January/February 2012

Writing Inspiration

The New Year’s guide to an inspired writing life, featuring a special section on inspiration, plus our seventh annual debut poets roundup; lessons in self-publishing salesmanship; why we write; the story behind Go the F**k to Sleep; and more.


You Are What You Read: The Art of Inspired Reading Lists

by Joshua Bodwell
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For the serious reader, many of the “best of” literary lists churned out on the web warrant no more than a curious glance. But, as Joshua Bodwell discovers, following personal recommendations and tailoring a reading lists of one’s own can nourish...

In This Moment: Slowing Down to Open Up the Writer's Mind

by Arnie Cooper
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A childhood interest in calligraphy taught journalist Arnie Cooper that the physical act of writing—letter by letter—can bring a writer into the moment and make the words flow.

The Truth of Imagination: Metaphor's Universe of Possibilities

by Dan Albergotti
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An author and creative writing teacher dissects a poem and discovers that the most fecund metaphors are made when the writer surrenders herself to imagination over intellect.

Inspired Revision: Writing as an Act of Discovery

by Jeremiah Chamberlin
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Years passed before fiction writer Jeremiah Chamberlin was able to heed the advice of Charles D’Ambrosio to revise a story the author thought was perfect—and to discover that the revision process can uncover latent truths.

Incalculable Splendor: Our Seventh Annual Look at Debut Poets

by Jean Hartig
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Twelve poets who published first collections in 2011 discuss the unique landscapes of their imaginative worlds, revealing influences and sources of inspiration.

News and Trends

Poets & Ampersands

by Kevin Nance

For nearly a century, the ampersand has been a key feature of certain strands of American poetry. To understand its history in the genre—and the role it plays for contemporary poets—one must return to the character’s origins.

McSweeney’s Opens Poetry Series

by Tess Taylor

After making a name for itself in independent-press circles with its stylish, smart books of fiction, children’s literature, and food writing, the fourteen-year-old San Francisco–based outfit McSweeney’s is starting its first poetry imprint.

Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begin

by Staff

With so many good books being published every month, some literary titles worth exploring can get lost in the stacks. Page One offers the first lines of a dozen recently released books, including Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet and Amy Newman’s Dear Editor, as the starting point for a closer look at these new and noteworthy titles.

3 for Free

by Staff

In this regular feature, we offer a few suggestions for podcasts, apps, web tools, newsletters, museum shows, and gallery openings: a medley of literary curiosities for readers and writers on a budget.

Literary MagNet

by Travis Kurowski

Literary MagNet chronicles the start-ups and closures, successes and failures, anniversaries and accolades, changes of editorship and special issues—in short, the news and trends—of literary magazines. This issue’s MagNet features New World Writing, Transition, Asymptote, the White Review, Granta, the Dark Horse, and Versal.

Q&A: Some Assembly May Be Required

by Kevin Larimer

Polly Becker, a Boston-based artist who in her formative years was influenced stylistically by artists such as Edward Gorey, Alphonse Mucha, and Aubrey Beardsley, speaks about the assemblages she created for the cover and our special section on inspiration.

The Written Image: Kenneth Patchen

by Staff

In this issue we offer a look at one of Kenneth Patchen’s “picture-poems,” currently on display in An Astonished Eye: The Art of Kenneth Patchen, the largest-ever exhibition of the genre-defying writer’s visual work, at the University of Rochester in New York.

Small Press Points

by Staff

Small Press Points highlights the innovative and can-do spirit of independent presses. This issue features Dorothy, a publishing project, which aims to publish books “of slightly different aesthetic sensibilities but equal wonderfulness” written by women.

The Practical Writer

Bullseye: How to Submit to the Broome Street Review

by Staff
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Broome Street Review editor Andrew E. Colarusso is looking for work that reveals its genius in “brief, bright flashes” paired with a lasting emotional resonance.

Glass-Slipper Economics: Cinderella Stories in Indie Publishing

by Michael Bourne
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An irreverent children’ book, a quiet but resonant debut, and a novel that had legs before it even left the gate rewrite the fortunes of the small presses that published them.

The Literary Life

Why We Write: The Landscape of What Remains

by Melissa Madenski
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Following the death of her husband, one woman begins writing to outpace the pain of grief and discovers in her own words the evolution of mourning.

Naming the World: The Anxiety of Finding the Right Word

by Christopher Wall
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The writer’s duty of accurately naming the world takes on new importance for a new father, whose infant son teaches him that it’s sometimes more pleasurable to flirt with meaning than to be precise.

The Fictional Lens: Writing Inspired by Photographs

by David Rowell
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David Rowell, an editor at the Washington Post Magazine and a former editor at DoubleTake, the now-shuttered magazine of photography and reportage, finds inspiration for a novel in a series of photographs documenting the 1968...