THE BLOG @ TIR
March 20, 2013
THE TROUBLE WITH SPRING
by Mark W. Halperin
[Iowa Review, Fall 2005]
The warmth is welcome, the green seeping into
stems, chickadees drilling the air
with their staccato nonsense. There's no harm
in any of that. Even the gnats, like pepper
on the wall, are only annoying. But the lack of blue
sky, the pall of clouds, that constant lead-
gray above, sloping my shoulders, the weight of time
bending and pulling, oppress me. It's all in your head,
you say, but if so, the shadows inside are still outside
like a burden, and intolerable—no breaking free
of the self, no integrity to subject
object distinctions. Thank God spring's not stubborn,
even if that requires the same of fall.
I reject sameness, blurred edges. Let other people
and clear skies flourish, worlds beside our own
for escaping to and through: windows, back doors.
Maybe spring's not so bad, and anticipation
is a kind of heightening delay to be pleased
by when it ends abruptly as with a gun
shot—which is not to say I want more.
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.