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Michael Spence's poem, "The Unbroken Code" was an Honorable Mention in the 2009 James Hearst Poetry Prize from issue 294.2.

Note from the author: "The image of blackberry vines coming over the back fence and encroaching on the yard of a childhood home came to mind as I found myself writing a poem about my father. It occurred to me that his natural quietness was perfect for the kind of engineering design work he did for both the Space Program and various military projects. In my mind,...

My characters never write their endings. I feel exasperated when I hear writers say ‘the characters just took over and the story seemed to write itself’, as if the writing could be a glide through the first draft and revision, or maybe no revision. The length and the very nature of the short story, its economy, precision and mystery, suggests puzzle, conundrum, the prizing open of an oyster to find, not a pearl, but a live creature. Every story worth writing has at least one seemingly...

Angel Dust

For the 2016 spring issue of The North American Review, I was inspired to have the viewer of the magazine be an outsider peering in. Since “Angel Dust” deals with magical moments in secret, it gave more importance that the readers are looking from the outside. I recently started to buy more photography books for reference and found this unique book, entitled Elsewhere by Marieken Verheyen, which is filled with different windows around the world. I was inspired by the how...

“Don’t be afraid to get really strange,” my dad told me several summers ago, while helping edit my first novel. “You can always scale back later.”

As always, I took his advice to heart. For, as a writer and creative writing professor, Dad’s editorial input was invaluable.

These would be his last words of advice to me about writing.

Dad, along with our actress mom, raised my sister and me in sleepy Midwestern towns, enlivened with magical bedtime books, such as Thomas...

My essay, "Rays," appears in the 301.2, Spring 2016, issue of North American Review. I'm particularly happy about the publication of this personal narrative. "Rays" affirms my hope that the prose I'm most proud of might also have value to others. This piece inspired me to write more creative-nonfiction and inevitably led to my book-length collection, Harbors,...

I began “Ullage” one morning—almost all of my poems are written between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m.—in a darkened room, in a 250-page notebook I bought (one of several) at a paper store in Florence called Tassotti (sadly no longer there), a company founded by Giorgio Tassotti in Bassano del Grappa (Northern Italy) in 1957, having taken over the business from a firm called Remondini (flourished from 1657 to 1861). I had charged myself each morning to write, and if a poem appeared on the page at the...

“As if the world were not what we make it, pulled by dogs down streets so dark, the sound of a river is almost a kind of light.” Let me be clear, I lifted this line from George Looney’s Animals Housed in the Pleasures of the Flesh nearly two decades ago, and I’ve been carrying it around with me ever since. The sentiments in this verse form currents, of course, in much of my writing. Primarily, my...

Vincent Peloso's "The Boy in The Men's Locker Room" was a finalist in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in Spring 2010 issue.

The Boy in The Men’s Locker Room

The boy in the men’s locker room tries not to stare
as I strip off my clothes.
How big, how hairy and how old I look.
I remember being a...

The artist who is nourishing hau is not self-aggrandizing, self-assertive, or self-conscious, he is rather, self-squandering, self-abnegating, self-forgetful—all the marks of the creative temperament the bourgeoisie find so amusing. (hau: a Maori word meaning spirit, particularly the spirit of the gift and of the forest, which gives all food.)

-Lewis Hyde: ...

How to Keep It Real When Everything Has Gone Wrong

Ladies and gentlemen, party people and displaced souls,

we’re now reluctant refugees of a scratch-and-dent world.

This moment would mimic countless others we’ve squandered

were it not for this impromptu sermon. We should know better

than to be reckless with the truth. Honesty is careless by nature,

a master of bad timing, a deadbeat father repeating his litany

of stillborn promises. You...


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