Rikki Ducornet is a phenom, protean, experimental, fearless. I invited her to send some work to NC and she responded that she hadn’t any new writing. Most of her energy was going into painting scrolls. My ears perked up at that. It’s always interesting when an artist confesses to something out of the ordinary, to taking a turn, like the knight’s move in chess. What paintings? What scrolls? I asked.
That led to 1) a very funny email conversation about scrolls, Pompeii (new technology allowing archeologists to read burned up scroll libraries), and Pompeiian pornography, and 2) a stupendously beautiful gallery of collaborative art work in the July issue. It turned out that Ducornet and her friend, Newfoundland-born sculptor Margie McDonald, are working together toward a show next year. Ducornet is painting on huge 25-foot paper scrolls and McDonald is creating sculpture out of, well, picked up materials. The two are influencing one another. And the work is explosive, obsessive, fugue-like, original, inspirational and free. Ducornet calls it CRAZY HAPPY, and it is. These two women are on fire.
But going in exactly the opposite direction, we have in the coming issue an excerpt from My Red Heaven, a novel in progress by the great experimental (“metamodern”) prose writer Lance Olsen. The excerpt will make you weep. Olsen calls the book a love song to Berlin in 1927, that is Berlin as it begins to descend into the chaos that led to Nazism and Hitler. It is about the slaughter of innocence (and innocents). The writing is pristine. It will stun you.
For just under a minute Delia will remember bounding at those birds in her dream, feeling as if she is just at the gray edge of waking up again, and then she will be over. —Lance Olsen
Also in this issue, Julie Trimingham is back with an essay on whales, dreams, sex, and President Obama. Trimingham just never goes at things in a conventional way. Her directness and capacity for self-revelation are the heart of her art. She can shatter you with a line.
When I was pregnant, I had a dream. A dream of sex and a killer whale. Of sex with a killer whale. —Julie Trimingham
Also in this issue, continuing her revelatory series of interviews with contemporary composers, Carolyn Ogburn talks to Eric Moe (we have music, too).
Then I moved up, pretty much in chronological order: Beethoven, Brahms, Bartok, Schoenberg…and then at some point I was running out, and I was hungry for more. And I wasn’t entirely satisfied with what there was, so, at that point, I figured it was time to write it myself. —Eric Moe
And Mary H. Auerbach Rykov in Toronto contributes a new My First Job essay to our ongoing series. Rykov sent this in during our brief open window for submissions. It’s a delightful little memoir of Toronto in the early 1970s (Rykov was a budding folk singer in Yorkville as well as a walk-on librarian).
My favourite task was shelving books from the trolley carts in the back of the library stacks where my reading was not so easily disrupted. I read everything from Herodotus’s Histories (all nine volumes) to Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. I didn’t steal the books; I read them. —Mary H. Auerbach Rykov
Anu Kumar contributes a magnificent and compendious essay on the work of Anita Desai.
It is through her characters, like Matteo, in Journey to Ithaca, that Desai tries to explore in turn the contrary pull of renunciation (as opposed to living the householder’s life). She suggests that renunciation too is a bond of a kind. — Anu Kumar
And we have quirky, surprising poems from the Greek experimental poet Yannis Livadas (our first contribution from Greece).
Of all the dubious elements of the abyss
The boomerang ideas
I most appreciate,
Which return dazzling
To their one and only locus.
Canadian short story writer John Gould specializes in writing very small stories, carved out of stone, with a kick.
Meaningless, that was the key. To mark death you had to make a sound that carried no meaning at all, that was in fact a constant obliteration of meaning. Mr. Neziri was mourning himself, articulating his oblivion before it arrived. But what of those, such as Stan’s own mum, who couldn’t muster the strength or the vision for this task? Who would cry out for them? —John Gould
From Hungary, Kinga Fabó sends poems in translation — sexy, surprising, veiled, dark.
The client is the same man.
Hiding in my shadow.
Matters not what I say or do.
There is no love: Spring’s been postponed.
It might be hiding in my shadow.
Snip. I’ll cut you up, you false thread.
New poems also from Jordan Smith who has appeared in the magazine many times, poetry and prose, and has always made us better.
The smell of Islay whiskey, sharp sea air, iodine and cold
Spray smoking over rocks. With that in my head, I don’t care much
About the crazed varnish, about the old bow’s thinning hair.
Just this sudden brightness in the fine part of the tune,
That would be worth singing about, if it weren’t already song.
And a special treat: four startlingly direct and emotional list essays from four students in a workshop I taught last winter. These started as exercises but turned into something more. New authors to watch for: Tracy Proctor, Megan Okkerse, Sheela Clary, and Whitney Lee.
And, yes, there is more. A new NC at the Movies, poems by our own Mary Kathryn Jablonski, also Jason DeYoung reviews Vaseline Buddha by the South Korean author Jung Young Moon (we have an excerpt) and Joseph Schreiber reviews Life in the Court of Matane by French-Canadian author Eric Dupont (with an excerpt as well — such a wealth of fiction in this issue).
Maybe more. Who knows?