NER Classics | Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red | Khaled Mattawa

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Khaled Mattawa‘s poem, “Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red,” appeared in NER 16.4 (1994). 

Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red


I was crossing a street
when a bus driver
gave me the finger.
I wasn’t driving
just crossing a street
with trees, leaves bright
yellow & ketch red,
when a low ranking employee
of a small town bureaucracy
in an insignificant state
gave me the finger.
Did my face foretell
seven years of drought?
Was I scheming to bring ack
the Monkees and the Cold War?
As usual I was lost
between the stuffed tomatoes
of my youth and a future
that says tick tick tock
boom boom. … 

[Read more]

Mid-Week Break | Tommye Blount Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

Tommye Blount reads his poetry at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference:

“The Lynching of Frank Embree” 

Tommye BlountTommye Blount, a Detroit native, received his BA in Advertising from Michigan State University. He is a recent graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers and a Cave Canem alum. His work appears or is forthcoming in The Collagist, Upstreet, VinylNew England ReviewPoetry, and Indiana Review. He is at work on his first manuscript, Trapped in the Wrong Body Again.

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

NER CLASSICS | Chocolate Mice | Debra Spark

Categories: NER Classics

A_Paris_Street,_7_August_2013The second shock was lunch. She stopped to buy a sausage at a cart by the park. She bit into it and instantly thought, “This is it. I am going to die.” —NER 20.4.

When she was young, mothers—or her mother, at least—would speak of those bad girls, presumably pregnant, who left home at the first opportunity, but Monica wasn’t waiting that long. She left before her first opportunity, using school breaks to escape. To run away: if you could call it that, since she had her mother’s acquiescence, if not her permission, in the matter. Her father was irrelevant. A farming accident had paralyzed him, days after Monica’s youngest brother—her mother’s second boy and seventh child—was born. There were no more children after that, which made clear, in a public sort of way, the full nature of the damage her father had suffered. Monica let her mother know that she would “just die” if she couldn’t get away from the farm, and the fervency of her conviction must have convinced her mother as well. “Just don’t get pregnant” she said, as if that were the source of all evils, and it made Monica ashamed to be alive, to be one of the seven reasons for her mother’s unhappiness. But then her shame quickly turned to anger. Her parents. They were so stupid. Switzerland was supposed to be the world’s richest country, and even here, they couldn’t make a living. Why had they had so many children when they couldn’t afford them?

[read more]

Mid-Week Break | Mike Scalise Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

Mike Scalise reads his an excerpt from his novel at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference:

“Novel excerpt: Rejuvenation Machine” 

Mike Scalise‘s wMike Scaliseork has appeared in Agni, Paris Review, Post Road, Ninth Letter, the Wall Street Journal, Cupboard, and a numerous other places. He’s received fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf and Yaddo, and has been the Philip Roth Writer in Residence at Bucknell University.

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

New Books for May from NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books, NER Community, News & Notes


The most moving and expansive poet to come out of the American Midwest since 9780393246124_198James Wright.”

New England Review congratulates David Baker on the publication of his new book of poetry, Scavenger Loop (W. W. Norton & Company). Baker is an NER author with poetry forthcoming in NER 36.2.

Baker’s latest work layers the natural history of his beloved Midwest and traces the “complex history of human habitation, from family and village life to the evolving nature of work and the mysterious habitats of the heart.”

David Baker is the author of Never-Ending Birds and several other collections, and has won awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation. He is editor of the Kenyon Review and teaches at Denison University.

 Purchase this book at W.W. Norton & Company or at independent booksellers.


riverhouseCongratulations to NER contributor Sally Keith on the publication of her newest collection, River House (Milkweed Editions, 2015), which features poems of absence written after the loss of her mother. Keith is the author of The Fact of the Matter and two previous collections of poetry, Design and Dwelling Song. She is a faculty member of the MFA program at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC. Keith’s poem “Song from the Rain” appeared in NER 24.4, and two  poems, “In the Desert Near . . .” and “What heavenward gesture . . . ” in NER 33.2. In addition, her essay “The Spirit of the Beehive” appeared as an original New England Review Digital piece in our ongoing series, Confluences.

“. . . when you’re finished reading, your dream comes true: you can read the poems again.  I do not know of a book of poems that embodies more heartbreakingly or more intelligently the experience of irreconcilable loss.” —James Longenbach, author of The Iron Key

Purchase River House at Milkweed Editions or at independent booksellers. 


testament_bookstore“Waldrep offers us his most necessary book, one that asks us that question we fear ourselves to ask: how is this real, any of it, all of it, faith, language, light, history, and that cipher that collects them all, the human heart?” —Dan Beachy-Quick

We are pleased to announce the publication of G. C. Waldrep‘s latest work, Testament (BOA Editions, 2015). From the publisher: A book-length poem, Testament addresses matters as diverse as Mormonism, cymatics, race, Dolly the cloned sheep, and his own life and faith. Drafted over twelve trance-like days while in residence at Hawthornden Castle, Waldrep . . . tackles the question of whether gender can be a lyric form. Intimately autobiographical, Waldrep’s fifth book masterly takes its own place in the American tradition of the long poem.

Waldrep’s most recent poems in New England Review include “What David Taught and Where He Taught It” (NER 34.3-4) and “Their Faces Shall Be As Flames” (NER 35.3). The recipient of multiple awards, Waldrep teaches at Bucknell University, is editor for the literary journal West Branch, and editor-at-large for Kenyon Review.

Purchase Testament at BOA Editions, Ltd. or at independent booksellers. 


Russian_Poetry“An enchanting collection of the very best of Russian poetry.” — Penguin Classics

NER congratulates Robert Chandler and Boris Dralyuk on their new anthology The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (edited with poet Irina Mashinski, Penguin Classics, 2015). From the publisher: This anthology traces Russian poetry from its Golden Age to the modern era, including work by several great poets—Georgy Ivanov and Varlam Shalamov among them—in captivating modern translations.

Chandler and Dralyuk’s translations and writings have appeared in the special section “The Russian Presence” of New England Review‘s double issue 34.3-4. Chandler is a poet and translator of many works of Russian literature and teaches part time at Queen Mary, University of London. Dralyuk is a lecturer in Russian at the University of St. Andrews and translator of many books from Russian.

Purchase The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry from Penguin Classics or an independent bookseller. 

  “A new book of poems—or of anything—by Mark Doty is good news in a dark time. The precision, daring, scope, elegance of his compassion and of the language in which he embodies it are a reassuring pleasure.” —W. S. Merwin


9780224099837-1-edition.default.original-1We are pleased to announce the publication of NER contributor Mark Doty‘s newest collection of poems Deep Lane (Norton 2015). From Publisher’s Weekly: “Having gained renown for his self-consciously beautiful, heart-on-sleeve elegies, Doty remains elegiac and continues to attend to beauty. He also does some of his best work yet as a nature poet.”

Mark Doty’s work appears in NER volumes 13.3-4, 31.2, and 32.1. He has published eight volumes of poetry, and his collection Fire to Fire won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. Doty’s work has also received numerous honors including the National Book Critics Circle Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a professor and writer-in-residence at Rutgers University.

Purchase Deep Lane at W. W. Norton & Company or at independent booksellers.


New England Review congratulates contributor Lauren Acampora on her debut novel, The Wonder Garden (Grove, 2015). Acampora creates a portrait of a Connecticut suburb through a collection of linked stories that wonder garden coverPublisher’s Weekly calls “intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange.”

From the publisher: “A keen and brilliant observer of the strangeness that is American suburbia. Acampora joins the ranks of writers like John Cheever and Tom Perrotta in her incisive portrait of lives intersecting in one Connecticut town . . . Deliciously creepy and masterfully choreographed, The Wonder Garden heralds the arrival of a phenomenal new talent in American fiction.”

Lauren Acampora’s fiction has appeared in NER 27.3 as well as NER Digital, Paris ReviewMissouri ReviewPrairie Schooner, and Antioch Review. 

Purchase The Wonder Garden from Grove Atlantic or at independent booksellers.


“A brace and necessary set of early flares of the literary imagination into the Panopticon we all find ourselves living inside these days.” — Jonathan Lethem

We are excited to announce the publication of Watchlist (OR Books 2015), a collection of short stories about surveillance society edited by NER contributor Bryan Hurt.

Hurt’s work appears in NER 33.2 as well as in American Reader, Kenyon Review, and Tin House, and many others. He has published a novel, Everyone Wants to Be Ambassador to France, and is the winner of the Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction.

Purchase Watchlist at OR Books or at independent booksellers.

NER Digital | Sofi Stambo

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital


Florence | Sofi Stambo

The correct answer is, abandon everything in New York—the futon, the desk, the chair, and the dishes—and move here. I’d already abandoned Bulgaria, decades ago, along with the family, the books, and the bicycle. Biciclette in Italian. Also famiglia and libri. I am good at either decision-making or abandoning.

I will stay here in Florence and become the lady with the highlights working at the corner café, making cappuccini and selling cornetti to the same neighbors her entire life. They lean on the counter, sip the foam of the cappuccino, nibble the crumbs of the cornetto, and talk. Their voices go up and they laugh and I don’t catch any of the meaning, just the pleasure people get when they know each other for life and share good feelings—sentimenti. I want to be that woman, to know that language and these people, to invite them in to my apartment upstairs and to never have to leave.

It almost looks like a theater set, it is so well lit and glamorous. The actors are dressed well and are very polite. No one has anywhere else to go so they stay where they are, talk as much as they can, and laugh a lot. What the joke is is hard to tell when you don’t speak the language.

Florence has the same careless aura that my childhood city of Varna had. A small tourist town, where people rent out rooms and have a small sandwich or crepe shop in their basement and money is not a problem. There are no problems, especially in the summer, when you only worry about burning on the beach or rainy days, or the ice cream melting before you eat it. It’s the carelessness of our grandparents, with their gold teeth and bracelets, their foreign hats and Italian slippers. We stay out late with them on long summer nights. They sit in front of the apartment building, talking to neighbors for what seems like days. People bring cherries or apricots or lilies, because they had too many in their orchard and they don’t want them to spoil. But they won’t go bad, nothing will. We somehow know that and run lighthearted around the building in the dark. It isn’t scary because of the laughing, motley crowd of our people right over there, under the porch light. The nights smell like garlic and dill and roasted peppers.

Arriving in Florence was like opening the lid of the jar where we keep happy younger summer versions of ourselves. I listened and looked and sniffed and licked and couldn’t get enough.

The streets are washed with soap and strewn with flower pots for the tourists. The buildings are freshly painted in warm yellow, orange, and cream. The gardens are watered, the lilies smell sweet, and swallows throw themselves in the air with the abandon of people dancing.

What I left in Bulgaria was peeling gray paint and broken sidewalks, homeless dogs and poor retired people begging you to buy a bunch of dill in front of the church. I bought everything from everyone just to see a smile on someone’s face. All I got was a heartbreaking “Thank you son” from toothless mouths. My grandma used to call us each “son,” regardless that we were all granddaughters. But she had gold teeth and silver bracelets, beautiful scarves and brooches and so many different smiles. We took walks and talked to neighbors. That’s all we ever did.

In Florence people live that way too. In the corner café I wait for the long conversation to finish so I can order a cappuccino. I would never wait in New York—I’d highjack the conversation, and rightfully so. You don’t get to have long conversations when people are late for work. Coffee is medicine and Starbucks is the ER. Speed in New York is a matter of life and death. In Florence speed does not exist, like a vegetable that simply doesn’t grow in that climate. You take life in small foamy sips and warm crispy bites. It’s all about good moods and the pleasure one gets from a good conversation. No need to hurry. All will be there a little later too. It has been there for two thousand years.

I wanted to buy a book by a poet of my childhood, Gianni Rodari, for my daughter to read. I waited in the bookstore where three girlfriends, class of 1950, with auburn hair, bracelets, and strong perfumes, talked to the young salesgirl about the new novellas she just got in. Sentimenti, emozioni, passioni, nodded everyone and each bought the new novella. They smiled and said their grazie and buona notte.

When my turn came I asked where the English books were. The young girl apologetically told me that they didn’t have novellas in English. What else would a woman look for but a novella with passioni?

I passed by a sign on the wall that read “La felicitá é a ridere di niente.” It looked important, because it was written in red. Growing up during Communism I was conditioned to react to signs in red. Felicitá. There was a song by Al Bano and Romina Power, “Felicitá, ta-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra, felicitá.” They sang it at the Golden Orpheus, the international song festival that happened in Varna. We took our children’s chairs and listened outside with half the town who couldn’t get tickets. Romina Power, in her white dress, was a gorgeous long-haired singer the entire Bulgarian population adored. Al Bano was a graceful older man. They eventually divorced and disbanded, because everything good ends, no exceptions apparently. “Felicitá, ta-ra-ra-ra-ra”—what did that mean?

The bookseller smiled at me and paused, trying to organize her thoughts in English. “It mean happiness is laughing . . . happiness is laughing about nothing.”

Grazie,” I say.

Va bene,” she says and gives me the novella I will not be able to read but will carry with me to make me look a little more Italian. Like a brooch. People will start talking to me and I will stay in the circle of neighbors in front of the light and absorb large amounts of human warmth and contact with the ten words I know. If it gets embarrassing I can always run away into the dark.


Sofi Stambo is the recipient of the first prize in fiction in the 2015 SLS Disquiet literary contest. She holds a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Sofia University, St. Kliment, Ohridski, Bulgaria, and was a graduate student in Literature at City College. Sofi Stambo had been published by Promethean, Epiphany, Plamuk, and the Kenyon Review Online, among others. She lives in New York City.

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.


NER Classics | Big Bang | George Bilgere

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

George Bilgere’s poem, Big Bang, was published in NER 16.2:

Madison Boulder - Aaron Draper Shattuck
We slept naked on a wide bed

under the sighing swamp cooler.
We strawberried in Michigan woods
with our fat nanny, and in spring
we gathered sand dollars on Daytona ,
passed smiling into Kodachrome.
On the path to the grammar school
she bumped along behind me, burdened
with my black, funeral trombone case,
my books and sack lunch. I pushed her
into thorn bushes, eyed her coldly
as she played jacks at recess
with colored girls. When wine
put our mother in her all-day coma
she made our dinner, and when
I felt like it I smacked her.
I walked at night in exile
far from that fatherless house
of sobbing women while she
did dishes at the steaming sink.

[read more]

Mid-Week Break | Ursula Hegi reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Ursula Hegi reads the first chapter from her novel in-progress at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Ursula%20Hegi%20photo%20#4%20-%20Children%20and%20FireUrsula Hegi is a bi-cultural writer who has published 12 books. Her Bulgdorf Cycle encompasses Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother’s PalmThe Vision of Emma Blau, and Children and Fire. Hegi’s work has been translated into many languages. Awards include the Italian Grinzane Cavour, NEA, and PEN/Faulkner. She is MFA faculty at Stony Brook Southampton, and has also taught at Barnard and Irvine. She has served as a juror for the National Book Awards and the National Book Critics Circle.

Her new work will appear in NER 36.3, fall 2015.

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

NER Classics | Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction | Scott Denham

Categories: NER Classics

Scott Denham’s essay, Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction appeared in NER 20.4:

Friedrich Torberg (1908—1979) was very much a part of the Prague and Viennese literary café scenes in the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote a wicked schoolboy novel, Der Schüler Gerber hat absolviert (Berlin, 1930) [The Examination (London, 1932)]—the only one of his works which appears to have been translated in English-which catapulted him into the limelight of the café Herrenhof scene of Max Brod, Ernst Polak, and Alfred Polgar; in Vienna he associated with Karl Kraus, Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, and others. Three more novels published before the war were all well-enough received, but did not succeed in getting the critics past their notion of him as a bad boy cynic and lampooner. 

[read more]