Review: The Patient Admits

“I explain to my patients that abused children often find it hard to disentangle themselves from their dysfunctional families, whereas children grow away from good, loving parents with far less conflict. After all, isn’t that the task of a good parent, to enable the child to leave home?”
Irvin D. Yalom

This is not the story of a good parent. The Patient Admits, a ferocious and singularly inventive chapbook from author Avery M. Guess, is a harrowing look at parental abuse, psychiatric hospitalization, and the author’s own black-eyed fight for autonomy and survival. Some will feel intimidated by the book’s acidic subject matter, but for those willing to take the leap, The Patient Admits reads like an army field manual, or perhaps a forbidden spellbook. These poems ― which, on a personal note, contain the single most chilling piece I’ve encountered in almost 10 years of editing a literary journal ― draw the reader back like an arrow and never let go.

The chapbook begins deep in the always-lit hallways of a psychiatric facility, and it is here that Guess unveils her first survival tactic: the manipulation of letters and words. By a process of subtraction and reordering, she rips apart her own admission paperwork and tells a far-more lived and comprehensive history than the original document ever could. Subsequent pieces, culled from inpatient writing exercises, employ acrostic poetry to defiant effect. Guess’ utilization of found poetry reveals her rare power over the written word, which, after appropriate dissection and reassembly, can be used to pick locks:

Anything I say will be held against me. This complaint for instance. You’ll label me non-compliant for complaining. I may be held. There are restraints for that. Medicine. Jackets. Rooms. But I swear, I’m only moving two letters around. I-A-N-T. A-I-N-T. The beginning’s still the same.

The beginning can’t be changed, but the present can certainly be medicated. The Patient Admits is littered with medicine of ambiguous efficacy. Prozac. Wellbutrin. Effexor. White tablets that open portals to snow-covered forests, where the trees “wear their skeletons on the outside.” It’s details like this, authoritative and strange, that mark Guess as a fierce voice and true wordsmith. And when the words themselves fail and fall apart in her hands, Guess keeps going, manipulating the very paper said words are written on. This process feeds into an unusually lucid description of PTSD and its attendant flashbacks:

Draw two dots, six inches apart, on a sheet of paper.

Label the first dot childhood (or substitute a time in your life that haunts you).

Label the second dot with your name and location. Include the current day, date and time.

Draw a line between the two dots. Call this linear time. It travels from point A (the past) to point B (which is always right now).

Call this good. Call it the past staying where it belongs.

Fold the paper in half so the two dots line up exactly.

Take a pencil or other pointed object and punch a hole from point A through to point B.

See how the distance between the dots shrank from six inches to barely a whisper in an instant?

This kind of poetic meta-manipulation casts a disorienting spell upon the reader. Simply put, there is no ground here, and each such masterful choice, further reinforced by frequent and powerful references to the ocean, are dizzying to read. Electroshock treatments are re-imagined through the lens of boiled lobsters. Dark memories hover like jellyfish underwater, where the will to live becomes the will to float. Depakote becomes a portal to a violent and vodka-drowned dollhouse. These are choppy seas, and the ending isn’t necessarily happy… or, for that matter, an ending. But this book, dedicated to the “good therapists,” is one of the most haunting portrayals of mental illness ― and survival ― to emerge from any medium in years. The Patient Admits is not the story of a good parent, a tragedy which becomes clearer with every fucked-up page-turn. But it is the story of a child. A child who endured, and a child who left home.

A child who became a writer when she grew up.

Michael Young,
Editor, Rust + Moth

For the Dancing Girl Press catalog entry, please visit:

Spring 2018 is Live

Rust + Moth is pleased to unveil our Spring 2018 issue! With new work from poets such as Sara Brody, Mariel Fechik, Jackson Burgess, and Sherine Gilmour, these lonely pages gather strength as they fly.

We’ll be publishing new poems online every week and building momentum toward a finalized print edition in March. In the meantime, we invite you to wander with us, high over hill and red vale.

Winter 2017 in Print: The Living, Whispered Warning

A strange and sped-up mind once said, “I am the living, whispered warning in the Roman general’s ear: ‘Glory is fleeting.’ And in that verb – that active verb ‘fleeting’ – there I live, there I reside.”

So too does Rust + Moth’s Winter 2017 issue! Find this unusually here-and-now issue on our website or purchase a physical copy.

With new poetry from Ann V. DeVilbiss, Brittany Adames, Twila Newey, Olivia Wall, Ronda Broatch, Matthew Heston, Dana Koster, Nathan Elias, Ashton Kamburoff, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, E.B. Schnepp, Caylie Herrmann, Phillip Watts Brown, Melanie Ritzenthaler, Molly Davidson, AJ Wolff, Jamie McGillen, Ginger Hanchey, and G. J. Sanford.

Pushcart Nominees 2017

The Pushcart Prize honors the best of America’s small presses. This November, Rust + Moth nominated the following six authors for the Pushcart Prize, and we are proud to shout their names from the rooftops now.

These poems tell the truth, and each one tells its story with discipline, music, and courage. We invite you to take a closer look at these pieces and see with fresh eyes what poetry is capable of.

Also, if you’re thinking of contributing to Rust + Moth, there’s no better place to get a feel for our journal than these selections. It took us a few weeks to distill these six from the many wonderful poems we published last year — thank you to all of our contributors for making this such a difficult decision. Good luck to our nominees!

Autumn 2017 in Print: A Broken Spiral

Rust + Moth Autumn 2017 is here! Follow the bread crumbs — these spiral pages carry broken homes on their backs. You can read this strangely cohesive collection on our website or purchase a physical copy.

With new poetry from Chera Hammons, Samuel Hughes, Jon Riccio, Maggie Fern, Laura Filion, Kieran Collier, Aden Thomas, Mitchell King, Kari Astillero, Suzanne Langlois, Michael Wayne Hampton, Erin Jin Mei O’Malley, Brian Cordell, Amorak Huey, Joshua Lee Martin, Lauren Yates, Elspeth Jensen, and Nicole Stockburger.




Summer 2017 in Print: Ignem et Mortem

Rust + Moth Summer 2017 is all lit up in print! Tilt your head – this volume is a counter-clockwise turn into the flames. You can read it on our website or purchase a physical copy. Adventurous readers are encouraged to bring their own gasoline.

With new poetry from Kristen Case, Al Ortolani, Susan Cossette, Shenan Hahn, Jamie La Londe-Pinkston, Kevin Del Principe, Molly Gutman, Erin Marie Hall, Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen, Suzanne Langlois, Heather Hughes, Robert Fillman, Jessica Dionne, Daniel Lassell, Amanda Galvan Huynh, Margot Armbruster, Colin Bailes, Topaz Winters, Caitlin Thomson, and S.A. Leavesley.

Review: Feeding the Dead

Monster. From the Latin root “monere,” meaning to warn. The word gained a kind of terror as it lumbered through Latin and into old French (where “monstre” also idiomatically describes a huge task, as in un travail monstre), and by the time it finally smashed its way into the English-speaking world, it was ripe with its bloody, modern meaning: a hideous being, often a freak of nature, coming right at you with either debased or dangerous intentions. The dark can be monstrous. So can the dead. So why is author M. Brent Gaffney devoting an entire chapbook to feeding such monsters?

The pages of “Feeding the Dead” are chock-full of them, and not the generic I-want-to-hurt-you kind. Her monsters are hungry. Vampires wanting blood, zombies wanting brains, and sweet hellhounds roaming dark neighborhoods in search of homes they haven’t known, food they haven’t killed. It is a remarkably consistent and approachable collection, the literary equivalent of Chiara Bautista’s art. Here, hunters pick out stars from the hides of wolves before they skin them, each día is of los muertos, and packs of adolescent hyena girls roam locker rooms in search of weaker peers to eat. From the title poem:

Her name is Maria, comida.
They eat her a little at a time.

She likes to be needed, to feel her blood
ebb and flow from their mouths,
tongues like whales lost at sea.

She travels with them, a shadow,
city to city, sneaking them pockets
of herself on the train, offering
her slender wrists
like holy bread in taxi cabs.

Gaffney’s monsters become metaphors for hunger, and that hunger becomes in turn a metaphor for any number of transformations: the make-believe made real, the meal made flesh, the child turned adolescent, the predator become prey. “This is where it happens. This is where faith goes to die, to emerge from the ashes something hungrier.” Here, the poems take place almost exclusively at night, or else in the half-lights of dawn and dusk (i.e. breakfast and dinner). This is a masterful choice. Monsters are always scarier when you can’t see them, and Gaffney’s literary transformations remain incomplete and ambiguous without daylight to complete the circle:

Meanwhile cars hum on the highway,
semis on routes they remember like a fawn’s
first earful of buckshot. Little white crosses
ghost the shoulder of the road like a fence
and the midnight trucker has learned their names
by now. Rosie. Nathaniel. Jerome. Jesus—
their memorial roses bloom in a flash of headlights.
But in the sun, the flowers are plastic,
wooden markers rotten from rain.

One of Gaffney’s greatest gifts as a writer lies in her ability to pen devastating closing lines; to reveal any of them out-of-sequence here would be a crime. It’s enough to say that her poems, so steeped in the subject of transfiguration to begin with, tend to turn a third corner with their final breath. And while it isn’t obvious at first just why Gaffney is feeding the dead, consider this: While the word monster might have stumbled out of Rome as a warning, its root, “monere,” can also mean to instruct — to teach, or give a sign. There are lessons in this chapbook. But only for those who brave each poem all the way to the end, who resist the enchantments of a gifted wordsmith, and who fail to heed the warning signs.

Michael Young,
Editor, Rust + Moth

For the Porkbelly Press catalog entry, please visit:

More of M. Brett Gaffney’s work can be found online at:

Spring 2017 In Print: Ohm’s Law

Rust + Moth Spring 2017 is now available in print! Featuring 32 new poems, this issue is fighting back. Perfect for any reader who refuses to come in out of the rain.

You can read it on our website or purchase a physical copy.

With new poetry from Staci R. Schoenfeld, Sergio Ortiz, Lisa Huffaker, JM Farkas, Peter Sagnella, Laurie Kolp, Kate Garrett, Julia Norton, John Liles, Angela Bilger, N.L. Shompole, Kate Peper, Lisa Beech Hartz, John L. Stanizzi, Thomas Nguyen, Beth Sherman, Lilith Kontos, Trina Askin, M. J. Arlett, Barbara Krasner, Stephen Toft, Natalie Crick, L.I. Henley, Chloe N. Clark, Michelle Site, Laura Page, and Carrie Redway.

Best of the Net & Pushcart Nominees 2016

The Best of the Net Anthology gives much-appreciated recognition to authors and journals who publish online, while the Pushcart Prize honors the best of America’s small presses. Last fall, Rust + Moth devoted time, love, and a few stamps to nominating our favorite poems for these anthologies, and we are proud to shout their names from the rooftops now.

Best of the Net Anthology

Pushcart Prize

Electricity, innovation, and language rarely strike the same hilltop like this. We invite you to take a closer look at these pieces and see with fresh eyes what poetry is capable of.

Also, if you’re thinking of contributing to Rust + Moth, there’s no better place to get a feel for our journal than these selections. It took us weeks to distill these twelve from the many wonderful poems we published last year — thank you to all of our contributors for making this such a difficult decision. And good luck to our nominees!

Review: Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly

The advantage of the poetic sequence over the single poem is the ability to develop a theme through repetition. A single dream may have the power to whisper secrets, wander inventively, and terrify, but even a nightmare is only as scary as the time it takes for the dreamer’s heart to slow down upon waking. Imagine, however, the same nightmare, night after night after night. Such a dream would create a separate and traumatized reality, a reality in which day and night are set in unwitting opposition to one another. Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly, a collection of three poetic sequences from poet Darren Demaree, is doing much the same kind of sleepless, world-bending work.

By way of caution, it is a difficult read. And if we’re being as honest as Demaree himself, we have to say that this book is not an ideal beachhead for readers trying to storm the shore of poetry for the first time. But if you can overlook concerns about its accessibility, which we can and do, then you have in your hands a compelling manuscript rife with flight, violence, sound, and fire. Allow us to take each collection in turn.

A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place

If you’ve ever read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, then you know about Raskolnikov’s plague dream. A swarm of microscopic bugs sweeps over the world, and those infected by the swarm come to see themselves as uniquely intelligent and extraordinary beings. This in turn leads to a war of near-extinction as the “extraordinary” men and women hack each other to brutal and senseless deaths. Demaree’s first sequence, A Violent Sound in Almost Every Place, seems to have its origins in the same kind of fever sleep.

Here the repeating themes are of tongues, speaking words “meaningless but powerful.” Of warmth, both human and ash-apocalyptic. Of failed nonsense republics, dead bodies, and roots, always roots, connecting lone trees to one another in the silent underground dark of burial fields and suicide bunkers. Each poem in the sequence has shrapnel echos of the others, but some of the poems emerge above the flaming surface and act as Rosetta stones for the others. One of these is poem #208, which reads, in part:

I believe in the language of salvation.
I believe that language loses certainty
with each decibel it rises […]
If we must use words
to give faith, can we make them inexact
& quiet? Can we make those words
the symbol for radical, inclusive searching?
Can I tell you a secret? Can I whisper it?

This poem wouldn’t work early in the sequence, where paranoid chaos and an animal striving for dominance, regardless of merit, dominate all other concerns (only later do we see the reverberations of the titular violent sound beginning to fade). But if you’ll endure this particular storm, you might just live long enough to see some strange and novel flowers growing silently out of the ground.

We Are Arrows

The most direct of Demaree’s three sequences, We Are Arrows, gives greater altitude and perspective to themes already introduced, in particular the recurring motifs of heat and fire, fleeting strength, and the primal spontaneity that comes with being instinctively alive. In this sequence, mankind is a volley of arrows, loosed by forces we can’t see or understand; a volley that gains strength as it rises, brutality as it falls, and finally lands violently, renaming what it destroys. The final poem of the sequence, quoted here in part, speaks for itself:

We are almost completely behind us,
always mostly invisible to our own eyes.
We are pointed forward.
We are the anticipation of action and the
sentiment to explain the dimple and the cut
of our arrival.
We should, with our inherent violence,
be more dedicated to regaining the paradise
of the sky.
We should have no fear of getting lost in
that storm.
We have always returned from our flights.
We have registered greatly amongst the

To go from the clean and untroubled simplicity of the arrow to the complicated vulnerability of the bird, as Demaree does in the book’s final section, is a stunning hard right turn. And yet, this deliberate and violent shift reveals Demaree’s strength as a curator of the written word. His task here, wildly successful, is to mirror the entire arc of the book in a single instant, to match with his pacing the abrupt moment when an arrow finds its intended.

All the Birds Are Leaving

Demaree saves the most complicated and challenging sequence, All the Birds Are Leaving, for the third act. Here, we wander, in far murkier territory than before, alongside a narrator struggling with entropy and loss and the entirely rational fear that “there will be more winter than you have fire.” Old themes echo anew in these darker, heavier pages, but a new repeating motif makes a fresh and frustrated appearance: hope. Winged hope, perhaps, with all the attendant difficulties of capture, but hope nonetheless. To quote too much from this section would be to rob the reader of the view from the summit, but this particular gem feels representative of the sequence as a whole:

We only feel
our bones
when they are broken
& with time
it is the same thing,
with time we return
only after the great pain.

Setting the book down after many nights of reading, we are left to wonder: What are the many full hands and what are they clapping for? Is it better to fly as an arrow or a bird? Where is the fire that will last us the winter, and is it worth looking for? Like any spiritual test worth its salt, this book offers more questions than answers. There is a kind of emptiness at the periphery of each sequence that allows the reader’s mind to go off into countless moral and allegorical questions like these; the edges of the cave truly contain only what you take with you. For these reasons, we recommend this challenging and complex work without reservation. Celebrate it with great care.

Michael Young
Editor, Rust + Moth

More of Darren Demaree’s work can be found online at:

Winter 2016 in Print:
A Foothold in the Clouds

It’s been a hard turn around the sun. All the glitter has flown off into space and the world it left behind has gotten itself good and blurry drunk. And so, in the spirit of cloud medicine, we are proud to present our Winter 2016 issue. Featuring 35 new poems, these pages are full of secrets, survival tactics, and cold rain yet to fall. Take whatever you need to keep your heart alive.

You can read it on our website or purchase a physical copy.

With new poetry from Alaina Pepin, Colin Reed Moon, Katie Gleason, Alex Zhang, Emily Rose Cole, Emily Stoddard, David Koenig, Katie Simpson, Molli Spalter, Allie Arend, Suzanne Langlois, Sara Ryan, Joseph Felkers, Andrea Wyatt, Samuel Hovda, Christopher Hopkins, Barbara Draper, Jennifer K. Sweeney, Wendy DeGroat, Tallon Kennedy, Lois Roma-Deeley, J. Jerome Cruz, Cooper Wilhelm, Karen Paul Holmes, Simon Anton Nino Diego Baena, Triin Paja, Rebecca Starks, Cathryn Shea, and Kathleen Jones.

Autumn 2016 in Print:
A Dangerous Communication

Rust + Moth Autumn 2016 is now available in print! Featuring 37 new poems, this issue is missing a few teeth.

Carl Jung wrote that if one loses teeth in a dream, “one loses the grip on something… this can mean a loss of reality, a loss of relationship, a loss of self-control.” Such are these pages, filled with betrayal, ticking clocks, internal organs in rebellion, and haunting walks through dreamlit fields.

You can read it on our website or purchase a physical copy.

With new poetry from Nico Wilkinson, Jason Gray, Leslie Contreras Schwartz, Jordan Ranft, Torrin Greathouse, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Mary Alice Endicott, F. Daniel Rzicznek, Duncan Campbell, Elliott Freeman, Kelly Grace Thomas, Ramsay Randall, Benjamin Smith, Jules Jacob, James Croal Jackson, Blythe Davenport, Alexandra Smyth, David Anthony Sam, Danielle Zaccagnino, Liz Hogan, Matthew Landrum, Shuly Cawood, John Ling, Molly Likovich, Jamie Elliott Keith, Howie Good, Monica Lewis, Milla van der Have, Peter Grandbois, María Isabel Alvarez, Reba Rice, Hannah Dellabella, and Chelsea Dingman.

Summer 2016 in Print:
A Burial of Leaves

Rust + Moth Summer 2016 is now available in print! Featuring 32 new poems, this issue surprised us. In strong counterpoint to the easy days of summer, these pages are dark, the blue-dark of summer nights, of grief, of wild flowers and cemeteries. You can read it on our website or buy a physical copy. May it keep your eyes wide open.

With new poetry from Catherine Leigh Reeves, Isaac Williams, Sarah Rolph, Cody Shrum, Kailey Tedesco, David Anthony Sam, Chad Frame, JJ Lynne, Juleen Eun Sun Johnson, Matty Layne, Shelby Dale DeWeese, Rebekah Keaton, Bo Schwabacher, Hillery Stone, John L. Stanizzi, M. Brett Gaffney, Stevie Edwards, Laura Romain, Tessa Withorn, Nicholas Fuenzalida, Dylan Macdonald, Isadora Serrano, Melissa Atkinson Mercer, Adam J. Gellings, Rebecca Eades, Michael Gould, Ava C. Cipri, Emmaline Silverman, Kaytie Rose Thomas, and Alisha Erin Hillam.

Spring 2016 in Print:
The Otherness of Spring

Rust + Moth Spring 2016 is now available in print! Featuring a record 41 new poems, this is the heaviest and most diverse issue we’ve ever published. Consider it an apple, full of eureka moments, now falling onto your head from a great height. We are also proud to bring you our journal’s first guest cover, brought to you by the talented Texas artist Sarah Fox! You can read it on our website, buy a physical copy, or download a Kindle edition (only $3).

With new poetry from Darren C. Demaree, John Manuel Arias, Ellen Stone, Jessica Lynn Suchon, Chloe Stricklin, Shani Abramowitz, James Croal Jackson, Ben Meyerson, Sandra Fees, Maximilian Gonzalez, Emily Jaeger, Jamie Lyn Bruce, Scherezade Siobhan, Natalie Homer, Emily Yin, Justin Hamm, Steffi Lang, Karen J. Weyant, Diannely Antigua, Nick Kolakowski, Torrin Greathouse, Emily Corwin, James Ardis, Cathryn Shea, Jason Sears, Melissa Fite Johnson, Rachel Nix, Richard Manly Heiman, Lucy M. Logsdon, Moriah Pearson, Amy Kinsman, Joseph JP Johnson, Mary Lenoir Bond, Bob Carlton, Sarah Clayville, Jason Primm, and John McKernan.


Artist Spotlight: Sarah Fox

Our Spring 2016 issue is live and we are honored to feature the work of Texas artist Sarah Fox on our cover! This collaboration is an exciting first for our magazine – we’ve never featured a guest artist on our cover before – and we’re thrilled to introduce her and her art to our readers.

Sarah teaches classes in drawing and painting at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she recently received her MFA. Her current body of work, which features various creatures cut and stitched together from books, magazines, and unexplored corners of the internet, is a powerful investigation of difference and its acceptance. We invite you to meet her “others” and further explore her work at: