To Grow a Whisper: Justin Lawrence Daugherty

My third offering in “To Grow a Whisper,” my series of literary spotlights devoted to (mostly) emerging writers, is someone I’ve admired for quite some time. He is, in fact, the first person I actively decided to emulate on Twitter (good tweeters borrow, great tweeters steal.) His passion for literary advocacy and absolute sincerity won me over and continues to inspire. He is vulnerable, compassionate, and generous in the way you want any leader to be. And on top of that he’s exceptionally talented. Meet Justin Lawrence Daugherty, your new favorite writer.

If there are writers who pen hunger and desire as rapturously as Daugherty, I’ve yet to find them. His characters tear through the world with want, and every world he creates radiates with a fever-heat.   

From “But an Elegy

“Boone demanded they turn him into another man, a new man made not of the decaying forest, but of the brightness of fireflies, of throngs of salmon rushing upstream. He drew a map on his body with the juices of berries…He asked them where they would go, but the map gave them no direction.”

From “The Heart is a Machine

“He had wanted to show her how the heart breaks, how at best the body is meat and whisper, how one last breath was the same as the first.”

Even if Daugherty is writing a scene between a bartender and a stranger, the prose is beautifully mythological, part elegy and part Echo, all invisible yearning. To call his work “flash” doesn’t quite do it justice as the lushness and vibrancy of his stories work more like a flashflood of fiction. It simply comes roaring down the page knocking you off your feet.

From “Most Men Forget

“‘Sometimes I think if I eat of an animal that I’ve killed,’ Dad says, out of nowhere, ‘that I’ll be possessed of its wild. I’ll be part of all of this.’”

Much like the father in the quote above, Daugherty’s story-telling has a way of possessing a reader. It burrows, it skulks. It makes you want to write in that same haunted voice.

In the play “Orpheus Descending,” Tennessee Williams writes, “What on earth can you do but catch at whatever comes near you with both your hands until your fingers are broken?” In a feature over at Nano Fiction Daugherty states, “you have to ask for connection and you have to give reasons for others to respond…you have to reach and grasp and shout, and hope that voice will be heard.”

Reach out now. I promise a writer worth reading will take you by your hands and give you sustenance.

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2 comments

  1. So happy to read about Justin in this space, Michael. Thank you! He does great things in the literary world. For those of you new to Justin, be sure to check out Sundog Lit.

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