This issue’s theme is “renegades,” perfectly apt for the journal as a publication of “new international poetics.” New poems from the prolific and ever-renegade-ish Tomaz Salumun, translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren and the author, serve as a fitting start: “The relation between you can and you cannot / is art, / therefore the line is art.” The “you can” is poetry from two and a half dozen poets, reviews, and provocative visual art from Tanya Cooper and the journal’s marvelous—appropriately curious and disturbing—cover by Mathieu Bories. The “you cannot” is ignore Vallum as a poetic force to be reckoned with.
There is, here, respect for the power of language to represent and link us to the metaphysical (“Slipaway,” from Dennis Lee: “Of the metaphysics of ice:/slip away, seaboard”), and an appreciation of the smart, deft, inspiring inventiveness of an original poetic line in the hands of a gifted poet (Stan Rogal’s “Henry’s Lament”: “O, there are horribles, yes, a’plenty”).
Vallum, too, elevates terrific translations, as Nelly Roffé translates herself in “Sépharade”:
Ville mauresque et sépharade.
Le laurier grand et solitaire”
becomes, “Granada, Moorish and Sephardic city. / There, lies the grand and lonely laurel."
Further, the magazine offers an understanding of the economic extravagance of poetic discourse in “My Father Speaks in Consolation” by Toni Thomas—“never condemns the night. / Marries the woman / with blue gloves”—and a predilection for poetry that values—and privileges—sound as a powerful vehicle of meaning. For instance, “Peintre” by Fiona Sze-Lorrain:
Then the bamboo clacked
in broad light, you
thought the image
had guiltily slipped by. Metronome
ticked, you wondered
Josh Bettinger’s “Open Letter to a Useless Bay” presents the magazine’s exploitation of poetry’s powers to augment a sense of disappointment, desolation, and, thank goodness, redemption: “a motherless coma, / inside a fish’s shadow; everything you knew I never needed.” This issue’s poetry is exceptionally fine.
Vallum offers more proof, as if it were needed, that some of the most exciting, inspiring, and inventive poetry is being published in Canada (the journal is produced in Montréal). The journal makes me want to argue with the claim made by Michelle Barker’s poem “Black Sheep”: “In the end I can tell you / being the black sheep / of the family / is not what it promises”. I am grateful for the renegade-ness, black-sheep-ness of Vallum.