Rarely can you say with a shard of truth that you remember the first time a writer’s work hit you in the head and the heart with a nearly audible slap, but I remember the first time I read a passage from Ana Maria—it was in a magazine in which all the other stuff was careful and remote and only news, and her essay was sharp and blunt and had mud and sawdust in it. I remember that. I learned from her essay, yes—it was about logging and fire and building trails and how sharing food is holy, as I recall—but it wasn’t just information, her piece; I could smell the place she was writing about, I could feel her sinewy flinty impatient passion for it, I could hear bears snuffling after late apples. Her essay had a most refreshing lack of ego at the same time it was being driven hard by a wry relentless intelligence. Also it was funny, and she wasn’t the hero, and she had a great ear for other people’s music, and there was no lecture or comment or sermon, and she didn’t quote anyone else to make her point for her, and it was sort of direct and taut and unassuming, virtues which I later discovered belong also to the author, who is a slight person who does cool work while not thinking she is cool, which is cool, and perhaps the only way you can do cool work, in the end. If you think you are a fine writer, you are a bonehead. Someone else can say you are a fine writer, which I say here about Ana Maria Spagna. Read the essay that follows, which is excellent, and then read her book Potluck, which is terrific, and she has a new book coming out, called Reclaimers, and if it isn’t riveting I will eat my battered hat that my kids call the Old Boring Dad Cap.
“Hope Without Hope” appears in Ecotone’s tenth-anniversary issue.