Bruce Snider Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, NER Community

Bruce Snider reads two of his poems from his book Paradise, Indiana at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference on August 21, 2012.



“The Smoke”

Snider is the author of Paradise, Indiana, winner of the 2011 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize, and The Year We Studied Women, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. His poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, PoetryPloughshares, and Gettysburg Review. He was a Wallace Stegner fellow, a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and a Jenny McKean Moore Fellow at George Washington University. He currently teaches at the University of San Francisco.

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

Charles Hood | Song of the Angels

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

Song of the Angels and Other Middle-Class Compulsions

Hood imageFramed in faux-Gothic spires that look like badly cut organ pipes, Song of the Angels is one of Forest Lawn’s top crowd-pleasers. You know Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Museum, I suppose—Evelyn Waugh parodied it viciously and Jessica Mitford scalded it as well. As a proper lit major / knows-his-salad-fork-from-his-dessert-spoon art snob, my inclinations would run that way too, except my parents’ final nursing home was nearby in Glendale, as was the hospital they rotated through for two years.

In naive middle age I had once said that between cancer and divorce, my divorce had been worse. That was nothing like the sorrow of parenting my parents, who some days were not even coherent, let alone cooperative. To process the grief, before driving home I would go to Forest Lawn and stare at Song of the Angels by William Bouguereau, 1881. Proximity drove this more than preference: I could see Forest Lawn from the nursing home parking lot. They shared a brick wall. It was the closest refuge I could find.

Needing whatever it is art gives us, I would drive around the block, pass though the formal entrance with wrought iron gates and grand fountain, cross sections named Vale of Memory and Eventide, and end up at the museum. The grounds look like a page from The Watchtower: bucolically landscaped hills with implied hints of deer browsing and cherubs picnicking. Most people think of Forest Lawn in terms of Hollywood royalty, as last known locations of Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart and Lon Chaney and Michael Jackson. Walt Disney is here, assuming his head is not in cryogenic storage, awaiting medical resurrection; Errol Flynn and Clark Gable are here; many early studio moguls. Ronald Reagan got married here. Anybody remember Joan Blondell? She’s here. She said her ex-, Mike Todd, had held her by her ankles out of a hotel window. We assume he never did that to his next wife, Elizabeth Taylor, who’s also here—along with Sammy Davis and Sam Cooke and two of the Marx brothers.

Besides hosting traveling exhibits, Forest Lawn’s museum also owns a quirky, mostly cheesy permanent collection. One good name for this would be schmaltzy sentimental pseudo-Victoriana, but another would be, a manifestation of the American fear of death, and a third would be, stuff my mom would really, really like.

Bouguereau was a sincere, polished, salon favorite whose academic perfection epitomized everything Impressionists hated; his wistful peasant girls and bland, de-eroticized nudes display what Degas called a licked finish: all technique, no heart. Even so, I spent entranced hours. Everybody in this painting is so clean and white it feels like laundry day. Look at that hair, those feet: the Madonna has a good pedicure, that’s for sure. The cloth drapes convincingly; light falls with gentle, flattering radiance, as if from a China ball, to use the language of film sets. And the seemingly specific (yet still generic) vegetation—see, even the weeds quote Palm Sunday—matches the actual landscaping of Forest Lawn. True, the wings are a bit paltry, with hardly enough lifting surface to propel a duck, but you’ve got to admire how they direct the composition: the V of the violin angel’s wings guides us down to her face and bow arm, which point to sleeping Jesus. Even the French government collected Bouguereau; the Orsay owns twelve.

For most people, arrival into the middle class must feel like hunkering down under a wool blanket after a long night at sea in an open boat. My parents, for example—I would like to say they survived poverty and war and never looked back, but the fact is, no matter how much they squirreled away in their IRA, they never stopped looking back.

Can we escape our own longing? Maybe your family praised Rothko at dinner but in my house we were more about Mt. Rushmore placemats and Thomas Kinkade desk calendars. We went to John Wayne movies and drove Buicks. Sure, it was all easy promises, but then so is a Twinkie and we know what they go for on eBay. Is that why some small, lewd part of me now likes these angels the painter force-feeds us with sentimentality and too much sugar? Brush your teeth twice before leaving. If you had to look at just once piece of art every morning for the rest of your life, Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud might provide more to think about, but once you got used to them, angels by Bouguereau might more often send you out the door whistling.

In a painting like this the lute is forever in tune, the air is always thermostatted at 72 degrees, and the demure headbands always double as halos. So be it. It’s not my heaven but it sure is somebody’s. Do I wish this were a Vermeer? Well, of course—but then I don’t live in London or Den Haag. I live where I live and my museums have the art that they have, and maybe my most middle-class secret of all is that I am fine with that.

I don’t expect more, and in fact, I know that to demand too much puts the whole damn ship in peril. Accept your lot in life: that’s one message of the American dream; even the lottery is more lower class than middle, though my mother had some secret tickets hidden away most weeks. If she had won, she would have bought my brother a car, something small and sensible, and written a quiet and probably anonymous check to the Presbyterians.

I would like to think she also would have treated herself to a framed print of Song of the Angels by William Bouguereau.

If so, what would I have done with it? After my folks passed I loaded almost everything on the Salvation Army truck.

This one, though—this one I think I would have kept.


Charles Hood is a Research Fellow with the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art. His most recent book won the Hollis Summers Poetry Award from Ohio University Press.

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.  

New Books for July from NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books

The Great Glass Sea“A genuinely fascinating novel—for its inventiveness, its passionate breadth and vision.”

We are pleased to announce Grove Atlantic’s publication of The Great Glass Sea, the debut novel from NER contributor Josh Weil. His piece “Liberation Square” appears in NER 27.2

Anthony Doerr of The New York Times Book Review describes Weil’s writing as “Full of tenderness and looming menace . . . Gripping . . . Weil meticulously imagines people and their histories, and presents them as a product of their places.”

Josh Weil is a National Book Award “Five Under Thirty-Five” author, and recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Columbia University, the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Sewanee. His celebrated collection of novellas, The New Valley, was awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, Granta, and other publications.


“A lively and clever story starring an estate with an intricate history…”Makkai

Congratulations to NER contributor Rebecca Makkai on the release of her second novel, The Hundred-Year House (Viking). Rebecca Makkai’s story “The Briefcase” appears in 29.2.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “The book is exceptionally well constructed, with engaging characters busy reinventing themselves throughout, and delightful twists that surprise and satisfy.”

Rebecca Makkai’s work was chosen by Salman Rushdie for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2008. Her work has also appeared in Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, Shenandoah, and Sewanee Review. She is a 2004 graduate of Bread Loaf and in January 2014, she was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, receiving an award of $25,000.


“Thoughtful American readers who have grown tired of hothouse surrealism should embrace Sosnicki’s humor, understated intelligence, and dry ironies . . .”

theworldshared_bookstoresmallerNER congratulates Boris Dralyuk on his translation of Polish poet Darius Sosnicki’s first collection, The World Shared (BOA). Boris Dralyuk’s translation of “The Jolt” appears in issue 34.3-4.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “The first American book from the prolific and celebrated Polish poet and critic not only survives translation; its urbane, articulate, unpredictable freeverse positively flourishes in the American English that the facing-page edition provides.”

Boris Dralyuk has translated several collections of poetry and prose from Russian and Polish. He is the recipient of the 2011 Compass Translation Award and received joint first prize in the 2012 Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Translation Prize with Irina Mashinski. He is a co-editor of the forthcoming Anthology of Russian Literature from Pushkin to Brodsky (Penguin Classics, 2014).

These books can be purchased from Powell’s Books and other independent booksellers. 

NER Vermont / BigTown Gallery Reading: Sunday, July 6

Categories: NER VT Reading Series, Readings
Terri Ford-use this one

Terri Ford

The NER Vermont Reading Series and BigTown Gallery are pleased to present Terri Ford and Jamaal May, who will read selections from their poetry on Sunday, July 6, at 5:30 PM at BigTown Gallery, 99 North Main Street, in Rochester. This summer gathering at the gallery will celebrate live readings and the people who value them most, creating a link between two of Vermont’s most lively reading series and from one side of the Green Mountains to the other.

This reading is followed by a special catered reception in the garden. Please RSVP to the BigTown Gallery at NER is arranging for transportation from Middlebury over the mountain to Rochester — if you’d like a ride, please email Seating is limited!


Jamaal May

Terri Ford is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She’s been a fellow at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a summer resident of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown through the Ohio Arts Council, and the recipient of several grants. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Conduit, Forklift Ohio, and many other journals. She is the author of Why the Ships Are She and Hams Beneath the Firmament.

Jamaal May was born in Detroit, Michigan. His first book, Hum, received the Beatrice Hawley Award, the American Library Association’s Notable Book Award, and an NAACP Image Award nomination. He has been awarded a Rose O’Neill Literary House Cave Canem Residency, the Kenyon Review Fellowship, and a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy, among other awards and fellowships. His poems appear in such periodicals as New England Review,, New Republic, Believer, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Best American Poetry 2014. He co-edits the poetry section of Solstice, teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, and co-directs the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook and Video Series with Tarfia Faizullah.

NER Digital | The Movie Inside the Movie | Erica Ehrenberg

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

The Movie Inside the Movie:
Variations on Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

In Fanny and Alexander there is a season that doesn’t exist. It’s an endless winter. Interiors even in their warmth emit the same white glare as the air outside. In the outdoor scenes, in the streets of Uppsala, I hear the same creaking in the trees as I hear in the floors of the living rooms, the bedrooms where people sleep.

The camera sees like a remembering mind—every snow-drift, every glass glinting in the light belongs to the same person, to the same memory, the same dream. The camera is searching the places inside a mind: Bergman’s mind? Alexander’s? Now mine?

The winter moves in waves underneath the houses in summer. It is the ringing when the mother undoes her hair while her husband sleeps; it is the wailing that pierces her when he dies; later, it is the silent room in the new husband’s house the children must pass through without being heard or detected.

In my memory of the movie there is another movie—the movie that has no beginning or end—the movie that changes as I grow and remember it differently. I can access the winter in that movie at will. It’s not even strange that the children are dressed in white gowns, or that someone is cruel to them. There is a thaw—a rushing river, another winter.

I first saw Fanny and Alexander as a child and I’m still haunted by it. The children’s fears felt like my own fears. To think of it is to access a certain time in my childhood, when I could hear the sounds of my father watching a movie on the other side of the wall.

In some part of my mind it is Bergman’s Sweden in summer. I hold my hand out the window and mosquitoes come. The mother is in the house. I can hear the way the faucet runs. I can hear but I can’t see her children.

What is important is not to remember the movie but to return to it—to return to it as one would return to a house whose walls may have shifted or begun to lean more deeply into one another, while the movement of your body through it has also changed. Sometimes what you recognize is a place you have been, and sometimes what you recognize is the memory you have visited many times since. The actors walk through rooms like visitors, like people remembered after their deaths.

My father walks into the living room acting out the scene when the uncle farts up the stairs. I can’t stop laughing, but the uncle’s laughter is already the laughter of a ghost. The staircase will go blank; the child alone on the staircase after the death of his father will disappear into the landing where the winter air is bright but sealed inside a window. Is that window really there? How many times have I walked into the living room and the movie was on—my father there in the afternoon, some moment in the movie out of order—and even when I see the movie again all the way through—that scene is not there.

I don’t know what drops in my stomach when someone in a movie dies. This time I think it’s the child understanding that he dies.

Even in the longest movies everything is condensed. It’s a relief that life isn’t like that, that we don’t see things change that quickly. Sometimes I don’t want to be aware.

Winter is hanging over the children’s bed as if the ceiling of the house in Sweden was suddenly pliant, suddenly made of cloth. Why can’t we see the mother? Why can’t we lie against her?

In the stepfather’s house, the breath has been knocked out of the furniture.

While the mother is berated behind the locked door, the anger in the boy turns his mother into snow to protect her. Snow, the raging river, the glass of oil on the table, the cracking ice.

Erica Ehrenberg’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including Slate, Octopus, jubilat, the New Republic, CURA, the St. Ann’s Review, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poet Series (Knopf 2008), and Guernica. She has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and at the Vermont Studio Center, a writer-in-residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and will be a resident this summer at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and at Yaddo. At Fordham University she teaches writing and creative writing courses that often focus on the connections between literature, architecture, sculpture, film, painting, and photography. She has also given talks at the Storm King Sculpture Center on poetry and sculpture.  

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.  

NER Congratulates Victoria Chang

Categories: Uncategorized

Commonwealth pic 1We are pleased to congratulate NER contributor Victoria Chang on being awarded a silver medal in the California Book Awards. The California Book Awards are among the oldest literary awards in the United States, and were one of the first to recognize the talent of John Steinbeck, who received three Gold Medals between 1935 and 1939.

UnknownChang was recognized for her new collection, The Boss (McSweeney’s Poetry Series), and is the first Asian-American poet to win an award in the organization’s long history. She is the author of two other books of poetry: Salvinia Molesta (2008) and Circle (2005), which won the Crab Orchard Review Open Competition Award. She has been featured in several issues of NER, most recently in 33.1.

Congratulations to Victoria!


Order a copy of The Boss from McSweeney’s.

Learn more about the 83-year-old California Book Awards:

NER DIGITAL | La Sagrada Familia: Spires | Alexandra Teague

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital


SagradaFamiliaMy husband, his parents, and I stand at the top of La Sagrada Familia, spires spiking and tilting around us like great stone ocean waves, as if we are on the crow’s nest of a ship that is simultaneously pitching into sky and sinking. I’m usually scared of heights, but up here, even fear is under construction. After a century, only eight of the eighteen spires. After a century, the first stones of the Glory Façade: its roads to God and Hell both equally unbuilt.

After a decade, my husband still sleeping nightly on a pillowcase speckled with blood from his brother’s death, still angry at his father for, in the hours immediately after, disassembling his brother’s cage of finches, giving them all to somewhere. The sky. The ground. The noise his brother made gurgling blood into tubes because he had AIDS and no one had yet drawn the plans for pills to save him.

Gaudi wanted the Passion Façade to strike the onlooker with fear, the guidebook tells us. We are supposed to feel Christ’s sacrifice, to believe in death with high purpose. Forgiveness. But nothing is finished. The spire for Mary isn’t started yet; her body only more air.

My husband believed—does he still believe?—he would betray his brother’s life if he let grief go. He carried what he had—the fading stain on a pillowcase, the space where finches once rustled in the corner of a California apartment—like stone for a medieval cathedral. That blood:  brown into blue into white. He hated the inevitable washing. “Color is life,” Gaudi said. Also:  “My client is not in a hurry.”

Everything is possible in God’s time, but nothing is for sure, an Irish singer we love tells us. My husband’s family is Irish and Mexican Catholic. Mine, Irish Protestant. My husband and I are atheists. We believe in suffering for love. My mother is three years dead. We travel everywhere as a family. We play Quiddler and drink sidra and take pictures leaning into the blue between stones.

Asked why he’d lavished painstaking care on the tips of the pinnacles no one could get to, Gaudi answered, “The angels will see them.” My mother-in-law believed when her oldest son first came out he was a sinner. He died knowing she loved him. She still wouldn’t forgive herself for having to build backwards from faith to love.

My father-in-law never talked, in the six years I knew him, about the cage of finches. That hammering. The way the finches belonged to no one. I never talked about what I feared: that I could not go on carrying, around the world, the same unchanging stone.

Still: only eight apostles. Still no Virgin or Jesus. The guidebook says not even Gaudi drew plans for the whole basilica. He couldn’t know how others would need to complete it. A new subway tunnel shakes beneath now, like jackhammers, like heartbeats. The engineers say this is threatening the foundation. The engineers say this is threatening nothing. The angels say nothing. They roost, invisible on invisible spires.


Alexandra Teague is the author of Mortal Geography, winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and 2010 California Book Award, and The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea 2015). She is Assistant Professor of Poetry at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.

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. 



NER Reunion Reading 2014

Categories: NER Community, Readings
Langdon Cook, Emily Raabe, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, Michael Collier

Langdon Cook, Emily Raabe, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, Michael Collier

NER was pleased to host its fifth annual Reunion reading on Saturday, June 7, with Michael Collier, Langdon Cook, Benjamin Ehrlich, Kristen Lindquist, and Emily Raabe. A crowd of more than 60 came in from the sun to hear about mushroom hunters, lost islands, furniture scrounged from the street, the lure of Red Sox radio, and the sometimes tiresome use of birdsong. Read more about these writers and their books.

Francis-Noël Thomas | An Examination of Flemish Painters

Categories: Nonfiction

Rogier van der Weyden and James Ensor: Line and Its Deformation

From the new NER, 35.1

The grand and bombastic building on the Leopold de Waelplaats in Antwerp that has housed the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum of Fine Arts) since 1890 closed on October 3, 2010, for a major interior reconstruction that is not expected to be completed before 2017. During this reconstruction, some of the museum’s better known nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings have been exhibited as far from Antwerp as Japan; some of its rare fifteenth-century panel paintings were exhibited last year in the beautifully preserved sixteenth-century Rockox House, just a twenty-minute walk from the museum.

The Seven Sacraments

There is something to be said for seeing nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings and fifteenth-century paintings in separate and respectively congenial settings, but the 1890 building did more than provide wall space for paintings that had little in common with its architectural ethos and belonged to separate and sometimes antagonistic cultural worlds. The museum went beyond exhibiting individual paintings, even individual styles of painting; it exhibited antagonistic concepts of painting.

When it was inaugurated in 1810, the museum absorbed what had been the collection of the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. In 1841 that collection was supplemented by a bequest from one of the earliest and greatest collectors of Early Netherlandish painting, Florent van Ertborn, a former mayor of Antwerp. In the 1920s, it began to collect contemporary painters, notably James Ensor.

Van Ertborn’s collection was assembled at a time when the Early Netherlandish masters were out of fashion, their work unknown to all but a tiny public. Panels from what is now one of the most famous European paintings of the late middle ages, the Ghent Altarpiece (1432), were kept out of sight by nineteenth-century bishops of Ghent, who were scandalized by the life-size nude representations of Adam and Eve.

When I first went to Antwerp, it was expressly to see paintings that were part of the van Ertborn bequest, although I knew nothing about the bequest at the time and had never heard of Florent van Ertborn. I had fallen in love with the Early Netherlandish paintings I had seen in American museums and in printed images illustrating books on the subject. I knew very little of the history of the painters’ reputation.

Read more

New Books for June from NER Authors

Categories: NER Authors' Books, NER Community


“… the boundless potential of everyday encounters.”

We congratulate NER contributor David Guterson on the publication of his newest collection of stories, Problems with People (Knopf). We are proud to have recently published his stories “Tenant” (NER 33.3) and “Feedback” (NER 35.1).

From Publisher’s Weekly: “People struggle to connect with each other in this succinct but ambitious collection of 10 stories from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars.”

David Guterson is the author of five novels: Snow Falling on Cedars (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award), East of the MountainsThe OtherOur Lady of the ForestSeattle Post-Intelliger, and Ed King; and a story collection, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.


978-0-8101-5244-1-frontcover“…stories so alight with lust and danger and longing and loss…”

We are pleased to announce Triquarterly Books’ publication of Let Me See It, the newest collection of short stories from NER contributor James Magruder. His short story “Matthew Aiken’s Vie Bohème” appears in NER 32.3.

Author of The Wonder Bread Summer, Jessica Anya Blau: “Let Me See It overflows with honesty, hilarity, and heart. It’s impossible not to love this book, impossible to turn away from its brilliant prose, wicked humor, and utterly engaging characters.”

James Magruder, author of the novel Sugarless, is also a playwright and award-winning translator. He teaches dramaturgy at Swarthmore College and fiction at the University of Baltimore.


9780812993967_custom-d846708e56eebe6d09a303e84047536cbd3f9b93-s2-c85…a vivid and often amusing portrait of the New York’s Upper East Side literary scene…

Congratulations to David Gilbert on the paperback publication of his novel, & Sons (Random). Gilbert is a 1990 graduate of Middlebury College, and read his work at a tribute event for NER hosted by Middlebury’s Potomac Theatre Project in 2012.

From The New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani: “A contemporary New York variation on The Brothers Karamazov, featuring a J. D. Salinger–like writer in the role of Father, and a protagonist who turns out to be as questionable a tour guide as the notoriously unreliable narrator of Ford Madox Ford’s classic The Good Soldier . . . a big, ambitious book about fathers and sons, Oedipal envy, and sibling rivalry, and the dynamics between art and life, talent and virtue. The novel is smart, funny, observant and . . . does a wonderful job of conjuring up its characters’ memories of growing up in New York City in layered, almost Proustian detail.”

David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb.

These books can be purchased from Powell’s Books and independent booksellers.