October: and I hope this finds you well. These last months, as I suspect is the case with many of you, I have found time for many things, chief among them: to read. And perhaps, too, like some of you, I am streaky — the bookish equivalent of Monta Ellis or Jason Terry. These past few months, I’ve been on an all-French diet. So, I thought I’d offer six unsolicited recommendations. My French is barely passable, but with a good bilingual dictionary, and time! to practice, I have managed to limp along. If that is not for you, the following, or others by their authors, are available in translation. First, Phillipe DelermLa Premiere Gorgee de Biere et Autres Plaisirs Minuscules . (Imagine a popularized Barthes’ Mythologies. Entries of two pages, usually, teasing out the mysteries of some of life’s small rituals. Warning: addictive.) Second, Edourd Levé, Suicide. (The author’s “own, oblique public suicide note, a near-exhaustive catalog of the ramifications and effects of the act of suicide, and a unique and to life. melancholy farewell” according to one description, and it is accurate, and the book remarkable.) Third, Édouard Louis, En Finir Avec Eddy Bellegueule. (Growing up gay in an isolated rural village in northern France, and all that one might imagine that entails). Fourth, from the best-selling Leïla Slimani,Chanson Douce. (A psychological drama with echoes of Genet’s The Maids ). Fifth, and dipping into the archives, there is Jean Follain and D’Apres Tout . (A nice companion, among many, of Merwin’s landmark translation, Transparence of the World – poems unlike any I’ve encountered in the many years since I first read him.) Last, from Léopold Sédar Senghor, Chants d’ombre. (Co-founder, with Aimé Césaire, of the Négritude movement, his poetry and politics are intertwined; Senghor died at 95, leaving behind a sometimes problematic life and an extraordinary body of work.)
And now, as our regular contributor to this space, Contributing Editor Joseph Campana, takes a much-needed and well-deserved break (he will return next month), instead a poem for the times, I think, from the master: Czeslaw Milosz:
A Song on the End of the World
translated by Anthony Milosz
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
Many thanks to all who have contributed to the next print Plume anthology – more was asked of you, I know, and how generous you have been in response!
Our cover art this month is Lorna Simpson’s “Easy to Remember”. Many thanks to ChristinaMullin, our layout guru/magician, who found a way to make this video viewable as a gif.
For more information on Ms. Simpson, a good start might be made here and here
Finally, as usual, several new/recently/forthcoming releases from Plume contributors: