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I consider myself an activist as well as a poet, and have long debated whether the twain need meet. I believe in poetry’s power to move people and that we are all products of our time, so even a small detail in a poem might hint at a problem of the day.

For example, say lovers are strolling along a riverbank at night, and some of the moonlight is reflecting off broken bottles and cans. The poem may never stray any further from the couple’s affairs, but that image and the suggestion of...

My poem “The Cheshire Cat Effect” reflects my interest in the intersection of quantum mathematics and poetry. This is an interdisciplinary field that’s really got me excited these days because I feel like there’s a lot of productive thinking to be done about the relationship of the arts and the sciences. And also our culture, whether it’s reflected through the arts, or through psychology or religion, still has barely begun to come to terms with the implications of quantum physics although it...

American Eye: What Makes Bernie Run? by Stephen Minot was featured in issue 274.4.

In the December 1989 issue of North American Review, Stephen Minot began his profile of Bernie Sanders with the following:

“The political career of Bernard Sanders is a succession of impossible events. How does an outspoken socialist from Brooklyn become mayor of Burlington, Vermont? How...


A few years ago, a writer named Matthew Batt (check out his great book Sugarhouse) visited my school in Florida to read. As part of the gig, he talked to my creative nonfiction class and opened with the question: What pair of shoes do you remember best?  Students I had been trying to coax out of their shells all semester long finally emerged to share vivid, funny, and...

Illustration by Matt Manley

Ideas for a project beyond survival

A friend says my picture looks like I am throwing a dazzling parade of ideas. I don’t have any ideas for a project beyond survival. This is from a project I am calling Survival. What am I currently working on? I am currently working on not getting sick/fired/overdrafted/divorced. I am currently working on forms and checks, not forgetting fucking milk. I am currently fixing the broken chain-link fence out back. I stand up in front of an audience and...


When the bats tore from our attic through the dilute dusk,
we on the lawn watched them satisfy their summons,
the adults explaining natural radar, a human deafness
we would grow to accept. They rode like the sheets
on our pulleyed laundry line, parallel to the meadow,

lofted by a ditch of wind or my expectation
they drop down to us. This radar, we were told,
was like love, sponsoring naked, eggshelled wills
as they advance into...

When I first began my thumbnail sketches for the cover illustration, it was snowing. Outside my studio window, the Connecticut landscape was getting a small covering of our usual winter guest. Snow transforms: it hides all the cracks and divots, and just for a moment you might think the world is smooth and reflective. Cold marble to the touch.

What always unwinds winter’s grasp is rain. Spring rain. The first showers of it rarely feel like spring at all; it feels like a static shock,...

When I received the invitation to post on the blog (my first), I’m ashamed to say that my initial reaction was one of horror. I quickly came to see that that reaction had something to do with why I write poetry. For me, poems are like little postcards thrust anonymously through the mail slots of people’s hearts. A little like valentines from a shy secret admirer. When I read a poem I really love, that touches me, I don’t want to know anything about the poet. I don’t want to hear him read. I...

Making "Territory"

There’s an entry in my diary from August 2014. I remember writing it. I was propped up on the bed of an old caravan I’d rented and which sat smack bang in the middle of a wildlife park in the Northern Territory, Australia, where I was researching for a novel about animals. The wildlife park housed thousands of captive native animals—crocodiles, endangered northern quolls, microbats. But wild animals had made their home there too. As I wrote in the diary, a wild barking owl “woofed” overhead...

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,...


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