LESLIE BAZZETT’S novel Abandon was a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and was nominated for a Pushcart Press Editor’s Choice Award. Her short fiction debuted in The New England Review, where it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received Special Mention. Subsequent work has appeared in West Branch and The Carolina Quarterly (both also nominated for a Pushcart Prize) and NER Digital. Most recently, her work again appeared in The New England Review, and was the online fiction selection for that issue. She has just completed a new novel, Taken. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, poet Michael Bazzett, and their two children.
Stories Do Not Come From Pencils
Titles are tricky. I liked this one for its complete lack of sophistication. Because this is a story about the seven-year-old writer I once was, living in a shitty factory town in Massachusetts, armed with a blue pencil I was certain would carry me back to my father.
You see, my mother had left my father, whom I adored – a musician, a great artist – and taken us from Boston to live with her lover in his crumbling town. I don’t know what the factory originally produced. It had since been repurposed to make sleeping bags. On my walk home from school, I would often stop to peer in through the barred windows that were permanently fogged with steam, clouded as the eyes of a lunatic.
That I associate mental or physical impairment with the place is not an accident. It was infamous for inbreeding. I read somewhere that at one point it had the highest rate of dwarfism and genetic mutations of any town in the country. Many of these unfortunates lived in a dilapidated brick house on the same street as my school. Retards, as they were called in those days. Specials. Coming to or from school I would sometimes get caught behind a crossing. A little school bus – not even yellow, that’s how shitty this town was – would be parked, hazards blinking in the road, all the specials jerkily crossing into the street, hooting indecipherable exclamations I always took to be curses or taunts.
Continue reading How to Mine the Past
IAN BASSINGTHWAIGHTE is a writer and photographer living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he attends the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Common, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Tin House, and more.
I’m terrified of black holes, but fascinated by the mystery of what’s inside them. I love zombies, but that’s not to say I want to meet one. Nor am I ashamed to admit that I like Armageddon, the Bruce Willis movie about the impending impact of an asteroid the size of Texas. My favorite part: when Steve Buscemi, in an ode to Dr. Strangelove, sits on a nuclear warhead and pretends to ride it like a bull. In real life the bomb would’ve failed to detonate, the asteroid would’ve hit Earth, and humanity would’ve been eradicated. The catastrophe, of course, having gone unnoticed in the cosmos. Nothing truly lost; nothing really changed. After all, in the famous words of Carl Sagan, Earth is just a pale blue dot. Worse still, that pale blue dot appears on a huge black canvas full of other dots. Those dots come in several colors, and are innumerable.
Continue reading How to Prepare for the End of the World: A User’s Guide to Saying Goodbye
These posts will be alternately serious, whimsical, applicable, fictional– but always engaging. Check back for updates!
LAUREN SPIELLER is a California girl living in Brooklyn. She spends her time writing young
adult novels and short stories for adults. She also works as a freelance editor, specializing in
query and manuscript critiques. Follow her on twitter @laurenspieller
Lauren is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
So you’ve written a book. Well done!
Assuming you’ve already shared your book with critique partners (by which I mean: writers. Not
your mom, not your high school English teacher, not your best friend…OTHER WRITERS),
revised, taken a break from your project, come back fresh, revised again….you’re now ready to
send your book to publishers. Right?
Wrong! You can’t go sending your book willy-nilly to editors, begging them to read your literary
masterpiece. That’s a literary agent’s job. Your job is to find a literary agent to represent you.
Continue reading How to Find A Literary Agent
Matt Morton has been a Finalist for a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Finalist in the Narrative 30 Below Story and Poetry Contest. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and his poems appear or are forthcoming in West Branch, Quarterly West, Forklift Ohio, Colorado Review, and Cincinnati Review, among other journals. Two of his poems, “Anachronistic Elegy” and “Lullaby,” were published in 64.1, the most recent issue of CQ. Originally from Rockwall, Texas, he lives in Baltimore, where he is a Lecturer in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Find more at www.mattmortonpoetry.com
Q: Many of your poems seem to inhabit some sort of altered state of dream or memory. What does this poetic space outside of the body proper allow you to do in your poetry?
A: It allows me the freedom to go wherever I want without feeling limited to a particular physical space. I really enjoy participating in workshops, but one question I’ve been asked a lot is “Where is the speaker?” The speaker is in his or her mind! Where is Henry in the Dream Songs? Where is John Ashbery’s speaker(s) ever? I understand the desire to be absorbed into a specific moment and fixed location; some of my favorite poems—Mark Strand’s “The View” and James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock…” among many others—do this. Still, I’m generally more interested in discursive poems. Poetry as psychology, as an illustration of the movement of a human mind through a chain of thoughts, a procession of images or memories or ideas. The way our minds move during waking life is much closer to so-called “dream-logic” than we realize: We often think via associations, and, unsurprisingly, many of those associations have to do with memories that something in the present—the smell of a campfire, the particular green shade of an evening gown—is calling to mind.
There is an excellent G. C. Waldrep interview somewhere online in which he argues that (I’m paraphrasing) what happens in our imagination is just as autobiographical as what happens in the “real” world. I find this extremely compelling. One thing I’m always telling my students is that they should not feel limited—when writing fiction or poetry—by the physical space in which a given piece begins. When you’re grocery shopping, yes, you are physically in the supermarket for 20-30 minutes, you check out, you leave. But where is your mind during that time? You’re rehearsing a speech, your grandfather’s funeral is in three days, how amazing/terrible was the sex you had last night, did what you said on the phone offend your friend, you’re waiting on test results and your phone is about to die and was that woman in the cereal aisle just making eye contact with you? In any given moment, your experience in the world is as much comprised of those memories, hopes, anxieties, daydreams, as it is your observations of your immediate physical environment. Helen Vendler has argued that “mimetic accuracy—one not only of visual representation but also structural and rhythmic enactment…is the virtue, the fundamental ethics of art.” If you agree with this, than surely the realm of the mind is essential territory for exploration in poetry. It’s what I’m most interested in, at least.
Continue reading Poetry as Psychology: An Interview with Matt Morton