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Eye Candy Friday: The “Harmonic Possibilities” of Art

The eighth annual issue of Stone Canoe showcases an intriguing collection of writing and visual arts from 70 contributors with ties to the Upstate New York region. Notable features include 40 pages of visual art, a photo essay on Saudi Arabia by Janice Levy, Bruce Smith’s interview with acclaimed poet Stephen Dunn, and a collection of written work that includes poetry, drama, fiction, creative nonfiction, and provocative essays on topics such as warfare, incarceration, music, and technology. Visit the Stone Canoe website for additional content, along with e-book versions of current and past issues.

Editor Robert Colley describes the eighth issue in the Editor’s Notes:

The classic definition of harmony (from the Greek harmonia) involves the joining together of dissimilar sounds in such a way as to demonstrate their inherent relatedness, thereby inducing a pleasurable reaction in the observer who discovers the connection. . . . In literature or art, heightened exposure to complex harmonic possibilities can involve a more intimate relationship with various kinds of unhappiness or injustice, but in the long run these encounters can provide a deeper satisfaction, one that accompanies a new awareness of how things ‘fit together’ in the world.

In honor of the recent release of Stone Canoe 8, we’ve compiled some of our favorite artwork from the journal.

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“Wishing Clint Eastwood” by Vykky Ebner (journal cover)

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“Warlord” by Megan Biddle (winner of the 2014 Hedy and Michael Fawcett Prize for Visual Arts)

train in taos

“She Got on a Train in Taos” by Ron Throop

health of planet

“Health of the Planet #504″ by Steve Miller

violence and disbelief

“Violence and Disbelief” by Paul Weiner

star

“A Star in Waiting for its Gleam” by Walter Kopec

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“Pathways for Wandering II” (detail) by Werner Sun

Author Spotlight: Maureen O’Rourke Murphy

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Compassionate Stranger:
Asenath Nicholson and the Great Irish Famine

Maureen O’Rourke Murphy is the Joseph L. Dionne Professor of Teaching, Literacy, and Leadership at Hofstra University. She is coeditor of An Irish Literature Reader: Poetry, Prose, Drama, the editor of Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger and Annals of the Famine in Ireland in 1847, 1848, and 1849, and the director of New York State’s Great Irish Famine Curriculum.

 

What first sparked your interest in Aseanth Nicholson and how have you pursued your interest over the years?

I was a graduate student in Dublin who was interested in the relationship between pre-famine travel literature and pre-famine fiction. Roger McHugh, my mentor at University College, Dublin suggested I have a look at the American traveler Asenath Nicholson’s Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger. While the book was not well known in 1965, it has come to be regarded as one of the most important and reliable accounts of Ireland on the eve of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852).

What authors and books have influenced your writing?

Roger McHugh’s essay on the folklore of the Great Irish Famine, Constantia Maxwell’s The Stranger in Ireland, Cecil Woodham-Smith’s The Great Hunger and the work of contemporary Famine historians like James S. Donnelly, Margaret Kelleher, Chrstine Kinealy, Cormac Ó Gráda and the first team of Irish scholars: Thomas Flanagan, John V. Kelleher, Emmet Larkin, Joe Lee, Margaret MacCurtain, Máire MacNeill and Helen Vendler

Of Asenath Nicholson’s written works, which is your favorite and why?

I would have to say Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger is my favorite Nicholson title. The book is based on NIchoslon’s visit to Ireland in 1844-18445 when she walked through the country and lived among the poor.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Ireland and why?

I like Connemara, the stretch of coastline on the north shore of Galway Bay between Bearna and Carna that is known in Irish as Cois Fharraige (The Foot of the Sea). I lived in a small townland called Teach Mór in 1965 to learn Irish. It was the same time that I first read Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger, and I was struck by the similarity between Nicholson’s experience and mine. We were welcomed warmly and with great kindness by the small fisher/farmer households who had great affection for Americans, and I tried to follow Nichoslon’s example by setting down my account of living in a small Gaeltacht community.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

When I became an historian I knew that I would be a writer. I had started as a folklorist interested in the relationship between oral and written history, so narrative has always been attractive to me.

What did you enjoy most about writing about Compassionate Stranger?

The thing I most enjoyed about writing Compassionate Stranger was the challenge of reconstructing Nicholson’s life. She left no papers and few written records apart from her books, so it required years of sleuthing and sifting through records to write her life.

What was the hardest part about writing Compassionate Stranger?

The hardest thing was linked to the best part of writing. The hardest thing was tracking down the details of Nicholson’s life. Threads would emerge and then the trail would grow cold again. There are still unanswered questions, but after forty years, one must be satisfied.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. When Nicholson returned to Dublin during the Great Irish Famine to do what she could to help the Irish poor and was faced with their overwhelming need, she had to decide what she would do with her limited resources. She couldn’t save everyone, but she could save some. She said in Annals of the Famine in Ireland, “I saw that a little thrown over a wide surface was throwing all away, and no benefit that was lasting would ensue. Ten pounds divided among a hundred would not keep one from starvation many days; but applied to twenty, economically, might save those twenty till more efficient means might be taken.” The message I take from her and share with my students is that we can’t help everyone but we can help some and we are meant to do what we can.

Author Spotlight: William Loizeaux

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Book: The Tumble Inn

 

William Loizeaux is writer-in-residence in the Department of English at Boston University. In addition to essays and stories, Loizeaux has published two novels for children and two memoirs. His memoir Anna: A Daughter’s Life was a New York Times Notable Book.

 

 

How did you come up with the idea for The Tumble Inn?

Probably like most people, I’ve often wondered about an alternate way of being. What if I radically changed my life, did something entirely different? The Tumble Inn, which begins with a couple abruptly leaving their usual circumstances in suburban New Jersey to become innkeepers in the Adirondacks, enabled me to engage in that fantasy—and without leaving my comfortable study.

What inspired you to choose the Adirondacks as your primary setting?

For many years, my wife and I have left our urban, academic lives every summer to vacation at an old inn on a lake in the Adirondacks. My wife’s family has long been associated with the inn. That’s where we were married—on the knoll overlooking the lake. That’s where our first daughter was conceived—in a tent on rooty ground beside the lake. That’s where we returned to stand on that knoll in the days after she died. And that’s where we brought our second daughter a few months after she was born, where we spent a large part of her childhood summers, where we hiked with her, where she learned to swim, and where she got her first job—at the inn. The inn, the lake, and especially the low, rounded mountains around it, are for me an emotional setting. I can’t look at that landscape without some tangle of feelings. And feeling, ultimately, is what drives the writing for me.

Are experiences in The Tumble Inn based on your own life or someone you know?

Both. A number of the events are imaginative extrapolations from things that have happened to me or to people that I know. For example, one central event of the novel sprang from my memories, thoughts, and feelings surrounding the tragic, accidental death some years ago of one of the innkeepers with whom my wife and I were acquainted.

What authors and books have influenced your writing?

I began by writing short stories, so authors like Chekov (Anton Chekov’s Stories), Bernard Malamud (The Complete Stories), Eudora Welty (The Collected Stories), and Tillie Olsen (Tell Me a Riddle) were helpful in showing me the shapes of narrative, how to write dialogue, the power of suggestion and concision. Later I gravitated toward fiction writers like Peter Taylor (The Old Forest), Andre Dubus (Selected Stories), and Richard Ford (Rock Springs), whose retrospective narrators often both tell a good story and think about it. Later yet, I became interested in literary nonfiction: E. B. White’s wit and humor (Essays of E.B. White), the pure lyricism of Annie Dillard (Teaching a Stone to Talk), and the attitude or voice that comes through Joan Didion’s prose (Slouching Towards Bethlehem). While his life was altogether different from mine, James Baldwin’s intelligence and passion also set the bar for me. Few writers that I’ve read get feeling into words quite as powerfully as he does. I read “Notes of a Native Son” at least a couple of times a year.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Though I didn’t altogether know it at the time, my interest in creative writing was born in a Herman Melville college seminar led by the fiction writer Frederick Busch. He read, and encouraged his students to read, like writers—so we heard the words and felt their poetry and power almost physically, it seemed.   Moreover, in his comments on my submitted essays—essays that I have to this day—he said that I could write, which was incredibly heady to hear. Then a few years later when I was in graduate school, studying to be a literary scholar, I found that I was more interested in trying to write fiction than write about it—this, of course, without knowing a thing about how difficult it would be. That I discovered a year later, when I’d left graduate school, and began painting houses in the afternoons, while devoting my mornings to writing stories, which at first were terribly bad but eventually got somewhat better. I wouldn’t say that I ever “decided” to be a writer as much as I gropingly became one.

 

What is your writing process like?

It’s hard. I try to be disciplined. I try, but don’t always, show up for work each day to do my hours at my desk.   I’m a slow writer. I struggle—even with straightforward assignments like this! Things seldom come right the first time, or the second or third. Discovery usually arrives, if it does, incrementally through the process of writing, rethinking, and revising, rather than beforehand. That’s why I have to show up and do my hours. That’s why I have to leave time between revisions, and let a few trusted writer friends, along with my wife, read drafts and offer suggestions along the way. In thinking about subject matter, character, and situation, I try to find some emotional vein, something that I feel strongly about, and then plug into it and follow where it takes me. Later I cut, add, rewrite, shape, and sometimes reconceive. The “process” is always different for each project in either my fiction or nonfiction. I’m afraid there is no blueprint, except to show up, find the vein, and remain open to the unexpected.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing The Tumble Inn?

When I hit that vein, it is wonderful while it lasts, and usually in The Tumble Inn it came when I was writing a moment, a particular scene, when I was fully inhabiting or feeling with the narrator and main character. There were a number of such moments in The Tumble Inn that, though they may not have come the first or second time, I knew, when they did come, that I had nailed them. The moment had come alive.

 

What was the hardest part about writing The Tumble Inn?

The passages between those fully imagined moments were the hardest to write—the connective tissue.   One chapter in particular, which moves through many years of the main character-narrator’s life, I must have rewritten six or seven times, each time trying to make the narrative feel less like authorial summary and more like my particular narrator remembering and summarizing—and touching down briefly in particular moments—in his own unique voice.

 

What are you working on now?

I write and have published long- and short-form nonfiction, as well adult short stories and children’s fiction. This variety of genres, with their different constraints, challenges, and opportunities, seems to suit me—and I hope keeps my work from going stale. At the moment, I have a children’s novel on my desk, another one of those projects that requires more rethinking, cutting, adding, shaping…

 

We Are Iraqis: Winner of the 2014 Arab American Non-Fiction Book Award!

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The Arab American National Museum has selected We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War as the Winner in the Non-Fiction category for the 2014 Arab American Book Award! Congratulations to the co-editors, Nadje Al-Ali and Deborah Al-Najjar, and to the contributors!

In We Are Iraqis, Al-Ali and Al-Najjar showcase written and visual contributions by Iraqi artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, photographers, and activists. Contributors explore the way Iraqis retain, subvert, and produce art and activism as ways of coping with despair and resisting chaos and destruction. The first anthology of its kind, We Are Iraqis brings into focus the multitude of ethnicities, religions, and experiences that are all part of Iraq.

We Are Iraqis will be honored at a reception on Saturday, September 20, 2014, during the Radius of Arab American Writers Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

This summer is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a time when nearly one thousand student volunteers traveled to the Mississippi Delta to assist black citizens in the South in registering to vote. Two white students and one black student were slain in the struggle, many were beaten and hundreds arrested, and churches and homes were burned to the ground by the opponents of equality. Yet the example of Freedom Summer— whites united with heroic black Mississippians to challenge apartheid—resonated across the nation.

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No one experienced Freedom Summer quite like illustrator and journalist Tracy Sugarman. He interviewed the activists, along with local civil rights leaders and black and white residents not directly involved in the movement and drew the people and events that made the summer one of the most heroic chapters in America’s long march toward racial justice.

In We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi, Sugarman chronicles the sacrifices, tragedies, and triumphs of that unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. Blending oral history with memoir, Sugarman draws the reader into the lives of his subjects, showing the passion and naiveté of the volunteers, the bravery of the civil rights leaders, and the candid, sometimes troubling reactions of the black and white Delta residents. Sugarman’s unique reportorial art, in word and image, makes this book a vital record of our nation’s past.

In Celebration of Pride Month

June is Pride Month! To celebrate, here are some titles we recommend:

gay-good-240Pride Month is observed in June in remembrance of the 1969 Stonewall riots, but contrary to popular notions, today’s LGBT movement did not begin with the Stonewall riots. Long before Stonewall, there was Franklin Kameny (1925–2011), one of the most significant figures in the gay rights movement. In Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny, editor Michael G. Long collects Kameny’s historically rich letters from 1958 to 1975, a critical period in Kameny’s life during which he evolved from a victim of the law to a vocal opponent of the law, to the voice of the law itself. Gay Is Good, which will make its debut in November 2014, pays tribute to an advocate whose tireless efforts created a massive shift in social attitudes and practices, leading the way toward equality for the LGBT community.

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James Liddy, author of I Only Know That I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness, cannot conventionally be categorized, and occasionally he confounds even his own fans. One of Ireland’s foremost poets, he is unabashedly gay and unabashedly Catholic. Liddy’s poetic form is dictated solely by the organic flow of his consciousness, weaving images of religion and sexuality into a drama of beauty, love, and ritual. In this collection, his outsider poetic stance is in no small way connected with his vision of himself as a sexual outlaw. His is a challenging voice in a country where the weight of poetic tradition is heavier than most.

 

honeysuckle-190If you wish to know more about James Liddy, you will surely appreciate Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy, edited by Michael S. Begnal. This volume gathers together forty poets, novelists, visual artists, and scholars paying tribute to a poet whose work continues to intrigue and inspire readers on both sides of the Atlantic. For readers unfamiliar with Liddy, it is a unique introduction. For the devotee of Liddy, this book is an indispensable addition to his work and a treasured anthology.

 

 

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Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel by David Ehrlich, hilarious and sad at the same time, is an original and moving work of fiction. Ehrlich’s themes relate to gay life in Israel, the pull of loneliness, and the power of community. Ever deeply humane, the author takes his characters on a tantalizing journey through their souls. His understated style transforms even a heartbreaking plot into an uplifting and funny story. Rather than a single translator, this collection employs a variety of translators, reflecting in many ways the luminous diversity of voices in the stories.

Celebrate the NBA Finals with these Basketball Titles!

It’s NBA Finals time, and the San Antonio Spurs currently have a 2-1 edge over the Miami Heat, but there are still at least two more games to be played. We can’t predict the winning team, but we can recommend a couple of our basketball-related titles!

 

moonfixer240Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd by Earl Lloyd and Sean Kirst provides a first-person account of Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in a NBA game. Nicknamed “Moonfixer” in college, Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships and was named All-American twice. One of three African Americans to enter the NBA at that time, Lloyd played for the Washington Capitals, Syracuse Nationals, and Detroit Pistons before he retired in 1961. Throughout his career, he quietly endured the overwhelming slights and exclusions that went with being black in America. Yet he has also lived to see basketball—a demonstration of art, power, and pride—become the black national pastime and to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. In a series of extraordinary conversations with Sean Kirst, Lloyd reveals his fierce determination to succeed, his frustration with the plight of many young black men, and his sincere desire for the nation to achieve true equality among its citizens.

 

dolph-schayes

Also keep an eye out for Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball by Dolph Grundman, which will come out this fall! Grundman presents readers with a portrait, the first of its kind, of Dolph Schayes—the star of the Syracuse Nationals basketball team during the 1950s and 1960s. Schayes may not have one of the most recognizable names in basketball history, but his accomplishments are staggering. He was named one of the fifty greatest players of all time by the NBA, and he held six NBA records, including one for career scoring, at his retirement. Grundman chronicles Schayes’s life from his early days as the child of Jewish Romanian immigrants, through his illustrious basketball career, first at New York University, then as part of the Syracuse Nationals. In writing about Schayes’s career, Grundman also reflects on many of the revolutionary changes that were happening in the professional basketball world, changes that affected not only Schayes and his contemporaries but also the essence of the sport.

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