THE BLOG @ TIR
March 5, 2013
Iowa Literaria, the electronic literary journal of the Master of Fine Arts in Spanish Creative Writing program at the University of Iowa, launched its first issue on Tuesday, Feb. 26!
The inaugural issue of this Spanish-language literary magazine contains a dossier on the great Chilean poet (and former UI faculty member) Óscar Hahn, who just received the National Prize on Literature of Chile; a collection of short stories by young Bolivian writers; essays on the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo; and poetry by students in the Spanish Creative Writing MFA program. It also contains an exclusive interview with the Argentinean writer Federico Falco, who came last fall to Iowa City by invitation of the International Writing Program (IWP).
Created with the support of the UI’s Digital Studio for Public Humanities, the journal strives to become a link to the Spanish literary community in the U.S. and around the world, hosting the works of that community’s writers. It also aims to connect to the growing Hispanic audience in the state of Iowa and contribute to the significance of Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Iowa Literaria's executive board comprises professors of the Master of Fine Arts in Spanish Creative Writing program; its editor is professor and writer Horacio Castellanos Moya.
From all of us here at the Iowa Review: Welcome, Iowa Literaria!
February 19, 2013
The Iowa Review is proud to announce Anomalous Press’ launch of recent contributor Mike Schorsch’s translated and reinvented chapbook of Latinate poet Venantius Fortunatus (d. ca. 600), "an early medieval troubadour, eventual Catholic bishop of Poitiers, and saint by popular acclamation," An Introduction to Venantius Fortunatus for Schoolchildren or Understanding the Medieval Concept World Through Metonymy. Schorsch, a graduate of the Iowa Translation Workshop, published part of this work in TIR in fall 2011. We liked it so much we nominated him for Best New Poets! Here’s what our Editor-in-Chief Russell Valentino had to say about his book:
From beginning to end, this is a book of telling contrasts between vastly different sensibilities, values, beliefs, customs, and modes of expressing and interacting with the world. This much one might expect from a book of translated poetry by a forgotten medieval saint. That it should, at least indirectly, critique the crass materialism of contemporary middle-class life might also not be terribly surprising. What, after all, could show more profoundly our weddedness to things than prayerful rumination on the immaterial spirit? That it should be hilarious and marvelously irreverent in achieving all of this is its greatest virtue, better even than a DeLonghi sandwich maker. Compare and contrast.
And from Amanda Nadelberg, author of Bright Brave Phenomena and Isa the Truck Named Isadore:
An Introduction to Venantius Fortunatus for Schoolchildren is manifestation of the sheer and adventurous wit of Mike Schorsch as much as it is a strange, beautiful, and meditative song to society. It’s an absolute wonder to be summoned into this book--or "workbook," as the entirety of the title offers--and now you too have been summoned—no backsies. Schorsch’s tenacious voice is one of modern energy and doubt engaging with antiquity. He mines the kind of authentic care it takes to hold parenthetical action--“(pending supernatural intervention and/or time travel)"--while also considering “even / the bishop, that honored man who thinks / I have so many female friends.” Some of the questions asked here will only be answered with difficulty; the key of Mike Schorsch’s generosity is that they are always explicitly addressed to all of us.
Pre-order it today through Anomalous Press’ Kickstarter!
February 14, 2013
You must not deny the body:
Her lips flowered
Around a beautiful word, her breasts
Gliding under a blue silk dress like moons
Through atmospheres of the equinox,
The slight shadow of her thigh
Caressing a September-red poppy as if water;
Because there you will notice within
Her eye's hazel mire, a color caught
Between those blacks and jades
Of desire, a color you will hear
Like one who watches the meadow rue bud
Open during the April evening
And claims to have heard a voice;
And when you have listened to that voice,
When you have walked for hours
Through the umbers and reds
Of sycamore forests, through the first veil
Of snow over the clover field, walked
Above the frozen lake for hours, months,
Alone, until Spring, listening to that voice
Which is all voices: the sound
Of the mothered fawn, of the loon
Searching for water, of the mud releasing frogs,
Of the ice breaking and the snow melting
Until each drop that falls from the lichen
And the moss is also a voice,
Then you have heard
A single word: love.
—Iowa Review, 24/3, Fall 1994
January 31, 2013
The Global Soul and the Search for Home
As a twenty-year old in Italy, I once spoke four languages in the space of an hour. It began when an Englishwoman asked me where the bathroom was, in Spanish. I answered her in the same language, but as we walked to the bathroom we discovered that we had another language in common, which was English. Then, the woman in charge of the hotel where we were staying gave me further instructions, this time in Italian. When we wandered out, a Pakistani-Italian stallkeeper started chatting me up in Hindi in the Piazza Bra.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
His question—and that hour—recur to me at the 2013 Jaipur Literature Festival (tagline “the largest literary show on earth”) an enormous five-day festival of literature and ideas in Jaipur, a tourist city in the middle of the north Indian desert. In one of the sessions, Pico Iyer, Abraham Verghese, Laleh Khadivi, Akash Kapur and Sadakat Kadri are discussing “the global soul and the search for home” with Aminatta Forna.
The panelists are all exiles by choice, distant from the homes they once knew. The term they use, repeatedly, is “global soul”—which, based on the definition offered, makes a “global soul” sound a bit like the “Davos man’s” more literary cousin. Iyer is the senior statesman, and his book The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls and the Search for Home gave this session at the Jaipur Lit Fest its name and its purpose. Much of Iyer’s writing—including Global Soul— attempts to examine a culture or a society from outside its conventional paradigm, and at the same time answer the overarching question of belonging.
Verghese, Indian-American, approaches literature through the language of a trained physician, a worldview of its own. Khadivi is Iranian-American but originally a Kurd, and a frequent documenter of displacements. Kapur is a former development consultant who now writes nonfiction about the challenges inherent in modern India’s rise. Kadri was once a lawyer who worked in both the United States and London. Forna, their moderator, traces her heritage to Scotland and Sierra Leone.
“[Language is] all I can hold to as I move from place to place,” Khadivi says. She refers to walking into a room and speaking the same language as the other occupants, “it was as if someone had built a house around us.”
Any immigrant would understand Khadivi’s sentiment, and it’s the same claim that the shopkeeper asserted over me in Italy years ago. The notion that language is intimate knowledge—and that a shared language confers familiality—is one of the reasons the Biblical story of Babel remains so disturbing.
Language is also one of the few elements of home that moves as easily as we do, as the panelists point out.
In literature, language can be a powerful tool for delineating the limits of community, but also for creating new communities. Like any building block, it can be used to construct places where people can come together. Khadivi references Junot Diaz, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao contained frequent uses of Spanish, and not just the Spanish found in textbooks but a raw and far more urban version. Much of Wao’s tension was illustrated by the permeable boundaries between languages, meant to indicate the permeable boundaries between the main character’s conflicting worlds. Wao’s linguistic shifts—and the wide acceptance the book found in the United States—indicated the power of innovative language to create new gathering places within existing cultures.
“Language is a very hopeful place,” Khadivi says of Diaz’s success.
Iyer is no stranger to the hopeful powers of language. In an interview several years ago with ascent, he referred to himself as “the beneficiary of exploded boundaries between East and West.” Language has been a critical part of that explosion, as English has expanded its territory ever more Eastward.
As the discussion draws to a close, one audience member asks how much of being a global soul is akin to being “homeless.” The panelists all laugh. Finally, they take a crack at it.
“I see it as being homeful, you construct home over and over again,” says Forna. This is what immigrants do, they construct home over and over again. And the act of writing—manipulating a familiar language—is the act of constructing a home as well, sometimes the only bulwark that exists against the wide unknown.
Guest blogger Anika Gupta is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi. Her travel writing has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine and the Literary Bohemian. She has covered the economy, technology and digital media for publications in the United States and India.
January 25, 2013
Anne Babson, "Ariadne Explains Why She's Mixed Up with a Boy like Theseus" (poem, Fall 2012)
What I love about this is the giving of voice and agency to the supposed victim of Theseus's unfaithfulness, at least according to the usual myth, and what a strong, sexy voice! Also, the fact that she becomes the (bull) rider at the end. I read this aloud to my undergraduate class when we were talking about adaptations, and I could see them all sit up in their seats, their eyes opening wide. —R. Valentino, TIR Editor
Ayşe Papatya Bucak, "Iconography" (fiction, Fall 2012)
This story follows the enigmatic hunger strike of a female Turkish student at an American university. The student, known only as the Starving Girl, feels "strangely happy" to be fasting, despite constant media attention and efforts by her parents, her university, and even Bono, to feed her. The narrator is similarly anonymous, occupying different roles as the plot shifts. Bucak's prose is spare and haunting: “Soon the world is split between those who want to feed her, those who want to join her, and those who are afraid.” This piece asks us to contemplate the nature of hunger and of protest, and to question our tendency to interrogate and impose narrative on what we don't understand—publicly, incessantly, until "the Starving Girl...cannot anymore remember if she is a person." —J. Hammerich, Asst. Managing Ed.
In this essay, Heinlein tells the story of her relocation from Germany to the United States through the lens of her kinship with rabbits, which she's kept as pets all her life: "We rabbits," she writes, "are masters of escaping enclosures." Newly arrived in New York City, she adopts a rabbit for companionship but soon learns that pet rabbits are considered "exotic species" in the U.S. Feeling a bit exotic herself, she seeks out fellow rabbit owners, enthusiasts, and "lagomorph lobbyists," ultimately discovering America—and her own perserverence—through her floppy-eared playmate, Sunshine. This piece is funny, heartbreaking, and unexpectedly educational. (Who knew a rabbit could smell a banana 200 feet away?) —J. Hammerich, Asst. Managing Ed.
“Superangel” impresses by its imaginative range and also its rich language (heddle?), which is always apt, never excessive. The invented correspondence between E (Manet) and Victorine (Meurent) made me laugh out loud. There is also a very strong scenic sense throughout, which accords with the subject matter, set up from the start by the reference to film making, which provides efficient little canvases all the way through, like Arachne's father "furious, waving his discolored indigo arms, calling her worthless and unmarriable...." because she's just sitting in front of the empty loom eating olives. —R. Valentino, Editor
Geoffrey Nutter, "Rapprochement" (poem, Winter 2012/13)
"Rapprochement" is a narrative poem of an imagined visit with the younger selves of one's parents. The narrator starts out intending to complete "the day's necessary tasks," which include such items as "a visit to the aluminum mills" and "a meeting with one Solomon Mighty," but soon finds himself taking a different path. He cuts through the forest and discovers a clearing where he finds his parents as young newlyweds and himself as a child. He is invited to join their picnic, and he observes "they were not unkind to me, only / so very involved with one another, / fascinated by and in love with the child." The poem is haunting and nostalgic, a wish-fulfillment fantasy of turning back time, as well as a melancholy realization of how much time changes things. Throughout, Nutter sets the scene the way a short experiential movie would: the narrator notes "a rusted weathervane standing in the grass / tied with red strips of fluttering ribbon, / and scraps of red cloth fluttering in the trees." —L. Nugent, Managing Ed.
[Note: On January 30, "Rapprochement" will be featured on Poetry Daily!]
Molly Patterson, "Don't Let Them Catch You" (fiction, Winter 2012/13)
"Don't Let Them Catch You" is a first-person story narrated by a seven-year-old girl, Kaitlyn, who matter-of-factly recounts her days as a latchkey kid with a distracted single mother, an loving but absent uncle who is deployed in Afghanistan, and an older sister who considers her a nuisance. The voice is convincingly that of a young child who is trying to navigate a world in which the TV news sensationalizes stories about young girls getting abducted and killed. These stories become the focus of her inner monologue as she navigates the dangers both real and imagined of her suburban neighborhood. Simultaneously charming, terrifying, and sad, the story also subtly comments on the effect of parental overwork, dispersed families, war, and economic strain on children in our society. —L. Nugent, Managing Ed.