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Last week, we had our first probably-twister since coming to live in beautiful Cullowhee; in the mountains, it’s hard for a tornado to get up a good whirl, and by and large our weather is so temperate we’re ashamed to complain about it.  (I also felled my first tree,

Word List

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For all of my adult life I’ve kept a list of words.  Each time that I come across an unfamiliar word in my reading, I try to dutifully look it up in the dictionary and copy down its definition.  There have been busy weeks when I’ve let it slide

One Day at a Time: Why I Reread “Helping”

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  Robert Stone’s story, “Helping,” is told (mostly) from the point of view of Elliot. He’s a Vietnam vet and a recovering alcoholic social worker married to Grace, a lawyer who works for child protective services. Clearly these two share an occupational dedication to helping others. They also invest,

Second Person

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Like many another writer doesn’t precisely work in creative writing, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching composition…so let’s just start with a shout-out to all the contingent labor teaching composition on a piecework basis, year in and decade out, summer and winter, usually for under $30,000 a year,

40th Anniversary Interview with DeWitt Henry

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In honor of our 40th anniversary, the guest editor of our commemorative Summer 2011 issue, DeWitt Henry, answered a few questions about the past, present, and future of our beloved literary magazine. To read more about the 4oth anniversary and upcoming events, read the partner to this interview post,


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Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reworking my manuscript, ordering and reordering, adding and removing poems, trying to shape it into something that’s more than just a coherent collection.  I want my book to feel like a particular kind of experience, one that develops unexpectedly as it

Jean Rhys and Wide Sargasso Sea

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Widely read in English department post-colonial courses, Wide Sargasso Sea imagines the life of “the madwoman in the attic” of Jane Eyre and suggests the background of her madness. The book is divided into three parts, narrated by Antoinette Cosway (who becomes Bertha Mason) and Rochester. But the book

Compost Season

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It’s that time again.  My university’s semester has ended, and while this does not, alas, mean that I’ve logged any hammock time, nor that all my interns for August are placed, nor yet that a certain grisly assessment report is approved by all relevant parties…it does mean opening the

Culinary Art

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The shapely tesserae of a well-chopped onion.  Butter and flour foaming into roux.  The beauty of texture, the formal grace: the rough seed husk and the slippery seed.  Precision in small things.  The hours spent simmering and adjusting, simmering and stirring till the earth is in it.  Knifecraft; the

“In a Pig’s Eye:” Why I Reread “Rock Springs”

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By the time I first read “Rock Springs” by Richard Ford, I had already crossed the country seven times by car, four of them through the eponymous town. One of these times my friend and I were on a road trip just for the sake of it. Or for