I’m warning you from the get-go: I will never be able to do this volume justice in a one itty-bitty little review. This is one big, bold, brilliant effort. From Brian Dettmer’s “New Books of Knowledge,” full bleed front and back cover art, to Halina Duraj’s essay, “The Company She Keeps,” the last piece in the magazine, this is surely one of Hayden’s Ferry Review’s most exciting issues ever.
In the statement that precedes several reproductions of his work inside the journal, Dettmer explains:
Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration I edit or dissect communicative objects or systems such as books, maps, tapes and other media. The medium’s role transforms. Its content is recontexualized and new meanings of interpretations emerge.
The work is utterly fascinating, as are haunting, dreamy black and white photographs from Lance W. Clayton (in response to poems by Norman Dubie); mesmerizing black and white photos – often provocative – by Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison (with fiction responses by Sean Padre McCarthy, Claire Tristram, and Stephen Tuttle); and Heidi Nelson’s “Atlas of Punctuation,” which “displays the distribution of all end-of-sentence punctuation for 14 books consolidated into a single sheet” (three of which are included here).
The International Poetry section features the poetry and prose of gifted and accomplished writers (all living or recently deceased) expertly translated from Norwegian, Bengali, Icelandic, Spanish, Yiddish, and Czech with introductions by the translators. Much of this work certainly must have been extremely difficult to translate: Norwegian prose stylist Dag T. Straumsväg’s prose poems are narrated in a voice with a distinctive sarcastic tenor, seamlessly manipulated by translator Robert Hedin; Bengali poet Kabita Sinha’s exhilarating, but unusual syntax is beautifully reproduced by Carolyne Wright; Ema Katrovas creates a version of Bohumil Hrabal’s characteristically understated Czech prose with great finesse. Catherine Hammond translates the poetry of Spanish poet Olvido García Valdés with authenticity and lyricism, without sacrificing one for the other.
But, wait … there’s more: the work of 29 poets and 7 fiction writers in English; and more responses to other entries in the issue (“erasure poems in response to ‘We Show What We Have Learned’” a story by Clare Beams; and more images in response to Dubie’s poems from Leia Bell, Christopher Darling, and Angela Yonke).
There is “representative” poem here. Modes, tones, styles, and diction vary widely from Kazim Ali’s terse and lyrical couplets in “The People of the Book”:
I want to snake-handle
but I want to be bitten
Rain unfurling back to sky
Oh stitch me to the source
To the surreal narrative of Phil Estes in “Parties After the Afterlife Are a Lot Like Parties in Dayton, Ohio”:
I drink High Life and watch basketball to pass the time
and have other dead friends and historical figures over –
I invited Napoleon over one night for a party,
and he arrived wearing the famous hat and uniform.
To Kathleen McGookey’s untitled prose poems: “In my grandparents’ basement, a closet full of fur coats. A row of shelves against the wall, full of plastic boxes. I am small again.”
Haling Duraj’s personal essay, which announces just two days after learning her fiancé has had a recent affair with a friend of hers, is one of the least self-indulgent, wittiest, yet most heartbreaking stories of heartbreak I have read in a long time.
I don’t have room here to elaborate on the fine fiction, but a story I liked especially well by Ellen Visson, “Compassion,” is well accompanied by work from Stephanie Marker, Anne E. Campisi, and Stephanie Barbé Hammer, among others. Generous, eclectic editorial predilections are equally in play for fiction as for poetry.
The late Bengali poet Kabita Sinha’s “Uncorrupted Sun” (translated by Carolyne Wright) concludes: “the sun takes its cue / from one remaining speck of virtue, / before it sets it summons forth another sun!” It will take you a long time to appreciate everything in this issue, so read it soon before Hayden’s Ferry sets forth another!