Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Father’s Day, from Copper Canyon in Fall 2019, as well as Why Poetry, a book of prose. He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. From 2016-7 he held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for The New York Times Magazine. He teaches in the MFA and English Department at Saint Mary’s College of California.

***

Alina Stefanescu: To parent a human is to encounter frailty in its most intimate silences. It asks us to kneel, to remember the world from a child’s perspective and imagine it anew. To glimpse the hierarchies of status, lifestyle, belongings we’ve constructed from a position of powerlessness, and imagine something outside those constructions.

I think you use the word—imagine—more than once, with various resonances. And I’m struck by the vulnerability of the first-person voice, the father bent close to the ground, trying to see the world from his child’s perspective, trying to find words for the terrain by touching it. The challenge of co-existing as father (and son) in a world administered by adults feels like a theme. As does the darkness one can imagine.

This book just feels so different from your previous books. Granted, your engagement of line break, and the continuous pressure you bring to bear on the phrase, the adverb, the fragment, is similar and Zapruder-like, but the tone of uncertainty, the loss of time, the alternating wonder and terror—all these things just amplify and echo and build a tremendous bonfire inside Father’s Day that I couldn’t stop reading. But let’s begin where you begin—with a “Poem For Doom” that feels like an ushering-into the collection itself. Why did you choose this as the first poem? And what does it say about us (or the world) when doom’s touch is almost a tenderness?

Matthew Zapruder: I wrote this poem pretty early in the process of making this book, in early 2015. It enacts something I write about in the afterword to Father’s Day, a powerful sense of oncoming disaster connected to an inexorable disruption in our civic society, as well as to the terrifying acceleration of the climate emergency. These things predated the 2016 election, which felt in retrospect as much like a dark revelation as itself a cause. In the afterword I quote Shelley, who compared poets to mirrors, in which are reflected “gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present.” The point is that poets are more like instruments for truths to be made manifest (through the poems), which is how it felt to me to go back and look at the poems I wrote before the end of 2016.

Wonder and terror pretty much constantly coexist for me. This was only exacerbated by fatherhood, which turned out (as it does for everyone) to have its own personal concomitant joys and disasters.

“Death is life’s high meed,” Keats wrote. I am in deep sympathy with him, and Lorca, who wanted to sleep the sleep of the apples but can’t stop thinking about a child cutting open his own heart at sea. Of course there’s something solemn and noble about all that, but also something deeply funny about it too, how small we are and how little control we have over our lives. There are a couple of moments in “Poem for Doom” that feel, if not funny, then at least a little bit mordantly separated from the grandiosity of all this mortal thinking. That was important to me in this book too, which is why this felt like a good first poem for the book.

AS: I love that you described poets as “instruments for truths to be made manifest,” and I wonder if the difference between being an instrument and being a prophet when it comes to poetry is related to the tension between what we permit in the poem and what we expect to write.

What I mean is: certain words thicken through revisitation in these poems, and ‘dread’ is one of them. The dread is contemporary (and often related to climate change), but it’s also existential, a dread that reminds me of Eastern European and Russian poets under communism, scavenging the past for a language to describe the living, facing the paradox of hope in a time of mechanized helplessness. Your respect for this dread is kinning somehow.

In the title poem, we see the fathers “waiting with dread for father’s day.” I want to take a minute with a favorite poem, “My Life,” and the “playground dread” as the father watches the son:

he thinks 
in rhyme,
the truest friend
to no one yet
he is my 
favorite word,
remembrancer

“Remembrancer.” It’s impossible to describe the impact of this poem for a fellow parent of a child who does not fit inside the neurotypical boxes. A decade disappeared. I felt, again, the simultaneous awe, terror, and love for my son in those early days of observation—watching him engage (and reveal) the world. The slow estrangement from other mothers whose kids did the usual things, and my son in the borderlands of his persistent fascinations, his rhymes and neologisms, the obsessiveness that the poet in me found admirable as the mother kept glancing over her shoulder, wondering why he didn’t seem to care what other kids were thinking—and is this what friendship means, the tendency to be self-conscious and stymied by the appraisal of others? And why can he spend an hour turning and returning a leaf?

And the introduction of a new “us,” the narrowed Us of a family that can’t be protected in the old ways of cowboy westerns or bear hunts. The poet drawing boundaries inside language to make space for a child—the changing shape of fatherhood, the way in which the language, itself, is a threat to well-being. The way our culture defines ability, progress, success, and life is challenged by these poems. Tell me about your dread—its literary influences, its worries. And the Us. And the particular tension of a father-poet’s dual roles—to observe the child and to help the child thrive in a competitive, status-drive country.

MZ: You describe it all very well. I wrote that poem as part of a daily writing practice of exchange with my friend Matt Rohrer. During the summer of 2018, we started just writing each other poems via email to amuse each other, sometimes parodies or deliberately exaggerated jokes, to try to make each other laugh. But it quickly got a lot more serious. I think the space of writing one of my closest friends, and thinking that these were private poems, allowed me to go to some very difficult places. I always try to tell the truth in my poems, but I was able to do so in a new way in the poems in this book.

Oh, dread. As I said above, there was something about my dread and the dread of so many of my fellow Gen X poets and writers that felt prophetic. For a long time we had the sense the way we were living was unsustainable, and our time definitely felt borrowed from some terrifying future. Mirrors to the future, drinking IPAs, shooting pool with David Berman and J Mascis in the WW II Veterans Club. No fathers were going to sort it out for us (mine died of a brain tumor in 2006). We are the sons of no one, sang the greatest songwriter of our generation, Paul Westerberg. I became a student of Russian literature because I was drawn to the almost comically overt dread of Dostoevsky, and the more subtle fated dread of Tolstoy, whose novels often resemble the first part of Fanny and Alexander, in which the eponymous children lead an idyllic life that collapses after the death of their father and remarriage of their mother to an abusive bishop. No writer is more full of incipient dread than Chekhov. The Cherry Orchard is practically intolerable.

In 2016, when the election happened, and then right after that we received the news that our parenting experience was going to be much different from what we had expected, not to mention different from everyone we knew, I felt the dread become concrete. It manifested in my self as an actual, malevolent force, and became paralyzing. It required me to learn to be better, to begin to deal with all the bullshit I had been told and believed, to begin to really see the people around me, and myself, as human beings. Audre Lorde writes in “Poetry is not a Luxury,” “I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears.” I’ve only just begun to see.

I felt sure sense of dread was not particular to my experience. As I wrote in the afterword to the book, I’m not personally interested in writing memoir, which at its best seems to tell a story that people can both be interested in and also find a connection to emotionally. I want a different method of locating commonalities and communion. Poetry is much more interested in the symbol, the archetype, the image, the metaphor, in search of the sudden crossing over and elemental connection between poet and reader, through impossibilities of time and space and difference.

It took me some time to return my own personal dread to its status as one of many modalities of feeling, along with hope, enjoyment, pleasure, play, diligence, and the absurd disproportionate intensity of focus essential for making any real art. It’s still a struggle. It’s not like the world is currently beaming the message to relax.

I’m reading a great biography of Lorca right now, A Dream of Life, by Leslie Stainton. Lorca was full of all these neurotic, dramatic, childish fears, that often seemed ridiculous to his friends. It turned out that he lived in a terrifying time, when the Spanish Republic disintegrated into fascism. Reading about that time period, right before he was killed, is pretty scary, because it really isn’t that hard to imagine things going in that direction here.

And about remembrancer…that is a word that appears in the masterful Section 6 of “Song of Myself,” when the poet is answering the child who asked “what is the grass?”

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may
         see and remark, and say Whose? 

It means souvenir, but I think the implication is also that of sentience, an organic something that remembers. It really is my favorite word.

AS: A beautiful one. I love how time blurs in these poems—the poet relives his experience as son while moving into the role of father. No sections to separate the poems. No chronological ordering.

The noun father is ever-present, as both relationship and role, but also a history, a weight. The presence of the father also feels like a form of absence at times, a silence the poet presses against with such force that one imagines a closed door, a keyhole, a missing inheritance, the lack of something to hand along to a son.

what is the word
to be a father
equipped

This reckoning with fathering as an action ripples outward to include citizenship, activism, voting, rising above the “privilege of despair” [I think those are your words?]. The title poem touches “the children sleeping / alone in some / detention center” and returns to them in “Our Custody”:

We listened to the earth
say nothing, and knew
everything.
The earth a grave
we throw words into.

That broad, inclusive “we” in this case speaks of the two children who died in immigrant detention centers. I want to know more about it. About what “custody” means in the digital age, and how this connects to late humanism. Or inheritance and legacy at a time of climate change. It reminds me of something you wrote in Why Poetry, namely: “It’s difficult, especially in our culture, to choose to be usefully useless.”

MZ: Throughout the book, as in my life, I am thinking about privilege…the privilege of simply having time to imagine, of having the space to consider different possibilities. And what to do with that privilege, other than lament the colossal unfairness that everyone doesn’t have it. I have become especially conscious of that privilege as I navigate complicated and expensive situations to do what is best for my kid, and think about so many other parents who cannot do what our family can.

I work hard and am very busy, but I also am able to make time to write and think. Because of that privilege, I feel guilt and shame and obligation. Instead of wallowing in those feelings, I try to build things that will be useful, but not in the way that our society generally defines that word. I want to make structures where I can think freely, celebrate and mourn, and then leave them for others.

I wrote “Our Custody” after I saw a press conference with someone in the current administration (I don’t think it was the President, but I can’t remember, I think I blocked it out) standing under an umbrella in the rain, bragging that only two children had died in 2018 in their “custody.” First of all, this “only” is surely a horrendous lie. And it is obviously unfathomable that someone would say something like that without covering themselves in ashes and permanently going away to the desert to repent. Every time I heard about those children in those immigration detention centers, I imagined those kids who are different in some way, how their vulnerability without their parents would be even more extreme even than the neurotypical children. Every time I thought about that, I would feel physically ill.

I had been working on yet another poem for a while about my son, and suddenly I realized the reason it wasn’t happening was because it wasn’t really about him at all, but about my impossible desire, doomed to failure, to find a way to protect not just my kid, but all those children.

AS: “It’s as dark as I can imagine”—I love how that line has two faces. And the way dreaming (and dreams) return in these poems as a bulwark against despair. And the tingling moments, the ones kinned to reading Adam Zagajewski’s “Try To Praise the Mutilated World” for the first time, realizing there were other ways to say life is still worth writing.

While challenging the myths and heritage of traditional fatherhood, it seems like these poems also challenge something bigger, namely, the American dream. The pressure you put on the word ‘choice’—”all the choices / we are together not making” and “so many millions / of choices / brought us”—has another face, one in tension with the meritocratic promise of success. We assume that dignity comes from competition, consuming, winning, but does it? I mean: we have choices about clothes, hair color, movies, leisure, but we lack a way to opt-out of the success hierarchies and the way we’ve been socialized to understand power.

I think of your son—and mine—and the millions of humans whose very being and selfhood interrogates our notions of meritocracy. Remember when the worst thing a Gen-xer could do was “sell out”? I’m not sure selling-out is technically possible in a world where so much of our selfhood is for sale. What do we measure ourselves against? What is dignity in a world of narrowing “normal” and competing identity claims? And how has your sense of why poetry matters changed since writing Why Poetry?

MZ: Yes, you say it so well. There is hardly anything that makes a beneficiary of the system suddenly reevaluate the American so-called meritocracy more than having a neurodivergent child.

As far as my sense of why poetry matters, I’m not sure it has changed that much since 2016, except for me to feel ever more sure of one the main contentions of the book: that writing and reading it helps push back against what Wallace Stevens calls “the pressure of the real.” This is both a matter of personal survival, and also public necessity. I wrote about this in an essay I appended to Why Poetry after the election, and what I said in it has turned out to continue to be resonant for me.

Like so many others, I have been thinking a lot about our ever worsening, seemingly intractable national divide. Watching the impeachment trial in the Senate has been devastating.

Yet, as angry as I am, one of the things that also bothers me about this political moment is that so much energy is poured into saying, over and over, how terrible the Republican party is, how could anyone vote for them, etc. What’s the matter with Kansas, with white people in the midwest, and so on. Of course I completely agree, there is something deeply the matter, it’s a nightmare of self-delusion and self-destruction. But I also think that there is something deeply hypocritical and selfish in the unstated presumption I see in my own cultural community that all the sacrifices, economic and cultural, have to be made by others. So we’ll drive a Prius and pay a little more in taxes, but what are we really giving up? Do white, educated, rich elites have any actual skin in the game? Until we do, it’s going to feel like an economic and culture war where we expect total capitulation, and will keep opening the door to monsters like Tucker Carlson to monetize impotent white anger. I’m not sure what to do to solve this, policy-wise, but in my poems I try to go to that place again and again, probably because it pains and confuses me.

And oh, how I miss those Gen X days when we worried about selling out to the Man. Of course it was all absurd and we were implicated from our very first breath if not before but wasn’t there something at least in the effort to maintain a distance, if only a sentimental one, between one’s self and the machine of commerce? I think of a movie like Reality Bites which could never be made nowadays. While I was writing this book, on Twitter I saw a post by Kaveh Akbar asking people to say what delighted them about their poems. I was struck by how perfectly this seemed to articulate a generational divide between millennial and Gen Xers. There’s a poem in the book, “Generation X,” that responds (in a loving way) to that remark by Kaveh, and goes off into a whole Gen X whirlpool. The final lines of the poem pretty much sum up an outdated Paul Westerbergian view of culture:

my great ambition has
always been to be 

a loser with pointless integrity
that just serves the man
and with the fatal certainty 

of the most useless
letter in the alphabet I know
to say who cares we’ve got 

Kim Gordon and Deal
and these cigarettes
will just kill someone else 

and there’s always a job
for people who sort of
studied the Quadrivium 

and at least when we are
kissing their asses
we know it’s wrong so 

lovingly not forgiving
ourselves for hating ourselves
is the only solution

AS: You summed up so much for me right in these words…and that gorgeous last stanza. Self-hatred is paralyzing as both poetic practice as well as dogma, and I can’t help wondering about its relation to ideals of purity, whether gendered, sexual, ethnic, religious… Who could have imagined the rise in purity nationalisms back in the ‘90s? Who could have predicted ethnic and racial purity would be a successful electoral platform in the present? It brings to mind a few lines from the marvelous and hilarious poem, “The Poetry Reading”:

We are all dying into
the afterlife of knowing
exactly what is important to say.

And maybe that’s the question—did we, as poets, fail somehow? Given that mic, given our platforms, how can we determine what’s important to say at a time when not saying things is costly?

MZ: Yeah, I don’t recommend self-hatred, as naturally as it might come. At that point in the poem I was just so fully inhabiting my not-so-ex-Gen-X self that I just decided to follow that logic as far as it goes. Sometimes some of us just have to acknowledge that if we are going to be honest, we are completely backed into a cul-de-sac of implicated shame. That doesn’t absolve us from doing something about it, but it’s salutary to admit it every now and again.

I hear those lines you quoted above from “The Poetry Reading” partially as aesthetic commentary, a frustrated acknowledgement of a current dominant mode of art. I’m not sure I would say that poets have failed. For better and worse, we have been forced by horrifying and terrifying circumstance into feeling as if the only things that “matter” and are “worth writing about” have to do with generally agreed upon issues of importance. Of course we feel that way: just look at the world.

I think often of this quote from Merwin, who writes about writing during exigent circumstances:

Poets have been known to be smug about their fine uselessness, but the Vietnam War led many poets of my generation to try to use poetry to make something stop happening. We will never know whether all that we wrote shortened that nightmare by one hour, saved a single life or the leaves on one tree, but it seemed unthinkable to many of us not to make the attempt and not to use whatever talent we had in order to do it. In the process we produced a great many bad poems, but our opposition to that horror and degradation was more than an intellectual formulation, and sometimes it tapped depths of bewilderment, grief, rage, admiration, that took us by surprise. Occasionally it called forth writings that may be poems after all.

I could now make a short speech about how important it is, particularly in poetry, to preserve language; to keep a free space for thinking; to respect and honor the word and its meanings against a nihilistic relativism; and to preserve only things that have even the slightest chance to get us out of this mess: compassion, a sense of commonality with others, a deep love of the natural world and even the inanimate, a basic freedom to think and imagine a better world. I believe all that, and also am sure it is not going to be enough.

It’s perfectly understandable to dissolve into some frustration and despair even a little self-pity now and again. But it is also the obligation of those of us who have had advantages all along to participate in figuring out what to do about this mess we find ourselves in, and, as I say elsewhere in the book (quoting Ginsberg) to put whatever is queer in our shoulders to the wheel. And also to give ourselves permission to be as anarchic and free as necessary. Who else is left to give the finger to the Crystal Palace?

AS: Because you’ve said everything—and because the poems say the rest‚I want to end with eternal presence of poets in your poetry. Many poems in this collection are conversant with poets, living and dead, stranger and friend. The “Poem For” poems are titular in conversing with Ann Hood, Tomaz Salamun, Coleridge, Noguchi, Eluard, Buson, and Merwin. The “Poem For Sandra” is a little trickier, though its hope and vibrance sounds like it could be Sandra Simonds? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Poets pop up again and again, as in “Unpacking My Books,” where poets converse across library shelves after a move. I love the casual intimacy of this poem—how Celan speaks to Corso, and Pessoa to Pound, in your own poems, which is to say: your writing. Which is to say: your life.

MZ: Sadly, during the writing of this book, two of my poetry teachers died: Tomaz Salamun and James Tate. I studied with Jim, as well as Agha Shahid Ali (gone far too early too) and Dara Wier at UMass Amherst. I never studied with Tomaz, but reading his poems and becoming his friend was formative for me, as it was for many American poets of my generation. Losing Jim and Tomaz were huge blows. It wasn’t like losing my father of course, but it definitely echoed. I felt the need to be explicit about my thoughts about them in several poems in the book. They became two more of the poets on the shelf to whom I have always looked for friends and guides, and also at times address explicitly.

Another reason for the overt presence of so many poets and writers in the book is because I got very interested in the idea of including literary criticism or at least aesthetic commentary into the poems. I think about those kinds of things all the time, so it makes sense that ideas about poetry and art that I am trying to work my way through would be in the poems. It seems I can no longer remember the rules about what you are and are not supposed to include in poems, not that I ever knew them. Maybe that’s just what getting more experienced as a poet is about: being able to include more and more in the poems, without having them break down or become prose.

I just naturally include my friends in my poems by first name alone. I’m sure I got that from my beloved Frank O’Hara and the rest of the New York School and their heirs. I like the way the intimate becomes public, and vice versa. If I do it and for some reason it is confusing, I will take it out, or include the last name, but usually it’s not a problem. I’m not sure it really matters in that poem if you know it is Sandra Simonds, which yes, it is (I edited a book by her during the time I was writing this book, Orlando, so we were in touch a lot). I think in that poem it’s clear what this person cares about, which is not really the main thing that matters, even though the poem is “for” her. I do the same with Dottie Lasky and Bianca Stone in a different poem, and I’m elsewhere. Sometimes it feels good to just mention my friends by first name, like they are legends, which for me they are.

AS: This ongoing conversation with poets across time and place is like an antivenom for dread; it is both hobbled and hinged by Hope. Like the lover addressing the beloved, which is: poetry. Tell me about the conversation. And now that you’ve poemed fatherhood, marriage, and Roseanne Barr, what part of life is left out?

MZ: I never thought of it that way, but you are absolutely right. Yes, talking to poets is an antivenom for dread. I need to keep taking it on a daily basis, if not more often.

I am so very lucky to have my own great family (both of choice and given), and friends IRL. But even with a great partner, being a parent can be kind of lonely, as you know, and my private reading and writing life help immensely. Reading and writing about what I am reading, and thus being in a constant dialogue with it and state of learning in relation to it, is one of the great pleasures of my life. It would be strange if it weren’t a big part of what’s in the poems. I think it’s always been that way for me, from the beginning of trying to write poetry. I never thought not to include what I was reading, and how I was writing, in the poems. Those seemed like human acts as worthy of inclusion in poems as any other. But in this book it’s even more present, probably because it feels under threat, in various ways in our culture, and also personally, given the stresses and preoccupations of my life.

I have my own private life as a writer and reader, but I also text and email all the time with my best writing friends. My inbox is like the best writers conference ever, especially since I can be alone instantly for as long as I like and then return anytime. We talk about what we are reading and working on, along with many other things. I am so lucky in that way. I think of my books in the same way, as part of that ongoing, always available engagement with poets I never could have met. I can’t imagine living any other way.

As for what is left out of the poems…so much still. So much to be read, experienced, thought about, discussed, reconsidered. More people to meet and books to be read, ones that haven’t been written. Writing poems teaches me how to be better than I would otherwise be, and there is so much work still to do, almost everything in fact. Almost everything remains.

 

FATHER’S DAY

yesterday we walked
down to the park
the worn one
our dear city
tries to maintain
next to the library
a flash of terror
my kid ran through
people playing soccer
to the swings
I talked to some dads
nice business guys
with the usual
deep sorrow wells
I recognize
from the mirror
their eyes were wild
we’re all waiting
with dread
for father’s day
we don’t deserve
a little brunch
followed by
a sleepy blow job
we all know
merely to survive
this totally
survivable life
is not enough
what good will it do
we must not think
this is some dream
the children sleeping
alone in some
detention center
don’t need
our brilliant sincerity
it’s not enough
to give some money
make some calls
they are not ours
but they are
we are the first
new fathers
ours failed
where we cannot
stop waiting
there are no others

 

THE POETRY READING

At the poetry reading I am listening
to the endless introduction.
The young poet waits
for a cloud of applause
through which he will go
to his doom. But I am starting
to know it will never end,
it will go on for years, then
at last I will die. Then
at my reading in Hell
this same one in the black
eyeglasses with his zombie
theories will once again appear.
He will talk and it will never end
and then it will and I will
rise to stand before a dark
room full of baseball caps,
some even red, all turned
down toward lit phones.
I will look down at my papers
and open my mouth
to discover my voice all along
had the hint of plangent
mall jazz punctuated
by occasional appropriated
working class pathos.
And together in the great
posthumous wooden hall
full of breathable poetic history
where so many others
with names we cannot forget
have read to the adoring,
together we shall with the help
of my poems reach at last
the inescapable conclusion
that poetry truly makes
nothing that is not already
sad happen, its time
that never came is over,
and no one who cares
even a little about the world
and its denizens can
justify whatever energy
writing it releases into
the already burning air.
We are all dying into
the afterlife of knowing
exactly what is important to say.
When this moment comes
I will be reading a poem
in which father was drunk,
reeking in the lamp
stolen from the sort of
fancy hotel I pretend
without a wince not to love.
Then in the poem jute orchids
and similes for darkness
shall manifest and dissolve
into proper names asleep
in the creepy presumption
of intimacy without compassion.
Painfully hilarious in its sad
failure this poem for an instant
in its absence of all holy matters
reminds me how once
in a green journal I wrote
along with the truth
of my love for R
which still remains
the promise I will not
whatever comes forget
to remember what it was like
to be thirteen. And then
I forgot. The audience
gasps at the first actual
thought. The claims
for poetry are too
extravagant and not
enough, poems don’t belong
anywhere, and no matter
with what ardor we say
the rain is the rain N
and C will go on alone,
their tender love I watched
fiercely blossom
in my community has shattered
and will be buried like a crimson
Etruscan vase fringed
with the most gorgeous black.
And now each stanza
in the crazed mirror
of the obsolete lyric
will reflect a different era
in what I am forced to call my life.
The first will describe
the years I was too smart
to write anything,
when the productive cruelty
of my parents forged me
into the applicant. Then
the decade I played too many
and not enough notes.
The month in the brownstone
with the widow and her
desperate suits that hung
on my body I took fatherless
to the matinee. I got married
and had a child, so the hidden
subject of money would
no longer cease
in the cognizant shadows
to lurk. The poem will end
with the days
of the doomed nozzle
and other unmentionable
devices that saved
and therefore condemned us.
And then the appearance
of the Omega. And every time
a black sun gets mentioned
another demon sobs.
Just one more short lyric
and then we can go
drink our goblets of blood.
This one is called The Crooked Hotel,
it’s about a vacation
where all the truths were traced
back to their original sorrows.
It ended in a cloistered
nostalgia for the present
she and I called ours, and our
mild happy tears coursed
down and watered
the garden we walked
until the end of our days
that came too soon.

***

Alina Stefanescu
Alina Stefanescu

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Prize and was published in May 2018. She serves as Co-Director of PEN America's Birmingham Chapter and is working on two poetry collections about life in "the South." More at www.alinastefanescuwriter.com.

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