Middlebury Faculty and Alumni Author Reading | June 6

Categories: Readings

New England Review is pleased to present a gathering of alumni and faculty authors during Middlebury’s reunion weekend on Saturday, June 6, at 2:30 p.m. Writers who will read from their work are Professor Emeritus John Elder, Lucas Gonzalez, Sydney Landon Plum, India Hixon Radfar, and Sue Ellen Thompson, in the Middlebury College Axinn Center, Room 229. Free and open to the public!

JE_2726webJohn Elder (Professor Emeritus) taught English and environmental studies at Middlebury College from 1973 until his retirement in 2010. His books Reading the Mountains of HomeThe Frog Run, and Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa explore the meaning of Vermont’s landscape and environmental history for him as a teacher, writer, and householder. Recently he has also completed a memoir called Picking up the Flute that chronicles his obsession since retirement with learning about and playing traditional Irish music.

Gonzalez Lucas Gonzalez (2010) was born and raised in New York City and works as an English teacher in Palo Alto, California. He first attended Middlebury as a high school student at the New England Young Writers’ Conference. He published his first young adult novel, The Maple Machine, in 2006. During his time as an undergraduate, Lucas served as a co-creator of Blackbird, a student-led undergraduate publication still in print today. He was also NER’s first summer intern. Since graduating from Midd, Lucas has gone on to pursue his MA at the Bread Loaf School of English, attending each of the four campuses and organizing the graduate student reading series. He is thrilled to be back in the company of NER, Middlebury, and his beloved Green Mountains.

SydneyPlum-photo1 Landon Plum (1970) teaches online for the University of Connecticut. Solitary Goose, her book of essays about life on a small pond in Connecticut, was published by University of Georgia Press in 2007. She also contributed a chapter to the anthology Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming, edited by Steven Pavlos Holmes. Plum has worked for the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Environmental Writers’ Conference in Honor of Rachel Carson, and served on the committee establishing a new major in Environmental Studies at UConn. She is currently working on essays exploring ordinary encounters—with a Benedictine monk in Vietnam, a rug salesman in Istanbul, and an eel fisherman and a snapping turtle in Maine.

India RadfarIndia Hixon Radfar (1990) has published four books of poetry: India Poem (2002), the desire to meet with the beautiful (2003), Breathe (2004), and Position & Relation (2009), in addition to a chapbook, 12 Poems That Were Never Written (2006). She teaches poetry for California Poets-in-the-Schools and expressive writing (for Writegirl and The Creative Minds Project at UCLA) with populations of the homeless, the mentally ill, the imprisoned, and those doing early parenting. She is a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator for the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy and just received an A.I.R. grant from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to do a large writing project with the homeless youth of Los Angeles.

Sue Ellen Thompson (1970) published her fifth book of poetry, They, in 2014. Her work has been included in the Best American Poetry series and read on National Public Radio by Garrison Keillor. In addition to a Winter Term course at Middlebury, she has taught at Wesleyan University, Binghamton University, Central Connecticut State University, and the University of Delaware. With her husband, Stuart Parnes ’70, she lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she mentors adult poets and teaches workshops at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda and Annapolis. She was awarded the 2010 Maryland Author Prize from the Maryland Library Association.

NER CLASSICS | On Poetry Anthologies | Rachel Hadas

Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction

41THNY4FF3LRachel Hadas’ piece, “On Poetry Anthologies,” appeared in NER 19.4:

. . . It’s true that the best poetry anthologies give the impression of being not siftings from other anthologies but personal statements, even personal testaments. And the reader who browses through poetry anthologies also brings personal responses beyond simply liking one poem or disliking another. Increasingly, for example, what I notice in anthologies are mistakes. Richmond Lattimore seems to be undergoing a sea-change into Richard Lattimore; my own first name has been misspelled and my date of birth gotten wrong; and an anthology edited by the late M. L. Rosenthal confidently glossed a short lyric by James Merrill as being addressed to the poet’s wife. Even more than errors, anthologies are known for sins of omission—how could Poem X or Poet Y possibly have been left out? But though I sometimes lament the absence of one poem or the inclusion of another, such ins and outs concern me less than the wider matter of context . . . 

[read more]


Mid-Week Break | Rose McLarney reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Rose McLarney reads her poems at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

“Watershed” was published in Missouri Review.

“Story with a Real Beast and a Little Blood in It” was published in Poetry Daily and Slate.


Rose McLarney’s second book, Its Day Being Gone, won the National Poetry Series award and was published by Penguin in May 2014. Her first book, The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, is available from Four Way Books. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including Kenyon Review, Orion, Slate, New England Review (32.2), Painted Bride Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Missouri Review, and Mudlark. McLarney earned her MFA from Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers and has taught writing at the college. She is currently Assistant Poetry Professor at Oklahoma State University. This year, she received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences. Last year, she was awarded The Fellowship of Southern Writers’ George Garrett New Writing Award for Poetry, in 2011 her poems won Alligator Juniper’s National Poetry Prize, and in 2010 she was awarded the Joan Beebe Fellowship.

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

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.