Denise Calvetti Michaels publishes The Things Downriver


MFA alum Denise Calvetti Michaels' newest book, The Things Downriver (Cave Moon Press, 2020), is comprised of lyric passages focused on interludes of summer on the farm in Salinas, California, home of her paternal grandparents, Agostina & Ercole Bianco.   

“During this period of childhood, my brother and I explored the boundaries of the farm and steeped ourselves within diverse cultural exchanges among neighbors, family and friends,” said Michaels. “The Things Downriver speaks to the resilience of memory, as though memory itself is pursuing the writer to pay attention and map the dream.”  

Michaels teaches psychology and human development courses at Cascadia College and completed her MFA in Creative Writing & Poetics in 2019. She credits her MFA thesis advisor, Renee Gladman, for providing the encouragement and “permission” she needed to commit to this project.  

“Initially, I resisted a return to the subject matter of my Italian American grandparents, already an important source of creative writing,” said Michaels. “But with Renee’s encouragement to devote the summer to this project, dreaming became mapping that sustained a deeper engagement with memory.  Renee suggested each lyric fragment was a part to contain, and a meditation on memory.  By mid-summer I felt increasingly comfortable with recollections of, ‘the way emotional terrain hovers, trying to engage geographical space, then drifts away, disappearing, then reappears, later in the dream.’” 

Michaels is also the author of Rustling Wrens (Cave Moon Press, 2012), and her writing has been published in Paterson Literary Review, Wetlands, Literary Mama, Bus Poems, Voices in Wartime, Milk of Almonds, Feminist Press, In Praise of Farmland, and Mute Note Earthward.

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