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Front Cover by Naudline Pierre
Hold On, Hold Tight, 2019. OIL ON CANVAS.

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Volume 61, Issue 2

FOR THE PAST DECADE, when introducing a new issue I’ve followed a simple rule, more or less strictly. Even though I do believe that all art emerges from history, just as all consciousness is ultimately biology (and also that we’re more or less equally far from understanding the specific pathways that lead to either), for the intros, I’ve always ruled out references to what’s happening now. Publication is a material process and it takes time, so the now I’m writing in will not be the now of your reading. In this moment, my now, spring has officially sprung only days ago, and yet this issue in your hands, in your now, cannot possibly be opened earlier than mid-June, a few days before summer. 

The reason I mention this rule, as by now you will have understood, is to break it. Thing is, this time it’s different. Time itself is different, frozen in some sense, yet standing on the edge of a precipice. There is no chance at all, in this moment, that what happens in March will be forgotten by June. That’s not how global pandemics work.

In such moments, as Fran Leibowitz memorably quipped, a day or so after 9/11, writers are luxury items. Or so it may seem. But perhaps we should take a longer view, and remember instead Boccaccio’s Decameron, written in response to the great bubonic plague of 1347-51, also known as the Black Death, responsible for culling at least 30%, and perhaps as much as 60%, of the human herd in Europe. The writer’s hometown, Florence, would not again return to its pre-plague population until the nineteenth century.

In that unparalleled masterpiece of the storytelling art, the frame narrative—where a band of intrepid young souls flee the city and plague to hide out in a villa in the hills near Fiesole—has no obvious or even indirect connection to the stories it contains. Instead, what the Decameron offers is delight, respite—and travel to worlds and times far from horrors so present they needed no mention. In this our Summer issue, though we cannot promise that the living will be easy, or that our motley crew of contributors here weave a rich, uniform tapestry of tales to equal the Tuscan master, we will take you to a host of faraway places, and introduce you to perspectives and people that Boccaccio himself could never have dreamed of. Surely the greatest joy of editing is finding pages that fly you somewhere you’ve never been, then offering that excursion to others. In 1794, during his arrest in Turin, the Savoyard soldier Xavier de Maistre wrote a celebrated work of the imagination Voyage autour de ma chambre (“Voyage Around My Room”). In this moment, an unprecedented early spring where it seems unlikely that anyone anywhere on the planet is making summer travel plans, we have, and we’ve made them for you.


Entries

fiction

Xyla

By Nia Imara

poetry

Upright

By Tomas Tranströmer, Translated by Patty Crane

essay

Kakania

By Miljenko Jergović, Translated by Russell Scott Valentino

Table of Contents

Introduction

Upright, a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane

The Penultimate Tree, a story by Juan Vitulli, translated by Peter Bush

Erasure, a poem by Joanne Dominique Dwyer

The Rain of Brno, an essay by Karl Markus-Gauss, translated by Tess Lewis

Kakania, a story by Miljenko Jergović, translated by Russell Scott Valentino

Fire, a story by Mukhtar Maguain, translated by Mirgul Kali

[B], [A#/Bflat], Is Music a Language?, poems by Ryan Mihaly

Through the Window, a story by Alexandra Kulik and Julian Senn-Raemont

moon sonnet, a poem by Doug Ramspeck

Xyla, a story by Nia Imara

The Unraveling of Absence, an essay by Emmalie Dropkin

The Last Time I Saw My Grandfather, a poem by Diamond Forde

Recent Work, art by Naudline Pierre

Keeping Time, a story by Maria José Silveira, translated by Matthew Rinaldi

In Front of the House, All Night Long, a story by Augustín Cadena, translated by Patricia Dubrava

Mass of the Mute, a story by Nicole Gonzalez

The Autumn Kill, a story by GennaRose Nethercott

Alva and the Ode to a Punching Bag, a poem by L.S. McKee

Jesus Kicks His Oedipal Complex, an essay by Eugenio Volpe

The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a poem by David Moolten

Five Poems: Ghost Child, City Lake, After the Diagnosis, Annual Migration, and Covenant, poems by Chelsea B. DesAutels

An Old Man in Great Trouble, a poem by Kathleen Winter

A Foreign Country, a story by Soledad Puértolas, translated by Julia Sanches

Fin de Siècle, an essay by Willa Elizabeth Schmidt

from Olta's Summer, a novel excerpt by Ornela Volpsi, translated by Samantha Kirby

Range, a poem by Jennifer Sperry Steinorth

Look, Little Donkeys, a poem by Jen Jabaily-Blackburn

The Borrowed Silence of Translation, an essay by Allison Grimaldi-Donohue

A Habit, a poem by Steven Cramer

Notes on Contributors

Contributors

PETER BUSH’s first literary translation was Juan Goytisolo’s Forbidden Territory (1989) and he has translated eleven other books by this writer, including The Marx Family Saga (1996) and Exiled from Almost Everywhere (2011), both awarded the Ramón del Valle-Inclán Literary Translation Prize.  His translation of Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook won the 2014 Ramon Llull Literary Translation Prize. Recent translations include Quim Monzó’s Why?Why?Why? and Barcelona Tales (from Cervantes to Najat El Hachmi). He has also translated classics from Spanish and Catalan such as Fernando de Rojas’s Celestina and Mercè Rodoreda’s In Diamond Square and is currently engaged in the translation of Balzac’s Le Lys dans la Vallée

AGUSTÍN CADENA was born in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, México and teaches at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. Essayist, fiction writer, poet and translator, Cadena has won national prizes for fiction and poetry. His over thirty books include collections of short fiction, essays and poetry, novels, and young adult novels. His work has been translated into English, Italian, Greek, Urdu and Hungarian.

STEVEN CRAMER is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Listen (MadHat Press, 2020). The online journal Memorious called Clangings (Sarabande, 2012) “one of our favorite books of 2012”; and Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande, 2004) won the Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club and a Massachusetts Honor Book citation.  Recipient of two Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowships and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, he founded and teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University.

PATTY CRANE’s translations of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Blackbird, Guernica, New York Times Magazine, Plume, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Bright Scythe, a bilingual selection of her translations, was published by Sarabande Books in 2015. Crane is the author of the poetry collection Bell I Wake To (Zone 3 Press First Book Award, 2019) and the chapbook something flown (Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award Series, 2018). Her poems have recently appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Poetry East, and Verse Daily.

CHELSEA B. DESAUTELS’s work appears in PloughsharesMissouri Review, Copper Nickel, Willow Springs, Adroit JournalPleiades, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. Natasha Trethewey named Chelsea’s manuscript, Metastasis, the finalist for the AWP Award Series’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. Chelsea received an MFA from the University of Houston, where she received the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and served as Poetry Editor of Gulf Coast. She lives with her family in Minneapolis.

ALLISON GRIMALDI DONAHUE is the author of On Endings (Delere Press) and Body to Mineral (Publication Studio Vancouver). Her translation of Vito Bonito’s Soffiati Via is forthcoming from Fomite Press. Her work has appeared in places like Words Without Borders, Tripwire, Brooklyn Rail, The Literary Review, FlashArt, Nero, and LARB. She recently won a prize for her video prose poem "The Mirror, The Archive" from the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. She has been a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, Mass MoCa, and the New York Center for Book Arts. She was also a Katherine Nason Bakeless Fellow at the Bread Loaf Translators' Conference. She is currently translating Carla Lonzi’s Self-portrait which will come out in September 2021 with Divided Publishing.

EMMALIE DROPKIN holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she teaches a course on writing and climate change. Her writing has appeared in Electric Lit, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, and an anthology of essays she co-edited with Edie Meidav, Strange Attractors: Lives Changed by Chance, was published in 2019 by University of Massachusetts Press. She is a coordinator for the VIDA Count and for Extinction Rebellion Western Massachusetts. 

PATRICIA DUBRAVA teaches writing and literary translation at the University of Denver. She has two books of poems and one of stories translated from the Spanish. Her translations of Agustín Cadena’s stories have appeared most recently in Mexico City Lit, Exchanges, Asymptote, Numéro Cinq, Cagibi, and Cigar City Poetry Journal, 2019. Her translation of a Cadena story was a finalist for Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize in 2017.

A past winner of the Massachusetts Review's Anne Halley Poetry Prize, JOANNE DOMINIQUE DWYER has also received a Rona Jaffe Award, has one book of poems, Belle Laide, from Sarabande Books, two unpublished poetry manuscripts, and is working on her first novel. A poem of hers appears in Best American Poetry 2019. She is grateful to Ellen Doré Watson and the staff of MR. 

DIAMOND FORDE's debut book, Mother Body, was selected by Patricia Smith for the Saturnalia 2019 Poetry Prize and will be forthcoming in Spring 2021. She is a Callaloo and Tin House fellow whose work has appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Offing,and more. She is the recipient of the 2019 Margaret Walker Memorial Prize, finalist for the 2019 Georgia Poetry Prize, the Pleaides Press Editor Prize, and the 3rd place winner for the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University.

Born in Salzburg in 1954, KARL-MARKUS GAUß has written more than two dozen books and numerous articles and essays for German, Swiss and Austrian newspapers and magazines. He has edited the literary journal Literatur and Kritik since 1991 and has been a member of the German Academy of Language and Poetry since 2006. His books have been translated into sixteen languages. Gauß’s numerous awards include the Austrian Prize for Cultural Writing, the Manès Sperber Prize, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for a Political Book, and the Mitteleuropa Prize. The jury for the 2018 Jean Améry Prize praised Gauß as “a writer, who takes the idea of a borderless Europe literally and crosses imaginary borders between East and West with consummate ease in order to explore a continent that is still unknown to most of us. … In doing so, he demonstrates that the wealth of our continent lies in its multiplicity.”

NICOLE GONZALEZ is a Cuban-American writer from Hialeah, Florida. She writes about childhood, loneliness, and the natural world. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Oregon. Her work has appeared in Hobart.

NIA IMARA is a writer, fine artist, and astrophysicist, originally from Oakland, CA.

JEN JABAILY-BLACKBURN lives with her family in Western Massachusetts, where she works for the Poetry Center at Smith College. Twice named to Best New Poets (2014, 2016), recent work has appeared in The Common, Rattle, and is forthcoming from Bear Review and Banshee.

MILJENKO JERGOVIĆ is a Bosnian and Croatian writer and journalist. One of the most significant Balkan writers of his generation, his writing is celebrated throughout Europe, and his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He has received numerous literary awards, both domestic and foreign. His landmark collection of stories, Sarajevo Marlboro, received the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize, and his poetry collection, Warsaw Observatory, received the Goran Prize for young poets and the Mak Dizdar Award. Mama Leone won the highly regarded Premio Grinzane Cavour for the best foreign book in Italy in 2003. And in 2012, he received the Angelus Central European Literature Award for his book Srda Sings at Dusk On Pentecost. Jergović currently lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia.

MIRGUL KALI is a native of Kazakhstan based in the U.S. Her translations of short stories by Kazakh writers have appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Asymptote, Electric Literature, and Exchanges. A recipient of 2018-2019 American Literary Translators Association’s Emerging Translator Mentorship, Mirgul is currently continuing her work on the novel Kokbalaq by Mukhtar Magauin.

SAMANTHA KIRBY is a recent graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Translation at the University of Arkansas, where she served as translation editor for the Arkansas International.

ALEXANDRA KULIK and JULIAN SENN-RAEMONT are writers, music makers, and best friends currently residing in New York.

TESS LEWIS is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Walter Benjamin, H.M. Enzensberger, Christine Angot, Philippe Jaccottet, and Peter Handke. Her recent awards include the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review.  

Born in 1940 in Eastern Kazakhstan, MUKHTAR MAGAUIN published his first short stories in literary magazines in the early 1960s. A literary scholar and historian, he edited collections of Kazakh poetry from the 15th through 18th centuries now considered an integral part of the early Kazakh literature studies. Magauin has written many short stories, novellas, and novels, most of which explore the Kazakh national identity through times of great uncertainty or upheaval in cultural, social and political life. Among his novels are KokbalaqQypshaq Aruy (The Qypshaq Beauty), Zharmaq (The Split), and the two-volume Alasapyran (The Time of Troubles) that follows a Kazakh nobleman who served at the Russian court during the rule of Boris Godunov and False Dmitri I. Magauin has worked as Editor-in-Chief at the leading Kazakh literary journal Zhuldyz, newspaper Qazaq Adebiety, and the publishing house Zhazushy. He received the Kazakh State Award in Literature in 1984 for his novel Alasapyran, as well as the title of the Kazakh National Writer in 1996.

L. S. MCKEE’s writing has appeared in Best New Poets 2016, The Georgia ReviewCrazyhorseCopper NickelBlackbirdGulf CoastOversound, B O D Y, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Maryland and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford. Originally from the mountains of East Tennessee, she lives in Boston and teaches writing and communication across disciplines at MIT.

RYAN MIHALY is a poet, musician, and collage artist who recently completed the BridgeGuard residency in Štúrovo, Slovakia. He graduated from the MFA program at Naropa University where he was an Anne Waldman/Anselm Hollo fellow. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from: 3:AM Magazine, DIAGRAM, Opossum, Asymptote, Posit, and in Ilan Stavans' anthology On Self-Translation: Meditations on Language. A multi-instrumentalist and composer, he has played in a number of jazz, rock, folk, funk, punk, and experimental groups over the years, and is a frequent collaborator with dancers and poets. 

DAVID MOOLTEN's most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Prize from the Truman State University Press.  He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

GENNAROSE NETHERCOTT’s book The Lumberjack’s Dove (Ecco/HarperCollins) was selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series for 2017. She is also the lyricist behind the narrative song collection Modern Ballads, author of Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog: A Story in Cootie Catchers (Ninepin Press 2019) and is a Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellow. Her writing has appeared widely in journals and anthologies including The American Scholar, BOMB, The Massachusetts Review, The Offing, and PANK. A born Vermonter, she tours nationally and internationally performing from her works and composing poems-to-order for strangers on an antique typewriter.

SOLEDAD PUÉRTOLAS was born in Zaragoza, Spain, and is the author of eleven novels, five books of short stories, two memoirs and one book of non-fiction, La vida oculta, for which she was awarded the Premio Anagrama. Her novel, Bordeaux, was published in English by Bison Books in 1998. She became a member of the Real Academia Española in 2010.

DOUG RAMSPECK is the author of seven poetry collections, including Black Flowers (LSU Press, 2018). He is also the author of a book of short stories. Individual poems have appeared in journals that include The Georgia Review, Slate, and The Southern Review. His short story “Balloon” was listed as a Distinguished Story for 2018 in The Best American Short Stories. He is a three-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1979, MATTHEW RINALDI earned a BA in English from Fordham University in 2002. The following year he relocated to São Paulo, Brazil, where he would reside for fifteen years. During that time, he developed a career as a translator specialized in contemporary art, working for the country’s most prominent museums and cultural institutions. Rinaldi has contributed English translations to over thirty bilingual books published in Brazil, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Germany. His literary translations have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Anomaly, and Machado de Assis Magazine.

JULIA SANCHES translates from Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan. She has translated works by Susana Moreira Marques, Daniel Galera, Claudia Hernández, and Geovani Martins, among others. A founding member of the Cedilla & Co. translators’ collective, she lives in Providence, RI. 

WILLA ELIZABETH SCHMIDT’s fiction and essays have appeared in journals including Bellevue Literary Review, Consequence, Iron Horse Literary Review (2017 Trifecta Essay Prize winner), Potomac Review, and Valparaiso Fiction Review, as well as in the anthology Two-Countries:  U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen Press, 2017).  She lives in Madison, WI, and serves as an ESL tutor through the Literacy Network.

MARIA JOSÉ SILVEIRA is a Brazilian author, translator and editor with seven published novels to her name. Born in Goiás in 1947, she studied communications at the University of Brasília, and relocated to São Paulo after graduating. In her twenties, Silveira was actively involved in the resistance against the country's ruling military dictatorship. After her husband's arrest, she was forced into hiding, and, upon his release, they went into exile in Peru where Silveira earned a degree in anthropology from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. Back in Brazil after the transition to democracy, Silveira helped found Editora Marca Zero, where she worked as director for nearly two decades. Her first book, A Mãe da Mãe de sua Mãe e suas Filhas, won the 2002 APCA award for debut novelist. It was published in English by Open Letter Books in 2017 as Her Mother's Mother's Mother and Her Daughters. Her latest novel, Maria Altamira, was published in February 2020.

JENNIFER SPERRY STEINORTH is a poet, educator, interdisciplinary artist, and licensed builder. Her poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Colorado Review, jubilat, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, New Ohio Review, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. She has received grants from Vermont Studio Center, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and Warren Wilson College where she received her MFA in poetry. Her first full-length book, A Wake with Nine Shades, was published by Texas Review Press in autumn of 2019. A hybrid text of visual poetry/erasure is forthcoming from TRP, Spring of 2021.  

The Swedish poet TOMAS TRANSTRÖMER (1931–2015), acclaimed as one of the most important European writers since World War II, balanced his career as a psychologist working with disenfranchised populations with his active writing life. His first book was published to wide acclaim when he was just 23 years old. His poetry has been translated into over sixty languages and received many of the most prestigious literary honors. He was an accomplished pianist, and after suffering a stroke in 1990, trained himself to play with his left hand. In 2011, Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

RUSSELL SCOTT VALENTINO is the author of two books, editor of three literary and scholarly collections, and translator of eight books of fiction and literary nonfiction from Italian, Russian, and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. His work has appeared in The New York TimesModern Fiction StudiesDefunctDel Sol Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of two Fulbright research awards, three National Endowment for the Arts translation grants, and a PEN/Heim award. He previously served as editor-in-chief at The Iowa Review and President of the American Literary Translators Association. He is currently professor of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at Indiana University and serves as senior editor at Autumn Hill Books. His translation of Miljenko Jergović’s monumental 2013 novel Kin, from which “Kakania” is excerpted, is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in 2021.  

JUAN VITULLI was born in Rosario, Argentina (1975). He studied literature at the University of Rosario until moving to the USA to pursue a PhD in Spanish at Vanderbilt University. He is now Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Notre Dame where he teaches Early Modern Spanish literature and culture with a strong interest in the Baroque.  Published by Ediciones Corregidor in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sur de Yakima is his first collection of short stories. Featuring different voices that move between various themes and situations, the stories present a series of broken epiphanies in which the sense of belonging to a place, language, or tradition comes undone. He is currently working on a new book of short stories and a collection of his poetry tentatively titled Daisy Chains.

EUGENIO VOLPE is the author of the novella The Message. His writing has appeared in Post Road, Salamander, BULL, VICE, and other publications. He is a PEN Discovery winner. Born in raised in the Boston area, he now resides in Los Angeles with his wife and son. He teaches rhetoric and writing at Loyola Marymount University.

Born in Albania in 1968, ORNELA VORPSI emigrated to Italy in the 1990s; she later moved to Paris, where she has lived for more than twenty years. She has published eight novels, six in Italian and two in French, and has been featured in Best European Fiction 2010Olta’s Summer is her most recent work, published in May 2018 by Gallimard Press.

KATHLEEN WINTER is the author of Transformer, the 2020 selection for The Word Works Press Hilary Tham Collection. Her second book, I will not kick my friends (2018), won the Elixir Poetry Prize, and her debut, Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, won the 2013 Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Memorial Award. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Statesman, Agni, Prairie Schooner, and Cincinnati Review. She was granted fellowships by Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Brown Foundation at Dora Maar House, James Merrill House, and Cill Rialaig Project. Her awards include the Rochelle Ratner Memorial Prize, the Ralph Johnston Fellowship at the University of Texas's Dobie Paisano Ranch, and Poetry Society of America The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award. Winter is an associate editor at 32 Poems and teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College.

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