WELL&OFTEN RECOMMENDS: RUNNING ALONE
Running Alone by Halimah Marcus
You know a story is good when you care so much about the character’s outcome that you find yourself short of breath. This is even more impressive when this shortness of breath is brought on by the act of running. “Running Alone” by Halimah Marcus is issue #176, and the Apple Newsstand debut of One Story, a magazine that publishes a single short story each issue.
The story centers around a gifted middle-distance runner, his father and coach, and his mother. Marcus moves from one character’s point of view to the next, all the while building the reader’s anticipation for what is to come. She unpacks each character in a way that makes their actions seem completely aligned with what has been revealed, an incredible feat, considering the shortness of the story:
"As she sits in the waiting room, flipping through a home improvement magazine, she knows the news will not be good, just as she knows she will not devote a Saturday to making a chandelier out of plastic clothes hangers, though she has torn out the page that explains how to do it."
There are so many ways this detail could have been revealed but, somehow, the passage seems intransmutable. This too is the sign of a good story.
At its essence, “Running Alone” is a story about coping. It’s about the way our obsessions become our sanctuaries and how that affects the people we love. Get Halimah Marcus’s “Running Alone” by searching One Story in the App Store or going here.
WELL&OFTEN RECOMMENDS: BLACK GIRL MANSION
Black Girl Mansion by Angel Nafis
Red Beard Press and New School Poetics
Add Angel Nafis to the black woman writer lexicon- she belongs nestled in the bookshelf next to luminaries such as Ntozake Shange, June Jordan, Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez. Given that she is often writing (frighteningly authentically) in the voice of Celi from Alice Walker’s classic novel, The Color Purple, I reckon she may already be aware of her ability to both contribute to and transcend this label, simultaneously forwarding the dialogue and beginning new ones. While Angel’s voice clearly speaks to young women of color, it is her ability to also connect with readers across demographics, identities and landscapes that makes her so undeniably necessary.
While Angel’s poems intersect a variety of personal and political themes relating to being a young black woman, it is her Dul-ism poems that grip the heart in the most potent way. Revealing the early loss of her mother- the poet’s, or the poet’s character- through poems spoken in her father’s voice, Angel gives us insight into small moments of paternal wisdom. As a reader, we love Dul and his daughters, the two sisters, their trials and triumphs. Marvin Gaye meets Rumi, his simple lessons resonate deep in our humanity.
Though Angel was groomed in the performance community, her poems live beautifully on the page, asking the reader to revisit their comfort throughout the years- which is the whole point of gathering this book into your hands and giving it special placement on your shelving. After reading, you may have a number of your own poems brewing in your head- inspired. In a breath, Angel’s Black Girl Mansion is a brilliant, challenging new collection. Pick it up online here, or by visiting Angel at her beloved Greenlight Bookstore, where she’s also been curating a wonderful reading series.
My tea has grown cold. I am in my fourth hour of conferences, and Yoon sits slumped across from me. His slight frame and messy hair interrupt my office wall with its pinned-up poems and corkboard postcards. I am hungry, and he has been bad. I want to shake a ruler at him. No more tardiness! I want to go home. “I have problem,” he says.
When I am not so tired, I correct my students, gently. “A problem,” I say. “You have a problem,” but it has been a draining week. Any bit of passion, I have left in me goes to my students, but today I’ve got nothing. I take a sip of my grown-cold tea. “Stars,” he says. “I see stars.”
Yoon is from Korea, and while I’m almost certain that seeing stars in New York City is about as likely as seeing stars in Seoul, I look up and listen. I imagine Yoon climbing to the highest, darkest place in all of Manhattan, unscrewing the lid of his soup-filled Thermos and settling in for a night of tracing constellations. Perhaps we have finally found something to work with in his writing. “Say more about these stars,” I tell him.
“In my eyes,” he says.
“Oh,” I say.
“They are inside my eyes. They are everywhere.” Yoon lifts his hand as if to show me where the stars are. He blinks. Outside, the clouds are beginning to collect; snow seems certain. “I need to visit doctor,” Yoon says, “but I don’t know any. Don’t know anybody. New York is lonely city.” “A lonely city,” I say. “New York is a lonely city.” We look at each other for a long moment. When he is gone, I notice that I have absentmindedly scribbled stars all over his paper.”
-From Nicole Callihan’s essay, The Week in News Late November, our very first feature in The Well&Often Reader’s new educator column, Notes From the Classroom. Click here to read the full piece.
WELL&OFTEN RECOMMENDS: GOOD GRIEF
Good Grief by Stevie Edwards
In Good Grief, Stevie Edwards explores love, family, class & coming of age with a mouthful of grit. There’s something wintery about the poems in this collection, & distinctly rooted in the experience of growing up in the Midwest (which, as an Iowa native, I greatly appreciate). These poems are full of gut, anger, quiet sadness, & lovely lyricism. Good Grief was published by Write Bloody Publishing, notorious for churning out the hottest, most alive work in performance poetry, in April of last year. I am struck by the raw originality of Edwards’ voice and believe that soon, she will be among the most well-known & respected poets who best straddles the line between performance & page.
Check out the collection here.
We know you love to read. I mean, why else would you be reading this? Every Friday, visit the Well&Often tumblr to read fresh picks from the Well&Often editors. We’re talking books, essays, poems – if the words move, you’re going to hear about it.