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Week of 11/3/19

PUBLISHED: November 11, 2019

In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do. 


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VQR: You say this may be the last book. A student once asked me about their own work, “What if this is the last poem I write? What if I never write anything better?” In my thinking, this concerns the ends or aims of art. Seamus Heaney was a poet you knew and visited and one thing from Seamus I’ve held onto is that “the end of art is peace.” For him, in a Northern Irish context, that had a particular significance suited to his time and place. How would you describe what the end of art might be? What might be, for you in your life, the end or aim of a poem?

Charles Wright: I would say that peace is the end of art. Most art (all good art) comes out of some kind of turmoil, mostly personal. But if peace were the order of things, what would be the point? You’d be sitting in the sun strumming your lyre, etc. The aim of a poem is to get it finished, to get to the end, hoping for some kind of light, some kind of insight, some kind of transference, some kind of transcendence, whatever that may be.

Editor Paul Reyes
Excerpt from an interview with Charles Wright in our forthcoming Winter 2019 issue


Every day, I drove to the East Bay, to a tiny pocket of Berkeley that still had power, so I could go to one of the few grocery stores still open in the area. Hundreds, unsurprisingly, had the same idea. Even though everyone is supportive in the aisles—asking “Are you safe?” and “Where are you heading?”—there is tension in the air, too, as we practically lunge for the last bag of ice or can of food, as if we are all in the first act of some bad post-apocalypse movie.Are we?My neighbors walk their dogs with face masks, and their kids play wearing specially ordered face masks, covered with emojis—trying to function normally in a world slipping away a bit more every autumn. Every night I sat in the darkness, illuminated by a flashlight and a few candles, with the man-made wildfires in the distance, and thought, “This is what the scientists warned us about. This is the flashing red warning.”

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “We’re Living Act 1 of the Disaster Films We Grew Up With” in the New York Times


It started like the chain-up but the difference was the power of the chain. One by one, from Hi Man back on down the line, they dove. Down through the mud under the bars, blind, groping. Some had sense enough to wrap their heads in their shirts, cover their faces with rags, put on their shoes. Others just plunged, simply ducked down and pushed out, fighting up, reaching for air. Some lost direction and their neighbors, feeling the confused pull of the chain, snatched them around. For one lost, all lost. The chain that held them would save all or none, and Hi Man was the Delivery. They talked through that chain like Sam Morse and, Great God, they all came up. Like the unshriven dead, zombies on the loose, holding the chains in their hands, they trusted the rain and the dark, yes, but mostly Hi Man and each other.

Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from Beloved by Toni Morrison


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