Podcast Epsiode 29: Catherine Rockwood on Editing Our Beautiful Reward

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press Podcast! It’s me, Michael J. DeLuca, publisher, and we are coming back out of hiatus just for a minute to celebrate that Our Beautiful Reward, our special issue on bodily autonomy, comes out in print on March 16th. We’re having a virtual launch party on Sunday the 19th at 8PM eastern US time aka GMT-5, which will feature readings from contributors Leah Bobet, Marissa Lingen, Julian K. Jarboe, Linda Cooper, M. C. Benner-Dixon, Riley Tao, Dyani Sabin and Juliana Roth. And we’ll draw names and give away books and t-shirts and talk about bodily autonomy and reproductive justice. Editor Catherine Rockwood will emcee, Julie Day and Carina Bissett of Essential Dreams Press and The Storied Imaginarium will host. It’ll be grand. I’ll post the link to RSVP on the website.

In the meantime, I have Catherine here with me today, and we’re going to talk about Our Beautiful Reward!

[Bio below.]

Michael: I should add that Catherine and I recently met in person for the first time after having worked together on Reckoning staff for several years, and it was lovely, relaxed and intellectually stimulating in ways I had honestly almost forgotten face-to-face human interaction could be in these isolating times. So I hope to share with you all a little bit of that today. Welcome Catherine!

Catherine: Thank you!

Michael: I am excited to try this out with you—we’re doing a new thing here, using the Discord chat where we all have our editorial staff discussions on a daily basis to record a conversation. Catherine is the editor of Our Beautiful Reward, our special issue on bodily autonomy, and I’ve got some questions for her to get us going discussing what makes us so excited about it and how we had such a good time putting it together. First of all, Catherine: what did you learn editing this special issue?

Catherine: I learned a lot. One of the things that I learned is just purely personal and that’s just that I enjoy editing, which I didn’t know before. I learned to be really super grateful for Reckoning’s readers. They saved me from making a lot of mistakes, I think, they helped me read better. Everyone I forwarded things to got back to me with great advice and insights. That’s not to say I didn’t make mistakes, I did, but other people can’t fully save you from that. However, a generous advising team like the one at Reckoning helps improve outcomes. We’re proud of the issue. Part of the reason I feel proud of it is because of the people who helped me put it together. It wouldn’t be as good as it is without everybody. I think the other thing that is really exciting is, I learned that editing expands the imagination kind of like reading does, and there’s a very different feel to it. So you’re not really asking yourself what does this individual poem or story do, but instead you’re thinking—and this was totally new to me, and so interesting—what does this poem or story do together with this other poem or story? And you kind of do that, and you do that, and you find new things, and you find new combinations, until you hit your page limit. Which, it should be said, we had a little difficulty putting a page cap on this issue. We kind of went over our initial limit because there was so much great stuff that was coming in and so many pieces that we wanted. But speaking in terms of what it’s like to edit: it’s super intense to be bringing that togetherness of this set of works into its final shape. And I loved it, but also: I was tired once we were done.

Michael: [Laughing] Me too! It is kind of magic how a group of people who don’t know each other can be all thinking about the same topic, and be brought together after they’ve written something on that topic into a physical/conceptual object—an issue of a magazine—and actually begin to feel like a community, mutually inspiring, mutually supporting. I’ve experienced this a lot with Reckoning. I totally want to echo everything you say about Reckoning staff, they are wonderful, they are a community that feels pretty resilient to me at this point.

Catherine: Yep.

Michael: I’m doing a lot behind the scenes, but the work culture, the creative culture of Reckoning staff is a solid entity of its own, and that’s wonderful.

Perhaps a fun thing to interject here is, as you said, we went over our intended page limit, and I’m glad we did, the work that’s in the issue coheres really well, but it made us have to change our intentions for the physical object, which is what’s coming out here in March. We got all excited about the idea of it having a zine format, sort of like an old style punk zine. We were going to have a piece of vellum—

Catherine: [Laughing] Yes!

Michael: —that would flip back and reveal the art….

Catherine: We got very excited about materials and binding, but yes, that had to change.

Michael: We got to a fair point of talking it through with your chapbook publisher, who is awesome, and was willing to do all this hand-binding, and then alas, too many great words. So now it’s a perfect-bound paperback like all the other Reckoning issues. Oh well—it’s still great.

Catherine: That’s right. Sara Lefsyk at the Ethel zine press was willing to work with us on it, but yes, our page count went over. But people should still check out the Ethel zine press, another great indie publisher.

Michael: Okay, so: what’s the connection between environmental justice and bodily autonomy?

Catherine: Right! This is a big question. And having thought about it—and I’ll just say these are really just my thoughts, which I’ve tried to inform as much as possible through reading and discussion—so one answer for me is that it’s harder to gear yourself up to take action on and for environmental causes if you don’t feel empowered to make basic decisions about what’s right for your own body. And so we have an essay by Amber Fox, it’s called “Ghost of a Chance: A Trans Girl Tries to Live” that really opened my eyes to that, as what I would call a fact. Riley Tao’s flash fiction piece “Hangs Heavy on Their Head” connects developing concern for the environment with an increasing sense of possibility about presenting in public and to oneself as non-binary. When you feel that you can choose what’s right for yourself in terms of gender identity, I think that then extends to feeling you can make actual choices about the world and in the service of the world. Which is of course one of the reasons gender identity is so heavily policed. So—really big stuff there.

Michael: Yeah, for sure.

Catherine: Yeah! It’s huge.

Here’s another more rambling answer, and that is that the definition of autonomy is self-government. But when it comes to the environment, we’re all dependents. We’re all at the mercy of what the environment’s condition is. And that’s not a great position to be in at all right now, overall. Which is why more than ever people who can get pregnant should be able to self-govern about the pregnancy itself. Of course—and this is where the justice part comes in—some of us are more at the mercy of our local environments than others. Due to the historically unequal conditions that have determined where marginalized populations live, in the US and elsewhere. And that’s not fair. Environmental justice work increases bodily autonomy in the sphere of childbearing, where it helps equalize or balance local material conditions including the condition of essential natural resources like air and water that pertain to making a decision about a pregnancy—to continue it or not to continue it, to raise a child or not raise a child, now, as things are.

My thought on this is influenced by—or I would say sourced in—Sister Song, an Atlanta-based organization with national reach, founded and led by Black and Brown women. And you can find the organization at www.sistersong.net. In the 1990s, Sister Song coined the term “reproductive justice” and articulated a careful set of principles around it. “Reproductive justice is comprised by” —and I’m quoting here from their website—”the human right to control our bodies and our future, the human right to have children, the human right to not have children, and the human right to parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities”. Where environmental justice comes into it explicitly of course is in that fourth principle, “the right to raise children in safe and sustainable communities”. There are many things that go into creating a safe and sustainable community, but a functional environment is a sine qua non, it’s an absolute necessity. For historically marginalized communities to experience reproductive justice, they must have clean water, clean air, a livable climate. Which as things now are would take some deep work. We should all be putting time, money, work in to make that a possibility.

So those are some of the connections that I see.

Michael: Yeah. And the concept of reproductive justice here perfectly illustrates how that works.

Catherine: Yeah.

Michael: We got the idea for this issue as a result of the Supreme Court ruling about Roe v. Wade, and then very quickly were forced to expand—”forced”, I mean, we realized that the question of reproduction is only a small part of bodily autonomy—

Catherine: Yes.

Michael: —and the more I sit and think it through, you know, as you’re saying, where you live determines what you can and can’t do with your body including have healthy children?

Catherine: That’s right.

Michael: I’m thinking about the people who live near me in Downriver Detroit who grow up with terribly contaminated air, and as a result, if you’re born in that area you’re incredibly likely to have all these allergies, and your kids are as likely, and all that’s about systemic economic factors that result in Black people ending up living in Downriver Detroit as opposed to white people, etc etc and on and on.

Catherine: Yeah, and again, I feel like I’m coming to this very belatedly and there are many people who’ve thought about it much more deeply, much more profoundly for much longer. But editing this issue, thinking about this issue really brought home to me is, you know, essentially, destroying the environment is removing fundamental choices from people, the ability to make fundamental choices. So in terms of the issue, one of the works that we published that really illustrates this for me, where the author is explicitly talking about that, like, you know, what choices remain to me, based on what other people have done to the environment, is Laurel Nakanishi’s “Ghazal for Freshwater”, where the speaker talks about having a new baby and living in an area where you are no longer in control of whether or not you can offer your child fresh water. And it should get to you, you know, thinking that way.

Michael: Should I say the hippie thing about star stuff?

Catherine: I think you should totally say the hippie thing about star stuff, yes.

Michael: [Laughs] Okay! Something this issue and working with you on it has taught me about is the progressive theoretical conception of “bodies”. This is something I heard about long ago when my partner was in a Women’s Studies program and couldn’t wrap my head around until this moment, really. We are made of profound stuff, star-stuff, as it’s a bit cliché to say in science fiction, but we’re these incredible, thinking, feeling creatures, extending far beyond our physical forms, but bounded by them. We’re in them, and in that sense, in a very real way, environment is a part of them, part of us. Industrialist, individualized society has made it too easy to sever that connection, to think of ourselves as independent of our bodies—and here when I say “our” I am probably unable to help meaning, more than I should at this point, dominant white male bodies—and that makes things conceived of as outside us—again, me—seem exploitable, disposable. And that includes bodies, other bodies. But we are what we eat, what we breathe, what we absorb through our skin, and that’s true of animals and of plants and of people. It’s easy to begin to sound here like I’ve eaten too many of the special brownies, but the lens of environmental justice has shown me that body-mind-spirit is all one thing in ways the hippies that surrounded me in my youth never managed. And I will stop myself there.

Let’s try to talk more about some amazing moments in this issue, without spoilers if we can.

Catherine: So I’m mainly a poet in terms of practice—well, in terms of my own writing practice—and so I’d like to start with the poetry and then move on to the amazing fiction. And I would say, true for both of those…. Let’s see, we have one nonfiction piece in Our Beautiful Reward, we have Amber Fox’s essay, but in terms of the poetry the thing that I like the most about what we assembled is that it really varies in terms of style and form. So we have free verse, we have Laurel Nakanishi’s “Ghazal for Freshwater”, we have Marissa Lingen’s litany, which ends the issue. There isn’t a sameness to the poetry stylistically. And every poem is on topic, but also highly individualized, and that was just—and I’m going to swear here—it was a fucking joy. I mean it was so great to read and think about this very different but again very focused work. Plus the pieces, the poems, you know, really ring the changes on and against each other. For example, we start the issue with Linda Cooper’s poem “After the Ban”, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler—you know, I’m going to do a little, I guess, like, on-the-go criticism. So in this poem—and you have to read it to see how this is done—a young woman is kind of disassembled by “the ban”. And implicitly this is the ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy, I mean moving into very early weeks where it is in fact impossible for instance to know that you might even be pregnant. The young woman in the poem is sort of disassembled by the ban into a set of abstractions that suddenly reform in just a wild, powerful way at the end of the poem. And in Annabelle Cormack’s “Charcuterie”, a young woman is disassembled in a very different, non-abstracted way. So we also had—and I was delighted by this, we had some very necessary, very visceral body horror included in this issue. To conclude, we have Marissa Lingen’s “Exception”, where instead of the material world turning against known rules, the speaker’s own voice turns against her. So in the framing poems of the issue, “After the Ban” and “Exception”, in both cases—these are very different poems—there’s a moment where what’s settled or decided in the poem drops away, and a whole new set of possibilities hovers or explodes into view. And I love that. It’s a bit of a response; there’s this sense that, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, you know, something that we understood—that was of settled benefit to a large percentage of—to the American population—dropped away. And, you know, it’s trying to remember that this is a true loss, and it’s costly, and it’s hurting people now, and that we can also try to think of it as a moment of unsettlement, a moment where new possibilities are going to come into view in terms of what might happen in the future. So the poems do that, I hope the issue does that, and I just love what the writers have done.

Michael: Yeah. This again is reminding me of how beautifully it all came together. The sense that—you called it “falling away”—I am aware that this is an issue about a shock.

Catherine: A shock of loss.

Michael: Right. And it shares something with the other special issue we did, which was about COVID, in that it’s a bunch of reactions. And that’s—it’s both wonderful and sad, I mean if we had given people more time, if we had waited, perhaps the issue would have had more activism, more resistance? But it still has a lot of resistance, and it is important to me to give that sense of loss a platform.

Catherine: Yes.

Michael: It also always astonishes me how poetic meanings can evolve—and in prose too, I mean, we read these pieces over and over as we’re developing the issue, and every time I read them in that process they mean a little something different to me. I read Juliana Roth’s poem, “Roses in Washington Square Park”, so many times before I was able to just engage with it as a narrative of something that was happening to a narrator and her mother in a park, and when it actually did I couldn’t understand how I had engaged with it the previous times I’d read it. The other thing that occurs to me here is Mari Ness’s poem “Green Leaves Against the Wind” articulates exactly what I was talking about a minute ago about interdependent bodily forms. There’s the line “I could feed this garden with my blood.” And I’m thinking about every time I clip my nails. This may be gross, but I put it in the compost, and then those proteins feed my plants, which feed me again, and I am interconnected with all that. My garden is me. And that is something it has taken me until this long to realize about that poem. And this is about how the pieces interact with each other, as you were saying at the beginning of this discussion. Part of the wonderful thing about editing is looking at these pieces individually and then learning new things about them when they’re placed side by side. And the most striking example to me in this issue of that is what happened when we looked at Julian Jarboe’s and Dyani Sabin’s poems next to each other. They’re both about the risks of physical and emotional love when bodies are under threat, and they really play off each other beautifully, and they’re both very subtle, and I was unable to grasp some of the subtleties until I looked at them next to each other.

Catherine: Yeah.

Michael: Which makes me feel obtuse, frankly, but in a good way because I’m learning.

Catherine: [Laughs.]

Michael: But we should talk about the fiction too. Uh, which direction are we walking—as an issue, as a field, as a society—with respect to Omelas? I really like how comparatively undystopian this issue is in the traditional sense, the science fictional sense, considering the subject and where we are in the world right now. Nobody’s trapped in a distant orbital maze to make a point. Instead, for example in Anna Orridge’s story, they’re trapped in a walled subdivision taking care of somebody’s kids. The dystopia here is close, in time and in scale, it has nuance. Does that feel like a relief to you as much as it does to me?

Catherine: Yes, and I think also particularly in relation to this topic, that it’s important to understand—I think it is like genuinely capital-I Important to understand that to some extent the dystopia is us. [Laughing.] And yet that also sources of hope and familiarity and community are also us as it relates to this topic, environmental justice and its relationship with bodily autonomy. And so Leah Bobet, who has a wonderful poem, “fertile week”, in the issue, recently talked about the interest of setting work what she called “five minutes into the future”. So that’s a Leah Bobet quotation there, “fiction set five minutes into the future”. A lot of what we accepted for Our Beautiful Reward is set there. I think that is because, as you say, one of the factors is that our call was quite immediate, it was quite reactive in relation to the overturn of Roe v. Wade at the end of June 2022, and so people responded with immediate, you know, this applies to my life, this applies to your life, fictional renderings. But this is, I think, important—it was certainly important to me as an editor. I think generally, though not universally, this is important to Reckoning as a publication. You could speak more precisely to that. But none of the stories end on what you’d really call a note of despair. So Rimi B. Chatterjee’s “A Question of Choice”—fantastic story—leaves us with a view of evolving resistance to patriarchal reproductive tech in northern India. That story is just so fun, I mean like it shows and discusses a lot of super difficult things, but it’s also just fundamentally unbowed at its very core, and I hope lots of people read it. Dana Vickerson’s beautifully structured short story “On This Day, and All Days, I Think About What I Have Lost”, does end in a state of profound grief, but it’s also about endurance, stubbornness, recovery. I do love the fact that if you’ve read around in the field, you know, in speculative fiction and what you would call more—not space opera-y, but like more distant worlds, you can kind of get the outlines of galactically huge things under the surface of the apparent everyday in the fiction in this issue. So for instance, Anna’s story “Wild Winter Rose” is partly I think about the way dislocation to another country can be as terrifying as emergency space travel unless you have the help of some kind of community.

Michael: Yes! So much of this is in conversation with a shared body of work. And I never want Reckoning to be exclusively genre and I personally have no idea how to distinguish between genre poetry and non-genre poetry, which you and I have talked about in the past.

Catherine: Yep.

Michael: But I feel like genre thinking and metaphors are much more in the public consciousness than they ever have been, and a moment like this… I felt like this in 2001, actually. When 9/11 happened I thought, I have entered a science-fictional side timeline, and I didn’t like that feeling, and I didn’t think that reaction was appropriate to what had happened. But, you know, an emotional response is an emotional response—

Catherine: Yes.

Michael: —and I can’t be too critical of myself about it at this point from something so long ago. But I feel, with everything that’s happened, not to name that orange-headed guy, but it all repeatedly feels that way these days, and we have these huge metaphors underlying everywhere. So when I was reading the Dana Vickerson story, I thought about the world of Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, in which some similar things happen, dystopian, dark things that look a lot like the United States of today, in frightening ways that lots of people have pointed out. But Vickerson’s ending is hopeful to me in an interior sense where Butler’s ending… the hope it provides is in the stars. It’s saying “this world sure is messed up and dystopian, and this country’s origin is in slavery, and maybe that’s inescapable, but maybe we can get away from it into the unknown. And that never quite worked as well on me as the ending of that Dana Vickerson story, even though it is incredibly sad, tragic, and the character is left isolated and without much more than her memories and her grief. And yet there’s this internal hope, which feels much more real to me than the idea of colonizing space ever did.

Catherine: This is so interesting. And I think, you know, again, the way that the field needs to, must, and will continue to have conversations about…. [Laughs.] You know, this world or other worlds? Right? Do we place our hope in this world or other worlds? And that conversation has been going on for a long time. It’s achieving nuance, achieving new information sets, new factors all the time. I do wonder—you know, I think you could argue that some of this is still about race, and whether the color of your skin has anything to do with how much you feel is left to recuperate. You know, environmentally, psychologically on earth. So I’m thinking here about Sofia Samatar’s fiction, and in particular I’m thinking about her short story “Request for an Extension on the Clarity“—

Michael: Ah, yeah.

Catherine: —which is in her collection Tender, and I think it first appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet

Michael: Yes, that was my guest issue, I bought that story, so proud!

Catherine: Oh, did you, did you? It’s such an incredible story.

Michael: Yes!

Catherine: And that, to me, that’s a story I read and I was like, “oh, shit!” [Laughs.] You know?

Michael: Yeah.

Catherine: Here’s something I, comparatively affluent cisgender white woman, had never thought about before. So this is where a nonwhite protagonist can’t bring herself to return to earth, but also isn’t fully ready to throw away her relationship to the planet, and so for the time being—and this is sort of the always time of the rest of the sequel of the story, I mean as far as you know she’s just going to stay where she is which is on a space station, an in-between space of contemplation between these really difficult, different options. And so I can’t remember all the fine particulars of that incredible story, but I remember that essential and deliberate positioning that Samatar really wanted us to think about. So—the conversation will continue. And it was so incredibly exciting to have an editorial seat at this particular iteration. And a tremendous amount of affection, I would say, for the experience and the undertaking is what I’ve been left with.

Michael: That is a reasonable stopping point?

Catherine: Yes.

Michael: I sure would love to talk—you know, each of these pieces—there are things for us to squee about. But we need not squee about every single one of them.

Catherine: Yep, yep. [Laughing.]

Michael: So I’ll say, thank you very much, Catherine. This was a lot of fun—

Catherine: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Michael: —and I hope what we have talked about excites those of your who are listening to go read the rest and get excited about that too.

Catherine: Yes, exactly. Please read these wonderful works.

Michael: Also, please come to the launch party! That’s on Sunday, March 19th at 8PM EST/GMT-5, and you’ll get a chance to hear some of the work we’ve talked about here from the authors in their own voices, and also maybe win a copy of the issue. Admission is free, but we need your info to include you in the drawings (and to prevent spammers) so please RSVP, which you can do by going to reckoning.press/our-beautiful-reward. Thank you very much for listening, and I hope to see you then!

Editorial: Naming names, claiming days.

These are the Supreme Court Justices of the United States of America who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.


John Roberts

Samuel Alito

Clarence Thomas

Neil Gorsuch

Amy Coney Barrett

Brett Kavanaugh


Five Justices had stated publicly in the past—sometimes the very recent past—that they regarded Roe v. Wade as settled law. (The sixth never acknowledged this.)

The Dobbs decision directly impacts the right of any U.S.-resident person who can become pregnant to make decisions about their own body. It claims unjust authority over that body’s movement through our tired, contracting, beauty-veined world. And it compromises an individual’s ability to locate their own flourishing and happiness, which may stand single, among family, friends and partners, or eventually include the chosen addition of a child or children.

If you’re reading Our Beautiful Reward, you probably already agree with all of the above. You may also agree that the struggle for reproductive rights is linked to other contemporary struggles for bodily autonomy, including trans rights; disability rights; the right to be free of violence both institutional and private; the right to not have the environment damaged so deeply that you, an embodied person, can no longer take care of yourself and others within it. Many affiliated efforts in the direction of justice follow from these beliefs.

In some of the writing that follows you will find powerful evidence of shock, anger and grief at acts of reckless authoritarian intrusion including, but not limited to, the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Not every piece in this collection aims to be ‘constructive.’ We have held room for fury and disorientation. In other works, you will find speculative approaches to living fully, defiantly, within threatened contexts. A good number of these poems and stories acknowledge that for now, freedom—that difficult-to-quantify, wrestled-over term—is felt and found from moment to moment, day to day, rather than existing as a great and secure continuity of unquestioned fact.

What we hope we have done in bringing these authors and works together in this special issue of Reckoning is to confirm that many of us, across the world, are working wherever possible to extend those moments, those days. Join us. Read on.

Podcast Episode 23: Sold for Parts

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Today on the Reckoning Press podcast we have Catherine Rockwood reading NIB’s quiet flash story “Sold for Parts”, about surviving, coping, in a world of loss. This piece seems particularly relevant here in the U.S., after a series of Supreme Court decisions that signals a precipitous erosion of rights, hope for safety and well-being and progress towards justice of all kinds, for everyone.

I hope listening to it provides you some solace, a little peace.

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve just announced a new submission call for a special issue about bodily autonomy and environmental justice, Our Beautiful Reward, edited by none other than Catherine Rockwood. To read that call and submit, you can go to reckoning.press/submit.

We’re also running our first-ever fundraiser, with the goal of raising payrates for writers, staff, and podcast readers, potentially producing a print edition of Catherine’s special issue featuring cover art by Mona Robles, and including cool rewards like pins, t-shirts, personal story critiques from some of our editors past and present, and other weirder fun stuff. Go to reckoning.press/support-us for details.

Thank you for listening!

[Bios below.]

“Sold for Parts” by NIB

Podcast Episode 22: The Watcher on the Wall

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Hi everyone, I’m Catherine Rockwood, and today on the Reckoning Magazine Podcast I’m going to be reading “The Watcher on the Wall” by Rebecca Bratten Weiss. And this poem is featured in Reckoning 6, which we are very proud of and which hope you will pick up or survey.

So the way we’d like to order the podcast is, first I’m going to tell you a little bit about Rebecca, and then I’m going to say a few words about what we really loved about this poem when it came through in the submissions, and then I’m going to read you the poem. Okay, so here goes.

(Rebecca’s bio appears below.)

So on to some thoughts about the poem itself. Here I would just say that what we loved about Rebecca’s poem was its clarity and anger, its willingness to fully engage with difficult human relationships with which and by means of which we try to understand the enormous danger and uncertain outcomes of environmental destruction. When climate communicators talk about the need to face difficult things, well, you’ll see what this poem does with that. It embodies the process of facing difficult things in a way we found both grave and uncanny, disturbing and galvanizing. And we hope you agree.

“The Watcher on the Wall” by Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Special Submission Call: Our Beautiful Reward [Closed]

“…the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

The call for submissions for Our Beautiful Reward, a special online issue of Reckoning Magazine, is closed as of September 1, 2022.

The fall of Roe V Wade in the U.S. has codified dramatic restrictions on the right of pregnant individuals to make their own reproductive choices. In the U.S. and internationally, we are also witnessing an increase in already significant levels of hostility against trans and genderqueer bodily self-determination. These struggles for basic bodily autonomy are linked, and find common grounding in the pursuit of joy, flourishing, care and safety.

Likewise, the pursuit of joy, flourishing, care and safety requires that we fight for a sustainable world within which chosen families of all kinds can exist and tend to one another. With a deep sense of the urgency of the moment, Reckoning invites you to imagine this world, and the roles that bodily autonomy and bodily self-determination play in both creating and inhabiting it. We will read submissions of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction for the special online issue through the end of August 2022. Ebook release date will be October 16, 2022, with content appearing weekly online thereafter. Amazing cover artwork by Mona Robles (of Reckoning 1 and Creativity and Coronavirus fame) coming soon.

We’ll be paying professional rates as always, and the regular submission call for the ocean-themed Reckoning 7, edited by Octavia Cade, Tim Fab-Eme and Priya Chand, will remain open for the duration.

Submit your work here!     Read the full guidelines here.

Note: we previously had Moksha set to throttle so everyone could only have one submission at a time. I’ve relaxed that so folks can submit to Reckoning 7 and Our Beautiful Reward simultaneously! —Michael

Podcast Episode 17: Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse

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Hi everyone, my name’s Catherine, and today for the Reckoning Press Podcast I’m going to be reading you the poem “Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse”, which is a poem that appears in Reckoning 6, and it is by the author Avra Margariti.

This is a poem with particularly dark content, I don’t think Avra would argue with that—as you will see when we get to her bio, she is an author who works deeply in horror, and she has an entire collection of horror poetry which is now out from Weasel Press and is titled The Saint of Witches, and if you like what I’m about to read you, you should go check it out. I think one of the things that allows me to read this poem and not descend too far into the darkness (which is not my preferred location, because I’m kind of a scaredy-cat) is that it’s very cleverly structured to be understood as a self-contained short play, a tragedy: and that’s where we get the title, the dramatis personae or players of the play, who are going to take us into this content but then also let us go from it, when the action is over. And we can kind of imagine that the poem is, like, a short interlude: it’s really difficult stuff, but it’s also formal, stylized, there’s a sense that this is something—an entertainment, a frightening one—which is being set to the side of what we might call realism. So even for me, generally a non-horror-reader because I’m so good at freaking myself out without anybody else’s help, I can work with that: and I’m grateful for the vivid starkly lit scenes that Avra shows us here, their argument that in fact there are formal methods for talking about the things that frighten us.

I’m going to proceed to Avra’s bio and then I’ll read you the poem.

[Bio below.]

Dramatis Personae of the Apocalypse by Avra Margariti

Podcast Episode 12: “The Loss of the Moon” and “Snuffing the Night Candles”

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood, I’m a staff member at Reckoning Magazine, and today I’ll be reading and discussing two poems from issue six: “The Loss of the Moon,” by Ken Poyner, and “Snuffing the Night Candles,” by Scott T. Hutchison. Ken Poyner’s poem is already up and free to read at https://reckoning.press, in case you want to follow along or go back to re-read it. Scott T. Hutchison’s “Snuffing the Night Candles” will be released on the website on May 8th. These poems speak so effectively to each other, and to the work of the magazine, that we decided to discuss them in the same episode.

I think probably the way this will work best is if I read you the poems first and then add some thoughts afterward. So, here goes, starting with author bios.

[Bios below.]

“The Loss of the Moon” by Ken Poyner

[“Snuffing the Night Candles” by Scott T. Hutchison will be available to read for free online on May 8th and in print on July 1st; if you’d rather not wait, get the ebook now.]

So, after listening to them, you probably have some thoughts about these poems: and the different levels of immediacy they bring to a shared consciousness of being present in a time of loss. “Snuffing the Night Candles” is more abstracted, its narrator’s depiction of his own experience more constrained by a sense of personal isolation, though the poem reaches out at the end for something I’ll talk more about in a minute.

In Ken Poyner’s poem, the narrator is always thinking about making it back home to his wife—temporarily isolated, but striving for connection. His habitual yet threatened return to his own home and partner is connected in the poem to the recurrence or return of things we depend on in the natural world: the changeful yet reliable moon, the changing yet predictable tides. So when the bottom falls out of all of it, in the poem, it’s a huge shock. It feels personal, as it’s meant to. “The Loss of the Moon” is so effective, I think, partly because it activates for the reader a lifetime of sense-memories of watching the moon from a moving car, or a moving vehicle of some kind. And in that scenario, you can’t fully keep track of what’s in the night sky, because your visual orientation changes all the time. The moon goes behind trees, you go behind a hill, there’s a truck—etc. But, we learn to live with this (mostly)—kids don’t like it, at first, but they get used to it: they (we) get to the point of yes, there’s the moon, (wow, the moon!) and I’m in a car again, and even if that means sometimes I can’t see her, I trust she’ll recur eventually.

Until she fucking doesn’t. Until it turns out her visual instability of presence, which we had accommodated ourselves to by constructing a faith in the eternal return of the moon, was a symptom of something that could really happen—we could really lose the moon. And I think Ken Poyner’s poem accesses, in a way many readers can understand partly through childhood sense-memories, the deep distress of trying to multitask your way through such a terrifying realization: which is, of course, also a realization about losing other things we had thought to be eternal, like the tides, the seasons, a functional biosphere; like the oceans’ thermohaline circulation system, and everything that depends on these things, including but not limited to ourselves.

Reckoning Magazine was created to make a space where readers and authors can come together in that moment of realization, and know we are not alone in it: that we can continue together as we work out next steps. So this was definitely a poem we responded to immediately, and we are so glad Ken sent it our way – and yours.

Scott T. Hutchison’s poem, “Snuffing the Night Candles,” has a clear thematic relation to Poyner’s poem through its focus on the night sky, but is wrapped further, deeper, in layers of an alienated, despairing self. I wonder, personally, if there’s a reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost in the lines “I’m anchor-chained on this stark lake/of arrogance and folly.” It could be just a really sad angry way of talking about taking a little boat out on a lake at night, when there’s heavy cloud-cover and the stars and moon can’t be seen: and casting your anchor and drifting for a while—unable to break out of your own heavy thoughts about the future. But poets are tricky, and like allusion, so this recalls, for me, Satan in book One of Paradise Lost, “chained on the burning lake,” a victim of his own overreach. The allusion is strengthened but also complicated and expanded by these lines in the last stanza of Hutchison’s poem:

…Something cheerlessly cast out
has happened here. What America
coughs up to heaven
might be what happened.

There’s been a Fall, like Satan’s—a casting out from a state where joy, cheer, health of many different kinds, can be accessed. And in a fascinating inversion of the Miltonic original (I’m just going to say I’m strongly attached to the idea that there’s a Miltonic original), evil has actually sort of ascended into the sky from the world instead of plummeting from heaven to hell—what is “cast out” and changes all cheer, or joy, is what “America/coughs up”. Anyone working on, or even aware of, global greenhouse gas emission-levels doesn’t have to work too hard to translate that content.

I wouldn’t say Hutchison’s poem leaves us in particularly awesome fettle, as readers. But one of the many things that makes “Snuffing the Night Candles” a poem we were moved to read, and wanted to include in the magazine, is its concluding gesture toward a community that may intercede for the poet in his “perfect night” and “wish for the future,/for [him.]” I think we can. We must wish, and work, for it.

Podcast Episode 10: Move, Mountain, Move

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone. My name is Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading “Move, Mountain, Move” by the author Russell Nichols.

So, I’ll begin with some commentary on the poem and then tell you a little bit more about Russell Nichols and then read you the poem itself.

What affects me when I read this poem is its insistence that we can make something new and better—something external to, and common to, all of us—from our climate grief. And Russell Nichols has used old images, Biblical images, to show us how to imagine this something better. You’ll notice there’s a mention of mustard seeds in the poem, confirming its close literary relationship with the Book of Matthew chapter 17:20, where Jesus says to his disciples “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

A mustard seed is proverbially tiny, and yet the plant that emerges from the seed is tall—so through this simile we understand, both in the Bible and in Nichols’s poem, that if you have even a little bit of germinal matter to start with, you can turn it into something very meaningful and expansive indeed. In the Bible, the germinal matter is faith; in Nichols’s poem, it is grief. We must start there, he argues, but we do not end there. If you’re a Reckoning reader and subscriber, you probably agree.

When Nichols writes, “there is no relief/ without release,” I think of how often the speaker (or singer) of the Psalms mentions weeping, and the necessity of weeping, in times of trouble. As the King James version of Psalm 6:6 has it: “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” And this is how we communicate our grief and make it manifest—but in Nichols’s poem, it is also how we build.

Here is a little more about the author.

[Bio below.]

Russell Nichols, “Move, Mountain, Move”

Podcast Episode 8: water-logged roots

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Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood and today on the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’ll be reading “water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith, which is a poem that’s featured in Reckoning 6.

We want to start a practice on the podcast of talking a little bit about what we loved about the pieces that are in the magazine. And so I’m just going to say a little bit about what particularly draws me to “water-logged roots” as a poem and how I see it applying to climate justice, which is our theme as a publication. When I first read “water-logged roots” when it came through in the submissions, one of the first things I was struck by is how skillfully it uses visual images of a world turned upside-down and then sort of enchants the images so they become part of a knowledge-gathering dialogue. And this is a dialogue with the dryad in the poem, which is just, like, it’s so wonderful! But this dialogue really moves the narrator from the place where she first stands, outside her family home in the aftermath of a hurricane, to a place where she can imagine taking a next step that doesn’t leave her as stuck in where she is and what she’s doing. And it’s not a decision without cost, but it’s an extremely pivotal moment and an adaptive moment. So again, personally speaking I loved the way Cislyn’s poem took an image of climate destruction and began to think about it in very compelling adaptive ways, tying all this to extremely striking imagery.

So here we go. We’ll start with Cislyn’s biography.

(Bio below.)

“water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith

Podcast Episode 7: Surprise

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Subscribe via RSS, Google Podcasts, Android, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or on iTunes!

Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone, my name’s Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading you “Surprise” by Tom Barlow, which is featured in Reckoning 6.