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Latest Blog Posts

Latest Blog Posts

Seventy years after the ten minute jury deliberation that sent him to the electric chair at age fourteen, George Stinney, Jr., was exonerated of the murders he had been convicted. When I read the story, I was, of course, deeply disturbed. Disturbed by the glaring injustice. Disturbed by the similarity to the circumstances surrounding the...
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...
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...
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...
“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...
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...
Shawn Pittard's poem, "Fall Creek" was an honorable mention in the James Hearst Poetry Prize in 2009. His poem is featured in issue 294.2, Spring 2009 and can be still be purchased through our online store. Notes from the author: As my fiftieth birthday approached, my friend—the poet Kathleen Winter—asked if I planned on writing a poem to...
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...
We who are poets know that the reason for a poem is not disclosed until after the poem exists.                                           —Thomas Merton TO HISTORY— You will not remember me. And I will not remember you. So while we are keeping company, please note the blue delphinium climbing past the window.   When this poem was selected as a...
“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...
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 boy enrolled in lessons, signed up for swim team,...
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...
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...
When I give a poetry reading, I usually try to wear something bright. I will wear my sweater featuring kissing penguins or a sundress with hot air balloons on it. I do this not because I want to look like the poet version of Zooey Deschanel, but because people usually approach me afterwards looking like they want to tuck a Zoloft prescription...
With the earthiness of mushrooms, black pepper, unsweetened cocoa, and ground coffee, these darkly delicious “Doom Cakes” will help you access the duende of any experience. For me, the culinary experimentation that resulted in this wicked concoction was directly related to Strauss’s Zarathustra, Kubrick’s 2001, the 9th century law code of...
Notes from the author: I like to say that my father was coughed out of the womb and rolled around in broken glass. He relished his children with a deep and fiery heart, but he was tough as a sack of rocks. He had one hell of a rough boyhood. His mom died of TB when he was six months old, and his father was quarantined with the same illness...
The cover art for this issue is a digital photo composite. Centuries before social media, artists knew that people were interested in people. I find the amorphic figures intriguing and mysterious, as there is no sense of who they are, where they are, or what they might be doing. Original digital photographs were taken with a 7.1 megapixel...
It’s a problem most writers face. But the danger seems particularly acute for nonfiction writers who are accountable to real people, even when names are changed. How do you tell the story you set out to tell? Or, put slightly differently, how do you tell the story that is yours to tell? In my case, I had to write the wrong story to find the...
Coat Rack
“Every word was once a poem”[1]. Every poem was once an experiment. I’m a pragmatic man. I’m a test pilot flying a fountain pen. Testing the limits of honesty[2]. I was going to begin by saying “watch me pull a rabbit out of a hat” but that’s the sort of malarkey I’m trying to avoid, the stiff collar, cleverness of prose (should I apologize...
I was born in Brooklyn but am currently living on the island of Oahu, part of a group of nine Hawaiian islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, farthest away from any landmass on Earth.  Some days I wake up and wonder how I got transported from one of the fastest-moving cities on the planet to find myself in Lotusland.  Truth to...
Notes from the author: I am especially pleased to appear again in America's oldest literary review. With respect to my poem, "A Day in the Life", I want to express my view that poetry which does not take risks is of insignificant value. Having served as an editor and publisher for a decade, I came to believe a distinctive voice is the most...
For the second straight night, I had a basketball dream. I was playing in the Final Four. In my dream, I scored a basket for the second straight game. Just one basket in each. A statistician might note my crisp 2.0 PPG average—not exactly Hall of Fame numbers. Scoring in the Final Four is a delightful dream (especially when compared with my...
  This poem was written quickly, in response to the murder of twenty young students and six educators by a deranged shooter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.  The world was horrified by this event; outpourings of grief dominated the news and social media; and like many people I felt a need to...
An article I wrote for Ohio Outdoor News this summer detailed the industry that, in Ohio, is uniquely Lake Erie: Fish cleaning houses.  They are smelly, wet and when the fishing is good, extremely busy.  The workers are paid piecework, generally -- that is, by the pound.  The more they clean, the faster they clean, the more they get paid.  It...
I taught the composing of poetry for thirty-seven years at the college. Here is a little note and a list I sent out before each class began. Let's make poems for some real reasons to enter art—to bring worlds to one another that we otherwise would not have, to create a place where you are safe to be you, to give your inward self the care and...

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