Robert Day, Talk to Strangers and Stop on By: Essays on William Stafford and Other Folk of the American High Plains. Introduction by Scott Bontz. Design by James Dissette. 44 pages. $8.00. ISBN 978-1-939301-87-1 Supported by a grant from The Land Institute, Wes Jackson, president
Robert Day describes the genesis of these eight pieces: “All of the essays in this section I wrote for—or because of—my association with the Prairie Writers Circle, a group of authors brought together by Wes Jackson of The Land Institute. They were republished by newspapers all over the country,” and many of them appeared on national and international websites. Day presents opinion-editorial pieces that read like well wrought fiction. The title essay is about one of the most famous writers of the grasslands, William Stafford (1914-1993). This National Book Award-winning poet advocated for environmental and social awareness throughout his career. The William Stafford Centennial Conference at Washburn University (31 March 2014) was the occasion for the launch of this book. All of Day’s essays are models of craftsmanship, as they effortlessly present issues of water and fuel shortages, depopulation, and the human dimension of farming the Great Plains. Scott Bontz describes the mission of the Land Institute in the book’s introduction as “at once cosmopolitan and rural.” This describes Day’s superb writing.
Robert Day is a premiere writer of our day. His The Last Cattle Drive was a Book-of-the Month Club selection. His short fiction has won many awards, including Seaton Prizes, a Pen Faulkner / NEA Prize, and Best American Short Story and Pushcart citations. BkMk Press recently published his short fiction collection Where We Are Now (2012). His nonfiction collection is The Committee to Save the World, with individual pieces previously published in Washington Post Magazine, Smithsonian, Forbes, American Scholar, and World Literature Today. The Canadian online journal Numéro Cinq is serializing his novel Let Us Imagine Last Love, which they will publish as an e-book (2014); Mammoth Publications will publish the print edition (2015). Day resides part of each year in the far western corner of the state and in Maryland. He taught at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, in addition to residencies at Montaigne College of the University of Bordeaux, The Iowa Writers Workshop, and The University of Kansas.