Brush With a Famous Writer

By Ann Conway

airportI was walking down a concourse in the Philly airport when I looked up to see the Famous Writer staring down at me. Actually at first glance I was sure I was looking at the British actor, Bill Nighy. But it was not. It was him, a well-known literary writer who had moved to Maine ten years ago.

I was stunned, but kept on walking to the food court, where I ate a seven-dollar hot dog and thought about the writer. It was strange to see someone famous, especially someone from Maine. I was already back there in my mind, feeling safe with all the stolid types waiting at the nearby gate.

I knew he traveled far and wide; his writing was all about looking for something—the American soul? About this, I was not sure. But I knew the search was his concern.

I had considerations about him. I had last seen him at a reading I attended years before when I lived in Portland. Perhaps that was how he remembered me, although the reading was full of other middle-aged women. Later I read one of his short stories, in which he remarked, “Women who go to lectures always want something.” [Read more...]

Life-Saving Moments of Art

Drawing of a nesting hen In August, the musical duo Alright Alright, composed of husband and wife Seth and China Kent, performed in our living room for their last house concert in a series of a dozen across the country.

As the musicians (described as “piano-based folk Americana with a healthy measure of art-song/cabaret”) set up their lighting and cigar-box guitars, a number of children played outside in a tree house garlanded with flowers. Cicadas electrified the maples. Adults drank cheap pinot and dipped pretzels in hummus. For many, the next day would be the first day of attending or teaching school. Already, it was a bittersweet, beauty-haunted evening.

And then the couple sang.

With her rich, soulful voice and his tender harmonies, China and Seth filled our small space with songs about quirky lovers, a dying father, child soldiers, and Mary, mother of Jesus. Our usually empty living room couch and chairs radiated with an unlikely assortment of friends and neighbors who just minutes before had been strangers. The immediate, shared intimacy of participating in this music together was palpable: communion, healing, and worship.

[Read more...]

Tale of the Lucky and the Star-Crossed

Lady Awaiting InspirationThey say that luck is where hard work meets opportunity. But often the ones who say that are those who are the greatest beneficiaries of luck. It seems a way by which the fortunate can reclaim a portion of the credit for the things that have befallen them:

“Yes, X happened, and it was indeed fortuitous, but had I not stood ready to seize the moment and make the most of it—had I not prepared my body and mind for just such a chance—nothing would have come of it all.”

And in a sense, a portion of that seems so. Even when the stars align, the sea parts, and before us lies the golden way, only those who have the presence of mind to capitalize upon the moment, to swoop in and storm on to claim the happy day, can smile when they later tell the tale.

At times, the teller is humble. He admits that what has come his way is inexplicable, all talent and effort aside. “What I got from life was more than I would have dared ask for,” a great singer once said. The profligacies of fate are not always lost on its beneficiaries, and the best of time’s favorites acknowledge that to be the case. [Read more...]

The Harboring Silence, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

The following editorial statement from issue 86 of Image is adapted from a commencement address given at the Seattle Pacific University MFA in creative writing graduation in Santa Fe on August 8, 2015.

rainierDenise Levertov’s poems nearly always contain vivid reminders of the oral nature of poetry, of poetry as speech addressed to a hearer, and thus in some sense always a conversation. In her seminal poem “Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus,” Levertov chooses to honor the disciple of Jesus who, after the Resurrection, needed to place his hand inside Christ’s wound in order to believe.

“Didymus” means twin, and Levertov intends us to see that she is identifying herself as the other twin. Thomas will not be satisfied until he sticks his hand inside the emptiness in Christ’s flesh—the void or silence that will ultimately speak to him.

The poem, which is separated into the traditional parts of the Mass that are sung by a choir, begins with a Kyrie, a plea for mercy in the face of our terror at both our mortality and the potential destruction of the world itself. Here Levertov can only address a figure who is entirely “unknown.” [Read more...]

The Harboring Silence, Part 1

The following editorial statement from issue 86 of Image is adapted from a commencement address given at the Seattle Pacific University MFA in creative writing graduation in Santa Fe on August 8, 2015.


fog“The great poet does not completely fill out the space of his theme with his words. He leaves a space clear, into which another and higher poet can speak.”

—Max Picard, The World of Silence


Graduation marks the moment when you leave the community that has surrounded you for two years for the solitude of your writing life. That community will continue to exist and even expand over the years, and will include many reunions and gatherings, but the level of intensity and support you’ve experience in the program may never be matched.

Which means that it’s now down to you and your laptop—the blank screen and the blinking cursor. Or, if you’re the old-fashioned sort, the empty page and the poised pen.

Perhaps you’re ready, willing, and able to fill the screen, but perhaps you’re nervous about all those white pixels. Will you have words to fill the emptiness? Will you be able to speak into the silence? [Read more...]