Volume 57, Issue 2
THE CALENDAR OF A QUARTERLY — at least this quarterly — is marked up most heavily in its moments of overlap. For instance, today, this day in early spring, as I ruminate over a table of contents that will come fully into the world next summer, I am accompanied on my side table by our first issue of the year, an arrival little over a week old. Much of its contents commemorate a lecture first read publicly in Amherst in 1975, then published in these pages a few years after. And so it is that Chinua Achebe now stands solemnly before me, gracing our cover with gravitas that only a photograph by Jerome Liebling could capture, causing me to wonder one thing only: what the hell will this rag ever do to equal that?
Nothing. That much is clear. When Achebe’s “An Image of Africa” ripped up and riposted Joseph Conrad’s dark heart, what we now refer to as postcolonial studies gained a lodestone and touchstone, and certain truths became self-evident. No editor with any sense of literary and cultural history would ever predict that any pages — no matter how apparently worthy, exuberantly expressive, insouciantly innovative, or roughshod rebellious — could someday have such multiplier effects. What I will suggest is one way in which, having learned our best lessons from the Igbo master, we strive to continue his work.
In our last issue, with typically understated elegance, Caryl Phillips demonstrated how conversations with Achebe ultimately caused him “to rethink [his] diasporan relationship to Africa and, by extension, to the whole African diasporan family.” The title of Phillips’s essay, like that of the panel where he presented it, was taken from Achebe himself: “It is the Storyteller who makes us see what we are.” The “fractured and difficult,” “less romantic, more nuanced, and more challenging” legacy of Atlantic triangular trade is, of course, the great subject of Phillips’s own virtuoso storytelling: that the encounter with Achebe gave new energy and meaning to this theme shows his essay earned its title. Q.E.D.
In the present issue, nearly all of these stories, essays, and poems place their wagers in or on the backslash between one place and another. Alicia Ostriker’s “Cinco de Mayo,” for example, Mexico sprouts forth in a Nueva York green world; elsewhere, Naira Kuzmich meditates on loss, with a translatio that carries her Armenian across and behind English lines. In Nil Santiáñez’s exegesis of modernist war writing (the first installment of a two-parter), the backslash divides and articulates soldierly telling from showing a century ago, on either side of the Maginot line. An excerpt from Igiaba Scego’s Adua (translated by Frederika Randall, who recently brought us Giacomo Sartori) portrays two generations of Somali immigrants in Italy, with their distance from home measured by triangulation, using a Bernini elephant and obelisk as focal points. The art fantastique of Allison Schulnik melts and morphs, troubling conventions of mode and media. Contributing editor Peter Bush trades on another triangle, sending us from the UK three translations of stories by the Cuban poet, translator, and film critic Jorge Yglesias. Aatif Rashid tells a tragic tale of Ottoman conquest in Hungary, whereas Kenan Orhan traces fault lines across the border war between Turkey and Syria today. Closer to home, a poem from Kathleen Kelley bridges time and distance in crossing to the Cape, while characters by Colin Fleming come of age way out here in the wilds of Western Mass., and hipster Brion Dulac entombs an unknown hitchhiker in his truly uncommon commune. As is his wont, Bob Dow sums it all up, sending it sailing in a rumination on the border between skull, mind, and memory.
I could go on — with Quinn, Fortenberry, or Fishbane, for example, each offering us specimen days chock-full of stories, telling us what we are — but by now you get the point. There are no equals to Achebe, here or elsewhere. Yet the stories, poems, and pictures continue to move us forward, and through that motion, we are made to see what we are. The point is to follow Achebe, not to equal him. Only by continuing on his path do we move beyond.
Cinco de Mayo
By Alicia Ostriker
"The Lecture" or How Poetry Can Save Your Life
By Hilene Flanzbaum
By Naira Kuzmich
from Da morte.Odes minimas
By Hilda Hist Hist
from Da morte.Odes minimas
By Laura Cesarco Eglin
By Igiaba Scego
By Frederika Randall
By Hayan Charara
Amongst the Olive Groves of Mezra
By Kenan Orhan
By Aatif Rashid
The Light, the Bridge, and the Fish
By Kathleen M. Kelly
By Elias Leake Quinn
One Way Zebra
By Colin Fleming
What Size is Yours
By Robert Dow
By Allison Schulnik
Three Stories: On the Immortality of the Soul, War abd Peace, and, The Flame of an Idea
By Jorge Yglesias
Three Stories: On the Immortality of the Soul, War abd Peace, and, The Flame of an Idea
By Peter Bush
Showing What Cannot Be Said: Total War and the International Project of Modernist War Writing
By Nil Santiañez
foretell the silent ridge of the tongue
By Alessandra Lynch
A Bit of a Thief
By Joel Fishbane
Dollmaker, Inventory, Child
By Erin Fortenberry
You Two Are So Beautiful Together
By Frances Park
A Kennedy in Each of Us
By Gary Margolis
By Genevieve Plunkett
By F. Daniel Rzicznek
By Brion Dulac
Table of Contents
Cinco de Mayo, a poem by Alicia Ostriker
"The Lecture" or How Poetry Can Save Your Life,
an essay by Hilene Flanzbaum
On Grief, an essay by Naira Kuzmich
from Da morte. Odes mínimas, poems by Hilda Hilst,
translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin
from Adua, a novel excerpt by Igiaba Scego,
translated by Frederika Randall
Bad Things, a poem by Hayan Charara
Amongst the Olive Groves of Mezra,
a story by Kenan Orhan
The Janissary, a story by Aatif Rashid
The Light, the Bridge, and the Fish,
a poem by Kathleen M. Kelley
Driftwood, a story by Elias Leake Quinn
One-Way Zebra, a story by Colin Fleming
What Size Is Yours, a poem by Robert Dow
Paintings, by Allison Schulnik
On the Immortality of the Soul, War and Peace,
and The Flame of an Idea, stories by Jorge Yglesias,
translated by Peter Bush
foretell the silent ridge of the tongue,
a poem by Alessandra Lynch
A Bit of a Thief, a story by Joel Fishbane
Dollmaker, Inventory, Child, a story by Erin Fortenberry
"You Two Are So Beautiful Together,"
an essay by Frances Park
A Kennedy in Each of Us, a poem by Gary Margolis
The Rodeo, a story by Genevieve Plunkett
from Leafmold, a poem by F. Daniel Rzicznek
The Commune, a story by Brion Dulac
Notes on Contributors
PETER BUSH is a freelance literary translator and scholar who lives in Oxford, England. His most recent translations are Before by Carmen Boullosa, Bookshops by Jorge Carrion, and Black Bread by Emili Teixidor. He translated and edited the uncensored version of the screenplay of Strawberry and Chocolate by Senel Paz, compiled the anthology of Cuban stories, The Voice of the Turtle, and has translated five of the Mario Conde series by Leonardo Padura. He is currently translating El vent de la Nit (the sequel to Joan Sales’s Uncertain Glory), which was named one of the ten best works of fiction in 2014 by The Economist.
HAYAN CHARARA is the author of three poetry books, most recently Something Sinister. He edited an anthology of contemporary Arab-American poetry, Inclined to Speak, and his children’s book The Three Lucys received the New Voices Award Honor. He teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston.
ROBERT DOW is a senior lecturer with the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he has taught for sixteen years. He Is a contributing fiction editor for MR.
BRION DULAC teaches at the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
LAURA CESARCO EGLIN is the author of three collections of poetry: Llamar al agua por su nombre, Sastrería, and Los brazos del saguaro. A selection of poems from Sastrería was translated collaboratively into English with Teresa Williams and subsequently published as the chapbook Tailor Shop: Threads. Cesarco Eglin recently published the chapbook Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate. She has translated works of Colombian, Mexican, Uruguayan, and Brazilian authors into English. Her poems and translations have appeared in journals in the US, UK, Spain, Mexico, and Uruguay. She is the co-founding editor and publisher of Veliz Books.
JOEL FISHBANE’s debut novel, The Thunder of Giants, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2015. Other works have appeared in Witness, New England Review, Canadian Theatre Review, and several other publications, both online and in print.
HILENE FLANZBAUM is a professor and director of the MFA program in creative writing at Butler University. She publishes poetry, essays, and literary criticism in places as various as O! magazine, Tikkun, Kerem, Pequod, Ploughshares, and the Yale Journal of Criticism. Her poem “Nihil’m” appeared in MR in autumn 2014. She is currently at work on a sonnet cycle about mothers and daughters in the book of Genesis and teaching contemporary Midrash with the Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Seminar in Indianapolis.
COLIN FLEMING’s fiction has appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road, Black Clock, Boulevard, and Cincinnati Review, with additional work running in the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Washington Post, New Yorker, and Boston Magazine.
ERIN FORTENBERRY’s work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. She recently graduated from the University of Wyoming’s MFA program and is currently at work on a novel.
The Brazilian poet, playwright, and novelist HILDA HILST (1930–2004) was one of the most important and controversial writers in the Portuguese language of the twentieth century. In her thirties, Hilst decided to leave the city of São Paulo to avoid social life and concentrate on literature. She went to Campinas and lived in her house, Casa do Sol, until her death.
Currently residing in Florence, MA, KATHLEEN M. KELLEY has received an Anderbo Poetry Prize and a Philbrick Poetry Award for her chapbook The Waiting Room. Her poetry has appeared in Chautauqua, Theodate, Mobius, Women’s Voices for Change, Persimmon Tree, and the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine anthology. New work is upcoming in The Healing Muse.
NAIRA KUZMICH was born in Armenia and raised in the Los Angeles enclave of Little Armenia. Her nonfiction is published or forthcoming in the Threepenny Review, Cincinnati Review, and Guernica. Recent fiction can be found in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015. This essay was adapted from a talk presented at the 100 Years Later: ASU Armenian Genocide Conference on March 22, 2015.
ALESSANDA LYNCH is the author of Sails the Wind Left Behind and It was a terrible cloud at twilight. Her third book is forthcoming from Alice James Books. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, Ploughshares, Volt, and other journals. Currently, she teaches writing and poetry to the undergraduates and MFA students at Butler University.
GARY MARGOLIS is emeritus executive director of the College Mental Health Services and associate professor of English and American Literatures at Middlebury College. He was a Robert Frost and Arthur Vining Davis Fellow and has taught at the Universities of Tennessee and Vermont and the Bread Loaf and Green Mountain writers’ conferences. His clinical articles have appeared in the Journal of American College Health Association, Adolescence, Ladies Home Journal, and Runner’s World. His latest books are Raking the Winter Leaves: New and Selected Poems and Runner Without a Number.
KENAN ORHAN is a Turkish-American writer and MFA candidate at Emerson College. His stories appear or are forthcoming in McNeese Review, Newfound Journal, The Puritan, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others.
Twice nominated for a National Book Award, ALICIA OSTRIKER is author of twelve volumes of poetry, most recently The Book of Seventy, which won the Jewish Book Award for Poetry. Ostriker is the author of Writing Like a Woman and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America and several books on the Bible. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Antaeus, The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, the Atlantic, MS, Tikkun, and many other journals, and have been widely anthologized. Her poetry and essays have been translated into French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic.
Born in Cambridge, MA, FRANCES PARK is the author or coauthor of ten books, including novels, children’s books, and a memoir published in five countries. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, The Diane Rehm Show, CNN, and Voice of America. Currently at work on a collection of personal essays, Park lives in the Washington, DC, area.
GENEVIEVE PLUNKETT’s stories have appeared in the New England Review, Willow Springs, and Mud Season Review. She lives in Vermont with her husband and two young children.
ELIAS LEAKE QUINN lives with his family in Washington, DC, where he keeps a day job as an environmental lawyer. He has a fondness for cephalopods.
FREDERIKA RANDALL worked as a cultural journalist for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and the Italian weekly Internazionale, among others. Her translations include novels by Luigi Meneghello, Ottavio Cappellani, Helena Janeczek, and Ippolito Nievo’s Confessions of an Italian. Other translations include Sergio Luzzatto’s The Body of Il Duce and Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age, for which she and the author shared the Cundill Prize for History. Her awards include a PEN (Heim) Translation Fund award and a Bogliasco Fellowship.
AATIF RASHID is a writer living in Los Angeles.
F. DANIEL RZICZNEK is the author of two poetry collections, Divination Machine and Neck of the World, and three chapbooks, Nag Champa in the Rain, Vine River Hermitage, and Cloud Tablets. Also coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry, Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University.
NIL SANTIÁÑEZ is a professor of Literature and International Studies at Saint Louis University. His most recent books are Topographies of Fascism: Habitus, Space, and Writing in Twentieth-Century Spain, Goya/Clausewitz: Paradigmas de la guerra absoluta, and Investigaciones literarias: Modernidad, historia de la literatura y modernismos. He has published numerous articles, prologues, and book chapters on Spanish and European literature and culture. Presently, he is working with Justin Crumbaugh on a book titled Spanish Fascist Writing.
IGIABA SCEGO is an Italian writer of Somali descent who was born in 1974 in Rome, where she still lives.
ALLISON SCHULNIK choreographs her subjects in compositions that embody a spirit of the macabre, a Shakespearian comedy/tragedy of love, death, and farce. Schulnik has had solo exhibitions throughout the US and internationally, such as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Connecticut, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, unosunove Arte Contemporanea in Rome, and Division Gallery in Montreal, and many more. Her films have garnered multiple awards, including Best Experimental Animation at Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2014. Her work has been shown around the world and is in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and Montreal Contemporary Art Museum, among others. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles.
JORGE YGLESIAS is a Cuban poet, writer, and literary translator. He has translated the work of Georg Trakl, Paul Claudel, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich, among others. He was awarded the National Prize for Literary Translation, the UNESCO prize for the best translation of Pushkin, the Austrian Literary Translation Prize, and the Literary Translation Prize of the College International des Traducteurs in Arles. Since 2000, Yglesias has been head of Humanities and professor of Film History and Aesthetics of Documentary at the International School of Film and TV in San Antonio de los Baños, Havana. His work has been translated into English, French, German, Italian and Russian.