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“TO DWELL IN A MYTH is to dwell in a prison.” It takes a few paragraphs, but eventually that’s how Mahmoud Darwish boils it down, in an interview published in these pages, translated by Amira El-Zein and Carolyn Forché. Myths are prisonhouses; if they don’t fall, they make us dream, as Darwish did, of breaking out. For young writers in the United States, such words may seem strange, coming from a poet whose words express the dreams of an entire nation. In this country, the number of creative writing programs continues to mushroom at a rate most often found in Ponzi or pyramid schemes, with thousands of young writers each year earning their M.F.A.s and Ph.Ds. Their dream is to break in, not out. For some, Darwish may already be a central figure in their personal pantheon, even if they’ve never visited a country where poets draw rock star–sized crowds, much less lived or grown up in one. Though he is also central to ours, we’d still think...

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Baiba Bičole, translated by Bitite Vinklers


The Sea

Silvina Ocampo, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Katie Lateef-Jan

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“We are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest [...] the teachings of Thoreau are alive today, indeed, they are more alive today than ever before.”

—REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (MR 4.1, Autumn 1962)

From the Blog


The Witch of Hadley: Mary Webster, the Weird, and the Wired

- By Anna Smith

Art: “Examination of a Witch,” Thompkins H. Matteson, 1853, detail.  Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Perhaps I stayed up too late. Perhaps I didn’t need to go downstairs right at midnight to look up the Witch of Hadley (my little town—the farming community between Amherst and Northampton, home to prime farmland, big box stores, and some very interesting dead people).

I spent an hour reading about Mary Webster: how she lived down the street from me (a stone’s throw from where I sat, shivering in the dark, entranced by the screen), how they accused her of witchcraft, sent her to Boston where she was acquitted—and where, a year and a half later, she was accused again. I probably now know more than necessary about my town’s famous...

Favorite Things

At a Distance: Sadness in Bartók's Final Quartet

- By Edward Dusinberre

(Cover image courtesy of Decca Music Group, Limited)

My music is open on the stand, yet at the beginning of Bela Bartók's sixth string quartet I can only listen. A string quartet is usually a collaborative effort, but for nearly a full minute our violist Geri plays the tune alone: Mesto—sad. At first I feel as if I am eavesdropping on a private sorrow, then, as the melody climbs higher, the viola becomes more declamatory, as if conscious of an audience. Like the listeners in the hall, I cannot evade the sad mood.

The initial outpouring dissipates and the melody fades away. Together we break the silence by playing the same loud notes and rhythm—vigorous bow strokes that banish the melancholy. No more sadness then. After another pause, we exchange...

10 Questions

10 Questions for Adrienne Su

- By Emily Wojcik

Photo by Guy Freeman.

“It doesn’t have to be unfeminist
to carry them across the bridge

if you meant to spend the morning
this way, and know he’s savoring

the gesture (and will wash the bowl). . . .“—from “Across the Bridge Noodles,” Volume 60, Issue 3 (Fall 2019)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
The first poem I remember writing was about a rose, although I had no interest in roses. I was seven and thought poems had to be about revered objects. Luckily I got over that early.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
High-school Latin gave me an awareness of meter, a love of form, and a...

Working Titles Excerpts

AMOUR: Fields of Battle, Fields of Love (Working Titles 4.2)

- By Véronique Tadjo, translated by Carolyn Shread

he Massachusetts Review presents the latest Working Titles e-book: AMOUR: FIELDS OF BATTLE, FIELDS OF LOVE, a novella by Véronique Tadjo, translated and with an introduction by Carolyn Shread. Available now!

"One anonymous night he found himself in a tidy village. The bus came to a stop at the end of a long road that stretched out into the dark. He clambered down with his bag in one hand. His feet hit the ground with a painful thud. His swollen ankles ached.

The village was asleep. He stood there for a moment as the bus roared off. Already he wanted to leave. Then the thought crossed his mind, what’s the point? He had to stop somewhere.

It was so much easier on the bus. Trees streamed past, towns and villages sped by...


Mad Max in Ukraine

- By Borja Lasheras

Translated from Spanish by James Badcock

The hall is packed as people wait expectantly for the arrival of the bard. We snaffle a couple of free seats, surrounded by the young and not so young who pay us no mind as they gaze intently at the black curtain. This theatre was once one of the Jewish centres of Chernivtsi, a cosmopolitan cultural capital in western Ukraine, part of northern Bukovina, and a city which annually hosts the Meridian Czernowitz International Literary Festival. After a little while, Serhiy Zhadan, described by Marci Shore as “the Bard of eastern Ukraine,” appears alongside two guitarists to a rapturous welcome from the crowd.

With his sharp features, dressed all in black with half-mast trousers and a sweatshirt, his hair shaved to a...

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