Michelangelo, The Torment of St. Anthony (via Wikimedia Commons)
The last issue of Volume 7, the end of the 7th year — we’re calling it the Hallucination Edition because, well, you’ll see; it’s a bit twisty, startling, destabilizing and hallucinatory. I’ve always been interested in the madness/mysticism nexus (R. D. Laing and Carlos Castaneda were my spirit guides). It pops up in my novels especially: Hendrick N.’s mad conversation with his Iroquois torturer in The Life and Times of Captain N. (“Becoming a savage is like entering a swarming madness. But it might redeem you.”) and the heroine’s mysterious and alarming (hallucinatory) transformation into a bear in Elle. And I was dipping into The Cloud of Unknowing the other day when I happened to discover the brilliant scholar and writer Nicola Masciandaro. I read some of his things on Academia, then contacted him, and Lo!, he had a piece on madness, mystical knowledge, and The Cloud of Unknowing pristine and unpublished. If this was not the Forces of the Universe aligning, I don’t know what is. But it’s also one of those dreamy confluences, hallucinatory in itself. Like the world and my mind are talking with my knowing it.
The necessity of being at one’s wits’ end is a pure necessity, a necessity without object, and thus a necessity that only frees one more and more from being a subject of needs. Near-madness is the only alternative for staying close to being what one must. —Nicola Masciandaro
J. Karl Bogartte: Movement Is The Antechamber Of Hallucination 32” x 40” 28.3.2016
Also we have these images and texts, both swirling and surreal, one of the images actually called The Antechamber of Hallucination, from J. Karl Bogartte, lunar, lapidary, and loony (surrealism marks the line between madness, art and wisdom).
An intimacy of longing dwells in us like words that have no meaning, but animal cries, torn linen, a loving defiance… —J. Karl Bogartte
J. Karl Bogartte
S. D. Chrostowska
S. D. Chrostowska returns to our pages with a story called “Opferlingen” — a nightmare otherworldy vision of obscene rites of kingship and power.
Everything is permitted. There are no rules, no stroke is too indecent. All of it is equally obscene. The Opferlingen are unusually strict in everyday sexual mores. To me the prince might be a living relic, a martyr worthy of public veneration, but he is subject to treatment normally beneath the dignity of his “subjects.” Let me be clear: this is no carnival, with merriment and overturned hierarchies, presided over by the Prince of Fools. They are acting out the lowest human urges—possibly to exorcize them, but without a doubt to make a political point that still remains obscure. — S. D. Chrostowska
Dawn Promislow’s story “Cat” — all too brief — gives us a vision of Florence, an intensely concentrated sculptor working over his metal, striking sparks, and a gray cat winding through the shadows.
And everywhere you look there are black and grey metal forms that are sculptures, on old wooden tables and on worn wooden shelves, at every height and covering every piece of wall and space. Some are just shapes: spirals and curves, or angular and sharp. But some are animals, or people, metalled. They’ve been melted and smelted and reworked, forged and reforged, into these metalled, living creatures. —Dawn Promislow
Composer David Smooke
Our intrepid contributor Carolyn Ogburn interviews composer David Smooke, the man famous for performing his own works for the miniature piano.
I mean, I grew up a punk and goth, right? So…yeah…Just so you know, I’m kind of looking that way because have a toy piano sitting right there, and I keep looking at it…—David Smooke
Karen Mulhallen grew up in a brilliant, artistic, cultured, writerly family in Woodstock, Ontario, a gilded place. But her mother taught her to make her own stylish clothes; she grew up with a sense of style, taste, and fashion at her fingertips. In this issue, we have a hybrid essay, part memoir, part catalogue, and part exploration of fashion in fiction (there is also a great collection of personal photos).
But when I got my first real job, as a teacher in a university, my mother spent months with me going to the fabric mills, just east of Kitchener-Waterloo, and then making me suits and dresses, some from elaborate Vogue patterns. Was this because I was gainfully employed and needed to present a professional appearance, or was it because I became beautiful for the first time since I was a little girl? Now I could be a brooch on my mother’s lapel. Or, as Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own remarked, women are the looking glasses who enlarge men at twice their size. —Karen Mulhallen
In Numero Cinco, our Mexician lit series, we’re featuring poems by the brilliant Elsa Cross, translated by Anamaría Crowe Serrano. Not only that, but our Mexico contributor, Dylan Brennan, conducts a wide-ranging interview with the translator.
They are a white shadow
innocence in the yellow phrases
…………..…………..…………..……….of a dying man
the catastrophe of the voice
—Elsa Cross, translated Anamaría Crowe Serrano
Our splendid new production editor Melissa Considine Beck has transferred her prodigious talents to book reviewing, this time giving us the lowdown on John Kaag’s philosophical memoir, his encounter with an almost forgotten library, 10.000 books in an unheated New England stone house.
Kaag stumbles upon an opportunity to heal his soul in the form of West Wood’s stone library which, upon entering, he discovers is home to more than 10,000 books. The books that Kaag finds inside this unlocked and unheated building, especially the number of first editions, are the stuff of dreams for any bibliophile. Among the rodent droppings, porcupines, termites, various other bugs and dust Kaag finds Decartes’ Discourse on Method–first edition from 1649, Thomas Hobbes’s Levithan-first edition from 1651, the complete, leather-bound volumes of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, John Locke’s Two Treatise on Government from 1690, Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft from 1781, Emerson’s Letters and Social Aims–first edition, 1875 and on and on. To think that this horde of precious and irreplaceable books was sitting in the woods less than 2 hours away from my home in New England sends chills down my spine. —Melissa Considine Beck
Donald Winkler has translated a fascinating historical poem by the great French-Canadian poet, Pierre Nepveu, three-time winner of the Governor-General’s Award for poetry and nonfiction.
Early morning, scarred fire, noble bones, woodland song, men’s and women’s voices among the trees. I am the dust of ages, whirlwind of the deeps, escapee from the first caves. I tremble at being what I am, do you hear me, woman of the woods, of wool woven under the lampshade and the trellis of blood that shivers in the window? —Pierre Nepveu, translated by Donald Winkler
Rauan Klassnik & Russell Bennetts
This is an amazing first: dual or dueling poets, collaborative or conspiratorial poems, mad, surreal, comical, by Rauan Klassnik and Russell Bennetts.
orange tea, i ha sailed
the trembling, blow-meat seas. And I have blue trousers sports ones on
last night’s pizza scattered for my mouse
—Klassnik & Bennetts
Rikki Ducornet wrote me shortly after the news came out that Leonard Cohen had died. She said she’d written a poem “as big as a small truck” that seemed to have echoes and rumours of Cohen through it, as if she were dreaming out her mourning onto the page. I wrote back: “Send small truck.” (This is how the editorial work at NC gets done.)
They come together
in the sudden rain
beneath a sky unhinged.
Their losses sweeping down
veiling, unveiling their faces.
She says: I come to you
as my father leans into his departure.
We have a hour. An hour, only.
Cassidy McFadzean is a Canadian poet, discovered and solicited for us by our new poetry co-editor Susan Gillis.
A woven chain around
his neck, secures the unicorn
to a wooden pen, seated therein
amidst white irises and Madonna
lilies, carnations and clove,
orchids and bistorts, dragonflies
dashing over the wallflowers
and white thistle, the cipher’s
tasseled cord hanging from a tree,
bearing its riddle mysteriously.
Eamonn Sheehy I met on Twitter. I am increasingly surprised at how much you can intuit from a couple of 140-character texts. You can guess tilt, torque, and taste. We moved from tweeting, to DMs, to emails, and suddenly I had these excerpts from his memoir-in-progress for our Irish series Uimhir a Cúig.
The ferret – the hot steel of nature. Jumping from his master’s hand onto the grass with a bounce, he is off at speed towards the rabbit burrows. A high pitched curling. An unnatural sound. It was the first time I heard a rabbit scream. —Eamonn Sheehy
And from Susan Aizenberg, the American side of out dual or dueling poetry editors (collaborative and conspiratorial), poems from Hilda Raz.
Age is an evolution – or devolution – of lust.
To be lost in revolt, as one must be growing up
invites erotics into the palace of the family.
Air spiked with ecstasy. We all know it.
So voluble in bed might signify lust
or politics, depending on whether
you live in a hovel, where the velocity
of wildlife, certainly a mouse, about its vital business
shadows the movements of governments…
We have a new reviewer starting out this issue (well, two, counting Melissa Considine Beck). Dorian Stuber was suggested by Joe Schreiber, and we are very glad he spoke up. This is a terrific read and a great introduction to the work of Henry Green.
Young Henry was fascinated by Poole, even though the man did not like Green’s mother and spoke badly about her to the boy. (The family legend is that he never forgave her for making him bowl sugar beets across the lawn for her to shoot at.) Green, who adored his mother though he seldom saw her, was torn apart by these calumnies yet unwilling to repudiate the one who made them. —Dorian Stuber
And from Natalia Sarkissian, somewhere in Italy, we have a review of Ratika Kapur’s trans-cultural novel The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma.
One of her tools toward creating Mrs. Sharma’s particular, vivid voice, is to flavor Mrs. Sharma’s speech with genteel titles—bhaisahib, mummyji, papaji, Vineetji—drawing the reader into an intimate space. Another is to refer to places and things with acronyms without giving explanations—SDA, IIT, BeD—treating the reader as an insider, a friend, a confessor. But it is the style of the sentences themselves—the breathy, delicious sentences, the declarations that the reader knows are rationalizations—that render Kapur’s The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma with its unreliable narrator truly memorable. —Natalia Sarkissian
And there is, gasp! MORE! (At my wit’s end. I dunno, being the editor here really is hallucinatory, schizoid, and surreal, also kind of fun.)