The Lesley MFA Program in Creative Writing is pleased to launch Open Pages, a blog curated by program founder and faculty member Steven Cramer. Open to contributions ranging from meditations on aesthetics and politics, to personal stories about process and publication, to advice about life as a public (or private) writer, to appreciations of literary touchstones, the blog seeks to make visible the work and thinking of program alumni and faculty to readers both within and beyond the program. Please see the Letter from the Curator here for specifics about contributing a post.
July Westhale (’13) is the author of Trailer Trash (winner of the 2016 Kore Press Book Award), The Cavalcade, and Occasionally Accurate Science. Her most recent poetry can be found in The National Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, Tupelo Quarterly, RHINO, phoebe, Eleven Eleven, Lunch Ticket, and Quarterly West. Her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays, as well as the Pushcart prize. She moonlights as a journalist at The Establishment, and has appeared in The Huffington Post. www.julywesthale.com
The Body Politic
by July Westhale
I see this discussion as two separate threads—politics, and agenda. I myself maintain that all art is political, and that it cannot exist in a vacuum. This is true of every form of it I’ve encountered—from writing to sculpture to animation to graffiti to tattoos. And while it’s true that writing cannot exist without politics, it is also true that it can exist without an agenda.
Everything we think about is informed by the world around us (even our dreams have inner landscapes informed by realities from the waking world), which is informed by the ever-shifting existential crisis of being a human. Once, in a workshop with Nikky Finney, we were asked to create three separate timelines, spanning from the year we were born to the present day. Timeline #1 was our own narrative—in such and such year, I lost my first tooth. In such and such year, I married. And so on. Timeline #2 was a municipal/national gamut—in 1993, Bill Clinton became president. In 2001, 9/11 happened. Timeline #3 contained a global line—Chernobyl in 1986, the dismantling of the South African apartheid in 1991.
When we’d constructed these timelines, we were asked to draw connections between them all. Which is how I remembered that the year Princess Diana died (in fact, the day she died), I’d won a spoons tournament against my best friend and her family. My glory at winning was interrupted by the devastation of this most surprising news, the subsequent whodunit. To this day, I am still a quick and boastful winner, worried about stolen glory. To this day, I make associations between death and the luck of cards.
Jorge Armenteros (’12) is the author of The Book of I (2014 Jaded Ibis Press), an International Latino Book Award winner, Air (2016 Spuyten Duyvil Press), and The Roar of the River (2017 Spuyten Duyvil Press). His author interviews and book reviews have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, American Book Review, Rain Taxi, and Gargoyle Magazine. Jorge currently lives in Nice, France. There is more information in his website: jorgearmenteros.net.
by Jorge Armenteros
On a warm August afternoon, once the rhythm of my steps approximates the basso continuo of my thought process, walking down La Promenade des Anglais, I open the floodgates.
And I begin by considering plot. There is plot, but I’m always more interested in situations. Situations change and that’s a kind of plot. Language is a plot, too, and so are mix-ups and nonsense. Really, any situation can be a plot because as it changes, time moves forward.
Forward, I walk.
Richard Manieri (’10) is currently deputy Opinion editor/columnist at LNP Media and lancasteronline.com in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His first book, We Burn on Friday, A Memoir of My Father and Me, is available at Amazon.com. Rich’s essays have appeared in publications throughout the country including the Philadelphia Daily News and Baltimore Sun. He is a Keystone Award winner for column writing in Pennsylvania and also winner of Inland Press Association’s Editorial Excellence Contest.
Barking Dogs and Other Distractions
by Richard Manieri
It’s pretty easy to answer the question, Why do we write?
There’s another question that’s more difficult, at least for me, to answer—Why don’t we?
Strip away all of the external influences – time, fatigue, responsibilities, barking dogs – and it becomes glaringly obvious that my biggest obstacle toward progress and creating new work is me.