SLANT Forum: News & Reviews

The Hudson-Fowler Prize in Poetry

Michael Hettich

The editorial staff of Slant is pleased to announce that Michael Hettich of Black Mountain, North Carolina, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Hudson-Fowler Prize in Poetry.

The twofold purpose of the new award created by the Department of English at UCA is to honor the invaluable contributions of Slant’s two longest-serving editors (Richard Hudson and James Fowler) and to recognize truly distinctive originality and quality of poetic expression. Richard Hudson, now retired from the UCA English Department faculty, founded Slant in 1986 and served as its first editor until 1993. He was succeeded by James Fowler, also an English faculty member, who served as editor for 25 years. The timing of the first award has been planned to coincide with Fowler’s retirement from UCA in May of this year.

Beginning with the May 2023 issue and continuing with each Spring issue moving forward, members of the Slant Committee will select from among the previous year’s submissions the group of five poems from a single poet that is judged to be deserving of special recognition. The Hudson-Fowler Prize carries a cash award, the publication of the poet’s winning submission in the Spring issue, and the invitation to come to campus as our Visiting Poet the following year with an additional stipend to cover travel expenses.

Michael Hettich was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Manhattan and Mamaroneck. He attended Hobart College in Geneva, New York, where he earned a BA in English. He also earned an MA in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Denver and a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from the University of Miami.

Michael’s poems first began appearing in Slant in 1992. His first book of poetry, Lathe, was published in 1987 by Pygmy Forest Press. Since then, he has published over a dozen book-length collections and an equal number of poetry chapbooks. His most recent book, The Halo of Bees: New and Selected Poems, 1990-2022 was published this month by Press 53.

His work has appeared in such other journals as Orion, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Poetry East, Alaska Quarterly Review, Witness, and The Literary Review. His writing has also appeared in a number of anthologies, including Visiting Bob: 100 Poems for Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press, 2018) and Rewilding: Poems for the Environment (Flexible Press, 2020).

Slant Launches Poetry Coffeehouse for Students

Aithne Emmons

 On the evening of April 5, members of the Slant Advisory Committee hosted its first Poetry Coffeehouse as a venue for student poets to display their talents. A total of ten students, both undergraduate and graduate, signed up to read in advance of the event and dazzled the standing-room-only audience with their original work and their reading of other poems by favorite writers. Slant Graduate Assistant Paul Perroni, a former professional actor, served as master of ceremonies.

One of those who read was junior English major Sebastian Queen of Conway. He offered the following feedback on the event: “The Poetry Coffeehouse was a wonderful and memorable experience. I didn’t expect to see so much laughter and joy, even when discussing heavy topics. The aura of support was palpable.”

Another was Aithne Emmons, a freshman Creative Writing major and English minor from Hot Springs. She summed up the feeling of the group by saying, “Thank you for providing us this wonderful opportunity. There just aren’t enough chances like this for students anywhere around. We’d love to have more.”

Later in April, on the 18th, those same students were able to meet and hear a trio of more experienced poets read from their published and new work when the SLANT Advisory Committee hosted the second event in its Visiting Poet Series. Among the visiting poets were Christopher Fettes and Paulette Guerin, both alumni of the UCA English program. Memories of being students were close to the surface for both.

Christopher Fettes

“The reading hosted by SLANT was a homecoming for me,” said Christopher who earned BA and MA degrees from UCA and who is now poetry editor for Medicine & Meaning, a literary journal of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Paulette, who earned her MA in 2008 and who now teaches at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, shared Christopher’s sentiment. “Reading for SLANT took me back to my days as a graduate assistant editing for the journal,” she said.

About the experience of students attending the April 18 event, Christopher stated, “I hope the students who attended left not only with an idea of what contemporary poets write about, but how the sharing of their work is all about the community of poets who champion each other and work together to build an environment where new and established poets alike can share their work in safe and supportive places.”

Paulette Guerin

Paulette echoed that sentiment by adding, “The great thing about writing and appreciating poetry is that it continues to tap into the best part ofbeing a student — curiosity about the world, the desire to make connections, and a quest for how to more fully inhabit one’s life,”

Based on audience response and the fervent request from student poets for more such opportunities, the SLANT Advisory Committee has committed to making the Poetry Coffeehouse an ongoing series, with readings in both the fall and spring semesters.

Wild Muse – An Anthology of Poems about the Ozarks

 A number of Slant contributors are featured in a new anthology from Cornerpost Press titled Wild Muse: Ozarks Nature Poetry. The collection was edited by and includes poems by Philip Howerton, who teaches at the University of Missouri-West Plains. He is also the editor of the 2019 collection The Literature of the Ozarks, published the University of Arkansas Press. The new anthology also contains works by Gerry Sloan, a former member of the Slant editorial board; the late Mark Spitzer, also a former editorial board member; and Paulette Guerin, an alumna of the UCA graduate program in English and former Slant graduate assistant to then-editor James Fowler.

A New Story Collection from Charles Rammelkamp

 Bamboo Dart Press has announced the publication in May of a new book of stories by SLANT contributor Charles Rammelkamp. Titled Presto, the collection chronicles the adventures of an employee for a temp agency as he goes out on what often seem like absurd assignments for which he occasionally has to make up the rules as he goes along.

One early reviewer observed, “What a supremely textured, sharp-witted and absorbing book Presto is. Rammelkamp explores the temp job experience brilliantly — that multivarious, short-term universe where a factotum shapeshifter resides only for a moment.” And another added, “These Chekhovian slices of life are a welcome response to capitalism’s ‘dignity of work’ con job.”

Charles lives with his wife Abby in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has been retired since 2014. He is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books, Maryland’s oldest continuously-publishing literary publisher, and he writes poetry and fiction. Recent books include A Magician Among the Spirits, winner of the 2022 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize, and Transcendence, published by BlazeVOX Books. Other titles include The Field of Happiness, Ugler Lee, Catastroika, American Zeitgeist, Mata Hari: Eye of the Day, Fusen Bakudan, Me and Sal Paradise, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, Mixed Signals and Castleman in the Academy.

 A New Collection from Joel Savishinsky

SLANT contributor Joel Savishinsky, the Charles A Dana Professor Emeritus in the Social Sciences at Ithaca College, recently published a collection entitled Our Aching Bones, Our Breaking Hearts: Poems on Aging. The poems in the book derive from the Joel’s half century career as an anthropologist and gerontologist, and focuses on the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the aging experience. His work has previously appeared in American Writers Review, Blood and Thunder, Cirque, The Examined Life Journal, The New York Times, The Poeming Pigeon, Soul-Lit, and Windfall. He and his wife Susan now live in Seattle, Washington, doing community and political work, while also helping to raise five grandchildren. This new book is his first collection of poetry. It was brought out by The Poetry Box, based in Portland, Oregon, and is available from both Amazon and the publisher at

A Debut Publication by Christopher Fettes

 Little Rock native Christopher Fettes published his initial chapbook in April. A Loneliness in the Distance Between is a collection of 24 poems, some of which were previously published in journals such as Slant, Nude Bruce Review, Import Sky: Synchronicity, Art from the Heart, and Medicine and Meaning.

 Christopher earned both his BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Central Arkansas. He is currently poetry editor for Medicine & Meaning: A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Literary Journal and he is a program coordinator and instructor in the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at UAMS, where he teaches writing workshops. He is also a member of the Slant editorial board.

He was one of a trio of poets who were on the UCA campus April 18 as part of our Visiting Poet Series. Among the poems he read that evening were “Celestial Bodies,” which contains the lines from which the book’s title was drawn, and “Strata,” which first appeared in the historic Volume 35 of Slant, the last print edition of the journal.

Tour of a Lifetime: Glenamaddy to Gomorrah – A Review

We are pleased to offer this month, courtesy of Southern Literary Review, the following review of Thomas Rabbitt’s new book, Tour of a Lifetime: Glenamaddy to Gomorrah by Slant contributor and SLR Associate Editor Claire Hamner Matturro.

When Thomas Rabbitt’s first acclaimed book of poetry, Exile (1975), won the prestigious Pitt award, he was a relatively young man. At that time, he was charged with starting a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing program at The University of Alabama, a program he led to national prominence before retiring in 1998. Rabbitt’s poems in Exile were fierce, complex, often allusive, with an edge and current of anger—and they were rather glorious. As reflected by the title, those works were not the words of a poet who felt at home in the time and place he found himself. Of course, poems are not necessarily autobiographical, and it might even be improper if not imprecise to think them so. Still, poems in Exile vibrated with a sense of unease and dissatisfaction, of a man not comfortable in his environment. And Rabbitt, a man born, raised, and initially educated in the Boston, Massachusetts area, might well have felt a disconnect –a kind of cultural shock—when he arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1972 to begin organizing the MFA program at UA. In fact, in an interview in storySouth in 2004, he remarked that “Exile, my first book, wasn’t so much set in its environment as set against it, my reaction to a culture in which I felt more alien and rootless than I usually do.”

Subsequent collections of Rabbitt’s poems, such as The Booth Interstate (1981) and American Wake: New & Selected Poems (2005), continued to win critical acclaim and contained works of discerning depth. Now in Rabbitt’s newest collection, Tour of a Lifetime: Glenamaddy to Gomorrah (Pine Row Press 2022), his poems still contain much of his early fierceness. Often brilliant, sometimes disturbing, occasionally brilliantly disturbing, Tour of a Lifetime is an intense collection, heady in spots with the same sharp sense of unease first found in Exile. Yet, somehow, these poems collectively seem to be less immediate and more meditative, as befits the title, though no less commanding. Neither gentle nor light reading, these are poems which still ring with force and remain every bit as glorious as those in Exile. Time has not weakened this poet’s power or talent.

Tour of a Lifetime contains works wrought from a luminous, classically educated mind traipsing across a myriad of topics, leaping between exploring, explaining, and remembering. The poems take readers on a journey in which the destination might be Paris, Ireland (where Rabbitt lived for a while), mythology, priests, gay sailors, the horses he raised, birds, shame, or a childhood movie theater. In many of the verses, the poems seem to be working toward a kind of reckoning. The back cover flap does note “Rabbitt leads the reader through aspects of a life—fiction and autobiography—where he weighs the emotional and intellectual freight of gay relationships, religious trauma, cultural ancestry and the Romantic heritage.”

The sixty poems collected in Tour of a Lifetime are intricately constructed in the strict sonnet format of fourteen lines, rhyme, iambic pentameter, and a volta, or turn, near the end. Given the demanding structure of a sonnet, one can conclude Rabbitt is a poet of great discipline. However, as he admits in a lengthy storySouth 2004 interview, he is a bit “loose” with his iambics. In that interview, he stated: “Fourteen lines – roughly 140 syllables – isn’t a lot of breathing room, so I tend to punch holes in the form, to avoid the sealing couplet, to keep all the delightful appurtenances of poetry as light as possible, to keep the bondage and discipline relatively painless.”

Within these sonnets, childhood surfaces in several poems (whether memoir or fictional is unknown) such as “Films in Black and White.” In that well-crafted sonnet, Rabbitt writes of an incident at a movie in which “Weekend matinee: Tarzan’s loincloth slipped / And showed what boys and girls weren’t meant to see.” Ultimately the boy in the focus of that poem has a realization that could count as a reckoning of sorts. In “Tropical Fish,” the narrator states “I can best recall misrule / And mayhem all abuzz inside my head. / Tied to a chair for thievery at school…” Further, in “Some Souls Run Naked,” there is “a twelve-year-old boy, / Too ignorant of Man’s desires to try / For their fulfillment” who nonetheless is asked “Can you feel on the bare skin of your thigh / The rough caresses of a grown man’s hand?”

Haunting images abound in the sonnets, including “The Old Collector,” whose “use by date went passed” and now “Like the old witch who kept Hansel for pleasure / He had a cage in the basement and chains / To ensure that one of the boys might last / More than a night. One might endure his pains.” Sometimes Rabbitt uses a shocking, haunting image to create a counterbalance in a poem, such as the line “A lover’s face inside the burning car” in what otherwise comes perilously close to being a sweet, nostalgic poem in “Cross Country in a Volkswagen Bus.” Similarly, in “Audubon’s Music Box,” he weaves the disturbing image of “Audubon / Who painted life studies of murdered birds” into what starts with dogwood blooms and the lovely songs of bird.

The poems with their various threads form a kind of literary tapestry in which these senses evoked through words create a textual richness. These are sonnets which require — no demand — more than a casual reading and even more than just a second or third reading. Indeed, with each subsequent reading, something new and vibrant appears like a kind of alchemy, which is of course the joy and treasure of fine poetry. And make no mistake, the sonnets in Tour of a Lifetime are very fine poems.

While excelling in structure and technique, Rabbit also excels at creating full and evocative poems that tug at all the senses. There are vibrant visual images throughout the collection, such as the line “You wore, sweet lover, smoke instead of clothes” found in “Trappings of Desire.” And in “Turkey Trot,” readers can see “Two turkeys strut like pimps across the ground / Under the bird feeder. … splendid in their bronze display.”

Sounds also resonate with clarity and impact through the poems with such moments as the lines about a monk in “Palimpsest” who is preparing his parchments as “The rasp of the blade sets his teeth on edge.” Other sounds include several references to birds in different poems and the particularly lovely lines in “Wind Chimes in Winter,” which read: “The painted bird from which the chime depends, / Caught trembling in the noise of space and time. / The bird sends silvery notes to Gauguin.”

Rabbitt’s skillful uses of the sense of smell work for him to strengthen many a poem’s impact as in “Subtext” where “A bouquet / Of dead roses adds faint scent to an air / Polluted by loss.” He can turn a scent sweetly reminiscent too as with “We breathed in the perfume of new mown hay” in the poem “Cross Country in a Volkswagen Bus.”

The sense of taste is less often evoked in these poems. However, in “Stones of Gomorrah,” there are a few lines about apples which taste “sweeter than cool spring rain” and also taste of “joy and pain.”

Touch, physical, and tactile sensations are forcefully, sometimes startlingly, used in many poems. In the sonnet “Old Habits,” we find “the ventured touch, the eyes that took / From skin, from spinning sun.” In the grueling poem, “Some Souls Run Naked,” a boy struggling to do push-ups suffers as “Your shoulders burn, your skinny arms go slack.” That same poem also has the disturbing reference to a “rough caresses of a grown man’s hand” on “bare skin” of that twelve-year-old boy.

Thomas Rabbitt

There are singular lines in some of these sonnets which could stand on their own, though enriched by context. For example, “All of us are murderers by the end” from “Nous Sommes Tous les Assassins” and “For those who do not look true love must live / Forever out of sight” in “The Boreen in Snow.”

Educated at Harvard College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Iowa, Thomas Rabbitt taught at the University of Alabama from 1972 until 1998. His first book, Exile, won the 1974 “Pitt Prize” (the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum). His other books include The Booth Interstate, The Abandoned Country, Enemies of the State, Prepositional Heaven and American Wake: New & Selected Poems. Individual poems appear in such prestigious magazines and journals as the Nation, Esquire, Poetry, Shenandoah, The Gettysburg Review, and Black Warrior Review, and have been reprinted in a dozen anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2000 and The Pushcart Prize XIX.

Claire Hamner Matturro

Claire Hamner Matturro has been a journalist, a lawyer, an organic blueberry farmer, and taught at Florida State University College of Law and University of Oregon School of Law. She is the author of eight novels, including a series of comedic legal thrillers published by HarperCollins. Her poetry also appears in various literary journals including Slant. She is a long-time associate editor of Southern Literary Review and lives in Florida with her husband and cross-eyed rescued cat.

Share the News

In addition to your poems, we welcome submissions of news about yourself or a fellow poet, reviews of recently published collections of poetry (yours or others), and interviews with poets. As we note above, the submission period for poems is February 1-March 31 for the Spring 2023 issue. However, we welcome your news and reviews at any time during the year.

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