Spotlight: Melanie Rae Thon [Poet/Writer]
I had the pleasure of attending a reading, workshop, and dinner with writer Melanie Rae Thon early last week. While I will go into the details of those events in a separate entry, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to Melanie.
Who Is Melanie Rae Thon?
Despite the spelling (“Thon”), her last name is pronounced “Tone”—a homophone with appropriately lyric associations. In reading The Voice of the River (Melanie’s most recent novel), it was difficult for me to categorize the work, especially when I described it to friends. Eventually I gave up and just said, “You know what? It’s a poem. It’s a novel-length poem.”
This is a comment on the style, density, and beauty of the work—meant as neither compliment nor insult but as a way to say, “This ain’t your typical prose.”
“One of the most original stylists writing fiction today.”
Melanie’s reputation as being “one of the most original stylists writing fiction today” is well-earned—and well-recognized. Thon has received numerous awards and grants, including from the Gina Berriault Award for Fiction, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the National Foundation for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, The O. Henry Prize, Utah Book Awards,
Thon has published four novels (Meteors, Iona Moon, Sweet Hearts, and The Voice of the River) and three short-story collections (Girls in the Grass; First, Body; and In This Light). Her work has been published in a variety of collections and journals, including the ’95 and ’96 editions of Best American Short Stories.
Melanie currently teaches at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has taught previously at Emerson College, Syracuse University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Ohio State University. It was clarified during our dinner that she was not “Dr Thon,” having completed an MFA program but not a PhD; the various writers at the dinner event quickly took to calling her “Master Thon” instead.
Samples of Melanie’s Work
I often describe poetic language as “tasting good.” I’m not referring to a synesthetic sensation but to a physical pleasure that we don’t have exact terminology for. When reading a finely constructed lyric phrase aloud, the mouth rolls comfortably around the words while the ear gets the immediate pleasure of the language itself; it’s an auditory-kinesthetic “tastiness.”
Few writers have work as tasty as Melanie’s. I enjoyed this element of the lyric experience enough that I spent several hours down by Provo River reading her work aloud to myself with the river playing rhythm in the background. It was a feast of sound.
To give some notion of what I mean, here’s a recording of the opening section of The Voice of the River:
Melanie’s work is also available online. Check out the following excerpts and stories:
- The Liberating Visions (and Futile Flight) of Melanie Little Crow
- Tu B’Shvat: for the Drowned and the Saved
- Writing Like Prayer
- From the short story “Confession for Raymond Good Bird”
- Deer Song
You can also find work by Melanie Rae Thon on Amazon, where samples of select novels and short stories are available—and where, really, you should just buy some of her work.
More on Melanie
If you’re hungry for more, stay tuned for my recap of her reading, Q&A responses, and workshop, as well as observations from the dinner.
You can also find out more about Master Thon by reading through her interviews with BOMB Magazine, Litquake, Fiction Writers’ Review, and Willow Springs. Some additional background details, along with professional contact information, can be found on Melanie’s faculty page at the U of U.