May/Summer 1997

Rules & Reality in Fiction

Ron Tanner
A student organizer, a protester, a would-be radical in my youth, I've always had a problem with authority. Nothing gave me greater satisfaction than breaking the rules, especially silly rules, like the acceptable way to hold a dinner fork or fold a napkin, or that a man must wear a necktie to look respectable for a job interview or that a woman must wear a skirt.


Getting In & Getting Out:First Words on First & Last Words

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Debra Spark
First memories, last words. When my sister was dying, we all told each other our first memories. I was the one who instigated it. I made everyone in the hospital room tell their story. I offered my sister's-since I happened to know it, and she had already spoken her last words. Her memory was of throwing a pair of maracas on the floor and being surprised to see beans spill out.

Is It a Reasonable Gamble? The Literary Competition

Nancy Means Wright
For most writers, like myself, winning a prestigious contest seems a fantasy, a panacea, a way out of anonymity. We know the odds: literary competitions like the AWP Award Series or the National Poetry Series can receive up to a thousand manuscripts, asking fees that range from ten to thirty dollars-and the fruits of our time and money will most likely be a form letter of rejection.

How to Make a Short-Short Story Work

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George R. Clay
Here is good reason to remember Tallulah Bankhead, a flamboyant actress of the 1930s. Her lover disappeared for five years. When he returned, she said: "I thought I told you to wait in the car!"

It Must Be Poetry

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Richard Kostelanetz
More than thirty years ago, before I had published any poetry, I heard this liberating line attributed to the French poet Pierre Albert-Birot (1876–1967): "If anything can be said in prose, then poetry should be saved for saying nothing." To put it differently, if the purpose of prose was communication from writer to reader-this essay, for example-then poetry at its truest could be about the creation of structures indigenous to language: no more, no less.

Advice to Young Poets on Making It Out of the Slush Pile

Eleanor M. Hamilton
In May 1994, I completed a two-year stint as a contributing poetry editor for The Kenyon Review. Marilyn Hacker was the editor at that time, and she asked me to fill in for David Baker, who was taking time off to be a new father and write his poems. Previously, I had founded and edited the poetry magazine Open Places (1966–87). In its day, Open Places was home to a number of poets who are more famous now than they were then.

An Interview with Eavan Boland

Renée Olander
Irish lyric poet Eavan Boland's most recent book is Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (Norton, 1995), a prose exploration of the experience and legitimacy of the poet who is a woman. Her most recent collections of poems are In a Time of Violence (Norton, 1994) and Outside History: Selected Poems 1980–1990 (Norton, 1990).

Mime Workshop: A Guide to Successful Silent Workshopping

Jill Marquis
Enough talk, already. Any veteran of fiction workshops finds herself repeating the same tired phrases; using their pantomime equivalents will save time and breath.

Notes on the Viral Story: Invading Privacy, Violating Copyright, Disrupting Genre

Michael Martone
I have my students write bad stories. It is, of course, very hard to do, perhaps even more difficult than writing (as they assume they are doing most of the time) good stories. That is to say, it goes without saying that a workshop is about producing a good story. Assigning the task of creating a bad story actually makes the transparency of the default assignment (you are to write a good story) readily apparent.