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I did not love to ascend
that ruined stair.

A previously unpublished selection, Joanna Ruocco's The Boghole and the Beldame is a pastoral hallucination—more spell than story—that harks back to the waking/walking life of an archetypal dream. Afoot in the muck of language, Ruocco paints a thicket in which every shimmering growth baffles the landscape. The characters—creatures, figures, names—in The Boghole and the Beldame lean against time, pluck it for quills, wring its veins for blue, and blush black. Ruocco knows language like the tongue knows teeth. Here is a gateway to the everywhere of your ancestral sleep.

"To read Joanna Ruocco is a good time. A racy one (nouns and verbs do not stay in their clothes!). But what is more, the keening logic that undercurrents JR’s dazzling language in The Boghole and the Beldame is no less than a short course in the cartography of transfiguration. The “likes” and the “unlikes,” like otherworldly pearls that weight the story’s threads, are indicators of a deep pulse-motor churning in the guts below the text’s surface. And so we move closer to something more like the consciousness of the rhizome. One resulting gift? The glorious invitation to consider relational modes that open us, rather than close us, into all that is not known."

— Selah Saterstrom


Joanna Ruocco

is a prizewinning American author and coeditor of the fiction journal Birkensnake. In 2013, she received the Pushcart Prize for her story “If the Man Took” and is also winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Ruocco received her MFA at Brown, and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Denver. Her most recent novel is Dan, published by Dorothy, A Publishing Project. She also serves as Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Wake Forest University. (Ruocco leaps about in various literary circles as Toni Jones and Alessandra Shahbaz.)