Ramón Alejandro’s Combustion Espontanea, 2016 — oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in.
We’re calling this the sun, fire and lightning issue, because it’s February, and here at the NC Bunker, there is only drear and ice, while in the digital ether we are hosting the brilliant sun-drenched paintings of the Cuban-born painter Ramón Alejandro. Alejandro now makes his home in Miami but has lived in Argentina, Uruguay and Paris. He has been written about by no less than Roland Barthes, but he is also an immensely amiable, erudite and energetic personality (I have gotten to know him a bit as we interacted over his appearance in Numéro Cinq) who accesses an ancient Mediterranean wisdom at the drop of a hat. The Alejandro paintings we’re showing you this month are barely dry, just finished for an exhibition opening tomorrow (January 27) at Miami’s Latin Art Core gallery.
But this is a truly international issue with contributions from Romania, England, Mexico, Ireland, Canada, the U.S. and Afghanistan plus a special appearance by a Nitsitapi Blackfoot writer.
What the current news reminds us of especially is the fate of refugees worldwide and to honour that we have this month gorgeous, sad graphic nonfiction by the English artist Kate Evans who has given us a brilliant graphic essay on the refugee camps in Calais much in the news in the past year.
Kate Evans at work.
Everywhere there is an air of expectation, of impermanence. People who have been on the move for so long are stuck in limbo, tantalisingly close to their destination but the wrong side of those cruel fences, still so very far. —Kate Evans
And an equally brilliant essay from Julie Trimingham on Utopia and utopias, those strange, hopeful human attempts to establish otherworldly harmony in fractious world. Just what we have come to expect from Julie — a combustible mix of whimsy, serious intent, and brilliant writing.
You can’t promise the child a just, or kind, or beautiful world. But you can teach him where to find it, in snatched glances and in-between spaces. You can teach him how to look. —Julie Trimingham
And from Sonnet L’Abbé, prose poems inspired by Shakespeare but inimitable and surprising, not the Shakespeare we remember, something reforged in the present author’s heart.
Would that William’s verse animated our dinner conversations, or that his love’s eloquence seeped into family get-togethers! If only Gertrude’s jingles were intoned in the malls! People might buy back their lost selves, by paying visionary attention. Tonight may I give that sweet duende to those sad-hearted, whose gifts reach out hopefully toward undeserving takers.
Also poems by the eminent, prolific (review and interview with Donald Hall in the January issue) Allan Cooper, who, yes, has a new book coming out.
I swear my small body rose above the house
and looked down on the black roof,
the winglike shadows cast across the lawn
as if someone would come and carry me
For fiction this month, we have several very special treats including a short story by the Afghani writer Jamaluddin Aram.
The fighting went on. The boy cupped his ears with the palms of his hands and the shooting was drowned as if in a wind tunnel. As soon as he lifted his hands the sound of gunshots came back, loud and ludicrous. He closed his ears with the tips of his fingers this time and pressed them hard. The sound of war seemed as distant, as unbelievable, as a dream. —Jamaluddin Aram
The Romanian translator, essayist and fiction writer (she has contributed all genres already to the magazine) Erika Mihálysca has a piece called “Sealocked” on the Italian Adriatic ports of Brindisi and Trani with pictures — not what you expect, not the tourist-crowded beaches, a beautiful otherness.
The foam whipped by the creatures short of sea and the pungent smell is all we hear of their agony; above them, bitten-off, close-vowelled words, with an intonation swinging to the rhythm of the rocking, narrate about sea weather. —Erika Mihalycsa
From Mexico, our Numero Cinco series, we have poems by Ingrid Valencia.
It is not the flesh but the destruction,
the slight sound of machines
which form circles in the plaza of the body.
We are merely eyelids
which open to the night,
to the endless noise
For our Irish series in February, Billy Mills contributes new poems.
ask what it is
light eases through
the surface of things
as they awaken
as they arise
From Abigail Allen — a beautifully crafted short story — “Small Creatures” — by Abigail Allen. Watch the lovely patterning, starting with the tiny aquarium fish in the pet store in the opening paragraph.
I looked away from whatever I was watching, wondering whether I’d locked the front door, and saw the shadow of his head slowly rising behind the lace curtain on the window in the door. This was right after my divorce was finalized. It was only much later, shortly before his death, that I found out who he was. —Abigail Allen
And from the Canadian west, fiery poems by the activist-artist Sarah Scout, a Nitsitapi Blackfoot writer.
Paper dreams of my mother
Dream of my mother on paper
My mother dreams on paper
On torn scraps from colonial
and Government funded
Mark Jay Mirsky
In February, also a lovely new short story by Mark Mirsky.
Gale, how much he had been attracted to Gale, despite the sour shake of her head. The brusque, self-assured carriage that she brought from the snobbish world of her college campus; her slightly disheveled appearance at times, her disapproval of his manners, which reminded him of his mother; made him think there might be a link between them. —Mark Jay Mirsky
And there is more. Reviews by Laura Michele Diener, Jason DeYoung and Melissa Considine Beck plus a brand new NC at the Movies from Rob Gray.
Maybe even more! The dust hasn’t settled yet…