Author Spotlight: Gaylord Brewer

Gaylord is currently a professor at Middle Tennessee State. He has published in Best American Poetry and the Bedford Introduction to Literature. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent being Give Over, Graymalkin

Amoskeag: Your poem begins with “Steaming kettle, cracked bowl, palms / risen dripping to the face.” What made you start here and why?IMG_2816

Gaylord: Three reasons come to mind. To begin the action quickly and physically, the former for narrative interest and latter as counterpoint to the ethereal quality of the poem’s inhabitants. I also liked the incantatory syllabics, evocative perhaps of a witch’s spell, and the hard consonants. Of course, I’m also invoking and playing with a baptismal motif of cleansing. That may be more than three reasons.

Amoskeag: What does poetry mean to you and has your idea of poetry changed since you began writing? If so, how?

Gaylord: This is a significant and far-reaching question, perhaps so much so that the scope and years and personal change involved make it nearly impossible to answer truthfully or meaningfully. Poetry has treated me well for the last thirty years, and I try to show it a good time, too. I’m less angry and limber than I used to be, but there are compensations of perspective, guile, and toughness. Regarding this poem in particular, I like it enough to have sent it out into the world to fend for itself.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Gaylord: I sense in your question some particular response to the ending that you’ve not articulated but that on an intuitive level I recognize and appreciate. Generally, at some point the ending begins to show itself, somewhere there down the lane, around the turn, emerging from the murky dawn. If it’s in the headlights from the beginning, that’s obviously a problem. The way you prepare is to accelerate, trusting your decades of driving instincts.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world in any way reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw? How they felt?

Gaylord: By “they,” perhaps you mean “he,” or even “she”? This is a fairly private party between Ghost and his/her stenographer. I think. I’ve been debating for five years whom exactly the narrator of the Ghost poems is when that ghoulish old boy isn’t speaking for himself. I’ve had some hints, and I’ve concocted some theories. To answer your question, I would say I share some of the speaker’s elusive and sometimes cynical conceits, but not all.

Amoskeag: What can you reflect upon the movement of your poetry—from line to line, idea to idea, image to image? How did you reflect the emotions of the narrator through your words?

Gaylord: I’d like a vibrant, balletic movement line to line, and a surprising inevitability, to misquote Aristotle, in the juxtaposition of image and revelation of sustained idea. Emotions are iterated and reflected through action, reverence, mystery, and obedience to Ghost’s often demanding insistence upon attention to his needs.

Amoskeag: What or why does the Ghost matter in this piece?

Gaylord: You’d better not let him overhear you asking that. To be honest, though, I’m not sure I understand the question. When Ghost beckons—whether with a regretted event to confess, a fractured dream to mitigate, or with some message he feels the urgency to report in his own weary voice—I listen and record. Hey, it’s his poem. I’m here to humbly serve and then stay the hell out of the way.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape?

Gaylord: I feel fine with the process of publication and readers.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Gaylord: In additional response to your previous question, an entire book of Ghost poems—my ninth collection, which arrived incrementally over three intense summers and as a surprise to me—entitled Country of Ghost, will be published by Red Hen Press in early 2015. In time, I am told, for the AWP Bookfair in Minneapolis to celebrate and lament my 50th birthday a week earlier. That’s the plan, if I’m alive. If I’m not, I suppose they’ll celebrate anyway. In the meantime, spring 2014, Stephen F. Austin University Press is publishing a culinary memoir, if you will, called The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, and Desire. A cheeky hybrid of recipes, memories, snippets of poetry, and general kitchen insolence. I hope folks will find the book and enjoy it. Wait until you try the caramel-bourbon sauce. You’ll love me all over again. The next book after those is top secret.
Anyway, with two books, two very different books, appearing less than a year apart, I’ll be out and about, roving and cajoling. Folks can contact me or keep up with the hustle at my website (www.gaylordbrewer.com). Thanks for asking, by the way, and for your thoughtful attention.

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Author Spotlight: Alice B. Fogel

Alice is currently a teacher at Keene State College and Landmark College. Alice has published in Best American Poetry and the 2008 Poet’s Guide to NH, and elsewhere. She has also published books such as The Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader and Be That Empty; which was #8 on National Poetry Society’s bestselling list.

IMG_0406(1)Amoskeag: Your poem opens with “The house unlike you loves the passage”. Who is the    narrator speaking to and what is he/she trying to communicate? Why did you begin “there”?

Alice: The poem (and the whole series it is part of) is written in the 3rd person, in the point of view of a house speaking to its inhabitants as “you.” I like starting these poems right off with a plain statement that reveals that voice. The house is a kind of omniscient narrator, and while the house has its feelings about things, the house is also wiser than its people. I think what the house wants to convey here is that you can’t “save” time by saving the things of time. Instead we should pay attention, now, to now.

Amoskeag: How is the last line, “no matter how many times you crumble it always weaves another home” relevant to the poem? What kind of message are you trying to send to the reader?

Alice: Because of the lack of punctuation (other than those implied or imposed by line breaks), the poem’s sentences have to be interpreted and reinterpreted as they are read, through shifting expectations, and through inflection and participation in making sense. The “it” at the end of the next to last line at first refers to the spider’s web recently spoken of, and then switches to refer to the spider itself. Do “you” crumble the web, or do “you” yourself crumble (fall apart, cry, feel lost)? Each and both. So to answer the question about message–the messages are multiple, and while there is almost a kind of moral imperative suggested here (wrap and unwrap each day–like the gift it is), some of the others are about syntax and possible meaning, others about how we read, how we construct meaning, construct a home, a life.

Amoskeag: Did you see the ending coming, or did it suddenly surprise you? How did you prepare for it?

Alice: All poems surprise me. I would have to look back at early drafts to determine how much I “knew” this ending before I put it there, but I do remember that the spider web was one of the triggers for the poem. Being way out in the woods and fields, my actual house gets a lot of critters in it, and some spider webs are so prodigious that they actually do sound like plastic wrap from a package when I try to remove them–and then they’re back the next day. I don’t always try to destroy them (maybe if they’re in my kitchen I will) because I think spiders are so cool. Apparently the house thinks so too, because it’s advising “you” to be more like them. The poem sets us up for the spider by using a lot of spidery language all throughout: “knit a bridge,” “spin,” “crawl,” “sticky,” “houseflies,” “spoke of the wheel.” A reader might not think of a spider when reading those words, but maybe subliminally there’s a kind of preparation happening.

Amoskeag: Is your narrator’s view of the world reflective of the way you see the world? Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Alice: Through this series, I have learned so much from the house (the narrator). Using the house’s voice instead of mine gave me new perspectives. It was terrific fun, and also sometimes felt like it was saving my life.

Amoskeag: Throughout your poem, you employ similes such as the one in line 26, “Like the spider overnight constructs a web so thick”. How and why did you construct and incorporate these into the piece?

Alice: Most poems that I write are a layering of images or associations that adhere to each other as I compose. If I use a simile it’s probably because I want to connect something else that furthers the visceral sensations I’m playing with. In a way, almost the whole poem is made up of comparisons or additions that just don’t literally spell out the words “like” or “as.” I wouldn’t want to just throw in any simile; it has to push the overall effect of the poem into some kind of emotion-based shape, so it’s all of a piece–at least for me.

Amoskeag: The poem adopts a mood of regret as the narrator discards fragments and memories of his/her past. How did you come to develop, hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Alice: I would have to go to analysis to find out why the house often has that slightly wistful tone. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s plea to consider that God feels about each of us the way we feel about that person in our lives, “X,” who so disappoints us and “shipwrecks” our dreams. Why don’t we look to ourselves when considering who ought to get his shit together? Certainly, in this poem containing so much about time’s accretions and losses, time’s pentimento, and how badly the people in the house (the “you”) handle these, it would have been hard for the narrator to avoid that mood of regret.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the poem that you worked so hard at to shape? What do you hope to achieve as a poet and what do you want your readers to feel?

Alice: A poem needs to be read. As you suggest, it’s what completes its purpose. I am grateful when one of my poems gets read seriously by an editor, when it’s accepted and given to more readers, and I love letting go of it then and feeling free to move on. Carl Sandburg once said there were only four things he needed in life, and one of them was having his writings published. (Another one was to not be in jail.) It’s fundamental for any artist to have her work taken into consideration as an act of value. As for what I hope to achieve as a poet–why not shoot high? I want to make something that wasn’t there before, something impossible to say or to make, and yet true, something, in that sense, like each of us–and I want readers (I could stop right there–I want readers) to find that impossibility nevertheless there in the poem and feel it spreading through their bones, even if it never occurs to them to think about it that way, and I hope that somehow that uplifts our shared value of the mystery in or of life.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a poet/writer?

Alice: I am working on a series of poems responding to abstract expressionist art, trying to explore what happens to our cognition when we’re confronted with something that doesn’t seem to represent reality, or that represents a reality we have little language (and therefore coherent thought) for. Looking at the art is inspiring and exciting, and the poems arise in that spirit.

Author Spotlight: Nat Schmookler

Nat Schmookler graduated in 2011 from Harvard College where, among other subjects, he studied writing. “The Can Down the Road” is his second published story; the first appeared in Gulf Stream in 2012. He lives in New York and is a freelance writer and editor.

Amoskeag: Your main characteDSCN284r is hopeful as he faces extreme difficulties with a person whom he deeply cares about. How does the narrator, as well as Mel, get to these points in their lives?  What makes their personal views of the world so different from one another?

Nat: I’m not sure I agree that their perspectives are really so different. I think what makes them a great match is that they both believe that things will be better in the future. That’s what keeps them going in spite of the obvious horror of their relationship. And that’s why things can get to such a state: they both say to themselves (and each other) that things will soon improve. The metaphor I imagine is that of a family locking itself in the cellar to wait for a storm to pass over: It’s horrible while you wait, but imagine how glad you’ll be once you emerge to those clear blue skies.

Amoskeag: Are either of your characters perspectives of the world reflective of the way you see the world?  Or were you surprised by what they saw and how they felt?

Nat: So far in my stories, I have found that the only compelling characters I’ve managed to create are those I can empathise with. To me that means that I can catch glimpses of what’s going on inside them and see what it feels like to be them. Does Joe Protagonist massage a sense of victimhood when he sits in traffic? Does he care that he forgot to pack a lunch? What thoughts does he keep at bay by watching baseball? All these aspects and countless others, if considered from very far away, blend together to become our “point of view.” And, if my characters come off as believable, it is because I managed to get a sense of that point of view. So, I suppose that means I do share a point of view with my characters, at least partially, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also surprise me. That surprise comes when I realize how wrong I was in my assessment, and some new piece slides into place. That surprise is a great feeling.

Amoskeag:   Why did you begin “there”?  What inspired you to choose such a sensitive issue /conflict for your story?

Nat: Those who struggle with body issues and eating disorders are an appallingly large group in this country, and this group is troublingly faceless. There is no Michael J. Fox for this group, so it felt important to humanize those peculiar sterile words “bulimia” and “anorexia.” To that end, I started in the car, hoping to capture the words’ essence: crisis. The story starts in the middle of one and it ends when the crisis defused. But of course it isn’t really defused; there will be another one the next day, and the next day. The story could have started anywhere and have been more or less the same.

Amoskeag: Did you plan for your story to end the way it did and why/why not?

Nat: I did not. I’ve only written one story whose end I knew when I start, and I felt it came out too tidy and therefore absent of life. Much better for me is to start with a character or situation that interests me, and see where it takes me. Each story is always telling you where it needs to go next, you just have to listen. My hope is that if I find my ending surprising, the reader will too.

Amoskeag: How did you construct the language of the piece?  How did you come to hear and record the feelings of your narrator?

Nat: To the extent that I thought explicitly about tone, my thought was this: the pacing has to be just right. Moments of crisis seem to move by at breakneck speed, but not quite: they also lurch into moments of odd overfull stillness. I wanted the reader to experience the event with the narrator, so it was important to get his sense of time. But how does one strike that tone? Couldn’t say. Lots of drafts though.

Amoskeag: What is the significance of the line “You don’t love me, you’re ashamed of me”?

Nat: This is the line Mel uses to get the narrator to relent and put off the confrontation. He decides to wait until a better moment to press her to keep her word. Of course, she won’t keep her word next time either. The line is also significant, I hope, because I believe that Mel is correct. The narrator is lying either to her or to himself, and it’s true he no longer loves her. Sooner or later, he’ll confirm her worst fear.

Amoskeag: How do you feel when a piece gets accepted and readers that you don’t know are now going to complete the story that you worked so hard at to shape? What emotions do you want the readers to feel or what messages do you want them to comprehend?

Nat: It feels great! As a young writer with little chance of getting paid for my stories any time soon, writing is necessarily a solitary labor of love. I write because I love it, because I need it, because I don’t know what else I’d do. And so when a story gets accepted, it means that somebody connected with what I wrote, and that makes me feel more confident in my work. But I don’t have specific emotions or messages I’m trying to communicate; I’m not sure fiction is a great medium for messages and, even if it were, I don’t have one. Instead, I just hope that each reader finds the story engaging enough to finish, and gets enough from it to be glad to have done so.

Amoskeag: What’s next for you as a writer?

Nat: This fall I’m taking a fiction workshop at the 92Y and applying to MFA programs for next year. And, of course, doing at least a little bit of writing each day.

Author Spotlight: Amanda England

Amanda England lives in Maryland and has had work published most recently in The Orange Room Review, Amoskeag, The New Plains Review, and The Foundling Review, and was nominated for a 2011 Best of the Net award. When not writing, she serves on The Hedge Apple reading committee and moderates a peer critique group.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Amanda: “A Letter to My Father” explores how individual and shared memories shape 4.18 - Amanda Englandidentity. When memories that serve as a cornerstone for our personalities come into question, what does that leave us with? It’s a thought provoking question that I wanted to explore.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Amanda: Alice’s life is in transition. She’s moved away from her family for the first time and has to view the world alone. She is struggling with a past she cannot completely remember while trying to form new bonds with family. Even in our modern life, where family has much less power than it has in other times and places, the ties of blood are strong. Alice, by questioning her identity, is finding parts of herself in a family she isn’t very familiar with.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Amanda: I’m sure this is paraphrased from many other, greater writers–Dickens’ “tell it slant” comes to mind, but “Everything I write is truth, and all of it is fiction” strikes to the heart of identity. Who you are depends on what truths you chose to believe about yourself and what truths you choose to reveal to others.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Amanda: I’ve always been a writer, although it’s taken a lot of coaxing for me to realize it. I started by writing poetry, and though I rarely write it now, I feel that my beginnings in poetry lent a very lyrical style to my prose. For some characters, that’s an appropriate voice–for others, it takes a lot of work to get past. I think the biggest struggle I’ve faced in developing my identity as a writer is the audacity of it all. We read these life changing works of art and think, “I can do that!” One of the first poems I had published addressed this–the line “I build houses with the bones of dead poets” sums it up well.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Amanda: For now, finishing my Bachelor’s degree in English and moving on to graduate work. Writing is my passion, but I’m still vacillating between getting my MFA so that I can write and teach English and writing, or pursuing another career path and writing on the side. I get excited by many things, so it’s hard to make a firm decision. Whatever I chose, I know I’ll be writing.

Author Spotlight: William Winfield Wright

William Winfield Wright is Fulbright scholar and Professor of English at Colorado Mesa University. He has published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, The Ninth Letter, The Seattle Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has two chapbooks available from Wormwood Chapbooks.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: I am interested in persona, not in terms of hiding a real self behind the clothes of William Wrightmetaphor or situation but in terms of projecting a self into made-up and altered circumstances and language. I write science poems and surreal poems, and that allows me to see identity as play and to set out, or make grotesque, aspects of self. In the poem from this issue, the small size of the soul is featured as it meanders through physics, physiology, metaphysics, and biology like the bee in the title.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: As a poet, I think less about types of characters and more about how to bring dialog into the poem, how to have two or more speakers working in and across lines. In many cases, the speakers get lost in the performance of self or in the play of language, but that’s also how they communicate with each other, how they find a connection. Identity is produced in the accumulation of lies, contradictions, and play. In a recent poem coming out in the journal A Few Lines next year called, “The New Physics,” two speakers play at saying ideas and names from the history of physics. Here are the last two stanzas to show what I mean:
8.
you did too
say Brahe
Tycho Brahe all out loud
and no I did not say Fermi

9.
Kepler
what?
nothing

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”
William: I like this one:
“Perhaps it is enough to be regularly nearby
like with horses and fish.”

That’s two lines, but they say something about the communal aspects of identity, that like those two horses that stand next to each other in a field, or the sardines in the local aquarium who swim in crowded circles with their mouths open, we are who we are in part out of our connection to others who are sometimes like us only in being in a similar kingdom, class, or species.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: As a writer of scholarship, I got here by being my colleagues’ peer. García Márquez has said something to the effect that he writes so that his friends will love him better. I write so that my colleagues will continue to include me in their conversations about literature and about teaching. I am a poet in part because I spent nine months in Norway some 11 years ago. It was beautiful and lonely, and I spent part of each day around a language near but not my own. That and the supportive and attentive friends and colleagues I had there made for a fine recipe for poetry, and I can hope that they love me better for the results.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: There is some reinvention ahead for most of us, I would guess. In practical terms, I have another chapbook coming out and continue to get nibbles and bites on small and large manuscripts. The idea that I am building an identity, if only for myself, in the poems I have published is fun to contemplate. I recently had a fire and am gifted with the dubious and exciting chance to reinvent my home and what it means to live in a willfully constructed space. More in the “who knows?” category, I expect to live, or visit at length, other parts of the world either in memory or action. Publishing in the Amoskeag journal had me contemplating my time in southern New Hampshire in the 1980s. I can anticipate that my job will allow me to spend time in other countries. The world is full of interesting places to land, however briefly.

To view an excerpt from William’s poem “My Soul, the Size of a Bee,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Jonathan Blake

When I submitted my poems to you, I had no idea of the theme of Identity.  That being said, I might posit that each and every poem I write has to do with my coming to know my own identity through the world I am privileged to live in, to attend to. I more often than not Jonathan Blakedo not set out to write a specific poem but to discover what will prevail on any given morning when I sit to write. I pray the world will enter me in some way while reading other poets or paying attention to what is going on at the moment and that suddenly the “weak and diffident pulse of language,” as William Stafford speaks about in his brief essay “A Way of Writing,” will bless me with an avenue into a new poem or a draft of a poem. I love the discovery and the mysterious surprise, and believe in the lineage of my work there is some clue to who I am and what I love and wrestle with as a writer: What I believe is important to convey: What gods stand up inside me at that moment and sing, if you will. I know myself better in the years after as I read what I have written and see the patterns of concern and attention. Let’s say the act is a way do discovering who I am.

The speakers of my poems are often in an act of that discovery; in the act of revelation, as I am in the creative moment. Then, as Donald Hall and others suggest, I come to know what the poem tells me.

In the poem published in your Identity issue, it is hard to pick out one sole line that speaks to your definitive question of what sums up identity. For me it would be, “I have come close/to the water with pen and paper/seeking a stillness / I can translate,” as in Vermont when I have summer time to write I am often at the end of a dock on a small quiet pond in the Northeast Kingdom overlooking a valley and waiting for the pulse of language to move me toward a poem. For the noisy children who had no understanding of my need, it may be, “But there is no defeat / in them now: no tenderness.” I am reluctant to reduce it all to that, but it is what my gut tells me at this moment, the northeastern storm winds howling outside, a good peasant red Spanish wine close by, and the fatigue of having recently written a narrative for my online American Literature II class that engages poets from Lowell to Bishop, Brooks to Roethke, and Ginsberg to O’Hara.

The best I can do in a short way to describe how I have gotten here is telling you that at the dinner table after the meal was done my father read Kipling aloud…”Riki Tikki Tavi” and “Gunga Din,”  his favorites, as well as excerpts from “Henry the IV and V” and Romantic poets that might have had his fancy at the time. And that our household was always one of words and books and the importance of such, whether it was my mother reading to us at bed time or our sharing even now the books we love and talking about them; or my nieces answering the mundane question about where their uncle might be matter-of-factly answering, “you know, he’s on the dock writing,” as if it is a normal practice in any household.

What I have gone through is an engaged curious attention to the world around me: and I am blessed for it. Give thanks every day for that privilege.

What lies ahead? More poems, I trust. And of late, I have been possessed by the presence of an old  fictitious bluesman from Mississippi by the name of James Tobias Lock from the late 1940’s and find myself in the middle of a play that is also an act of discovery. I have begun the second act recently of a first draft that finds me walking around hearing his voice as well as his true love Jasmine Rose and humming much music in 4/4 time.

To view an excerpt from Jonathan’s poem “Those Lords of the Flies,” click here.

Author Spotlight: William Jensen

William Jensen grew up in California and Arizona.  He now lives in Texas, and his work has been published in various journals.  In 2011, he was nominated for a Pushcart.  Mr. Jensen is currently working on a novel.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: I think all my work has to deal with character, specifically those moments that forge a character’s identity in stone, not just epiphany but the real buckshot flash of awe William Jensenand devastation, the episodes that stick on a person’s skin like a tattoo.  I think the best stories are those that might as well begin with “This is what changed everything.”  At least those are the ones I like to read.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: People prove who they are in the crucial moments, that’s when they get naked.  I think the men and women who find themselves in my fiction are tough good people who are trying to hold onto the one last pure and decent thing in their lives.  They’re fighters.  But they’re sensitive at the core.  You can learn a lot about yourself in those times of crisis.  But you may not like what you learn.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

William: I’m not really sure how to answer that one. I guess it depends on whose identity we’re talking about. There is one crucial scene in “Kingdom of Heaven” where the reader sees who Jesse Copland really is but I like to think that first line, “My stepfather died in prison,” says a good deal about both the narrator and his stepfather. Readers will have their own thoughts on how “identity” plays out in the story.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: Man, you are bringing out all the big guns out, aren’t you.  Well, I always, always, always wanted to be a writer.  I was always writing stories as a kid, and I read just about every book I could get my mitts on.  Most writers tend to go through a certain baptism by fire and I’m no different.  I imitated this guy one week, some other guy the next.  I lost several years of my life trying to live like one writer who will remained unnamed.  I moved around a lot, I worked a lot of crap, manual labor jobs.  The general ass-kicking you get when you’re young and hungry.  I got my first rejection letter when I was about seventeen, and I got my first two acceptance letters back to back when I was twenty-nine.  It was a tough time.  But hey, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: All I can think of now is that old saying that if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. I’m working on a novel. I’ve written several novels before and they were all pretty bad, but I think this book is going to be something special. I’m really excited about it, and I hope to find an agent in the near future. For right now?  I’m just trying to write, put food on the table, and stay out of trouble. Too much trouble out there already.

To view an excerpt of William’s short story “Kingdom of Heaven,” click here.

Author Spotlight: William Cass

Bill Cass has had a little over forty short stories accepted for publication in mostly smaller literary magazines and anthologies.  He lives and works as an elementary school principal in San Diego, California.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: My intention was that the story in this issue would deal with identity in a couple of different ways.  The main character/narrator is struggling with his own identity in William Cassconnection with the sudden absence of his wife with whom he’s always felt it was intertwined.  And I’d hoped that his random interaction with the woman on the bridge would suggest something about the larger human identity that he eventually realizes the two of them shared, and that perhaps we all share, both in terms of flaws and capacity for generousness of spirit.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: I suppose both the narrator, as well as his wife and the woman on the bridge, “lost” themselves to some extent in their own experiences with the vagaries of love.  The narrative, by design, leaves the extent to which the wife later finds herself as uncertain.  I’m not sure that the narrator and the woman on the bridge actually “find themselves’ in the end either, but I hope the story suggests that they found something in one another – and in the brief, unsolicited gestures of support they offered each other at critical junctures – that allowed a belief in their own worth and humanity to be sustained.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

William: The sentence that occurs to me in this regard may be more about loss of identiy than the meaning of identity.  It’s in the middle of the story when the narrator is realizing that his wife has left: “My last stop was her studio, which I found exactly as I had the day before except for her sweatshirt, which was gone.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: As corny as it probably sounds, I identify myself as a writer as one who uses the shaping of stories as a way to try to make sense of the world, especially those things that trouble or touch me about it.  I’m not sure how I got here or who/what made me so, but I did have a very encouraging high school English teacher who first nurtured in me a shaky idea within that I might be able to write, and a grandmother who I probably admired more than anyone else who was something of a writer herself.  In terms of things from my past that may help define my writing, there are many of those…in respect to this particular story, I did go through a personal experience that approximates the narrator’s, so that certainly informed this piece of writing.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: I hope to keep growing as a writer, and in so doing, continue to try to say something about the human condition as honestly and truly as I can.

To view an excerpt from Bill’s short story “What Goes Around,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Jeanne Wagner

Jeanne Wagner is the recipient of several national awards. Her poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, the PBS Poem of the Week website and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She has published five collections of poetry including In the Body of Our Lives, released by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2011.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Jeanne: “Losing Her” deals with the identity loss that comes with grief.  In this case, an Jeanne Wagneridentification so strong it’s a physical identity that extends even to gender. The subject becomes a doppelganger seeking its other – becoming that other.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Jeanne: I’m not sure the character I’m writing about finds himself, but he finds the world made up of diverged halves seeking each other.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Jeanne: “He hears the harmonics of hardness and hollow.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Jeanne: By profession, I’m a tax accountant. But I think I’ve always been a writer, if only a writer in my head. I’m what you might call “home-schooled.”  I’ve learned mostly through reading others and through trial and error. A lot of error!

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Jeanne: More writing. Improvement, I hope.  I’d like to do more writing in other genres.

To view an excerpt from Jeanne’s poem “Losing Her,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams resides in the Yosemite region of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California. He has an M.A. in English Literature from San Jose State University, and has taught at Foothill College, Columbia College and Metro State in Denver.

Daniel Williams

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Dan: Sometimes the mytho-poetic archetype allows us to find corresponding emotions in our all too human breasts and therefore gives some keys to our own identity.  Like watching an Elizabethan tragedy and identifying with Hamlet.  Sometimes our own ghosts force us to take reluctant action.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Dan:  Pluto the lord of darkness is attempting to enlighten his young lover regarding their situation.  By telling her you’ve no future here and letting her go he’s committing a transcendent act of love.  Her reluctance to leave, she learns, is hurting herself and the world at large. The wisdom of age confronts the passion of youth.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Dan: I am hell /and hell is a nice place to visit/ but when you want to leave you want to leave.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Dan:  In my youth and after a reading of Graves’ White Goddess I decided to dedicate my writing to the earth and its rhythms.  I live in forest, meadow, river, sky, and every living creature and they in me. It’s my
purpose to give them voice.
Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Dan:  Each day brings its opportunities for poetry.  I wait upon them.

To view an excerpt of Dan’s poem “Pluto to Persephone,” click here.