The gorgeous letterpress-cover summer/fall issue of Gulf Coast has just been released, containing so much good stuff: a story by Aimee Bender, a conversation on poetry with Natalie Diaz and Alan Shapiro, the winners of the Barthelme Prize–and my personal essay, “On Modeling and Mortification.”

An excerpt is online here, but you’ll need to purchase the issue (well worth doing) to read the full essay. It begins:

“I wish that everyone could have the experience of posing naked for a group of good artists at least once.

At the beginning of every session, yes, there is fear. You receive instructions— whether to do a set of two-minute “gesture” poses, or perhaps fives or tens; standing or sitting or reclining or a mix—and then you press “start” on your timer and drop the robe. It is arousing and unnerving, the first few seconds, to feel the air on your buttocks and your breasts. You reach for the sky or you lunge or you twist as though swinging a baseball bat. You are trying to do something that looks like a real, human action, something that is not two-dimensional but rather traverses three planes. Something that gives the artists a line of force to observe, or perhaps a bit of negative space to work with compositionally, or a challenge of foreshortening to solve. You are trying to do all this and you are hoping that your thigh bearing all the weight of that lunge will hold out for three minutes, and you are worried that the twist in your spine will make your latissimus dorsi spasm. By the third or the fourth pose, your muscles are warm, your neck loose, you are reasonably confident that you will not fall down, and the scratch-scratch-scratch of mark-making has cast its hypnosis. You breathe deeply and steadily. You feel a particular man or woman’s eye trained intensely on your collarbone or your crotch.

When the break comes, you slip on your robe, roam the room. Often, something that you hate about yourself—the spread of your thigh, the sprawl of your nipples—surprises you as beautiful on the artist’s page.”

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