Redivider is published by graduate students in the Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department at Emerson College. I had not seen the journal before the current issue and, since this is the seventh volume, I realize I’ve missed out on six years of provocative writing and terrific and unusual artworks. This issue features new writing from established and lesser known fiction writers, essayists, and poets (several names stand out: Sherman Alexie, Dan Chaon, Franz Wright, Kevin Prufer, and Pablo Medina); photographs, drawings, and paintings, many both weird and wonderful, from 12 visual artists; an interview with fiction writer and essayist Alexander Chee; and five thoughtful book reviews. The journal also includes its “Quickie Award” winning fiction and poetry, selected by George Singleton and Rane Arroyo respectively.
The journal opens with the translation, by Khaled Mattawa, of four poems by Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser, a name as recognizable in Jordan (if not more so) as Franz Wright to US readers of poetry. These poems are marked by vivid, precise, yet somehow quiet images that leave an impression much greater than their elegance might suggest they will. Nasser is the master of understatement; these poems appear, on the surface, to depict small moments or scenes, but actually have much larger, more encompassing ambitions (none the least of which are class issues and war).
Sherman Alexie, who contributes both a short story and a poem, is, in typical fashion, not at all subtle, but his work is no less affecting or marvelously composed than Nasser’s. I like especially his poem, “Monosonnet for Colonialism, Interrupted” (“I am a man who loves cinematic gunfire and American poetry, if not equally, then with parallel passion.”). His short-short fiction, “License to Kill,” is both cleverly constructed and clever.
Nonfiction includes the work of Kate Russell, Jeff Porter, Catherine Reid, Michael Hemery, and Henry Ronan-Daniell, and explores quite a variety of subjects, from the way we write about history, to a personal story of befriending a former classmate with emotional/mental challenges. The essays are well-crafted, present voices I want to get to know, and avoid many of the pitfalls of contemporary creative nonfiction (sentimentality, over-telling, and smugness, among others).
Fiction, too, is strong, including Blake Butler’s, “Our Anniversary, Repeated,” with its funky form (boxed text, changing fonts, etc.), and its wind-blown, unconventional narrative. And the interview with Chee, who discusses the type of research he does for his fiction writing, is satisfying. I love his characterization of fact-based fiction that doesn’t become authentic as a “weird history karaoke.”
As noted earlier, I find much of the artwork to be odd and also oddly marvelous. Digital photos, oil paintings, mixed media works, and digital images by Enaer, Jeff Foster, Calamity Cole, Sarah Walko, Julie Kitzes, Joseph Sobel, John Oliver Hodges, Vladimir Vitkovsky, Cherri Wood, Nicolas Vallejos, Denise Hansen, Allen Jeffrey Thompson, Michael Garfield, and Marina Korenfeld. Not odd in the least, but arresting and beautiful are a black and white photo of a stout, squarely proportioned woman standing in front of a house in the snow, her look as bleak as the landscape (by Joseph Sobel) and Allen Jeffrey Thompson’s oil, pencil, and newsprint on linen “Harlem Pose,” the human figure blurry but vividly present and the newsprint on the walls (in Chinese) so meticulously rendered it seems real.