Mid-Week Break | Ismet Prcic Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Ismet Prcic reads “(…a full minute of everything, for cyrus…)” from his 2011 novel Shards

Prcic

Ismet Prcic was born in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1977 and immigrated to the United States in 1996. He holds an MFA in writing from the University of California, Irvine. His novel Shards won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for first fiction, the Writers Center First Novel Prize, and the Oregon Book Award. It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and has been translated into nine languages. A recipient of a 2010 NEA award for fiction and a Sundance and Jerusalem screenwriting lab fellow, Prcic co-wrote the screenplay for the film Imperial Dreams which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the audience award in its category. Prcic lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two annoying cats.

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

New NER Digital | Rachel Richardson

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

On Kara Walkers Narratives of a Negress” | Rachel Richardson

karawalkergone1

My sister had been living in New York that fall, trying out dance school, renting a room in an illegal apartment with plywood walls, across the street from the train station in Queens. We wandered Manhattan by day, unsure of what to do with a city this dense and wide with possibility. It was 2002; I was studying poetry and living in little, idyllic Ann Arbor—in other words, my daily geographical radius was only a couple of miles.

She wanted to take me to the Guggenheim, and I resisted, thinking it was just another hallowed building, like the university: a shrine to the mind. Why not stay out here among the stench of human sweat, spices, and pretzels, the honks and shouting, bikes weaving the lanes, the exhilarating buzz of urban life? But she insisted, and soon we stood in a long line flanking the cylindrical white colossus, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “temple of the spirit.” My mood improved—just the scale of such endeavor was refreshing after my months spent curled on a bed looking at a single page.

Inside, we ascended the spiral stairs. I recall the encompassing whiteness, the sense of air and light. On a high floor, we wandered into a panorama of gorgeous, lively silhouettes; they were black on the white wall, mysterious in their lack of physicality. More a narrative than a physical art, they seemed to me. Yet more powerful than shadow. Shifting shadows loomed behind them, gray limbs of weeping willows and grand windows of mansions seemingly lit from within. I approached, mesmerized by the glory and simplicity of the contrast, wanting to understand the materials.

The figures were smaller than life-sized, a standing woman maybe four feet high. They were cut from black paper, painstakingly detailed into expressive human figures. One by one, the details emerged: the exaggerated lips and flouncy locks of the African-American woman carrying the basket; the lascivious look of the white slave owner, perfectly clear even in the simplicity of profile. Babies tumbled out from the bottom of a slave woman’s dress, cartoonishly, their hair already bound in springy braids. There were horses and dogs, too, in various states of alarm and disregard. One was being violated by a man. From under a woman’s huge hoop skirt, two large bare feet protruded next to her own booted and buttoned pair. There were whips and jewels and genitalia, and baskets, and crops. Many of the details now escape me; the grotesque fecundity remains. Tufts of grass sprang up here and there; a wagon rolled calmly along toward market.

These absurdly stereotyped and comical details resolved only as you approached. So too did this disturbing fact: the panorama was created in its stark relief by floor lighting, around which the Guggenheim’s stationed guards carefully steered viewers. And as you walked beyond the lights, your own body was backlit, and your shadow—a lighter gray shade, elongated—projected into the scene. There I was next to the rotund grinning planter, with his gold watch chain swinging heavily between his vest and pocket, as he cradled the perky behind of a house slave in his meaty hand. The antebellum grotesque, in stark relief—literally—against my body. My mouth hung slack as I took in the horrific story around my own shape, and the way the lights darkened me, filled in my part, the closer I stepped. Moving along the storyline, I occupied different spaces, my body aligning itself with different parts of the narrative. There was no neutral part. There was no way to view the full story without seeing your own body become part of it.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” says William Faulkner. In that moment the fact of New York City in 2002 was a layer on top of the simultaneous fact of 1852 antebellum brutality. Or perhaps there were other layers within those two historical moments, as well—say, 1872 in the war-destroyed landscapes of Southern cities, or 1952 entrenched segregation, or 1972 race riots. Because the story of the Kara Walker installation was not the story of American slavery, exactly, not the story of the South as it was. It was the story of our stubbornly insistent romance of the South, the ways we retell it: the grotesquely exaggerated fecundity of the fields and the enslaved woman’s body; the wealth and entitlement of the landholders; the bony sadness and arch resentment of the frail white wife; the exertion of brutal custom upon the exuberant, chubby bodies of unsuspecting children.

It’s the myth and not the thing itself, to invert Adrienne Rich’s phrase. And does this mean it’s not real? Does this mean it’s just a story—you can walk away? Your shadow leaves with you, it’s true; you can remove yourself from that wall of images. And what she drew there didn’t happen, not quite. The proportions are wrong; it’s cartoonishly blunt. But for me, it’s a decade later, and I’m still there. In the image in my head, I’m the blurred shadow between a woman and a man with a dog. I’m horrified to be found there, participating in such cruelty, witnessing in silence. I bring my hand up to my face, I gasp, and then I have to see my limb suspended there, that charade. I’m claiming my innocence, my shock, as if I hadn’t known I was part of this story all along.

 ♦♦♦

Rachel Richardson is the author of two poetry collections, Copperhead (2011) and Hundred-Year Wave (2016), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her prose and poetry have appeared recently in Guernica, Kenyon Review Online, Literary Imagination, and on the Poetry Foundation website. A former Stegner and NEA Fellow, she currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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 | Ross Gay Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Ross GayRoss Gay reads “When After Some Time, Finally, Your Kids Are at Their Dad’s,” “Mine Are Ugly Feet,” and “To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian,” at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.

“When After Some Time, Finally, Your Kids Are at Their Dad’s”

 

“Mine Are Ugly Feet”

 

“To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian”

 

Ross Gay is the author of the poetry collections Against Which (CavanKerry, 2006) and Bringing the Shovel Down (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), and co-author of the chapbook, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Pyrite and Lace: Letters from Two Gardens (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014). With Patrick Rosal he is a co-founding editor of the online sports magazine, Some Call It Ballin’. He was a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow.

All Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference readings are available on iTunesU. To hear more, please visit our website.

Midweek Break | Jennine Capó Crucet Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, NER Community

jccrucetJennine Capó Crucet reads a passage from her novel Magic City Relic at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Jennine Capó Crucet is the author of How to Leave Hialeah, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the John Gardner Book Prize, and the Devil’s Kitchen Award in Prose. A recipient of an O. Henry Prize and a Bread Loaf Fellow, her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Epoch, Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, and other magazines. After working in South Central LA as a counselor to first-generation college students, she is now an assistant professor at Florida State University.

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

NER presents a reading from “Please Do Not Remove”

Categories: Readings

Please-Do-Not-Remove_cover-front-finalIn partnership with Middlebury’s Special Collections and Archives, NER is pleased to present a reading from Please Do Not Remove: A Collection Celebrating Vermont Literature and Libraries, in the Davis Family Library Special Collections and Archives Room 101, at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10.

The book’s editor, Angela Palm, and a lineup of three stellar Vermont poets—David Dillon, Karin Gottshall, and Gary Margolis—will read from and discuss selections from the anthology. Refreshments and door prizes too! Free and open to the public.

Midweek Break | Justin Torres Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, NER Community

SUB-BOOK-AUTHOR-articleInline-v2Justin Torres reads an excerpt from his novel We the Animals at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

“We Wanted More”

Justin Torres’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Glimmer Train, and other publications. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and previously a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. One of the National Book Foundation’s 2012 5 Under 35s, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. He teaches at Columbia University, Lesley University’s Low Residency MFA Program, and The Writers’ Foundry MFA Program at St. Joseph’s College.

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

Midweek Break | Melinda Moustakis Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio, NER Community

melind_3__1Melinda Moustakis reads at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her story, “What You Can Endure,” appears in NER 32.1.

Bear Down Bear North: Alaska Stories

Melinda Moustakis was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, and raised in California. Her debut collection, Bear Down Bear North: Alaska Stories (University of Georgia Press, 2011) won the Flannery O’ Connor Award in Short Fiction and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her story “They Find the Drowned” won a PEN/O.Henry award.

Her work has also appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. She was named a 5 Under 35 writer by the National Book Foundation and was a Hodder Fellow at The Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University. She received a 2014 National Endowment of the Arts Literature Fellowship and is a 2014-2016 Kenyon Review Fellow in Fiction at Kenyon College.

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

“NER Out Loud” Brings the Page to the Stage

Categories: News & Notes, Readings

ner_35-2_front_cover-sqIn the tradition of Public Radio International’s “Selected Shorts,” Middlebury College students will read selections from the New England Review in a live performance entitled “NER Out Loud” at the Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall on February 24, 7:30 p.m. The event will be followed by a “S’more Readings” reception with the readers and NER staff, along with representatives of several student literary magazines. Both events are free and open to the public. ASL interpreting provided.

Readers will include Kevin Benscheidt ’17, Brenna Christensen ’17, Caitlyn Duffy ’15.5, Cole Ellison ’17, Jabari Matthew ’17, Melissa MacDonald ’15, and Sally Seitz ’17, with Debanjan Roychoudhury ’16 as MC. Editors and contributors to the student literary magazines Sweatervest, Blackbird, and Room 404 will also be on hand at the post-show reception to discuss their publications and give sample readings from their pages. Attendees will be invited to enjoy s’mores while listening to the readings in the lobby.

NER Out Loud is the result of a new partnership between the Mahaney Center for the Arts, the Oratory Society, and the New England Review. NER Out Loud will take place on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at 7:30 P.M. in the Concert Hall of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts. The reception will take place in the downstairs lobby immediately following the performance. Admission is free and the public is welcome. The Mahaney Center is located at 72 Porter Field Road in Middlebury, just off Route 30 south, on the campus of Middlebury College. Free parking is available. For more information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.