Welcome back, Marcela Sulak!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired over the past twelve months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Marcela Sulak, whose forthcoming book The Fault will be published next summer. This will be Marcela’s fifth book with Black Lawrence Press.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our June Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies), anthology proposals, and translations from German. 




The Author

Marcela Sulak’s fifth title with Black Lawrence Press,  a novella-in-verse, The Fault, is forthcoming in 2024. Her previous four titles include three poetry collections, City of Skypapers, a 2021 finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Decency, and Immigrant, as well as her lyric memoir, Mouth Full of Seeds. She’s co-edited with Jacqueline Kolosov the 2015 Rose Metal Press title Family Resemblance. An Anthology and Exploration of 8 Hybrid Literary Genres. Sulak, who translates from the Hebrew, Czech, and French, is a 2019 NEA Translation Fellow, and her fourth book-length translation of poetry: Twenty Girls to Envy Me: Selected Poems of Orit Gidali, was nominated for the 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (University of Texas Press). Her essays have appeared in The Boston Review, The Iowa Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Asymptote, and Gulf Coast online, among others. She coordinates the poetry track of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, where she is an associate professor in American Literature. She also edits The Ilanot Review and hosts the TLV.1 Radio podcast, Israel in Translation.




On Writing The Fault

The Fault is the product of my love of a good Central European fairy tale. In this elemental genre, the narrative forces are beyond human control; they are storms, droughts, fires, treasures that burst from the walls of caves once every century, desperate mineral cravings during pregnancy. Emotions, like rage, grief, and despair, too enormous for one individual psyche, take on the shape of characters—murderous stepsisters who hack a girl to pieces, witches that turn boys into birds. Here is the nexus of the personal and the political. I’ve often played various of these characters in my personal fairytale life—witches, talking birds, lost girls—but I’d never imagined I’d inhabit the role of the evil stepmother.

One day I woke up in the time of the Plagues, as the evil stepmother; my new husband didn’t leave our cottage to go chop wood, or whatever it is husbands do, and I couldn’t send the stepchildren into the forest because we were under lockdown. Although I was in a fairy tale situation, there wasn’t really a character for me. All the characters were all taken, as was my bed, my desk, the sofa. There was so little space for me, I didn’t even have room for line breaks. So I wrote prose poems. Prose poems reveal the places where the lines unravel.

Mostly I wanted to explore the high-stakes minutia of living with other people related by blood and marriage, and to do so through fables, tables, etymologies, Facebook stalking, and lyrical lists. The Fault ended up taking on generational anxiety and blended families while counting costs, grinding axes, and laying bare the dangers and absurdities of domestic intimacy.


Selections from The Fault


The Fault

One morning on her way the wife felt a little fault nipping at her ankle.
She bent to the path through the dry grass and there it was, all alone
and lost. Whose fault are you, little one, she asked, but the fault just
began to cry. She stood there waiting but no one came to claim it. So
she picked it up. All day, through the city, in the library and class
rooms, in the salary department and H.R., among the crates of last
minute onions in the corner grocery store, no one had lost the fault,
no one was looking for it. And when the husband met her at the bend
she said I have found your fault. You dropped it on the way to the public.
No, no, said
                           the husband. This isn’t my fault. I am afraid it is yours.
You must have dropped it when you were shaking out the tablecloths
or else attempting to accidentally break the faux crystal plastic pitcher
my mother gave us for our beautiful new home. But as it was plastic,
it only pretended to break. This is surely your fault. No, it is not my
fault, said the wife. Perhaps it is your mother’s fault, she might have
left it with the faux crystal plastic pitcher she bought for our beautiful
new home. But it was not his mother’s fault nor was it his father’s fault,
for his father had not brought with him his collection of faults when his
parents had visited during the last minor holiday. They had not been
accustomed to celebrating and had not even brought any pretend faults
to parade. That is probably where it came from, said the woman. It fell
out of step in the parade.
                                        She felt sorry for the fault and decided to keep it.
She wrapped it in her arms, fed the fault a little left-over fish from the
too much she was said to have prepared. The fault found the fish
delicious and soon it was fast asleep in the bed that belonged
to the husband and wife.
                                      The wife hoped it would sleep all night
and not wake them up too early in the morning



The Twigs

Today is the day they formally
meet in the portico of the nest
and the male and the female
tell their twigs. Sometimes
the female is very surprised
that what she’d been calling
a twig, the male has been
calling something else. A leaf,
a splatter pattern, a breeze, for
example, a sudden movement.
Structural integrity evaluation,
he cries, tossing out two of her
twigs. They are too pointy
and bright and might be
mistaken. For darts or darting
                         The male and the
female make a fest and each
guest brings a twig. The male
says nice fastenings! He is
so shiny. The female needed
to sparkle her shoes. Yet he
hadn’t needed everyone to have
brought a twig he said. I
have enough twigs of my
own outside my nest, and
if, he notes, I want I can
put them in the nest or I can
leave them in the leaves.
Replies the female, oh, but
I haven’t any twigs besides.
How I do need those twigs the
guests brought. Especially
the ones that look like sudden
butterflies, splatter patterns and
leaves. How much I needed
them. I did.