New Poetry from Joshua Bennett | NER 36.2

Categories: Poetry

The Sobbing School |
Joshua Bennett

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is where I learned to brandish the black like a club,
you know, like a blunt object, or cobalt flashes of strobe
dotting damp walls after dusk drops the dark motion
our modern world can’t hold. There’s a process
by which bodies blend in, or don’t, or die, or roll on
past the siren’s glow so as not to subpoena the grave.
Mama never said surviving this flesh was a kind
of perverse science, but I’ve seen the tape,
felt the metal close & lock around my wrists, bone
bisected by chokehold. A crow turns crimson
against the windshield & who would dare mourn
such clean transition, the hazard of not knowing you
are the wrong kind of alive. But enough
about extinction. Entire towns mad with grief, whole
modes of dreaming gone the way of life before lyric,
all faded into amber & archive, all dead as the VCR,
all buried below the surface where nothing breaks, bleeds.

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Joshua Bennett is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University and has received fellowships from the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University, and the Ford Foundation. He is winner of the 2014 Lucille Clifton and the 2015 Erskine J. Poetry Prizes. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Anti-, Blackbird, Callaloo, Obsidian, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. Bennett is the founding editor of Kinfolks: a journal of black expression.

Image by Stephanie Maniaci Vernon, from Poiesis

New Fiction from Michael X. Wang | NER 36.2

Categories: Fiction

Further News of Defeat | 
Michael X. Wang

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forrest_german_expressionism_revisted_lyonel_feiningerA runner arrived at Xinchun Village two days after the fall of Taiyuan. Out of breath, his Kuomintang uniform soaked in sweat, the soldier collapsed into a fly-infested ditch on the edge of a sorghum field. That evening, San saw him on her way back from tending her family’s two goats, the man lying there snoring, and when she told her parents about him, they didn’t believe her. San, nine years old, often lied to her parents. One week she’d say the Japanese were here, the Russians the next. Her parents knew San hated shepherding and dismissed her pleas to save the young man from becoming pig fodder. After putting her to bed, San’s father slung a hoe over his shoulder and walked across his fields under moonlight to the place his daughter had mentioned. He couldn’t lift the man out of the mud by himself, even after taking off his own shoes and using his bare feet for traction. He ran to the village chief, who sent a neighbor to help him. Together with one man lifting the head and another the legs, they carried him to the granary and dropped him beside sacks of recently harvested sorghum.

The man remained unconscious the entire time. The villagers, observing the soldier clearly in the light, saw that he was only a boy: a scrawny, malnourished teen in a faded uniform and an oversized cap.

“I can’t believe how heavy that kid was,” Bu Dan said, wiping muddy sweat from his brow. Bu Dan’s family farmed the land to the very west of Xinchun and he was his parents’ only son. The strongest man in the village, he was often called upon to perform tasks that others couldn’t: push a stubborn mule, transport tub-sized jugs of rice wine, carry replacement limestones for those worn away at the ancestral shrine.

“The mud weighed him down,” said the village chief. He pointed to the canisters that rattled on the boy’s belt. “We should’ve undressed him first.”

Bu Dan slapped the boy a few times and still he would not wake. The village herbalist was called in and only after inserting slices of ginger into his nose did the boy finally start to shudder. He coughed out thick, brown water. San’s father brought a bowl of rice porridge up to the boy’s mouth and the boy extended his thin neck to drink it.

After thanking the villagers squatting in the darkness in front of him, he broke into tears. “It’s over,” he said. “The Japanese flooded the Yellow River. Taiyuan was sacked.”

The villagers glanced at each other. “What do you want us to do?” the village chief asked.

“I don’t know,” the boy said. He wiped his nose with his sleeve and sank his head below his shoulders. “My lieutenant never tells me anything. I think the Chinese army wants you to stay where you are.”

“That’s a strange message,” San’s father said.

“Useless,” Bu Dan added, running his fingers over his scalp. “So we shouldn’t flee?”

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Michael X. Wang was born in Fenyang, China. He received his MFA from Purdue, has a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University, and won a 2010 AWP Intro Award in fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Prick of the Spindle, Day One, Driftwood Press, and Juked, among others. His chapbook, A Minor Revolution, is available from Amazon. He will begin teaching at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, in the fall.

Image by Allen Forrest, German Expressionism Revisted Lyonel Feininger 2


Announcing NER 36.2

Categories: News & Notes

With its focus on China, NER 36.2 brings us up close to an old, new world of art and history, nature and poetry. Also in this issue, we traverse our own country from the Atlantic to the Pacific with authors as they remember collective pasts, brave their own presents, and escort the most foreign of foreigners from our halls of ivy to our backroads theaters. The new issue of NER has just shipped from the printer and a preview is available on our website. Order a print or digital copy today!


Kazim Ali • David Baker • Christopher Bakken • Joshua Bennett • Bruce Bond • Luisa A. Igloria • Vandana Khanna • Rickey Laurentiis • Katrina Roberts • Ed Skoog • Xiao Kaiyu (translated by Christopher Lukpe) • Ya Shi (translated by Nick Admussen) • Yin Lichuan (translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain)


Steve De Jarnatt • Joann Kobin • Carla Panciera • Sharon Solwitz • Michael X. Wang.


Wei An’s ruminations on nature just north of Beijing (translated by Thomas Moran)
Wendy Willis on Ai Weiwei’s blockbuster show at Alcatraz
Marianne Boruch discovers the diagnostic value of poetry
• Interpreter Eric Wilson relives the encounters of a Faeroese poet with American activists, academics, and alcohol
• James Naremore considers the considerable Orson Welles at 100, looking beyond Citizen Kane
• Jeff Staiger makes a case for how The Pale King was to have trumped Infinite Jest
• Camille T. Dungy is more than welcomed to Presque Isle as she finds herself in Maine’s early history
• “The Gloomy Dean” William Ralph Inge revisits Rome under the Caesars

Order a copy in print or digital formats for all devices.


Best American Series Gives Three Cheers to NER

Categories: News & Notes

11164839_697846580326266_7587790925888781084_nWe are thrilled to share the news—Best American has chosen three pieces from New England Review, in a range of genres, for publication in the forthcoming 2015 series.

We congratulate Laura Lee Smith for “Unsafe at Any Speed,” chosen for Best American Short Stories, Steven Heighton for “Shared Room on Union,” slated for Best American Mysteries, and Kate Lebo for “The Loudproof Room,” which will appear in Best American Essays.

NER Vermont Reading Series | July 22, 2015

Categories: NER VT Reading Series, Readings


The NER Vermont Reading Series and the Vermont Book Shop are pleased to present Michael Coffey, Penelope Cray, and Rebecca Makkai, who will read from their poetry and fiction at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café. From as far as Chicago and as near as Shelburne, these three writers represent an extraordinary range of literary imagination. Join us at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café (24 Merchants Row, Middlebury, Vermont) on July 22nd at 7:00pm. Books will be available for signing.


Coffey by Nancy Crampton

 Michael Coffey is the author of three books of poems and of 27 Men Out, a book about baseball’s perfect games. He also co-edited The Irish in America, a book about Irish immigration, a companion volume to the PBS documentary series. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in NER and NER Digital, and his first book of fiction, The Business of Naming Things, is just out from Bellevue Literary Press. He lives in Manhattan and Bolton Landing, New York.



 Penelope Cray’s poems and short shorts have appeared in such literary magazines as Harvard Review, PleiadesBartleby Snopeselimae, and American Letters & Commentary, and in the anthology Please Do Not Remove (2014). She holds an MFA from the New School and lives with her family in Shelburne, Vermont, where she operates an editorial business.


Makkai photo-cropRebecca Makkai is the author of the new story collection Music for Wartime, as well as the novels The Hundred-Year House and The Borrower (which has been published in nine translations and chosen as a Booklist Top Ten Debut). Her short fiction, which has appeared in NER, was featured in the Best American Short Stories anthologies in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The recipient of a 2014 NEA Fellowship, she teaches at Lake Forest College, Northwestern University, and StoryStudio Chicago.

Mid-Week Break | Cara Blue Adams Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

Cara Blue Adams reads her fiction at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. 

Cara Blue Adams‘s stories have appeared in Narrative, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Kenyon Review, Epoch, and the Sun. Her essays and criticism appear in the Rumpus, Ploughshares, and The Little Magazine in Contemporary America (University of Chicago Press, 2015). She has been cara%20bwawarded The Missouri Review William Peden Prize and The Kenyon Review Short Fiction Prize, together with scholarships and fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the VCCA, and she was recently named one of Narrative’s “15 Below 30.”

Raised in Putney, Vermont, Cara earned an MFA from the University of Arizona and went on to serve as editor of Southern Review. She now lives in Conway, SC, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Coastal Carolina University.

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

Mid-Week Break | Marianne Boruch Reads at Bread Loaf

Categories: Audio

Marianne Boruch reads her poems at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.



“Mud Fest”


Marianne Boruch‘s eight poetry collections include Cadaver, Speak, and The Book of Hours, a Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award winner (Copper Canyon Press). She’s also the author of two essay collections, In the Blue Pharmacy and Poetry’s Old Air, and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler about hitchhiking in the early 70’s.

Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, London Review of Books, American Poetry Review, The Nation and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as artist residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, as well as at Isle Royale, our most isolated national park. A 2012 Fulbright/ Visiting Professor in Edinburgh, Scotland, she is the founding Director of Purdue University’s MFA program where she still teaches, in addition to teaching in the low residency Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Marianne’s work was first published in NER in 1990 (13.2) and 1994 (16.4) and her literary criticism “The End Inside It,” selected as a prose feature by Poetry Daily, appears in NER 33.2.

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 | Preparations for August | Cate Marvin

Categories: NER Classics, Poetry

Cate Marvin‘s poem, “Preparations for August,” appeared in NER 22.2:








Like drinking perfume, or chewing anise tablets,
I pour within myself a fragrance, so my breath
may smell of rose, my skin like pale citrus.
It is an act of doing, of pre-doing, what is called

preparation. No need for the silken dress, or green
beads of glass studding the neckline. To breathe
another’s breathing, all that’s done is to inhale.
What youth was to me was thrown away with

the porcelain cat whose neck, once broken, was
squiggled with a line of crack and glue. I may have
thrown it out, but I return my mind to it, just as
I return to you in thought. The briefest letter breathes

warm breath on my neck. I am tempted to call
the airlines to make reservations I’ll never afford.
What I want is for someone to come at my calling,
no matter the cost. I require desperation, sweat, and loss.

It’s a bird-feathered room, a silky-walled space
where we ought to meet. Likely it’ll be blank walls in a hotel room
I’ll remember as extravagantly green-hued.
I have always been jealous of anyone who wants you.

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Mid-Week Break | Titi Nguyen Reads at Bread Loaf 2014

Categories: Audio

Titi Nguyen shares an excerpt from her piece “Because We Share Bodies” at the 2014 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholar Reading.


Titi Nguyen‘s essays have appeared in Threepenny Review, the New York TimesTin House blog, Paris Review Daily, Witness, and elsewhere. She earned her BA at Sarah Lawrence College and her MFA at Bennington College. She received Crab Orchard Review‘s inaugural Feature Award in Literary Nonfiction. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, and raised in Massachusetts, Titi currently resides in New York City.

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