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The Next Best Thing

Zen and the Art of Actualizing Fiction

- By Ruth Ozeki and Michael Thurston

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, December 7, in the Paradise Room of the Smith College Conference Center, Ruth Ozeki gave a lecture titled “The Book of Form and Emptiness: Zen and the Art of Actualizing Fiction.” Provost Michael Thurston introduced the speaker, and his remarks follow here, as does Ruth Ozeki’s sabbatical report, mentioned in the intro.


Good afternoon.

For the last few years, I’ve begun introductions of speakers by introducing myself as “Michael Thurston, Provost and Dean of Faculty at Smith.” I am still provost and dean of faculty, but today I think it’s important that I introduce myself as a faculty member in the Department of English. This is because it is my great honor to introduce...

After Us

Westerners Have a Way. . .

- By Noy Holland

Editor’s note: On March 28, 2022, in Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability, in partnership with the Fine Arts Center and the MFA Program for Poets and Writers convened a unique meeting of artists, climate and social scientists, and activists working at the intersection of climate change, literature, and social justice. Noy Holland, from the MFA Program introduced and moderated this discussion.

Westerners have a way of talking about climate, nature, the environment as though it is over there. Something apart, something other. But we are nature and nature is us and we are making a mess of ourselves and everything that lives. Nature is storm surge and dengue, beetle-kill and Lyme. It is...

The Next Best Thing

All Are Worthy of Song

- By Barbara Krauthamer

Editor's Note: On December 3, 2021, at the Old Chapel on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, friends, colleagues, and community members met to celebrate the work of UMass Professor of English and MR Contributing Editor Martín Espada, to recognize his singular achievements—during his long career but also in a single year where his most recent collection of poems, Floaters, received the National Book Award and where he received one of the inaugural Letras Boricuas Fellowships. Before a reading by the poet, the following introduction was provided by Barbara Krauthamer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

It is now my pleasure and...

The Next Best Thing

For David 1: The Great Lie of Ideals

- By Brion Dulac

An introduction to David Lenson's lecture at the Commonwealth Honors College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, on February 13, 2013.



Here are only a very few representative samples of the many, many evaluations made by students with regard to David Lenson and his teaching:


One of the most incredible professors that I have ever had.
He will change your perspective on things and shake up your world.
Lenson is absolutely brilliant. His books are messed up, but so...

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