A meridian stretches between poles, an apt way to describe the fascinating extremes between the pieces in this issue of the magazine – from the “Lost Classic” feature, a letter sent in reply from Katherine Anne Porter to book designer Merle Armitage (“It is not in the least difficult for me to standby what I love and believe in”) to an e-mail interview by Paul Legault with poet Tao Lin (“I want my next book to be ‘iconic’ it can’t suck”). From Lynn Pott’s poem “Barely Ask” (“When you get old do your lips shrink, do you know?”) to Angus A. Bennett’s “Muted with a Line from Someone Else’s Memory” (“and the joy of a midnight as meaningless things / as we do meaningless things – a placemarker for desire”).
There is less distance, perhaps, between the fiction, stories by Helen Phillips, Nahal Suzanne Jamir, Laura van den Berg, Jill Logan, Alyssa Knickerbocker, and Peter Levine, most of which are casual in tone (with the exception of Jamir’s), but not inconsequential. They share particularly appealing opening lines, small pronouncements with just the right amount of intrigue (“I always thought of Phyllis as lovely, even without the wings,” from Logan’s “Phyllis without Wings”). I was especially moved by Jamir’s “In the Middle of Many Mountains,” a finalist in the magazine’s fiction contest, which is lovely and lyrical.
The wild distance reasserts itself in the extremes between the interview, quoted above, with Tao Lin and Jasmine Bailey and Mark Wagenaar’s interview with poet Jane Mead, whose third book, The Usable Field, was published last year by Alice James. “I should host SNL Chris Rock should say something about me,” says Lin. “I definitely consider myself in conversation with other contemporary American writers,” says Mead.
Finally, American popular culture and Polish pop culture meet and merge in Kenneth Goldsmith’s “No. 110 10.4.03-10.7.93.” Goldsmith, a self-defined text-based artist, participated in “Construction in Process” in Lodz, Poland. He explains: “My method of writing allows me to ‘sight’ language by stringing words together according to their audio and / or phonetic combinations.” Incorporating words and phrases from students working in the museum where he had set up his computer, Goldsmith created a piece mounted as a huge wall-text, 1500 words in a language he did not understand, “but the Poles did.” The piece is reprinted here, long lines stretching across the margins of several pages, spanning the vast territory between meaning and meaninglessness and back again: “Aneta, Ayatollah, badania, Bar Mitzvah, bla bla bla, Bonanza, cios Ry?ka.”