Ostracon by Alex Rose, originally published in Ploughshares‘ Fall 2008 issue, was accepted for publication in Best American Short Stories 2009. Edited by Alice Sebold and Heidi Pitlor (a former Ploughshares intern and author), the volume contains stories that are widely regarded to be the most outstanding of that year. In a review originally published by the Wall Street Journal, Diane Scharper cites Rose’s story as surpassing the others.
An excerpt from the review:
Perhaps the best of the “Best” is Alex Rose’s “Ostracon,” a story that reflects what Edward O’Brien, the originator of this anthology series in 1926, called “the artist’s power of compelling imaginative persuasion.” Inspired by his grandmother’s life, Mr. Rose tells the story of an old woman, Katya, who misplaces her glasses — a seemingly prosaic domestic drama, until we realize that Katya has Alzheimer’s. The story is graced with lovely, understated moments — “The muted scent of frost and peat leaks into the living room from the thawing backyard.”
But the power of the piece is in how closely Mr. Rose brings us to a moment of truth — a house where grandchildren are coming for a Seder but where the cutlery lies unwashed in a kitchen drawer, where the checkbook is in disarray — that captures the pathos of old age.
Alex Rose is a founding editor of Hotel St. George Press in Brooklyn. He has written for The New York Times, Fantasy Magazine, The Reading Room, North American Review, The Forward, and DIAGRAM. His debut story collection, The Musical Illusionist, was published in October of 2007 to critical acclaim.
The full review of Best American Short Stories 2009 can be found here.
Miho Nonaka is a bilingual writer from Tokyo. Her poems and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Iowa Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House, among others. She is an assistant professor of English at Eastern Illinois University.
Nonaka’s poems, “The Leafy Sea-Dragon” and “Roommates,” were published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.
Excerpt from “The Leafy Sea-Dragon”:
shielded by bony plates darkening
at the edges, they grow skeptical
of all modes of eloquence—even
prayer. The leafy sea-dragon floats beyond
attention, exilian and winter-starved.
Excerpt from “Roommates”:
The minute we walked into one of the chichi bars
near Harvard, men were buying her drinks,
wanting to stroke a wisp of hair across her ear.
After the jump, Nonaka describes what inspired her to create her poems.
Sharona Ben-Tov Muir‘s most recent book is The Book of Telling: Tracing the Secrets of My Father’s Lives,
from Random House. She has received the National Endowment for the Arts
Fellowship, the Hodder Fellowship, and other awards. Her work has
appeared in Stand, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, etc.
Muir’s poems, “After the Persian” and “Citadel,” were published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.
Excerpt from “After the Persian”:
And in the bird’s prayer, the tree that blooms
incarnadine and evergreen, is our mother Eve
Excerpt from “Citadel”:
Not one stone is left on another, and not one day
Is left to rest on another, either,
But bad news kicks it underfoot and tramples it.
After the jump, Muir writes about the inspiration behind her poems.
Donald Hall (a two-time Ploughshares guest-editor) and Jim Shepard (who is in the process of guest-editing the upcoming Fall 2010 issue) are up for rent!
826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center for students ages 6-18, is renting nationally-acclaimed authors for a private evening with book clubs or small groups, by raising $1,000 to benefit their free writing programs. Tom Perrotta and Julia Glass are also putting themselves on the market to benefit 826.
826 is a national literacy program, with chapters in San Francisco, New York City, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Its mission is based on the understanding that great leaps
in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong
writing skills are fundamental to future success. Each 826 chapter
provides drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops, and
in-schools programs–all free of charge. 826 Valencia (San Francisco) was founded in 2002 by Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida, and educator Nínive Clements Calegari.
For more information about the Rent An Author Program, visit 826 Boston’s website. Or, visit the website of the chapter nearest you to see how you can get involved!
As both a poet and a songwriter, I’m constantly journeying between two distinct ways of making art out of words.
Working simultaneously in multiple disciplines has its challenges, but for me, poetry and songwriting are inextricably linked, and they feed each other. I work on poems backstage, and write songs at poetry residencies; I like to invite poets to read at rock shows or house concerts I set up. Both songs and poems, after all, are born from the same mysterious galaxy (blood), and then completed through craft and revision (sweat and tears).
Still, I experience the act of working with words quite differently in the two forms. By the way, I’m talking here about poems that live primarily on the page, not spoken word.
Two poems originally published in Ploughshares are now available online. Tim Nolan‘s “At The Coral Concert” was originally published in the Winter 2007-2008 issue and was chosen to be in Ted Kooser’s column American Life in Poetry last month. Elizabeth Scanlon‘s poem “Disgust” appears at Poetry Daily and was originally published in the Winter 2009-2010 issue.
Tim Nolan lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three kids and works as a lawyer. His poems have appeared in The Nation, Ploughshares, Poetry East,
and other publications. Garrison Keillor regularly reads his poems on The Writer’s Almanac. His first book of poetry, The Sound of It,
was published by New Rivers Press in 2008 and is a finalist in poetry for the Minnesota Book Award.
Elizabeth Scanlon is an editor of The American Poetry Review
. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Ploughshares, Colorado Review
, and Verse Daily
. She lives in Philadelphia.
Rebecca Makkai‘s fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, in journals including New England Review and Threepenny Review, and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. She lives near Chicago with her husband and daughter.
Makkai’s story, “Painted Ocean, Painted Ship,” was published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.
Excerpt from “Painted Ocean, Painted Ship”:
What she hadn’t been able to describe really to anyone about that day in Tumby Bay was the sublimity, the blinding beauty of that bird as it flew, and as it lay where it fell. She could bring back in an instant that moment of white light rising beyond the leaves, her hand shaking against the gun.
After the jump, Makkai writes about the inspiration behind her story.
Mark Halliday teaches at Ohio University. His fifth book of poems, Keep This Forever, was published in 2008 by Tupelo Press.
Halliday’s poems, “South Street, October,” “No Vacation for Maigret,” and “A Gender Theory,” were published in the Winter 2009-10 issue of Ploughshares, guest-edited by Tony Hoagland. View the issue here.
Excerpt from “A Gender Theory”:
Women are right:
There must be meaning;
and the meaning will die.
Excerpt from “No Vacation for Maigret”:
Fifty years ago my mother’s hands held this detective novel.
She knew the world included secret passions, vile schemes, threats.
Who killed Lili Godreau? The question should not be left unanswered!
Excerpt from “South Street, October”:
Percy Sledge: You were clueless in 1966 about girls,
and my voice comes now to suggest
that the way you were in 1966 was symptomatic
of a wider, pervasive cluelessness.
After the jump, Halliday writes about what inspired him to write these poems.
Henry Hart‘s most recent poetry book is Background Radiation (Salt, 2007). He has also published critical studies of Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, and Geoffrey Hill. His biography, James Dickey: The World as a Lie (Picador 2000), was a runner-up for a Southern Book Critics’ Circle Award.
Hart’s poem, “Riding the SPCA’s Llama in the Christmas Parade,” was published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest-edited by Tony Hoagland. View the issue here.
Excerpt from “Riding the SPCA’s Llama in the Christmas Parade”:
On black ice glistening by a locked-up bank,
an SPCA volunteer guided me to the llama
whipped and starved by its dead owner.
When police cars uncoiled red razor wire from sirens
and the majorette’s baton froze in midair,
the llama’s heart drummed a tattoo on my thighs.
After the jump, Hart writes about the inspiration behind his poem.
Watch Ploughshares Advisory Editor and former United States Poet Laureate Donald Hall read his poetry at the University of Virginia.