Saturday, July 14, 2012

New American Writing #30 (2012)


in the morning i shadow you with envelopes, and falling down stairs our breath; the night as it moves. and the lines recede, a thunder; and they are ecstatic in the aisles; and the boats are righted and culled from the bearing deck

and the rain
and the dark paper map
and the lineage of small white instruments, arrayed by the door

and there were the ones who grew; and there were the ones spacious in trees; and there were those who pressed into surface, who suffered and were not to blame; who recorded the sounds of slippers on floors, a traveling back to weather and rind (Laura Walker)

I don’t often like to talk about journals I’m in, but I just received the new issue of the annual New American Writing, edited by Paul Hoover and Maxine Chernoff. Their thirtieth annual issue, it features more than two hundred pages of writing by such as Sylvia Legris, JulieCarr, Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop, Kenneth Goldsmith, Elizabeth Robinson, Andrew Zawacki, Clayton Eschleman and tons of others. Wisely, the issue opens with three fantastic short prose works by Lydia Davis, the first of which, “The Old Soldier,” claims to be “from Stories From Flaubert,” which includes:

I thought about how, in this perpetual half-sleep of old age (which precedes the other sleep, and is a sort of transition from life to nothingness), the fellow no doubt was seeing once again the snows of Russia or the sands of Egypt. What visions were floating before those cloudy eyes? And what clothes he wore! What a jacket—patched and clean! The woman who served us (his daughter, I imagine) was a fifty-year-old gossip in a short skirt, with calves like the balusters in the Palace Louis XV and a cotton cap on her head. She came and went in her blue stockings and coarse skirt, and splendid Badinguet was there in the midst of it all, mounted on a yellow horse, three-cornered hat in hand, saluting a cohort of war-wounded, their wooden legs all precisely aligned.

The issue also includes a long, staccato poem by Paul Hoover, four poems from Sylvia Legris’ “Island of Prosections,” three poems by Laura Walker each titled “genesis,” and an extended sequence by Donna Stonecipher, excerpted from a longer work titled “Model City.” The editors of the journal appear to favour the sequence, extended or otherwise, and the fragmented lyric, and lyric prose-sentence. I’m taken by the two poems Camille T. Dungy has in the issue, from a “Frequently Asked Questions” sequence, each riffing off single lines asked to (seemingly) new mothers, including “Is it true that once you’re a parent it’s hard to maintain a social life of your own?” and “Does she have teeth yet? Does she bite you?” What really impresses is the range and the heft of the journal, watching the sheer array of what is happening in writing, predominantly throughout the United States, it might seem. Should more Canadians start sending work in, to make the “American” of New American Writing become larger than just the United States (I’ve noticed Legris, for example, has published more than a couple of times in the journal)? What of Mexico, perhaps? And currently, I’m working on a section of “Canadian poetry” for their next issue, due out in exactly a year from now.

And I know I need to read more of her work, but what little I’ve seen of Rosmarie Waldrop’s writing is quite enviable, and this issue includes some of her stellar, short prose poems.

Plugs and Sockets

No recipe for poetry or sex. Just water. In panic you invent the crawl and hope for nine lives. Wives. What if your rhythm doesn’t match any language? Runs down before reaching the knot in the wave? The hand is quicker than the eye, but the space twists. The sun goes down in the middle of a word. Then we don’t know what’s up. Or down. (Rosmarie Waldrop)

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