Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New American Writing 32 (final issue)

Sleeping Beauty

to all the waters we went it cannot be expressed and the vows so sorry we were /all the waters to no purpose the pilgrimages to no end and the days so sorry were /and tired in our seeking when she came from the ether it was no simple however /it was gold-back and bellsound rung toward future all the waters it wept/ til spindle-cursed the lure of cloth drew her up the tower / unknowing at the wheel a good woman and alone handed the needle kindly and oh quiet blood it cannot be expressed our waiting became her waiting / redsky redbird forgive us a life we grow tired in our sleep (Jennifer K. Sweeney)

While the nature of literary publishing has always appeared tenuous, there is still something disappointing and altogether sad about the demise of any literary journal, whether the recent announcement of the final issue of Toronto’s Descant (after some four decades), or that Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover’s New American Writing will cease publication (one can at least feel some twinge of optimism through the fact that Vancouver’s The Capilano Review, in the midst of a transition out of the institution that had long supported them, managed a highly successful Indiegogo Campaign to midwife their new independence). Any project that has continued this long should certainly be admired and celebrated, especially one that has managed so long with the original editors. I can easily imagine that the work they’ve done with the journal over the years has influenced an entire generation or two of American poet-publishers who have, themselves, gone on to produce their own publications, even as New American Writing continued to evolve, develop and annually publish. Having only discovered them a few years back, I’ve admired the work I’ve seen in each issue, and am sad to see them go. As Hoover wrote on the journal’s Facebook page in December:

Friends of New American Writing: Maxine Chernoff and I have decided to cease publication of the magazine due to overwhelming problems with the funding. We are grateful to have published some of the best poetry of the last four decades, including OINK, which ran 19 issues beginning in 1971. We are proud of our ability to help young poets become established and to have contributed to the larger discussion of poetics and the literary history of the period. Thanks to our many contributors, subscribers, and readers.

The final issue of New American Writing is therefore the current, NAW 32 (2014). That issue and all back issues except 4 (Australian poetry) and 5 (Censorship and the Arts) are available through

Part of the enjoyment of going through issues of New American Writing has always been in the strength of writing from familiar and unfamiliar names both new and well established, some of whom run through multiple issues of the annual journal, and this, the 2014 volume, features new writing by numerous poets, including Endi Bogue Hartigan, Fanny Howe, Aaron Shurin, Geoffre O’Brien, Clayton Eshleman, Karla Kelsey, Laynie Browne, Lisa Samuels, Noelle Kocot, Lucy Ives, John Tranter, Matthew Cooperman, Edward Smallfield, Anselm Berrigan, Philip Hoover, Travis Cebula, Amish Trivedi and Sara Marinelli, as well as a series of translations by Gillian Conoley, Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky, Stephen Kessler, and Odile Cisneros. I’m fascinated by the density of the three poems included here by Noelle Kocot, a poet I’ve long heard of but haven’t yet explored the work of, as well as the incredibly sharp lines of the extended sequence “The Hermit,” only some of which is included here, by the brilliantly talented Lucy Ives. Impossible to replicate here, the three poems included here in Anselm Berrigan’s “Rectangle” series are visually interesting, and suggest a far larger project down the line (that I am very interested in seeing). Attentive readers will not only see work by the late Chicago poet and publisher Dean Faulwell (1939-2013), prefaced by a short introduction by Paul Hoover, but some of the last work, the poem “Gogol’s Luck,” of the late San Francisco poet Colleen Lookingbill (1950-2014) who passed away in March, 2014, a couple of months before this issue was released. Her poem includes:

Meanwhile hints and questions are forgotten
overcome, we spend a long time
scrutinizing smart and beautifully shaped references
back to the wasteland, return is seeing
that’s how we do things

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