Clerk of the Dead – Alan Perry

We are honored to announce our Senior Poetry Editor Alan Perry’s new chapbook Clerk of the Dead will be published in early 2020! Congratulations Alan!
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Alan PerryHappy New Year! I hope 2020 begins a decade of joy and prosperity for you and those you love.

I am thrilled to announce that my first poetry chapbook will be published in early 2020! Clerk of the Dead is a compilation of poems that are elegies for people living and passed, and poems that cherish family, relationships and hope.

The book is available for advance orders now from the publisher’s website. Main Street Rag Publishing is the only place to order the book until it is actually printed in early 2020.

Clerk of the Dead

The cover price will be $12, but a prepublication discount brings the price down to $7.00 for a limited time.The publisher’s website page for the book also includes some complimentary blurbs written by several well-respected poets, as well as a few sample poems.

It can be ordered by visiting The Main Street Rag.

I am also very pleased to announce the launch of my new website: https://alanperrypoetry.com. As you will see, the website includes several of my poems, details about my forthcoming book Clerk of the Dead, several early reviews of it, and much more. It even has a sound recording of me reading my poem “A Quiet Occurrence”, which was recently published in Tahoma Literary Review. Please visit and send me your feedback, and any comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Best wishes to you all for goodness and blessings throughout the new year!

Alan

P.S. Clerk of the Dead is due to be released in April, but could be out as early as February. Watch the Events/Readings page on the website for more info on when and where the book launch and readings will occur.

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Alan Perry is the author of Clerk of the Dead, a finalist and honorable mention in the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook competition, to be published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2020. His poems have appeared in Tahoma Literary Review, Heron Tree, Sleet Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Right Hand Pointing and elsewhere, and in the anthology, Celestial Musings: Poems Inspired by the Night Sky. He is a Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. Alan holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota, and he and his wife divide their time between a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tucson, Arizona.

Writing After Abuse

Meggie RoyerThe following is a guest post by Meggie Royer, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A month into our relationship, or perhaps less than that (trauma plays a kind of devastating cat’s cradle with memory), my abuser bought my book. He may have bought my second book, too, but I also do not remember this. What I do remember is sitting on a couch in his small dorm room, lamplight echoing across his face, our legs pressed together with the kind of timid intimacy that only falling in love for the first time can produce.

He was talking about my book, my writing. The impact it had, my talent, how he was left breathless by my way with words. He shared that he wanted to “support my work.”

I wasn’t aware he knew I had “work” at all, much less a book, or that he knew I had a writing blog, and where to find it. I wasn’t even aware his roommate knew I was a writer, until I was told they read my blog too.

The pure and unbridled irony of our relationship is that at the end, I wrote the one book he could not read.

I wrote a book about how he raped me, about how intimate partner sexual violence leaves untold wreckage in its wake, how in Turkmenistan there is a crater of natural gas that never stops burning, how in my worst moments I imagined lifting its edges like a blanket and stepping inside.

He has not read that book. What he continues to read, however, is my blog, the place that launched my writing career into a hundred thousand devoted followers, the place where I posted, in June of 2014, how I could never trust him again. That five year old post remains in my archive, suspended like an insect in amber, something I can’t bear to save but can’t stand to delete.

I know his watch continues, because he tells me so, or sometimes an ex or friend of his tells me too. Every few months the messages come in, the snarling anonymous accusations that I lied, that I was the abuser, that I was and always will be worth nothing. They arrive in the inbox of my writing blog, the place I always held sacred until it became both a bane and a blessing.

It’s haunting, in a way, like having a ghost perched on my shoulder like a parrot. I still write poems about him and his wreckage, hoping while also fearing that he might read them. I no longer post personal details of my loved ones or my job, knowing that anything can, and might, be used against me.

It would be easier to delete my blog, disappear the archives, Eternal Sunshine it from the Internet. But this is what the guilty do. They erase their evidence, cloak their mistakes. Neither of us may give up, and for what it’s worth, I will not be the one to give up first.

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Meggie Royer is a Midwestern writer, domestic violence advocate, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Persephone’s Daughters, a literary and arts journal for abuse survivors. She has won numerous awards for her work and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She thinks there is nothing better in this world than a finished poem.

Discovering Character through Place

Jennie MacDonaldThe following is a guest post by Jennie MacDonald, whose artwork appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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As an author and photographer, I am always interested in finding ways in which narratival writing and visual imagery intersect. For the reader, powerful writing conjures images of places, characters, and actions. For the viewer, a powerful narratival photograph depicts objects that– in relation to one another– create a story. When I encounter difficulties with writing, I turn to visual work for a different creative perspective and look for new ways of thinking about storytelling.

Lately, I’ve been stymied by the protagonist of my current work-in-progress. I just don’t know what her true motivation is for even showing up in the opening scene. I’ve drafted the scene and know the basics about it: location, characters, what happens, and where things stand at the end of the chapter. But why does my protagonist even appear?

In his recent interview with Dennis Rimmer at the Talking Books and Stuff podcast, author Alan Bradley spoke about creating characters. Bradley writes the Flavia de Luce novels, which are centered on eleven-year-old Flavia, whose penchant for chemistry and forensic science lead her into all kinds of gruesome murder mysteries. She first unexpectedly appeared in a completely different novel Bradley was working on and proved so compelling that he published his tenth Flavia de Luce novel this year and is looking forward to the television series now in development.

According to Bradley, “…stop trying to impose anything upon the paper and just let the characters appear and speak for themselves . . . . they live in the story and know the landscape much better than you do.”

This set a bell ringing for me. I’m a photographer. I love landscape. As a writer, I love describing places. What if I start by focusing on the place where this opening scene takes place? Can I then wait for my protagonist to show up, since she lives there and knows the landscape (which is about more than just location—it’s historical, interpersonal, ecological, and filled with expectations) better than I do?

Photographing wildlife and candid human culture happens like this for me. I may focus on the setting, adjust for lighting and time of day, set the mood and atmosphere, and wait for an animal or person to move to the perfect spot in the frame. Or I follow the animal or person with my lens and click the shutter at the instant they do something interesting.

Although I compose the photograph, the characters each have their own reasons for their actions in that instant. They are motivated before they appear. This is what makes their actions meaningful and interesting. The bird flies from her nest to find food for her chicks. The child runs to greet his grandfather.

I know I can figure out why my protagonist has stepped into this frame—this place—and how she does it, and where she’s coming from. Then we’ll be on our way together.

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Jennie MacDonald, PhD, is an award-winning author and photographer. “A Merry Widow or Two” received the 2019 Colorado Authors League Award of Excellence for Stageplay. Short stories and photographs have appeared in Typehouse Literary Review, Eastern Iowa Review, 3Elements Literary Review, The Esthetic Apostle, and others. Her edited collection, Schabraco and other Gothic Tales from The Lady’s Monthly Museum, 1798-1828, is forthcoming in 2020. Other publications include academic articles concerning 18th and 19th century Gothic literature, theatre, and visual and material culture.

On Dreams and Writing

Joshua ArmstrongThe following is a guest post by Joshua Armstrong, whose story “Age of Consumption” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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What can the role of dreams be in a writer’s process? Of course, one must be wary. Stories about dreams are boring, and prose that comes off as ‘dreamy’ is probably to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, the feel of dreams can be reproduced in writing to astonishing effect, for example by Kafka or, in a very different register, David Lynch.

As a writer, however, I try to stay close to dreams. Occasionally I will use details from them as a catalyst for my creative writing. This was the case with the story I published in Typehouse, “Age of Consumption.” Sometimes to begin a piece of writing you just need a particularly persistent image, object, or phrase that you can start writing around. Dreams can supply these.

Some of the most fun and fulfilling—if utterly inaccessible (perhaps)—writing I’ve done has been in the form of Surrealist ‘automatic writing’ experiments. These exercises are meant to produce writing that would be as spontaneous and unpredictable as dreams. French avant-garde poets developed these techniques in a hotel in Paris near the Panthéon in the early 20th century.

A modern-day adaptation might go as follows: when you are feeling sleepy, recline in a quiet, comfortable place. Grab your keyboard, close your eyes and simply type at a steady pace without slowing down or stopping until you are unconscious (i.e. asleep). In the still-conscious state, if you obey the constraint that you must keep typing words at a steady pace, you will  write things that surprise you.

When you wake up, check the file and there should be at least a couple lines you have absolutely no recollection writing and that you could not have written consciously. Sometimes they will be nonsense, but often there will be something enigmatic and strangely meaningful about them. For me, one such sentence was: “Many went away with a red car once white.” Another: “Where are the new versions of ourselves?”

Writing polished stories is, of course, a very different craft, and yet, in the end, we don’t control that creative process entirely either. Writing, for me, is a matter of remaining close to that spontaneous, unpredictable element of imagination that takes center stage in dreams. Dreaming and writing, if in different ways, allow us to access and express something meaningful about the world that on some obscure and distant level we intuit despite ourselves.

The Joys of a Writing Group

The following is a guest post by Annette Freeman, whose story “Tennyson Gardens” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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There are writers who refuse to show their work in progress to anyone. It would affect the integrity of the idea, they may say; or perhaps they don’t want to show draft work that hasn’t been polished. Others depend on a writing group as the one certain source of support in the lonely enterprise that is writing.

On Twitter, you’ll see writers thank their beta-readers. In the acknowledgements section of published novels you’ll find thanks given to long lists of people — many of these are the early readers, the ones who saw the crummy drafts, who shared their views on the characterization, the story arc, the structure.

I love my writing group. I love it because everyone is an enthusiast for reading and writing. I love it because this particular group of people, united in their writing nerdiness, is a group that I would never otherwise know. It’s a joy and an education to know them. Our ages range across four decades, our home suburbs range across the city, our backgrounds range across the world, our skin colors, ethnicity, gender preferences and hairstyles are interestingly diverse. We even have a straight white male. What can I say, it just turned out that way.

We’re serious about our writing. We start our monthly meet-ups with some social chit-chat, maybe wine, but we have Rules. We get down to work. Up to five of us submit pieces at least two days ahead, up to 3000 words (did I mention the Rules?) Everyone present provides the author with feedback on what worked, what didn’t work, what we loved, what left us underwhelmed. Sometimes there are suggestions, such as “this should be a longer piece!” or “this should be a shorter piece!” Sometimes we come up with literary journals for possible submission, or we discuss up-coming writing contests. When several of us submit to a contest and we’re all rejected, we commiserate, discuss the winners, and talk about why ours were just as good, what was wrong with the judges?

And the most useful thing about spending one afternoon a month critiquing five pieces of draft writing by other people? Spending time thinking about why a sentence, or plot line, or descriptive passage, does or doesn’t work for me as a reader, thinking about how I’d do it: this is gold for a writer.

When one of us has a writerly win — a story that sings, a poem that brings someone to tears, publication! A contest short list! — there’s no group of people in my life who celebrate with more deep-felt joy.

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Annette Freeman is a writer living in Sydney, Australia. Her short stories have appeared in a number of Australian and international journals. She has a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Sydney, and the support of a terrific writing group, emerging writers all, who provide critique and support in equal quantities. She tweets at @sendchampagne

Channeling Your Frustration

Elsa WilliamsThe following is a guest post by Elsa Williams, whose nonfiction piece “My Education, San Francisco 1994.” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A woman in my writing workshop said, “I don’t understand how you could be friends with someone like Lila.”

I was writing about the chaos of my teens and early 20s, and especially my messy relationship with Lila, and I was workshopping my manuscript for the first time. I needed to know if what I was writing made sense to anybody else. But I was still learning how to weigh the value of different questions, and I needed to find “my readers” —people who understood what I was trying to do and wanted to help me get there.

The woman who asked about “someone like Lila” was not my ideal reader. She littered my pages with, “I just don’t understand this,” and I was caught up short by the depth and breadth of her ignorance.

But she was not the only person in the workshop who was confused by my friendship with Lila.

Lila at 19 had been reckless, self-involved, over-invested in being cool, and sometimes cruel. She has also been one of my closest friends for 25 years. And she has been incredibly gracious about giving me feedback on a project that does not always portray her 19-year old self in the best light.

It felt very personal, that readers hated my friend. And it was hard to admit that there was a fundamental problem with my writing. I was trying to show not tell, but the scenes that I remembered most vividly were the moments when Lila had hurt me, when I felt excluded or belittled. Readers couldn’t understand the stakes of that hurt, because they couldn’t really believe that Lila and I were friends.

The workshop instructor had told us that sometimes all you need is one or two good sentences of telling to set the stakes and orient the reader. I sat down with my composition book to try. I wrote, “Why did I like Lila?” at the top of the page and let my frustration fuel my writing. I spent two hours and ten longhand pages trying to answer the question. Then I took that work and tried to boil it down to a couple good sentences. Something concise and true.

I wrote, “I was a Berkeley kid (queer, messy, theatrical, with blue hair and a leather jacket) at Harvard. Nobody knew what to make of me. In Berkeley I had been part of a vibrant group of nerdy queer and punk kids. In Cambridge, the lines between town and gown were starkly drawn, and I struggled to find my place. I was deeply lonely, just trying to tough it out until graduation. When Lila (queer, messy, theatrical, with purple hair and a leather jacket) got to Harvard, she was exactly the person I needed. We immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits.”

When I was able to ground the reader in my connection with Lila, the response was profoundly different. The woman who had been so vocal about not understanding had dropped out of our writing group, but another women who had, by that point, read hundreds of pages about Lila, told me, “I feel like, for the first time, I understand.”

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Elsa Williams is a biomedical scientist living in Medford, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She is working on a memoir about her early 20s and blogs about feminism and harm reduction at elsawilliams.net

An Explanatory Mixtape

Ian StonerThe following is a guest post by Ian Stoner, whose story “Eight Lacunae” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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Listeners who came of age in the era of streaming services and mp3s have largely missed out on a small pleasure of physical media for recorded sound:liner notes. It was once standard practice, when labels re-issued an important album, for them to commission a short essay from someone close to the band situating the recording in its musical and cultural context. The genre has a style—the best liner notes are so dense with in-group references and proper nouns that they can be difficult for most readers to unravel… and yet the band’s story emerges, the warmer for its insulating layer.

“Eight Lacunae” (from Typehouse Issue 16) is a short story told through liner notes, and in its opening paragraph I try to establish the insular style characteristic of the form. Amassing sufficient detail required research, supported especially by Simon Reynolds’s Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 and Alex Reed’s Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music. Those books, and the trove of resources they cite, helped me imagine a specific musical context for my narrator to inhabit. Nearly all the context was then burned away in the process of compressing the opening paragraph to the density of liner notes.

For this guest post, I thought it would be fun to reverse that compression and show my work. Below, I’ve annotated a mixtape (read: youtube clips) of bands and songs referenced, directly or indirectly, in the opening paragraph of “Eight Lacunae.”

Mixtape

The Buzzcocks – Boredom (1977)
The Buzzcocks were an early punk band, notable for excellent songwriting and for establishing the Do-It-Yourself aesthetic central to punk and post-punk of the late 1970s. When they were unable to find a label willing to finance or distribute their music, they borrowed the money to record the “Spiral Scratch” EP and founded their own label to distribute it.

The Normal – Warm Leatherette (1978)

Fad Gadget – Back to Nature (1979)

Depeche Mode – Dreaming of Me (1981)
Daniel Miller was a DIY early adopter outside the punk scene. Under the name The Normal he self-financed and distributed a 7-inch single featuring “Warm Leatherette,” a relentlessly repetitive synthpop number based on a J.G. Ballard novel. He included his home address on the sleeve and was inundated with demos from bands who didn’t realize that Mute Records wasn’t an indie label, but rather some rando’s bedroom. Miller (eventually) seized the opportunity, signing oddball genius Frank Tovey, who performed under the name Fad Gadget. Miller and Mute Records went on to sign hugely successful global acts, including Depeche Mode.

Joy Division – New Dawn Fades (1979)

Iggy Pop – Sister Midnight (1977)
Joy Division’s debut LP, Unknown Pleasures, is a masterpiece. Ian Curtis, who had epilepsy and was known for a dancing style difficult to distinguish from seizure, was their singer. He killed himself in 1980 while listening to Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight.”

Cabaret Voltaire – Nag Nag Nag (1979)

The Human League – Being Boiled (1980)

Clock DVA – Sensorium (1981)
Cabaret Voltaire’s recording studio in Sheffield was home to multiple foundational industrial bands, including Clock DVA and the first incarnation of The Human League. These bands were known for synthesizers, minimalist arrangements, and meticulous attention to detail.

Einsturzende Neubauten – Steh auf Berlin (1981)
Einsturzende Neubauten, aus Berlin, were the progenitors of a different breed of industrial, which in its early days featured lots of salvaged sheet metal and power tools.

Prince – When You Were Mine (1980)
Prince released Dirty Mind in 1980, cementing the Minneapolis Sound. Given his amoeba-like absorption of New Wave, I can imagine Prince fans mining the local scene for bands that could plausibly fit that description.

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Ian Stoner teaches philosophy at Saint Paul College and writes fiction when he can. His website is https://ianstoner.com/ .

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Audrey KalmanThe following is a guest post by Audrey Kalman, whose short story “Ramps Season” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.

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A writer tunes in to her vulnerable, interior voice.

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Recently, I prepared for a public reading by recording myself. I wanted to listen in a more focused way than by simply reading aloud so I could eradicate extraneous words, find phrases that tripped up my tongue, and become familiar enough with the story to keep my eyes on the audience instead of the page.

I cringed as I listened to the recording. I wondered if that’s how the rest of the world hears me. I think I knew the answer was yes, because the two voices—interior and recorded—often sound radically different. And most of us don’t like the recorded one.

The same goes for a writer’s voice expressed on the page. The interior voice is perfect. The tempo of the phrases and the rhythm of the sentences make divine music. Ideas weave effortlessly into intriguing plots. But, captured on paper or screen, the words turn pedestrian. The angelic voice sours. The tone becomes screechy, nasal, or childish. Just as you may hate the sound of your recorded voice, you may hate the manifestation of your voice on the page.

Practicing craft helps, but it’s not the answer. I studied creative writing in college and found myself so tied up in knots trying to conform to my professor’s well-meaning guidelines that my prose sounded like a constipated Jane Austen’s. In graduate school, I fell under the spell of another professor and adopted the voices of some of his favorite authors, meaning that I was a twenty-something female trying to write like Robert B. Parker, Norman MacLean, and Tracy Kidder.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with emulating the pros as you learn. But eventually you have to speak for yourself.

It took me decades of writing—professionally and for pleasure—to discover my voice. Or, more accurately, to acknowledge and embrace the voice that has been mine all along. Usually, it sounds less than angelic. But it is true, and it is mine.

It’s not easy for us as writers to claim our voices because they are about so much more than sentence structure and tone. They’re about doubt, impostor syndrome, and vulnerability. Claiming my voice has meant accepting that my subject matter will be dark, my sentences long, my characters introspective, and my action scenes sometimes consisting of nothing more than a fraught glance.

Giving stories shape in the world through words is an act of surrender. You have to give up the idea that the words will sound as you hear them in your head, that readers will hear them as you do. You have to listen to the inner voice that already has told a thousand perfect stories, that will never stutter or rise to a nasal honk or crack or throw out a word that drops like a bomb into the middle of a sentence.

There are hundreds of millions of voices in the world. Writers need faith that theirs will be perfect for someone, no matter how flawed it sounds to them.

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Audrey Kalman writes fiction with a dark edge about what goes awry when human connection is missing from our lives. Her most recent book, the short fiction collection “Tiny Shoes Dancing,” was shortlisted for the 2019 Rubery Book Award. She is the author of the novels “What Remains Unsaid“ and “Dance of Souls.“ She currently serves as president of the SF Peninsula Branch of the California Writers Club. She is seeking a publisher for her most recent novel and is at work on another. Find out more at audreykalman.com.

Writing…

The following is a guest post by Douglas Cole, whose short story “Villagers”: appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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I just love the whole process of it. Beginning in emptiness. Wanting nothing. Recording brief flashes in the head, mixing that with some thing in my vicinity, flowing back and forth, slowing down, catching the wave of a memory or something completely imagined or dreamed that arrives like a movie projected into the mind.

Then I let it go. It is what it is. A moment. A snapshot of a moment. The Kaliope fluttering inwit carnival of thought.

And then slow down, go back and read it and in reading it see it again and ask myself, do I want to pursue this? Is there something here I want to work on? Do I have enough pieces? And if so, crawl back inside with new eyes and so add my upper thinking structures, reader-need, what might be called craft (say in fiction, think of plot, dialogue, description, that sort of thing filling out, but mostly stay organic and intuitive).

Some poems are a journey, and a record of a journey, like a scar, and can’t be altered. They may or may not be for others. They may be just for me.

And then, tinkering, as with a mechanical puzzle of word and language structures (especially with poetry, but certainly prose too) and sometimes pushing it as far as it can go to see what it opens, like a dart thrown into the black mystery of the void beyond seeing and hearing and remembering—and trying to connect back to the trance that brought it in the first place, honoring that and then ruthlessly changing it, cutting, reworking and adding to get to what I know, simply know, is right.

And not giving up. Unless I’m supposed to give up and start again.I suppose it resembles a kind of rebirth loaded with karmic weight and weight of self that I have to get around. But that’s all less than, just application—because the whole enterprise is bigger than that. Writing is hooking into the great creative dynamo. It’s freedom and transformation, practice for dying and what comes after. Maybe.

All I know is that it has been my golden thread, and without it, the world would have snuffed me out long ago.

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How Poetry Can Matter to a First-Year Composition Student

Olga Dugan

The following is a guest post by Olga Dugan, PhD, whose poetry appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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To be truly educated is to resist the easy certainties of deeply ingrained and unexamined ideologies of soundbites and clichés in favor of an ongoing pursuit of knowledge, of truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

–Natasha Trethewey1

Shot and left to die on a lonely city street in the twilight hours of a Sunday morning. No witnesses. No leads. An instant cold case. “She didn’t know,” some students whispered as I absorbed their version of events. But I wiped away tears to teach because I believed that the value of my student’s life more than her death made painstakingly clear how poetry could matter to my first-year composition students. A week prior to her untimely demise, Jess M., a newly-minted thirty-year old, described an experience that clarified for me what Natasha Trethewey’s work continues to do for students learning to write. In mixing the generic traditions of poetry and history, Trethewey creates poems of cultural consciousness that prompt student writers to explore the historical roots of their own voices and where their voices can take them in their writing. Presenting the public nature of very private ideas, unexamined notions, and lived-experiences, conveying how we are more similar than different, her poems challenge beginning writers to think about themselves as historical beings, and to write from sources of knowledge that include their individual and collective memories. For Jess M. in particular, the study of historical representation in Trethewey’s poetry led to writing in which she recognized her own voice as reader and storyteller of a fuller version of American history that Trethewey aptly insists we all share.

During an office visit, Jess M.’s questions about an upcoming paper gradually intensified to thoughts on what it means to do this thing called ‘living’ and do it well. Our composition class was discussing this topical question raised in Trethewey’s second book of poetry, Bellocq’s Ophelia, the main character of which undergoes a journey of psychological exile that resonated all too well with my student. She admitted to dreading the essay assignment because the book required her to write out of a personal history from which she felt exiled. Jess offered no reasons for her sense of loss about where she came from, where she belonged. Acknowledgement alone, however, betrayed her understanding and fear of the interdependence of cultural identity and historical memory pervading Trethewey’s poems; the same that exhorts readers to participate in what the poet presents as an ongoing exchange and honest, inclusive remembrance of the past. And given her recognition of this call to active reading and the writing it induces, no wonder the continued heft of my student’s last words to me.

While regretting that she lacked the character’s courage, Jess M. praised Trethewey’s Ophelia for this very act, seeing as hopeful and plausible Ophelia’s final moment of aggregation in which she looks back, sees where she’s been, where she is, then walks away from Storyville and prostitution. My student equated this act with walking away from the marginal places where social, political, cultural, and historical forces greater than ourselves can thrust us, and into a new life, albeit, a life unplanned and uncharted. She ended with a promise to write, ‘not a great paper, but at least one in search of truth.’ Trethewey’s poetry had invited my student to consider what in its historical representation could teach her to remember and examine about her own “presence” and cultural work in the world. Seven years later, her presence is remembered, and the work Jess M. did during that office visit continues to inspire student writers in their own efforts to live and do it well.

1Natasha Trethewey, “Commencement Address by Natasha Trethewey, 19th Poet Laureate of the United States: June 07, 2014,” Knox College (web), https://www.knox.edu/news/news-archive/knox-college-commencement-2014/commencement-speaker-natasha-trethewey.

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Olga Dugan is a Philadelphia-based Cave Canem poet. Nominated for a 2018 Best of the Net and 2019 Pushcart Prize, her poems appear in several journals including Typehouse Literary Magazine, Virga Poetry, The Sunlight Press, E-Verse Radio, The Peacock Journal, Origins, Kweli, The Southern Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, Pirene’s Fountain, and Scribble. Olga’s articles on the work of U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (2012-2014) appear in The North Star, the Journal of African American History and in Emory University’s “Meet the Fellows.”