Peach Picks: What to Read This Week

by / Feb. 1, 2017 12am EST


Breaking from the conventional, this week on Peach we featured two gifs by visual artist Richard Kerwin, entitled “voting” and “there is real danger in your dreams.” In “voting,” a blurry robot creaks back and forth while a subtitle-like text reads, “voting is play-acting medieval warfare where you compare army sizes and the victor gets to pillage everything”—the perfect sentiment for how this year is beginning to unfold.

“These are the names of the faces that slither out at me from the kitchen sink and bite the bedsheets around my feet in the middle of the night,” writes Sheldon Lee Compton in his short story, “Drowning the Witch.” Peach is often home to the gritty and dark, but I would argue that this is probably the most rattling piece we’ve published yet. In it, the protagonist commits suicide after being haunted by the memory of one of the many children he’s murdered. The reader spends the first half of the story amassing sympathy for the protagonist, ensuring that the list of names and ages of his innocent victims in the pages to follow hits all the more disturbing.“Normally, there was some other trait or imagined slight that offended me and turned the switch on, but not with shy Anthony,” writes Compton of one particular victim. “It was unbearable, and I knew I would follow him in.”


Difficult Women
by Roxane Gay (short stories)
Grove Press, 272 pages

In this timely collection, Roxane Gay presents the stories of a wide variety of women in all their amazing complexity. She begins by poetically listing and categorizing the groups into which women often find themselves placed: the frigid women, mothers, crazy women, loose women. In many ways, Difficult Women reads like a cross between a field guide of women and a sociology textbook, giving context in sections like “Why a Crazy Woman is Misunderstood,” or “How She Got That Way.” The final description has stuck with me most, that of the dead girl: “Death makes them more interesting. Death makes them more beautiful. It’s something about their bodies on display in final repose—eyes wide open, lips blue, limbs stiff, skin cold.”


Last Wednesday, Caffe Aroma resurrected their monthly open mic series, this time with a new host, local poet and playwright Justin Karcher. Many of the poets who packed themselves into the café read work about the bittersweet realities of Buffalonian life—all the love and frustration and 4 a.m. nights. A line that stands out was read by Karcher from his collection of poems,Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015): “People from Buffalo are strange and intimate creatures, grinding their bodies against each other, while tailgating at the gates of hell,hooting and hollering and cheering.” Another favorite of the night was when Skylar Jaye Rutkowski read an untitled poem about the gentrification of our city, in which she discussed fearing that the hispanic sections of our grocery stores would soon become organic, that homes would become too expensive, and that the “Queen City has been burned alive at every sunset.”What I loved about last night’s open mic was how welcoming it felt; I couldn’t tell whether everyone in the place already knew each other (unlikely) or whether the veterans ensured that every person who volunteered a poem would be celebrated with snaps, hoots, hollers, and cheers.

“Peach Picks” is a new column of literary news and recommendations written by the editors of Peach Mag, an online literary magazine based in Buffalo, New York. For inquiries, contact Rachelle at