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: 03/23/2017
Amal Zaman

"The x could have been
anything at all,

the sound of wind chimes,
a gong, a choir, a cantor,

a mermaid, a schoolman,
cathedral bells...
--from "Variable" which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

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

In general, it takes me ages to write a poem, as each piece goes through multiple edits over a period of months but there was one exception. My first publication in a professional journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, was a poem I wrote for a class assignment while I was doing my MFA. I’d been sick a lot that semester, hadn’t finished my homework, and I was nervous about it. Then something magical happened. About half an hour before class, on the same morning it was due, the poem (entitled “x...

Date: 03/21/2017
Amal Zaman

"The mouse pup moves in anguish but its screams are ultrasonic, heard only by its mother. The fingers and toes are clearly defined--each one finishing in a delicate nail. Round, black eyeballs are visible underneath translucent eyelids: it's a miniature alien nestling in the palm of her hand. Ziggy drops the pup onto the cold, stainless steel countertop and stretches out the tiny body against the ruler. This newborn mouse--only four days old--flails its stunted limbs, unaware of its greater destiny."
--from "Data Driven" which appears in the Spring 2017 issue (Volume 58, Issue 1).

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

One of the first stories I wrote was “The Red Bicycle”.  I felt compelled to write it after I visited Rwanda and the DR Congo a few years ago; the aftermath of their civil wars still...

Date: 03/19/2017
Michael Thurston

In his 1962 poem, “A Far Cry from Africa,” Derek Walcott articulated something of the thesis statement for his sixty-year career:

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?

In poem after poem, play after play, volume after volume, Walcott worked through what it meant to speak Shakespeare’s language in the cadences of Saint Lucia. The problem, as he knew from the beginning, was not merely personal. Walcott’s struggle was with colonialism as a central fact of history, not only on his native island...

Date: 03/15/2017
Amal Zaman

"Fantaisie Impromptu. That's Chopin, of course. The record--held in a pink sleeve (or it should be pink)--was a pirated copy: ten yuan apiece, or nine if you buy more. It wasn't mine though. It was lent to me by a high-school classmate of my classmate from primary school. They were attending an all-girls high school..."
--from Fantaisie Impromptu which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

Tell us about one of the first pieces you translated

Among the early pieces I translated are two lyric essays by Chen Li (titled “Baudelaire Street” and “Mushan's Blacksmith Shop”)—in which he takes the readers on a mesmerizing journey back in time to vintage Taiwan. There, Chen deftly waves his wondrous...

Date: 03/13/2017
Amal Zaman

“LISTEN: MUSIC IS BORN from the human mind, but it also appears naturally, like the smell of malt, like the taste of celery. Humans desperately try to precent it from slipping through their fingers. They fasten it to the score, to instruments, to commentaries, to theory books, to records...”
--from Perfect Pitch which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

Tell us about one of the first pieces you translated

I translated a series of poems for a bilingual anthology edited by Chilean poet Gonzalo Contreras. It's called Poéticas de Chile/Chilean Poets on the Art of Poetry, and it's a collection of poems and essays by Chilean poets that discuss or reflect their poetics.

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

Some of my early...

Date: 03/10/2017
Emily Wojcik

My response to the 2016 US Presidential election was by no means unusual—shock, sadness, rage. I suspect that I was not the only woman to feel attacked, as if someone had run up behind me and slammed a baseball bat into my head. The election of President Trump felt like a sharp reminder that the complacency I’d grown into during the previous administration was misplaced.

As the stepparent of three proudly political women, the daughter of a feminist, an alumna of a women’s college, and the spouse of a man who teaches at that same school, I at least came by that complacency honestly. I live in one of those “liberal bubbles” that came under such attack in the days post-election, a predominantly white city that boasts a crosswalk painted in the rainbow of LGBTQ rights and flies a “Black Lives...

Date: 03/07/2017
Amal Zaman

"Fingertips ready at the page tip
with the vigilance of a physician.
An executor of Chopin herself,
she knows the crests and tides
of the Revolutionary:"
--from "The Page Turner" which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

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

One of the first poems I ever wrote was a little poem called Vincent, about Vincent van Gogh.  I was fascinated with his paintings as a kid. I suppose it is my fascination with strong, resonant imagery which drew me to the genre of poetry as a writer. The poem appeared in an Australian literary journal called Centoria in the 90’s, which is now defunct.

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

My poetic...

Date: 03/02/2017
Aatif Rashid

My dad immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1973, at the age of 17. He’d long dreamed of this country, and as a teenager in Karachi he used to ride the bus to the U.S. Embassy after school and read American books in the library there, everything from John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage to the novels of Horatio Alger, those earnest rags-to-riches stories of young boys rising to middle class fame and fortune. His own life actually turned out not too unlike that of one of Alger’s protagonists: he washed dishes at a restaurant while studying engineering at San Jose State, then worked his way through various jobs and promotions, and eventually achieved a very comfortable middle class life in the San Francisco Bay Area working for a U.S. defense contractor. No wonder he often declared without any irony that America was the greatest country...

Date: 02/27/2017
J. Malcolm Garcia

The Massachusetts Review presents the latest Working Titles e-book: “TIME SERVED by Malcolm Garcia–available this week!

From Time Served:

I heard about Jose Chavez-Alvarez by chance, just after my journalism career crashed with the recession in 2008. I survived five rounds of layoffs at a daily newspaper before the sixth round tagged me.

           Out of work for months, desperate, I accepted a job as a groundskeeper at a country club for minimum wage. Emptying trash, cutting golf course fairways, raking sand bunkers. My life as a reporter began slipping away. I determined to hang on to it. When the country club closed for the winter, I had a few months to freelance and regain my footing. Until then, I used my half-hour lunch breaks and the hours after work to pitch story ideas to...

Date: 02/27/2017
Bruce Laurie

The Massachusetts Review
presents the eight Working Titles e-book: Chaotic Freedom” in Civil War Louisiana by Bruce Laurie–available this week!

From “Chaotic Freedom” in Civil War Louisiana:

    This essay offers additional insight into the motivations of comparatively ordinary soldiers–two men whose Civil War stories have never been told in full. Henry S. Gere and Marshall S. Stearns brought different points of view to their wartime service. Gere was an abiding abolitionist, the kind of soldier described by Manning. Stearns had no obvious politics, and yet both men were strongly influenced not so much by Copperheadism of the heroism of black men in uniform–though this bravery was influential–but by what they learned about race and...