Tag Archives: literature

Featured Poem From Our Newest Issue: “At the Degas Exhibit” by Gregory Fraser

As you all know, our double issue of Five Points Vol. 15, No. 1 & 2 is on sale now, and we’d like to give you a little preview of one of the poems you’ll find inside:

At the Degas Exhibit

by Gregory Fraser


The docent wends us to The Dance Class

and it all flits back: the studio downtown,

few bucks an hour, ragging off the finger


grease of toe-shoed cygnets, tutu-ed swans,

scudding hardwood and ignoring both

of me—spray of acne, high-top Keds.


I would clatter on the local after school

(weekends once the Christmas pageant neared),

my face at every stop floating outside


the window beside my seat—a mask

tried on by stars in movie ads, commuters

cooling heels for later cars. Then Windex,


buff, till six, waving hello, farewell,

from glass to glass, plié to pointe—my hand

emitting squeaks, eliding dainty prints and streaks.


In my knapsack: comics, Catcher, lunch

untouched. And never once did I happen on

the courage even to speak to one of those


sugar plums of Rittenhouse, Society Hill.

Degas’s girls, our guide informs, practice

attitudes, inspected by their master


(one Jules Perrot) propped on his staff.

Note the Parisian mothers daubed

on the wall in back. Yet I see only tights


that bear the stamp McDevitt Dance,

hear gripes about third position, giddy talk

of boys. And search the sides and corners


for my Old World counterpart—some

sponge-and-bucket kid from a ragged edge—

undersized, near-sighted, invisible to art.


Here’s a little more info on Gregory Fraser:

Fraser.3Fraser is the author of two poetry collections, Strange Pietà (Texas Tech, 2003) and Answering the Ruins (Northwestern, 2009). He is also the co-author, with Chad Davidson, of the workshop textbook Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008) and the composition textbook Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing (Continuum, 2012). His poetry has appeared in journals including the Paris Review, the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, and Ploughshares. The recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fraser serves as associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of West Georgia.

Purchase copies of Five Points here!


Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Featured Prose: Elizabeth’s Spencer’s “On the Hill”

Elizabeth Spencer. Photo by John Rosenthal.

Elizabeth Spencer. Photo by John Rosenthal.

As you all might know, Five Points Vol. 15 No. 1&2 has just been released, and one of the stories you can expect to find inside is Elizabeth Spencer’s “On the Hill.”

Here’s a little bit of info about Ms. Spencer:

Elizabeth Spencer was born and raised in Mississippi. She has lived for long periods in Italy and Canada and now lives in North Carolina. She has published nine novels including The Voice at the Back Door, The Salt Line, and The Night Travelers, plus a memoir titled Landscapes of the Heart. The latest collection of her stories, The Southern Woman (Modern Library), includes The Light in the Piazza, which was recently made into a Broadway musical.

Enjoy the story!

“On the Hill” by Elizabeth Spencer

Regarding Barry and Jan Daugherty you first had to know that they lived out about two miles from town. Lots of people do live out in wooded areas here; the whole town is filled with trees so that the extent of it is not easily determined. Even so the Daughertys were to be thought of as distant. The little maps which accompanied their frequent invitations were faithfully followed, for they gave wonderful parties.

They had not been very long in Eltonville, only since last winter, it would seem. Exact dates of their arrival and acquisition of the property were not easily determined. The fact was nobody could pin down any exact information about the Daughertys. Jan, in fact, sometimes went by another name—Fisher. But it was easy to think she was in the modern habit of retaining her maiden name, or was it the name of a former husband? The Daughertys, if asked, gave rather round-about answers. Jan said, in regard to the name, “Oh, I keep it for Riley.” Riley was her son. Then was there a Mr. Fisher, somewhere off in her past? It was hard not to sound too inquisitive. Riley was a blonde little boy of about ten. When guests arrived, he ran about taking everybody’s coats and then vanished with them, upstairs. He reappeared at departure time, looking sleepy but holding wraps by the armload.

As for the girl, younger, probably six, she clearly was Barry’s daughter. But was she Jan’s? Were there two divorces in the background? Not unusual: who cared? It wasn’t really that anyone would care, one way or the other; it was just that nobody knew.

Going to the Daugherty house was like a progress to an estate. The road off the state highway wound through trees, but broke into the open on a final climb. The house itself sat free of all but a couple of flanking oaks. Its galleries suggested an outlook over vistas.

It was a joy to come there. How had they managed so soon to find such nice people? For a dinner invitation, you arrived just before dark and parked in an ample space. Barry himself would be just inside the door. He had a broad smile, skin that always looked lightly tanned. Sometimes a tie, sometimes not. He had picked up easily on local habits. His hair was dark brown, sprinkled with gray. He never slicked it down. And Jan? Well, she knew how to dress and how to greet. The feeling imparted was that every- thing was under control, and that the arriving guests were the choice people of the earth.


It would soon be dark. Looking out toward the terrace from where she sat at the end of her table, pouring coffee while Barry refilled wine glasses, Jan would say, “Last winter during the snow, what a lot of creatures wandered in.” “It happens in town, too,” one guest would offer. “I admired them, as much as you can admire a ’possum—is that it? Those things with the long snouts and skinny tails. I’d hate to dream of one. I wonder if they bite.”

“We’ll ask Riley to find out at school,” Barry said.

“They certainly bite,” one of the men volunteered, speaking from country knowledge. “But just if you corner them. They’re sort of timid.”

Where on earth were they from, not to know about ’possums?

“Then there was the raccoon,” Jan continued. “What a precious little guy. All black circles under his eyes.”

“You must have put food out.”

“Oh, just a few scraps.”

“They’ll love you to death. They’ll certainly bite you.”

Somebody had a story about a raccoon his aunt had let in the house, because he looked so cute. He had rifled the cupboards and climbed on the shelves. He had tried to get in the refrigerator. How to get rid of him?

“They carry rabies,” the same informing man said.

“Don’t disillusion me,” pled Jan.

Evenings there sped by, but when the guests spoke of them later, there was not much more to remember later than talk of ’possums and raccoons.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction

Five Points Volume 15 1&2 Available Now!

fbinviteFive Points is proud to announce the release of our newest issue, Volume 15 1&2! This is a double issue packed with a wide array of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, art, and more! Here are some of the contributors you can expect to see in the new issue:

  • Kim Addonizio
  • Ward Briggs
  • Billy Collins
  • Christopher Dickey
  • Lauren Groff
  • Jennifer Haigh
  • Barbara Hamby
  • Edward Hirsch
  • Jane Hirshfield
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Edward Hower
  • David Kirby
  • Laurence Lieberman
  • Deborah Luster
  • James May
  • Sharon Olds
  • Chelsea Rathburn
  • Anya Silver
  • Elizabeth Spencer
  • Elizabeth Spires
  • Ernest Saurez
  • Melane Rae Thon
  • Daren Wang
  • Lauren Watel
  • ……and many more!

Visit our website to find out more, or purchase copies of Five Points here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles of Note

Celebrating 15 Volumes of Five Points!

fbinviteHey everyone, this month marks the release of the 15th volume of Five Points! If you’re in the area, why not come and celebrate with us?

A Celebration and Launch of the 15th Volume Edition of Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art will take place on Thursday, April 11th at 7:30pm at the Rialto Center for the Arts, Georgia State University. Authors featured in the double issue will read from their works of poetry and fiction including: Barbara Hamby, David Kirby, Thomas Lux, and Lauren Watel.

Five Points: A Journal of Literature & Art has been published since 1996 by the Department of English at Georgia State University and has made important contributions to the field of contemporary literature. Known for their commitment to originality and excellence, co-editors, David Bottoms and Megan Sexton have promoted the journal’s mission by discovering and publishing the finest literary writing and visual art and presenting it to a wide readership. Five Points features work by established and emerging writers, including Lauren Groff, Jennifer Haigh, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, and Billy Collins. Works featured in Five Points are often featured in the nation’s premiere literary anthologies such as Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South among others. The writer and previous Five Points contributor Ann Hood has captured the journal’s contribution to the literary landscape with this quote: “Five Points is stimulating, intelligent, always interesting, and necessary—we need magazines like it.”

This event is free and open to the public. The Rialto Center for the Arts is located at 80 Forsyth St, NW. For more information, contact Megan Sexton at: msexton@gsu.edu.

We hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Around Campus, Articles of Note

Obscure Holidays: Public Sleeping Day

sealion-sleeping-on-benchJust to spice things up, I’m (attempting) to start a new tradition on this blog of honoring obscure holidays through poetry. The first one I’ll pay tribute to is February 28th’s “Public Sleeping Day.” Chances are that many of you already celebrate this holiday on a daily basis (especially during classes, if you’re a student), but tomorrow, at least you’ll have an excuse for your actions. And just to get you in the mood, here’s Keats’s “To Sleep”:

*****To Sleep by John Keats*****
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
      In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
      Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
      Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
      Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
If you’d like to enhance your knowledge of more obscure holidays, you can find plenty at this website. Happy Public Sleeping Day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays

Come Visit us at the Annual AWP Conference!

bear button

This year, AWP’s annual conference and bookfair (North America’s largest literary conference) will be held March 6-9 at the Hynes Convention Center & Sheraton Boston Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. As usual, Five Points will be in attendance, so please come and stop by our table! This year, we will be at table S20. You’ll even be able to pick up one of these spiffy buttons–for free! Find out all the details about the AWP conference here! There are over 550 readings, lectures, panel discussions, forums, book signings, and more! We hope to see you there!

Again, that’s table S20! And FREE BUTTONS!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles of Note

Author Reading: Colson Whitehead

COLSON WHITEHEADFor students/faculty of GSU, we’d like to let you know about an author reading taking place on Thursday, February 21. Colson Whitehead will be at GSU’s Troy Moore Library (9th floor GCB) giving a craft talk at 1:30 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. of the same evening, he’ll give a reading in the GSU Speakers Auditorium, followed by a Q&A and book signing in the Troy Moore Library.

The event is free, but because of space constraints, it is open only to GSU students, faculty, and staff, and you must reserve a free ticket here: http://colsonwhiteheadatgsu.eventbrite.com/
Whitehead’s four critically acclaimed and bestselling novels are Zone One; The Intuitionist, winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award; John Henry Days, which received the Young Lions Fiction Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN/Oakland Award; and Sag Harbor, finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He has received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
We hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Around Campus

Guest Post: A.E. Stallings, a Review by Christine Swint

A.E. Stallings, poet, translator, and classics scholar, has released her third collection of poetry, Olives (Triquarterly Books, Northwestern University Press, 2012). Her previous collections include Archaic Smile of Apollo (1999), Hapax (2006) and The Nature of Things (2007), a translation of the works of Lucretius. She has won major poetry prizes for all of her books.

stallingsOlives follows on the heels of Stallingsʼs 2011 awards: a Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

In a video clip on the MacArthur Foundation website, Stallings gives the viewer a glimpse into her life as a poet and translator. She explains how she came to be involved with poetry, and she goes on to describe some of the themes she explores in her poems: love, time, mortality, and childhood.

A large part of Stallingsʼs gifts as a poet and writer stem from her ability to marry sound and form with the stuff of everyday life and myth. She writes primarily in traditional, received forms such as blank verse, sonnets and villanelles, among others.

For example, in “Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther” (originally published in Poetry), she playfully asks, “Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,/the booze and the neon, the Saturday nights?”

OlivesThrough the three repetitions of the first line that the triolet requires, Stallings creates a wistful question that ends up equating the Devilʼs songs with an average personʼs idle singing. Any of us might “hum them to while away sad afternoons” (23). The reader is not only similar to the Devil–we also feel empathy for him.

The current issue of Five Points (14.3) features an interview with A.E. Stallings by poet, literary scholar, and creative writing professor Beth Gylys.

At the end of the interview, referring to Olives, Gylys asks, “Are there any poem titles or poem subjects you might mention as a way of priming us for the collection itself?” (40).

Stallings gives an enlightening reply: “There are two title poems to the collection. In the one on the back of the book, I play around with the sounds and letters of Olives, which ends up containing so much.”

She goes on to say that “Olives” both as a poem and as a title for the book, is “anagrammatic” and refers to both “O Lives” and the fruit, olives (41).

In the interview, she explains that the book is about her life in Greece, where she lives with her husband, journalist John Psaropoulos and their children. The poems, ripe with imagery of the Greek countryside, explore marriage, childhood, and the land where these familial relationships unfold.

Although there are fewer poems in Olives dealing directly with myth than in Stallingsʼs previous collections, she does offer the reader “Three Poems for Psyche” (41–45), persona poems in three different voices, each persona giving Psyche advice: “The Eldest Sister to Psyche,” “The Boatman to Psyche on the River Styx,” and “Persephone to Psyche.”

As with all of Stallingsʼs poems based on myth, she is able to make the characters come alive. We feel connected to Psyche through these other voices–she gains relevance as an emblem of our own lives. We put ourselves in Persephoneʼs place when she dryly remarks to Psyche about Hades:

This place is dead–a real dive,
Weʼre past all twists, rewards, and perils.
But what the hell. We all arrive.
Here, have some pomegranate arils.

Another of Stallingsʼs gifts is her wit. Of course we feel the poignancy of Persephoneʼs plight, but the humor adds an ironic tone that makes the myth and the poem sound contemporary and fresh.

A.E. Stallingsʼs poems first in appeared in Five Points Spring/Summer 1999, when she won the James Dickey Award for “Clean Monday” and “Airing.” As Stallings states in a note about the poem, “Clean Monday marks the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent. Children celebrate this holiday by flying kites” (79).

Paired with this poem is “Airing,” four quatrains in which the wind causes the drying laundry to take the shape of shrugs, hugs, an argument, and then at the end, as the door slams shut, peace, the surrender of a white flag–from the start of her career, Stallings has created the magic of sound and metaphor.

For more reviews of Olives, read Abigail Deutschʼs remarks on The Poetry Foundation website or Jeremy Telmanʼs review in Valparaiso Poetry Review.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christine Swint's Posts, Guest Posts

In Memory of Ellen Douglas

The Los Angeles Times has posted a lovely piece in memory of Ellen Douglas (whose real name was Josephine Ayres Haxton), a National Book Award nominee who also served as a contributing editor for Five Points:

Ellen Douglas, a Mississippi native whose novels were widely praised for their portrayal of the racially conflicted South, died Wednesday in Jackson, Miss., after an extended illness. She was 91.

Set in Mississippi, Douglas’ writing dealt candidly with race relations, families and the role of women. She wrote 11 books, including six novels and several collections of short stories and essays.

Her third novel, “Apostles of Light,” was a 1973 National Book Award nominee. It is a complex novel about the mistreatment of residents at a home for the elderly in fictional Homochitto, Miss., a town that was the setting of many of her works.

“If you don’t have conflict, you don’t have fiction,” Douglas told the Associated Press in a 2005 interview about race relations and other forces that helped shape literature.

Her writing remained a hobby for many years until a close friend, poet Charles Bell, gave one of her manuscripts to an editor at Houghton Mifflin. In 1962, she published her first novel, “A Family’s Affairs,” a book she later said was closely based on two aunts. The New York Times named it one of the best novels of the year.

The article goes on to describe her childhood, personal life, and professional influences. Once again, the full article can be viewed here.

We thank Ms. Douglas  for all of her support, and our thoughts go out to her family.

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles of Note

Guest Post: Christine Swint Reviews Natasha Trethewey’s “Thrall”

Coinciding with Natasha Trethewey’s appointment as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States is the launch of her fourth collection of poetry, Thrall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

In a June 7 press release from the Library of Congress announcing Trethewey’s appointment, librarian James H. Billington describes Trethewey as an “outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.”

Trethewey, who has named Warren as an important poetic influence on her work, introduces her collection with an epigraph from Warren’s poem Audubon: “What is love?/ One name for it is knowledge.”

One of Trethewey’s great gifts as a writer is her ability to take her personal history and connect it to the histories and memories of a people. In a Five Points 11.3 interview published soon after her third collection, the Pulitzer Prize winning Native Guard, Southern literature scholar Pearl McHaney says to Trethewey:

You dedicate Native Guard to your mother, in memory, and the book is the elegies for your mother, the weaving together the personal and the public histories, the erasures and the monuments and the memorial. (101)

In a historically symmetrical manner, Thrall begins with “Elegy,” dedicated to her father. Because her father, poet Eric Trethewey, is still alive, the reader enters this poem as a meditation on the past and how we reconstruct our histories with language. She addresses her father, “I can tell you now that I tried to take it all in/ record it/ for an elegy I’d write–one day–” (4). The speaker admits that even in the midst of a fishing trip with her father she is thinking of the metaphorical possibilities that will later become her poem.

Miguel de Cabrera, De Español y Negra, Mulato

After this introductory elegy, the poems explore paintings and other historical documents pertaining to imperialism, and specifically, to the Casta paintings from colonial Mexico. These paintings depict a byzantine taxonomy of blood lines based on how close or how distant the subjects were from “pure” Spanish blood. Theoretically, the closer one was to Spain, the closer the relationship to the crown and by extension, to God.

“On Captivity,” which first appeared in Five Points 11.3, begins with an epigraph from the journal of Jonathan Dickinson, an English Quaker living in Jamaica who was taken captive by native people living in what is now Florida.

The first stanza again quotes from Dickinson’s journal, citing his term for his captors: “savages.” Indented cinquains wind down the page as if to imitate the hissing of this word as well as the Biblical serpent mentioned in the second stanza. The speaker questions the legitimacy of the word “savage” as the captives are stripped of their clothing, the thin veneer that distinguishes them from their captors, with only “the torn leaves of Genesis” to cover their “secret illicit hairs” (13).

“Geography” (45) and “Rotation” (55), both first published in Five Points 13.3, return the reader to the speaker’s personal history. As we progress through the collection, we understand more about the speaker’s relationship with her white father, who leaves the family in 1971, as written in “Geography.”

In each of the three parts of “Geography,” the speaker pinpoints a memory as if it were a photograph, describing the location and the circumstances surrounding a particular instance in time. But in each section, the father recedes from the daughter. The speaker characterizes him as a pretend hitchhiker, “a stranger/ passing through to somewhere else.”

Woven together with this mournful passing of their relationship are the ekphrastic interpretations of the Casta paintings. Through the juxtaposition of meditations on imperialism, the reader gains entrance into Trethewey’s personal history as well as the history of the colonies, and by extension, the emotional tenor of our contemporary times, in which we as a culture still discuss, or refuse to discuss, the effects of slavery and patriarchal, top-down histories.

In “Knowledge,” the speaker unites the two main threads of the collection, combining an ekphrastic contemplation of an 1864 chalk drawing by J.H. Hasselhorst with a quotation from her father. The poem is an emotional description of a dissection in which the speaker identifies with the woman on the table. She exclaims, “…how easily/ the anatomist’s blade opens a place in me” (29). She goes on to reveal her father’s words about her: “I study/ my crossbreed child” (30).

In an interview in Sycamore Review 24.1, Trethewey explains her process of writing “Knowledge,” stating, “I quote the line from a poem of his [her father’s], and later she says, “I’ve been hearing that poem all my life, but not until that moment did I realize why it’s always bothered me. It was both the Enlightenment thinking, and the idea of ‘crossbreed’ ” (33). In the poem, dissection becomes a metaphor for the father/daughter relationship that wounds the speaker. Like an anatomist who studies a specimen, the father has studied his daughter.

Thrall is an important book. Not only is it an example par excellence of Trethewey’s superb craftsmanship as a poet, but it also shows the relevance of poetry in how our truths are told, how important it is for poets and readers alike to re-examine the past in order to understand the present.

More Reading

For further interpretation of Thrall and more sample poems, read Elizabeth Lund’s review in The Washington Post.

Eric Trethewey’s essay “Combinations” in Five Points 12.3 is a memoir about the early years of his career, his family life, and his marriage to Natasha Trethewey’s mother Gwen.


Christine Swint is in her final year of the M.F.A program in poetry and creative writing at Georgia State University, where she also teaches first-year composition and introductory poetry writing. Her writing interests include modernism, Eastern philosophy, folktales, motherhood, and ekphrasis. Her poems have appeared most recently in Ekphrasis and Hot Metal Bridge. She is the winner of the 2012 Agnes Scott Writer’s Festival award in poetry, judged by Joy Harjo

Leave a comment

Filed under Christine Swint's Posts, Guest Posts