6 Questions with Whitney Ward Birenbaum, Cofounder of CHARM Lit Mag

This interview was conducted by Madisyn Parisi and has been edited for clarity and length.

CHARM Lit Mag is a project of CHARM: Voices of Baltimore Youth, a literary arts organization founded on the idea, according to the organization, that “kids’ voices matter.” The journal’s mission is  “to help young people develop as writers and create opportunities to amplify their voices through publication.”

The organization recently moved into a new work space in Baltimore.


MP: You’re one of CHARM’s cofounders. Can you tell me how this all started, where this idea came from, and how you went about it?

WWB: I was a middle school teacher for 13 years in Baltimore City schools, and around 2013, a group of teachers around the city, along with our students, got together and wanted to have this one-time, city-wide literary magazine that kids could submit to. We hoped it would grow, but we didn’t have intentions of that at that time, so in 2014, we published our first magazine. It had 44 pieces of writing and art from six schools. We had this great publication party, and we were just like, “Huh, this is really amazing.” So over time we started to publish a yearly anthology and also started to offer workshops for students in Baltimore. In 2018, I decided to make the leap into doing this for my full-time job. It’s just been such a joy. We still do that yearly anthology–that’s the core of what we do. We still have a student editorial board who produces all our publications, but we’re also growing our programming. It’s really in service of the mission: supporting young writers and amplifying their voices.

MP: So it’s been ten years? Wow. You were all hoping CHARM would grow, but was there anything that caught you off guard in this process?

WWB: Well, one thing is that we live in such a digital world, but the power of young people seeing CHARM in print and how transformative that can be. I remember the first year, talking to my own middle school students and saying, “You should submit your own writing. This is a really cool opportunity!” and they were like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah… ” and then the day that I brought the publication in, they were all like, “Why didn’t you tell us about this? This is so cool!” Seeing your own writing in print is just so empowering, and I love that. That’s still very much a core piece of who we are. Part of the lesson [we’ve learned] is that a lot of people don’t just submit on their own. It takes this personal relationship building of “I know this really great writer. I’m going to invite them. I’m going to encourage them to submit.”

MP: You mentioned the student editorial board. How student-run is all of this? How hands-on are you as a director? Are there times when you really step in?

WWB: I think I fall back on my experience as a teacher: How much of this is guided practice? How much of this is instructing by doing versus just letting students have at it, conceptualize, and create? We tend to fall more on the side of guided the first semester, and the second-semester students have a little more free rein. Part of that just works out nicely with the way the school year falls. We do a smaller project in the fall, then the annual anthology in the spring. But we also have students who have been with us for a long time, and that’s really nice because they take the lead. We have a student right now who is a senior at Baltimore City College (a high school), and she’s our publications team leader. She really leads and prepares the meetings, and sometimes I chime in, but once a student has been with CHARM for a couple years, they really know all there is to know about helping bring the publication to life.

Charm’s most recent publication, CHARM: Love

MP: Do you and the students see any trends in the submissions to the anthologies lately? I saw “This is Not a Snow Day,” which documented quarantine life, on the site, and I thought that was interesting.

WWB: That actually morphed into our first hardcover book. So we came out with a book called Unmasked, and the students coordinated that throughout the seasons of Covid. Spring 2020, Spring 2021. It’s such a great documentation of not only living through that time period, but being a young person during that time period. The summer of 2020 is filled with lots focused around Black Lives Matter and things motivated by the George Floyd killing and protests happening around the country, so you can really feel the progression of that year. Back to your question, we have noticed a lot of writing that deals with the current world and what it’s like to live in this time. Two years ago, there were definitely some students who were like, “We really want to make sure we’re focusing on joy and fun because everything is so heavy. We want to counteract that. It doesn’t all have to be Covid and negativity.” And those particular students felt strongly that it was important to also be highlighting joy, and I think that’s important.

MP: Speaking of the political times we’re in, where do you see CHARM Lit Mag fitting in as a Baltimore publication? Grub Street’s also a Baltimore publication, so we know people always have a lot to say about Baltimore. I think a few years ago [Baltimore] got called rodent-infested. So where do you see CHARM Lit Mag in that Baltimore identity?

WWB: So, I’m from North Carolina, and I’ve been here now for almost 20 years, since 2005, and I think there’s something about Baltimore that people who live here are very fiercely protective of the city and its reputation. That idea that there is this narrative of Baltimore that isn’t true needs to be subverted, and the people who live here really know all the amazing and incredible things that are happening here. And I feel that very much with our students. I don’t know if there are other cities or towns where people feel that way. I think it’s kind of a unique thing for Baltimore. A lot of the work we publish is–whether intentionally or just sort of imbued with things about Baltimore–about the city and its challenges but also its beauty. That’s in its writing. 

One other thought I have about that is that during the pandemic, some of our students wanted to create a journalism arm of CHARM. So we actually have, in addition to our literary publications, The Charm Report. We have some local journalists who support our students learning about reporting. That’s newer, but it follows that model of instruction and supporting them as learning to become reporters, but also having the students really own [it]. What are the topics that you care about, what do you want to write about, what story needs to be told?

MP: Going off of that, are there any upcoming opportunities at CHARM you want to talk about?

WWB: Yes! So we have an open call for submissions for students K-12 about chaos. That closes in March and will be out this spring. We are gearing up for our summer publishing internship which will place 20 teenagers at local publishing and media sites all around Baltimore. Last year, we had students at The Baltimore Banner and The Afro, several local bookstores, and Hopkins Press. We’re really excited to be bringing that back. We also just moved into our new space at Baltimore Unity Hall, and we’re co-located with a bunch of other community arts and education organizations like Arts Every Day, No Boundaries Coalition, Community Builders. Now that we’re here, we have so many more opportunities for volunteers and workshops.


To learn more about CHARM, visit charmlitmag.org, find the organization on social media via @charmlitmag. 

Interview with Professor Jeannie Vanasco

This interview was conducted by Matti Ben-Lev and has been edited for clarity and length.

Prof. Jeannie Vanasco was the Grub Street advisor for four years. I thought she could provide some valuable insights and stories from her time working on Grub Street.

MBL: What was your favorite thing about working on Grub Street?

JV: My favorite thing was also the hardest: advising an entirely new staff each year. I enjoyed seeing how the different personalities and aesthetic styles of each staff shaped each issue. Some of the staff would change halfway through the academic year, and that challenged me as an instructor and an adviser. I was trying to teach my students developmental editing, copy editing, proofreading, and the history of the literary magazine, all while helping them assemble an issue. Not to mention I’m a terrible copy editor.

 MBL: Yeah, I had no idea what I was doing or what copy editing actually meant when I walked into class on the first day. I was placed in the poetry group and given five poems, and I just started editing them as if I had written them, which I quickly learned is not the goal whatsoever. I have learned so much about copy editing in just a few weeks, namely, what copy editing is

JV: As a writer, I feel deeply embarrassed whenever copy editors come back with corrections—like, I should know this stuff! But different publications have different house styles. The New Yorker, for example, puts a dieresis, which armchair grammarians mistake for an umlaut, over the second vowel in words such as cooperate, and I don’t have the mental equipment to fuss over stuff like that. Commas, sure. But a diaresis? Advising Grub Street, when I knew I was lacking in an area of experience, such as copy editing or publicity, I brought in experts. I got my start in editorial at The Paris Review, TriQuarterly back when it was a print-only publication, and the Poetry Foundation, but that was in 2006. When I was an assistant editor at Lapham’s Quarterly in 2008, someone suggested hiring a social media person, and we all laughed. So in doing Grub Street, I needed to lean more on the expertise of those currently working in the field. And maybe that was the most rewarding part of Grub Street:

Photo courtesy of Towson University.

introducing students to professionals. Some students even went on to work or intern at Graywolf Press, The Believer, CLMP [Community of Literary Magazines and Presses], and Simon & Schuster. A lot of students went on to fully funded MFA programs where they edited those schools’ journals such as George Mason’s So to Speak. I often encounter students who reject themselves before they even get the chance to be rejected. Seeing my students gain confidence is exciting. One of the best parts of teaching is when my students realize, “This is something I can do.” 

MBL: What does Grub Street mean to you? 

JV: What does it mean to you? 

MBL: Well, I think walking in, I started to realize that there is a true sense of agency. That students’ decisions actually hold weight. I haven’t experienced that level of agency in a class before. 

JV: That’s a great way of putting it. Grub Street is meaningful to me when students find it meaningful. I enjoyed it, but it was a lot of work. I’m still recovering. 

MBL: Do you plan to advise Grub Street again?

JV: Prof. Downs will do it for three years, then Professor Harrison, then maybe me again. But if somebody else wants to take it, I won’t fight them. If TU considered Grub Street the equivalent of two courses rather than one each semester (for students and the adviser), I’d love to advise it again. But maybe I took it too seriously. I remember handing out Grub Street tote bags to everyone on staff, and then, after some of the students didn’t carry them, I said: “I’m not saying you have to carry the tote bag—” As I was speaking, I was annoying myself. But I wanted students to think of Grub Street as a close community. That was what made the staff change midyear so difficult. I didn’t want the second-semester students to feel left out.

MBL: How was the first semester different from the second? 

Volume 71 of Grub Street, the most recent volume Vanasco has advised.

JV: The semester assignments differed on a practical level. Because Grub Street is a print annual, I believe the staff needs to accept some writing and art before the spring semester starts. Otherwise, you’re scrambling on editorial when you should be focused on production. So I asked students to make a list of dream authors, and emerging writers whose work the students loved in an online lit mag, such as G*Mob and Muzzle. The students wrote short explanations of what excited them about the work, and then they invited some of those writers to submit. The students needed to be very strategic about how many authors they emailed. It’s not a good look to ask a writer for work—especially if you’re not with an established journal—only to then reject it. So the genre editors kept track of solicitations. Some amazing writing came out of that assignment. Because the students personalized their emails to writers, almost all the writers replied. Some gave us a soft no, as in: “If I can get something to you before the deadline, I will.” Most, however, gave us an enthusiastic yes: “Oh my gosh, I’m living out of my car right now, but I’ll send you a batch of poems in a month when I have access to my computer again.” Having worked at different lit mags in my twenties, I didn’t want to rely on the slush pile.

Sometimes you miss out on great work because not all writers feel confident enough to submit in the first place, or they haven’t heard of Grub Street. I never want to dismiss the slush pile. The slush pile is crucial to the life of literary magazines. I believe that literary magazines have a responsibility to at least try to discover new writers. The first semester also involved studying the history of American literary magazines and presenting on contemporary ones. I also asked students to research defunct literary magazines. Just because a magazine ends does not mean it failed. Everything has a lifespan. A literary magazine doesn’t have to exist for fifty-some years. Maybe it will exist for one issue, and that’s okay. Oh, and something else we talked about first semester: you are not going to love or even like everything we accept for the issue. But that’s what I love about literary magazines in general. They’re much humbler than, say, a Norton anthology. An anthology seems to say: “You must love this.” A lit mag seems to say: “Here’s a bunch of stuff we liked.” 


MBL: Yeah, personally I walked into Grub Street’s second semester and saw some poems (one in particular) and thought, “You really accepted these?” 

JV: I definitely get that. When my students loved something from the slush pile that I didn’t, I’d suggest they hold off until more submissions arrived. I tried to resist that urge, but sometimes I couldn’t—partly because we had only so much space in the print edition. I’d suggest they save that work in case another writer pulled their work after it’d been accepted. 

MBL: That actually happened in our class! Two poems were pulled by the writer, and we can’t replace them with other submissions because those writers have already been informed that their submissions didn’t make it in. 

JV: That’s stressful. When I interned at The Paris Review, the editors accepted a short story that would have been the writer’s first publication, but in the meantime the writer had already given the story to a very small lit mag in Texas. I say given because the Texas journal couldn’t pay, whereas The Paris Review would have paid hundreds of dollars. Maybe more than a thousand. After the Paris Review editors informed the writer of the acceptance, the writer apologized for the simultaneous submission. Everybody at The Paris Review felt deep respect for that writer. After all, a Paris Review publication for a debut writer can be life-changing. It can lead to an agent or a book deal. Plenty of other writers would have pulled their story from the Texas mag, but this writer didn’t. We all have to live under capitalism, so I get why well-meaning writers might pull work from journals that don’t pay. And I of course understand why writers often submit to many journals at once. A journal’s editors can take months and months to get back to you. Sometimes the editors never reply. But when you’re on the editorial side, you often forget what it’s like for the writers. 

MBL: I think many of us come at it from the same angle as applying to universities. You apply to a bunch, and you have your dream school, safety school, etc. Did working on Grub Street change your writing in any way? 

JV: I’m a slightly better copy editor. Then again, I’m not sure if it’s one word or two. I don’t know if copy editors have collectively decided.

MBL: Thanks so much for your time! 


Jeannie Vanasco is the author of the memoirs Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl—which was named a ​New York Times Editors’ Choice and a best book of 2019 by TIME, Esquire, Kirkus, among others—and The Glass Eye, which Poets & Writers called one of the five best literary nonfiction debuts of 2017. Her third book, A Silent Treatment, is forthcoming. Her work can be found at https://www.jeannievanasco.com/ 

Born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio, she lives in Baltimore and is an associate professor of English at Towson University. 

A Conversation with Ashley Hajimirsadeghi

This interview was conducted by Madisyn Parisi, Chief Copyeditor of Grub Street, and has been edited for clarity and length.


Ashley and I met up on a chilly October afternoon. She had come straight from her job at Towson’s career center, and we trudged up three flights of stairs in Towson’s commons to find a quiet place to talk about her writing. I was excited to dive into her vast collection of work, and before we even found a table, we had struck up a conversation about multimedia work, men who get mad at her on the internet, and The Dropout on Hulu.

MP: So I guess just starting off, when you sit down to write a poem, where do you start developing that idea? Do you usually have a line or a concept?

AH: For me, I get obsessed with a very singular image or word, and then I build the entire poem or piece around that. Like I was writing this flash fiction piece the other day, and I was really thinking about the Iranian women’s movement and burning film reels, so then I combined those two to create a flash fiction/poetry piece that was based completely around that image. Going back to edit, I wanted to keep that central. I don’t cut that out.

MP: Do you feel like you ever take a different turn from that initial image or realize something’s not about what you thought it was about?

AH: It depends on the way the story and narrative turns out, but I’ll go back and edit and see how the story grows. Sometimes our children grow up, and they don’t become what you expect them to be, and we have to adapt to that.

MP: You have to love them anyway?

AH: Yeah.

MP: Most of your poetry is in the first-person. When you write, is that speaker generally you, a character, a combination of both?

AH: It’s not me. I like to use “I”, and I’ve been switching more to “you” lately because it’s more interrogative — like, you, look at yourself. But I tend to use “I” because I feel like that drops the reader into the narrative. “I” is someone who’s real because if you say “she” or “they”, anything, they’re not a real person to the reader. Also, I tend to use very fictionalized versions of my own life. I’ll take pockets of things that I’ve experienced, then blow it into something fictionally-spun.

MP: So you’ve published two chapbooks now, cinephile and cartography of trauma. Did your process change a lot between the two of them? Do you feel like they taught you different lessons?

AH: I think for me, especially because I’m in grad school studying the world a bit more — cartography of trauma, a lot of it was poems from high school. That’s the interesting part. Poems from cinephile were like sophomore year of college, so just growing up and being like… I wanted to sell some stuff because I did a lot of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton confessional-style poetry when I was in high school. Then I was like, “I want to see beyond myself, see how I interconnect in a broader way. Like, what does it mean to be a woman in the US? What does it mean to be an Iranian-American woman? What does it mean to be a woman in the world?” Seeing how to use poems. And that adjusted my style because then I realized, hey, a lot of the time in writing classrooms we’re taught a very Western-specific way of writing. So I started reading poems from traditional Chinese, Afghan, and Persian poetry, trying to break free from the conventional western mode of storytelling. Because even in a novel, the way we think of the three-act structure, that’s only in the West, that’s a Greek thing. In China and East Asian literature, it’s just a rise and fall. A rise and fall. So my technique has been more informed by being a quote-unquote “global citizen”.

MP: Do you travel a lot?

AH: Yeah, I lived in Korea for a bit. I was posted in India last summer. I went to the Caribbean a lot growing up, and I’m a global humanities student now, so I study the world and world literature. But I hope to travel more. I grew up low-income, so we never really got the opportunity to travel, and I got these state scholarships to go other places and learn about other people, and that changed my life. 

MP: Being Iranian-American is a pretty central part of your identity and your voice. Are there specific parts of your writing that you trace back to that identity?

AH: I feel like there’s this inherent sadness that comes with being Iranian-American because you see what’s happening in Iran right now to women and even growing up in the diaspora, a lot of the men treated women horribly. Especially in the community I grew up in, abuse was normal. So I really decided in my work that even though I’ll acknowledge the male perspective, I want to ground myself in women’s voices because they’re not allowed the chance to speak often.

MP: I get the impression cartography of trauma is about all that, right?

AH: Kind of. But also just thinking about…women’s history is so messed up.

MP: A lot has happened. So when you write, you want to give voice to that female perspective. Do you want that same thing for your audience? Is your audience young women, Iranian-American women?

AH: I think it would be women in general. I hope men can read this and be like, “Wow, this sucks”, but I also give a lot of people too much credit. Yeah, no, they’re not going to. But I am thinking a lot right now about how niche certain genres are. Like poetry. People say, “Oh, it’s too hard to understand.” So, I’ve been thinking about accessibility in poetry and writing in general. People are like, “Yeah, I don’t read. I just watch Tiktok.” So just thinking about how to make it more accessible in a way that people will see it. Social media’s playing a big role. But also using big words and stuff, people won’t understand.

MP: I was going to say, your work isn’t very lofty like something you might expect from someone with your degrees and writing history. It’s very easy to understand.

AH: Well, I came from working-class parents. I wasn’t exposed to theater or art or poetry growing up. I never even took a writing class until I went to Carver down the street. So, just growing up working-class, and also not taking writing classes in undergrad. That shapes you. When you take a lot of writing classes, and you’re taught, “This is how you should write.”

MP: You don’t become a workshop writer or an MFA writer. You become something else.

AH: Yeah. So it’s about self-education but also this idea of — I think this about academia too — PhDs and all that, a lot of that stuff isn’t accessible. It’s written in a way you can’t understand it. It’s only for academics.

MP: So do you like that you’ve found yourself in a different space than that?

AH: Yeah, even though it’s hard. It’s unconventional. A bit of a rough way to get published. Because you see people younger than you getting published because they subscribe to the model. For me, it’s realizing it’s a process. Like Toni Morrison wasn’t automatically famous, she was  like 38 [39]. 

MP: But you’re also in this Instagram space. I feel like the poetry community at large hates “Instagram poetry.” Rupi Kaur, those sorts. Do you consider yourself in line with those poets, do you think you’re doing something else?

AH: I don’t really like Instagram poetry because it’s bite-sized, and a lot of it doesn’t have depth. And also Rupi Kaur was accused of plagiarizing a lot of her work. So, it’s good to share information that way, but it’s also dangerous, too. It’s kind of like seeing Facebook news and believing it’s all true.

MP: So a lot of your life right now is about writing — you’ve got Mud Season, your poetry, reviews — what do you do right now when you’re not writing, to refill the well or just take a break? … Do you take breaks? You’re looking at me like you don’t.

AH: I do like to read, but at the same time it is kind of studying. So I guess you could consider it not work, but I do genuinely enjoy it. 

MP: Is that about the furthest you ever get from writing?

AH: I used to watch movies, but now it’s my job… it’s not as enjoyable anymore. I garden, too. I like to grow our own food. It’s very serene. There’s one writer in the Caribbean, Jamaica Kincaid, who writes a lot about gardening.

MP: I feel like there’s a lot of metaphor you could get out of that. 

AH: Yeah, definitely. There’s this book called Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit. She wrote about George Orwell. He had an obsession with his rose garden. He saw it as an allegory for the end of the world. It’s very fascinating how people get attached to their gardens.

MP: Talking about that Orwellian idea, I think a lot of people in the world right now, especially writers, feel that sense of doom about the world and their work. Do you feel that way, or do you think you write with optimism?

AH: People tend to think my work is very pessimistic and sad, but I tend to look at it as progress and optimism. I work part-time at New Perspectives Theatre Company. I spent this whole two years building a database of women playwrights. A lot of these women were forgotten. Their stories never had the chance to be told. If they did write plays, they were considered dainty, feminine, docile. Seeing all these playwrights across the world made me realize that a lot of them were writing about women’s issues at the time, so the fact that I can have a platform to put my work on, or even write it, feels like hope to me. Because if that’s ever taken away from us, then what’s the point?

Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an Iranian-American multimedia artist, writer, and journalist. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Moon City Review, The Cortland Review, DIALOGIST, RHINO, Salt Hill, and The Shore, among others. She is the Co-Editor-in-Chief at Mud Season Review and a contributing writer and critic at MovieWeb. Her work can be found at ashleyhajimirsadeghi.com

Poetry Highlight: “Summer Night” and “August Wind” by Marcin Oświęcimka

By: Michael Downs

As I try to write these words, a little more than a month has passed since Marcin Oświęcimka drowned while swimming off one of the Canary Islands. Marcin, a writer and graduate student at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, had begun a semester abroad at Universidad de La Laguna in Tenerife, working to complete his degree in English philology with an emphasis on American language and culture.

Though I am a writer and professor in the United States, for a brief time in Spring 2022 I taught in Kraków, which is how I met Marcin. Quickly, I came to admire his writing and to feel grateful for his spirit. Smart and witty, Marcin connected to others through tenderness and empathy. He organized events for the campus’s English language and literature club. He could talk about skateboard wheels as well as he could discuss poems by Charles Bukowski.

For an assignment in my class, he wrote a poem based on a painting by Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Some 75 years after Hopper finished his “Summer Evening,” Marcin looked closely at the image of a man and woman standing in garish porch light, and he called them “a couple like any other.” Such a bold statement! Literature usually explores what differentiates the individual from others. So, Marcin’s description challenged my expectations and raised questions. What would the poem reveal about couples that make them all alike? At the end of his “Summer Night,” published here for the first time, Marcin offers a paradoxical answer that leaves the reader to wonder about the distances between people in love.

As seen in “Summer Night” and a second poem, “August Wind,” Marcin was a writer and poet of great potential. In an email before he was to leave for Tenerife, we talked about the possibility of him studying in the United States. I knew of a scholarship, and he hoped to conduct research into attitudes toward different foreign accents in English. “No other country can provide so many opportunities to research that field,” he wrote.

As for his creative writing, Marcin told me that he’d been traveling back and forth between composing in Polish and in English. It turns out, he wrote, “that I’m a completely different poet in my mother tongue, and I’m currently having adventures exploring this side.”

Summer Night
after Edward Hopper’s Summer Evening

the guests returned to their homes
it was an enjoyable evening
(for them)
or at least it looked as if it was
firewood and charcoals are crackling still
in the barbecue

they are a couple like any other

the night has come and
moths are headed to the lamp
sizzling on the bulb
and grasshoppers and
an occasional owl
are looming
from the meadows
and from the woods

this corner of the world
is where time flows how
it was meant to
with the idle wind strolling along
and perhaps too many chances
to think about what we all
think we think about, but we don’t

a neighbourhood like this is too small
for having secrets
so that’s how I know
they are a couple like any other

I see their undraped curtains
and the door blind undrawn
And it doesn’t mean much
nor does it bare a soul

I see them in the spotlight
sitting on the ledge of the veranda
quite close to one another
but they are a couple like any other
infinity spans between them

august wind

august wind
sometimes carries
notes of autumn
to itself
although it’s still
summer around

and silver moon
shows up
now and then
in the middle of a golden day

so I find a single dry straw
among lush blades of grass
and a lonely white cloud
in a patch of clear blue sky

old age reminds us that
it not only reads our memoirs
but also
writes us back

– Marcin Oświęcimka

Small Press Highlight: Poet Lore

Reviewing America’s Oldest Poetry Journal

  Poet Lore serves as a solid pillar of both historical and contemporary literary journals by being the oldest poetry-based publication in the United States. Now located out of our very own Bethesda, Maryland and backed by The Writers’ Center, a nonprofit, this journal has been published out of a handful of different cities for nearly 140 years. Founded in Philadelphia, the journal in its formative years was a comparative literature project of Shakespearean scholars and life partners, Helen Clarke and Charlotte Porter; though the two quickly shifted their focus to that of living writers. The women moved to Boston after two years where the journal remained until it was bought by Washington D.C.’s Heldref Publications in 1976. Eventually, it shifted to The Writer’s Center where it has been published biannually for the last 25 years.  In its longevity, the journal has had the opportunity to publish the early works of renowned poets like David Baker and Mary Oliver. 

It is clear that Poet Lore’s staff is proud of its long and inclusive history. The website declares that “poetry provides a record of human experience as valuable as history”, emphasizing not only the importance of history but the inherent value of the written word. The journal publishes content that is both urgent and intimate, offering its audience “poems built to last” with an emphasis on quality. In an interview with Frontier Poetry, Poet Lore editor Emily Holland said, “we love featuring poems that broaden the spectrum of what poetry is – and can be – on the page.” In fact, the editors are so dedicated to the vast possibilities of poetry that in their newly redesigned issue, the editors opted for a larger trim size to publish poems that might not format well on a standard book-size page. They also printed multiple poems to a page to show connections between pieces. This sizing detail is one example of how the team emphasizes voices that lack widespread renown, reconfiguring the journal itself to better accommodate its contributors. In doing so, Poet Lore remains true to the vision of its founders by maintaining its progressive and inclusive legacy. 

-Review by Chloe Ziegler, Grub Street poetry editor

Grub Street featured in Poets & Writers!

Last month, Poets & Writers released a spotlight on poet Abigail Chabitnoy, who was published in Volume 71 of Grub Street!

In their monthly Literary MagNet series, Abigail and writer Dana Isokawa discuss her writing process, Indigenous background, and all of the journals she has work published in, including our very own Grub Street!

We are proud to be a part of Chabitnoy’s publishing journey.

Read Abigail Chabitnoy’s work In Grub Street here.

Poetry Feature: “On Being Mean” by Olivia Sokolowski

On Being Mean


A man walks up to me at the gas station air pump

and tries to explain how to use the machine. I understand

how to use the machine. When he won’t take the hint

I get back in my car and he shouts, I don’t want to hurt

you! I’m just trying to help! And that’s when I get the urge

to lean out the window and smile I’m just a mean

person! Right, don’t I remember your voice from last year

calling to tell me the same? Or was it my mother’s

laughter, saying zippy, zingy, feisty—little tap-

dancey words, maraschinos? Oh man, by now I know

the artistry of Mean, its well-lit pastry case

haloing flavors: blistering pineapple, thoughtless

plum… Rich beyond measure were the egg yolks

plashing the windshield of that new Subaru. I once

stole back a birthday gift, a mounted painting, and stayed

thirsty for that urge days later. Were you not

in the car when A. read us his poem about the body

in his backseat, dying, white hair loosing

from that figure which must have been his grandfather

but turned out to be the treasured family dog? O,

how the rest of us laughed! Like shards of hard candy

shooting out of the sunroof and into the mouth

of the moon. The moon is kind because she eats this

kind of laughter, fashions it into an ambergris

waxed with sleek window cats and tulle-purple dusks, an average

she used to perfume the crags of the quiet stadium

we parked beside. But now, I only want to cross

the highway of that memory to touch the dark

noses of the cows that grazed theresweet and sad

beneath the moon’s blue spit. Why can I only

see them now with their faces to the earth, how the pulses

of their breath ask a question the grass still refuses?






Olivia Sokolowski

On Being Mean

Olivia M. Sokolowski is a poet currently pursuing her PhD at Florida State University. She earned her MFA at University of North Carolina Wilmington and her undergraduate degree at Berry College. Her work is recently featured or forthcoming in Lake Effect, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, and Nelle. You can also find Olivia streaming at twitch.tv/clockwork_olive.

Exclusive Art Feature: “Paused” by Rutvi Vakharia

Rutvi Vakharia


Rutvi Vakharia comes from Rajkot, India. She recently pursued her BVA in painting from MSU, Vadodara. Her interests are architectural segments, abandoned architectures, and her surroundings in the midst of sprawling urban cityscapes. She is a recipient of Nasreen Mohamedi Award for Best Display 2021. She has participated in annual exhibitions at Birla Academy (2022), Bombast Art Society (2021), and KCC Ami Festival (2020).

Exclusive Art Feature: “Livable Lives” by Jia Jia

Jia Jia Livable Lives Jia Jia is a multimedia artist. She works primarily in installation and incorporates sculpture, video, and performance. Her practice uses satire and humor to imagine everyday objects anew. She earned her MFA in sculpture from the University of Washington. She was the recipient of the Boyer and Elizabeth Bole Gonzales Scholarship in 2020.

Abigail Chabitnoy Reading Two Poems Appearing in Volume 70 of Grub Street




You can read Abigail’s poems “A FOUR-PART APOLOGY FOR MY CONTINUED BEING”, “A PERSISTENT DREAM OF LARGE BODIES  OF WATER & EVERYTHING THAT MIGHT BE WAITING WITHIN”, and “A PRONG OR SHARP POINT SUCH AS THAT ON A FORK, OR ANTLER” in Volume 70 of Grub Street, out now. You can also view her poetry comic on pages 150-154 of Volume 70. Click here to view Volume 70.


Abigail Chabitnoy is the author of How to Dress a Fish (Wesleyan 2019), winner of the 2020 Colorado Book Award for Poetry and shortlisted in the international category of the 2020 Griffin Prize for Poetry. She was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow and her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, Lit HubRed Ink, and elsewhere. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, and currently she is on faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshop.