Thursday, January 29, 2015

Contributor Spotlight: Mel Bosworth

I enjoy a brisk hike from time to time, a hike that’ll have me sitting in a cozy diner a few hours later with an awesome grilled cheese sandwich in my hands and a plate of greasy French Fries before me. Maybe a strong coffee. Food and drink to replenish my weary body. I don’t know that I’ll ever take a hike tantamount to the one that brings the characters of “This Place of Great Peril” to the summit of the 84th highest mountain in the world. That’s pretty severe. That’s some hiking! An adventure like that requires certain equipment and knowhow. A steely resolve. Perhaps a dash of earthly desperation. The 84th highest mountain in the world, or, to be more accurate, the 84th most prominent peak in the world, is China’s Xuelian Feng, aka Snow Lotus Peak, which is in the neighborhood of twenty-two thousand feet. It’s up there. My brave yet foolish hikers are two lovers I left androgynous because I never could quite see their faces, and given the second person narration it made sense to leave this particular aspect open. All but stripped of their faculties by the time they arrive at the summit, they are lost to the wilderness of high altitude. And from there things tip into another territory. It’s a story of love and loyalty, and about being in a position where you see someone struggling but are unable to help them. It’s about controlling what you can control and leaving the rest to the gods. Lessons such as these are best taught from high peaks, though there is much to learn at sea level, too. All levels, really. I suppose any person who sits long enough in the booth of a diner can eventually know the secrets of the universe, or be reacquainted with them. Which reminds me, could you please pass me that ketchup?


Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight and the poetry chapbook Every Laundromat in the World. He lives in Western Massachusetts. His short story, "This Place of Great Peril" appeared in issue 55 of Hayden's Ferry Review.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Behind the Masthead: HFR Editors' Winter Fashions

Winter is our favorite season in the Sonoran Desert. Get inspired by our editors' super trendy winter fashions. What are your favorite Arizona winter trends?

Class in the front, breeze in the back. Hospital gowns are the desert way to go. - Kyle B., Poetry Editor

"Shoes: Brown boots. Good for scorpion-stomping. Coat: Faux-fur coat borrowed from friend two Halloweens ago. Originally intended for a Mrs. Peacock outfit. Never returned. Hat: UV rays are the enemy." -Dana D., Editor

"I like to think of this coat as my Kate Hudson in Almost Famous coat.  Hardly ever get to wear it here so I've got to improvise." -Chelsea H., Editor

"Florida Chic." -Allegra H., Fiction Editor

"Though many young writers are burdened by obligatory self-discovery, through the act of writing, I find myself most productive when when wearing my replica 'Young William Gass' costume. Sure, the material's itchy, and some might consider the two hours I spend every morning applying makeup a waste of valuable writing time, but when it comes to imitating the greats, there is no substitute for dermal transmutations. Additionally, Gass's chilly demeanor really helps keep me cool in the desert!" -Alex M., International Editor

Friday, January 23, 2015

Contributor Spotlight: Kendra Atleework

In Tim Burton’s film “Corpse Bride,” my favorite movie when I was sixteen, a young man accidentally proposes marriage to a dead woman. After a ceremony in a moonlit winter woods, he leaves his drab Victorian village and enters the land of the dead. In the end, he almost prefers what he finds to the lot of the living.

It was the land of the dead that I wanted to inhabit when I was sixteen. While the film’s living characters move through a world that is muted and hostile, the dead are vibrant. They wear bright clothes over pearly bones. The corpse bride herself is beautiful.

The same year I watched “Corpse Bride” again and again, my mother died from a rare autoimmune disease. During her illness I retreated, and I took my classmate Elizabeth with me, whose father was circling the drain in his own way. Since we couldn’t look directly at our lives, Elizabeth and I looked only at each other. We lived in our heads, in a world where decay became romantic. We painted our eyes black and worshipped bands like My Chemical Romance, who appeared in photo shoots dressed beautifully for a funeral.

I knew, even when I was sixteen, that my mother was not really going some place bright. I didn’t know where she was going. I still don’t. In real life, I have to contend with her absence on adult terms. I pass milestones, grow years and years older, without her. But “Charade” suspends time so that Elizabeth and I are forever in our teenage bedrooms, where candles throw shadows on black curtains. The land of the dead is a real place with music and bright lights and a lively saloon, and it exists just a few stories below the surface of the earth we walk.
We didn’t stay forever. The refuge of our shared world allowed us to eventually look for joy in the land of the living. Since I’ve written “Charade,” Elizabeth in the flesh has superseded the fate of her character self, and both of our lives have become rich in ways we couldn’t have imagined from the cold halls of our high school. I’m glad this essay has preserved a portrait of the friendship that became a method of carrying on. Though we don’t live there anymore, it’s comforting to know that, in some dimension, those dark bedrooms still exist.


Kendra Atleework’s essay “Charade” won the AWP Intro Journals Award. Her nonfiction also appears in The Pinch Journal and The Morning News. Currently she is an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota, where she is writing a book of creative nonfiction about California landscape, climate, and culture.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Almost Famous Women
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Scribner, 2015
Biographical Fiction

Review by Debrah Lechner.

Almost Famous Women, as the title promises, delivers entertaining, touching, and very absorbing short stories based on the lives of women who in their time found a marginal fame, were written about, talked about, and seen, but then were almost lost to history, almost forgotten, and almost became invisible.

This is a fate most of us will share, to one degree or another, sooner or later, and it’s the root of what make these stories powerful. By restoring the lives of these extraordinary, if not immortal, women, Bergman invokes meaning into all our lives.

The breadth of examination into the meaning of women’s lives is striking. The book begins with the story “The Pretty, Grown-Together Children,” the story of conjoined twins. Surely there could never be a more intimate relationship than this─sharing a single body with another person for the entire length of existence. Bergman takes her time exploring what it means to be a woman who is bound to another in such a circumstance, a circumstance which defines her world. What is left of self and world when these two women are literally separated by death is the question that haunts the end of this story.

Toward the end of Almost Famous Women, there is a little gem of a short story, “The Internees,” only five spare paragraphs, about the women found in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. A section of this camp became the “women’s camp,” and Anne Frank was one of the women who died there shortly before the camp was liberated. The story is told in the voice of the newly liberated women, who had been denied both their individuality and their humanity.

There was a box of expired lipstick that came off the truck. The British soldiers opened the box and threw tubes of lipstick at the crowd, and we wanted it─we were surprised at how badly we wanted it… We had pink wax on our rotten teeth. We were human again. We were women.

Yes, there is a great humor in these stories, as well, and inspiration, and a great deal to simply engage and satisfy curiosity. But the great accomplishment of this collection, and one not to be missed, is in the insistence that every life is an historic event.

Megan Mayhew Bergman is also the author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, which was one of Huffington’s Post’s Best Books of 2012. She writes a sustainability column for Solon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

from The Last Book: THE DOCK: January 2015

Happy New Year! Enjoy our poem of the month, a lovely piece by Valerie Hsiung.

HFR: Lastly, this poem feels very true to human nature—"How to talk to ourselves again/ When I was a little immolating plant/ And everything could hurt/ It still can." The fragility is so evident in this excerpt and yet there is reassurance. Can you speak about how this theme developed?

VH: This poem was written during a time when I was trying to figure out how to write poetry again, when the language of poetry was becoming more and more practical and tangible to me. I went on a reading tour in 2013 for my first two books (published on the exact same October day), and at some point, started writing some bits of what I envisioned to be a book-length poem. Specifically, I was fixated on a book-length poem filled with lines from letters and names of people I knew or of people that mattered to me. I ultimately strayed in that I wrote several self-contained poems with the same title, so they were interconnected but complete on their own. They were unified by a human voice that was drastically different from anything I had ever written before or really even been comfortable writing—a voice that uttered words without any symbolism despite the weight of it all, words that were to mean only and truly what they said. It was a voice that was uninhibited by the human-speaking world, and that said things as the poetry I had written myself into never says things: as conveyance and deed, as plainly and patently as possible, as oath. The worst thing you could ever imagine happening as told by a child once upon a time. The end. People who die. You give me life then leave. People are dead. Everyone’s an artist. I don’t want to make you sad anymore. I can make you happy. Everyone is alive always. Let me. Let you. Make something whole. With words. After. I thought. With poems. It couldn’t. Mean what you say. Because. The letters. The names. The deaths. The lines from failed plays we believe in everyone is alive always. 


from The Last Book
Valerie Hsiung

Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears aching as Lorine said.

But did they were of course of different consistency.

Once in summer camp in the summers of her mostly broken the other witches

accused her such a slippery mouth such a slippery mouth with every. Towards the

end the blooming girls all ran naked and she an unknown lit rose had undressed in

front of the interior witches first without envy without crime and some learned to

love her but others never forgave her.

Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears. One is a man in the hospice I work at

in Harlem. I love having to commute 90 minutes to work and usually literally

pretend on the way there I’m never gonna get to work so I can get to do something

else anything at all with this sick mind that hopefully doesn’t have anything to do

with me but ultimately does and so fail. I do feel bad because I care about the man

in the hospice, I do, and he has a name, but I’m not going to say his name just now,

someone else will take care of him just as well. Is cynicism a symptom of


Today I cleaned out two dying creatures ears. Enjoyed it? The other always is our

dog who is known for her ear infections. She is not yours. She is ours. She is not

ours. She is theirs. She is not theirs. No one believes you when you’re having your

ears cleaned out very systematically very casually systemic.

Know what the grotesque is. Found a rather useful and wistful cure in it.

Think it will make you ache less. Temporarily. Most cures are and are.

Find every package material think it into waste collection material.


Valerie Hsiung’s debut books of poetry–incantation inarticulate and under your face–were both published in 2013 by O Balthazar Press. Latest and notable poetry and writing can be found or is forthcoming in print and digital with American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly,Moonshot, New Delta Review, the PEN Poetry Series, RealPoetik, VOLT and elsewhere. Her poetry books have been honored as winner of the 2012 Frances Mason Harris Prize and as finalist for the 2015 Fence Press Ottoline Book Prize. A child of the Bluegrass hills of Cincinnati and the Mojave desert of Las Vegas, she is now based out of New York.