It’s the Carved in Stone issue, one to last the ages. After the Ebola virus clears the earth of the human vermin, this issue will still be there to be read by those who come after (some form of intelligent insect life, hopefully; bees seem to get along with each other — I am betting on bees). Have you noticed — it’s true — how saved we are, even temporarily, from the world’s pathologies by a book, a picture, a song, or a verse, how settling to the spirit it is to contemplate clarity and order (or just a good sentence)?
But let me not dwell too long upon current events and instead turn happily to the beauties of Numéro Cinq, the August edition, which includes stunning poetry-on-stuff images from the inimitable Jody Gladding, herewith also interviewed for us by the intrepid Darren Higgins.
Contributor Adam Segal interviews the cnf star Eula Biss on the subject of her forthcoming book On Immunity: An Inoculation.
Sebastian Ennis reviews the new Shane Jones novel Crystal Easters. Writes Sebastian: “Here’s the thing about Jones and Kafka though: they both know how to do ‘fucked-up and beautiful.’”
From the amazing Leslie Ullman, poet, skier and merengue dancer, we have a gorgeous piece of non-fiction prose conerning her recent trek in the Himalayas (plus photographs by the author).
A. Anupama reviews the new Matthea Harvey poetry collection If The Tabloids Are True What Are You? “Evolved far beyond the snip-and-paste of collage, this hybrid poetry and visual art collection encompasses prose poems with intriguing and crystalline photographs for titles, poems with invented constellations for titles, embroidered models of imagined inventions to accompany a long poetic sequence, and silhouettes of mermaids with tools for tails, including a Swiss Army knife and a hole-punch.”
William T. Vollmann
Jason DeYoung review the latest William T. Vollmann collection Last Stories and Other Stories.
Lee D. Thompson
And Lee D. Thompson pens a strange and charming story —”A Serpent” — about difficult love and a sea monster. Somehow that seems like a line that could describe every story we publish here. Every story is (or should be) about difficult love and a sea monster. Or every young couple in love should have a sea monster.
It is hungry, was what Chiara said, after they had wandered to the shore.
It was green-black, serpentine, had a dog’s head and fur here and there where its stubby limbs joined the body. The fur was more a bronze colour, and thick. It didn’t look real. It had nostrils that flared and closed, like a seal, and Chiara said it is just a weird sea lion, George, and George remembered her way of saying weird, and other strange inflections. Its mouth, when it opened its mouth, was wide, sucker-like. OK, it is not one of those, said Chiara.
I do not like it.
But we should feed it.
The poet Paul Pines contributes a trenchant, timely essay on the distemper of our cultural times, the roots of High Culture in the ancient spiritual structures of oral societies that flourished long before the invention of writing, and the possibility of a remedy, a pharmakon.
Plato talks about the pharmakon as both a remedy and a poison. It is the cure in the disease and the disease in the cure. That medicine had a double nature was well known to Galen and Asclepius as well as Paracelsus and Derrida. The pharmakon may be the Objective Psyche or the submerged center. By the same token Post Modernism, with its claim of absolute relativism married to Faustian promise of technology and instant information may be the poison in which the panacea is secreted. Caught between the dreams of virtuality and globalization, a wounded poetic imagination bombarded by packaged images for consumption, symbols replaced by brands, we must not retreat in grief and anger, or to easy answers.
Photo by John Oughton
Canadian poet/photographer John Oughton contributes, yes, poems and photos.
Before the human eye can catch the light
birds call up the sun,
each giving a separate secret name
understood only by them and the awakening star.
One robin calls: warmer-of-lost-eggs
and a cardinal: bleeds-the-eastern-sky
a jay announces: shards-you-can’t-look-at
and whipporwill: courser-of-clouds
Alexander at the Battle of Issus
Senior Editor Patrick J. Keane, scholar, horse racing fan, jazz aficionado, and cat lover, suffered a creative seizure and, instead of an essay, wrote for us a blazing short story on Alexander the Great and his legendary horse Bucephalus. But not just about Alexander and his horse. “The Alexander Debate and the Murderous Innocence of Bucephalus” is a wicked satire on the epic testosterone-driven struggles of scholarly debate, a satire that becomes a comedy of sexual infidelity, jealousy, envy and, finally, murder.
Patrick J. Keane
We have, for the first time in ages, a new What It’s Like Living Here essay from Deborah Willis in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, a city that lives beneath the ash cloud of a volcano. Deborah writes: “…on the church steps, Mayan shamans burn pine resin or swing metal cans that release white, aromatic smoke. In jeans and sneakers, they are nothing like the shamans of my imagination. Tomasa says they are hired by families to pray for luck, or happy marriages, or better job opportunities. Across town there is a smaller, darker church that represents death, says Tomasa.”
Juan José Saer
Senior Editor Richard Farrell reviews the translation of Juan José Saer’s La Grande. ” This mystery is one of ontology, of the deep, mystical, convoluted experience that is life, with all its secrets, its intrigue, its tragedies and its triumphs. At the very bottom, on the murky river floor where memory resides, where so much has been lost to time—betrayals, desires, the forgotten war, love, passions—here we find the source material for Juan José Saer’s La Grande. Saer reassembles the fragments. He reconstructs experience through memory, where nothing is ever quite what it appears, and yet where everything that appears is luminescent, like gold flakes panned from the silt, polished, crafted and forged into a ring”
We also have a excerpt from the novel.
Nela Rio & friends
And more! Including brand new translations of poems by the prolific Argentianian-Canadian poet Nela Rio;
Uimhir a Cúig features fiction by the Irish author David Hayden — “Memory House.”
I am the broken plate lying on the kitchen floor. Eight main pieces are grouped together on the yellowed linoleum that is cool beneath my bare feet. Scores of fragments are scattered in the greasy shadows, or wedged under the heels of the table.
The warped, lemon-shaded light is my mother’s eye. It gives off a gentle heat and can see nothing. Each chair is a misplaced friend. If I sit down I will remember who, and why they became lost and, perhaps, where they are today.
And last, but never least, R. W. Gray at NC at the Movies does his usual brilliant gloss on the movie of the month — David Cho’s Where We Are.
“Do you wonder where I am?” “Do you miss me?” The woman on the call persists with her questions. When the man suggests the woman should come to him, however, she replies, “I’m happy here.” On the most overt level, this is the woman defining her contradictory desires, where she seeks the answer to “Do you miss me?” before she will assert “I am happy here.” Come here / go away. This is Anne Carson’s “sweetbitter,” cultivated by the woman who wants longing more than having.