New Nonfiction from Jill Sisson Quinn | NER 36.1

Categories: Nonfiction


Big Night | Jill Sisson Quinn

[view as PDF] US contains more species of salamander than any other country, but in an entire lifetime you may never encounter one. Salamanders—secretive, fossorial, nocturnal—exit underground harbors only in darkness. Even those that gather in great masses to breed do so without a sound, moving monk-like through the yammering of wood frogs and spring peepers to ephemeral ponds.

In the country’s eastern half, many folks would be surprised to find they share their neighborhoods with Ambystoma maculatum, the spotted salamander, a creature that looks like it belongs in the Amazon. Two uneven rows of big, bright yellow dots extend from head to tail on its dark, glossy body, a body I have always thought looks purple, though most field guides describe it as steel gray or black. Spotteds are stout and medium-sized; at four to seven inches long, they look like they’d make a good meal for something. But they’re not easy to find. Scientists tracking them with radio telemetry, through tiny transmitters surgically implanted into the salamanders’ midsections, discovered one spotted salamander living four feet underground. To find one of these brightly colored animals beneath a rock or within a log feels like hitting the jackpot.

My interest in salamanders renewed with surprising force the same spring my husband and I began the process of adopting a child. I had recently moved away from an area of high salamander density (from New Jersey, which has sixteen species, to Wisconsin, which has only seven) and ceased teaching environmental education; instead I was teaching English and spending my workdays indoors. Nevertheless, I aimed to be present for the annual nocturnal mass breeding of the spotted. There was a chance I would see them and a chance I wouldn’t, these creatures that seemed scarce but were relatively numerous, that lived singly all year long but on a single evening gathered in multitudes. It was just this odd combination of uncertainty and possibility that I would need to embrace in my journey to becoming a parent.

[read more]

Jill Sisson Quinn’s essays have appeared in Orion, Ecotone, OnEarth, and many other magazines. She has received the Annie Dillard Award in Creative Nonfiction, a John Burroughs Essay Award, and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her work has been reprinted in Best American Science & Nature Writing 2011. Her first book, Deranged, was published by Apprentice House of Loyola University Maryland in 2010. A regular commentator for Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life series, she lives and writes in Scandinavia, Wisconsin.

New Poetry from Emilia Phillips | NER 36.1

Categories: Poetry

Supine Body in Full-Length Mirror, Hotel Room, Upper West Side | Emilia Phillips

“All is seen.”—Dante’s Virgil, Inferno, Canto XXXIV

[view as PDF]








What startles first is that it’s there.
After long hours in the car
when thought seemed
seamless with forward
motion, & the body,
a home you left that morning—
& now it’s naked & unyielding,
a narrative,
if you’ll have it
that the scars know more
about your past
than you choose to remember—

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Emilia Phillips is the author of two collections of poetry, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (forthcoming), both from the University of Akron Press, and three chapbooks. Her poetry appears in Agni, Gulf Coast, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s the recipient of fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, US Poets in Mexico, and Vermont Studio Center; the 2012 Poetry Prize from the Journal; and the 2013–2014 Emerging Writer Lectureship from Gettysburg College. She serves as a staff member of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and as a prose editor of 32 Poems. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

New Translation of Luis S. Krausz | NER 36.1

Categories: Translations

The Clocks | Luis S. Krausz

translated from the Portuguese by Ana Fletcher
[view as PDF]

from Memories in Ruins was no other neighborhood in São Paulo more propitious to cultivating Austro-Hungarian obsessions than Sumaré—obsessions that, frustrated over there, had found fertile soil over here, and could develop freely. Drüben—on the other side—there had been a correct order for everything: a framework that shaped our souls and allowed us to put everything in its assigned place, according to a hierarchy sanctified over time, and which we held in the same regard as the ten Sephirot of the Kabbalistic tree. It was an order we clung to as we might the very tree of life, and that showed us the true value of all things. Thanks to this order we—unlike the nameless poor of undefined race—were not colonized, nor were we akin to those displaced Jews who turned up like beggars on the doorsteps of unknown lands. We wanted to believe this would make us Europeans: Europeans in places of exile, like Sumaré, where we dreamt of founding our colony of expats—a colony that would be a real Gartensiedlung: a neighborhood of gardens cultivated skillfully and efficiently; of impeccably organized libraries; of intact inheritances from grandparents and great grandparents; a neighborhood of stamp collectors and alchemists; of orchid lovers and men of letters; where the cool breezes and shady gardens would bring respite from all cares and relief from all pain—a world that was like a book itself, where we imagined we would not be swallowed by time and by history, by the hurricane that blows from Paradise, but where we would be safe: a vegetable patch and an orchard that neither the heat nor the despair that oppressed the city’s streets could penetrate; our city of peace, the port of our happiness. There would be permanence and durability here, and we longed for the seasons to come, each in its turn: the heat of the dry season and the rain of the rainy season and the cold of the cold season.

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Luis S. Krausz, born in São Paulo, holds a PhD from the Universidade de São Paulo where he teaches Jewish Literature. He is the recipient of several literary prizes in Brazil, including the Jabuti Prize and the Benvirá Prize. 

Ana Fletcher is an editor and translator based in Rio de Janeiro. She holds an MA in Comparative Literature from University College London. Her translations from Portuguese and Spanish have been published in Granta, Music and Literature, and Wasafiri.


New Fiction from Lisa Taddeo | NER 36.1

Categories: Fiction

Forty-Two | Lisa Taddeo

[view as PDF] had to look beautiful.

Tonight there was a wedding in goddamned Brooklyn, farm-to-table animals talking about steel cut oatmeal as though they invented the steel that cut it. In New York the things you hate are the things you do.

She worked out at least two hours a day. On Mondays and Tuesdays, which are the kindest days for older single women, she worked out as many as four. At six in the morning she ran to her barre class in leg warmers and black Lululemons size four. The class was a bunch of women squatting on a powder blue rug. You know the type, until you become one.

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Lisa Taddeo is a contributor to Esquire and New York, among others. Her pieces have been anthologized in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Political Writing. She is currently at work on her debut nonfiction book for Simon & Schuster about desire and sexuality in America, and has just completed her first novel.

Announcing NER 36.1

Categories: News & Notes

The New Issue of NER Has Arrived

Welcome to the first issue of New England Review’s volume 36, the first volume of NER available in print and digital formats for all devices.


Sixteen poems by contemporary writers both new and renowned:

Anders Carlson-Wee • Jennifer Chang • Steven Cramer • Jehanne Dubrow • Daisy Fried • Nick Lantz • William Logan • Erin Lynch • Cate Marvin • Emilia Phillips • John Poch • Kevin Prufer • Ocean Vuong • C. K. Williams


Fiction writers—all new to the pages of NERMario J. Gonzales, Brendan McKennedy, Carolyn Page, J. T. Price, Lore Segal, and Lisa Taddeo bring us stories from the poorest to the most privileged corners of life in the city, and share tales of the power of music and the power of words, of memories planted along a dusty road, and of a world too watery for anything but the ark of Noah himself.


  • Rob Hardy on the shape-changing, gender-switching imagination of Naomi Mitchison.
  • Luis S. Krausz’s novel of Austro-Hungarian obsession in Brazil, translated from the Portuguese by Ana Fletcher.
  • Rachel Hadas negotiates the space between the living and the dead.
  • Lorraine Hanlon Comanor figure skates to independence.
  • Roger Strittmater, Mark K. Anderson, and Elliott Stone document nineteenth-century American writers’ tussles with Shakespeare.
  • John Kinsella translates a little-known French poet of the sublime.
  • Jill Sisson Quinn unravels the child wish.
  • We revisit Henry Reed Stiles who divulges what we talk about when we talk about bundling.

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

New Books for March from NER Authors

Categories: News & Notes

Dubrow. . . a story so compelling that we put down our tasks and turn to her voice. ––Hilda Raz, author of All Odd and Splendid

We congratulate NER author Jehanne Dubrow on the publication of her fifth book of poems, The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico).

Dubrow’s previous poetry collections include Stateside and Red Army RedFrom the Fever-World (2009) which won the Washington Writers’ Poetry Competition, and her first collection The Hardship Post (2009) winner of the Three Candles Press Open Book Award. She is the director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and is an associate professor of English at Washington College. Dubrow’s poetry most recently appeared in NER 30.2 and her essay on Philip Larkin appeared in 35.1.


19781469619989NER congratulates Philip F. Gura on the publication of his latest book The Life of William Apess, Pequot (The University of North Carolina Press, 2015). The biography follows young America’s prejudice against Native Americans through the lens of William Apess, a Native American writer and activist of the 19th century. An excerpt of the book appears in NER 35.4.

Publishers Weekly: “In his engaging, insightful, and thoroughly detailed biography, Gura draws us into the fascinating life of a man who strove to claim a place for himself and his people in this new nation.”

Gura serves as William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where he teaches English & Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and American Studies. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including Truth’s Ragged Edge (2014), Jonathan Edwards: The Evangelical Writings (2005), and American Transcendentalism: A History (2007). He also serves as an editor for the Norton Anthology of American Literature.

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


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


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