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Front Cover by Rabéa Ballin
Bantu 2014
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Volume 55, Issue 2

There are times when art is more called clearly, more loudly, than usual to engage events in the world. Political and social upheaval in one or another part of the world impinges on personal dramas, on the intimate tensions of relationship. We are tempted, often, to say that current events are not yet the proper material of art, that the timely is the enemy of timelessness. “History,” W.H. Auden writes at the end of his poem, “Spain,” “may say Alas, but cannot help or pardon.” Sometimes the artist cannot wait to speak.

The civil war that broke out when a military coup threatened the Spanish Republic in 1936 was, famously, one such time. It was in response to that war that Auden wrote “Tomorrow the rediscovery of romantic love,” but “Today the struggle.” Among the artists drawn to Spain was Langston Hughes, whose sojourn brought him into contact with a number of Spanish poets whose work he translated as one gesture of solidarity. The unclassifiable Nancy Cunard traveled to Spain, too, and the novelist Charles Yale Harrison felt the compulsion to comment in his work. The writers wrote, the communists communed, the Internationals crossed borders, advancing to and, finally, retreating from the conflict, depositing their work in papers, between covers, in what might have seemed the safe harbors of home.

History may say “Alas”; in its passage it occludes, obscures, erases. From the archives, some time later, readers and researchers are called to engage events in the world, recover the traces. We are pleased to follow the work of scholars Evelyn Scaramella, Anne Donlon, Emily Robins Sharpe, and Bart Vautour, and bring you translations by Hughes, archival remnants of Cunard, and a sample of Harrison’s satire.

Few writers have felt so urgently the call to engage as did Tillie Olsen, whose reminiscences and ruminations are captured here in Robin Dizard’s interview from TK. Engagement, though, can take the forms of parabolic indirection, of gnomic inscription, as well as more immediate address. Mia Couto’s three stories register the forces of colonial inheritance in local scenes and family life. Lev Rubinstein’s “Elegy” (translated here by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky) grasps the essence of cataclysm in its sidelong glances, and Shez’s “Separation” (translated by Elliott batTzedek) limns the limiting power societies exert upon desire. Is it “Alas” that History says in Emily Barton’s story, “The Once and Future Capital,” or something more ominous?

We might want History to apologize for is the destruction it wreaks upon bodies, but bodies differ and diverge all by themselves as well. The complexities of relationship, given bodies in all their culturally constructed variety, given the thousand natural shocks bodies are heir to, are viscerally explored here in stories by Victoria Lancelotta and Sara Novic, and in the hypnotic art of Rabea Bellin.

There are times when art is called upon to engage events in the world, when the route to timelessness is more clearly driven through the timely. We are reminded—in Malcolm Garcia’s “The Front Line” and Nathan Deuel’s “Friday Was the Bomb” —that we live in just such times. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow the (re)discovery of romantic love, surely, but also, today as much as yesterday or tomorrow, the struggle.

Michael Thurston
For the editors


Entries

poetry

We All Fall Down

By Tony Barnstone

essay

Translating the Spanish Civil War: Langston Hughes's Transnational Poetics

By Evelyn Scaramela

poetry

A Little Dialoge between the Poet and the Revolution

By Rafael Alberti, Translated by Langston Hughes

translation

A Little Dialogue between the Poet and the Revolution

Langston Hughes

poetry

Frente

By Jose Moreno Villa

translation

Front

By Langston Hughes

essay

Things and Lost Things: Nancy Cunard's Spanish Civil War Scrapbook

By Anne Donlon

essay

Imagining Spain: Charles Yale Harrison's Meet Me on the Barricades

By Emily Robins Sharpe

essay

Imagining Spain: Charles Yale Harrison's Meet Me on the Barricades

By Bart Vautour

fiction

Meet Me on the Barricades

By Charles Yale Harrison

poetry

Elegy

By Lev Rubinstein, Translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky

translation

Elegy

Philip Metres

translation

Elegy

Tatiana Tulchinsky

fiction

The Once and Future Capital

By Emily Barton

fiction

The Waters of Time

By Mia Couto

fiction

The Delivery

By Mia Couto

fiction

War of the Clowns

By Mia Couto

translation

The Waters of Time

Eric M. B. Becker

translation

The Delivery

Eric M. B. Becker

translation

War of the Clowns

Eric M. B. Becker

poetry

Interrogation

By Arne Weingart

nonfiction

The Front Line

By J. Malcolm Garcia

nonfiction

Friday was the Bomb

By Nathan Deuel

art

Drawings and Prints

By Rabea Ballin

poetry

Separation

By Shez

translation

Separation

Elliott batTzedek

interview

My Tape-Recorder Ear

An Interview with Tillie Olsen, By Robin Dizard

poetry

In Extremis

By Christopher Munde

fiction

Things Unspoken

By Sara Novic

poetry

Aphasic

By Erika Wilder

fiction

Undertow

By Victoria Lancelotta

poetry

Person in Water

By Claudia Monpere

poetry

Alpha Centauri

By Nicole DiCello

fiction

Dead Ringer

By Laura Hartenberger

poetry

A Brief History of Dance

By Jeff McRae

poetry

To L., After Parting Again

By Donald Morrill

poetry

Trousseau

By Kara van de Graaf

fiction

Masks

By Bruce Lawder

poetry

The Girls Are Sleeping

By Antonina Palisano

fiction

Settlement

By Debbie Urbanski

Table of Contents

Introduction by Michael Thurston

We All Fall Down, a poem by Tony Barnstone

THE ART OF ENGAGEMENT

The Last Great Cause, foreword by Cary Nelson

Translating the Spanish Civil War:
Langston Hughes's Transnational Poetics,
an essay by Evelyn Scaramella

A Little DIalogue between the Poet and the Revolution,
a poem by Rafael Alberti, translated by Langston Hughes

Frente, a poem by José Moreno Villa,
translated by Langston Hughes

Things and Lost Things: Nancy Cunard's Spanish
Civil War Scrapbook, an essay by Anne Donlon

Imagining Spain: Charles Yale Harrison's
Meet Me on the Barricades, an essay by
Emily Robins Sharpe and Bart Vautour

From Meet Me on the Barricades,
a novel excerpt by Charles Yale Harrison

Elegy, a poem by Lev Rubinstein,
translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky

The Once and Future Capital, a story by Emily Barton

The Waters of Time, The Delivery, and War of
the Clowns, stories by Mia Couto, translated by
Eric M.B. Becker

Interrogation, a poem by Arne Weingart

Friday Was the Bomb, nonfiction by Nathan Deuel

The Front Line, nonfiction by J. Malcolm Garcia

Drawings and Prints, art by Rabéa Ballin

Separation, a poem by Shez, translated by
Elliot batTzedek

My Tape-Recorder Ear, an interview with Tillie Olsen
by Robin Dizard

Amor Vincit Omnia, a poem by Richie Hofmann

In Extremis, a poem by Christopher Munde

Things Unspoken, a story by Sara Nović

Aphasic, a poem by Erika Wilder

Undertow, a story by Victoria Lancelotta

Person in Water, a poem by Claudia Monpere

Alpha Centauri, a poem by Nicole DiCello

Dead Ringer, a story by Laura Hartenberger

A Brief History of Dance, a poem by Jeff McRae

To L., After Parting Again, a poem by Donald Morrill

Trousseau, a poem by Kara Van de Graaf

Masks, a story by Bruce Lawder

The Girls Are Sleeping, a poem by Antonina Palisano

Notes on Contributors

 

Contributors

RAFAEL ALBERTI (1902-1999) was a prominent member of the “Generation of ’27,” a group of avant-garde Spanish writers. The author of numerous poetry collections, Alberti was a prize-winning and highly regarded poet when the Spanish Civil War began in 1936. He became one of the central literary voices of the Republic and was forced to leave Spain when it was defeated. He returned to the country in 1977 and lived there until his death in 1999.

ELLIOT BATTZEDEK lives and writes in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Poetica, Sinister Wisdom, Poemelon, and Trivia. She completed her MFA in poetry at Drew University, and is now pursuing a second degree in poetry in translation.

TONY BARNSTONE is the Albert Upton Professor of English at Whittier College. His books of poetry include Tongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki and The Golem of Los Angeles. He is a distinguished translator of Chinese poetry and literary prose. His anthology Monstrous Verse, edited with Michelle Mitchell-Foust, will be published in 2014. His selected poems Bestia en el Apartamento: Antología poética will appear in 2015, with translations by Mariano Zaro.

EMILY BARTON is a writer, essayist, and critic whose work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, Story, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Observer, Poetry, Nextbook, and the Threepenny Review. Her first novel, The Testament of Yves Gundron, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; her second novel, Brookland, was named the same. She currently serves as the Elizabeth Drew Professor at Smith College, where she teaches fiction writing.

ERIC M. B. BECKER is a writer, translator, and award-winning journalist from St. Paul, Minnesota. His translations of Brazilian writer Edival Lourenço have appeared in Machado de Assis Magazine. A candidate for the MFA at Queens College-CUNY, he is the recipient of a 2014 Louis Armstrong House Museum Residency and assistant managing editor at the world literature journal Asymptote. He lives in New York

MIA COUTO is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, essays, and poems. His novels and short story collections have been published in twenty languages. In 2002, a committee of African literary critics named his novel, Sleepwalking Land, as one of the twelve best African books of the twentieth century. He lives with his family in Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as an environmental consultant and a theatre director.

NATHAN DEUEL is the author of Friday Was the Bomb: Five Years in the Middle East. He has written essays, fiction, and criticism for The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Harper’s, and The New Republic, among others. He graduated from Deep Springs College and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.

NICOLE DICELLO is an MFA candidate for Creative Writing-Poety at Emerson College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The New Guard, Blue Mesa Review, Poetry East, Nimrod, Concho River Review, and Ballard Street Poetry Journal. She is a volunteer screener for Ploughshares, and is pursuing publication of her first completed poetry manuscript.

ROBIN DIZARD, Emerita Professor of English at Keene State College in Keene, NH, lives in Amherst, MA. Her previous articles have appeared in MELUS, Southerly, the Massachusetts Review, and Pedagogy.

ANNE DONLON is a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the editor of Langston Hughes, Nancy Cunard, and Louise Thompson: Poetry, Politics, and Friendship in the Spanish Civil War, a collection of correspondence and poetry.

J. MALCOLM GARCIA is the author of Khaarijee: A Chronicle of Friendship and War in Kabul. His work has been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Essays, and Best Nonrequired Reading.

CHARLES YALE HARRISON (1898-1954) was a writer and political activist. Harrison fought with the Canadian Army in World War I before moving to New York City, where he became active in the leftist politics, media, and literary culture, including the Communist Party of America-led magazine New Masses and the John Reed Club. Harrison’s oeuvre is varied, including five novels and a biography of Clarence Darrow.

LAURA HARTENBERGER lives in Toronto. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Dragnet, Cutbank Magazine, The Found Poetry Review, and NANO Fiction. Hartenberger has won prizes from Gulf Coast Magazine and the Hart House Review.

RICHIE HOFMANN, a 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellow, has poems appearing in the New Yorker, Poetry, and Ploughshares. In the fall, he will be a Creative Writing Fellow at Emory University.

LANGSTON HUGHES(1902-1967) was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance and an important poet in both African American and political communities. The author of over a dozen poetry collections as well as plays, libretti, stories and essays, Hughes traveled to Spain as a reporter during the Civil War and met, through the Alianza de Intelectuales Antifascista, a number of important Spanish Republican writers.

VICTORIA LANCELOTTA is the author of Here in the World: 13 Stories, and the novels Far and Coeurs Blesses. Her work has been anthologized in The Best of Literal Latte and Blue Cathedral: Short Fiction for the New Millennium.  She has been a fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Djerassi Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. 

BRUCE LAWDER has published three books of poems and a book of essays on poetry, Vers le vers. He lives in Switzerland.

JEFF MCRAE lives in Vermont with his wife, three children, and a cat. Recent work has been published in The Chariton Review, The Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. In addition to writing poems, he is a jazz drummer, songwriter, and English professor.

PHILIP METRES is the author of a number of books and chapbooks, most recently, A Concordance of Leaves, abu ghraib arias, and To See the Earth. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered a number of fellowships and awards, including the Beatrice Hawley Award and the Anne Halley Poetry Prize.  He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.   

CLAUDIA MONPERE’s poems and short stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Puerto del Sol, Nimrod, and other journals. She is a recipient of the Georgetown Review Fiction Award and teaches writing at Santa Clara University.

DONALD MORRILL is the author of two volumes of poetry, At the Bottom of the Sky and With Your Back to Half the Day, as well as four books of nonfiction. He has taught at Jilin University, People’s Republic of China, and has been a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Lodz, Poland. Currently he teaches in the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa.

CHRISTOPHER MUNDE completed his MFA at the University of Houston in 2008. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Blackbird, The Hollins Critic, Hunger Mountain, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He received an Academy of American Poets Prize in 2008 and was named a finalist for the 2012 New Issues Poetry Prize. He currently lives in western New York, where he teaches at Jamestown Community College.

CARY NELSON is Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among his 28 authored or edited books are several about the Spanish Civil War.

SARA NOVIĆ studied fiction and literary translation in the MFA program at Columbia University, where she is currently a teaching fellow instructing a human rights-themed essay-writing course. Her work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, LA Review of Books, Blunderbuss and Circumference. She is also the founding editor of the Deaf rights and education blog Redefined. Sara is at work on her first novel, which will be published by Random House.

TILLIE OLSEN (1912-2007) was very influential to the publication of women authors. Her works include the much celebrated Tell Me A Riddle, now a staple of college and university literature curricula in the US. As Visiting Writer at Amherst College in 1968-1970, she taught creative writing and literary surveys, which led her to compile extensive reading lists of “silenced” writers. These reading lists still enrich the knowledge students and professors have of working class writers, especially women.

ANTONINA PALISANO is the 2013 recipient of the Sandol Milliken Stoddard Award and was recently named a finalist for the Amherst Writers & Artists Pat Schneider Poetry Contest. Her research interests include death culture, hagiography, and Victorian medicine. She is currently at work on a poetry manuscript about George Mallory’s 1924 ascent of Mount Everest, and will begin an MFA in Poetry at Boston University in the fall of 2014.

EMILY ROBINS SHARPE is Assistant Professor of global Anglophone and postcolonial literatures at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. She is currently working on a book manuscript examining global Anglophone responses to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). With Bart Vautour, she also co-directs “Canada and the Spanish Civil War”. They are at work on a scholarly edition of Charles Yale Harrison’s Meet Me On the Barricades.

Born in 1947, LEV RUBINSTEIN is a central figure in the Russian avant-garde, and has been translated into German, French, Swedish, Polish, and English.  His works in English include Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein and the forthcoming Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties, translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky.

SHEZ is an Israeli poet and playwright. She has published two books, Dance of the Lunatic and the false autobiographical novel The Fairies Return to Israel. She is a recipient of the Ron Adler Prize for poetry.

TATIANA TULCHINSKY has translated many works of fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction, among them Leo Tolstoy’s plays in three volumes and Anna Politkovskaya’s A Small Corner of Hell. She has been awarded a number of literary fellowships and prizes, including a Best Translation of the Year Award from the American Association of Slavists. Currently she works on a project translating and promoting English-language drama for the Russian theater stage.

KARA VAN DE GRAAF is a doctoral student in creative writing at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthology Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Third Coast, Alaska Quarterly Review and other journals.  She is a poetry editor for Cream City Review.

BART VAUTOUR is an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He has published articles in the journals Canadian Literature and Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews. He also has edited a scholarly edition of Ted Allan’s Spanish Civil War novel, This Time a Better Earth and co-edited the forthcoming collection Public Poetics: Critical Issues in Canadian Poetry and Poetics.

JOSE MORENO VILLA(1887-1955) was a Spanish poet and a member of the “Generation of ’27,” the avant-garde Spanish poets. An artist, essayist, poet, and teacher, The author of over thirty books of poetry and prose, Villa moved to Valencia at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He was soon exiled to the United States, and eventually settled in Mexico, where he lived until his death in 1955.

ARNE WEINGART lives in Chicago, where he is the principal of a graphic design consultancy specializing in identity and way-finding.

ERIKA WILDER is a poet and writer currently living in New York, originally from Seattle. She earned her MFA at the University of Washington, where she was Coordinating Editor of The Seattle Review. Her work has appeared in MARY: A Journal of New Writing of St. Mary’s College, PageBoy, Filter Literary Journal, City Arts Magazine, The Destroyer, and Rookie.

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