Front Cover by Parastoo Anoushahpour
Still from: The Time That Separates Us, 2022
Courtesy of the artist
Volume 63, Issue 3
“RIEN N’ARRIVE ni comme on l’espère, ni comme on le craint”: thus does the Holocaust survivor Jean Améry begin his celebrated anatomy of torture, citing Proust. “Nothing actually happens as we hope it will, nor as we fear it will.” For most folks, I imagine, this was not their first association when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, though it was mine. Améry clarifies his claim: it’s not that torture exceeds our imagination (“it’s not a quantitative question”); actual torture isn’t imagination at all, it’s reality. “You can spend your whole life measuring the imagined against the real,” he notes, “and never get anywhere.”
When Améry details his experiences in the Nazi prison at Breendonk, he is describing an extreme event, one which cannot directly be compared with any other. Yet, in speaking of this unspeakable experience, he begins by emphasizing “the first blow,” an act that, as he notes, itself has “very little criminological significance” and is a “tacitly practiced, accepted, and normal measure taken against stubborn prisoners,” “applied in more or less strong doses by almost all police officials, including those in Western democracies.” And the “first [blow] makes the prisoner realize that they are helpless, and thus it contains the seed of all that is to come.” With this first blow, Améry tells us, “trust in the world collapses. The other who is physically opposite me, and with whom I can exist only as long as he does not come into contact with the surface of my skin, forces his entire physicality upon me [. . .] He touches me and thereby destroys me. It’s like rape, a sexual act without one’s consent.”1
So that’s it. Our bodies, ourselves. Our bodies, that are not public space. Experiences of this sort, which I can only attempt to imagine, have long been a reality for many, and it takes writing at Améry’s level to bring it home for others. In these dark times, those extreme events, those first blows, are also the foci around which our fall issue revolves. A stunning selection of poems from Tommye Blount revisits the costume drama that accompanies the violence of White supremacy, and this history animates as well a tour de force diptych from Courtney Faye Taylor. Elsewhere Alison C. Rollins rings in the changes that time takes from each and every body, and Kassy Lee, in two poems that bookend our issue, takes time and history elsewhere, both received and rejected. Places, we know, are saturated with their own particulate histories, and events that bring home unimaginable realities have GPS coordinates of their own, best tracked by writers. In this issue we bring you Samwai Lam’s dark fable “Graceless,” impossible to read without channeling the present-day lives of her fellow Hong Kongers. Also Hilary Plum’s “Philly,” a city where the adjunctification of academia registers as anything but brotherly love. And a devastating excerpt from Raharimanana’s Malagasy epic “Nour, 1947,” lyrically translated by Allison Charette. In some instances, of course, the unimaginable is deeply personal, yet the trauma no less real, or relevant, as we are reminded by J Brooke, in their essay “Tanker.”
We should not, for all that, assume that every life-changing event is rooted in trauma. Bodies and their changes can also be comic, as a culinary fest story from Sylva Fischerová (given a sumptuous English menu by Deborah Garfinkle) reminds us, as does a lovely little post-culinary tale from Ambreen Hai. The conversation between MR art editor Mario Ontiveros and the video and installation artist Parastoo Anoushahpour offers insights of many kinds; here, however, I’ll note only the artist’s interest in “visual landscape,” in “sound, image, mood, and space” where alternative narratives emerge. For this to happen, she notes, “different bodies are needed; each comes with their own imagination and desires, even though we are working on the same project. Collaboration does things that you could never accomplish, I think, with one brain.”
Given where we are today, collaboration is our only road back, or forward, though it will surely be long and winding. Publishing a literary quarterly has its own rhythms, so as I write this introduction, the waves of despair and outrage directed at SCOTUS have only just begun. This fall, when our issue appears, the next elections will be looming, and, by all rights and reason, those waves should be tidal. They must be.
If the writing in this issue teaches us nothing else, it does show that even the most unimaginable events never bring history to a full stop. In fighting our way back, and forward, each setback offers an occasion to come together. Long ago, the literary historian Paul Fussell commented, “Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected,” and he also noted that “the most ironic point of all [is] that successful attack ruins troops. In this way it is just like defeat.”
They ought to have been more careful what they wished for.
for the editors
1 From Jean Améry, Torture, translated by Emory Klann, with an introduction by Paul Reitter, a MR Working Title (2022).
By Samwai Lam, Translated by Natascha Bruce
By Alison C. Rollins
By Olufunke Ogundimu
By David Mura
Emily Bernard & Erik Gleibermann
Table of Contents
Ancestral Line, a poem by Kassy Lee
Triptych, a poem by Mee Ok Icaro
A Meadowlark in Arrow Rock, Mo. and The Illuminator’s Arm,
poems by G. C. Waldrep
Philly, an essay by Hilary Plum
Steal Away I-IV and A Bell Is a Messenger of Time,
poems by Alison C. Rollins
Sargasso, a story by Erica Cassidy Dubois
Art by Parastoo Anoushahpour,
a conversation with Mario Ontiveros
Rozeal/Bubble Sisters, a poem by Courtney Faye Taylor
Ku Klux Klan Robe and Hood, Circa 1925,
Clare West Designs, and Hydra, poems by Tommye Blount
Tanker, an essay by J Brooke
In Morning and Get Lost Serenade,
poems by Rebecca Lehmann
It’s About the Grub, Man, a story by Sylva Fischerová,
translated by Deborah Garfinkle
It’s Never Just a Snake, a poem by Ashley Kunsa
The Inspection Tea Party, a story by Ambreen Hai
It’s More Afraid of You Than You Are of It,
a story by Kieran Mundy
February Stabbings, a poem by Martha Rhodes
Nour, 1947: Third Night, a novel excerpt by Raharimanana,
translated by Allison M. Charette
An Artist’s Ego, a story by Shagufta Sharmeen Tania,
translated by Torsa Ghosal
Because Her Hour Is Come, a story by Mary Ann McGuigan
The Solitude of a Ladybug, a story by Mohammad Tolouei,
translated by Farzaneh Doosti
I was not koi in a water garden. a poem by Kassy Lee
Notes on Contributors
PARASTOO ANOUSHAHPOUR is an Iranian artist based in Toronto with a moving image practice working predominantly with video and installation. Her recent solo and collaborative work has been shown at Punto de Vista Film Festival, Sharjah Film Platform, Viennale, Projections (New York Film Festival), Wavelengths (Toronto International Film Festival), Images Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Media City Festival (Windsor/Detroit), Experimenta (Bangalore), ZK/U Centre for Art & Urbanistics (Berlin), and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography (Toronto). Since 2013 she has been working in collaboration with Ryan Ferko and Faraz Anoushahpour.
EMILY BERNARD is the author of Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine, which was named one of the best books of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and National Public Radio and received the 2020 Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose. Her essays have been reprinted in Best American Essays, Best African American Essays, and Best of Creative Nonfiction. A 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Emily is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English and a 2022-2023 Social Sciences, Humanities, and Creative Arts University Scholar at the University of Vermont.
A Cave Canem alum, TOMMYE BLOUNT is the author of the chapbook What Are We Not For—published by Bull City Press in 2016. His debut full-length collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue, published by Four Way Books in 2020, was finalist for numerous awards, among them the National Book Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry, and others. Born and raised in Detroit, Tommye now lives in Michigan.
J BROOKE (They/e) won Columbia Journal’s 2020 Nonfiction Award for their autobiographical essay “HYBRID,” in the Womxn’s History Month Special Issue. Their work has appeared in The Normal School, The Harvard Review, The Maine Review, Bangalore Review, The Fiddlehead (upcoming), Beyond Queer Words, and others. Brooke was nonfiction editor of the Stonecoast Review while receiving an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. Brooke currently resides with their spouse Beatrice on land stolen from the Hammonasset People.
NATASCHA BRUCE translates fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry from Chinese. Her work includes Lonely Face by Yeng Pway Ngon, Bloodline by Patigül, Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, and, co-translated with Nicky Harman, A Classic Tragedy by Xu Xiaobin. Forthcoming translations include Mystery Train by Can Xue and Owlish by Dorothy Tse, the latter of which was awarded a 2021 PEN/Heim grant. After several years in Hong Kong, she now lives in Amsterdam.
ERICA CASSIDY DUBOIS(she/her) is a white settler with Irish, Finnish, and Prussian heritage. She lives on the ancestral homeland of the Penobscot Nation, presently called Bangor, Maine. Erica has a background in forest science and land use planning, and is continuously surprised that people will actually pay her to hike through the woods. She is currently at work on a collection of stories inspired by her family history, and is always trying to write a novel.
ALLISON M. CHARETTE translates mostly fiction by Malagasy authors Michèle Rakotoson, Johary Ravaloson, Naivo, and others. She founded ELTNA.org, a networking and support group for early-career translators, and has received both an NEA Literary Translation Fellowship and a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. Her other translations include graphic novels and children’s books.
DR. FARZANEH DOOSTI has studied English literature in Tehran, Iran. In 2013, she founded The Persian Literature Review magazine in English. A university lecturer and researcher in comparative studies, she has translated works of fiction and nonfiction by Constantin P. Cavafy, Joseph Conrad, John Cheever, Roland Barthes, Kate Chopin, and Jonathan Swift.
Born in 1963, SYLVA FISCHEROVÁ is one of the most formidable Czech writers of her generation. She is the author of ten collections of poems, three volumes of short stories, two novels, and two children’s books. Some of her poetry books were published in the USA, her prose book Europe Is Like a Thonet Chair, America Is a Right Angle was nominated for the prestigious Magnesia Litera Award. Fischerová was born in Prague, but lived in Olomouc until the age of eighteen. She currently holds a position in the Department of Greek and Latin Studies at Charles University, Faculty of Arts. She specializes in Greek literature, philosophy, and religion.
DEBORAH GARFINKLE is a poet, writer, literary critic, and award-winning translator of Czech literature whose work has appeared in publications in the United States and abroad. Dr. Garfinkle was awarded a 2013 NEA Translation Fellowship and PEN Translation Grant for her translation of Czech poet Pavel Šrut’s works written after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Worm-Eaten Time, published by Phoneme Media in 2016. Her first book-length translation, The Old Man’s Verses, selected works from Ivan Diviš’s collection of poetry of the same name, was nominated for a Northern California Book Award in 2009. Dr. Garfinkle wrote her doctoral dissertation, Bridging East and West: Czech Surrealism’s Interwar Experiment 1934-38, on the the Czech surrealists’ relationship with André Breton, the French surrealists, and the Soviet avant-garde. Dr. Garfinkle is also an experimental filmmaker and screenwriter.
TORSA GHOSAL is the author of a book of literary criticism, Out of Mind (Ohio State University Press), and an experimental novella, Open Couplets (Yoda Press, India). Her fiction and essays have appeared in Necessary Fiction, Public Seminar, Literary Hub, Catapult, Michigan Quarterly Review Online, and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor of English at California State University, Sacramento.
ERIK GLEIBERMANN is a San Francisco social justice journalist, literary critic, memoirist, and poet. He has written for The Atlantic, Guardian, New York Times, Slate, Washington Post, Black Scholar, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and World Literature Today, where he is a contributing editor. His book-in-progress is Jewfro American: An Interracial Memoir.
GOLDEN (they/them) is a black gender-nonconforming trans-femme photographer, poet, and community organizer raised in Hampton, VA (Kikotan land), currently residing in Boston, MA (Massachusett people land). They are the author of A Dead Name That Learned How to Live (Game Over Books, 2022) and the photographic self-portraiture series On Learning How to Live, documenting black trans life at the intersections of surviving and living in the United States. Golden’s published and collaborative work can be found on Instagram (@goldenthem_) or through their website goldengoldengolden.com.
AMBREEN HAI is Professor and Chair of English Language and Literature at Smith College. Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, she earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and Ph.D. from Yale University. Her parents were both originally from India, and migrated to Pakistan with their families after Partition in 1947. She teaches Anglophone postcolonial literature from South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, as well as women’s and gender studies. She is the author of Making Words Matter: The Agency of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature (2009), and of many scholarly essays. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband and two daughters.
MEE OK ICARO is an award-winning literary prose stylist and occasional poet. She is the winner of the inaugural Prufer Poetry Prize, runner-up in the Prairie Schooner Creative Nonfiction Contest, and a finalist for the Scott Merrill Award for poetry as well as the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe Magazine, Georgia Review, Bennington Review, River Teeth, Witness, Pleiades, Michael Pollan’s “Trips Worth Telling” anthology, and elsewhere. She is also featured in [Un]Well on Netflix and is attempting to write a memoir.
ASHLEY KUNSA’s poetry is forthcoming from Bennington Review, Radar Poetry, Cream City Review, and other publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she is assistant professor of creative writing at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT, where she lives with her husband and two children.
SAMWAI LAM earned her M.A. and bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from The University of Hong Kong. Between 2013-2017, Lam was an editor at the City Magazine (號外) in Hong Kong. Her art writing has been shortlisted for the International Awards for Art Criticism (IAAC). Her novels include White Dirt (白漬, 2017) and Moon Phase (月相, 2020). A recipient of the Literature Award from The House of Hong Kong Literature, Lam’s short stories have appeared in Fleurs des Lettres (字花), SAMPLE, and Esquire.
KASSY LEE is a poet and educator. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FENCE, African American Review, Salamander, Kweli Journal, Narrative, and elsewhere. Her first full-length poetry manuscript was a finalist for the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics Book Prize. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
REBECCA LEHMANN is the author of the poetry collections Ringer and Between the Crackups. Her poetry and nonfiction has been published in Copper Nickel, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review, The Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith, and other venues. She lives in Indiana, where she is assistant professor of English at Saint Mary’s College. She is the founding editor of the online journal Couplet Poetry.
MARY ANN MCGUIGAN’s short stories have appeared in North American Review, The Sun, Image, Prime Number, and many other journals. Her collection Pieces includes stories named for the Pushcart Prize and Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net. Mary Ann’s young-adult novels have been ranked among the best books for teens by the Junior Library Guild and the New York Public Library. Her novel Where You Belong was a finalist for the National Book Award. She was managing editor for two Bloomberg publications in New York and later publisher for Bloomberg Press. Born in the Bronx, New York, she attended St. Peter’s University in Jersey City and lives in Metuchen, New Jersey.
KIERAN MUNDY’s writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, Joyland, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere and has been recognized by in Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions of 2017 and 2019. She is the recipient of Gulf Coast’s 2020 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose, judged by Jenny Offill. She graduated in 2019 with an MFA in fiction from the University of Oregon and has received funding and support for her work from the Vermont Studio Center and Craigardan. She currently lives in Bend, OR, where she is at work on a short story collection and a novel.
DAVID MURA has written two memoirs, Turning Japanese and Where the Body Meets Memory, and A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing. He’s the co-editor of We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World, and his next book is The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives. He co-produced, wrote, and narrated the Emmy-winning documentary Armed With Language, about the Japanese American Military Intelligence Service soldiers in WWII.
OLUFUNKE OGUNDIMU was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Black Warrior, Obsidian, adda, Transition Magazine, New Orleans Review, JaladaAfrica, Asymptote, Johannesburg Review of Books, Red Rock Review, and other places.
HILARY PLUM (she/her) is the author of several books, including the essay collection Hole Studies, out in 2022 from Fonograf Editions, as well as the novel Strawberry Fields and the work of nonfiction Watchfires. A collection of poetry, Excisions, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2023. She teaches fiction, nonfiction, and editing and publishing at Cleveland State University and in the NEOMFA program, and is associate director of the CSU Poetry Center. With Zach Savich she edits the Open Prose Series at Rescue Press.
Born in Antananarivo, Madagascar, RAHARIMANANA’s early poems garnered him the Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo Poetry Prize in 1987. He studied at the Sorbonne and worked as a journalist and French teacher before returning to Madagascar in 2002 after his father was arrested for broadcasting a controversial radio program. Ever since, he has dedicated his life to writing, researching, and restoring historical memory through literature. Raharimanana received the Grand Prix Littéraire for his 1998 short story collection, Rêves sous le linceul, and the Tchicaya-U’Tamsi Prize for his play, Le Prophète et le Président (The Prophet and the President). His latest novel, Revenir, won the Prix littéraire Jacques Lacarrière in 2018. He currently lives in Paris.
MARTHA RHODES is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Thin Wall from University of Pittsburgh Press. She is a member of the faculty at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and is publisher of Four Way Books. She lives in New York City.
ALISON C. ROLLINS is currently an MFA candidate at Brown University. In 2019, she was named a National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellow. A 2020 Pushcart Prize winner, her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes (Copper Canyon Press), was a 2020 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award nominee.
Born in Bangladesh, SHAGUFTA SHARMEEN TANIA initially trained as an architect. She has authored nine books and translated Susan Fletcher’s Eve Green and Antonio Skarmeta’s Burning Patience from English to Bengali. Her work has appeared in Wasafiri, Asia Literary Review, City Press and a Speaking Volumes Anthology. Shagufta was the youngest recipient of Bangla Academy Syed Waliullah Award (2018) for outstanding contribution to Bangla literature, and her short story “Sincerely Yours” was long listed for the BBC Short Story Award 2021.
COURTNEY FAYE TAYLOR is a writer and visual artist. She is the author of Concentrate, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in November 2022. It is the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize selected by Rachel Eliza Griffiths and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Courtney earned her BA from Agnes Scott College and her MFA from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she received the Hopwood Prize in Poetry. She is also the winner of the 92Y Discovery Prize and an Academy of American Poets Prize. The recipient of residencies and fellowships from Cave Canem and the Charlotte Street Foundation, Courtney’s work can be found in Poetry Magazine, The Nation, Ploughshares, Best New Poets, The New Republic, and elsewhere.
MOHAMMAD TOLOUEI was born in Rasht, Iran, in the throes of the 1979 Revolution. He is one of the new generation of Iranian writers. He has published two novels, Fair Wind’s Prey and Anatomy of Depression, and the award-winning short story collections I’m Not Janette, Lessons by Father, and The Seven Domes. Some of his work has been translated to English, Italian, Polish, and French and appeared in renowned periodicals such as The Guardian, The Stranger’s Guide (special issue of Tehran), lnternazionale, Asymptote Journal, The Columbia Journal, The Persian Literature Review, and publishers like Comma Press in London and Ponte 33 in Florence.
G.C. WALDREP’s most recent books are The Earliest Witnesses (Tupelo/Carcanet) and feast gently (Tupelo), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Recent work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, Paris Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Colorado Review, The Nation, New American Writing, Conjunctions, and other journals. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, PA, where he teaches at Bucknell University.