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Date: 09/12/2017
Erri De Luca

“The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their only weapon against life, life is all that they have.” 

James Baldwin, a twentieth-century American writer, was forced to make racism his business—he was part of a people segregated at birth by skin color. The sentence cited here notes a contradiction: experiencing misery and poverty produces new lives, whereas a life of comfort produces fewer.

In Napoli, ground-floor apartments—slum dwellings with just a single room—used to swarm with children. With no possibility of privacy, parents began new pregnancies in the middle of their families. Such was their force, their biological richness: since they lost many of their numbers to every form of  scarcity, being numerous was essential.


Date: 09/07/2017
Jonathan Berger

El Nora Alila, a twelfth-century acrostic piyut by Moshe ibn Ezra, is recited at the start of the powerfully evocative neila service which closes Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Neila (literally ‘the locking’ in Hebrew) affords the congregant and the congregation a final opportunity to own up to transgressions and seek repentance as the doors of heaven are closing and soon to be locked. In a vain attempt to resist the inevitable closing of the doors, the cantor begins the neila service, incanting:

Open the gates for us, as the gates are being closed.
The day is passing.
The day is setting.
The sun will descend and set.
Let us enter Your gates!


Date: 09/06/2017
Michael Thurston

It’s right there in the title of the New York Times obituary: John Ashbery’s work is not only “celebrated,” but it is also “challenging.” PBS calls the poems “enigmatic,” while for NPR they are “confounding.” The more knowing and admiring pieces by poets or critics (sometimes the same people) nuance the point, while still emphasizing difficulty. Mark Ford’s...

Date: 08/29/2017
Emily Wojcik

First, it will feel like surprise. Like the edge of something
unconsidered: a glass let go; an open palm;
how cold a mouth can be and still say
still say
okay.  —from "Love & Hypothermia,"
in Summer 2017 (Vol. 58, Issue 2)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
The first poem I wrote was in the fifth grade, published on pink paper as part of an elementary school showcase of creative writing. I can’t say it was good, but I remember the thrill of comparing the crown of a live oak to a floret of broccoli. The first poem I recall writing, earnestly, as an adult was a pre-cursor to “Love & Hypothermia.” It’s taken a few years, and a few attempts at the subject, to feel like I’ve got it right.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?...

Date: 08/25/2017
Amal Zaman

That last February before the war and the hard years that were to follow it, forty-one years after the Leader’s revolution, Laila woke to the sound of explosions in the street. She sat clutching the blanket, eyes darting, half expecting to find herself buried in dust and rubble, her vision slowly adjusting to the familiar sight of the armoire and the floral cushions piled beside it, the matching nightstand and the ceramic lamp and on the other side of them, undisturbed, the sheets tucked and folded, Hajj Yunus’s empty bed, glowing in the faint moonlight like a preserved artifact. —from "The Leader," MR's Working Titles, Vol. 2, Number 3

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I had a fascination with horror, the odd and the grotesque as a child. I read and re-read books...

Date: 08/24/2017
Marco Aime

"Borders were Made to be Crossed."

Marco Aime, Il Fatto quotidiano6 August 2017

He’d already said it in a poem from his collection Solo andata (“One-Way Ticket”): “Dry land in Italy is land locked down,/ We let them drown to drown them out.” And now, during a TV interview on Italy’s La7, he’s said it again. In...

Date: 08/21/2017
Beth Derr

The Year 200 by Augustín de Rojas (Restless Books, 2016)

Cuban author Agustin de Rojas's The Year 200 forces American readers to grapple with their assumptions about Cuba, communism, and the human condition. The novel's Spanish publication in 1990 and English publication in 2016 line up with potentially crucial turning points in the U.S.'s perception of socialist societies. While technically the conclusion of a trilogy, Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell's English translation of The Year 200 stands on its own as a mindbending challenge to economic and philosophical ideologies.

The Year...

Date: 08/15/2017
Katherine Keenan

The year your grandmother swallowed her gold coins

to hide them from the soldiers
This is how you keep yourself

safe, keep parts
of yourself in different boxes

Trust no one
with everything”
—from “In Case of Emergency” from our Summer issue

Tell us about one of the first pieces you’ve written.
I worked for several years on a poem about a friend of mine who survived incarceration and torture during the first Palestinian Intifada. The poem is in my book, Water & Salt.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
It's difficult to overstate the influence of the forms and vocabulary of Mahmoud Darwish's poems. Naomi Shihab Nye, Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks are important to me, as well as several...

Date: 08/14/2017
Jim Hicks

Since the end of the eighteenth century, and perhaps long before, visiting Napoli has been a feature item in Western Europe’s bucket list. In a letter from Naples written on March 2, 1787, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe commented, “Of the situation of the city, and of its glories, which have been so often described and commended, not a word from me. ‘Vedi Napoli e poi muori’ is the cry here. ‘See Naples, and die.’” The great German writer added, “That no Neapolitan will allow the merits of his city to be questioned, that their poets should sing in extravagant hyperbole of the blessings of its site, are not matters to quarrel about.”

These days, however, Napoli is perhaps more infamous than famous: whether one thinks of the film (and now TV series...

Date: 08/10/2017
Cynthia Haft

Editor’s Note: There are many rewards in working for a literary magazine that has lasted nearly six decades. None greater, though, than the chance to receive messages of the sort that came in just the other day, when we heard from Dr. Cynthia Haft, a former student of the French scholar and theater critic Rosette Lamont. Lamont translated into English essential works by Charlotte Delbo—a French resistance fighter, deported to Auschwitz, who survived to make memory her lifework. Dr. Haft also happens to be Delbo’s goddaughter; in fact, she introduced Lamont to Delbo, and the rest, as they say, was history. Our magazine owes great debt to Rosette Lamont, who passed away in 2012; we published her nearly a dozen times—most notably, perhaps, her essay on Delbo’s work and her translation of Delbo’s “Phantoms, My Faithful Ones.”