Although Basalt is based in and linked to the state of Oregon—taking its name from the igneous rock prevalent in the northwestern U.S.—a number of the pieces in this latest issue seem interested in crossing or expanding borders. While the front and back covers feature photographs of Oregon’s geography, the roughly thirty pages in between discuss the idea of place, both literally and figuratively.
In Harry Martinson’s “Global Nomads,” translated from the Swedish by Lars Nordström, the narrator takes readers through post World War I Europe. But more than a straightforward description of each city’s blemish and beauty, this piece is a musing on travel, on movement in general. While stating in the opening sentence that “No literature is more superficial than a good travelogue,” the narrator later explains the importance of travel itself, saying he is “convinced of the global social task of our feet when it comes to the healing of our psyche.”
“Junkyard,” a particularly noteworthy poem by Carl Adamshick, mixes together the ideas of time and place in the narrator’s discussion of past and present selves. Beginning with the decisive line, “I never visit my younger self,” the narrator seems to suggest that the past is a physical space where one can go by choice. In life, there is always movement away from that past, there is always change, but no guarantee of its authenticity—once memory (humanity, emotion, etc.) gets involved, even the changes begin to change:
from memory to dream. Snow
falling in a barrel of rusted
engine parts becoming a day
of lightning and old fallen oak:
one life or another, mine or yours.
The eight-page spread of Terry Toedtemeier’s selected photographs adds to the geographical theme of the journal, presenting black and white images of vast rocky landscapes. Without color, the focus of each photograph becomes the rock itself—not the blue of the sky or the browns and greens of trees, not the way the sunlight yellows a certain portion of the scene. James Lavadour, in his eulogistic essay titled “A Thousand Places I Love,” quotes Toedtemeier as saying, “Indeed basalt is just one kind of rock—but it is also a thousand places I love.” An apt sentiment for Basalt.
Including English translations of works not only in Swedish, but Portuguese and Italian as well (a pretty high volume for such a short publication), this journal seems to suggest that the uniting factor for all readers/writers/people is the very ground beneath our feet, the soil and stone. It’s nice that with Basalt’s simple design and easy readability, one can still get a sense of the largeness of the world, and our small place in it.