On Sunday, September 26, New School Professor Joseph Salvatore gave an amazing and ardent reading at Googies Lounge. The room was filled with a community of readers and writers, former students, friends, and literary admirers sweating in the oppressive humid heat while anxiously waiting to hear the piece from his upcoming book of short stories, To Assume a Pleasing Shape. The story he chose to read “Whatever, Forever” kept the crowd rapt and dramatically raised the temperature of the room. The passion, torment, beat, and gothic sensibility mixed with just the right amount of pathos moved the crowd from gasps to laughs to audible sighs. Not often does one get to witness a master in peak form entertain and enthrall with such brilliant use of language.

Here’s an excerpt:

“… she wouldn’t mind a nice set of claws, claws like her winged friends have, claws that could hold onto ledges of dizzying height — like the stone belfry of Old Salem Church, from which foggy perch she could peer down upon her entire Witch City, peer down upon Salem Harbor with the hillside cemetery of Marblehead off across that dark water, peer down upon the old lighthouse overlooking the salty mouth of the Atlantic, down upon the dry-splintered eaves of the House of Seven Gables, down even to Swampscott, to the gallows there where, contrary to popular knowledge, were hanged the wise women of her township, the women who did not need men — claws that could act as protection, as weapons, while she flies through the night air, her outstretched wings a dark sail billowing behind, the moon above a flaming penumbra; claws that could scrape down a lover’s back, down even (yes, she wasn’t afraid to say the name) Angie’s back, Angie Kosinski’s freckled back …”

To Assume a Pleasing Shape, will be published in 2011, from BOA Editions.

Reviewed by Liz Axelrod


The East Village was alive this past Wednesday night with both those who haunt and those who need to be haunted

In St. Marks Church on 10th Street, hundreds of people filed into the Poetry Project’s Memorial for the poet Peter Orlovsky who died this past May. His name becomes more recognizable when it precedes the fact the he was Allen Ginsberg‘s lover and life-long companion, immediately positioning Orlovsky as a shadow amongst the great Beat poet. He never howled as loudly as Ginsberg, but he was bursting with creative energy and feelings so dynamic that when Ginsberg encouraged him to write, it was only natural that he did so.

Throughout the evening, music, poetry, storytelling, and memories compounded in unraveling Orlovsky as a true poet. Some friends, like Patti Smith, recalled “always being in the same room with Peter, but never speaking a word to one another.” They bonded through the unspoken – from being surrounded by an intellectual circle of those who were accustomed to speaking.


12th Street Website:

Online Editor-in-Chief: Liz Axelrod
Online Literary Editor: Philip Anderson
Assistant Online Editor: Jennifer Giglio
Assistant Online Editor: Jeff Vasishta
Online Edit God: Patrick Hipp

12th Street Journal:
Editor-in-Chief: Mario A. Zambrano
Managing Editor: Liz Axelrod
Interview Editor: Patrick Hipp
Fiction Editor: Eric Marsh
Nonfiction Editor: Tony Grassi
Poetry Editor: Rebecca Melnyk
Readers: Jennifer Sky Band, Noah Beigelmacher, Myriam-Skye Holly, Rachel McAlpine, Adam Hansen
Editor-at-Large: Luke Sirinides
Faculty Advisor: Rene Steinke

MFA Teaching Assistants:
Print: Addie Morfoot
Online: Alex Wilson

Don’t forget to come by the Lang Center this Friday, May 7, for the finale in the Riggio Reading Series. Graduating seniors will be reading excerpts from their thesis projects. It’s an event not to be missed. Formal attire is expected.

12th Street Celebrates the Release of Issue Number 3!

The literary journal of The New School’s Riggio Honors Program, Writing
and Democracy, will celebrate the launch of its third issue at Barnes &
Noble in Union Square at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 18th. The reading will
feature New School undergraduate student contributors, Robert Polito,
Director of The New School Writing Program, and special readings by two
writers interviewed in this issue – David Gates and Mary Gaitskill. 12th
Street is edited and published by students in the Riggio Honors Program:
Writing and Democracy at The New School.

The Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy is an innovative
sequence of writing workshops and close-reading seminars designed to
offer gifted undergraduate writers in the New School Bachelors Program a
balanced and substantial literary education. As one part of the Leonard
and Louise Riggio Writing and Democracy Initiative at The New School,
the honors program accents “the writer in the world,” and extends to
undergraduates the mission and accomplishments of the New School’s
well-known graduate program in Creative Writing.

Monday, Monday, Monday!

April 26th is the New School’s 12 Street Magazine launch party. Contributors will be reading excerpts from this year’s journal. Refreshments will be served.

The launch will be held at:

66 W. 12th St., Rm. 510
@ 7:00pm.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Big Event:
Riggio Student Reading
Spring 2010 Opening Night!
Lang Cafe
65 W. 11th Street, ground floor
6:30 pm

This Friday, your fellow students are hosting a reading in the Lang Cafe at 6:30 pm. Come support your fellow students. Have a slice, sip a drink, clap for your friends and, if you’re a Riggio student and want to share your work, step up to the mic! Write to Rebecca Melnyck at if you are interested in reading.

Reading Committee:
Liz Axelrod, Sarah Finch, Rebecca Melnyk and Jennifer Sky Band

On behalf of the 12th Street staff, we look forward to seeing you there.

The Writing Program is hosting a couple of keen events this week, so don’t miss out.

Tonight, Laura Cronk will be moderating a discussion with Catherine Bowman. They will be talking about Catherine’s new book, The Plath Cabinet. This is a must for Plath devotees. Bowman is also the editor of Word of Mouth, an anthology of poems by poets she has reviewed and featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Her poems have appeared in six editions of Best American Poetry.

On Wednesday, Greil Marcus is hosting a Riggio Forum with David Thomas, the lead singer and founder of the legendary avant-rock band Pere Ubu. Pere Ubu were an innovative force during the rise of punk/new-wave in the late seventies and early eighties.

Remember, these events are free for students and faculty, so be sure to check them out.

Tuesday, December 1
Poetry Forum: Catherine Bowman
Laura Cronk, moderator
6:30 p.m., room 510

Wednesday, December 2
Riggio Forum: Ghost Line Diary
A conversation with David Thomas
Greil Marcus, moderator
6:30 p.m., Alvin Johnson/J. M. Kaplan Hall, 66 West 12th Street, room
510, $5; free to all students and New School faculty, staff, and
with ID

The Adriana Trigianni and David Baldacci event, Wine and Words, at the Virginia Festival of the Book last week, was held at a Charlottesville wine bar called Enoteca. It’s a knock off of the wonderful Bar Veloce in New York (2nd Ave, between 11th and 12th); they even have the slim menus, the high chairs, and the tea candles in small glasses.

My wife and I arrived twenty minutes early and the place was already full. We brought down the mean age by thirty years. We found two chairs across from each other, away from the crowds, but too far away from the wine. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” was playing overhead, and I smiled.

The two authors were easy to pick out, not just from their dust jacket photos but also by the group of people surrounding them and the name tags on their lapels. There was no organization to the crowd, just people mingling, the sound of many conversations.

I was disappointed with the fact that each person only received one drink ticket.  After the first glass of Montepulciano I would have to start paying. One of the bartenders was overheard saying, “I should’ve known to order more white wine.”  To eat, there were big green Cerignola olives, fresh crusty bread, Pecorino fresco, mild Manchego and Grana Padano.  baldacci

A white woman with flat hair and glasses, in her sixties, came back to the table near us with two signed copies of Very Valentine. She was beaming. An older gentleman who sat next to me asked her what she thought of Trigiani’s books.

“Well they’re not deep, but for women they are very enjoyable,” she said.

Baldacci was leaning against the bar, drinking the same Montepulciano, making smug mannerisms and laughing, surrounded by old men who were jealous of his perfect part.

A fat lady had to lean on my chair to get onto hers, and she kept her feet on my rungs the rest of the time.  “It smells like pancake syrup,” she said to her equally overweight friend. A group of women were in the corner near the window, laughing loud enough for everyone to hear. “I guess, some people just came for the wine,” the lady with her feet on my chair said.
trigiani Finally, there were some introductions. Baldacci stood in front of the group, thanked everyone for coming, and spoke a little bit about an organization that he and Trigiani helped start, Feeding Body and Mind, where they take book donations and send them to a food bank to be handed out along with meals. He also spoke of how much he enjoyed the festival. He has participated in every one since its inception, fifteen years ago. “There’s smething for everyone at this festival,” he said, in a voice that was almost too soft to hear.

Trigiani came up after him and killed it. She’s a boisterous woman, with a big voice and an even louder laugh. She introduced everyone she had brought with her, including her mother, three sisters, her fifth-grade French teacher, and her in-laws. The crowd loved her, and she loved them back. “This is my home state.  I love me some Virginia.”

I climbed up the creaking stairs, 10 minutes late, as Jeffrey Renard Allen read from hisholding-pattern story “The Green Apocalypse” from his collection Holding Pattern. I was immediately reminded of how much I enjoy the way he pronounces the word “particularly”: it comes from his mouth like a rubber ball in slow motion, that then bounces gently down the stairs. Jeffrey Renard Allen, who is a professor in the Riggio program, was one of the most intelligent and kind writing teachers I’ve had.

Mr. Allen was one of three men reading from their short story collections. Following Allen was James Matthews who read from Last Known Position. He is a veteran of the Iraq war, having done two tours. Following him was David A. Taylor, author of the collection Success: Stories. After reading, each of the three authors took questions from the small audience of 20 people.

On how he starts writing stories, Jeffrey R. Allen said, “Every story is different.” He went on to describe how  when he was once in Chicago, riding the El, he saw an older lady playing a guitar on which there was a picture of a younger boy, assumedly her grandson. The image stayed with him and found its way into the end the story “Bread and the Land.”


“Characters take you to place you didn’t expect,” Allen responded to an additional question on planning stories in advance to actually writing them. “Every story dictates its own terms.”

Someone asked Allen about his poetry, and how he came to it. He said that in school, he had always considered himself a fiction writer until a professor told him that his writing used mostly plain words, which he did not take as the compliment that it was intended. So, he started reading and writing poetry “as a way to better understand how to use the language.”

Up Next: Wine & Words with David Baldacci and Adriana Trigiani

This week in Charlottesville is the 15th annual Virginia Festival of The vabooks2Book—five days of literary events to honor book culture and promote reading and literacy. This year 12th Street will be in attendance, so look forward to several postings from events. Jeffery Renard Allen will be reading from his new collection of short stories, Holding Pattern. David Baldacci, author of 16 novels, including Divine Justice, will discuss Italian wines. And if we’re lucky, we’ll get to discuss the novel American Rust with author Phillip Meyer.

Puppet reading “I’M READY, ARE YOU? – 23 (Truth or Consequences)” by Leigh Stein.

For more information on New School University-Sponsored Sock Puppets, please click here.

chicago09s-1This year’s Association of Writers and Writing Program‘s Conference is in Chicago and 12th Street is attending! Not only does AWP have amazing panels and readings planned for us, but we’ve got some ideas of how to share the conference with you!

Live Blogging!  If we’re there, you’re there too. We’ll keep you abreast of what is happening in the world of writing programs.

Video Blogging! We’re attaching some faces to these names and will be introducing you to new writers as well as some of our readers.

Puppets! More info to come…

Interviews and Readings! We’ve got lists of people we want to highlight and share with you, and lots of people we’re excited to meet ourselves.

Chicago is a great town, but it is mid-February, after all, so we’ll be spending much of our time indoors at our 12th Street table and wandering around to other journal’s and writing program’s tables. We’ll also be listening to one panel after another and sharing it all with you.

So, I’m encouraging you, our readers, who are a huge part of why we are going to AWP, to log on to AWP’s website, check out the schedules and let us know if there is something you’d like to know. Is there a panel you’d like to hear about? A person you’d like to hear read? Questions you want asked?  Let us know!  We leave next Thursday…

imagesTomorrow night’s Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy student reading is the last chance this fall to hear the words being written by your peers.  

Over the last couple of years within the Riggio program, I have both read my work and actively avoided reading publicly. I used to balk at the idea of leaving the quiet and safety of my desk. I wanted to write, not read aloud. And even after many readings—student, thesis, 12th Street launch parties—I can still feel my voice shake for at least the first page and a half.  

In the past two weeks, querying my fellow students as to whether or not they would be reading tomorrow night, I have heard all the familiar reasons they will not be reading. I say “familiar,” as they used to belong to me.

Adrián Jiménez (A.J. to most), last year’s editor-In-chief, used to write something brand new the afternoon of a reading explicitly for the occasion. I found the thought terrifying. The idea of having such a comfortable relationship with my words so quickly seemed a nightmare. At that point, I saw standing at the podium in front of the audience as a moment of judgment, so how could I possibly read words that I had only judged myself for a few hours?

Then I looked around the room. Most everyone else was as nervous as I was, and these were my peers. I remembered Douglas Martin relaying a story to me of his college days, when he would take his required texts out of the library. The story ended with his professor asking the class, “If you don’t buy books as writers yourselves, how can you ever expect someone else to buy yours?”  That may be a roundabout way of telling my larger point: a vibrant and healthy writing community is built from within.

So tomorrow night I will be reading something, perhaps words I have yet to write. And I hope to see a lot of you, the Riggio community, there as well, as readers, listeners or both. All the info was in last week’s Riggio newsletter and you can still sign up to read if you e-mail Luis. See you there!

Room 510 @ 66 West 12th Street, 6:30 PM

Leigh Stein, 12th Street Online’s very own poetry editor, will be reading tomorrow at the New York Society Library for the 13th Annual Amy Awards, at 6pm. You can find her here, a few of her poems here, and her interviews with other poets on this site here.