It’s NC’s diva issue, named in honour of Julie Trimingham’s luscious, bumptious, delightful interview with vocalist Fides Krucker who plays a mermaid in DIVE, a work she co-created with writer Richard Sanger and composer Nik Beeson, based on The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. DIVE will be performed in Toronto July 30-August 9. Don’t miss it, but read the interview, too.
The mermaid I play in DIVE is amoral. (With the exception of Disney’s Ariel I imagine all sirens and silkies live somewhere outside of human rights and wrongs). She is fun to inhabit, she gets to break all sorts of vocal rules, and she will have a great costume. In the script she tells us that she is Lighea, the daughter of Calliope. No little mermaid here…she is descended from the biggest muse of all.
You know, a mermaid is utterly undomesticated. She is not domiciled. She inhabits the ocean. She lives far beyond of my idea of ‘house’. To bring her to life I have to use this house, my body. —Fides Krucker
We also have Victoria Best’s wonderful profile of the great Scottish novelist Janice Galloway, whom I interviewed when I had a radio show back in the mid-1990s (before most of you were born). So Janice and I go way back (not that we kept in touch). Victoria Best is a newcomer to Numéro Cinq and will shortly be joining the masthead. We’re looking forward to some fantastic pieces from her.
Janice Galloway was born in 1955 in Saltcoats, Scotland, to a mother who ‘thought I was the menopause’. In the mythic version Galloway tells in her memoir, This Is Not About Me, which might be the true one for all she knows, her mother was unaware of the pregnancy until her waters broke, perhaps in denial of the freedom-busting, life-ending truth. The young Janice is never in doubt about her status as nuisance. ‘If I’d kent, she’d say, her eyes narrowing. If I’d just bloody known.’ —Victoria Best
Jason Lucarelli, from the wilds of Pennsylvania, makes a return to NC with a insightful and provocative interview with Greg Mulcahy, whose first story collection came out with Knopf in 1993, the same year my novel The Life and Times of Captain N came out with Knopf. Gordon Lish was the editor for both books; Lish sent me a copy of Mulcahy’s bookat the time and I have always kept it in my library. (See it’s a small world and people keep re-meeting in odd ways.)
Mulcahy’s fiction is, as Noy Holland says, “funny, in the way that wisdom, plainly spoken, is funny.” Through his characters’ agonies he reveals the ruse of our surrounding world, and their rock bottom falls propel each consecutive sentence—the content carried through frictive syntax. His sentences slide, stop on a dime, fragment, run on without punctuation, run over you, leave you breathless, bewildered. Sam Lipsyte says, “Reading Greg Mulcahy’s sentences is like watching the best slalom skiers in the world dare the universe a crazy millimeter at a time,” and it’s a ride that leaves you on the other side, as brave and as dangerous, but with new truth. — Jason Lucarelli
Natalie Helberg takes a break from the arduous vicissitudes of her doctoral program to review Liz Howard’s first collection of poems.
Liz Howard’s debut collection of poems, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, is astonishingly capacious: It is an extended metaphor for the mind. It is a fiery, radiant rollick through language. It is a meditation on Indigenous lineage and muted origins. It is the type of hard, crystalline speech which illuminates the social-scape from its gutters, a song gifted by an absolute Other, eerily coalescing at the junction of race, class, and gender. The poems which make it up celebrate the natural world while simultaneously attuning themselves to the toxicity of its rivers. —Natalie Helberg
And the Toronto poet and provocateur (also radio personality) Louise Bak has poems in this issue, dense, cumulative, innovative, mesmerizing.
…marquise galloons on card, with longdashed globe. pouter’s
heta uma at weight of breath near to bangle’s ballchain and
adhesive streaked, a cut more inside the edge of a glass tile
over wicking of donut bail’s not fabricated to be repeatedly
opened and closed on below ear hair, in press on square of
agloe, made-up map trap. adjustment of centring hold with
town labels, route lines, to pleated details on shoulder of a
shirt, lain in a used hide-a-bed’s straightening of three way
zip through crotch, in who else was looking and what was
being seen, smooths of agglomerated cork, willable sound —Louise Bak
Jeremy Brunger, in his second essay for the magazine (and there will be more), has the unmitigated gall to start a disquisition on Nietzsche by mentioning the great one’s small ears.
For a man with such little ears, Friedrich Nietzsche heard a multitude of deep pulses within the heart of European culture. The great despiser of liberalism and humanitarianism was also no less than the great despiser of conservatism and capitalism. As is the case with many important thinkers in the Western canon, Nietzsche’s dislikes greatly outnumbered his likes, just as the contradictions in his thought served to develop them all the better. Adoring power, he hated the powerful of his time for their unearned privileges. Adoring culture, he hated the cultured milieu of his time for their abiding philistinism. Adoring the sanguine bigotry of nineteenth-century society, he hated anti-Semites and the Darwinian biology that Herbert Spencer would later develop into a lethal social philosophy. His reputation in the popular consciousness is inaccurate as often as it is unflattering. —Jeremy Brunger
Amber Homeniuk is a modest chicken rancher (she recently adopted my mother’s last hen—more on this another time), also an up-and-coming poet (we published some of her tobacco-farming poems earlier) with a wry wit and a talent for close observation of the southern Ontario countryside where she lives.
Oh old boy
you’ve taught me all you can,
your dousing days are done.
Lie down with your snout at the stream
to rest in woods behind my brother’s house.
Let season’s green weave through your nest of sticks,
set age along the top of your white brow
with sutures fused, full sagittal crest
those sore worn teeth. —Amber Homeniuk
Brianna Berbenuik used to be a contributor the to the magazine, then took a hiatus, wandered in the wilderness, worked in a police department, and now has returned from the outer dark with amazing, dark, violent fiction.
There are two cameras in the interview room and you are a voyeur. Face view. Full view.
Face view shows only the face of a young man, twenty-something, who killed a woman by beating her, and then throwing her in the trunk of an old car and lighting it on fire after dousing her and the car with gasoline. Before he closed the hood to the trunk, he took one last long look at the girl.
Full view. The girl’s mother is brought into a room to face her daughter’s killer. —Brianna Berbenuik
Louis Armand contributes an excerpt from his new novel Abacus, evoking a childhood in this native Australia, brash, funny, and real.
The teachers were all standing out the front singing the nation’s praises while all the kids just mumbled along not knowing the words, they’d only ever heard it on the tellie when someone on the swimming team won a medal at the Commonwealth Games. “Australia’s suns let us rejoice,” what was that supposed to mean? But when the spastic girl did her thing everybody suddenly went silent. Three hundred kids sweating under the hot sky in turd-brown uniforms, waiting to see what Old Cricket Bat’d do next.—Louise Armand
Paul Pines continues his exploration of the nexus of myth, psychology, and poetry with a masterful look at the legend of the Fisher King and Charles Olson’s great poem “King Fishers”.
What enters is as much shape as sound, ideas like iron filings on a magnetic field. The field becomes an ocean, the magnet a star. Fish swim below or break the surface. Constellations in space dance without touching. This ghost in the room I think of as Pedrolino has awakened a ghost in me. I see myself standing beside Amfortas, the Fisher King, in the Pole Star watching a king fisher dive. How did Amfortas end up in my boat, both of us in the stern waiting for Parzival or his equivalent? Olson’s poem, “King Fishers,” which influenced me as a young poet, has set up an inexorable call to the obsession of my later years, the wounded Fisher King! —Paul Pines
Timothy Dugdale has sent another terse, realistic short story. This one tackles of the difficult subject of race and immigration.
The black man exploded. “I will not sit down. I have been sitting down. I’m finished sitting down. This country must not sit down!” He pointed at the father. “You will not infiltrate.” And then he pointed at the women on the chairs. “And you, you will not breed.” He turned and sauntered away in dignified pique.—Timothy Dugdale
Kate Fetherson, ambidextrous, as it were, has a hybrid poetry and painting piece in this issue (she sings, too, but not in this issue — literally, a diva. Does that mean she is tri-dextrous or just a multitalented renaissance woman?).
…out of myself, a stranger to the usual
conflagrations, and dream we muscle
through buoyant water as seals slapping
backsides. Our flippers splash each
other’s whiskery snouts as we loll
in sunlight we didn’t earn. When I open
my eyes, there’s music again. I stroke your stubbly
beard and dream of the Sargasso sea. —Kate Fetherston
And, as always, there is more! For sure, we’ll have a new Numéro Cinq at the Movies from the inimitable R. W. Gray and a new Uimhir a Cúig, featuring writing from Ireland curated by the equally inimitable Gerard Beirne.