting of flying geese followed by predators from a cunningly benign distance as a symphony, a light percussion anticipating the big boom, "a sensory marvel, one of those moments that leave you breathless, like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, or rising above the clouds climbing your way to a mountain peak summit."

*    *    *

Blake Kilgore lives in New Jersey with his wife and four sons, where he teaches history to junior high students. You can find some of his stories in Lunch Ticket, Rathalla Review, Midway Journal, and many others. Please visit to find more of Blake's prose and poetry.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Well-Told Story of a Small, but Defining Moment

by Creative Nonfiction Editor Stephanie Seguin

Adam Knight's "Little Bird" in Bacopa Literary Review 2021 is a tender story of an adolescent boy who worries over a baby bird. In this piece, tension is woven through in just the right amounts. I can feel the vulnerability of both the bird and the narrator, in this dugout full of young teenage boys.

      A fluttering movement caught my eye. I looked down. What I had mistaken for some windblown leaves was a bird's nest, probably knocked down from the dugout roof in the previous night's storm. In it lay a baby bird with a bulbous head and wispy feathers. Its beak opened and shut, emitting the tiniest "cheep" that was only audible in the gaps of teenage conversation.

       Hello, I thought. Hello there.

 "Little Bird" is a tight, simple story that is also one of those small moments we build ourselves around, a nugget of self-realization.

      I felt like the bird and I were in a little, private world. He was my secret. I did not know if I could help him, but I could listen to him. You are not alone, I thought. I imagined what it must be like to be the bird, a tiny waif, perhaps days old, disoriented and scared, flailing and crying in a world full of creatures much larger and louder than he. I hear you, little bird. I see you.

The larger metaphor of this story works without being overwrought. I felt this boy, a small bird, trying not to be crushed by the growing expectations of the aggressive masculinity around him. The triumph of this piece, for me, is the exploration of this small defining moment in a life. The realization, "I am different than this."

      Something died that day. Not just a newly hatched sparrow on a high school baseball field, but also something in me. As a boy, I had played baseball on a team with other boys, and though we may have all had different temperaments, we all could play the game we loved. But that morning's events confirmed for me finally that I did not belong. Not on the team and not with other guys. My path to manhood, whatever it might look like, would not look like Nick and Scott's . . .

 *   *   *

Adam Knight is a writer and teacher in northern New Jersey. His debut novel, At the Trough, was published in 2019 by NineStar Press and his fiction and essays have been published in a number of publications, including "Hoping for Red" in Escape Pod, December 2018. He is currently revising a cosmic horror novel about the Titanic.

Friday, October 15, 2021

From The Editors: Bacopa Literary Review 2021

I love the stars because they flicker. I love the stars because they recede.
I love the stars because they trace perfect circles if you plant yourself
on a hill and let the aperture stay open all night, exposed.
Shana Ross, “If Betelgeuse Explodes, I Will Be Sad”

As we assemble each edition of Bacopa Literary Review, we look for themes. One over-arching focus in both 2020 and 2021 is grief. This theme, pervasive in every aspect of our lives for the last year and a half as we all endure the COVID-19 pandemic, is clearly present in this year’s journal. But some of the other themes this year have surprised us, a fascinating and uplifting set of motifs employed in ways as simultaneously jarring and consoling as the image of the little bird in Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers,” who sings the tune without the words--/ And never stops—at all--// And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard.  

It would be easy to let grief overwhelm us, in times like these, and some of our selections reflect on that ease. There is the dark, all-encompassing existential agony over the family tragedy expressed in Alec Kissoondyal’s “Smudge.” Its complement, the long slog through the initial stages of grief and into something approximating the rest of life for those left behind, is portrayed in Shuly Cawood’s “Not Naming It.” There is also the gentle, even humorous sense of resignation and peace-making with grief expressed in both Janet Marugg’s fictional vignette “Lila’s Last Day” and Lora Straub’s nonfiction essay “A Fragile Inheritance." 

In part as acknowledgement of the need to face and work through the individual and collective sorrows COVID-19 has wrought, we open this year’s collection with Megan Wildhood’s probing, elegiac “Oh. There is No Going Back.” Wildhood’s poem takes up grief and turns it around like a many-faceted gem, examining its dark surfaces and acknowledging the ways it impacts even our memory and understanding of life before the grieving time: the first time I remembered the Before world and it was full/ of holes. 

But we’ve noticed plenty of other shared themes in this year’s Bacopa. Most are riffs on the great concerns of human existence, and thereby of most literature—love, joy, struggle, pain, pride, humility, endurance. One motif across genres surprised us, though. Birds—those “things with feathers” and wings.

            We invite you to keep an eye out for them as you read your way through this year’s offerings. Some, such as the baby birds in Kissoondyal’s Smudge,” Adam Knight’s “Little Bird,” and the small bird that crashes into a window at the opening of Elizabeth Christopher’s “Dream Catcher,” show up as emblems of fragility, loss, and, yes, grief. Timi Sanni’s pained, prayerful poem “Orison” even presents us with the antithesis to Dickinson’s eternal, undaunted feathered singer: the bird/ of hope folding its wings, its hollow bones// crushing as they welcome the uncanny force/ of darkness. These birds, and some of the others that flit through the pages that follow, are creatures of night, of darkness or at least a liminal spacethe edge of shadow where darkness meets, commingles with light. They remind us that time flows unceasing and life proceeds in all its shades—from drudgery and weariness, pain and fear, through excitement, exultation, and joy—and all those shades are certainly represented in a myriad of tints and tones. 

            Artists are grappling with the reality that humanity as a whole, the world over, is undergoing a tremendous cataclysm of collective loss and mourning, at this moment of history. People are mourning lost friends and loved ones, lost jobs and businesses, lost opportunities and experiences—from students missing out on graduations and other rites of passage, to families delaying having children, partners delaying marriage, and so much more. For many of us, the pandemic delayed our ability to be physically present with each other, to collectively express and process these many and varied sorrows. For too many of us, a long-delayed process of grieving has only recently begun in earnest.

            Our shadow birds remind us, as Shana Ross’s First Prize poem quoted in the epigraph above so presciently puts it, When you live in too much light you cannot see the stars/ yet they exist. 

            But most of Bacopa 2021’s birds fly in the other direction, and beautifully so, as exemplified by the powerful mythical bird that lends its name to Sergio Ortiz’s fierce “Yo soy el Fénix.” Birds—strong, fierce and joyful—are central characters in both William Nuessle’s “Hero’s Eyes” and this year’s Fiction First Prize winner, Tomas Baiza’s “Huitzilin.” Flight, uplift, release—these themes are woven through every category of writing. Though too many of us are still inside the edge of the shadow, many here at home and around the world are beginning to see the gilded limning of the other side.

        We hope you will find yourself lifted, energized, and inspired as we were by the tremendous outpouring of talent and creativity we received for our 2021 journal. May we move onward and upward together, like the tiny winged warriors of “Huitzilin,” out of the global shroud of this pandemic and into the blaze of a new day dawning. May we be so blessed as to know the joy and triumph that surges through the closing line of Baiza’s magical tale: And so, I become light.

J.N. Fishhawk & Mary Bast


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Fragile Inheritance: Creative Nonfiction 2nd Prize

 by Creative Nonfiction Editor Stephanie Seguin

A beautiful narrative arc in a very short space

When reading through submissions for creative nonfiction I look for beautiful writing, of course, but also for some sense of connection. I want to feel as though I've gotten to know the narrator a bit. In Lora Straub's Second Prize winning A Fragile Inheritance, I felt a connection to this narrator and her family.

I am also a reader who is charmed by small details. I loved the grandmother with an extensive crystal collection who drinks her chianti out of a favorite plastic juice cup and washes all her dishes by hand even though she has a dishwasher. This family, with their quirks and running jokes, felt familiar.

The other thing that felt special about this piece of writing in Bacopa Literary Review 2021 was the growth of the narrator. Twelve hundred words is precious little storytelling space, yet within that, we see this narrator grow from a young woman who resents talk of death, to a woman who wants to be taken seriously enough to be trusted to wrap up her grandmother's crystal, finally to a woman who understands the gift she has been given by both her mother and grandmother.

When my husband and I unboxed them, six years after Grammar's death, Steve unwrapped each with reverence. Held one after the other up to the light and admired the cut. I buried my nose in a goblet like I was smelling a flower, still caught a whiff of mildewed books and Grammar's warm presence in the stale air caught between the glass and newspaper. Perhaps the stemware summoned the scent.

It had nothing to do with trust. Wrapping that crystal was one of the last things Mom could do for her mother, and that doubled as a gift for her daughters: the unwrapping. Grammar's house, most of her books, dishtowels, the gold carpet, her fake fruit: all gone. But the scent: a momentary return of a singular spirit.

And so in this piece I found that wonderful gift of a story, which is to peek in someone else's window and see something that is wholly different but so familiar. Because I also am a woman, missing my beloved grandmother, whose tiny crystal votive holder has pride of place on my shelf.
  * * *

Lora Straub lives in Boston, MA. Her poetry prose chapbook, Id Est, was released in October 2017 by SpeCt! Books. Her work can be found in Construction Mag, She Explores, The Fem, The Elephants, and Wave Composition, among others. She is currently working on a memoir.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Carolyne Wright's New Collection, Masquerade

by Mary Bast

We've awarded several prizes to fabulous poet Carolyne Wright for her contributions to Bacopa Literary Review over the years, including "Los Olvidados:The Forgotten Ones" in 2011, "Sestina: Into Shadow" in 2013, and "Sestina: That mouth . . ." in 2016. And we're happy to announce her new collection, Masquerade, published this month by Lost Horse Press. As described on

"Masquerade is a jazz-inflected, lyric-narrative sequence of poems, a "memoir in poetry" set principally in pre-Katrina New Orleans and in Seattle, involving an interracial couple who are artists and writers. Moved by mutual fascination, shared ideals and aspirations, and the passion they discover in each other, the two are challenged to find a place together in the cultures of both races and families, amidst personal and political dislocations as well as questions of trust—all against the backdrop of America's racism and painful social history. The twentieth century's global problem, the color line, as W. E. B. du Bois named it, is enacted here in microcosm between these lovers and fellow artists, who must face their own fears and unresolved conflicts in each other. Similar stories have been told from the male protagonist's point of view; Masquerade is unique in foregrounding the female perspective." 

These poems are included in Masquerade:

"Triolets on a Dune Shack"


"I Forgive


Carolyne Wright is author of This Dream the World: New and Selected Poems, whose title poem won a Pushcart Prize and also appeared in The Best American Poetry 2009. Her ground-breaking anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, received ten Pushcart Prize nominations. She has authored five earlier books of poetry, a volume of essays, and five award-winning volumes in translation from Spanish and Bengali. A contributing editor for the Pushcart Prizes, she teaches at Seattle’s Richard Hugo House and at conferences and festivals worldwide.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Bacopa Literary Review 2021 Prize Winners

POETRY (Editor J.N. Fishhawk)

  • First Prize: Shana Ross, "If Betelgeuse Explodes I Will Be Sad"
  • Second Prize: Shoshauna Shy, "Key Lime Pie"

PROSE POETRY (Editor Kaye Linden)

  • First Prize: Nicole Farmer, "car wash orgasmic whirl"
  • Second Prize: Les Epstein. "Grenadine"

CREATIVE NONFICTION (Editor Stephanie Seguin)

  • First Prize: Gerald Ryan, "And The Road Goes On Forever"
  • Second Prize: Lora Straub, "A Fragile Inheritance"

FICTION (Editor J. Nishida)

  • First Prize: Tomas Baiza, "Huitzilin"
  • Second Prize: Fern F. Musselwhite, "The Vanishing Heart"


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Audacious Ekphrasis

by Mary Bast

  "Oh hell, here's that dark wood again" by Mary Bast
If you want to know more about me, Googling my name will first evoke echoes of my now retired life as an Enneagram coach and related books. But I've also written several forms of poetry including ekphrasis, an audacious poetic form that's among many we encourage in our print journal.

You'll find a long history and many definitions of ekphrasis. I prefer the most open, contemporary version:
Ekphrasis: the intersection of verbal and visual arts.

As a visual artist I've explored many ways to interpret "the intersection of verbal and visual arts." For example, in response to Kim Addonizio's poem "Divine(Oh hell, here's that dark wood again . . .), I painted "Oh hell, here's that dark wood again" (above) then reacted to my painting with the poem "Backdraft." 

Virtually any type of artistic medium may be the actor of, or subject of ekphrasis. I first learned about ekphrastic poetry in a workshop with Melanie Almeder, who drew our attention to two famous poems written in response to Pieter Brueghel's painting, The Fall of Icarus: William Carlos Williams' "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" and W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts." Note that Williams' poem to some degree follows the tradition of describing the visual scene (a farmer was ploughing / his field / the whole pageantry / of the year was / awake tingling / with itself), while Auden's interpretation is a bit wider (About suffering they were never wrong, / the old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position: how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window). 

Almeder invited workshop participants to write our own poems in response to the Brueghel painting, encouraging us to range as far as our muses would go. My poem "plummet" (published in Bacopa Literary Review 2012) imagined Icarus as a woman:
there is an Icarus
a woman who flies 

on intricate
feathered web
of covert


she breathes faster
learns to soar

the admonition
do not fly too high

her efforts full
of sky
of wind

her breasts
still flecked with honey
dripped from wings' wax

heavy with her father's
heavier than water

when she dives
no sun's light
scuffs the surface
Remember Bacopa's poetry statement: We're looking for well-wrought poems in any form or genre, or none. Intrigue us, move us, surprise us with stunning imagery, lyricism, soundplay, structure. Disturb our well-trod patterns of thought.      

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Guidelines Don't Limit Your Freedom!

by Mary Bast

Year after year, we're surprised by how many submissions ignore our guidelines. If you want to be published, why would you do that?

Wouldn't you would want to be seen as thoughtful of the editors' time demands when considering the merits of a submission and its fit with a particular issue? If you haven't followed the guidelines, might we fairly assume you haven't read past issues or have any idea of the kind of work we publish?

We are not trying to limit your freedom. We do not want to make your life more difficult. We have these guidelines because we want to give each submission the best chance of an unbiased and positive reaction.

If we've asked for Arial typeface, size 12, why would you ignore that request? Aren't you at least curious about that choice, when you're so familiar with Times New Roman? This matters a great deal because we read submissions onscreen, and Arial size 12 is the best typeface and size for comfortable online reading (we receive more than a thousand submissions per submission period). The familiar serif typeface of Times New Roman ("little feet and embellishments on the tip and base of each letter") is fine for print, but more difficult to read online. Arial's "sans-serif" typeface (no embellishments), size 12 or larger, doesn't use as many pixels and is easier on the eyes, especially for long hours of onscreen reading.

I'll let you in on a secret: I hate Times New Roman. Even on a good day, when I'm feeling patient and haven't yet read ten submissions of up to 2500 words each, I still have to suppress my Times New Roman bias when I hit Ctrl+A ("select all") and change the typeface to Arial so I can read it with my already fatigued eyes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Prose Poetry: The Playful and Daring Edge

by Mary Bast

We eagerly await submissions of prose poems to Bacopa Literary Review 2021.
As stated in our 2021 Prose Poetry guidelines:  
"Think playful, eccentric, inspiring, surprising, suggestive, rule-breaking.”
Prose poems are modern, nontraditional, and often misunderstood. Instead of the line breaks of traditional poetry, prose poems may take any form, but they share the major element of all poetry in the quality of the language. Here's an example from our 2018 Bacopa Literary Review, one of three prose poems by Darren Demaree in "bone requires bone":
traditionally i would have already been stoned for knowing the witch for loving the witch for paying the witch for asking the witch to curse my father for taking all of the oxygen in every room he walked in when i was a child traditionally this would be considered a confession of sorts but now we know we know we know that he owes me a deep breath that i am entitled to walk up to him his mouth and leave him behind me panting until his grandchildren grow up to the age i quit drilling holes in the walls of the house on concord street

Another post describes Prose Poetry Prize Winner Cynthia Roby's "U-Turn." See also Prose Poetry Editor Kaye Linden's "The Prose Poem: An Eccentric Genre."

Submissions open May 1-May 31, 2021
Prose Poetry, Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
$300 1st Prize, $100 2nd Prize in each genre!


Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Difference Between the Lightning Bug and the Lightning

by 2021 Fiction Editor J. Nishida 

Bacopa Literary Review 2021 will receive hundreds of fiction submissions. What will make yours stand apart? We seek short fiction (up to 2500 words) that immediately captures the imagination, tells an original story in vivid language, and provides an ending that rewards our investment of time and attention. 

Steven Millhauser writes: 

Its littleness is the agency of its power ... The short story apologizes for nothing. It exults in its shortness. It wants to be shorter still. It wants to be a single word. If it could find that word, if it could utter that syllable, the entire universe would blaze up out of it with a roar. That is the outrageous ambition of the short story, that is its deepest faith, that is the greatness of its smallness. 

If you Google the qualities of a well written short story, you'll find a thousand rules to follow, many of them debatable. But Kurt Vonnegut’s first rule is not debatable:  

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Listen to your story read aloud for clarity, logic, coherence of shifts (time, place, tone, point of view), completeness, and music. Trust your readers to “get” what needn’t be stated outright. Favor concrete detail to philosophical musings. Be sure the writing conventions (grammar, punctuation, syntax, spelling) serve comprehensibility and fluidity of reading, instead of impeding them. Use crisp, concise, and readable language, free of clichés and distracting convention errors. Spark a life that lingers in the reader’s imagination.

Cut and cut; distill your language. If 1000 words will capture the heart and bone of your original 2500, use 1000. If 500 will capture that of the 1000, use 500. If one word will do instead of three, use what Mark Twain describes as the right word:  

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

*   *   *

Fiction Editor J. Nishida has B.A. and Masters Degrees in English, graduate-level certification in Teaching English as a Second Language, and an Education Specialist degree in secondary school reading. She's studied numerous languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, Welsh, and Arabic; has co-edited/co-translated a book of Japanese Waka poetry; self-published a children's beginning reader chapter book for ESOL and/or special-needs students; taught English reading, language arts, and writing in both classroom and online environments; tutored and taught ESOL with high school/college students and adults; done free-lance editing; and worked for charitable and non-profit endeavors supporting literacy and the arts.

Nishida has traveled widely to feed her addiction to Shakespearean theatre, including NYC, London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She's attended numerous literary conferences, festivals, and workshops, among them the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, the American Literary Translators Association Conference, the Toronto Storytelling Festival, and the Florida Storytelling Festival.

As a child of a military family, Nishida lived in five U.S. states and near Oxford, UK. As an adult she has lived in Leuven, Belgium and Mallorca, Spain, and has traveled as far afield as Japan and New Zealand. Her family currently lives in Gainesville, FL with two dogs, a snake, and far too many cats. She favors the Oxford comma with  a zealotry that borders on fanaticism. 


Friday, February 12, 2021

J.N. Fishhawk: Poet, Writer, Editor

by Mary Bast

J.N. Fishhawk. Poetry Editor from 2017-2021, and will be taking over as Editor-in-Chief with the 2022 issue .

A friend of our journal long before he joined our editorial staff, J.N.'s prose poem "a prayer" helped inaugurate our first annual edition (Bacopa Literary Review 2010):

O bear, O rabbit, O moon, O woods with yr million million twiggy fingers clutching after disappearing fur, nestling features, lifting scales and claws and soft suction toes, scuttling buggy digits of horn and chitin, little dust-kissed hooks of moths, O things in thickets crawling, O clatter of lizards under leafmold, O slip of spider silk like cat's cradle played with death on the shivering green breeze-reaches, O underscrub where all breaths die, blaze of sun among dry wrecked shells in sand, you ancient snailshacks going slowly apart over centuries for lime, liner for the guts of the native earth, O hell all you racket of growth and vigorous destruction, come on, come on, burn and turn, let's all go down together and come up again some other time, who knows what beings we'll be? 
Far longer than our Bacopa acquaintance, J.N. has been a moving force of the Civic Media Center and Library (CMC) in Gainesville, Fl, a nonprofit, independent, grassroots, street-level alternative library and progressive community organizing space. He's often the MC for CMC's Thursday night open mic where many of our local poets and writers have given voice to their work. He's also a freelance writer and editor, with emphasis on education, outreach and promotions, academic, and artistic projects.

From one of his latest creative works: "The Darklands may be caught in infrared glimpses framed by ancient shade trees. They glimmer just below the surface of sunset rivers older than time..." So reads in part the back cover of Dancing Ghost's 2016 Production, Postcards from the Darklands, Photos by Jorge Ibáñez, Poems by Jimmy Fishhawk.*

J.N.'s ekphrastic poems in Postcards from the Darklands are beautifully evocative of Jorge's photos, as evidenced in #20:
in wall so worn
by forgotten centuries' winds
that the puddled glass
between the windows' lead
is the ancestor of the ancestor
of the bubbled plate
that was the first pane
placed there,
where the shades still recall
the wartime blackout
even in the claybake
ovenheat of noon,
a ghost of her face
may be seen
to keep watch
on the darkest night
electric light fails
under the ice-weight
of winter
and even the stars howl
with grief
where the spines
of their own illumination
stab them
*J.N. Fishhawk, poet, writer, and agitator, has called the swamplands of Florida home for many years. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals; he's also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Virus, Pt. 1:1 Infest Yer Consciousness (Dreaming God Productions) and Gone (Ghost Dog Press).

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Fees: An Obstacle to Best, Most Diverse Writing

by Mary Bast
A $3 fee might not sound like much, but the average short story might receive around 20 rejections before it's published . . . Reading fees also pose an extra obstacle in the literary community's efforts to be more diverse . . . Fees ensure that people who have disposable income will submit the most . . . ("Should Literary Journals Charge Writers Just to Read Their Work?" Joy Lanzendorfer, The Atlantic, Oct. 25, 2015)
Every year our editorial board reviews the finances of publishing a print journal, and considers the obvious arithmetic of submission fees to offset the cost of prizes, layout, printing (we editors are volunteers). There's more to consider than the obvious, though, when our goal is to publish top quality work from a diverse group of writers and poets.

Any journal of our size is in competition with thousands of other print and online literary magazines for the best work. So it's helped me to draw from my former business--built on writing and internet presence--to think of Bacopa Literary Review as a small, nonprofit business with a vision, goals, and action plans. As with any organization that wants to succeed in its field, our core values and their priorities must be clear: Economy? Service? Excellence?

Of course excellent writing is key, and going into my sixth year as Editor-in-Chief, our team has become more and more clear that "excellence" includes a diversity consistent with worldwide diversity of fine writers--diversity of age (and thus cohort groups--whose styles, issues, and concerns differ decade by decade), of gender identification (not just males and females--an increasingly useless dichotomy), of geographic location, of literary background (from well-published septuagenarians to recently hatched MFAs of all ages, to beginning writers who've never published before).

A close second to excellence in our vision is service, interacting with and congratulating writers and poets by email, in this blog, Facebook, and Twitter; making sure they see within days that their submissions are being reviewed, responding quickly when we know a submission is not quite a fit for a given year's issue, and accepting especially good pieces right away so we don't lose them to another journal. When contributors notify us that they've later published books, we feature them here. Starting with the 2019 issue, we've also invited contributors to send posts about their work in Bacopa, to promote our writers and poets as much as we can.

Economy runs third as a core value for Bacopa--important, but not as important as excellence and service. We've experimented with fees, and though the current team has never charged more than $3 per submission, it is clear that we receive the finest and most diverse writing when we don't charge a fee. We do stay within the budget of a general annual cost estimate, and we're fortunate that our sponsor, Writers Alliance of Gainesville, is willing to foot the average $3000/year (not including the many hours donated by our editorial team in what is mostly a labor of love). If we charged fees we'd have fewer submissions, and thus less work, but we'd also lose some of the best writers and have a much less diverse publication.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

I Don't Want It, But It's Not Junk!

 by Mary Bast

Writers often succumb to this fatal flaw of fiction writing, explaining and telling and summarizing instead of showing action as it's happening. "How Fiction Writers Can Show Emotions in Their Characters in Effective Ways," C.L. Lakin, Live, Write, Thrive.

Our 2020 Fiction Second Prize winner, "Junk," by Siamak Vossoughi, starts out quietly:

About once a week we'd get a call from somebody asking us to haul their junk, and they'd call their junk what anybody with the sense God gave them would call it, which was junk. So I was unprepared when I got a call for some hauling out in Duven and the guy said he had a truckload of stuff but he didn't want to call it junk.
     "It's my parents' stuff," he said. "I don't want it, but it's not junk."
     "Okay, You want us to haul it away?"
     "Yes. But it's not junk . . ."

Then, readers are invited into the ensuing conversation between the speaker, Mike, and his partner in their junk hauling business, Louis, who agrees with the customer that when your parents have died, the things they've left behind are not "junk." What slowly grabs us is how this story shows the action as it's happening, in the conversation between two junk haulers as they consider, first, the customer's potential reaction to their T-shirts with the slogan "Tree Service and Hauling Junk."

     "I'm going to go load the truck," I said.
     I went out back and loaded the truck for the afternoon. We had a tree job over on Greenwood. I thought about all the time I spent designing the shirt. I hadn't half-assed it. It was a good shirt and I liked putting it on in the morning.
     I went back inside.
     "What are  you going to do about the truck?"
     "What about it?"
     "It says We Haul Junk on the side. Because, as I mentioned, that's what we do."
     Louis stared at the side of the truck.
     "He said his mother and father
both died?" . . .

Mike and Louis engage in an almost comic routine as they consider covering the word JUNK on the side of their truck with the word STUFF, Mike kicking all the way with such comments as, "Nobody's going to do this for us when our parents go." 

     . . . I wondered if there was a way I could've told Louis about the job when the guy had first called without mentioning that he didn't want us to call his parents' stuff junk. Who expects a guy to run with it like that?

 Eventually, though, Mike comes around.

     ". . . You win. We have to change the receipts."
     "The receipts say junk on them. If you're going to give him a receipt, you might as well cross out the word junk and write something else there too. . ."
What makes this story a prize winner? Author Vossoughi invites us to observe Mike and Louis grappling with a customer's likely grief and reaction to signs that his parents' belongings might be considered junk, engaging thoughts about their own parents' eventual deaths, without once talking about their feelings. And yet, masterfully, the author brings readers almost to tears with ordinary dialogue between two ordinary guys, in their own way showing compassion for a customer's feelings.

*   *   *

Siamak Vossoughi, a writer living in Seattle, has had stories published in various journals, and his 2015 collection, Better Than War, was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and received a 2014 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. His recent collection, A Sense of the Whole, received the 2019 Orison Fiction Prize, judged by Victor LaValle. From Jane Hu's New York Times review of A Sense of the Whole: "What emerges is the sense that anyone you meet has a story." Click here for Vossoughi's website and follow him on Twitter @siamakvossoughi.

  Read Siamak Vossoughi's prize-winning "Junk" on pages 10-14,
as well as other engaging works of Fiction,
Creative Nonfiction,
Humor, and Short-Short Fiction in Bacopa Literary Review 2020