Ray Keifetz

Ray Keifetz: New Work and a Recommendation

Last week, we had the pure delight of meeting up with Ray Keifetz for lunch in our neck of the woods. As you might remember, we interviewed Ray about his first book of poetry, Night Farming in Bosnia from The Bitter Oleander Press, back in June of this year. At lunch, we asked Ray if he could read a poem for us and make a book recommendation. He happily obliged. Enjoy the two videos below.

"They Have Nothing" by Ray Keifetz

The Emily Fables


Thank you, Ray! We hope to see you again soon.

The Dipper - July 2018

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know!


July News

With the summer solstice just behind us, the strawberries are ripe, the days are long enough to fit in some extra reading after dinner, and Northern New England is blooming with literary festivals and summer reading series, including the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum's Readings in the Gallery, Brownington, Vermont's Back Roads Readings, the Hyla Brook Reading Series at Robert Frost's farm in Derry, New Hampshire, the Troy Hill Reading Series in Warner, New Hampshire, the Canaan Meetinghouse Reading Series in Canaan, New Hampshire, Authors at the Aldrich in Barre, Vermont, and the Joan Hutton Landis Summer Reading Series in Rochester, Vermont.

If that's not enough to keep you busy, Woodstock, Vermont's 10th annual Bookstock Literary Festival is happening at the end of the month and promises three chock-full days of readings, workshops, live music, used book sales, and other goodies.

You can find details about all of these series and festivals on the Literary North calendar.


And of course our very own Poetry & Pie is happening in just a few weeks! We're making lists, finalizing pie recipes, and putting in an order for a perfect summer day. We hope you'll be joining Didi Jackson, Julia Shipley, Ocean Vuong, our friends and volunteers, and us on Saturday, July 21 for a delicious afternoon. All of the seats for this event are already reserved, but if you're interested in attending, please add your name to the waiting list in case there are cancellations!

Oh! And speaking of festivals, we're excited to be sponsoring the 14th Annual Burlington Book Festival, which is happening in Burlington, Vermont, October 12 through 14. The three-day festival takes place in a variety of downtown venues and features author readings, signings, panel discussions, workshops, exhibits, lectures, Q&A sessions, performances, the 12th annual Grace Paley Poetry Series, and more. Keep your eyes on this space for more details soon.

We can rest in the winter, right?

This time of year, we love to talk to area writers and readers about their summer reading suggestions. This summer, we've started a new series with summer reading picks from our favorite local indie bookstores. First up are suggestions from the booksellers at Left Bank Books in Hanover, New Hampshire, and The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont. Their suggestions are terrific, and you'll get a real feel for each book by reading their descriptions. Check out their suggestions on our blog!


If all of this is just too much excitement for you and your TBR pile is already wagging an accusing finger in your direction, we can empathize. Maybe you want to read just one book this summer? If so, our Slow Club Book Club might be right for you. We just announced that our summer book is Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones. (Yes, that's right: just one book for the entire summer.) We'll start reading on July 1. If you'd like to join us, just subscribe to our newsletter, and then read the book at your leisure. No strings attached!


New to our blog is our recent interview with Ray Keifetz, whose first collection of poetry, Night Farming in Bosnia, was published in April. You don't want to miss this book, or Ray's moving and thoughtful replies to our questions. To find out more and to read selections from Night Farming in Bosnia, visit our interview with Ray.

One final note for our blog readers: we've added a new Blog Directory page to our site so that you can find a full list of our posts, organized by category. We hope this helps make it easier for you to find a specific interview, reading list, or Dipper edition.

We're taking August off from this newsletter so we can have more time to read and go to readings. We'll see you back here in September. Happy summer, friends!


July Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!


July Highlights

Vermont College of Fine Art's summer residency readings continue July 1 to 3 with Danielle Evans, Jeffrey Thomas Leong, and Mary Ruefle. The readings begin at 7:00 pm and take place in the College Hall chapel on the VCA campus in Montpelier, Vermont.

Nicole Homer. Photo by Maria Del Naja.

Nicole Homer. Photo by Maria Del Naja.

Nicole Homer—the 2018 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at The Frost Place—will be reading at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on Thursday, July 5, as part of the Readings in the Gallery Series. The reading begins at 7:00 pm.

On Sunday, July 8, poets Jody Gladding and Sharon Olds share the bill at the first event of the 2018 Back Roads Readings series at Brownington Congregational Church, in Brownington, Vermont. All readings begin at 3:00 pm and are followed by a book signing and reception.

Peter Manseau

Peter Manseau

Peter Manseau and Ivy Pochoda launch this year's Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan, New Hampshire, on Thursday, July 12, at 7:30 pm. The series, which continues through early August, includes readings by Christopher Wren, Lauren Groff, Howard Mansfield, Robin MacArthur, Lloyd Schwartz, and Joan Silber.

The Third International Thorton Wilder Conference takes place at the Monadnock Center for History & Culture in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The conference features paper panels, roundtable discussions, presentations, readings, and social events from Thursday July 12 through Saturday, July 14. Limited seats are available to the public to attend conference sessions.

Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist, will be giving the 2018 Dartmouth Library Book Talk on Wednesday, July 18, at 4:30 pm. Gleiser will present his book, The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected, at Dartmouth College's Baker Library in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The 10th annual Bookstock Literary Festival takes place from Friday, July 27 through Sunday, July 29 at various venues in Woodstock, Vermont. The Festival features headliners Richard Russo, Robert Pinsky, Alexander Chee, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, plus many other presenters, workshops, food, live music, and children's activities. You can see the complete schedule of events on our calendar. You can find details about the Festival, its presenters, and its events on the Bookstock website.

Amy Siskind

Amy Siskind

On Sunday, July 29, catch local authors Jensen Beach and Bianca Stone at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vermont, as part of the Joan Hutton Landis Summer Reading Series. Readings begin at 5:30 pm in the main gallery. Refreshments follow the readings.

Amy Siskind visits The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, in support of her book The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's First Year on Saturday, July 28, at 7:00 pm.


Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!


Worth a Drive

You have two chances to catch Ottessa Moshfegh, who is on tour for her latest novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. She will be at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, July 26, at 7:00 pm, and at the Odyssey Bookshop in Hadley, Massachusetts, on Friday, July 27, at 7:00 pm. Both events are free.


Worth a Listen

I enjoyed listening to Silas House on the WMFA podcast discussing his new novel, Southernmost. He spoke about otherness, sensitivity, writing from a young character's point of view, his complicated relationship to the South, his writing routine, and more. —Shari


We're Looking Forward to These July Releases



Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

Nominations are open for the next New Hampshire Poet Laureate, who will serve a five-year term beginning in March 2019. To be eligible for the position, the nominee must be a resident of New Hampshire, and must have published at least one full-length book of poetry. Nominations are due by July 20. For more information and to submit your nomination, please visit the Poetry Society of New Hampshire website.

Clara Martin Center is seeking submissions for their third annual art/poetry show entitled "Abundance: Celebrating Creativity in Mental Health, Wellness, and Recovery" (September 10 to November 2). You are invited to submit poetry, or 2-D or 3-D artwork to display in the exhibit. Submissions are due by July 31. Applicants must be Vermont residents, and preference is given to artists/writers in the Upper Valley. For more information, please visit Clara Martin Center's website.

The Center for Cartoon Studies announces the third year of The Cornish CCS Fellowship Residency (October 16 to November 18). The month-long residency in Cornish, New Hampshire, includes a $3000 stipend. The application deadline is August 15. For more information and to apply, please visit the Cornish CCS Fellowship page.

Registration is open for the New Hampshire Poetry Festival (September 15), which will be held in Henniker, New Hampshire. Speakers include Adrian Blevins, Robert Crawford, Sharon Dolin, Matthew Guenette, and Linda Pastan. For more information and to register, please visit the NH Poetry Festival website.

Upcoming Workshops and Classes

Joni Cole of The Writer's Center in White River Junction, Vermont, is offering Fast Feedback on July 7 from 9:30 to 11:30 am. For more information and to register, please visit The Writer's Center Workshops page.

The Word Barn in Exeter, New Hampshire is offering a summer writing workshop that explores the translational power of writing from photographs into memory and imagination through poetry. The workshop, "From Poetry to Ink to Poetry to Ink to ~," will meet on Monday evenings at 6:30 pm from July 9 to July 30. Tuition is $200. Registration is limited to 10. For more information and to register, please visit The Word Barn Workshops page.

Matt Miller will be teaching an Advanced Poetry Workshop at The Word Barn, in Exeter, New Hampshire. The workshop will be held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 pm, from July 10 to July 31. Tuition is $300. Registration is limited to 8. For more information and to register, please visit The Word Barn Workshops page.

In her exhibition The Firmament, Toyin Ojih Odutola presents an interconnected series of fictional portraits chronicling the lives of two aristocratic Nigerian families. This dynamic workshop—held at Hood Downtown in Hanover, New Hamphire from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on July 11—fuses an exploration of the Ojih Odutola’s work with a fun and meaningful creative writing exercise using thematic prompts. All writing levels welcome. Free and open to all. Space is limited. Register by July 9. For more information and to register, please visit the Workshop Registration page.

Literary North friend and book fiend Beth Reynolds is hosting the Vermont chapter of the worldwide Summer of Proust book club. The Vermont group will be reading Lydia Davis' translation of Proust's Swann's Way, with the first 49 pages due by the first meeting at the Norwich Public Library on July 16. For more information and to join the group, send an email to summerofproustvt@gmail.com. If you're outside the Upper Valley area, you can join a group in your area, or simply join the group online. For more information, please visit the Summer of Proust website.

The Burlington Writers Workshop is hosting an Historical Fiction Workshop with Stephanie Storey on July 18 in Burlington, Vermont. This workshop will give students the skills to navigate the tricky waters of historical fiction. This class is not only helpful for those writing traditional historical fiction, but also for writers of creative non-fiction, memoir, or any fiction that requires research. For more information and to register, please visit the Workshop page.

On July 21, the League of Vermont Writers hosts its popular Writers Meet Agents event at Trader Duke's Hotel in South Burlington, Vermont, from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. All writers are invited to this event, which includes presentations, pitch sessions, panels, seven agents, and more. $135-$165; $35 for each pitch session. Registration deadline is July 7. For more information and to register, please visit the League's Gatherings page.

The Burlington Writers Workshop is hosting several day-long writing retreats in the coming months. Robin McLean leads the Prose Retreat in Grande Isle, Vermont, on August 25 (registration closes on July 28). Baron Wormser leads the Poetry Retreat in Adamant, Vermont, on September 8 (registration closes on August 11). Jericho Parms leads the Creative Non-fiction Retreat in Burlington, Vermont, on November 11 (registration closes on October 28). For more information and to register for a retreat, please visit the Writing Retreats page.

Interview: Ray Keifetz

A chance meeting with our friend Margery at one of our favorite local cafes led to Ray Keifetz's book, Night Farming in Bosnia, landing in our hands. Thank goodness. This is an important and beautiful volume of poetry. Its poems describe humanity and inhumanity alike, with deep feeling, tenderness, and hope. Reading this book is a journey of sorts, through history and war, through gardens and fields. "We must follow in full light / or no light / the gaze of the trees / down to the river."

We are so grateful to Ray for sharing his work with us, for answering our questions so thoughtfully, and for allowing us to reprint a selection of his poems here. If you like what you read here, you can order your own copy of Night Farming in Bosnia directly from the publisher, The Bitter Oleander Press.


Ray's poems and stories have appeared in The Ashland Creek Press, Bitter Oleander, Briar Cliff Review, Kestrel, The Louisville Review, Other Voices, and more and have twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. Night Farming in Bosnia, his first poetry collection, grew out of the calamitous ending of the 20th century and the equally dark beginning of the 21st.

Literary North: We’re always interested in learning about an author’s writing and publishing process. Can you tell us a bit about how this—your first poetry collection—came about? Did you write the poems with a collection in mind, or did the poems reveal themselves as a collection at some point?

Ray Keifetz: To tell you the truth, a collection of poetry was for the longest time something I never thought I’d write. I was skeptical about applying a straightjacket, that is to say a book with its sequence of pages starting at number one, its expectation of a beginning, middle, and end, to a body of work that intrinsically possess none of those qualities. Poems are such solitary fish, particularly the good ones which invariably swim alone. For me writing a poem has always been an end in itself, a complete immersion, a bit like drowning.

“Night Farming in Bosnia,” the future title poem, made me think again. You might call it a turning point. For the first time I was writing about events not drawn directly from my immediate life but from the Zeitgeist itself, a sinkhole into which I’d fallen and where as a poet I was happy to remain. The next poem “Fresh Eggs” seemed to belong beside “Night Farming” on a facing page, a fantasy which years later actually came to pass. At a certain point I had written a core of poems dark and dense enough to cast a shadow. I began consciously to rewrite, to spread the shadows wider, to create a flow of linked images. A few brief examples:  While keeping true to the initial impulse of the poem, I rewrote the ending of “Into the Stream” to include “bloated swimmers” echoing the murder described earlier in “There Was Room in the River” and on the very next page placed “Scarecrow” whose limbs are “a dead man’s shirt and trousers.” And since the book’s first poem begins at the edge of the ocean, I ended the last poem on the banks of a river.

LN: Many of the poems in this book depict intense suffering contrasted with images of gardens, farming, and nature. How do you view the interconnection between human suffering and nature?

RK: The simple answer is with sadness. When I sit down to write, the beauty of the world is before me side by side with the wreckage. Specific connections though, such as those you note, have revealed themselves through the process itself, the grueling search for the “right” word and then following it wherever it may lead. The poem “Night Farming in Bosnia” for instance began as a depiction of famine in wartime. The chance phrase “and we are not moles” carried me beyond that specific war which a cease fire might end to the unending mother of war, the food chain. On the other hand, the opening poem, “High Tide” depicts the suffering of an injured sea gull witnessed by vultures upon whom the words “still and slack,” chosen originally for their sound and rhythm, confer an unexpected beneficence. I may also add that I do leave myself open to the elements, water, fire, and, when I can, emulate fairy tales and fables, many of which place our beginnings in a garden.

LN: "An Admission of Cures," the final poem in your book, feels like a balm, a signal of hope. What was the inspiration behind the poem? How long did it take you to write it, and what ideas were you grappling with as you wrote it?

RK: Thank you for asking me about this poem, one of the last to make it into the collection. My mother became very ill. After the hospital, she was sent to recuperate in a rehabilitation facility located within a nursing home. Most of the people one met were very old and feeble, but there were some younger ones as well, “the pale young woman talking to the grass." During my visits I noted down everything I saw including a pair of bald eagles (who never made it into the final poem) and the river, like a loving father, we gazed at for hours . . .  At the same time “Night Farming in Bosnia” was beginning to gel and I needed an ending, a coda as in a symphony.  I alternated between catastrophe and elegy. In the end I chose elegy. “Cures” then was the only poem I wrote both as an expression of a specific event, my mother’s long illness, and a culmination, a resolution of the many “illnesses” described in “Bosnia.” For a moment captured on a page, the cures had the upper hand. 

“An Admission of Cures,” from my mother’s initial illness to her death, took a little over a year to complete.  It was read at her memorial.

LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the past month?

RK: Perfect timing, because I actually did read something memorable: “Buffalo” by Eugenio Montale. I have a bilingual edition, Collected Poems 1920-1954, translated by Jonathan Galassi. With the help of Galassi’s translation and my own pitiful smattering of Italian I glimpse Montale’s magnificence. “Buffalo” describes a ferry landing, summer crowds, beaches, the blinding Mediterranean sun, and suddenly a word, an incantation “buffalo” — the blazing curtain, the laughter, the blaring music, torn apart, we see—

I won’t say what we see. I won’t say anything except I’ve been going back to this poem every few days; I can’t get past it.  With a nod to Harold Bloom, Montale is the poet breathing down my neck.


Night Farming in Bosnia

by perfumed tomatoes,
dry rattling beans,
stalks, shoots, leaves,
whiffs and gleans,
we crawl in the dark
over furrows still steaming.
Hunger drives even moles
from their holes
and we are not moles.
We were farmers
when we planted these fields.
Overhead the threshing wings
an owl . . . a mouse . . . interrupts
our feeding.
We were farmers
when we poisoned the voles,
now we strip the furrows.
A whisper
runs through the night
there are farmers in the field.
There are farmers in the field.
They shine their lights.
Their scythes are sabers.
They gather us like flowers
for their vases.


The Grass is Hungry

The grass is hungry.
A restlessness stirs the weeds.
Rain and sun no longer suffice
and the darkest earth is spurned
like dirt. The trees
have grown greedy.

If we could bring them back to their senses
remind them how they used to drink
               simple rain,
how they endured the stinging stars
               without roofs,
how they gave up their leaves
               without complaint,
remind them of their vaunted patience,
that resignation of theirs of rootedness,
if we could bring them back to their senses
we might dare to cross our lawns again
and long into dusk go gathering lilies
as if we still lived
               in a garden.

 An Admission of Cures

The cures are all around us.

The pale young woman talking to the grass
was once a flower;
she could face only the sun.
Now she stares at everyone.
Before their admission
the sparrows singing through her hair
were silent in the gutter,
the weeping willows bent low
with listening
a husband and angry brothers . . .
And in the dining room
the meaningless food,
the noisy frogs at your table—
soon enough
they will be returned
to their ponds.
The scarecrows in the hall
are all but shadow.
They pass through us
and we through them
like leaves
from different autumns.
The telephone in your room
requires no answer.
The cures are everywhere—
in the pigeon wings
fanning your swollen feet,
in the woods' faded markings,
and on this beaten bench
where you sit and wait
the final sifting . . .

No mother, nothing
is calling. The wind
is not interested in us.
We must follow in full light
or no light
the gaze of the trees
down to the river.
Who can say
if those be swans or sails
and these still wide waters
the shortest route home
or to the sea?


—Ray Keifetz. Night Farming in Bosnia. Bitter Oleander Press, 2018.