Cate Marvin‘s poem, “Preparations for August,” appeared in NER 22.2:
Cate Marvin‘s poem, “Preparations for August,” appeared in NER 22.2:
David Guy’s essay, “Experiences of the Void,” was published in NER 16.2:
When I look back on my beginnings as a writer, when I consider the question of what writing really is, I always bring to mind a place called the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine, a society of physicians which met in a huge ancient house in a rundown part of the city, with an extensive medical library in the basement. My father was an officer in the organization, and had gotten my brother and me summer jobs there, dusting books or watching over the place while the regular librarian—an ex-lawyer and recovering alcoholic named Allen Lynch—was on vacation.
The basement was huge, and filled with the kind of heavy glassed-in wooden bookcases that distinguished houses used to have in the early years of the century. The floor was a creaky hardwood, lined with rubber mats where you were supposed to walk. The building ran down a hill, so there were windows not only in the basement—high wide windows that let in plenty of light—but also in the sub-basement, a dank dark place with a cement floor and stone walls that housed some of the older books and also contained an extensive library on sex.
Ira Sadoff’s story, “In the House of the Child,” appeared in NER 22.1:
I. Now the marriage bed is a nightmare: a king-size bed with a little prince in it. That’s how it feels: dark, even with the night light on in Randy’s private bedroom. Such a big house, with four bedrooms and a big deck opening out onto a field and a garden his wife had planted with flowers and herbs. He’s made a vow that no other woman will live there, live in their house. Just like that, his mind fills with dark thoughts. There are not enough magazines in the world to stop it. Not enough old movies. There are not enough bridge hands, there’s not enough golf to fill in the gulf when Randy’s sun Leo is at Quin’s apartment. Sleeping, except for dozing on and off somewhere between two and three in the morning, is out of the question. Quiet is his enemy. Even when Randy was a child, he couldn’t have enough noise in the house. Sometimes he did his homework listening to the radio with the TV on, and often he talked on the phone to whichever friend was sufficiently inert to listen. It worked. Why fix what’s not broken? Because now it was broken.
Rachel Hadas’ piece, “On Poetry Anthologies,” appeared in NER 19.4:
. . . It’s true that the best poetry anthologies give the impression of being not siftings from other anthologies but personal statements, even personal testaments. And the reader who browses through poetry anthologies also brings personal responses beyond simply liking one poem or disliking another. Increasingly, for example, what I notice in anthologies are mistakes. Richmond Lattimore seems to be undergoing a sea-change into Richard Lattimore; my own first name has been misspelled and my date of birth gotten wrong; and an anthology edited by the late M. L. Rosenthal confidently glossed a short lyric by James Merrill as being addressed to the poet’s wife. Even more than errors, anthologies are known for sins of omission—how could Poem X or Poet Y possibly have been left out? But though I sometimes lament the absence of one poem or the inclusion of another, such ins and outs concern me less than the wider matter of context . . .[read more]
Khaled Mattawa‘s poem, “Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red,” appeared in NER 16.4 (1994).
Bright Yellow, Ketchup Red
I was crossing a street
when a bus driver
gave me the finger.
I wasn’t driving
just crossing a street
with trees, leaves bright
yellow & ketch red,
when a low ranking employee
of a small town bureaucracy
in an insignificant state
gave me the finger.
Did my face foretell
seven years of drought?
Was I scheming to bring ack
the Monkees and the Cold War?
As usual I was lost
between the stuffed tomatoes
of my youth and a future
that says tick tick tock
boom boom. …
The second shock was lunch. She stopped to buy a sausage at a cart by the park. She bit into it and instantly thought, “This is it. I am going to die.” —NER 20.4.
When she was young, mothers—or her mother, at least—would speak of those bad girls, presumably pregnant, who left home at the first opportunity, but Monica wasn’t waiting that long. She left before her first opportunity, using school breaks to escape. To run away: if you could call it that, since she had her mother’s acquiescence, if not her permission, in the matter. Her father was irrelevant. A farming accident had paralyzed him, days after Monica’s youngest brother—her mother’s second boy and seventh child—was born. There were no more children after that, which made clear, in a public sort of way, the full nature of the damage her father had suffered. Monica let her mother know that she would “just die” if she couldn’t get away from the farm, and the fervency of her conviction must have convinced her mother as well. “Just don’t get pregnant” she said, as if that were the source of all evils, and it made Monica ashamed to be alive, to be one of the seven reasons for her mother’s unhappiness. But then her shame quickly turned to anger. Her parents. They were so stupid. Switzerland was supposed to be the world’s richest country, and even here, they couldn’t make a living. Why had they had so many children when they couldn’t afford them?[read more]
George Bilgere’s poem, Big Bang, was published in NER 16.2:
We slept naked on a wide bed
under the sighing swamp cooler.
We strawberried in Michigan woods
with our fat nanny, and in spring
we gathered sand dollars on Daytona ,
passed smiling into Kodachrome.
On the path to the grammar school
she bumped along behind me, burdened
with my black, funeral trombone case,
my books and sack lunch. I pushed her
into thorn bushes, eyed her coldly
as she played jacks at recess
with colored girls. When wine
put our mother in her all-day coma
she made our dinner, and when
I felt like it I smacked her.
I walked at night in exile
far from that fatherless house
of sobbing women while she
did dishes at the steaming sink.
Scott Denham’s essay, Friedrich Torberg: An Introduction appeared in NER 20.4:
Friedrich Torberg (1908—1979) was very much a part of the Prague and Viennese literary café scenes in the 1920s and 1930s. He wrote a wicked schoolboy novel, Der Schüler Gerber hat absolviert (Berlin, 1930) [The Examination (London, 1932)]—the only one of his works which appears to have been translated in English-which catapulted him into the limelight of the café Herrenhof scene of Max Brod, Ernst Polak, and Alfred Polgar; in Vienna he associated with Karl Kraus, Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, and others. Three more novels published before the war were all well-enough received, but did not succeed in getting the critics past their notion of him as a bad boy cynic and lampooner.
The girls’ mother told them stories: how their grandfather Leo had grafted French vines onto North American roots with his German-Russian hands, finding the western New York winters easy to manage after Ukraine. At the head of the lake the Couperins, who ran a rival winery, had laughed at Leo’s cultivation practices, but in 1957, when Bianca was born, Leo had his revenge. That winter’s violent cold spell left the Marburgs’ earth-shrouded vines untouched when everyone else’s were killed, and Walter Couperin lost all his hybrid vines and switched back to Concords in a fury.
Leo smiled and kept his secrets and established acres of gewurztraminer, which Couperin couldn’t grow, and rkaziteli, a Russian grape temperamental for everyone but him. The girls grew up hearing words like these: foxy, oaky, tannic, thin. Like all children, they knew more than they knew that they knew.
In the fall the cold air slipping down from the hills hung white and even below the trellises. Leo’s winery thrived, and his oldest son—Theo, the girls’ father—threw himself into the business with a great and happy passion. Peter Couperin, Walter’s heir, field-grafted Seyvals onto half his Concord stock, and still Theo outdid him.
I shall never forget the horses’ heads—the feet in the metopes! I felt as if a divine truth had blazed inwardly upon my mind and I knew that they would at last rouse the art of Europe from its slumber in the darkness.
These passages from Benjamin Robert Haydon’s 1853 Autobiography were published as a rediscovery in NER 19.3:
The first thing I fixed my eyes on was the wrist of a figure in one of the female groups, in which were visible, though in a feminine form, the radius and ulna. I was astonished, for I had never seen them hinted at in any female wrist in the antique. I darted my eye to the elbow, and saw the outer condyle visibly affecting the shape as in nature. I saw that the arm was in repose and the soft parts in relaxation. That combination of nature and idea which I had felt was so much wanting for high art was here displayed to mid-day conviction. My heart beat! If I had seen nothing else I had beheld sufficient to keep me to nature for the rest of my life.[read more]