To speak your prison– tho partly throw of words into abyss, even when the hole wants to be a Snow White wish well, wants so to catch, a black unend mouth blown into- cone rims clap, cone hollows/vortices mutually suck, two fish gawp to gawp, for whatever may take, may plant in other head; & at the same time, pluck from abyss, pain on in side grown sewn to self, boundary suture melted gone, no separation now between the dark put on, put in, stitched, and the before-original-untainted; but still the try to tell what is, this wrong committed; nobility is in the effort, to work for flattened yet with eyes and breath, in want of allies, in want of free, the living, all-day mode the rack; to tell the evil put on you, because the one done to should be Known more than the mask, brand, husk left by the imposer.

–Lianuska Gutierrez

circle of Butoh

stain glass 3


By Lianuska Gutierrez

We decided to develop an anthology of writing that is unafraid to speak the personal and the harrowing.  Some may say that such foci are already ubiquitous, so that they prefer more straitlaced writing- not marked by eros, affect, violence, not riddled with too much of that organicity– maybe, instead, gameful conceptual poetry or prose, the kind that is very clever without pretending it has something to say.  Cynical wisdom insists that there is little now to tell; there is only to repeat and refashion, to point to self-constructedness (-as tantamount with vacuity), to the self-awareness that we have been outed in all our messiness and intricacy, our depravity and artfulness: that all has been done.  We keep singing, but we go in a roundabout path, and we mimic the past. 

But we keep singing; and we may have cause to speak.  Humanity elementally may stay level, but manifestations of the unpassable do change face across ages and always need to be electrolyzed.  The body as a carnal general, the body as signifier, is the short circuit to comprehension: so use the body to disclose or draw a line.  Denude it in the body of the text, show the marks that have been made on it, the punctures healing or enflamed.  Show the inverse of the face to then dare condonation.

We at Medusa Talks Back have not renounced the possibility of intervening meaningfully in the surrounding world.  We believe in voices of urgency, in writing born of need.  Our first impulse when encountering pathos is not distrust.  We will not conflate earnestness with histrionics or with moroseness rooted in flimsy mettle.  We take unicity seriously- the particular, and the moment, and the body; the unrepeatable voice that commands.  The command is to witness, to help to shoulder a load, to meet another on his or her own terms/ground.  

We are collecting work for an anthology, and more immediately, we are launching a journal.  Please read more about our ethic on our website,  Also, it would be a welcome nuzzle if you were to visit and ‘like’ us on Facebook:

Our aesthetic is plural- embracive also of linguistic play and ingenuity just-because-you-Can, while informing, while attempting to widen empathy, while having a purpose.  We do not shun works that have a nihilistic take on medium and content.  Work that undermines itself can also be fiercely meant, not just derisive; writers of doubt also want to communicate, even to the limit of wanting.  We welcome truth-telling, in all its sharded capacity that lifts its cap to, tries for, globularity (the whole glass figure), that abuts, at least, the differential, thinks to the unknown.

We will soon be posting more details about our journal, but we are already open for submissions.  You can send work to  


The developing anthology, Ugly Speaks, seeks poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction (memoir and personal essay) on the psychical/physical condition of living with a label of ugly, or subpar, or outwith. We invite writers to de-objectify, push against definitional boxes, translate inner realities, attempt to break inherited and swamping untruths (think Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye). *‘Swamping’ can mean strictly familial/trauma-based/quirkily-experiential/psychical, and/or societal.

The ideology of beauty is complex, since when we imbibe a standard or myth, we look for the iota of truth in the construction (if there is any); we are trained in the myth and seek to verify it; we assist in its survival. Your creative work can tell the phenomenal/emotional/perspectival reality of adherence to, faith in, a conception of beauty. Your work can also tell about the renunciation of illusion. Your work can lift stifling veils.
You can also be loose in your interpretation of ugly and beautiful bodies, expand beyond the sentient form.

We question the ethics of suffering in silence, turning the other cheek, putting a positive face on it, holding the pain inside, pretending everything is okay, hiding in shame. As fed up feminists (and so, human[e]ists), we believe in a slap for a slap, a stone for a stone. We are dedicated to the free expression of embodied emotive: rage on a rampage, unstoppered spillage, psychic pain naked and raw, melodrama and sentimentalism unbound. Give us your flash poetry, fast poetry, lyrical essays, diatribes, rants, sob stories, feverish scribbles, radical manifestos, whiny complaints, sown shames, as well as your reclamation, reconstitution. Give us writing fresh and raw, fascinating and innovative, playful and dangerous. We welcome men, women, queers, feminists, LGBTQIAA, drag queens and kings, humanists, posthumans, antihumans, misanthropes, pariahs, hysterics, the bullied, HSPs (highly sensitive persons), minorities within minorities, all ethnicities, all races, all aliens.

Possible subjects include illness, injury, aging, the non-normative body, body modification, racism, immanence (inner world over how a subject is publicly regarded and computed), animals, classification, the body under siege, the conflation of ‘ugliness’ or difference with inferiority (historically if not currently; or currently, concerning both human and nonhuman animals), sex, gender and sexual diversity, the forging of singularity (creative reinvention), metamorphosis, monstrosity, authenticity, mimicry, the violating gaze and voyeurism, and on.


The due date for submissions is FEBRUARY 1st, 2014. Please send your cover letter and creative work as a single WORD document attachment to UGLYSPEAKS@GMAIL.COM.

In your brief cover letter (about one paragraph), include your background information and a brief description of your piece. If your work is accepted, we will include this writer’s bio as a preface to your work. 

Submissions should be 20 pages or less, double-spaced for prose, single-spaced for poetry, in New Times Roman, 12 pt font. We accept simultaneous submissions and previously published material. If your piece is a simultaneous submission and has been accepted elsewhere, please contact us ASAP.

Like many anthologies under construction, we do not yet have a publisher.We are in the midst of looking for one. If all else fails, we will self-publish as an e-book, dedicate ourselves to promoting your work, and hope interest generates enough that we can publish in traditional forms. Until we have a publisher or publish our e-book, contributors retain the copyright to their work (they can submit the work elsewhere), but after we have a publisher, authors give us first North American rights to their work until publication of Ugly Speaks, after which rights revert back to them, but they must acknowledge that their work has been published in Ugly Speaks if they publish their work elsewhere. Contributors will receive compensation in the form of anthology copies.


LIANUSKA GUTIERREZ studied at Harvard and Fordham, and she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English and Gus T. Ridgel Fellow at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  She was a Saltonstall Poetry Fellow and work can be found or is forthcoming in Counterexample Poetics, Wicked Alice, Yemassee, Split Lip Magazine, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Eratio Poetry Journal, The Prague Revue, Corazon Land Review, and other journals. 

The title of her first poetry manuscript, Sphinx Eyes Antiphon, refers to the eyes of ancient statues eroded after eons—the resultant blank convexes (without pupils or irises) metaphorize a social gaze that cannot adequately reciprocate/affirm/picture the speaker. 

The poems also oppose use and exploitation in self-other relations and favor instead an ethic of care and carefulness. 

They essay descent into the radically alienated experiences of subjects caught to violence, from verbal violence or indifference to extreme physical cruelty.  Impingement or dominance is on a continuum; the ‘paltry’ may be structurally tantamount to the obscene. 

Some of the poems treat language as exigency, not as something defining the human (or sentient, clearly), not so vaunted, but valuable and made to flourish for the purposes of barrier, testimony, teaching.    

Lianuska’s writings also explore a saintly ethic (an ethic that perforce points to the unrepresentable and that is inconsistently, even rarely, tenable) and focus on poetics of both corporeality and selfhood founded on the word. 

MINH PHUONG NGUYEN holds undergraduate degrees in English and Nutritional Sciences and a Masters in creative nonfiction writing at the University of Missouri, where he held the David R Francis Fellowship. The recipient of the 2010 Norman Mailer Writing Award, he was a nonfiction fellow at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Provincetown during July 2011. He is also the recipient of the Francis Kerr Nonfiction Writing Award, MU’s CWA, and First Inkling’s Sammy Award. His work is published in Creative Nonfiction and First Inkling.

He is currently working on his own sob story, a family memoir entitled To Hold Soapberries in the Mouth. “To hold soapberries in one’s mouth”—“Ngm b hòn”—is a common Vietnamese expression which refers to the state of keeping the truth to oneself and suffering silently, because one is afraid that if the soapberries, bitter as quinine, are spat out, others in turn will have to hold the bitterness in their mouths.