• Letter from Director Exchange

    Summer 2012

    I've been reading the poems of Ruth Stone, whose work—and whose death at the age of ninety-six in November 2011—are the subjects of this year’s Meridel Le Sueur Essay for Water~Stone Review written by Toi Derricotte.  Ruth’s last book of poetry, What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  I was introduced to Ruth Stone a number of years ago when our Water~Stone Review table in the AWP Book Fair was situated next to Paris Press, publisher of several Ruth Stone books.  As often happens at AWP, neighboring presses exchange books, so I chose Ordinary Words (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry) and spent the slow time at the table reading it.  I’ve re-immersed myself in Ruth Stone’s poetry after reading Toi Derricotte’s lovely, elegiac essay. 

    I’m struck anew by the no-nonsense quality of her poetry, its simplicity, and by her unerring ability to choose the right-on, unforgettable image.  She wrote about everyday life and its ordinary, if complicated, challenges and joys.  She wrote about children and animals and the natural world.  She made the ordinary extraordinary through her exacting eye; her sharp intelligence; her bountiful heart; her originality and care for language, line, and sound.  The survivor of great personal tragedy—her husband committed suicide in 1959, leaving Ruth a single mother of three children—she had deep empathy for the human condition and a blisteringly clear vision of its losses. 

    I hope that Toi’s Derricotte’s essay in our fall issue will ignite new and renewed interest for some of you in Ruth Stone’s poetry.

    So, here’s the news. We are welcoming a new core faculty member, John Brandon, to The Creative Writing Programs and saying goodbye to another.  John is the author of Citrus County, Arkansas, and the soon-to-be released A Million Heavens, all from McSweeneys.  John has also published numerous short stories and writes a regular column about college football in ESPN’s Grantland.  He received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis.  He was the Grisham Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi and, most recently, the Tickner Writing Fellow at the Gilman School in Baltimore. 

    In a front-page New York Times review of Citrus County, Daniel Handler wrote: “With Citrus County John Brandon joins the ranks of writers like Denis Johnson, Joy Williams, Mary Robison and Tom Drury, writers whose wild flights feel more likely than a heap of what we’ve come to expect from literature, by calmly reminding us that the world is far more startling than most fiction is. He subverts the expectations of an adolescent novel by staying true to the wild incongruities of adolescence, and subverts the expectations of a crime novel by giving us people who are more than criminals and victims. The result is a great story in great prose, a story that keeps you turning pages even as you want to slow to savor them, full of characters who are real because they are so unlikely." 

    John will be teaching “Groundings in the Craft: Elements of Fiction” (MFA) both semesters,  “Forms & Elements of the Craft I: Fiction” (BFA) in the fall, and “Forms & Elements of the Craft II: Fiction” (BFA) in the spring.  He also will be advising and working with MFA thesis students.  With the July launch of A Million Heavens, we will be hosting a reading for him in September where will give him a warm Minnesota welcome.

    Barrie Jean Borich, who has been a highly regarded member of the CWP faculty for sixteen years and the creative nonfiction editor of Water~Stone Review, has taken a job as an assistant professor in the MA in Writing and Publishing Program in the English Department at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.  A native of Chicago, Barrie is excited to return to a city she loves and writes extensively about.   Barrie has left her mark as a fine and innovative teacher and editor at Hamline and undoubtedly will make a lasting contribution to her students and colleagues at DePaul. 

    Pat Francisco will be stepping in to replace Barrie as the creative nonfiction editor of W~SR. She is the author of a novel, several plays, and two works of creative nonfiction: Village Without Mirrors and Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery.  Pat has been a member of the faculty for over twenty years, having taught in the MALS, MFA, and BFA programs, and will bring her own substantial talents and unique sensibility to the job.

    Each of the faculty editors has made invaluable contributions to the review and each has helped to shape the contents and build the magazine’s national reputation.  It’s good for the enterprise, however, to change editors periodically and to bring new visions and voices into the mix.  It’s also important to give different faculty members the opportunity not only to help shape the magazine but to advance their careers as editors.  After serving as a stellar poetry editor for many years, Patricia Kirkpatrick is stepping down this summer.  Katrina Vandenberg will be joining the ranks of faculty editors alongside Pat Francisco and Sheila O’Connor, the fiction editor.  Katrina teaches the cross-genre gateway course in the BFA and courses in poetry in the BFA and MFA.  She is the author of two collections of poetry:  Atlas and the just-released, An Alphabet Not Unlike the World.

    The fall 2012 issue of Water~Stone Review is in production, with a rich and exciting lineup of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, including the winner of the Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize; an interview with poet Ralph Angel; essay reviews by Stan Sanvel Rubin and Mary Cappello; and Toi Derricotte’s Meridel Le Sueur Essay.  As always, our colleagues from DesignWorks at MCAD will be designing the cover and curating a folio of original photographs. 

    Our June courses are underway and we are looking forward to the Young Writer’s Workshop in June and our annual Summer Writing Workshop at St. Olaf College in July.  We still have a few open spots in fiction and poetry with award-winning writers Nami Mun and Bob Hicok. Go to www.hamline.edu/cwp for more information.

    Our biggest event over the summer is the July residency for the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.  This year we are launching a new emphasis in writing for graphic novel and comics, having added acclaimed graphic novelist and cartoonist Gene Yang to the faculty.  Gene is the author of American Born Chinese, nominated for a National Book Award and winner of a Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in YA literature.  To celebrate our entry into graphic narratives, we have invited David Small, Caldecott Award-winning illustrator and author of Stitches, a heartbreaking and stunning graphic memoir.  Also with us this residency are guest authors Chris Crutcher and Emily Jenkins (a.k.a. e. lockhart) and Anita Silvey, author of 100 Best Books for Children and 500 Great Books for Teens.  Fourteen of our seventeen faculty members will be with us this July, and we will be celebrating the completion of their programs with thirteen graduates. 

    We have many new publications and accomplishments on the part of faculty, students, and alums, so please read through the rest of The Exchange for all of the news. 

    Although there’s plenty of academic and other professional work to be done over the summer, vacations to enjoy and families to tend, I hope you will devote time this summer to your writing and other creative projects.  Nurturing one’s creative life, while high on most of our priority lists, often falls to the wayside when more pressing responsibilities call.  As they always do.  So take the time to read, reflect, study, write, and make art.  I leave you with this poem from Ruth Stone, from What Loves Come To: New & Selected Poems:

    The Porch 

    Whatsoever comes to the screen,
    firefly or moth,
    I lean back in the wicker chair,
    the porch my fragile skin
    between me
    and the gorgeous open maw,
    the sucking swallowing world.


    Mary François Rockcastle