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Mary Akers: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me about your wonderful collection The New Testament. I enjoyed this collection so much, Jericho. It has stayed with me for weeks, much like your other collection Please did when I first read it. In fact, I would say you write the most haunting poems–in the best sense of the word “haunting”–the specter of them hovers, they follow me around, hang about, shimmer. It’s probably a personal thing, but what do you think makes a poem “haunt” a reader? Jericho Brown: Thanks so much, Mary! This is very hard to narrow down.  But I think being haunted means to be very aware of a presence we cannot see or touch.  I guess all good poems are haunting then, because they ultimately put sounds and images in our heads that are nowhere but our heads.  The poems themselves are only ink on a page.  So I’ll go with music and image as an answer for now.   MA: I like that answer–and now I’m thinking it could apply to all forms of writing. The term “Poetry of the Body” comes to mind when I read your work. I’ve heard several poets use lately, so I googled it and came up with a page that declares, “Poetry should be read aloud, tasted on the tongue, felt in the blood and heart.” I agree, but I wonder how a poet who writes work as somatic as yours feels about that definition. What do you think it means to be a poet of the body? JB: The “poet of the body” is one who reaches for revelations that are made in and through the body before they are fully understood in the mind.  I want to believe that poems ask us to make use of our instinct and intuition, that they create feelings in us similar to hunger or to an itch.  When we get these feelings, we know we need to eat or that something could be crawling on our skin.   MA: Yes. Beautiful. So…bearing in mind that artists and their work can fit into many different categories, would you place your own work in the category of Poetry of the Body? JB: I don’t try to do any categorizing of myself.  It would take all the fun out of writing if I bothered to place myself in such ways.  And because I’m so skeptical of my own habits, it would lead me to writing against something that may well be the thing that makes my poems particular.   MA: Reading your wonderful collection also had me thinking about form. You manage to create work that feels...

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Last night I attended another author (book club) appearance for BONES OF AN INLAND SEA. The book group was marvelous (they are aptly named, too: Joie de Vivre) and offered plenty of really insightful questions and intelligent, encouraging comments. It was a gathering of great readers, great book lovers. The whole evening warmed my authorly heart to the core. (Or maybe that was the hot flashes?) At any rate, we took a picture to commemorate our fun evening and I offer it...

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The Short Review Here’s an excerpt: “Akers does not judge her characters, and as each one gets their opportunity to speak up, offering us new perspectives on their role in this complex family tangle, or giving feedback on someone we have already met, we slowly piece together the relationships and connections, and what might be the truth about the prom and Rosie’s lack of chaperone (Treasures Few have ever Seen), or how come Dani so desperately wants to be a boy (¡Vieques!), or whether Jack is quite the loser he seems (Comfortably Numb, Collateral Damage), or what it is that makes Andrea tick (Beyond the Strandline, Madame Trousseau). We watch Quinn’s children grow in snatches, and their children, and their children’s children, as each new wave slaps up the beach to whet our interest and add another layer of understanding.”...

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I really love this review of my new collection. It just went live at PANK–a journal I also love. The review is (blushingly) laudatory, but also tough, respectful, and fair. My very favorite kind of review. Thank you, Carmen Maria Machado! If we ever meet in person, the drinks are on me. PANK Here’s a beautifully written excerpt: “The linked stories in Bones progress in rough, but not exact chronological order, from the late 19th century to an unspecified dystopian future, telling first the story of a shipwrecked sea captain’s wife, and, last, that of a prisoner of a cult on a floating island. In between, we learn the intimate details of the lives of the many people that link them to one another across the intervening centuries. These bookending stories mirror each other, both following a woman lost among many, from whom love has been snatched away. The collection is richly detailed and atmospheric: a pleasurable amalgamation of bodies and breath, water and sand, the burning heat of a mushroom cloud. The solid backbone running through the entire work is one of science (biology, anthropology, ecology, oceanic studies, and everything in between), reminiscent of the work of Andrea Barrett, who also explores the intersection of the sciences and women’s lives. The stories vacillate in location, clustering mostly in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic around southernmost Florida, but all take place somewhere where land—or something approximating it—touches sea.”  ...

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[This is the transcript of a message I was asked to share with the congregants of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Hamburg, NY in November 2013.]    RADICAL GRATITUDE IN REAL TIME I once had a writing mentor who told me that the way to the universal is through the particular. What I believe she meant by that is this: if we tell a personal story in a compelling way, readers will make the story their own. They will find meaning in the personal story of another and apply that meaning to help them understand or solve an issue they are facing in their own lives. It’s how our remarkable, adaptable human brains work. So today I’m planning to milk that concept for all it’s worth. And since this is a church, I thought I’d start with a confession. In fact, brace yourself. I’ve got a whole series of confessions to share with you today. I’ve spent the last two weeks, working away from home—in Virginia, to be exact. And while I was down there, I took the opportunity to write my portion of today’s sermon. It was good. I’m sure it was good. I hand wrote it because my work down there consisted of long, exhausting days on the computer and I didn’t want to spend any more time than I absolutely had to staring at a screen. I wrote everything in a spiral notebook much like the one I have up here with me today. But not in this one. The one I wrote my sermon portion in must have remained down there in Virginia, having fun without me. Somehow, I managed to leave without it, lose it along the way, or misplace it once I returned home. It exists, somewhere, but I’ll be darned if I know where. See, life has been a little hectic lately. I’m stuck smack in the middle of the sandwich generation—with aging parents and up-and-coming kids—and I’m trying to finish writing a novel in the spaces between their needs. Also, my husband’s job has been put on the chopping block, results to be determined in February. So we’ve all been…shall we say…a little on edge. And I have been more than a little bit forgetful–walking into another room and forgetting what I was heading for…putting the napkin in the sink and the fork in the trash…that sort of thing. So, since my first draft sermon took a hike, I decided to go with Plan-B. Plan-B is today’s message, in which I will walk you through the step-by-step process of Radical Gratitude. Or at least, my process of getting to Radical Gratitude....

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I’ve been hearing more and more lately about how Facebook makes some people very sad. I understand that. All the good news and awards and crowing about perfect kids and vacation photos and avowals of love…they can be a little bit overwhelming if you’re looking for some of those things yourself and not finding them. After I thought about it, I realized that I don’t post about my struggles or my doubts, my fears, or my insecurities on Facebook. For example, just this morning I was “liking” a link that another author posted and then I proceeded to agonize over the time I met this author in person and perhaps gushed too effusively, a fellow writer with whom I tried too hard to establish a connection because the work spoke to me. I convinced myself that I am now a crazy-stalker-lady in the mind of at least one author I admire. Then I thought, No, that was an author. Authors love fans. Then I thought, Yes. Yes, you are a crazy stalker lady. Anyway, what I want to say to the sad people is this: I’m sorry. I just don’t use Facebook that way. I seem to be unable to pour my heart out in a virtual forum where everyone has a megaphone. But I do want to assure you that my life isn’t perfect. I have trouble sleeping. My brain works overtime on ridiculous stuff. I yearn for things I don’t have. I worry excessively. I don’t get out enough. I shovel snow a lot and call it exercise. I’m not where I want to be in my career. A ticking clock reminds me of my own disappearing seconds. And all those travel pictures? They’re from ages ago. In other words, if my good-news-only posts made anyone sad, don’t be. Please. The internet is a grand facade. Don’t take it too...

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