Mini-Chap Review: “There are over 100 Billion Stars in our Galaxy”

Canaan Anthony Whitston, Ghost City Press. May 2018.

Review by Erin Wahl

This is Canaan Anthony Whitston’s first chapbook, though he shares a good portion of his creative life with the world online (he’s definitely worth a “follow”). It can be hard to write a good love poem, but here I see Whitston managing it well, not just writing a poem to a person but managing to construct the world around them as he does it. There are some really delightful lines throughout his poetry: “take these bones/half dumb with only good intentions” and some great moments where his humor shines through: “light a fire and let me be the flame/(like a fuckin sick flamethrower) … ‘looks like something happened over there’/they’ll say”. Eschewing capitalization and most punctuation (except for the well-placed comma), what really marks these poems for me is use of line breaks. These really teach me how to read his poems, and without them this book wouldn’t work as well. This is a good first book for Whitston, and I think we can expect more of the same from him from here.

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Mini-Chap Review: “Wolf Inventory” By Zephyr Lisowski

Review by Erin Wahl

Zephyr Lisowski, Wolf Inventory. Ghost City Press. May 2018.

It’s fairly clear to me, that Zephyr Lisowski has written the book I really needed to read this week. It may be the book we all need to read this week. Lisowski has some valuable experience in the poetry world: on the staff at Apogee Journal with publications and a 2018 Pushcart Nomination. There was an animal hunger and longing in this book that pulled me through it with a thick horror. This book deals with sexual assault in a way that unsettled me. Not only did I get the perspective of the victim, but also an eerie knowledge of “wolf”. I felt that terrible hunger from both sides and it was alarming, to say the least. Wolf Inventory catalogs the narrator’s experience “Who am I to even/remember these stories?: a fact just means what’s left when the skin/peels away. Is that right?” Be prepared to feel a good dose of anger when you read these poems; when it is suggested that this narrator’s experiences are merely: “a conflagration/of “boys being boys” and my own propensity to “invite violation.” Look: I/synapse, I butterfly twitch. My body with so many turns it surprises even/me.” Any book that can make me feel as if someone was exhaling hot breath on the back of my neck the whole time I read it, pressing their weight down on me, is truly doing something disturbing and amazing. To read this book is to explode out of comfort and into a certain kind of darkness. As for me, I’m ready to go wolf hunting.


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Mini-Chap Review: “Casserole” by Sara Adams

Reviewed by Erin Wahl

Sara Adams Casserole. Ghost City Press. May 2018.

Sara Adam’s book Casserole was first out of the gates in Ghost City Press’ lineup this summer. That is a pretty intimidating place to be and Adams’ book was perhaps the perfect choice. Adams has a very respectable publication history both print and online, with a handful of chapbooks (and one very interesting Twilight parody) under her belt. Casserole is erasure poetry from Stephen King’s book Cujo. If you’ve never dove into erasure poetry before, this is the book for you. I consider this to be, besides a well-crafted book, a book that is very accessible for a lot of different readers. First, I like the choice of erasure medium (glitter), particularly when juxtaposed with the original text of the erasure poems. I think this was a smart artistic choice on the part of the poet. I really loved the surprise of each poem. Adams took me to a completely different place from where I began and I was truly and deeply disappointed by the end of the book, that it was over already. As a Midwesterner, I like the choice of title (more casserole for everyone, in every context), and this idea of a dish mixed up and baked together really run through the book as well. I saw emptiness and fullness: “So you thought you’d fill up/but she/had/casserole”, and monstrosity: “his hair/the music of screams”. I began the book fully engrossed in this connection between poem and original text and by the end I’d totally forgotten about the latter, loving the poems minus the connection to King’s text. I have already gone back to reread it several times.



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Yes We’re Closed to Submissions… but wait, there’s more

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We’re halfway there!


Four Ties Lit Review Homepage


Issue VI Volume I



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Welcome Message from the Editor


Call for Submissions

Issue VI Volume I




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Help Support Four Ties Lit Review when you Submit this year

This year when you submit your work to 4Ties, you’ll have the option to use the Submission Tip Jar. Your $3.00 will go toward paying for 4Ties costs which include our website, submission management costs, and advertising, not to mention software costs. Typically, these add up to $400 annually.

For a slightly more substantial fee, you can get feedback on your submission from one of 4Ties highly trained, published Author/Editors. The $5.00 not only goes to helping to pay for 4Ties costs but will in a small way allow a starving editor avoid extra hours waiting on tables or behind the wheel of an Uber this summer.

In the coming weeks look for the opportunity to subscribe to the 4Ties Newsletter a quarterly publication with exclusive reviews, interviews, columns, and community news. Subscription fee to be determined.

This summer we’ll also begin the process of becoming a Tax Deductible Nonprofit Corporation. A process that will, no doubt, be costly. So thank you in advance for your support and allowing us to continue to be a vibrant, growing member of the online literary community.

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Open to Submissions April 20th

Four Ties Lit Review will open to submissions from April 20th to June 1st.  We invite submissions of Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Graphical Story Telling (comics), Book Reviews, and Graphic Art. The theme for this issue is “Work,” as broadly conceived as possible; we all do it in one way or another. Whether it’s the ‘ol 9-5, Homework, Housework, working on your relationships or yourself, send us your best pieces. We’re looking forward to seeing them.

This year we will offer potential contributors the opportunity to support 4Ties and receive critical feedback from one of the highly qualified editors of 4Ties. The nominal fee will support 4Ties and help our editors avoid having to picking up extra hours waiting tables, though we really appreciate the folks who have chosen such as their line of work… See our Submission Guidelines for more information. We use Submittable as our submission manager.


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Book Review: Virgin by Analicia Sotelo

A Review of Virgin by Analicia Sotelo
(Milkweed Editions, February 2018)
ISBN-10: 1571315004
ISBN-13: 978-1571315007
Reviewed by Amanda Galvan Huynh

As a Chicana who grew up in Houston and in the backyard of Texas, I was ecstatic to sit down with this bold book as the title itself feels like a resistance to the very culture Latinas are raised in; the cultural and religious upbringing where good Mexican daughters listen and obey. These poems handle themes of desire, heartbreak, coming into womanhood, shame, and naiveté with a strong voice. Even before the first poem is read attention to the collection’s layout reveals that this book breaks bread into seven sacramental sections: Taste, Revelation, Humiliation, Pastoral, Myth, Parable, and Rest Cure.


From the beginning, Sotelo’s not entertaining the idea that these poems will be submissive. The opening poem “Do You Speak Virgin?” sets the pace as this satiric poem shows her talent to manage culturally embedded images. While weddings typically conjure images of happiness, a beautiful bride, and giddy bridesmaids, Sotelo raises the question of whose nightmare wedding this one belongs to:

“bouquet of cacti wilting in my hand
while my closest friends…

stir the sickles in their drinks…

before I sign off on arguments
in the kitchen & the sight of him

fleeing to the car

once he sees how far & wide,
how dark & deep

this frigid female mind can go.

– from “Do You Speak Virgin?”

The virgin archetype with an awakened twist. Sotelo not only flips the Latinx’s view of women on its head but the accepted American view of femininity too. These poems make a reader confront their held beliefs of what being a woman means; a theme repeated throughout. She builds the juxaposition between the idea of the virgin against an awaken female figure with power and desire:

“The man
I once wanted is grilling

these beautiful peaches. He offers some—
I’m embarrassed. I try not
to touch his hand

I try to touch his hand.”

-from “Summer Barbeque with Two Men”

While Sotelo challenges the concepts surrounding femininity, she reweaves myths, folklore, and history, and she amalgamates her own story into them; giving a portrait of the self. Within the section “Pastoral,” many poems circle around a missing father, however Sotelo enhances this narrative with the use of Dalí, Giorgio, and Nietzsche to depict the absence and artistic characteristics of the father. Sotelo creates an emotional depth that can be understood by someone who might not be as familiar with these individuals through the use of color and other subtleties.


Similarly, in the section “Parable,” Sotelo takes her time to bring Frida Khalo, God, and the Minotaur into poems revolving around a mother figure. The balance of these figures gives the poem a chance to breathe without being overwhelmed. Sotelo has a gift for this as even in the section “Myth,” her wit runs with poems centered on Ariadne and Theseus: “Ariadne’s Guide to Getting a Man,” “Theseus at the Naxos Apartment Complex, 6 a.m.,” and “Ariadne Plays the Physician.” Other figures grace the pages of this book, and the reader begins to anticipate who will make the next appearance.


Both insightful and fun to read it’s of no surprise no surprise that Analicia Sotelo’s debut poetry collection Virgin was selected by Ross Gay for the inaugural Jake Adam York Prize for Poetry. Not to mention the recognition Sotelo’s previous work has received by Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship, 2016 DISQUIET International Literary Prize in poetry, and Best New Poets 2015. Imaginative and wonderful in sensory details Sotelo does not hold back in this debut; it yells: ¡Viva La Mujer!

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An Open Letter to Four Ties Lit Review Readers, Contributors, and Editors

Since Volume 1 Issue 2, Four Ties Lit Review has relied solely on open calls for submission and reading from the “slush pile” to find the content for each new Issue and Volume. And we’re proud of that fact. We’ve always felt finding pieces for our magazine this way and using quality writing as our only measuring stick to find Intelligent and entertaining pieces to publish democratizes the magazine in a way that enhances the publication. We have always fought against the impulse to contact our talented friends and ask them to send us work or to email the artist of the moment and ask for a submission. Of course, we read any submission sent to us with an open mind but we’ve resisted using those personal resources to directly ask for submissions because there is a problem with utilizing those resources in that way. Relying on our own networks and our own tastes, even with a diverse staff, can create a kind of homogeneity in the magazine that we’ve always wanted to avoid. For the most part, we have been successful. 4Ties gets submissions from high school students to retired PhDs. We’ve received submission from across the English speaking world, and we’ve published pieces from folks who live in Australia, India, Canada, England, Italy (Ok we know India and Italy are not English speaking countries, but the point remains) and more, not to mention we hear from and publish writers from all parts of the United States.

A few years ago 4Ties began directly emailing institutions, mostly MFA programs, and asking them to forward our open call for submission to their students and staff. We purposely did not include schools in cities that have thriving writing scenes, New York, Los Angles, and Chicago for example. The folks from those places are perhaps over-represented in the publishing world.  This year when we open to submissions on April 20th, We’ll begin a new initiative to further diversify the pool of authors we notify about our open submission period. We’ll make contacts at Historically Black Universities and Native American Institutions. We’ll connect to BFA, AFA, and certificate programs (Yes, there is a such thing as an AFA). Not to mention, we’ll make efforts to contact community writing centers so that their students also can have the opportunity to submit to 4Ties.

We value including diverse voices among 4Ties Authors and Artists, and we know that addressing diversity in our magazine is not an issue that we can solve on one Monday afternoon in April, but we are committed to the process of making 4Ties more inviting and more diverse. We believe it will only improve the magazine, but we’ll need your help along the way so please contact us with your input and ideas. Embracing diversity is an issue in our society on which everyone needs to contribute. We look forward to hearing from you.

Write On

Matt Larrimore

Editor in Chief

Four Ties Lit Review

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