Welcome to WWPH Writes 45… In this issue, we follow leaves. In Stephanie Lai’s poem Evergreen, the “leaves of autumn” remind the narrator of a past love. In Diana Elizabeth Clarke’s Flight of the Leaf, we follow a leaf as it touches a pianist, then is carried back by the wind. Both texts transform leaves into memories and witnesses of the everyday. Plus, our nonprofit, cooperative literary press just completed the most intensive reading and judging period in our forty-eight-year history, and we are thrilled to share our three winning manuscripts and honor many notable finalists. Read on!
co-president and poetry editor, WWPH Writes
WWPH WRITES: POETRY
Stephanie Lai is a political journalist covering Congress as a fellow at the New York Times. She graduated in May 2022 from Columbia University with a degree in political science and subsequently moved to D.C. In both her professional and personal life, she is an observer—and a curious one at that.
The crimson leaves of autumn,
the ones he loved,
the ones I loved to step on,
crackle and break.
They beckoned the chill that reminds lovers
how to retreat.
It’s been raining a lot this year, I tell him.
His mind elsewhere.
Perhaps where the leaves were whisked
away by the turn of the solstice
Or rotting on street corners
after a December storm.
The kind that drips from pine needles,
ricocheting in the space between us.
Not the snow we danced in,
this downpour speaks in silence.
And its stillness tells me
that winter will not come.
Rain always struck me as a dreary affair.
This year is different, he says, turning to me:
Green is unforgiving.
While the world departs around it,
Those evergreens remain a bitter
reminder of stagnation.
©Stephanie Lai 2023
WWPH WRITES: PROSE
Diana Elizabeth Clarke is a Utah native who currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from The University of Baltimore. In 2020, she graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor of Science in English with Creative Writing Emphasis. She has publications in prose and poetry within the literary journals Touchstones and Warp & Weave (housed by UVU’s English Department), and her screenwriting was officially selected for the 2020 Frostbite International Indie Fest (film produced by JeanJacques Productions). In 2019, she co-founded FUSE: A Festival of Dance, Poetry, and Prose alongside the artistic director of Atlas Dance Collective. Diana tends to write women-centered literary fiction and fantasy that focuses on showing our world in a new perspective and she draws heavily on weather metaphors to provide meaning (a literary criticism and creative technique she refers to as Weatherlore). To learn more about her creative works and process, visit her website at dianaelizclarke.wixsite.com/writer.
FLIGHT OF THE LEAF
A soft wind rumbled . . . and a leaf lost in the clouds looked for a new home. It was a summer afternoon with green brightness atop trees that danced and sang together with the accompaniment of the whistling breeze. For a leaf lost in the sky, it drifted and wandered above the world. Its new friends were the birds who were once chirping and hopping on the leaf’s motherly branches. The leaf soared alongside the wingful creatures—all thanks to the wind.
Morning dew had not yet left the leaf’s bright green skin as it twirled, curled, and flew. It crashed through the whipped white cotton of the heavens and shinned underneath the burning sunlight. Never before had the leaf been this close to so much warmth. With each wing flap of a nearby bird, the more the leaf twirled in the sky; off it flew into a path the leaf was destined to complete. Down and scraping the clouds to up and touching the daytime star, the leaf glided where the world took it.
The leaf’s dew was now gone, completely dried off as the wind sang louder against the nimble leaf. As if an angry man blew a whistle against its stem, the leaf swam down the sky uncontrollably. It swerved between building after building and scraped against brick and metal. Stronger the wind went and faster did the leaf fly through a city it had never been fortunate enough to see before. This leaf had seen more in the past minute than many trees could see in their lifetime. How was it so lucky?
Wingless . . . the leaf soared like never before. That was until a simple window made of a slick glass stopped it in its path. The harsh wind pushed the leaf against the window of a little old woman’s piano studio. Glued to the glass, the leaf faced a quaint room completely empty except for the woman and a black baby grand piano; the piano had no room to breathe against the narrow walls. There the woman sat with her back sitting straight up and strong despite her old age.
Her pianist’s hands floated above the keys—drifting in an invisible current—with a limp wrist and fingers itching with anticipation. The leaf stood fiercely against the window glass as if it was anxiously waiting for the woman to play some music. From the outside, it was impossible to hear any notes, but her hand movements were a music all on their own. The leaf laid witness to her fingers expertly running over the black and white keys with a soft, yet aggressive force. Just how the leaf flew in the sky, the woman’s fingers flew across the instrument as if she controlled her own kind of wind; a wind of musical essence and fluttering fingers.
The leaf slowly slipped down the window; the woman began to inch out of view. And all the while, the music stopped. Her fingers quivered—paused over the keys. A frown lingered on the old woman’s face as she plopped her hands down into her lap. Clinging to the window now, the leaf got one last look at the woman; tears cascaded down her cheeks as she sat frozen on her piano bench. The wind helped the leaf whisper goodbye before it tumbled down to the city street below.
© Diana Elizabeth Clarke 2023
WWPH Community News
2023 Winners of the WWPH Annual manuscript contests in poetry, fiction, and for the first time: creative nonfiction! Winners will receive editorial guidance, book publication in October 2023, launch support, and $1500 awards. All entries were judged blind by WWPH writers. BIG Congratulations to all! This year was the most competitive in our forty-eight year history. More details about our winners and their award-winning manuscripts here. Our 2024 manuscripts contests open on September 1st.
Shout out to our WWPH writers at the 2023 AWP conference in Seattle…stop by their readings and panels.
WWPH kicks off National Poetry Month with our first annual April poetry reading! Join us. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a zoom link, or join via FACEBOOK live.
Thinking of submitting to WWPH Writes? We are reading now for our JULY issues. Here’s a quick prompt: hot summer night in the DMV and submit it to us! And we are always looking for work that celebrates, unsettles, and questions our lives in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV) and our nation. New perspectives, diverse voices, and voices with craft and fierceness are strongly encouraged to submit. It’s FREE to submit, but you must live in the DMV. Please send us your best work–challenge us with your ideas and writing. Submit here
Purchase our award-winning books including YOU CANNOT SAVE HERE by Anthony Moll, winner of our 2022 Jean Feldman Poetry Award, and
THE WITCH BOTTLE & OTHER STORIES by Suzanne Feldman, 2022 Fiction Award-winner, wherever good books are sold.
We would like to give a shout-out to our local DMV independent bookstores (buy local!):
Thank you for being part of the WWPH Community!
Co-President & Fiction Editor, WWPH Writes
Co-President & Poetry Editor, WWPH Writes