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:


Winter 2015 in Print:
Enter the Night of the Creepy Tree Man

Rust and Moth’s Winter 2015 issue is now available in print! Featuring 33 new poems, this one is as dark as the inside of a needle. Here lie dreams and their obituaries, some gone badly awry, some dying only to find the dawn. You can read it on our website, buy a physical copy, or download a Kindle edition (only $3). 

Featuring new poetry from Tasha Graff, Vicky Sloan, Heather Lenz, Elysia Smith, Dylan Weir, Bradley K. Meyer, Carol Shillibeer, Derek Graff, Tiah Lindner Raphael, Sarah J. Sloat, Jeremiah Moriarty, Monika Cassel, E.G. Cunningham, Tammy Robacker, J.F. Merifield, Laura Sloan Patterson, Jackson Burgess, Alisha Dietzman, Jackson Holbert, Felino A. Soriano, David Anthony Sam, Jill White, Nick Kolakowski, Ned Dougherty, Babo Kamel, Danielle Nicole Byington, Sarah Nix, and Ariana D. Den Bleyker. Thank you to all of our wonderful contributors!

Pushcart Nominees 2015

The Pushcart Prize honors the best of America’s small presses, and Rust + Moth just got its nominees in the mail! These are our editors’ top picks from 2015:

Please give yourself the gift of sitting down with these extraordinary pieces and seeing, with fresh eyes, just what poetry is capable of.

If you’re thinking of contributing to Rust + Moth, and we hope you are, there’s no better place to get a feel for what our journal is all about than these fine selections. It took us weeks to distill these six from the many wonderful poems we published this year — thank you to all of our 2015 contributors for making this such a difficult decision. And good luck to our nominees!

Rust + Moth 2.0

Rust + Moth is buzzing with excitement — we’ve just completely redesigned our website! Our web developer and founding editor Josiah Spence took months putting it together, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The current issue and cover now reign front-and-center, as well they should, and you’ll also find it easier to see the most recent issues and news updates from the front page. It’s all about being boldly in the here and now, with a gorgeous new typeface and a powered-up black moth as our guardian familiar.

Please come explore the new site when you get the chance! We’re eager to hear what you have to say — leave us feedback via social media or even email us at [email protected]. Otherwise, just enjoy the new look. Our mission is to bring the work of our contributors to a wider audience, and a little extra beauty certainly helps that mission along.

Autumn 2015 in Print

R+M Autumn 2015 is hot off the presses! Featuring 28 new poems, this issue reads like an all-night conversation about water, sky, and memory. You can read it on our website, buy a physical copy, or download a Kindle edition (only $3). Thanks to all our contributors for making this such a wonderful (and curiously cohesive) issue.

Summer 2015 in Print

R+M Summer 2015 is finalized and available in print! Featuring 25 new poems, this bold, blue issue is perfect for a midsummer night’s read. You can read it on our website, buy a physical copy, or download a Kindle edition (only $3). Thanks to all our contributors for a wonderful summer!


Art, words, noise! Rust and Moth has a table at the MenilFest Gulf Coast Indie Book Fair today (Saturday, April 18th). If you’re in the Houston area, come visit us and a host of other wonderful authors and publishers on the Menil Campus. We have candy, both literary and actual! More information at:


Spring 2015 in Print

Spring 2015 is finalized and available in print! With 18 new poems from 16 gifted writers, this bright yellow edition is ready to take flight. You can read it on our website, buy a physical copy, or download a Kindle edition. Thanks to all our contributors for a wonderful spring!

Summer 2015 Submissions Open

R+M is now accepting submissions for our Summer 2015 issue! Thanks to everyone who contributed to our Spring issue this year – our community of authors and readers means the world to us. If you’re interested in being published in our summer issue (and we hope you are), check out our Submission Guidelines for more information!

Duotrope Interview

Rust + Moth recently sat down with the good people of Duotrope for an exclusive editor interview! We present it to you now as a behind-the-scenes look of what makes our journal tick.

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: Entropy be damned.

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Berfrois, Burningword, Tahoma Literary Review, Bat City Review, Front Porch Journal.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

A: J.A. Batty, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Sergio Ortiz, Tyler Kline, Denise Rodriguez, Diana R. Zimmerman, Salvatore Attardo, Safwan Khatib, Natalie Easton, Antonio Renaud, Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Alexander Popa, Michael Ventura.

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: You’ll never need to hold a mirror under our nose at night to see if we’re still alive—we publish poems as we accept them, meaning that our journal changes and updates and even mutates from week to week. We pride ourselves on our relatively quick turnaround time from submission to publication, which we know is important to writers. We’re invested heavily in both our online and print editions and we strive to make our issues look crisp and visually evocative. We are also active on social media, which we know brings additional publicity to our published writers.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: If you’ll look at our recent issues, you’ll see that we’ve highlighted the poems that we nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Reading those poems is an efficient (and hopefully inspiring) way for a writer to get to the core of our journal’s aesthetic.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: If every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then so too is an ideal submission—it’s very hard to predict what combination of words will blow the fuses in the walls. That said, some guidelines apply seemingly everywhere. Read your poems out loud before you submit them. Err on the side of the concrete, the sensual, and the specific. Remember that the root of imagination is the word “image.” And finally, the late and wonderful Mark Strand might have said it best: “The poet provides the reader with a surrogate world through which he reads this world.” Or she.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: Our process is fairly well streamlined at this point. We seldom have any problems!

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: A brief cover letter is a lovely proof of humanity, the literary equivalent of an apéritif. That said, if you try to get us drunk before the main course, we’ll wonder about you.

Q: How much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: We do our best to read pieces in their entirety—we know how much care goes into a good poem and we feel inclined to reciprocate. But if we find evidence that such care was lacking—noticeable typos, errors in tense or grammar, etc.—then we’ll stop reading. This doesn’t happen very often though.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: We have four editors on our staff. If three of us like a poem, it’s in. If the voting is split, sometimes we’ll get together and make impassioned arguments for and against.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: We’ve discovered many of our favorite writers through this journal! It is an honor to read such work.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: From the advent of spoken language, all the way through the invention of writing, the printing press, and digital media, and every step in between, artists have gained new tools for expression and for sharing their work. We believe in continuing that tradition as fully as possible, so we offer a full online edition and an e-book edition as well as a traditional print publication. It helps that one of our editors is a web developer.