Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pushcart Nominees

With no further ado, may I announce the 2015 Pushcart Nominees from The Worcester Review!



Poetry:

Polly Brown, “Mike Talks to Abe”

James McKee, “Home”

Jon Volkmer, “Vigil”

Len Krisak, “Verona: Sonnet #2”



Fiction:

Jarrett Kaufman, “The Son”



Congratulations and good luck to all!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

From Volume 36: A Poem by Len Krisak

Verona: Sonnet #2
by Len Krisak

The playground called "the park": three diamonds once,
Then, only one providing fans a cage.
Worn down to khaki talc, the other two
Survived in only faintly rhomboid traces.
On these, the five of us swung for the fences.
(There would have been no point to stolen bases,
Sacrifices, suicides, or bunts.
Besides, those were too hard for kids our age.)
A fly to right was out, force-outs were few,
And when it didn't rain, the skies were blue.
What girls we knew had not yet had their menses.
Well, Bobby's sister Betty--maybe--who
Could homer farther than you ever saw,
And rounding third, elicited pure awe.

In the Spotlight: Len Krisak

In this post, contributor Len Krisak tells us about his writing process and inspirations. Len Krisak is the recipient of the Robert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur, and Robert Frost Prizes. His most recent books are Ovid's Erotic Poems (U Penn Press) and the Carmina of Catullus (Carcanet, U.K.). He is a four-time champion on Jeopardy! We re honored to share his poems "Maine Poem", "Verona: Sonnet #2", and "Continuing Evolution of the Pachyderm" in Volume 36. 

Two of your three featured poems in this edition relate to Maine. Do you mind sharing some of your past experiences with the state? Have you spent your childhood there or annual summers? And what inspires you to write poetry about Maine?

I met my inamorata in Maine and have returned to the state many times--Portsmouth for music and restaurants, Down East for hiking, summer rentals,  college and museum tours, etc. As for  inspiration: I tend to write heavily metaphor-driven verse. That is, I see or hear something striking and it makes me think of something else, which then marinates in my consciousness until I have the meter and first line that seem to go together and feel "right." They then pretty much dictate my forward progress.

Your poems evoke a sense of personal, intimate history, yet they can be applied to the lives of other people (such as the memories of playing baseball as a young child in a local park). When writing, do you try to include only your memories or do you try to include things that other people can relate to?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In the Spotlight: C.R. Resetarits


C.R. Resetarits's poems "Rapunzel" and Valence" appear in Volume 36. The Worcester Review is excited to welcome here as our first contributor spotlight from this year's publication!


"Rapunzel" is a short yet dense poem, conveying a lot of emotion through descriptive imagery, especially color. When you were writing this how did you decide the exact image that you wanted to show? Did you start off with a vision in your head and have to figure out the words you would use or vice versa?

This poem developed on a wintery drive along the Taconic Parkway. The day was overcast and threatening in a lovely way. The evergreens were heavy with snow, the hardwoods iced, and then around a corner this enormous, strange willow. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it until I had the idea of the pale, blondish willow as Rapunzel and it developed back from there to the evergreens cradling snow and the hardwoods glistening in ice.



The first line of your poem "Valence" is very powerful: "Back when you were taking drugs you were like a drug for me." Do you think that love can make independent people dependent on one another or does it just feel that way?

From Volume 36: A poem by C.R. Resetarits

Rapunzel 

by C.R. Resetarits

North country sky evolving, mottled gray,
tea-stained blue, and deep smears of buttermilk.
Slopes of evergreen hold armfuls of newborn snow
while their hardwood sisters lining lower meadow
glitter in diamond and pearl from the preceding rain.
This is a beguiling roadway of mercury glass and hoary
limbs, the bejeweled call of promiscuous sways,
pale powdered skin.
And then suddenly in curve of Taconic
one startle-stark, enormous willow.
Against the ink and snow shadowed evergreen
and the porcelain and ice of hardwood wiles,
this foreign, coppery head of tendrils
—too limp, elastic, wavering to hold ice, ink, or snow—
stands vast and strange and singularly alone.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Volume 36 Launch Event!


Join us at Clark University! 

November 9, 2015
7:00

Celebrating 
Volume 36 of 
The Worcester Review

For information about parking and location of Goddard Library, 


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

From Volume 35: A story from Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt


Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt

 

Dust and the Moon

 



He shook a mound of nuts and raisins into his palm, then closed the bag and crammed it back into his pocket alongside his pen and a small Bible. A “half-Bible,” his brother called it, a book so slim that only one testament could fit. But one testament was enough. A single revelation. A single conversion. He washed the dried fruit and nuts down with a swallow of water, as warm as his blood.


“Less of a shock to the system,” he whispered, something he remembered from an article in a health magazine. He took a long drink.


The cellophane in his pocket crackled with each stride. And each stride became a reminder of the civilization he had left behind in search of God’s country, which had begun with the short walk from the Organ Pipe Cactus Monument visitors’ center and would end, according to his plan, at the vistas of Mount Elijah. Then he heard the crunch of tires atop gravel, which drowned out the scraping of his boots along the trail.

In the Spotlight: Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt

Writer Jeffrey Ihlenfeldt here discusses his short story "Dust and the Moon," which appears in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review and shares his writing process, daily routine, and upcoming work. 

In addition to being an accomplished writer, you are also a professor at Harrisburg Area Community College. Could you describe what a typical day teaching and writing looks like during the semester?

Of course, since most of my teaching responsibilities relate to writing and literature, there's a great deal of reading involved—not only before class but also after. I read student assignments—especially as it relates to creative writing—fairly constantly.

I do make a point of keeping a strict schedule for my own writing—generally early mornings. The other thing I do is treat my creative writing classes as an opportunity to explore my own ideas as well as my students’. For example, I actively participate in writing prompts, impromptus, and assignments that we complete in class. This helps me to exercise my writing skills along with my students. It also reinforces the notion that all writers—no matter how seasoned or how experienced—start at the same place, the blank page.

Ultimately, I find that setting a writing schedule and sticking to that schedule as closely as possible gives me the time I need for my own work.

On your website, you mention that you teach additional writing workshops aside from those at the college. What are these workshops like? What expectations should writers who attend them have?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by Sean Rabin


Sean Rabin
 
NO
 
 
Day 1
First there is a punch. Then a knee to Lloyd’s ribs. His legs give out. Sharp fingernails hook his armpits. Drag him down a hall. He closes his eyes against the lights. Only glimpses the steel door as he is thrown past it. Within the cell is perfect darkness. Lloyd lies still. Catching his breath. Searching for serious injuries. His ribs ache but his breathing is smooth. The cold concrete floor soothes a swollen cheekbone. Miraculously, all his teeth are still in place. Toilet stench tells Lloyd to roll left. Onto a thin mattress with a pillow and blanket. Neither feels clean but Lloyd immediately falls asleep.
 
Day 2
The caged bulb in the ceiling blazes. Forces Lloyd to wake. Confirm all assumptions about the cell. Steel door. Threadbare blanket. A second door was not, however, expected. In the wall opposite his bed. Wooden, with a doorknob. And the word NO burnt into it. With discomfort Lloyd stands. The cell is eight feet square. From its center he inspects the wooden door. For spy holes. Booby-traps. Acknowledges its perfect fit. No gaps for light or sound. Eyes the handle. Round. Do they think he is stupid? Go ahead. Open the door. Be free. How ridiculous. But Lloyd is curious. And already in prison. What more can they do? No hinges are visible. The door must open out. But into what? Another cell? Is someone next door? Lloyd knocks. No reply. He grabs the handle. A shutter in the steel door opens. Two eyes on the other side. Can you read? they ask. Lloyd steps back. Yes. What does it say? NO. What does it say? NO. The shutter in the steel door slams shut.
 

In the Spotlight: Sean Rabin

The introspective writer of the story “No” in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, Sean Rabin reminds his readers of the value of perseverance and never becoming slave to custom.


When did you first begin to play with language? Did writing find you or you it? That is to say, what inspired you to write?

I remember writing my first poem at ten, and realizing how much fun it was. Here was something I could actually do without needing money or formal lessons or anyone’s permission. I didn’t grow up in a particularly bookish family, so I suppose writing found me. I wrote my first novel at fifteen just to see if I could finish it. Ideas have always come easily to me, but learning to write well took a long, long time. As life grew more complex, I found writing became increasingly necessary for me to navigate the world. Although I’m not particularly interested in realism, the act of writing somehow helps me to process what’s going on in my life. When I write I feel as though I’m functioning at my best. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. When I’m not writing I pretty much feel like I’m wasting time. It’s not a particularly social way of living, but the people who know me know I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.

What was the inspiration behind "No"?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by E. G. Silverman



E. G. Silverman



Four Leads
 


Yesterday, alone, I drove for many hours through the geography of my childhood, to the house where I was young. I wanted to see an old playmate of mine. But it was gone. Gone like time. Only a stump left. A fat round stump of concentric circles. And my memory of it.



I was a tomboy. I loved to climb trees, feel the rough bark rubbing against the fabric of my denim overalls, listen to the leaves rustling around my head like angels, and breathe deep the scent of the wood and the sap. I was comforted by these beings that nestled me in their arms.



When I was a little girl, a grand old sugar maple stood guard beside our house. Its green fingers tickled my bedroom window. My mommy told me the tree was a ladder to heaven. She said that if I climbed too high in the maple, I would find myself up in the sky and unable to return. I didn’t believe her, but I steered clear of that tree anyway, just to be on the safe side. Every day I would gaze at the tree, beckoning me like a gateway to a magical land.

In the Spotlight: E.G. Silverman


When it comes to writing, E.G. Silverman is blunt: “[T]here’s no magic involved. …[A]t the end of the day, writing is hard work, and only those who are serious about it will be successful.” The author of the story “Four Leads,” appearing in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, Silverman here explains his writing process and influences (and what his writerly instincts would have him save if his house were on fire).  


F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have to say something.” As the author of four novels, what is your response to this? 

To paraphrase the Pope, who am I to disagree with F. Scott Fitzgerald?  However, in my experience, most writers write simply because they have to. Maybe they have something to say. Maybe they don’t. Do I? I’m not really sure, but I suppose that if my primary reason for writing was because I had something to say, I’d have said it by now and been long done with the entire enterprise. Writing is tough and, if anything, it gets tougher the more I’ve written. So, at the risk of over-generalizing, what writers have in common, at least writers who’ve been at it for decades, is some overwhelming, all-consuming, annoyingly relentless inner voice that just won’t leave them alone, a voice that needs an outlet, a voice that demands putting words on paper (or okay, a computer screen), a voice that makes them go to work every day, writing, writing, and writing some more. If that’s what Fitzgerald meant by having something to say, then, who am I to disagree?

You mention on your website that you have worked with Brian Morton, Sheila Kohler, Carol DeChellis Hill, and Jonathan Baumbach. Could you talk about how these writers have helped you develop your craft?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Congratulations to TWR Editor Parker Towle

I'm delighted to to share the happy news that poetry editor Parker Towle's second full-length collection of poetry, The World Spread Out, was for published in April 2015 by Antrim House Books.
“Parker Towle’s poems achieve a fine balance between our coming and going on the face of the earth and the magical presence of the earth itself. An inveterate hiker, he testifies to human beauty and human difficulty, those flashes of feeling incited by terrain, exertion, camaraderie, and the insight love bestows. His recall of a campground or adolescent moment feels deeply accurate, the stuff of lived imagination.”~Baron Wormser 

Parker will be a guest on Bookshelf, NHPR on August 7, and he will also be reading at the Gale Free Library in Holden, MA library on Sept 16 at 6:30.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Congratulations to BILiNE Contributors



Congratulations to the following contributors to The Worcester Review whose work has been selected for inclusion in Best Indie Lit in New England Volume 2!


Douglas W. Margeson, short story "Barton's Pipe," TWR Volume 33
Karen Nunley, short story, short story, "Thirteenth Summer," TWR Volume 34
Colin Dekeersgieter, poem, "Gutting," TWR Volume 34
Dmitry Berenson, poem, "The Fishing Village," TWR Volume 34
Judy Ireland, poem, "My Pillow, a Stone," TWR Volume 33


There will be a a release party for the 2nd volume of BILiNE at 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, at Nick's Bar and Restaurant, 124 Millbury St., Worcester.  The reading will be co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association.


___________
Image this page used under the Creative Commons Copyright. Click here for the original.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Jeffrey Beck




Jeffrey Beck



his father’s voice





because you didn’t have time to return

his last call, you linger now replaying

the crackly voicemail, his buoyant plea

to talk, his voice rising a squeaky

octave, so you’ll know he’s excited;

In the Spotlight: Jeffrey Beck

Jeffrey Beck received an honorable mention for the Worcester County Poetry Association Frank O’Hara Prize. His poem, appearing in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, is a poem about his father (pictured below), Arnold James Beck, who died on March 29, 2009.  


What does it mean to write? What do you believe to be the role of the writer?

Writing poetry is creating astounding word-machines that move. They “move” the thoughts, senses, and emotions of readers. That is the role of the writer: to do the creative work with words that will lead to these movements. And the poet seeks to move all three—thought, senses, emotions. If a poem lacks one of these movements, it is less successful. The poet Ted Kooser says that certain poems remind him of machines that were invented in the nineteenth century—fantastic mechanical levers to help men tip their hats. Of course, no one bought those machines because, in spite of their cleverness, they weren’t really needed. A poem that really moves people will seem necessary. A poem that is cleverly worded, but not moving, will be discounted as a trifle.

According to your LinkedIn profile, you received a PH.D. in English in 1993 and have been teaching since. You are also currently the dean of the Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean University and are involved in several projects. Could you discuss your strategies for finding time to write while also maintaining such a busy lifestyle?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by William Jolliff


William Jolliff

 

Explanations for the Night

 

 

Her doctor, she says, claims he can't do a thing

for her other troubles until she starts to sleep.

Anybody who goes a day or two without it

is likely to forget things, lose things, maybe

even find things that aren't really there.

In the Spotlight: William Jolliff

The writer of “Explanations for the Night” and "For Rebecca, Off to Spain,” two poems published in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV, William Jolliff is a professor, old-time country and traditional music enthusiast, and poet who here offers writing tips and insights into his own work as a poet. 

You have noted on the George Fox University faculty page that you are interested in traditional Appalachian and Midwestern music. Could you discuss how your interest and involvement in these genres has influenced your poetry?

That's really hard to say. I assume there may be some mutual influence but not much that would lend itself to easy correspondences. I've loved old-time country and traditional music since the cradle, but other than the shared fascination with words, such art forms seem very different to me from literary poetry. When I write songs in those genres, I put a very different kind of formal demands on myself than I do with my poetry, which is largely (more or less) free verse. Probably the main influence might simply be that the kinds of people who show up in my poems are often people who like old-time country music and live in that little demographic slice. I did happen to notice a few summers back that I'd written about forty poems of sixteen lines each: four, four-line stanzas with about four pulses to the line. That happens to be the structure of a traditional fiddle tune... So I suppose on some deep structural level there's a bit of merging going on.

You have also noted that you like to focus on countercultural writers. Could you share why and which works in particular have stuck with you and your writing? 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Becky Kennedy


Becky Kennedy

 

Golfing

 

 

It's Sunday morning and sun the color

of honey spills on the kitchen counter;

it’s ten or eleven o’clock and they

fill our kitchen, our son and his new wife

and their friends and the laughing, the way that

people laugh when laughing is like breathing,

laughing about beer and golf and bad luck

and graduate school, laughing at jobs they’ve

had or never had, the two wives rolling

eyes, laughing, planning Sunday. His new wife

humming as if she were baking or were

planning something really nice like golfing

while you test your clubs in the living room

where I sort my photos. In the night you

In the Spotlight: Becky Kennedy

Writer Becky Kennedy is a linguist and professor at Lasell College. In the following Q&A, she shares her unique perspective on writing as well as the behind-the-pen thought process behind her poem, “Golfing,” which appears in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 


Can you discuss your job as a linguist and professor at Lasell College? What does it mean to be a linguist? How has your work as a linguist helped you write from a unique angle?

A linguist studies both languages and language: When the linguist documents the parameters of variation in languages, the universal characteristics of language can be better understood. Critical to the linguist’s understanding of language and the language faculty is an appreciation of the completeness of a speaker’s knowledge of language. In my courses on language structure and language acquisition, I work to help my students perceive their own spoken forms as fully rule-governed and beautiful; one approach to that appreciation is the formal analysis of the components of spoken language. Voice is one of the features of spoken language that makes the individual speaker’s output so compelling, and voice is important to the aesthetic appeal of the language of literature. In my literature and creative writing courses, therefore, I focus again on formalism: on the ways in which tonality is reflected in sound and meaning patterns, for instance.

Your piece in TWR takes its title, “Golfing,” from an image in the poem. One of the most difficult (and potentially one of the most important) parts of writing a poem is its title. How do you go about titling your pieces in general and for this piece in particular?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by B.J. Ward


B.J. Ward

 

Daily Grind

 

 

A man awakes every morning

and instead of reading the newspaper

reads Act V of Othello.

He sips his coffee and is content

that this is the news he needs

as his wife looks on helplessly.

The first week she thought it a phase,

his reading this and glaring at her throughout,

the first month an obsession,

the first year a quirkiness in his character,

and now it’s just normal behavior,

this mood setting in over the sliced bananas,

so she tries to make herself beautiful

to appease his drastic taste.

In the Spotlight: B.J. Ward

Photo credit: Nancy Wegard
B.J. Ward, the judge of the 2014 WCPA Frank O’Hara Prize, co-directs the creative writing degree program at Warren County Community College in New Jersey. Read below to learn about his experience as a judge for the Frank O’Hara Prize, tips for writers, and inside information behind two of his poems that appear in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review.

As the co-director of the creative writing degree program at Warren County Community College, what has been the most rewarding part of working with students? In what ways has teaching writing helped you grow as a writer? 

My first inclination was to say that teaching has not helped me much as a writer, nor have I expected it to. Writing and teaching require different types of awareness. For me, the energy it takes to write well is an inward type of delving; when I teach, my energy is (hopefully) going outward, attempting to enter the minds of everyone else in the room with my little shovel, trying my best to make my students’ lives better in an hour and twenty minute session. In this way, teaching in a classroom is a public act. As a student, I’ve always been grateful for the teacher who looked at a book as an intellectual meeting place for everyone in the room and made sure everyone felt invited. I felt a little marginalized when a professor would be too inward with his focus, presenting the text as a personal playground we got to observe from the other side of the fence.

Just as momentum can shift in a baseball game with a couple of base runners, momentum can shift in a class session (for better or worse) with just two or three comments. Teaching well involves being aware of the energy in the room, an outward-going attention.  Writing, however, feels very private to me—at least the initial flurry of words on the page in which I’m unearthing things I didn’t know I knew.

And yet something else must be acknowledged: there’s cross-pollination between inward and outward energies after the initial act in each instance. Revising my work towards publication usually involves some kind of outward awareness, and consideration of how a lesson plan went and how it can be improved for the next presentation involves that inward energy.

So my first inclination was wrong. If I further consider how teaching has helped my writing: discussing a poem a few times inevitably brings greater insight to it. For me, that usually has to do with the poet’s crafting, which inspires me to work on my own craft more.

And beyond this, teaching gives me a way to continue to think actively about words during my day job—a luxury I didn’t have when I was a waiter or boxing stereos at the Kenwood plant in Mount Olive, NJ.

Furthermore, and to mention one of the most rewarding aspects of my jobs, my students often become friends, and their enthusiasm for their continued learning bolsters my enthusiasm for my own self-education.

What was your experience like as a judge for the Frank O’Hara Prize? What was the most interesting aspect? The most difficult?   

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Tom Howard







Rules for Telling a Ghost Story


 
You must have a flashlight,
and you should have a storm.
Place the flashlight under your chin,
but say nothing at first,
while they squirm a little on the couch
and start to giggle.


 
Giggling is not allowed (not yet),
so you wait.
Then you speak—
quietly, slowly, in a normal voice,
except that you have this flashlight
pointing up at you like a madman
(it’s the contrast that you want).

In the Spotlight: Tom Howard

“You must have a flashlight, / and you should have a storm.” So begins Tom Howard’s poem in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review. In the following post, Howard discusses this poem, “Rules for Telling a Ghost Story,” and reveals his thoughts on writing. 


How do you go about writing? What is your writing routine?

Last summer my family and I went to the Outer Banks for the week, along with our dog. The dog was sick the whole week, and my wife and I had to wake up before dawn every day to carry him outside because he was afraid of the stairs. I ended up sitting on the beach with the dog every day, watching the sunrise. And I thought: this is a perfect way to start writing every day, other than the dog being sick and having to carry him up and down the stairs.

Away from the beach and with a full-time job, I just try to find a quiet corner of the house as often as I can. I read through whatever I’m working on, try to understand where it wants to go and if it’s worth me following it there. I spend an hour or two rewriting the same lines, looking for ways to surprise myself or make myself laugh or just find something honest to say, and then I throw the lines out completely and start over. There’s a lot of that. When things are going well, I also pace quite a bit.

While “Rules for Telling a Ghost Story” is a poem, you also write fiction. Do you have a preference between poetry and fiction? Once you have an idea, how do you choose which genre to pursue?


I don’t write much poetry, but I do read a good deal of it because I’m probably way too interested in the sound of any piece of writing. When I’m working on a story I think a lot about the beats I’m hitting—not only the emotional beats but also the sounds of the words, the rise and fall, the overall shape of the thing. So there’s an intersection with poetry even though I’m not really thinking in those terms.

“Rules” is probably more story than poem, but I wrote it as a poem because it’s really about the act of revelation. You tell a ghost story by layering all these details, hitting the right beats, holding back at the right time, pausing, subverting expectation. Which kind of describes any good piece of writing but especially any good poem. So I thought that would be a fun way to structure it.

Who (or what) is your inspiration, literary or otherwise?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia


Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia

 

A Hike



Two Israeli soldiers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning, while on vacation.


“Hikers,” then.


Say: “hikers,” then. No uniforms. Civilian clothes—jeans in fact—standard M-16s slung over their shoulders, resting on their backs, for protection—a concession to safe hiking protocol.


Say: Two Israeli hikers were killed during a hike through the Judean Mountains south of Hebron this morning—one aged twenty, the other, nineteen. They were shot by sniper fire from the window of a car, speeding down the stretch of road—

In the Spotlight: Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia

“I believe that my writing, be it scholarly, fiction, narrative non-fiction, or poetry, comes from a deep need to make a difference, to offer a lens that is not being appreciated.” Here, Shoshana Razel Gordon-Guedalia discusses her explorations through writing. You can read her experimental story, “A Hike,” in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review.


First of all, what got you into writing?

Well, if I think back, I suppose I can trace this to several things. For one thing, my home was one of storytelling. My grandparents were partisans in the woods of Belarus during the Holocaust, and I grew up on their war stories as well as their pre-war stories, told to me again and again in their melodious Yiddish, which was my first language. I also have strong memories of falling asleep to the sound of my father typing his doctoral thesis in Jewish philosophy on his old typewriter. I guess you could say that writing was like a lullaby to me in that way. Also, my parents both loved poetry. They both wrote poetry, and I remember reading poetry of many different kinds with them.

I wrote my first poem when I was ten. We had just moved to Israel from New York, and I felt torn between homes. So I wrote about it. I should say that while I wrote informally over the years, it was Paul Harding who first taught me how to write fiction.

Could you discuss how Paul Harding influenced you as a writer?


One summer, I think it was 2007, here in Newton, Massachusetts, where I've lived for years now, I decided to try my hand at a fiction writing course at Harvard Summer School. To my delight, my professor Paul really loved my writing and helped mold me as a writer. Paul embraced my style of writing, which can be rather associative. (By associative, I mean non-linear.) He helped me to stay in touch with my writerly instincts and let my writing flow with the characters’ voices leading the way. He also taught me the value of close attention to descriptive detail. He would often caution me that a good writer writes simply and precisely and that from such vivid description of what is, the deeper ideas emerge. Paul also assuaged my fear of allowing religion and political strife to enter my writing. He encouraged me to write from empathy no matter what I write about—which I like to think I do anyway—in which case, everything is allowed as long as it comes from empathy and human truth. I love that I am Orthodox Jewish and that I call him Rebbe. He us very much my rabbi.

A year or two later, John Canaday helped mold me as a poet. His award-winning book of poetry, The Invisible World, written based on his time living in Jordan and teaching the children of the king and queen, taught me a lot about empathy and the imbibing of a new culture. John also taught me a lot about different poetic styles with which he urged me to experiment. I credit him with teaching me that form need not hamper creative expression but can, in fact, deepen its effect.

The greatly political poet Pablo Neruda once said, "Poetry is an act of peace." What is your response to this? Considering your genre-bending piece in TWR and your other writings, do you consider yourself a political poet? What do you believe poetry's role in politics is?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

From Volume 35: A story by Frank Scozzari


Frank Scozzari

 

Two Men and a Gun


 

 

It’s hard to say exactly how I ended up in this dreadful situation, although I could easily put all the blame on the Thomas-Cook train schedule. If they had made their timetables a little easier to read, and their columns more evenly aligned, I may have never ended up on this midnight train to Athens. Yet there I was, sandwiched in among all the dissolute of Southern Europe in a third-class train compartment, trying to figure out how I was going to get some sleep.

It was bench seating only, benches that faced one another with such little space between them that one had to sit straddling the knees of the person opposite you. There were smells of human body odor and of middle-eastern cooking, zeera and black cumin, the mixture of which was not a pleasant thing. I couldn’t imagine someone cooking in such confined quarters. I looked around but couldn’t make out where the smell was coming from.

In the Spotlight: Frank Scozzari

Frank Scozzari here shares his experience traveling and writing. You can read his story, “Two Men and a Gun,” in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 

You have noted that you love traveling. What are the three most interesting places you have visited? Do your travels often find their way into your work?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to three–there are so many amazing places–but, if I had to pick, I’d say East Africa, Morocco, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Often, places I’ve visited find their way into my stories. An example is that I once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the experience was so exhilarating it fueled a story idea which, after a few rewrites, got published in The Pacific Review.


How do you believe traveling and experiencing different cultures has influenced your work?

As writers, I think it’s life’s grand experiences that influence us, and travel often brings new impressions that stick with us. Almost always, as I’m traveling, I’m taking mental notes or jotting onto a notepad. So often, I encounter interesting characters or new emotions that feed my imagination.

“Two Men and a Gun” has a captivating hook: “It’s hard to say exactly how I ended up in this dreadful situation, although I could easily put all the blame on the Thomas-Cook train schedule.” How do you go about creating an interesting first sentence to hook readers? What advice do you have for writers struggling to create gripping openings?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From Volume 35: A poem by Jackie Anne Morrill


Jackie Anne Morrill

 

Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother

 

 

When the bones settle

these metals we are made of

finally loosen

 

I long to untie

the velvet bag

of river stones

residing in her back

In the Spotlight: Jackie Anne Morrill

In the following Q&A, Jackie Anne Morrill—writer, performer, and teacher—discusses poetry readings in the Worcester area, performance poetry, and publishing, as well as her own works. You can read Jackie Anne Morrill’s two poems, “Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother” and “Letter from a Barn Burner,” in The Worcester Review Volume XXXV. 


Can you discuss The Round Room Women’s Writing Series and what makes it unique? What advice do you have for students and faculty wanting to follow in your footsteps on their own campuses?

The Round Room Women's Writing Series was an idea that my wife had actually come up with. It was, I think, fifty percent an excuse to have people over for food and drink and poetry, and the other half was to create a space inspired by, hosted by, created by, and performed in by women. There are so many incredible women writers in the Worcester area and, yet, it is most definitely a male-dominated scene. This was a chance for all of us girls to come together. The requirements for a reader started out very simple: you must be a woman or identify as a woman somehow. This requirement quickly changed after there was quite a bit of interest from men to read at the open mike. So, we tweaked the reading just a little and, as long as the male reader first read a piece by a woman, he could perform whatever else after that. The first year was a blast. My wife is a fantastic organizer and host—she has a lot of spunk, a ton of personality, and I think that is what kept it going even in the very slow winter months. This year has been tough. We've had a few really great performers, two of whom were musicians, but it has been so busy, and it is tricky trying to keep an audience going if you're not one hundred percent in it from the beginning. As the host and booker this year, I've put the reading on hiatus for the rest of the summer just to try and catch up on other things.

My best advice for those students and faculty wanting to put something like this together in their own homes would be to just have fun with it. When it becomes too serious, when you reach a point at which you don't want to hold the reading anymore, take a break. Having a reading in your home is different from holding it at a bar or coffee shop in that you have so much more to prepare for: cleaning the whole space, chair set-up, food, drink, trying to scrounge up enough cash to please the feature, booking the feature. The list goes on. Be prepared to work for it.

Can you discuss the relationship between sound and sense as it pertains to  “Cantaloupe as a cure-all, or how I know my mother?”