Current Statistics…

Some statistics on our current reading period that I’m excited about! Emerge Literary Journal is an open, loving journal that has received 249 poetry submissions since December 1st to date and 97 prose submissions since December 1st to date. That’s a total of 346 submissions over the course of nearly 4 months! Stephen Byrne and I have been very busy. Now here’s the nitty gritty:

Of the 249 poetry submissions, we accepted 115, declined 105, 16 withdrawn due to prior acceptance, and there are 13 in progress. Of the 97 prose submissions, 46 were accepted, 48 declined, 3 withdrawn due to prior acceptance and 2 in progress. Our acceptance ratio is slightly under 50%. Now, that is a bit inflated because a good percentage of those acceptances will be published online only until August 1st.

But, I must say the Summer 2013 and Fall 2013 issues are chock full of exciting things from new writers! Exactly what we want in our journal! Each of the new issues will be prose heavy, as I made the decision to accept more prose than I originally set out to because I couldn’t help myself.

So, if you’ve never submitted to us, the odds of acceptance are higher, and submissions close in less than 4 days until August 1st everyone, so hurry up and get yours in. I will be catching up on all open submissions this weekend!

Running at Night By Contributor Ned Randle, A Review

One of the things I like best, as both a reader and writer of poetry, is poetry that takes off from the imagination, poems that lead the reader into imaginary scenes or situations, which is why this collection appealed to me as soon as I saw the title, and there’s nothing arbitrary about Ned Randle’s title, Running at Night. This is a courageous book of witnessing. It takes the reader through dark paths on fast foot. The poems are written with a sure hand, the images right, the word choice sharp, the line breaks masterful, as in this passage of “Misplacedˮ:


There are times when we misplace our hearts—

misplace, not lose like one might lose

his head in love or lust or anger.

Misplace—carelessly resting it in a place

it should not have been set

and then forgetting it like an empty cup

or pair of worn shoes until the emptiness inside the

forsaken heart aches, like the cup aches for the heat

of the coffee and the shoe for the warmth of

the friendly foot….


In it the boundaries between past, present, and future are permeable, constantly shifting, as in “Portrait of Rain in Septemberˮ:


Now within the faded fields

hardened yellow corn persists;

the long shirttail of summer

is tucked into the lap of fall.

Skeleton echoes of the past

picnics rattle in the hall

of thought and bring again the warmth

of shifting sun onto shoulders,

onto squinted eye; contrast

with the gleam of dampened windows;

your flowers are now soon asleep,

their dream of spring as vivid as

freshly painted falling rain.


These poems are mysterious and beautiful. It is a place where longing and resignation are mingled in poems like “Reply to the Invitation to Huntˮ:


I stare at you as you sit by the fire

reading your book through polished eyeglasses;

I am warm with whiskey and freshly cooked eggs,

girding to walk through the cold

morning to hunt the heavy fleshed mystery.

You see the words, you read the words, the words

are forgotten; I know, I have quizzed

you in your sleep. I kill the deer, I skin

the deer, the meat is eaten; it puts fiber

in my limbs. Where are your sonnets?

The poem has not yet been born with

the strength of a ten point buck.  


It’s hard to pull off a collection of poems with so many shifts in tone, but Randle succeeds because the scenarios are so compelling, and because his language and images and references are so rich. The transformation of the commonplace—this phrase came to me repeatedly as I read this collection. Randle examines our relationship to that which is around us, investigating its solidity and strength and our personal reactions to it. In many of these poems, the speaker is trying to hold onto time and space, yet time and space are essentially unreliable and uncontrollable. The speaker is often sleepless, running in the dark, looking for light, haunting the reader.


These carefully crafted poems cohere into a meditation about our relationship to life that speaks truly about how we learn about ourselves and how knowledge transforms our lives. As we read these poems, we learn that there is no alternative to facing into life’s alchemy, that life changes you in ways you cannot predict, such as the title poem “Running at Nightˮ suggests:


An acid pain in lung and limb,

the runner is tired tonight.

The tap tap tap of rubber sole

shoes on the oiled road is a

peaceful monotone melody

compared to the restless rhythm

of the daytime indoor job.

It is a good solitude

after sunset running toward

the headlights on the highway

a mile and a half away.

He rounds the rose bush planted on

the edge of concrete and returns to

make pace with the selfless sounds of night.

It is hard to stop quoting from this book. On every page there is a passage I want to share. “Gravesideˮ is truly a tour-de-force, though I am partial to it, but to quote only part of it would not do it justice, so I’ll give you only one more taste to tantalize you to buy this book and read it from cover to cover for yourself:


Kneeling unsteadily near the headstone

he unfolds the clean cotton handkerchief

from his breast pocket and carefully cleans

the lenses of his eyeglasses, wiping

away the loess of their past life as fine

and dry as powdered bone.

The thought of her

under the freshly turned earth so weighty

that it bends time under its mass, curves light,

warps reason.

Surveying adjacent plots

nestling restless aroused souls close by,

nearly hip to hip and thigh to thigh,

pressing obscenely against her on each

side, ghostly frottage in a vulgar crowd.

He conjures up a prayer but lets it fall

unspoken onto the sod, into the

soil, jealously hating heaven after

death where strange souls are urged to love his love,

and briefly hoping for hell for her, where

no love survives the crucible, where she

melts in the heat of his lust forever.


While some collections consist of a series of closely related poems, with a common subject or theme or form, or a narrative arc that connects all the poems, others offer a wide variety of settings and subjects, where each poem comes as a surprise, where the reader finds themselves in unexpected places and new situations. The latter is what Randle offers us through winding directions, the darkest of places, the freshness of life.

Pretty the Ugly, A Review By Samantha Duncan

There are loud and abrasive ways in which to speak about obstacles women face in sexuality, love, and loss, and there are also small, quiet ways that work just as effectively, as with the poems in Jillian M. Phillips new collection, Pretty the Ugly. From revelations of betrayal to confessions about sex, these stories sit like smooth stones on a riverbank, but their impact is felt to the opposite shore.

Much is intriguing about a poem that takes grand emotions and concepts and compacts them into a poem of a handful of lines. “Wishing Well” and “Not So Fresh” show Phillips’s mastery of this style, often read so quickly that one must reread them once they’re over the poem’s initial impact. On the other hand, Phillips’s verse shines in her longer pieces. “Those Women” is a tale familiar to most women of the distance resulting between them when they insist on favoring niceties over honesty.

There is, however, plenty of honesty in these poems. In “Your Tribute,” Phillips makes the claim,“I can create obsession / out of admiration or absence,” speaking obviously to the great impact of a critical void in one’s life. Other lines are heartfelt, honest pleas for a presence by one’s side, as in “Blown Away”: “If I raised my flag high enough, / would you fight for me?” The second section of the book focuses on sexuality and is the most candid, admitting all the secrets that sex exposes or struggles to hold on to. In “The Politics of Sex,” Phillips unapologetically suggests, “Perhaps your breasts / should be windows / so I can peek through the curtains.”

Meanwhile, it is unclear what exactly the work’s title piece wants to shout from the rafters, but perhaps that is because there are a myriad of hypotheses to consider — that everyone has a beauty and an ugliness within them; that such ugliness can be changed, but still not accepted; that the ugly part of someone cannot be changed, but one falls for the whole, anyway. There appear to be endless approaches to Phillips’s poems, but each one embraces its various meanings with a complementary grace and simplicity, themselves objects of beauty birthed from the ugly caves of experience. Seemingly, the message meant to be taken away from this collection is something similar: that beauty can be easy to find, but hard to create.

Birth in Storm, A Review By Samantha Duncan

Across rural landscapes that routinely produce tornadoes and hailstorms are stories of women weathering the winds of their own lives in Birth in Storm, a new poetry collection by Leah Sewell. An ever-present quiet that pervades the notion of small towns by no means indicates stillness, and Sewell’s tales of adolescent struggle and maternal strength spin every bit as strong and prevalent as nature’s storms.

The women narrating these poems often become swept up in new, but perhaps expected, roles, quietly settling into the molds of mothers, lovers, and teenage daughters. In “Escape by Wave,” a young girl imagines the sacrifice she would make in order to be a mermaid, claiming, “I’ll trade my ankles for mermaid hair.” An arcane fantasy spurred by an all-too-familiar adolescent low self-esteem, the poem takes an assertive turn when her made-up mermaid self determines, “In place of boys, I’ll ride the narwhals.” The poem “Fast Turn” is another vision of the tumultuous rides on which young women find themselves, and Sewell’s short lines and stanzas quickly carry the reader from one uneasy scene to the next.

Following the harsh weather of childhood is the transition into adult roles, and one such role Sewell writes about candidly and perceptively is that of motherhood. “Portrait of My Mother as a Young Womb” is an emotional portrayal of a woman becoming a mother, against the context of her previous experience as a daughter. The narrator carries the poem through dark descriptions of her mother’s husk-like womb to her own as she gives birth: “I moan / back to clarity & my daughter slips finally / from me – ship from port, / seed rubbed clean / from husk.” The universal journey from being a daughter to becoming a mother is succinctly tied together by Sewell’s recurring husk image.

Birth in Storm is a masterfully linked collection of poems that liken the unpredictability of natural disasters to the uncertainty of natural and inevitable human experiences. Sewell’s stories are often rich in specific detail, all while retaining an accessibility that grounds a perhaps unfamiliar setting with stories readers will feel as though they know — or have experienced themselves.

Emerge Literary Journal Now Print Only, Plus More

Effective August 1, 2013, Emerge Literary Journal will strictly be a print journal, publishing three issues annually, featured in June, September and December. Our reading periods will be from December 1st-April 1st and again from August 1st-October 1st.

ELJ Publications will continue to publish three to four chapbooks annually as part of our chapbook competition. Submissions for the chapbook competition will be open every February 14th-February 28th for publication in March and April for a $7 reading fee.

Additionally, ELJ Publications will open chapbook submissions for a $25 reading fee year round for both poetry and short-story collections. Open reading for the chapbook submissions will be held for publication in July, October and January. We will select up to 4 selections for publication during these months. Response times for the open chapbook reading will be varied, as Emerge Literary Journal is the priority in May, August and November. For the open chapbook readings, you must never have published a full-length collection before, but up to one prior chapbook publication is acceptable.

The Breath before Birds Fly, A Review By Steven Stam

M.E. Silerman’s chapbook The Breath before Birds Fly, recently published by Emerge Literary Journal, brims with powerful imagery rooted in the casual detail. The poems stand connected through themes, images and ideas: there are fathers, both lost and found; birds floating into and out of our existence; the ever presence of water as both a destructive and constructive force, and perspectives on Judaism from all ages.

In the collection’s opening work, “Fumes,” Silverman juxtaposes the image of a “mosquito meals on my arm” with that of angry father being left by his family. This father pays for familial crimes from atop his outdoor throne: “On the busted porch,/Father crushes cans, smokes,/strikes.” On one hand the child narrator cares so little for their person, ignoring the bug, allowing it to dine, while on the other the father glares, surrounded by his destruction as he busts up the family with each smoke filled stare. Do we hate this man? Does the author? This is not the typical dad left us woe is me poem, but rather an expressive exploration of how and why two women became refuges from their own family unit.

Later, in “After You Left,” one cannot help but hear a father’s ghost staring at a homemade bridge, the plank kind built for small bodies to cross a stream into adventure: “I arrive on this plank-board bridge/built before you left.” Leaving, it seems, represents the problem—the character, perhaps an abandoned father or lonely soul, finds memory in the casual discovery. Sometimes people are gone, sometimes things are beyond repair, yet the tiny bridge can persevere, leaving haunting memories of love, joy, and passion. These memories will resurface in a “Ritual for Learning History,” where Silverman notes how a grown man can go gaga for matzah balls and a bottle of wine can allow even a strong man to spill soul in an effort to glorify his childhood. Whether true or false, we witness a visage of bygone days and ritual sacrifice as well as an excuse to eat scalding hot food in front of an adult child: “Father loves matzah balls more than me,/more than anyone. He doesn’t pause for them/ to cool, a child with a prize.” He gave back then, he can have now.

Such paternal themes reoccur, prompting the reader to consider not only the author’s relationship with their progenitor, but also their own. How do we feel about dear old dad? Is the drunken stumbling man hanging in the background of “Noah Shops for an Ark,” falling into a hardware store’s nail display, our patriarch: “Noah, nervous and sweaty,/crumples onto a small stack/of hollow display boxes?” Or do we have the dad that laments over the childhood, spilling their past while holding back a tear? Are we afraid to find out?

The very same ark Noah built finds a new home in “What I know about Jerusalem Rain,” this time in the form of a child’s dream: “head toward something solid,/toward the ark we imagine we built/when we were young,/ still stock-piling.” We want to know these dreams, to float and pass through such a prestigious city with the splendor of a young child. This yearning extends on in “Echo Locating,” where the dreams that once filled the ark are expressed in the open search for self. It is here that Silverman expresses man’s innate desire to both find and understand the self, intuitively placing the product of said exploration into the hands of an unseen force that emanates both from and back toward us. We live in the echo of our perception, and Silverman’s words cement this fact.

In a creating a collection, Silverman succeeds in both captivating and entertaining the reader. These poems flow, they have logical connection, and spiritual meaning. The Breath before Birds Fly, is now available through

Slouching Towards Pakistan by Contributor Jack Foster, A Review

Although sometimes I long for plain first lines, the ones that tell me exactly where I am and exactly what is happening, sometimes I tire of making my way through metaphor, fragment, or obscure juxtaposition and long for something like this:

Some say the closing of doors leads

to an inverse reaction – an economy of favors

hidden in the walls like electricity or body parts. (from “Out of Many, None”)

Are you not pulled in?  What precise words: closing, inverse, economy, electricity.  The scene is drawn so sharply—we see it—the doors, the reaction, the electricity.  Comparatively, “He thinks the morning belongs to himˮ is the statement Jack Foster makes in the first line of his poem, “A Father Leaves in the Morning”. In fact, most poems in this chapbook start with a tantalizing hook. Here are some other opening lines:


Drones in a flock, a kettle, a murder, ascend

into the bright, smoggy firmament, unbound from

the fetters of Euclidian geometry. (from “Birds of Paradise for the New World Order”)


The sound of worn tread weaving up

a familiar concrete slab echoes in the

ethereal silence of the night. (from “A Father Returns in the Nighttime”)


It is noted that even from the beginning, his work is carefully shaped and paced, such as begins “Prologue”:


Since the day our primate fathers earned

primordial thumbs, as the first son gripped

an innocuous sun bleached radius of a less-fit rival,

and when the handheld arm cracked through bone

and blood and sinew, the art of war immediately began

to forget its own sense of intimacy….


I can’t stop reading any poem beginning with lines like these. But this chapbook is not just technically skilled entertainment. The poems in Slouching Towards Pakistan may take off from interesting directions but lead the reader along darker paths. For instance, the first stanza from “The Road back Home”:


He attempts to enjoy the global news before his day

becomes a talking point, before both sides split

hairs and ignite basic fires. The ceremonial cover that garlands

his head falls off, the silken threads unravel,

revealing his worn body – all that remains

is an American man: birthed by the war

machine and cut from a sacrificial cloth.

A close look at “The Road back Home,” will show how many of Foster’s poems work. As we’ve seen “The Road back Home” opens with the wish for a quick death, an end before any radical stripping away of one’s place in the world imposed by, say, war. In fact, the entire poem layers tension with passion—a devastating mix. It is because Slouching Towards Pakistan gives us many poems like “The Road back Home” that I’ve read the chapbook again and again.


It is hard to say what exactly happens

beneath a foreign skyline. Jagged, ancient

landscapes skew the fish-eyed vision of men…


…There will be no water break,

no giving thanks for the guarantee of universally

recycled breath.

Many of the poems in Jack Foster’s deftly crafted chapbook, like “Before the Aftermath” from which the lines above are taken, focus on the complicated course of turmoil in a modern world—the wonder and the fear.  In “A Father Returns in the Nighttime,” like much of the chapbook, there are depths and precipices everywhere:


My father sneaks into the same

house he has lived in for years….


…delouses in front of the mirror,

scrapes his hands and chest with pumice

stone, as if to destroy every atom

every fiber. This time, too, does not belong

to him – his skin, like steam, rises into midnight’s

density, and fills the house with lingering


Overall, Jack Foster’s language is precise, but layered. He is grounded. Many poets are diverted by the various trappings: technical strictures, narration, sparkles of language when the purest poetic object is in its being, a composed composure. The greatest power of poetry is this of concentrating our concentration—and if the counter is made, poetry does this in a special way, powering-up our attention at the same time it provides objects profounder than jig saw pieces. Which is to say, these poems at their best are deep and deepening. They are quiet. They do not draw attention to themselves by tripping over themselves. This is the sterling quality of Jack Foster’s Slouching Towards Pakistan. This is why you should read it.

The Breath before Birds Fly

Now introducing our first chap of four to be published in 2013. We are publishing one winner and three finalists as a result of our 2013 ELJ Publications Chapbook Competition. Please stop by our Available Chapbooks page to learn more about M.E. Silverman’s new collection, available now on Amazon!