Early in my career, lusting as I was to become a literary light in the nonfiction world, I realized that I desperately needed the services of a mentor. I imagined a sort of a cross between an Oxford don, a Jesuit spiritual advisor, and Dr. Phil – an uber-mentor in my mind’s eye. I pictured this person in very specific terms.
My name is Isabella Tangherlini, I am twenty years old, and I used to be an internet troll. It sounds like something you’d hear at a group therapy session with a twelve-step program, or maybe an episode of Dr. Phil. Either way, it’s not a very good way to introduce a person, or an essay.
He’s been sober now for decades, but in the early days of his teaching career, when I was his student, he was deep into the destructive work of booze. It was a time when the ampersand was intentional & historical, Beat shorthand for every slow, tired “and” anchored to old times.
There are days when I so badly want to write, that I think I could put my infant son in his crib, close the nursery door, and let him wile away the day so I could surrender to my urge. I don’t. Of course I don’t. But sometimes I think I could.
While studying poetry as an undergraduate in UNC Wilmington’s Creative Writing program, I became obsessed with line breaks. I marveled at how the decision to move a word from one line to the next created suspense and anticipation in the poem. I was in love.
Whatever time it is—morning, noon, or long into the night—our neighbor lady is always three sheets to the wind. Maybe four. We’re out in the front yard trying to dig a hole in the rock-hard ground to plant our first rose bush. A week ago my wife and I moved from our over-priced, cramped—enough already […]
I catch up with her a few minutes later. She is shaded under a vine-covered trellis, standing precariously several feet up on the edge of a fountain. It appears she’s trying to capture a close-up of a cherub pouring water. She’s resting her left hand on the wet stone behind the cherub, and I imagine several scenarios that have in common a disastrous ending.
I meet Tracy because she has a fuckable brother, according to Kristen. Tracy and her brother Trent go to Bishop Lynch. Kristen and I go to Liberty. They wear uniforms and study Theology. We wear whatever we want and don’t know what Theology is. At least I don’t, and I’m embarrassed for not knowing so I don’t ask.
1. Poems – lingering and leaping.
I imagine twelve poems of depth and vision, beautiful shapes and
astonishing revisions. One assigned poem that will break us into a kind
of sobbing joy. There are no assignments, per se, but the Exemplars are
there to be used as music to play towards.
Lorna had never had a single sleepless night or nagging intuition about Clairmont. For as long as she could remember, she couldn’t wait to turn thirteen, so she could go there. She’d hop on a plane in New York City. Step off in Switzerland. And head to the old Abbey her great-grandmother turned into a school, high up on a cliff above Lake Geneva.
Some evenings, it’s the Tejano thump from a Chevy
Tricked-out, all lowdown & shit, slow slinking up
Our dead tree street, reverberating the 120 bpm
Into our thin-walled fifties bungalow. Other times