While we don't believe in best of lists, we went through our content over the past year and saw what resonated most with you, our readers, across our different genres and sections. Here's what you loved:
Photography: Viktorsha Uliyanova - “A World in Black and White”
Fiction: Cameron DeOrdio - “Watch”
“They hadn’t found anything, just as Nat had suspected they wouldn’t, but Nat had come up with the idea for her thesis, and they did get drunk enough that having broken into a condemned building full of outdated, rusty, sharp equipment had the potential to be an even worse decision than usual. They’d called Henry, Nat’s boyfriend at the time, a straight-edge visual arts MFA who was certain he did his best work after midnight – that is, someone who was bound to be awake and sober enough to drive – and got home safe. But Henry was long gone from her life now, even more long gone than the factory building.
She slowed, ensuring a smooth stop before parking, one eye on the lot and the other flitting between the Coke bottle pressed between her thighs and the large stoppered Erlenmeyer flask wrapped in newspaper and buckled into the passenger seat. Once the car was parked, she slipped the rubber gloves, also on the passenger seat, back on. She got out of the car, taking the Coke bottle with her, and went over to the other side to unbuckle and remove the flask.
Standing next to the car, she guided the Coke bottle slowly, gently into the flask – the narrow neck was a tight fit – and restoppered it. She took a deep breath, exhaled.
Nat threw the bottle as high and far as she could. It sailed through the night air – the stars so much clearer here than by her apartment, she noticed – for what seemed like forever. Eventually, finally, it met the pavement. The first sound was that of shattering glass, as the flask and the Coke bottle both became hundreds, if not thousands, of sharp shards. In that instant, Nat wondered if she should have stood behind her car. Before the thought was fully formed, the second sound came to erase it: BOOM!”
#NotTrump Series: Amy Strauss Friedman - “The Woman’s March / The Ivory Tower Is Coy” (This poem is an erasure of one of Trump's tweets during his first 100 days in office.)
Neurotic Dope series: Joshua Byron - “Between Love Stories”
“I stared at the Manhattan skyline while chatting up a boy. He was, it turns out, straight. But it felt nice for a time to feel like someone was interested in my own vibe, or story. Whatever that story is. The next night, I went to a poetry reading and told the story I use to ward off intimacy: “I’m just really busy right now.” I crack jokes about coming to meet men. It’s the story I have been telling myself to understand where I’m at. It’s true, sure, but it’s also a cop-out. I’ve been afraid to listen to my feelings. I called my friends who wouldn’t bullshit me and they told me I was overworking myself. I needed to feel human. But feeling human is often choosing to feel the hurt. It can be easier to tell stories.
When I encounter men, I tell them an abbreviated story.”
Poet of the Month series - Dujie Tahat - “In a Mosque”
“No vaults of heaven—
only unadorned a-frames.
No discernible patterns
in the tapestry of backs
facing the sky at jumu'ah.
A fence went up
around the yard
by Citizenship Day
& dad, it would
be so funny now
if it weren't
so ordinary then—”
Essay: Liz Howard - “Flesh of My Flesh: On Motherhood and Survival”
“The months of my pregnancy continued in very much the same way. Every few weeks, there would be another episode. He would grab and twist my arm if I tried to walk away from him, shove my stomach when I tried to walk past him, choke me if we were arguing. Every time, I knew it had to be the last time, but it never was. Every time, I made plans to leave him, but I never did. I didn’t know how to leave my husband or the father of my unborn child, and I didn’t have anyone to lean on. I knew that it was statistically common for domestic violence to start when victims became pregnant, but I didn’t know what that meant for me. When I would visit my doctors they would take me back into the room with the little butterfly stickers on the ceiling and I would lie back and they would say, “Is anyone hurting you at home?” and I would say “No” and then they would let my husband back. Eventually they stopped asking.”
Poetry: Jody Chan - “Not a Woman, Not Not a Woman”
“I had a crush once & a dream
I beheaded her to plant a flytrap in her throat / boyfriends can’t compete
if they’ve been digested / my insecurities are more photogenic
than my face / my only picture of my mother was also shown
at her funeral, but I know we share her nose & taste
for bad men / my father raised me to sit with my ladylike legs
clamped around my mouth / I swallowed my depression
& now I can’t stop smiling / to show off the well-fed lizard”
Art: Bunkong Tuon & Joanna C. Valente - “Under the Tamarind Tree” (part of DEAD TONGUE)
“Later, when I got into foster care, and when my family split apart and we'd suffered homelessness and poverty, I turned to the library. I read hundreds of books about magic, witchcraft, mysticism, philosophy - and somewhere in all of that I found autonomy in developing my own practice. I really tried to do this for the reader in Light Magic for Dark Times - I make it clear that although what I've written is one way of doing things, they are fully able and encouraged to adapt to their needs and beliefs. It's even made for folks who are secular or atheist. I know that spiritual practice and magical living can be intimately tied up with our cultures, how we were raised, our identities, our needs, our finances, our interests, our creativity - and I really tried to honor this in the book.”
Writing Prompts: Using Persona
Review: Adedayo Agarau - “A Mystic Journey into a Woman Loving Herself: A Review of Savannah Slone's Book”
“Slone wakes up into the sense of time and brings us into the reality of adulthood. It is quite exquisite how art does it all, how the sense of time, place, and season can be shoved down the spine of its readers with very singular words. In the now from the verse in “Venal Exodus”, playing sex quickly transforms into Real sex. She takes us further into the grief that unfolds with reality, believes that innocence dies with adolescence. Don’t we all sometimes envy little kids, in how everything seems to be right with them? Their innocent laughter at the burial ceremonies of their uncles; I didn’t prepare for this adulthood and Slone knows that so well.
She pounds self into being within the pages of this book. While she teaches us to hear the silence gulping itself out in the underwater, she tells us I’m going to tell you a truth and a lie: I love myself in “A (Self) Love Story.” The magic of body is an undefeatable one, and Slone, from the poem, wrote a reminder that I hate myself for hating myself. Her brilliance did not leave out a place for recognizing mental illness. She puts every piece on this slate to create a book flying, wearing the colors of the rainbow.”
Reading: Kristin Garth - “Your Body Is His Blessing”
Dear BFF: Episode 1 - Witchcraft, Poetry, & Spirituality in the Modern World (hosted by Joanna C. Valente, featuring Andi Talarico & Stephanie Valente)