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American Letters & Commentary - 2005

  • Published Date: 2005
  • Publication Cycle: Annual

If, as Christine Delphy writes, "We can only analyse what does exist by imagining what does not exist," American Letters & Commentary #17 proves the verity of her words. While this sort of existential imagining does not occur without staring current states in the eye, there are innumerable ways to stare. And stare they do, each writer confronting their own serrated
truth(s) from a lens fitting their particular frame. Often, these truths relate in some way to current U.S. politics, as the issue's special section, "Wedding the World and the Word," asserts. But others, too, claim a stance within the circle of the political, despite their non-listing below the special feature's title. Ben Lerner approaches the subject of armed conflict from oblique angles, and Jeff Baker even more obliquely (if at all), while Claudia Rankine and Mary Jo Bang meet it head on and in relative plain speak, which mimics the routine shock of war heard from far away. This is an issue armed with tiny explosions in nearly every line, a coagulate of very bold and, at times, brazen words. I like my journals this way, sullied for the wiser. A little over halfway through, D.A. Powell's "Advice to a Young Poet," a deliciously candid and sometimes humbling, 18-part guidebook, arrives without warning. Powell reminds green poets to "Eat a porkchop this week. They're good for you. You know you can actually write with the end of a gnawed bone if you're short on ink." Which is the issue's bouillon cube—to document the day's events and reveries, however ugly, with whatever means available. [American Letters & Commentary, P.O. Box 830365, San Antonio, TX 78283. Single issue $8.] —Erin M. Bertram

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Review Posted on May 31, 2006

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