Poetry from NER 40.4
What do I do with the hours of my life
Poetry from NER 40.4
What do I do with the hours of my life
Copies of the winter issue shipped to subscribers this week, and samples have just been posted online. Order your copy today—in print or ebook—and discover first fictions by Kira Procter and McKenna Marsden, a new English translation of Chinese poet Shang Qin, and 13 poets new to NER. Also, in nonfiction:
• John Guare talks about luck, joy, and persistence in his life as a playwright, in an interview with Nathaniel G. Nesmith
• Traci Brimhall looks for clues among Amelia Earhart’s lyric fragments
• Gregory Johnson returns to the packinghouse of his Tennessee childhood
• Ben Miller finds salvation among the cat poems, railroad ditties, and unfinished haiku of Davenport’s Writers’ Studio
• Molly Gallentine visits the former Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded
• Sean Hill encounters the Confederate battle flag, from the Dukes of Hazzard to a Montana science museum
• Owen Wister reflects on Ulysses S. Grant’s divided personality
Tonino’s infectious love of the outdoors…should inspire us to explore the places just outside our own front door. —E/The Environmental Magazine
From the publisher: At eighteen, Vermont native Leath Tonino ventured west to attend college in Colorado. Upon hearing his destination, many of Tonino’s friends and family predicted that he’d never come back; he’d make the “land of endless space and sky, its ranges and their storms” his home. “The West will swallow you,” one said, in a tone that felt like part warning and part prophecy.
More than a decade later Tonino continues to call Vermont his home. But despite his love of New England and his admiration for writers who sing the praises of their native ground, he concedes that he is, as Gary Snyder once phrased it, “promiscuous with landscapes.” Tonino has spent the intervening years since college traversing “the alphabet of the American West from AZ to CA to UT to WY” and writing about its mysterious and powerful beauty. The resulting musings are collected in The West Will Swallow You, the title of which is a nod to words that, in many ways, turned out to be true.
Leath Tonino, a writer from Vermont, has also worked as a wildlife biologist in Arizona, a blueberry farmer in New Jersey, and a snow shoveler in Antarctica. His essays, reported stories, and interviews appear in magazines such as Outside, Men’s Journal, Orion, Tricycle, Utne Reader, The Sun, and NER 33.3, and his essay “Beach Reading” was recently featured on NER Digital.
The West Will Swallow You can be purchased from Trinity University Press or from your local bookstore.
From the publisher: Erich Ambrose fools people for a living. It’s a family tradition. But when a party stunt goes disastrously wrong, he finds himself in deep trouble, on the run through Chicago streets and northern woods, matching wits with the FBI and national security agents and money launderers, all while trying to please a violent homecoming queen and a badass rabbit. Humorous and probing, Bring Me the Head of Mr. Boots is a story of how our past haunts the present, and how the cruelest tricks are the ones we play on ourselves.
Chalres Holdefer, author of five novels, including Magic Even You Can Do: By Blast (2019) and Dick Cheney in Shorts (2017), grew up in Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Sorbonne. He currently teaches at the University of Poitiers, France. His short fiction and essays have appeared in magazines including New England Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, North American Review, Los Angeles Review, The Antioch Review, World Literature Today, and New York Journal of Books, and his story “The Raptor” won a Pushcart Prize. His essay “Orwell’s Hippopotamus, or The Writer as Historical Anachronism” was published in NER 32.3, and his short story “Big and Nasty” appeared in NER 37.1.
Bring Me the Head of Mr. Boots can be purchased at SPD Books or your local independent bookseller.
Our two fall interns, Julia Beck and Susan Deutsch, sat down to chat about their experience at NER (and were joined by the office dog, Oscar).
Julia: Hi, buddy!
Susan: Hi, Oscar! Hi. You’re the true MVP here at NER. Do you wanna come up?
J: Come here! Come on!
Oscar jumps up onto the window seat.
S: His tail’s wagging! So. We know why Oscar’s here. Why are you here at NER, Julia? How’s that for a segue? We’re both super seniors—
S: And it’s our last semester, our last full semester at Middlebury.
S: And we’re both here.
S: In this office.
J: Yeah. That’s a good segue.
S: What have you been doing during the rest of your time at Middlebury, before this final semester?
J: So I’m a Spanish major and Education Studies minor, and I love both of those departments a lot, but more recently in my Middlebury career I got more excited about the Creative Writing department. I joined the NER submissions reading group, and I thought it was really cool, and I wanted to learn more about the literary world and stuff like that.
S: Yeah, we definitely saw each other at the reading group.
S: And sat over there, at that table, and ate chocolate. What’s your favorite part of interning here?
J: Wait, no, what about you?
S: Oh, what about me!
J: What do you do at Middlebury besides the New England Review?
S: Well, I’m a Religion major. Which was unexpected.
S: It’s something I came to at a point in my life where I was very interested in stories, and I was very tired of reading the canon of American and English literature.
J: That’s why I’m a Spanish major, too.
S: Right, right. So I wanted to read other sorts of stories about other sorts of subjects and people, and I took a religion class, which was actually one of my favorite classes. “Literature of the Mystical Experience.” So now I’m a religion major. But I also really like writing, because that’s also about stories, and I love working at NER, which makes space for such amazing stories and voices. I really enjoy being part of the literary world.
J: Very cool.
S: I also applied to work here a few times before I got to, so… here we are.
J: We’re glad you’re here now!
S: Thanks! Me too.
J: What kind of tasks do you enjoy doing day-to-day at NER?
S: Hmm, let’s see. Well, I really liked organizing the S’more Readings and helping with NER Out Loud. That was fun.
J: Very fun!
S: I like doing Submittable stuff, it’s very calming. And I also—this is going to sound lame, but I like shelving things. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to move around a little bit. How about you?
J: I like making the website posts a lot, working on WordPress. I don’t know why in particular, it just feels productive in some way. The posts are usually interviews with people or spreading the word about events, so reading those is interesting. I also like screening submissions, mostly because it’s so funny to read—
S: The cover letters are great.
J: Yeah. Such a variety of writers are out there who all want to be published in the same issue. Not even just the same journal, the same issue. But they’re all so different. You can see their personalities in their different cover letters, and it’s so funny.
S: People are so cool. I’ve had such interesting cover letters, even just in the past hour. I really like the nonfiction cover letters.
J: They’re usually way more interesting that the fiction ones, for some reason.
S: Right. Nonfiction writers really craft it. That’s what they do, is write factually about themselves. And that’s what a cover letter needs to be, too, introducing both you and your work. So for nonfiction writers, in their cover letters they’re like, ‘This is my story, and this is also my story that I want you to publish.’ If that makes sense.
J: Mmhm. What was something that surprised you about working at NER? If anything.
J: Or what’s something you’ve learned?
S: Well, I’m not gonna lie, I feel like something that surprised me is that we still get paper submissions. I’ve never mailed in a submission, personally.
J: That’s so much work.
S: I don’t even know if I own stamps.
But maybe it’s a generational thing. And some people don’t have access to the internet or computers.
S: So that was a bit surprising. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been— but I was still a bit surprised. But we’re ready. We’ve got our crates and boxes to organize them, and our spreadsheet. I really like the physical, tactile aspect of paper submissions, actually.
S: How about you? What was surprising, or what was something that you learned at NER?
J: I think what surprised me was that submissions aren’t open most of the year, but they still get, like, ten thousand submissions a year.
S: It feels like we’ve seen that many come through since we’ve been here.
J: So it’s both the huge number and that it comes from just a few months. Both of those are surprising to me individually, but together feels pretty wild.
S: We’ve only got like 200-some left for nonfiction. And we finished fiction!* Right?
J: I don’t know. I have no idea.
Oscar wanders by, tail wagging.
J: I’ve also enjoyed the dogs in the office a lot.
S: Yes. Oh, I get so happy when I see the little sign on the door: “Dog In The Office. (It’s still safe to come in, though!)”
And then Oscar. What a great greeting today. I think he missed us.
J: He was so excited.
S: The dogs and the tea. Great perks to working in the office. And all the journals! I’m looking at the shelves of other literary journals over there. That’s just really wonderful. I like that kind of exchange—I didn’t realize that they did that.
J: Yeah, I didn’t know they did that either. It’s really cute.
S: And it makes sense. Like, “Hey! Let’s share our work. We’re all in the same world and we all really love reading good stuff.”
Eli, the office manager, enters the kitchen to make tea.
Eli: You’ve gotten through most of the nonfiction?
E: All right, keep going with your interview. That’s important.
J: Crushed it.
E: And don’t forget to mention what great staff there is here. They work so hard making tea!
S: Well, I mean, the two of us are both sitting here with our tea.
J: Yeah. Wait, Eli, you’re really into Cuba, right?
E: Yeah, I’ve been.
J: Well, I’m actually doing a class there over J-Term. I’m going with a Middlebury Institute professor. He’s a professor of translation.
E: Really? Because we’re trying to do a Cuban Writers in Translation Issue.
S: Ooh. Go solicit some Cuban authors!
E: So did you talk to Carolyn about this?
J: No, not yet.
E: You definitely have to. Because we’ve been trying to do a Cuban Writers In Translation issue for a long time.
J: Well, I can introduce you to my professor.
S: You could translate something and be in the issue!
J: That’s my project! Everyone in the class has to do a project while we’re there, and I’m going to meet this famous Cuban author and translate one of his short stories. That’s like all I have to do for the class.
S: What? That’s so cool!
J: I’ve never done translation before, so I’m not sure I’ll be any good at it, but it’s such a fun opportunity to try it for the first time. I’ve always been interested in it because I love languages. Well, I love Spanish at least. It’s so cool to do it for the first time in Cuba, with the author that I’m translating, with a professor who has a PhD in translation helping me.
S: That’s wild.
E: Put this in your Meet the Interns interview!
S: It’s going in there!
E: That’s a great opportunity.
S: Very cool. Almost as cool as my J-term, where I’ll be interning at the New England Review with a lot of cool people. See that segue?
J: Oh my god, you’ll get to do a second Meet the Interns interview!
J: That’ll be fun. The internet will get to know you so well.
S: Oh yeah. I’m ready for my moment of fame on the NER website.
* “finished fiction” doesn’t mean “finished reading fiction submissions”—just finished reading the cover letters and tagging them for staff