Ping•Pong is the journal of the Henry Miller Library. Their mission statement maintains that they publish a journal because continuing the literary and artistic legacy of Henry Miller does not mean just publishing Miller, but also others, and that “Given our interest in these peculiar and often-overlooked centers and margins, not everything published in Ping•Pong will be pretty.”
This issue of Ping•Pong contains two short stories, one piece of nonfiction, an interview, many poems, and artwork. Some of these poems are a folio of responses to the French poet and artist, Jean Arp, specifically, Arp’s poem “What is That?” as translated by Joachim Neugroschel. The poets who responded were asked to choose either to respond to the entire poem or to pick a few questions voiced in the poem to focus on. Matthew Burgess provides the excellent first response, which not only contains the line “In the season of haircuts / we zipper to soundtracks / asymmetrically” but also name-drops Patrick Swayze. Pamela-Evitt Hill gives another interesting response entitled “Mask,” which closes: “But, the popcorn is still popping / through her senses.” Chris Martin’s “Chat” is a playful yet angry response with the lines, “I am a sort of bird laughter // You are a liar. // Exactly.”
Merlin Ural’s story “Crux,” a short vivid piece, takes place in Istanbul. It’s narrated by a man who wants to get out of military service, not simply with an excuse of being gay—as the military doctor accuses him of—but because he actually is gay. The story describes how the photograph he has provided of him having sex with his boyfriend is not enough—the doctor requires that he pass a physical test that proves he has been a passive partner. The story begins and ends with the narrator looking for a partner who will help him become disqualified from the military service.
David Hancock’s “Head Fountains,” is a more experimental story about someone named Steppenwolf who teaches the narrator “the way of the gun, to crave the smell of burning flesh, to live by the code”—that is, to be what seems like an assassin in something called “the Order.” The narrator then becomes involved with someone named Sarah, and for a while it seems like they might rebel against the Order until he receives an assignment, a contract—to kill Sarah. Although the plot seems like something that could be affiliated with the worst of genre fiction, Hancock’s brusque prose renders the story into a compelling work.
The interview in Ping•Pong is with Thurston Moore, better known for his work with the band Sonic Youth than his association with poetry. Yet as the interview shows, Moore has been deeply involved with poetry for years and is now running a publishing imprint called “Flowers of Cream.” Released on the imprint will be “small chapbooks that are perfect-bound with silver card covers,” which are referential to Telegraph Books, a press that Victor Bockris ran with Andrew Wylie that is known for publishing Patti Smith’s Seventh Heaven. Moore notes that the type of poet he wants to publish is “very interested in the academics of writing as well as the new ideas of liberations from that academic.”
Ping•Pong sticks to its mission of publishing writers who, while they may not be influenced by Henry Miller directly, do seem to follow in the footsteps of his lineage.