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The Splendid Word
And now a few works from our writers…

Fiction   |

Poetry    |

Poetry    |

Fiction   |

Poetry   |

George Saunders
My Flamboyant Grandson  

Courtney Queeney
Notes for My Future Biographer
The Trouble with Openings
The Anti-Leading Lady on Longing
Filibuster to Delay a Kiss

James Gendron
Trials of the Early Astronomers
La Patrie
Black Candle
The Trends That Shape Our Lives

Phil LaMarche
American Youth

Christopher Kennedy
Duration of the Spider
Riddle of Self-Worth
Age of Transcendence
My Father in the Fifth Dimension
Dressed for Church

In her book for aspiring authors, renowned writing teacher Brenda Ueland says of the creative process, “Writing is not a performance, but a generosity.” For fiction writer Robert Olmstead ’77, G’83, who earned a master’s degree in the University’s Creative Writing Program, that generosity was extended by the SU faculty members—and literary notables—who were his teachers. “Thinking back, I still can’t get over entering a classroom and having Tobias Wolff and Ray Carver—two of America’s greatest writers—right there to tell me what they know,” says Olmstead, a recipient of the Chicago Tribune’s  2007 Heartland Prize for his novel, Coal Black Horse (see page 66). For three decades, the Creative Writing Program, a master of fine arts degree program based in the College of Arts and Sciences, has served as a close-knit community of writers and poets working together to develop as artists. The limited enrollment, with only eight to 12 admitted each year, guarantees students work closely with faculty authors and poets of national renown. Among the program’s acclaimed alumni are Jay McInerney G’86, who rocketed to stardom as a student with his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, and poet and MacArthur Fellow Lucia Perillo G’86. Some recent graduates are already receiving kudos for their work, including Salvador Plascencia G’02, recipient of the 2008 Bard Fiction Prize for his novel, The People of Paper, and Rebecca Curtis G’01 and Ellen Litman G’04, whose books were nominated for the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. “It’s an honor to direct a program that includes such exceptional writers and teachers, as well as students who consistently amaze me with their talent,” says program director Christopher Kennedy G’88, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for 2007.

We invite you to enjoy the following works by Syracuse University literary artists, including Kennedy and fiction writer and MacArthur Fellow George Saunders G’88, both current faculty members who are graduates of the program; recent graduates Phil LaMarche ’98, G’03 and Courtney Queeney G’05, who just published their first books; and James Gendron G’08, a promising poet and recipient of the program’s Lou Reed/Delmore Schwartz Scholarship.

—Amy Speach

Flamboyant Grandson
By George Saunders

This story is unavailable on the web due to copyright restrictions.



George Saunders G’88 is an English professor who teaches in the Creative Writing Program at SU. He is the author of three short-story collections, In Persuasion Nation, Pastoralia, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline; a novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil; a collection of essays, The Braindead Megaphone (all published by Riverhead Books); and a children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (Random House). He writes regularly for The New Yorker, Harper’s, and GQ, and has won four National Magazine Awards for his short stories. In 2006, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for “bringing to contemporary American fiction a sense of humor, pathos, and literary style all his own.”

For more information about George Saunders and his work, visit


Poetry | Courtney Queeney

These poems are unavailable on the web due to copyright restrictions.





Courtney Queeney G’05 is a poet whose work is collected in Filibuster to Delay a Kiss, and Other Poems (Random House). Her poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, Three New Poets, and elsewhere. She resides in her native Chicago and continues to scribble.

Excerpted from Filibuster to Delay a Kiss, and Other Poems. Copyright © 2007 by Courtney Queeney. Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group.

For more information about Courtney Queeney and her work, visit







James Gendron G’08 was born and raised in Portland, Maine. He just earned an M.F.A. degree from the Creative Writing Program, where he was the Lou Reed/Delmore Schwartz Scholar. His poems have appeared in The Indiana Review and The Brooklyn Review.


James Gedron's Poems are unavailable on the web due to copyright restrictions.


American Youth

By Phil LaMarche

This excerpt is unavailable on the web due to copyright restrictions.



Phil LaMarche ’98, G’03 is the author of American Youth: A Novel (Random House). He was awarded the Ivan Klima Fellowship in fiction in Prague and a Summer Literary Seminars Fellowship in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work has appeared in Esquire and The London Telegraph, as well as other journals and anthologies. His story “In the Tradition of My Family,” published in Ninth Letter and the 2005 Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories anthology, was made into a film by orLater Productions. He teaches creative writing at SU and lives in Central New York with his wife.

For more information about Phil LaMarche and his work, visit


Poetry | Christopher Kennedy


Duration of the Spider

Though spider is my nature,
I aim toward human urges and shape
my face to suit the mood around me.
I stick to corners and wait,
my web strewn with stunned buzz.
Silent, I hope for redemption,
but I know damnation lurks at the end
of a lizard’s blue tongue
or a frightened child’s hand. A simple flick
from nowhere, and I cease to be.
At night, I wait for a finger
to switch the harsh light into existence
and pray, when judgment comes, to ransom
my weight with the currency of dead flies.







Riddle of Self-Worth

By cannibal standards, I’m dinner for six.
My pet vulture has the disconcerting habit of staring
at the clock and then at me. In terms of sun,
I plan for a long Alaskan winter. Insurance salesmen
slink away from me at parties. A stiff breeze
blows away my weight in gold. In the world of before
and after, I remain steadfastly before. Last session,
my psychiatrist shook my hand and thanked me
for curing his insomnia. If I had a nickel for every time
my name was associated with greatness, I would owe
someone a quarter. My mother called recently and asked
for her umbilical cord. Yet I’m resilient, a human cockroach.
I’ll be here for a while, blocking progress in a black leather jacket,
switchblade quick and ruthless as a jar of pennies.






Age of Transcendence

A nervous, mildewed child, I was less afraid of ghosts
before my father became one. I ate what I was fed
and lay all night in the hooded dark, listening to the house breathe.
I was never healed by the sound of wind through trees,
the row of poplars, swaying at the end of the field,
and I listened hard for the rush of traffic in the distance headed away.
When I grew older, I purchased handfuls of extraction dust,
determined to push my soul past the limits of my skin.
Bone-sculpture, skinnier than wire, I loved my murderers.
I loved my murderers, my friends, who loved me, too,
all of us seduced by the same impossible desire to leave
our bodies. I was afraid of ghosts, but I loved the end
of the world, the idea of sitting on a hill, watching the cloud
in the distance, one small step from the moon.




My Father in the Fifth Dimension

Once I attended the burning of a house.
Late October, and each flame-tipped leaf
that flew past threatened to set me on fire. 
A crowd gathered, and I watched as a secret
tried to burn its way out of everyone’s flame-stunned faces.
I wouldn’t learn what it was until much later.
The house was too young to die. It was my father,
the secret, only I didn’t know it then.
He was the house, too. But since I thought
it was only a house, I watched it burn. 
It didn’t become my father until years later
when every presence became his absence:
the moon in its phases, the tireless leaves
dropping to the ground, the russet-colored horse
that keeps its head down in a photo from another century—
my father, also. He is timeless, traveling
in the tightest imaginable circle on a curve
located on a cylinder beneath an invisible plane.
I visit there in dreams. One time, during a long visit,
my spine slithered out of a slit at the base
of my neck. Like a skinned-snake, it wriggled away
until I picked it up. Then it turned into a guitar,
and with it I struck the chord of dissonance
and woke up to the sound of distant thunder.
I was the train in Magritte’s Time Transfixed,
floating out of the fireplace, without tracks
or destination. It was at this moment the infinite
seemed possible. I closed my eyes. I heard a voice
as near and remote as childhood, saying You live
in a country where no one speaks the language. 
Rely on the body. It was then I became the father
of a great desire. I wanted to put my head
on my mother’s pillow, to feel the smooth,
curved beads of her rosary, strung in decades
on a silver chain. But sleep is no substitute
for death, or rather the life after death,
so I woke up from the dream within the dream
and set out to find a burning house, the moon,
some fallen leaves, a horse from another century.



Dressed for Church

When you get far enough away to see where you’ve been, it’s always
smaller, your father is there, swimming in a small pond, like a sunfish
you caught in the St. Lawrence Seaway when you were six. And it’s not
as if you can circle around and come up on it from the back, see it again,
large as life. It recedes as you walk, compressing into a pinprick of light.
And then your mother stands next to the clothesline with the wicker
laundry basket in her hands, all your father’s white shirts, hanging like
ghosts from the lines. And then she’s gone. The shirts flap in the wind
a little, and you think of wounded soldiers begging mercy in the snow
and turn and walk a bit farther, fascinated by the unlikely sheen of your
new shoes.




Christopher Kennedy G’88 is an English professor and the director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at SU. A native of Syracuse, he has written three full-length poetry collections, Trouble with the Machine (Low Fidelity Press), Nietzche’s Horse (Mitki/Mitki Press), and Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death (BOA Editions Ltd., 2007), which earned him the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award for 2007. He has also written a poetry chapbook, Greatest Hits (Pudding House), and is a founding editor of the literary journal 3rd Bed. His work has appeared in Grand Street, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Mississippi Review, McSweeney’s, and many other journals and magazines.

“Duration of the Spider,” “Riddle of Self-Worth,” “Age of Transcendence,” “My Father in the Fifth Dimension,” and “Dressed for Church” from Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death by Christopher Kennedy. Copyright 2007 by Christopher Kennedy. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.


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