Front Cover by Mira Bartók
The Hunger Artist 2013
SCRATCHBOARD, INK, AND GOUCHE
Volume 55, Issue 1
TWO YEARS AGO, when we were first planning this issue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the UMass MFA program for Poets & Writers, we batted around all sorts of ideas about how to canvas alums in an effort to represent the program as rigorously as possible. We quickly learned that that approach was totally inadequate in dealing with a living population of extremely lively writers characterized best by their restless invention. Any form of being representative felt erstwhile or ersatz. Instead, it became clear that we ought do what we do best: make a great issue of the Massachusetts Review. The special part of the issue is that we would be selecting from current available work by alumni of the program. Meaning: us: magpies pecking through an Oscar-worthy closet in search of nesting.
As someone who teaches poetry writing, I’ve had my share of academics sidle up to me querulously with a: “You don’t really think you can teach someone to be a great writer, do you?” To which I inevitably lose the nerve to reply: “Well, not you surely.” But it is actually, clothed in a different tone, a decent question to which the answer is yes and no, since a writer needs to teach herself to be a writer — how to enable that? A writer needs, absolutely needs, a literary education, however that is configured. And most of all, a writer needs to learn to revise. And yes, in fact, these are precisely the things that a great MFA program teaches. Above and beyond these, and something the UMass Amherst’s MFA program has a particular skill for creating: a writer can learn to be sustained by and can sustain community in ways that make the world better. Way better.
Which leads me to a differently configured party primal scene. I can’t recall if it was the party with baby goats present or not, but it was one of the many incredibly genial gatherings hosted by Dara Wier at her home. We were inside, there was a fire burning, so probably not the season for baby goats. But the blend of the impish younger grad students, local folk, alums, visiting luminaries, faculty and so on at these parties always has a heady character for me. Many of the people I admire and might be a little intimidated by, but the weirder Proustian pleasure is the presence of many others I don’t know or know of . . . yet. Anyway, a riffraff of writers, we’re sort of slouched into your usual dining room-cleared-of-its table circle and Cory Ericson is telling a story that is challenging our snarf and gag reflexes at once. A story about him. A detail-rich, squirmingly good story about him . . . decapitating a moose.
When I was sending out tendrils for this issue, I was sometimes disappointed by favorite writers not having anything for me presently. They had just published a book, were busy being poet laureate, or were on the way to something still just a glow on the horizon. Worried that this might be the case, I was about to close an early exchange with Cory — until, he offered: what about I write up that story about the moose. Insert insanely smiling moosehead emoticon here.
I like to think about that story, “Scavenger,” as, among other things, a nimble, if gory, account of one writer’s dogged work at revision. And indeed, many of the pieces presented in this celebration issue dwell on re-vision. From Mira Bartók’s “Alternate Endings,” where she takes received stories about writers, artists, and famous dogs, and revises their outcomes, to Valerie Martin’s “Incident at Villedeau” where an incident rattles around its Hawthornian box til the dirt is worn off the artifact. And: Jedediah Berry’s steampunk spy noir atmospherics; James Haug’s retrofitted comics; the poetic distillation of Matthew Zapruder’s unnamed perfume.
We ourselves have attempted a little revisioning of our usual format — we actively sought and happily found longer poems, two lovelies from Gillian Conoley and Brian Baldi in particular — but also generally solicited works in clusters. The hope is to create a novel texture for our special issue, one up to exploring the pleasures and peculiarities of duration.
The Massachusetts Review is very proud to be neighbors, and now fellow quinquaginarians, with the MFA program for Poets & Writers.
John Emil Vincent
for the editors
By Marianne Boruch
By Marianne Boruch
By Corwin Ericson
What is the name of this? What is this word the name of?
By Lesley Yalen
I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better
By Lesley Yalen
Caesar's "Gaellic War"
By Lesley Yalen
By Jedediah Berry
By Jedediah Berry
By Jedediah Berry
Stories to Go
By Lesle Lewis
Cuba Hill Diary
By James Haug
an oh a sky a fabric an undertow
By Gillian Conoley
Poem for a Vial of Nameless Perfume
By Matthew Zapruder
The Incident at Villedeau
By Valerie Martin
By Rachel B. Glaser
By Brian Baldi
By Hilary Plum
Laika, Emily, Jewel Casket
By Mira Bartok
The Hunger Artist
By Mira Bartok
That was the summer
By Ellen Dore Watson
Wakeful, my eyes seething
By Ellen Dore Watson
The day we left
By Ellen Dore Watson
The Natural World
By Emily Toder
The Extent of the Shock is Equivalent to the Rate of the Flow
By Douglas Whynott
Plate Neatly Broken
By Heather Christle
The White Devil
By Domenic Stansbury
By Lee Upton
Amor Vincit Omnia
By Richie Hofmann
Table of Contents
Introduction, by John Emil Vincent
Big Little and If Only, poems by Marianne Boruch
Scavenger, an essay by Corwin Ericson
What is the name of this? What is this word the name of?,
I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better,
and Caesar's "Gallic War" poems by Lesley Yalen
Underground, Dead Drop, and Spook,
stories by Jedediah Berry
an oh a sky a fabric an undertow,
a poem by Gillian Conoley
Stories to Go, poems by Lesle Lewis
Cuba Hill Diary, a story by James Haug
Poem for a Vial of Nameless Perfume,
a poem by Matthew Zapruder
The Incident at Villedeau, a story by Valerie Martin
Ráfe Laudïan, a poem by Rachel B. Glaser
Siasalem, a poem by Brian Baldi
Cable, a story by Hilary Plum
The Natural World, a poem by Emily Toder
Laika, Emily, Jewel Casket, and Hunger Artist,
stories and art by Mira Bartók
That was the summer, Wakeful, my eyes seething,
and The way we left, poems by Ellen Doré Watson
The Extent of the Shock is Equivalent
to the Rate of the Flow, an essay by Douglas Whynott
Plate Neatly Broken, a poem by Heather Christle
from The White Devil, a novel excerpt by Domenic Stansberry
Marsyas, a poem by Lee Upton
Notes on Contributors
BRIAN BALDI’s writing has appeared in the AWP Writer’s Chronicle, Invisible Ear, SKEIN, Denver Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. A 2007 graduate of the UMass MFA Program for Poets & Writers, he is a founding member of Agnes Fox Press, and lives in western Massachusetts.
MIRA BARTÓK (mfa 2008) is a visual artist and the author of 28 books for children and the illustrated memoir The Memory Palace (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2011), a New York Times best seller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. Her writing for adults has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, noted in The Best American Essays, and has appeared in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is the founder of Mira’s List, a website that helps artists find funding and residencies, and the literary adviser for TransCultural Exchange, an international arts organization.
JEDEDIAH BERRY’s first novel, The Manual of Detection, won the Crawford Award and the Dashiell Hammett Prize. The book has been widely translated, and was adapted for broadcast by BBC Radio. His short fiction appears in journals including Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Ninth Letter, Unstuck, and Fairy Tale Review. A 2007 graduate of the UMass MFA Program for Poets & Writers, Berry also taught at the Program from 2011 to 2013.
MARIANNE BORUCH’s eighth poetry collection, Cadaver, Speak, will be out spring 2014 from Copper Canyon Press, which also published her Book of Hours, winner of the 2013 Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award. The author of two essay collections, In the Blue Pharmacy (Trinity) and Poetry’s Old Air (Michigan), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana), Boruch has taught in the MFA program at Purdue University, and in the Low Residency program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She is a 1979 graduate of the MFA Program at UMass.
HEATHER CHRISTLE (mfa 2009) is the author of three poetry collections, most recently What Is Amazing. She lives in Yellow Springs, OH, and is currently writing a book about crying. More information can be found at heatherchristle.tumblr.com.
GILLIAN CONOLEY (mfa 1983) is the author of seven collections of poetry. Her most recent, Peace, will appear from Omnidawn in 2014. Her translation Thousand Times Broken: Three Books by Henri Michaux will be number 61 in the City Lights Pocket Poets Series (fall 2014). A professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at Sonoma State University, Conoley is editor and founder of Volt, and lives with her family north of San Francisco.
CORWIN ERICSON (mfa 1999) is the author of the novel Swell (Dark Coast, 2011) and the book Checked Out OK (Factory Hollow Press, 2013). A version of “Scavengers” was performed as a monologue at Amherst Live, a quarterly live magazine series, in September 2013, at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. Ericson works as a college lecturer and lives in western Massachusetts. He is a former managing editor of the Massachusetts Review.
RACHEL B. GLASER (mfa 2010) is the author of the story collection Pee on Water (Publishing Genius Press) and the poetry collection MOODS (Factory Hollow Press). She teaches Creative Writing at Flying Object in Hadley, MA, and loves basketball, Freddie Mercury, and convincing people to play free-form charades. She blogs at rachelbglaser.blogspot.com.
JAMES HAUG (mfa 1987) is the author most recently of the poetry collection Legend of the Recent Past, and a chapbook, Scratch. Factory Hollow Press published his chapbook Why I Like Chapbooks. The illustrations in “Cuba Hill Diary” are by Charlie Schmidt, from Radio Patrol, a Big Little Book published in 1935. Big Little Books were pocket-sized books published in the 1930s, based usually on newspaper comic strips, radio programs, or movies. They were typically genre stories — westerns, war stories, crime stories, spy thrillers, sci-fi, and others — and originally sold for a dime. The accompanying text is taken from a journal that Haug kept when he was fifteen.
LESLE LEWIS (mfa 1995) is the author of Small Boat (2003), Landscapes I & II (2006), lie down too (2011), A Boot’s a Boot (forthcoming 2014) and the chapbook It’s Rothko in Winter or Belgium. She teaches at Landmark College in Vermont and lives in New Hampshire.
VALERIE MARTIN (mfa 1974) is the author of ten novels, three collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. She has been awarded the Kafka Prize for her novel Mary Reilly, and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Property. Martin has taught in writing programs at the University of Massachusetts, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of Alabama, among others. She resides in Dutchess County, New York, and is currently Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. A new novel, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, will be published by Nan Talese/Doubleday in January 2014.
HILARY PLUM (mfa 2011) is the author of the novel They Dragged Them Through the Streets (FC2, 2013). With Zach Savich, she edits Rescue Press’s Open Prose series. “Cable” is an excerpt from a novel in progress; some events described in “Cable” are based on events related in Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (Vintage Books, 2005), in particular his quotations from the testimony of Mohamed Salam.
DOMENIC STANSBERRY (mfa 1984) is an Edgar Award–winning novelist known for his dark, innovative crime novels. His North Beach Mystery Series has won praise in the New York Times and other publications for its rich portrayal of the ethnic and political subcultures in San Francisco. An earlier novel, The Confession, received an Edgar Allan Poe Award for its controversial portrait of a Marin County psychologist accused of murdering his mistress.
EMILY TODER (mfa 2009) is the author of Science (Coconut Books, 2012) and the chapbooks No Land (Brave Men Press, 2013), Brushes With (Tarpaulin Sky, 2010), and I Hear a Boat (Duets, 2010). Her second collection, Beachy Head, is due out from Coconut in 2014. She lives in Brooklyn.
A collection of LEE UPTON’s short stories, The Tao of Humiliation, is forthcoming in spring 2014. She is a professor of English and writer-in-residence at Lafayette College, and graduated from the UMass MFA Program for Poets & Writers in 1981.
ELLEN DORÉ WATSON’s most recent books are Dogged Hearts and Ex-Voto (translations of Adélia Prado). She earned her MFA at UMass in the seventies and stayed. Currently, she teaches and directs the Poetry Center at Smith College and serves as core faculty at the Low-Residency Program in Poetry and Translation at Drew University. She’s also Poetry and Translation editor at MR and has recently taken to writing nine-liners, each in a different voice.
DOUGLAS WHYNOTT (mfa 1985) is the author of Following the Bloom, Giant Bluefin, A Country Practice, and A Unit of Water, A Unit of Time. He is an associate professor at Emerson College, has taught at Columbia University, and was a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Studies Program at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Smithsonian, Discover, Outside, and the Boston Globe. His book about the maple syrup industry, The Sugar Season, will be published by Da Capo Press and Perseus Books in 2014.
LESLEY YALEN’s writing has appeared in jubilat, Octopus, Denver Quarterly, web Conjunctions, iO, and elsewhere. A 2007 graduate of the UMass MFA program, she is the author of two chapbooks: This Elizabeth (Minus House) and The Beginning In (Minutes Books). Yalen lives and works in western Massachusetts.
MATTHEW ZAPRUDER (mfa 1998) is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Come On All You Ghosts (Copper Canyon 2010), a New York Times Notable Book, and Sun Bear, forthcoming from Copper Canyon in spring 2014. An assistant professor in the St. Mary’s College of California MFA program and English Department, Zapruder is also an editor at Wave Books. He lives in Oakland, CA.