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Oh the places they’ll go….

“Tiara” by Mark Doty


I came across this poem by Mark Doty in a folder of mine. I’d first heard the poem when we were interviewing candidates, and one of the better ones used it in her teaching demonstration. I was so taken by it I asked for a copy.

Peter died in a paper tiara
cut from a book of princess paper dolls;
he loved royalty, sashes

and jewels. I don’t know,
he said, when he woke in the hospice,
I was watching the Bette Davis film festival

on Channel 57 and then—
At the wake, the tension broke
when someone guessed

the casket closed because
he was in there in a big wig
and heels, and someone said,

You know he’s always late,
he probably isn’t here yet—
he’s still fixing his makeup.

And someone said he asked for it.
Asked for it—
when all he did was go down

into the salt tide
of wanting as much as he wanted,
giving himself over so drunk

or stoned it almost didn’t matter who,
though they were beautiful,
stampeding into him in the simple,

ravishing music of their hurry.
I think heaven is perfect stasis
poised over the realms of desire,

where dreaming and waking men lie
on the grass while wet horses
roam among them, huge fragments

of the music we die into
in the body’s paradise.
Sometimes we wake not knowing

how we came to lie here,
or who has crowned us with these temporary,
precious stones. And given

the world’s perfectly turned shoulders,
the deep hollows blued by longing,
given the irreplaceable silk

of horses rippling in orchards,
fruit thundering and chiming down,
given the ordinary marvels of form

and gravity, what could he do,
what could any of us ever do
but ask for it.

Why Do You Write?

It’s a trick question.  One we can only answer for ourselves.  For me, it begins in the past.

My parents were born in Alabama in the 1920s.  Their parents were farmers.  They were poor and poorly educated.  My mother never made it past the eighth grade and my father earned his high school diploma when he returned from the war.  Their lives were made up of dramatic stories: the early deaths of their mothers, brothers who fought each other, brothers killed in the war or by their own hand.  There was my mother’s childhood stigma of a crossed-eye from measles and my father’s war wound that sent him seesawing between pain pills and alcohol.  In some ways my parents’ childhoods were straight out of the story worlds of Faulkner and O’Connor.

But when I was a kid, I didn’t know that.  I just knew there was a lot of drama in their pasts, and sometimes in our present. Continue reading

The Review Review’s Take on Literary Journals and Magazines

If you’d like insight into literary magazines, you might be interested in The Review Review: an online journal that reviews literary journals and magazines.  The Review also has interviews and insight into the path to publication, as in this interview with Beth Staples, the Hayden’s Ferry Review editor.  An excerpt:

What is your favorite kind of submission to HFR?

Is “a really great one” not specific enough? Gosh, I don’t know. That’s the thing. We’re waiting for it, every second. If I could describe it already, it wouldn’t be great. Also, we love writers who haven’t been published much (or at all). Almost everything we publish is unsolicited, and nothing is more exciting than finding a voice you haven’t heard before. And then writing to the writer to tell them how great they are.

Jimi Hendrix and Virginia Woolf in the Same Sentence: Michael Cunningham at Le Conversazioni

At a literary conference in Italy called Le Conversazioni, Michael Cunningham talks about the first literary book he ever tried to read, Mrs. Dalloway.

Dozens of writers–from Jeffery Eugenides, Annie Proulx, and Jonathan Frazen to Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, and Chuck Palahniuk–talk about their works, writing, and the writer’s life.  Their videoed discussions are captured here.