It was the illustration by Ricardo Bessa that originally drew me to Anthony Oliveira’s [pictured] short and poetic “Dayspring.” The image caught my eye as I scrolled down the front page of Hazlitt: browns and tans and reds, one man lying on another’s chest, their beards brushing; the embracing figures exude warmth and intimacy as sunlight filters through leaves above them. The story behind this depiction imagines (an unnamed) John, “the disciple whom he loved,” as Jesus’ lover in the days before the crucifixion.
Writing in short poetic bursts, Oliveira roots the story in two religious parables or folktales, one involving a donkey, the other involving a nun. The conversation shows Jesus’ words in red, the two speaking in modern vernacular, including “dudes” and “what the fucks,” making the characters more relatable. The red is striking on the screen whenever Jesus speaks, and these two stories give us something to come back to—something to be anchored to in the chaos that follows.
I couldn’t help thinking of Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles while reading “Dayspring” as both pieces of writing display a mythological queer relationship of love and gentleness with a strong foreshadowing of violence and tragedy. Knowing the story of Jesus and his crucifixion, you can guess where Oliveira ends up taking us: to Gethsemane where everything falls apart, where Jesus is arrested, and the chain of events leading to his death begins, only this time we see it through the eyes of the one he loved.
While the piece is short and a sparsely written, the language is strong and beautifully built up. Oliveira writes with a poetic voice that eases readers in and creates the warmth that Ricardo Bessa’s illustrations kindle.
The Summer 2019 issue of Rattle includes a "Tribute to Instagram Poets." The editor's preface explains that the poems were originally published on Instagram, which uses captions that are included along with the poems. The editors assert that the poems were selected based "on their own merits and not the popularity of their authors."
Some works include long poetic commentary, such as Benjamin Aleshire's "Good Manners," while others, such as Luigi Coppola's and Jeni D La O's only include a user name and series of hashtags. When applied, the hashtags range from simply labeling the obvious (#poetry #poem) to adding to the poetic image/text in the Instagram, as in Vini Emery's: "All of the things that have been done to me have been done with out me." hashtagged: #disassociation #trauma #power. Because the image is of handwritten text, it's actually difficult to decipher if there is a space or not between "with" and "out," which seems fitting for the work that this should be ambiguous.
Still other poems, such as Raquel Franco's, add comment text without hashtags: "You are more than paper thin. / You are more than sad girl. / You are ink + paragraphs, / an anthology of purpose." with "You are more than your circumstance." as added comment.
A unique feature to include in this issue of Rattle, and one that opens whole new dialogues for poetry writing, reading, and analysis.
Review by Denise Hill
In his Spring 2019 "Welcome Readers" section, founder and editor M. Scott Douglass explains his plan to "retire from editing" Main Street Rag.
In making such a proclamation, Douglass comments, "the assumption is that you (I) are/am going out of business. That's not the plan." Having already sold off the production equipment for the publishing arm of MSR, Douglass is moving to the next step: "find a suitable replacement to edit the journal (and possibly books). I'd like to be able to bring this person along slowly, train them in the use of software, deadlines, scheduling, etc., but as soon as you hang a sign that says, 'Looking for new leadership,' again, everyone thinks you're on your deathbed and avoids you."
"We're not dying. I'm not dying. We have no debt, so we're not in financial difficulty." Instead, Douglass notes, after nearly twenty-five years, it's just time for him to focus on his own "muse" and get out from behind the desk to travel more.
"So, if you know someone looking to take over a literary house who's willing to put in some training time, send them my way. There may be a place for them here."
The Winter 2018 issue features a tribute to Stitt, with contributions from Floyd Collins, Sidney Wade, Philip Schultz, Linda Pastan, Albert Goldbarth, Christopher Howell, Hope Maxwell Snyder, Michael Waters, Rebecca McClanahan, and a closing poem by Peter Stitt, “Winter Search.”
Kenyon Review Editor David Baker opens the May/June 2019 issue with his commentary on the annual "Nature's Nature" theme. In response to our having witnessed "the Trump administration take further steps to release two hundred thousand more acres of public land—this time in Utah along the Canyonlands and the Green River—to 'development,'" Baker notes that "Greed, stupidity, and fever for power are not new to our country or even our species—read Shakespeare, Dante, Homer—but the velocity of unfixable damages and the extent of losses are without precedent."
Baker asks, "Are we one or two generations away from the point of no return for environmental stability? Is ours the last generation with hope of preventing or slowing a massive disaster? Is it too late? The calculations come every week, with variables, but the constant alarm is the same."
This is what compelled him, he recounts, "to curate a special feature on ecology and poetry . . . I wanted to showcase new poems that resisted such forms of power and that named one by one the spectacular, beautiful, and often endangered citizens of the natural world."
Now an annual issue, the writers featured each year are purposefully diverse in that the publication does not choose the same authors to appear more than once. The compilation features twenty-seven new poems, one essay, and two portfolios of artwork. For a full list of content with some selections available to read online, visit the Kenyon Review.
Issue No. 17 of The Common includes a special portfolio of stories from Syria, with works by Luqman Derki (Trans. Jonathan Wright), Shahla Al-Ujayli (Trans. Alice Guthrie), Mohammad Ibrahim Nawaya (Trans. Robin Moger), Raw’a Sunbul (Trans. Alice Guthrie), Haidar Haidar (Trans. Jonathan Wright), Odai Al Zoubi (Trans. Robin Moger), Colette Bahna (Trans. Robin Moger), and Ibrahim Samuel (Trans. Maia Tabet), as well as artwork from Syria, courtesy of the Hindiyeh Museum of Art.
The Common website features full content online as well as a supercool interactive map [pictured] of the issue - click on the geographical marker and get a photo and link to the content.
For teachers: The Common offers supplementary teaching materials for each issue. A classroom subscription includes two issues for every student and an in-person or Skype visit from Editor in Chief Jennifer Acker or a participating author.
With its Spring 2019 issue, Raleigh Review celebrates nine years of continuous publication. As they head into their tenth year, Editor and Publisher Rob Greene notes, "we realized it was time to reward our staff members who do the work on the magazine, so in addition to increasing the amount we're paying to our poets, writers, and visual artists by a third, we are finally beginning to take small strides to help reward our telecommuting and highly skilled editorial staff who are based throughout the country and at times the world."
Congratulations to Raleigh Review for providing a venue for writers, artists, and readers - and sharing how important financial support and subscriptions are to our community!
Featured from Willow Springs 83 are four poems by Maggie Smith (an interview with her is included in the print publication), "The Collector" by Suzanne Highland, "The Year We Lived" by Breanna Lemieux, and "Bless the Feral Hog" by Laura Van Prooyen.
With each feature, the author offers notes on the work as well as whatever random musings they might want to include under the fun title "Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens. etc.."
In her responses, Suzanne Highland [pictured] shares, "I have two tattoos: one says 'in medias res and the other says '(write it!).' I’m wildly attached to both, but one would have to be to get tattoos like those in the first place, I think."
Reflecting on Ruminate's 50th Anniversary issue, Editor Brianna VanDyke writes that when Thích Nhất Hạnh was asked, "Is there a purpose for wearing the robe other than to clothe your body?" He replied, "To remind yourself that you are a monk."
"I wonder," VanDyke goes on, "if one day you or I might also be asked a question about reminding ourselves of who we are."
She goes on to explore what those 'reminders of self' might be, adding, "something about this dream I hold, that these pages continue to be a reminder for fifty more good issues, how the very best stories and art and poems remind us of who we are, why we matter, our longings, our deepest work this day."