This summer, I’m going to learn how to sail. I’ve only taken one lesson in the past, on the water at Hueston Woods in Oxford, Ohio, in a little Sunfish, on a clear day with sporadic and light winds, though strong enough that we almost capsized a couple times. Since then, I’ve been wanting to get back out on the water and try it again, work with the sails and the wind in a way that is akin to listening, use all those arcane and confusing terms that sailors use. A shroud, for instance, is not a white stretch of cloth, but a metal wire attaching the mast to the side. Telltale, tack, jib, keel, stern—eventually I’ll know these terms with my body and won’t have to think too much about how to turn, how to slow down or speed up, and to do it all without getting smacked in the head by a swinging boom.
As a kid, the closest I came to sailing was rowing a boat while fishing on Lake Logan with my uncle Mike. In college I went canoeing a few times, but boats weren’t much a part of our lives in Groveport, submerged as we were in corn fields and soy fields and fields that didn’t grow anything and subdivisions and, eventually, big box parking lots. There were a few times we went out in a speedboat and waterskied on Buckeye Lake, but that was the extent of my career in watersports. But now that I think about it, the world of sailing—or at least the idea of the world of sailing—intersected with my world in other ways. At the top of the escalator in Lazarus at Eastland Mall, a slice of an imaginary New England greeted you through the Nautica and Polo sections of the store, all rugbies and raincoats, Nantucket red khakis and crisp white oxfords. Nautica, Polo, and Tommy Hilfiger sold the world of sailboats and horses and luxury cars and parties at old money mansions to people who had never come close to any of it. The advertising posters of prep-schooled white men (and Tyson Beckford) on boats under blue skies made you feel that people who sailed always seemed to have wealth, or fame, or both, those magical things that people who have neither wealth nor fame refer to as “good luck.”
By the time I reached high school, I was really only interested in the clothes associated with sailing, as the Wu-Tang Clan had become informal ambassadors for brands like Swedish sailing gear brand Helly Hansen. At fifteen, on a trip to New York City, I stopped in a spot called The Beez Kneez, where a corkboard wall was filled with snapshots of the owner with a multitude of hip hop legends who shopped there. I would have loved to buy the whole store and take it back to Ohio, but, as I had no money, I had to settle for talking my mom into buying me a red, white, and blue Helly Hansen sailing jacket. It was my most prized possession for years; something about those gleaming white waterproof sleeves, the overly tall collar, the quality of the construction, felt different from anything else I wore. It also resembled the coat worn by Ghostface in the “Glaciers of Ice” video, and that was pretty cool, too.
But by far my most emotionally resonant experiences with sailing came through movies. In Quiz Show, Charles Van Doren takes investigator Dick Goodwin out on a dinghy in an attempt to shift the scales, to get the snoop out of his element, but Dick sees through Van Doren’s ruse anyway. The sailing scene was a rather short one, but it tied into the world fabricated in the rest of the movie, that Van Doren world of wood-paneled classrooms at Columbia, impossibly green lawns at a country estate in Connecticut, the book launch receptions all Lilly Pulitzer dresses and pearls, the New England where everyone has good luck, the New England imitated by Nautica’s fantastic ads, the New England of the movies.
This summer, I will learn how to sail, but I think my relationship to it is simpler now, less fantasy-filled than it used to be. I just want to get out on that lake I walk past every day on my way to the office. I want to be seated under one of those sails I see floating lazily by. I want to drift a bit, be blown about, get sunburnt, enjoy the simple, ancient, screenless technology that is the sailboat, maybe fall in the water once or twice, remember some things I’ve forgotten.
According to a recent essay in the New York Times, Americans feel pretty awful on Mondays. Google searches for “depression” and “anxiety” are at their highest; searches for “jokes” are at their lowest. But wait: Don’t we seek out laughter when the heavy curtain falls? And isn’t joking our best defense against despair? I’ve always thought so—and I’ve based much of my teaching, and almost all of my academic writing, on that premise. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the author of the Times essay, began his research on laughter with a similar assumption: “I thought we used humor to deal with the horror of human existence.”
He found it isn’t so. Not only do we search for jokes less often on Mondays, but we also search for them less often after a traumatic event. (Stephens-Davidowitz uses the Boston Marathon bombing as an example.) Distance from trauma, he notes, is joking’s necessary condition—in the US and around the world.
The higher a country’s infant mortality rate, the less it searches for “dead baby jokes.” In countries with the lowest infant mortality rates, 1 in 180 joke searches is for “dead baby jokes.” In countries with the highest infant mortality rates, about 1 in 1,300 joke searches is for “dead baby jokes.”
It is not clear exactly how to interpret this relationship, since Internet users in developing countries are not a representative sample. But the relationship is so strong, it does at least suggest that some exposure to a horror can substantially curtail jokes about it.
I happened to read these paragraphs just a few hours before I was scheduled to guest-teach a poetry workshop last week. In the workshop, our conversation turned to nursery rhymes, and someone brought up the fact that people suffering from dementia can still often recall, with little effort, lines from Mother Goose. Another student spoke of Gary Glazner’s Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, which encourages Alzheimer’s patients to express themselves creatively. I then did something I don’t usually do anymore: I read a one-line poem from my first book.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO: THE ALZHEIMER’S YEARS
“Who’s on first? My son? I have a son?”
I used to read this poem a lot because it would reliably get a laugh. The laugh would often take a moment to build; I’d pause and turn the page, at which point the audience would realize the poem was over. Part of their laughter was simply an expression of surprise that a poem could be so short. But I don’t read the poem anymore because I no longer find it funny. My experience with Alzheimer’s in 2016 is different from what it was in 2008. The distance has closed; I’ve curtailed the jokes.
Instead, I linger over accounts of the disease: a profile and essay in the Times, a video diary on Slate. I clip articles concerning the possible memory benefits of seafood, of exercise. I learn what I can about amyloid plaques, about double-blind clinical trials, about assisted living. If I bring up “Abbott and Costello: The Alzheimer’s Years,” it’s only to discuss (in a workshop, on a blog) how I no longer bring it up.
Maybe I’ll find the poem funny again in the not-too-distant future. As the narrator in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle says, “Pay no attention when I laugh. I’m a notorious pervert in that respect.” Monday draws to a close, five more days pass, and then it’s Sunday (the day, according to Google, of our peak interest in jokes). Here’s another funny thing you can read in Cat’s Cradle: “When I’m dead, I’m going to forget everything—and I advise you to do the same.”
The joy that has no stem nor core,
Nor seed that we can sow,
Is edible to longing,
But ablative to show.
By fundamental palates
Those products are preferred
Impregnable to transit
And patented by pod.
My previous post sent me down the rabbit hole of data visualization and poetry. Those two terms certainly don’t seem to belong together—we don’t like to think of poems as “data,” reducing poems to their parts or cooling creative energy to sets and points—but watching my students mapping and charting their poetic learning, and hearing the discussions coming out of that process of representation, got me wondering who else is out there engaged in that seemingly anathemic work with poetry.
Perhaps some of this interest is bubbling over from finding myself working on a campus so deeply identified with the STEM fields; perhaps some of this interest is in trying to revive my own somewhat dormant visual art practice and bringing it into conversation with my poetry (though mixed media, interdisciplinary collaboration, or illustration are slightly different conversations from visualization, I suppose). I was also blown away by the seeming ease with which my students created slideshows, videos, websites, and interactive online timelines and maps for their final poetry projects. I didn’t teach them any of these skills, but there they were at their fingertips as tools for critical synthesis. I don’t see myself catching up with my students’ generational technical aptitude anytime soon, but as someone who believes in the possibilities of different learning styles yielding, well, different learning, they’ve certainly got my attention.
If one considers poetry “hands-on,” a physical process (and if we paraphrase Dickinson and believe that a great poem is one that has the capacity to take the top of our head off, then we should probably be wearing hard hats or safety goggles when handling poetry), one could argue that the fairly recent pedagogical spotlight on “critical making” is simply tapping into a kind of process-focused thinking-through-making that writing workshops have engaged in for decades—and heuristic approaches in general have a far longer history than that.
Here are some trinkets from the rabbit hole. First, here’s Gertrude Stein, celebrating the diagram:
I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences. I suppose other things may be more exciting to others when they are at school but to me undoubtedly when I was at school the really completely exciting thing was diagramming sentences and that has been to me ever since the one thing that has been completely exciting and completely completing. I like the feeling the everlasting feeling of sentences as they diagram themselves. In that way one is completely possessing something and incidentally one’s self.
—Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar” (1935)
I came across research far beyond my STEM skill set in “Rule-based Visual Mappings – with a Case Study on Poetry Visualization.” The paper’s authors introduce their study by writing:
A poem is a complex dynamic system. It features a variety of structural and relational information, including formal information (e.g., lines, stanzas), phonetic information (e.g., meter, intonation, timing), and semantic information (e.g., genres, words, repetition, sentiment). In addition, poems are studied from many different angles. Specific lenses or contexts for analysis might include the body of a poet’s work, a historical period, a nation or geographic location, a group or movement, and so on. Although a poem is not a big data set, poets frequently devote hours to a close reading of a poem. In many ways, a close reading is a literary form of “data ex- ploration”, in which scholars pay close attention simultaneously to various individual linguistic, literary and sociological features, as enumerated above, as well as to the interplay and relationships among these features . . .
To a computer scientist, a poem appears to be an ordered sequence of letters – and may be considered as a multivariate data set. From this point of view, it would seem that one might define a set of variables within the complex information space of a poem and then employ a multivariate visualization technique such as parallel coordi- nate plots to discover various structures. Poets, on the other hand, insist that finding and reasoning through structural and relational information in a poem is at the heart of their close reading practice. This process is complicated, time consuming, and inherently experiential; the result is that interpretations vary from one person (or one context) to another. As one of the poets in this project explained, “Close reading involves moment-by-moment choices, where every choice activates some possibilities and deactivates others” . . .
We realized our technical solution would need to accommodate two potentially conflicting requirements: it would need to address a large number of variables (poetic attributes) while providing readers with the ability to make “moment-by-moment choices” as they explored visualizations.
Herbert Tucker’s For Better For Verse is a contemporary interactive learning tool focused on the much older visualization tool of prosodic scansion:
Here’s Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas’s word tree visualization technique, with a link to their related academic paper “The Word Tree, An Interactive Visual Concordance”:
And Franco Moretti and Mark Algee Hewitt’s research collective, the Stanford Literary Lab, works with “experiments” like the Trans-Historical Poetry Project:
The goal of the Trans-Historical Poetry Project is to trace the variation of poetic form over a large corpus of English-language poetry, combining the insights of prosodic and metrical analysis with the methods of phonetics, natural language processing, and statistics. While using computational techniques for handling large corpora, we remain faithful to the aims and questions of traditional prosody: what kind of refinement, for instance, can we add to current theories of meter by being able to examine long historical series of poems? Can algorithms reliably recognize complex metrical schemes – and what patterns will emerge from the histories of those schemes? Our work on variation in line and poem length between 1500 and 1900 has already yielded results, and is now moving towards a more comprehensive analysis of poetic form that includes features such as stress, rhyme, and metrical form.
I’d love to find out about other projects or techniques in this conversation; please comment below if you have thoughts to add, though I’ll leave you (as, with Dickinson, I began) on a more skeptical note, with Adrienne Rich’s “Tonight No Poetry Will Serve”:
Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon’s eyelid
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
Tonight I think
Syntax of rendition:
verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action
verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing
now diagram the sentence
In the acknowledgment section of her memoir, Ordinary Light, Tracy K. Smith writes: “I wish to thank my family for trusting me to tell my story, which has brought elements of their stories to light. And I wish to ask forgiveness for anything they would have remembered differently or anything they’d have preferred to forget.”
I appreciate Smith’s words not only for acknowledging memory’s potentially flawed role in memoir writing, but also for the gratitude she expressed for the part her family played in the process. I, too, am grateful for my family’s acceptance of my writing, even if that writing sometimes involves them.
In my last post, Part 1, I discussed how my older brothers can help supplement (or contradict) my own memory during the nonfiction writing process. The second and final post of this series, however, focuses on how older siblings can provide some fact-checking even in the realm of fiction.
My oldest brother Scott is an elementary music teacher, a fact I took advantage of while writing my short story “The Clarinet” back in 2007. When I dig through my gmail inbox, I find the message I sent to him with a long list of inane questions about middle school concert band. Is the correct term “seating auditions” or “section auditions”? What’s a reasonable length of daily practice time for a talented, driven sixth-grade clarinetist? If someone steps on a clarinet ligature, would it easily bend? And on and on.
Scott wrote back the same day with answers to every last one of my questions. Unfortunately, this email chain does not contain what I consider my best, and perhaps most bizarre, question: What would happen if you took a cigarette lighter to a (wooden) clarinet? It wouldn’t burst into flames, obviously, but something would happen. Maybe it would singe or the wood would warp or it would smell funny.
If my unreliable human memory is correct, I asked Scott this final question on the phone. In my mind, I can see where I was at the time: in the bedroom in my old apartment by the lake. This was the apartment with arched entryways, steam heat, and a built-in ironing board that folded down from the dining room wall. I can see myself sitting on the bed in this apartment while asking my brother about setting fire to a clarinet. I remember him thinking it through, trying to guess what would happen if a flame did come into contact with the instrument.
Who knows if that memory is true. If you’d asked me before I sat down to write this essay, I would have told you that I’d posed this question in my original email. But I’ve searched gmail up and down, and that question about fire is nowhere to be found. Only then did the image hit me like a shock: how I’d called my brother while crossing the creaky hardwood floors of that apartment. The phone I used would have been a black cordless phone that couldn’t hold a full battery charge. My bed would have been covered with a battered white spread of chenille. I can see the pale cream of the apartment walls, the desk in the corner adjacent to the window, my cat’s litterbox shoved into the closet, and the cheap lamp shade full of dead midges.
When I think of asking my brother these research questions, I think of the apartment. I cannot separate the two. This wasn’t the first apartment I’d lived in alone, but it was the last, before I moved in with my now-husband—maybe that’s why. Or maybe I can’t shake it because this was where I lived when I took the largest strides in my early writing career. This was the apartment where I struggled, where I returned after my string of questionable writing groups, where I began freelancing, and where I finally faced my limitations as a writer and started to improve. It was where I began writing the short stories that would appear in my first book, including a story about a clarinet and a girl who wants to light it on fire.
It’s not often that I turn to my brothers for research assistance when I’m writing fiction. More recently, my research has involved, say, checking out a library’s entire collection of cannibalism books. But still, it’s nice to know my brothers are there, and that I can call on them if I suspect they have the answers I might need—or, in the case of writing nonfiction, if my own memory feels too faded or uncertain.
For example, I still can’t say for sure whether that phone call ever happened. I considered showing Scott this post in advance to see if he remembered me calling him nearly a decade ago to ask about lighting a clarinet on fire, but I decided against it. Maybe it’s better to let my memory stand, flawed and overflowing—a spark that started from nothing but managed, despite itself, to catch fire.
Frank Stanford. What About This: The Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Ed. Michael Wiegers. Copper Canyon Press, 2015. 764 pages. $40.00.
The most interesting book of poetry—actually in any genre—from 2015 is the phenomenally engrossing collection of poems, drafts, fragments, unpublished work, manuscript facsimiles, drawings, and hand written notes that comprise What About This, the first full anthology of the work of Frank Stanford. When Stanford died in 1978 of three self-inflicted gunshots to his chest, he was only twenty-nine and virtually unknown outside of two tiny communities—those who knew him in Arkansas and a few poets. Not much has changed in this regard, but the recent death of C.D. Wright—a former lover and eventual publishing partner of Stanford’s—makes revisiting his work not just timely but vital.
Stanford’s poems come from some sort of region only a few souls have visited. They are gloamy, wild, rural, violent, and completely laced with what Federico García Lorca called “duende”—the sense of the presence of death. For example, “Plowboy” begins: I came upon death and love / hung up like dogs in my garden,” and here are is the opening stanza of “Lighted Room”:
I’m going to cut me some ham
And wait for death to lace her boots.
That has to be one of the great couplets of the twentieth century, but lines like that appear on nearly every page, and in each one death stalks the margins. Two poems side-by-side from the 1974 collection, Ladies from Hell, bear the titles “Death in the Cool Evening” and “Places on a Grave.” Two more unpublished poems are titled “Flour the Dead Man Brings to the Wedding” and “The Double Suicide of the Mirror and the Rose.” Amazingly, though, Stanford’s lyrics never stoop to self-pity, and they avoid the self-absorption of goth. Imagine the lyricism of Neruda, the death instinct and rhythmic gifts of Plath, the mystical otherworldliness of Dickinson, and the Southern darkness of Faulkner and O’Connor, and you may get close to a Stanford poem.
Editor Michael Wiegers has accomplished something truly remarkable with this project which assembles work from all eleven of Stanford’s (now nearly impossible-to-find) books and chapbooks as well as generous samplings from his 542-line epic, The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You. For the first time, we see beyond the cult, the suffering, the myth. We see the poet in the man and the man in the poet. What about that. —DR
Mahtem Shiferraw. Fuchsia. University of Nebraska Press, 2016. 108 pages. $15.95.
A frequent subject in literature of the African Diaspora is that of displacement, the leaving of home, land, and culture to travel to a place that is strange. Mahtem Shiferraw’s lush Fuchsia is difficult to pin down, though—but in a very good way. For example, simply because a poet’s bio describes that she is of Ethiopian and Eritrean heritage but now lives in Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily mean that the book will be about leaving there to come here. That would be too easy, even for a first book. (This collection won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry.) Then, too, the eclectic arrangement of this collection resists the expected arc found in some contemporary volumes. As I made my way through, I discovered it was less about displacement and more a creation myth the poet imagines through the use of vibrancy: colors, smells, sights—anything that rollicks the senses and takes us back to the beginning. The first poem, “Fuchsia”—the title poem—obviously establishes color as the touchstone, and is followed by the fast-paced “Origins & Intersections,” a tumbled beauty about ancient East Africa: “Where do we come from? / Does it really matter? / Braided numbers, hairs, alphabets.” And then—just as I suspected—I came to the piece that sets the tone for the entire book: “E is for Eden.” But of course, I had to continue to the final poem, “Plot Line,” which tells the reader that “this”—the poem, the author’s vision—is “about how Adam fell in love / with himself, and part of himself / in the shape of a woman.” Thus, the issue of origins is paramount, and not just biblical origins, but also geographical, emotional, and metaphysical. Last words: There are a few poems that crop up to soothe us with familiar topics that guide us through unknown metaphors, as with “Talks about Race.” But the strongest of these poems don’t sacrifice complex lyricism. Instead, Shiferraw uses music—slant rhymes and assonance—to aid the reader in navigation. —HFJ
Landon Godfrey. Spaceship. Somnambulist Tango Press, 2014. 20 pages. $20.00.
As a young poet in my late twenties, I first heard the term “chapbook.” I had no previous idea of the term’s meaning, though the contemporary definition—i.e. fewer than forty pages, focused on one theme or topic, and (usually) directly produced and/or funded by the author—describes many of the poetry volumes that I had read by American poets of the 1960s. At present, there are several chapbook contests by presses that underwrite the cost of chapbook publication, producing perfect-bound books that resemble full-length collections. Still, there is an unmatched joy in the delectably handmade variety, such as Landon Godfrey’s limited edition chapbook Spaceship. Elegantly constructed of a “flax paper” cover hand-sewn around pages of “French Paper’s Mod-Tone ‘Blush,’” this slender objet d’art contains nine poems that testify to the seemingly innocuous: a drinking glass, a kettle, a teacup, glue. It was incredibly pleasing to touch the cover and pages, to read the poems, to touch the cover and pages again, to read the poems again—and to know that my satisfaction was twofold. (I had a very difficult time resisting a swoon.) But the spaceship of the title refers to that vehicle in which the author travels, witnessing the needful universe comprised of our daily existences. As with the joy of the book-as-art, nothing can compare to the words of an author who, like Godfrey, has journeyed and arrived at the port of sagacity. A poet with an eye turned to minutiae: “The moment before the glass hits the tile floor, it / remembers with pleasure how well it carried water.” One other purpose of a chapbook is to remind the reader that the poet is between books, but nonetheless, continues to write and publish. Thus, we shouldn’t give up on her; our patience shall be rewarded. Last words: Godfrey has an earlier full-length book, entitled Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown. This first collection appeared in 2011, and like Spaceship, the volume contains vast yet intricately sweet knowledge. —HFJ
Gary Soto. You Kiss by th’ Book: New Poems from Shakespeare’s Line. Chronicle Books, 2016. 108 pages. $14.95.
Age cannot wither Shakespeare. So the recent celebratory extravaganzas of 2014 (Shakespeare 450, the anniversary of his birth) and 2016 (Shakespeare 400, the anniversary of his death) witness in an outpouring of commissions and commemorative performances across the arts, including poetry. But can age, or poetry, stale Shakespeare’s infinite variety? Sadly, it can. Or so we learn from the celebrated Gary Soto’s latest collection of poems developed from Shakespearean lines, You Kiss By th’ Book. Somehow the celebrated Soto manages to mar some of the greatest, most-enduring and sometimes-shockingly modern sounds of Shakespeare. The poems fall rather quickly in uninspired mannerisms resulting in (sort of) love songs. Out of a line from Shakespeare (the starting point for each poem) Soto spins almost Stratfordian pastoral fantasies of falling in love with country maidens. You can practically hear sheep bleating and cows lowing in the background: “Yet, my dear lamb, / Let me be your admirer. / I am a stable boy, / You are a rich farmer’s daughter.” Too many galloping “knaves,” bouncing apples, and flaring equine nostrils makes the collection feel more like a Disney theme park. So many poets have built exquisite edifices—modern and baroque, reverent and rakish—from Shakespeare’s language and imagery (from W.H. Auden and Louis Zukofsky to Martha Ronk and Aaron Shurin among so many others) that it is puzzling, perhaps alarming, to be so underwhelmed. You Kiss By th’ Book seems, to quote the bard, “the expense of spirit in a waste of shame.” —JC
Rajiv Mohabir. The Taxidermist’s Cut. Four Way Books, 2016. 112 pages. $15.95.
In Rajiv Mohabir’s merciless first collection, he conjures a landscape fraught with liminal animals, with trails that run between the bedroom and all our figured forests of dreams and nightmares. “Let’s pretend you are going hunting,” the book begins, but the hunt is not even half the story. In this collection, prey is not merely hunted down, but gutted, stitched, remade. Along the way, a narrative of continual displacement emerges, from “great grandparents [who] traveled kalapani from India to South America and whose descendent is therefore out of place among the “first wave doctors and lawyers.” Taxidermy is a capacious metaphor here, in its precision and brutality, one that accommodates an array of ravages and epistemologies. But taxidermy is also the process by which one delves into, reckons with the self’s various histories, to cut and uncover regardless of the pain. “‘The learner is apt to come to grief,’” he writes in the thirteen-page title poem, perhaps the most formally complex poem in the book with its erasures, prose, and passages from taxidermy manuals and field guides.
The displacement mapped is equally a sexual one, an erotics of longing and loss, of straightforward homophobic rejection (via such poems as “To a Father Who Can’t Accept His Son” ) but also of pleasure and tenderness as in the long poem, “[Last Night] in Jackson Heights [This Morning] With Him, Not You.” There are instances where the erotic seems the most displacing of all, as in the erasure poem “Homosexual Interracial Dating in the South in Two Voices,” which begins, “Do not mix your order of birds.” Or in the title poem when the speaker, after “kneeling before the white man with the plastic scrotum hanging from his pickup” instructs himself, “Take off your skin right here. Dress yourself for the field. Pull out your entrails and stuff your yellow belly with coals.”
This is the sort of turn that speaks to how deft a poet Mohabir is, how skillfully he works the taut space between figure and figured, between tenor and vehicle. He is a technician of elaborate metaphor but deployed here not to mask or soften the complexities of power between lovers, between dominant and subaltern bodies and cultures. Thus, when the book takes its final turn, its ecstatic moment seems to come not in spite of, but in full awareness of the histories it has sought to document:
Never mind. Do not feed the father-
god obsessed with sin. Instead, holding the moths
raise your hands, open them to the sky and watch
wing-eyes dance toward the moon one by one.
On Joyce Carol Oates’ Wild Nights! Stories about the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway and Christopher Benfey’s A Summer of the Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, & Martin Johnson Heade
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