Monthly Archives: July 2012

Short Takes on Long Poems

At Length’s founder and poetry editor, Jonathan Farmer, is publishing a great new series this week. It’s called “Short Takes on Long Poems,” and it will include mini-essays by fifty (!) poets on interesting, compelling, or favorite long poems, all from the last seventy years. Many of the entries have links to the original poem, and I’ve spent the part of my day I didn’t spend writing dipping in and out of them, especially Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay” (introduced on At Length by Dana Levin). R.T. Smith, Michael Leong, Dana Levin, Paisley Rekdal, Cecily Parks, John Poch, Daniel Bosch, Spencer Reece, Michael Ryan, Sam Hamill, Erica Dawson, and Robert Pinsky discuss the poems in Volume One; stay tuned for more next week and for the rest of the month.

(Pictured above: two long cats.)

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NEA Writers’ Corner, Friday Links, Twitter

The National Endowment for the Arts has posted the 2012 Literature Fellows in the Writers’ Corner, a place where writers share a little of their work and a statement about what this generous and life-changing award means to them.  Click here if you would like to read my artist statement and an excerpt from “Imperial Chrysanthemum.” I am still somewhat in disbelief about the award, but working hard every day on new writing. Above is a photo of my porch sofa, where I like to write in the mornings (before it gets too hot).

Here are a few links I enjoyed this week:

From Ice News, a story about an MP from Iceland who moved a 30-ton rock to thank some life-saving elves.

A gorgeous essay in the Sun Magazine by my friend Krista Bremer, on family, the immigrant experience, and the feeling of hovering “between places.”

Via Longreads, this powerful article by Joan Garrett about a crisis within a Chattanooga Baptist church as a minister and his wife care for their dying son.

Via Longform, this fascinating 1991 Atlantic piece about the Sahara Desert by William Langewiesche.

If you haven’t seen Cabin Porn, it’s a nice virtual place to daydream about an escape. I have this idea to submit our house to the site, but Richard thinks it would be exploitative.

Also, after being invited to participate in an “infertility chat” by ABC News a few weeks ago, I am now on Twitter. My Twitter name is BelleBoggs if you would like to follow me. Sometimes I try to explain Twitter to my mom, but it is impossible. She conducts most of her business by telephone; I have to admit that I prefer the phone, too. Gus on the other hand likes the P.O., but that is mostly on account of daily treats provided by the Walkerton postmistress.

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Recommended Reading

Hello again! I’ve been hard at work on my novel but thought I would drop by to tell you about what I’ve been reading lately.

First, I’m very excited to tell you that I am the new prose editor of one of my favorite journals, At Length, and I have just published new work by Kaitlyn Greenidge, a young writer I admire very much.

I first heard Kaitlyn’s work at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2010. She was a waiter at the conference (a coveted role) and read from her novel-in-progress, which I could not stop thinking about. I think the excerpted short story she shared with us delivers the same “where can I read more of this?” feeling. Here is Kaitlyn’s brief summary of the book:

The novel is about a black family that moves to a nearly all white town in Western Massachusetts in the early 1990s to take part in an experiment, where they move to a scientific institution and raise their two daughters with a chimpanzee. They are supposed to be teaching the chimp sign language and how to communicate with humans. The narrator is the family’s oldest daughter, Charlotte, who is fourteen when the experiment begins. She has a younger sister, Callie. Charlie is the chimp.

Click here to read “Red Clay.” It is surprising, funny, a little heartbreaking, and very sharp. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Above is a still from one of Charlie’s favorite movies, Johnny Guitar.)

Otherwise, I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks in the past few weeks (I have a Nook). It’s convenient and space-saving–our bookshelves are completely full–but I still prefer printed books. Recently I’ve enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (literary Dateline!), The Fish Can Sing by Halldor Laxness (the best!), Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, and Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, which I downloaded after reading this review in Slate. Both Lerner’s and Heti’s novels have appealing first-person narrators and are largely about the anxiety of creating art in the twenty-first century (Lerner’s narrator is a poet, and Heti’s is a playwright, occupations the narrators have in common with the authors).

I read Leaving the Atocha station twice, I liked it so much. It’s very short–in case you’re looking for something short enough to read twice–and very funny. But when it’s very hot out and you want to read something classic and a little crazy and set in Iceland, you can’t miss with The Fish Can Sing or Independent People. My mother and I read The Fish Can Sing at the same time–we want to go to Iceland to visit Laxness’s family home (now a museum), see the Northern Lights, and probably drink a lot of coffee.

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