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Hayden’s Ferry Review – Spring/Summer 2009

Issue 44

Spring/Summer 2009


Sima Rabinowitz

Here is an editorial perspective I can get behind:

Here is an editorial perspective I can get behind:

Oh, you have been trying to follow
words, those lost dogs,
since the days of alchemy
galloping towards our days of timetables and ads?
In reverse
in the heart of houses dreaming beneath their dust
the city keeps wordless watch for
tracks of a wet pigeon on the sidewalk
lines and scratches on the Obelisk.
That what has meaning
and world-matter.

This is Marie-Claire Bancquart’s poem “Veut Dire” (“Has Meaning”) as beautifully translated by Christina Cook, which appears in the magazine’s International Section. How do we make meaning? What makes words mean anything? And wouldn’t Bancquart’s magnificent poems be “lost words” to many of us if it weren’t for journals like Hayden’s Ferry and translators like Cook?

The International Section features an essay on poetry in Nicaragua by Danish writer Pia Tafdrup, translated by K.E. Semmel; poems rich in historical and geographical imagery by Ukranian poet Tara Shevchenko, translated by Russell Thornton and Svetlana Ischenko; John Penuel’s translation of a short story by Peruvian writer Julio Ramón Ribeyro; a story by French writer Philippe Romon who writes in English; and Erin Moure’s translation of a lyrical, metaphysical essay, a mediation on the nature of poetry (“is a poem a conjunction of ruins?”) by Galician writer Chus Pato. Ruins – lost words?

The inventiveness and urgency in the international work is matched by the work of the American writers who appear in this issue. A series of poems with Roman numerals for titles by Joshua Ware are narrow columns that can be read horizontally or vertically as single or linked units followed by footnotes, some quite extensive. The juxtaposition of casual and arcane, academic or “high brow” and popular language and ideas is striking (“The chasm between culture and nature / collapses into an arabesque” and “Noam Chomsky vs. Nim Chimpsky”). Footnotes reference the address and hours of restaurants and brief bios of the famous and infamous (Henry David Thoreau and Kim Jong II). In its own way, Ware’s poems are also about capturing lost words (“Can pastiche transcend?”).

Thomas Cook in “Jet-Pink Jaguar” also settles narrow columns of phrases and fragments across the page, and they may also be read as in multiple ways (my assumption, there are no instructions or spillover lines as in Ware’s work). “We are great discoveries – a shining violence – of skin, thrown and ruthless, waddled in knowledge” – Bancquart’s skin-matter and world-matter? Or is that word-matter?

Fiction by Peter Gorman, Holly Hall, and Kevin Skiena is not out of place alongside these meditations on making meaning, with their considerations of a “home for unwed fathers,” substitute teaching as performance art, and the metaphysical musings of Skiena’s “In-flight Dramaturgy”:

“It is almost by accident that you are reading this, unless you believe in fate, which I do not. I think belief in fate is like ordering a cheeseburger in a restaurant, holding onto the menu through dessert, and then feeling you had no other possible course but to order the cheeseburger, that the cheeseburger was somehow destined for you, chosen by some entity or mapped on some chart because of the great significance that rested in your entanglement with each other. Only in retrospect do things seem fateful, and I think the past is a dangerous place to dwell.”

Finally, not to be missed – astounding photographs, landscapes that also ponder what it means to, well, make meaning, most especially Kalle Kataila’s “Transcience,” described by art historian Jenny Rosemarie Mannhardt as “human figures . . . standing in front of endless landscapes, facing a scenery so tremendously beautiful they seem to be solidified in absolute silence.” More lost words.

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