One Sunday at work, in the middle of a series of lectures and panels–a day-long affair with no planned bathroom or coffee breaks–a man stands up. He does so while I am moving a lectern across the stage, and I think recognize him, even before he begins speaking, as someone who lives under the weight of New York City’s constant renovation, someone whose patterns have long ago been papered over. At the institution I work for, a Jewish archive and library whose existence spans nearly a century and two continents, people like this come all the time, or call on the phone. They’ve woken up and started looking, desperately, for places they’ve lost.
This past semester, I asked the undergraduates in my creative writing class to name the materials they felt were absolutely central to the class and the readings they felt had not earned their place on the syllabus. Overwhelmingly, my students cited a particular prose poem for the second category. While they could not find anything stylistically, technically or pedagogically wrong with it–in fact, most enjoyed the poem–they found the subject matter too trite for a college class. The poem was Kate Durbin’s “The Hills, 5,” the subject: reality television.
by Monique Daviau
Back in August, before the beginning of the school year, I was sitting on the red sofa at Mighty Good Coffee in Ann Arbor, sipping a latte and reading one of the thirty-one books that MFA students are required to read for their reading exam. An older woman with a massive expanse of gray curls sat down beside me and began munching a cookie, and after evaluating whether or not I was willing to have a conversation with her, explained to me why she was so happy:
“I’ve just gotten a massage and I know that my massage therapist loves me because after he finished, he folded my socks a certain way. Look! That means ‘I Love You.’ If he folds them this way, see, (the lady rearranged the top of her sock) that means ‘I only want to be your friend,’ but he didn’t, and so he loves me.” She returned her sock to its previous “he loves me” configuration, and smiled some more.
Today we asked our daughter to tell us a story. Here it is: Amma and Daddy and Baby and Amma! We’re a family! We peed. And then we got up. And then we went downstairs and had some food. And then we had some dinner. And then we had some lunch. And then we went in the room to sleep. And then Daddy shaved off his scratchy chin.
In this special issue, authors from a variety of fields explore the imaginative world of childhood, how children seek refuge from adult society in realms that paradoxically ease their way into adulthood, carrying with them the felt memories of transcendent and transgressive experience, sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible.