October/November 2005

An Interview with Rita Dove

Elizabeth Alexander
Rita Dove's first collection of poems, The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), heralded the arrival of a new voice in American letters. In Thomas and Beulah, her third books of poems, Dove reveals her power as a narrative poet in the imaginative retelling of the story of her grandparents' courtship and subsequent life together. The book was awarded the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She has published eight books of poems, and her literary accomplishments extend beyond that form. She is the author of a novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992), a book of short stories Fifth Sunday (1985), many essays (some collected in The Poet's World, 1995), including a definitive essay on the work of Derek Walcott, and a play, The Darker Face of the Earth (1994), which has been produced to great acclaim in the United States and abroad.


Return to Sender: Memory, Betrayal, and Memoir

Mark Doty
It wasn't my idea to go to Memphis. It was okay with me, if Paul wanted to drive through, and see if we could find the house on Ramses Street where I lived in 1959, the year I started first grade. We were heading from Houston to Cape Cod, a northward migration we used to make together every year, after my annual teaching stint in Texas. Memphis wasn't exactly on the way, but it wasn't wildly off course either, and if Paul thought that would be an interesting outing, then I was game to give it a try.

Book Clubs

Ronald Goldfarb
One October night, almost twenty-five years ago, having just read Toni Morrison's powerful book, The Bluest Eye, and passionately wanting to discuss it, I invited six couples to dinner on the condition they read it too. They were friends and neighbors who I knew were book lovers-an editor at a national newspaper who'd written two books; a novelist and a co-author whose books I'd sold; a still scholarly former Rhodes scholar, a few other congenial readers. We all had such a good time that one guest suggested we have another session at his home a month later, and we read and discussed King Lear. We've never stopped our monthly meetings; and in a quarter century, we have read 175 books. We all feel we've enriched our lives, as we've become part of a national phenomenon based on the love of books.

An Interview with Stuart Dybek

Jeanie Chung
Stuart Dybek was born in Chicago in 1942, and though he has spent the majority of his adult life elsewhere, the rhythms, scenery, and characters of the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood where he grew up on the city's Southwest Side inform I Sailed With Magellan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) and his two other works of fiction-Childhood and Other Neighborhoods (1980) and The Coast of Chicago (1990), as well as his collection of poetry, Brass Knuckles (1979). Another book of poetry, Streets in Their Own Ink, came out in November 2004 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Remembering d.a. levy: An Interview with Ed Sanders

Larry Smith
Ed Sanders's many books of investigative poetry are, 1968: A History in Verse, America A History in Verse Vols. I, II, and III, Chekhov, and The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg. Sanders's Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961–1985 was published in 1988. In this interview, Sanders tells the story of those times-the persecution and prosecution of rebels and activists, poets, artists, and smokers, claiming Cleveland's d.a.levy (1942–1968) as brother poet, and martyr, a rebel spirit whose energy sought to change the world of Cleveland through poetry.

The Art of Restraint in Fiction

Randi Triant
Lately, restraint as a quality is rarely praised in our society, or at least in literature. It seems as if fiction writers now strive to indulge in excess, especially when it comes to psychological unburdenings, or descriptions of sex. As readers, we are often told all the titillating details; the more the better supposedly.

In Search of a Beautiful Lie

Michelle Richmond
I once knew a woman who taught Eastern European Literature, drove a motorcycle, and had a tattoo on her posterior that said, Made in Brooklyn. One day she called me into her office, which was across the hall from mine at the southern university where I was a graduate teaching assistant at the time, and said, "I feel I know you well enough that I can show you this." And show she did. The tattoo was army green, courier font, almost tasteful if such a declaration can be tasteful, riding high on her right cheek. What else can I tell you about this woman? She seemed very tall, but then I realized she was a regular-sized woman wearing boots with extremely high heels. Her office walls were papered with posters for heavy metal concerts she'd attended in the '80s: Metallica, Megadeth, Bon Jovi. When she showed me her tattoo, I had known her for only three days. I would later learn that she was not made in Brooklyn at all. In fact, she had never even lived there; she was born and raised in Idaho.

Frontloading Syntax

Natasha Sajé
Syntax is unique to humans. Animals communicate using signals that refer to whole situations. For instance, animal calls can be continuous analogue signals or a series of random variations on a time, like bird song