From 2009 until 2015, our music issue featured a different Southern state every year (raise your hand if you’ve got them all: Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia).
Last year, we departed from the series to examine “Visions of the Blues.”
In 2017, we are returning to the state series. And we are thrilled to share that it’s your turn, Kentucky.
The Commonwealth gave us musicians like Loretta Lynn and Nappy Roots, Richard Hell and Bill Monroe—just to name a very few—and beloved writers like Crystal Wilkinson, Ronni Lundy, Silas House, and our own poetry editor, Rebecca Gayle Howell. This is just a taste of Kentucky and a taste of what’s to come.
We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary year by doing what we’ve always done: publish the groundbreaking fiction—three excerpts from Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award–winning novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing—essays, nonfiction, and poetry our readers have come to expect. Revisit or catch up on these highlights from 2017.
Boys looking for trouble, strangers on a Jet Ski, and a once-in-a-lifetime catch. A short story from our Fall 2009 issue.
Two brothers, both tattooed, came to this place years ago. In the drear of evening, they stripped to their long johns and, both feeling buxom with drink, swam to the sunken highway. It had gone under winters ago. Long after the road had ceased to be a thoroughfare of logical travel, a dike gave way and the lake waters rose and the asphalt sections broke and what remained was a ramp of pavement and loose rebar leaving the shore and going down into the murk. Like a road leading to the frigid nethers of the world.
It was around this time that my father and his friends started a gang. They were all blanquitos from Condado: Yasser Benítez, Claudio LaRocca, Tommy Del Valle, and Juanma Thon. On the night their gang became official, they downed a bottle of Bacardi, then smashed it into pieces and used a shard to cut their arms. Then they rubbed their wounds together, so the blood passed from arm to arm.
A story by Jesmyn Ward, the third and final excerpt from her forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.
The officer is young, young as me, young as Michael. He’s skinny and his hat seems too big for him, and when he leans into the car, I can see where his gel has dried and started flaking up along his hairline. He speaks, and his breath smells like cinnamon mints.
She watched the Kitler closely, but it mostly slept, waking only when she played the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” while making her morning coffee. When Sting got to the part about sending out an SOS, it lifted its furry head, twitched its ears, and stared plaintively, ready to help.
A short story from our Winter 1995 issue.
They said adolescent despair; they said anger turned inward; if they were Sidney Grau, M.D., Ph.D, consoling Tansy’s mother by the family's blue expanse of swimming pool on New Year’s Eve, they said troubled child at the end of the twentieth century. But Tansy’s sadness, which was hers and no one else’s, didn’t explain why this pair who looked like her mother and father suddenly had morphed into Mike and Carol Brady on an extended car trip: sharing the road, taking time to smell the flowers, smiling vacant, creepy smiles.
A short story from the Summer 2017 issue.
It was said about the blind woman who ran the concession stand in the lobby of the county courthouse that she could tell by touch the difference between a one- and a five-dollar bill. Judges, lawyers, felons, and their long-suffering kin spoke of her so-called sixth sense. She was aware of the rumor, which she attributed to ignorance.
A short story from our Summer 2017 issue.
I opened my eyes and looked at the patient. Her eyes were open, too, wide and lively against the tautness of her face. They were the same eyes of my aunt Lydia who had once pulled up her shirt to show me the large birthmark on her stomach—darker than her skin, shapeless like a stain. She looked at me, and I looked at her, and as the people around us prayed for her recovery, she smiled at me.
A short story from the Summer 2017 issue.
I’d been living in the kitchen for a while now. If I was going to live in only one room in the house, the kitchen was the logical choice, because that’s where the beer was. I was getting a lot of flak from the bathroom, so I didn’t spend a lot of time there. I knew there were things in my urine. I was the one who put them there. I didn’t want my toilet narcing on me.
A story by Jesmyn Ward, the second of three excerpts from her forthcoming novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Because I wanted Michael’s mouth on me, because from the first moment I saw him walking across the grass to where I sat in the shadow of the school sign, he saw me. Saw past skin the color of unmilked coffee, eyes black, lips the color of plums, and saw me. Saw the walking wound I was, and came to be my balm.