Author Archive

Nature and the Mind in Cynthia Ozick’s “The Pagan Rabbi”

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In “The Pagan Rabbi,” nature is not a fixed, objective entity, but an animated, unpredictable, menacing presence. Set in the shadow of World War II, the story follows one scholar’s increasingly surreal perception of the natural world.

Disaster, Proximity, and Poetry

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News images of natural disaster can be paradoxically surreal, especially if the disaster’s happening in a place you know and love, but have left. How might poets capture complicated interactions between fire and familiarity, fire and violence, distance, and detachment from disaster?

Cyclicality and Distance in Two Stories by Breece D’J Pancake

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Breece D’J Pancake’s stories often begin in the intersection of the highly permanent and the temporary, and unfurl in moments of instability.

Defiant Witches & Deceitful Echoes: Reading Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry

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Poetry was never Katherine Anne Porter’s central pursuit: as Darlene Harbour Unrue notes in her introduction to Katherine Anne Porter’s Poetry, Porter was “never a first-rate poet, by her own admission.” But the pieces within are hypnotic—Porter’s distinctive and authoritative speakers conjure vast worlds in small spaces.

Collectors in the Wilderness

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Walking in wilderness is sometimes marketed as a clarifying experience—walk to clear your head, or push your limits, or find peace. I’ve always found it to be an exercise in entertaining contradictory thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

The Importance of Uselessness: Language and Nature in the Poems of A. R. Ammons

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The poems of A. R. Ammons focus on easily overlooked, easily dismissed elements of the natural world. Ammons observes the inevitability of time both on a microscopic and global level: how time affects everything from maggots to “drift-logs.”

The Roving Poets of Black Mountain College

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Black Mountain College sprung up in the 1930s, near Asheville, North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a short-lived school born in a time of crisis.

Andrei Codrescu’s New Orleans

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For old-school southern writers, it seems, having roots in the South—being born there—is a key reason they’re classified as “southern writers.” Thinking of contemporary writers like Codrescu as “southern” is more complex. Though often intensely regional, movement is a central concern of his essays and poems.

Need and Greed in Fields and Mansions

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Driving through southern fields makes visible one of the persistent paradoxes of American production: the coexistence of excess and need. Jean Toomer, writing in 1923, illustrates the disconnect between agricultural abundance and personal lack in his poem “Harvest Song.”

Ghosts on Cloudless Days

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Whereas spring further north leaps cleanly from receding snow and bare branches, southern spring is brief and muddled with the semi-cold winter that precedes it and the too-hot summer that follows. Springtime is a liminal space where the past seeps into the present.