art Archive

Mary Gordon’s Spending: A Different Breed of Fantasy Lit

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Several years back, I read a book that was unlike nearly any other I’d read before in one striking way: nothing particularly bad happened in it. The protagonist experienced minor internal struggles and dilemmas, but basically, everything came up roses. This felt like a major departure from Great Literature

2 Become 1: An Envious Look at Collaboration

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Recently I was looking at some art in a friend’s apartment when she and her husband shared with me their tradition of making a painting each year on their anniversary. One begins on the canvas and the other finishes. Neither of them is a painter by profession—she’s a poet,

On Questioning Narrative Sequence

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At the Contemporary Museum of Art in Montreal, Ragnar Kjartansson’s “The Visitors” plays on nine screens in a dark theater. Each screen features a single musician set to the backdrop of a room in a chateau, which is in disrepair: one woman in a pale lace dress plays cello

The Anti-Ekphrastic: Art Inspired By Text

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Writers often respond to visual art, a form known as Ekphrastic prose or poetry, and most famously as John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” But what happens when the form is inverted? The anti-ekphrastic takes many forms: The Futurists were the first to create sound poetry, or the

On and Of the Page: The Life–Art Collapse

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A few years ago at a conference, I read a section from my long poem “Sublimation” in which the speaker describes a miscarriage that, in its vicious pain and effusions, wakes her up in the middle of the night. After the reading, as I was mingling my way toward

Ruefle, Hokusai, and the American View of Asia

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Katsushika Hokusai, contemporary of Goya and Turner and Ingres, artistic godfather of Monet and Van Gogh, was recently the subject of an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston. He’s been on my mind ever since. Most of us know Hokusai’s artwork from the image above,

Round-Down: Young or Old, Why Do We Write?

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One essential question rises out of the hullabaloo of conflicting opinions broadcast in Cynthia Ozick’s philosophical essay in the New York Times on old vs. new writers and The New Republic’s Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s prickly response: Why do we write? Both essays are well written, thoughtful, and make excellent

Round-Down: The Black and White Business of Confronting Racism in Literature

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Like most Americans, I’ve been stunned the last few months by the verdicts in Ferguson and New York. Tens of thousands of protestors, black, white and brown, have taken to the streets and to social media to voice their protest and outrage at the implicit message received from these

The Ploughshares Round-Down: Stop Chasing “Childlike Creativity”

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Earlier this month I got to spend a week leading creative writing workshops with children in the foster system, some of them as young as six-years-old. And while many of you work with six-year-olds all the time, I usually teach college students or teenagers in jail. This was challenging, hilarious, and loud. My friends

Seeing Is Believing

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We had a sixteen-hour layover in Madrid en route to South Africa, and there were three things I wanted to do before we left: walk around the Plaza Mayor, eat jamón ibérico, and visit the Museo Reina Sofia. The first two were checked off fairly quickly, as we followed