Gardens that breathe: an interview with laura donnelly
Written by Jillian Smith
In Midwest Gothic, her second collection of poetry, Laura Donnelly channels a speaker alternatively fascinated and fearful, youthful and wise, steadfast and skeptical. Through a rough yet rich expanse of memory and history, she seeks to both recover and reframe her past, a process as ominous as it is life-affirming. In doing so, Donnelly honors the resilience, creativity and legacy of her female ancestors, especially their ability to nourish a place into being, to maintain a home that not only withstands what is wild but welcomes it. As a revision to the ubiquitous patriarchal narratives the young speaker was exposed to, Donnelly posits women not just as the keepers and growers of an eternal garden, but also, subverting many Gothic tales, as the heroines of their own stories.Throughout the collection, we feel a complexity of emotions that is as unsettling as it is alluring, each poem a musical note that resounds into the vastness of history, building on previous notes, and both haunting and uplifting what’s to come.
For our second special issue on writing from rural America, I talked with Catie Rosemurgy, a poet who understands and writes intimately about the realities of small-town American life. I fell in love with Rosemurgy’s winding narrative collections and shape-shifting characters nearly ten years ago now, and in our conversation I asked her some difficult questions about writing rural in this political climate, the stories behind her characters, and how she constructs the cozy, strange worlds that shape her collections.
Maximum Sunlight by Meagan Day, with photographs by Hannah Klein (Wolfman Books, 2016)
“When Tonopah’s lights appear, I rejoice. I feel I’m alighting on Paris – the streetlamps and the Clown Motel’s flashing marquee bulbs seem astonishingly cosmopolitan. Tonopah is a shaggy little town, but coming in from the desert it looms large, an electric miracle in the annihilating dark.”
In college, I remember an afternoon when a professor of mine, an elegant retired ballerina with a degree in philosophy and a dancer’s walk, turned off all the lights and projected photos of cacti in Death Valley on all four walls of our conical lecture hall. The desert, she said, is a nowhere place. An in-between. It is defined not but what it contains but by what it does not. Continue reading
Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta (Counterpoint Press, 2002)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
This review is part of our special issue on books from and of rural America. For more on this theme, check out the issue here.
“We are the Roof Dwellers, the People Who Speak in Darkness; we’re also the DDT People, the Drink-Cadmium People, the Breathing Isotope People.” (137)
How do we think about our bodies? As moving systems of bone and muscle? As vessels to hold our brains in, or a shell to decorate and present to the world? In an article about politics and our fears about the fragile positioning of our own bodies, philosopher and bioethicist Joel Michael Reynolds writes: “… here’s the catch. We aren’t trapped in our bodies. We are our bodies, as philosophers from Frantz Fanon to Simone Beauvoir have argued. These changing, leaky bodies afford us opportunity and choice. If static or permanent, they’d be less bodies and more stones or gods. To be sure, bodies marked by racism, sexism, cisgenderism, classism, and ableism get trapped.” Continue reading
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopff, 2006)
In an interview for The Missouri Review (2013), fiction author Karen Russell was asked about her life in Florida and how it has influenced several of her works. She replied by referring to a “matter –of– fact strangeness” that her native state seems to possess. Continue reading
SPECIAL FEATURE #2: STICKS
Writing from rural America
Lately, I have been thinking about the idea of many Americas. I mean, I have been thinking about the America I know and the one I live in now, and all the Americas I’ve never experienced, and how they fit together under this umbrella, under one leader, under one name. Continue reading