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The Bitter Oleander - Autumn 2010

  • Issue Number: Volume 16 Number 2
  • Published Date: Autumn 2010
  • Publication Cycle: Biannual

This issue features a marvelous interview with and series of poems by Ana Minga, a young journalist and poet from Ecuador, whose work is translated here by Alexis Levitin. Having grown up in a religious community where her father worked, Minga says her childhood ended at age six; she suffered dreadful insomnia by age 11; and by her teens she was writing and publishing award-winning poetry. Her best friends, she claims, are her dogs; investigative journalism provides the adrenalin “rush” she needs to thrive. Her work reflects these realities:

Aching under eyelids
guilty of listening to pianos at midnight
of lingering in the streets like an orphan of daylight.
I am guilty of trying the grass of others
of walking with the fear of a vagabond
carrying contempt in an exposed rib.
I am guilty of unveiling this melancholy of dolphins
of gazing at the void with eyes filled with death.

This issue of the magazine features other work in translation as well, including translations of the French prose poetry/poetry prose of Laurence Werner David by John Taylor; from the Romanian poetry of Ioan Es. Pop by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu; from poetry in Spanish of Dominican poet Martha Rivera (trans. Judith Kerman); and from the Québecoise poet Elise Turcotte by Andrea Moorhead. The prose/poem/essay byWerner David (“Est-Ce Si Loin?” / “Is It, So Far?”) is particularly interesting and worth spending serious time with, inviting multiple readings (“Does no longer craving conflict mean no longer recoiling from death?”).

Work by poets Elizabeth McLagan, Anthony Seidman, and Martin Balgach is happily consistent with the taut, deliberate compositions of the translated work. And I was moved by a prose poem from Rich Ives, which concludes: “Something near the end of your story, which was coming down among us all along, even though we didn’t know our own story.”

Fiction by Michelle Nichols, “Descension,” is characteristic of the issue’s four stories, tightly constructed and cautiously emotional. Like all of the work in this issue, the power of language to evoke when used with restraint and care is everywhere in evidence—the story opens,

Because the only thing she inherited from her mother was motion sickness and because the white trash woman across the aisle had lucked into a couple of plane tickets to Jackson so she could bring the wiggling child on a trip and sit him away from her while she closed her eyes and bumped her neck against the head rest, Tasha pinched the boy on the shoulder and said, “Do you see that?”

This issue, like nearly every one I have read of the consistently excellent and always original Bitter Oleander, prompts me to say, too: Do you see that?

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Review Posted on December 14, 2010

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