ROLEX ARTS INITIATIVE-Poet Tracy K. Smith: Memory, Creation, Mentoring, and Mastery

Editor’s Note: On June 14, 2017, the Library of Congress named Tracy K. Smith the new Poet Laureate. Tracy K. Smith was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poetry, Life on Mars.

What happens when the body goes slack? 

When what anchors us just drifts off toward. . . . 

What that is ours will remain intact?

Life on Mars

Hans Magnus Enszensberger/Tracy K. Smith

Hans Magnus Enszensberger/Tracy K. Smith

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty debates Alice on the meaning and manipulation of words, telling her, “The question is which is to be master — that’s all.”

For Tracy K. Smith, critically acclaimed poet and assistant professor of creative writing at Princeton University, the issue of “which is to be master” gained a deeper meaning when she was invited to participate in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, not as a master, but as the protégé of Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Germany’s most important contemporary poet and one of Europe’s foremost political thinkers.

The author of three critically acclaimed collections of poetry–The Body’s Question, 2003; Duende, 2007; and Life on Mars, 2011–Smith’s experience as Enzensberger’s protégé has compelled her to re-imagine her designation as “poet” in order to become a writer in a wider sense of the term.

Smith is in the process of writing her first piece of prose—a memoir that centers around the loss of her mother. In it, Smith, who is a new mother herself and who lost her own mother at 22, moves into the vastness of “white space” to grapple with a sense of her mother’s identity and confront the grief of losing her.

WRR: You have said that you inherited your gift with language from both of your parents.

Smith: My mom used to talk about how my dad wooed her with poems and love letters when they were in their early twenties, and so I’ve always imagined that I must have gotten my love of language from him. He was someone who was always reading and pushing us to read.

But my mother was somebody who had such a gift for storytelling and mimicry. She would say, “Oh, I was in the store today and I ran into this man, and he”—then she would go into the character of the man.

And I think there’s a part of me that does that. I think that sense of language and hearing voices and imagining the lives inside those voices must be a huge part of what draws me to poetry. That really comes from her. And when she would tell stories about her father, whom I knew a little bit when I was a child, he seemed like that lively, ebullient kind of personality with an ear for the sounds of speech and the ability to step into other characters. So I think it’s from both my parents.

WRR: Your mentor, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, chose you. How did he find you?

Smith: The Rolex Arts Intitiative Program does a lot of work before the people who are in the running are even notified. A committee finds the artists who will be considered. Somehow that’s narrowed down to three finalists.

It’s kind of a funny method, and I don’t know if it’s like this in the other genres, but the three of us who were finalists (one young poet from the UK, an Ethiopian-American novelist, and me) met in Munich. Each had an hour or two interview with Magnus in his home or in his studio, and then all four of us went out to dinner that night.

Well, I guess we were competing with one another, so going into the process, I thought it would be uncomfortable. But as soon as I got to Munich, as soon as the four of us sat down—or even before that, when I was talking privately with Magnus—I realized that he’s such a generous personality and conversationalist. He was able to put us at ease individually, so that it seemed like, “Oh, dinner will be fun. It will be fun to be in the presence of Magnus and get to know these other writers.”

And the three of us actually spent most of the evening after dinner together just exploring Munich. It was a great moment of camaraderie, and then of course, I felt doubly lucky once I found out I’d been selected.

WRR: How did the mentorship process unfold?

Smith: I feel like it’s ongoing and not really about to end although the formal mentoring will be over in a couple of weeks. (She leans back in her chair and smiles.) We’ve met in different places. Our first meeting was in Spain because Magnus had a couple of events there. My family and I flew over and Magnus and I spent a week working together.

He and I would talk about what I was writing, and—he was so generous—the five of us (Magnus, his wife, my husband, our daughter and I) would walk through the city or go out to dinner, so it was more than just a working relationship. I was able to talk to him about politics and life and his memories, and whatever was on my mind.

We met about a half a dozen times, in Europe mostly, because he was in Europe last spring. Between those meetings, I would email him chunks of my work and he would email back his input. It’s different from what, say, a dancer would do with her mentor, but it was great because I had the echo of his voice from conversations and that side of our friendship, and then I would have the text of his thoughts about my work that I could live with and take in and file away if I wasn’t ready to deal with it yet.

So, I felt like there were these two different veins of our relationship through the year. He’s been so great to mention that our friendship isn’t going to end. I can take my time in processing what his input has been. The material has changed so many times for me in terms of what I’ve imagined I’m writing toward. I like that I don’t have to rush to get through it, because the perspective can disappear.

WRR: Can you give an example of a piece you were working on that developed with Magnus’s feedback?

Smith: I decided to work with prose, a memoir, and started out with a big ambitious mess. It was about a formative relationship with a teacher in high school, about my mother being diagnosed with cancer, about the parts of that process, parts of the experience of her death. Then there was a chunk about my first marriage and the act of rebellion that the marriage represented. And then my daughter…

Then Magnus said, “You know, this is not a story about college. It’s not a story about motherhood for you. It’s really a story about your family and your mother is the central character in that. Get rid of all of this other stuff.”

I didn’t want to hear it, but I lived with it for a little bit and I think he’s really right. It’s a narrower story now that will involve a great deal more time in each of those moments that constitute it.

He’s written poetry and novels and has got more experience in prose than I do. He said, “Put away your poet’s ear and build characters; let them talk, let them live on the page so that we don’t need you to interpret what they’ve done.”

And that was really important. It was a necessary shock. It’s gotten me to slow down and figure out how to build characters, how to tell a big story, and what are the smaller stories that constitute it.

Now, I’m going back into it and thinking, “What is the story I want to focus on today?” Starting from there. And then, if I’m feeling courageous, stepping back and looking for a narrative arc, for some of the bigger ideas that I need to go back to. I don’t know if I could have maintained this commitment to memoir, a form that is still somewhat foreign to me as a writer, were it not for Magnus’s presence saying, “Do this, do this, don’t worry about doing this yet.” And also saying, “This advice might not be applicable and you can choose to abandon it.”

I guess I knew that I had that freedom, but hearing it from Magnus made me feel safe.

WRR: When you were pregnant with your daughter, you wrote your collection of poems, Life on Mars, an elegy to your father, who was an engineer who worked on the development of the Hubble Telescope.

Smith: Yes, he died suddenly, and I was thinking about belief and where he is now. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to imagine that afterlife—or whatever that other side is—without also having that hope with my pregnancy. I love the idea that my daughter and father were somehow connected. I remember when my daughter was born, somebody said that newborns are still ‘on both sides.’ They’re present in this world but there’s also some kind of awareness or knowledge that they haven’t forgotten yet.

I loved thinking that there’s this little person full of wisdom. And she’s not going to be able to tell me, but I can listen and learn just from observing and imagining what centers her.  It seems so trite to say she’s really expanded my view of what the world is, but I feel like she really has. She’s also made me feel brave, because childbirth was something I was actually able to do. Before I had a baby I would think it was annoying when other people would say that there’s a power in motherhood, but I really believe it, and I think not only is there a power in that, but I’m her mother and it’s my job to protect and guide and make opportunities available for her. So I have to stop being afraid of doing things.

I think that’s a big reason behind the desire to write the memoir about my mother. I have to stop being afraid of doing this because I want my daughter to know this side of her story and she won’t know it unless I tell it. Maybe my daughter won’t want to hear it until it’s too late for me to sit down and tell her. So I feel like I have to codify something.  But I feel like being a parent has really changed my sense of everything.

WRR: You were only 22 when your mother died.

Smith: I still feel like I was a little bit of an adolescent when she died. So there are a lot of things about my home life that, because of her religious faith, I felt like I had to try to hide; so I feel like I’m just trying to make some connections, what might feel like a dialogue with her. And that requires more space.

She was the oldest of 13 children, and grew up in rural Alabama in the mid-thirties. I’m the youngest of five children and there’s a big gap between the four oldest and me. So, at the same time, I feel like I’m part of a big family and an only child.

Because of this, I had the chance to spend a lot of time alone with her. And what I’m realizing now is that she was somebody who, as much as she had a firm joyful grounding in day-to-day life, was also somebody who had a really strong spiritual or religious side that was manifested in my life by bringing me to church every weekend as a kid.

It’s something that I think of more and more now—I realize that there are questions that I didn’t know to ask her. As a mother myself, I feel the sense that she never lost her sense of self—or the self that I knew her to be—even though she was juggling five kids. This is something that I’m curious about. It also makes me think, once there was a woman who existed before she was a wife, before she was a mother, and I don’t know who that is.

I have little bits and pieces of stories from her and her sisters that I’m interested in extrapolating from. The book also requires me to think about her death and remembering that she had a terminal illness, and now I’m trying to get back into that state. When I was younger, I think I was simultaneously trying to imagine that it wasn’t there, and then rushing through a sense of feeling that I had come to terms with grief when indeed I had not.

WRR: Would you share a story about your mother?

Smith: Well, there’s one story she used to tell when I was a little kid, and it always kind of broke my heart. I’m a lot younger than my siblings; she had four kids in eight years, and then there are eight years between me and my next brother. She had been a teacher before she started having kids.

There was a time after my siblings’ birth when she went back to teaching. I was in first or second grade and I remember her saying, “Tracy’s teacher called and asked if there is anything that was changing in our home, because Tracy’s acting differently in class; she isn’t very confident.”

And my mother, without even thinking about what was going on, or asking me, decided the thing that was different must be that she was working, and so she stopped. I feel that the way she told that story, she told it without any regret, and I wonder if that’s the whole story. But I feel like that’s so emblematic of her—her job and will and desire was about taking care of us. The other aspects of her self were there, but they weren’t as urgent.

WRR: In many ways, it seems as though you may have taken on your mother’s urgency. You are already recognized as an accomplished poet and now you are turning to unfamilliar territory, that of memoir.

Smith: As soon as I can get rid of the anxiety—and I have to say that I feel a little bit of anxiety every time I open that document on my computer—it becomes exciting.

The reason I want to write this story in prose is that I don’t want to allow myself to come to the same kind of conclusions and discoveries that I might be capable of in poetry. I’ve written a little bit of poetry about my mother and I feel like I know how to ask questions in poetry, and I’ve got certain ways of approaching answers, but I wanted to pull myself out of that mode and get to something that felt new.

In doing that, it’s been incredibly frightening in some ways, because I don’t have the confidence of knowing I can do this. It’s been about testing the waters. Will this work? Will this work?

At first I thought I would write a novel. But I realize that maybe by disappearing into fiction I was afraid of telling the truth. I started doing genealogical research about my family, getting back to this certain point in history where it becomes difficult to find information. I thought, “I have all these names that are so provocative, maybe I should write a novel that invents the history.” And as I said earlier, that was just a crazy mess.

My husband laughs at me because after my first meeting with Magnus, I thought, “What is going on here?” I felt like a kid. “I don’t know what to do. I want my teacher to praise me.”

And then I thought, “If I’m going to get through this, I’m going to have to strip away all these layers of artifice and just learn to tell a story by telling the story I know.”

That little bit of certainty has made it a little easier to go into this territory that is really still very different. But I love the idea of stepping out of what has become a safe identification of myself as a poet. When I went to grad school, there was this unspoken encouragement to choose sides. To be a poet, or be a fiction writer? I don’t know exactly where that comes from. Maybe it’s just this categorization that happens. But I felt I didn’t want to test those other waters, and that started feeling more and more like a fearful avoidance.

I’m trying to get to the other side, and at the end of this process—and Magnus is a great example—I want to step into a fuller sense of myself as a writer, not just as a poet. I used to say, “If I can just get through this memoir, I can write my next book of poems.” But now I feel like, “I cut so much out of this memoir, if I can do this once, then maybe I can tell those other stories in another way.”

WRR: Would you be willing to share a small excerpt from your memoir?

Smith: This piece is from an incident that occurred during my childhood:

We come to a clearing where a few cows and one calf stand grazing. The cows are unbothered and slow, and larger than any other thing I’ve seen up close. Mr. Gus lays a hand on one, who doesn’t stop her jaws from their slow grind of a clump of grass, though her head swings around to face him. Her eyes are deep and kindly, rimmed in black and shaded by thick long lashes, like a lady’s. I can’t help it: something about her—her placid femininity, backed by quiet strength—reminds me of my mother. Instantly, I trust the beast, would let my own hand lean against the thick mottled wall of her side were it not for the calf, which has called itself to my attention. Small and brown, with new fur I can already imagine the plush of against my cheek.  She (I have decided it is a she) sees me, too, and stops, having also just grasped, I imagine, our shared affinity, watching me in a way I take to mean that my own feelings are mirrored in hers. The last dram of my terror at the chickens falls away as I run toward the calf, who takes a few lively steps away, as if to suggest a game of tag.

And then, before I can tell myself what has happened, the calf is lowering her two hind legs back to the ground and casting a quick look over her shoulder as she prances off. And I am curled into myself, clutching my stomach, which throbs and burns where the calf’s feet have struck me, embarrassed for the sobs that any second now will begin to issue from my throat.

WRR: When do you feel that you—or anyone—can be called a master?

Smith: Because I also am a teacher, I feel that, at least for a few hours every week, I have to step into a role of authority and say, “This is something you need to know, and this is something you might consider doing.”

But truer to my process is a kind of questioning, the opposite of certainty, and I guess that approach makes it easier for me to think of myself as someone who is continually learning and growing, someone who has the ambition of taking on different kinds of knowledge. Mastery comes later, with greater experience and authority, with a far vaster body of work, and a far greater number of questions that, if not resolved, are at least thoroughly explored.

To me, every poem should come out of a kind of questioning. In that sense, I know how to write a poem, but I don’t know where the poetry will lead me. I don’t know what’s going to happen or how it will happen, in terms of what will happen to those ideas or those sources.

WRR: In that same vein, the word protégé has its own meaning as someone with great potential who is taken under the tutelage of a master.

Smith: Yes. At first it was kind of funny to think about being a protégé. When I received the email, the subject head said, “Mentor/Protégé Initiative” and I thought, “Oh, they might want me to be a mentor to someone like a kid.”

And then I read it and I thought, “Wow, there are things I could really push myself to learn and try that I haven’t managed to do so far on my own.”

So it became a really amazing pocket of opportunity. I don’t know how many more protégé experiences I’ll be able to participate in, or how many other people who are further along in their career will have the time and inclination to work with me as I try something that I don’t normally quite know how to do. It seems really amazing. I feel like I’m at the end of the beginning of my career.  And really, everyone who’s at this stage and a little preoccupied with arriving at the next level—whatever that is—should stop and do something like this.

Magnus’s body of work is part of why he’s a master and not a protégé. He’s written I don’t know how many books. But also, he’s somebody who has lived in different genres and forms, someone who is not afraid to let his curiosity put down roots in a different area: he writes about politics, and he writes about history, and he writes poetry that comes from private experience or private curiosity, and novels. There is something unstoppable about his creative impulse.

Maybe that’s part of it—maybe mastery is something you declare, privately or vocally, just by what and how much you do. Maybe mastery is also about having changed some kind of terrain. Thinking about former mentors of the Rolex Arts Initiative—I think about Toni Morrison who is also here at Princeton University and how dramatically she’s changed American literature.  Every novel written about slavery, for example, has Beloved not only to contend with, but to draw from. So maybe that contribution is also a big part of it.

WRR: You’ve spoken about creating a big mess. But writing involves revision and often many revisions of a single work. How do you approach that process?

Smith: When I go back and get enough distance on something like a poem, my sense of what might need to be revised comes from the questions that are still in my mind when I read the text, and what it offers, what it seems to grapple with, where it gets with that kind of engagement.

I listen for places where I get bored. Where it feels like I’m continuing in a certain direction out of obligation rather than fruitfulness. Then I say, “Okay, this is where the piece needs to depart from what it’s doing,” and I need to bring in another realm or perspective, or reasoning or questioning.

A lot of the revision has to do with line-editing. Those kinds of things I’m in the habit of doing during the writing process, and then again quickly after. They are changes that I feel capable of making without having any distance.

But the thematic changes, the questions about “Is it finished?” or “Does it arrive?” Sometimes I like to have a little bit of time to forget what I’ve written, so I can go back and see what kind of mark it hits.

I know some writers who will never stop revising. The copies of their books are marked up with changes. I’m not really one of those people. I feel like the poems get to a place where they have arrived at whatever end I might have had in mind, even if I didn’t have it in mind when the poem was started. I feel like it exists outside of me now; it’s out of my hands.

I feel like I can say that with confidence about the poems in my books. I do kick myself for publishing individual poems before they’re ready—I’ve done that a few times, and I feel like I should have held on a little bit longer. But with the books, there’s enough time. I feel like, “Okay, it was born. And now it’s going to grow up.”

WRR: Who are some writers that your life just wouldn’t be the same without?

Smith: Sometimes I feel that I repeat myself when I answer this question, and sometimes I feel like I totally contradict myself. My students just read a couple of Elizabeth Bishop poems today. Every time I read her work, I’m so shocked about how her poems don’t date or take on the sepia tint that some poems do after their moment.  What I really love about her work is the clarity of her vision for detail and her ability to render descriptions that reveal emotional truths.  Her work is always going to be important to me.

A contemporary poet I really feel like I’ve learned a lot from and loved living with is Linda Gregg. I always describe her work as feeling slightly philosophical in a way, because of her ability to look at things almost as their platonic versions, even if she’s talking about romantic love. Her fearlessness in asking huge questions and grounding them in ordinary small moments and experiences. And there’s something about the quiet that runs through her work.

Seamus Heaney was one of my first teachers and one of the first poets that made me want to write, even before I had met him in the classroom. I’ll always be grateful to his work.  It’s interesting, the small, private, domestic stories he tells, and then the scope and ambition of his work.  You can read him slowly, and the course of his career manifests the different stages that a young writer might go through. Death of a Naturalist is so fundamental. It’s private material giving way to something else, something more. The way his books kind of gesture toward the world in a bigger, harder way is really inspiring.

I love Gwendolyn Brooks’s poetry. I feel like she’s a voice that I turn to. The different stages of her career are really interesting, although her early poems are still my favorites.

WRR: In poems like Flores Woman” from you collection Duende, you raise the idea of the possibility of extinction.  What message are you trying to get across?

Light: lifted, I stretch my brief body.
Color: blaze of day behind blank eyes.

Sound: birds stab greedy beaks
Into trunk and seed, spill husk

Onto the heap where my dreaming
And my loving live…

Smith: I think it’s not so much a message, but it’s something that recurs to me—this idea of lasting and surviving and the things that work against that. It’s true, probably, for us as a species. On a day-to-day level, the gestures that make up a life are things that might disappear before we are ready for them to. I think that it also comes from the way that loss plays a part in all of our lives.

Loss has played a big role in my life: losing parents and realizing there is a limit, there is finitude. Those endings are never going to be at the right time. I feel like it’s something that’s built into my perspective of the world—without feeling like I’m a pessimist.  But there’s also something beautiful about the pang of that wish and the facts that are stacked up against it. For me, poetry is about that, in a way. A poem wants to stop time and open up a space where the present moment can always exist, and that’s a futile wish. A poem can never really do that, and yet we write poem after poem that seeks to do that, and make bargains with time.

WRR: Many of your poems deal with the motif of memory. What role should memory play in our lives, both as individuals and as a species obsessed with progress and moving into the future?

Smith: This memoir has done a couple of different things for me. It’s giving me the chance to re-collect memories that I didn’t realize I had. I sit down to start writing and suddenly a day I once lived opens up, an event happens or recurs in my imagination. Something resurfaces that I thought I had lost, and I feel like it’s a little gift and a way of almost making sense of where the present finds me.

The path doesn’t really make sense when you’re on it, but in retrospect you can see there was order. Also, sometimes it’s a matter of being devastated by the mistakes, embarrassed by what you did and didn’t say. And coming to a firmer sense of regret and whatever resolve that regret sets into motion. I think that’s important on a private level, but I can also imagine ways that it is—or could be—acted upon in a more collective sense. You know, we say “Never again, never again!” But that declaration never really pans out. Not enough of us will recognize the similarities between events in time. But maybe we can practice.

WRR: You’ve said that motherhood surprised you.  That it was not a role you imagined for yourself as you built your career.

Smith: It wasn’t a conscious desire to put my work at the center of my life. I think wanted to put my life in the center of my life. It was kind of a selfish thing. I was thinking of myself first and nothing had convinced me that I should be making room for someone else.

I used to say I’m the youngest in the family, and I like playing that role rather than the role of mother.  Or I’d say I have nieces and nephews. But I think really, it was a little bit of self-centeredness and a lot of fear of—everything. I feel so silly now, how afraid I was of the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth, and how that seemed to be something that was impossible, something I didn’t want to experience.

When I was pregnant, my husband got so sick of me because I’d say to him every day, “You will never experience this! I wish you could just put this on for an hour! It’s amazing!”

Now, every morning I wake up and there’s this little person, and I feel infinitely small for having thought that I didn’t want her to be with me in our apartment. But, life is like that. Everything that we experience has the opportunity of becoming an amazing addition to our everyday lives.  Sometimes those things just find a way of asserting themselves.

WRR: You’ve combined marriage, motherhood and a successful career. You’ve said that your husband has been a steadying presence in your life.

Smith: My husband’s field is 20th century poetry, and so his perspective on poetry is refreshingly different from mine. I have all of these poetic voices that I love and I’ve drawn from, and they’re kind of just this big mess in my brain that emerge when I need them to.

He’s got an orderly sense of how ideas and voices relate to one another, so I feel we complement one another. And my inclination of reading a poem is always to come at it from the idea of craft and as a writer. He does that as well, but he puts the poem in context of the world in which it was written.

It wasn’t until we were involved for a little while that I realized how important writing poetry also is to him. I think I’ve pushed him, too, in his work. He’s always written poems, but I think he began making more space for them in the middle of his life. He is now in an MFA program studying poetry. So, I feel like he’s shifting a little bit in terms of what his focus will be. That excites me, thinking of what our daughter will grow up with.

Of course, it’s challenging, sometimes, with both of us wanting to have that space for our work and not having the time for it. We’ll figure it out. Our daughter will get older and it’ll become a little easier. And with our academic schedules, we’re home together a lot and we have the opportunity to read our poems to each other. I have to say, we have a great ongoing conversation.


Joy E. Stocke


Joy E. Stocke

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In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.

With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.

In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.

In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.

She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.

In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey.  Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.

Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013).  The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.

She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.



Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition


The Eagle of Ararat
The Eagle of Ararat-Part II: The Meaning of Freedom


Where Were the Shells Fired From?


Suzanne Opton and Michael Fay – The Human Face of War


Katherine Schimmel: A Meeting in a Garden and a Mystic Pen


Anatolian Kitchen: Cuisine at the Crossroads – For the Love of Beets


ABULHAB – Arabic from Left to Right: An Interview with Type Designer, Saad Abulhab

BELBRUNO- Ed Belbruno – The Colors of the Universe: Microwaves and Art

CLARKE – Rock & Roll, Cybernetics, and Literature: Bruno Clarke’s Intersecting, Interconnecting World

COMBS – Hazard: A Sister’s Flight From Family and a Broken Boy

FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir

EARLE – An Extraordinary Hope Spot: Sylvia Earle on the 20th Anniversary of Cabo Pulmo Marine Park and the Future of the World’s Oceans

FULBRIGHT –  Harriet Mayor Fulbright- World Peace through Education

JOSEPH GLANTZ –  Inner Lights, Electric Kites – The Sparks of Philadelphia’s Creativity

HALIFAX – Joan Halifax, Roshi – Letting Go, Letting in Light: Halifax Talks about Her Life & Groundbreaking Book, Being with Dying

HONEY – The New York Hall of Science Hosts 1001 Inventions – Muslim Heritage in Our World: A Conversation with Dr. Margaret Honey

KUPCU – How to Weave a Culture: The Art of the Double-Knot with Murat Küpçü

Jonathan Maberry’s Ghost Road Blues

MAJOR – A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age: Judith Major and Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer

MAURO – New World Monkeys: Primates, Boars, and a Conversation with Author, Nancy Mauro

MEHTA – Talking about Global Healing with Political Scientist Vipin Mehta

OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur, and Space Traveler

SHOR – Music in Stone: Jonathan Shor Constructs a Lithophone for Quark Park

SMITH – ROLEX ARTS INITIATIVE-Poet Tracy K. Smith: Memory, Creation, Mentoring, and Mastery

SODERMAN – The Solace of Vacant Spaces: An Interview with Visionary Peter Soderman

EVAN THOMPSON – Waking, Dreaming, Being: Philosopher Evan Thompson Explores Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience and Meditation

TIMPANE – This Has Never Felt Like A Job
Poetry, Science and the Big Bang: John Timpane Goes to Cambridge

YUNUS – Opening the Gates of Capitalism: In Ecuador with Economist Muhammad Yunus, “Banker to the Poor”

ZALLER – Robert Zaller – Cliffs of Solitude – A World of Activism: Talking of Troubadours and Poetry with the Historian

Every River Tells A Story: Founders Kim Nagy and Joy Stocke

Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk – Death and Sex: Dorion Sagan and Tyler Volk Get Intimate about Their New Book

Orhan Pamuk – The Melancholy Life

Per Petterson: Language Within Silence


Istanbul, Memories and the City: by Orhan Pamuk, Translated by Maureen Freely
The Road to Home: Rachel Simon’s The Story of Beautiful Girl


Anatolia – Istanbul’s Flaming Horn
End Times Down at the Kingdom Hall
Reclaiming Friday the 13th


Love Affair with Turkey

Anatolian Days and Nights – The Steamy Side of Istanbul


The Bath: Athens, Greece


The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation


 2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..


Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson

Quark Park

Algorithms, Google & Snow Globes: David Dobkin

WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK

Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn


UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul


Conservation – East of an Aquatic Eden and into the Desert
Controversial Marcellus Shale Gas Pipeline Threatens Delaware River Basin and Rural Communities in the Northeast


Migration, Remittances and Latin America


The Slow Web Movement: Wild River Review’s Philosophy on the Media


Rumi and Coke


Post-Thanksgiving Plane Ride with a Soldier on His Way to Iraq
Turkey – Of Protests and Fruit: A Report & Updates from Istanbul

Lauren McConnell

Lauren McConnell

Lauren McConnell

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Lauren McConnell is a writer who subsists on a healthy diet of Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, T.S. Eliot, and Diana Wynne Jones. She is Assistant Editor for Wild River Review, a Professional Tutor at Rider University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in Medieval Literature at Rutgers University.

Lauren enjoys collecting antiques, growing orchids, and volunteering for her local animal shelter. In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and scholarly non-fiction, she enjoys drawing and painting when the mood strikes her. She lives with her fiancé and three cats in Hamilton, NJ.