Author: David Ye

My Process: Write into the Heartland

Two clicks southwest of Iowa City: Past the neon BILLION sign that stakes the auto dealer’s bumper crop, past the blue-lit plains of the muni airport, shimmering from atmosphere, lies an aortic tangle of country roads all leading to the Heartland. Heartland is made of grain silos and metal threshers; it’s made of steakhouses archly planted behind cow pens, Tyson Foods smokestacks and the rubber-and-rot smell of boiled blood. See the cavity-molar gravestones lined alongside gravel roads, under which entire family lines are buried. See the deer standing in harrowed paths, hooves in the dirt-clod grooves of fields fallow and waiting. See? The richness of this place, this state of Iowa. In a minivan you blur past 60 over gravel. The undercarriage is a tin-can wind-chime trying to survive the rattle. You can hear, even at deafening speed, the xylophonic notes of “Stephanie Says”. You do that thing that passengers do: Clutch your seatbelt, hold a fist over your chest, feel the familiar knot rising in your ribcage, the cresting heart obvious now, beaming and …

Everything is Here

Here is a miracle: a city where readings draw blockbuster crowds, where everyone is writing all the time —except when they’re drinking. A city where there is nothing more beautiful, more powerful, or more celebrated than the written word. I drove to Iowa City praying for such a miracle. A curious thing happens when you reach the westernmost point of Iowa. Nebraska’s brown flatlands give way to Iowa’s pastures. You swear the windmills are responsible for cornfields that ripple –flag-like– across the land. The grasshoppers that mussed your windshield are nowhere to be seen; butterflies now flit in their stead. Midwestern religiosity is no longer inexplicable. You feel very close to God. The Writer’s Workshop is located in Dey House, an Italianate-style home on the banks of the Iowa River. Outfitted with heavy double-doors that suggest authority and reassuring permanence, it’s hard not to liken the Dey House to a fortress, or at the very least, a homestead on the old frontier. It’s true that the Iowa Writer’s Workshop was the first to offer graduate …

David Ye Introduction (Iowa Writer’s Workshop ’17)

This time last year I’d been holed up in the second-floor bedroom of a ramshackle house in Queens, where I paid $250 a month to split a small room with my freshman year roommate. We lived across the street from a family of motorcycle enthusiasts, spent nights listening to backyard karaoke and quinceanera celebrations. We installed ten-dollar box fans on each of the bay windows, two facing inward and one outward, in a desperate attempt to regulate the summer’s humidity, which settled in the bedsheets and left a clingy dampness on every surface. We had not one, but three house-keys —courtesy of a security door with two sets of locks, and a temperamental oak door that frequently locked us out. It wasn’t always like this. I had lived on Fifth Avenue my freshman year of college, in a spacious –and subsidized– dorm with hardwood floors just two blocks away from Washington Square Park. Now, I was living two blocks downrange from LaGuardia and cooking my meals on a portable burner, because the communal stove drew …