2022 AWP Conference Announcement!

The Nation’s Biggest Writing Conference Comes to Philadelphia 

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the biggest annual writing conference in the United States, and it will be taking place at the Convention Center in Philadelphia in March 2022. 

The conference expects more than 12,000 writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing to gather from March 23-26, 2022 to participate in hundreds of events – and Philadelphia Stories will be a premier sponsor of this event. 

This premiere sponsorship represents a unique opportunity to not just showcase Philadelphia Stories magazine to this national audience, but to showcase Philadelphia as a hub for the literary arts. 

The Winter 2022 issue of Philadelphia Stories will be distributed at the conference, and it is our goal to ensure this issue represents the diverse voices that make up our great city. Here are two ways you can participate in the issue:

  •     Submit your work: If you are a writer currently living in or from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, you may submit your fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or artwork to be considered for the special AWP Winter 2022 issue. We are specifically seeking submissions from diverse perspectives: all ethnicities, races, abilities, and gender identification. Find our guidelines here: https://philadelphiastories.org/submission-guidelines/
  •     Submit your literary organization to be considered for our AWP Resource Guide: The Winter 2022 AWP issue of Philadelphia Stories will include a special Resource Guide listing the wealth of literary resources available in the region, including independent bookstores, literary organizations, writing workshops, reading series, and more. You may submit your organization here to be considered: https://forms.gle/LWXq8W3tYpfmnmou8

As part of our AWP sponsorship, Philadelphia Stories will be offering scholarships to writers so they can attend the conference and bookfair. We also plan to have plenty of fun, hosting free readings, meet-ups, and cocktail parties. 

We look forward to working in partnership with the Philadelphia writing community to showcase our city as a place where the literary arts thrive.


Review: Hayden Saunier, “A Cartography of Home”

Saunier, Hayden. A Cartography of Home. Terrapin, 2021.

Hayden Saunier’s A Cartography of Home (published in February by Terrapin Books) is another breathtaking example of what this poet does best: crafting sensuous language, weaving together word play and close observation. Saunier is like an accomplished oil painter at work with a palette knife. Although we know the shape of the instrument—her work is informed by traditional poetic forms, especially the couplet’s mirroring march—we are still surprised by the deftness of her strokes (the linebreaks that sing) and the vibrant colors of her language. There is an urgency to how Saunier uses time as a lens for looking at the natural world that is poignant and direct without ever tipping too far over into sentimentality.

Saunier can skirt the edge of a careworn metaphor. As one example, the title poem examines the speaker’s relationship with her mother as a map. It might have been easy to rely on trite comparisons like being “pointed the right way” and “sailing through storms,” but Saunier uses the language of discovery and exploration, and yes, cartography, to mourn the passing of the matriarch and the unmarked journey that is ‘matresence’ (a word that recently has gained media attention, meaning “mother-becoming”). She writes, “My mother was a place. She was the where/from which I rose. …as I grew into my own wild country” (Saunier, lines 1-4). The artistry of Saunier’s work is that she translates universal human experiences while still managing to make them feel intimate. It is like looking through both ends of the telescope at the same time. This is a speaker who does not directly reveal a lot about herself, and yet, she admits that, for her mother, “Monsters mark the desert blanks on her charts too” (line 15).

This work looks outward toward the natural world to earn the poems’ resolutions. In some cases, it happens in the final lines that tie back to the title (as in, “I’m Also the Fox”) or a voice that turns toward the reader as if she stands on a dark stage to stage-whisper, “Oh, you didn’t think/there was a catch?/There’s always a catch.” (“Gathering Black Locust Blooms,” lines 26-28). The underlying architecture of Saunier’s work is hard wrought, and like a Swiss watch or hand-forged lock (see the poem “Locks” for more on what this costs), the impressive beauty of its intricacies is that they remain invisible. And yet, her work can be wryly humorous, and I hope I will be forgiven for comparing it to the carrion bird, whom she hallows in her poem “Evening View with a Turkey Vulture”: it is the “cathartes aura/golden purifier/[who may be] beak-and-talon-tired/from a long day’s taking up of the dead” (lines 17-20). These are poems to be enjoyed for what they are doing, how they shift the reader’s attention to splendor and the fading art of really looking at the world around us.



Holy Cow

I am trying to make sense of things, which is why I find myself ruminating. Chewing like a cow on my thoughts. Cows also ruminate. Differently though. After ingesting lots of grass, cows find a place to lie down to more thoroughly chew their food. This process of swallowing, “un-swallowing”, re-chewing, and re-swallowing is called rumination, or more commonly, “chewing the cud.” Perhaps my mental cud chewing is some undiagnosed shit, as I have more than once been called a bull shitter. Maybe it’s some spiritual shit, as I have more than once been called a heifer.

During my ruminations, a thought from years ago or months ago or minutes ago, a sneaky motherfucking thought can get caught in an endless cycle that moves through my mind, down into my gut, up into my heart, and back into my head all day for days. This week’s rumination was on Bill Gates. When news first dropped of his divorce with Melinda French Gates, I couldn’t understand why a couple married that long would divorce. Just didn’t make sense to me in my naivety about relationships and such. But then I read he’d been a serial philanderer, and maybe something worse, for years. This took me back to my ongoing thoughts about John Tubman. I wonder what it felt like for Harriett to love a lover who betrayed her and still not be able to get him out of the rotation of her habitual thinking—looking for nutrients that were perhaps never there.

And that just sits me down in the grass with my questions, not about Bill or John or Harriett, but about humans, about humanity, about the cows. Is there a goal for reckoning with the atrocities done to the folks on this land, or is everyone just chewing cud, full of it. What would it take for folks to trust each other enough to confront history healthily on a massive scale? Is that ever going to happen or is it not even what people want? Are we out to pasture and don’t even know it? Being led to some ultimate slaughter because we’ve never stopped chewing long enough to digest what has happened here. To extract the lessons, expel the shit, and not lap it up again and again for no reason, no reason at all on repeat. How do we repair the harm of slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching? I grind these questions through my teeth, down into my gut, throw them up, lick them down, throw them up again, sleep with them on my stomach, wake up with them on my face.

I wonder if I, who unlike cows that ruminate out of necessity, am doing so as a trauma response? Am I eternally grazing? Do I get to have memories of my dad’s size 11 hooves stomping my mother’s face in my mind forever, forever ever? Oh, the amount of intrusive reviewing and revisiting and revising that I put myself through after a speech or a panel discussion or after I’ve met someone whose thoughts make me think twice. Always wanting to rewind the time, to break things down just a little bit more, just a little bit longer. I can lie paralyzed by thoughts of a single color, a silly word, or a fumbled phrase. Is this something that will eventually go away? Do I want it to? I think the older I get, it only happens more.

I ruminate over people too. I sit and think and think and think about Kanye or my Ex or my future love or my future Ex lover and wonder if they are ok and if there is anything I could do to help them or to help the people in my life who are like them? I even think about how their brains work and wonder whether they ruminate too? Do they reflect on circumstances in ways that require large swaths of energy—relive moments of emotional unrest or emotional bliss while waving their tails under the summer’s hot sun? Do questions about Malcolm and Mariama and Mumia know no end in their minds like mine? Do they get so lost in their thoughts that they see someone talking but cannot make out the words they’ve said with lips just flapping from side to side in the wind?

This Erykah Badu on and on and on-ism is also something I do with history. Sit myself in the haul of a ship tightly packed with piss and vomit and blood and death at my feet and at my head. I am Antoinette Sithole running beside a dying boy through Soweto. I am Winnie Mandela 491 days solitarily confined. I, too, chew with the ancient aurochs and swim with the ship jumpers.

Someone told me to practice writing the ruminations out. Not a therapist, just a fellow ruminator who reported to have found a way to reuse their unmanaged, unmitigated written ruminations to reimagine. To release them like an unruly herd. I want to reimagine what the American version of the Truth and Reconciliation Trials would look like? A social epic I suppose. Can we stand to memorize other people’s lines? Like future replay in reverse.

Rumination was originally defined as repetitive thinking about negative effects and their possible causes and consequences. But rumination can also be beneficial when it focuses on reckoning with an error—one’s own and those of others. Like spending hours thinking about what healing feels like in our bodies, in our minds. Rumination is also helpful for goal attainment rehearsing a task—seeing ourselves, smelling ourselves, in a future as we wish to see it. When was the last time you ruminated on a world repaired? A people healed? Remembering that finding social nutrients is an all-day job and gave yourself the whole day to do it. Write out your regurgitations, prepare for reconciliations that repair the harm because we can ruminate on the problems until the cows come home, but how much more can our minds really take and who is it actually feeding?

For the last 10 years, Jeannine Cook has worked as a trusted writer for several startups, corporations, non-profits, and influencers. In addition to a holding a master’s degree from The University of the Arts, Jeannine is a Leeway Art & Transformation Grantee and a winner of the South Philly Review Difference Maker Award. Jeannine’s work has been recognized by several news outlets including Vogue Magazine, INC, MSNBC, The Strategist, and the Washington Post. She recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya facilitating social justice creative writing with youth from 15 countries around the world. She writes about the complex intersections of motherhood, activism, and community. Her pieces are featured in several publications including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Root Quarterly, Printworks, and midnight & indigo. She is the proud new owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.

Busy Night

The car alarm jabs the neighbors awake

every fifteen minutes when its bark

sets off the strays in their chorus

of call and response and the supermarket

down the block has an alarm, too; it throbs

like a synthesizer overlay on an old disco track,

but the neighbors don’t dance except for

the young couple across the street who hustle

out on the stoop to the rhythm of their

raised voices, the angry tempo of go ahead

and do it, of big man, of bitch, while

sometime traffic on Broad Street whispers

its wheels on asphalt to hush its roll

through streetlights’ amber cone before the siren

song of the EMT’s carting someone in the truck

to the ER on the other side of town while neighbors

wish, maybe, that they were in one of the planes

overhead, the belly-lights sly wink like

saying, You know this is all bullshit, right?

before it screams down onto the runway

at the airport across the river – or perhaps it’s

the ringing they hear borne in the brief quiet

of their own bedrooms, the brazen scurry

of blood through their ears’ capillaries, the rattle

of breath only they can hear like a dream

they can’t quite rise from, a song almost recalled,

its ancient refrain on a loop they can’t shake,

in the mystery of sleep, awake, a puzzle, impossible,

like how, after all, day breaks without a sound.

Chris Ritter is a Philadelphia native living and working in a South Jersey suburb.

The Elements

 for Delaware City Oil Refinery


From here I promise you will see it all —


those clusters of towers

their various diameters and heights

lifted into cloud-clotted sky


bespeckled by summer sun

grounded by a low plinth

composed of wide shallow domes


grounded by marshes clotted with nests and lairs

clusters of golden phragmites

rising up there


then water, lapping

where eels unscroll, abiding in the dark patches

on their way to the Sargasso Sea


not a sea as you’d imagine it, just

the ragged floating place they dream of —


a falling sequence of materials

from solid to liquid to gas, a game

of animal vegetable mineral —


old cast-iron composed of scraps of dying stars

grounded by a burning fall

torn caterwauling out of the ground


casting fire and steam into that floating sky

while within, the compression of life forms —

fern bones and beetle wings from long ago


transformed to gasoline and other gases, or lighter fuel

diesel laced with hydrogen, or propane —

gases, liquids, steam, fire — fluid forms


in drifted tatters lapped by sky and water

smithereens unfurled, swarming

toward some remembered place.

Anne Yarbrough’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, Delmarva Review, and Gargoyle. She lives along the lower Delaware River.

The Color Absence

The color absence is yellow and blood

red, bones of glass shattered on the floor

with no broom or dustpan in line of sight.


Did you see me walking the other day?

I was delivering you in the flex of my arms,

sleeves folded back to conceal the rips


of laughter. I wonder if you still hold

the last words you spoke to me in your

pocket like a brand new set of car keys.


Don’t you worry that I forgot my jacket

in the freezing cold rain? Or maybe the wind

rubs its hands together on the front porch


waiting to come back inside. The color

absence glazes its palette in the summer

fallow, knocking sugar skulls against pine


doors, brittle to the touch and slapped with

salt water. If endings spring forth like a geyser,

then let me catch the steam on the way down.

Ezra Solway writes in Philadelphia where he received an MFA in Creative Writing at Temple University this past spring. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured in The Jewish Literary Journal, North of Oxford, and Small Leaf Press, among others. You can follow his writings on twitter at @SolwayEzra

What Our Fathers Didn’t Tell Us About the War

To read What Our Fathers Didn’t Tell Us About the War, click HERE.

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.