Category Archives: Blog

The Poetry of Desire


Whenever I run into Lisa Russ Spaar she seems scarcely to have aged since I first met her, eons ago, in Gregory Orr’s graduate poetry workshop at the University of Virginia. Tall and lithe, with long blonde hair she pushes back from her face and a vibrant, lovely smile, Lisa could easily be taken for a grad student. But as we all know, looks can be deceptive, and Lisa Russ Spaar has come a long way in the years since our first acquaintance. She is a much loved professor of English and Creative Writing at … Continue reading The Poetry of Desire

The Best Sex I Never Had


When I was an adolescent, I read novels voraciously, and the genre of sword-and-sorcery fantasy appealed to me most. It combined supernatural magic, an element seeded into countless cultures and religions, with heroic warriors and monsters, and it allowed me to escape the doldrums of my unremarkable suburban environment. As I grew out of my teens into adulthood, a different type of fantasy fiction began to appeal to me: the horror genre. Writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker wrote engrossing novels that, on the surface, seemed like realism, but they typically possessed a paranormal … Continue reading The Best Sex I Never Had

Historical Inspiration For Novelist


  When I learned that one of the two main characters in Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel, The Invention of Wings, is Sarah Grimke, of course I had to read it. I was not disappointed. In an “author’s note” Kidd describes her intention as being not to render a thinly fictionalized account of Sarah Grimke’s life but rather to offer a thickly imagined story inspired by Sarah Grimke. Thickly imagined though she may be, the Sarah Grimke I meet in Kidd’s book is resonant with the image of her I have been carrying with me … Continue reading Historical Inspiration For Novelist



The miracle is that we have integrity at all. O, not fidelity to a moral code. That’s a pale shadow of the integrity I mean. Stable identity. Some semblance of unity. Or, to put it in the word that has haunted me for some months – coherence.   What is the thread that draws us through time and change? When faced with the diminishments of cognition that seem to loom with age, and especially when we confront the specter of Alzheimer’s and the like, how do we hold it together? How did we ever?   … Continue reading Here-To-For

The Art of Illustration


        What is the difference between illustration and fine art?    Streetlight’s featured artist Kate Samworth, and Nick Clark, former Chief Curator and Founding Director of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, consider the question.   Illustration as fine art — and the relationship of children’s book illustration to “art” or “fine” art — are complex questions. In short, they are, or were, the same. Illustration, or “narrative” painting, dominated Western painting for centuries until the mid-1800s. The longer answer requires that we decide what is the difference between “fine” and other art? … Continue reading The Art of Illustration

Of Darkness and Angels  


The premier poetry event of this year’s Festival of the Book in Charlottesville was “Shrines to Longing,” the March 20 reading by Charles Wright, America’s current (20th) poet laureate, and Mary Szybist, who was a student in the University of Virginia’s MFA program when Wright was on its faculty. Both poets attended the Iowa Writers Workshop. Both have a distinctly Judeo-Christian flavor to their work. The 79-year-old Wright read from his 24th book of poems, Caribou, Szybist from her prize-winning second volume, Incarnadine. Although the full house at UVA’s Culbreth Theater was clearly entranced by … Continue reading Of Darkness and Angels  

Urban Minimalism Comes in Many Colors


  Thomas Michael Gillaspy, a state legal affairs analyst and photographer based in Sacramento California, focuses on color in urban minimalism. “Architecture interests me because of its relationship to the urban environment. I think it is our attempt to bring order to the natural world,” says Gillaspy. “Color evokes emotion for me. And in architecture, I like to find patterns, the repetition of geometries, the way we attempt to make order in the urban environment. It is exhilarating to find form and pattern in unexpected places.”     Gillaspy creates order from urban overload photographing surprising subjects up … Continue reading Urban Minimalism Comes in Many Colors

Are You Going To the Fair?


The 21st annual Virginia Festival of the Book opens in Charlottesville this coming Wednesday, March 18. I do recommend it. An amazing assortment of programs will be offered. Find the whole wonderful schedule at I’m not touting for any particular one of them (there are so many and they are so excellent) but I do find myself thinking about what it means to go to a festival — a very old habit of the human race. It happens today that I’m thinking about Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales, because they’re such a nice frame for thinking … Continue reading Are You Going To the Fair?

Kay Redfield Jamison Festival of the Book


In 1995 Kay Redfield Jamison published her ground-breaking memoir, An Unquiet Mind, A Memoir of Moods and Madness.  For my husband who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 1987, and myself living through his manic breakdown, Redfield’s memoir was the revelatory longed-for message in a bottle of bi-polar disorder. Jamision’s personal narrative changed my perspective on manic behavior and her insights altered forever the way I understand and react to those diagnosed as bi-polar. I pick up my copy of Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind heavily underlined and re-read a passage: “People go mad in idiosyncratic ways. … Continue reading Kay Redfield Jamison Festival of the Book

Nothing Stays Long Enough to Know


“Nothing stays long enough to know. How long since we’ve been inside anything together the way these birds are inside this tree together, shifting, making it into a shivering thing”   —Mary Szybist, “Too Many Pigeons and One Dove,” Incarnadine [Graywolf Press, 2013]   The cedar tree on the corner of the lot must remain. So says Margaret, 96, and refusing to let poor sight and hearing keep her from knowing. This was the deal made back then: The place where we now live, a parsonage, could be built and the land would be given … Continue reading Nothing Stays Long Enough to Know