Reading literary criticism can often be about as interesting as watching paint dry. Not so with the essays of Eric Miles Williamson. These essays are both erudite and explosive, thoughtful and outrageous, whether with praise or condemnation. One of the nation's most respected and feared literary critics, Williamson, in Say It Hot: Essays on American Writers Living, Dying, and Dead, collects for the first time the essays of his famed and infamous literary column, "Say It Hot," which ran monthly for two years in the French magazine Transfuge. Rounding out the collection are essays published over a twenty-year span in venues such as The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, American Book Review, Pleiades, Arkansas Review, Chelsea, and Texas Review. Say It Hot is criticism at its finest, reminiscent of the best essays of Poe, Twain, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, and Charles Olson. Passionate and learned, written with the verve only an accomplished novelist can bring to the page, Say It Hot is a landmark work of criticism by one of America's best novelists.
The essays in Dowsing and Science touch points on the map, including Texarkana, Chicago, and Ocean City, Maryland, with stops in Latin America and Aurora, Illinois. The collection's mental range extends even farther, questioning the use of common phrases such as "the real world," suggesting how Romanian history stands in for the human condition at large, and making a case for the survival value of esthetics. While several selections represent variations on the short memoirs known as the personal essay, most are examples of the "impersonal essay," meditating on and engaging with a world larger than any writer's psyche.
J.D. Smith has published two collections of poetry and an edited anthology as well as one children's book, and he has received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in publications throughout the United States and in several other countries. Smith's one-act play Dig, optioned for film, was produced in London in 2010. A graduate of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, he currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he is at work on projects in several genres, including a second essay collection.
Rogue Waves examines those moments that are like their namesake, events that occur unexpectedly, that cannot possibly be real, that have disproportionate impact, and just as quickly are over. This book is all about " . . . the keystone that dislodges, the chain that breaks . . . ." The implicit question is always, "What happens when our pathway changes all of a sudden?" We find new ways to help us cope, accepting the paradox of a new reality, sometimes only checking to see what parts still work and then moving forward. Rogue Waves is about the abrupt shifts in our paradigms and perspectives and balance.
"Alan Birkelbach's thoughts and images, set in Wallace Stevens-like word play, spill so fast the reader must clutch or miss the depths and read again, or maybe yet again. But we're included. Whether it's Persephone in bunny slippers pulling Pluto out of bed, or little-boy Alexander the Great posing heroically before a Sears camera, he invites figures from myth, history, the streets he walks daily, to sit down with him and us at breakfast. Lurking beneath the scattered surfaces of seemingly random observations are moments when we find our canoe on the bottom, our self on the wrong street, rocks falling on us from Krakatoa's explosion, or stones from a pyramid we were stacking the wrong way."-Frances Neidhardt
Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume III, Contemporary Appalachia
Edited by Jesse Graves, Paul Ruffin and William Wright
Every place has its own poetry. For some places, the poetry appears in the tones of voice between neighbors in the grocery store, or in the spirit people share when a high school football team brings them out of their houses on Friday evenings, or even through the sounds engines make as they idle in traffic on the road out of the city after a workday. The poetry of Appalachia sings in all those familiar ways, but also in the music of the particular poems collected in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III: Southern Appalachia. This anthology of contemporary poetry arrives from one of America's most vibrant literary communities, an area with a rich storytelling history and beautiful natural landscape, the often misunderstood Appalachian South. Readers familiar with writing from Appalachia will be pleased to see work from such favorites as Charles Wright, Robert Morgan, and Fred Chappell, yet will be intrigued by the already distinctive voices of emerging talents like Melissa Range and D. Antwan Stewart. This collection of poems is the only one of its kind, a snapshot album of a timeless place, as it is represented at the present moment.
In this sixth collection, the award-winning poet Richard Foerster probes the innermost recesses of awareness not only to confront deep-seated fears of mortality, moral failure and abandonment by a beloved but also to celebrate the mystery of our tenuous existence within Nature's uncompromising order. In Penetralia language itself ultimately becomes the necessary ceremonial means by which the poet acknowledges and honors the terrifying sacredness that resides everywhere within. Ranging across landscapes both real and mythic, from New England gardens to a tomb in ancient Egypt, these new poems are radiant and wise.
"Foerster's poems are . . . lush, gorgeous, and technically adept . . . brilliant, emotionally complex, and moving. . . ."—Kevin Prufer
"[C]ompressing story to revelatory moment and pressing the boundaries of sentence with sinuous syntax, [Foerster's poems] push their narrative into the realm of lyric."— Sarah Kennedy
"Foerster is a nature poet of the first order, and we are eventually trained and vaulted into new vision, a higher level of seeing."—John Hoppenthaler
Short Bus is a darkly humorous collection of linked stories set in the southern haunts of coastal Texas--near where the Rio Grande dumps its brackish water into the Gulf of Mexico. The stories in this book ponder deformity in all its forms. Fetuses twist their mustaches, feet float in jars, a special-education teacher aims to rob a bank with the aid of his students. But binding these stories is a gentle humanity. Brian Allen Carr moves his grotesque characters toward the hollows of hearts, heaving despicable actions toward tender outcomes. Short Bus is a book about understanding the worst of us, smiling at that which makes us shudder.
"Brian Allen Carr's brain must be a snarl of firing pistons, sizzling fuses, hoses leaking blood and tequila and hydraulic oil. How else can you explain the twisted machinery of his stories? Each of them is a disturbing journey that will thrill and educate you in the sunlit haze of the Texas/Mexico border—and the sometimes subterranean darkness of the human heart."--Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh
Brian Allen Carr lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas with his wife and daughter. He is working on his first novel.
Geography is only partly about places. People carry the land inside them, in their voices and their habits and the actions they take when they are put under pressure. For me, the most geographic story in this collection is the title story, where the topography of the house and the topography of a man's mind join in a hymn of loss, and perhaps also hope. Being human, we make of the land what we will, but the land returns the favor. In the movie Left-Handed Gun, Pat Garrett walks in wider and wider arcs outside his home, saying , "This is my house! This is my house!" I hope I have done the same thing in these stories.
"Richard Spilman is a writer who makes so many varied characters his own, who makes them turbulent, disconcerting, yet universal and plain, that he has mastered not just his fictional world, but he has mastered us, his readers."-Carolyn Chute
Argument Against the Good-Looking Corpse is exactly what's got your Momma's finger wagging: a good-timing lost soul, trying hard to grow up, but mostly paving that proverbial road for you, precious child. You!
Morgan Wooten is a shape-shifting roughneck/decathlete/civil engineer/mule (so to speak) in search of what feels good and right in a ten-story road trip that stretches from ice-cold Oslo to the Philippines Sea, from Saint John the Baptist Parish to the sands of Sonora, with lots and lots of south Texas, west Texas, rural Texas and urban Texas in between. Not to mention heaping helpings of sex, death and resurrection.
Charles Alcorn was born and raised in the Coastal Bend of Texas. He serves on the faculty of University of Houston-Victoria and is the Managing Editor of American Book Review. He graduated with his BA in Geology from Washington & Lee University, where he also played linebacker and threw the javelin and discus for four seasons. He received his MA in English from the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers and his Ph.D. in Creative Writing/English Literature from the University of Houston. He currently splits teaching assignments between the UH campuses in Sugar Land and Victoria. He lives in mid-town Houston with wife Angela and two sons.
Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies
Against the Workshop is the first sustained critique of twenty-first century literary production in America under the MFA/creative writing program infrastructure. Since earlier critics like John Aldridge wrote on the subject, the creative writing regime has become vastly more institutionalized. Publishing has changed, but what does it mean for the quality of fiction and poetry? This book brings the subject completely up-to-date, by focusing on fiction and poetry generated during the last decade. The book contrasts the vast amount of sludge with the rare gems, to argue that the creative writing product is a debased one that will not stand the test of time.
Anis Shivani is the author of the story collection, Anatolia and Other Stories, which was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor short story award. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, and frequently reviews books for newspapers and magazines. His work appears in Georgia Review, Southwest Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Texas Review, Threepenny Review, Boston Review, and elsewhere. He has just finished a novel, and is putting together a book of his interviews with leading literary authors. He studied at Harvard College and lives in Houston, Texas.
Swallowing the Past: Scenes from the Postmodern South
Swallowing the Past is a prose collection about ordinary lives in the ever-changing, postmodern South. A teenage killer ends up a smiling adult bridesmaid. A conservative Christian couple tells the story of a hate crime. A parable about a stolen bike illuminates how lying can be a survival technique. Meeting an old friend at an ATM turns into a meditation on how some people should die. The book closes with "Grace Street," a dream-like, genre-defying novella about the author's encounters with the locals on a poor city block in Richmond, Virginia, which becomes an eye-opening look at the old wounds of class, race, religious intolerance, and our particularly American brand of alienation.
Greg Bottoms is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed collections Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks: Stories from the New South and Fight Scenes. His essays, memoirs, and stories have appeared in Esquire, Oxford American, Agni, Creative Nonfiction, North American Review, Texas Review, Witness, and elsewhere. He is a Professor of English at the University of Vermont.
In 1874 a boy leaves a comfortable life in Chicago and heads west to work on the burgeoning railroad, quickly finding the labor not to his liking. He joins a disparate group of itinerant buffalo hunters led by a tough old ex-Indian fighter named War Bag Tyler and they pass into Texas to participate in the great slaughter. The season draws to a close and death strikes the outfit. War Bag swears a Cheyenne Dog Soldier from his past is responsible. As War Bag plots a new hunt, a hunt for the Cheyenne, the boy must choose between life and death.
Edward Michael Erdelac is an independent filmmaker, award-winning screenwriter, and novelist. He was born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, and continues to be tempered in the Los Angeles area, where he lives with his family.
A Texas State of Mind: The Texas State University System Story Still Going Strong After a Hundred Years
This book about Texas and its oldest university system is set in communities traversing the State from the Sabine River, to the Piney Woods, to the Hill Country, to the Rio Grande. It is a story of colleges established with a limited mission—to train white teachers—that, in the course of a century, produced a president, world renowned journalists, entertainers, poets, musicians, writers, and alumni representing the ethnic and cultural diversity of Texas. The story is told by some of the best writers in the State and chronicled by one of the most celebrated artistic photographers in the country.
Born in Gallup, New Mexico, Dr. Fernando C. Gomez earned degrees from the University of New Mexico (B.A. cum laude) and the University of Michigan (J.D. and Ph.D., American Culture). He attained tenure at Michigan State University before serving as assistant attorney general in Michigan and in Texas and as California State University System general counsel. He has served as Texas State University System vice chancellor and general counsel for twenty years (1986-1990 and 1994-Present). He has authored books on educational law; published short stories and poetry; and lectured throughout the United States and overseas, including Cuba and Yemen. Author is now living in Austin, Texas.
The View From Jackass Hill is a book in which the poems both eulogize and celebrate. They weep and sing. They sing of and mourn for family, friends and poets: Keats, Wyler, Shinder, Carruth, and others. Geographically, the book is rooted in the east—New York, New Hampshire, Maine—and travels west, to Colorado. Thematically, it is a delineation of loss, both personal and national: the death of loved ones, the death in war. It is, in short, a lament for the erosion of the American Dream. Yet it is a book that insists on "Making Up with Milton."
"Here is a poet with a real voice, brave and original. He also rhetorically asks questions that hurt. The Jack poems are a triumph, and the use of film imagery and Visa cards attests to his post-Modernism. This is a collection of friendship and vodka, and I can only say, Enjoy!"—Robert Phillips, Series Judge
GEORGE DREW was born in Mississippi and raised there and in New York State, where he currently lives. He is the author of five other collections of poetry. Drew has published widely, with poems appearing recently or upcoming in journals around the country.
The Bright House opens with memories of Greer's life with George and Susan Garrett at their home in Maine. The ambiance of this collection is the mind of a boy trying to make sense of his troubled childhood and tormented parents. Other poems address such subjects as an evening spent with Richard Eberhart, Conrad Aiken's deathbed quip, and a question to Bernard Malamud regarding the nature of God.
"Ben Greer's poems have a good bit of darkness in them, but they also have the high morale of articulate honesty. In any case, they are admirably made. This book is a worthy tribute to George Garrett and to another advisor and advocate of his work, William Jay Smith. A list of the successful poems in The Bright House would be almost as long as the table of contents. Let me mention only "Fugitive," a perfect little poem that addresses the guilt, fear, and feigning of every reader, yet gives him the release that bold truth can give. The book ends, as grateful readers would have it do, with a wedding anniversary poem full of the "round, floating notes" of joy."—Richard Wilbur
Ben Greer is a novelist and poet who teaches at the University of South Carolina.
"On August 27, 1967, one week before I was supposed to start medical school, an intruder broke into our apartment while my husband was at work. In the ensuing struggle, I fell from the third floor fire ladder I was using to escape, into the brick alley below. As I learned later, my back was immediately broken; I had become a paraplegic. I did not start medical school until September 1968, having spent most of the preceding year in the hospital and in rehabilitation. I was now 'independent at a wheelchair level,' including driving my own (specially-equipped) car. I was also able to walk short distances using braces and crutches. These poems describe events from my medical student, resident and attending physician days. They describe experiences of both being a doctor and being a patient. They also touch on the response of others to a physician with an obvious disability. They encompass my careers in both internal medicine and in psychiatry." --Beryl B. Lawn
Beryl Lawn, born in Cleveland, Ohio, spent her early childhood in College Station, Texas. When she was nine, her father joined the foreign service, and until she began college (at the University of Pennsylvania) she lived outside the United States. Prior to starting Temple Medical School she was involved in a crime-related incident, sustained a spinal-cord injury, and became a paraplegic. Her subsequent life (medical school, postgraduate training, medical practice, marriage) has been spent in a wheelchair. Author is now living in Temple, Texas.
Sometimes The World Is Too Beautiful combines poems selected from A Boy's Face With Swan Wings with recent poems. Set in the South, with references to Tennessee, the Gulf, Memphis, and Mississippi, the result is a book that reads as a book, not as a miscellany, offering section by section poems of nature, family, art, and marriage, and then, with the new poems, the painful dissolution of the marriage, a multi-faceted self-portrait, and finally, the elegiac "Grace" about the death of Lovitt's mother.
Swep Lovitt was raised in Mississippi and after thirty years abroad, Memphis, TN., has returned to live in Brookhaven. Swep's publications include a volume, A Boy's Face With Swan Wings, UKA Press, 2004, and 70 poems in 35 mags/lit journals including Texas Review, Mississippi Review, Poem, and Visions-International. Swep has two grown sons and a daughter, all with poems of their own.
"A number of the pieces in Ice House Sketches originally were cast as poems. However, ultimately I thought the subject matter and mood more appropriate for prose. I hope some of the poetry still shows through. I call them sketches—like the little sketches Hemingway interspersed between his fully developed short stories in his collected volume. They have no beginning, middle, or end, and no conflict or resolution. They simply are. These are pieces of fiction. Characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely coincidental."—Robert Phillips
Robert Philips is Professor Emeritus at the University of Houston, where for years he was director of the creative writing program. He is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. He has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Author lives in Houston, Texas.