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Date: 06/22/2017
Geneviève Piron


Adding to the Archive

In the Alexandrov Museum, they’re getting ready for the evening’s festivities. A young woman from here who married a top chef from France and lives in Paris was passing through town yesterday evening, and she promised to help with filing the documents. She speaks French perfectly, laughing as she tells us about her streak of bad luck with French bureaucracy. She is at home here: we’re in the provinces, but the world is here too. We are served some very bad alcohol, but the mood is already very relaxed behind the table where our partners welcome us. The table is covered with a waxed tablecloth, and Butterbroten with ham are piled generously on the plates that circulate around us. The building still is in need of restoration, but the female museum volunteers...

Date: 06/22/2017
Geneviève Piron


Betrayal of the Homeland

The occasion that brings us to Alexandrov is a small event with symbolic importance. I’m accompanying a writer friend who has brought documents for the archives of the Museum of the 101st Kilometer. During the ‘80s, Jil Silberstein—who is also a poet, a lover of Russian literature, and who worked for years with a celebrated publishing house in Lausanne—had been involved in defending the rights of the Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko, a man who was arrested more than six times and condemned to a maximum of ten years in the camps for his political activities. Despite the constant efforts of a Swiss committee supporting Marchenko, the activist died in prison as a result of the torture inflicted on him after he began a hunger...

Date: 06/22/2017
Geneviève Piron



A Living Culture

When you move from one place to another in Russia, you travel through time as well as space. As distance from the capital increases, you soon find you’ve moved several years, or even several decades, backwards.

Or so I told myself as I left Moscow—that turgid, tentacled metropolis, the capital of Russian-style neocapitalism—on my way to Alexandrov. My journey by electric train served to set back the clock. Modest, but sturdy, with these trains you feel the love of metalwork, of nuts and bolts, that went into them; the locomotive is painted in a nice clear green, accented in yellow and decorated on the front by a star in combat red. Two hours of crossing snow-laden landscape, populated by modest homes and monotonous woods, and...

Date: 06/19/2017
Beth Derr

My therapist says I’m afraid of vanishing.
Last week his ceiling caved in, ending our session
in a shower of words and water.
I’m serious. I’m always serious
when I talk about therapists and cave-ins.

--from “Flourishing” which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

The first poem I committed to finishing as an adult was called “The Akedah,” a retelling of the Biblical story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Like so many Jewish poets, I took that story as a form for understanding my relationship with my father.

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

Emily Dickinson, Cesar Vallejo and Pablo Neruda. I don't know if they influenced my style much,...

Date: 06/14/2017
Igiaba Scego

A ritual during the Rishi Panchami holiday in Katmandu, Nepal, September 18, 2015. According to tradition, this sacred bathing rite purifies women from the sins committed during the days they menstruate.(Photo: Navesh Chitrakar, Reuters/Contrasto)

[Ed. Note: Igiaba Scego first published this essay on the Tampon Tax, her most popular ever, in Italy’s Internazionale magazine on January 19, 2016. Since that time, an European Union measure against taxing femine hygiene products has been promised, and in the UK Parliament has passed legislation to eliminate their tampon VAT, due to go into effect in 2018. To date, only a minority of states in the US—Massachusetts among...

Date: 06/13/2017
Amal Zaman

“into it were poured
the years that followed
i’ll give you sugar for a good start
as if you were a horse spurs
if earned. we still say that? treasure
the future, bedecked. we let
it, i say to you: let it stick there!”
--from “paper cone” which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you translated.

I am very thankful that it was one of Ulrike Draesner’s poems that was the first piece I attempted to translate. Because our daughters went to school together, we saw each other often, and I was able to meet with her on several occasions to discuss the translation process over coffee. It was a huge help to be able to ask her about whether I captured her meaning correctly in difficult phrases, and also to find out how important it was to match her...

Date: 06/06/2017
Katherine Keenan

“I wish I knew the answer to the question
the gutted, flipped-over car
on Mulholland Drive is asking, or why the sound
of fingers snapping
fills my mouth with peanuts,
the way I fill my mouth with peanuts at baseball games
at county fairs and long shifts
at the pharmacy, when night hangs
over the windows
like the kind of silk scarf
Russian grandmothers adore...”
--from “Peanuts” which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

It was probably a shitty love poem, which is what I imagine most poets’ first pieces were. It probably rhymed “green eyes” with “blue skies,” and I...

Date: 06/03/2017
Jim Hicks

In his debut novel, John Barth admonishes people who pause when the world presents them with coincidence: “Nature,” he observes, “seems at times fairly to club one over the head with significance.” The sun suddenly appears, to rhyme with our newfound hopes; the road to the cemetery is a one-way street. “The man. . . whose palate is attuned to subtler dishes,” the novelist notes, “can only smile uncomfortably and walk away.” On the other hand, Lawrence Weschler, a writer hardly lacking in subtlety, has dedicated an entire book to such convergences, finding them unexpectedly rich and resonant....

Date: 05/30/2017
Amal Zaman

The Massachusetts Review presents the latest Working Titles e-book: “THE LEADER by Nouri Zarrugh-–available this week!


That last February before the war and the hard years that were to follow it, forty-one years after the Leader’s revolution, Laila woke to the sound of explosions in the street. She sat clutching the blanket, eyes darting, half expecting to find herself buried in dust and rubble, her vision slowly adjusting to the familiar sight of the armoire and the floral cushions piled beside it, the matching nightstand and the ceramic lamp and on the other side of them, undisturbed, the sheets tucked and folded, Hajj Yunus’s empty bed, glowing in the faint moonlight like a preserved artifact. Finding everything intact, she lay down, thinking the sound a remnant of some already...

Date: 05/30/2017
Katherine Keenan

“Coyote clings to the side of a boulder twice as a wide as his splayed body. He thinks he heard something down the slope, a small rock-slide or stick breaking. His fingers hold, but his boots scratch for leverage. Not that big a deal if you fell, though he doesn’t want to fall. He isn’t strong enough to rely on his upper body, instead squeezes the rock with his thighs and inches up like a slug. Good thing he’s light. His fingers find a new crease, and moments later he’s on the boulder, rising to his feet with a whoop at the sun...”
--from “Runner” which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

In elementary school I basically had my own version of the Hardy Boys living in their own seaside town, chasing their own bad guys with their own chums....