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fall 2012, vol. xxiv, issue ii

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Plenty Abigail Carney Gleason hits August in the stomach and laughs. `So,are you gonna be able to get by all winter without her?' Gleason asks. 'Who?' 'Annabelle,' Gleason says. 'I always get by.' August and Gleason never see anyone but each other, Gibbon,and their parents once the real snow hits. Gibbon's gone though,left in the sumrner.They did have a winter with a baby girl once,but she and the other girl are dead now They've just finished the beets and Gleason and August have stained their hands and the fronts of their trousers with the deep scarlet beetjuice.They dug the cellar last September and Gleason thinks it's strange still, the way they have a cellar and no real house.The house was meant to be built that summer but Gibbon left and the planting and raising and harvesting took more time than they were meant to. This is homesteader country and most things were and are made quickly,other than those built in winter. In the cold months,girls and their mothers linger over stitches and the soles ofshoes, redoing and refitting them until the sun is gone.The first winter out of Illinois,August and Gleason's father made a new bed to take the place ofthe one they'd left behind. Piles of carefully chosen oak filled half ofthe room and the five ofthem all slept huddled around the stove for weeks.The building of the bed was the only thing John hadn't wanted his sons' help with. When he finished,the bed was beautiful,too big to fit through the doorframe. If the bed is ever to be moved to a new house,the old one will have to be torn down first. Gleason and August place their pallets in front of the wood burning stove each night.The house wouldn't fit two beds comfortably, not with the table, stove,and work space. Gleason licks the scarlet bruise off his left palm, but he's always hated beets and he grimaces. 'Stop staring August.Are you gonna miss Annabelle?' 'I don't know.Are you?' 'I'd sure rather have her around than your sick self,' Gleason tells his brother. Etta is at the stove beginning supper.Whenever she makes enough for her family to be happy and full John will groan that it isn't even the first frost and she's already cooking their shelves bare. Ifshe makes just enough the boys will stare at their plates and in the after dinner prayer they'll always ask for bounty. She touches the braided knot at the place where her neck meets her hair. Ifshe ever dies the rest ofthe house will starve. She won't die until they all have wives of their own,she can't ifshe wants to. John is rubbing the meat of a deer with salt. He doesn't kill often.The deer is hanging by its two back legs from a tree out back.The chickens and oxen ate the stomach and intestines once they were cut out.

Etta doesn't do anything with deer hide so John leaves it on as the deer cures. In a few days after the salt has soaked in, he'll cut down the deer,and dry it. Tonight they'll eat fresh meat. Dinner always begins and ends with a prayer. The family eats earlier and earlier as the days get shorter, never using lamps unless they have to. Oil is scarce and not for wasting on things like eating.The house was built without windows and even at noon the room is dim, with pieces oflight coming in from the cracks between the door and its frame.The logs are newly stuffed with mud and little brightness makes it through them.The family is used to darkness and might almost say they favor it in winter,What use is light when the only four faces it exists for are always the same? 'God bless the poor,'John begins the prelude to the meal and his family joins. 'God bless the sick: Gleason always keeps his eyes open,even though he's not supposed to. He figures he can't get in trouble for this because anyone else with their eyes open would be cheating too. 'God bless our human race,' Etta folds her hands together tightly and August's legs bounce up and down. 'God bless our food:John's voice is the deepest, slowest,always the one leading and this is funny as John doesn't like church and they all know.August expects his father likes the prayer and being the one to tell the story that always follows a meal because it lets him feel powerful,but if this is why John likes it, John has not noticed. 'God bless our drink.All homes,0 God embrace.Amen.'They finish the prayer together and Etta continues alone. 'Dear Lord,Thank you for this bounty that was brought to us: Etta only ever uses the word bounty in prayer time. Gleason says his bit quickly,'Thank you for the roof.' 'Thank you for the floor,'August continues. 'You said that one last week: Gleason kicks August beneath the table. `So did you,'August kicks him back. 'Thank you for this table:John says. 'Thank you for the children: Etta tries to smile. 'Thank you for Mother: Gleason does. 'Thank you for the daytime:August says. 'Thank you for this bounty,'John undoes his hands and they begin to eat. People don't leave their homes often this time of year.The Remmingtons are supposed to be visiting.The real heavy snows haven't started yet but they will. Soon the roads will disappear and everyone has heard a story about a farmer going out and getting lost in the white. But the Remmingtons have always been fortunate and Howard Remmington told John he'd visit. He said he wanted to try out his new snowshoes at a distance and that he'd bring over a few extra pints of whisky for one of Etta's pies. Etta doesn't make pies in the winter but Howard doesn't know that.


Howard likes to joke about how he'd leave Grace for Etta's pies.John doesn't think it's too funny. When John was working on marrying Etta, Ozro Sampson said something like that too.John hit him harder than he's ever hit anyone.Etta knows there wasn't anything noble about it. It's just that men like to own things. Sometimes John touches Etta's back or smells her neck,and sometimes she traces the veins on the backs ofthe hands. Mostly,she watches him come in and out of the house. She's quieter when he's in the room. She's learned his footfalls and he knows hers but it isn't something either of them intended.When you spend every day next to anything you start to memorize it, and then forget it. They've got a dog named Maggie in the animal house,along with the twelve chickens, a rooster, and two oxen.The animal house is just across from the one August lives in, with a roof connecting the two,so that you can always get across even when the snow is deep.The animal house doesn't have a stove though.August sits with Maggie sometimes when he's taking a break from working.She isn't useful in the winter,except on the rare days when they brave the snow to go hunting but she isn't all that useful then eitherjohn says she's stupid but August doesn't care about her wit. He just likes to scratch her ears and smell her neck,it smells like dirt. The family is at supper with the dog beneath the table.John doesn't like to let her in, but he didn't notice her until he started eating. Even he won't break the meal,to take her out. It's always August's fault when Maggie comes inside. He slips her a scrap of bread under the table and John stares at him. 'Dogs are work animals August:John says. 'The cellar is full,' he says,feeling brave. 'Supper shouldn't be wasted on the work animals:John's voice gets louder. 'Putting Maggie out to die isn't gonna make the winter any easier.' Etta says. 'What will?'John asks. 'Hard work's the only thing that'll make winter easier: Etta says. 'Hard work,hard work, hard work.Who needs those machines they're building in Chicago? We've got ourselves to work and churn and feed the oxen. You might as well feed me to the chickens when this winter's done with me:John says. 'Stop it.' 'Stop what Etta? Stop talking? The four of us are together here and we will be for a good while.' 'C'mon John,c'mon it's suppertime: 'Even if I stop talking about the dog the bitch'll still be there.' 'You're drunk.' 'I'm not.What difference would that be?' 'You can't be rational when you've had too much whisky. It's supper. It's suppertime.' The family eats quietly, except for their chewing.John has always chewed loudly, Gleason does too. August hates this. He believes that it isn't meanness or lying that makes one loathe another. It's the way they chew,the way they tell a story.


The house holds two books, the requisite family Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. The title The Complete Works of Shakespeare is misleading. It's one of the volumes that was made in the thousands and thousands as America tried out its first printing presses and most families own it. It's missing about half of the comedies,After dinner one of the family will tell the rest a story from the Bible,or from Shakespeare.They're Lutheran United Revivalists and they became so in Illinois but there's no church like that near them now,so they pray and worship on their own.The family figures God made Shakespeare and they treat William like a prophet. The family never reads the stories out,they tell them from memory and the tellings are often twisted. Jonah finds a twin in the belly ofthe whale. Hamlet is a saint and is stoned to death. Gleason's favorite one comes from nothing other than what he dreams at night and is about a man living off the blood ofa tree. There's no one to tell them their stories are wrong, and they aren't wrong, not really. They don't talk about Gibbon's story but it goes like this. He was the smartest and the most trouble too, always getting beat for shaving dirty symbols across the backs ofthe oxen,or for staying at school too late. Gibbon never wanted to work on the farm but there was nothing else, especially as he was the oldest. Even the next real city was two states away. The railroad hadn't made it anywhere near them yet, but Gibbon found someone else who was leaving,a traveling preacher. He told the preacher he wanted to become a missionary,and with a bag ofapples and the family fiddle, he walked out the door.The letter said all that but it didn't say what Gibbon would do once he got to the city and left the preacher too. Gleason's teacher said that sometimes there's one buffalo that just wanders off by itself away from the herd. No one knows the reasoning behind the leaving of the buffalo. 'It freezes August.The buffalo dies.' August's face becomes hard,and Gleason works to undo it.'But we're all freezing,' he laughs out. `Do you think Gibbon is freezing?'August asks. 'I don't know. Maybe he's a buffalo. Maybe we're all buffalo.' 'And we're all frozen?' 'When's the last time you went out without your snot sticking in your nose?' 'What do you think Annabelle is doing?You think she's a buffalo?You think the Remmingtons are buffalo?' 'I don't know August. Is God a buffalo?' Gleason has been told that God is like a man but if God was a man they wouldn't spend so much time talking to him. Nights are long.You lie down when the sun sets and get up when it rises. Most don't sleep all the way through.When it's the mother and father awake they try to keep quiet about it but when the children hear them they never say anything.They couldn't. When August lies awake he counts his fingers again

and again and thinks about Annabelle. Gleason tries to imagine God but mostly sees angels. He likes the thought of them but they've never felt too real. He holds his hands against the feet ofthe stove for as long as he can. His palms are already worn with calluses and they can handle the heat for several of August's quiet snores. Each morning the animal house is visited, the eggs collected, the oxen checked.The cistern is emptied.The floor is swept.The holes in the roof are patched.Wood is chopped and brought in. One morning August visits the animal house to find two of twelve chickens dead. No fox got in, the hens aren't bloody.They're just brown and going cold. August sits and pets Maggie and lets her tug at his coat for a few minutes longer than usual. He picks up the chickens by the feet and carries them across to his mother.John will be angry. 'What happened?'Etta asks. 'I don't know,'August says. 'Well I'll cook them for tonight.' 'And the R.emmingtons!' Gleason says:They have to come today ifthey're coming,since they didn't come the last week. Hey Ma,you should make me a chicken hat.' 'A chicken hat?'August asks. 'Yes! I'll be a chicken!' Gleason runs around the room the best he can, flapping his arms and clucking.They've never had this much meat at the beginning of winter before. There was deer,and now chicken.ButJohn is nervous. If two chickens can die for no seen reason at all, the whole flock can go too. After August brings the chickens to his mother, he leaves to check the traps. As he gets better and better at finding a good placement for them beneath the leaves and shadows of pine he hopes more and more that the traps won't really work.He likes eating meat and he likes getting it but he doesn't like the smell when he finds an animal a few days dead. It's even worse when the rabbit or fox isn't gone but is still struggling.The snow is flecked with blood and fur.The animal gets frantic as he gets close.John doesn't always let August take his gun and sometimes August has to find a way to strangle the animal,sometimes he has to drag it back to the house. But he doesn't complain. His family is always grateful. There's one trap that hasn't caught anything all year. August kneels and puts his hand on the trigger to test it.The metal comes down fast and he pulls his hand out quick.The rusting teeth catch his finger through his mitten and a muscle tears as his blood begins to stain the snow. He laughs. His father will be angry, but the trap works,and he knows this now. August staggers home,shoulders the door open. Gleason had always had an eye for blood. He sees that August is stumbling and clutching his hand. 'August!You stupid!' Gleason yells. 'One ofthe traps came back on me. Feels like my finger is half off,'August sits down just past the doorframe.

John looks worse than August once he realizes what's happened to his son. 'You idiot,' he says. Etta lets herselffeel frantic for a moment,and then focuses as a mother has to when her son has nearly ripped his hand off. 'John, would you keep on with the chickens? August,sit down,on our bed. I'm gonna take your mitten off.' She gasps at the blood. It's not that the wound is unusually large or deep. Injuries on the farm are common.Etta even had a brother take a whole hand off with a trap one winter,Tools are dangerous. Horses are dangerous. It's just that the mitten had made the stain look contained, painted. It hadn't prepared her for the torn flesh, popping out muscle. 'Is he gonna die?' Gleason asks. Etta is focused,'Shut up. Get my needles, my thread, and some calico. Some water too, a pot of water. Is the bone broken?' August's face is going from white to red, 'I don't know.' Gleason takes too long finding what his mother needs to sew, these steps always take too long when they're important. He remembers how far away the midwife was when they lost the second girl. IfAugust's bone has cracked there won't be any doctor for it ever. He'll just point crooked for the rest of his life. Gleason finds the needle and thread,fills a pot with water, and hands Etta a piece of calico. She begins to wipe off the wound so she'll be able to see well enough to sew. Once the swatch offabric is soaked with blood she places it into August's mouth for him to bite into. 'Alright this won't hurt any worse than the trap did:she tells him.'It'll just last longer.' Wait:John says:Let's give him some whisky.' A healthy swig is poured down August's throat, he bites the cloth again. His mother begins to sew. Gleason tries to be kind,'Don't look at it August. How'd you keep your whole finger from coming off anyway? That thing clamps down quick.' 'I think I sorta pulled it out quick. I don't know. It happened quick.' August's words are short and pained and end in a moan. Gleason dances around the bed,'You got it Augie.Think ofAnnabelle. Sweet,sweet Annabelle. Bet she could sew you up nice. Hey and the Remmingtons are coming!They sure will be interested in your finger. And Jesus is already here! Dear Lord. My brother was real stupid and tried chopping his own hand off. It didn't work all the way so we've gotta sew his finger back on now. Let Ma sew it back on straight. Otherwise my brother will never be able to point at anything himself,Thank you Lord.Amen.See the Lord's got you now Gusty.' Etta sits up as August lies back and shuts his eyes. 'Let's hurry with the chickens then,' Etta says, returning to the meat. John walks out the door and Etta doesn't say anything.

'You think the Remmingtons know how to find us?' Gleason asks his mother.'Maybe they've been on the road for days and can't find us cause everything is white.' 'They aren't half a mile away.They can find us. They'll find us.They'll be here.' 'Is his finger gonna fall off?' 'I pray not. Help me tear this wing off.' Hours later, the meal is ready and John is back inside, putting wood in the stove,August is still sleeping in his parents' bed. 'August? Can you move? Have you left us for the light? We cooked up your dead chickens,' Gleason says. August only groans. 'Get outta bed August:John says louder. 'He nearly chopped his hand off,' Etta reminds the family though it's been two hours. She piles the table with chicken. John sits at the table.'He won't get better if he won't eat.' August sits up,and stands up. He's white but no one can tell in the light. 'Come on son. It's your finger. I've seen men lose legs.' 'Who have you seen lose a leg?' Etta asks her husband. John doesn't answer but it was one of his brothers when they were children. 'Dear Lord,'John begins.'We thank you for not taking my stupid son's hand.' 'We thank you for the health of our sons,' Etta follows. 'We thank you for the chickens dying,' Gleason is pleased. 'We thank you for the chickens cooked,' August takes more whisky. 'We thank you for the chickens living:John is holding his fork already. 'We thank you for the sun,' this is what Etta says when she has nothing else to say. 'We thank you for the Remmingtons:they don't know if Gleason's joking but if he is,John would have to smack him so John assumes he's not. 'We thank you for the blood stopping:August hasn't really stopped bleeding but it's slowed. 'We ask that you help us this spring with a son who might barely be able to use his right hand and can't always use his head:John is holding his knife too. 'We ask only for the bounty given,' Etta doesn't like to ask. 'We hope that baby Wava and Cora are laughing,' Gleason is notjoking. 'If Gibbon's a buffalo,let him be happy: neither is August somehow. 'God bless the poor:John begins again and the rest of his family follows. God bless the sick. God bless our human race. God bless our food. God bless our drink. All homes,0 God embrace.

Amen. August gets drunker and drunker as dinner goes on. Cider is cleaner than water. He gets drunk and eats chicken meat.John is nervous about the chickens and talks about the chickens. Gleason talks about Annabelle and August follows this.They finish dinner and at night the first big snow comes. It's snowed all December but this time it's heavy.The walls of the house get closer. August keeps waking and listening.You can't hear snow falling the way you can rain but you can hear trees groaning and eventually splitting, reaching the ground.You can hear the animals whining.This snow is only the first real one and it won't be the freezing kind yet.August sits up,finger still pulsing, and decides he wants to go outside. As he and Gleason get up, their father hears them. Gleason says something about checking Maggie and the brothers slip out into the white. They didn't put their coats or hats or mittens on, and without the sun it can't be much above freezing. August is still drunk maybe,but he's never been happier to see the sky. Soon Gleason is laughing, they're both laughing.They jump back into the new snow and look at the stars.This is the last time they'll see them all winter. No one opens the door at night unless they have to. It's too cold.Tonight even,it's dangerous. August thrusts his stitched-up hand into the white powder. Gleason rolls around and round until he's soaking.They howl until a coyote howls back and shush each other and laugh.They go inside once their necks are numb.Beside the stove their skin unfreezes so that it burns and little pieces ofit swell up. If there was light those little patches ofswollen would be white against bright red.This isn't lasting frostbite. In the morning the snow has covered up where they lay. IfJohn or Etta noticed a chill in the night, they don't mention it. The snow comes hard all the time now and the wind too. If Gibbon ever wants to come back he can't until the melting.The Remmingtons never came and the family knows they won't see anyone until the spring. If they died now,if any of them died now,no one would know until the snow was gone. It's a curious thing, the coming together of the people after the winter.There are new babies, dead animals. Roofs have caved in.There are awful stories about nights up with sick cows and horses. Quickly,the ache of winter gives way to the first foaling, planting. August does not like to think about spring. If he doesn't think about it he can even imagine he likes the winter.The days stretch into each other. Each night there is the ritual of prayer,eating, prayer, story, prayer,sleep.August doesn't really believe in God anymore but he doesn't think that matters. He bets the God they talk to was created by people just like his family, those who couldn't live through winter without anyone else. Etta keeps dreaming that she's pregnant but the last baby, the second baby girl, took whatever

piece of her she had left to give.When she wakes her belly is sore. Sometimes she turns to John but he is always too gone in the fury of snoring. Etta and John never thought about much like love. He might've happily kissed her behind the schoolhouse once when she was near fourteen but ifso she can't really remember it. One afternoon John comes in and pushes his wife against the table and kisses her. August is sitting, trying to fix a lantern, but his father does not see him. Etta is frightened, not by whisky in John's mouth but by the absence of it. It isn't only the drink that makes them wild.August reworks a piece ofthe handle as his father grips his mother's waist.

'Horses.' Etta says. 'Maggie will be jealous.' Gleason laughs. 'Can we bring Maggie in now?'August wants to know. 'No.And I'll shoot that dog now:John says. August drops his fork,'No! Pa, please, no, Pa.Why?' John stands up and gets the gun from the wall. 'Pa. Please.' Gleason begs. 'Unless you'd like to do it yourselfson:John walks out the door. Etta looks down and keeps eating. She touches the knot of hair at the back of her head. Gleason and August know they won't cry, but that they'll want to.August holds his knife and wonWhen all the chickens die,it is John that finds ders how killing a dog is different than killing a man. imagining this all winter, every winthem. He's been There's a shot, a moan. ter. He sees a caved-in cellar, a bloody-mouthed fox John walks back in the door and his foot is as he lies in bed each night. He sees his family starve. bleeding. He sits down,and takes a whole other There has always been enough,his wife tells him,but quarter of chicken for his plate. He chews loudly. one morning he opens the door to the animal house 'Pa.Your foot?' Gleason asks. and the rooster is still alive. Each of the ten hens that John swallows,'It's fine. Maggie is fine.' were left is going stiff and cold. Etta looks under the table. She gasps. He,Gleason,and August carry the meat into 'John,'she says.'Let me.I need to.' the house by the necks. Etta reassures John that the The younger brother looks at the spot ofdark cellar is nowhere near empty yet.John asks her to red settling into purple.The blood is staining the floor. cook all ofthe meat for that night. He wonders what 'You've shot yourself: Gleason says. God,if there is God,might be telling them. John bows his head,'Let's enjoy this perfect meal.' The table is piled with meat.Etta begins the prayer. He lifts his fork and puts more chicken in his 'Dear Lord,'she says. mouth.The family watches him chew and then pick 'We thank you for laughing at us:John says. up the next piece of meat with his hands,the juice 'We thank you for the chickens: Gleason says. running down his fingers, his chin. 'Thank you for the seeing:August says. His sense of where the shot hit moves from 'Thank you for family'Etta says, and the family a constant burning knife edge to a swollen warmth cycles through. that catches each of his ribs. 'Thank you for the snow.' 'Blessed us all,' August says. 'Thank you for the sky' 'There's never been this much meat in the 'Thank you for the walls.' house before, has there?' Gleason says. 'Thank you for the heat,' Etta finishes. Etta puts a hand to her stomach,'We'll be 'Amen.' starved by spring.' 'For laughing at us John?'Etta picks up her fork. The fork in his hand is twitching and he sees 'If He wants to use us for humor I don't mind he is trembling. He sits straight,stares at his fingers one bit.' until they calm. Gleason and August begin to eat. John looks up,feels the pain in his foot.'We 'Meat's never tasted like this before: Gleason says. have everything.' The family eats with fervor, without speaking, dripping meatjuice down their shirts, drinking hard cider and whisky. 'We'll build a great big house in the spring,' John tells them. 'We will?' Etta asks. 'A stove in every room:John reassures. 'We'll build a great big barn for the animals too,' August can see it. 'The animals. I'd like to get pigs next year.' 'Sheep.' 'A horse.' 'How will we?'August asks. 'We will,We'll have to work all through the night but we can just sleep through the winter,' John isn't smiling. Gleason gets excited,'We won't have to sleep in the springtime.'

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an interview with verlyn klinkenborg


Verlyn Klinkenborg is an author and a member of the New York Times editorial board. His newest book, More Scenes From the Rural Life, is poised to hit bookstores in the spring of 2013. With literary interests ranging from the 18th century novel to the quiet, dynamic poetry of his own farm in New York State, Klinkenborg writes diverse yet specific descriptions and vignettes, overcoming traditional characterizations of genre by experimenting with voice and perspective.



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\\Tell us a little about your history, your entrance into academia. I have a English from Princeton, and I started off as a medievalist but moved to the 18th century, and actually ended up doing a dissertation about canon formation.

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About what? Canon formation. How we decide which books to read.


Oh,I thought you meant the way we line up cannons. Like, during siege. Oh,no no no! [Laughs]Yes, it was an artillery Ph.D. No,it came right out of being a curatorial assistant at the Morgan Library in NewYork where I put together two huge exhibitions of British manuscripts, which raised all these questions about why an Alexander Pope manuscript is essentially somehow inherently more valuable than a William Collins manuscript,for example. And those are questions that just became political after I wrote about them. I think I was in the last generation to go through such a completely historical education.And then I was just a young academic, heading offinto the world to make my fortune as an assistant professor— And then something changed, right? Well, like anyone who writes I think I'd always been a passionate reader. I got to the point where I was reading a lot of non-fiction, a lot ofJohn McPhee,a lot ofJoan Didion,a lot of the long pieces that were running in the NewYorker,for example.And I realized I just didn't want to be writing academic prose, because it wasn't fun to write, it wasn't fun to read. It wasn't interesting; it insisted on this degree ofspecialization that actually meant the world was mostly omitted, and you got to focus on your tiny little thing, but the world you lived in was irrelevant. So in the early '80s basically I taught myself how to write in a completely different way by offering a course teaching students how to write in the way I wanted to write, which is not all that surprising. People do that all the time.They offer courses in things they don't know that much about but they want to learn a lot about.

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How did that go for you? It was great,it was really successful. Sonic of my earliest students from that class became editors. And it really was inspiring to me because I could take the academic prose that I was trained in, which is the same stuff you guys are trained in, and just really break it apart, using the analytic tools Iliad been given as a reader of poetry, and,when I was done,I had a completely different prose. It was sort of naïve and hyper-energetic—I was really trying to show off,that I could do this, and then I calmed down,and it got much better. But I did what I always tell my students to do,which is publish anywhere. Publish in a local place,something special interest, a magazine, a blog. I started off writing about fly-fishing. It was a tiny little world, but I figured,'How many good writers can there be in the world of fly-fishing?' In fly-fishing, of course, there are thousands, it's a profound literary tradition. But it was a great introduction, because I wrote some pieces and people liked them,and I did what I know how to do which is a blind submission to Esquire, over the mail into the slush pool. And they picked it out and said we can't run this piece but we'd like to talk, which I always think of as being very good news for writers, because a lot of writers think it's a closed world, it's about who you know and what kind of contacts you have. No,it's really about one thing, it's only about being good.



You write a column for the New York Times, The Rural Life, that has to do with your experiences on your farm where you live, and that always struck me as a really bold thing to print in the NewYork Times, where presumably a lot of the readers are city dwellers, metropolitan kind of people. Have you had any sort of conflict with the audience? Well, most of the audience is deeply romantic about anywhere besides where they live.They all want to have farms of their own,they've all imagined farms of their own.Actually after a certain age, about 40 or 45, everyone has an uncle or aunt, a relative who has a farm. It's only when you get to a younger age where people are wondering about that connection. People are very attracted to the idea of where I think I live, but there's always a counter-response.About once every 18 months Gawker will write a piece saying—

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`Verlyn Klinkenborg Must Be Stopped?' Yes, exactly, which is to me,it's like:fiiiii/oits.Try and stop me.What am I supposed to say? I think the idea that The Rural Life would appeal to everybody is just about zero. And frankly, it fills column inches for Gawker,so more power to them. My favorite response actually is a woman who is writing a blog,'I read Verlyn Klinkenborg so you don't have to.' Yeah! I was wondering if you knew about that one! Well, I don't know her, she's in LA,but she is actually a sweetheart, because first of all they're funny— She refers to you always by your full name, every time. Yeah,and my favorite one is, I wrote something, I can't remember what it was,and her comment was'Verlyn Klinkenborg is really high today.' But you know, when I was in California I wasn't writing a lot because I wasn't home,but I submitted a piece, and she wrote this piece writing'Welcome back!'And 1 wrote her a note saying thanks, I read your blog, I really like it, and she said,'If this is really you,I'm thrilled,if it's not you,well played.' To me,it's just fun.

You talked about your interest in dissolving these various structures that prohibit writers from writing well, or writing at all. Is there something you wish you could unlearn yourself, some kind of writing tick that you have yet to overcome, or have been dealing with? I think that it's the sort of thing I experience when I read something that I really love. I think,`I'd like to be more like that.' But I think for anybody who has worked as a writer for a long time, part of your job is to be always looking out for those tics, and eliminating them. Otherwise you end up—and I think this is really one of the reasons why people get in trouble talking allow voice and iitvle—ntherwiAe von end tin with hic

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The Rural Lye, that has to do with your experiences on your farm where you live, and that always struck me as a really bold thing to print in the New York Times, where presumably a lot of the readers are city dwellers, metropolitan kind of people. Have you had any sort of conflict with the audience? Well, most ofthe audience is deeply romantic about anywhere besides where they live.They all want to have farms of their own,they've all imagined farms of their own.Actually after a certain age, about 40 or 45,everyone has an uncle or aunt,a relative who has a farm. It's only when you get to a younger age where people are wondering about that connection. People are very attracted to the idea of where I think I live, but there's always a counter-response.About once every 18 months Gawker will write a piece saying—

17— •••••• •11/11••

`Verlyn Klinkenborg Must Be Stopped?' Yes, exactly, which is to me,it's like:fabulous.Try and stop me.What am I supposed to say? I think the idea that The Rural Life would appeal to everybody is just about zero. And frankly, it fills column inches for Gawker,so more power to them. My favorite response actually is a woman who is writing a blog,`I read Verlyn Klinkenborg so you don't have to.' Yeah! I was wondering if you knew about that one! Well,I don't know her,she's in LA,but she is actually a sweetheart, because first of all they're funny— She refers to you always by your full name, every time. Yeah,and my favorite one is, I wrote something, I can't remember what it was,and her comment was'Verlyn Klinkenborg is really high today: But you know,when I was in California I wasn't writing a lot because I wasn't home,but I submitted a piece,and she wrote this piece writing'Welcome back!' And I wrote her a note saying thanks,I read your blog, I really like it, and she said,`If this is really you,I'm thrilled,if it's not you,well played.' To me,it's just fun. What role do you think non-fiction is playing with young writers these days? Or whatever you want to call it—I know that genres aren't something that you revere—but do you feel an emergence of interest in the personal essay in young writers? I think non-fiction is reemerging in colleges partly because ofthe wealth of creative writing programs everywhere.You know,when I was in graduate school in the'70s, there were not that many creative writing programs that were part of regular English departments, and those have expanded and incorporated more genres. I think it's just easier for students to be aware ofit. If you think about right now, when fiction is so dominant in a way,and if you go back to the 19th and 18th centuries, when fiction is this fairly thin thread,and the vast amount of prose that's being written is non-fiction,and so much ofthe great writing that really carries through the 19th century is non-fiction.And the reason I'm not interested in genre is that it becomes another category that writers use to prohibit themselves from writing. If you talk about genre,and all these rules associated with it—I'm much more interesting in dissolving the rules than recreating them,so non-fiction to me also seems incredibly interesting formally. That's probably because I'm not so worried about the 'non'in non-fiction,I'm worried about, what do we do as writers? Where does imagination come in?

You talked about your interest in dissolving these various structures that prohibit writers from writing well, or writing at all. Is there something you wish you could unlearn yourself, some kind of writing tick that you have yet to overcome, or have been dealing with? I think that it's the sort of thing I experience when I read something that I really love. I think,`I'd like to be more like that.' But I think for anybody who has worked as a writer for a long time,part of yourjob is to be always looking out for those tics, and eliminating them. Otherwise you end up—and I think this is really one ofthe reasons why people get in trouble talking about voice and style—otherwise you end up with this set of really personal cliches that are sometimes stylistic,sometimes formal,sometimes verbal. But how uninteresting. How incredibly uninteresting. It's just so much more important to be self-vigilant, so that as you work your prose is always trying to be new. Not in an overreaching way; it's just you're always testing.You know,I can tell you from one ofthe pieces I was reading in my class yesterday. It was a piece in which the word 'still' kept reappearing. It's a great word but it's also one that I have to weed out.'Still' and'somehow,'those two,and I just have to watch and make sure that I'm checking for those, otherwise they'll just creep right in and infest my prose. Are there other sort of tics that you notice often? It's not so much a tic as a habit. Especially in The Rural Life pieces—we take for granted relationships to natural creatures,and I really love to invert that, I love to turn it upside down.I love to think what they think of us, how our behavior looks to them.We're so busy looking at everything,thinking of the strangeness of all ofthem,but in fact, how weird am Ito my horses? How weird am I to my chickens?These are really good questions.And they're serious questions.The animals that I live around have a degree ofsensory engagement with the world that's completely different from mine, and often vastly more acute than mine,so you learn to pay attention to that. It's one ofthe reasons for living with animals.To be surrounded by a different category of perception. What about your students, or today's young writers? What do you tell your students to preemptively un-stick them from the habits that will prevent them from writing well? The upshot ofall this for me is that almost everything people think they know about writing distracts them from actually making good sentences. I see this in MFA students, my forestry students.Whether they know it or not,they have this big burden ofstuff they've picked up. Most of it's cliches,some ofit has been passed on by well-meaning teachers,some of it's been passed on by phenomenally stupid teachers, but the fact is, it ends up being a set of assumptions of who writers are, how they work,how the language operates. And almost all ofthem have the same effect, which is they prevent you from actually looking at the sentence in front of you. One of my MFA students said,'I guess I do this because I'm so interested in the control I have over the reader.' In other words,she wanted to sort of believe she could, in her writing,shape what the reader felt,To me it's like,'Are you kidding?'The phrase I use in my book is 'the reader is on the other side of the ink.'The reader has all the authority to close the book,close the piece, walk away.The only power you have as a writer is to look at the sentence you make,and what I find in every writer I work with at the start is that they are looking at anything but the sentence.Almost anyone I've ever worked with ever has had to have their attention redirected to the only thing that matters. It's a very weird thing that our culture produces this understanding of writing that is essentially about anything but the only thing that counts. What I'll end up saying is, I know you're all really good writers, I know you're full of great intentions, I know you have all these meta-accounts flooding your head, and the fact is that you do not always know how to make sentences,and I've seen it. And we'll talk about all those other things as soon as you can bring me two pages of perfectly clear sentences. After that, we'll talk. But really, after that, we don't need to talk.As soon as the prose gets clear, the structure becomes more clear, and the possibilities become more clear. It all becomes clear. It's really bizarre, that's all I can say.//

note from the editors It gives us joy to present this semester's issue of the Lit.We have separated the poetry from the prose and interview for a total of two objects. Each can be read from front to back and is also a poster. Unfold it. One shows a photograph of a statue of Mary paired with one of intertwining feet, by Maya Binyam. Is this ironic? It was chosen based on the poemsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by Olivia Valdes, Eli Mandel,Max Ritvo, Jake Orbison,and Samuel Huberâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;which are similar. Looking out from the head, you tend to see the pedestal; you have to give yourself another face. Devon Geyelin's line patterns, on the other poster, are as stark as Abigail Carney's prose.We interviewed Verlyn Klinkenborg, a teacher here and a writer, who is confident that the sentence can accommodate all different kinds of attachments to reality. The Lit extends thanks to all the artists and writers whose work has been included, and to the many who assisted in shaping the magazine, whose names are listed below.We would also like to thank our board, whom we love, and our razor-sharp designer, Jacqi Lee. Sincerely, Andrew Kahn mid Sarah Matthes

contents Joy from West Africa, Olivia Valdec Life Optics: Hummingbird,Eli Mandel Postcards from Mount Blanc, Max Ritiv Water Lily,Jake Orbison Weekend Story, Samuel Huber Plenty,Abigail Carney Interview with Verlyn Klinkenborg Artwork by Devon Geyelin and Maya Binyam editors in chief: Sarah Matthes and Andrew Kahn literary editors: Max Ritvo,Ava Kofman and Eli Mandel managing editors: Sophia Nguyen and Gareth Imparato arts editor: Maya Binyam publisher: Cindy Ok publicity & events coordinators: Sophia Weissmann and Jordana Cepelewicz circulation and distribution: Amelia Cai designer: Jacqi Lee staff: Victor Macrinici,Jane Smyth,Andrew Koenig,Austin Carder, Mary Mussman, Olivia Valdes, Katelyn Kang,Jake Orbison, Margaret Shultz, Courtney Duckworth,Gideon Broshy,Avery Jones, Cristabelle Ormiston, Katy Osborn,Achutha Raman,Oliver Preston

This year's Francis Bergen Prize for Poetry was judged by Langdon Hammer.

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To subscribe to the Yale Literary Magazine, please visit our website or write to The Yale Literary Magazine, PO Box 209087, New Haven, CT 06520-9087

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Volume 24 issue 2 fall 2012  
Volume 24 issue 2 fall 2012