James Baldwin Archive

A Recommendation

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Just west of Houston, before you reach Texas’ most remarkable stretch of nothing, there’s a crumbling Latin diner I take my kid brother on Fridays. It is refreshingly un-Yelpable. The family’s owned it forever. They’re almost native in their darkness, and when I order two beers, they’ve pitched us

Letter to myself: On fatherhood and poems

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A published letter is a strange act. It’s like a whisper made into a loudspeaker. It’s a secret note the town’s tacked onto the city hall bulletin board after the carrier pigeon nosedived into the public square. It’s intimacy externalized. Some letters seem to speak to no one at

(Writing) Exercise: Self-compassion

I’m talking here of memory’s difficulty. Difficult not in the way I have to wrack my weak brain to remember what happened, but in the way I’m forced to face that time I let my brother, bleeding from the mouth, run the mile home alone. Difficult in the way

Back to School Special: Thoughtful Imitation

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I didn’t study creative writing as an undergraduate; it wasn’t an option. When I enrolled in the MFA program at University of Washington, what I craved more than workshop (which I’d experienced a few times in continuing education settings) was the elusive “craft” class: reading analytically not to make

The Ploughshares Round-Down: The Calvary Film and the Purpose of Art

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“[T]he barrier between one’s self and one’s knowledge of oneself is high indeed. There are so many things we would rather not know! — James Baldwin John Michael McDonagh’s film Calvary begins with priest Father James (played by Brendan Gleeson) preparing to hear an unseen confessor. The confessor reveals that as

Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems

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Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems James Baldwin Beacon Press, April 2014 120 pages $16.00 Buy: book | ebook The cover of Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems features blurbs by none other than Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, telling the world to read this book. I’ll be honest; I feel like I

Dancing About Architecture

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“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” said Elvis Costello once, probably quoting someone else. And yet, and yet… It is apparently a strong urge to write about (or somehow with) music. The list of creative writing that involves music in some way is long, and grows longer every

Ploughshares Fantasy Blog Draft Finals: The Holden Caulbabies vs What the Chuckin’ Buk?!

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It’s been a long, tortuous path from the inception of the Fantasy Blog competition to the finals, full of upsets and surprises—but here we are, left with two teams standing after the semifinals three weeks ago which brought surprises of its own. After a cross-country move, the commissioner was

From the Slush Pile: Don’t Fall Flat

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Alfred Hitchcock says, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”  That is absolutely true for the stories that are being passed on to editors. It is your job to tell the story but get rid of the boring bits. A reader wants to travel seamlessly from scene

Ploughshares Fantasy Blog Draft Round 2 – The Mighty Duck Palahniuks vs The Holden Caulbabies

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After a fevered start to the competition, with spirited fights from each side, the competition slowed this last week as Buckle Your Corn Belts and Vonnegut to the Chopper! tortoised their way through the match-up. The teams ended at a stalemate, and we were forced to implement a tiebreaker: