Welcome to “Contributors’ Corner,” where each week we open the floor to one of our contributors to the journal. This week, we hear from Nathan Blake, whose story “When Us Men Tell” appears in 3.1.
Nathan Blake’s first chapbook, Going Home Nowhere Fast, is available from Winged City Chapbook Press, and you can find some of his work at incisorhands.com.
Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
I remember being the over-emotioned high school student. One morning I slid a packet of four or five poems I’d written the night before under the classroom door of the only English teacher who seemed to push students into thought. I wanted to hear this teacher’s own thoughts about them. I wanted to be told I was the best. I wanted to be discovered as the genius among the chaff. Then, worldwide acclaim, fortunes, etc. That’s pride for you. All morning I waited to hear what this teacher would say about my poems, nearly feverish. It was probably a couple of days before this teacher said anything about them. This teacher told me to keep doing it—writing, that is. This teacher said, “Keep writing. Keep doing it.” Those poems were trash, but I did as this teacher advised. I went home and wrote some more trash. And still going at it, even.
What are you reading?
I just re-finished Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God, which was wonderful, wonderful. Right now I’m into Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal, any Diane Williams short story I can find, assorted fairy tales, and Mitchell S. Jackson’s Oversoul. It sounds like a lot, but I read too little during the academic semester. I’m lucky if I sneak a chapter in a week. Sometimes I just like to look at the page rather than read it. Shape is underrated.
Can you tell us what prompted “When Us Men Tell”?
“When Us Men Tell” originally came out as a Lydia Davis impression for a forms course I was taking at the time. I had been reading a lot of prayers and chants, repetition, Andy Devine, etc. I knew I wanted fast sentences and a repeating word. The word would be the linchpin around which the story’s emotional core would spin, meaning the word would be the actual core. “When” as a word can do many things, especially in regards to time, and once I’d written two or three sentences with “when” out front, I knew I had the form, and the content, naturally, extended from there.
What’s next? What are you working on?
Right now I’m just trying to sit my ass down and write more stories. I’d like to get to thirty. So far I can tolerate nine. I’ve got a fairy tale going, a horror story, some promising sentences, too. I see a thesis deadline on the horizon. “Novel” is not a part of my lexical orientation.
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