We are pleased to announce the public schedule for the upcoming July 2013 residency. All listed lectures and readings are free and open to public. To download the schedule, please click here. For more information about this schedule or the MFA Program for Writers, please call us at (828) 771-3715.
“Excerpt From Win Winters’ Notebook,” a piece by Tracy Winn (fiction, ’02) appears at Harvard Review Online.
Tropical Storm Irene
White River Valley, Vermont
Hot and humid. Three months ago they shut down the clapboard mill. Three months without a paycheck. Today I fixed the lawnmower Ward and me found at the dump. Going for new sparkplugs, saw a healthy-looking coyote running near the river. Wonder if that’s what took Ashley’s cat. Ashley cleaned and defrosted the fridge all afternoon with the TV on. She said being laid off should be more like a vacation than this.
Thunder and some impressive lightning last night. Checked up in back for any downed wood worth cutting. Our second winter together and we won’t be able to pay for oil heat. Should I ask Harrison Lenk if he wants to come help? Might do him good to know somebody remembers how easy he was with a chainsaw. Ashley’s still moping over that cat. Doesn’t she understand that any tuna-fattened pet is going to light up a coyote’s radar screen? Made her laugh when I acted out her next cat’s revenge.
Tracy is the author of Mrs. Somebody Somebody (2010, Random House).
Catherine Barnett (poetry, ’02) recently chose “Delight in Disorder,” by Robert Herrick as the Poetry Daily Poet’s Pick.
“Delight in Disorder”
by Robert Herrick (1591–1674)
A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in clothes a wantonesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A carelesse shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, than when Art
Is too precise in every part.
When I was a child I loved the “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” page in the Highlights my dentist kept in his waiting room, which were never as unsettling as Bishop’s National Geographic but which nonetheless helped pass the time. I find I’m still fascinated and compelled by mistakes, by the pleasure of unexpected juxtapositions, and by imperfections whose “sweet disorder” can often carry the mind into its own eddies of “fine distraction.” (Teeth that are separated by a gap, and therefore “imperfect,” are called “les dents du bonheur”—teeth of happiness.) A friend of mine, the wonderful documentary photographer John Lucas, once took a series of portraits of his friends and doctored the photos so that the two sides of the face were exact mirror images of each other; the face’s natural asymmetry was transformed into an eerie perfection, leading us perhaps into the uncanny valley against which Herrick, in “Delight in Disorder,” protests.
Herrick’s poem makes me aware of the tension between order and chaos that animates, destabilizes, and makes wonderfully mysterious my own practice of both writing and living. It also makes me think of some of my favorite poems, which address similar concerns, sending me back to Yeats’s “Adam’s Curse,” to so much of Stevens, and to Bishop, including “The Bight,” whose “untidy activity continues, / awful but cheerful,” and “Filling Station,” where “Somebody / arranges the rows of cans / so that they softly say: / ESSO—SO—SO—SO / to high-strung automobiles. / Somebody loves us all.” In Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses,” the speaker’s eye looks back and forth between order and chaos, between “the scales, the principal beauty” and the “unnumbered fish” scraped “with that black old knife, / the blade of which is almost worn away.”
Watching poets at work—by looking at their drafts, their “stitching and unstitching”—illustrates the tug-of-war between chaos and order. Sometimes what starts out orderly moves toward the disorderly, as in Dickinson’s drafts for “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” in which she changes her initial “bold delight” to “infirm delight,” a change that holds the same kind of paradox found in Herrick’s wonderful “wilde civility,” which is my favorite moment in Herrick’s poem. (In an 1862 letter to T. W. Higginson, Dickinson asked, “Are these more orderly? I thank you for the Truth—I had no Monarch in my life, and cannot rule myself, and when I try to organize—my little Force explodes—and leaves me bare and charred—I think you called me ‘Wayward.'”)
“Delight in Disorder” also feels like a stay against death insofar as death’s “Art / Is too precise in every part.” In Dickinson’s “It was not Death, for I stood up,” for example, “The Figures I have seen” are “Set orderly, for Burial.” Plath’s “The Munich Mannequins” asserts “Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children.” But the verbs in Herrick’s poem—”kindles”, “enthralls,” “bewitch”—contrast dramatically with the passive “Is” of the final precision; the close of the poem is much more orderly than the preceding lines—it’s only here that the rhyme is perfect, too perfect perhaps.
Two new poems by RJ Gibson (poetry, ’11) appear online at jdbrecords.
Something sexy there
in those sounds,
the necessary depth
of Sub, the uh of it. Hiss
to uh, to buh. Begin with
the fricative, the rub
against, the slip, like sliding
between the sheets, moving into,
walking in a wind. …[Keep Reading]…
Tell your young eyes to listen. There’s a reason this is my first lesson. No matter how much yours plead, growing wistful, don’t give them what they want: a prettied past. Make them SEE. At first, they’ll glance past a boy slapped by his mother in the airport, or a woman on TV listing reasons she’s lucky to work at Wal-Mart. Students, pay attention! No, sit down. You may not be excused...[Keep Reading]…
Nan Cuba is the author of Body and Bread, available May 2013 from Engine Books.
Night of the Republic, by poet and faculty member Alan Shapiro, is one of four international poetry collections shortlisted for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s largest prize for a single collection of poetry written in or translated into English. The winner will be announced in Toronto on June 13th.
Faculty member Heather McHugh, along with Nikolai Popov, won the Griffin Prize in 2001 as the translators for Glottal Stop: 101 Poems by Paul Celan (2004, Wesleyan). For more information visit griffinpoetryprize.com
Friends of Writers and the MFA Program would like to congratulate students who graduated at the winter 2013 residency this January.
Michelle Collins Anderson (fiction)
Jayne Benjulian (poetry)
Ryan Burden (fiction)
Allen Chamberlain (poetry)
Kelli J. Christenson (poetry)
Lynette D’Amico (fiction)
Cher Fox (poetry)
Cody Heartz (poetry)
Rosemary Kitchen (poetry)
Lara Markstein (fiction)
Jenny Gillespie Mason (poetry)
Kara Olson (poetry)
Cathleen O’Neal (poetry)
Alain Park (fiction)
photo courtesy Bright Life Photography
Alumna Leslie Shinn (poetry, ’01) has won the 2013 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry for her collection, Inside Spiders (2014, Persea Books).
The Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize (formerly the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize) is a collaboration between Persea Books and The Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project. This annual competition sponsors the publication of a poetry collection by an American woman poet who has yet to publish a full-length book of poems. The winner receives an advance of $1,000.00 and publication of her collection by Persea.
In addition, the winner receives the option of an all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center, a renowned artists retreat housed in a fifteenth-century castle in Umbertide, Italy.