- April, The Spring Fever Issue, Is Up & Complete!
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Michael Venus’s film for Parasite Single’s “The Hunt,” Introduced by R. W. Gray
- Let Us Imagine Lost Love: A Serial Novel | The Eighth & Last Part — Robert Day
- Mythology: A Response to Ralph Angel’s “The Exile and Return of Poetry” — D. M. Spitzer
- The Doctrinal Murder of a Socratic Beggar in St. Suzette: Fiction — André Narbonne
- Entering A Contrary Moon | Poems & Paintings — Elaine Handley & Marco Montanari
- “Second Thoughts” in Seamus Heaney’s North: From “Antaeus” to “Hercules and Antaeus” to “Exposure” — Patrick J. Keane
- Torque & Text: Gore Vidal and Ammianus Marcellinus on Julian the Apostate | Essay — Jacob Glover
- A Person On Business From Porlock: Poems in English and Spanish — John B. Lee/Manuel de Jesus Velázquez Léon
- The Flower Can Always Be Changing: Essay & Photographs — Shawna Lemay
- Proposal for a Whole New Scale: Poems — Julie Larios
- Signor Farini: Song & Essay — Ian Bell
- Where The Women: Novel Excerpt | Álvaro Pombo — Translated by Brendan Riley
- Uimhir a Cúig | Tinnycross: Fiction — Nuala Ní Chonchúir
- Forms of Vastness: Review of Progress on the Subject of Immensity by Leslie Ullman — Summar West
- Tin-Penny Miseries and Chickenshit Joys: Review of Lorrie Moore’s Bark — Richard Farrell
- Apologia: Why Do We Write? — Genese Grill
- Dream Eaters of the Apocalypse: A Review of Robert Coover’s The Brunist Day of Wrath — Natalie Helberg
- The Press of a Human Heart Against the Page: An Interview with Victoria Redel — Jason Lucarelli
- Numéro Cinq’s Top of the Page — A Richard Farrell Anthology
Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Michael Venus’s film for Parasite Single’s “The Hunt,” Introduced by R. W. Gray
In Michael Venus’s music video for “The Hunt,” a woman (Katja Danowski) blanched and polyestered by life is haunted by the band Parasite Single, two outfit-coordinated hipster angels, who call to her and torment her with their pop song and provoke her to the possibility of something other than her sweat-pant suit life. From the
This is the end, the final installment, the close of a wonderful adventure on Numéro Cinq, Robert Day’s eight-part serial novel Let Us Imagines Lost Love. For those of you who have been loyally following the numbers as they rolled out, month by month, I will not corrupt your reading of the last pages by over-introducing them. Let me say only that it contains a hilariously gory and explosive climax to the experimental blood lab plot in Berkeley (that puts paid to the hero’s ambitions in the medical field) and a last line that contains the word “plethora” (which was also at the beginning of the novel). Also the narrator’s old (as in first) girlfriend Tina, the one he could only get to take her clothes off over the phone, finally takes her clothes off in person.
Where is poetry? the poet asks at the beginning of this poem/essay — call it an epode, call it an extended epigram, a form that somehow contains balanced contraries in dynamic tension, the heart of metaphor, of art. Written in response to an essay by Ralph Angel that we published in January last year, D. M. Spitzer’s “Mythology” oscillates between monster and marvel, labyrinth and sanctuary, fragment and whole, tapping ahead with his words for solid ground and offering, yes, a mythology of the poem, of the imagination (dangerous, contained within a force field — form).
More fable than short story, yet also something of a noir parable, a grim psychological mystery of compulsion and erotic self-abnegation, André Narbonne’s “The Doctrinal Murder of a Socratic Beggar in St. Suzette” tells the tale of a frustrated artist whose wife commits a murder to save her husband’s work from mockery. Narbonne is an old acquaintance; I selected a wonderful story of his for the 2006 edition of Best Canadian Stories (in the time before time when I edited that estimable volume).
Ekphrasis is the Greek rhetorical device of inserting the description of a work of art into a text as a way of creating meaning (by analogy or parallel). Coincidentally, the standard classical example of ekphrasis is Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad (also Hesiod’s description of the shield of Hercules). It’s a device with an ancient tradition, never abandoned. And so it’s delightfully literal that Handley and Montanari have chosen warriors and shields as their central motif, adding to an ancient tradition that in this instance they have reanimated with more recent wars and warriors. Gorgeous, sad, dignified, violent images and words, given yet another twist by the poet’s particularly female point of view.
“Second Thoughts” in Seamus Heaney’s North: From “Antaeus” to “Hercules and Antaeus” to “Exposure” — Patrick J. Keane
Today would have been Seamus Heaney’s 75th birthday and to celebrate that celebrated absence we offer an essay by Patrick J. Keane who does what the best critics do: he goes straight to the heart of the man through the poems and thence to the poems again. In 1972, Heaney famously and controversially moved from the bloody ground of Northern Ireland to Wicklow in the Republic, abandoning outright political action and commitment for a more contemplative and poetic life. He did not make this decision easily, and out of his personal struggle came the poems in North, what Keane calls his “most powerful and controversial collection.”
Both Vidal and Ammianus deploy roughly the same facts toward decidedly different ends. Vidal torques his facts, even his reading of Ammianus, to create a complex heroic figure bent on holding back the Leviathan of Christianity (which, unfortunately, as far as Vidal is concerned, prevailed). Ammianus focuses on Julian’s participation in the grand meta-narrative of the late Roman Empire, the succession of emperors, the rise of Christianity and the church. Vidal’s novel is about an individual. Ammianus’ history is not about Julian specifically but his part within the larger tapestry of his period.
A Person On Business From Porlock: Poems in English and Spanish — John B. Lee/Manuel de Jesus Velázquez Léon
In poetry, the local is the universal. As William Blake wrote: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand…” John B. Lee is an old friend, published many times in Numéro Cinq, who lives in Port Dover, Ontario, just down the road from the farm where I grew up. We both have a special affection for Norfolk County, to me, always both local and an epic ground, filtered with blood of ancestors.. And in these poems, he remembers a relative of his, Ida Wright, born in Waterford, the farming town, where I went to high school. Ida went to China as a missionary — the rest I will let John tell. But notice, yes, how these poems rise by degrees to compass all life (and beyond), from a southwestern Ontario schoolroom to eternity.
The moral overhang of plants, in the present case a disregarded bonsai, is the notional subject of this deft, intricate essay (with photographs) by Shawna Lemay, an essay that is also an anthology of quotation and gnomic phrasing, an essay that almost seems to unwrite itself as it is written. “…we understand each other illegibly.” “In this way we come to know the unrepeatable secrets of flowers, and then to forget them.”
Herewith impish, gracile, nimble poems by Contributing Editor (one of our own) Julie Larios whose continuing Undersung series has become a mainstay of the magazine and a model of poetic discourse. Julie’s poems are playful, yes — the body “poor sot” and men! who only need “A belief in the afterlife, or in the theory / that size doesn’t matter.” — and her language is fast, packed with snappy rhythms, sly puns and rhymes that twist and curl meaning from word to word.
Herewith Ian Bell’s lovely, comic/lament ballad “Signor Farini,” a song about The Great Farini, a 19th-century (he lived till 1929) tightrope walker famous, among other things, for doing somersaults over Niagara Falls in 1860. But The Great Farini was really a man named Hunt, born in Lockport, New York, and Ian’s song is as much about the mystery of creation as it is about tightrope-walking and fame. It’s about having the courage to make oneself, to change, to gamble and risk, to take a chance in life. And beyond that (there’s more), Ian also offers an insightful and readable account of song-writing, the art itself.
Lost love, unrequited love, love all too achingly brief (and yet ever so slightly comical) is the subject of this excerpt from Álvaro Pombo’s novel Where The Women (translated and introduced by Brendan Riley). Here we get the story of poor Aunt Nines, packed off to a convent (the Sisters of Adoration in Letona) after she refuses to eat for lost love. Not just lost love, her only love, the deliciously named Indalecio, whose life is cut short by a swimming accident. “Oh, how Indalecio went running along the beach! He charmed everybody that summer.”
In her story “Tinnycross,” Ní Chonchúir alludes to the prodigal son parable, but here the unexpected presence of a wife in the family home repositions the fraternal conflict. Not surprising since the returning son finds himself at odds not just with his brother but “with every blade of grass on every acre of the land.” Ní Chonchúir uses language like a plow, turning over the upper layer of the brothers’ hardened relationship to bring to the surface the roots of abandonment in the hopes of cultivating some form of reclamation. A cruelty borne out of rectitude, decency even.
I’ve found a guide and companion for this season and country in the poet Leslie Ullman and her new collection of poems, Progress on the Subject of Immensity. I have been enthralled with a book of poetry that by its title alone seemed to promise a journey of intensity and possibility, of questions both philosophical and spiritual, and of movement toward insight and understanding. The book delivers on those promises — more than one could imagine setting out.
What lengths will we go to in order to avoid being alone? Why are we so hell-bent on love? These are age-old questions, ones that philosophers, poets and priests have been unable to answer. Moore’s rendering of scenes, her dramatization of the beginnings and endings of love, is nothing short of a profound examination of the quintessence of the human condition. Why do we love? Why do we tell stories or create art? We are trying to close the gap, between self and other, between idea and reality, between life and death.
If we were to let up at long last, give up, resign ourselves to silence — I dare not even suggest what might happen, what horrific indifference and simulated emptiness might ooze into every last crack and bury us alive, unable to remember the slightest thing, unable to form sentences or consider our actions, unable to value, denounce, celebrate, or dream. We may never know what nasty nightmare our often thankless little efforts keep at bay. But let us, at the very least, write in thanks and tribute to those who have persisted in the past, against such odds, in believing that writing, that ideas, that visions and images, do matter.
Dream Eaters of the Apocalypse: A Review of Robert Coover’s The Brunist Day of Wrath — Natalie Helberg
Robert Coover’s The Brunist Day of Wrath is a boisterous, bloody, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring—for any writer, humbling—sometimes painfully, but always expertly, protracted ride. Countless characters and their countless voices well up out of its thousand pages, mingling as subplots crisscross and ramify: God-fearing townsfolk square off against cultists, vying for property; cult benefactors drain joint bank-accounts, siphoning their husbands’ money; skeptics balk and forewarn; believers pray, persist together, at odds, or else wail for reckoning… —Natalie Helberg
Herewith a superb interview with Victoria Redel, the brilliant and prolific author of stories, novels and poems, also a former initiate of Captain Fiction himself, the irrepressible and undaunted Gordon Lish. Redel’s most recent books include Woman Without Umbrella (poems) and a story collection Make Me Do Things, both reviewed in NC. Conducting the interview is Jason Lucarelli, our residence Lish expert, conversant in all things Lishian.
Richard Farrell is primarily a fiction writer, but on the pages of NC he has remade himself into a terrific essayist, memoir writer, orator, book reviewer and interviewer — a man of letters, in short. His essays are pungent, eloquent and heartfelt, full of a rare candor and self-reflection. Go to his archive page; it’s amazing. Dip into his work; read it all. Admire his reach, his curiosity, his ability to turn memory into parable, and above all his heart.
This month — the spring fever issue, ecstatic, green, ebullient, warm-hearted and inspiring. Look for it starting April 1. The cornerstone of the issue is an essay by the amazing Genese Grill (scholar, artist, translator of Robert Musil) that goes straight to the heart of the matter — “Apologia: Why Do We Write” — accompanied by panels from an accordion book she made from one of her own essays.
Vol. V, No. 3, March 2014
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Patrice Leconte’s Girl on a Bridge, Introduced by R. W. Gray
- Boar Hunting in Tuscany: Text & Photographs — Natalia Sarkissian
- The Code Orange Emblazoned Suite: Poems — Karen Mulhallen
- Let Us Imagine Lost Love: A Serial Novel | Part Seven — Robert Day
- Poseurs: Fiction — Susan Sanford Blades
- The Mural and the Eyelash: Review of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch — Steven Axelrod
- Dear Echo to my Echo: Review of Peace by Gillian Conoley — A. Anupama
- The Language of Birds: A Review of William H. Gass’s On Being Blue — Sebastian Ennis
- Identity and Difference: Coleridge and Defoe, Crusoe and Friday, Prospero and Caliban: Essay — Patrick J. Keane
- It’s Like There Is A House In My Skull: Art & Interview with Bianca Stone — Nance Van Winckel
- Traffic & Panic: Poems — Ralph Angel
- Blinding: Novel Excerpt — Mircea Cărtărescu
- Empires Drenched in Concupiscent Sweat: A Review of Mircea Cărtărescu’s Blinding — Adam Segal
- Change the Weather/Avoid the Dead: Interview with David Shields — Richard Farrell
- Undersung | Eugenio Montale: Wringing the Neck of Eloquence — Julie Larios
- Calling the Dead to Life | A Review of Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t — Benjamin Woodard
- Uimhir a Cúig |Dánta le Doireann Ní Ghríofa – Poems by Doireann Ní Ghríofa & Videos in Collaboration with Peter Madden
- In Dubai: Essay — Kay Henry
- Ten Ways To Leave: Essay — Melissa Matthewson
- It Is Love, My Frightened Ones, Love: Review of Robin Oliveira’s I Always Loved You — Laura K. Warrell
Vol. V, No. 2, February 2014
- Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Alexander Carson’s “We Refuse to be Cold,” Introduced by R. W. Gray
- The Dog and the Sheep: Fiction — Cynthia Flood
- Yes & No: Poems — Catherine Greenwood
- Abominable: Essay — Abby Frucht
- Sex & Death: Essay on the Uncanny — Sydney Lea
- Optical Structures in The Shrubberies: Ronald Johnson’s Cascades | Essay — Denise Low
- Going Home: Art & Essay By Bruno LaVerdiere — Curated By Mary Kathryn Jablonski
- The Plot: Fiction — Trey Sager
- Provocations: Essay on Northern Ireland — Diane Lefer
- Let Us Imagine Lost Love: A Serial Novel | Part Six — Robert Day
- The Provenance of Song: Original Music & Essay — Michael Schatte
- Mama Leukemia: Novel Excerpt | Julián Herbert — Translated by Brendan Riley
- Metaphor as Extratemporal Moment in Robert Musil and Marcel Proust: Essay — Genese Grill
- Can the Feraltern Speak? A Review of Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt Norton — Natalie Helberg
- Uimhir a Cúig | From Out of the City: Novel Excerpt — John Kelly
- The Real Is Experienced in the Body: Interview with Micheline Aharonian Marcom — Jason DeYoung
- The Flood of Recollected Images Begins: Review of Josef Winkler’s Natura Morta and When the Time Comes — K. Thomas Kahn
- After They Told Me I Had Cancer: Essay — J. M. Jacobson