At Home in the Pauses by Brian Fitch

I’ve been thinking lately about fiction and nonfiction, how they can merge and separate until one becomes the other.  Especially I’ve been thinking about the technique of pause in nonfiction, a liberal stepping outside, pausing the narrative, to pursue a possibly fictional what if this had happened?

NAR_testimony Clay Rodery

Fiction writing has as one of its compelling qualities the possibility of being real.  When the narrative is paused, fiction and nonfiction can become intermixed as a writer finds herself or himself stepping back from fiction to the real, to actual stories, the unembellished past.  When the edges of imagination become too thin to keep a writer aloft, s/he can just let go.  What really happened may provide a sort of reorientation.  When the writer’s imagination is recharged by the real, or at least the remembered real, another pause to follow a fictional path will present itself.

After enough years, these pauses can become quite lengthy and take on the appearance of actual story.  In other words, the pause may become the story and the return to the nonfiction frame may become the fiction.


Once the paused fiction has become the dominant narrative, the next step is another pause from the now functioning narrative to a newer fiction – a pause within a pause, within a pause and so forth.  If you live long enough, you may find yourself far from the original home with no maps back, even if you want them.  Another question might be who would want them, but that is for another discussion.  Making the attempt to find your way forward in these new narratives will keep you writing and attempting to answer the questions who am I? and/or how did I get here?  Whether or not you can answer these questions does not matter.  You are writing fiction, the pauses are infinite, and the converted narrative may very well be the superior one.

Brian Fitch lives in western Wisconsin with his wife the poet Jennifer Brantley and their cat Moxie.  His fiction or poetry has appeared in North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Sewanee Review, Helsinki Quarterly, Ars Interpres, Bark, and others. Brian appears in issue 296.3, Summer 2011 as well as the current issue 300.2 with his story “Nothing Is Always the Same”.

Illustrations by  Clay Rodery, an illustrator who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Clay’s illustrations have been featured in the North American Review issues 298.4, 299.1, 299.3 and the most recently is in issue 299.4, Fall 2014 and most recently 300.2, Spring 2015.

Exploding Narrative by Brian Fitch

I took a job for a year on Shemya, a small remote island at the end of the Aleutian chain 1,500 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska, an area familiar to some of you from the series Deadliest Catch. The job, cleaning and general maintenance, with its twelve hour days and seven day weeks, was ordinary enough for me, barely out of my teens. The place, its mission, and the people working there were not. The island supported several organizations: a Strategic Air Command base, an Army Security Agency field station, and the Air Force’s 16th Surveillance Squadron.

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Throwback Saturday featuring Melissa Stein with “Our Campaign for Her World” from issue 295.2


Melissa Stein‘s poem, “Our Campaign for Her World” was a Finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in issue 295.2, Spring 2010.

Our Campaign for Her World

I’m aching my way up back road, the long steep
low-gear bit that kills me every time,

when a red car goes by, slow, the driver
turning his head then moving on.

I’m not much nearer the top
when he comes by again and stops

and mumbles something . . . college . . .
Sweet Briar? “Yep, right across the highway,”

I reply, though who could be on this excuse
for a road and not a know where the college is—

in a town that is the college—
is beyond me. He drives off and his words

go up and down with the pedals until it’s clear
he’d asked me if I went to college there. Maybe

he’s some wealthy daddy champing at the bit
to scold the campus cops for letting its well-bred girls

so far off rein? Maybe. I coast past spindly brambles
bent beneath wild blackberries’ promise,

ditches spiked with thistle, padded in pink clover
blossom. On both sides, towering crazy and triumphant,

kudzu topiary bathes in golden light. I stop to watch
a stopped train chug beneath the wooden bridge

—each time I cross this bridge I wish for trains—
and in the heat, the cadence of the interrupted

train, I hear a gravel-scrape beside me
and it’s his red Chevrolet. I get a good eyeful:

moustached and balding, maybe 50, so fat he’s melting
into the seat of his red Chevrolet.

After a long moment he drawls
you wanna make you some money? Continue reading

Why Does Poetry Matter? by Charlotte Pence

My poetry often siphons science for inspiration. Scientific American, Nature, “Best of” series all provide me with gifts like “humans taste brown” and “the measures we use depend on what we are measuring.”For the past five years, I’ve taken a special interest in human descent with modification, which has turned into an interest regarding literary evolutionists and what they have to say about why we spend so much of our time in the land of narrative. According to Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative, if you add up all of our time watching TV, listening to song, day dreaming, night dreaming, not to mention actually reading, approximately 2/3 of our lives are spent in fantasy land. In an era of ever-increasing productivity, why has narrative remained such a central part of our lives? Neuroscientists and biologists tell us point blank: the mind is hard-wired for story. For example, if your boss gives you a wobbly smile in passing, you will have a hard time not wondering why the smile didn’t seem genuine. Is she mad at you? Is it maybe not at all about you? Is it that she knows you will soon have some work dumped on you? Whatever the case, the mind takes the fragments and attempts to create a narrative.

open - Artist jperkins fish

As an avid reader, I like that narrative is so important to our lives. But as a poet, I have a particular set of concerns regarding this sibling that everyone loves more than poetry. If our brains are hard-wired for story, what is the draw of poetry when narrative is sliced away? Is the lack of narrative in lyrical poetry part of what contributes to poetry’s small readership? Continue reading

Everything Must Converge by Robert McBrearty

I wish I could say, “I wanted to write a story about…” But I seldom think that way. I usually find myself writing something and maybe eventually along the way thinking something like: “Hm, I seem to be writing a story about…” And then after a while, maybe I start to wonder if anyone might be interested in reading this story about… And then, if I think some poor bastard somewhere might be hard enough up to be interested in reading this story about something, I start thinking maybe I should finish this story about something.

Along the way I realized “Convergence” seemed somewhat different from many of my stories.  A lot of my stories have more of a comic edge to them, and this one seems quiet, flatter in tone. I realized I was thinking about the people who have lost their spouses, maybe because of an illness like cancer.  I thought that if that happened to me, I would probably go quiet, cut myself off.  The protagonist in this story puts all his concern into raising his middle-school son, but cuts himself off from everything he enjoys because things are no fun without his wife. He used to be an amateur boxer, but it’s no fun since he can’t come home and have his wife treat his wounds and kindly scold him for being an idiot.  When he suspects his son is being bullied in middle school, he wants to protect him by working on his boxing, which reminds him of lessons his own father tried to teach him, probably futilely.

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