Changing Stories, Stories for Change

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 7, 2014

  We know a good story can change us. But can our stories really change society? Writers, poets, journalists, arts educators, and cultural activists based in and around Dar es Salaam, Tanzania convened on Saturday March 8 at Soma Book Cafe to explore the link between art and social change in a one-day workshop organized […]

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Elaine’s and the New York I barely knew

by David Alm December 10, 2013

I never had a chance to go to Elaine’s, the famous writers’ haven on the Upper East Side that closed in 2011. But I know its kitschy decor, its tightly packed dining rooms, and even its pay phone. Thanks to Woody Allen. He used Elaine’s in his films, from Manhattan (1979) to Celebrity (1998). It was the perfect […]

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Where should a writer live?

by David Alm September 6, 2012

Years ago, I saw Tom Waits in concert. Between two songs, he said something that’s stuck with me ever since: “It’s not that the world is overpopulated,” he said. “It’s just that everyone wants to live in the same places.” I was living in Minneapolis at the time, having just graduated from college and plotting […]

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The writing life, or, reckoning with poverty

by David Alm June 8, 2012

There is a moment in Louis Malle’s excellent 1981 film My Dinner With Andre that has stuck with me since I first saw the movie almost 20 years ago. Wallace Shawn, playing himself, is on his way to meet Andre Gregory for dinner at a fancy restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. He takes the subway, a […]

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Readers rescue us

by Jeff McMahon June 30, 2011

[capti on id=”attachment_2694″ align=”alignright” width=”300″ caption=”By fox_kiyo via flickr”][/caption] When we published the summer issue of Contrary two days ago, we had less than $2 in the bank. We’ve been scraping by since the recession hit, but this marked the first time we had published an issue without knowing how we’d pay for it. Scary, […]

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MANENO — a few words on the making of Stone Town’s monthly poetry reading series

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 21, 2011

Where were all the poets and writers in Zanzibar? Where were those wordsmiths hiding? Throughout my first year in Zanzibar, I may have been living inside the poem that is this island, but I’d stopped writing poetry, and I felt like the proverbial fish out of water. I’d defined myself as a poet and writer […]

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Toni Morrison’s $30,000 payday

by David Alm March 28, 2011

By now you’ve probably heard about Toni Morrison’s next big speaking engagement: the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The Nobel Laureate will receive $30,000 and an honorary doctorate for the speech, scheduled for May 15th th is year. Let me state upfront that I like Toni Morrison. I first read her as […]

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A misplaced medias

by Annie Murphy February 11, 2011

While attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs 2011 conference in Washington, DC, I grew angry at the commercialization of—like everything else—literature, the fetishization of creative writing, and the vitriol between creative writers and scholarly writers. I consider myself a member of the l atter group, primarily because I am currently enrolled in an […]

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Bad Writing, defined

by David Alm February 10, 2011

Take a minute to parse this out: “Bad art is that which does not succeed in cleansing the language of its dead — stinking dead — usages of the past.” I’m sure that within the right context — a graduate seminar on postmodern fiction, perhaps — that definition, from the poet DA Powell, could find […]

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Post AWP Buzz: Dunn and Hoagland and Rankine

by Laura McCullough February 10, 2011

The end of AWP (Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference) is always charged, and certain events stand out: two that did this year are, first, The Stephen Dunn Tribute (disclaimer: I ran it) with over 400 in attendance and rousing panel presentations by BJ Ward, Kurt Brown, Kathy Graber, Peter Murphy, Andrea Budy, and myself, […]

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