New work by alumni Kathryn Schwille (fiction, ’99) titled “FM 104” appears in the latest issue of the online journal Memorious.
Coyotes, weasels, green flies, crows. The animals heard it first. Along
the weedy edge of Texas Route 20, a turkey buzzard quit the possum she’d
lucked into and took cover in a stand of pines. The wild pig under
Beeman Bennett’s oak trees snorted twice and froze. To us, it came from
out of nowhere: two blasts and the roar of a crashing train that rumbled
far too long. Our windows rattled, our floorboards quivered, our
breakfasts trembled on their tables. We thought terror, we thought
bombs, we thought of our loved ones. A few of us thought to scream.
Read the rest online.
New work and an interview with alumni Jamaal May (poetry, ’11) is published in The Kenyon Review:
Is there a story behind your KR poems? What was the hardest part about writing them?
The challenge of “The Sky, Now Black With Birds” was inherent in its subject matter. I don’t always go into a poem wanting to address a specific issue. I’m usually led by language and discover what’s nagging me through the process of arguing with a draft. The E.M. Forster adage, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” definitely applies to this process. When I want to address something specific, the “this-should-be-a-poemness” of a subject actually makes the process more troublesome. This is often true of elegies and poems where the trigger is a bizarre bit of trivia as well. These poems are in greater danger of mono-dimensionality, which in a poem with sociopolitical concerns leads swiftly to didacticism. I find that an idea can be so good or important or jarring or socially relevant the poet can be less naturally inclined to find the other spokes that make the wheel turn. My mentor Vievee Francis always said a poem needs torque. I take this to mean a poem always needs a thing moving against another thing around a fulcrum, because without torque nothing moves. I’m kind of old-fashioned in that I want poems to move people.
A new story by alumni Elizabeth Eslami (fiction, ’03) appears in The Sun:
YOUR BROTHER sends you letters from Basic Training, where they are making him into someone else.
He is six years younger than you, and, although he’s over six foot now, you think of him still as “the boy.” He takes to the military quickly, memorizing the Soldier’s Creed, believing the army religion that all things can be improved. He eats their food and wakes to their song. Not long ago you sat with him on the school bus on his first day of kindergarten. Now he says he should’ve been born into his combat trousers instead of skin. He’s a patriot, a gunfighter, a warrior.
He speaks a strange tongue, though he hasn’t yet left for Afghanistan: Fire rate. Recoil. Enhanced m16. He has new friends from Texas and South Dakota, places he’s never been to or even thought about. He’s assigned a partner, a “battle buddy,” the second word to soften the first.
A new essay by alumni Tatjana Soli (fiction ’06) is featured in the New York Times column Modern Love:
One of my first boyfriends announced after our fourth date that he would never consider marrying or even living with a woman who smoked. I was devastated (although I didn’t smoke).
Still in college, I was looking for a soul mate, and my boyfriend’s inflexibility seemed unromantic in the extreme. One of my glamorous ideals back then was a black-and-white picture of Camus looking rumpled, intellectual and French with a cigarette tucked between his fingers. This guy would ask him to take it outside.
“What if she were the most beautiful, smart, sexy woman in the world?” I asked. “What if she said you were the love of her life? You’d give all that up because of a nicotine habit?”
I mention this only to establish that I never would have thought it necessary to establish criteria for boyfriends or husbands, especially one as seemingly unimportant as: Must love dogs.
Poems from alumna Mary-Sherman Willis’s (poetry, ’05) forthcoming book, Graffiti Calculus (CW Books, November 2013), appear online at The Cortland Review:
Kilroy (from Graffiti Calculus)
In my Cold War duck-and-cover American girlhood, in the bull’s-eye
of Washington’s nuclear radius,
under a blue sky etched in contrails and filled with the keening of air
emergency sirens, in brick-walled
Horace Mann Elementary, Mrs. Wilson drew her chalk across the board.
Let AB be a line segment with midpoint M.
Let two small semicircles X and Y rise above AB; a parabola Z below AB;
and a large semicircle L, above X and Y….
And I doodled this charm: now let two little eyeballs fill X and Y! And two
sets of cartoon fingertips below AB!
KILROY WAS HERE, I wrote, and because I could, I let AB become the
horizon of the whole Earth,
flexing along lines of longitude and latitude from sea to shining sea. Hail
Empire’s wandering warrior, king killer….
A new poem by alumni Nathan McClain (poetry, ’13) appears online in The Collagist:
Love Elegy in the Chinese Garden, with Koi
Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;
Each bending an ear-shaped cone
To the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,
You could make out silvery Koi
Swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge
Where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,
As he knelt down to let the Koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb
As those Koi. I like to think they’re pure,
That that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,
After he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
His hands. Because who hasn’t done that—
Loved so intently even after everything
Has gone? Loved something that has washed
Its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
That I’m enlightened somehow,
But who am I kidding? I know I’m like those Koi,
Still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss
Those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.
A new work by Dana Huebler (fiction, ’00), “Our Two Babies,” appears in Brain, Child:
My parents announced the news one night after supper, a few weeks after I’d started first grade.
“We have a surprise for you,” my father began in his deep, professorial voice, a smile tugging at his lips.
“Something new is coming to our house,” my mother added coyly.
“What?” I demanded.
“You have to guess,” my father answered, smiling fully now.
“We’re getting a new car?” my brother, Dorne, guessed. At 11, a replacement for our old Rambler was about the only surprise that could generate any excitement in him.
My parents shook their heads.
“A pony?” my nine-year-old sister, Darcy, offered, giving voice to the dying hope that one day she’d wake up to find a pony grazing in our backyard.
“No,” my father said, with a dry chuckle.
“A monkey!” I shouted. If my sister could reach for the impossible, so could I. But the fantasy evaporated with the laughter that erupted around me. “A monkey?” Darcy sneered.
I looked at our reflections in the kitchen window, where the black night pressed against the glass. I could almost taste the bracing chill of autumn. That year, caught up in the excitement of starting first grade, I was falling in love with fall: the abrupt shift in weather, the vibrant colors of the leaves, the crisp, deep blue of the October sky. On a clear autumn day, I could pretend I was living in a picture-perfect New England village instead of a drab, dying mill town on the Merrimack River.
As I gazed at our images on the glass, the answer came to me with a flash of certainty so clear I hardly raised my voice. “A baby,” I said, looking to my parents for confirmation. They smiled, then nodded, and a sweet light flooded through me. Even though the baby wouldn’t be born until spring, I shivered with the sense of change electrifying my world. I felt as though I’d been given a precious gift, one that I’d have to wait months to receive.
New fiction by Nan Cuba (fiction, ’89) appears online at Fictionaut:
Gerald’s law practice wasn’t new. He’d worked on the law review and finished near the top of his class thirty years ago. After earning his J.D., he’d gotten a master of law in taxation. His favorite cases required researching legal precedents, and he enjoyed debating theory and legal history with friends. At $150 an hour, he should’ve been able to pay bills and still take home a comfortable profit. In fact, it would’ve been more than he needed—he preferred smaller, makeshift, secondhand—and enough to impress Harriet. Instead, he always ran on empty, scrambling when a bill was due, using quarters from his change jar for gas, reluctant even to take Harriet to a restaurant or movie, “Because,” he’d say, “we probably shouldn’t be spending that money right now.” Most of his former classmates were rich. Why, Harriet asked, couldn’t he make enough to cover everything? She worried that everyone else wondered that, too.
Every week day, Gerald read contracts, making copious notes. He took clients’ phone calls, explaining his progress, calming fears about the IRS, postponing document revisions and research until the weekends when, instead of fly fishing, he could work uninterrupted. He had only a part-time receptionist, a recent high school graduate he hoped he could train to file and fill out forms. His office was a single room in the back of an old house that needed paint. No air conditioning or heat, but the rent cost less than his phone. Although his suits were professionally cleaned and pressed, his cuffs were frayed. He used spot remover on his ties and shirt fronts. A dent creased the right side of his car; the side-view mirror hung from two blue wires and swayed whenever he turned a corner.
Once, a prospective client pointed outside the receptionist’s office window at a maroon Dodge that rattled into the parking lot. “I’m glad that’s not my lawyer,” he said. Later in the waiting room, the receptionist introduced him to its driver, Gerald, who was handling the case. When Gerald got home that evening, he found Harriet in her personal office. After sharing the receptionist’s story, he laughed.
“That’s not funny,” Harriet said. She sat at her desk where she’d been checking housing statistics on her computer. “What’s the matter with you?” She took off her glasses, slumped in her ergonomic chair. Her right hip felt like a nail had been shoved into its joint. “It’s embarrassing.” She didn’t care if she sounded critical. She couldn’t stand him being the butt of a joke. “We’ve got to get you a different car.”
“Yeah, right after our trip to Europe.” He’d wanted her to laugh, but as soon as he said it, he cringed. He fiddled with unopened mail on the glass-top table next to her desk.
“You know what? I’m tired, Gerald.” Her chin quivered as she raised it higher. “I kill myself in an impossible market, impossible, but whatever I bring home evaporates.”
“I know, I know,” he mumbled. What could he ever do to repay her? he wondered. He still couldn’t believe that she’d married him. Sometimes, though, her disappointment felt like a dreaded day in court. “Please stick by me just a little while longer,” he said.
An interview with faculty Wilton Barnhardt appears online at Book Keeping:
What was the inspiration for your book, Lookaway, Lookaway?
Half a century of a Southern upbringing. I did my best to decamp from North Carolina, from eighteen to forty, and it was not my intention to come back here to live, but I returned in order to teach at a new MFA in Creative Writing program at NC State University, a university in which three generations of Barnhardts had taught or studied. I suppose that got me to thinking about belonging to a place, which got me to thinking further that maybe I did belong to the South, after all, despite much earlier noise about being a Citizen of the World.
Who are your favorite authors?
Anyone 19th Century (Henry James, Tolstoy, Balzac, Flaubert, et al). John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Willa Cather. Among current writers, Valerie Martin, Alice Munro, William Trevor, Allison Lurie, John LeCarre, William Boyd, the crime fiction of Ernest Gaines, the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, and too many poets to list…
How and why did you start working on this book?
I declared I would write ONE and only one Southern novel, and always imagined I would write it near the end of my life (with all my accumulated wisdom about the South), but I was struggling to finish a Western book that was set in the Time of the Padres. I was teaching at Caltech and luxuriated in Huntington Library privileges… each afternoon, after class, I walked over to the great library and called up all sorts of arcane Spanish histories and prospector’s journals—you name it. But when I moved back down South in 2002, I couldn’t do that kind of homework and those materials aren’t anywhere but out West, so I asked myself, “What can you write that you can research right here in North Carolina?” And so the Southern Novel moved to the front of the line.