The Power of an Image

Watching the second installment of ABC’s hit drama Resurrection last Sunday night, one image in particular hit home for me. Jacob is standing alone in the middle of a ball field. The other children, who were a moment ago playing happily with him, have all been called away by their mothers. Jacob, who doesn’t see himself as any different from them, doesn’t understand why. His mother, Lucille, is watching all of this unfold from over a chain link fence, and we in turn view the scene from over Lucille’s left shoulder. This is a plaintive scene, and you feel not only for Jacob and Lucille for different reasons, but also for the other children, and even for their parents—who cannot grasp the situation either, and whose protective behavior is therefore understandable. 

It must be a little surreal for a poet to find himself at the center of a phenomenon like Resurrection, which attracted over twenty-one million viewers on its first night. Poets, after all, are neglected as a matter of course. We feel fortunate to sell out an edition of five hundred books. Jason Mott, who recently earned his MFA in poetry at UNCW, probably felt the same way only weeks ago, until his hit novel The Returned became the hit series Resurrection

But I was thinking, based solely on the two episodes of Resurrection that I’ve seen, that this is a poet’s TV series, if anything of the sort can exist. In the scene above, I was moved not so much by the story but by the sheer power of the image. Jacob is wearing a green shirt, and is standing in the middle distance of a green field. The tone-on-tone effect heightens how lost and alone the boy must feel, how lost and alone any child sometimes feels. The chain link fence symbolizes Lucille’s helplessness, and by extension every parent’s helplessness at times. The scene lingered in perfect stillness on the screen for several seconds, and I couldn’t look away. 

I know that Jason isn’t the writer for the series, but there’s something here—something in the poet’s lyricism perhaps—that seems to have been imported intact onto TV. It will be interesting to see how the producers handle this raw, lyrical quality in the future.

Here’s a recent interview with Jason:

2014 AWP Conference


This is the word I was hearing a lot of at UNCW events during the AWP conference this past weekend in Seattle. It makes you wonder, out of all the great programs out there, out of all the hugs and smiles you see in such a tremendous crush of creative talent as all that, can little ol’ UNCW really stand out in such a particular way?

The short answer is, I don’t know. I heard the word around the table in the Bookfair, where we were displaying the immense array of award-winning books and journals produced by the Publishing Laboratory, under the immensely professional eye of Director Emily Smith.


I heard the word at the Ecotone and Lookout Launch party on the penthouse floor of the Sorrento Hotel, on Friday night, from several of the grateful authors we have published. And I heard the word many times more from participants at our annual Alumni reading on Saturday night, in downtown Seattle’s Alibi Room.
image(Bill Carty, ‘07)

I also went to great programs for my Creative Writing degrees, and not a day goes by when I don’t say a prayer of gratitude for the journey my life has taken. So I know what it feels like to finally belong in some deep, almost inexpressible way to a community of peers and artists and lifelong friends. I know as well that this is how we feel here in Wilmington and long afterward. It comes, I suppose, from what Elizabeth Bishop once termed “Efforts of Affection.” We do our best, but then something bigger takes over.

-Michael White

'The Rusted City' Shines

Let’s praise a new collection of poetry. The Rusted City, by MFA alumna Rochelle Hurt, is graced with the informative and glowing blurb of Matt Bell:  “As moving as it is formally innovative, Rochelle Hurt’s The Rusted City is an elegy for the Midwest rust belt, and for a history that is not yet even past—and also the gorgeous tale of a family told through the eyes of its smallest daughter, who greets her rusted world with every magic word of childhood, all the serious play and terrifying loves of her youth.” Our own Sarah Messer believes that “Rochelle Hurt has somehow managed to make a single family into an apt metaphor for American life.”

Sounds intriguing, and those familiar with this poet’s aesthetic know that the collection will be a treat. I find thematic collections of poetry to be especially engaging, and they often appeal to those who admire a touch of narrative weaving through the work. Still, each poem has a distinct personality, which makes me wonder if poets favor one poem out of their collections. I took this opportunity to query Rochelle. Her response, and the poem to which she refers (“The Smallest Sister Meets the Favorite Father”) follow:

“I think this poem is most dear to me because it was one of the very first I wrote when I started this series. It was a catalyst for a project that I didn’t yet know would be a book—and also a catalyst for the events that unfold within the book. I guess it was the inciting incident both for me and for my characters.”

The Smallest Sister Meets the Favorite Father

and he is perfect. He is all clanging and steam. He is in the kitchen, sorting through pipes beneath the sink. She follows him out to the heat-wilted yard, where he solders his feet to the soil with guilt. “I’m going to stay this time,” he says to himself, not sure yet how to speak the language of daughters. The smallest sister reaches down and wipes the red dust from his work boot. She studies the way it settles into the grooves on her fingertip. It looks like a solar system, a red ringed universe—or a wound, glowing orange, seething. “My favorite,” she says. 

from The Rusted City (White Pine, 2014)

Lovely. Congratulations, Rochelle!