Sep 262016

Riiki Ducornet

Rikki Ducornet burst onto the Numéro Cinq scene in July, a scant two months ago, with CRAZY HAPPY: Painted Scrolls by Rikki Ducornet & Sculpture by Margie McDonald. Then she sent a poem, then we published a novel excerpt, then she sent an essay (forthcoming), then she introduced me to the delights of artists Dave Kennedy (see the current issue) and Anne Hirondelle (forthcoming). She has entered the spirit of the place. She’s made herself at home (and made the home a better place, which is the way it’s supposed to work around here). She brings an inestimable panache, a resplendent joy in the protean excesses of art. It’s an immense pleasure to welcome her to the masthead as a Contributing Editor.


The author of nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essays and five books of poetry, Rikki Ducornet has received both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction. She has received the Bard College Arts and Letters award and, in 2008, an Academy Award in Literature. Her work is widely published abroad. Recent exhibitions of her paintings include the solo show Desirous at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2007, and the group shows: O Reverso Do Olhar in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2008, and El Umbral Secreto at the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile, in 2009. She has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, Joanna Howard and Anne Waldman among others. Her collected papers including prints and drawings are in the permanent collection of the Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Chile, The McMaster University Museum, Ontario, Canada, and The Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.

Sep 242016

fiveravensFive Ravens by Dylan Thomas

This issue is a scorcher. I go around all month thinking the next issue is a flop. How can we ever  pull off another incendiary collection of pieces like the last time (and the time before that, and the time before that)? We have to hit a speed bump. There has to be a lull. Then I put together the issue preview, and suddenly it sizzles, the match hits the fuse.

This time we have gorgeous art work that combines tradition and pure math from a young Coast Salish artist from the West Coast of Canada, Dylan Thomas. This piece was a long time coming. I first heard of Thomas when I visited Taiaiake Alfred’s Indigenous Governance program at the University of Victoria two years ago. I was told about a young artist on the rise. I emailed him, heard nothing. Then finally this summer he got in touch with me. He had a show coming, he was ready to give us his work. And amazing work it is. Even more exciting is an essay accompanying the work, a narrative of the artist’s development going back to the roots of human evolution.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed the puzzle-like challenge of arranging animals to fit my aesthetic vision and taste. But the designing process for Sacred Geometry was a refreshing change in my practice. I surrendered control to the mathematics, and with nothing more than a little refinement, the designs essentially built themselves based on the geometric processes I applied. This manner of working felt much more natural than any designing I had done previously – so natural that, more often than not, I hardly felt involved. —Dylan Thomas


img_2852Dylan Thomas

In October, we also have extravagantly witty little gems of fiction from the protean Michael Martone, these gems springboarding from outdated, forgotten, and unintentionally hilarious federal government job descriptions (yes, I know, maybe they are intentionally funny, maybe that’s how they entertain themselves).

martoneMichael Martone

A Biologist of the Fish and Wildlife Service Confirms the
Success of the Plague Vaccination by Observing that the
Prairie Dogs’ Whiskers Have Turned Pink

Now, predate, my stressed, my endangered black-footed
ferrets, my BFFs. Aerial drones vector laced M&Ms to your
flea-infested prey. Prey away. These sweet sweetened

—Michael Martone

stZsuzsa Takács

From our prolific translator and writer (she has a story of her own in the September issue) Erika Mihálycsa, we have a brilliant short story by the Hungarian writer Zsuzsa Takács.

We met on the street by accident, mother and daughter. I recognize myself in you, I find this intrusive and despair at once: how dare I appropriate what is yours, your beauty, as if it were my merit in the least, how dare I presuppose that you inherited it from me, that you resemble me. You fear my love as I do yours… —Zsuzsa Takács translated by Erika Mihálycsa

Okla ElliottOkla Elliott

And mordant, witty poems from the wonderful poet, translator, prose writer, and politically-engaged (does the man ever stop) Okla Elliott.

Mister, there are mystical stains everywhere
I go
these days; I don’t want
or at least
don’t want to want
or at least
don’t want to admit I want or want to want—

Oh, to hell with such
roundabout poetics.

—Okla Elliott

Catherine WalshCatherine Walsh

From Ireland, NC’s Uimhir a Cúig (you know, Number Five in Irish) presents gorgeous work from Catherine Walsh.

this courage to go
beyond  let it be the measure
that we let this be the
measure that we let
be measure this that we
let this be the measure
that we let

—Catherine Walsh


Our own Frank Richardson, who makes book reviews an art form (have I said this before of him?), reviews the latest by the Lebanese-American novelist Rabih Alameddine.

Alameddine uses the structure of his novel—as Proust did—to recreate the impression of memory. The Angel of History, with its fragmented, alternating, multiple points of view and multiple plots is a structural triumph, not in spite of these qualities, but because of them. —Frank Richardson

ra2Rabih Alameddine

German SierraGermán Sierra

And a special treat, a second appearance by the amazing Spanish writer Germán Sierra, this time fiction  (see his brilliant essay on deep media fiction in our January issue), one of the best pieces of fiction we’ve published. I have to tell you his essay had a profound influence on the way I think; now his story is pointing a new way forward.

Now, undead people go phantoming around over the cobblestone shattered-mirror pavement—but back then it was the wild, under the same lead-dead sky. —Germán Sierra

Bill of sale of slaveBill of sale for Tom and assorted household goods (used with permission of the Loretto Archives)

Okay, another! special treat. This essay is explosive. The topic of slave money financing colleges and universities has been in the news lately. But Laura Michele Diener discovered the actual bill of sale for a man named Tom that financed the founding of a Catholic convent in Kentucky. This essay is not a tabloid exposé, it’s more serious than that. And the sisters have long acknowledged and done what they can to expiate the stain of the past. But Laura Michele takes a beautiful and complex look at cultural cross-currents that America is only just beginning to acknowledge.

The first document to survive from the sisters is a record of purchase. In that loopy cursive of centuries past, Ann Rhodes recorded that she was selling one bed, two spinning wheels, assorted kitchen furniture, and one negro male named Tom to Father Charles Nerinckx in perpetuity for seventy-five dollars. She used the money to purchase the surrounding land, as well as to pay for repairs on the cabins. Father Nerinckx returned both Tom and the furniture to his spiritual charges and nothing more is written of him in the records. —Laura Michele Diener

Laura Michele Diener author photoLaura Michele Diener

Gary GarvinGary Garvin

Our resident (now that he has joined the masthead) eccentric Lego artist, essayist, memoirist, story-writer and architecture expert Gary Garvin contributes a profound and profoundly intelligent essay on the history and contradictions of public housing in America.

It is Minoru Yamasaki’s misfortune that the two works he is best known for, the World Trade Center and the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex, are best known for their collapse. The World Trade Center, or its site, has attained the status of a shrine, so reflection upon its design and influence will have to be postponed for another time. Postmodern apologist Charles Jencks hailed the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe as the death—prematurely—of Modernism, and critical smoke from that debate still lingers. —Gary Garvin

1 NC Post


From Mexico, our Numero Cinco feature this month is a masterful essay on the evocativelly-named Stridentist movement by Joshua Neuhouser. (See below:  they used to hang out at bar called Nobody’s.)

The Stridentists spent their days at Mexico City’s Café Europa, which was so desolate that they dubbed it El Café de Nadie—Nobody’s Café. “Nobody cares for it or administers it,” Vela said. “No waiters bother the customers, nor does anybody serve them anything… We are the café’s only customers, the only ones who don’t pervert its spirit.” Vela mythologized the café in his short story El Café de Nadie, which centers on two men—evocations of Maples Arce and Vela himself—who haunt the back tables, watching as a woman named Mabelina takes on a series of different personalities to please her rotating cast of lovers. —Joshua Neuhouser

neuhouserJoshua Neuhouser

Camilo Cararra, by PappalardoCamilo Cararra

Caroyn Ogburn contributes an interview (with sound files and videos) with the Brazilian-based composer/performer Camilo Cararra.

I have the feeling that diversity is linked to the concept of the novelty. If contemporary classical composers are looking for other solutions to attract public, for example, it means that they feel that the public is starved for news. Or that they are tired of repeating. In this sense, I see the resemblance to my student days. There has always been this kind of movement: the musicians seek to know what are the interests of the public or the public demand for what is interesting musically.—Camilo Cararra

olzmannMatthew Olzmann

Patrick O’Reilly is back after a lengthy detour into MFA-land with a deeply thoughtful  review of Matthew  Olzmann’s poetry collection Contradictions in Design, a review which challenges the assumptions of experimental form.

The idea of beauty presents challenges for the artist as well. “Femur by mandible, I know what it means / to watch your good fortune change its mind,” Olzmann writes in “The Skull of an Unidentified Dinosaur”. That’s every poet’s pain, no doubt. But the poem itself depicts a dinosaur skeleton made up of mislabeled and mismanaged parts, the product of misguided creative labour, and exposes the blind faith and false assumptions required to not only appreciate, but to create art. —Patrick O’Reilly


mel-headshotMelanie Finn

Mark Sampson reviews Melanie Finn’s novel The Gloaming (and we have an excerpt).

One scene stands out in particular. Pilgrim and Gloria are travelling through Tanga in May, looking to visit the Amboni Caves just north of the city. These dark, complex caverns, so reminiscent of the Marabar Caves in E.M. Forster’s Passage to India, hold a deadly legacy: a husband and wife got lost in them while chasing after their errant dog and were not able to find their way out. —Mark Sampson

And, as usual, there is more (some of it will yet surprise me; it’s that kind of place): among others, a review from Ben Woodard and another NC at the Movies.

Sep 242016

Logo large

Right now there are three positions open (production editor, blogger(s), and editor/curator for NC’s Irish literature series). If this works out, there will be more postings. So go visit the page and see if you’d care to volunteer for the firing squad (er, I mean the delightfully supportive and intelligent community that NC’s masthead is).


Help Wanted at NC

(click the link)

Sep 232016


Things are very hot in the poetry department at NC. We have already announced that Susan Aizenberg is our poetry editor, but now we’ve brought on Susan Gillis as well. Susan Aizenberg will handle the American poetry scene, and Susan Gillis (inevitably, they will be the Two Susans) will handle the Canadian side. (There are other sides and scenes, of course, poetry in translation, for example, and God, Ben Woodard, Dylan Brennan, and dg will be handling them.) We are extremely pleased to have Susan join us. The only downside is she expressly forbade me not to mention the human sacrifices during the new hire celebrations. So I won’t. Let me just say there will be vivid  scenes at the NC Bunker tonight.


Susan Gillis has published three books of poetry, most recently The Rapids (Brick Books, 2012), and several chapbooks, including The Sky These Days (Thee Hellbox Press, 2015) and Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012). Volta (Signature Editions, 2002) won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She is a member of the collaborative poetry group Yoko’s Dogs, whose work appears regularly in print and online, and is collected in Rhinoceros (Gaspereau Press, 2016) and Whisk (Pedlar Press, 2013). Susan divides her time between Montreal and rural Ontario.

Sep 222016


I recently relocated to the St. Johns neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, and have been trying to get my bearings. “Gritty” St. Johns, as Portlanders say, or “up-and-coming” St. Johns, as Realtors tell us, was once an independent city built on its port and a few industries. It was incorporated into Portland a century ago. The other day I walked by a display, pictured above, in the windows of a store that had just closed. Free verse, public art—Sharon Helgerson tells her story and St. Johns’. Age 79, she is third generation St. Johns and a former Longshoreman, once a member of ILWU Local 8.







Nolan Calisch and Nina Montenegro joined to put her words up, part of People’s Homes, a collaborative art project. The store is across the street from James John Grade School, where Sharon began attendance in 1942.

The other morning I searched online to see what I else I could find about Sharon and ran across this casual picture she took in 1968:

bobby-kennedy-st-johnsVia the St. Johns Heritage Association.

Bobby Kennedy, campaigning in Portland, made an appearance in St. Johns after their May parade, just a block away from the school, the store with the sign, and the place where I now live. Ethel and John Glenn were there as well. Two weeks later Bobby was shot.

The coming elections are in mind, and I’ve been thinking about ways to repair the break in time and the rent in our social fabric, as well as imagine what words I might put in a public window some day, without success.

Gary Garvin

Sep 212016

This has been a long time coming. No drumroll, just the satisfaction of a circle closing, a sense of rightness. Gary Garvin has been part of the magazine’s history since the February, 2010, issue. He helped design the site. He went away for a while, his wandering in the wilderness years, then came back and has been working prodigiously on his essays and fiction for us ever since. Now he has agreed to come out publicly as a Numéro Cinq co-religionist and join the masthead as a special correspondent. You can check out his many contributions if you click on his name below. But there will be more.


Gary Garvin lives in Portland, Oregon, where he writes and reflects on a thirty-year career teaching English. His short stories and essays have appeared in TriQuarterly, Web ConjunctionsFourth Genre, Numéro Cinq, the minnesota reviewNew Novel ReviewConfrontationThe New ReviewThe Santa Clara ReviewThe South Carolina Review, The Berkeley Graduate, and The Crescent Review. He is currently at work on a collection of essays and a novel. His architectural models can be found at Under Construction. A catalog of his writing can be found at Fictions.

Sep 202016

Laura Michele Diener author photo

We would have the usual 91-gun salute, but the NC Drum & Bugle Corps ran out of ammunition skeet shooting on the weekend. Nonetheless we are celebratory, we are raising our glasses, we are being rowdy. Laura Michele (who has already appeared twice on these pages) will be contributing essays, book reviews and blog posts in an ongoing effort to make us a better place. What makes the moment all the more auspicious is that Laura Michele just learned that she has an essay in the Notable Essays list in the 2016 Best American Essays (edited by Jonathan Franzen).


Laura Michele Diener teaches medieval history and women’s studies at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. She received her PhD in history from The Ohio State University and has studied at Vassar College, Newnham College, Cambridge, and most recently, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her creative writing has appeared in The Catholic Worker, Lake Effect, Appalachian Heritage,and Cargo Literary Magazine, and she is a regular contributor to Yes! Magazine.

Sep 192016

Author's Photo color

Time for the usual 97-gun salute by the NC Regimental Battery, three cheers, toasts in fluted glasses to be smashed against the andirons of the clubhouse fireplace, plus the (now de rigeur on such occasions) human sacrifice for luck*. We’ve never had a poetry editor before. Now Susan Aizenberg has chosen to fill that deficit. We are gratified and optimistic. The mood in the bunker has risen. We’ve found the key to the Talisker locker. In truth, we are very, very pleased.

For those who need a introduction, Susan has poems in the current (September) issue.

*Um, we don’t actually do the human sacrifice thing anymore, not lately anyway. There were complaints.


Susan Aizenberg is the author of three poetry collections: Quiet City (BkMk Press 2015); Muse (Crab Orchard Poetry Series 2002); and Peru in Take Three: 2/AGNI New Poets Series (Graywolf Press 1997) and co-editor with Erin Belieu of The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women (Columbia University Press 2001). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, among them The North American Review, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Connotation Press, Spillway, The Journal, Midwest Quarterly Review, Hunger Mountain, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and have been reprinted and are forthcoming in several anthologies, including Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier UP) and Wild and Whirling Words: A Poetic Conversation (Etruscan). Her awards include a Crab Orchard Poetry Series Award, the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Levis Prize for Muse, a Distinguished Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council, the Mari Sandoz Award from the Nebraska Library Association, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner award. She can be reached through her website,

Sep 172016

Douglas Glover photo

Left the NC Bunker today to check out the Tunbridge Fair. Was persuaded against better judgement to go on rides. First took pictures of this thing, which I think of as The Claw, and then rode on it. Feel much better now. But cannot write complete sentences yet.

Douglas Glover photo

Then I went on another very fast whirling gyroscopic orgasmomegatron ride (which I did not photograph) and with four tickets left got onto the Zero Gravity machine with Matt Monk (dg dressed in dark clothing, Matt in white). I recall Matt saying, as we entered the big kids’ ride enclosure, “Now the shit gets real!” Needless to say someone else took these pictures.




What you see here are the faces of men who have faced Death in the Zero Gravity ride (along with 12 small children).


Sep 152016


It took Mary Brindley seven minutes to email me about the editorial assistant job when I posted it the other day. It seems like a perfect fit, and God knows I need an assistant, someone as smart, genial, and meticulous as Mary is. She’ll be taking over some of the day to day correspondence for me as well as doing some background maintenance on the site and many other things, which I haven’t thought of yet. Coincidentally, she has an essay coming out in our next issue (October). Watch for it!


Mary Brindley is a Vermont-born copywriter living in Boston. A recent graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she writes creative nonfiction, performs improv, and is about to move to London.
Sep 132016

Logo large

Our production editor Deirdre Baker had a brilliant idea the other day. We’re posting a Job Openings page on NC that will now be a permanent feature of the magazine. Right now there are three positions open (production assistant, production editor, and editor/curator for NC’s Irish literature series). If this works out, there will be more postings. So go visit the page and see if you’d care to volunteer for the firing squad (er, I mean the delightfully supportive and intelligent community that NC’s masthead is).


Job Openings at NC

(click the link)

Sep 132016

Numero Cinco


Numéro Cinq is always trying to extend its malign tentacles (er, I mean benign antennae) into the far corners of the world on the general biological that genetic diversity is good. For a while we had a French-Canadian component but lost the person who was editing that. For a couple of years now we’ve had a monthly Irish feature called Uimhir a Cúig, which is Number Five in Irish. For ages, I’ve wanted to incorporate the vast and ancient land to the south, Mexico, historically glorious and immensely productive of writers and artists (I know Donald Trump disagrees with us on this). Now we’ve managed to get enough contacts and curatorial help (from Dylan Brennan, Brendan Riley and our own Ben Woodard) to feel safe in saying we’ll have something new from Mexico (almost) every issue from now on.

There is a navigation button to the Numéro Cinq archive page in the right hand column now. And here is a link to the Numero Cinq archive index page.

Numero Cinco

Sep 012016

Capture2Levitation (2014) by Jowita Bydlowska.

In the slider at the top of the front page this month we have a selection of photo posts from the magazine’s archives. Very simple. Just beautiful photographs. The artists we’ve selected (and there are more, check out the Art index) include Jowita Bydlowska, Mark Lavorato, Roger Crowley, David Helwig, John Solaperto, Bill Hayward and Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix.

Aug 302016

Mishler Photo

Peter Mishler has just won the $2000-Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry (which also includes a book contract with Sarabande Books). Two of the poems we published at Numéro Cinq are included in the prize-winning collection.

Might I just, you know, mention NC’s immensely good taste and our ability to spot talent long before it gets its due?

Mishler appeared twice in our pages. First, there are the poems, which were published in our January, 2013, issue:

Haruspex: Poems — Peter Mishler

You are evading me.
You are just beyond me.
You are the length
of the hood of a car
away from me—
and thinner
than I remember,
dressed as if undressed

And then there is a wise and wonderful interview he did with David Ferry, winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Poetry, which appeared in May, 2013:

The Connoisseurship of the Word | Interview with David Ferry — Peter Mishler

Aug 212016

01.Something fully itselfSomething Fully Itself: Dave Kennedy (detail)

It just tickles the hell out of me, watching an issue come together. Divine serendipity, or Fate, or blind luck, or, what I prefer, amazing intelligence and taste on the part of our collective masthead.

The other day Rikki Ducornet wrote and suggested I look at an artist she’d met named Dave Kennedy. I found him, wrote to him, and behold! He’s really something. He does large scale photo, photocopy, and junk collages (I guess you would call them) based on ideas of identity and reappraisal he picked up on the streets in the projects when he was a kid. “What are you?” people used to ask him. (He’s Native American, African, and Italian yet undefinable.) So now he makes art out the things that don’t look like art, that aren’t conventionally recognized as having aesthetic merit, and he talks a line of theory that sounds like our patron saint Viktor Shklovsky in a North American mode.

Dave Kennedy A view to a passageway_working_ 2Dave Kennedy

My mother is Italian and Eritrean, and my father Native American. I didn’t look like one ethnic group or another, and I would walk these multicultural city blocks alone, looking for someone else like me. It was common for people to make assumptions as to what I was: Mexican, Samoan, Black. “What are you?!” My response to these objectifying guesses and questions is embedded in my practice and my exploration of an expanded view into unseen subjectivities. —Dave Kennedy

But “What are you?” is an electrifying question. In this issue, we have work from an Irish poet, Mexican writers, an African-American poet, an English short story writer, Canadians, Australians, Americans, a Navajo, a Romanian, an Argentinian, a Catalan, and a Belgian. We have French poems translated into English by an Indian-American. And more!

What tickles me most about this issue is in fact its global diversity. This was always part of the vision at NC (read our non-existent vision statement for clarity on this), to create an indefinable (furiously undefined) mix that doesn’t recognize boundaries or conventions (even the conventions of unconventionality). Contact with the Other is exciting, gets your blood up, is good for you (well, if it doesn’t kill you—always a distinct possibility, though not on NC).

We like it that NC exists online, in the ether, without a defined regional base. It sits firmly in the nation of very smart and creative people.

teixidorEmili Teixidor

Also in this issue, Joe Schreiber (redoubtable, indefatigable, wise) reviews Black Bread by the Catalan writer Emili Teixidor. We will have an excerpt for your edification.

As elements of sadness, grief, and anger slowly begin to work their way into our hero’s voice, it easy, as a reader, to feel a sense of loss; it is as if we have allowed ourselves to grow up again alongside him. —Joseph Schreiber


Riiki DucornetRikki Ducornet

We have bloody, mythic long poem “White Quetzal” by the above-mentioned Rikki Ducornet, for whom NC is becoming a second home. (A delightful and unlooked for outcome.)

Some awakened in the place named White Bone House
with broken jaws, forcibly initiated
into a dark knowledge. —Rikki Ducornet

Denise Evans DurkinDenise Durkin

After a much too prolonged hiatus, Denise Durkin returns to theses pages with a handful of poems from her heart.

Look at the papers on my desk huddled
under their blanket of dust. Almost
hear the words disappear – blown into
the dry well of what will be forgotten –
—Denise Durkin

2014-06-02-Merwin1W. S. Merwin

Allan Cooper delivers an eloquent and wise review of W. S. Merwin’s new collection.

W. S. Merwin’s Garden Time is a book about aging, about the practice of trying to live one’s life in the present. The recurring themes are loss and old love, memory and forgetting, and a kind of precognition that the whole of what we are was with us from the beginning —Allan Cooper

garden time

4. With Uncle Henry's boys at The Knoll c.1950Elizabeth Thomas “With Uncle Henry’s boys at The Knoll c.1950” from her memoir.

Australian Elizabeth Thomas is back with the third installment of her memoirs of an outback childhood. The most charming thing you’ll ever read. And she has such a collection of old photos. Wonderful to see and wonderful to look also at her earlier contributions.

‘Now change that needle often,’ Auntie Essie says, ‘or you’ll ruin those records.’ She’s not happy that we’re playing with the gramophone in the big lounge room with its elegant arm chairs and those large round Jap-silk cushions of scarlet and midnight blue. I expect she wasn’t allowed in there when she was growing up. But my Uncle Henry said, ‘Of course they can play in there. It isn’t a morgue!’ —Elizabeth Thomas

L_Writer. Elizabeth ThomasElizebeth Thomas

bojan louisBojan Louis

And a discovery. A fresh, gritty, new voice. Navajo short story writer Bojan Louis.

He couldn’t see No-Lee or the kid, but discerned Jared’s frightened sobs, the twist of a plastic cap against glass. He listened as No-Lee swallowed hard twice, twisted the cap back on. Heard the whoosh of something tumbling through the musty cave air and shattering near the kid’s noise. No-Lee laughed, gagged from the effort. Phillip rose and rushed into the black toward the sound; arms bent ninety at the elbow, hands curled to grasp what he could of No-Lee. —Bojan Louis

SydneyLeaSydney Lea

And Sydney Lea is back with poems of aging and wonderment, elegant, effortless, and elegiac.

To watch that band of vultures
coast along their thermal this morning
is to marvel at elegance and composure–
no need to repress old platitudes
about the birds as tokens
of my doom.

—Sydney Lea

Paul McMahon colourPaul McMahon

From Ireland this month, we have beautiful, trenchant poems by Paul McMahon.

I was standing beside one of the cremation paddocks
at the burning Ghats in Varanasi. A pyre was blazing –
bruise-black smoke rose up into the vacant sky

—Paul McMahon


And our own translator-in-residence (who usually specializes in works translated from Tamil) A. Anupama turns a deft hand to rendering Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Mal.

Dear mortals, I am lovely, like a dream made of stone,
and my breast, upon which all are bruised in their turn,
inspires in poets especially a love that burns
solid, eternal and mute as radium, pure matter alone.
—Charles Baudelaire translated by A. Anupama

Anu2A. Anupama

Author's Photo colorSusan Aizenberg

And yet more poetry! From the scintillating Susan Aizenberg.

Until very near the end, it played and played.
Paternity Court, followed by Judge Judy,
in the afternoon — fineh mentshn, you’d say,
tsk-tsking and laughing at the unfaithful
men and small-time grifters, shaking your weak head
at this crazy new world. Nights, there were movies,
or docs on PBS, though you mostly missed
the endings, adrift on morphine and Xanax.
—Susan Aizenberg

Erika MihalycsaErika Mihálycsa

Also in this issue a new short story from the Romanian writer/translator Erika Mihálycsa, dense, witty, acutely observed.

Supercilious is the word, it crossed the translator’s mind, as she stepped out of the bathroom half a beat too early and caught in her husband’s look, beside the habitual let’s-drop-it-mom resignation, a new, yet unseen quality, a parry of the foibles: not now, she’ll hear us. It was not the first occasion when she caught her husband at it. —Erika Mihálycsa

The Path of the Jaguar cover image

Stephen Henighan is a Canadian writer and translator, an old friend of the magazine. He returns this time with an excerpt from his novel The Path of the Jaguar, just out in September. Read it and buy the book.

Mist condensed around her head. She felt the child’s twisting far down in her entrails as though it were marooned in a place beyond her reach. The Maker, the Modeller, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, wrought the world out of mist. Her mind strayed through the spaces beyond that haze when the mountains rose out of the water and the first people were fashioned out of corn and took the name B’alam. —Stephen Henighan

Henighan on ferry on Lake NicaraguaStephen Henighan on ferry in Lake Nicaragua

MLbuganvilias1 (1)Mónica Lavín

From Mexico (yes, we’re getting enough Mexican material on a regular basis that we’re almost ready to declare it a regular feature—Number Five in Spanish!), we have two short stories in translation from a lovely writers, Mónica Lavín.

Rose emerged naked and round on the shore, the sparse down of her sex dripping, her breasts pink and large, while the boy and the girl, separated, avoided looking at each other. The women shouted to Wayne not to urinate, which he was doing in a sumptuous arc, on the water where everyone was swimming. And Wayne took off running after his sister. —Mónica Lavín translated by Patricia Dubrava

Lewis ParkerLewis Parker

And from England, Lewis Parker comes back to NC with an hilarious and spot-on send-up of American election practices, which can and must be read in the context of the current campaign. A must read.

“The F.E.C.’s lawyers said making voters recite speeches would breach voter registration laws, although there is a movement in Alabama campaigning to make all registered voters reel off two pages of the Independence Day screenplay from memory.”—Lewis Parker

And there is more! (Always there is more). Rob Gray will return with another NC at the Movies. Jason Lucarelli reviews Naked by the Belgian writer Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Frank Richardson reviews Zama by the Argentinian Antonio Di Benedetto.




Aug 022016


Douglas Glover, Theatre Passe MurailleShelagh1






Click the link below to listen to the spectacular Shelagh Shapiro interviewing the irrepressible (irrendentist, irresponsible…) Douglas Glover, editor at NC, about the magazine and various and sundry topics guaranteed to trigger his loquacious streak.

Douglas Glover/Numéro Cinq – Interview #410: A conversation with Douglas Glover, founder, publisher and editor of the online magazine Numéro Cinq.

Link: Write The Book » Douglas Glover/Numéro Cinq – Interview #410 (7/25/16)


Aug 012016

Tomoe-Hill22Tomoé Hill

In the slider at the Top of the Page this month, we’re featuring a handful of our rather vast and growing selection of memoirs. They are wonderfully different in subject matter — childhood, breakups, suicide, the difficult passages of youth, the enigma of a lost father, and the deaths of loved ones — and just as wonderfully different in style and imaginative reach, from the searing passion of Michael Bryson’s account of his wife’s death by cancer to Robert Day’s whimsically fond memories of his mother’s last summer. These are gorgeously human and humane documents. Read them and you’ll get a sense of why the magazine exists and persists. We are doing important work of the heart.

Jul 252016

CaptureMark Rothko’s 1953 “Untitled: Purple, White, and Red.”

It’s almost August, summer is on the wane, the sun is setting toward the south, the great thunder clouds have been parking over Elmore to the northwest of an evening putting on a show of fireworks unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and now, you know, another issue is coming out, something chimerical in this one, a non-conformist issue forged around fiction by Curtis White and major essays on the great Catholic activist Dorothy Day and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s iconic “Self-Reliance” (which I read for the first time when I was 13 in the bathroom at the farm in Waterford because my mother made me). And more!

Who else brings you such strangeness?

Curtis White is an essayist, social critic and fiction writer out of the school of Laurence Sterne and Rabelais, that is, his style is unorthodox, playful, witty and knowing  but not necessarily a pomo faddist. In the piece we have for August, he riffs on the American-Mexican western, jumping off Cormac McCarthy’s diving board, into, well, something different. Think: cowboys likening the ur-American landscape to a Mark Rothko painting. Think Blood Meridian and Joseph Cornell.


So, tired but dogged, they saddled the horses and cut the girl loose from her stake. She rubbed at the raw welts on her wrist but climbed quickly on to her horse without complaint. She was in withdrawal from one or more opioids, and so was starting to think that the best thing for her was to arrive somewhere, anywhere. She was a hard girl after the long months in the criminal camp on the desert floor, and she’d seen her share of addicts piled on the ground their bones clattering like castanets. She was a girl who paid attention and learned, Jake gave her that, but he also knew he’d have to treat her without pity. Pity was something he didn’t have time for. So what if she had some bloody welts from the leather cords. Let her keep still then. —Curtis White

Curtis WhiteCurtis White

1968Dorothy Day

Laura Michele Diener returns to these pages with a mega-essay on Catholic-feminist-moral icon Dorothy Day who hitched her traditional theological loyaties to just about every advanced 20th century social movement.

She fought on the cusp of practically every crucial social movement of the twentieth century—against the war in Vietnam, against the Atom Bomb, on behalf of Civil Rights, labor, and suffrage. She didn’t just live as a Catholic, she lived according to Gospels, stripping herself of her possessions because Christ had commanded it, loving the poor—truly loving them, which was an act of will, because the poor, up close, can be horrifying. —Laura Michele Diener

Laura Michele Diener author photoLaura Michele Diener

Self-Reliance cover 500pxCover image for The Domino Project’s edition of “Self-Reliance,” 2011.

Emerson_engraving_1878_cropped3Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pat Keane returns to his beloved Emerson whose controversial essay “Self-Reliance” let loose the demons and angels of our contemporary idolatry of the self, from hippies to self-help libraries. But what was he really saying?

Stylistically, Emerson is so committed to polarity that his powerful yet ambiguous texts are full of overstatements and qualifications, swerves and counter-swerves. In the second half of many lectures and essays, he takes away with the left hand what he has just given with the right. As he notoriously proclaimed in our main text, “Self-Reliance,” a “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (E&L 265). His disciple Walt Whitman was never more Emersonian than when (in “Song of Myself” §51) he asked a rhetorical question and responded audaciously: “Do I contradict myself?/ Very well, then, I contradict myself./ (I am large. I contain multitudes)”—to which Emerson’s German disciple, Friedrich Nietzsche, responded: “It is precisely such ‘contradictions’ that seduce one to existence.” —Patrick J. Keane

Patrick J Keane 2Patrick Keane

Evan Levander-SmithEvan Lavender-Smith

Also in fiction in August, we have a witty, insistent (those insistent, obsessive parallels), off-the-wall (in the best possible sense) short story from Evan Lavender-Smith.

I have a question.


—Why do you say always shoot when I say I have a question?

—Shoot. It means go ahead and ask your question. Shoot, fire away, lay it on me. Ask your question.

—It does?

—Yes. What did you think it meant?

—That you were tired of me asking you so many questions. Like, oh no, here we go again. Like, you know, shoot.

—Evan Lavender-Smith

RilkeRainer Maria Rilke

Allan Cooper, who last graced these pages extolling the poems of Frank Stanford, returns with brand new translations from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies.

But because being truly alive is difficult: because the fleeting
things of the world need us, and in a strange way
call out to us. And we’re the most fleeting of all.
Each living thing is here once, that’s it. And we
live once. But to have been here
once, completely alive here–
to have been a part of this world–nothing can take that away.

—Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Allan Cooper

allan cooperAllan Cooper

Zazil by Mari H. Res+®ndizZazil Alaíde Collins

From Mexican we have poems from the dazzling young writer Zazil Alaíde Collins with an interview by Dylan Brennan. The original Spanish translated by Cody Copeland.

Words are crabs
Buried in the deep.

Shipwrecks speak
in seashells.

The wind sings its syllables
of whispered names.

—Zazil Alaíde Collins translated by Cody Copeland

Susan Gillis

From Canada, Susan Gillis graces our pages for the first time with a gorgeous, powerful paean to a city, the poem formed around a central image, a towering construction crane seen from the poet’s window.

Boom, traveller, plumb, hook, cab – I will miss the yellow crane when the building is finished.

The crane has just lifted a load of steel I-beams and lowered them to a point I can’t see, though I can see the figures of people walking along the roof.

Days close in on a wasp’s nest of days.

Is there a procedure for emptying myself?

As when the sky suddenly empties and resurges toward a storm.

—Susan Gillis

Carolyn Ogburn pens here a review of Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry.

We might not have initially considered the comparison, but Lerner introduces it: “why not speak of it — fucking and getting fucked up was part of it, is, the way sex and substances can liquefy the particulars of perception into an experience of form. The way a person’s stutter can be liquefied by song.” Like sex, like speech itself, poetry is forever seeking purchase in the real, yet exists only in “the glimmer of virtual possibility.”

—Carolyn Ogburn

Carollyn OgburnCarolyn Ogburn

Cynthia photo Shawnigan lakeCynthia Flood

And one of our favourite fiction writers Cynthia Flood recounts a horrible true-life experience with amnesia.

Each August, my family rents a lakeside cottage at Shawnigan. Swim to the island and explore, row to the island for a picnic, canoe there with the dog anxiously aboard — everyday activities.

With my teenage grand-daughters, one afternoon I stepped into the refreshing lake-water, all sparkly in the sun, and began to swim.

Next: I am lying flat, wearing a blue hospital gown. A voice says, “We’ll take her up to the ward now.”

—Cynthia Flood

Daniel Lawless 2Daniel Lawless

Daniel Lawless contributes whimsical, heart-felt poems, contemporary and vibrant with personality.

Or are you still thinking about that half-dressed dancing girl
With her scorched toddler-mind, how childishly beautiful she was
Making jewelry out of a snake,
The aroma of her pale breasts and the illicit thought
Of kissing them, taking them topped with Lychee Love Sauce
Into your mouth?

—Daniel Lawless


Lawrence Sutin sent in an essay on that perennial question “What is Reality?” and, of course, as you would expect, his answer is pure Sutin-esque whimsy.

We are not constructed to agree. The uniqueness that we claim we each possess, the distinctive consciousness we feel to be within ourselves and not within others, is very real in its billions upon billions of subtly human variations. Whether a meal is well-cooked or sadly dry, whether a city street is a triumph of order or a stream of chaos, these are questions that become unanswerable when asked of a human array of tasters and observers. And most of us have experienced being on both sides of the same question. The street we found charming one day becomes a biting snake the next. The person we thought we would love forever becomes a thought that we cannot imagine we ever thought, not really.

—Lawrence Sutin

Margaret NowaczykMargaret Nowaczyk

Margaret Nowaczyk is a writing student with Caroline Adderson. She wrote this story based on the exercise I give in the short story structure essay in Attack of the Copula Spiders. The result was so astonishing, Caroline straight away shot off an email to me.

The first time he saw Adèle she was dancing on a chair at their med school orientation party. She wore autographed boxer shorts from an upper classman, the prize token for the scavenger hunt; a wide grin – all teeth – split her face, thick brown hair parted in a bob on the right. As she shook it off her face her eyes met Bentley’s and she winked at him, her face an invitation. Bentley felt his face grow hot.

They were sleeping together a month later. Bentley, virginal, realized right away that Adèle was much more experienced than he would allow himself to imagine. Her lipstick on his penis – kissing it, biting it, sucking it she smeared the crimson on the pearly pink of his shaft and foreskin. He pushed aside thoughts of the unnamed men, their greedy hands, their probing tongues and dicks that knew Adèle better than he did.

He realized then that he would never let go of her.

—Margaret Nowaczyk

moya_nina_subinHoracio Castellanis Moya

Ben Woodard reviews Horacio Castellanis Moya’s Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador.

A blistering novella that satisfies the darkness clouding the cynical side of our souls.

— Benjamin Woodard



And Ted Deppe contributes lovely poems.

Start off singing a madrigal, return
with words a girl wrote on a wall
of a concentration camp, set to music
by Górecki. I didn’t learn he’d died
until the next day, but lingering
beneath such sadness, I didn’t need
to know. The music
stopped, I walked on,
and the lights in the valley
were candles in a starless church.

………………………………………………………—Ted Deppe

Though there is more, as always. NC at the Movies. Jason DeYoung reviewing the latest by Rikki Ducornet. Check out the issue when it starts to appear August 1st.



Jul 082016

Bursey book

Our special correspondent Jeff Bursey, reviewer & fictionist, has a new book out, a selection of his book reviews.

Neglected and obscure writers are at the fore in this incisive collection of critical essays. Centring the Margins is a collection of reviews and essays written between 2001 and 2014 of writers from Canada, the United States, the UK, and Europe. Most are neglected, obscure, or considered difficult, and include Mati Unt, Ornela Vorpsi, S.D. Chrostowska, Blaise Cendrars and Joseph McElroy, among others.

Jeff Bursey

Jeff Bursey is a literary critic and author of the picaresque novel Mirrors on which dust has fallen (Verbivoracious Press, 2015) and the political satire Verbatim: A Novel (Enfield & Wizenty, 2010), both of which take place in the same fictional Canadian province. His forthcoming book, Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews (Zero Books, July 2016), is a collection of literary criticism that appeared in American Book Review, Books in Canada, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Winnipeg Review, among other places. He’s a Contributing Editor at The Winnipeg Review, an Associate Editor at Lee Thompson’s Galleon, and a Special Correspondent for Numéro Cinq. He makes his home on Prince Edward Island in Canada’s Far East.