Rarely does a writer work successfully in both poetry and prose. T. Alan Broughton is one of those writers, contributing both poetry and fiction to the Sewanee Review. He belongs to that assembly of writers who spans, and often blurs the line between poetry and prose. As the New York Time’s Review of Books puts it in a review of Broughton’s novel Hob’s Daughter (1984), he “invests [his writing] with a poet’s sensibilities.”
T. Alan Broughton made his debut with us in our summer 1975 issue with the story “Profession of Love” and continued to publish fiction and poetry in the magazine for nearly four decades. His last piece published in the Sewanee Review, the short story “Gravity,” appeared in the spring 2013 issue, depicting the meeting between two cousins in rural Alaska. The setting and narrative arc of the story epitomize the overlap between Broughton’s literature and his globetrotting tendencies; he served as a cultural representative for the State Department's USIA in southeast Asia, Egypt, and Italy. Though his fleet-footed fiction travels far, it always strikes close to home, probing the meaning of place and its impact on relationships.
His poetry, like his fiction, frequently contains a strong, narrative backbone, as in the poem “Refuge,” which depicts two lovers meeting in the woods in the midst of falling bombs. His verse asks hard, pointed questions such as, “What’s the point of making love?” (“Refuge,” spring 2006) and “Must we suffer some flaw before we can smile / and kiss the stranger? Is love so hard it endures / without memory? (“The Kiss,” fall 2008).
In addition to his work in the Sewanee Review, he published with our friends at Poetry, the Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, the South Carolina Review, the Midwest Quarterly, the VQR, the Southern Review, the New England Review and many more. He also published four novels, nine collections of poetry, and two collections of short stories, and received the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. He was Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Vermont where he taught from 1966 until 2001, and where he founded the University of Vermont’s Writing Workshop.
The Sewanee Review is grateful to have been visited by T. Alan Broughton, a writer with abiding talent and an ability to describe the world with multifaceted wonder. He was a rare man of letters.