This hefty journal is art-in-the-palm; it is a singular delight, a challenge, and a joy, all at once. Readers are presented with a collage of literature, poetry, memoir, music, and photography. This journal explores realms of authorship with notably startling computer images of Japanese mathematical scores by the renowned visual artist, Ryoji Ikeda.
When the magazine was launched in 2009, Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Enrique Juncosa, took the magazine's title from a loved street in Paris, the name derived from 1859's Battle of Magenta. As a Director/ Editor/poet, Juncosa partnered with Seane Kissane, IMMA's Curator; the intent was to showcase all disciplines, to be accepting, avant-garde, and open to the unexpected.
I was immediately drawn to the English translation of Shuntaro Tanikawa's poem: “‘Goodbye’ is a Temporary Word.” I couldn't read the delicate Japanese ideographs on the facing page, alas. Still, I felt at ease with the speaker, contemplating:
Having parted with the evening glow
I meet with night.
But the crimson clouds go nowhere
and just hide in the darkness.
Tanikawa is little known in the west, but is self-taught and deeply spiritual. He seeks to elevate, to ferret out the good. His elegant reflective narrator in “Goodbye” moves readers to think carefully about daily beauty and possible loss:
No one ever, I think, vanishes.
My dead grandfather is wings grown from my shoulders.
He takes me to places outside of time
along with seeds left by dead flowers.
Serenity and certainty sing in every line, and this poet frequently refers to his work as music. He has translated the humor of Charles Schultz, and in fascination, once worked with others on a pack of Shinto fortune-telling cards. This is a poet whose works should be committed to memory.
I was riveted by Katherine Weber's piece, "Safe," a small but terrifying story from her novel-in-progress, The Monkey Helper. Children either love or hate carnivals: the unearthly hues of cotton candy (the last swallowed bits always nauseating), the crowds, the cruel, foolish stands full of games, toys never won, are often appalling. There are sour-faced barkers everywhere calling, calling. The rides are something else, mostly adored, in memory, too short. Children want that off-the-ground, controlled high, and usually get it. However, Weber's fascinated child is mesmerized by a jaded, world-worn carnie who runs the Twister. Actually, it's the mechanism of control, that bright button she notices:
The red button so appealing, like a clown's nose waiting to be honked. The wooden steps so inviting, like a ladder to be climbed. The exciting music, frantic and falsely cheerful, but with that hysterical pitch which on television always signifies something about to go wrong.
The red button is so intriguing.
Readers can almost hear "Twilight Zone" music in the background, as the camera pans to starlight and Rod Serling speaks. In this reality though, the "hated" man, in the "dirty green T-shirt,” runs the Twister. In Weber's storyline, he simply does his job, his tiresome job, perfectly. The little girl, nameless and judgmental, wants and watches. As the mother looks on, the Twister twirls, "too fast," and "dirty green T-shirt" is fully in charge of the button which stops and starts, the button which brings fear or fun. The ride slows, deflatingly:
Kids erupted out of the seats and scampered towards the exit steps, sneakered feet squeaking and thundering on the painted boards.
Grown ups didn't usually need his help, but a fat lady wedged into a car over on the other side seemed unable to raise her safety bar and he ambled over to help her.
The red button was all alone and the girl was standing on the top step for the exit, right next to it, only a thin drooping plastic link chain between them.
This setting is so clearly etched in my childhood memories, I thought I'd read: "pink plastic link chain." No. Weber, gifted storyteller, is skewing expectations on the page. So: The button “glowed beautifully, like a sucked lozenge.”
The little girl covets. The poorly paid "dirty" man works, and whatever wickedness follows, is unexpected, inventive, new. Weber's novel-in-progress tidbit should encourage all to remember the forthcoming book.
"Playing on the White Notes," John F. Deane's celebratory poem, is a deftly worked portrait of simplicity and contrast. I imagine a God's-eye view of his scene, a pure, natural world, caught:
For days now, white butterflies are a storm
low over the meadow; they come to rest awhile
on the white clover, their wings, for a moment, folded;
the early purity of the lambs is a little sullied
while over against the fenceline, Michaelmas daisies
are gathering to themselves the light…
The poem moves on, awaiting winter, pushing back "autumn colourings," but the butterflies will stay, however briefly. Who hasn't wanted to freeze such a scene in time? Ultimately, it's not of course just warmth and ever-blooming daisies that are wished for. Readers are nostalgic, human, unrealistic. Why can't we bottle such moments? Because the "butterflies" are resting, only. Nothing can remain the same. Night falls; cold waits its own turn.
The Mexican-Italian poet Fabio Morabito's untitled poem is translated to my joy, Spanish page facing the English. I retain enough Spanish to discern the heart of the poem. In the English: The piece is a conversation, an agreement between a bonded couple. The world wants the ring as symbol. They do not:
Between you and me, there has never been,
however slender, a circle of silver or gold,
the slightest pressure on one of your fingers
to remind your circulation
that I exist.
How I admire that clarity! Yes, there certainly is a societal expectation, in many cultures, of a token, preferably worn or attached to the body. I love these lines: “Where would a ring of mine fit on a hand so complete? / What would its glitter add to such an empery?”
Morabito's couple isn't tabloid-fare famous. Maybe they are part of his life's tale. No matter. The simple language here shines, in both languages. Ringless, these two are linked by shared experience, happiness, joy, and tragedy. Marked permanently by offenses against one another, they move on, undaunted.
The Vietnamese-born French photographer Bernard Plossu's crisp black-and-white travel images here are thought-provoking and call for concentration. I was enchanted with "Nijar 1990." One bird, wings full out, is always waiting to land.
Paris-based and renowned visual artist Ryoji Ikeda's work is stunning and original, but readers will wish his computer images of mathematical scores were more fully described. On Juncosa's introduction page, I feel I have truly missed an opportunity: Ikeda's performance in the Great Hall of the Irish Museum of Modern Art is described as "a most memorable night."
Still, Ikeda's work, and the gorgeous jewel-like acrylic-on-paper drawings by Philip Taaffe aren't apt to be found in any other magazine. Boulevard Magenta provides enjoyment to those of divergent tastes and is not easily compared to other publications. This edition is a triumph.