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Having never missed an issue in over 120 years, the Sewanee Review is the oldest continuously published literary quarterly in the country.
Let’s play a quick game of word association. Ready? CORMAC MCCARTHY.What’s the first word you thought? Darkness? Despair? Faulknerian? Depression? Violence? Death?How about funny?Of the words that come to mind when contemplating the work of Cormac McCarthy, surely one of the rarest is funny. Even readers with a jet-black sense of humor would be hard-pressed to find his consistently gritty, desolate, death-obsessed work comedic. Even McCarthy’s contribution to the SR in the spring of 1965, “Dark Waters”—an excerpt from his then forthcoming debut novel The Orchard Keeper and relatively light fare for McCarthy—is cast in gloomy hues. (A quick aside for you trivia buffs: in the same year and season McCarthy published “Bounty, a Story,” an excerpt from the same novel, in the Yale Review, the second oldest literary quarterly in the United States. These near simultaneous publications complicate the question of who published the famous author first.)And yet, funny is exactly what James McWilliams argues Cormac McCarthy is in his essay “Darkness Laughable: The Comic Genius of Cormac McCarthy,” published recently in the Pacific Standard. With deft critical acrobatics, McWilliams skillfully (and readably) argues that Outer Dark “is a funny book” (this a novel whose plot, McWilliams notes, revolves around “serial necrophilia”).

His ability to imbue violence with humor not only rescues the most morbid scenes from pointless grotesquerie, but it lends insight into the human condition, reminding us that violence harbors a kernel of humor.

Whether or not you agree with the essay, there’s now a new forum to discuss all matters McCarthy. As McWilliams points out, beginning in 2015 Penn State University Press will begin publishing The Cormac McCarthy Journal.

Let’s play a quick game of word association. Ready? CORMAC MCCARTHY.

What’s the first word you thought? Darkness? Despair? Faulknerian? Depression? Violence? Death?

How about funny?

Of the words that come to mind when contemplating the work of Cormac McCarthy, surely one of the rarest is funny. Even readers with a jet-black sense of humor would be hard-pressed to find his consistently gritty, desolate, death-obsessed work comedic. Even McCarthy’s contribution to the SR in the spring of 1965, “Dark Waters”—an excerpt from his then forthcoming debut novel The Orchard Keeper and relatively light fare for McCarthy—is cast in gloomy hues. (A quick aside for you trivia buffs: in the same year and season McCarthy published “Bounty, a Story,” an excerpt from the same novel, in the Yale Review, the second oldest literary quarterly in the United States. These near simultaneous publications complicate the question of who published the famous author first.)

And yet, funny is exactly what James McWilliams argues Cormac McCarthy is in his essay “Darkness Laughable: The Comic Genius of Cormac McCarthy,” published recently in the Pacific Standard. With deft critical acrobatics, McWilliams skillfully (and readably) argues that Outer Dark “is a funny book” (this a novel whose plot, McWilliams notes, revolves around “serial necrophilia”).

His ability to imbue violence with humor not only rescues the most morbid scenes from pointless grotesquerie, but it lends insight into the human condition, reminding us that violence harbors a kernel of humor.


Whether or not you agree with the essay, there’s now a new forum to discuss all matters McCarthy. As McWilliams points out, beginning in 2015 Penn State University Press will begin publishing The Cormac McCarthy Journal.

Spilt Ink: Michael Beeman

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From Inspiration to Print


I wrote “The Sleeping Saints” for Kelly Link, my first-semester mentor at the Stonecoast MFA program, saw it published in the Sewanee Review, and gave it to George Saunders, one of my literary heroes, after it was published. Seeing something I wrote mentioned alongside the names above is still humbling. So was the process of writing it—the long road from inspiration to print.

Five years passed between the time I sat down to write a story about soldiers returning to their hometown as ghosts and the day I saw the story in print. In between, I wrote and re-wrote, edited and revised, read the story out loud to myself and typed it again word-for-word. I set it on different continents, switched decades, changed wars. The main character became an old man, a young child, a father. I sent it to some journals along the way, after each revision. They wisely declined. For the life of me, I could not get the story right.

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Listen to Sylvia Plath reading her own “The Ghost’s Leavetaking.”

This poem was first printed in the Sewanee Review as “The Departure of the Ghost.” It appeared in the Summer 1959 issue and later in Plath’s posthumous The Collected Poems, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Plath published two poems and one short story—“Fifteen Dollar Eagle”—in the Sewanee Review between 1959 and 1960. 

We’re proud to be counted among the “finest ‘little magazines’” who “only accept postal submissions” in Nick Ripatrazone’s essay for the Millions about the demise of the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope for the initiated).

We’re proud to be counted among the “finest ‘little magazines’” who “only accept postal submissions” in Nick Ripatrazone’s essay for the Millions about the demise of the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope for the initiated).

Spilt Ink: Brock Adams

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Here’s the thing: I don’t really like to write.
            This isn’t what I’m supposed to talk about; it isn’t what writers are supposed to write about. We’re supposed to write about how we have a passion for the craft, a burning zest that flows out of us and spills onto the page like lava.
            We’re supposed to be like the girl in the first creative writing workshop I ever took—a sophomore-level class in a hundred-year-old building where the afternoon light lit up the dust motes as they floated by the windows—who said, without a hint of pretention or irony, “I have to eat. I have to breathe. I have to write.”
            Maybe she really meant it. Maybe she was just trying to impress the professor (Padgett Powell, who definitely didn’t look impressed). Regardless, her words embodied the spirit of what writing is supposed to be: a labor of love.
            Another professor once told me that he had to “steal time to write,” and he said it in a near whisper, as if he was talking about some illicit affair. Writing was the mistress he pined for when he drove his kids to soccer practice, the dirty little secret that waited behind a glowing computer monitor as his wife slept beside him.
            I want to feel what they feel: the thrill that comes with creating art. I want my words to pulse with a terrible truth, to cut to the core of our being with sentences as hard as diamonds. I want what J.M. Coetzee describes in his memoir, Boyhood: I want my words to “spread across the page out of control, like spilt ink. Like spilt ink, like shadows racing across the face of still water, like lightning crackling across the sky.” I want, I want, I want.
            But I don’t really like to write.
            What I like to do: I like to cook and eat. I like exercising, working in the yard, fixing up the house. Sleeping and having sex and watching movies. All of these things I prefer to writing. I could live out my life doing these things and be content. Since I don’t really like to write, I often think I ought to just stop. Put down the pen. Move on. It’s easy. It’s over.
            And yet…

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Come visit the Sewanee Review at AWP! Our table at the bookfair is D35 in the South Hall. Leigh Anne Couch (managing editor) will be at the table on Thursday, and Thomas Sanders (our Aiken Taylor intern and social-media whiz) will be tending to the table on Friday and Saturday. In fact, we’ll be part of the Sewanee Literary Block, sharing a table with the School of Letters and right next door to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.
Oh, and be sure to bring your trapper keepers and sticker books … we have stickers for you!

Come visit the Sewanee Review at AWP! Our table at the bookfair is D35 in the South Hall. Leigh Anne Couch (managing editor) will be at the table on Thursday, and Thomas Sanders (our Aiken Taylor intern and social-media whiz) will be tending to the table on Friday and Saturday. In fact, we’ll be part of the Sewanee Literary Block, sharing a table with the School of Letters and right next door to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Oh, and be sure to bring your trapper keepers and sticker books … we have stickers for you!

Please join us for a poetry reading given by Dana Gioia at 8:15 pm in Convocation Hall on the campus of the University of the South. Gioia, of Sonoma County, California, will be the 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American poetry. Gioia is the author of four collections of poetry, three books of criticism, two operas, and two translations. After leaving a successful career in business to focus on poetry, Gioia served as the chair of the NEA from 2002 to 2009. He currently teaches at the University of Southern California as the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture.
  To read more about Dana Gioia’s illustrious career, as well as a brief history of the award and a list of past recipients, visit the Sewanee Review’s website.
Please join us for a poetry reading given by Dana Gioia at 8:15 pm in Convocation Hall on the campus of the University of the South. Gioia, of Sonoma County, California, will be the 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American poetry. Gioia is the author of four collections of poetry, three books of criticism, two operas, and two translations. After leaving a successful career in business to focus on poetry, Gioia served as the chair of the NEA from 2002 to 2009. He currently teaches at the University of Southern California as the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture.


To read more about Dana Gioia’s illustrious career, as well as a brief history of the award and a list of past recipients, visit the Sewanee Review’s website.

Join the Sewanee Review for a lecture by David Mason on the work of Dana Gioia, 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry. The lecture will be given at 8:30 pm in the McGriff Alumni House on the campus of the University of the South.

Join the Sewanee Review for a lecture by David Mason on the work of Dana Gioia, 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry. The lecture will be given at 8:30 pm in the McGriff Alumni House on the campus of the University of the South.


“I actually feel poetic inspiration physically. I get a tingling in my throat and across my temples. It’s different from anything else that happens.”The Los Angeles Loyolan interviews Dana Gioia, who will be the 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry.

I actually feel poetic inspiration physically. I get a tingling in my throat and across my temples. It’s different from anything else that happens.

The Los Angeles Loyolan interviews Dana Gioia, who will be the 28th recipient of the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry.