Laurence Goldstein, Michigan Quarterly Review’s editor for 32 years, is stepping down. His last issue is a doozey. But, let me back up and start at the beginning. Not with his brief and poignant farewell, but with the journal’s cover. A stunning photograph of Orson Welles in a 1947 production of Macbeth introducing the portfolio of letters and memos from the Orson Welles Collections at the University of Michigan, curated and introduced here by Catherine L. Benamou. But, let me back up even further and start “above the fold,” for the photo is the bottom half of the cover. The top half is a glorious and amusing juxtaposition of the extremes of academe: “On the Originals of American Modernist Poetry,” an essay by Frank Lentricchia and “The Dirty Little Secret of Sabbatical,” an essay by Susannah B Mintz. Okay, I might as well admit it. I went straight for Mintz’s essay. “The Adored Long Ago: Poets on their Long-Lost Loves,” by Mark Halliday (also announced on the cover) competed, but only briefly, for my attention. Mintz’s dirty secret won out.
I won’t give away the secret, but it’s not revealing too much, I don’t think, to let you know that Mintz is honest and self-aware, and that she describes a period of great emotional and psychic anguish in prose that is appealing and never self indulgent. Halliday’s essay, which reads like a “little black book” of poets (including himself) is equally satisfying in a different way – an entertaining and original kind of lit crit, but not without its serious aspects. Lentricchia’s essay, which presents a new historical understanding of the modernists, is wholly serious, but readable, nonetheless. And the Welles feature really is spectacular, a great behind-the-scenes look at his work.
These attention-grabbing contributions are accompanied by poems and short stories from contributing editor Philip Levine, Thomas Lynch, J. Allyn Rosser, Michael Byers, Jane Gillette and others. Lisa M. Steinman reviews five volumes of poetry from independent and mainstream presses. And now I’ll back up to the beginning again one final time to say good-bye to Laurence Goldstein and thank him for 128 seasons of exciting reading, what he aptly describes as “the vivid satisfactions of the multidisciplinary periodical.”