September 05, 2017

Traces of Cormac McCarthy’s Knoxville. 

McCarthy’s books came to me as transformative things so often do: several-times borrowed. It was during my junior year of college, my first semester back home in Colorado after a failed track scholarship out of state. Up till then I’d read very little—I was concentrating on my running. But with that protective apparatus newly scrapped, I’d become freshly aware of a hulking nothingness where my intellectual interests should have been, and I set about catching up.

March 13, 2018

Notes on the manuscript containing James Dickey’s essay “The Kingdom of the Other.”

Dickey was terrified of living an unexamined life, and he employed this technique, the imagining of the Other—the beings and places which were remote from his own biographical self—as a necessity to fuel creation, both in his writing and personal life.

June 12, 2018

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Consumption of worms is widespread throughout the world among many disparate cultures, particularly in Canada. (The French confine themselves to eating snails.) This tradition extends to contemporary America, especially with children. My son ate worms. As a child I ate them when I felt left out or had my feelings hurt by other kids. Worms were an early comfort food. Eventually a folksong emerged from the hills based on my predeliction. Untold fortunes have been made from the song and I never saw a penny of royalties!

September 03, 2019

Could Lucy Negro Redux beckon a new era for ballet?—an Omnivore essay from the Fall 2019 issue.

I believe artwork is more interesting—and will invite new audiences—when a wide swath of people are allowed to tell a variety of stories. There’s just one issue here: most ballet audiences don’t come to the theater to think about representation. Ballet is a form of escapist entertainment that celebrates the athletic prowess of the human body, and the fact is, the bodies on stage are usually white.

March 23, 2015

A poem from “Breaking Bread, a special section in the Spring 2015 issue on the dynamics of hospitality, exclusion, and food justice.

Look like last night
the light hardly wanted

to leave—it hung
round in the pines

March 01, 2014

Of all the pitiless opinions set down about family, it’s hard to beat this snarl by August Strindberg, a sentence which appears early in the first volume of his novelized memoir, The Son of a Servant, one of the bitterest condemnations of family ever written: “Family! thou art the home of all social evil, a charitable institution for comfortable women, an anchorage for house-fathers, and a hell for children.”

June 13, 2017

An installment in Chris Offutt’s Omnivore column, Cooking with Chris. 

Magic and cooking are based on the same principles of transformation, cutting and restoring, vanishing and reappearing. A blue handkerchief suddenly becomes red! A woman sawn in half returns intact! A coin disappears from the hand and reappears in a child’s ear! An egg becomes an omelet! 

October 08, 2018

Anne Spencer’s ecosystem of art and activism

As I read, I fell in love with Anne Spencer’s fierceness and wit. In some ways, she reminded me of my own grandmother—a voluble woman, gardener, and scrawler of notes on the back of lists. Finding Spencer’s scraps, I felt the same sort of matriarchal literary presence amid the dailiness of domestic life: glimpses of how an ambitious, literary-minded woman might manage a house.

January 13, 2016

Cooking with Chris. Before we begin preparing the possum for baking, I’d like to relate two highly personal stories about possums. One is quite sentimental and the second has a squeamish element, so I will lead with the sweet and kind.

May 23, 2017

These assemblages don’t need to be explicitly religious to suggest the spiritual potency of ordinary things. That simple things—especially things detached from ordinary meaning—may acquire a higher meaning. That these objects make no obvious representational sense makes sense. Who knows what spiritual beings look like, after all? Platonic forms?