BR&S Spotlight: Meet Corinna Barrett Percy

Introducing Corinna Barrett Percy!Corinna Percy

Corinna was poetry editor for BR&S just last year (2015-2016). Corinna found it to be a great experience, as she learned more about how literary magazines are run and how to write and talk about poetry. She is currently a Ph.D student in English here at ISU and in the quagmire of reading/studying for her comprehensive exams, which she will take (and hopefully pass) in May. After the exams, she’ll start writing her dissertation, which focuses on soldiers of color in World War II literature and masculinity. She likes to dance, shop for vintage clothes, bug her husband about all the vintage cars he should be buying and restoring for her, and cook dinner (but not wash dishes!).

This month we had the opportunity to ask Corinna about her favorite places, books, and hobbies–as well as really important subjects, like the genius of Elvis Presley. Corinna also offers some great, practical advice for aspiring artists and literary magazine editors.

  1. What three traits define you? According to my husband: brilliant, colorful, faithful. According to me: goofy, sarcastic, loyal.
  1. What’s one thing you couldn’t live without? Chocolate
  1. What is your greatest fear? Heights, which is ironic because I’m 6’0” tall.
  1. Where is your favorite place to be? Either at home in my bed or out on a nature walk on a perfect sunny day. I’m contradictory that way.
  1. What is your favorite thing to do? Dance (any kind really, but ballroom more specifically).
  1. Where is the best place you have ever visited? Why? Probably Florence, Italy. Great architecture, beautiful art (hello David!), and amazing gelato.
  1. What would be your ideal career? Well, I guess a college English professor because that is the goal I’m aiming for at the moment. But if I wasn’t that, I’d totally be a Broadway musical star.
  1. What is your favorite book, movie, and band? Ugh, such hard questions. There are so many great books, but one that has sentimental value for me is Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green. I read it 7th grade and loved it; it made me bawl. It would probably still make me cry. And interestingly, I now study WWII literature. Connections all over the place. One of my favorite movies is Singin’ in the Rain, and one of my favorite bands is The Kin, but really I’m obsessed with Elvis Presley, who isn’t a band, but I just like to share my obsession any chance I get.
  1. What is something that might surprise us about you? I like to sing, and a lot of things people say remind me of songs, which I then proceed to sing. But this is probably not surprising after I revealed I want to be a Broadway musical star. Also, I speak Russian.
  1. What is your favorite quote? I like the quote, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid,” which is often attributed to John Wayne, but I can’t find any proof that he actually said it. It sounds kind of harsh, but I like to think of it as saying, be thoughtful and don’t make dumb decisions. On a more uplifting note, I like this quote from Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
  1. If you could have a dinner party with ANY three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why? Elvis Presley (obviously) because I’m obsessed with him. Winston Churchill because he seems like a fascinating lad and also because it would be interesting to talk to him about England during WWII. And my grandpa; he died when I was 17 and I didn’t have the chance to talk to him enough. Also, he was a POW during WWII, so I’d ask him to share stories, even though he probably wouldn’t want to talk about it. (I think there is a trend emerging…).
  1. If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Pad Thai
  2. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you? Emma Stone – she’s cute and quirky. Also, she pulls off being a redhead.
  1. If you were an animal what would you be? A cheetah. I’d like to be able to run much faster than I can right now.
  2. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring? This is probably cheating, but: a boat, my husband (he would know how to drive the boat, even though I would be able to figure it out, but really, who wants to waste precious time when you’re stranded on an island), and a cell phone if said boat did not work.
  1. If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Teleportation, or the ability to create portals to go anywhere I want. Or being able to read by osmosis.
  1. What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work? Dancing, painting, playing basketball, and watching movies.
  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully finished with my dissertation and working at a college or university.
  2. Do you have any favorite literary magazines/publications that you’d like to give a shout out to? Well, one that I read when I was the poetry editor of BR&S was Consequence. I thought it was good – it’s about war (surprise, surprise).
  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and literary magazine editors? Be open to aesthetics that are different from your own, but also trust your own opinion.


For new spotlight posts, please visit our blog the second week of every month (but, of course, do come back more often than that!).

April Staff Picks

A few members of the Black Rock & Sage staff have some great book recommendations for the month of April. Check them out below!

Jeff Howard, Editor-in-Chief:


Winter Count by Barry Lopez is a masterful collection of short fiction that deals with themes of wilderness and environmental history, and is quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Lopez’s searing imagery inscribes itself on the mind, leaving a series of indelible and painful impressions that will not leave you alone. His short story “Buffalo” is about as haunting a story as I can remember reading. Reading his book took me back to an opportunity I had in Logan, UT, to hear Lopez read. In his closing remarks he said that one thing we need to be doing is taking care of each other, and that push for increased emotional proximity and connection between ourselves, as well as between ourselves and the environment, I feel, is a guiding principle in Lopez’s writing. A beautiful book.


Susan Goslee, Faculty Advisor: 

House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson. Tremendous!






Anelise Farris, Poetry Editor: cover ec

The Girls by Emma Cline is a beautifully written book about the group of young girls that amassed around Charles Manson in the 1960s. The chapters alternate between the present day life of one of the girls and the past as she is remembering it. This is a book I could not put down, and it made for perfect spring break reading. If you are looking for a quick read that is also poetically written and brutally honest, I definitely recommend reading The Girls.


Christopher Swensen, Prose Editor:
Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence is a fantastic historical narrative combining Renaissance Europe with the history of India and the Mogul empire. Its a Scheherazade narrative that includes everything from Niccolo Machiavelli as a main character to a cameo from Dracula himself as the historical Vlad the Impaler. This is a great read for lovers of history and imaginative fabulist storytelling.

The Life and Times of a Literate Sasquatch: Sasquatch Talks Art

People are surprised when they find out I’m interested in art. I don’t tell them that I’ve become something of an art aficionado amongst my colleagues in the LMDOES (Living Myths Defending Our Existence Society).

My interest in art began when I heard some overenthusiastic travelers talking about some things they’d seen before heading out west. Initially, I got a little offended that they were so preoccupied with manmade art that they hardly said a thing about my mountains. But, I finally got around to looking up some of the stuff they’d mentioned and I had to stop grumbling. There’s something to be said for attempting to make beauty, not just relying on nature for aesthetic pleasure.

My own first work of art was inspired by the hikers discussing some monks in Rome who use bones from their dead predecessors to decorate their tombs. I had a small pile of bones from my pre-vegan days in a corner I hadn’t cleaned out yet, so I arranged them on the back wall of my cave, around the family portraits. It’s not great, but, for my first work of art, I’m pleased.

Then I got into the 20th century stuff. The combination of the aesthetic, emotive, and intellectual really gets to me, as well as the drive to push boundaries, of course.

I tried my hand at Jackson Pollock. I think he’d appreciate that I went the food route instead of paint, since sauces were easier to get at the nearby grocery store. By using sauces, I employed taste and smell as well as feeling and sight. I’m particularly proud of a nice mix of mayo and guacamole I got to contrast with the mustard.

After I posted a picture of this work on social media, others in the LMDOES got into art. I’m trying to convince Hydra to try out Picasso. I think he could really capture the whole “all perspectives in one painting” thing. A few of his heads have some self-esteem issues, so we’ll see.

My best friend Nessie tried out Duchamp’s readymade and assisted readymade style with rocks and seaweed. It looks great from the photos. She said her favorite Duchamp is “The Fountain.” No idea why. I prefer “Bicycle Wheel.” If it were here instead of in New York City (of all noisy places?!), I would spend hours spinning the wheel. I’m easily entertained. You have to be when you live in the mountains and your neighbors don’t think you exist.

Apparently things didn’t go so well when Kong decided to perform John Cage’s 4’33”. No one realized there was a performance going on and it really hurt his feelings that no one clapped. I told him to try composing something like Cage’s prepared pieces. Yesterday, he posted an announcement for a concert this coming tourist season, debuting a work titled “Splash.” I’ll have to wait for the video recording since I don’t do well in crowds.

In the morning, I am going to gather some feathers and an abandoned nest I saw the other day. I’m planning on channeling Rauschenberg in my next piece with these, some red twine, and a few black and white postcards.

Stop by sometime to see it. Or not. My Pollock imitation is starting to smell.

BR&S Spotlight: Meet Steven Hall

Introducing Steven Hall!

photo w EzSteven’s journey with Black Rock & Sage began during the spring 2009 semester when he registered for the Literary Magazine course. This was during his first year as a doctoral student in the English department. In the fall of that year he became the Prose editor for BR&S and the following year he became the editor-in-chief, a position he held for four years. During Dr. Goslee’s sabbatical year he filled in as the faculty advisor for BR&S, which included teaching the Literary Magazine course. All combined, Steven says that working with the magazine was one of the most rewarding experiences he had while completing his degree.

In 2014 he received his Ph.D. and then spent one year as a faculty instructor for the English department. In 2015 he was hired by the Student Success Center to join a new program called First Year Transition. Steven, along with a terrific team of colleagues, works as an instructor/academic coach charged with the task of improving the retention of freshmen at ISU. In order to do so they teach a number of orientation courses and each mentor around 100 freshman at a time. They also operate a summer program for incoming freshmen called Bengal Bridge.

This month we had the opportunity to ask Steven about his favorite places, books, and hobbies-as well as really important subjects, like how speed-reading would be a fantastic superpower. Steven also offers some great, practical advice for aspiring artists and literary magazine editors. 

  1. What three traits define you?

Contemplative. Faithful. Loyal.

  1. What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?

My little family.

  1. What is your greatest fear?


  1. Where is your favorite place to be?

My dad’s cattle ranch in southern Oregon (especially during spring or early summer).

  1. What is your favorite thing to do?

Anything that involves spending time with my two children: reading books, taking walks, wrestling, cuddling, jumping, laughing, tickling, hide-and-seek, crawling into forts, and so on.

  1. Where is the best place you have ever visited? Why?

Don’t have just one, but many are memorable: Havasu Falls, Buddhist retreat in the mountains of South Korea, Sullivan Island off South Carolina, Cape Breton Island.

  1. What would be your ideal career?

Small-scale Farmer

  1. What is your favorite book, movie, and band?

I’ve never been fond of the word favorite. But for years I read Thoreau’s Walden about once a year. These days I’m always reading a memoir (Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family is tremendous) or something by Wendell Berry. One-time favorite movies have included Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Mission, and Waking Ned Devine. I’m usually content with “Today’s Hits” channel on Pandora.

  1. What is something that might surprise us about you?

I find too much of contemporary literary culture to be oversaturated with pretention.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

Don’t have a favorite. But here’s a couple for your consideration from Thoreau:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

  1. If you could have a dinner party with ANY three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

This sounds like a play written by Steven Martin. I always struggle with hypothetical scenarios, so I’ll just name three dead people I’d like to meet (even if they don’t appear to have much in common): the apostle Paul, Genghis Khan, Vincent van Gogh. What type of restaurant should we go to? Who do you think would pay the bill?

  1. If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Too many good choices. Definitely some kind of comfort food. Let’s say pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy from scratch, peas in cream sauce, my grandma’s homemade bread (still steaming), and cold whole milk.

  1. If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

When I was younger and had longer hair strangers used to always say I looked like Owen Wilson. But I think I’d rather it be one of the men my wife has collected on a Pinterest board titled “Swoon”: Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, or David Beckham.

  1. If you were an animal what would you be?

Tough call. If I went domestic it would probably be a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd. If I go wild then how can you pass up something that flies—like an eagle—or floats effortlessly in the ocean—like a Humpback whale or Sea turtle.

  1. If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?

As humans we need food, water, and shelter to survive. So it seems logical to say one palette of Spam, one palette of bottled water (preferably something fancy, maybe in a glass container), and a pre-fab mini-house (something from 500 to 900 square feet).  I believe in traveling light.

  1. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Speed reading.

  1. What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

Beekeeping, cooking, making jam.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Growing my small business on a small farm with my small family.

    19. Do you have any favorite literary magazines/publications that you’d like to give a shout out to?

Not really.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and literary magazine editors?

Find a reliable day job.


For new spotlight posts, please visit our blog the second week of every month (but, of course, do come back more often than that!).


March Staff Picks

A few members of the Black Rock & Sage staff have some great book recommendations for the month of March. Check them out below!

Jeff Howard, Editor-in-Chief:9780544309906

Although I prefer the range of topics and voices presented in the Best American Essays 2015 anthology, the 2014 collection was also a great read. Many of the essays are amazing examples of how to deal constructively and meaningfully with sensitive themes and topics, including suicide, racial prejudice, and sexual abuse. One of my favorite essays from this collection, “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” by Ariel Levy, who was the guest editor of the 2015 BAE anthology, details Levy’s experience covering a story in Mongolia during her first pregnancy. The piece is a gripping account that I think compares in terms of its central theme and careful style to Jill Christman’s brief essay “The Sloth” (which was published in Brevity, not in BAE). Reading those pieces together, along with Cheryl Strayed’s essay “Love of My Life” (published in The Sun Magazine) has demonstrated to me in beautiful detail 1) how good these writers are, but perhaps more importantly 2) how essays on the same topic (grief and loss) can be so different in their final realization. All wonderful and tragic reads.

Anelise Farris, Poetry Editor: 51p7fz4-7nl-_sx327_bo1204203200_

Everyone needs some light, fun reading on occasion, right? I certainly do, and my pick for this month is The X-files Origins comic book, written by Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith, with art by Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell. The comic book traces two different story lines, as Mulder and Scully are young teenagers who live on opposite coasts. Even so, each of their narratives, though different, manage to weave together in such a way that it seems inevitable that Mulder and Scully would turn out to be such a fantastic supernatural-tracking duo. If you are a fan of The X-files this comic is a must, and the easter eggs throughout the series are delightful. Likewise, The X-Files Origins is the perfect comic to begin with if you are totally unfamiliar with the series and are looking for somewhere to start, especially for younger readers.28015100


Susan Goslee, Faculty Advisor: 

Bestiary: Poems by Donika Kelly.  Amazing!


BR&S Showcase: “To the Right of the Foothills” (2016)

The following is an excerpt from “To the Right of the Foothills,” a prose piece written by Stephanie Bachman.

The man, or sometimes woman, will thank me endlessly, and I’ll sit on the porch while they reverse their car and take a right. I’ll wait. Usually fifteen minutes is best. Most folks take their time on the roads, as one quick turn and they’ll skid off and tumble down the steep, sagebrush and pine hillside.

                Then, I’ll stick a cigarette between my teeth and hop into my pale mustard-colored 78′ Chevy and turn right.

                Their car is usually parked at the top of the hill, with them standing a few feet from it, hands acting as a visor against the bright sun as they search for said town. The smell of sagebrush and bluebell and warm, buttery air is strong up here. The wind turbines, which one person once said looked mystical, surreal, and alien up on these natural hills, will be in view, and their aw-shocking fans will usually be grazing the bluest skies.

 They’ll see my car, relief spanning their features, as they realize I’ve come to correct them on their directions.

                Then I’ll pull my Winchester out from my passenger seat, my finger on the trigger. If I’ve been lucky up to date, then this is the first time their faces will drain of color, or their chests will stop mid-breath. But by then, and if I remain lucky—and I’m always lucky—then they’re mine.

                The sun is a hot, blazing fleck in the empty sky when they first arrive. I sit on the porch, eating stewed carrots and beef cake, admiring the rust and pumpkin and scarlet-colored trees and purple-blue wildflowers sift from the cool breeze. Through the windows of their Chevy Tahoe, I see bright orange vests and denim coats draped across the back of the seats. I see two of them in the front, a man with a short beard and a woman—no, a teen girl—with an orange baseball cap drawing back her long hair. I see no orange and black flag on their window mirror.

                They slow at the sight of my house. The girl says something, and the man drives slowly until he eventually stops. The girl firmly holds two long, beautiful rifles against the seat.

                I tap my fork against my dish, thinking.

Want more? This piece was published in Black Rock & Sage Issue 15 (2016). Purchase a copy today!

The Life and Times of a Literate Sasquatch: Europe or Bust!

I was done with the mountains. Too much traffic. Too many trail runners, hikers, nudists, poets, nudist poets. It wasn’t about having space. It was about having my space feel like it’s supposed to feel: secluded, isolated, mine. Now I’m in Sicily. It isn’t quite like home, but at least it still feels authentic.

You may ask, how did you get halfway around the world without being spotted? Well, it isn’t like they’re trying to keep people in the U.S. right now. They’re all about keeping people out.

I made it to Puget Sound and sneaked on board a cargo ship. I didn’t know where the ship was going and didn’t really care. The hold was dark and quiet and smelly, so I felt right at home. Every so often I crept out of my hiding place and raided the galley for supplies. A few weeks later or however long it might have been (I couldn’t really tell down there in the dark), the boat docked in Palermo.

In a big city like this, it’s hard to remain undetected, and before long I stopped trying. My hair makes me stand out, but most people seem to assume that I’m either homeless or Zach Galifianakis. Being over seven feet tall makes me even more conspicuous. I am getting used to being out in the open, which is definitely new, and I don’t have to worry about being chased by people with guns and/or cameras or flashed by people with pens. As far as hygiene goes, Palermo is a lot like the wild, especially when you see the occasional old man who relieves himself on the side of a building, zips himself up, and walks on without shame.

It’s been over a year since I came here. Even though I have become more used to the way they do things here, I have also grown tired of my surroundings. Sometimes all I want is to go home. But I can’t very easily do that, can I? I think it will be very hard to get back in the U.S. without any ID or papers.

Most of the time I sit under café umbrellas writing on napkins. I decided that since I am now a self-proclaimed exile, I should write something extraordinary like Gertrude Stein or James Joyce did, although I prefer to write things that are more accessible.

The other day I sat in my usual spot at the café, eating the rest of a piece of pizza I found in the garbage, jotting down some lines. A little boy with a gelato, probably about six or seven, with dark brown eyes, approached me, a bit reluctant but obviously curious about what I was doing.

Che stai scrivendo? he asked and took another lick.

My Italian’s gotten rather good, although I don’t know how I managed it down here in Sicily where all of the letters get mixed around and truncated and slurred. I replied, Una piccolo poesia.

Me la leggi?

Certo, senz’altro. So I read him what I had:

Mi han fatto un cittadino senza paese

Il mondo mio é diventato una fossa

La vita intera ho vissuto solitario in buio, in prigione

E adesso ci voglio tornare e non posso

Magari la speranza c’è e non la vedo

Devo sempre aspettare un altra stagione

When I finished he just stared at me. By then his gelato was melting and running over and between his small fingers. A breeze picked up, blowing garbage down the street, ruffling his black hair and my reddish-brown. He came closer, put his non-gelato hand on top of my big, fat, hairy paw, and let it rest there. He wasn’t judging me; it was almost like he was inviting me to let myself be content. But a boy his age probably doesn’t know what it’s like to not be able to go home.

At that moment, his mother came around the corner and grabbed his shirt and yelled, “Che stai facendo, Pietro, eh? Mi hai provato di scappare di nuovo? She didn’t even look at me. She just hauled him off like a sack of tomatoes and left me there. Alone. I sat beneath in the shade for another hour, possibly two, and his eyes continued to stare, haunting me, until finally I ripped up the napkin and threw the pieces to the wind.