Was the point always to continue without a sign?

 A substantial number of Louise’s sentences recurringly come to mind, filling a big role in the observation-soundtrack of my life. This began after the first long drive we took together. I was her student at Williams College in Western Massachusetts, hired to pick her up and drop her off each week at the bus stop in Bennington, Vermont, as she commuted from Plainfield. I was also working with her for the first time—on my honors thesis, poems—and she had a reading coming up at the University of New Hampshire, where my younger sister went. Louise proposed that I drive her to Durham. A ways out on Route 2, I asked what she would read [Terns, assassins— ]. She said new poems, from a new book. Ararat. “What are they like?” I asked. We’d known each other maybe six weeks. She paused, “Like yours!” she said, elated. “They are a lot like yours!”

This is not me reporting, Sally = Little Louise. This is how she talked to us.

Also, she and I had already found on our drives a likeness in our relationships with our sisters. [My sister and I, we’re the end of something.]  We drove. We arrived—in the woods, in a glade—at the home of Charles Simic, with whom Louise would stay. Turned out he’d planned for me to stay too, and invited me to dinner. I desperately wanted to accept, but I had this stomach-pit knowledge that I could not bow out on my sister. Later, on campus, I told Jennifer about “Like yours!” and then we went to the reading. After “Paradise”—Adam and Eve—Jen leaned over and said, “So, is that how you feel? an ache where something was taken away / to make another person?” I had tried not to get in trouble, but I got in trouble anyway.

On another drive, later in the year, Louise told me a story about being in her twenties and wanting to write to Louise Bogan, admiring her work, but postponing the letter, being busy, and then Bogan died. Thirty years later, I emailed to confirm my memory of this story, and she said:

Yes, Louise Bogan. There was another such event with Ashbery. I was composing a letter in my head the first night at Yale and the next morning he was dead.

Much love,

Write your unwritten letter.

A painful early romance of mine caused Louise to say, in casual conversation, First you’re the savior, then you’re the target.

 A letter from 1993 (written on the Selectric in all lower-case) is 90% chicken recipe [don’t think of them as guests, think of them as extra chickens], an annotated version of Marcella Hazan. Louise writes, “add fresh rosemary (she says a branch; I use a tree)”; “you can do this two ways: 1) strip needles (they stay in sauce) or 2) use branch and remove. i do both and chew the branches”; “i tend to cover tightly, but then, i hoard by nature”; “something dark green looks nice on the plate.”

When, about a year later, I read Meadowlands (sort of stunned by its being very funny…) I also read, “We can all write about suffering / with our eyes closed. / You should show people / more of yourself; show them your clandestine / passion for red meat.” And there was Louise, chewing the rosemary.

I am responsible for these vines. Louise and John came to my wedding, near the end of their own marriage (oh, there is a marvelous photo of Louise dancing with Chris Nealon)—that whole love was marked by many many Louise-isms: We were artists again, my husband….

No one’s despair is like my despair—

Her way of skewering self-importance. You are showing off again, one speaker says to herself, lambasting her own “ridiculous errand,” weeping in the dark garage with your sack of garbage.

I remember Louise consoling me when my first class of students (high schoolers) seemed unimpressed, like if they went to Williams College they would end up doing something way better upon their own graduations. “It never goes away,” she said, “I sometimes wish for one of those court buglers to go in ahead of me—”  She described the bugle, the scroll of achievements, the red tights.

A white business in the trees, like brides leaping to a great height.

Writing this, I felt something akin to what I felt in the first days after Louise died: refusal. I am tempted to go out to the garage and dig through old files for choice Louise criticisms (e.g.: “you’re writing about feelings you’ve already had, not discovering them”) and for other letters, for more of her to put in here rather than say, What now? Who are you in the world if Louise is not in it?

In “A Work of Fiction” the speaker finishes a novel and feels bereft, and goes outside to smoke a cigarette. “Where had they all gone, these people who seemed so real?” —oh, how this resembles the question from Winter Recipes, when the sister is dying,

Where did you go next, after those days,

where although you could not speak you were not lost?

The cigarette glows in the darkness. “How small it was,” [the light of the tip, it seems—that’s what we see—“a small dot among the infinite stars,” but also, we realize, she means the novel was small]. Brief, brief, but inside me now, which the stars could never be.

Sally Ball (poetry ’94)

November 2023



Back Row: Barbara Greenberg, Robert Hass, Tobias Wolff, Marita Garin, Faye Kicknosway, Ray Carver, Geoffrey Wolff, Donald Hall, Michael Ryan, Stephen Dobyns. Front Row: Lisel Mueller, Ann Blackmer, Deborah Tall, Jane Shore, Janet Bloom. Heather McHugh, Gloria Still, Linda Nemec Foster, Louise Glück. (@Goddard College, 1979)

Louise Glück taught in the MFA Program for Writers during its initial years at Goddard College (1976-1980) and was on the faculty intermittently during the Program’s first decade at Warren Wilson College. She returned for several anniversary celebrations, one of which –the program’s 20th in 1996– is the source of this reading of “Otis” from Meadowlands (Ecco, 1996).

MFA Program for Writers founder, Ellen Bryant Voigt writes “The loss of Louise Glück is devastating.  She was not only an essential personal friend and a great poet, she was a brilliant, passionate teacher, and a crucial friend of The Program. She brought to us an unwavering commitment to rigor as an early member of the faculty and Academic Board at Goddard. She also made the initial contact with Ben & Betty Holden which led to our move to Warren Wilson.”

MFA alum and current faculty member, Sally Ball (poetry ’94) worked with Louise before and during her time in the program. Here’s an excerpt from a remembrance Sally wrote for this forum:

“I was her student at Williams College in Western Massachusetts, working with her for the first time—on my honors thesis, poems, at the hearty and loving urging of Chris Nealon, who knew us both—and she had a reading coming up at the University of New Hampshire, where my younger sister went. I was already Louise’s driver for the short trip between the bus stop in Bennington, VT, and the Williams campus, back and forth each week, and she proposed that I drive her to Durham. Midway across Route 2, I said, “What will you read?” She said new poems, from a new book. This was Ararat, forthcoming the following spring. “What are they like?” I asked. I’d known her for about six weeks. She paused, “Like yours!” she said, elated. “They are a lot like yours!”

In the coming days, the forum will publish Sally’s remembrance. We will also share a moving elegiac essay by faculty member Heather McHugh, who taught with Glück in the MFA Program for Writers at both Goddard and Warren Wilson. From Heather’s essay: “Time was her true quarry (which is to say, timelessness was).”

Finally, for those interested in learning more about Louise Glück’s life and work, in 2020, upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Louise provided this surprisingly revealing and comprehensive autobiography for the Nobel website:


July Graduates of WWC MFA Program









On behalf of the Board, I want to thank everyone who donated and volunteered, and made this a dynamic and eventful year of change for Friends of Writers. Here are a few highlights: 

Recap of Scholarship and Fundraising 

FOW awarded over $107,850 to 60 students and alumni in grants and scholarships, including 15 Grants for Change totalling $10,500. We had 100% participation from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College class of 2022. We have raised $58,000 for Grants for Change and are 19% of the way toward our goal of raising the $300,000 that we will need to endow the fund. We are immensely grateful for your enthusiasm and generosity. 

July Graduation Ceremony 

This summer, the MFA Program for Writers held the first in-person Graduation Ceremony at WWC since the pandemic. Keynote speaker, Peter Turchi, delivered a moving speech to the graduates and their families, focusing on the individual nature of the writing journey, and the kinds of support that makes writing possible. You can read Pete’s speech here.

Alumni Conference

Over 70 alumni registered to share writing, workshops, panels, and the annual auction at the third virtual Wally Conference. We are grateful to new alumni, particularly Liza Duncan (Poetry ‘22) who dove right in and led a class and Sebastian Merrill (Poetry ‘21) who stepped up to help one participant with technical problems. Together, the conference raised over $4,000 through the annual auction and raffle. Thank you to all who attended!

A Piece of FOW History   

Larry Levis once wrote “…writing is the act of discovering something in the process of writing, and that fresh ‘something’ becomes the being of the poem, its identity which is somehow final and independent, when complete, of the poet.” 

The Larry Levis Post-Graduate Stipend opens for submissions September 15th through November 1st 2022. Two stipends, one in fiction and one in poetry, support alumni who are completing first books. For any questions, please contact Nathan McClain at [email protected]. We will be hosting a Levis Reading on November 10th, so mark your calendars!

Upcoming Event October 13th!

Join us for a reading and conversation with our board member Natalie Baszile on October 13th 2022 at 7 pm EDT via Zoom. Natalie’s new non-fiction book, We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land & Legacy, brings together essays, poems, conversations, portraits, and first-person narratives to tell the story of Black people’s connection to the land from Emancipation to the present. Her previous novel, Queen Sugar, was named one of the San Francisco Chronicles’ Best Books of 2014, was long-listed for the Crooks Corner Southern Book Prize, and nominated for an NAACP Image Award. It is currently being adapted for a seventh television season by writer/director Ava DuVernay, and co-produced by Oprah Winfrey. Click here to register for Natalie’s reading! 


Please welcome our new staff member – Nuha Fariha. As FOW’s Administrative Manager, she is overseeing donor engagement, communication and more. Nuha is a second year MFA student at Louisiana State University. In addition, she serves as Development Assistant at Laal NYC, a nonprofit providing resources for Bengali women in the Bronx. She has worked in the nonprofit industry for over four years and currently lives in Baton Rouge with her partner and one year old son. You can contact her at [email protected].

We also want to thank the incredible Jessica Lane for her continued support. Jessica has worked for Friends of Writers since 2015. Prior to that, she worked as a Project Manager for the MFA Program for three years. In her position with FOW, she works primarily with constituent and donation management and reporting. During the day, she serves as the Director of Education + Public Programs for the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, WA. She has worked in the museum and nonprofit world for over 20 years and currently lives in Everett, WA with her husband, Ross, and their dog, Addie.

Have FOW history or news to share? 

Email Nuha at [email protected]. We welcome any news past, present and future to celebrate with the FOW community!

All best, 


President, Friends of Writers

P.S. If you recently changed your contact information, please send it to Nuha ([email protected]). 

On behalf of Friends of Writers, I want to thank the many volunteers, fellow writers, friends, and family who gave their time and resources to celebrate our community throughout—and despite!— this stressful year. 

The 45th anniversary conversations and readings held this spring and summer honored the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers and attracted more than 450 people. Seventy-seven alumni registered for the summer conference to share writing, workshops, panels, and the annual auction. Finally, our 2021 Spring fundraising campaign, Grants for Change, has already allowed us to help make our community demonstrably more inclusive and responsive to the growing needs of writing students by disseminating scholarships to writers of color. 

With the support of individual donors like you, we have raised $35,000 for Grants for Change. You have played a significant role in the ongoing success of this campaign, and I am writing to ask that you help us continue this new fund’s growth with an end-of-the-year gift. This new scholarship fund gives Friends of Writers more flexibility in meeting the needs of our community, particularly during crises such as the pandemic and its extended impact. Our target for the year is to raise $100,000 of the $300,000 we will need to endow the fund. We are immensely grateful for your enthusiasm and generosity, and with your help, we will meet our goal. 

As hoped, we were able to give $5000 in scholarships from Grants for Change in early July 2021. A recipient of a grant, Nandini Bhattacharya wrote, “Receiving [support] from Friends of Writers is a validating experience. It allows me to feel that I am in a community and that I belong, despite all my inexperience and late arrival to creative writing as a vocation and an avocation. It also conveys to me that I am making progress in my trajectory and that people are watching over me. I am not alone in this tremendous adventure.” This January 2022, as we grow the endowment, we will also direct 5% of all donations we receive immediately to talented writers of color. 

In the past two years, Friends of Writers has awarded $200,000 in grants and scholarships—monies raised almost entirely through our fundraising efforts. In the first half of 2021, FOW awarded over $64,000 to students and alumni. It is due to your kindness and generosity that we were able to meet the growing financial needs of deserving writers. We hope we can always offer talented writers the confidence and community that are necessary for every writer’s development.

Together we can work toward equity in our community by amplifying historically marginalized and unheard voices. Please, give what you can this season to help us fulfill our promise of cultivating new and diverse literary voices. To donate, link to friendsofwriters.org/donate/. Or click on the button found on the sidebar.

As this challenging year comes to a close, I am reminded of how important this community is to my wellbeing and practice as a writer, and I thank you for your generosity and commitment. I wish you a healthy and creative 2022.


Abigail Wender

President, Friends of Writers

Join us on Friday, November 5, at 8 p.m. (Eastern) for a grand slam of a reading. For the first time, a roomful (Zoomful) of past Levis Prize winners! The big reveal of who will be reading and the registration link will be posted soon.

The Friends of Writers “It’s all a draft until you die” t-shirt campaign closes this Sunday, July 18, at 11:59 p.m. Going, going, going, almost gone! All funds raised will be used in support of scholarships.
Many thanks to Ellen Bryant Voigt for allowing us use of the quote. 


Read the Message on the FOW Home Page. http://friendsofwriters.org/friends-of-writers-45th-anniversary-celebration-regional-literary-events/

And a reminder that proposals for the Diversity and Inclusion Fellowships are due later this month. http://friendsofwriters.org/request-for-proposals-for-the-friends-of-writers-diversity-and-inclusion-project-fellowships/


Dear Friends and Supporters, 

During this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, we heard from several writers in our community who asked how they could help writers of color. Friends of Writers has established a new fund, Grants for Change, that will direct support immediately toward writers of color, including international writers of color. These immediate grants will allow us to assist new and diverse voices, and encourage writing that more accurately reflects the world we all share. We hope you will contribute this December to Grants for Change.

While we work toward the endowment goal of $300,000, we will, immediately, make 5% of all donations received available to Black, indigenous, and people of color, including international writers in those groups, who demonstrate need and promise. The first awards will be given in July 2021. Friends of Writers board members have already contributed $25,000 to the new fund. Won’t you join us by making a contribution today?

Your contribution will support the ongoing work of achieving equity within our community and amplifying historically marginalized or unheard voices. Ultimately, Grants for Change will allow us to broaden the scope of our giving to include assistance towards creative writing studies, residencies, retreats, festivals, and other writing-related endeavors.

Your gift to Grants for Change will ensure support for writers in need. In these difficult times, your contribution is essential. To donate, please visit this link:  friendsofwriters.org/donate/.

Thank you for your generosity, and best wishes for 2021.