Over the years, the publication calendar for Many Mountains Moving has seemed erratic and unpredictable, at best, yet it’s always worth waiting for. This issue features a special section of “ecopoetry,” with selections by two-dozen poets, followed by an “ecopiety essay”; the magazine’s flash fiction and poetry winners, runners up, and finalists from 2008 and 2009; 9 short stories; four nonfiction contributions; “mixed genre” work (flash fiction/prose poems) by two contributors; and a general section of poetry with the work of another dozen and a half poets, including several selections from Henry Israeli and Shpresa Qatipi’s recent book of very fine translations of the work of Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku; and one review.
Ecopoetry appears to refer to poems that take as their principal concern matters of the natural world and its products and processes as a subject to be contemplated, described, or analyzed in its relationship to human activity and/or gaze. Many of these poems express the themes and perspectives we might expect them to, such as “Talking about Money” by Nin Andrews, which concludes:
Money is like a weapon. A nuclear weapon. It’s what keeps us safe.
Because no matter how many times we can buy everything we want
on this earth, or blow it up,
we worry there’s this other guy or country, like Russia or China
who can buy it a whole lot more times than us.
That’s what Kissinger and diplomacy are all about. Right?
Or, such as Will Lane’s quiet and lovely solitary-man-in-the-outdoors imagery in his poem “The Axe”:
When the spirit crawls on all fours
And disappears like rain darkening gravel,
I split kindling, stand rooted
In the new mud near the slouching woodshed;
And tall splinters sing and sigh as they leave
The parent block, leaping sideways,
Spent like emotions under a turbulent, autumn sky.
Less expected, perhaps, as examples of “ecopoetry” are poems such as Elizabeth Bradfield’s “Polar Explorer John Forbes Nash, Jr. Self-Declared Emperor of Antartica (1967)” and my favorite in this section of the magazine, Laura-Gray Street’s “Hôang-Tsong (The Yellow Bell),” which begins: “In one version of the story, there are no birds, / only the man and his inventions.” Hwa Yol Jung’s wonderful essay “The Dao of Ecopiety” makes an urgent and compelling case for a “green revolution on a global scale” which must include a green “aesthetic paradigm.”
Most noteworthy in the nonfiction section is the sheer range of tones, from Erik Ipsen’s solemn essay about Guatemala (“The Moon and Guatemala”) to “A Dirty Love Story” by Mindy Lewis. Fiction, too, is appealing for the breadth of approaches. I liked especially “Whose Coffee is It?” by June Akers Seese, with its stunted sentences and staccato rhythms, which seem that they could not possibly add up to anything, and yet they do.
A similarly generous editorial hand is at work in the general poetry section, which includes poems both tender and sarcastic, as well as narrative and lyrical; poems that might well fit into the ecopoetry section alongside poems about satisfying sex. Becca Hensley contributes one of the best “my parents are dying” poems imaginable, “Giving Birth to My Mother,” which begins: “The day my father died / I gave birth to my mother.” I was moved by Dilruba Ahmed’s “The 18th Century Weavers of Muslin Whose Thumbs Were Chopped,” and by Karina Borowicz’s “Nocturnes” (“I woke holding the ripening / mushroom of a dream.)
Ann Fisher-Wirth’s “Ascending les Gorges du Chassezac” (in the ecopoetry section) concludes: “‘Whatever is said is small, compared to silence.’” I know she is right, but I am grateful, nonetheless, to hear the voices in MMM.