Welcome to Issue # 22 of Plume.
As promised, our make-over, if that’s the word: connoting superficial changes, correctly — for the changes are not to content, or purpose, really: those twelve poems (and a “Featured Poet(s)” ) section will continue to appear. But: you will notice, I think, the absence of our slideshow — a necessary exclusion, as it turns out (new margin restrictions) — though one that might reappear at a late date.
This month’s “Featured Poet(s)” are Lawrence Matsuda and Tess Gallagher, represented in a collaboration entitled “Pow! Pow! Shalazam!” — an exchange (or “jam”) of poems between the two that makes for delightful reading — and as a bonus contains three poems on the mysteries and pleasures of salmon fishing by the former, along with the poets’ comments on their collaboration — equally wonderful. More on this in our Editor’s Note.
Please see, too, in that Editor’s Note for this issue, my remarks on matters present and in progress — including accounts of last month’s readings in Cambridge and Saint Petersburg (Florida, alas) , and an overview of the alterations to our look and workings, various and sundry.
Now, then — at last — a continuation of one of our new features: another reading list from David Cudar, complemented this time by another, from Julie Sheehan (to whom we are very grateful indeed!)
Readings: Recommendations from David Cudar:
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce Long-listed for the Man Booker prize, Joyce’s book is an unassuming consideration of lost love. This remarkable novel has many fine qualities, but the clarity with which pedestrian moments of life are examined, its faint allegorical structure, and British understatement make me think that if J. Alfred Prufrock had written a book, it may have looked similar to this.
The Happy Life by David Malouf
Malouf is arguably Australia’s finest writer. This book, which I picked instead of his novel Ransom, is a philosophic piece of literary cartography. A thoughtful inquiry into eudemonia, the happy life, Malouf’s work here illustrates his argument primarily through references to literature. This is a short but satisfying essay. His fiction is every bit as rewarding.
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye
Marie NDiaye is the only woman to win the Prix Goncourt. Her novel, a triptych connected by the thinnest narrative strands, brings into relief the astonishing fortitude of Norah, Fanta, and Khadu Demba. The prose can be as demanding as it is rewarding, and requires strength from the reader. Three Strong Womenis complex and heavy, which seems in line with its content.
The Mystery of the Aleph by Amir Aczel
A mathematician whose literary gifts are as prodigious as his knowledge, Aczel has written over a dozen books. This book, one of his finest, is about Georg Cantor, a mathematician who, in attempting to solve his theory, was driven slowly mad, the solution arriving as sanity departed. Compelling reading.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
“The half-life of love is forever,” writes Diaz in the final story of this marvelous collection. Ferocious, comedic, poetic and vulgar, these stories are like études, each a different piece designed to stretch the reach of the reader. There is a truth within these stories I haven’t felt since Denis Johnson published Jesus’ Son. In the land of the broken-hearted, Diaz is king.
Rapture by Carol by Ann Duffy
Duffy won the T.S. Eliot prize for this book. Possessing a virtuoso gift of the lyric, she is quoted as saying that “Poetry, above all, is a series of intense moments — its power is not in narrative. I’m not dealing with facts, I’m dealing with emotions.” This is a collection to read, reread, and then to lend to only those friends whom you are certain will return it.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Ferrante is one of the most important voices to emerge from Italy since Moravia. A coming of age story set in Naples in the 1950s. Her acclaim increases with each book and with good reason: her insights are intelligent, poignant and rich with a gentle intensity. If you have yet to hear of her, don’t worry, you will.
Autoportrait by Edouard Levé
A sad, searing account of one man’s life. Levé wants to grasp the truth in full. Does he gain total objectivity? The ‘beyond sincerity’ he strives for..? Perhaps only the reader can answer that, but this is the most self-revealing “autopic” since Exley’s A Fan’s Notes.
Through The Window by Julian Barnes
Barnes’ last several books have been nothing short of brilliant. His last, The Sense of an Ending, won the 2012 Booker. This book is engaging and insightful. There is an elegance in his writing that allows him to approach a myriad of subjects seemingly without effort. This book, like all his others, is charming, astute and accomplished.
Public Enemies by Levy and Houellebecq
Compiled from an extended correspondence of emails, this electronic pas-de-deux between a liberal and a libertine leads each to a deep appreciation of the other position. With each playing, alternately, priest and confessor, a hopeful dialogue develops in which neither party is converted but each learns empathy and the value of opposing opinion. This is a book that should be mandatory reading for our political leaders
Readings: Recommendations from Julie Sheehan:
10 Books that Bent My Genre Boundaries
- Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine
An oldie (1988), this loopy un-novella-like novella won my heart when I first read its misplaced analyses, meticulous and digressive observations of Styrofoam cups and, in Chapter Nine, this perfect footnote, beginning: “Perforation! Shout it out! The deliberate punctuated weakening of paper and cardboard so that it will tear along an intended path, leaving a row of fine-haired white pills or tuftlets on each new edge! It is a staggering conception, showing an age-transforming feel for the unique properties of pulped wood fiber. Yet do we have national holidays to celebrate its development?”
- Susan Wheeler, Ledger
This book came out in 2005, in advance of the economic meltdown, and, in a way, predicts it–or at least predicts that those who cause market mayhem will be the last to pay for it. Wheeler makes an argument about arbitrary value and how it distorts and subjugates our human values. And she argues in metaphor.
- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
All the elements of memoir are there–abuse, closet homosexuality, a suicide–but the whole is made readable by changing the medium to graphic novel. Neat, huh?
- Anna Moschovakis, You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake
This book, containing four long poems which are collages of text, has a thesis different from Wheeler’s–Moschovakis is concerned with ethics, technology and identity–but like Wheeler, she wields poetry as if it were essay.
- Amy Leach, Things That Are
And then Leach comes along and writes essays that read like poems. Go figure(ative).
- Sherman Alexie First Indian on the Moon
Yes prose can bleed into poetry
and back again.
- Jenny Holzer, Truisms, Projections.
She identifies herself as an artist, but she’s a poet working in aphorism, that ancient mode.
- Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance
I’ve had lots of spirited debates with others who care about this sort of thing that begin, “Lydia Davis: fiction or prose poetry?” My favorite of hers is called “Index Entry” and goes like this:
Christian, I’m not a
- Douglas Kearney, The Black Automaton
Refrain seems like such a fuddy-duddy thing, what bards do with the 16th Century, but Kearney has reinvented it. He weaves repetition like Ariadne. Although refrain is an element of sound, Kearney has an equally keen eye. He designs his own books, to better attend to the visual impact of each page.
- Anne Carson, Nox
It comes in a box and folds out, accordion style. It’s a book-length poem, but there’s not a single piece of language that, out of context, would be identified as a poem. Therefore, Nox is a poem with no poetry in it. A masterpiece.
For this issue’s roster of poets and new work received — again — that Editor’s Note.
Many thanks, as always — and I do hope you enjoy the issue!