Produced in Amsterdam, universal in terms of themes, distinctly European in terms of innovation and overall quality, borderless in its aspirations, and utterly accessible to US readers, thanks to its publication in English, this issue of Versal is provocative, inventive, perplexing, and stimulating. Standout contributions include Paul Lisson’s short story “In Progress,” Norman Lock’s prose poem “Alphabet of the Birds,” Stacy Elaine Dacheux’s stroy “The Sociology of Containers,” and sudden fiction by June Melby, “In Soup”:
I was living in a bowl of reheated soup, barley makes an excellent pillow. It wasn’t until I reached the spoon that I realized I had shrunk. I just thought I was swimming with carrots somehow. Hiding in sprigs of onion. Chicken between toes like extra toes. My hair was adorned all the time with celery.
Artwork, poetry, and prose is decidedly edgy, at times almost scary, and, ultimately, intended to evoke serious reading and consideration, despite a potential initial response of pure fascination and curiosity. The magazine’s overall impact is best summed up in Kevin McClellan’s poem, “‘Despite not understanding enough of the what’”:
focus too much and not as
much simultaneously and his is why I haven’t
and I don’t know if I know the cry that I must.
To make sure we can understand enough of what we must, Versal gives us smart translations in English from the Spanish of several poems (Laurie L. Chalar translates Carlos Barbaraito, and Elizabeth Zuba translates Carlos Parda); a marvelous graphite on paper illustration “Fishpile” by Amy Purifoy Piazza, a mountain, a fish of all stripes, eyes to the sky, looking somehow both dead and alive at the same time; and Karen Anp-Hwei Lee’s prose poem, “Aleatory Prayer of Gold Bees,” which concludes: “praise exuding oil of sweet labor . in one body. numerous song. numerous praise go.”
As for this issue of Versal….go!