MR Notes

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Date: 01/18/2018
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

On the night of his execution, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, immigrant
from Italia, fishmonger, anarchist, shook the hand of
      Warden Hendry
and thanked him for everything. I wish to forgive some
     people for what
they are now doing to me, said Vanzetti, blindfolded,
     trapped down
to the chair that would shoot two thousand volts
     through his body.
from "I Now Pronounce You Dead," Winter 2017

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I wrote my first poem when I was fifteen. My tenth-grade English teacher asked us to create our own version of The New Yorker. Keep in mind that we were all New Yorkers, but this was a very different New York. We passed the magazine, hand to hand, section by section...

Date: 01/16/2018
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

"I wouldn’t tell any of the guys this, they’d never let me live it down if they knew, but I threw up in the bushes after seeing what they did to that girl in the basement. That’s like a real pussy thing to do, right?"from "Players," in Winter 2017 (Volume 58, Issue 4)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I can’t say I remember much of anything about my earlier pieces, but here are two things I do recall: my paternal grandfather, before he died, showed me two poems I wrote for him and my grandmother for their birthdays, and in the fifth grade, I won a poetry contest for a poem I wrote called “My Wish.” My teacher asked all of us to write a poem and mine was about wishing for everyone “to have a home to go to” and “people to take care of them.” The...

Date: 01/11/2018
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

It’s not indispensable, poet, that you write it.
Your elegy.
You won’t help her die by doing so.
You won’t bury her more.
If anything you’ll unearth her. A foot
among clods of humus in the Wax Museum.

from "To the Nicaraguan Poet Francisco Valle, Exhorting Him to Not Write His Corresponding Elegy to Alejandra Pizarnik," by Carlos Martínez Rivas, translated by Carlos F. Grigsby (Winter 2017)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you translated.
I’m struggling to remember this, but it was most likely one of my own poems, so someone who didn’t speak Spanish (I mostly write poetry in Spanish) could read it.

What writer(s) or works...

Date: 01/08/2018
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

"I secure my head scarf and get out of the car. My driver, Latif, is with me; women don’t drive here. Months ago, when Latif met me at the airport, I told him I came to Kabul to teach English. His eyes brightened and his eyebrows lifted, 'Ah, my granddaughter wants to be a teacher,' he said."
from "Orphanage in Kabul," Winter 2017 (Volume 58, Issue 4)

Tell us about the first piece you wrote.
I wrote my first piece when I was fifteen. It was about an eighty-five-year-old neighbor who would sit outside on her porch in the same wooden chair everyday and keep watch over all the neighborhood happenings. My high school English teacher, Susan Pascucci, encouraged me to write. I’m very grateful to her. She believed in me and that made a difference...

Date: 01/02/2018
Blogger:
Emily Wojcik

"My brother Terrence came by to see me the night I came home. He asked me about Grandma’s funeral, about the food and the weather, about who would take over her house and her dogs, if I found any pictures of us as children there, if I would ever go back." —from "Songs for Another Man's Kids," Winter 2017
(Vol. 59, Issue 4)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I always remember writing, as far back as I can remember, always trying to write poems and plays and songs. I remember my parents bought me this little Yamaha keyboard when I was maybe six or seven, and I wrote a song for my brother. And I remember it being the first thing I composed from start to finish, and I played it for my family. I even remember I rhymed the word “...

Date: 12/22/2017
Blogger:
Leslie J. Harkema

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales, translated by Peter Bush
(NYRB Classics, 2017)

Joan Sales’s Incerta glòria is a novel about precariousness. Its account of the Spanish Civil War, refracted in the experience of various characters living in Barcelona and on the Aragonese front in 1937 and 1938, draws its power and beauty from fragility that is both thematic and structural. With his new English translation of this Catalan classic, Peter Bush offers Anglophone readers an opportunity not only to observe the complexity of the Spanish Civil War, but also to witness what a tenuous task it is to attempt to...

Date: 12/20/2017
Blogger:
Stephen Clingman

In my spy fiction class at the University of Massachusetts, we had been reading John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. One of the key figures in that novel is a high-level East German spy named Hans-Dieter Mundt, the ostensible target of a complex MI6 operation to eliminate him. Mundt, however, is a double-agent, secretly working for the British, and the real target of the operation is Fiedler, his underling, who suspects him of the exact treachery of which he is guilty. An additional complicating factor is that Fiedler is Jewish, whereas Mundt is a former Nazi, and as the plot unravels that legacy invests his treatment of Fiedler with special venom.

In writing an essay about the novel, one of my students called Mundt “anti-semantic.” It was a malapropism, or what you might call a Freudian slip, except not of any orthodox kind that Freud might have recognized. It...

Date: 12/18/2017
Blogger:
Abby MacGregor

“I sipped my ice water like a martyr. The ballast to all of it, of course—the thing that kept me from contentment—was envy. I was jealous of everybody, for everything. I was jealous of the couple for their house, their jobs, their drinks, each other. I was jealous of Bors for his skills, his apartment, his confidence to get controversial tattoos and play contro­versial songs. I was jealous of Lilah for her tired, lived-in life, which at least suggested a sort of thick-skinned competence.”
—from “Pat’s, Geno’s”, Fall 2017 (Volume 58, Issue 3)

What other professions have you worked in?
I was a dishwasher for a catering company for a couple years, which is something I share with the protagonist of “Pat’s, Geno’s.” Then, I was in charge of documenting incidents of vandalism for a property management company for a little while. That...

Date: 12/15/2017
Blogger:
Michael Thurston


(photo from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

They don’t seem to care about truth in anything else, but Republican legislators should consider a forthright and honest name for their “tax reform package.” Senators passed their enormous tax cut for corporations and the wealthy in the wee hours of a Friday night, after House Republicans passed a similar bill two weeks before. This morning, the conference committee working to reconcile these monstrosities will release a bill that will almost certainly become law before Christmas, ushering in the Dickensian misery nostalgically recreated in various versions of A Christmas...

Date: 12/11/2017
Blogger:
Abby MacGregor

You fuss in the hospital
bed one vein sharp
across your forehead
is a rill. . . .
—from “What Color”, Fall 2017 (Volume 58, Issue 3)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember—I remember writing a poem about the sun when I was in the first grade that my teacher wrote on poster paper and posted in the hall outside our classroom. It was strongly influenced by Shel Silverstein.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
This is simultaneously an easy and an impossible question, because there are so many things that have influenced my work! I remember reading The World According To Garp and Sometimes A Great Notion in high school—both books passed down to me from older relatives—and thinking, yes,...