Front Cover by Sedat Pakay
Untitled (photographs of James Baldwin in and around Istanbul, Turkey), c. 1968 (detail)
Digital slide projection of ten (10) photographs
Dimensions vary with installation
© Sedat Pakay
Volume 64, Issue 2
FOR DECADES NOW, I’ve noticed that nearly every writer I love has a foot in at least two countries. And it’s not just me. Literary prizes, at least in the languages I read easily, all seem to go to two- or three-nation writers these days. I don’t have to list them; no doubt you can do that for yourself. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know who I mean.
So that’s one thing. The other, well . . . it’s summer, so aren’t we supposed to travel? If not now, when? It’s not like we’re locked down. When I page through the plethora of plenty we bring your way this June, I am struck by all the place-names our writers reference. Quickly, then, I’ll jot down a few: Barcelona, Tangier, Leningrad, Crimea, Manila, Jerusalem (East and West), Guangzhou and Guangdong (in two different pieces), along with an undisclosed location in pre-Mughal Central Asia, also Three Oaks, Michigan and Starksville, Mississippi (or not), plus Tottori, Japan (and Leningrad, again), and finally Beirut, by way of Colonia Tecamachalco. And, of course, our cover—James Baldwin in Istanbul! So don’t say we never take you anywhere.
Lists, of course, are always revealing, and part of what they make visible is what doesn’t make the list. Here, for example, if I had noted the list of authors from whom these places are culled (Ballbona, David, Johnson, Luo, Mok, Shastri, Stone, Sundar, Valentino, and Stavans), you might have caught that all this work is in prose, except for the last. Which seems more than coincidence, doesn’t it? Ilan Stavans’s poem has its dateline in the title and demonstrates eloquently how history and language bring us closer to world historical events, even when geography doesn’t. Among the essays in this issue, Russell Valentino’s self-interrogation of Russophilia will stand out, and his meditations have obvious resonance with Anthony David’s portrait of Svetlana Boym, along with her exilic others. In Oz Johnson’s account of her conversion to Judaism, her family history as Filipina serves as both check and guide for her travels; the past, always another country, also haunts the present for both Karen Mok and Rona Luo, calling for resolution. When second or third countries do surface in our stories, they often appear on the other stage of memory or dreams, with loss and grief as obvious correlatives. Also with some already mentioned, this is true for Sheila Sundar and Cleo Qian; for each, experiments in form are also a vehicle of processing pain. In fact, as Ananth Shastri’s lyrical tale of wandering poets illustrates mostly strikingly, the search for genre, mode, and form is always also a quest for meaning.
Why might it be, then, that our poets aren’t revealing their road maps as regularly as prose writers? One answer, both offered and questioned by Jane Zwart, in the poem that opens this issue, is that naming itself is a form of placing. Another is contained at the heart of Patty Prewitt’s “Russian Dolls,” where nesting is at once connection and continuity, so that place itself is—for the space of an insight—no longer confinement. A third is found in the lines of Michael Lavers’s litany that closes this issue. Sometimes, whatever world there is, is all there is, and that is enough. With this issue, Franny Choi—who has been an absolute joy and godsend during a transitional moment for our editorial board—moves from active poetry editor to an advisory role for the magazine; we remain in her debt and wish all good things for her other projects, for her writing, teaching, and in stirring things up, with everyone else at Brew & Forge.
In the end, perhaps, an essay on “Contentment” by Lung Ying-Tai, as translated by Sandra Chen, comes closest to answering why prose leaves breadcrumbs, whereas poetry hides its tracks. Digging down deeply into language may capture and crystallize place in all its unicity, and yet still, in a single motion, come closest to the universal: “Contentment is the person who waves goodbye in the morning, returning at night, slinging his backpack into the same old corner, shoving his smelly shoes under the same old chair.”
for the editors
By Nora Hikari
By Russell Scott Valentino
By Lesley Wheeler
By Cleo Qian
by Jane Zwart
by Lung Ying-tai
by Sandra Chen
At Mme. Zeltouni’s Dining Room, Colonia Tecamachalco, Thursday, September 16th, 1982
by Ilan Stavans
1518: Spring Encounter
by Ananth Shastri
by Lisa Fay Coutley
by Michael Bazzett
by Colin Bailes
An Introduction to Exile
by Oz Johnson
In Care of a Peace Lily
by Seelai Karzai
The Afterlives of Protest
by Rona Luo
by Sheila Sundar
by Richard Michelson
God Made My Face, A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin
curated by Hilton Als
by Richard Michelson
"Uncaptured Life, Lived to the Brim"
by Anthony David
I, Too, Took Pictures of My Body
by Keetje Kuipers
by Anna Ballbona
by Lawrence Venuti
Walking the Night
by Lynn Thompson
From the Porch, a Moth
by Tyler Kline
Lights and Sirens
by Rachel Stone
by Karen Mok
Like Russian Dolls
by Patricia Prewitt
by Susie Meserve
The Immersion Class
by Caitlin O'Neil
by Mónica Gomery
by Emily Flouton
Sun, Birds, and Leaves
by Michael Lavers
Table of Contents
DUSTSCEAWUNG a poem by Jane Zwart
CONTENTMENT an essay by Lung Ying-tai, translated by Sandra Chen
AT MME. ZELTOUNI’S DINING ROOM, COLONIA TECAMACHALCO, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH, 1982 a poem by Ilan Stavans
1518: SPRING ENCOUNTER a hybrid piece by Ananth Shastri
CUFFING SEASON a poem by Lisa Fay Coutley
EXPOSURE a poem by Michael Bazzett
ACTAEON a poem by Colin Bailes
AN INTRODUCTION TO EXILE an essay by Oz Johnson
IN CARE OF A PEACE LILY a poem by Seelai Karzai
YELLOW CURTAINS an essay by Sheila Sundar
WHITE PRIVILEGE a poem by Richard Michelson
GOD MADE MY FACE Artwork from the Mead Art Museum’s special iteration of a group exhibition organized by Hilton Als for the David Zwirner gallery in 2019
OPEN CARRY a poem by Richard Michelson
“UNCAPTURED LIFE, LIVED TO THE BRIM” an essay by Anthony David
I, TOO, TOOK PICTURES OF MY BODY a poem by Keetje Kuipers
PERIPHERAL SEX a novel excerpt by Anna Ballbona, translated by Lawrence Venuti
WALKING THE NIGHT a poem by Lynn Thompson
FROM THE PORCH, A MOTH a poem by Tyler Kline
LIGHTS AND SIRENS a story by Rachel Stone
THE ANCESTORS a story by Karen Mok
LIKE RUSSIAN DOLLS a poem by Patricia Prewitt
BIOLUMINESCENCE a poem by Susie Meserve
THE IMMERSION CLASS a story by Caitlin O’Neil
ROSH HASHANAH a poem by Mónica Gomery
INVASIVE SPECIES a story by Emily Flouton
SUN, BIRDS, AND LEAVES a poem by Michael Lavers
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
COLIN BAILES holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as the 2020–2021 Levis Reading Prize Fellow and was awarded the Catherine and Joan Byrne Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets. A 2022 National Poetry Series finalist, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2022, Blackbird, The Cortland Review, Missouri Review, Narrative, Nashville Review, Quarterly West, Raleigh Review, Subtropics, and wildness, among other journals. He lives and teaches in Richmond, VA.
ANNA BALLBONA writes literary journalism for the Catalan press. She has published collections of poetry, including Caged Rabbit (2012), and two novels, Joyce and the Chickens (2016) and I’m Not Here (2020). Ballbona lives in La Garriga, a village near Barcelona.
MICHAEL BAZZETT is the author of four books of poetry, including The Echo Chamber (Milkweed Editions) and the chapbook The Temple (Bull City). Recent work has appeared in Granta, Agni, The American Poetry Review, The Sun, The Nation, and The Paris Review. His verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh (Milkweed), was named one of 2018’s best books of poetry by the New York Times, and his translation of the selected poems of Humberto Ak’abal, If Today Were Tomorrow, is forthcoming from Milkweed next year. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, he lives in Minneapolis.
SANDRA CHEN is an emerging translator from the Bay Area, working in English, Chinese, and French. She is currently an undergraduate student at Princeton University, where she is pursuing a concentration in comparative literature and a certificate in translation.
LISA FAY COUTLEY’s collections include tether (Black Lawrence Press), Errata (Southern Illinois University), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, In the Carnival of Breathing (BLP), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition), Small Girl: Micromemoirs (Harbor Editions), and the anthology In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy (BLP). She is an NEA fellow, associate professor of Poetry & CNF in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and Chapbook Series editor at Black Lawrence Press.
ANTHONY DAVID, an historian and biographer, teaches creative writing at the University of New England campus in Tangier, Morocco. His forthcoming biography of Boym is titled The Daring Club.
EMILY FLOUTON is a writer from Massachusetts living in Brooklyn. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, The Atlantic, Subtropics, Quarterly West, Passages North, DIAGRAM, Gay Magazine, The Forge, and other publications. She won the 2020 Kurt Brown Fiction Prize from AWP, holds an MFA from Portland State University, and teaches with Lighthouse Writers Workshop.
MÓNICA GOMERY is a poet and rabbi living on unceded Lenni Lenape land in Philadelphia. Her work explores queerness, diaspora, ancestry, loss, theology, and cultivating courageous hearts. Her second collection, Might Kindred, won the 2021 Prairie Schooner/Raz-Shumaker Book Prize in Poetry. She is also the author of Here Is the Night and the Night on the Road (Cooper Dillon Books) and the chapbook Of Darkness and Tumbling (YesYes Books). Her poems have been awarded the Sappho Prize for Women Poets and the Minola Review Poetry Contest. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Four Way Review, Muzzle Magazine, Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, and Poetry Northwest.
NORA HIKARI (she/her) is a Chinese and Japanese transgender poet and artist based in Philadelphia. She was a 2022 Lambda Literary fellow, and her work has been published in Ploughshares, Palette Poetry, Foglifter, The Journal, The Shade Journal, and others. Her chapbook, GIRL 2.0 (Seven Kitchens Press), was a Robin Becker Series winner. She was a reader at the 2022 Dodge Poetry Festival and a finalist for the Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award. Her chapbook The Small Lights of Her Heart is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2023, and her chapbook Let’s Burst Like Stars is forthcoming from swallow::tale press in 2024.
OZ JOHNSON (she/they) is a Chicago-based writer and urban planner at work on her first novel. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times.
SEELAI KARZAI is a poet, cultural organizer, and refugee advocate from Queens, NY. A member of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association, her work has appeared in Northwest Review, Lantern Review, and in the New Moons anthology edited by Kazim Ali and published by Red Hen Press. She is co-editor of Writing Afghan Lives Beyond the Forever War: An Anthology of Writing from Afghanistan and Its Diaspora. Seelai earned an MFA from the University of Oregon.
TYLER KLINE is a writer from Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, Best New Poets, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, and Sixth Finch, among other places. He’s currently pursuing his MFA at New York University, where he is a Jan Gabrial Fellow.
KEETJE KUIPERS is the author of three collections of poetry: Beautiful in the Mouth, The Keys to the Jail, and All Its Charms, which includes poems published in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Keetje has been a Stegner Fellow, Bread Loaf Fellow, and the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident. She lives with her wife and children in Montana, where she is editor of Poetry Northwest and a board member at the National Book Critics Circle.
MICHAEL LAVERS is the author of After Earth and The Inextinguishable, both published by the University of Tampa Press. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, Southwest Review, Best New Poets 2015, TriQuarterly, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He has been awarded the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, the Moth Poetry Prize, and the Bridport Poetry Prize. Together with his wife, the musician and artist Claire Åkebrand, and their two children, he lives in Provo, UT, and teaches at Brigham Young University.
RONA LUO is a writer and acupuncturist based in London. A Kundiman fellow and member of Southbank Centre’s New Poets Collective, she is interested in the intersection of decolonial healing, somatics and writing as embodied practice. Her poetry is forthcoming in ANMLY and she is at work on her first manuscript.
Raised in New England, poet and essayist SUSIE MESERVE has a master of fine arts from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of the poetry collection Little Prayers, which won a Blue Light Press Award and was published in 2018, and the chapbook Faith (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and many literary journals. In 2021–2022 Susie was a City of Berkeley Civic Arts Program grantee. She lives in northern California with her family.
RICHARD MICHELSON’s poetry collections include Sleeping as Fast as I Can (Slant Books), More Money than God (U of Pittsburgh Press), Battles and Lullabies (U of Illinois), and two fine-press collaborations with the artist Leonard Baskin. His children’s books have been named among the 10 Best of the Year by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker. Michelson has received a National Jewish Book Award and two Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowships, and his work was chosen to represent the Commonwealth at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Michelson served two terms as poet laureate of Northampton, MA, where he hosts Northampton Poetry Radio and owns R. Michelson Galleries.
KAREN MOK is a Brooklyn-based fiction writer, born and raised in Charleston, SC. She identifies as a child of immigrants.
CAITLIN O’NEIL’s short fiction has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Tampa Review, and Ninth Letter. She won the Tampa Review’s Danahy Prize, the Ninth Letter Prize in Fiction, and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council individual artist grant. She is currently an associate teaching professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
PATRICIA PREWITT is an elderly lifer who’s served thirty-six years, thus far, for a murder she did not commit. #justiceforpattyprewitt
CLEO QIAN is a queer writer from California. Her debut short story collection, LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO, is forthcoming from Tin House in 2023. Her work has been published in over twenty outlets, including Pleiades, Shenandoah, Zocalo Public Square, Witness, and The Margins. She has been nominated for the Puschart Prize and was a winner of the Zoetrope Short Fiction Contest.
ANANTH SHASTRI is a Massachusetts-based writer, editor, research assistant, and STEM instructor.
ILAN STAVANS is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His latest book is The People’s Tongue: Americans and the English Language (Restless Books).
RACHEL STONE is from Chicago and currently lives in Brooklyn. She is completing an MFA at NYU’s Creative Writing Program, where she received a Goldwater Fellowship to teach and study poetry. Her writing has been published in The New Republic, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, and other publications.
SHEILA SUNDAR is the author of the forthcoming novel Habitations (Simon & Schuster). She is a visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Mississippi.
LYNNE THOMPSON served as the 2021-22 poet laureate of Los Angeles and is a laureate Fellow of the Academy of American Poets. She is the author of three collections of poetry as well as the forthcoming Blue on a Blue Palette, to be published by BOA Editions in 2024. Recent work can be found in Copper Nickel, Pleiades, Catamaran Review, and The Common among others.
RUSSELL SCOTT VALENTINO is a professor of Slavic and East European studies at Indiana University. His work has been supported by the NEH, the NEA, and the U.S. Departments of State and Education, and has been published by the New York Times, Reaktion Books, The Harvard Review, Modern Fiction Studies, Yale University Press, and a dozen other literary magazines and book publishers. A former editor at The Iowa Review and former president of the American Literary Translators Association, Valentino served on the 2022 jury for the National Book Awards. He is the founder and publisher of Autumn Hill Books and blogs on literature, translation, teaching, and assorted short subjects.
LAWRENCE VENUTI is, most recently, the author of Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic and the editor of The Translation Studies Reader (4th ed.). His retranslation of Dino Buzzati’s novel The Stronghold appeared this year.
LESLEY WHEELER is the author of the hybrid memoir Poetry’s Possible Worlds; the novel Unbecoming; and five books of poetry, most recently The State She’s In. Her poems and essays appear in Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Poets & Writers, and Guernica, and she is poetry editor of Shenandoah.
LUNG YING-TAI is a leading Taiwanese writer and cultural critic. She has published more than two dozen books of essays, fiction, and criticism, gaining a broad readership across the Chinese-speaking world. Her most famous book, 野火集 (The Wild Fire), a collection of political writings on the Kuomingtang’s martial law regime, is considered to have contributed to Taiwan’s democratization in the 1980s. Lung also served as the inaugural Minister of Culture of Taiwan from 2012–2014 and continues to be a prominent voice in the public sphere.
JANE ZWART teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, HAD, and Ploughshares, as well as other journals and magazines. In addition, she is the co-editor of book reviews for Plume; her own reviews have appeared there as well as in The Los Angeles Review of Books.