Status of the Journal and Upcoming Changes…

Dear Contributors, Prospective Contributors, Readers and Friends:

When I first opened Emerge Literary Journal for submissions in November 2011, I was not working and had plenty of time to dedicate to a full publishing schedule. Since the beginning of 2013, I had to return full time to work. In addition, I have two small children, a husband and a home. My husband and I both run our own separate businesses in addition to working full time. My full time job as an insurance underwriter makes me a lot of money and is very demanding on a daily basis. I am also a writer who hasn’t written anything for the most part of the year until most recently. For these personal and professional reasons and because I will not completely abandon my publication, I plan to make the following changes to all endeavors related to ELJ Publications, LLC:

Emerge Literary Journal: There is a lot of great work in the hopper that should have been published in June and September. Submissions should have reopened in August. The June issue is fully compiled and edited; however, there were uploading issues. I have pushed back publication of the June issue to October and the September issue to December. If you are a contributor to either one of these issues and cannot wait any longer for your piece(s) to be published, please contact me at and withdraw your work. Each and every one of the submissions I have accepted deserve to be published and will be this year. Going forward, Emerge Literary Journal will be published in December only with a 60 day window for submissions in the Fall.

ELJ Publications: There are numerous submissions in the hopper that I would like to publish. I will finish reading them and be making my final decisions this week. I have begun to focus my publishing endeavors to new and emerging authors for chapbooks only. Chapbook publication is less time consuming and more fulfilling for me as an editor. As such, Emerge Literary Journal is evolving and will primarily be a chapbook press from this day forward. ELJ Publications will also begin to open to more established authors with an appetite that is similar to Scissors & Spackle.

Scissors & Spackle: There is a full issue ready to be published. I am working very hard to compile and edit it in the same format the prior editor used but have had a difficult go at it. The formatting has to change going forward. Scissors & Spackle will also become an annual publication published most likely in February with a brief 60 day window prior to publication.

Should you have questions regarding Emerge Literary Journal or ELJ Publications, please e-mail me at If your questions are regarding Scissors & Spackle, please e-mail me at

Thank you for your continued patience and support of Emerge Literary Journal. I have more time in late Fall and all of Winter to support the visions of both Emerge Literary Journal and Scissors & Spackle.

Birth in Storm, A Review By Raylyn Clacher

Storms abound in Birth in Storm, a chapbook by Leah Sewell. These aren’t the pleasant storms that make for quiet nights in of romance or contemplation. Sewell’s storms are violent and life-changing, their own force bent on destruction and re-creation. The poems of Birth in Storm all share this impending, kinetic energy. Through tightly controlled images and a quietly purposeful, authoritative tone, Sewell explores the journey from birth, to girlhood, to motherhood with an urgency that commands attention.

But Birth in Storm is not just a chapbook with poems about storms. Yes, her narrators often find themselves caught in the middle of tornados. But what are these storms that beset her poems; what are these storms that shape the women who survive them? What does a tornado mean to the young woman in “Tornado Drill” who “wore my backpack backwards, / so with cleaving textbook corners / & weight of sack lunch, / I was pregnant fleeing the great drone / of the tornado drill tornado”? What would this young girl have to say to the teenager in “Sister,” who, when left home alone at night, puts a stray kitten outside in the middle of a tornado? What does a storm mean to the mother in “Backyard,” who keeps one eye on her children and the other on a storm that “dressed in evening pink / unfurls & grows”? These storms become their own living beings, outward manifestations of the inner lives of the narrators.

Undoubtedly, the poems of Birth in Storm are powerful. Through a masterful control of image, bred by an imagination that runs wild, Sewell creates a world in which we can all slow down for a moment, consider not only the wonder of motherhood or the power of growing into a woman, but the urgent terror of it all. Birth in Storm is a collection in which the author asks us all to come inside the tornado with her, to enter the swirl of creation. Sewell asks us to consider the pull of the wind, the electric atmosphere, feel the braids and tendons that pull us along. Most importantly, she asks us to consider the power of creation within ourselves.

The Breath before Birds Fly, an Amazon Review by Eli Wolfman

I don’t write reviews. I had to do so for this book. The cover was so beautiful and the title so attractive that I had to get this! The book is even dedicated to me, well, any reader actually which is nice.

Only 23 poems, this feels heavy and solid more like a book than a chap. From the beginning, we are exposed to a world of beauty and longing, a world of melancholy and family: “The day mother and I leave, two / Canada geese arrive– / their long, black necks arrow / toward the pond and fold into themselves / like cocktail napkins. I hope….” Through nature and imagery the reader connects to the words, feels the story in each piece. I love the line breaks, so moving: “two”, “arrive”, “arrow”, “themselves”, and “hope”. Why aren’t more people reading this?

In the next poem, there is an angel or father or farmer, definitely something old like out of Marquez: “In the barn, he removes / and folds his clipped wings, / a blue-gray from age….. his back bare with ghost limbs….”

I could easily go through each poem. I love the one where he addresses God in “After You Left” and the Hurricane poem that takes a different angle, narrating almost drowning from the point of view of a preacher/rabbi’s son. He begins with “Because I always wanted one, / my father has pulled a hairless cat / out of my chest”. How can you not want to read on? The writer does this again and again, taking the topics heard so often and flipping them to a different angle. For example, “Miracle Shoes” is about the Holocaust Museum and the famous exhibit of stacked shoes, yet they take a magical realism angle as they float and dance in the air until “the shoes start to slip through” an open door. The title of the book can be found in this poem.

When the writer says “Sometimes we all feel like the last, / a single stick in a rushing river”, how can one not nod and know this poet speaks to each of us as every poet should. While so many don’t, this one captivates even those who do not know and read poetry!

Here is one poem in its entirety: “Echo Locating”

If you are lucky
you will find your echo,
not the cartoon version,
perched on a canyon’s edge
with the empty yelling
and cheeks like apples,
but the space that extends you,
fills the void
and becomes you
the way twigs return to a tree,

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.