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FRONT COVER by Ayana V Jackson

He Who is as if Death Were Not, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery MOMO.

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Volume 58, Issue 3

THESE DAYS the streets of Rome fill with rubbish, more or less daily. At times its present makes one wonder whether the Eternal City even has a future. A few years ago an Italian archaeologist and art historian published a study provocatively titled If Venice Dies, and just the other day one of our favorite Roman authors, Igiaba Scego, commented that she’s been thinking of writing a companion volume to that work, about her hometown. As for me, having had the good fortune to hang out in this storied city for the past month, my thoughts are increasingly focused on the relation between, on the one hand, our harried, hurried present—where crisis is no temporary state and stress has become routine—and, on the other, those layers and layers of sites and situations underfoot, history sliding wordlessly down into prehistory, stones and bones, under the soil or under ashes. Ancient footprints are everywhere.

In this year’s back-to-school issue, we’ve got more lessons than you can imagine, histories you’ve always sensed but never had a chance to hear. Not surprisingly, poets have the clearest sense—and often offer a synchronic slice—of such matters. Carl Phillips, for example, reminds us that light can’t logically be cast by shipwrecks, all the while inviting his readers to imagine it otherwise. So do spend your share of hours inside the Colosseum. Elsewhere Leila Chatti gives us something of a crime scene as painted by Caravaggio, whereas Filippo Naitana, in Ann Lauinger’s translation, envisions Adam himself, apple in hand, caught between two cities, one in rubble, the other an eternal remove. Joan Houlihan, in her meditation on final things, gives us a title that might also have been coined in reference to the photographic meditations of Ayana V Jackson, also featured in this issue. Hands trace air, indeed.

Archaeology, I’ve come to find, is no longer confined to the distant past. Yasmin Yildiz has brought us a stunner of a story by Meneks¸e Toprak, a tale that blends Turkish immigrant and Holocaust experience within a single, multidirectional history. We have Krzysztof Rowin´ski to thank for an equally impactful excavation: two interviews from the seventies by the Polish journalist Krzysztof Ka¸kolewski, never before published in English. Ka¸kolewski, in a collection given the disarmingly appropriate 401 title How Have You Been, Sir?, confronted Nazis who were then living peacefully in Germany, having been acquitted by the German courts. In our pages, you’ll find his conversations with Hans Fleischhacker, a professor of anthopology still conducting genetic research at Frankfurt’s Goethe University as well as Ka¸kolewski’s interrogation of Heinz Reinefarth, the German SS commander during the Warsaw uprising. The crimes of state that sent Václav Havel to prison are more recent; in this issue, his brother Ivan remembers those years, as well as the resistance of intellectuals that continued nonetheless. As for the dark times we face today, Bruce and JuChan Fulton bring us a story by Hwang Cho˘ng-u˘n about a gay man’s isolation in contemporary Korea, and J. Malcolm Garcia tells the tale of Rosa Robles Loreto, a woman forced to live in sanctuary in Tucson, because the country she calls home threatens to expel her. To tell the tale of our time, however, sometimes you need to go way back. Jim Walke, as one illustration of the horror this country calls health care, offers an avatar of Simeon Stylites, the Syrian ascetic who spent much of his life living atop a pillar.

Strangeness of this sort, and much that is stranger still, is the subject of Catherine Chin’s marvelous essay on the marvels of history. Even if we, like Chin, don’t necessarily believe that “the now-extinct European aurochs [. . .] defended itself by squirting burning shit at hunting dogs twenty-four feet away,” that doesn’t mean such accounts have nothing to tell us—or that they’re not just plain fun. Dark as these times may be, we do still manage to find wonder, comfort, and humor in our world and in these pages. Don’t, for example, pass up your chance to spend some time with “The Rabbi’s Cat” by Miljenko Jergovic´ (translated by Aleksandar Brezar). And definitely don’t miss Teresa Solana’s “Premiere Nights” (translated by Peter Bush). Though certainly buffo, this is clearly no tale for opera buffs; instead, as some of us like to say out here in the Bay State, it’s anti-Fascist, and wicked fun. Who knows, maybe someday everything is going to be smooth, like a rhapsody.

In the meantime, we’ll just keep painting.

Jim Hicks for the editors


Entries

Table of Contents

Introduction

Craft and Vision, a poem by Carl Phillips

Celan’s Deathfugue and the Eternal Feminine,
  an essay by Alicia Ostriker

How Have You Been, Sir?,
​  two essays by Krzysztof Kakolewski,
  translated by Krzysztof Rowinski

The Letter in the Suitcase, a story by Menekse Toprak,
  with an introduction and translated by Yasemin Yildiz

Cosmogony of Shame (Cosmogonia del pudore),
   a poem by Filippo Naitana,
  translated by Ann Lauinger

Conversations across the Prison Wall.
   Islands of Freedom
 and the Dawn of Democracy,
  
an essay by Ivan M. Havel

No Overtime, an essay by J. Malcolm Garcia

Still Life with Hemorrhage, a poem by Leila Chatti

To Kill or Allow to Live, art by Ayana V Jackson

The Rabbi’s Cat, a story by Miljenko Jergovic´,
 translated by Aleksandar Brezar

Hands Trace Air, a poem by Joan Houlihan

Marvelous Things Heard.
  On Finding Historical Radiance,

  an essay by Catherine Chin

Thirteen Theories on the Better Understanding of Birds
  of Eligible Age, a poem by Berta García Faet,
  translated by Kelsi Vanada

Urban Menagerie, a poem by Matt Morton

Closure, a poem by John Sibley Williams

Antioch, a story by Jim Walke

Coffee Cantata, a poem by Slavko Mihalic´,
 translated by Dasha C. Nisula

  P at’s, Geno’s, a story by Michael Deagler

Night of the Full Moon, a poem by Shen Haobo,
 translated by Liang Yujing

Pilgrimage, a poem by Kimberly Kruge

When I Find the Ark, a poem by Paige Lewis

The God Girl, a story by Jacqueline Schaalje

The Bone Thief, a story by Hwang Chong-un,
 translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton

Summer Rain, a poem by Bruce Smith

What Color, a poem by Elizabeth O’Brien

Premiére Nights, a story by Teresa Solana,
  translated by Peter Bush

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