Writing When The World Is Burning

It literally is. Burning. And here I type these words that are not water on the woods. Are not a hose. Etc. and onward. So why write? I spend a handful of paragraphs on that at Grub Street’s blog in advance of the Writing About Politics workshop I’m leading there  Sat, Nov 4 in Boston. Read. Sign-up. Tell friends. Write. You heard me.

Writing About Politics Workshop


2 Readings & A Workshop

Speaking truth to power. I don’t know if Sage College audiences are indeed the power I’d shake a fist at, but that is the theme of The REV Presents reading series this fall at their Troy, NY campus. Asked by beloved poet and friend Matt Klane, I’ll be reading with also beloved poet and friend Sueyeun Juliette Lee on Thursday, September 28.

Exactly one week later, I’ll be joined by former participants in the poetry class I led at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, Sean Dalpiaz and Johnny Perez, for a Poetry Lab at Skidmore College. This event is in conjunction with the States of Incarceration exhibit that has been touring college campuses across the US for the past year or two. It’s up at Skidmore’s Tang Museum this fall and features images from McGregor as well as lots of visual and experiential representations of the the US prison system. On October 5, Johnny, Sean, and I will be talking about and reading work from the class.

Exactly one week after that, the Writing Creatively class begins October 12 at The Arts Center in Troy. I love leading this class and being in a room with writers talking, reading, writing, and responding to each others’ work. As I say in the course description, writing well takes practice. This eight week class is an opportunity to practice the craft.

(There is another workshop this fall at Grub Street in Boston (Writing About Politics on Saturday, Nov 4), but more on that later.)

Interior view of Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Moreau, New York, in the fall of 2015, photograph by Dorothea Trufelman ’16

Women in Translation Month

In honor of #WITmonth, here’s a list of a few interviews and reviews I’ve done that feature women writers whose work has been translated into English. The campaign was founded by Meytal Radzinski in 2014 to deal with the dearth of women writers in translation. You can read more about it and the events it’s spawned here. There are great resources there, books recommended, and good links.

Meanwhile, have a look at three authors I’ve had words with and about. I adore their books, so please buy them! Read them attentively. Then tell friends.

In no particular order:

*”In an age of what some have called High Interiority in literature a la Knausgaard, Ferrante, and the oodles of revelatory memoirs flooding the market, Helle Helle’s intimate novel This Should Be Written in the Present Tense shouldn’t seem out of place….Instead, it turns out we’re in for something quite different.” So begins my review of the Danish author’s first novel to be translated into English for Electric Literature. In my interview of her for Bookslut, she shares great bits about her writing process. “A novel can’t be thought into existence, it has to be written. The hands are always wiser than the head.”

*Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin‘s debut novel Fever Dream was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and has received a ton of rightly deserved attention. I interviewed her for Full Stop where we spoke about the novel living inside the reader, politics, and her thoughts on translation. “[I]t is curious how translation methods can change from one country to another. Germans, for example, they are so analytic, so exhaustive. I met three times for at least two hours with my translator for the last book.”

*Lastly, I reviewed Belgian author Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s 1937 novella La Femme de Gilles for 3:AM Magazine. This was reissued by Melville House as part of their Never Sink series, and in the review I consider, among other things, why now for this particular work. “[W]hy, we might ask, is this book receiving attention now? Is Bourdouxhe’s tale important to recover because this is a woman writing about a woman? Does it not complicate the female experience to have women represented variously?”

For more, many more, recommendations of who to read and what else is going on this month, also check out Susan Bernofsky’s excellent site Translationista.

helle helle
Helle Helle


#Gone Fishing

Well, writing. More accurately, revising, but that includes writing. And also fishing, in a way, though gardening analogies have always come more readily to me for the creative process. Perhaps that’s because I put my hands in dirt waaaaay more than I ever drop bait in water.

However I envision it, next week I’m Kingston bound for a few days with the manuscript. I’m printing that baby out, getting the three hole punch for ring binding, and bringing a pen to take notes on actual pages. I’ll be doing this at the Kingston Writers Studio Retreat, a new venture by writers Sari Botton and Jen Doll. There will be time to write, hike, talk shop, read from our writing, and listen to a talk on Mercury, the planet, not the element. Astrology rather than astronomy, but I’m down for that.

There’s to be a public performance on Saturday, July 15 at 6 PM. There’s a FB event, but here are some details. Come if you’re in the area!

Writers Reading: Summer Camp
Hosted by Kingston Writers’ Studio
Saturday, July 15 at 6 PM – 8 PM

Keegan Ales
20 Saint James St, Kingston, New York 12401

writers reading

It’s hot.

The rain is dripping from the gutters from the fourth rumblestorm today because it’s thick as soup out there and clashing fronts are surging and bursting in the sky. A small fan is pointed at my face. I’ve got my foot up on the computer tower. Next to me is THE CITY ALWAYS WINS by Omar Robert Hamilton and my reading specs balanced on top, waiting for me to finish. I’ll be interviewing him shortly for Full Stop but meantime spending my days under the influence of the urgency of his cadence. What could be more important a topic for literature than revolution? How do we spark a movement? Direct the chaos? How do we stay cool under fire? I don’t know, but pull up a chair and let’s find out.


RIP Denis Johnson

White, White Collars

We work in this building and we are hideous
in the fluorescent light, you know our clothes
woke up this morning and swallowed us like jewels
and ride up and down the elevators, filled with us,
turning and returning like the spray of light that goes
around dance-halls among the dancing fools.
My office smells like a theory, but here one weeps
to see the goodness of the world laid bare
and rising with the government on its lips,
the alphabet congealing in the air
around our heads. But in my belly’s flames
someone is dancing, calling me by many names
that are secret and filled with light and rise
and break, and I see my previous lives.

Denis Johnson, 1949 – 2017