MR Notes

Welcome to the Mass Review Blog, please feel free to read, comment, and share the content posted here. You can Contact Us if you have any questions. Enjoy!
Date: 05/23/2017
Amal Zaman

“This is how we grew afraid.
The moon wore its bright hat.

The sun was a great wheel
of fire. Children played jump rope

in the crowded street, and everywhere
was the autobiograpical,”

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

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

After decades of severe writer’s block as a fiction writer, I turned, in 2004, to the writing of poetry, and one of first poems I completed contained these opening lines:

            Where we come from
            we watch for quarter moons,
            black blisterbeetles, cracks in glass,
            discarded ringneck snake skins,
            vespid wasp nests, pennywort,
            split basswood trunks, short-tailed shrews.

I didn’t...

Date: 05/18/2017
Amal Zaman

“The foam line of the lake breaks into ice.
I can feel the weight of a flood,

the granite of you sealing together.

Still, the lake water is all quiet, no smell
of rain. No sense of struggle or lungs folding...”

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

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

I started writing when I was very young, so it’s hard for me to remember specifically. I wrote a lot of poems about the moon and its shadows. I didn’t know then why we see the moon in phases and I was fascinated by its beauty and inscrutability.

What did you want to be when you were young?

I wanted to be a veterinarian, so that I could take care of sick animals. I wanted any job that allowed me to hang out with dogs...

Date: 05/16/2017
Amal Zaman

“Barren field, tin sky, couds
the color of clouds. Why describe things
when things describe themselves?

Besides, there’s nowhere to turn
when your shield against despair
becomes its source,”

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

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

I don’t remember the first poems well enough, since I wrote them in my last year or two of college (the late 1980s). Then I went to graduate school in philosophy and abandoned poetry. Twenty-five years later, in the fall of 2014, I started writing poems again. One of the first is about cleaning out the cabin of a man who drowned himself in Crater Lake. It’s a straightforward narrative poem without any bells or whistles. Unlike everything else I wrote in the first several months...

Date: 05/09/2017
Amal Zaman

On a Chilly January morning in 1893, Louise Imogen Guieny took the train from Auburndale to Boston and made her way with the brisk, long-legged steps of a practiced walker to 246 Boylston Street. When the poet entered the warmth of Perkins Hall, her gold-rimmed spectacles must have immediately fogged over. Yet even through the clouded lenses Louise might have seen the room was close to full—could word of the Women’s Rest Tour Association have spread so quickly?
--from “The Unprotected Females of the Women's Rest Tour Association” which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

My first published piece was dictated to my mother when I was four and sent in to a magazine that had put out a call for submissions on “Thanksgiving.” It had something to...

Date: 05/06/2017
Emily Wojcik

In 2010, I was thirty-one years old, running twenty-five miles per week, doing yoga twice a week, and eating a vegetarian diet. My blood pressure was 110/60, I weighed 135 pounds, I took multivitamins and omega-3s, I flossed daily. I was so healthy I was smug about it—I’d never even broken a bone. I was invincible.

One day, I tripped over nothing when I was running. It kept happening but I kept running. “Clumsy,” I thought, but I was an athlete. I ran through it. And then I fell in the most epic way: head-first down a hill, in front of crowds of people, at the end of an annual 5K race—bruised face, skinned knees and hands, twisted ankle. I couldn't figure out why, except that my knee buckled. Weird.

A year of physical therapy later, I defended my dissertation and lost my grad-school health insurance, but it was...

Date: 05/04/2017
Amal Zaman

”BEITHE WAS A LOUD CITY. It had the loudness of a city not yet used to itself. Steel clicked against steel and stone echoed stone. There was no respite from its noise.
    On a bend in the road in the center of Beithe, there stood a house. It was known to all the town-dwellers as Anna’s House. Though no one knew why. For in fact, the house belonged to a young woman called Sarah and no Anna was ever seen or remembered to have lived in that house on a bend in the road in the center of town.
    And in Sarah’s house, there was silence. The loudness and noise never entered Sarah’s huse. Every day, she would wake up to its quietness and breathe in its lightness. Sarah had quickly taken for granted its quietness and lightness...
--from “...

Date: 05/03/2017
Amal Zaman

Responding to the shocking reality of the recent US election, Aleksandar Hemon wrote in the Village Voice, “For me, the symptom of that experience is a constant traumatic alertness, a terrible, exhausting need to pay attention to everything and everybody and not succumb to the temptation of comforting interpretation . . .Trauma makes everything abnormal, but the upside is that living with and in a mind where nothing appears normal or stable is the best antidote to normalization.” Hemon’s next project, with the Bosnian Canadian photographer Velibor Božović, will tell the story of immigrants who fled genocide and war in Bosnia; it has been awarded the 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History.

The author’s speculations about the...

Date: 04/24/2017
Amal Zaman

When I was eight years old, my mom invented a game called “getting lost.” She was worried, she later told me, that I was starting to feel less loved. At four and a half I’d drawn a chalk mural to welcome my new triplet siblings, but Mom feared that I’d grown to feel lost in their shuffle.
      We sat together in her minivan the first time we played the game. “Okay, Vince,” she said. “Tell me where to turn.”
      I pointed left and she swung out of the driveway. At the end of our street she paused to adjust her glasses...

--from "Why I Get Lost" which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

Date: 04/18/2017
Amal Zaman

"My love,

The tide is poised. Between you and I the end of the world

where an abandoned crane will either spit blue
blazing desert from its graffiti lips or smash
the crow-bedecked tenements in search of a trumpet..."
--from "The American Dream Writes to Orpheus" which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1)

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

My first published poem was called The Catheter Speaks and it is about the aftermath of birth. It was a young, scrappy, wrenching poem.

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

This is a very hard question! At the risk of...

Date: 04/13/2017
Amal Zaman

“On a recent list of top ten composers, my moody Chopin
didn’t make the cut—the critic said he’d never truly loved
the Romantic mode. It’s too personal, a biometric lock. Too magician
swallowing the handcuff key. The mystery of a list like this is less
of content than of order—I could tell you dark-horse Verdi here,
hipster Schubert there, a sheepish what up to damaged-goods Wagner--"
--from "The Romantic Mode" which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

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

When I was eight, I wrote tiny picture books; one was a play about teleporting animals, another a story about raccoons who only ate kosher chicken carcasses. My work is still dotted with animals and meditations on religion, so I'm not sure how much has changed.