Front Cover by Jacqueline De Jong
War 1914-1918, detail, 2013. Pastel and charcoal on paper.
Courtesy of the artist and Château Shatto, Los AngelesOrder a copy now
Front Cover by Jacqueline De Jong
War 1914-1918, detail, 2013. Pastel and charcoal on paper.
Courtesy of the artist and Château Shatto, Los AngelesOrder a copy now
DO PEOPLE CHANGE? The team of rivals currently competing for attention in my brain was consulted on this question long ago, but the jury’s still out. On the one hand, from the early origins of Ayuvedic medicine to today, some psychologists have believed that basic temperament tends to remain unchanged, even in the worst of times: optimists in concentration camps still look on the sunny side, sour-minded cynics winning Nobel Prizes doubt their efforts have done any good, etc., etc. On the other hand, already in 1944, H.G. Wells penned a paper on the “illusion of personality,” arguing that the very idea of individuality (with its root meaning of indivisibility) was simply a “biologically convenient delusion.” Moreover, given the mess we’ve made of this planet (which may already be beyond repair), the very question may soon be moot. Better to focus on changing behavior, not feelings; if we don’t fix the former, the latter don’t matter.
One thing, thus, does seem certain: we don’t get to choose our circumstances. Whether when they change we change may not even be a logical question: if Marx was right, they are us. What storytellers do, in response, is weave meaning from the warp of events crossed by characters. And, as it turns out, this issue of the Massachusetts Review is packed with authors bringing to the page events that can only be described as (if you’ll pardon the expression) life changing. After a pair of Chase Twichell poems, composed in the key of no, we begin with a meditation by Vince Granata on forgiveness—though the actions prompting his essay are intimate, violent, and perhaps unforgivable. With the exception of Aleksandar Hemon’s “Aquarium,” I can recall no other work of nonfiction that seems so simultaneously beautiful and impossible to imagine writing. Elsewhere, with his typical mix of surrealism and science, Daniele Del Giudice’s short fiction (ably translated by Anne Milano Appel), “Shipwreck with Painting,” takes the crossing between art and catastrophe as its point of origin. And, oddly enough, both Edie Meidav’s “The Christian Girl” and Mhani Alaoui in “Anna’s House” find that origins themselves point toward catastrophe—inevitably so, insofar and as long as our deepest sense of community remains based on exclusion. Yet not all is darkness, we promise: age brings wisdom to the strictures of doctrine in Teresa Svoboda’s story “Mennonite Forest,” as it does to the ruptures of history, in Philip Metres’s remembrance of the poet Yunna Morits, and hers of Russias past. Two talented young writers close this number: Jeannie Tseng paints a protagonist bending under pressure, refusing to let ugly facts destroy her beautiful theory, and Steffan Hruby reworks one of Hemingway’s most roasted chestnuts, giving it a surprising new glaze. Behind all such changes, the wail of Gerald Stern’s horn player can be heard—as Stern makes clear, a displaced person doesn’t even have to move, not when history pulls the rug out.
Perhaps Ionesco put it best (in Donald M. Allen’s translation): after all, “I can buy a pocketknife for my brother, but you can't buy Ireland for your grandfather.” In reflecting on change, confronted with its (im)possibility, we would do well to return to the Situationists and their reflections on psychogeography. The life and art of Jacqueline de Jong, which began in WWII, moving in and through the activism of the CoBrA group as well as the Situationist sixties, before deciding that cultiver son jardin was art for the twenty-first century, will thus surely be instructive. Wandering through these pages, just as I have, and simply following what you find, who knows what might happen? Change must be systematically explored.
A River in Egypt and What the Trees Said,
two poems by Chase Twichell
Why I Get Lost, an essay by Vince Granata
Silence, a poem by Gerald Stern
The Christian Girl, a story by Edie Meidav
Mennonite Forest, a story by Terese Svoboda
Blur, a poem by Doug Ramspeck
Igloo, a poem by Owen McLeod
Shipwreck with Painting, a story by Daniele Del Giudice,
translated by Anne Milano Appel
Feed, a poem by Laura McCullough
The American Dream Writes to Orpheus, a poem by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Flourishing, a poem by Joy Ladin
Art by Jacqueline De Jong
Oranges, a story by David Zellnik
Of No Consequence, a poem by William Fargason
Runner, a story by Tom Cantwell
Deconstruct and Peanuts, two poems by Ruth Madievsky
Godsblood, a poem by Matthew Westbrook
Anna’s House, a story by Mhani Alaoui
Subject: Subject, an essay by Ben Dolan
Zero Gravity, a poem by Peter Leight
This is Autumn, My Dear. Talking with Yunna Morits, an essay by Philip Metres
Nocturne, a poem by Adam Dressler
The Unprotected Females of the Women’s
Rest Tour Association, an essay by Jodie Noel Vinson
What They Were, a story by Jane Gillette
Music, a poem by Casey FitzSimons
Auroras, a poem by L.A. Johnson
Data Driven, a story by Jeannie Tseng
The Short Happy Life, a story by Steffan Hruby
paper cone, a poem by Ulrike Draesner, translated by Bernadette Geyer
Notes on Contributors
MHANI ALOUI is a Casablanca-based writer and anthropologist. Her first novel, Dreams of Maryam Tair, received the Independent Publisher Book Award and the Indiefab Award. After ten years of living up and down the American East Coast, she moved to Paris and settled for a little while on the Rive Gauche, where reading and writing were still part of the romance of the everyday. She now lives in Casablanca, the city she grew up in.
ANNE MILANO APPEL has been awarded the Italian Prose in Translation Award, the John Florio Proze for Italian Translation, and the Northern California Book Award for Translation–Fiction. She has translated works by Claudio Magris, Primo Levi, Giovanni Arpino, Paolo Giordano, Roberto Saviano, Giuseppe Catozzella, and numerous others. Translating professionally since 1996, she is a former library director and language teacher.
TOM CANTWELL'S fiction has appeared in American Literary Review, Flyway, New Ohio Review, and a handful of other journals. He holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Tom lives with his wife and two children in Eugene, OR, where he is at work on a novel.
JACQUELINE DE JONG was one of the first women to participate in the avant-garde Situationist International movement following World War II, and was the founder of The Situationist Times (1961–1967), a radical journal devoted to the exploration of topology. She is a key link between the Cobra and Situationist movements and their contemporary legacy. De Jong’s “War” series commemorates World War I through the lens of an artist whose childhood was marked by the chaos of the Second World War.
DANIELE DEL GIUDICE'S novels and shorter narrative works include Lo stadio di Wimbledon, Atlante occidentale, Nel museo di Reims, Staccando l’ombra da terra, Mania, Orizzonte mobile, and I racconti. He has published essays on Italo Svevo, Thomas Bernhardt, Robert. L. Stevenson and Primo Levi. He co-authored, with Marco Paolini, I-TIGI, Canot per Ustica, the text for a theatrical performance about the tragedy of the DC-9 Itavia that mysteriously plunged into the sea in 1980. His works have won numerous awards and have been translated into sixteen languages. Del Giudice lives in Venice, Italy, where he has taught theatrical literature at the Theatre Faculty of the IUAV.
BEN DOLAN grew up in The Woodlands, TX. He currently lives in Albuquerque, where he teaches high school English.
ULRIKE DRAESNER was born in 1962 in Munich, Germany, and is one of the country’s most prominent authors. She has won the Joachim-Ringelnatz-Prize for Poetry, the Roswitha Prize, the Bremer Netzresidenz, and the Solothurner Literature Prize. Draesner is a poet, a writer of long and short fiction, and a translator of French and Anglo-American poetry. She has been awarded poetic readerships at Middlebury College, the Universities of Kiel, Birmingham, Mainz, and Bamberg, and sometimes teaches as a professor for Creative Writing at the Deutsche Literaturinstitut Leipzig. The poems here are from Subsong, her most recent book of poetry.
ADAM DRESSLER is assistant editor of Parnassus. His poems have appeared in the New Criterion, Raritan, and Yale Review.
WILLIAM FARGASON's poetry has appeared in New England Review, Barrow Street, Indiana Review, Rattle, New Orleans Review, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. He received two awards from the Academy of American Poets and a scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in poetry at Florida State University. He lives with himself in Tallahassee, FL.
CASEY FITZSIMONS has poems in print and online in Red Wheelbarrow, Mezzo Cammin, and numerous other journals. She has had first-place awards from Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, (San Francisco) Bay Area Poets Coalition, and Ina Coolbrith Circle. She has published twelve chapbooks, including The Sharp Edges of Knowing and Against the Familiar Wall. Her reviews of Bay Area exhibitions appeared in Artweek, and her studio drawing book, Serious Drawing, was published by Prentice Hall. She has a master’s degree in Fine Arts from San José State University.
BERNADETTE GEYER is a writer, editor, and translator living in Berlin, Germany. She is the author of the poetry collection The Scabbard of Her Throat, and editor of My Cruel Invention: A Contemporary Poetry Anthology. Her poems and translations have appeared in Asymptote, Fourteen Hills, Oxford American, Poet Lore, and on Verse Daily.
JANE GILLETTE'S fiction has appeared in the Hopkins Review, Missouri Review, ZYZZYVA, Antigonish Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Lawrence Foundation Prize and an O. Henry Award.
VINCE GRANATA taught high school English in Newton, MA, for five years before moving to Washington, DC. He is an MFA candidate at American University and is currently working on a memoir.
STEFFAN HRUBY is from Minneapolis and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He’s currently an MFA candidate at the Ohio State University and an associate editor at The Journal. His work has appeared in theAntioch Review, Southwest Review, and Summerset Review. He received a Notable Essay citation in Best American Essays 2015.
L.A. JOHNSON received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost's Fellow. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Southern Review, Antioch Review, Iowa Review, Indiana Review, Phoebe, Third Coast, and other journals. She lives in Los Angeles.
JOY LADIN is the author of seven books of poetry, including Lambda Literary Award-finalists Impersonation and Transmigration. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship, among other honors. She holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University.
PETER LEIGHT lives in Amherst, MA. He has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Matter, and other magazines.
RUTH MADIEVSKY is the author of a poetry collection, Emergency Brake. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, ZYZZYVA, Rattle, and elsewhere. She is originally from Moldova and lives in Los Angeles, where she is a doctor of pharmacy student at the University of Southern California.
LAURA MCCULLOUGH is a poet and prose writer whose essays, memoirs, stories, and poetry have appeared in places such as Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Guernica, PANK, Gulf Coast, Writer’s Chronicle,and others. Her recent books include Jersey Mercy; an edited anthology, A Sense of Regard: Essays on Poetry and Race; and Rigger Death & Hoist Another. She teaches full time at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, and is on the faculty of the Sierra Nevada low-res MFA. She is founding editor of Mead: The Magazine of Literature and Libations.
OWEN MCLEOD'S poetry recently appears or is forthcoming in FIELD, Missouri Review, New England Review, Yale Review, and other journals. He is a potter and professor of philosophy at Lafayette College, and lives in eastern Pennsylvania.
EDIE MEIDAV is the author of Kingdom of the Young, Lola, California, and other books. She teaches in the MFA program for poets and writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
PHILIP METRES is the author ofPictures at an Exhibition, Sand Opera, I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky, A Concordance of Leaves, To See the Earth, and others. His work has garnered a Lannan fellowship, two NEAs, six Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Hunt Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts & Letters, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Watson Fellowship, the Creative Workforce Fellowship, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant. He is a professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland.
Born in Indonesia, CYNTHIA DEWI OKA taught herself English by reading classics in a Canadian school library. She is the winner of the 2014 Editor’s Prize in Poetry from Fifth Wednesday journal and an artist grant from the Vermont Studio Center. An alumna of the Voices of Our Nations Writers’ Workshop, she is currently poetry editor of Generations Literary Journal. Her poems have appeared in The Wide Shore, Obsidian, Kweli Journal, Black Renaissance Noire, Apogee, Terrain.org, Boxcar Poetry Review, Dismantle, the VONA Anthology, and others.
DOUG RAMSPECK is the author of five collections of poetry. His most recent book, Original Bodies, was published by Southern Indiana Review Press and received the Michael Waters Poetry Prize. Individual poems have appeared in Slate, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, andGeorgia Review.
GERALD STERN has two new books, Death Watch and Galaxy Love. He is winner of the Frost Medal, Ruth Lilly Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and many others.
TERESE SVOBODA'S Professor Harriman’s Steam Air-Ship was published in September. When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems appeared in 2015. Live Sacrifice (stories) will be published in 2017.
JEANNIE TSENG earned her MFA in fiction from Columbia University, where she was a Teaching Fellow. She also holds an M.Sc. in Immunology from the University of Chicago and taught high school biology. She now lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. She is working on her first novel.
CHASE TWICHELL'S most recent book is Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems, which won both the Kingsley Tufts Award from Claremont Graduate University and the Balcones Poetry Prize. A new book is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.
JODIE NOEL VINSON is managing editor of Longitude Books, an online travel bookstore based in Minneapolis. Her essays and reviews have been published in the Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, The Rumpus, Rain Taxi, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Nowhere Magazine, among other places. Jodie holds an MFA in nonfiction creative writing from Emerson College, where she developed a book about her literary travels.
MATTHEW WESTBROOK is a senior writer and editor at a national higher education marketing firm in Baltimore. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry, Poetry East, and Subtropics, among other journals. Past honors include a Pushcart nomination and two Individual Artist Awards in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council.
DAVID ZELLNIK is the author of numerous plays and musicals performed in America and internationally, including the Off-Broadway musical Yank!, which received seven Drama Desk nominations; and the plays The Udmurts, Serendib, Ariel Sharon Stands at the Temple Mount and Dreams of Theodor Herzl, and Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom. He has been given grants from the Sloan Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and recently, with collaborator Ismail Khalidi, founded the theater project "Break the Wall.” This is his first short story.