Politics & Prose publishes ‘District Lines’ II

"District Lines,” vol. II (Politics & Prose, $18)
“District Lines,” vol. II (Politics & Prose, $18)

Last summer’s anthology of local writing was such a success that Politics & Prose Bookstore has done it again.

District Lines,” vol.  2, is hot off the store’s print-on-demand machine. The new issue contains essays, short stories, poems and images that celebrate “the unique artistic character of our city and the surrounding metropolitan area.”

Susan Coll, Director of Events and Programs at P&P, worked with other members of the staff to whittle down 150 submissions to about 50. The subjects range from pandas to the White House to the D.C. earthquake, but a number of the pieces were inspired by public transportation — a reflection, clearly, of what’s most important to Washingtonians. “Had we chosen to publish every transportation submission,” Coll writes in the introduction, “we might have devoted an entire anthology to this subject.”

The real delight of “District Lines” is the extraordinary variety of voices — from 12th grader Matthew Gerson to 97-year-old Henry Morgenthau. Jacquelyn Bengfort used to drive warships. Edna Small used to practice psychology. Established writers such as novelist Julia Slavin and American University professor Kyle Dargan appear alongside first-time-published writers like Leah Kenyon, who works at P&P. Her witty essay “The Zucchini Story” recalls the summer of 1980 when her parents planted far too much squash. (Been there, eaten that.)

“D.C. has the reputation of being kind of a stiff, wonky city, and yet there are so many writers and artists, and so much creative talent,” Coll says. “In how many cities does a call for submissions elicit poems about Inauguration Day and the State of the Union Address?”

One of this year’s repeat contributors, Margaret Arrington, began her writing career by taking classes at the South County Senior Center. In this new volume of “District Lines,” she describes going to a picnic with Mamie Eisenhower in 1955!

Forced to choose a favorite piece, Coll mentions “My Cow,” a poem by Anne Harding Woodworth, a member of the Poetry Board of the Folger Library. “I love the rhythm and the whimsy,” Coll says, “and the image of a woman walking her cow through the grounds of the National Cathedral, pausing to munch on hyssop and Elijah Blue fescue. That pretty much sums up why I love this project.”

Politics & Prose will celebrate the new issue of “District Lines” in the store on Saturday, June 20, at 3:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to come hear contributors read their work, talk to them about their writings and buy a copy ($18).

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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