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Five Points – 2010

Edited by Megan Sexton and David Bottoms, this issue of Five Points explores literature as well as audio inspired by the theme “Belfast Imagined.” Work includes an interview with novelist Glen Patterson (which is also available on the journal’s website); photography comprising a series entitled “Flash Points”; a companion 19-track, 78+ minute CD; two essays; fiction; and poetry by Medbh McGuckian, Ciarán Carson, Leontia Flynn, Howard Wright, and Alan Gillis, whose poem “Down Through the Dark and Emptying Streets” begins the issue:

Edited by Megan Sexton and David Bottoms, this issue of Five Points explores literature as well as audio inspired by the theme “Belfast Imagined.” Work includes an interview with novelist Glen Patterson (which is also available on the journal’s website); photography comprising a series entitled “Flash Points”; a companion 19-track, 78+ minute CD; two essays; fiction; and poetry by Medbh McGuckian, Ciarán Carson, Leontia Flynn, Howard Wright, and Alan Gillis, whose poem “Down Through the Dark and Emptying Streets” begins the issue:

Open a new window
Go and Google yourself.
Open Facebook and update
all trace of yourself.

While you search MySpace,
sync your apps, correct a wiki,
blah blah on your blog,
stream and twitter

Gillis initially considers the speaker’s online activity, but soon reveals his dilemma: whether to confirm or ignore a Facebook friend request. The reader is implicitly asked to imagine the potential ramifications. What would happen if the past were allowed to merge with the present? What anxiety, anticipation, or nostalgia might the seemingly simple choice evoke? Such questions remain unanswered, but could also apply in varying degrees to other works.

“The Arbitrarium,” a short story by Ian Sansom, considers a 16th-17th century chest purchased at an auction. The narrator soon finds that his routine has begun to revolve around the object. As much a study in determination as it is in the mysterious lure of history, the story is pleasingly compact. Andy White’s essay, “Soweto Motorway Walking,” features a musician’s excursion to South Africa as part of an outreach festival. His upbringing in Northern Ireland, however, has not prepared him for scenes of extreme poverty. He remarks that “the divisions … make those in the British Isles seem like watching people in a posh restaurant choosing sparkling or mineral water when you’re in the middle of the Kalahari.” During the course of the essay, the contrasts between colonial remnants, Belfast, and present-day Soweto circuitously lead the narrator to remember his mother.

Entries that are less thematic about the past and present include “Hopdance: An Extract,” written by Stewart Parker and introduced in an essay by Marilynn Richtarik. Parker’s story details what happens after a surgical amputation, taking the reader up to the moment when the protagonist is fitted with a prosthetic limb. He creates a well-modulated portrait of a man who must adapt to the process of rehabilitation without a trace of bitterness, pity, or heroics.

The poetry selections are mostly clear-cut, single-subject works, bearing titles such as “Rush Hour,” “Anecdote of the Drunken Nights,” and “My Only Uncle’s Story,” among others. Often conveyed with a bemused or contemplative tone, they are solid, if not especially adventurous in their range. Medbh McGuckian’s trio proves the exception, offering layered reflections and painterly imagery that moves beyond the descriptive. Ciarán Carson’s spare “In the Parlour” is also noteworthy for its distillation of restrained grief.

The CD represents an accomplished curatorial effort, and is more than a “bonus” supplement to the issue. It includes music interspersed with dramatic, atmospheric readings, and sometimes ghostly, wordless interludes that are darker in mood than the work presented in the journal. Among the notable authors is Paul Muldoon, reading a piece entitled “Julius Caesar.” Together, these many versions of “Belfast Imagined” offer a glimpse at some of the region’s contemporary artists. In the words of Ms. Sexton, it is “a sonic postcard from … a city rich in accents and acoustics.”
[www.fivepoints.gsu.edu/]

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