Welcome to Issue # 43 of Plume:
You are — many of you, at least — back in harness, as one recent email-er put it to me recently: back at school. And so perhaps this Newsletter will be overlooked, finding itself scrolled into email oblivion as you catch up with more pressing concerns. A pity, if this is the case — not for any reason of Plume’s importance, but because you will miss, if you don’t already know it, this snippet from Roland Barthes on the “Winter Garden” photograph. It is exquisite. And while not a poem in our “secret poem” collection, it has all the makings of the poetic. Serendipitous, too, its presence here: casting about for an appropriately wintry poem, I discovered it in the very book that I have been re-reading these last nights as slumber evaded me. And so it is yours, now:
There I was, alone in the apartment where she had died, looking at these pictures of my mother, one by one, under the lamp, gradually moving back in time with her, looking for the truth of the face I had loved. And I found it.
The photograph was very old. The corners were blunted from having been pasted into an album, the sepia print had faded, and the picture just managed to show two children standing together at the end of a little wooden bridge in a glassed in conservatory, what was called a Winter Garden in those days. My mother five at the time (I898), her brother seven. He was leaning against the bridge railing, along which he had extended one arm; she, shorter than he, was standing a little back, facing the camera; you could tell that the photographer had said, ‘Step forward a little so we can see you’; she was holding one finger in the other hand, as children often do, in an awkward gesture. The brother and sister, united, as I knew, by the discord of their parents, who were soon to divorce, had posed side by side, alone, under the palms of the Winter Garden (it was the house where my mother was born, in Chennevieres-sur-Marne).
I studied the little girl and at last rediscovered my mother. The distinctness of her face, the naive attitude of her hands, the place she had docilely taken without either showing or hiding herself, and finally her expression, which distinguished her, like Good from Evil, from the hysterical little girl, from the simpering doll who plays at being a grownup — all this constituted the figure of a sovereign innocence (if you will take this word according to its etymology, which is: ‘I do no harm’), all this had transformed the photographic pose into that untenable paradox which she had nonetheless maintained all her life: the assertion of a gentleness. In this little girl’s image I saw the kindness which had formed her being immediately and forever, without her having inherited it from anyone; how could this kindness have proceeded from the imperfect parents who had loved her so badly — in short: from a family? Her kindness was specifically out-if-play, it belonged to no system, or at least it was located at the limits of a morality (evangelical, for instance); I could not define it better than by this feature (among others): that during the whole of our life together, she never made a single ‘observation.’ This extreme and particular circumstance, so abstract in relation to an image, was nonetheless present in the face revealed in the photograph I had just discovered. ‘Not a just image, just an image,’ Godard says. But my grief wanted a just image, an image which would be both justice and accuracy — justesse: just an image, but a just image. Such, for me, was the Winter Garden Photograph. For once, photography gave me a sentiment as certain as remembrance, just as Proust experienced it one day when, leaning over to take off his boots, there suddenly came to him his grandmother’s true face, whose living reality I was experiencing for the first time, in an involuntary and complete memory.’ The unknown photographer of Chennevieres-sur-Marne had been the mediator of a truth, as much as Nadar making of his mother (or of his wife — no one knows for certain) one of the loveliest photographs in the world; he had produced a supererogatory photograph which contained more than what the technical being of photography can reasonably offer. Or again (for I am trying to express this truth) this Winter Garden Photograph was for me like the last music Schumann wrote before collapsing, that first Gesang des Fruhe which accords with both my mother’s being and my grief at her death; I could not express this accord except by an infinite series of adjectives, which I omit, convinced however that this photograph collected all the possible predicates from which my mother’s being was constituted and whose suppression or partial alteration, conversely, had sent me back to these photographs of her which had left me so unsatisfied. These same photographs, which phenomenology would call ‘ordinary’ objects, were merely analogical, provoking only her identity, not her truth; but the Winter Garden Photograph was indeed essential, it achieved for me, utopically, the impossible science of the unique being.
from Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, 1981
Barthes: there was no one like him; of so few can one more truly observe: he absented himself, or rather was absented from us, all too early.
But to more mundane matters:
First, a reminder: Plume at AWP: Friday, April 10, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Minneapolis Convention Center, Conference Room 209 A & B, Level 2, there will be a joint reading with Plume & Fulcrum (with a full bar).
And a heartfelt thank you: so many of you contacted me expressing a willingness to read, and how difficult it was to stick with my announced first come, first-served policy. But, it had to be so. You can find the list of readers in this issue’s Editor’s Note. It’s quite a line-up. I very much hope you see you there.
And much gratitude, too, to the many contributor’s to our December reading offerings — quite an education to be had if one indeed took to heart these recommendations!
Plume — and this probably should have led off our Newsletter this month — has formed a partnership with Saint Petersburg College. In the works for some time, this alliance will set our journal on solid financial footing for the foreseeable future; expect to see the college logo somewhere on our homepage next month. Details in the Editor’s Note, and more to come. Many thanks to the fine work and generosity of President William Law and Dean Martha Campbell in making this possible.
Also: The print Plume Anthology of Poetry 2014 has been sent off to layout and is set for its debut at AWP 2015. Featured Poet Afaa Weaver, winner of the 2014 Kingsley-Tufts Award, Preface from the immensely gifted Terese Svoboda.
Our cover art this month is from Anne Graaf, a South African artist, art historian and poet, who lives in Paris. She is married to composer/musician Christopher Culpo. She is a painter and maker of artist’s books. (Her Fine Art MA degree thesis, on contemporary book art, informs her practice). An art historian, specializing in Outsider Art, she has written two books, published by Penguin, South Africa, (under the name Anne Emslie) and numerous articles. Her poetry is published in various publications and, most recently, in an anthology of African poetry, Africa, My Africa, by Sun Publishers. Recent exhibitions of her artist’s’ books in France include the exhibition, curated by Caroline Corre, Elles métamorphosent le Livre II at the gallery, Espace des femmes, rue Jacob, Paris 6Ã¨me. February and March 2013, an exhibition of artists books, The Fan Books, at Atelier du la Main d’ Or, Paris. July 2012. And a contributing artist to group show, Be:e, at la Porte Peintre, France. 2012-2013 and an exhibition of paintings at the Chateau Cremault summer festival 2014. She continues, too, to regularly exhibit her art work in South Africa.
Next up, after this issue’s Featured Selection offering Daniel Bourne and Tadeusz in collaboration, look for Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated and with an introduction/ interview with Ani Gjika conducted by our Nancy Mitchell; Emmanuel Moses, translated and with an introduction by Marilyn Hacker; Gennady Aygi and the great Russian Tatar painter Igor Vulokh, also in collaboration; Nin Andrews; Linda Pastan; Chris Kennedy; Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda; with others just appearing on the horizon. (Here, too, again, let me add as always: those with projects that might be suitable for the Featured Selection please do contact us with your proposal at email@example.com ).
Finally, for a list of New Work Received this month, as we continue gathering material for the print anthology as well as the online issues, please see the Editor’s Note.
And here are David Cudar’s January reviews —
1. F: A Novel: Daniel Kehlmann
F: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann
This metafictional book calls to mind How German is It and W. The story centers upon three children abandon by their father for a literary career. However, the considerations of faith, fiction, family, and fate give it a quality one can only describe as Fantastic.
2. The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995: Michael Palmer
The Lion Bridge by Michael Palmer
A poet’s poet certainly, Palmer has been called the Wittgenstein of verse. This collection is a wonderful introduction to his highly original and unmistakable voice. Perhaps, as Eliot once suggested, we must simply let what we initially do not understand wash over us. Palmer is a river.
3. The Mathematician’s Shiva: A Novel: Stuart Rojstaczer
The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
Imagine Gogol and Godel wrote a novel, the kind of tragic-comic book that seems like it was written on the Steppes, but was actually written in California. Rojstaczer has interwoven the idea of family with the elegance of numbers. Funny and thoughtful, it’s a Shiva to remember.
4. Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book: Richard Ford
Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
Like Updike’s Rabbit, Ford’s Frank is a masterful creation, a bildungsroman stretched across decades. And like Rabbit, Frank becomes more human with each book.
5. The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A novel Richard Flanagan
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Richard Flanagan is the Australian novelist who gave us Gould’s Book of Fish. His latest work, winner of the Man Booker Prize, has been called “the Australian War and Peace.” The Narrow Road is his best book to date and stands him in the company of McCarthy and Ondaatje.
6. Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers: Amir D. Aczel
Finding Zero by Amir Aczel
Aczel is a masterful writer who can make mathematical figures, be they George Cantor or Zero, leap from the page. There is a bit of self-reflection that delays the journey of the book, but destination is well worth the travel.
7. Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions: Ted Hope
Hope for Film by Ted Hope
An independent film insider, Hope was a fiery producer of some of the most iconic film of the last 25 years. His book is a memoir of working with directors such as Ang Lee, Hal Hartley, and Inarritu and battling against Harvey Weinstein and CAA agents. A mesmerizing tale.
8. Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas Patrick Modiano
Suspended Sentences by Modiano
A novel in the manner of Robbe-Grillet. Modiano remembers the past like Proust writing a nouveau roman. An acquired taste, but like umami: if you enjoy it there’s nothing that compares.
9. Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014: Alice Munro
Family Furnishing by Alice Munro
Munro is simply a genius. Her stories blossom in the mind. There is sublimity about her writing — making the spaces in-between life slowly manifest. This selection, her third, is as compelling as the previous two.
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Described as “David Markson meets Pagett Powell,” Schumacher’s book is a brilliantly funny novel which contains a wonderful poignancy. Dear CommitteeMembers reads like Barth writing Catch 22 about academia or perhaps The Artist as a Tenured Professor.
As always, I do hope you enjoy the issue!