A special theme issue on play and the absurd, which includes the Children’s Poetry Contest Winners, an interview with composer Ruth Fazal, who sets excerpts (some of which appear here) of the widely acclaimed and popular book of children’s writings, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, from the Terezin concentration camp, to music; Ariela Freedman’s essay, “Letter from Jerusalem”; reviews; and more than two dozen playful poems. Contributors include the prolific and well known writer Lorna Crozier and a contributor too young to have made much of a name for himself yet, four-year old Mikhael Dylan Auerbach, who – absurdly or at least incredibly – “is currently interested in Spiderman, trains, soccer, and copying Old Masters like Braque, Matisse, and Da Vinci.” His drawings are exceptional, and if he really is only four, this is not so much absurd as frightening!
Poems exhibit varying types of playfulness. There are inventive explorations of language, Sean Howard’s “Shadowgraph 25: THE DIRECT PATH HAS NOT BEEN OPENED,” for example, which considers “poetry detected in james franck’s nobel physics lecture, 1925”; and Katherine Anderson’s “ABRACADABRA,” an abc acrostic (“After all the aching why be anxious or anorexic.”). There are poems about the act of play or playful activity, such as Wanda Campbell’s “Taking My Daughters Tubing” and Ruth Roach Pierson’s “A Hard Nut to Crack” (though this is, admittedly, not about play as “fun,” but play in the service of distress). There are allegorical poems (“The Cat & the Fool” by R.D. Reeve), and poems about nature’s playful nature (“Lid” by Priscilla Atkins).
Freedman’s brief essay about the origins of modern Hebrew is lovely, and the interview with Fazal about the process of creating her Oratorio Terezin is instructive. Vallum does an admirable job of presenting an intelligent and generous view of its theme. The next issue’s theme is “luck.” I’ll take my chances!