Terspischore’s Atrium with Matthew Guerruckey

Welcome to Terspischore’s Atrium, where the Hermeneutic Chaos editors find delight in the elfin task of  confronting some amazing writers with some really tough questions.

Today, our Interviews editor Aaron Wiegert interviews Matthew Guerruckey, the founding editor of the online literary magazine Drunk Monkeys, and a brilliant fiction writer. His short fiction has previously appeared in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Connotation Press, Bartleby Snopes, Cease Cows, and The Weekenders Magazine. Matthew lives in North Hollywood with his wife, poet SC Stuckey, and their cats Harrison and Lennon. He is working on his first novel. We request you to read his works, available all over the internet, and then come back to enjoy the interview. We promise that you won’t regret it.





1. As founder and Editor-in-Chief at Drunk Monkeys, how do your interactions with the magazine affect your writing?  

It’s a mixed bag. When I actually get time to sit down and read submissions, it’s always really stimulating to see what other writers are doing out there. Reading a great submission will inspire me to look at my work in a different way, and reading a terrible submission will, at the very least, give me an example of what doesn’t work. A lot of times I’ll get about three paragraphs into a work and want to give up, because the writer’s front-loaded the story with unnecessary detail or backstory, and that’s an instinct I’ve had to fight in my own work. By reading those stories, I get to think of my own work in the way that another editor would, someone who’s placed no emotional investment in the work, and just wants to know what the story is already. So now, I try to keep that unseen editor in mind when I’m writing.

But running the website involves so much of my time that it can also be an easy excuse for me not to write. This past year, a combination of the website being busier than ever, me having a few (thankfully, resolved) health issues, and the ensuing anxiety from everything happening at once led to my most severe case of writer’s block ever. In 2013, which was my first year as a full-time writer, I finished 20 short stories, wrote dozens of articles and reviews for the website, and managed to finish a rough draft of a novel during the NaNoWriMo. This year I’ve not been able to finish a single story–though I have been able to revise and find a home for several stories left hanging last year.

I’m finally facing this block as a block, and I’m coming out of it, but it’s definitely difficult. Last year I could sit for hours on end, but this month it’s a small victory to sit for ten minutes or hit a mark of 1,000 words for the day. But small victories are still victories.

2. What or who inspired you to work in fiction as your genre of choice?

I’ve always wanted to tell stories, the question was which medium I would tell them in. When I was ten years old I had a comic strip in our town newspaper (this was a town of about 500 people). And for most of my childhood, that was what I wanted to do. I think if you’d asked most of the people I went to high school [with] what I would end up doing, that would have been their guess: cartoonist or comic book artist. Then when Pulp Fiction came out all that I wanted to do was make movies.

I think if I was a more extroverted person I probably would have done something like that, but I’m not. Fiction allows me to call all the shots, so it appeals to my introversion and my OCD. I’m still definitely more inspired by film than I am by other literature, probably because all of the first “writing instruction” books I ever read were on screenplay structure. When I think about a scene I’m going to write, I think about how I would stage it, what emotion I want to get from my “actors”.

I think if I’d never read Kurt Vonnegut I’d still be scribbling notes for screenplays that I never finished. When I read Breakfast of Champions, I said, “Wait–you can do all of that?” Then I went through pretty much every novel he’d ever written in the space of a year. Later I had a similar reaction to Raymond Carver. Finding these works that I really resonated with helped me get a clearer picture of what I wanted to write about and how I wanted to write it, and helped me see the advantages of the medium. “Cathedral” doesn’t work on film. And “Breakfast of Champions” sure didn’t work on film–just ask Bruce Willis.

3.  The end of the story “Find Finnian” published by Dr. T.J. Eckleberg Review, is tense to put it mildly.  Where did the idea for this finale come from?

Well, the contest that I describe in the story is a real thing that used to happen at my previous office job. Every year at Christmas, there was a hunt to find a Where’s Waldo doll that was hidden somewhere around the building. It was one of those gross corporate “morale” exercises, probably. With those sort of things–dress up days, or whatever–I always felt like they were just trying to distract us from the fact that we hated what we were doing. So we get five minutes out of our day to chase down this toy, and then we go back to getting screamed at because a shipment was late. Thanks a lot.

What always fascinated me, and made me sad, actually, were the people who got really into the contest. And if you knew them well enough, you knew that they really just needed a distraction from all of the terrible, oppressive bullshit in their lives. Because in a job like that you’re surrounded at all times by people who are all just ready to snap. And then, if that did happen, if someone really did lose it, you’re only ever getting half of the story. Because it’s rare that anybody takes the time to get the full story on a public meltdown like that, because they, the company, and the person who flipped out, all want to just get back to normal (assuming that person actually keeps their job).

And that’s a sad thought, because it just shows how much we’re all denying our humanity in the name of just getting by. Okay, so someone has a meltdown–what are they saying? “I can’t fucking take it anymore. I’m a real person, and I have real feelings, and right now I can’t control them.” And the real reason we avoid those stories, or we vilify those people, is that we don’t want to admit how close we are to having our own meltdown, to becoming that person screaming in traffic or crying on the subway.

That’s why the narrator has to keep telling this story–it keeps Mary Ellen outside of himself, it gives him distance.


4. Both “Find Finnian” and “Bringing it all Back Home” have unlikable characters (either first or last) named Ellen.  Is there something about the name that is significant to you?  Was this a conscious decision?

I’d never realized that! That’s pretty funny. There’s no significance to the name that I’m consciously aware of. I can’t even think of any significant person I’ve ever known named Ellen (cut to some sad woman named Ellen who went to my high school reading this and wiping away a single tear). That in itself might be why I’ve used it–I like to avoid names that might cause me to picture someone I know, unless there’s something about that person I’m deliberately trying to channel into the character. There was something sort of lyrical about a four-syllable name that I liked for Finding Finnian, because it’s rooted in oral storytelling.


5. “Bringing it all Back Home” seems to be about escape in many aspects.  Do you think the protagonist changes his mind about leaving after discovering the contents of the box?

There’s no question in my mind that he stays. The story’s all about him waking up to his own responsibility. I don’t think it had ever occurred to him before that he had a responsibility to his stepfather. He’d only thought of him as this extra piece of his mother’s life, and had been ignoring his own history with him. But when Don begs to keep the merit ribbon, the narrator realizes that Don does feel a connection to him, that he is important to him. That sort of shames him into reevaluating what he thinks of Don. So I absolutely think that he stays for an extra day or two and, in the name of cleaning things up or helping out, learns a little more about Don. I don’t know what he would actually–or could actually feel at the end of that extra time, but I think it’s important for the character to have it.

At one point, I considered having Don explain why the ribbon was so important, but I think that would have softened the impact of the moment for the narrator. The idea that there is a reason that this object matters to Don, that there is so much emotion tied up in it, but he has no idea what it is, is haunting to him. It’s one of those moments where you realize just how selfish you’ve been, and get a glimpse of how others see you. It breaks down your walls, and nothing’s quite the same after. So yeah, I think he’ll need a few days to absorb that, and I think he’ll choose to do that with Don.

The genesis of that story came from a conversation with my own stepfather a few years before he passed. This wasn’t a man I had grown up with, in the way that the narrator has grown up with Don, but someone that my mother married later in life. I had only ever spoken to Rich when my mother was around, but one night on a holiday visit, on this really wretchedly cold night in their little house in Iowa, I shared a drink with him and watched football and just talked about life. I’m really grateful for that moment, just as I’m grateful to have been in the room with him when he passed. After Rich’s funeral, I changed the bit of scripture that the narrator quotes in the opening paragraph to a line that Rich requested be read at his memorial service. Even though the specifics of the story don’t line up with my experience with my own stepfather, I’m happy to have a bit of his memory with me whenever I read it.


6. What medium do you use for composing a short story?  Laptop, typewriter, pen and paper etc.?  

I usually type up my stories on a laptop, just so I can get the words out as fast as possible (even though I’m a pretty lousy typist), but I usually have to then print them out to do edits. It’s hard for me to really judge things line by line on a computer screen, and it’s easier to scan on paper. So I’ll do a full edit there, with all sorts of indecipherable scribbles, and I’m always amazed at how often I have to shift whole paragraphs around, but I think that’s something I can only see because I’m working with the pen–it opens up an entirely different way of looking at the story. After that, I make those edits, and I try to print it out one more time and read it aloud to catch any lingering mistakes.


7. What is your most ambitious goal as a writer?

I’m trying to scale back my ambitions to a more reasonable place. When I first started writing, I dreamed about bestsellers and movie adaptations and money, but the business of actually writing has made me look at things in a different way. Now it’s more a matter of appreciating the story I’m telling, and trying to surprise myself each step of the way. There’s a steep learning curve to a career in writing, and if you get too far ahead of yourself, you can end up lost. Right now, my ambition is to write each day, to embrace my fear instead of running from it, to build on real expression instead of hiding behind cleverness. If I can manage all of that, then the rest may all fall in place, but for now, I’m finding joy in the work.

8.  Who is the most overrated American (literary) author of all time?  Why?

I mean, all of them, at some level. Once you build a legend up that high, you bring a lot of expectation into reading their work for the first time. I gave Hemingway more than a few chances, because he’s so beloved, I thought I must be missing something. I don’t begrudge anyone who thinks his work is amazing, it’s just not for me.

That’s what makes me so excited about finding a classic work that really knocks me off my feet.I’d never read The Great Gatsby until this year, but it might be the greatest novel I’ve ever read. Everything you ever needed to know about America is in that book.

Not too many other people come to mind. I thought Portnoy’s Complaint was pretty lousy. It tried reading it, in my head, in the voice of the narrator from A Christmas Story.That kept me entertained for a few chapters, but that was it.


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We Want You To Join Hermeneutic Chaos!

Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal is now accepting submissions for the following positions. Kindly note that we do not to offer any monetary compensation to any member of our staff. However, we promise you that you will chart a warm, fruitful and enriching literary journey with us, and in the process, develop fresh insights into the way literature with itself and its surroundings, and find yourself within a wonderful literary community. We look forward to what you have to say to us!

Please note that the following positions require a commitment of 2-4 hours per week, with a bit more just prior to the launch of an issue.


1. Arts/Illustrations Editor:

At Hermeneutic Chaos, we perceive art to be another form of literature, demanding a narrative and interpretation of its own. Hence, the Art/Illustrations Editor must be one who leaves to read a lot and is open to various artistic possibilities without binaries and boundaries.

​Duties include reviewing unsolicited artwork submissions, communicate with various artists and galleries to acquire work to be incorporated in our various issues, resizing/formatting images to suit the aesthetic criteria, and work closely with the author and editor-in-chief in case of chapbooks and broadside designs. Participating as a guest writer in our blog is also greatly encouraged.

The candidate must be proficient in Photoshop and should be adept at working creatively with limited resources. Prior work with other literary journals will be appreciated, but won’t be seen as a mandatory factor during the editorial decisions.

2. Blog Editor: 

Hermeneutic Chaos owns a fascinating blog, Morphemic Morphology, that complements the journal wonderfully by interpreting the texts that reside within its issues and engaging in a fruitful interaction with the readers about all the things art and literature. Hence, we require an editor who is wonderfully read, is cognizant of the various developments taking place in the literary world, and is able to offer a mature response to them. We seek a candidate who does not see Morphemic Morphology as a mere blog, but as a lively literary space where wit, perception, surprise and an editorial sagacity come together to create an aesthetic euphoria.

Duties include managing the blog in its entirety, working closely and corresponding frequently with the Interview Editors and Book Reviewers, suggesting future components of the blog. The candidate should also be able to seek blog correspondents and solicit articles and essays pertaining to literature that can be published on the blog. Proficiency in WordPress and other blogging platforms is of crucial import.

3. Director of Social Media Relations and Marketing:

The Director of Social Media Relations and Marketing will run the Hermeneutic Chaos Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages, send newsletters every time a new issue is published, create relevant updates on a daily basis and build an interactive audience. The candidate should also be able to actively assist in managing promotions and social media campaigns, and discover and interact with various literary websites and forums to help promote the journal. It is extremely important for the candidate to have an active Facebook and Twitter page, and be extremely well versed with various social media platforms, including Mailchimp.

In order to view the application requirements and/or to apply to any of the above posts, please visit- https://hermeneuticchaos.submittable.com/submit/37759

Thanks again for your continued support towards Hermeneutic Chaos, and for choosing to be a part of it. It means a lot to us.


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Terpischore’s Atrium with Aaron Wiegert

This time, we decided to have some fun, and asked our Interviews Editor, Nathan Rupp, to interview partner in crime Aaron Wiegert. He explains how to be an evil queen, and how to effectively hide your favorite book inside your beard.




1. So, Drunk Monkeys is quite a prominent publishing platform, but the name is a bit strange. Could you tell me about the name “Drunk Monkey” and how you got involved with it?

“Drunk Monkeys”, I believe, is a reference to monks who worked as scribes in the middle ages.  They drank beer to sustain themselves and transcribed passages from the Bible.  Being a tedious and monotonous task, the monks became bored and often scribbled or doodled in the margins of their manuscripts.  This kind of irreverence is the backbone of the D.M. manifesto.

A friend from the Twin Cities told me about Drunk Monkeys in 2012 because he thought my work would be a good fit.  And I guess it was.  D.M. continued to published my stuff and then they made me a staff writer soon after.  Some time later I was included in reading poetry submissions and publication decisions and that’s how I became poetry editor.


2. When you are going through the poems that you publish in the Drunk Monkeys, what draws to or pushes you away from a piece? In short, what makes a good poem for you?

That’s a really tough question. I like poems that are at simultaneously eerie and familiar, poems with a rhythm that you can climb onto and ride like a bronco, poems that reaffirm poetry as a worthwhile discipline that’s alive and well.  What pushes me away are poems that are one-dimensional, poems that offer little or no insight or perspective about what it is to be a human being, self-indulgent poems.


3. Has being an editor of poetry affected your writing or your attitude towards others publishers?

Yeah, I mean you start to look at a publishing venue as being made up of actual people.  Normal people just like me.  People who go to work and buy groceries.  So you see a publication as more of an active entity, more like an ant colony than a pillared institution that mysteriously cranks out literature for the public to read.


4. I recently read your chapbook Evil Queen and it is a wonderful collection. Can you tell me about how you balanced having each poem stand alone as well as fitting into a complete story?

Thank you for your kind words.  Evil Queen was kind of an experiment.  I was re-reading A Girl Named Zippy and the book mentions children playing a game called Evil Queen.  I was curious and wanted to know more about this game.  Then I became curious as to why I was curious about a game made up by children decades ago.  It seemed that there was a universal archetype underlying this fascination.  Some kind of mythology that was worthy of exploring.  So I started out with a few pieces telling a story that could be a history, a fable or even a religion.  Then I found poems I had written previously could be culled or altered to flesh out the tale.  The hardest part was making sure everything was congruent and that it had a narrative consistency.


5. Evil Queen for all purposes feels like a fairy tale. How have fairy tells affected your work, if at all?

At that time I was especially interested in how fairy tales leave out the most important parts of how to live.  Someone might live happily ever after but the tale fails to tell you how you go about achieving this happiness, or even what happiness means.  So it seemed like most fairy tales held these sacred notions of what we should expect from life that were essentially empty.  My goal was to create a somewhat subversive response to the notion of how things “ought to be”.


6. Your poem published with Hermeneutic Chaos “Cavestorm” and in “The Horsemen Ride to a 4/4 Time” there is, pardon the play with words, but a storm of literary and philosophic references. What was the purpose of so many references? And who are your greatest influences?

The storm of references is likely due to my lack of ability to explain difficult concepts, so the easiest thing to do was point to something similar.  Like when a coffee label tells you what to expect in taste they’ll say: notes of bourbon, cherry, and hibiscus but no one actually tastes those things, it’s just that they’re the closest things we can use for comparison.  Also, literary references are sort of a reward.  It’s like an inside joke that only others who’ve read something will understand, but ironically it probably just makes people think: wow, this is really pretentious!

My greatest influences to start writing were Hunter S. Thompson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan.


7. You publish often, edit and have done readings, what is next on your plate? 

I don’t like to talk about what I’m working on because it puts me under a tremendous amount of pressure.  Writing, as you know, is hard enough as it is and then if I say: yeah, I’m working on XYZ then I have this awareness that I’m expected to produce what it is that I’m talking about.  And if I’m talking about what I’m writing then it seems pointless to go on writing about it.


8.  If you were to hide a literature inside your beard, which one would it be?

I love this question.  I imagine tattoos of literary passages on my chin and neck that are only visible if I shave.  I would harbor passages from David Foster Wallace because he can write some stuff, especially in Infinite Jest and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men that have made me laugh so hard I had to set the book down and stop reading, for full minutes, because it produced a genuine hysteria.












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Terpischore’s Atrium with Heather Fowler

Welcome to Terspischore’s Atrium, where the Hermeneutic Chaos editors find delight in the elfin task of  confronting their contributing authors with some really tough questions.

Today, our Interviews Editor Aaron Wiegert interviews the amazing Heather Fowler, our Pushcart Prize 2016 nominee, who contributed three ingenious and aesthetically engaging sonnets to Issue 3. She is the poetry editor at Corium magazine, and is the author of the story collections Suspended Heart (2009), People with Holes (2012), which was named a 2012 finalist for Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction, This Time, While We’re Awake (2013), and Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental Illness (2014).  Her fictive work has been made into fine art in several instances and her collaborative poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging, written with Meg Tuite and Michelle Reale, is the winner of the 2013 Twin Antler’s Prize for Collaborative Poetry and is due for release this month.

We request you to spend some time with her sonnets here, and then come back to enjoy the interview.




1.  “Sonnet of Where One Always Walks Alone” has a strong sense of place. Where do you imagine this poem to be set if it actually existed?

This may be a strange response to your question, but I imagine this piece takes place as an elaborate metaphor for loneliness via the “house of solitude” rhetoric (line 7)—or as a fairy tale of sorts.  In line four, when I say, “This has gone on for centuries, for years,” alluding to the woman who sleeps alone existing in a stasis, waiting, leaving the door open, and yet having no visitors arrive, I think it’s because I wanted this place to depict an almost a magical site of isolation.

The poplar trees referenced in line one are commonly placed to line long driveways because they grow quickly and resemble hedges.  I remember they made quite an impression on me on one of my Europe trips. They can feel rather intimidating, tall and sharp.Their purpose here was to set the house away from the main traffic of life on the thoroughfare, where people pass the house but do not arrive there.

If “house” is used rather than “castle,” in this case, it was a conscious poetic effort to modernize the scene, but the situation did feel timelessly tainted as I wrote this poem, underscored by the magical possibilities of the house itself vanishing, and this desired magical undercurrent is highlighted in lines 11-12, where the poems says that if the woman goes to town to find a new lover, “This dwelling will disappear, with all its markings / And quietly make ready to seal its next wound.”  If the dwelling can disappear and vanish from a comfortable perspective of permanence that quickly, this idea embodied for me the illusory sort of safety one feels while cocooned in solitude or sorrow.  The sealing of the wound is the kind removal, the lack of further excitement for those sealed in, the lack of outside interference, the self completely at its own leisure and at its own peril.

I liked the idea of using an olive stone as the metaphor for the woman’s soul—to give a nod to the Spanish imagery I am at play with, due to the book’s Lorca/Spain connections, and also to suggest her soul is what is hard scrabble, what is bared, what is left over after the fruit of life has been consumed.

I supposed the real location of this poem is the site of one woman’s longing and indecision—the actual dilemma of choosing whether to rest in depression and/or exile or join the world of the living and love and risk again.


2.  “Sonnet of Inestimable Wealth” conveys a feeling of ritual. Do you have any rituals as a writer?

I have involuntary rituals—such as writing my way through or out of painful situations and then often being terrified that I will need to re-traumatize myself again and again by publishing the very work for which I bled.  If I have a lost muse, for example, it’s not possible to simply decide to rationally avoid using that muse.  My mind rebels.  My heart pushes through to the marrow of the terror—evokes and evokes and evokes, until it is done with a situation.  The mind has little to no control when this may be.

The good news is that this way of processing means that when the sorrow is done, it is completely over. Used up. Kaput.  The bad news is that I know, when someone inflicts a painful reality upon me or betrays my love, know right away, that I will be living that sorrow for years, in the ink.

And I hate them very intensely in that moment, wish I could walk backwards to the time before the travesty, because I do not want that road looming forth for my work, already visible to me, and I am completely aware how much I will suffer, that I will have “shivered nude in miasmas of tears,” before I can let the hard and terrible things go.


3. The most cinematic of these three poems (to me) is “Sonnet of Rivers and Leaves” with its abundance of Autumn imagery. What does Autumn mean to you?

Autumn is death.  Decay.  Age.  The cycle of life that allows for the beauty of spring.  It’s a time when organisms shed the parts of them they do not need for the new year to come.  I love the imagery of trees reflected in water, nature’s mirrors, and orphaned rotting fruit.  I love the idea of nostalgia and belonging to a place or person, even beyond the point of beauty—right into ruin or splendor.

For me, I love the people most whom I have watched in all their glorious imperfections—the ones with love’s true equity.  This poem is about love with formative and incredibly durable equity.

We return to the ones we know best.  The narrator of this poem is all about remaining with her “you.”


4. How important is the “turn” to your sonnets?

The “turn” or volta is important to my sonnets, moreso when I write Shakespearean sonnets—but these pieces in Alexandrines for Lorca were written with a state of whimsy, open permissions for myself as a poet to follow the emotional curve rather than a set structure—with more focus on what the images brought about in the poem and what the poem as a whole accomplishes than in getting particular about shifting gears at a certain particular line.


5. When using an epigraph from a great writer, are you ever worried that it will overshadow your work?

Absolutely not in this case.  Lorca’s quotes were places from which my poems began, points of departure.  I am a woman, an American, a person from a whole different socio-economic background.  My voice is my own. Yes, I wanted this book to function as an homage to some of his vivid style and themes, but I very much infused my reactions and sensibilities in this work—while being at play with the areas of our intersections and divergences.  That said, I don’t hide that this is a dialogue I create or expand via the reference to his aesthetic. In the book, there is a poem called  “Woodcutter’s Reply, Letters to the Barren Orange Tree” and that poem is clearly written in concert with one of his most famous poems, but what I would hope, in the instances where I am at play with his work, is that those who teach poetry would choose to use this intergenerational dialogue between poets to show students different points of departure and also to demonstrate the tradition of the poetic homage in continuation into modernity.  Poets love to reference other poets, subtly or otherwise.


6.  For someone unfamiliar with Lorca what would you suggest (s)he read to become better acquainted?

Well, I would have her/him read In Search of Duende, the second edition, published by New Directions Press.  I would also suggest The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca.  If the reader can read in Spanish, however, I would suggest they use Poesia complete as an introductory text.  I’m reading a really elegant translation by Peter Bush of his Sketches of Spain right now, which is a series of meditations or essays on various elements of art, history, and the essence of Spain—but I’d send new readers to his poetry.  Let them have the jolt of his vivid parsed words first.


7. Do you use any other forms of verse (e.g. sestina, haiku)?

I use all kinds of forms.  I often host poetry marathons where I do a different form each day for a month long period, using everything from archaic French forms to brand new forms based on art or science.  I’ve probably written in close to one hundred and fifty different forms.  Right now I’m writing an opera in verse, based on a story called “Blood, Hunger, Child” from my latest collection of short stories entitled Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness,  so will be using multiple forms to pull this off like the rondeau redouble, the triolet, the villanelle, etcetera.  But I love discovering new challenges.

With poetry or prose, I am not afraid to fail.  Failure and effort are parts of the process.


8. Who is your favorite sonneteer and why?

Edna St. Vincent Millay.  Because her formal expertise and concision are so elegant.  Because she was known for her feminist activism and wild-woman passionate writing.  Because she wrote librettos and prose and poetry—while living a life that was engineered to provide herself as much pleasure as possible.  She’s a model for me, a s/hero, a minor saint.  I simply adore her work and the power and resilience she brought to her lines.

She was way ahead of her time with many of her best ideas, and she made money with poetry.  You have to hand it to her there.

This is a feat even difficult for poets writing today.



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We are extremely pleased to announce our nominations for the Queen’s Ferry Press Best Small Fictions of 2015.


Kayla Pongrac- Perseus, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Orion 

Miranda Stone- Perfect Aim 

Jeanne Lyet Gassman- Nearer, My God, To Thee

Sara Cleto- Liriope’s Daughter

Elizabeth Brown- A Good Night for Maali


All the best!


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The Jane Lumley Prize for Emerging Writers: How It Works

When we launched Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal in April this year, our primary editorial aim was to present the literary compositions of emerging authors alongside those written by established ones in an aesthetically pleasing issue that will respect the contributions of all our writers equally. And six months and four issues later, we believe that we have been able to achieve that to a large extent. We thank all our submitters for placing faith in us and in our journal, and for trusting us with their poetry and prose. Overwhelmed with the amount of readership and support that we garnered in our initial months, we decided to introduce The Jane Lumley Prize for Emerging Writers, in an effort to recognize an outstanding poetry and prose written by an author who has yet not published a full-length book of poetry and/or prose.

The contest which began on 13th August will culminate on 30th November. There is no entry fee. The winner, chosen by our Editor-in-Chief, will be awarded prize money of $300, along with publication in the January issue of Hermeneutic Chaos.  The two semi-finalists will also find publication in our January issue.

What makes our contest unique is that it allows only the new and emerging writers to participate, as opposed to both emerging and established authors, thereby reducing an unconscious bias that the editors may be subjected to while encountering a poetry/prose written by a veteran. Though most of the contest judges read blindly in order to ensure a fair and impartial judgment, sometimes the professional expertise of a writer becomes just too obvious. We feel that it is simply unfair to pit renowned writers and beginners against each other, because though sometimes there are exceptions, one almost always knows the outcome of a contest in such cases.

Another unique factor distinguishing our contest from others is that it will alternate between poetry and prose every year. This will also allow us to focus our energies on only a particular aspect of literature and to appreciate the various nuances and intricacies that constantly perplex its contours. Thus, while the contest in 2014 will only cater to poetic submissions, the year 2015 will see it interacting with different forms of prose.

As a new literary journal, we were extremely apprehensive about the number of submissions we would receive for our inaugural contest, especially because its dates coincided with those of some extremely popular literary contests. Even without an entry fee, we were expecting not more than 150-200 submissions. However, we were pleasantly astonished to see our contest gaining huge popularity among the writing community, and we received a total of 102 submissions in the first month alone.  Till date (October 26, 2014), we have received over 450 brilliant poetic submissions ,and  are expecting even a greater number of submissions in November as a consequence of the final month syndrome. We feel extremely grateful and humbled for being given the opportunity to read your work. Thank you. It means a lot to us.


In accordance with the CLMP guidelines and in order to help everybody understand the structure of the entire process post the submission of a work for Jane Lumley Prize, we have briefly described below the various steps that your submission will go through once you send it to us. We hope that this will enable you to understand our editorial procedures and preferences and hence contribute to the journal in a better manner.



  • Once you submit your work, you will receive an email from us in response to your submission, stating that we have received it. The same will be reflected in your Submittable account, as you will find the status ‘Received’ accompanying your submission.
  • Since all submissions are read blindly, nobody is able to determine the identity of the writer. This allows a fair and impartial perusal of the poems.
  • Your submission is then assigned a unique code number and its printout is taken.
  • Our Editor-in-Chief then goes through all the submissions received on that particular day and arranges them into three different files, “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe” (just as it is on Submittable). Your submission status changes from ‘Received’ to ‘In-Progress’.
  • These submissions are read again after two weeks in order to ascertain the value of the decisions taken earlier. This is the time when several submissions make their way from one folder to another. This step is extremely crucial because it ensures that every submission receives a consistent evaluation.
  • The submissions are then weighed against each other and then the ten best poems are chosen. All the other participants are then informed about the status of their submission are invited to send another batch of poems for consideration. This rolling rejection is extremely important as it allows the participants to submit the poems elsewhere.
  • As newer submissions arrive, they go through the same process again, and many find their way inside the top 10, pushing the earlier inhabitants out.
  • Post the deadline (November 30th), the Editor-in-Chief will spend time with the ten of the best poems submitted throughout the contest, and will decide the winner and the two semi-finalists.



The winner will receive a prize money of $300, a part of which was donated by a generous literary enthusiast. The remaining funds were contributed by Shinjini Bhattacharjee. The money will awarded through Paypal within a week after the declaration of the results.


If you still have any query regarding the contest, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can also send us poetry and prose submissions for our regular issues. We look forward to reading them!

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Terpischore’s Atrium with Kat Dixon

Welcome to Terspischore’s Atrium, where the Hermeneutic Chaos editors find delight in the elfin task of  confronting their contributing authors with some really tough questions.

Today, Nathan Rupp interviews Kat Dixon, our Best of the Net nominee 2014, who contributed some beautiful poems to our inaugural issue. We urge you to enjoy their brilliance here, and then come back to enjoy the interview.

“The interplay between a writer and the writer’s work is one that many theorists say should not be considered. That being said, I hold with none of that. How can we decode the inner depths of a poem or story if we do not consider the artists life? This could not be more true than in the case of the interview that follows with Kat Dixon. The labyrinths of layered meaning and subtle plays with words, that makes up her work, often require the reader to reevaluate both the poem and the medium in a new light; and nobody could be a better guide for that labyrinth and that revaluation other that the Daedalus of this work Kat Dixon herself.” – Nathan Rupp.




1.Your “Five Poems” in HC are all very visual – there are boxes around which your words are held, the spacing is sporadic – how do your words find meaning?

I always write poems with the assumption that what’s not written is of at least equal importance with what’s written. In the HC poems, for example, I wanted to pay particular attention to the empty spaces I was leaving in each of the poems, and I thought what better way to demand readers take notice of that emptiness than to draw lines around it? I love poetry best for this: how words can find meaning in their interactions with each other (whether that’s linear or other) and also with the page.

2. From a look at your bibliography and a bit of background reading, it seems you have a habit for creating work that asks the readers to hold your hand as you lead them though a maze both of form and of concept. What propels your artistic choice? 

I do require a lot of trust from a reader. I know when I work in poetry that I am always and forever at risk of writing the same poem (I think this applies across genres as well), so I take great care to create variation through style and form. But essentially I come into every poem with the same interest in language and languages. I hope that if I can inspire enough trust in a reader, we can sort of construct every poem together in this ongoing dialogue and, in that way, both mimic and interrogate language and its systems, structures.

3.What advise would you give someone who is reading your work for the first time?

I have enough respect for a poem never to ask it to reveal all of its secrets, especially among strangers. The same goes for characters in fiction or for myself in nonfiction. If there are some first-time readers out there somewhere, I’d ask them to be patient; it may take me this whole life to write out all the things you may want to know in this immediate moment.

4.Since you have successfully published in different genera, do you find it easier to convey certain ideas via a particular genera and if so which ideas lend themselves to poetry or prose for you?

Not really – or maybe not yet. I’ve tried out different genres out of curiosity, and I tend to pick up and put down genres to avoid staleness. I’ve never wanted to limit myself to one thing. I do tend to think poetry can hold just about any idea. I have found it very difficult to write about myself or my actual life in poetry though, so maybe there’s an exception to this.

5. How, if at all, has living as an expat influenced your writing style or impacted your work?

Geographical change always seems to affect my writing – and me – tonally. Living within another language has actually helped me to fall back into poetry; I’d been on a long hiatus until moving here. I haven’t seen any significant change in style beyond what’s usual for me, but any new experience has potential to invoke change.

6. Kat, your forwardness and outspokenness in the case of Gregory Sherl  is beyond words commendable. What did it take for you to be so honest in a public sphere?

Oh, a great number of things, I imagine. Exhaustion. This feeling I’ve always had that I’ve never had much to lose. More than anything it was out of a need to reconnect that self who had those experience to myself. It’s funny, you know? I never realized how much I rely on other people to make my life real. I was so isolated during that time. There was only ever Gregory and me, and his perception of even the smallest events was so twisted, so far away from my experiences. I began to believe his versions – he was so sure he was right – and that put me at increasing odds with myself. I had – I still have – constant doubts as to what was real and what wasn’t, and that grew and spilled over into every part of my life, even outside of the life that was really just Greg’s. Talking about it and writing about it has helped me to reattach myself to my own realities.

7.What was the last poem that you that really made you see the world anew?

Allison Benis White’s Tiny Porcelain Head. That’s a book of poems, but it’s also one poem.

8.With several chapbooks, numerous journal publication, two collections and one novel – what’s next?

 Everything. I’ve got a stack of in-progress projects too high to mention without some embarrassment. I’m gearing up for a new poetry collection, have a novel in works, a memoir. I want to write everything always – for better or worse. Something will come out first, and it will be a surprise to me as much as it is to anyone.




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