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Earlier this month, Stony Brook announced plans to cut and condense several of their Humanities programs. We asked distinguished writers—professionals who have dedicated their lives to voicing thought—to weigh in on Stony Brook’s decision. They are poets, novelists, journalists, or a combination of both. Among them are two Pulitzer prizes, three Whiting Awards, three Guggenheim fellowships, and several other prestigious awards. Here’s what they had to say: “The future of this country is Latinx; for Stony Brook to cut these programs speaks to a profound shortsightedness and a cruel indifference to the communities the university purports to serve. Only someone with no knowledge of the past, present or future would consider these programs dispensable. And it is at precisely times like these, when Latinx communities everywhere in the nation are under attack by xenophobic politicians and nativist punks, that universities like Stony Brook should be championing the genius and centrality of…

Ever since I was a child, I could see the damned at the bottom of the ocean. If you ever preyed upon your fellow human being, if you betrayed the one person whom you promised your loyalty to, if the pain of the innocent was the only thing that brought you joy, then you were condemned and thrown into the ocean, where the weight of all your sins would drag you to the very bottom of the black ocean floor. Without light, the condemned lost what little humanity they had, and the sinners became beasts who fed on each other. And I could see it all. No matter how deep the ocean floor was, my eyes could pierce through the darkness of the cold, blue waters and bear witness to the actions of these monsters of the deep, these Wicked Ones. Before he died, the old shaman told me that…

There was a dead moon at the end of the interstate. It sat so low in the sky. From behind houses, buildings and trees it disappeared. On the straightaways it returned. Every slight turn on the road brought it across the car’s windshield in a broad arc. It was a stationary target on a long and unending range. It wasn’t a full moon, but less of a crescent. It looked as if something had torn pieces from it. It was fixed so stolid in position, jacked up to that loose space among the black of a starless, clouded night. A horror film without the dread. Like the moon, somebody had replaced it with melancholy. Sweet melancholy for the cars along that interstate, a stretch of pavement housing shells of metal and shells of people. Cooped up into hurtling boxes with their radios turned up high. There were so many ways…

Giddy Up I have had a friendship with a want to be cowgirl for eight years and each year she becomes more striking. She has helped me through all of my problems and dried my suffocating tears. Never once did my mistakes change her opinion of me. I have always been to her liking. I have to admit, she provokes my nerves. She is feisty, has the tendency to be melancholy, is a word twister and she can do a three-sixty in months. Although she can infuriate me, there is not a time when I don’t enjoy her company. Our friendship is stronger than any man I have let hold my hand. In her art, her eyes, and heart I can see that our bond is potentially everlasting; it is grand. Say I Do A marriage should be long and strong. Either can do no wrong in love. To…

Thoughts Over Dinner She says she’s not ready to be in a relationship right now. I don’t understand that phrase – Are you not lonely enough, not wanting to be loved enough? I have been drinking but something in it doesn’t sound right, like when my ears ring at night and I keep it a secret, because I don’t think I want to know why. Dinner with friends is great because if the conversation goes sour, you focus on the food, and if the food is ghastly you focus on the conversation. That’s always important to me, to have an out, an escape plan always set in mind. I left my friends to go to the bathroom, I am desperately nervous, at all times. We order the drinks, we laugh the right laughs, we hit a pause and return to the food. Everything is going according to plan.…

They were heading west, endless miles of highway blazing under the wheels of the powder blue Impala. The worn leather seats stuck to the bare skin peeking out of the girl’s white summer dress. She looked out the window at the seemingly infinite New Mexican desert drowned in red by the setting sun. They’d been on the road close to a week now, passing by strip malls and gas stations in search of the place where the sky glowed at night and the famous danced with the rest. She turned toward the man on her left. Blue eyes, square jaw, he gripped the steering wheel. She stared at the window behind him for several moments. “You hungry?” he asked. He veered right, not waiting for an answer, and several minutes later they stopped in front of a small diner. Flickering neon signs advertised double supreme burgers and milkshakes. Gravel crunched…

Heart wakes me. I can feel it bleeding like a sea into some barren place far from me — far, far away from the ash tree. Heart thumps, and I feel like a post, heart beating and beating me into rough, trodden soil. Worms crawl against burned, aching skin. Wind and sound barely reach me, feeling like they have come from far, far away from the ash tree. The pain starts at heart and races, spreading from my center, radiating with heat. I would moan but mouth is dirt as well. I don’t want to move. Movement is life and I am dead – I know this as ravens know the sky and wolves know the forest. I know where I belong. Yet impulses run through fingers – I still have fingers, some but not all. There is new pain that awakens when I try to move two middle fingers…

A voice cries out in the wilderness, moaning like a doleful ghost up the hilltop from down the slope. My eyes get blocked by clouds of dust, curtains of earth glinting. Bright, white. Heat. There is no smell here but dry earth. About a hundred yards down the slope, I can see it. A purple cloth tied around the bole, flapping low and rapid, forlorn. The curtains go back and forth. It shows between the curtains, sheeting across the slope. Like an upside down smile, showing and not showing, shuttered between bands of it. The voice cries out again. The ghost, the ghost. I start walking down the slope toward it. For a little while there is no sound and no feeling but the specks of dust gathering between my back and shirt. When I’m about halfway down, I see clouds start to mass up gray and primordial. Then the…

In April of 1925, Thomas Stearns Eliot left his job at a London bank to join Faber and Faber, the publishing house where he would work for the remainder of his career. Three years earlier, the literary expatriate had published what is commonly regarded as the central poem of the 20th century: The Wasteland. “April is the cruelest month…” begins Eliot’s 1922 poem. In the stanza that follows, Eliot lays out a startling inversion of poetic tradition. The inaugural month of spring is not the time of life and renewal that his predecessors has imagined; a far cry from Chaucer’s “Aprille with his shoures soote”, Eliot’s cruel month brings not a resurrection of life but an exhumation of the dead, with “lilacs breeding out of the dead land.” The remaining stanzas are a cryptic pastiche of allusions to classic authors; vague declamations of calamity; and ghostly, disembodied mutterings from the…