Oct 262016

captureClick on the image to go to the Canada Council site.

Congratulations and felicitations to Steven Heighton for winning this year’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Steven has been a friend of the magazine since very early in its history. I have always admired and supported his work. He’s the real thing. And now he has the endorsement of official public acclaim. Truly well deserved.

You can check out Steven’s work (poetry, translation, aphorism, and fiction) on the magazine here:

The Devil’s Dictionary for Writers

Herself, Revised

Four Approximations of Horace

from Every Lost Country

A Right like Yours


And here is the NC interview with Steven:

Bushwacked by Inspiration: An Interview with Steven Heighton — Richard Farrell



Oct 242016


Another brilliant issue. I’ve said it before. I don’t know where they come from. It’s always been my intention to assemble a small community of intelligent people for whom art and writing are as important as breath, people who love beauty and a well-turned sentence, people who want to create meaning against the empty culture all around, where bluster and bravado and the constant measuring of penis sizes (deals, bank accounts, brands, commercial fads, media blather — have I mentioned before how much I loathe the word microfiber?). Making meaning, achieving grace, and valuing silence are from before the Flood, ancient and subversive activities. The magazine is a little space for that.

Genese Grill is Numéro Cinq’s answer to the Vale of Trump, a politically engaged, passionate artist-writer who makes everything she touches beautiful. We have an essay from her this time, an essay called “Making Meaning: Italian Journeys” that takes off from a recent sojourn in Torino, where, as she is quick to point out, Nietzsche went mad. We also have images from an artist’s book she made — “An Apology for Meaning” — that isn’t an apology in the current degraded sense but rather a celebration of meaning in a gorgeously ramified foldout of painted images and words, also from the Torino venture.

Read the essay, meditate upon the images, and think about why the magazine is here.


There was a secret restaurant where a small fierce woman named Brunilde roughly took my order, displayed magical cakes with her wide toothy smile, briskly removed the empty plates that once held the most delicious food I’d ever eaten, brought me a shot glass with grapes soaked in absinthe with dessert, if I pleased her by ordering it, but growled me out the door if I was too full or too stupid to partake of her pride and joy. I was in residence at the Fusion Art Gallery on Piazza Amedeo Peyron, presided over by the wise and warm painter, Barbara Fragnogna, who told me about the market across the way which sold beautiful mushrooms, wild strawberries, and bread sticks with huge, juicy olives. When I wasn’t eating, or wandering in museums, I was building an elaborate book which folds and unfolds, and is painted and glued and stitched, and “gold-leafed” with foil wrappers from the many gianduji chocolates I enjoyed. —Genese Grill

Brian Leung, professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program.(Purdue University photo/Charles Jischke)Brian Leung (Purdue University photo/Charles Jischke)

But there’s more of course. I love this short story by Brian Leung about the improbable friendship between  “a Chinese-something gay boy” and an eighty-two-year-old African-American woman named Niola, and her decline and death. It’s a story about making family, about responsibility to others, and about dying. Immensely sad and touching at the same time.

When the police called, they asked about my connection to “an elderly African-American woman.”  They didn’t use her name because she wasn’t carrying I.D.  They didn’t tell me that she was dead, only that they were trying to locate someone who could identify her.  I told them who she was and gave them my information and told them who I was and what had happened the night before. Maybe it wasn’t in that order. I could barely think because it had finally happened, Niola had gone off and gotten lost and now she was sitting in some police station frightened and confused. Breathless, I gave the police her son’s Oakland phone number. It was the second time I’d done that. Fucking Hebron. Fucking me. I slid to the floor, because for months I’d heard Niola but apparently only half-listened. —Brian Leung from “Where Went Niola?”

laura-thompsonLaura Thompson

And Laura Michele Diener does an exquisite job with her review essay on Laura Thompson’s The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, a book about six remarkable, scandalous, prolific sisters (intimates of Hitler and Evelyn Waugh) who were for a while at the epicentre of 20th-century literary life. 


Few families experienced quite such unique interesting incarnations of unhappiness as the Mad Mad Mitfords, the six sisters and one brother whose fates spanned the ideological spectrum of the twentieth century, and whose lives read like great English novels, except they actually wrote the novels, or they were friends with the novelists. Unity Valkyrie, the sister who adored Hitler, was conceived in the town of Swastika, South Africa. What writer could have invented a more perfect irony? As Laura Thompson, author of The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, declares, “Never again will there be six such girls, raised in such a way, at such a time.” And what times they were, those bright young years between the wars, before the world caught wholly afire. Nancy Mitford, the oldest of the sisters, although by no means the only authoress, wrote about the fictional Radlett family in her bestselling novel The Pursuit of Love, that, “they lived in a world of superlatives.” —Laura Michele Diener on The Six

img_0924Wave 16-1, 12x13x7″, stoneware and paint: Anne Hirondelle

Ceramic artist Anne Hirondelle is a discovery, guided our way by Rikki Ducornet (who also introduced us to Dave Kennedy in the last issue). Wonderful, swirling, shapes; liquid torrents frozen momentarily.

anne-hirondelle2Anne Hirondelle

lordan-viaDave Lordan via West Cork Lit Festival

From Ireland, yes, always something new from Ireland, we have a hyperbolic, scabrous, strange, blunt, insistent, slyly comic story from Dave Lordan. Reminds of John Banville. You can hear the Irish in the voice of the narrator.

I am racked day and night by pangs of regret that I did not wait until The  County Manager had announced to me his reason for calling to my door so interruptedly in the middle of the night, before sticking him through the neck with my dagger – overwhelming surprise at the end of his life, that bloody exclamation mark I climaxed his story with. I must allow for the possibility that there was no reason atall why he called, and therefore that he died, and I killed, for no reason atall.

—from “The County Manager,” Dave Lordan

jody-and-nickyPamela Stewart

Already from our new poetry editor Susan Aizenberg: Fierce, lovely poems by Pamela Stewart.

Conceived at the edge of a cliff, born
into propriety, I was the wrong fish
in tiny denim overalls playing
with that red, wind-up bird which had flown to me
right out of my father.

 NCNCNC—from “Trakl’s Daughter,” Pamela Stewart


author-photoAgustín Cadena via Union Hidalgo

We also have a short story from Mexico, Agustín Cadena’s “Maracuyá,” translated by Patricia Dubrava, a deft tale of intrigue, mystery, and sexual fluidity.

“No problem,” I told him. “Anyway, I can’t join you. I have a date with a friend at Maracuyá.”

It wasn’t true, but I wanted to leave them alone. The role of complicit cuckold isn’t comfortable. But a cuckold who knows himself cuckolded, accepts it and still makes a nuisance of himself is the most pathetic of all.

—from “Maracuyá,” Agustín Cadena

mary-brindleyMary Brindley

Also we have an essay by our own Mary Brindley on her biographical quest into the secrets of a mid-20th century Belgian opera singer, José de Trévi, who stumbled into her life in the form of a stack of faded handwritten letters in a Paris flea market. Little did Mary know how difficult her quest would become.

At first, it was all fun and games—deciphering his handwriting, translating his letters from French to English, digging into archives to read reviews of his performances. I fancied myself a kind of private detective, and everything de Trévi wrote about the opera, the people he spent time with, the way he spent his days, even his tone and the expressions he used, were clues into who he was. But de Trévi’s life still remained largely a mystery. I could find nothing about who Elsa was, why de Trévi left the opera, or even how he died. I followed every lead and hit hundreds of dead ends and gave up on the project altogether more than once. And then, after a time, I’d feel the nag of unanswered questions, and I’d return to the books, the operas, the letters, and let de Trévi lure me back into the lonely hole of biographical research.

—Mary Brindley

Jose de Trevi photograph_2José de Trévi

close up no glasses July 2015Mark Cox

Mark Cox graces this issue with a clutch of prose poems, touching, complex, edgy texts (micro stories) on childhood and death. Bleak in a sense, but beautiful. Lovely writing.

Their skeletons are still below the spillway. There is even some ravaged hide left, if one would call it that. Tough way to go, the boy thinks. The two goats even seem to be facing each other, just as they must have on the dam itself, barring each other’s passage along the narrow walkway. Not quite halfway across is where it seems to have happened, they met here and could go no further. The boy kicks a stone down and feels it in his stomach as it drops and strikes the earth. It hasn’t rained much this summer, the crops are withering, the county lake is low. The spillway is as dry as–well, as dry as these bones, now uncovered and bleaching in the high sun. Goats are gifted climbers; even plain old billies are nimble by nature. It would have been easy enough to pass. Or for one or both to turn and walk the other way. Headstrong, his mother calls it. She says it with a mixture of disdain and resignation, and just a touch of pride.

—from “Headstrong,” Mark Cox

nell-zinkNell Zink

Carolyn Ogburn took a break this month from interviewing composers to write an insightful review of Nell Zink’s newest novel Nicotine.

In Nicotine, Zink returns to areas she’s taken on in her previous novels: identity and identity politics, class, race, and sex. Lots of sex. But it’s really the stories surrounding these rather than any particular issue itself that seems to interest Zink, and she’s not writing to convince anyone of anything. In fact, she doesn’t seem to care what the reader believes, or doesn’t believe. Zink’s writing is immersive, demanding the reader’s trust. You’re either on board, or you’ve missed the boat, with Zink.

—Carolyn Ogburn



Jeremy BrungerJeremy Brunger

And Jeremy Brunger returns after a hiatus. He recently started an MA degree at the University of Chicago, and this essay is a meditation on his arrival in a new city, its contradictions of class and race, and his place therein.

That, of course, is the crux of my wonder: privilege is another word for access, and the underside of college towns is that their long-term residents rarely study past high school. I have access to an oasis in Chicago because I have a certain kind of privilege largely denied to those who want to escape those economic black holes which pepper the city. I am white—whiter than white, I already have a college education, which negates my lower class socioeconomic status—and so can graze the finest courses of education this country has to offer. The city of Chicago has one of the biggest, most developed economies in the country, and manages its own stock exchange, but half of the population starves for the fruit of that industry. Poor Chicagoans get murdered outside of one- or two-storey apartments with names riffing on Martin Luther King and faux-Parisian boulevards, not in front of Trump Tower.

—Jeremy Brunger

dusan-sarotarDušan Šarotar

Joe Schreiber does his usual masterful and magisterial turn reviewing the novel Panorama by the Slovenian author Dušan Šarotar.

Some literature defies simple description. Case in point, Panorama, by Slovenian poet and writer Dušan Šarotar. One might be inclined to define it as a meditation within a travelogue within a novel. Or perhaps you would prefer to rearrange those terms, it probably wouldn’t matter, because in spite of its subtitle: A Narrative about the Course of Events, Panorama stands at a curious angle to space and time. It is a novel of remembering, of telling and retelling, narratives within narratives, bound together by a coarse thread of repeating themes that are at once timeless and timely.

—Joseph Schreiber on Panorama



fullsizerenderJim Gauer

Jeff Bursey reviews Jim Gauer’s explosive novel Explosives, and we have an excerpt.

…we’re going to have to order another bottle of the Araujo, a wine that combines extraordinary power and richness with remarkable complexity and considerable finesse, a saturated purple/black color in the glass, followed by aromas of sweet vanilla and crème de cassis, intermixed with riveting scents of black currents and exotic spices, with overtones of minerals, coffee, and buttered toast, a subtle yet powerful giant of a wine, a wine that should age effortlessly for 30 or more years, though in this case we’re drinking it at the tender age of four, and while it is, undoubtedly, an alcoholic beverage, it’s so fucking tannic that you can’t feel your teeth, which seem to be cracking under the wine’s brute ferocity. Parker’s rating? Precisely a 98.

—from Explosives, Jim Gauer


And there is more. Always.


Oct 232016

Funnily enough these diversity panels tend to happen at festivals, and conferences in cities where diversity is all but forced out: New York, Washington DC, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle. Portland, Oregon, for example is the whitest city in America with a 75 percent white population and a 3 percent black population that’s getting smaller. San Francisco is at 5.4 percent and Los Angeles’ population is getting smaller too. These are cities, and by extension people who would be horrified at the idea of being called racist, and yet they seem to be active segregationists. Because one of the hallmarks of these cities is a total failure at housing affordability, something these cities still don’t recognize as failures because 1.) They are a result of environmental policies that meant well, but drove prices up and put huge burdens on low-income households, 2.) So much money is being made and 3.) It’s only colored people who are being kicked out anyway. Last year when a friend lamented to me that he was being kicked out of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, I suggested he track down the Puerto Ricans his arrival helped drive out, and see where they went. Better yet, try this experiment on Air BnB: Book a few places using a photo of a black person.

Diversity can’t accomplish anything because diversity shouldn’t have been a goal in the first place. The other problem is the continued insistence on having the writer of color talk about these things, as if by getting Claudia Rankine to talk about diversity, one has accomplished it. Rankine would be the first to point out the hypocrisy in the assumption itself…

Source: Marlon James: Why I’m Done Talking About Diversity

Oct 212016


If you find yourself in Kansas City on October 27th at 8 PM, we suggest heading over to The Writers Place to hear our very own poetry editor, Susan Aizenberg, read from her latest collection, Quiet City.  She’ll be reading alongside the poet Hadara Bar-Nadav.  The event is free and open to the public, and you can find more information here.

On Saturday, October 29th, Susan will also read a Writers Place workshop, “Poetry and the Third Muse,” from 10 to 12.  For more information or to register for the workshop, visit The Writers Place website.


For those of you who can’t make these wonderful events, be sure to check out Susan’s new poems in the current print issue of North American Review, and read her essay about the composition of these poems on the North American Review blog.

Oct 192016


Gerry Beirne, former Senior Editor at NC, long-time curator of our Irish series Uimhir a Cúig, still a member of the family, has just been longlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Writing.ie Short Story of the Year for 2016 for his short story “What the River Remembers of its Course” published on NC in February. We also nominated the story for the prize.

The countdown to the list of finalists begins!


Oct 182016


We’ve had so much great news to share lately that it’s hard to keep up, so we’re a little past due in announcing that Marilyn McCabe has a new book out from The Word Works titled Glass Factory.  McCabe is a poet, translator, singer, and regular contributor to Numéro Cinq, and we’re so excited to get our hands on her latest collection.



Here’s a teaser poem, which she turned into a video poem that was featured on WMHT’s TVFilm series:


The dark is shifting almost imperceptibly

toward you. I know that much
of endings. As usual I’m mistaken,
though, about what’s moving.
Not the dark onward but you
and I falling toward it, and sometimes
it is beautiful, fanned in flame,
and some days, as today, obscure.
Hymn so cautious will lead you
humming. I hope.
—Marilyn McCabe

Get your copy of Glass Factory through The Word Works or Small Press Distribution. For more from Marilyn McCabe, check out her many NC contributions at Archive Page here.


Oct 172016


Fiction is a construction that arranges space and has a structure that defines spatial relationships. As such it is a kind of architecture, but its structure, especially in our more challenging, more exploratory fictions cannot be pictured as the simple pyramid Freytag gave us years ago. Matteo Pericoli, architect, author, and illustrator, has students explore these relationships and make them visible in models they build in his Laboratory of Literary Architecture, a workshop he has taught around the world. As he says:

In any real architectural project, there are ideas that need to be designed and conveyed, a supporting structure, sequences of spaces, surprises and suspensions, hierarchies of space and function, and so on. In creative writing, many of the challenges seem to be similar. For example, how should different strands of narrative be intertwined? How can chronology be rearranged in a plot sequence? How is tension expressed? What do certain narrative sequences and omissions convey or mean? How do characters connect?

And he cites Alice Munro, from her Selected Stories:

A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.

Above, Katherine Treppendahl’s model of Joyce’s Ulysses.

This model represents my interpretation of the structural relationships within James Joyce’s Ulysses. While the novel occurs over the course of just one day, the text is lengthy, rich and exhaustive. The central story is that of salesman wandering Dublin. But revolving around and within that story are thousands of others—both internal stories developed within the novel and allusions to stories external to the text. The primary external text is, of course, Homer’s Odyssey, and the chapters and characters in Joyce’s novel reflect scenes and characters from Homer’s story. I developed an architectural language for translating multiple aspects of the structure of the novel. This language takes into account the progression from realism to abstraction in the text, the shifting roles of and intersections between key characters, the passage of time, the interior stylistic parallels, and the reader’s journey through the text.

Her full analysis of the model is extensive and can be found at her site here.


W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, by Joss Lake in collaboration with Stephanie Jones.

The structure is a tall and narrow space, reflecting both the vast scope of the book as well as the intimacy of the reading experience. An uneven path is suspended along metal supports, and gradually rises and falls across the entire length of the structure. The path’s shape is dictated by the fragmented and surprising nature of the narrative, in which the novel leaps from subject to subject through unconventional avenues, such as the documentary playing in the narrator’s hotel room … The darkness of the tall and narrow space is broken by clusters of light bulbs. The constellations of lights are not comforting; they too are disconcerting … These light bulbs are the core of the novel, the details that Sebald, and his narrator, use to recover the past.


Amy Hempel’s essentially plotless story “The Harvest” derives its motion and containment elsewhere. Ytav Bouhsira, Barbara Clinton, Silvia Jost, Eithne Reynolds created this solution.

The different planes of understanding cause discomfort for the reader. So compelling was the story that reading it was likened to being on a fast train and unable to get off.

We developed models to better reflect our understanding of what the structure of the story would look like and to give the story its spatial form. What emerged were models with airy layers, corners and angles. Through discussion, we realized that we were more comfortable with a form that shows that the author tries by different planes to adjust the story again and again.

While our structure is layered, these layers to not overlap. Rather than giving the reader more information, they show a different attempt of place-making. They have connection and are built one upon the other. There are no pillars or stairs that hold the building together. The space and the structure are the same.

What makes our building inhabitable is that the ground and roof are speaking the same material language. They create a system that allows the narrative to work. The different layers connect with the roof at just one single point–which reflects the moment in the narration where the author talks to us directly in the text and disrupts the narration.

The models are interesting in their own right and take on a life of their own. They could serve as starting points for other fictions.

All text from his site, all pictures © Matteo Pericoli, with his generous permission. More pictures of these models and other models can be found there. Matteo also, along with Giuseppe Franco, has begun a series of Literary Architecture projects in The Paris Review Daily that can be found here.

I had to try my own, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.


The first thought is to make a winding corridor into density and darkness. But really the stalled trip up the river only provides an intensification of what we see in glimpses at the beginning. The plot does not develop anything we haven’t seen before and resolves nothing. It is not a novel of action, but of Marlow’s discovery and perception.

My model, like the novel, rests on water. Marlow tells his story while on the Thames waiting for the tide, makes his trip on a river, and the novel ends with the narrator’s gaze on “the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth.” Instead of a plot line my model takes its structure from a rational grid of streets the color of blood. Rising from the grid a crystalline city, or a section of one. The novel shows us almost nothing of Africa or its people. What we most see instead, and what I show, is the western imposition and exploitation. As Marlow tells us, “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” and it was the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs who commissioned him to write the report on which he later scrawled “Exterminate all the brutes!”

“The meaning of an episode,” the narrator tells us of Marlow’s story, “was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze.” Marlow’s encounter with Kurtz throws “a kind of light on everything about me—and into my thoughts.” My model captures this glow in reflected lights, but instead of the sought transcendence we have transparency of motive. There is no green in the model. I rejected Conrad’s notion that darkness was inherent in nature. We largely see nature in the novel as an obstruction or source for plunder. The darkness in the heart of Africa comes from ourselves, our contradictions, our corrupt projections.

Gary Garvin

Oct 132016

As if we needed more evidence of the quality of writing that appears here and of the prescience of our editors, Cordelia Strube has just won the $10,000 Toronto Book Award for her novel On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light. You will all no doubt recall that in our March issue last year we ran an excerpt from the novel along with an interview with the author by our eminent contributing editor Ann Ireland.

Now we would like to heartily congratulate Cordelia for her amazing achievement.


Cordelia Strube has won the 2016 Toronto Book Award for her novel On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light (ECW Press). Strube, a playwright and the author of nine other novels, including Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing and Lemon, is a past winner of a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, a nominee for the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Book Award, and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Source: Cordelia Strube wins 2016 Toronto Book Award | Toronto Star

Oct 122016

Douglas Glover, Theatre Passe Muraille


I have an essay in the new issue (July/August — just out though) of American Book Review. It’s called “The Literature of Extinction” and in something like 1,500 words covers the entire history of experimental literature to the present. One of the fascinating things about writing this essay was the insight I derived from Germán Sierra’s essay “Deep Media Fiction,” which we published here in the magazine in January. I keep going back and rereading that essay. It has driven a good deal of my current reading.

American Book Review is a print publication. You’ll have to buy a copy or find it in your library or download, if you can, from Muse. But here is a short passage.



We see the world more clearly now (we think). It’s very small, dirty, crowded with people, and heating up. The Anthropocene is the new name given to the period of time (roughly beginning with the Neolithic) human beings have had a significant impact on the environment. Now we know there is no free lunch, and the hubris of our assumption that the earth was an infinite, free resource specially catered for us by the gods is beginning to look like a monumental gaffe.

Nor are we essentially different from the other orders of being (say, trees, rocks, newts); consciousness may be a neural anomaly, or as the A.I. researchers like to say, an emergent property, that is, a side effect of our neural interaction with whatever we are interacting with (just as the colour of an object is not a property of the object but a side effect of the wavelengths of light interacting with eye neurons). Not a self, a soul, a ghost in the machine, but a whisp of smoke, dream-like and temporary.

from Douglas Glover “The Literature of Extinction” American Book Review, Juy/August 2016.

Oct 072016

Genese Grill

We are excited to announce that NC special correspondent Genese Grill has an essay titled “Re-Materialization, Remoteness, and Reverence: A Critique of De-Materialization in Art” in the Fall 2016 issue of The Georgia Review.  Genese is a writer, artist, and our resident Robert Musil translator. We have a new essay coming in the November issue accompanied by her own illustrations.

Get a copy of the Fall 2016 issue here, and be sure to check out Genese’s NC Archive Page to read more of her wonderful work.

Oct 042016



captureThe GG Poetry Finalists for 2016 (Click on the image to go to the announcement page.)

A nice bit of news. Two of our authors have been shortlisted for this year’s Governor-General’s Award in Poetry, Steven Heighton and Garry Thomas Morse. (Click on their names to see what they published here.)  Steven, of course, has appeared several times in the magazine, aphorisms, fiction, and translation as well as poetry. He started with us very early in the magazine’s career.

But, ahem, just another proof of the quality at NC.

Oct 012016

YelloKoKoCardImageYellow Kokopelli by Tom Pecore Weso

In the slider at the top of the page this month we’re featuring work by First Nations and Native American artists and writers who have appeared in the magazine, paintings by Tom Pecore Weso (Menominee), poems by Denise Low (Delaware), fiction by Taiaiake Alfred (Mohawk) and Darrel J. McLeod (Cree), carving and print making by Charles Elliott (Coast Salish) and nonfiction by J. M. Jacobson (Ahtna Athabaskan), not to mention the work of Dylan Thomas, a young Coast Salish artist who appears in this issue.

Sep 282016


Yes, yes, yes, yes, the neighbours are complaining about the constant racket, the raucous cheers, the freeflowing Talisker, dogs and revelers staggering in the public road outside the NC Bunker. There has been altogether too much celebration lately, and now Melissa Beck has arrived to take up a position as production editor and the NC Pipe Band & Glee Club lost count during the 87-gun salute (I believe this is Fernando’s fault) and had to do it twice over.

We are so pleased, despite the confusion at the Bunker, to have Melissa join us. Early indications are that her duties here will extend beyond production. She has already taken dg to school on certain matters regarding classical authors. She also writes book reviews, specializing in books in translation, and conducts interviews. She’ll be a wonderful addition once we settle down.

Two things are worth mentioning. 1) There are still more jobs open. Check the page under the ABOUT button in the nav bar at the top of the page. 2) When you look at our vast and growing masthead, remember that we don’t normally take submissions. The magazine is generated from within. Many people on the masthead write regularly for the magazine — reviews, occasional essays, interviews. They also curate, edit, and package work we’ve invited from outside. And they have to produce an issue 12 times a year. It’s amazing we do it with so few people.


Melissa Beck has a B.A. and an M.A. in Classics. She also completed most of a Ph.D. in Classics for which her specialty was Seneca, Stoicism and Roman Tragedy. But she stopped writing her dissertation after the first chapter so she could live the life of wealth and prestige by teaching Latin and Ancient Greek to students at Woodstock Academy in Northeastern Connecticut. She now uses the copious amounts of money that she has earned as a teacher over the course of the past eighteen years to buy books for which she writes reviews on her website The Book Binder’s Daughter. Her reviews have also appeared in World Literature Today and The Portland Book Review. She has an essay on the nature of the soul forthcoming in the 2017 Seagull Books catalog and has contributed an essay about Epicureanism to the anthology Rush and Philosophy.

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.