Oh, how lovely! Produced and inspired by the power of wind (“The Bateau Press Office is run on the renewable energies of hydro and wind power”). Handsomely printed on a letterpress (a letterpress!). Small, square, a lithe 79 pages (poems, prose poems, reproductions of black and white woodcuts and drawings, and a two-page graphic story) that fit neatly in one hand. Unassuming, understated, unpretentious. And utterly gorgeous from cover to cover. I loved holding Bateau between my palms. I loved the work, poems that, for the most part, contain small lyrical mysteries and large telling silences. I loved discovering new writers with impressive credentials and stellar work, but who are not the same big name stars I encounter again and again. I loved the journal’s simplicity and elegance and quiet, self-assured lyricism.
As for the small mysteries and the large silences, here are a few examples of what I mean. These opening couplets from Rae Gouirand’s “Ice Plant”:
All the transparence of the old
world: grown green & zeroed by saline
so glowing: for winter we are
common as breath & tough as air lost
in space: felt at edge as edge: so
filled we cannot: but become the frost
become the lines we become: at
the coast succulent: the bluff on an empty
And the closing lines of “Too Late Too Early,” a prose poem by Werner Low:
Yet there was something startling familiar about these people, and I had the feeling that if I could meet them now, with all I’ve learned, then things would be different this time. But it feels, somehow, too early for that.
And the middle of Dan Rosenberg’s “What’s There”:
Your acronyms fail you
as they refuse to be quicker
than the full-fleshed sentiment.
There’s a field you can mark up
with your footprints and there’s nothing
This issue of Bateau also features translations by Patrick Donnelly and Stephen Miller of 31-line Japanese poems from the 12th century with Buddhist themes called waka. They are entirely in keeping with the journal’s soft-spoken aesthetic; and poems in Polish with their English translations from bilingual poet Joanna Kurowska, also are entirely consistent with the journal’s editorial predilections. I was pleased to find several pieces from Norman Lock’s Alphabets of Desire & Sorrow, A Book of Imaginary Colophons, which I have favorably reviewed when they have appeared in other journals.
The journal concludes with Seth Landman’s “Whales in Culture,” a small, powerful poem that almost seems to summarize the journal’s effect (if not its intentions). Here is the poem in its entirely:
You are two hours away making
human sounds and imagining a light on
inside the top of your head. The body
holds a speaker between outer and inner.
Imagine hearing through
Your mouth as the heart delivers
drag for miles of language.
Am I these cues, gathered into
the impossible city of your name?
Some scholars translating
in unsatisfactory light still
found parallel messages. A fire
picks up, gets going, touches what you say.
In their ever-so-brief note, Bateau’s editors say, “We here at Bateau are ready to go anywhere.” There’s only one thing I can say: Can I come, too?