Mid-Week Break | Luis Alberto Urrea Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

Luis Alberto Urrea recounts an excerpt of his story “The Southside Raza Image Federation, Corps of Discovery,” from memory with no notes at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. The story appears in his 2015 collection The Water Museum.

 

urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of sixteen books. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Urrea’s awards include the Edgar Award, the Kiriyama Prize, the American Book Award, and the Lannan Literary Award, among others. His novel Into the Beautiful North was honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as a Big Read selection. More than fifty cities and colleges have used one of Urrea’s books as a “community read.” Urrea teaches at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available for free on iTunesU. Want to hear more? Visit the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Website.

NER Digital | Lauren Acampora

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

Clair de Lune | Lauren Acampora

Johan_Jongkind_-_Clair_de_lune_à_OverschieThese vibrant May mornings, the half-moon lingers low in the sky as if the night has forgotten to take it away. It’s pale and gentle behind a watery scrim, a sleek creature arching from the sea.

The moon, my father’s pale blue eyes during his last days. The lids wavered as he drifted in and out of morphine dreams, in and out of the wood-paneled room where we’d put the hospital bed, the dark paintings on the walls, the glow of the computer screen like something from another planet.

Through that computer, I played music for him. I believed that it could reach him whether he slept or woke—that it could occupy and calm him, wend through his consciousness with pattern and purpose, the things about life I felt unable to articulate myself. He would sleep, and I would sit with him, watching the drooping eyelids, the half-moons of blue drifting below.

He loved Chopin, but Debussy’s Clair De Lune was his favorite piece.

The third movement of Suite Bergamasque is arguably the most recognizable of Debussy’s work. It was inspired by Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name, with lines such as:

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres

With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
that sets the birds dreaming in the trees

Debussy’s musical rendering has a wandering, reluctant cadence that demands stillness, patience. The pause between notes is held just longer than expected, that additional moment containing a truth, an almost unbearable beauty that speaks of holding closely and letting go.

It’s as if the music is the moonlight—the sonic equivalent of that calm, wondering quiet.

It’s the moonlight on the streets of Venice in winter. My father, nineteen years old, AWOL from his post in Trieste in 1946, seeing the city for the first time. Walking the nearly deserted alleys in these days after the war, hearing only his own boot steps on the pavement.

It’s the peace of painting with my father in the basement, two bare light bulbs hanging over our heads. Breathing in the sweet, citrus smell of turpentine. Chiaro e scuro, he tells me. Make your darks dark and your lights light.

It’s the serenity amid the chaos in the lobby of the cancer hospital. A young man at a grand piano playing Clair de Lune beside a waterfall—a floor-to-ceiling slab of black granite with water rippling down its length, sheer and supple over the hard fact of mortality.

There is a flourish at one point in the piece, an ascension of notes like birds suddenly inspired toward flight, one after the other. Then, it’s back to the give-and-take of longing and resignation. Acceptance, and, finally, reverence.

After listening to Clair de Lune in that wood-paneled room, it has become an unending loop in my mind. But thinking of it now, I find that can’t remember the way it ends. The last notes escape me.

♦♦♦

Lauren Acampora is the author of The Wonder Garden, a collection of linked stories (Grove Atlantic, 2015). Her short fiction has appeared in New England Review, as well as Paris Review, Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, and elsewhere.

Translation from the French courtesy of Chris Routledge.

NER Digital is New England Review’s online project dedicated to original creative writing for the web. “Confluences” presents writers’ encounters with works of art such as books, plays, poems, films, paintings, sculptures, or buildings. To submit an essay to our series, please read our guidelines.

Midweek Break | Peter Ho Davies Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, NER Community

2006 smiling photoPeter Ho Davies reads his short story “What You Know” at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

“What You Know”

Peter Ho Davies is the author of the novel The Welsh Girl and the story collections The Ugliest House in the World and Equal Love. His work has appeared in Harpers, Atlantic Monthly, and Paris Review, among others, and his short fiction has been anthologized in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. In 2003 Granta magazine named him among its “Best of Young British Novelists,” and he was a 2008 recipient of the Pen/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story. Born in Britain to Welsh and Chinese parents, Davies now lives in the US. He teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Michigan.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit the Bread Loaf website.

NER Digital | Douglas J. Penick

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

TWO AMERICAN PORTRAITS

JOHN FREDERICK PETO

"Help Yourself," John Frederick PetoIt is one of the small paintings he makes for the summer tourists who visit the seaside, or who are drawn to the tent revival services where he plays the cornet. It is already hot and muggy. He is finishing a picture that shows a crumpled paper bag on its side, spilling out pastel taffy, red and white peppermint sticks, divinity fudge, golden caramel squares, hard fruit candy. They pour out on a surface of black polished wood. They seem to float above their reflection

As a boy, he often went with his father to a store owned by a kindly widow who always gave him a piece of candy. When she turned her back, when his father also couldn’t see, he’d steal another piece or two, shoving them quickly into his pocket. He felt ashamed almost immediately. He is still ashamed. He cannot understand why he did it and did it often.

He looks at the picture. He is sweaty. His back burns with pain, but he is pleased. The miniature haphazard world of sweets is bathed in a silky silver light like that of Vermeer’s View of Delft. It is a veiled, silent seaside light where things may be themselves, isolated in their own secrets.

CHARLES IVES

All around him was the night. Stars coursed silently in the depth of the sky. Below he could sense the dark fragrant cloud-forms of elms and maples. Scattered among them were a few windows still lit by sleepless watchers, readers nodding. Summer winds, scented with leaves and drying grass, moving across the stillness.

The dusty plank floor of the belfry creaked, just as it had when he stood there with his father long ago. The steeple below had a faint white glow. He remembered the excitement. The bands were arranged around the town, waiting for the sunrise. His father was tense and gleeful.

The sun rose, a shy pale red touched the treetops, the steeple was lit up, his father made the downbeat. Four bands in four parts of town began to play. A sudden brilliant gold brass, bright reed and rat-a-tat snare drum: not-quite-cacophony, brought all the atoms in the air to life.

2. It is in the night where, behind paler clouds, the ambient light of stars and moon appears and vanishes into a greater depth. It is from the depth and darkness that the subtle pulse emerges, a strengthening pulse that becomes a rhythm, deep and slow, subdividing into many rhythms, each beginning and sustained by many timbres, some thudding and almost inaudible, like the distant sea, some deep and round like iron being struck, or like the quick tapping of wood on stretched skin, a tree branch scraping a window pane, a man tapping his foot, thunder rumbling, a bell in the wind, an infinity of tempi like an infinity of colors and lights, all dwelling in the vast night and waiting to emerge, waiting but unhurried, ready to manifest into the brightness of day, pouring through the body’s veins as sound and bliss and elation and pain and heat. All the rhythms, coursing through the body, heart and soul, into full consciousness, as the immensity of harmony adored and sought and never, never, never final.

He knew that and never didn’t know it ever again. He found himself as an instrument, a lyre, a trumpet, a piano, a voice. He strained himself to the finest tunings, those most unimaginable tunings. The lilac clouds pervading night.

3. Now he was holding onto the banister and thumping down the stairs from his attic studio. She knew something was wrong, or different anyhow. He came into the dark paneled sitting room where she sat near the window, holding a book as if she were reading. When she looked up, she could see he was crying. Not sobbing, of course. He was too stoic for that. But tears were pouring down his cheeks, and he made odd hiccoughing sounds. In two hours he had aged a decade. He was an old man now. She waited. Finally he looked at her.

“It’s over.” The look of anguish was terrible, but she made herself stay still. Finally he came and took her hand. “I can’t do it anymore. It’s finished.”

He was a harp unstrung, a silence in the night.

♦♦♦

Douglas Penick has written libretti for two operas, King Gesar (Sony CD) and Ashoka’s Dream (Santa Fe Opera), with composer Peter Lieberson. On a grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation, Penick wrote three book-length episodes from the Gesar of Ling epic (Crossings on a Bridge of LightWarrior Song of King Gesar, and The Brilliance of Naked Mind). He is also the author of the novel A Journey of The North Star (Publerati, 2012), as well as Dreamers and Their Shadows (Mountain Treasury Press, 2013). Penick’s short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in Tricycle, Parabola, Porte Des Singes, Publishers Weekly, Agni, Descant, Chicago Quarterly, New England Quarterly, Kyoto Journal and elsewhere. He has written novels on the third Ming Emperor (Journey of the North Star), the adventures of spiritual seekers (Dreamers and Their Shadows) and, most recently, From the Empire of Fragments, a collection about cultural displacement.

NER Emerging Writer Award Winner—Dr. Ricardo Nuila Takes the TEDx Stage

Categories: Nonfiction

Ricardo NuilaWe’ve learned that The New England Review/Bread Loaf Scholarship recipient for 2015, emerging writer Dr. Ricardo Nuila, has spent a little time on the TEDx stage, telling his stories out loud.

“My first thought was, wait, someone else must be a doctor . . . how might I explain myself to the flight attendant? ‘Excuse me kind m’am,’ I’d say, ‘I literally became a doctor yesterday. What this means is, I don’t know what I’m doing . . . if you want to know the truth, I’m done with medicine. I’m off to become a writer.’”

Listen to Ricardo Nuila tell his TEDx story here, from the stage at Rice University

Dr. Ricardo Nuila is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, where he works as a hospitalist at Ben Taub General Hospital and teaches internal medicine and classes on the intersection of medicine and the humanities to both residents and medical students. His essays have been published in numerous prestigious medical journals including The New England Journal of Medicine. Additionally, Dr. Nuila is an accomplished fiction writer who has been published in New England Review, McSweeney’s, Ninth Letter, and Indiana Review, among others.

Winner of the inaugural NER Award for Emerging Writers, Dr. Nuila will attend the 2015 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference this summer on the first annual NER/Bread Loaf scholarship.

Mid-Week Break | Roger Reeves Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, Poetry

Roger Reeves reads two poems from his 2013 debut book of poetry, King Me at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

reeves

“Cross Country”

“Romanticism (the Blue Keats)”

Roger Reeves was awarded a 2014-2015 Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewBest American PoetryBoston ReviewPoetryPloughsharesTin House, and in the 2014 Pushcart Prize Anthology. He is an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available for free on iTunesU. Want to hear more? Visit the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Website.

Mid-Week Break | Tiphanie Yanique Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Tiphanie Yanique  reads from the opening of her novel, Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead/Penguin, 2014) at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

debbie grossmanTiphanie Yanique is the author of the short story collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf, 2010), the picture book I Am the Virgin Islands (Little Bell Caribbean, 2012), and the novel Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead/Penguin, 2014). Most recently, her novel Land of Love and Drowning won the First Novel Prize from the Center of Fiction. Previously, her writing has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Fiction, Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. She has been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the sixteen cultural figures to watch out for and by the National Book Foundation as one of the 5 Under 35. Her writing has been published in Best African American Fiction, the Wall Street Journal, and American Short Fiction. Yanique is also the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship.

Yanique grew in the Hospital Ground/Round da Field neighborhood of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She graduated from All Saints Cathedral School and the Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra program. Both her mother and grandmother were librarians in the Virgin Islands. Yanique is now an assistant professor in the MFA and Riggio Honors programs at the New School in New York City. She, her husband, son, and daughter split their time between Brooklyn and St. Thomas.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available for free on iTunesU. Want to hear more? Visit the the Bread Loaf website.

NER Classics | Home Planet | Marianne Boruch

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

California_Desert_Landscape_41Marianne Boruch’s testimony “Home Planet” appeared in NER 31.1:

I kept thinking about that collage, which was, in fact, a rather popular thing to put together then. A very hip friend of mine in the dorm, a girl who insisted on wearing sandals all winter, minus socks even, had done the same thing, searching through various publications—Life magazine always a good bet—for pictures that would make years of people and experience leap out of the wall with an electric, exuberant force. But it was doubly remarkable, there in the Sunderlands’ bathroom. Because it was very cool, making one of those, a wall flooded with various cultural heroes, people off the grid inventing whole new grids. I was sure something odd and quirky remained in those Sunderlands after all, something of the rebel. Here was evidence. Maybe Ned was at the heart of that. At least, on the wall he was.

[read more]

Mid-Week Break | A. Van Jordan Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

A. Van Jordan reads his poetry at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference:

“Notes from a Southpaw” 

A. Van JorA. Van Jordandan is the author of Rise (Tia Chucha Press, 2001); M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (W. W. Norton & Co., 2005), which was awarded an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and listed as one of the Best Books of 2005 by the London Times, as well as Quantum Lyrics (2007) and The Cineaste, (W. W. Norton & Co., 2013). Jordan was also awarded a Whiting Writers Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a United States Artists Fellowship. He has served on the faculty of a number of institutions including The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, The University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Michigan. He is currently at Rutgers University–Newark as the Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor.

All Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference readings are available for free on iTunesU. Want to hear more? Visit the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference website.