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Washington Square – 2009

The Table of Contents had me pretty excited: poems from John Yau, Molly Peacock, and Paul Muldoon (among many others); fiction from Steve Almond; a “conversation” between Alice Quinn and Adam Zagajewski. And the issue lives up to these names’ promise, but I was just as excited by the work of those whose names I did not immediately recognize: Suzanne Buffam, whose translation of Paul Eluard’s poem “Pour Vivre Ici” matches the original’s deceptive simplicity syllable for syllable (“Like the dead I had but one element”); a sardonic epistolary short story by Rudolph Delson, “An Open Letter to John E. Potter, Postmaster General,” comparing his Van Brunt postal station to the far superior Park Slope station; an amazing portfolio of black and white drawings, so different from each other it’s hard to believe they were done by the same artist, Andres Guzman, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design; and a lyric of taut little quatrains, “Sabina,” by Olivia Clark.

The Table of Contents had me pretty excited: poems from John Yau, Molly Peacock, and Paul Muldoon (among many others); fiction from Steve Almond; a “conversation” between Alice Quinn and Adam Zagajewski. And the issue lives up to these names’ promise, but I was just as excited by the work of those whose names I did not immediately recognize: Suzanne Buffam, whose translation of Paul Eluard’s poem “Pour Vivre Ici” matches the original’s deceptive simplicity syllable for syllable (“Like the dead I had but one element”); a sardonic epistolary short story by Rudolph Delson, “An Open Letter to John E. Potter, Postmaster General,” comparing his Van Brunt postal station to the far superior Park Slope station; an amazing portfolio of black and white drawings, so different from each other it’s hard to believe they were done by the same artist, Andres Guzman, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design; and a lyric of taut little quatrains, “Sabina,” by Olivia Clark.

This issue’s New Salon, the transcript of a live conversation at NYU between Quinn and Zagajewski, is introduced by interview editor Peter Moysaenko, who describes Zagajewski’s most recent book, Eternal Enemies, as expanding upon “his dialectic of hope and doubt through a collection of elegies to late poets and his own evaporated days.” After their discussion of early influences, the two turn to a discussion of recent American poetry. “I have some problem with the youngest American poetry which is so playful – which is wonderful – but maybe there is some monotony in the playfulness,” Zagajewski says. I tend to agree (“We waste so much of our hearts,” writes Steve Almond in his “sudden fiction” contribution to this issue, “God is the Dream We Sleep to Find”), which is why I’m glad for Washington Square, where poetry and fiction of accomplished humor, wit, sarcasm, and playfulness, are balanced by more earnest, more searching works – no less carefully composed – poems by Christopher Bakken and Dg Nanouk Okpik, and the New Salon itself, a frank and serious conversation.
[www.washingtonsquarereview.com/]

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