I Love the ’80s! Ploughshares Guest Editors Past

We asked fans of our journal (on Facebook and Twitter) who they thought would make great guest editors of the future. Among the many great answers, we stumbled across a few names who have already made great contributions to Ploughshares. This got us thinking about the many names you’ll recognize who have gotten us where we are today.

Our time traveling begins with guest editors from the eighties.

heaney_cropped.jpg1. SEAMUS HEANEY

Spring 1980 (Vol 6, No 1), Transatlantic poetry and prose.

Spring 1984 (Vol 10, No 1), poetry.

Back then: Head of English at Carysfort College in Dublin; moved to Harvard in 1981. Had published six volumes of poetry and one of prose, most recently Selected Poems: 1965-1975.

Since Ploughshares: Won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Latest volume of poetry, District & Circle, published in 2006; also highly regarded in the field of translations.

From his Introduction (Spring 1984):

The last time I edited Ploughshares I knew all the contributors personally and solicited work from them. This time, the opposite is almost literally true: I deliberately set myself the task of confronting what came unsolicited to the magazine and was more on the lookout for work that promised than for names that clicked.

carver2_cropped.jpg2. RAYMOND CARVER

Winter 1983 (Vol 9, No 4), fiction.

Back then: Leading American writer of minimalist short fiction. Taught at Syracuse University alongside future wife Tess Gallagher (also a Ploughshares guest editor).
Since Ploughshares: Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters just after his death in 1988. Some unedited versions of his stories were published in the UK in 2009 as Beginners.

For more: Read Stephen King’s 2009 review of his biography and Collected Stories.

More flashbacks after the jump!

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Alicia Jo Rabins, Winter 2009-10 Contributor

AJRstairs(2).jpgAlicia Jo Rabins, Brooklyn-based poet and musician, received her MFA from Warren Wilson. Her poems have appeared in the Boston Review, 6 x 6, and Horse Poems (Knopf). As a musician she tours internationally; her art-pop song cycle about Biblical women, Girls in Trouble, was released in October 2009. (Check out her interview at Largehearted Boy.)

Rabins’ poems “How You Came to Be” and “Writing About Writing About Writing” were published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. (Hoagland closed his February 12 visit to Emerson College by reading “How You Came to Be.”) View the Winter 2009-10 issue.

An excerpt from “Writing About Writing About Writing”:

A mermaid crawls out of my mouth to meet you in this poem,
my teacher who calls me teacher and therefore is my teacher,
who shows me how to knot a net to make the moon rise
during night watch on calm seas while the other sailors sleep.

After the jump, Rabins shares how this poem came to be.

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First Video of Tony Hoagland’s Reading at Emerson

The first footage of Tony Hoagland’s talk on February 12 is here! Thanks to Emerson College for capturing and posting clips from the Q+A. Hoagland opened by sharing the three qualities he enjoys most in poems:

Mobility and intensity and probably voice. It’s that quickness, that changing of surface and changing of tone and shadow, and direction of the mind, that is the quality I think I value most in poems. That convinces the reader that the poem is an advocate, that somebody real made it.

Watch the video below for more of Hoagland’s answers, including his curiosity about what really constitutes poetry. And visit our YouTube page for links to more of our favorite Tony Hoagland videos.

Nic Pizzolatto, Winter 2009-10 Contributor

wNic02.JPGNic Pizzolatto‘s fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, The Oxford American, The Missouri Review, Best American Mystery Stories, and several other publications. He is the author of the story collection Between Here and the Yellow Sea (2006), and his first novel, Galveston, will be published by Scribner in May 2010.

Pizzolatto’s story, “Graves of Light,” was published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.

Excerpt from “Graves of Light”:

His heart seized. It was like he’s known already what was going to happen. Like he knew it the moment he woke that morningthat all day, he realized, this thing he knew had skirted the periphery of his awareness. Like all day he’d been trying to deny what he woke up knowing.

Which is that his wife had vanished off the face of the earth.

After the jump, Pizzolatto examines how emptiness compelled him to write, as well as valuable advice from Tony Hoagland.

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Rebecca Makkai Selected for Best American Short Stories 2010

photo - Makkai.jpgFirst published in Ploughshares, Rebecca Makkai‘s story “Painted Ocean, Painted Ship” has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories 2010 by editor Richard Russo. The story was originally selected by Tony Hoagland for the Winter 2009-10 issue of Ploughshares. Click here to read “Painted Ocean, Painted Ship” online.

This marks Makkai’s third inclusion in three years in the Best American Short Stories series, following the publication of her stories “The Briefcase” (2009, ed. Alice Sebold) and “The Worst You Ever Feel” (2008, ed. Salman Rushdie). Both are available to read at her website.

Founded by Edward J. O’Brien in 1915, The Best American Short Stories has gathered a rich tradition of literary voices for nearly a century. Each volume’s editor culls around twenty stories from the year’s best fiction and nonfiction. (We’ve heard Makkai will join the likes of Joshua Ferris in the 2010 BASS.)

Heidi Pitlor, in her fourth year as series editor for The Best American Short Stories, is a Ploughshares author herself. Her fiction appeared in the Winter 2000-01 issue of Ploughshares, edited by Sherman Alexie. Pitlor received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and worked as a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin. Her first novel, The Birthdays, was published in 2006 by W.W. Norton.

In a recent interview with the Barnes & Noble Review, Richard Russo spoke highly of the periodicals he read for Best American Short Stories. “It’s been thrilling indeed to submerge myself in the kinds of magazines where talented younger writers are finding their first significant successes,” he said. In 2009, Russo published his seventh novel, That Old Cape Magic, praised by The Washington Post as “a dyspeptic romantic comedy.” He earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2002 for his novel Empire Falls.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish its newest edition of The Best American Short Stories 2010 in October 2010.

Pushcart Prize Nominees for 2011

9781888889543.jpgWe just read the list of our contributors nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Official winners are announced in May. If selected, their work will be published in Volume XXXV of The Pushcart Prize: The Best of the Small Presses, which comes out in November.

Seems like a fair time to champion our wonderful authors, many of whom in past years have been chosen for the Pushcart. Cliff Garstang at Perpetual Folly has tallied Pushcarts for fiction since 2001. As of now, Ploughshares still holds the lead among literary magazines for prizes and special mentions earned.

Here are the 2011 nominees, published first in our journal:

WINTER 2008-09
(ed. Jean Valentine)

Reginald Dwayne Betts, “Ghazal”

Rebecca Morgan Frank, “Childless”

Ross Gay, “The Lion and the Gazelle”

Shara Lessley, “Field Song for Archey Valley in Her Mother’s Mother-Tongue”

SPRING 2009 (ed. Eleanor Wilner)


Jess Row, “Lives of the Saints”

Sasha Troyan, “Hidden Works”


Patrick Donnelly, “The Second Law”

Patricia Fargnoli, “Then”

Daisy Fried, “Kissinger at the Louvre (Three Drafts)”

Brigit Pegeen Kelly, “Rome”

Alicia Ostriker, “Demeter to Persephone”

Tim Seibles, “Allison Wolff”

Rebecca Seiferle, “Florescence on 4th Avenue” and “In Any Parking Lot”

Taije Silverman, “On Joy”

FALL 2009 (ed. Kathryn Harrison)


Jessamyn Hope, “Fig Leaf”

Laura Mullen, “Trust (Corps à corps)”

Fae Myenne Ng, “My Confusion Program, an Inheritance of Indecision”

Six Questions for Tony Hoagland

We’re still recovering from last week’s Q&A with Tony Hoagland here in Boston. Ploughshares poetry editor John Skoyles still had a few nagging questions, and Tony graciously agreed to an interview. Enjoy reading his thoughts on what he loves to read and teach, accompanied by images from his Q&A.

Hoagland QA 2.jpgPOETRY

1. Can you recall the first poem that had a forceful effect on you?

It was probably something by John Masefield or Carl Sandburg, or Kipling. But the first modern poetry that I met was an anthology in high school, which I remember with great clarity. It was called New Voices in American Poetry, edited by David Allan Evans, and my first introduction to a host of poets, from Mark Strand and Erica Jong to Dabney Stuart and Dave Smith. It had photographs, too, so for me it was like People magazine. I would look at the photo, read the poem, then look at the photo again. I was hooked.

2. You mentioned comic poets like Kenneth Koch in your talk at Emerson. What other poets in this vein do you enjoy?

James Tate, Charles Simic, Josephine Miles, David Kirby, Lynn Emanuel, Mary Ruefle, Laura Kasischke, Dean Young, Paul Muldoon, Marianne Moore, Tom Clark.

There is sly humor hidden in some of the most canonical places: the inner humorist in Auden, or Cummings and Stevens, or Ginsberg, Pound, Hafez, and Rumi. Tonal compression is intrinsically funny, I think, so someone like Grace Paley or even Louise Glück, thought of as so serious, can be hilarious.

More from Tony Hoagland on teaching and his new book after the jump.

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David Stuart MacLean’s Memory Loss on This American Life

399_lg.jpg“On October 13, 2002, I woke up in a train station in Secunderabad, India, with no passport and no idea who I was or why I was in India.”

David Stuart MacLean
appeared recently on the radio podcast of This American Life, Episode 399 (“Contents Unknown”). He read an adapted version of “The Answer to the Riddle Is Me,” first published here in Ploughshares (Winter 2009-10).

The story continues:

I lost my memory. I lost it along with Fred Flintstone, Marge Simpson, Jack Bauer’s wife in the first season of 24, Saleem Sinai in the late-middle sections of Midnight’s Children, Guy Pearce in Memento, Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, Jason Bourne, and scores of sitcom characters who were bonked on the head, only to regain everything with another sizeable bonk.

Listen to the full audio at This American Life–MacLean’s reading begins at 36:00. And of course, be sure to read the full story in Ploughshares.

MacLean is currently writing a memoir about memory loss, from which this essay is excerpted. He holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature from the University of Houston, and co-directs the popular Poison Pen Reading Series in Houston.

Lucia Perillo, Winter 2009-10 Contributor

Perillo.jpgLucia Perillo’s fifth book of poems, Inseminating the Elephant, was published in 2009 by Copper Canyon, and her book of essays, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing, is now out in paperback from Trinity University Press. Her last book of poems, Luck Is Luck, was a finalist for the L.A. Times prize and won the Kingsley-Tufts award from Claremont University.

Perillo’s poem, “The Wolves of Illinois,” was published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares, guest edited by Tony Hoagland. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.

Excerpt from “The Wolves of Illinois”:

Plus what about the man’s pity for the white girl with coyote in her mouth

coyote in two syllables, the rancher’s pronunciation–

when wolf is stronger. I wondered whether he was saving face before his family when he said, “No, those are wolves”

After the jump, Perillo talks about taking on the impossible.

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Cherry Trees Ought to Be You: “Roses Are Read” Contest Winner


Over the past ten days, 150 people posted their favorite literary quotes on the nature of love to Facebook and Twitter. Thanks so much to everyone who participated in our “Roses Are Read” contest. What breadth of entries: from Emily Bronte to Arthur Conan Doyle; Edna St. Vincent Millay to Dr. Seuss!
For our winning entry, we sought something timeless yet fresh. A succinct phrase that opened up worlds of imagery. Many submitted the words of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, but one passage stuck out to us as at once simple, sensual, and surprising. Congratulations to our winner, Kelly Chrystal, for posting the final two lines of Neruda’s Poema XIV, “Juegas todos los días” (“Every Day You Play”), from Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair:

Quiero hacer contigo
lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos.

(I want
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.)

Incidentally, nice way of meshing Valentine’s Day with today’s holiday, Washington’s Birthday. You can read Neruda’s whole poem here in Spanish and translated into English.
We hope you enjoy your free issues of Ploughshares, Kelly, and we’re glad to see so many fans of our journal out there. Honorable mentions after the jump!

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