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Artist Statements

As a soon-to-be graduate from the University of Northern Iowa's Bachelor of Fine Arts program in early 2007, I was only too delighted to receive an illustration request for the North American Review. Having studied under the art direction of Roy Behrens, I looked forward to contributing to the publication.

After reading and re-reading Steve...

The short story "Sea Dogs" published in the March-April 2007 issue of The North American Review is based in part on the year I ran away to Europe, helped build a schooner in Denmark, and crewed on her maiden Atlantic crossing in the tail end of hurricane season 1966. An Old Danish sailor who had sailed with us on the first leg of the voyage told the Danish newspapers that we would never see the West Indies alive. We were that incompetent. What if he were right? “...

Secret WomenEric Piatkowski
Anchors on chiefs’ and officers’ hats blaze
bronze, gold. Fear holds us, though technically
seamen are navy property. But sex?
Dismissed. Inspection done. Red stripes. White crow.
Each left sleeve flies one. Our navy blue wave
falls apart. First...

Though writing may be my calling, music is my passion, and I often turn to music for lessons about writing. Just now, for example, through my earbuds iTunes shuffled from Big Sean to the opening adagio of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Babi Yar symphony. The lesson? Transitions are for those who need everything explained to them.

They Might Be Giants and Robyn Hitchcock, using lyrics that sound like they come straight from textbooks, teach me music is not genetic to language but grown in...

A few years ago, I was dealing with the problem of writer’s block, and I was trying to stimulate a thought by looking up the definition of a word in the dictionary when I realized that the listings (if used selectively) often formed a pattern that I could use myself: a “definition” that enabled me to generate a sequence of associations and contain them in a structure that relied more on verbal synopsis than syntax. I used numbers instead of stanzas for a structure...

I love poems that have a strong narrative spine, and thank Robert Frost for inspiring that appreciation. Narrative is what holds “Convoys” together (NAR, Fall, 2012). Perhaps one would be hard pressed to see Frost’s influence in “Convoys”, but for me he was the model.

The winter I wrote the poem, I was rereading The Poetry of Robert Frost, the complete...

NewYorker_Hiroshima_2_web-400x300I wrote "Smoke" when my paternal grandmother was dying and I realized how much I would miss her lit cigarettes. My daughter had just started kindergarten; I was...


One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Yet many of the writers I know shy away from anything “teary” for fear that their work might be seen as (cringe!) melodramatic. But the trouble with shying away from drama (for fear of melodrama) is that it often stifles you before you go to where you need to go in your story. Often to find the beating heart of a story, the part where our throat tightens and...


A terrible, lunar beauty,
pale and sere
like leaves past withering
when we run along the edges,
slag bits broke loose and
rolled down the wash
to the bottom,
pebbles round
as dark marbles,
two halves of ancient bivalve clam
facing each other
in frozen contemplation,...


UntitledYou probably never thought about this before; but if you were ever face to face with a grizzly bear, you might think you’d run.

But when I encountered a huge, teeth-baring, grizzly bear, I didn’t...


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Cedar Falls, IA 50614

Phone: 319-273-6455


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