“What’s this?” Martin Riker, associate editor of Dalkey Archive Press, asks Warren Motte, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and world renowned critic of contemporary French literature. This first question, in an interview titled “Work and Play,” is a reference to a journal Motte hands Riker when they meet for the interview. The answer (“Something I thought you might be interested in”) turns out be an article about Motte’s quarter-century obsession with mirror scenes in literature. Motte estimates he’s identified (and catalogued on index cards) between 10,000-20,000 of these. His fascination with mirror scenes is, well, fascinating.
“What’s this?” could just as easily be a reader’s response to almost any piece in this issue of Puerto del Sol, just as “work and play” could sum up the issue’s editorial approach. “Work” as in a serious endeavor intended to produce a meaningful result; and play as in a diversion from ordinary routines. Play, not in opposition to work, but as a way of working.
Take for example, the poem that directly precedes the Riker-Motte interview, “This Nude City,” by John Chávez, which begins: “This nude city is a boy’s body is a bridge is a beginning & a memory is an unpunctuated river is a bank of whitewater giggling beside the lilacs is a morning overcast & / unwanted is an alphabet of overwhelming necessity” Well, whatever this is, I like it. I can’t think of a more evocative metaphor than “an alphabet of overwhelming necessity.” Chávez has several other marvelous poems here, as well.
And, “what’s this?” I think on reading the opening line of Blake Butler’s story, “Choir(s)” which begins:
We’d had exploded.
All our bodies burst to meat.
All of Texas, Rico, Tammy.
Whatever this is, I want to read it. This story with its poetic tendencies (anaphora, the rhythmic impulses, the lyrical energy), its narrative urgency, and its heartbreaking conclusion: “Our names all spoke in one long word.”
And, “what’s this?” I wonder about Mónica de la Torre’s “Lines to Undo Linearity” (“After Gego ‘A line as object to play with’”). Play with! Is this a prose poem, poetry prose, or poetry theory? (“A fishing line should be visible to whoever fishes and invisible to fish: it should be tensile, sensitive, and prone to sink. For it to be effective it should have low spool memory and a refractive index similar to water’s. Limp fishing lines should be avoided.”) Whatever this is, I am interested in all of de la Torre’s lines.
And, “what’s this?” I ask on reading the first line of Dan Beachy Quick’s essay “Of Verdant Themes: Toward One Sentence in Proust”: “A tourist to its own intricacy, thinking looks at itself.” Later in this quirky essay, part literary criticism/part philosophical musing, Beachy Quick tells me: “To think is to attempt to draw conclusion from resemblance.” In other words, “what’s this?” is precisely the right question, after all. Whatever this is, if you like serious work and serious play, don’t miss this issue of Puerto del Sol.