Author Archive

Please Come Flying

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“Please come flying,” Elizabeth Bishop pleads with Marianne Moore, in her poem "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore" (1955), “above the accidents, above the malignant movies, / the taxicabs and injustices at large.” This will—passed between two poets and friends—to alight from the predictable rhythms of crimes made regular, enmediated,

Being An Irish Story

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“As” is a love poem, after all. It’s a sidelong devotion—all wordplay and switchbacks. Its essence is decocted from its original artifacts, lost and now found, a reverse transit of its multiple parasitic meanings. It feels something like being in the archives, in a family, in love.

Our Lady of Intercession

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It’s one thing to effect permeable borders, quite another to insist on violable bodies to constitute the border’s apertures.

Pensando en Puerto Rico

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Marigloria Palma renders the spectrality of her island—the willful legal, economic, and social (which is all to say: racist) invisibilities that have intentioned to create humanitarian crisis and impending exodus in the hurricane’s wake. “We’re dying here. We truly are dying here.”

Notes on Longing

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Longing—the menace of love, or the loss of it—is not so unlike Adrienne Rich’s description of reading a poem: “prismatic meanings lit by each others’ light.” It’s the hope that someone activates in us something that has been a mystery even to ourselves.

In Remembrance of Brian Doyle

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When the prolific author Brian Doyle passed away last month, American Letters lost not only a talented writer in Doyle, but also a waning parochial worldview.

There Is No “Appropriation Prize”

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There are a couple of things I try to emphasize when I teach writing workshops. One: writing is not an innate talent that some people are born with and others are not. Two: writing is not a thing to be won.

The Weather We’re Having

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The calamity of weather disaster in literature offers more overt indications of those who are vulnerable and exposed. From Shakespeare’s encroaching storms to Richard Wright’s floods, from Zora Neale Hurston’s hurricane to Haruki Murakami’s quakes, we learn that we have to keep our eyes on the skies and our

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE Revisited

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By way of introduction at readings, I often start with a poem about my hometown. “For those of you who don’t know me,” I say, “I’m from Schenectady, New York, and I think it is the greatest small city in the world.” I wait a beat before the punchline:

Going to Battle: Sojourner Truth and the United States Immigration Ban

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When news of the executive order on immigration broke last week, I was looking at a photograph of Sojourner Truth. The picture had been open on my desk for days—an object of an essay I’m writing—and its content struck a particular and heartrending chord.