Cover image by Roxanne Swentzell Tower Gallery
From Brazil to Sweden to Santa Fe Editor’s Note MR V4#l
“The meaning of books is not behind us, but ahead of us.” – Carlos Fuentes
With this issue we start the fourth year of publication for this journal (or serial anthology if you prefer), and we are grateful and somewhat surprised to still be around. I guess this is some sort of arrival, although sometimes it has seemed like jumping off a cliff to start publishing something like MR. Before I began, people said that beginning a poetry journal is a money-losing proposition (true). It was not my purpose to make money with such a publication, and that part has worked out fine. They said sales are not likely to even cover publication costs (also true). And others said I was crazy to even think about publishing a poetry quarterly. I did mention to them that a quarterly was nothing when I had been the managing editor of a daily newspaper in Los Angeles that also had a weekly and a monthly magazine; or having been the founding editor of a Spanish-language weekly in Oregon; or having produced and directed a Spanish-language TV program there too, when I worked with Mexican migrant workers. Not to mention being involved from time to time with literary publications. Given the history of poetry publications in New Mexico (and similarly in all corners of the country), I can understand how they felt their advice was realistic.
I wanted to try out my idea at least for a little while. The idea was to publish a quality poetry journal that is a little different from others, that would include not only a variety of texts, but a diversity of international poetry in translation, and a featured poet and a mini-anthology in each issue. In other words, the idea was to bring in both the micro and the macro considerations of new poems and poetries, and to balance the prose and poetry in an issue. And I wanted it to be only a poetry publication, to the exclusion of other genres, not because I don’t like those other genres (I do), but because I think poets have a more difficult time getting published. It was also to bring New Mexico poets into a publication with poets, some well known, from outside the state and from outside the nation. In my view, as happens in many large countries and cultures, such a nation is so large most of the poets focus on the regional (or even state to state) diversity within, but don’t really take the time to look outside at the poets from other lands. I found out years ago that in Europe, where geographically writers are not so distant because the countries are not so big as the U.S., most writers of one nation would all know each other. In the U.S. this is a little more difficult, and in many cases the poets in the East don’t know those in the West, and the same for the North and the South, except for those poets who become nationally famous and give readings around the country. So the idea was to bridge some of these gaps just a little bit, to bring different poetic elements and poets together in one publication. Readers tell me that they think this has been accomplished and if so, I am pleased.
The main focus of the kind of poetry I want to publish are those texts that have feeling, that make the reader experience the poem, on a gut level as well as on an intellectual level. As New Mexico poet Todd Moore used to say, “If you don’t feel it, it’s not a poem” (or words to that effect). I’m not referring of course to superficial, sentimentalistic feeling, but feeling that has depth, that effects your life at that moment, that means you’re a survivor of the experience of that poem, and that becomes a part of your life, at least for a while and perhaps for a long time. Superficial poems that are only intellectual exercises have no feeling, in my view. I live in my own poems because I have lived the experiences that created them. And when you find a poem that makes you relive a profound experience that someone else has had, you know that you’ve found a good poem or poet. To me, poems not only have a “surface structure” but also a “psychic” structure beneath the apparent word-chain which is the overlaid facade, and both levels need to have power in order to make the reader feel. Poems can have a clear surface and many vague reverberations beneath the surface, or they can have an obfuscated surface and clarity emanating beneath. Either way works, and each type of structure informs the preferences of the many literary movements and the specific nature of individual poets. Some poets, such as Jorge Luis Borges, believe that a literary text is an “open text” in that it is finished, or perhaps revivified, when someone reads it, and it is renewed each time it is read. Therefore a literary text is finished only if people stop reading it altogether. The great Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes had the same opinion. I’m not sure what to think of this idea, as I don’t think it’s totally clear where it leads, so I’m not so sure what kind of meaning we can assign. But it’s an interesting idea, and certainly true, that each reader brings a different set of experiences to every text, making their approach to it distinct. I’m not sure you can theorize about how that fuses the two. Does the poem exist on the page, in your brain, in a meeting of the two, in a hybrid experience? And how does the poem exist? These are questions that have been theorized about and experienced or thought about for a long time, but they are interesting because poetry is always changing.
The best poems make the reader feel the poem’s power in both lobes of the mind and even deeper than that. I publish poems in any given issue of MR for various reasons, but the ones I like the most are those that strike the two lobes at once. Poetry is not the easy genre of literature. As I have said for years, and I’m not the only one, if you master how to read poetry, you can read all of the other literary genres, but it doesn’t work the other way around. That’s why there has often been a discrepancy between a “poet” and a “writer.” Poets have a different purpose than writers of other genres, although that doesn’t mean they’re better people. It does mean that they take on distinct responsibilities, in many cases. At a poetry reading, poets (if they’re any good) can get up and rail and rant against or for one idea or scandal or oppression or disaster or catastrophe or whatever, and perhaps bring some understanding or power to the consideration of these topics, but that doesn’t work for novelists. Poets’ power of concentration means they can read a finished poem, but novelists can’t read their finished novels at such an event. (And reading bits of novels never works, no matter how good they might be.)
For this issue, I thank Dale Harris for her excellent interview with our featured poet, James McGrath, and I thank him for allowing us to feature him and his work. As you can see from the interview, he has had an incredible life of travel and aesthetic appreciation, and has written down many of his experiences in poetry. James’ famous and occasional orchard readings, held for many years at his home in Santa Fe, are excellent events I’m told (I hope to make it to one soon). We have published a number of James’ poems over the span of MR’s publication, and I am confident that readers will be very pleased with the selection of poetry that accompanies the interview.
I am also happy to have in this issue a mini-anthology of Brazilian poetry, edited by Narlan Matos Teixeira (who holds an M.A. from UNM). I studied Portuguese and Brazil’s poetry myself many years ago in graduate school. In fact, my major fields were Spanish American poetry and Spanish poetry – in my day we were trained in both Matos main Hispanic literatures. I published my first essay on the topic of “The Concretista poetry of Manuel Bandeira” in the Luso-Brazilian Review (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 19-32) of the University of Wisconsin. So, I have a background in the development of Brazil’s poetry and have read most of the major poets of the past, but I don’t have much knowledge of the current state of Brazilian poetry. This is why I’m especially glad to have this feature and to know of these newer poets. I am delighted that Narlan Matos was able to bring together the translated poems. I hope readers will find these poems as interesting as I do.
I also thank the Swedish poet Niklas Tornlund, whose poems I greatly enjoyed, and his excellent translator, Albuquerque poet John Tritica, who first met Tornlund when he studied at Lund University years ago. They have remained close friends over the years. Reading Tornlund’s poems, I was reminded of our MR feature a few issues ago on 2011 Nobel-winning Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. Although the works of the two poets are not the same, of course, both are excellent poets, and Sweden seems to come through in the words of both.
Roxanne Swentzell is one of Santa Clara Pueblo’s, and one of New Mexico’s, and one of the nation’s great artists, and we are lucky to have her and her work in this state. Her incredible ceramics grace the front and back covers of this issue of MR, and we are delighted to have them displayed for our readers to see. I knew of her work for a long time, but one day, after many times saying that I need to stop and didn’t, I finally stopped to see more of her work at her Tower Gallery in Pojoaque. (You can easily see the tower from the 285 highway north of Santa Fe.) If you have the opportunity, stop and be amazed by her art. For more visual art in this issue, I am pleased to have photos by Ken O’Brien and Lauren Schwartz.
I worked on the long essay about Lorca and Neruda for many months, instigated by the exhumations of these poets in recent years. These two great poets of the 20th Century have been one of my passions, and I have taught their poems many times over the years. It was bad enough that Lorca was killed by forces totally against art, freedom, democracy, and diversity. And that the U.S. Government at that time, along with the British and French governments, refused to help the legally-elected Spanish Government of the Second Republic and instead helped Hitler and Mussolini grow in power, only to have to confront and fight them later. And in the case of Neruda, the U.S. Government (especially the CIA) may have been more directly involved in the death of the Chilean poet. This will be determined for certain in the near future. The most important aspect of a poet’s life is his/her poetry, but in this case it is helpful to know what happened to these great poets, and I believe most American poets do not.
And finally, I want to mention some recent articles about poetry, in newspapers, at least in passing. A friend sent an interesting article from the Los Angeles Times (August 9, 2013, pp. Al and All) about a poet, Jacqueline Suskind, who has a stall at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market called the “Poem Store” where she writes poems for those who want an on-the-spot rendering of some topic for someone they care about. Suskind apparently participated in this activity in the San Francisco Bay area before bringing it to LA. And it is successful, at least to some degree. If you try this, you’d better be good at writing “occasional poetry.” Next, an obituary in the New York Times (August 19, 2013, p. B8) tells of the demise of New York poet John Hollander, who taught in various universities; he was 83.1 have to confess that, as a more traditional poet, I never generally found his work to be of much interest. However, I wanted to mention him for this reason: in the Brazilian feature in this issue, I discuss the Concretist movement within the avant-garde there. After he abandoned his more conservative poetry orientation, Hollander was one of the American poets who picked up on the Concretist use of shaped poetry and playing with form and structure, especially in his book Types of Shape (1969).
Just before we went to press, we heard of the death of Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), the well-known Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1995. He was the fourth Irishman to win the prize, along with W. B. Yeats. George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett. Although born in Northern Ireland, he lived in Ireland from 1972 on, and held Irish nationality, rejecting British citizenship. He was a professor of poetry at Harvard University from 1981-97, Poet-in-Residence there from 1988-2006, and also a professor of poetry at Oxford University, 1989-1994. He was also a translator, his most famous being an award-winning version of Beowolf (1999), and he adapted two plays by Sophocles. Major works include: Death of a Naturalist (1966); Field Work (1979); The Spirit Level (1996); District and Circle (2006); and Human Chain (2010). He won various prizes including the T. S. Eliot Prize, E. M. Foster Prize, Faber Prize, Golden Wreath of Poetry and the Griffin Trust Prize, among others, as well as the Nobel.
On a happier note, Albuquerque’s West End Press has issued the first book of poems by the city’s first Poet Laureate, Hakim Bellamy, titled Swear, a good read which I highly recommend. – Gary L. Brower
Cover image by Roxanne Swentzell Tower Gallery
The Malpaís Review seeks to expand upon New Mexico’s rich and diverse cultural heritage by bringing together poetry, poetry translation, essays on aspects of poetry from writers around the state, the USA and beyond.
The issues will be published quarterly. Each issue will take 10 to 20 pages for one featured writer with the remaining pages open to everyone else. Some interior pages may be used for black and white artwork.
Gary L. Brower, Editor
Subscriptions: $40 for one year (4 issues) postage paid. Single issues: $12 + $3.50 shipping. Make check payable to Gary Brower, Malpaís Review, POB 339, Placitas, NM 87043. The Malpaís Review is a 6×9 hardcopy publication between 120 and 150 pages each issue.
Spring issue: Oct, Nov, Dec
Summer issue: Jan, Feb, Mar
Autumn issue: Apr, May, Jun
Winter issue: Jul, Aug, Sep
Malpaís Review seeks original poems, previously unpublished in North America, written in English. Any topic, but we despise hate inciting and pornographic work. Submit 1 to 5 poems, no limit on length, but once you hit 10 pages call the submission done (unless the submission is a single poem that is longer than 10 pages). Notification of acceptance will take place within 1 month of the closing of a reading period.
One submission per reading period. If your work is accepted into an issue, please let one issue go by before you submit again. In other words, we will publish your work a maximum of twice a year in an effort to keep the voices fresh. No simultaneous submissions.
Essay topics: poetic criticism, history, theory, a specific poet or poem. Essays should be original and previously unpublished in North America. Length may be up to 5000 words.
Translations, both poems & essays, will be considered. Required: permission of the original poet is required along with a copy of the poem in its original language (assumes poet is living and/or copyrights are still in force). We intend to publish both the original poem and the translation if space permits.
Will be invited by the editorial staff for each issue.
1-3 Digital images should be saved as JPG (JPEG), at a resolution of 300 dpi. (make sure you set your email to attach the “actual” image instead of allowing the email program to reduce the image size.) Set images to CYMK. If the image is selected for showing in the interior of the issue, it will be converted to greyscale. Remember that vertical images are easier for us to work with over horizontal images.
HOW / WHERE:
Electronic submissions preferred. Please send your poems in the body of an email. Due to the risk of viruses, we will discard, without reading, any poetry or essay submission emails with attachments. If your poems have unusual formatting, note it, and we will ask for an file attachment (such as a pdf, doc, rtf file), if the poem is accepted. In the subject line of the email, please place the words POETRY or ESSAY, a dash, then your name. Example: poetry – JQ Public.
If you do not have access to email, please send hard copy to: Malpaís Review, POB 339, Placitas, NM 87043. Include an SAS Envelope or Postcard for response. Submissions without SAS Envelope or Postcard will be discarded without reading them. Submit ARTWORK in a separate email from poems or essays. Artwork may only be submitted via email.
Include a short, third-person biography with the submission.
Malpaís Review seeks first North American Rights of your work to appear in our hardcopy publication and reserves the right to use your work in a future “best of issue.” Rights revert to author upon publication.
Cover image by Roxanne Swentzell Tower Gallery