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10 Questions for Lauren Hilger

Date: 10/25/2016
Amal Zaman

Handed from barbarian to barbarian

The Burgundian Code says
if they pull my hair with only one hand
they're free.

I carry what I own over
my ovibovine shoulders.

-- from "The Dark Ages" which appears in the Fall 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 3).


Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written

When I was sixteen, I submitted poems to a high school poetry contest where the winners got to read at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. I am forever grateful to this program, and I couldn’t believe it when I got the chance to encounter monumental poets and stand on a stage to read. Being a teenager, though, I read one poem about dancing to Shakira at my friend’s basement party, entitled “Smirnoff Ice,” and another about cheerleading. Cannot think of early work without laughing at myself, but those...

Interview with Aleksandar Brezar and Enis Čišić, Part Three

Date: 10/19/2016
Jim Hicks

Alternative Realities

(Read Part One and Two here.)

JH: One of the things we’ve done in the Massachusetts Review blog—because we thought we needed to—is book reviews of other work that pretends to come out this period and this history. In particular, two novels were very successful in the US: Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife and Sara Nović’s Girl at War. About the reviews we did, well, I’ll give you just the title of the one for The Tiger’s Wife: “Balkan Zoology.”

So that’s what I wanted to ask you two about. Ever since Robert Kaplan, and his horrendous book Balkan Ghosts, one of the main ways of representing the history of the ‘90s and the wars of the former...

Interview with Aleksandar Brezar and Enis Čišić, Part Two

Date: 10/19/2016
Jim Hicks

Between Realism and Fantasy

(Read Part One here.)

JH: The next obvious subject is to talk about process, and how this comic came about. From an idea to an object that exists in the world, there’s a hell of a lot of work. So tell us about that. One of the things people who don’t know much about it don’t know is just how much work it is to make comics.

EČ: It took us what, six months?

AB: No, more than six months. Between nine months and a year.

EČ: A long, long process. I read that particular story before Aleksandar contacted me, and I was already thinking about how that story could be translated into a comic. At the time, I was reading a lot of foreign comic books to get ideas and...

Interview with Aleksandar Brezar and Enis Čišić, Part One

Date: 10/19/2016
Jim Hicks

Remembering a Life Cut Short

Jim Hicks: Probably the best place to start, since nobody in the United States is really going to know the background, would be to summarize the story of Karim Zaimović.

Aleksandar Brezar: Well, it’s not a story that can be summarized. The simplest way to describe his life and his work would be to say that he was a journalist and a writer from Sarajevo who, during the war and the siege, had a radio show where he read his stories on air—short stories that were a way of escaping the reality of the war, and that  in some way provided at least a little bit of comfort for those who were listening. And that was basically his life’s work, until his life was cut short. At the very end of the war, at the very end of the siege, at the age of twenty-four. Everything...

10 Questions for Amy Gordon

Date: 10/18/2016
Amal Zaman and Danielle Brown

A story my father likes to tell
on late fall evenings. His brown,
Jewish, thumbtack eyes pin you
with the details. The german countryside. A simple inn.

- from "What He Saw" which appears in our Spring 2016 Issue (Volume 57 Issue 1).

Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written.

One of the first pieces I wrote was when I was a senior in high school and I often stayed up at night and wandered around (I was a terrible insomniac) and I experienced a sort of mystical vision. I tried to write a sonnet about it. I have never written anything like it since then.

What writer(s) or works have influenced your own?

The work of C.K. Williams, Seamus Heaney, Wislawa Szymborska, Shara McCallum, Derek Walcott, Pablo Neruda

What other professions have you worked in?


Think Twice, It's Alright

Date: 10/14/2016
Michael Thurston

Look, I was surprised by it, too. Indeed, my reaction on seeing the Guardian’s live update at 7:00 on Thursday morning was to post on Facebook: “Dylan?! WTF?!” Soon my friends, as they woke up and logged on, were posting their own responses, ranging from “The times they are a-changin’” to “There must be some kind of way out of here.” Me? “No direction home, like a rollin’ stone.” Dylan was never the person I thought would, or should, win the Nobel Prize for Literature. All this month, I was hoping, like I hope every October, that the prize would go to a non-white writer from the global south. All this month, I was thinking, like I think every October, that most of the best writing I know of these days is in Spanish, whether by Spanish writers like Juan Goytisolo and Javier Marías or by...

10 Questions for Akil Kumarasamy

Date: 10/11/2016
Amal Zaman and Danielle Brown

Laalini, the woman I married, recited for me three lines of poetry about this world of dew and confessed her love for Issa, and before I learned he was a poet, I thought he was an old lover, and the jealousy and the relief I felt then left me walking the city in a trance as if I had almost lost what was irretrievable, dear as an arm. - from " Meditations" which appears in our Spring 2016 Issue (Volume 57, Issue 1).

Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written

When I first started writing fiction, I wrote a story about an elephant killing a tourist in India and later as retribution, the elephant is killed.  It was called an “Eye for an Eye.” Only a few pages long, it was the first story I wrote that felt complete and resonated with me. 

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write...

10 Questions for Lee Upton

Date: 10/04/2016
Amal Zaman and Danielle Brown

IN MY EARLY CHILDHOOD, the people I loved most in the world made sure that I saw a silver tree. I remember taking a giant breath and then swallowing the sight of that tree so that it would never leave me. Late-born, with a far older brother and sister, I must have been a small child to be on someone’s shoulders, and the wind must have been blowing so hard that the leaves flickered like metal. – from Ambrosia, our September 2016 Working Title. Read and excerpt or buy on Amazon, Kobo, or...

10 Questions for Brandon Lewis

Date: 09/26/2016
Amal Zaman and Danielle Brown


My cityborn friend snaps limbs from trees for the bonfire
and hands me their greenness.    Why refuse

this gift of smoke and hissing years of rain?
Every tree is difficult. Take this oak and its burl—such handsome infection

to climb. I am sorry but without Violence it's too late to catch up with them…
Was a societal leg up ever real?

-- from "That Difficulty Increases Desire" which appears in the Spring 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 1).


Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written

It’s very cliché— the first poem I wrote was for a girl in high school, one who thought of me as just a friend. So, so bad! I was also painting a lot at the time, and after learning about William Blake, I started painting poems into the canvas beside images.


Massachusetts Reviews: Fire the Bastards!

Date: 09/22/2016
Gary Amdahl

Jack Green’s Fire the Bastards!  (Dalkey Archive Press, 1992) was first published by the author, in the author’s magazine newspaper (no caps, and the italics are mine), in 1962.  The text was written on a typewriter (again, no caps, very little in the way of punctuation, extra spaces between sentences) mimeographed, and stapled.  It’s hard to imagine that such a homely production had any currency at all, but it did, with Gilbert Sorrentino and David Markson attesting on the back of the DAP edition to its widespread availability in Greenwich Village, in bookshops and coffeehouses, and its popularity with readers who did not feel themselves the least bit marginal, or even out of the mainstream.  The only operative, effective distinction in Green’s literary world was between...