Photo by Mirai Takahashi

The judge for this year’s Neutrino Short-Short Prize is T. Clutch Fleischmann, author of Syzygy, Beauty (Sarabande Books), curator of Body Forms: Queerness and the Essay (Essay Press), writer-in residence at Columbia College Chicago, and a nonfiction editor at DIAGRAM. They spoke with Associate Editor Jacob Hall about the theory and craft of the short-short genre.

Jacob Hall: What excites you about short-shorts as a genre?

T. Clutch Fleischmann: I love short writing in particular because of the way it so often sits outside of genre, hitting some spot that traditional genre categories can’t always reach—thinking of what happens to narrative, to image, to voice, to concept, when they live within the (limits of) the short form. The way I so often inhabit short writing is all about returning, coming again and then immediately again to something that changes as I read it, that exists as much beyond its limits as within them. If longer writing lets me get lost in its rhythms and motions, lets me live in it, short writing is a thing that I carry with me, that might even become a part of my own rhythms and motions, the way I can hold it.

JH: What makes an individual short-short great to you? What do you look for?

TCF: So many things! I hesitate to say what I look for in any pointed way, as my favorite writers of short forms all offer such different things. I want to say here, “a moment of thought,” that short-shorts can get me into a pulse of thinking, or a breath of experience. A great short is mysterious in this way, that thinking and experience are mysterious, extending beyond themselves. Maybe the simplest way to say it is that after reading a great short, I am eager both to move away from it, to sit in the silence that follows, and to encounter it again. That seems like the surest sign something meaningful has happened.

JH: What else should we know about you? What are you reading right now?

TCF: I’m so excited about my reading pile right now, thank you for asking. I have near me Jackie Wang’s Carceral Capitalism, Myriam Gurba’s Mean, the anthology Writers Who Love Too Much, Juliana Huxtable’s Mucus in My Pineal Gland, Douglas A. Martin’s Acker, and Sung Yim’s What About the Rest of Your Life. I feel so grateful for all of these books! I think that’s what I’d like you to know about me, that I am excited about these books today, and that I want you to read them, too.

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Photo by Maxim Mogilevskiy

Editorial intern Zoe Maki on today’s bonus story: In “Generosity,” Holly Karapetkova gives us a poet-tyrant stuck between blurred lines of selfhood with a splash of humor and irony.


The late dictator was a generous man, given to torture only on Sundays and only after offering his subjects a choice among several artistically choreographed positions. He had once been a poet of questionable talent, and while no one dared to recall the quality of his verses, his pen name had taken up most of the cover space on his books and was difficult to forget.

Like the worst Roman Emperors, the dictator was extremely popular during his early years in office; all of the children born in the first decade of the regime were given one of his names in tribute. Later, it was said he derived great pleasure from calling his victims by their names, his own names, during the torture process. It seemed at moments when the pain set in that he was both giver and receiver, victim and tormentor, until he could no longer tell the other’s body from his own, his life from another’s death. Then the pain expanded out before him like an open sea. He would dive down so deep no name could call him out.

Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewPrairie SchoonerPoetry Northwest, and many other places. Her second book, Towline, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was recently published by Cloudbank Books.

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Photo by Rebecca Hyett

Our editors confess their ideal vacation spots.

Lizzie Michael
Associate Editor
West Dennis, Massachusetts

I’m going to LA this spring break. Never been there before, but I heard that it’s warm, which is what I’m looking forward to the most.

Robert Ball
Dearborn, Michigan

Any and all places of religious significance. Jerusalem, Mecca, Bihar, etc. Also Alaska! Cold, beautiful, and isolated… yes please!

Anne Okonowski
Associate Editor
Dearborn, Michigan

The Bermuda Triangle. I’m going to a new dimension. So long, everybody! But actually, my dream vacation would be to hike around Iceland.

Emily Doseck
Northern Michigan University

My family never did spring break trips for various reasons, but my dream vacation right now is Disney World because I feel like the only person who’s never been there.

Charlie Edwards
Engadine, Michigan

Long Beach, California was a wonderful place to visit. My dream vacation would be Milan, Italy.

Ethan Brightbill
Managing Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Oslo is where my wife and I spent our honeymoon. It’s my favorite city so far, and Norway’s undoubtedly my favorite country to visit. But I’ve gone to Long Beach Island, New Jersey many times, and the novella I’m writing is sort of in response to it. I’ve never written anything about Norway.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

Chicago, where’d I’d fill myself with an absurd amount of Italian beef and deep dish pizza.

Krys Malcolm Belc
Associate Fiction Editor
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I’m a staycation enthusiast but I’m also really homesick for the east coast. An ideal spring break for me would involve hanging out with my brother and sisters in NYC and eating a LOT of bagels.

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Photo by Bill Benzon

PN’s Sara Ryan on today’s bonus poems: In “Prodrome” and “I Feel Like Inwardness,” Dan Gutstein plays with language and its constantly shifting identities. These poems meld definition and meditative meaning, and they create a dark, eerie sense of time and its ever-forward movement. In a kind of linguistic translation, Gutstein allows language to unravel upon itself, and through that, these unsettling poems engage definitions of death, the word “no,” and the very names that we give to color.


Curtains instead of snow,
fuel instead of snow.
The darkening darkens.
Walkers unlike confetti in wind

unlike a thumpless boot.
Language travels a gradient
with less certainty than water
away from the color of ice.

The word “sepia” cannot inhabit
shoulders and seams.
“Gray scale” cannot inhabit
the many shoulders and seams.

A commonplace junction / what alights /
what endures / who is phoning.
“Halo” as in “premonition” /
what alights.

The opposite of exhaust
will not delimit
the opposite of a curvilinear motif.
Nightwork of the snow, rotary,

nightwheel of the wind.
Kitchens, watchers,
and the illiquid hands of a clock,


I Feel Like Inwardness

metal fatigue
in the museum
of our reflexes

voice: eviction: disorder.


There are different
kinds of “no”
(registers and meters)
I feel like meters

the word “death”
as in “accrual”
“accrual” as in
“cemetery,” the word.


Curvature / rail
streetcar / torque

warehouses retain
a few glimpses
of utility (square footage

so reverent
it impairs the durable
without song


What is inward
& simultaneous (we

are water & we
are breathless

eyes: voice: repose.

Dan Gutstein is the author of two collections—non/fiction (stories) and Bloodcoal & Honey (poems)—as well as stories and poems that have appeared in PloughsharesAmerican ScholarPrairie SchoonerThe Iowa ReviewTriQuarterlyBest American PoetryThe Penguin Book of the Sonnet, and elsewhere. He blogs at

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Photo by Muzik Hounds

We asked the Passages North editorial staff what new authors and books they’re excited about.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

I wasn’t familiar with Lauren Groff until recently. I’m checking out Delicate Edible Birds now.

Sara Ryan
Associate Poetry Editor
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Returning to Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, reading (or trying to read) Zoologies by Alison Hawthorne Deming, and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen.

Taylor Favour
Northern Michigan University

Honor by Elif Shafak! It’s so good!

Robert Ball
Dearborn, Michigan

Super excited to read Lost in September by Kathleen Winter. It’s her second novel and her first is easily my favorite contemporary work.

Charlie Edwards
Engadine, Michigan

The Book of Dust Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman.

Zoe Maki
Northern Michigan University

Pretty much any story by Etgar Keret.

Alexander Clark
Associate Nonfiction Editor

Priest Daddy by Patricia Lockwood.

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor
Northern Michigan University

Roxane Gay’s Hunger and Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much.

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Freeway Lights, Through Chainlink

Photo by Scott Hart

Editorial intern Nick Hansen on today’s bonus short: Tom Kelly’s commentary on societal trends and his zany portrayal of everyday life draw the reader into a wonderfully anarchic world in this prose poem complete with banana peels, turtle shells, and power-granting cartoon stars.

Mario Kart 64 simulation of a joyride on the Los Angeles freeway

My go-kart glides beneath a big rig, zig-zags banana peels sprinkled along the carpool lane, zooms past Danny Devito doppelgangers in limousines, a woman on a Vespa flinging her feathered scarf. I hug the hairpin bend & perform stunts to shake turtle shells trailing my rear like a celestial tail. When my bumper bashes the barricade & wedges me in the digital trench, you swoop ahead faster than the Road Runner & I pretend to blow sassy smooches but can’t rip my hands off the wheel. I’d like to ask if you’re saddled with similar setbacks: the world apprehended as a highway slideshow, the dubious existence of feet. My Littlest Deuce Coupe shotguns onto the pavement & an electric star spanks its taillights. More radiant than a game show host dunked in a glittery whirlpool, I whip within earshot & deliberate icebreakers: excuse me, we haven’t met but the back of your head caught my eye; is your ride fuel-efficient, too? We juggle the lead like ponies primed for a photo finish. Our chemistry’s palpable, near Newtonian, though my neck won’t crane to capture your attention. My sparkle-power fades & I spin-out like a basketball twirling on a Harlem Globetrotter’s finger. I steer for a shortcut to bridge our distance & swerve off the edge of the track.

Tom Kelly is a first-year creative writing doctoral student at Florida State University. He earned an MFA in creative writing from Old Dominion University, and his poems appear in The Southeast Review, Barrelhouse, Painted Bride Quarterly, Gulf Stream, Permafrost, decomP, and other journals. Follow him on Twitter @tomvkelly.

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We asked our editors how their New Year’s resolutions are going after the first month of 2018.

Bill Nyfeler
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Northern Michigan University

I have resolved never to answer these crew quarters questio… DOH!

Jennifer Howard
Escanaba, Michigan

I’ve resolved to say “thank you for listening” instead of “I’m sorry I bothered you with my feelings.” So far so good!

Tianli Kilpatrick
Associate Editor
Northern Michigan University

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I would like to graduate.

Ginny MacDonald
Associate Nonfiction Editor
Dowagiac, Michigan

I have resolutions, I just don’t make them. Which causes my failures to be even more demoralizing.

Ethan Brightbill
Associate Fiction Editor
Allentown, Pennsylvania

I resolved years ago never to make another New Year’s resolution, and I have been quite diligent in upholding that.

Jacob Hall
Associate Fiction Editor
Decatur, Illinois

I’ve learned that the best way to avoid disappointing myself is to never set any real expectations. You can’t blow your resolutions if you don’t have any.

Robert Ball
Dearborn, Michigan

I would like to eat less pizza. So far I’ve just substituted it with other junk food. So technically it’s going well?

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passionate runners

Photo by Markus Trienke

Associate fiction editor Krys Malcolm Belc on today’s bonus story: In “Mushing,” Mary Jones has created a narrator who is ready to visit the Alaska of dreams: an incredible place you can take someone new you want to impress, a place that will show you what you’ve read about in books, what you’ve imagined so many times when you’re living regular life. A place of adventure and wonder, a place waiting just for you.


The old man is a father for the first time. He’s making a plan. He wants to take his boy to Alaska this summer. He’s thinking about adventure. In Alaska you can go bear watching for one thing. Or else you can go on a dog-sled ride. There’s 1,100 miles of bush country in Alaska. He’d read about, once, years ago, in a book he used to love. Even in the summer, when it’s warm, you can do it. They’ll take you by helicopter to a glacier. A place where it’s snowy all year round―like Juneau or Skagway or Seward. A place where the seasons don’t change. And the mushers keep the dogs ready. The dogs are ready year round, for those who cannot wait.

Mary Jones’s stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewIndiana ReviewColumbia JournalBrevityCarveThe Southampton ReviewPank, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing at UCLA Extension.

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Best Small Fictions noms

by JHow on January 15, 2018

in Announcements


Photo by Brian Sims

Passages North is delighted to announce our nominations for the Best Small Fictions anthology. All our nominated stories (and so many more incredible short fictions) can be found in Issue 38. Thanks for being a part of our magazine, nominees!

Alex McElroy—Responsible Fear

Jennifer Givhan—The Trial

Nicole Rivas—Death of an Ortolan

Alexandra Lytton Regalado—Mosaic

Ingrid Jendrzejewski—The Middle Ground


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Photo by 38 Degrees

Associate editor John LaPine on today’s bonus poem: Patrick Kindig’s poem is a vital inquisition into masculine self-expression. Why do we change? Who are we to think we can try to stop others from changing? And is it really change if we all get the same haircut?

boys are always trying

to cut off their curls
says my stylist
at great clips
& there is something
so sad in the way
she says it that i want
to rip off my poncho
& shout STOP shout
of course they can’t
my lap is already full
of hair & growing
fuller all my curls
heaped between
my knees now or
about to be & when
the clippers slip
across my left
temple leaving me
clean & crewcut
my stylist sighs
takes a moment
to shake her wrist
& in this moment i look
at her & wonder
who else’s curls
she has cut off if she
cuts the hair of all
her boyfriends & all
her boyfriends
want crewcuts
if every time she falls
for someone she looks
at his head & thinks
yes this is the one
until two weeks later
he pops the wrong
question & she
is sweeping the kitchen
at midnight again
washing hair like
rose-tongues from
between her fingers

Patrick Kindig is currently a PhD candidate at Indiana University, where we works with nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. He is the author of the micro-chapbook Dry Spell (Porkbelly Press 2016), and his poems have appeared in Court Green, Willow Springs, Meridian, Columbia Journal Online, Muzzle, and other journals.

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