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Cold Snap as Yearning

Robert David Vivian, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


These personal essays are meditations and speculations; in this sense, they partake equally (in spirit and metaphorical resonance) of both poetry and prose, written over the last few years with the encouragement of my mentor and adviser Judith Slater, their subject matter is wide and often strange: abandoned shopping carts, transcribing tapes for an insurance firm, a homeless woman who talks to debris in the street, another woman killed by a trash compactor while inspecting garbage, a child's eye view of the sky from a snow bank, a troublesome toaster, the haunting presence of crows in winter, a keen sensitivity to noise, gravel roads, the shot-out windows of a church. As Annie Dillard once said of the essay, “The essay can do everything but fake it”—and these, too, try to come to grips with both lived experience and what those experiences have come to signify through the cleansing rigors of prose. They attempt to illuminate the deep mysteries of the commonplace, that which is right in front of our eyes in every day experience. Only the emergent field of creative nonfiction allows for such gambols of the heart and mind, and the possibility of epiphany and redemption in the commonplace only the essay is capacious enough in its variety to look at experience from so many different angles. ^ The settings where these essays “happen” are mostly urban or on I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln. Although they inevitably draw on memory, the import of their assertions has implications for the present in just how these collective experiences have impinged on my sense of the world. The circuits of thought here are open loops, and raise many questions regarding certain felt omens and signs intuited about American culture at large. The “I” behind them, then, is merely a part of a broader and richer tapestry, one which weaves a contexture toward a deeper understanding—via prose—of the complex relations between the individual and his or her given place in the world. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Vivian, Robert David, "Cold Snap as Yearning" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3004627.