From artist Joomi Chung’s colorful gouache on clayboard “Scapes” and her intricate ink drawings, to the many insightful personal tributes to the late painter Michael Mazur, Agni’s strength is, as always, distinctive and authentic voices and visions.
Nonfiction contributions are particularly appealing in this issue. Peter LaSalle’s “Walking: An Essay on Writing,” is part travel memoir/part meditation on writers and writing. Above all, it’s LaSalle’s prose itself that is most instructive on the subject of writing, demonstrating an approachable and appealing voice. The essay begins: “Both times it had to do with walking, and both in what you might call ‘other places.’ Not so oddly, I guess. In Paris I had been walking for about an hour and a half already that Sunday afternoon.”
Doug Bauer tells a family story, “Here Were the Two of Us at Exactly This Moment,” with an admirable lack of sentimentality that is nonetheless tender and moving. Mimi Schwartz’s “When History Gets Personal” is an uplifting story about the Middle East, but it’s the quality of Schwartz’s voice and her inviting style that impress me most. Her essay begins: “I like the way small decencies bump against the larger narratives of history, challenging certainties.” And although I am not sure why this work is classified as nonfiction, most captivating of all are excerpts from Norman Lock’s Alphabets of Desire & Sorrow: A Book of Imaginary Colophons, prose-poem-like paragraphs with a distinctive lyric quality and rich visual imagery. It’s highly creative and engaging.
This issue features much fine short fiction and poetry, as well, including a number of translations. I was glad to be introduced to the work of the Polish poet Ewa Lipska, author of more than 20 books of poems, whose two poems here are deftly translated by Margret Grebowicz. The work is precise and affecting (“How can I tell you about / fingerprints on lips. / Not everything was said.”). And I enjoyed very much “The Wadden Sea,” with its vivid evocation of place, by Danish fiction writer Dorthe Nors, ably translated by Martin Aitken.