The Academy of Hay

by Julia Shipley

The farmer squats in the dirt road beside the tractor. Using a twig he draws a way to enter the field. For the next two hours I’ll drive twenty-five miles, mowing circles within circles. On the pond I’d watch ripples erupt and vanish, thinking: fish postulants. Sister Bernard Mary once told me, a journey that begins with him leads to him. It’s true of the rye grass with its three miles of root hairs per day; 6,603 miles per season, traveling all that way, and going nowhere. We used to make fun of something called the “corn joint,” the lignin keeping the stalk upright, stationed despite wind. The farmer, stoic mostly, suddenly spoke,

Could you stand in a field for three months?

Ah, but our potato fork did. It remained through the winter, an effigy for where we did stand and bend, and drive around with the cultivator all those months, sowing then harvesting. Yeatsian, a tattered coat upon a stick, he grows more like his scarecrow, hair amuck, grease on his pants’ hip when he’s pined to his tractor, haying. That tilted fork still stuck in February, buried to the grip, represents everything: his investment, and my investment, our stubborn stab in this endeavor, our vulnerability to the elements, well, I’ll speak for me, what ever comes or falls or fails, I’ll feel.

Julia Shipley is the author of two chapbooks, Herd (Sheltering Pines Press, 2010) and Planet Jr. (Flyway/Iowa State, 2012). Her work has appeared in CutBank, FIELD, Fourth Genre, Hunger Mountain, and Whole Terrain. She works as a journalist, farmer and caretaker of a Writer’s Retreat in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Her newest collection, Bales of Prose is forthcoming from Plowboy Press in autumn 2013.

Compression Statement:

“I think hay itself is an amazing embodiment of compression: all the summer days and nights and weather gone into the field’s sward and then cut and baled into a hunk—there, you’re holding a whole season (plus a cricket or two, and maybe a snake skin and…) in your arms in a hay bale.”


Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.” Congrats to Christopher Allen for being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions is now open. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period closes June 15, 2019; submit here.


05/23 • Nance Van Winckel (1 of 8)
05/30 • Nance Van Winckel (2 of 8)
06/05 • Rachel Rodman
06/06 • Nance Van Winckel (3 of 8)
06/10 • Erica Soon Olsen
06/12 • Beverly Jackson
06/13 • Nance Van Winckel (4 of 8)
06/17 • Avra Margariti
06/19 • Tommy Dean
06/20 • Nance Van Winckel (5 of 8)
06/24 • Stephen Reaugh
06/26 • Hege Lepri
06/27 • Nance Van Winckel (6 of 8)
07/01 • Danielle Hark
07/03 • Shirley Harshenin
07/04 • Nance Van Winckel (7 of 8)
07/08 • Matthew Barrett
07/10 • Andrew Stevens
07/11 • Nance Van Winckel (8 of 8)
07/15 • Peter Cherches
07/17 • Christopher Ryan
07/18 • Alex Durham
07/22 • Jessica Kehinde Ngo
07/24 • Jillian Pretzel
07/25 • Danielle Hark (1 of 6)
07/29 • Theresa Senato Edwards
07/31 • Stephanie Dickinson
08/01 • Danielle Hark (2 of 6)
08/05 • Callista Buchen
08/07 • Sara Elkamel
08/08 • Danielle Hark (3 of 6)
08/12 • Steven Ostrowski
08/14 • Karie Luidens
08/15 • Danielle Hark (4 of 6)
08/19 • Nick Ackerson
08/21 • Tyler Friend
08/22 • Danielle Hark (5 of 6)
08/26 • Suzanne Verrall
08/28 • Amelia Wright
08/29 • Danielle Hark (6 of 6)
09/05 • Richard Baldasty (1 of 4)
09/12 • Richard Baldasty (2 of 4)
09/19 • Richard Baldasty (3 of 4)
09/26 • Richard Baldasty (4 of 4)
12/23 • Tara Campbell