Welcome to Issue # 30 of Plume.
Let me begin with a break from precedent: presentation of material that appears both here and in the Editor’s Note this issue, for the simple reason that this is the best way that I know to offer it to the widest number of readers: So, nearly verbatim:
December: yes, the holidays, with their all their sincere joys and commercial blandishments.
But I want to offer you this, too: the month of Newtown. Of course. And how should Plumespeak to this terrible anniversary? I think, best, through the words of one of our cherished contributors, Dick Allen. Dick, who lives quite near Sandy Hook, and felt himself compelled to write a poem about the — oh must we call it that over-used word “tragedy”? — I suppose we must. And that he did, after some initial trepidation, made clear in the interview. The poem, called “Solace,” is simplicity itself and moving beyond measure. (The poem will be the final poem in his collection, This Shadowy Place (St.Augustine’s Press, 2014),
In addition, it has been rendered musically by the Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom, and this choral arrangement too both honors and uplifts Dick’s text — please, hear for yourselves. Let me, finally, quote from Dick’s email in response to my request that we be allowed to offer the work so soon after its production, for free– how well it illuminates Dick’s good heart and the pair’s artistic intentions.
“As Bolcom said in the interview, he did the arrangement so that it can be rather easily sun by a good choir (actually of any religion and on any occasion of grief). We both wished to emphasize the simplicity and quietness of the poem and song, with its reminiscence of nursery rhyme, in reference to the age of those lovely children and their guardian teachers.”
Here is the link, then, containing Dick’s reading of the poem, and its musical embodiment — together with an in interview Dick did with NPR: I urge you to take a moment and read and listen. (As noted, his message and the link appear in the Editor’s Note as well.)
Sublime, I think. And now turn to a different kind of sublimity, hewing again to the outline of the Editor’s Note, but with a different poem. One that is well-known to all of you, I’m sure — yet remains a fleeting thing of wonder, no? The chill and splendor of those final lines. I speak — a little late as usual — of Czeslaw Milosz’s “December 1”.
The vineyard country, russet, reddish, carmine-brown in this season.
A blue outline of hills above a fertile valley.
It’s warm as long as the sun does not set, in the shade cold returns.
A strong sauna and then swimming in a pool surrounded by trees.
Dark redwoods, transparent pale-leved birches.
In their delicate network, a sliver of the moon.
I describe this for I have learned to doubt philosophy
And the visible world is all that remains.
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass)
Had you forgotten any of that? I doubt it.
Now, then, suitably armed — or disarmed — we venture into the tidy jungle of Plume news.
News of the moment includes the announcement that our new publisher: MadHat, Inc., (in association with Evolution Arts, Inc.) will publish, distribute and market Plume’s 2013 Anthology of Poetry Volume 2 for release on or before February 26, 2014, to make its debut — fingers x’ed — at AWPP in Seattle. Suffice it to say we are very pleased and excited. Though here, I should stop and give profound thanks to Chris Katz of Pequod Books, who designed and produced our initial volume. Chris is a Chem prof at UMass; he taught himself the publishing trade, and now, alas, has grown too busy with his day job to make the needed time commitment to the new volume — endless hours of tinkering beyond my imagination. I wish him well — though I know he is, in fact, flourishing: his students adore him, as a glance at that stalwart Rate My Professor reveals.
Do be sure to note below David Cudar’s take on new books: holiday reading!
Our cover art this month comes from Mark Strand. As Rachel Arons notes in her New Yorker blog, before he became one of the great contemporary American poets, Mr. Strand trained as a painter. At Yale in the nineteen-fifties, he studied under the color theorist Josef Albers, and throughout his life he has continued making paintings, prints, and collages. In recent years, Strand, a former Poet Laureate of the United States and professor of literature, most recently at Columbia, has moved away from writing altogether to focus on art. A collection of his collages, made in Madrid and New York, and has most recently been on display at the Lori Bookstein gallery, in Chelsea.
Our December Featured Selection comes from Rachel Zucker — a troubling and gorgeous batch of poems that bears multiple readings. And an interesting interview with her husband accompanying them, in which the poet has much to say. New to the Featured Selection roster is a second installment of the Tess Gallagher/Lawrence Matsuda collaboration, begun with “Pow! Pow! Shalazam!” Upcoming in the series: Dick Allen, Martha Collins, Chris Kennedy, Brian Swann, Hank Lazar, James Richardson, Juan Felman As always, I would urge you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a project in mind for this venue — one of our most popular new features.
Finally, for new work received this month, please see our Editor’s Note this issue.
David Cudar’s New Reading
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A Bildungsroman of the first order, Tartt’s novel begins with an explosion in the Metropolitan museum resulting in the death of the protagonist’s mother and maintains that pace nearly throughout. Intrigue ensues and the “Goldfinch,” the painting which gives the novel its title, remains the secret heart beating beneath the floorboards of the plot. Enjoyable holiday reading.
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Tan’s gift is her seamless melding the objective with the subjective. Her stories, always well crafted and engrossing, make her an outstanding storyteller, transporting her reader to other worlds and different times. With historic pedigree, Tan evocates life as a courtesan in 1905, and insinuates, with delicate precision, the distance needed to make all the difference.
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
An astounding book. If Auster and Bolano wrote a book it would be this: a tale of death, drugs, politics, and mystery, written with brio and impeccable style. It’s the kind of literary magic we have come to expect from Marquez and Bolano, and now Vasquez.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
At 28, Catton is the youngest writer to win the Booker. The Luminaries is a large book, 848 pages, pitch-perfect, playful and ambitious. A wonderful puzzle of a book written so well it may well lull you into considering it, as it appears, a 19th century novel — but secretly it is daring you to reconsider all your assumptions.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Well, the good news is that you’ve already made up your mind about whether or not to buy this book. The ideas that subtend the book is that human have two types of decision making: fast and slow. The fast, usually motivated by emotion, has a 50/50 chance of success; the slower one is considerably higher but much less used. The book is a lucid look into patterns of cognition and decision making.
As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!