Front Cover by Adreinne Waheed
Brooklyn, NY, June 19, 2020.
Volume 62, Issue 1
SPRING FORWARD, FALL BACK. As mnemonics go, one of the best, as equipment for living, not the recipe we need. Though this issue hits the bookstands the day after we spin the clocks ahead, if springing forward is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. Many things must change, given where we’ve been, yet none of that will happen unless we come to terms with what we’ve learned. And it isn’t the lies, the self-dealing, the rancor, or even, at some level, the damage done, the lives ended, the fortunes ruined, the friends and family lost. All of that still burns, how could it not, and nothing will be forgotten, because how could it be? Yet what is truly essential, what must at last be confronted, was delivered to us drop by drop during this interminable succession of isolated days, a truth that 2020 hindsight cannot not reveal. Though elsewhere there will be other versions, in the US that truth is simple: this country is nothing like what we once believed it to be, nothing of what we too proudly pretended it was. This was a stress test, and we fractured, everywhere. Only by facing it down can we hope to mend anything at all, to earn back some sliver of credibility before ourselves and the world.
So that’s what we focus on here. On the essential solitude of Edie Meidav’s delivery-girl, and on the old clothes and grandmothers offered by Nina Payne—because stories are, after all, the clay of memory. And on the voice of Anarcha Wescott, resurrected by Joanne Godley, and on the sibling song of Tera Joy Cole—essays that record the clinical cruelty power reserves for bodies not seen as fully human. When it comes to Bible history, frankly, I can’t tell the players without a scorecard, but I do believe that poet Robert Whitehead is on to something when he figures both David and Lilith play for our side. And from across the pond we bring you stories that sound much like the blight next door: the first of Andrea Bajani’s novels to appear in English, in Elizabeth Harris’s meticulous, lyrical translation, unearths predatory neoliberalism through the search of a son for his estranged mother. With Alice Guthrie’s in-your-face rendering of Hisham Bustani’s Arabic, we see, hear, and feel a tale of migrant survival and shame in Fortress Europe. (If it had been possible to issue a patent for exploitation, I’m sure we would’ve, but apparently that invention is older than the world.) The question is—as Linda Dittmar’s story of haunted Israeli forests and Vyacheslov Kupriyanov’s hymn to Russian amnesia (in English by Dasha C. Nisula) suggest—what of our histories do we even remember, and who is doing the remembering? Or, as the catastrophe fiction of Joanna Luloff suggests, whether soon we will have words to describe it at all. If so, poems like Jamaica Baldwin’s “Naturally” or Uma Menon’s “Charades” will be where our future is found.
If there is one thing the revelation time of 2020 has taught us, it’s that those who suffer most lead the way. After all, they see it most clearly: for those who’ve long lived it, none of this was revelation at all. We know who has done most of the dying, we know who is responsible for those deaths, and we also know who liberated the White House. Let us then witness the images of protest and glory brought to our pages by Adrienne Waheed and see these photos as both mark and promise, time served and time future. As we meditate on what has brought us to this pass, we must also see beyond the impass. In a timeless tale by Caterina Albert i Paradís, brought into English by Peter Bush, and in a new story from Amaia Gabantxo, women fight back against abuse, and by opposing end it. There is a way forward, but it will come only through struggle against the violence.
For over three score years, this magazine has kept the faith and joined the march. No one who reads us could ever have doubted that Black lives, Black power, and Black arts matter. Chinua Achebe, Lucille Clifton, Angela Davis, and Kwame Ture are just a few of the towering figures to have offered their voices to our pages. And our 1974 “Caliban” issue, edited by Robert Márquez, as well as our 1986 Latin America issue, edited by Paul Jenkins and Ellen Watson, were other landmarks. No less proud are we to have published, in just the past few years, our “Asian American Literature” issue, guest-edited by Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis and Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, and our “Gathering of Native Voices,” guest-edited by Laura Furlan, Toni Jensen, and Tacey M. Atsitty. To honor and build on that legacy, we expect to expand and diversify our editorial board throughout the coming year; our goal is to assure future BIPOC contributors that they have, not simply allies, but also members on our editorial board. This spring we officially welcome Dominic Taylor as MR’s Theater Editor, and we look forward to announcing other additions to the masthead in issues to come.
Not for over a century has the planet together mourned so many, and lost so much, in a single year. And yet all of us, every family, each community grieves in our own particular way. If you follow the Mass Review, you will know already that last October we lost our friend and former editor David Lenson. We remember and honor him here, and we are overjoyed to offer you an encore performance, David’s “High Imagination” at its wildest and best. I’ll end by simply citing a riff from Walter Benjamin that I suspect David loved, given that it brings Marxism and post-apocalyptic insight together. Is there anyone today who can say they have not shared, at least for an instant, the angel of history’s vision?
“Where we perceive a chain of events, [the angel] sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise. . .”
And a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
by Ewa Lipska, translated by Aga Gabor da Silva
by Nina Payne
by Joanne Godley
by Hisham Bustani, translated by Alice Guthrie
by Amaia Gabantxo
by Uma Menon
by David Lenson
Table of Contents
Solitudes, or, Confessions from Delivery,
a story by Edie Meidav
Qui Transtulit Sustenet, a poem by Daniel Barnum
What Our Bodies Cannot Hold, an essay by Tera Joy Cole
Naturally, a poem by Jamaica Baldwin
Despot’s Clay Army, a poem by Vyacheslov Kupriyanov,
translated by Dasha C. Nisula
The Clearing, a memoir by Linda Dittmar
Lilith, The Principle of Eternal Return, Hi, How Are You,
David, and Boireann, poems by Robert Whitehead
The Tine of the Hayrake, a story by Víctor Català,
translated by Peter Bush
Merlin, a story by Caroline Lamarche,
translated by Paul Curtis Daw
Words, a story by Joanna Luloff
Recent Work, photographs by Adreinne Waheed
Scattered Islands, a story by Gloria L. Huang
sonnet for aracelis, a poem by Alejandro Perez
If You Kept a Record of Sins, a novel excerpt by Andrea Bajani,
translated by Elizabeth Harris
To a Wild Place, a poem by CJ Evans
What the Masseuse Finds in the Backyard,
a poem by Sarah Lilius
Charity, a story by Munib Khan
Mosses and Ivies, a poem by D. M. Gordon
Ursa Minor, a story by Sarah Emily Duff
Breath of Plankton Soup, a story by Donna Miele
Ars Poetica #3, a poem by Sean Cho A.
Penance and Pandemic, an essay by Beth Uznis Johnson
Sleepers, a poem by Heather Derr-Smith
Notes on Contributors
SEAN CHO A. is the author of “American Home” (Autumn House 2021) which was the winner of the Autumn House Publishing chapbook contest. His work can be future found or ignored in Pleiades, Salt Hill, The Journal, Sporklet, among others. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California Irvine and the Associate Editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal.
ANDREA BAJANI is the author of four novels and two collections of poems. His novel, If You Kept a Record of Sins, won the Super Mondello Prize, the Brancati Prize, the Recanati Prize and the Lo Straniero Prize. His works have been translated into many languages, and published by some of the most prestigious European publishers, such as Gallimard, Siruela, MacLehose, Atheneum, DTV, Humanitas. He now lives in Houston and teaches at Rice University.
JAMAICA BALDWIN hails from Santa Cruz, CA by way of Seattle. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry, The Adroit Journal, The Missouri Review, and TriQuarterly, among others. She was the winner of the 2019 San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference Contest in Poetry and received an honorable mention for the 2019 International Literary Award’s Rita Dove Prize. Her writing has been supported by Hedgebrook and the Jack Straw Writers program. Jamaica is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
DANIEL BARNUM lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio, where they serve as the associate managing editor of The Journal. A former fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, they are a 2019 Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Their poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming from Pleiades, Hayden’s Ferry Review, West Branch, The Offing, Muzzle, and elsewhere. Their first chapbook, Names for Animals was published in February 2020.
PETER BUSH’s first literary translation was Juan Goytisolo’s Forbidden Territory (1989) and he has translated eleven other books by this writer, including The Marx Family Saga (1996) and Exiled from Almost Everywhere (2011), both awarded the Ramón del Valle-Inclán Literary Translation Prize. His translation of Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook won the 2014 Ramon Llull Literary Translation Prize. Recent translations include Quim Monzó’s Why?Why?Why? and Barcelona Tales (from Cervantes to Najat El Hachmi). He has also translated classics from Spanish and Catalan such as Fernando de Rojas’s Celestina and Mercè Rodoreda’s In Diamond Square and is currently engaged in the translation of Balzac’s Le Lys dans la Vallée.
HISHAM BUSTANI is an award-winning Jordanian author of five collections of short fiction and poetry. Hisham’s fiction and poetry have been translated into many languages, with English-language translations appearing in prestigious journals across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, including The Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review, The Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today, and The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. His fiction has been collected in The Best Asian Short Stories, The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human: Tales from Many Muslim Worlds, The Radiance of the Short Story: Fiction From Around the Globe, Influence and Confluence—East and West: A Global Anthology on the Short Story among other anthologies. In 2009, he was chosen by the German review Inamo as one of the Arab world’s emerging and influential new writers. In 2013, the U.K.-based cultural webzine The Culture Trip listed him as one of Jordan’s top six contemporary writers. His book The Perception of Meaning (Syracuse University Press, 2015) won the University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award. Hisham is the Arabic fiction editor of the Amherst College-based literary review The Common, and the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Fellowship for Artists and Writers for 2017.
VÍCTOR CATALÀ (1866 -1869) is the pen name of Catalina Albert I Paradis, a prominent participant in the Catalan modernist movement known as Modernisme. First published at fourteen in Almanach de l’Esquella de la Torratxa, she continued to publish multiple works of poetry, stories, and novels including Solitud (Solitude) in 1905.
TERA JOY COLE is the author of “You, Too” published in Adanna Literary Journal (spring 2019). Her flash fiction piece, “Franny,” was featured in Sky Island Journal’s spring 2018 publication. She is also the author of the short story, “Coyotes Don’t Litter,” which appeared in the online literary journal The Writing Disorder (winter 2015). Her first literary publication, “Where Things Are Made” was published by Blunderbuss Magazine (April 2015). She lives in Pocatello, Idaho with her husband and son and is a Senior Lecturer in English at Idaho State University. In her spare time, she likes to trail run with her dog.
PAUL CURTIS DAW is a lawyer-turned-translator. His translation of Evelyne Trouillot’s novel Memory at Bay is published by the University of Virginia Press. His translation of Olivier Targowla’s novel Narcisse on a Tightrope is forthcoming from Deep Vellum’s Dalkey Archive imprint, and Akashic Books will soon publish several of his story translations in Paris Noir: The Suburbs. His renditions of stories and other texts from France, Haiti, Belgium, Quebec, Reunion, and Swiss Romandy appear in Words Without Borders, Subtropics, Asymptote Blog, Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, and carte blanche, among other publications, and in four annual editions of Best European Fiction. He is a former officer and director of the American Literary Translators Association.
HEATHER DERR-SMITH is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a poet with four books, Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005), The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008), Tongue Screw (Spark Wheel Press, 2016), and Thrust, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award (Persea Books, 2017), She is managing director of Cuvaj Se/Take Care, a nonprofit supporting writers in conflict zones and post-conflict zones and communities affected by trauma.
LINDA DITTMAR grew up in Israel during its formative years, 1939-1960. In the U.S. since 1961, she studied at City College of N.Y. and Stanford University (ph.D.1970). Now Professor Emerita, she taught literature and film studies at UMass—Boston, including two semesters at Tel Aviv University, visiting lecturer at the University of Paris, and two Fulbright grants to India, the latter as Distinguished Chair. In addition to many articles and book chapters her writing includes the books From Hanoi to Hollywood and Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism. Her memoir-in-progress concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing on the war of 1948
SARAH EMILY DUFF was born and raised in South Africa, and was educated at Stellenbosch University and at Birkbeck. She is an historian of age and education, and now lives and works in Maine.
CJ EVANS is the author of A Penance (New Issues Press), and The Category of Outcast, selected by Terrance Hayes for the Poetry Society of America’s chapbook fellowship. He’s received the Amy Lowell Scholarship, and is the editorial director of Two Lines Press.
AMAIA GABANTXO is a writer, singer and literary translator specialized in Basque literature—a pioneer in the field and its greatest contributor. She’s a multiple award recipient: a Wingate Scholar and OMI alumni, and a 2020-21 artist-in-residence at the CLEAR Maritime Lab in Newfoundland’s Memorial University. A descendant of seafaring folk, she has translated generational skills into an ability to chart new routes in the literary seas. She is a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her album Kantuz: 1931 was released last year.
AGNIESZKA (AGA) GABOR DA SILVA graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studied Lusophone Literatures and Cultures. Aga also holds a Master of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. Her translations have appeared in Lunch Ticket, ANMLY, and Columbia Journal.
JOANNE GODLEY is a physician, writer and poet residing in Alexandria, Virginia. Her lyric memoir was a finalist for the Kore Press Memoir contest and received honorable mentions in the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book contest and the National Woman’s Book Association Contest. Her poetry is published in an anthology, 50/50. Her poetry chapbook was published in summer 2020. Her nonfiction and fiction can be found on the Kenyon Review blog and on Akashic Press’s blog, Mondays are Murder. She attended Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Kenyon Writers Workshop, VONA and was recently granted a poetry/author fellowship by the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She is writing a novel.
D.M. GORDON is the author of Nightly, At the Institute of the Possible, a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her prizewinning poetry and fiction have been published widely in journals from Glimmer Train and Nimrod to Lady Churchill’s Rosebud and Poetry Daily. An MCC Artist Fellow in fiction, and two-time finalist in poetry, her background includes a Masters in Music. She’s written two linked literary novels, a poem collection, and a creative non-fiction book, The Trouble with Horses. She works as an editorial consultant.
ALICE GUTHRIE is a translator, editor, and curator specialising in contemporary Arabic writing. Widely published since 2008, her work has often focused on subaltern voices and ‘activist’ art (winning her the Jules Chametzky Translation Prize 2019). As a commissioning editor she is currently compiling the first ever anthology of LGBTQ+ Arabic writing, set to appear in parallel Arabic and English editions in 2022. She programs the literary strand of London’s biennale Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture, and in 2020 she has curated queer Arab content for Edinburgh International Book Fair and Outburst International Queer Arts Festival. She teaches translation at the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham (both in the UK).
ELIZABETH HARRIS’s translations from the Italian include works by Mario Rigoni Stern, Giulio Mozzi, Antonio Tabucchi, Francesco Pacifico, and Claudia Durastanti. For her translations of Tabucchi (all with Archipelago Books), she has received an NEA Translation Fellowship, the Italian Prose in Translation Award, and the National Translation Award for Prose.
GLORIA L. HUANG is a freelance writer. Her fiction has been accepted for publication in literary journals including Michigan Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, Southern Humanities Review, Fiction Magazine, North American Review, Arts & Letters, Washington Square Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Sycamore Review, and The Antigonish Review. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Stanford University. Currently, she is working on her first novel.
BETH UZNIS JOHNSON is a Best American essayist and McGinnis-Ritchie Award recipient whose writing has been published in Story Quarterly, the Rumpus Readers Report, Southwest Review, Cincinnati Review, Mississippi Review, Gargoyle, and Best American Essays 2018. She has an MFA in fiction from Queens University of Charlotte and works as the editor of two magazines at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. She writes from suburban Detroit.
MUNIB KHAN’s fiction has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Hobart, Normal School, Barcelona Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Southword: New International Writing, and elsewhere. He lives in Lahore.
VYACHESLAV KUPRIYANOV, a poet, prose writer, translator and critic, was born in Novosibirsk, Russia in 1939. He completed his studies in 1967 at the Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow, in the department of mechanical translation and mathematical linguistics. He has translated Austrian and German poets, Rilke, Helderlin, and Novalis among others, as well as American poets, Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg. He had to wait until 1981 to see his own first collection of poetry appear in print in Russia, and his tenth collection was published in 2019. A recipient of a dozen awards, V. Kupriyanov was named Moscow’s Poet Laureate in 2012.
CAROLINE LAMARCHE is a Belgian novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her first novel, Le jour du chien (Minuit, 1996) won the Prix Rossel and revealed “a powerful and incontestable voice, very moving” (le Monde des Livres). It was followed by La nuit l’après midi (Minuit, 1998), published in English as Night in the Afternoon and Other Erotica (Grove Press, 2000). Since then, Gallimard has published seven of her novels, as well as a story collection, Nous sommes à la lisière, for which she received the 2019 Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle. Over time, she has garnered all the major prizes dedicated to francophone Belgian literature, and her works have been translated into several languages.
DAVID LENSON (1945-2020) was a poet, essayist, saxophonist, professor of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and former executive editor of the Massachusetts Review.
SARAH LILIUS is the author of five chapbooks including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017) and Traffic Girl (Ghost City Press, 2020). Some of her publication credits include Fourteen Hills, Boulevard, the Denver Quarterly, and Court Green. She lives in Arlington, VA.
EWA LIPSKA is considered one of the most important Polish poets. She has won numerous award such as the Kościelski Prize (1973), the Polish PEN Club prize (1992), the Jurzykowski Foundation Prize (1993), and the Gdynia Literary Prize (2011). She has been nominated several times for the Nike Literary Award, one of the most prestigious awards for Polish literature, including for her 2017 volume of poetry Pamiȩć operacyjna [Internal Memory], where the poem “Can Always Happen” appeared. Collections of her verse have been translated into several languages, such as Czech, Danish, Dutch, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, and Swedish.
JOANNA LULOFF is the author of the short story collection The Beach at Galle Road and the novel Remind Me Again What Happened, both published by Algonquin Books. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Missouri Review, Western Humanities Review, The Bennington Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado Denver where she also edits fiction and nonfiction for the journal Copper Nickel.
EDIE MEIDAV is the author of Kingdom of the Young, the novel Lola, California, and other books. She is on the permanent faculty of the UMass Amherst MFA for Poets and Writers.
UMA MENON is a seventeen-year-old author and student at Princeton University from Winter Park, Florida. Her debut book Hands for Language was published by Mawenzi House in 2020. She is the 2019-2020 Youth Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival and a 2020-2021 Encore Public Voices Fellow.
DONNA LEE MIELE lives and writes in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Ms. Aligned 3, Atticus Review, Red Fez, North Dakota Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a founding member of River River Writers’ Circle.
DASHA C. NISULA is Professor Emeritus and Fellow of Lee Honors College, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI. Author of six books and recipient of IREX and NCEEER grants, and three NEH fellowships, she translates from Russian and Croatian languages. Most recent books include Music is Everything by Slavko Mihalic and You With Hands More Innocent by Vesna Parun. She is a long-time member of the American Literary Translators Association.
NINA PAYNE was an artist, poet, and professor of creative writing at Hampshire College. She published two children’s books, Four in All and Summertime Waltz, and has had her poetry published in a variety of journals.
ALEJANDRO PEREZ is a student at Columbia University in New York. His poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Boulevard, The Missouri Review, Passages North, DIAGRAM, and Spanish-language magazines in Venezuela, Chile, and Spain. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology.
ADREINNE WAHEED is a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY, and Berkeley, CA. Her work bears witness to and holds space for the beauty, brillance, and resilience of Black folks across the diaspora. She is an accomplished photo editor who, during her twenty-year career, has researched, produced, and directed numerous shoots, for publications including Vibe, King, and Essence magazines. Her photography has been published by the New York Times, National Geographic, Photo District News, and the Fader. She has exhibited at Rush Arts, Corridor Gallery, the Underground Museum, the Long Gallery, and Betti Ono Gallery. In 2010, Waheed created the Waheed Photo Archive, a collection of found photographs of African-Americans from Civil War to the present. The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) acquired the archive in 2015. Her self-published coffee table book, Black Joy and Resistance, was released in December 2018 and is available now.
ROBERT WHITEHEAD received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013, and has been a fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, Ashbery Home School, and Vermont Studio Center. His work has appeared or is forthcoming from Gulf Coast, Verse Daily, JERRY, Denver Quarterly, The Collagist, and elsewhere. He lives in Philadelphia, where he works as a writer and designer for a university hospital and is the managing editor of NightBlock.