Going to AWP in Texas. Gonna talk about novels, how they come to be out of shorter things sometimes, how my current came out of nowhere, is out there somewhere, nearly ready for you to read. How now when I write I carry the body memory of that novel’s universe in me and everything that comes after feels like a phantom limb. Like a shark ate my homework. San Antonio, 2020.
Thanks to the amazing Donald Breckenridge, I’ve got an excerpt of my current novel in progress (tho truth be told I am SO READY to have this baby out in the world, I’ve been in the third trimester with it for more than three months, just saying) up at the equally amazing publication The Brooklyn Rail. I think you should read it. What’s stopping you, really. It’s in hard copy but also free online right here.
From the description of the book I gave them: WHAT WOULD EMMA GOLDMAN DO? is an autobiographical novel set in late capitalism and climate crisis. The lead character considers her life and politics in comparison with historical and contemporary figures, notably anarchist Emma Goldman, in an effort to determine what would be radical enough to meet the moment. She is on a job search and lives with her romantic partner in a mortgaged house. Self-doubt and online petitions ensue.
What are you waiting for? Click away, my friends. Click away. Tell ’em Emma sent you.
I’ll be reading from the current manuscript at KGB Bar in the East Village. The Red Room, of course. Red as in commie red, I imagine. Anyway, it’s in the Same Page reading series, which looks like fun. If you’re NYC area or going to be in town, comes say hi. Listen to us read. Mingle. There will be a flyer at some point, but until then there’s this:
I haven’t been writing poems because I’ve been working on a novel, but I got asked to take part in a collaborative project for the University of Rochester’s Decarceration Research Initiative. So I made one. The entire project was interdisciplinary, with bits of text on the photos that were the triggers for the work printed on flags hung up in the windows of downtown Rochester, and other performative components.
The premise of the creative component was to use photos of the sky taken within close proximity to a number of correctional facilities in Western New York as prompts. The resultant art hopes to focus attention on the rampant carceral state the US has become. The project culminated in a public symposium, with panels convened on supporting those who’ve been incarcerated upon release and envisioning a Rochester without prisons.
I want to thank Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge for inviting me to take part and the good work she is doing with the RDRI. Here is a link to the home page of the website for the project. Below is the photo I used as prompt, taken of the sky above Auburn Correctional Facility. My poem is title EYE IN THE SKY.
A not-for-profit art endeavor asked me a few questions about writing, praise, and my definition of success. Hooboy did I want to avoid those questions! But I didn’t. This isn’t a treatise or in-depth manifesto, but I do give it a shot. Also, some words on writing and how to stick with it. Have a look! Plus, they use a photo of a mountain! In lieu of being able to give you theirs, here’s this.
I’m on a panel, so I’ll be there if the creek don’t rise. For those who don’t know, AWP is basically a ginormous trade show for writers. This year it’s in Portland, Oregon. If you’re going, come to this:
Listening To The Art: Committing To Your Book No Matter How Long It Takes
[something I know a little something about]
B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1
Saturday, March 30, 2019
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.” Sounds good in theory, but it’s harder to do when the manuscript is taking months or years to finish. How can a writer see a project through to its full realization when it seems like the rest of the world is moving at the speed of the Internet? Five published writers talk about writing their books and the challenges and rewards of listening to the art.
I’m one of those five writers. The others include: Susan Ito, Rafia Zakaria, Laura Sims, and LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs.
This book arrived unbidden at my doorstep on a day I heard news I did not want to hear about my beloved partner Jon Lathrop. As I am a writer and sometime book reviewer, author interviewer, essayist, books sometimes show up as enticements for my attention. I’m not a hugely high profile book writer, but still, some do come.
But why this book? Why that day? I was expecting Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra (trans. Achy Obejas), a book I’d expressed specific interest in, and it did come a few weeks later. My plans had been to interview her for Full Stop. As that book isn’t due out until later in the year, thankfully, I have some time. I’m on holiday, you see. One that death has caused.
I can tell you that I read Marci Vogel’s book. I can tell you that it did for me what the nonfiction works on suicide and surviving the loss of a loved one couldn’t. I will read Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Tale. I have read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I want to tell you what Vogel’s novella managed that the non-literary works didn’t, but I’m on holiday. Maybe I’ll get there before its pub date. I don’t know. I’ve got my own novel to return to, and I’ve no idea how or when to do that. Death doesn’t end, but holidays do.
That’s all I got for now.
Friends have stepped up to support me at this time in my life, and maybe you would like to, too. All the details are here: https://www.gofundme.com/supportforcara.
Participants from the Writing About Politics workshops I led at Grub Street will read work from the class – and you should come! Not kidding this work was so moving, inspiring, depressing, funny, and inventive. We laughed, we cried, we wrote. If you are in the area, do yourself a favor and check out this cool cafe while supporting these amazing writers:
Anna Lee Hirschi
Cara Benson – Instructor
Come out to hear creative responses to the current political climate! Short works inspired by Grace Paley, Omar Robert Hamilton, Claudia Rankine, and others. Bring your own 2 minute piece, and we’ll have an open read after. Here’s the event page.
This will be super short because I’m on deadlines, but I’ve got two workshops coming up the you can join in on – and I hope you do! Also, take a listen/look at the video at the bottom of this post and tell me if it doesn’t make you feel good. As with much music, but certainly with this one, I suggest playing it loud. “Do you really think I care what you eat or what you wear?” I don’t. I really and truly don’t. What I do care about is joining. Writing. Living. Loving. Changing that which harms us. The planet. Each other.
Join me in these two workshops!
Writing About Politics at Grub Street in Boston on Sat, May 5.
Creative Writing at East Greenbush (NY) Public Library on Sat, May 12.
Everybody join together….