Front Cover by Elise Kendrick
Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 24 in
Volume 64, Issue 3
WE’VE ALL HEARD the arguments: literature isn’t about politics, or messages, it stands on its own or not at all. Writers with agendas flatten their subjects, and they fail anyway, since art makes nothing happen. Frankly, I’ve never believed it; instead, I’ve come to hear this mantra as an implicit endorsement of our laissez-faire, neoliberal hegemony. If art did nothing, why would it matter at all?
Though I do understand the problem, and I can recognize the symptoms (after all, who likes to be lectured?), I tend to err in the other direction. For me, all the best art is political and captures the spin that Jacques Rancière gives to the word: political because it upsets the apple cart, contests conventions, rewrites the regulatory regime of the polis. Moreover, though the world it creates has never before existed, political art does have an agenda: it’s clamoring to be heard, asking for representation, claiming a seat at the table. In short, I side with that old socialist Oscar Wilde: progress is the realization of utopias.
All this to suggest why the worlds mapped out in our Fall issue are worth glancing at: what they outline, it seems to me, is the plethora and plenty of ways and means to be political. Most clear and distinct, no doubt, is our inspiring, posthumous portfolio from the civil rights activist and tax resister Juanita Nelson, but surely no less urgent and insightful is Laura Brueck’s work in critical caste studies. Or, for that matter, Jake Marmer’s evocation of his Ukrainian childhood and his self-distancing from the greater Russian tradition, steeped in nostalgia, that threatens to swallow it whole. In this era of great derangement and mass extinction, a migrant’s tale like that offered by Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, in a translation by Brandon Breen, is no less essential: How else will we hear the voices of those that the West treats like garbage? Unpacking the politics of sexual relations, in this issue, is done masterfully by the unmistakable, unforgettable voices of Nayereh Doosti and Valerie Sayers—and it was, after all, feminism that first taught us the personal is political. Of course, politics also begins in the cradle; the law is set down from the moment we learn to speak. Two stories that couldn’t be farther apart in style or content, D. K. Lawhorn’s tale of revolt against an Indian school upbringing and J. Malcolm Garcia’s story of suburban assimilationism, both bring this point home with a vengeance. In a truly alternative key, the great jazz pianist Carli Muñoz (who has performed with countless legendary players, including over a decade with the Beach Boys) offers us an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir, proving the old adage wrong: he does remember the sixties, and he was definitely there!
If anything, our poets offer an even wider range as they manifest the possibilities of being political; they define the very rules by which their interventions are made. Take, for example, Denise Duhamel’s decision to challenge the helplessness and rage we all feel with the “terms and conditions” of our digital age. Or the intimacy of Sarah Audsley’s imagist insights, where she begins with the shape of scissors or drama of new birth, then glimpses the cosmos and us, family members or tourists, blind to it all. Or really any of the other poems, say, M. K. Forster’s reminder that mythic tales of transformation were really songs of rape, or KT Herr and Thea Matthews confronting the history of religion with the systemic violence faced by their communities today. The prints and paintings of Elise Kendrick also respond to a history of violence in a manner that Rancière would endorse; her portraits do indeed demonstrate, as she comments, the “long line of storytellers and educators” whose legacy she honors, as she offers us beauty and presence that demands to be seen and heard.
Attentive readers of our Table of Contents, however, will note that this issue is arranged to feature five poems from another poet as its through line. Sumita Chakraborty wrote her B-Sides series as an addendum to NASA’s Golden Records, which were sent to space on the 1977 Voyager launches as messages to extraterrestrials, an introduction to what we sometimes refer to as humanity. Hard to imagine a higher, more enduring, or more political task for art than correcting that record.
for the editors
By Sumita Chakraborty
By Laura Brueck
By Sarah Audsley
By Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, Translated by Brandon Breen
By D.K. Lawhorn
Table of Contents
POEM IN WHICH I HAVE READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS and BATTLE HYMN OF THE HYMEN poems by Denise Duhamel
SMALL IMAGE FOR GERALD STERN
a poem by Ariel Francisco
AT THE MUSEUM OF EVERYDAY LIFE and ON CALVING poems by Sarah Audsley
FOUR TALES hybrid work by Jake Marmer
THE B-SIDES OF THE GOLDEN RECORD: TRACK SIX introduction and poem by Sumita Chakraborty
CRITICAL CASTE STUDIES AND THE POLITICS OF TRANSLATING DALIT LITERATURE an essay by Laura Brueck
TRACK EIGHT a poem by Sumita Chakraborty
KUULLA a story by Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, translated by Brandon Breen
PLEUROTOMARIA and THE FIRST WATER poems by M. K. Foster
THREE WORKS a portfolio by Juanita Morrow Nelson
O HOLY NIGHT a poem by Thea Matthews
CATHERINE OF SIENA FUCKS UP THE CLUB a poem by KT Herr
SELECTION OF RECENT WORK art by Elise Kendrick
THE HIGH PRIESTESS a memoir excerpt by Carli Muñoz
TRACK NINE a poem by Sumita Chakraborty
I DON’T NEED IT, I JUST WANT IT a story by Valerie Sayers
MY WIFE a story by Nayereh Doosti
TRACK TEN a poem by Sumita Chakraborty
STRANGERS a story by J. Malcolm Garcia
DIASPORA MAKES FOR AN UNLIKEABLE NARRATOR and SHAHRUKH SAYS IT’S THE TIME TO DISCO poems by Sreshtha Sen
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
UBAH CRISTINA ALI FARAH is a Somali Italian author and poet. Born in Verona, she grew up in Mogadishu and returned to Italy at the start of the civil war in Somalia. Her short stories and poems have appeared in many Italian and international newspapers, journals, and collections, and she is the recipient of several prestigious literary awards. She is the author of three novels: Madre piccola (translated into English as Little Mother), Il comandante del fiume, and Le stazioni della luna. She currently lives in Brussels.
SARAHA AUDSLEY is the author of Landlock X (Texas Review Press). A Korean American adoptee, a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and a member of The Starlings Collective, Audsley lives and works in northern Vermont.
LOUIS HERBERT BATTALEN’S work is found at the confluence of agriculture and social justice in the field and with the pen. His writings have appeared in the Natural Farmer, the poetry collection 5—Minute Pieces, and most recently in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review. A fellowship from the Swarthmore College Peace Collection has enabled him to compile and edit the collected writings of Juanita Morrow Nelson, which will include a short biography of her that he is writing to be titled From Rags to Rags With Not Much In Between and for which he is seeking a publisher.
BRANDON MICHAEL CLEVERLY BREEN is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Cagliari in Philological-Literary and Historical-Cultural Studies. His doctoral dissertation focuses on contemporary literature in the United States by Ethiopian American authors. He previously graduated from the University of Padua with a thesis on Italian postcolonial literature. As a writer he has published the short stories “Storielle di mio nonno” (Historica edizioni) and “Cronache di un padovano insolito” (Terre di mezzo editore).
LAURA BRUECK is professor of South Asian and comparative literatures, and the co-director of the Race, Caste, and Colorism Project at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She is the author of Writing Resistance: The Rhetorical Imagination of Hindi Dalit Literature (Columbia University Press) and the translator of Unclaimed Terrain: Stories by Ajay Navaria (Navayana), as well as the co-editor of several volumes on Indian sound studies, gender and the vernacular in Indian literature, and Dalit literature in translation. She is currently co-editing the Routledge Companion to Postcolonial and Decolonial Literatures and writing a book on Indian detective fictions tentatively titled Indian Pulp: The Local and the Global in Indian Detective Fictions.
SUMITA CHAKRABORTY is a poet and scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection Arrow (Alice James Books [US]/Carcanet Press [UK]), which received coverage in the New York Times, NPR, and the Guardian. She is currently writing a scholarly book, Grave Dangers: Poetics and the Ethics of Death in the Anthropocene, which is under an advance contract with the University of Minnesota Press. The recipient of honors from the Poetry Foundation, the Forward Arts Foundation, and Kundiman, she is assistant professor of English and creative writing at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.
NAYEREH DOOSTI is a writer and translator from Shiraz and Booshehr. She graduated from Amherst College and holds an MFA in fiction from Boston University. She is the recipient of the William Faulkner Literary Competition Short Story Prize, Epiphany Magazine Breakout 8 Writers Prize, the St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award, the Key West Literary Seminar Emerging Writer Award, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship, and a GrubStreet Literary Grant. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Epiphany, The Common Magazine, and Nowruz Journal, among others. Her Persian translation of Aleksander Hemon’s The Book of My Lives will be published by Goman Press in Tehran in September 2023. She is currently working on a PhD in Middle Eastern languages and cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.
DENISE DUHAMEL’S most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a distinguished university professor in the MFA program at Florida International University in Miami.
M.K. FOSTER is a poet, gothic horror writer, historian of science, monster scholar, and public storyteller from Birmingham, AL. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Poet Lore, Columbia Review, and elsewhere, and her fiction has appeared in Molotov Cocktail, Bonemilk II, and Two Peach. In her archival research, Foster explores natural history and generally weird/scary/dark nature accounts, then she writes poems, stories, and essays about her findings. “Pleurotomaria” and “The First Water” are excerpted from an in-progress manuscript consumed by visceral elisions between deep geologic time and fossil memory in the female body.
ARIEL FRANCISCO is the author of Under Capitalism If Your Head Aches They Just Yank Off Your Head (Flowersong Press), A Sinking Ship Is Still a Ship (Burrow Press) and All My Heroes Are Broke (C&R Press), and the translator of Haitian-Dominican poet Jacques Viau Renaud’s Poet of One Island (Get Fresh Books) and Guatemalan poet Hael Lopez’s Routines/Goodbyes (Spuyten Duyvil). A poet and translator born in the Bronx to Dominican and Guatemalan parents and raised in Miami, his work has been published in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The New York City Ballet, Latino Book Review, and elsewhere. He is assistant professor of poetry and Hispanic studies at Louisiana State University.
J. MALCOLM GARCIA lives and writes in San Diego.
KT HERR is a queer poet, songwriter, and curious person with poems appearing in Black Warrior Review, Frontier, ANMLY, and elsewhere. KT is currently a C. Glenn Cambor PhD Fellow in critical poetics at the University of Houston, a board member with Four Way Books, and co-host of Coordinates: A Podcast for Writers & Readers.
Like many inhabitants of Nashville, ELISE R. KENDRICK is a transplant to “Music City,” from the small suburbs of Gahanna, Ohio. Growing up, her summers spent in theater and art camps as well as the time she shared with her mother at the kitchen table doing arts and crafts, helped develop her love for creativity. While attending Tennessee State University, she received her BS in art with a concentration in jewelry and metals. But it wasn’t until after college that she began seriously painting and printmaking. Primarily, her current work consists of paintings of women of color as well as linocut prints that touch on the subjects of hair, race, culture, and disrupting societal norms. Oftentimes, she uses bright colors, black and white, and sometimes text as a way to visually communicate information about her subjects.
D.K. LAWHORN (he/him) has stories that have appeared in ANMLY, khōréō magazine, and Flame Tree Press’s First Peoples Shared Stories Anthology, with pieces upcoming in the fall 2023 issue of the Massachusetts Review and Baffling Magazine. He was part of the Tin House Fall Workshop 2022 cohort and will be attending Clarion West in the summer of 2023. A citizen of the Monacan Indian Nation, D.K. lives on his ancestral land in Virginia with his legion of rescue cats. He is a graduate of Randolph College’s MFA in Creative Writing program, where he concentrated his studies on Native American speculative fiction.
JAKE MARMER is a poet, performer, and educator. He is the author of three poetry collections: Cosmic Diaspora (Station Hill Press), as well as The Neighbor Out of Sound and Jazz Talmud, both from The Sheep Meadow Press. He also released two klez-jazz-poetry records: Purple Tentacles of Thought and Desire (with Cosmic Diaspora Trio) and Hermeneutic Stomp (Blue Fringe Music). Jake is the poetry critic for Tablet Magazine. Born in the provincial steppes of Ukraine, in a city that was renamed four times in the past one hundred years, Jake lives in Los Angeles.
THEA MATTHEWS is a poet and educator of African and Indigenous Mexican descent from San Francisco, California. She holds an MFA in poetry from New York University and a BA in sociology from UC Berkeley. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Epiphany Magazine, Obsidian Lit & Arts in the African Diaspora, Alta Journal, On the Seawall, The Cortland Review, The New Republic, and others. She was nominated for Best New Poets in 2022 and Best of the Net in 2021. Her first book, Unearth [The Flowers], was published in 2020, and was listed as part of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Indie Poetry of 2020.
CARLI MUÑOZ is a pianist, composer, writer, and visual artist who had the rare distinction of excelling in the mainstream of pop music and jazz. In 1971 he joined the Beach Boys and left them in 1981 to pursue a career in cinema and jazz performing. Recordings and performances followed with top jazz artists such as George Benson, Les McCann, and others. Muñoz’s own works followed, culminating in his 2018 release Follow Me to wide acclaim. Since 1998, Carli has performed live nightly at his venue, Carli’s Fine Bistro & Piano, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. His memoir A Fool’s Journey: To the Beach Boys and Beyond is published by Interlink Books.
JUANITA MORROW NELSON (1923–2015) was a radical pacifist and a pacifist radical born in Cleveland, a child of the Great Migration out of Georgia. She studied with Sterling Brown and Howard Thurman at Howard University, became a reporter for the Cleveland Call & Post, and spent her last 40 years as a self-described provisional farmer in Deerfield, Mass. Her journalism, essays, and poems have been published in the Catholic Worker, The Progressive, and other publications.
VALERIE SAYERS is the author of six novels, including The Powers and Brain Fever, and a collection of stories, The Age of Infidelity. Her books have been on many “Best of the Year” and “Editors’ Choice” lists, including those at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune. Other literary honors include an NEA in fiction and two Pushcart Prizes. Her stories and essays appear widely. She taught for many years at Notre Dame, where she was Kenan Professor of English and founded the Notre Dame Review.
SRESHTHA SEN is a poet from Delhi. They studied literatures in English from Delhi University and completed their MFA at Sarah Lawrence College and their PhD at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Their work can be found published or forthcoming in Apogee, bitch media, Hyperallergic, Hyphen Magazine, The Margins, McSweeney’s, Rumpus, and elsewhere. She was previously the 2017-18 readings/workshops fellow at Poets & Writers, an assistant poetry editor at The Believer, a visiting assistant professor in interdisciplinary, gender, and ethnic studies at UNLV, and currently lives and teaches in New York.