“If this were another country, somewhere / in Latin America, say, or Eastern Europe, I could write lines like, / My country, take care of your light!, as Neruda did, / I could write, I am begging you the way a child / begs its mother, as he did… Oh, to live among those writers / who make unabashed use of vodka / and exclamation marks!” This is how Eleanor Stanford’s “Political Poem” goes, and it begs to be anthologized for its treatment of motherhoods and motherlands. James Tate and Dara Weir, two poets in constant conversation, are also interviewed and their poems prominently placed. Tate’s “The Ghost Soldiers” opens like this: “I saw a duck fly into a tree today. Boy, you don’t see / that very often. It must have been daydreaming…and now that I think of it, it had looked over at me just before / impact. It must have felt so stupid. Anyway, I didn’t stop to / see how it was. I wanted to, but I was afraid I would embarrass it.” How this prose poem turns into an account of a town whose entire population of war heroes is dead is worth witnessing. This poem alone makes getting this issue of Hunger Mountain worthwhile. There is also the D. Nurkse poem, “The Gods,” which contains the lines, “don’t we want absolute power, / if only over each other?” Possibly, the worst line in the issue is at the end of Georgi Gospodinov’s “Nightmare of a Lady.” But even the clichéd “And then she wakes up” is saved by the narrative that precedes it.
My favorite piece is one I will use as a marker in life from now on. I’ll quote it often to friends, make copies of parts of it for the special ones (and hopefully not get sued for violating copyright). Rui Zink’s “The Writing Bug” is a tremendous story, about the apocalypse to which we are all witness. From toddler to taxi driver, we are all writers. Zink says it like this: “The disease is highly contagious. It makes the Ebola seem like child’s play, so fast does it reproduce and spread…scientists have yet to isolate the virus or find an antidote.” The narrative escalates after a break into the description of a tragic world where nobody does anything but write. Zink’s a writer with a divine mission: to find others immune to the bug like himself – readers instead of writers. His piece is the best place to begin, if you’re not infected. [www.tui.edu/hungermtn/]