writing

art by Kali Gregan

"A Murder During the Reagan Era" appeared in NAR issue 302.3.

Dedicated to Roberta Barrett (1936-2016), who didn’t shirk from her morbid son-in-law’s curiosity and showed him the letter from her cousin in jail for murder and spawned this story.

     This story rose from offal I had trimmed from a novel manuscript. As much as I enjoyed the tale of...

Illustration by Tom Moore

I’ve never cared for essays that compare the act of writing to some other activity. For example: “Writing is like swimming.” Or “Writing is like mushroom hunting.” Or “Writing is like wrestling.” I’ve seen all sorts of attempts over the years to box writing up into a convenient metaphor. But to what end? It might be useful in a freshman poetry workshop, but a seasoned writer can only take solace in such similes when they are incapable of or unwilling to write anything they’re happy...

Art by Matt Manley

    I wrote “I, Beast,” a poem honored by the North American Review, after reading a New York Times article in 2014, which explained that the soil in one particular Russian city had preserved ancient documents, some as mundane as a shopping list and a child’s fanciful drawing. The drawing was made in approximately 1260 by a boy named Onfirm, believed to be six to seven years old and includes the words, “I, beast,” as well as the creature that I describe in the poem. I’ve...

Illustration by Tom Moore

In the summer of 2014, while traveling to Greensburg, Pennsylvania for a poetry retreat,  I sat to write a poem as a reply to a Father’s Day letter I had received from my son, Patrick. The response eventually became a book-length manuscript. The poems of Soul Be A Witness, my latest collection, attempt to speak truth of and to boys and men of color as only an African American son, father, and grandfather can.

As native sons of America, boys of color have...

Self by Ciara Shuttleworth

Images by author

 

Courtney by Ciara Shuttleworth     I went to school for painting before I went for poetry. I kept a notebook in my painting studio, but the act of writing in a notebook is more like painting than editing a drafted poem: the body...

Illustration by Briana Hertzog

     Last January, I was in yoga school at Blue Banyan Yoga Studio & School, and I was asked to develop a Karma Project. As described, “Karma means action. We are said to all be connected by a tightly woven web of karmic energy—each action we do affects both the Self and the Universe.” The project was up to me and encouraged “Selfless Service.”    

     Immediately, I thought of MLE. She’s a dear friend, mentor, colleague, and fellow poet. Together, we have taught and written...

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

     I had the good fortune to be a finalist in Five Oaks Press’s poetry chapbook competition last spring, and because of that, had my collection published this March. In the past, when my work has been accepted for publication, I’ve felt a combination of excitement and relief: someone liked it! And also: now I can stop revising.

     With the chapbook, though, my experience was different. The pages were smaller than the standard Word doc I compose in and the poems had erratic, often...

Illustration by Matt Manley

     The Polish government designated it the Year of Zbigniew Herbert and organized a celebratory reading at the Polish Embassy in DC, where a handful of Polish American poets read and discussed his singular influence. I read a Herbert-influenced poem along with an excerpt from my translation of Pan Tadeusz, the great nineteenth century Polish Romantic epic—the scene where all nature and all the inhabitants of Lithuanian Poland react to the advancing Napoleonic forces with an eerie...

Illustration by Jessica Mercado

     Poetry gives me a chance to document reality in an emotional way.

     I have lived in New Mexico for twenty-three years now. I bought my house nine days after I drove into town. From the start, I loved watching the way the clouds bubbled and shifted. The light blistered like a lit match, especially on overcast days, and I realized I needed this sort of glory. The climate was nearly perfect. Summers were not too warm and never sticky like the East Coast had been. And they came...

Illustration by Matteo Gallo

I came to writing late, starting at age thirty-four. My artistic life was born a month after my first child was born. I’m not fully conscious of the reasons for this. I only know that my writing often rises out of the dissonance between artistic and family life and that the poem included in the North American Review is no exception. Time is always the enemy. The need to spend time with my wife and children. The need to spend time with my work. And because time is limited, these two...

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