Welcome, Samantha Deal!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Samantha Deal, who was a finalist for the 2017 Hudson Prize. Samantha is the author of the poetry collection Something Opened, which will be published in the summer of 2019.
Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November 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) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

Author PhotoThe Author

Samantha Deal’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Quarterly West, Hunger Mountain, The Journal, Word Riot, The Boiler, Tupelo Quarterly, Rattle, Ninth Letter, and others; she also has poetry forthcoming in the 2017 Best New Poets anthology. A finalist for poetry prizes from the Mississippi Review, River Styx, and The American Literary Review, Samantha has been the recipient of Western Michigan University’s 2015 Gwen Frostic award for creative nonfiction as well as a 2016 creative nonfiction fellowship from Writers at Work. She holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Currently, she splits her time between Boone, North Carolina, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she is a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University and serves as co-coordinator for the Poets-in-Print reading series and an intern for New Issues Press.

On writing Something Opened

This book began as a collection of poems for my MFA thesis, but in the few years after leaving the MFA, I began to revise and re-revise until the collection evolved into something more cross-genre, something in-between poetry and creative nonfiction. I was fortunate enough to have several mentors who introduced me to the lyric essay, and in that form I was able to find a sort of elliptical quality that embodies the collection’s central concern with “connectedness.” My writing process is one giant mess, so maybe this is fitting. I tend to revise as I write, pulling lines and phrases from old journals. It’s almost like constructing a puzzle sometimes: I’ll have all the necessary ideas/lines written out longhand, but the challenge ends up being how to fit them together in a way that communicates rather than obscures.
The book revolves around a car accident, but it is less concerned with the event itself than with the ripple effect of such events—that is to say, these poems embody the connective tissues that bring family and body and the external world into one space. Family identity overlaps and intersects with personal identity in such a strange and almost mythic way. It can be painful, I think—wanting so badly to inhabit the experiences of our loved ones, but also wanting to hold on to our individual histories.


I remember walking out into the field behind our house the winter after
I almost lost a leg to an unfortunate arrangement of old Pine bark
and truck engine. The world is full of legs—I thought. I’ve never been sure
why hospital rooms keep cold the way they do—I think maybe
those machines were special vacuums designed to suck up
all the warm. I think maybe that’s what snow sounds like, a vacuum
cleaner clearing carpet in another room. That winter after was when I started
to play this game I called, how cold. It’s a one-person game—just you
in a field with the naked cotton air. There are so many edges
in the mountains, too many corners, places where one thing
becomes another. I hate the sound of ripping fabric. When I think
about childhood, I think about running—and then, for a long time,
not running. There are monks that sit on snowy mountains, wrapped
in soaking sheets. I used to believe I could lie on my back in a field
of snow for hours and never feel it. When I drove back
from college that first time, the blue ridge spilled over the dashboard
all at once—I’ll never forget it. An hour ago I wanted things
to be smaller. Now, I’m looking at water and thinking
about your calves. I’m afraid I’ll never understand
what sex is really about. What is enough? I think maybe
there is a drift in my head. Things float off all the time—
I know it because I watch them go. I don’t know
if this is what love ought to feel like, and I don’t know exactly what it is
you love, but I know that when you disappear into the rolling hills
of your ribs—I want to go with you. The world is full of legs
and arms and spleens. Who knows how many different ways there are
to be in pain. I think maybe you are what blurs the edges, I think maybe
you are the ripple where the big open gap-toothy sky piles
into the road. What if I had never learned to swim? I am full
of salt, the smell of chlorine. I am tired of talking only
to dead people. An hour ago, I imagined having a beer
with Laurence. Now, I’m telling him about the ocean
at night—Have you ever been out this far? I ask.
I don’t remember being baptized, but I know it happened. It makes perfect
sense—all the water and the saving. Most everything you see isn’t
what you think it is. I was in the 7th grade when a science teacher explained:
glass isn’t a solid—its pieces are too far apart. This is why old windows sink
into their frames, why water can swallow you, can rearrange its parts
and fit you inside. All these things we learn—I don’t know what to do
with them. If this window is really just a slow-moving liquid, then why
won’t it let me in? I’m pressing but all I feel is my palm and the cold
surface. It’s 42 degrees at 12:04 am—A hypertrophic scar will heal
with an excess of tissue. An atrophic scar will form a sunken recess
in the skin. This is what happens when the supporting structures
are lost. Think of drowning, walking pneumonia. If you knew
every language, would you have a sound for it? If a scar
is the epilogue, what is the wound? What is a 7-letter word for
“to name?”—I’m afraid that everything I don’t know how
to say will gather and gape like this. An injury does not become a scar 
until the wound has healed—If I could, I’d call it a deepening, a parking deck
full of wind. I’d call it unfixable, I’d call it hollow. Think of a field
full of snow, think of the static glow on the downstairs television. Every light
is a house, is a holder, is a person. How many hands am I not holding
right now? I’ve touched a thousand windows and they all feel
the same. In kindergarten they teach you not to write letters
from the bottom up—You’re supposed to start at the top and drag
the ink down. My older sister says there are two ways to draw a face:
Either you start with the eyes and the mouth, or you start with an outline,
a jaw and some hair. In one version, there is a white space waiting
to be finished. There are things that don’t grow back—To mend 
the damage, a scar wall blocks off cell communication. This is where I don’t
sweat, don’t grow hair, don’t notice your palm pressed. Skin scars occur
when the dermis (that deep, thick layer of skin) is damaged. This is the missing
nerve. Think of a broken faucet, a loose doorknob, a picture frame
without a picture. I’m convinced everything has a place inside of it—
a space meant to hold something else.  Think of an old stable,
one where the wood’s been drenched in horse flank and feed. My older sister
was one of those blue-eyed sullen girls, the pastel sort who seem to belong
with horses. She got paid to sweep the stalls, and came home after dinner
full of the smell. Once, she told me she’d had this dream where she was riding
in the car with me and James: It was after the accident but we were all in the Scout.
I saw a cloud of dust and then the tree. If I’m quiet enough, I can almost hear it.
I’ve seen the pictures. I know what happened—A skin scar will leave a trace
of the original injury—but it didn’t feel sudden. People talk a lot
but not about some things. It felt like an airport terminal, like waiting
for your name to be called in class. If I could show you, it would be an interstate
at midnight—power line after power line, field after field. Tobacco, cotton, grass.
There was so much grass. I knew where I was before I opened my eyes.