Author Archives: Jasper Henderson

A White Male Writer

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The literary journal Your Impossible Voice has just published my story, “A White Male Writer,” which I hope that you’ll read either on its website or in the print edition. Here are its opening lines:

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He was a white male writer, and—despite having kissed a few boys at a Halloween party last year, even letting one stroke his bare chest, despite the occasional fantasy in which other boys featured — he knew he was for all practical and self-image purposes straight. So there it was: he was a man with light complexion and heterosexual leanings who wrote fiction, and he often expressed this in the cultural language of his day. Straight / White / Male he wrote in the margin of his notebook during class. Then he added, Unwanted.

Of course he wasn’t really unwanted. If he wrote something genuinely good, beautiful, and interesting, others would read and enjoy it, and he would eventually find a way of getting it published. Likely his path to print would even be easier than most. But his writing wasn’t genuinely good, beautiful, or interesting. He wrote a winking parable about a vendor at a gun show, a venomous parody about two lovers at the Student Center’s Tuesday Karaoke Night. He wrote a thinly veiled piece of autofiction about an unpleasable boy who had sex with the same girl as he had last year, in the same bed covered in stuffed animals. They were bad stories; unequivocally they were bad. Some of his professors thought they saw here and there the germ of good writing, perhaps in his ear for the names of fictitious groups like “Sudsy Studs Carwash,” “The Union of Back-Up Singers for The Tone-Deaf,” and “Melancholy Celibates Anonymous.” It’s more likely, however, that they were searching for something nice to say, some morsel of praise to cantilever their very constructive criticism. He noticed that his creative writing teachers, resolute in their practice of crossing out every last intensifier on his drafts, nonetheless used them in great quantity when prevaricating about what they liked in his stories. “It’s a very, very believable scene.” “I’m extremely impressed by the name of this group, really.” (Click here to keep reading)

The Body Is an Object

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I’m happy to announce that Juked has published my story, “The Body Is an Object.” Here are its opening lines:

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We grow marijuana in the summer and smoke it in the winter. It turns out it’s a lot of work to grow good pot, but we offset the difficulty of harvesting by hiring friends to come up from the city and help. They like the extra money, and we enjoy their company, seeing their tents out the window over the sink, if only for a few weeks.

Some nights I stand outside the cabin, staring at the stars. It’s lonely out here. I know that Venus has set. I think that that one orange-twinkling star might be Mars. There are only a handful of rocky chunks circling our sun, each impossible to reach. The distance to the next sun is unfathomable. How big the universe is, with its trillions of stars in their little clusters. How big the world itself, and us all spread across the surface. Why are Annie and me a couple? Fate seems cruelly deterministic right about now, and I dig my bare feet into the cool soil.

I want to fuck Carolina. She’s Jasper’s friend; I’m not sure if they were a couple at some point. I don’t know why, but it’s just been burning through my head since they came up to trim for us. Her round cheeks, wide hips, big butt, her belly. I edge around her in the kitchen, and I feel her life force right there up against me. Nothing happens, but I smell her fruity cologne and she is a whole other world. I get turned on, making my toast as she washes out her mate cup next to me, and I have to take myself into the bathroom, splash cold water on my face. (Click here to keep reading.)

Bodie

In May, my partner and I visited Bodie, a ghost town on the far side of the Sierra Nevada, between Bishop and Reno. It was a strange place, a slice of the old West.

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Lecture: Creative Reading

On February 23, 2017, I gave a talk at Wesleyan University, sponsored by the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and the English department. Titled “Creative Reading,” the lecture is an exploration of the deeper implications of a liberal arts education and the place of imagination in academic inquiry. I discuss techniques of creative visualization that I use with poetry students, in my own reading, and as a citizen.

A student kindly made the following recording. (I reserve the copyright.) The recording begins slightly abruptly and is not of the very highest quality, but you might find it interesting nonetheless. Approx. 90 mins.

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(Thank you Rebecca Sussman for the recording!)