Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot

A Review of Naked as Eve

from The Charlotte Observer
by Dannye Romine Powell

Each poet possesses certain gifts. One for lyricism. Another for narrative. This one can make metaphor. That one spins language into a buttered frenzy.
offers insight. Another, leaps of imagination.

Poet and essayist Rebecca McClanahan is the master of finding unity in disparity.
Her fourth collection, "Naked As Eve," just out from Copper Beech Press, opens
with the poem "Invocation," in which she presents six people who are dying and the various figures they call out forth. The kamikaze says he was trained to cry out to the emperor at the end:

I thought I might call Father, but it is hard
to cry Father when you are dying.
I remembered a geisha I had loved,
Thinking when the time came
I would call her name, Misaka.

If death can propel us toward the odd, it can also force those at bedside to take on unaccustomed roles:

When the old man in his last moments surfaced
from the morphine, calling Mom
like some fevered child, his daughter
rose from the cot and stumbled toward him.

The act of reaching out is, ultimately, the most compelling:

My dying aunt called simply, Somebody -
and a janitor, sweeping the corridor
outside her room, answered.

This magnificent poem sets up two things the following poems will echo: Our need for intimateconnection and how various that connection can be.

McClanahan writes of a nephew who is "as close / to a son as I can manage."

Of the uncle whose mother just died and how he "took himself in his arms and rocked and rocked."

Of the friend, Suzanne, long divorced, who "keeps / a husband on her bed, a big-armed pillow/made of durable material."

McClanahan's characters exchange and rename each other.

When "disaster returned" the straying husband, he is "astounded / at what accumulates." But love, she says,

was the ghost whose shape kept
shifting. For us, it did not mean babies
those plump incarnations the minister
had promised - flesh of our flesh,
our increase.

Which is exactly the point of this wise and stirring collection. Rebecca McClanahan shows us that increase, like love, is odd and various and resides ultimately in the eye of the beholder.

The Van Angels
More Reviews
  • These lines lift commonplace experiences out of the daily smog and make them shine so that we see them anew, maybe see the deepest truth in them for the first time." - The Pilot