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

Writing About Politics

Can literary output have a role to play in our political future? Whether or not literature has any impact on politics, I do think we owe it to ourselves and to our readers to reckon with socio-political circumstances in our writing. The question then becomes: how to do this without losing ambiguity or artful nuance – some of the very qualities that make lit an attractive vehicle for addressing these concerns – and still possibly “take a stand”?

I’m so glad you asked!

This what I think about, ruminate on, and write-revise-read-revise-write toward nearly every day. It is the stuff of my current book-length manuscript and many of my short pieces. It is certainly something we worked on in the prison poetry class I taught for eight years. And, of course, there are so many compelling examples in the world of letters to draw on – shoulders to stand on. From all this I’ve devised a day long workshop that I’ll lead in Boston for Grub Street May 13. Here are the details:

Writing About Politics
Grub Street in Boston, MA
Saturday, May 13 — 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Are you feeling moved to grapple with the current moment in your writing? Are you concerned that if you tackle political topics in your work, the art will suffer? Whether you have been focusing on politics for some time or are new to considering it for your literary writing, this workshop can help you find interesting entry points for your work. We will read and discuss pertinent passages in a variety of literary genres and write in response. Some of the writers who will guide us include Claudia Rankine, Gloria Anzaldúa, Teju Cole, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Barbara Kingsolver, and others. You will come away with strategies for developing new or existing work as well as a number of new drafts. The exercises can be responded to in fiction, creative non-fiction, poem, essay, or hybrid form.

Writing About Politics Class Flyer
(Look how happy this makes me.)

I Will Stay Sober, But You Don’t Have To

There’s a new reading series at The Beer Diviner Taproom in Troy, NY on the last Sunday of every month. I am the guest presenter for March. The format involves a reading, discussion, and then the readers leads the audience in a writing exercise or two that is connected to her practice in some way. I’ll be reading a new story and possibly an excerpt from my book-length work in progress. Here is a link to the event page.

This will be a bit of a teaser for the next session of writing workshop I’m leading for The Arts Center of the Capital Region. That’s to start on Monday, April 3 and will run for eight weeks. It focuses on writing process in that we will be in it – a writing process. The works you create can give you short pieces, parts of longer works, and generally get you in the habit of reading and writing prolifically. I absolutely love these classes. UPDATE: This class is sold out. 

Here, details:

Reading & Workshop
The Beer Diviner
Sunday, March 26 at 2:30 PM
461 Broadway, Troy, New York 12180

Writing Creatively Workshop
The Arts Center
Mondays, April 3 – May 22

Here’s a cute graphic for the Divine Write event Emma at the Taproom whipped up. Thanks for asking me, Emma!


George Saunders on Writing

There is so much in this article I felt compelled to share without much comment save to say writers: read this.

“What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs. I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.”

My aim is not for a Hemingway effect, but you get the picture. Here’s to getting your Janes.

The full article is up at The Guardiansaunders-illustration

Illustration by Yann Kebbi for Review



NYC Reading Sunday Feb 19

A beautifully brief post to provide information on an upcoming reading. This weekend David Kirschenbaum and an amazing crew of writers is putting on the annual BoogFest of readings. I’ll be on the Sunday evening line-up at 6:15 PM reading from my current book in progress, HOW THE END WILL COME. Please come!


Sidewalk Cafe
94 Avenue A at 6th St., NYC
$5 suggested

5:30 p.m. T0ska (music)
5:45 p.m. Jay Besemer
6:00 p.m. Denize Lauture
6:15 p.m. Cara Benson
6:30 p.m. Diana Smith (music)
7:00 p.m. Nathaniel Siegel (play)
7:15 p.m. Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte, The Agony of Ingeborg Bachmann (play)
7:35 p.m. Buck Downs, Filthy Lucre (play)
7:50 p.m. Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
8:00 p.m. Jenny Perlin (film)
8:15 p.m Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted at 25