NER

Pages by NER

Posts by NER

 
 
 

New NER Digital from Matthew Lippman

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

 

THE BIG BEAUTIFUL BARBEQUE THAT IS MANHOOD: Jay Nebel’s poem “Men” | Matthew Lippman

Jay Nebel drives a fruit-juice truck. I don’t even know what that means. He puts citrusy liquids in coolers and delivers them to places. I imagine restaurants, bodegas, supermarkets. He’s been driving this truck for years and writing poems for years and being a father and a good husband for years. I know this from his poems, from the way he talks with me about his struggle and joy, his forgiveness and his mercy. Today, I have this quiet image of him writing poems in the back of that van during his lunch break, the back doors open, his feet propped up on one of his coolers, the Portland rain laying its off-the-beat bounce for the noonday hour.

Jay Nebel is a man. Not a dude or a brother, though he is all of those things, but mostly, he is a man.

I have never met him but love him like a brother from the other coast. His poems speak to me in my own struggle with manliness-manhood. We eat the same produce, drink the same tonic, and attend barbeques with our boys. Whether these late afternoon happenings of beef and beer are his or mine does not matter. What matters is the struggle between poethood and manhood and how to find the balance, the comfort, in both, together, in an America that doesn’t give a shit about poets but loves a strong man. We want both—that tenderness and that fortitude—and work hard for both. Then, when the quiet moments come, we get to write our poems to show the world how and why our hearts bounce the way they bounce. It is because we are men.

When I came across Nebel’s poem “Men” sitting on my deck chair overlooking my tomato plant, grass, and grill, I was instantly transported to the party—hanging there with him and his fellas, whooping it up. There were no women and the dream of other women was everywhere. We were stupid for that, but that is what being a man is, perhaps, a married one, with kids, knowing deep into the “basalt cliffs” of my mind and heart that my wife is the only one in a world of many. Devotion, loyalty, and buckling down go a long way in my book; the barbeque in Nebel’s poem, the one in my mind, is always the loneliest place on the planet without the kids and the wife because it reminds us of what we were and what we are at the same time. The madness of a middle-aged man is trying to somersault back into boyhood knowing you will never actually get there. It’s a fragile tumble with a beer in one hand and a burger in the other, everything getting spilled, and broken, but that’s why we do it, the point, precisely.

And so as it is with Nebel it is with me—we’re “paper bag” men because we are paper thin and tough, simultaneously, writing our poems, paying the mortgage, worrying about the balance between loving and not loving, and wanting nothing more than for there to be only love—for the kids, for the women we share the world with—for that struggle. Whether it is in the dunes or the forest or the cockpit of the Apache helicopter, the steak on the grill is always ours—poet or banker or construction worker or gardener. It is what we know, as we stand in the hickory smoke with our tongs and spatula, working the T-bone, laughing away the insanity of our words knowing they are the best sustenance, invisible almost, and will keep us alive no matter how much potato salad gets in our eyes. Each night we wipe them clean, we take out the trash, we tell bedtime tales of goblins and rainbows to our children, we write our poems, and then we go upstairs to our women, stinky and greasy, and hold them soft and strong, hoping that this is enough, that we have done enough.

 

Men | Jay Nebel
Jay Nebel’s poem “Men” was originally published in Ploughshares Vol. 39, No. 1, edited by Major Jackson.

We’re in the middle of it, in the middle
of the backyard barbecuing steak
and chicken. Telling stories

with our wives and girlfriends away,
red and blue psychedelics, Coors Light
and breasts falling into our mouths again

like basalt cliffs into the sea.
Jeremy says, I did CPR on a gorilla once.
A girl gorilla, a big one.

I kept thinking, she’s going to wake up
and she’s going to fucking kill me.
But she just peed all over the floor

before dying on her back
in a room full of humans.
What do you think happens

to the male gorilla back in the cages
somewhere waiting for her?
Do they give him the news?

Slide her body into the cage
so he can smell her dead hand?
Zookeepers, Bill says. We should grow

mustaches. And we’re gone,
the Apache helicopter of our middle
age flying out over the dunes.

It’s not the gorilla that scares me.
It’s waking up alone. And I’m not a man
anymore but a paper bag someone’s blowing

into to keep from hyperventilating,
the camels long since sunk down
into their kneecaps, the sand everywhere.

 

Matthew Lippman’s three poetry collections are American Chew (Burnside Review Press, 2013), winner of the Burnside Review Book Prize; Monkey Bars (Typecast Publishing, 2010); and The New Year of Yellow (Sarabande Books, 2007), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize. He is the recipient of the 2014 Georgetown Review Magazine Prize and the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review. 

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 from NER 35.3 | Travels with Richard Tillinghast

Categories: Nonfiction

Eastward Bound, Across a Storied Landscape | Richard Tillinghast

[view as PDF]

Leaving Portland, with its microbreweries, Pacific Rim restaurants, lumberjack chic, and drive-through coffee stations, I drove east along the Columbia River Gorge on the first leg of a four-thousand-mile trip that would take me to northern Michigan and then down to South Carolina and Tennessee. The Gorge’s mist-wreathed granite cliffs, rising above the onrush of the Columbia River, look as though they could have been painted by a Chinese landscape artist from the Tang Dynasty. In late-afternoon light the stone takes on a purple glow. Taoist hermits might be meditating in caves up in those hills.

Above White Salmon, Washington, where I spent my first night, pioneer days had not, it seemed, entirely ended. As I drove up precipitous roads that reached up from the Columbia River to my nephew’s house, where I would spend the night, some of the hillsides had that desolate, shredded look that follows clear-cutting. One little house partway up, a shack really, was flanked on one side by a pile of rough-cut logs, each about the length of an American car from the fifties. It looked as though the householder had wrangled them there for sizing into smaller chunks as fuel was needed during the long winter. The month was May, but a cutting wind sliced across the steep hills. My nephew and I took his son, six years old, to his baseball game down in the town of White Salmon. The diamond, with its boys’ and girls’ coach-pitch three-inning game, and the pure Americanness of the scene, were thrown into perspective by the massive, timeless hills, verdant with the spring rains, towering above it.

[Read more]

Richard Tillinghast is the author of twelve books of poetry and four of creative nonfiction. His Selected Poems came out from Dedalus Press in Ireland in 2009. He was a 2010-2011 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. His latest nonfiction book is An Armchair Traveller’s History of Istanbul (Haus Publishing, 2012), which was published in the UK and nominated for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. Tilinghast, who lived in Ireland for five years, returned to the States in 2011 and now divides his time between Sewanee, Tennessee and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Poetry from Brigit Pegeen Kelly in NER 35.3

Categories: Poetry

The Dragon | Brigit Pegeen Kelly

[view as PDF]  

The bees came out of the junipers, two small swarms
The size of melons; and golden, too, like melons,
They hung next to each other, at the height of a deer’s breast
Above the wet black compost. And because
The light was very bright it was hard to see them,
And harder still to see what hung between them.

[Read more]  

 

New Essay from Natasha Lvovich

Categories: Nonfiction

Sister in Russian, Cousin in English | Natasha Lvovich

[view as PDF]

She is walking on Park Avenue, elegant and slim, irreproachably fashionable, drumming Sinatra’s “New York, New York” with her high heels. Her allure is businesslike and confident: she is focused on her destination, on the potholes in the asphalt, and on countless rushed yet important thoughts, while at the same time she talks into her phone. Only real Manhattanites, fortunate to have been born on this celebrated land—firmly grounded, perfectly well-oriented, perpetually overbooked, and multitasking with ease—move with such a gait. She murmurs into her phone in a language that has been for centuries, for millennia, for eternity, her own: “Honey, don’t wait for me, just order yourself some Chinese. I’ll be home in a little while. Yeah, I know, I know. I’ll get you some. Love you.”

The trace of a Russian accent is almost imperceptible. Thank goodness for those caramel English words, which make her a different person and a different mother than her own, less dramatic and less rough around the edges, with the sweetened texture of an American mom raised in an Upper West Side apartment. She looks at her watch; she checks her messages; she passes her hand over her platinum hair as if to make sure the makeover hasn’t melted away.

[Read more]

Natasha Lvovich is a writer and scholar of bilingualism and of translingual literature—literature written in non-native language. Originally from Moscow, Russia, Lvovich teaches academic and creative writing at City University of New York. She is the author of a collection of autobiographical narratives, The Multilingual Self (Routledge, 1997). Her creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Life Writing, New Writing, Big.City.Lit, Post Road, Paradigm, Nashville Review, and Epiphany, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Poetry from Carl Phillips | NER 35.3

Categories: Poetry

Parable | Carl Phillips

 

[view as PDF]  

There was a saint once,
he had but to ring across
water a small bell, all

manner of fish
rose, as answer, he was
that holy, persuasive,

both, or the fish
perhaps merely
hungry, their bodies

a-shimmer with
that hope especially that
hunger brings, whatever

the reason, the fish
coming unassigned, in
schools coming

into the saint’s hand and,
instead of getting,
becoming food.

I have thought, since, of
your body—as I first came
to know it, how it still

can be, with mine,
sometimes. I think on
that immediate and last gesture

of the fish leaving water
for flesh, for guarantee
they will die, and I cannot

rest on what to call it.
Not generosity, or
a blindness, trust, brute

stupidity. Not the soul
distracted from its natural
prayer, which is attention,

for in the story they are
paying attention. They
lose themselves eyes open.

 (1998, Volume 19.3)

[view as PDF]  

Carl Phillips’s thirteenth book of poems, Reconnaissance, will be out from FSG in 2015. In 2014, Graywolf published his book of prose, The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination.

New fiction from Kristien Hemmerechts in NER 35.3

Categories: Fiction

Fairytale | Kristien Hemmerechts

[view as PDF]

Once upon a time a man and a woman had a child who lived. Then they had another child and it died, and then another child and that child also died. The first child was a little girl, the second and third were boys. The children were named Katherine, Benjamin, and Robert, but their names were mostly shortened to Kathy, Ben, and Rob. After the death of the third child, the man and the woman chose not to have another child but instead to have a dog that their young daughter christened Lady. The man took pictures of his wife, his daughter, and his dog and then asked his wife to take a picture of himself. The photos were developed and put in the photo album. “Finally, we are four!” the woman wrote beside it, but barely three years later, she left the man and thus, indirectly, her daughter and dog as well. . .

—translated from the Dutch by Margie Franzen and Sandra Boersma

Read the complete story here [view as PDF]

 

 

Announcing the new NER: Vol. 35, No. 3

Categories: News & Notes


THE NEW ISSUE OF NER HAS ARRIVED!

POETRY
C. Dale Young’s last issue as poetry editor presents 20 poems from his 20 years at NER, poems that he says “not only never left me alone but actually changed me as a reader and writer,” including works by Debora Greger, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, and Carl Phillips.

Agha Shahid Ali • Reginald Dwayne Betts • Jericho Brown • Gabrielle Calvocoressi • Victoria Chang • Jordan Davis • Geri Doran • Debora Greger • Jennifer Grotz • Laura Kasischke • Brigit Pegeen Kelly • Khaled Mattawa • Tomás Q. Morín • Matthew Olzmann • Carl Phillips • Paisley Rekdal • Natasha Trethewey • Ellen Bryant Voigt • G. C. Waldrep • David Yezzi

FICTION
Fiction writers Jonathan Durbin and Lenore Myka make their NER debut in this issue, and Brock Clarke, Dennis McFadden, and Christine Sneed return to our pages with stories of freedom and slavery, marriage, and a battle-axe. Also, an unforgettable story by Belgian author Kristien Hemmerechts appears for the first time in English.

Brock Clarke • Jonathan Durbin • Kristien Hemmerechts (trans. Margie Franzen & Sandra Boersma) • Peter LaSalle • Dennis McFadden • Lenore Myka • Christine Sneed

ESSAYS
The essays in this issue examine age and time, music and notoriety, the great American West, and the mutability of language and rock walls:

  • J. E. Uhl listens closely to the rhythm of New Orleans “Piano Wizard” James Booker
  • Robert Pogue Harrison unravels the question: how old are we, really?
  • Natasha Lvovich tallies the gains and losses of a language left behind
  • Vincent Czyz follows the bread-crumb trail of affinities
  • Elizabeth O’Brien, in praise of names, congruencies, and the letter Z
  • Alexandria Peary discovers the lives layered beneath our not-so-solid walls
  • Richard Tillinghast, out West on Wagonhound Road
  • Boris Sidis considers an epidemic of religious revival

COVER ART
Katherine Minott

Don’t miss this ambitious and unpredictable collection of writing—just published and now on its way from the printer.

See the full table of contents, and order a copy today. Or better yet, subscribe!

The Spirit of the Beehive | Sally Keith

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070040/Most of the village is sitting in this one room, dark except for the lines of cigarette smoke that twist in the projector’s pale white cone. James Whale’s Frankenstein is playing. It’s 1940 on the Castilian plain. The Spanish Civil War has just ended. Two sisters are watching as a man in a tuxedo warns the moviegoers that the story they are watching is not to be taken too seriously. Now there is a man’s face in concentration, just visible behind the grid of his beekeeper mask, as he pumps smoke into his hive. The hum of the bees replaces the clicking projector wheel.

I’m watching Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive (1973). A woman, not yet seen before, is writing a letter, presumably to a lost lover: “Something tells me perhaps our ability to really feel life has vanished along with the rest.” She leaves the house for the plain, turns the wheels of her bike down a road and into the sound of the train’s steady approach. It intersects her path. When she turns to walk alongside the train, she moves through the steam it has produced and momentarily disappears. She posts her plaintive letter to a slot on the train, full of soldiers, and then she departs. Now, we watch the man whose face we’ve seen before—beekeeper, poet, husband, father—return to the empty house. We watch him thinking, in his study, as the words from the Frankenstein script overlay the scene: “Haven’t you ever wanted to take a chance … What if we went beyond the limits of the known? Have you never wished to see beyond the clouds and stars or to know what makes trees grow and changes shadow to light?”

He opens the sun-drenched windows, made of pentagonal panes, remaking the hive in the house. The sisters keep watching the movie. Now the monster meets the young Maria and they float flowers at the edge of the lake. That night as the girls go to bed, Ana whispers the three long syllables of her sister’s name, “Is-a-bel.” She asks, “Why did he kill the girl and why did they kill him after that?” But Isabel won’t answer right away, she is falling asleep. When finally she relents, she explains the monster as a spirit you can access pronouncing your own name in the dark. “I’m Ana, I’m Ana,” Isabel whispers to demonstrate. We hear the sound of the father’s footsteps above them, as if offering a response.

The words the father writes in his notebook, like the sound of the hive in his head, describe his glass beehive “with its movement like the main gearwheel of a clock.” Now the woman, again, who cannot sleep. There is no containment—neither night, nor book, nor hive, nor house—that will suffice. In The Life of the Bee (1901), Maurice Maeterlinck describes an “invisible ailment,” as necessary to the bees as honey, that is derived from a bee when it leaves the hive and results in a craving that might “explain the spirit of the laws of the hive.” This movie is like that—like strokes of paint not quite connecting one part of the composition to the next. Eerie flute melodies turn on and off. Wanting to see more, you watch and watch and watch.

 
Sally Keith is author of the forthcoming River House (Milkweed) as well as three previous collections of poetry. She teaches at George Mason University.

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.  

 

 

 

On Hal Hartley’s “Trust” | Stacey Swann

Categories: Confluences, NER Digital

Trust PhotoIn broad strokes, Hal Hartley’s 1990 film Trust looks like melodrama—Maria, a pregnant seventeen-year-old, is dumped by her boyfriend. Her future love interest, Matthew, lives with his physically and mentally abusive father, meek at home but volatile and violent out in the world. There are multiple fistfights and a stolen baby.

Melodrama tends towards stereotypes, but Hartley subverts expected outcomes. Following Matthew’s impulsive marriage proposal, instead of Maria’s happy acceptance or crushing refusal, we get a decidedly unmelodramatic conversation about the definition of love. Maria asks Matthew why he would want to marry her. (She is, after all, melodramatically carrying someone else’s child.)

MATTHEW: Because I want to.

MARIA: Not because you love me or anything like that, huh?

MATTHEW: I respect and admire you.

MARIA: Isn’t that love?

MATTHEW: No, that’s respect and admiration.

When I first saw Trust, the film felt both familiar and like nothing I had ever seen. I loved the shot composition, the palette of blues and grays, the soundtrack. But more than anything, I loved the dialogue. Perhaps I was connecting it to other films I loved; the deadpan delivery and comedic timing of Golden Age screwball comedies like The Philadelphia Story and classic noir like The Maltese Falcon were here brought into a contemporary setting. After Matthew returns to a job he hates (to get benefits for Maria and the baby), she finds him watching TV, something he never does.

MARIA: Can you stop watching TV for a moment?

MATTHEW: No.

MARIA: Why?

MATTHEW: I had a bad day. I had to subvert my principles and kowtow to an idiot. Television makes these daily sacrifices possible. It deadens the inner core of my being.

MARIA: Let’s move away, then.

MATTHEW: They have television everywhere. There’s no escape. [. . .]

MATTHEW: I’m just trying to be practical. Levelheaded.

MARIA: What’s so practical about being levelheaded?

Also like many masterpieces of screwball comedy and noir, Trust (as well as most of Hartley’s films) conveys multiple tones at once, forming unexpected chords. The movie is both serious and funny, often at the same time. When Matthew’s intense father tracks him down at Maria’s house, their conversation escalates into a fistfight. Matthew, never before able to stand up to his father, now pushes back. The resulting fight is cathartic, and yet Hartley also combines elements of slapstick—a head slammed in by the refrigerator door, a hand crushed in a drawer—both funny and flinch-inducing.

Later in the movie, Maria tells another character she likes Matthew the way he is: “Dangerous. But sincere.” The woman replies, “Sincerely dangerous,” but Maria counters with this remarkable line: “No, dangerous because he’s sincere.” This may have been what I was really tapping into twenty years ago when I first saw Trust. Just as the snappy comebacks of Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart mixed the jaded with the sincere, Hartley showed me that dialogue could be funny, dark, and smart while also being heartfelt. Sincerity isn’t melodrama. As a writer in a culture that often defaults to flimsy irony, I still need to remember this.

 

Stacey Swann’s fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals. A former Stegner Fellow, she teaches with Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio.

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.  

 

 

 

T. L. Khleif to Receive Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award

Categories: News & Notes

Jaffe-T.L.Khleif2We are pleased to announce that fiction writer and New England Review contributor T. L. Khleif will receive a 2014 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, which is given annually to six writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Rona Jaffe Awards have helped many women build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. The Awards are $30,000 each and will be presented to the six recipients on September 18th in New York City.

T. L. Khleif received a BA from Brown University, an MA in Arab Studies from Georgetown University, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she is a lecturer. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in New England Review and the Normal School, and she is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship. Ms. Khleif is working on a novel tentatively titled The Absence of Layla Halabi, and will use her Writer’s Award to take time off from teaching to focus on this novel full time. 

In addition to T. L. Khleif, the 2014 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award recipients are Olivia ClareKaren Hays, Danielle Jones-Pruett, Mara Naselli, and Solmaz Sharif. Congratulations to them all from New England Review.

www.ronajaffefoundation.org.

Celebrated novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded nearly $2 million to emergent women writers, including several who have gone on to critical acclaim, such as Elif Batuman, Eula Biss, Lan Samantha Chang, Rivka Galchen, Aryn Kyle, Rebecca Lee, ZZ Packer, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Tiphanie Yanique.