New Books from NER Authors

PlacetoRead” . . . a collection of personal retrospectives that deserve a place in the finest tradition of the American essay.”

We are pleased to announce the publication of NER contributor Michael Cohen‘s essay collection, A Place to Read: Life and Books (Interactive Press). The book includes an investigative essay published in NER 31.4 as well as The King in Winter, which appeared as an NER digital.

From Christina Thompson, Editor, Harvard Review: “Michael Cohen’s essays on the reading life are a treat to read. Relaxed, personal, wide-ranging, they contain fascinating nuggets of information and lively assessments of hundreds of books, as well as a whole life’s worth of thoughtful rumination on time, love, travel, and family, as well as what it means to be, almost existentially, a reader.”

“Each [piece] is in its own way a comment on the human situation, filtered through a personal optic that is both refined and erudite. Amusing, highly personal, insightful, they’ll make you smile, smirk, frown, and gasp . . .” —E. A. Allen, author of the Montclaire Mysteries

Since retiring from university teaching, Michael Cohen’s essays have appeared in Harvard Review, Birding, the Humanist, Missouri Review, and the Kenyon Review in addition to NER. He is also the author of five books, including a poetry text, The Poem in Question (Harcourt Brace, 1983) and an award winning book on Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Georgia, 1989).


“The poetic sensibility itself is characterized by restlessness–a ‘daring’ aspiration toward fuller meaning, feeling, and vision.”

9781555976811Congratulations to NER contributor Carl Phillips on the publication of his collection of essays, The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (Graywolf). An excerpt of this book appears in NER 35.2. His reflection, “On Restlessness,” can be read in full online.

From Publishers Weekly: “Abundant autobiographical glimpses lend substance and specificity to Phillips’s tenet that ‘art and life are forever part of the same thing.’ Phillips analyzes individual poems by Shakespeare, Herbert, Shelley, Frost, Gunn, and others, along with his own work. The result is a slim volume memorable for delicate
insights . . . and for its grounding of theory in the life and personality of the poet.”

Carl Phillips is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Silverchest (2013), Double Shadow (2011), and Rest of Love (2004). He is the recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.


” . . . his poems, more than anyone else’s, take the shape of fire, all its ambiguity and wind-shreddedness, all its likeness to poppies in the wheat.” —H. K. Hix

Gpankey100Eric Pankey has published his tenth poetry collection, Dismantling the Angel (Parlor Press, 2014). Pankey has been appeared in several issues of NER, most recently in 34.1.

“In these precise, dream-like poems, Eric Pankey peers through the clarifying lens of metaphor and parable to meditate on mystery, human sympathy and the divine. Here, the shifting image of fire both articulates and consumes our sense of the vastness of history and the ineffable nature of divinity.”—Kevin Prufer

Pankey’s other publications include The Pear as One Example: New and Selected Poems 1984-2008 and Trace. He is Professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.


9781556594663_p0_v1_s600“Kasischke astonishes with her lyricism and metaphorical power as she considers illness and mortality through exacting, imaginative poems.”

Laura Kasischke’s newest collection of poetry, The Infinitesimals (Copper Canyon, 2014) is now out with strong reviews. Her work appears most recently in NER 34.2.

From Publisher’s Weekly: The brevity of Kasischke’s lines movingly captures the absence of death and the limitations on memory, and her mastery of meticulous, though seemingly effortless, description shines throughout, as when she dubs a cake once baked for her father as “Soggy church bell on a plate,” or describes a tumor as a “terrible frog/ Of moonlight and dampness on a log.”

Laura Kasischke has published nine novels and eight previous collections of poetry. For her collection, Space, in Chains, she received the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at the University of Michigan.


9780822963127_p0_v2_s260x420“It’s the music, the beauty, after all, that’s balm to all this sorrow. The American reminds me of this.” —Ross Gay

Longtime NER contributor David Roderick has published his poetry collection, The Americans with the University of Pittsburgh Press. His work has previously appeared in NER issues 24.2 and 32.1.

The Americans is a compelling meditation on the ways we go about our lives at this cultural moment, often unmoored from the facts of history though we drift along its shores. Part complicated love letter to suburbia, these poems demand that we consider not only what we are drawn to but also what we fail to see, how the apocryphal feeds our cultural amnesia. The poet asks: ‘Must nostalgia / walk like a prince through all our rooms?’ This lovely collection shows us a way to confront that question within ourselves.” —Natasha Tretheway, U.S. Poet Laureate

David Roderick’s first book, Blue Colonial, won the APR/Honickman Prize. He is a recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, and he currently teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Lisettes-List-A-NovelNew York Times bestselling novelist Susan Vreeland is back with the publication of Lisette’s List. Her short story, “Love Burning,” was featured in NER 20.2.

Susan Vreeland is the author of four New York Times bestselling novels—The Passion of Artemisia, Luncheon of the Boating Party, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, and Girl in Hyacinth Blue, which was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television drama. Her books have been translated into 26 languages.

“Vreeland’s ability to make this complex historical novel as luminous as a Tiffany lamp is nothing less than remarkable.”The Washington Post

“Vreeland’s writing is so graceful, her research so exhaustive, that a reader is enfolded in the world of Tiffany and Driscoll.”Los Angeles Times

Apocalypse Now

New England Review contributor David Roderick and former NER editor T.R. Hummer are included in a new collection of poetry and fiction entitled Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days. The collection includes thirty-six literary and speculative authors, among them Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates.

David Roderick’s first book, Blue Colonial, won the APR/Honickman Prize and was published jointly by The American Poetry Review and Copper Canyon Press in 2006. He has published poetry and fiction in several journals, including The Hudson Review, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, Verse, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. NER published his poems “Night in the Pawtuxet Woods”  and “Riparian” in Vol. 24, No. 2 and his poem “Omen” in Vol. 32, No. 1.

A former editor for NER (1990-1995), T.R. Hummer is the author of twelve books. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, and Georgia Review. His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship inclusion in the 1995 edition of Best American Poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes.

Avenues of the mind

In Lily City | By David Roderick

“I went, I saw, I was conquered…”

I went, I saw, I was conquered—by its stony cold shadows, by the sheep-like tourists flocking along the Via Ricasoli between Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s Dome. Florence: the Lily City. Firenze: that greatly-aged place that neutralized anyone (Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante), who tried to foist greatness upon it. Dante’s friend, Bernardo Canaccio, referred to it as “The Mother of Little Love.” I went and saw. There I walked on my American feet.

Why do we think we can take so much of a place like Florence (or any place, for that matter) with us? Daily I sat on my rented stoop and watched the lenses of hand-held recorders pressed to the brows of Germans and Japanese. I saw tour guides, their heels worn flat from walking backwards, turn umbrellas into beacons and prods. How many times did I sit there, licking gelato from a plastic spoon, thinking myself better than they?

Truth is, I was the city’s most foolish visitor. I went to write about it, a book of poems no less. Specifically, I thought I might write a poetic sequence about Michelangelo’s David. Somehow I believed I could turn my devotion into poems without any residue of that statue’s many attentions. (What hubris!) Michelangelo’s mastery exhausts anything I could say about it. When you enter the crowded gallery and circle around its towering polished figure, you can’t escape the flashbulbs and red carpet awe of its visitants. There’s a screen on a wall in which you can study, at any angle, a close-up pixilated representation of David’s face. (Face to face he looks more like an anxious boy than a minted man.) Forget about synthesizing feelings and words in that gallery—I couldn’t even gather the right materials.

There might be an authentic Florence, but I didn’t see it. Not only does language fail as an obstacle—the Florentines all speak English and they’re more than happy to serve you—wherever you turn there’s a false invitation. Stylish clothes stare from the shops, and rainbow displays of gelato. Roma women rattle tuna-tins, Ghanaians hawk knockoffs from blankets they’ll later sleep under.

Dante understood that our senses are the avenues of the mind. What sticks with me, what flashes synaptically a few years later, are residual things: textures and colors and qualities of light. The crumbly voices of men (I took them to be latent Communists) playing chess at the Café Giubbe Rosse, where Montale once sipped the local grind. Rat poison sprinkled like baby powder around certain buildings. Buzzing Vespas. In January and February: sunlight so rare I felt pistol-whipped by it. One more impressionable delight for a history punk like me: the closet latrines in the Pitti Palace, replete with slit windows through which squatting princes of the past had a pencil-thin view over a dominion.

There is one specific moment I’ll never gather in, that feels like something I might regard as transformational. While standing outside the little corner grocery, gearing up to collect everything I needed on my list so that I wouldn’t have to elbow back against the pedestrian flow, I suddenly didn’t feel like myself anymore.  Frozen on that corner I realized I was just a creature on a vast planet, nothing but a bloodstream, two eyes, a set of toes.

Of course I have gauzy flashback imprints of the city’s art: Botticelli’s Venus, some manic wooden sculptures by Donatello, Fra Angelico’s frescoes, which struck me as a precursor to television. I recall hazy visions of Hell painted along stairs spiraling the inner shell of Bruno’s Dome. I remember, cast from the garden, Masaccio’s wailing Adam and Eve. But for me, none of these works rivals the apse in the Old Sacristy at the Basilica of St. Lawrence. I like to think it makes nobody’s Top Ten but mine. Frescoed in watery turquoise and blue, its quadrants limned in gold, it illustrates a symbolic and astronomically accurate representation of the Florentine sky, dated July 4, 1442. In Lives of the Artists, Vasari attributes the work to a minor painter, Pesello, whose unique contribution to Renaissance painting was the attention and care he brought to depicting animals. To that zodiac I try to return almost daily. Dozens of times I’ve failed to write poems about it. But that hardly matters. What matters is that even in a city like Florence, which constantly buries and excavates itself, you can adjust your scale of values. Under Pesello’s sky filled with animals, the apse was quiet and dustless around me. It was the only spot in Florence where I felt I was the only one there.


NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. David Roderick’s first book, Blue Colonial, won the APR/Honickman Prize. Recently his poems have appeared in Poetry, NER (32.1; 24.2), Southern Review, Orion, and Shenandoah. In 2007 he was awarded the Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship. He currently teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Read David Roderick’s NER poem “Riparian.”