Friday, June 24, 2016

Bennington journal - June 2016 - #2

Back in big sky country (Vermont edition).

Walking in the wild-flower filled fields this morning, I think about the lessons I’ve learned and those I can impart, perhaps, to students of my own some day. And it’s this: seek out hard work and start doing so now. Pursuing hard work entails a monumental shift – a conversion, occasioned by the process of learning something new, something vital while aiming at an objective (a goal). You may quickly abandon your original goal or add new ones. You may have to adjust the measurements of your project – instead of one year, it may take two to reach your goal, for example. It matters not – in setting a goal and striving to reach it through hard work you are transformed. I was. And that’s hard work’s gift to each of us.
I’m sitting in Tishman casually analyzing my lecture, given yesterday morning, through the prism of today’s lectures. Comparing delivery and topic, etc. Then I see it in my mind – the moment Leo (and Mike) entered the lecture hall. The moment during my lecture when my heart leapt, and I was moved to murmur, “My son is here,” (or something to that effect – in the preciousness of the moment the words have been erased, the singular, stunning emotion of being a mother remains). There was a catch in my voice, a momentary loss of control. The vision of him holding Mike’s hand, his smile as he watches me, then looking down at the stairs so he can watch his steps – it’s fixed in my head, like a favorite movie scene, something I’ll cherish and relive for a long time. Like breathing in his scent, instead I’m searing forever in my memory his gorgeous face and the joy it has given me.

That’s it right there – the boy whose sheer presence, whose birth (deemed by me miraculous) set this journey in motion was there to see its fruition. The lecture is now part of our shared life together.

On the mother-child bond, writer Vivian Gornick tells us during a lecture, “This is how we become human.”
Other indelible moments: David Gates reading from "Banishment": “Reader, she dumped me.” His shout-out to Jane Austen? Possibly. He's named-checked her in interviews.

*Click on continua a leggere below to

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bennington journal (June 2016 edition)

My beloved classmates – those who are graduating with me – are giving their lectures as we prepare to complete our MFAs in Creative Writing at Bennington College.

And per my usual, I’m jotting down notes about anything that interests me. 

Snippets of their lectures, lines from the poems they are reciting or stories they are reading as part of the graduation requirements.

And I’m finding wisdom, I’m finding mastery, I’m finding love for this world of writing, this world we finally realized we had no choice but to occupy, to stake out as our own.

Some excerpts (including a few choice bits from professors' lectures and readings):

“The little headstones of a season we will never sip” (Lucas)

“I was paralyzed by my own desire to be good” (Liz)

“All that chatter of being good or better than someone else fell away by not looking at the page” in a drawing class (Liz)

Advice to a young poet: “Listen to how people talk….Love what’s available” (Ed Ochester, professor)


"I cried out, 'My son, my only son'" (Ochester, again)

“Hers was a past I felt I had a right to know” (Rowena)

"That was so long ago." "Not for her." (Rowena) 

Paraphrasing: “Put people somewhere…given them a passion, an obsession” (Julie quoting Amy Hempel)

“Worm girl” (the name of a belittled childhood friend from an essay – Gwen) 

"Write about what you fear is true" -- not what is true (Bret Anthony Johnston, professor)


Thursday, June 09, 2016


My thesis!

For Bennington!

“He” looks at the massive pile of printed pages that is my thesis and he says, “That looks like a book.”

God-willing, kid. God-willing.

Kind of amazing how you set a goal and then get so busy moving toward the goal that when you reach it, or are about to reach it, you hardly pay it attention. Yes, I guess I'm about to get that graduate degree I've always wanted. Yes, I guess I've completed a 120-page thesis containing six short stories written in a genre -- Fiction -- that until three years ago I never thought I could even attempt.

But my goodness, I still have to finish writing my graduate lecture, and I have to print out the thesis, and plan the post-graduation trip to Montreal (if I really do graduate, which is so hard to imagine) and I have a dozen other writing and translation projects I'm working on in one way or another, and I'm thinking about my next freelance journalism pitches and where I will work when my contract gig at HLN/CNN finishes up this month. 

And yet look at the picture. 

It says: Refugees and Other Stories. Jeanne Bonner. 



Monday, June 06, 2016

Italian Books by Women We Want To See in Eng.

I've written a piece for the Website Literary Hub called "10 Italian Books by Women We'd like To See in English." That's the kind of story that writes itself since there are so many wonderful Italian books that for many reasons have not made it over into English (in some cases published decades ago and winning Italy's top literary prizes.

Here's the intro to the piece, subtitled, "Reading Beyond Ferrante":

As more attention is paid to literature in translation, more tools emerge to aid us in trying to bring new (and in some cases, old) foreign works to an English-speaking audience.
Sometimes, however, those tools tell us things we don’t want to know. To wit, the wonderful database of translated works maintained by Chad Post of Three Percent shows us who is being translated – and by process of elimination, who is not.
My interest, of course, is: what Italian language books are being translated? And when I scan the names in the excel spreadsheets one can so handily download from Three Percent’s Web site, I see men’s names in line after line of the entries for Italian books translated and published.
Of course there are exceptions – and I don’t only mean Elena Ferrante. Europa, for example, has also published two works by Viola Di Grado in recent years (the second of which, Hollow Heart, translated by Antony Shugaar, was shortlisted for the PEN translation prize this year).
But it’s clear that the vast majority of Italian authors breaking through to English-language audiences are still men. The usual suspects, including Andrea Camilleri (the noted suspense writer) but also Umberto Eco and Antonio Tabucchi -- usual but also deserving suspects. Indeed, in trying to compile this list, I consulted Italian lists of ‘best books of the year’, plugging in 2012, 2013, etc., and found these lists were almost inevitably dominated by men (no wonder many in Italy don’t believe Ferrante is a woman – ahem).
Here, instead, are some of the women authors we’d like to see translated. The list is a mix of recent titles along with some galling omissions of writers who won a Strega – the Italian equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize – and have yet to see their works translated into English, in some cases decades later.
To read the rest, including the specific books by Lalla Romano, Erica Barbiani and Ubah Cristina Ali Farah that need to be translated, go here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

How I re-decorate

I print some new quality photos, I put them in frames, and I enjoy. That's how I re-decorate the house.

My zillions of mementos have already been arranged (and I don't really shop). So new sunny photos are all I need.