Nimrod is a journal that has a long tradition of publishing the finest works to come out of the contemporary Mexico scene. Following that custom is the Spring/Summer 2009 issue, the third issue in Nimrod’s history to be devoted to Mexican writers. This issue is difficult to discuss succinctly – the writers are numerous (well over 50 contributors are included here) and their work is enormous (everything from borders to migration to the meaning of change is covered) – but let’s give it the old college try.
From the start it is clear that the poetry in Nimrod steers the magazine thematically. Andrés Ramírez’s poem “Tao de mí” (“My Tao”) sets the tone of the issue when he writes: “Let’s understand nothing / of what’s going on here / let’s ask meaning to go back / where it came from.” Directly following Ramírez’s poem is Rafael Jesús González’s “Enigma of Signals,” which further explores the complicated love triangle between signifier, signified, and meaning by asking what it means to look at items from one’s cultural history (“the feather crown of Moctezuma / & the shield of Ahuitzotl”) in as unlikely a place as “Vienna on a cloudy day.”
Yet other poetry in Nimrod eschews postcolonial issues of appropriation in a search for other meaning. Felicia R. Martinez explores the history of a Mexican family and town in “A story red with dawn.” She writes: “I know a story you must know,” and then later: “It is a story we must hear.” Joanna Rawson’s “Kill-Box” is the most overtly political piece in the entire issue, exploring coyote crossings and the fluidity of borders and fences. In the end she determines: “The light says what’s been unleashed this season can’t be stopped.”
The fiction in the issue walks a similar thematic line, albeit in its own bold, clear fashion. Elena Poniatowska’s brief story “Canarios” (“Canaries”) describes s narrator’s fascination (and obsession) with a caged canary in their home, looking at the little flittery thing that is within as well as without.
Shelley Ettinger’s story “All the Ashley’s in the World” is a sister piece in a lot of ways to Joanna Rawson’s poem. The narrator in the story recounts the story of her parent’s border crossing into the United States – a crossing that went tragically awry and left decades of bloody memories in its wake. Ultimately, the story is about how the past exists within the lives of those that it has produced – and how those individuals have to forge ahead with the uncertain knowledge of their own unsteady identities. “You might spend the rest of your lives pining for your homeland,” Ettinger writes, “but at least you’ll always have one. What will I have?”
Birds flitter throughout the issue, connecting the works from Mexican authors to the “over-the-transom” section of unsolicited works submitted throughout the year. The image of flight threads many of the works in Nimrod, with all of its connotations of migration and change. Perhaps it is as John Surowiecki writes in “Kafkaesque No. 1 (Nogales)”: “Nothing can live without changing into something else.” Or maybe it is more like Miguel González-Gerth in the “The Written Word”: “Everything is written except what can’t be written.”