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A compassionate and opinionated human being. | Fiction author and visual artist in Central Appalachia. | Give my newsletter a try:

Abacus beads, up close

Five short poems tabulating life in pandemic winter

I. Normalize Into Quiet

Half-abacus, I calculate the snowfall by the silence,
ponder how we normalize into quiet
thousands of excess deaths each day. Like snow
accumulating, drifting, uncontrollable

falling out there
deadening the world

II. Work Break

Working from home, you home in
on the mathematical, fanatical panic,
whites of my eyes slicing at you to

read, write, a rhythmic tic
stalk off into the snowstorm for a break,
anything to shake the blood out of my boots, anything –

Do we have any letters to mail? Quarterly taxes on my forty-three-dollar royalties are due next week you know. I know they don’t pick up from…

Meat market with customers.

Personal essays tear us up for a few pennies at a time. Is it worth it?

We value memoirists and nonfiction essayists who can penetrate the grief, horror, heartache of life and show us something raw, something essential in humanity. We value them so much, in fact, that it’s become something of an industry on the internet.

In a sense, writing has always been an exercise in pain excavation. We know that. Writers are often at the heights of their creative powers when they’re probing the depths of their most painful moments.

Today, however, readers are conditioned to crave more because the internet allows access to it. We want more because we have more. And so…

Stacks of books in a used bookstore.

Laying out standards of reading and writing into a new set of artistic principles.

Let me say something right up front: I’m not a subscriber to the “no rules” side of writing — and I’m tired of bad writers abusing the patience of readers. Simple as that.

This isn’t a diatribe against anarchy or artistic freedom. I believe in the usefulness and beauty of frameworks. I believe in having a principled foundation for life and art.

To that end, I’m laying out a few principles for writing and reading that I believe will result in a better relationship with literature.

I believe frameworks can aid freedom — especially creative freedom. Having a framework is…

Splattered paints with a palette and art supplies.

A year of explosive creativity ends a long fallow period in my life, but what does it signify?

A little over a year ago, I started writing again after two decades of working and raising children. As a woman in my forties, I suddenly needed a creative outlet. What I had pushed away as indulgences became necessities: fiction, poetry, memoir. Why?

A lot of creative types must go through this lifecycle. We produce a lot of (often immature) work in our teens and twenties, then we “settle down” and get into the business of work and family life. All the artistic urges are set aside for some later date when we have more free time. …

Angry white man yelling into phone.

Blather, wince, delete: The directions printed on my back.

Everyone — or at least a sizable chunk of Twitter — likes to feel clever. We like to have our intelligence validated. We like to tell a good joke. And some of us dream of being the life of the party, even when it’s not our party.

When that desire drives you into a marathon of unsolicited wit-and-wisdom-dropping in the timelines of strangers, you may be a “reply guy.”

Here’s what I learned about this phenomenon, and about myself, from a little research and reflection.

The short-short lesson: Don’t be that guy.

What is a “reply guy”?

If you’re on Twitter, you may have seen…

Wind turbines at sunset.

Love at the end of the world (a poem).

Past the last toll booth
wind swirls over the barricades,
swifts twirl over the grasshopper fields,
we find relief.

Littering grief
between Gary and Cleveland
we drift, Billie Jean beat baked
into the shoulder of that hot slab road.

We replace our blinders with mirrors,
see everything we put behind us,
see all directions at once
and find a different kind of blindness.

We are wide open
scared but daring, scared by daring,
scraping over the top of Indiana
out here in windmill country.

The heavy load is hefted,
dumped into a creosote-coated world,
black factories tumbling in the rearview,
the relief

The festive stresses of yesteryear (a poem).

Jellyfish platter gelatin mold sweating
on colorized cookbook lettuce,
Telecaster clean through a tube amp
and a sizzle on the snare,
we’re talking pineapple upside down cake,
olive on a toothpick fancy –

She’s no Betty Crocker, our mother,
with her improbable raisins and time
to stab a ham with forty cloves –

Stop licking the eggbeater,
have a cucumber from the vinegar bowl,
a smear of braunschweiger on a saltine
if you’re that hungry, Ronald,
keep your fingers off the icing
and I’ll give you the wax paper –

Now we see Uncle Carl’s van
and Aunt Verneda with her…

Close-up of peony blooms.

A poem about my mother’s beautiful touches

My mother’s hands, freckle specked,
are small and busy as crab spiders
in the garden, always.

With a dull steak knife she saws stems
of the heaviest peony blooms
who kiss the ground in high spring,
to bring their color in for lunch
with our butter-bread and
bread and butter pickles
from the dust-encrusted jar.

I watch her dappled hands,
eye level through the canning jar,
zhushing up the flowers.

They lift their faces,
still sleepy, dripping dew
and ants big as blackberry fruitlets,
to sugar the air and turn,
gradually, gazing back
eye level through the window
seeking their ants and spiders
in the garden, always…

Edie Meade

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