Peach Picks: Prize Winners, an Anthology, and a Novella

by / Jul. 5, 2018 2pm EST


Last week at Peach Mag we published the poems that Morgan Parker awarded the Silver and Bronze prizes for our poetry competition. Of the winner of the Peach Silver, Sasha Debevec-McKenney’s “First African American Bachelorette, 2017,” Parker wrote, “Because obviously. Because I am a sucker for reality show poems and anything concerning black women and desirability. And because of lines like ‘I can pretend to love anyone for the right reasons.’” Of the winner of the Peach Bronze, Sara Mae’s “In a 1926 Suburban Backyard, the Older Sister Explains How the Charleston Became Known as the Dance of Death,” Parker wrote, “I love the expert handling of language, playful word and syntax choices—the poem is so controlled and sharp. Just some delicious lines throughout.” ICYMI, these winning poems are still featured at our site. —RACHELLE TOARMINO


Bettering American Poetry: Volume 2
edited by Kaveh Akbar, jayy dodd, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Muriel Leung, Camille Rankine, Michael Wasson

Bettering Books | 2018 | poetry anthology

Out earlier this year from Bettering Books was the second volume of Bettering American Poetry, an anthology series initiated by poet Amy King in 2015. What’s radical about this series is its unique selection process: the editorial board of every new volume is comprised of the series’ previous contributors, creating a network of readers and writers and blurring the relationship between poet and publisher. In this way, the mission of the series is to challenge a hierarchy of literary gatekeepers and to feature poems full of a spirit of resistance. This volume’s editorial board includes Kaveh Akbar, Camille Rankine, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Muriel Leung, Michael Wasson, Sarah Clark, Héctor Ramírez, and previous Peach Mag​ contributor jayy dodd, and the featured poems include exciting names like Jericho Brown as well as many rising stars and new voices. Among the stellar lineup are the poems of Joey de Jesus, whose erasure scans feature geometric drawings that are at once controlled and chaotic, offering up several reads within one piece: “charm and a gamble / routine / ho-hum / just the orgasm / you / you / cheat.” -—RACHELLE TOARMINO


Honest Days
by Matthew Bookin

Dostoyevsky Wannabe | 2018 | novella

A man falls to the ground on the street outside a pizza shop, his face “framed perfectly below a large slice of pepperoni pizza that’s been drawn onto the window,” through which we, immobile, watch. Waiting to place our usual order, we’re “terrified that this man’s life seems to be [our] responsibility now.” By “we,” I mean the narrator of Matthew Bookin’s debut novella Honest Days, a voice so masterfully and compellingly rendered that we identify with him from his first words, through his strangest dreams, and to the moment he departs us, sooner than we would have preferred. Bookin’s voice is an intimate Dantean tour guide through a world at once familiar and uncanny, and filled with things unattainable (health insurance, love) inaudible (songs and conversations), and dead (cellphones, deer, artistic aspirations). Really, we quickly feel about the narrator the way he feels about the stricken man: responsible, guilty, and powerless. Powerless to help, but also powerless before Bookin’s prose stylistics. The images are startling; the tension finely spun; the dialogue (or lackthereof) lapidary, frequently delightful, and usually too close to home. Most importantly, in 2018, when we often read of fiction’s extinction, Bookin demonstrates by example what the genre can do better than any other: implicate a reader in another human’s pain and fallenness. —AIDAN RYAN



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