University of Southern Indiana

RopeWalk Press Authors

RW Authors Friedlander

by Christine Friedlander

Winner of the 2015 RopeWalk Press Fiction Chapbook Prize

“In overlapping and echoing scenes of impressionistic power, Friedlander weaves together moving moments of grief, trust, and responsibility. These beautifully inventive stories strike at once both the head and the heart.”

–Robert Rosenberg, This Is Not Civilization

REPEAT AFTER ME is a ferocious follow-up to AVANT GAUZE that approaches repair with a new sort of care. These two short pieces are mosaics of support and
rescue, of familial love and labor, of public service and private grief. Christine Friedlander is a force who writes with an immediacy and necessity so rarely seen in prose these days, and REPEAT AFTER ME is proof that she’s here to stay.”

–Mark Cugini, I'm Just Happy To Be Here

Christine Friedlander is the author of AVANT GAUZE, a 2016 selection for Magic Helicopter Press's inaugural Ted Hawkins Innovative Poetry Series. She holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and Bucknell University, and her poetry, prose, and intermedia work has appeared in journals such as Tarpaulin Sky, The Felt, Big Lucks, Paper Darts, and Fugue. Friedlander currently resides in New Jersey, where she works as an accessible testing specialist at Bergen Community College and serves as poetry editor for Gigantic Sequins.

RW Authors Raymond

The River. The Truck. The Baby. The Water.
by Raymond Fleischmann

Winner of the 2014 RopeWalk Press Fiction Chapbook Prize

“From the first paragraph, a sentence filled with dread, to the last, more sentences in the service of doom, this story is, without question, a tour de force: breakneck in its pace, a plot born of vanity and self-righteousness and anger and booze, a protagonist as desperate as he is deluded, prose at the moral red line—well, Mr. Fleischmann has left me breathless with admiration. For his command of the tools unique to the ‘willed word,’ to be sure, but also for the high and dangerous art he’s made with them. One can’t leave this story unaffected by the lives he’s typed into being.”

–Lee K. Abbott, All Things, All at Once

“The line separating the ordinary and tragic is paper-thin in Raymond Fleischmann’s riveting The River. The Truck. The Baby. The Water. Screwball and horrifying, by turn, the story matter-of-factly translates the subterranean damage of childhood trauma into bad adult choices that seem both fated and—shockingly, painfully—entirely avoidable. Fleischmann’s deft characterizations disturb and weirdly captivate and, in the end, fully astonish. I can’t wait to read what he writes next.”

–Adrianne Harun, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain

“Raymond Fleischmann’s The River. The Truck. The Water. The Baby. is the haunting, harrowing story of one man’s hopes gone wrong, a startling moral fable of what happens when you confuse vengeance with justice. This story glows electric with violence and grief. A stunning debut from a writer whose work I greatly admire.”

–David James Poissant, The Heaven of Animals

Raymond Fleischmann’s short stories have previously appeared in The Iowa Review, Cimarron Review, Permafrost, River Styx, The Pinch, and Los Angeles Review, among many others. He recently completed a yearlong fellowship at Richard Hugo House in Seattle and has served as a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Fleischmann received his MFA from Ohio State University and now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he’s completing his first novel.

RW Authors SomaCollateral Damage: A Triptych
by Soma Mei Sheng Frazier

Praise for Collateral Damage: A Triptych, Winner of the 2013 Editor’s Fiction Chapbook Prize

"Brilliant is a word usually associated with diamonds therefore this is the appropriate word for Soma Mei Sheng Frazier who writes like a young Toni Morrison: clear, clean yet heart skipping for all the things she is not telling. Crisp. Deliciously enticing as the story unfolds. Soma is a wonderful writer on the rise. Perhaps I should have started this story with the first star of evening, visible to our planet but harking of another shore, lighting our sky. We walk the beach with her. And the tide pulls the diamonds to our hands."

Nikki Giovanni, Oprah "Living Legend," recipient of nearly 100 awards, author of 27 books

"Reading these stories is like stepping into a mine field—there is a sharp sense of danger and quick little explosions of pain and poetry, hurt and healing, on every page. These are war stories, brilliantly lit with insight and compassion."

Molly Giles, author of Rough Translations

"This set of stories beautifully captures the unavoidable ripple effect of violence that war inflicts upon its (distant, unintended, secondary) victims. Ordinary life, and lives, also suffers the after-shock, leaving the living guilty and grief-stricken and hard-pressed to name themselves 'lucky.' A very powerful triptych from a writer to watch."

Antonya Nelson, author of Bound

RW Authors ClodfelterCasualties
by Kirsten Clodfelter

Praise for Casualties, Runner-Up in the 2013 Editor’s Fiction Chapbook Prize

“Casualties" belongs to the tradition of home front stories, and Kirsten Clodfelter, in clear, measured prose, gives a deeply empathetic rendering of a culture pervaded by the shadow of its continual wars.”

Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed With Magellan

“The war comes home in this heart-bruised collection of stories by Kirsten Clodfelter. Bombs go off on phones, gunfire rattles at dinner tables as families try to make sense of and cling to the fathers and brothers and husbands they are losing overseas. This is elegant and powerful work from a young writer to watch.”

Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, The Wilding, Refresh, Refresh

“Kirsten Clodfelter's stories illuminate not war exactly, but the lives around the edges of war, and in so doing, invite readers to shed their various protections and step a little closer, a little closer, until we realize war is always right here, at our door, exhausted by our inattention. Intelligent, idiosyncratic and humane, Casualties beautifully reveals the often canted ways human beings cope with fear and desire, while at the same time negotiating the surrealities (and realities) of contemporary warfare.”

Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

“The four beautifully-written stories in Kirsten Clodfelter’s Casualties give voice to the hidden wounded of our recent conflicts in the Middle East, challenging us to see the world through the eyes of the women left behind: a young wife both yearning for and fearing her estranged husband’s return from Iraq; the Kuwaiti daughter of a veteran of the first Gulf War longing to know the father she has never met; the Palestinian mother who imagines the Israeli mother on the other side of the border fence. These lyrical and empathetic stories trace the distances impossible to traverse by satellite phone, the collateral damage inflicted by separation and the cultural divide. A first-rate debut.”

Margot Singer, author of The Pale of Settlement

“Kirsten Clodfelter’s Casualties is a luminous examination of the personal and cultural impact of war. These stories are harrowing, elegiac accounts of characters doing what they must to make it through, cast in prose that is sensitive and frank and unfailingly beautiful. A moving and important work of fiction.”

Laura van den BergThe Isle of Youth

RW Authors NolanShotgun Style
A Diagram of the Territory of New Orleans

by Delaney Nolan

Praise for Shotgun Style, Winner of the 2012 Editor's Fiction Chapbook Prize

"Delaney Nolan is a wonderfully talented writer—clear precise language and a stunning bright-eyed vision that is all her own. The characters who populate Louisiana Maps: A Diagram of the Territory of New Orleans, are loners, seekers, pilgrims—often as worn and scarred as the post Katrina landscape—the stark reality of their existence shot through with vibrant streaks of hope.

Jill McCorkle,author of Life After Life

"Delaney Nolan's spare, heartbreaking stories are set in the wastelands of New Orleans both before and after Katrina, and it's truly a testament to the power of her talent that something so amazingly beautiful as Louisiana Maps: A Diagram of the Territory of New Orleans could come out of all that misery and devastation.

Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

"There is so much that could be said about the eight stories in Delaney Nolan's Louisiana Maps--there is grit in these stories and there is wildness and wit. There is a man in prison and the woman who loves to make him burn for her and there is a man who burns fire in the deep of the ocean and the woman who falls asleep with his arm beneath her and there is the woman who films people talking about the parts of themselves they are willing to sell, the woman who, like all of us, desperately needs to hear that she is needed. All eight stories are about desire and how so often desire goes unfulfilled. Here you will find beauty, strength, and the raw ache of what it means to live in what remains of New Orleans.

Roxane Gay, author of Ayiti

RW Authors FreemanA Man Worthy of Your Attention
A fully illustrated fiction chapbook story 
by Janet Freeman

Art by Dana Ellyn

Praise for A Man Worthy of Your Attention

"A Man Worthy of Your Attention is a fierce heartache of a short story delivered through the wonderfully cartoonish and moribund images of artist Dana Ellyn.  Here, the tensions of art and story meet to create a precise and beautiful darkness unlike any other."

Jessica Anthony, author of Chopsticks

"A Man Worthy of Your Attention is a fable of lost innocence cleverly told through the evidence of a police procedural. Freeman’s gripping story snakes devastatingly through Ellyn’s darkly beautiful illustrations to ruminate, at last, on the elusive quality of objective truth in the context of criminal violence." 

Erin Sheley, author of George Washington University Law School

"A Man Worthy of Your Attention is absolutely riveting. Freeman’s prose, combined with Ellyn’s illustrations, adds layers of complexity to ideas of sexuality, terror, and truth."   

Ariel Gore, author of Atlas of the Human Heart

RW Authors PoissantLizard Man
by David James Poissant

Praise for Lizard Man, Winner of the 2011 Editor's Fiction Chapbook Prize

"What I admire most about this excellent short story is David James Poissant's refusal to condescend to his characters. They are flawed but fully human, never mere caricatures but men trying to overcome the bad cards life has dealt them."

Ron Rash, author of Serena and Burning Bright

"'What the hell do you do with twelve feet of living, breathing alligator?' Such is the dilemma for the narrator of David James Poissant's 'Lizard Man.' Beneath that question lies the age-old problem of fathers and sons and the wrong turns and missteps that turn love monstrous. 'Lizard Man' is a story of regret and reclamation, written with an expert eye cast on the lives folks manage in the here-and-now and the ones they try their best to reclaim. Poissant is a first-rate storyteller who has an appreciation for the absurd turns of events that press down into all we try to keep buried until we have no choice but to face the people we are when we're alone in the dark. By turns, funny and heartbreaking, this story has teeth and enough bite to grab onto you and not let go."

Lee Martin, author of Break the Skin and The Bright Forever

"David James Poissant's 'Lizard Man' delivers all you could want from a story: searing tensions, the irresistible strangeness of the Floridian landscape, incandescent prose, and characters alight with wisdom and pain, with hope and violence and regret. Throw in an alligator in a kiddie pool and, dear reader, you've got one hell of a story. Poissant is an extraordinary talent, and 'Lizard Man' is nothing short of unforgettable."

Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

"A character in "Lizard Man" has tattoos that, if you look closely, secretly hold another image in the design. David James Poissant's writing has that same effect, the initial and wonderful strangeness giving way, slowly but surely, to something deeper, something difficult, something beautiful. Poissant is a writer who knows us with such clarity that we wonder how he found his way so easily into our hearts and souls."

Kevin Wilson, author of <The Family Fang and Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

"'Lizard Man,' a richly atmospheric story set in the swampland of Florida, explores the legacy of one father's mistakes, and the improbable beauty of his attempts to make things right."

Dani Shapiro, author of Black & White and Family History

"David James Poissant is one of our finest young writers, with a taut and subtle prose style, a deep knowledge of craft, and a heart so vast it encompasses whole worlds. I read his fiction years ago and became a lifelong fan; I promise that you will, too."

Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds

RW Authors WitteCold June
by Francine Witte

Praise for Cold June, Winner of the 2010 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award

“Francine Witte has her own brilliant take on the short short story, now instantly recognizable to me as hers. She seamlessly weaves together the outer life and the inner, events in the world and the actions of her characters, the tenor of the times and the yearnings of individuals. And she does this with stunningly fresh language and a compression that not only feels natural but inevitable. This is a very fine book by a very talented writer indeed.”

Robert Olen Butler, contest judge

Cold June is full of cold heat. Francine Witte's short stories invoke a strange and compelling world. Sentence by sentence each story flows brilliantly and effortlessly toward its own perfect and surprising end—and makes you return to the beginning to discover how you got there. Do not miss these astonishing, luminous rides.”

Pamela Painter, author of Wouldn't You Like to Know

“Francine Witte delights me with her attention to the particulars that make up the lives we pretend to live and the ones we truly live inside our skins. The sudden fictions in Cold June are quirky and playful, but always in touch with the pulsing mysteries of the human heart. They're built from wicked humor, grit, and an affection for the fickle, fragile people we are. These are exquisite stories that wield the power of precise and artful language.”

Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever

Francine Witte grew up in Queens, New York. She earned a BA in English from the University of Vermont, a Masters from SUNY Binghamton and an MFA from Vermont College. She is author of two previous chapbooks: The Wind Twirls Everything, published in 2007 by MuscleHead Press, and First Rain, the first-prize winner of the 2009Pecan Grove Press competition. She lives in New York City and teaches English in the New York City Public School System.

RW Authors FleuryReliquaries of the Lesser Saints

by Amy Fleury

Relics, whether they are remains or objects, carry continuing connections to their sources. Here these relics are more earthy and unsung, reminders that we must die—but also that we must live.

Praise for Reliquaries of the Lesser Saints

“In this rich and aptly named collection, Fleury puts words on what’s left after loss and the emptying out. From a rain-lashed window to the ash at Terezin, her images serve as witnesses, witnesses that speak not only of the 'heart, the once pink / and capacious lungs,' but also of the 'essential thing which is, / in the end, the source of all suffering.' And joy. A lovely and necessary book."

—Alice Friman

“Wherever they tether their lithe narratives—in the museums of Lausanne and Florence, the forests of Colorado, farm auctions, hospital corridors, or lovers’ beds—Amy Fleury’s poems pulse with sinuous music and semantic precision. Reliquaries of the Lesser Saints is poised in its art, electric in its compassion."

—Mihaela Moscaliuc

Amy Fleury’s first collection of poems, Beautiful Trouble, won the 2003 Crab Orchard First Book Award and was published by Southern Illinois University Press. Her poems have appeared in The American Life in PoetryPrairie SchoonerSouthern Poetry ReviewNorth American Review, and The Southeast Review, among others. Fleury directs the MFA program in creative writing at McNeese State University.

RW Authors VinzantMax
by Joshua Vinzant

“Joshua Vinzant was not only one of the sweetest and gentlest men that have known, but a gifted, highly original poet. Max, he ironically calls himself in poems that, like the man, are minimalist, but also given to wild excesses of spirit, and to undiluted candor. That he took his own life is a nearly unbearable sadness, but this beautiful small book sustains his humor, irreverence, and compassion, and affirms his essential joy.”

—Rodney Jones

Joshua Vinzant received his MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2005. He subsequently returned to his hometown of Maryville, Missouri, where he spent his time building structures and contemplating landscapes. He died in 2007, leaving behind his wife, two children, a bass guitar, and these poems. He is deeply missed.

RW Authors BlackCasa Marina
by Candace Black

Although many of the poems in Casa Marina were triggered by actual locations or events or characters, I wasn’t trying to write a memoir.  I was more interested in exploring the balance between what has been lost—places, people, innocence—and what has been gained—knowledge, growth, experience—in that loss.  An unanticipated joy of this sequence was working with the language of the tropics, as lush and evocative as the vegetation.

Praise for Casa Marina, Winner of the 2009 Thomas A. Wilhelmus Award

"Casa Marina evokes the intense and lingering sense of place Robert Heilman once said characterizes Southern writers—or in Candace Black’s case, writers who came of age in the South. Infused in these pages is the voluptuous landscape of the Florida Keys, which, like the native Royal Poinciana, blooms 'brazen as lipstick / nuns forbade us,' its 'slashes of flame / too sultry for the untried mouths of girls...' Though looking back on her youth, she avoids the shallowness of mere nostalgia: Black’s craft and music is downright compelling."

—William Trowbridge

"In this stunning sequence of lush and musical poems unraveling the tangled cultural marl of Key West, Candace Black’s Casa Marina reveals a landscape of prelapsarian beauty inextricably interwoven with a complicated and uneasy political history of multiple occupations. Black’s poems perform a 'risky cha-cha' of tropical vegetation and Caribbean cultures continually on the verge of breaking free from the strict containment of convent school and military base. The conflicted juxtaposition of these worlds creates a 'climate of moist / heat and hidden pockets of light,' in a locale both lovely and seedy.

—Lee Ann Roripaugh

RW Authors JordanGhost Season
by Melanie Jordan

Praise for Ghost Season

"The speaker in Melanie Jordan’s poem 'I Enter The World in Every Nameable Way' says,  'Evolved to a brain / larger than my ancestors’, I do have / the capacity to want what I cannot see.' With this declaration, we are inducted into the nexus of Jordan’s powerful Ghost Season. A space where '[a]bstractions / paste themselves' to the 'mental bulletin board' and poems realign in the interval between lucidity and narrative. With metaphor egging them on, the poems spin from Kepler to Charlie Brown to Berkeley without being beholden to any one of them. In these poems, Jordan works language with the same tenacity a sailor works a lodestone, finding the sweet equilibrium of imagination and honesty." 

—Adrian Matejka

"To say that the poems in Ghost Season feel overdue would, I think, miss the point.  It's true that these poems, and this poet, have waited too long for a wider readership.  But I have no doubt that it is more true that Melanie Jordan comes along at just the right moment: unhurried, thoughtful, and deeply wise.  Attentive to landscape and history and art and memory, the forces which shape us roughly, the poems are always lovely, sometimes astringent.  They bring blood.  They never flinch.  And then they bloom."

—Paul Guest

RW Authors ThomsonCelestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge 
Jeffrey Thomson

In "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins," Jorge Luis Borges describes a mythical Chinese encyclopedia, the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, that divides all plants and animals into fourteen wonderful, fanciful categories as a means to refute the precise and scientific linguistic structure of those, like Wilkins, who had long sought to produce a universal language.  In his new chapbook, Jeffrey Thomson uses the categories of the Celestial Emporium to create a poem sequence that brings Borges's encyclopedia to life, exploring the way metaphor, memory, and desire combine to rewrite and alter the human experience. 

Update, 9/17/07
—Jeffrey Thomson has been chosen (from Maine writers of all genres) as the Maine Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellow for 2008.  His selection was based on his RWP chapbook,Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge.

What they're saying about Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

“The words churn in Jeffrey Thomson’s imaginative poems. The impulse to catalog, to embrace through language, is given free reign in a book that gives life to the fascinating categories of knowledge that come to us from Borges’s ‘The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.’ The sheer appetite of these poems, their intellectual drive and rhythmic insistence, conveys an almost physical sense of the poet’s curiosity, a wonder that deepens, over the course of the book, to a conveyance of his love for the fullness of the natural world.”

—Bob Hicok

“That Jeffrey Thomson’s fabulous and fabulist Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge creates an enchanting world within our own world puts him in the company of Calvino, Borges and Cervantes, but that he also inserts our own world into the fabulous one makes this collection an amazing feat. He has it, that is, both ways. Working from Borges’s idea of an imaginary taxonomy of all plants and animals, each poem introduces us to a new creature that is also a mirror of ourselves. Indeed, the poems are filled with such radical leaps so that we start to ask with him—‘How to count?’ but of course we can’t, for the poems suggest an endless cascade of surprising turns. ‘I could write anything— / a pack of pigs sucking at the blank canvas / of the sow’s belly—and you’d believe it,’ he says at one point, and given the superb control, the authoritative voice and the sheer power of imagination here, we do.”

—Richard Jackson

RW Authors GuenetteA Hush of Something Endless 
Matthew Guenette

If there's a consistent theme in Hush, I would say it's the very poetic tradition of a narrator wringing order from the chaos of desire and loss. My goal with these poems was to generate velocity and construct a voice that is both distracted and amazed by a world of strange, beautiful details that hint at a higher order. I also wanted to create a voice that finds humor in this world, as way of negotiating defeat.

Praise for A Hush of Something Endless

“Matthew Guenette’s poems are simultaneously haunting and thrilling, full of hilarity and daring leaps, of flights of fancy that don’t ever land in the same place. Guenette’s a joker, a trickster, a half-cocked sage whose poems zoom and surge, pulling the reader with them on their slippery dash past reasonable doubts to unreasonable truths. His poems show how mad the heart and mind can be for each other—and how much crazy fervor can be contained between the two.”

—Allison Joseph

A Hush of Something Endless is a vital book—lush diction, imaginative tropes, and at least one perfect lyric about Illinois. If you can't find something to love about Matthew Guenette's poems, you aren't trying hard enough.”

—Austin Hummell

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