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Keep Up with the Essay One Paragraph at a Time

A New Feature (Almost) Every Friday

The Beloved Republic Nominated for Two Pushcart Awards

Thanks to Wandering Aengus Press. Learn more here.

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December 1


from How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature

by Marc Hamer


The mole hunter, like the memoirist, seeks out the hidden.”—THE


The Humble Essayist takes off the month of December to sing and make merry, but in the meantime I leave you this year’s final feature from How to Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer, a gardener, poet, and writer from Wales with a keen mind and gentle heart. We will be back on January 5, 2024.

The Paragraph of the Week


I wonder about truth and what it is as I chase it around and play with it. Recollections rarely come in chronological order. Memory wanders in the darkness, and the harder I try to remember, the more it seems to dissolve in front of me and take a different direction. As soon as I start to examine a story with anything more intense than a sidelong glance, it shifts in reaction to the scrutiny, reconstructs itself and then changes again, like looking into a kaleidoscope: the colours are identical, their patterns slightly different every time, their detail constantly changes yet the picture remains true to itself.


—Marc Hamer



The memoirist, like the mole hunter, seeks out the hidden. The search begins with a not knowing which “keeps all the options open, offers choices.” It requires a lore passed down by practitioners over the ages and patience to wander slowly over unfamiliar terrain probing for deep tunnels. It uses tools of wood or steel that fit the hand in order, as Marc Hamer puts it, to “feel that all the things I touch are touching me back.” It involves death, a trigger that kills instantly. Like the memoirist the mole hunter goes after the elusive that “wanders in the darkness” and seems to “dissolve” in front of him and “take a different direction.” This looking requires the “sidelong glance” since under direct inspection the secret shifts like a kaleidoscope: “the colours are identical, their patterns slightly different every time, their detail constantly changes yet the picture remains true to itself.”



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A Word about Social Media

and The Humble Essayist

Due to the increasingly toxic nature of social media The Humble Essayist has decided to reduce its presence on these sites. We will still advertise on Facebook and X once a week on Fridays, but no longer during the rest of the week. The best way to keep up with us is to subscribe, and we will send free, brief, weekly reminders of our features with a link to the page directly to your email. Please click on the blue button below.

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Thanks to Brevity magazine for publishing the short prose piece “The Hermit Thrush.”

You can read the entire piece at Brevity here.


Return to the Main Feature here

Hunger Mountain

Thanks to Hunger Mountain for publishing “Aubade,” my exploration of perception in a prose ode. It begins with this epigraph from the artist Paul Cézanne: “The landscape thinks itself in me and I am its consciousness.” 


You can read the entire brief piece here.

Zone 3 Interview on The Beloved Republic


Thanks to Amy Wright and the folks at Zone 3 for granting me an interview about my new book. Amy reads with discernment, asks great and surprising questions, and listens carefully to the answers. Check out the question she opens with in the sidebar--it goes right to the heart of the matter! See the full interview here.

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The Beloved Republic by Steven Harvey

Available at Bookstores and Online

See more at the author's website and check out our video trailers here.

Trailer One

Trailer Two

The Beloved Republic

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The Beloved Republic


I am pleased to announce that my fourth collection of personal essays  won the Wandering Aengus Press nonfiction award and has been nominated for two PushcartsThanks to the Press for this honor.

What is the Beloved Republic? E. M. Forster, who coined the phrase, called it “an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky” who “have the power to endure” and “can take a joke.” Pitted against authoritarianism, the Beloved Republic is the peaceful and fragile confederacy of kind, benevolent, and creative people in a world of tyrants, thugs, and loud-mouthed bullies. Taking Forster’s phrase for its title, my book can be read as dispatches from that besieged land.

Available online and at bookstores. Learn  more at the author's website 

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Folly Beach 

Folly Beach is a book-length personal essay about easing fears of mortality and loss through creativity. It never loses sight of the inevitable losses that life brings, but doesn't let loss have the last word.  In the face of the grim, Folly Beach holds up the human capacity to create as our sufficient joy.


In a world of loss, creativity is the best revenge.

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You can learn more about the recent work of Steven Harvey at his author's page here.

THE Mission

We at The Humble Essayist are in love with the paragraph, that lowliest of literary techniques.  A sentence stands out as a noble thing: a complete thought.  But what is a paragraph?  And what, in particular, is a good one?  You know it when you read it--that is our article of faith.  So on Friday of each week, beginning on Independence Day 2014, the very day 169 years earlier that Henry Thoreau moved to Walden Pond, we will select a single paragraph from an essay or a reflective memoir and print it here along with a paragraph of commentary.   We will choose paragraphs that are surprising, beautifully written, and, above all, thematic--illuminating the author's comment on life.  Each paragraph of the week is, in short, a concise review of the writer's work.  We hope that this page will introduce you to many exciting authors and their ideas.


The Humble Essayist thanks Clipartpal for the public domain artwork of "The Old Man Reading" that is the logo for the site.

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