An exciting issue, beginning with Daniel Backman’s front cover “architectonic collage” (“Oakland in Transit”). Backman’s collages, he explains in the note that opens the issue, “envision a city in a constant state of transformation” and exhibit “the themes that have traveled with me throughout my experience as an artist, a designer, and a city dweller.”
You know you can trust a journal when the editor is as smart and deliberate as 580 Split’s, creating something cohesive to unify the editorial vision. Here, we move immediately from city scene (Beckman’s transit collage) to city scene (the first line of literary content in the journal) “everybody in the city is talking about the weather,” a poem by Tetman Callis, which concludes: “nobody is talking about the war,” affirming that I am right to trust 580 Split to have something to say to me.
In fact there is more in this issue worth recognizing and commenting on that I can pursue in this brief review, so I’ll stop at a few particularly captivating places along this highway of good reading. In keeping with the theme alluded to above (“the war”), I would point out “The O Mission Report, Vol 2” from Travis Macdonald “an erasure of The 9/11 Commission Report,” with its juxtaposition of reverse type and bold text which creates a sort of prose poem of our warring engagement.
Provocative in form, as well, are Kaie Kellough’s “goodbye book” with its rambling urgency (“while the eye slides from left to right, the index fingers & flips the page from right to left, & repeat, & pause to decipher cryptic notes in the margin, wonder at passages underlined, goodbye inference, faceless interface with anon reader, radar, raider, book wise splayed”); and her “i-goodbye” (“for Steve Jobs”), columns of i-options.
Kevin O’Rourke’s couplets (“Of a Certainty”) merit more than drive-by attention (“& this will come to an end; regardless of whether or not the book’s conclusion is fitting, a conclusion it wil have”). Chinaka Hodge’s poem “a movement in three parts,” a collaboration with musicians in Oakland, California, is certainly a destination (“watch when I grow up / i’m alive in a tulip / at the bottom of the bulb”). Suvi Mahone’s story about the death of a child “It Hangs There Between Us,” is more conventional, but no less affecting, and worth the ride.
There’s a phenomenal section on book arts, with gorgeous glossy reproductions; a wild little detour on hair loss by Angela Belcaster, “Dialogue with the Text on Hair Loss”; and a terrific high speed contribution from Oscar Bermeo, “A Bodega on Anywhere Avenue. After Allen Ginsberg’s ‘A Supermarket in California.’”:
You got me straight trippin’ tonight, Pedro Pietri, as I strut down
the block under the El with a headache self-conscious checking
out the lights of the #4 train. In my hunt for verse, I’m fiendin’ for
images and hit up the 24/7 bodega, bummin’ for a loosa poem.
And there are poems, stories, essays less revved up, but equally powerful, including Sharline Chiang’s “Year of the Ox” (“Across our ocean / I hear him sigh, five / thousand years of disappointment.”).
This is one eclectic, exciting, and meaningful freeway of creativity. You’ll be transported.