medicine without a prescription

Retail Politics, or How Politics Are More Personal Than Local

6 Nov

Today I will cast a ballot that for all intents is nearly meaningless. As the fictional President Bartlet of television’s The West Wing used to say, “I’m a lifelong holder of minority opinions.” In Mississippi, those opinions are far too seldom on the winning side.

The former political operative in me still thinks that Election Day is thrilling, and for me, it’s a reminder of the great good fortune that God, or providence, or hard work, or some combination of the three, has provided for my family. When I cast my ballot,…


Martin and Lewis and Sedaris and Kistulentz

30 Oct

I’m feeling particularly energized this morning after a wonderful event last night at the Millsaps College Visiting Writers Series. We hosted David Sedaris.

You’ll note that there isn’t an appositive in front of David’s name; it’s hard to know whether to refer to him as a humorist, essayist, or performer, since he inhabits all three roles with great alacrity. David would demur and say he was just a writer. But for the lucky almost 500 people who were in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex Recital Hall, it’s hard to imagine that this morning they aren’t all repeating David’s riffs on taxidermy and owls, colonoscopies, travel, or sitting next to another writer on an airplane. And Willie Nelson.

A lot goes into an event like this at a small college (some of David’s next stops on the tour are the University of Nebraska, and UCLA). So I thought I’d take a moment to publicly thank some people at Millsaps,…


The Sunday Flashback: Gorbachev and Me

28 Oct

One of the things I’ve written that I’m most proud of isn’t a poem, but a short story. It’s got its moments of extended lyricism but in its heart it is 100 percent fiction. The story was called “Reykjavik The Beautiful” and it appeared in Narrative Magazine almost five years ago. I wrote it as an attempt to push people towards humanizing a man who we often thought of as the “enemy,” but really I wrote it to understand grief.

The story begins like this:

Mikhail Gorbachev

AT A RICKETY, vinyl-topped table just a meter from the foot of his wife Raisa’s sickbed, Mikhail eats his dinner alone. Tonight’s supper—a sandwich of local ham on thick slices of a molasses-heavy brown bread, all slathered in a grainy and pungent mustard—sits ignored on the table. Peasant food, he thinks.

Read the rest here (free registration required).



Cleveland Redux

25 Oct

I’m reading tonight, Thursday, October 25, at 7:30 PM at the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Details here. I’ll be reading with the very talented Joshua Ware. For directions, click here.


Cleveland Daydream

24 Oct

If US Airways cooperates, I’ll be reading in the greater Cleveland area today at 4:30 at Baldwin-Wallace University. Details can be found here.



Little Black Daydream in Jackson, Tuesday, October 23

22 Oct

I’ll be reading and signing from Little Black Daydream on Tuesday, October 23 at 5pm at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS.  Lemuria has the better part of four decades’ worth of being the home to Jackson literary culture; it’s an old-fashioned store in the sense that everyone who works there is a voracious reader. No matter what the subject that interests you, there’s a staff person who can recommend something you haven’t read yet. I’m biased, of course, because they have been so good to me. A prime example: this lovely piece about my book on the Lemuria blog, written by my former student Whitney Gilchrist. You can check out Whitney’s essay-review here.


Another Little Black Daydream Sneak Peek

13 Oct

One of the more interesting and visible writers out there is the marvelous Roxane Gay. She’s a professor at Eastern Illinois University, an essayist, and a fine fiction writer (with a story in the Tom Perrotta-edited Best American Short Stories 2012, no less); but for our purposes here, she’s the co-editor of PANK, which is best described in their own words: “a place of quirk and startling anomaly.”

They also gave me the honor of putting one of my poems in the December issue; this poem, “A Small War Has Ended,” is another from my new book Little Black Daydream. Check out the poem, but be sure to click your way around PANK thoroughly and read one of the most vigorous journals around.


An Audio Sneak Peek into Little Black Daydream

11 Oct

When I first daydreamed about trying to make a living as a writer and teacher of writing, one of the goals I set for myself was to appear in The Southern Review. It took a few years longer than I’d hoped, (basically through the tenure of three editors), but a poem from my new book is […]


Thank You and Good Night! or Checking Out of the No Tell Motel

17 Oct


This week is the final week of new work at Reb Livingston and Molly Arden’s vivacious (my inner Muhammad Ali wants to call it vivacious and flirtatious and bodacious) No Tell Motel. Fittingly, the featured poet is Jill Alexander Essbaum, who has been featured there three times previously. I’m writing today to publicly acknowledge my gratitude towards all things No Tell Motel-related.

The concept behind the site is simple: each week, the editors posted new poems, one per day, by a single poet. It’s a tribute to Reb and Molly and their editorial sense and their evangelism about new poets and poetry that their work introduced me to folks like Jason Bredle, Adam Deutsch, Gary McDowell, Jessica Piazza, and so many others.


Almost Certainly Not the Last Words on The Luckless Age

13 Jun

…or in other words, Michael Krutel, poetry editor of Akron’s own Barn Owl Review, interviews me about all things Biblical, canonical, poetical, and hypothetical (including my own Catholicism!), online now at