May/Summer 2008

Wild Nonfiction: An Interview with David Gessner

James M. Lang
Most readers familiar with David Gessner's work know him for his writings about the natural world. In 2004, he published an essay collection, Sick of Nature. The essay from which the book title comes begins by proclaiming that Gessner is sick of nature and sick of nature writing; by the end of the piece, though, he comes around to clarify that what he's really sick of are the boxes in which publishers and readers put the natural world-if birds or coyotes appear in your book, you're a nature writer.

An Interview with Judith Vollmer

Camille-Yvette Welsch
Judith Vollmer's most recent book of poetry, Reactor, was published in 2004 by the University of Wisconsin Press. It was featured in the Los Angeles Times Book Review and was a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other books include The Door Open to the Fire, which was awarded the Cleveland State Poetry Prize in 1997 and finalist honors for the Paterson Prize in 1999; Black Butterfly (limited edition, awarded the Center for Book Arts chapbook prize in 1997); and Level Green, which won the Brittingham Prize of the University of Wisconsin Press in 1990. Vollmer has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as residencies from the Corporation of Yaddo and the American Academy in Rome. Her essay on Baudelaire, "The Stroll and Preparation for Departure," appears in the Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire published by the Cambridge University Press. Vollmer also co-edits the national poetry magazine 5 AM. She teaches in the undergraduate Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and in the New England College MFA Program in Poetry.

At Play in the Fields of Time: The Clockless Stories of Charles D'Ambrosio

Chris Bachelder
Most conventional short fiction has a clock, and this clock starts ticking early in the story. Like the clock at a football or basketball game, the story's clock counts down toward zero. The clock implies the end of the story, the point beyond which the story will not go, and thus it creates the time-space within which the meaningful events of the story will occur.

Warranted Magic: Writing & Discussing Magical Realism

Scott Elliott
When talking about a work of magical realist fiction in workshop, it might be helpful to ask whether magical elements in the story are warranted. What in the story necessitates the move to magic? Why does the story need the supernatural?

An Interview with Nahid Rachlin

Sheila Bender
Nahid Rachlin has published four novels, Jumping Over Fire, (City Lights), Foreigner (W.W. Norton), Married to a Stranger (E.P. Dutton), The Heart's Desire (City Lights), and a collection of short stories, Veils (City Lights). Penguin published her memoir Persian Girls in Fall 2006. Her individual short stories have appeared in more than fifty magazines, including the Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Redbook, Shenandoah, and New Letters. Her essays have been published in Natural History Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, and in an anthology, How I Learned to Cook and Other Writings On Complex Mother-Daughter Relationships (Penguin). She has written reviews for the New York Times and Newsday.

On Difficulty in Poetry

Reginald Shepherd
It's been the fashion at least since the Modernists to complain that contemporary poetry has become difficult, and that this difficulty has alienated the readers who used to flock to poetry as they now flock to John Grisham novels and American Idol. I am not sure what constitutes the easy poetry these people look back to: Shakespeare? Donne? Milton? I'm also not sure when and where this massive poetry audience existed.


A Bridge Flung Over the Abyss: On the Work of Italo Calvino

Martha Cooley
Folktales also perform a moral function. The mere act of telling and listening to them, claims Calvino, is an inducement to the contemplation of ethical opportunities and options, temptations and transgressions, goods and ills.

Some Thoughts on Nonfiction Book Structures

Douglas Whynott
I found it thrilling to reduce a lengthy narrative to a few index cards, to be able to shuffle them around to produce different options-you could even toss them up into the air and see what came of it, like a fortune teller.