THE BLOG @ TIR
June 26, 2012
We were saddened to hear of the death of TIR cover artist Tom Wegman earlier this month at age 81. A prominent member of the local community, his passing occasioned a remembrance in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. I did not know until then that he had owned a store legendary in town called Things, Things, & Things. Nor did I know that he had become a paraplegic after a 1986 mororcycle accident. I did know that his three covers for TIR in 2003, featuring intricately beaded and insanely colorful roller skates, cowboy boots, and a bug sprayer, have become our most remarked-upon covers to date. We still give out postcards featuring these covers to patrons at book fairs, and they never fail to draw a laugh and an "I love this" from passersby. Evidently, others thought so too, as Wegman and his wife and collaborator, Kathy, exhibited at the Smithsonian. On their web site, where more of their work can be seen, they explain their philosophy of making the discarded—like the roller skates, which originated from the Salvation Army—shiny and new again.
June 14, 2012
The Boy Carrying the Flag
by Wesley McNair
Once, as the teenage boy marched up
and down the gutter with the wide blade
of a shovel above his head, and the goats
turned toward him in their stalls
undoing the band music he held
in his mind with their blats,
his stepfather, who had only asked,
for Christ's sake, to have the barn
cleaned out, rested his hand
on his hip in the doorway.
The boy would not have guessed
when he marched in his first parade
that he carried the flag for his stepfather,
or for his angry mother, also raised
for work and self-denial
during the Depression. Seeing him
dressed up like that to leave her stuck
on a failing farm with chores
as she had been stuck when she was
just his age, his mother recalled he forgot
to feed the chickens and refused
to drive him to the football game.
The old barns and dead cornfields
along the road in the sunless cold
had never seen a hitchhiker in red
wearing spats and lifting a white-
gloved thumb. Everyone stared
from the cars that passed him by,
and when at last he jumped down
from the door of a semi, the whole
marching band waiting in formation
by the buckling steps of the school
and Mr. Paskevitch, whose hands
twitched worse than ever, watched him
walk across the lawn looking
down at his size 14 black shoes.
Just one year from now, Paskevitch
would suffer the nervous breakdown
he would never return from,
but today, as he raised the baton
to commence the only thing on earth
that could steady his hands, and the boy,
taller than the others, took his position
in the color guard, he would carry the flag
for Paskevitch, and for the sergeant-
at-arms, Pete LaRoche, so upset
by the hold-up he was screaming
his commands. For this first parade
belonged to LaRoche, too, and to O'Neill,
another son of immigrants, hoisting
the school colors, and to the rifle-bearers,
Wirkkala and Turco, the fat kid
who squinted helplessly against the wind.
Marching with a shuffle, Turco was already
resigned to his life in the shoe-shop,
but this was before he went to work
on the night shift and drank all day,
and before Ann Riley, the head majorette
following the boy past the stopped
traffic kicking up her lovely legs,
got pregnant by the quarterback
and was forced to drop out
of the senior class. In this moment
of possibility in the unforgiving 1950s,
she wore nobody's ring around
her neck, and the boy imagined
how easily she had forgiven him
his lateness, and the times his mind
wandered and he fell out of step.
For in his secret heart he carried
the flag for Ann as he marched onto
the football field, leaving the town
with its three factories and wasted
farms far behind. There were LaRoche's
and O'Neill's mothers, on their day off
from the flock mill, and there
were the fathers in their shop pants,
and the classmates in school jackets,
and the teachers who looked strange
without their ties, all applauding
and shouting while the band, capped,
plumed, and lifting up the shining bells
of their instruments, marched by—
all here on this dark and windy day
to watch the quarterback, Joe Costello,
Ann's lover-to-be, lead them into the sun,
as were the band and the tallest boy
in the color guard himself,
carrying the stars and stripes
for everyone who was here
and not here in this broken town,
and for their hope in the uncertain
promise that struggled
against his hand as he marched
to his place on the bleachers
among these, his fellow Americans.
[Iowa Review, Fall 2005]
June 9, 2012
At the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) for three weeks of working with translators from around the world as they do what they do. It's really not possible to describe this work other than to say it's humble and humbling at the same time.
The last two sessions have focused on translating Cynthia Ozick into Spanish (by Eugenia Vasquez Nacarino), Eduardo Galeano and Rodrigo Rey Rosa into French (by Alexandre Sanchez and Alba Marina Escalon respectively), Evelio Rosero into Dutch (by Jos den Bekker), and Abdellah Taia into English (by Rachael Small).
Yesterday we talked at some length about methods of reading, preparing a text, working with authors, and revising. It is sometimes said that translators can't do anything about the plot of the works they translate, but this seems to me an oversimplification and not really correct, because the effectiveness of the plot is always dependent on pace, and pace is a function of language at the level of phrase, sentence, and paragraph, which is what translators have control over. They can easily make a plot ineffective, so the obverse must also be true. Our conversation reminded of Amy Leach's discussion of "exhilirated intermediaries," which at times seems apt here.
Alistair MacLeod came to yesterday's session. His work is being translated into Lithuanian by Violeta Tauragiene, and they'll have a session next week. Also upcoming are sessions with Nathalie Boisvert and her German translator, Heinz Schwarzinger; Francisco Prieto and his Italian translator, Carlos Ciade; Margaret Atwood and her Arabic translator, Talal Abdalla; and Jeffrey Yang and his German translator, Beatrice Fassbinder. And that's just a sample. There is really nothing else like this.
I hope the snow (which has been falling now for the last several hours) doesn't keep any of our visitors away, but even if it's just us, it would be hard to imagine a more interesting group of people to be snowbound with.
May 30, 2012
We're thrilled to announce the following winners and runners-up of the 2012 Iowa Review Awards. These stories, essays, and poems will appear in our December 2012 issue. Thanks to all who entered!
Winner: Kyle Minor, "Seven Stories About Kenel of Koulèv-Ville"
Runner-up: Emily Martin, "Claude Piron Beholds His Beloved"
Fiction judge Ron Currie, Jr., on his choices: "My tastes tend toward the dark, and 'Seven Stories' is genuinely beautiful shadow play, a fever dream of humanity caught in the grip of catastrophes both natural and man-made. It succeeds at that most difficult of narrative tricks—the nearly impossible task of creating, in a few short pages, a whole world for the reader to inhabit. One feels black magic lurking in the margins of this story. It reads like a fable, but the people who inhabit it are quite real, and their tragedies and dark humor are deeply affecting. And what a strange and wonderful story ['Claude Piron'] is, a kaleidoscopic, staccato narrative that at first baffles, then slowly and expertly begins to reveal its secrets and more importantly its heart, to the reader."
Winner: Bernadette Esposito, "The Principle of the Fragility of Good Things"
Runner-up: Marcela Sulak, "Getting a Get"
"'The Principle of the Fragility of Good Things,' reflects judge Meghan Daum, "combines research, rumination, and existential inquiry into a thought-provoking pastiche. I appreciate the way the author strikes a balance between dispassionate reporting and deep human feeling. 'Getting a Get' is sad, funny, and relatable, even to those who've never gotten a get (or don't get what a get is!) I found the author charming and real, with a voice that seems to speak directly to the reader."
Winner: Emily Hunt, "Figure the Color of the Wave She Watched," "As Long as Relief," "View from a Regular Fantasy," "Another Time Stopped," "Last Night of the Year We Remembered Our Desires"
Runner-up: Aditi Machado, "The Animal," "Essay," "Walk Through Eucalyptus Lane"
Ron Currie, Jr., is the author of God Is Dead, winner of the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf award, and Everything Matters!, winner of an Alex Award from the American Library Association.
Meghan Daum is a noted essayist and the author of three books, most recently the memoir Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House. Since 2005, she has been an opinion columnist at the Los Angeles Times.
Timothy Donnelly, TIR Awards poetry judge, is the author of Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit and The Cloud Corporation, winner of the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He is the poetry editor of Boston Review and teaches in the writing program of Columbia University's School of the Arts.
May 21, 2012
Well, it’s official. I am a full-fledged member of the real world. Maybe it’s too soon to make the call, but five days post-cap-and-gown, not much seems different. Classes are over. Homework is done. Iowa City is emptying. There’s an abandoned bed in the dumpster of my apartment and an outside trash-bag radius that is exponentially expanding further and further outward. My roommates have gone home for the summer, and there’s all the room in the world for my food in the refrigerator now. I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix. It could be just any other summer. But part of me knows I’m in denial, or at least avoidance. The summer I’m imagining is the same sunny stretch I always think of, the slow heat, lightning bugs, thunderstorms; the idealized summer I will never let go of, no matter how old I get. But I don’t let my mind cross into fall, when my best friend and three-year roommate will be a Yale grad student rather than a Hawkeye. When the majority of amazing people I’ve met, gotten to know, and love dearly will not be returning for another year of Iowa City frolics. When there will be no new classes, no book lists, no need to buy new pens. When I will no longer be the Iowa Review intern.
Dang it. Now I’m thinking about it, and it’s making me weepy. This month has been a month of accomplishments and congratulations, but there’s no way around the fact that it is a month of endings. Nostalgia is as inevitable as applause.
At the graduation ceremony, our class speaker, John Komdat, talked about how graduation is a time when the past and the future meet at one moment, the present. I was enthralled with this idea because after spending the school year writing a thesis about time travel, my ears perk up at any mention of time; but the more I thought about what he said, the more I realized how creepily accurate it was in relation to my life. The day before graduation, John and I had been sat together in the "K" row for the Honors Commendation Ceremony and had our first extended conversation, even though I knew him from freshman year when we were both living on the Writing Floor in Stanley. There had been some head nods and half-waves during our four years, but talking to him and seeing so many other people I consider acquaintances from freshman year suddenly seemed to bring my college career full circle, a twist ending on the universe’s brilliantly constructed plot. In a single moment, we were awkward freshman and graduating seniors painfully aware of how uncool we had actually been back then.
The same thing happened at my goodbye party from the Iowa Review. I laughed at my jokes from my very first blog post (Intern Schrute, Assisant TO the Managing Editor—classic) and then had to answer that question that’s been haunting me ever since I declared my English major, except now it has mutated from “What are you going to do after you graduate?” to “What are you going to do now?” The staff and I were sitting there at Atlas, and I saw myself both as that scared sophomore who wandered into 302 EPB on a half-formed ambition and a fear of the future and as the mature (“mature”) present-tense me, still scared and still worried about the future but with some thin sprouts of a plan. What am I going to do now? This or that. Working. Saving. Writing. It’s not exotic. It’s not the Peace Corps or backpacking in Europe or moving to New York, but it’s enough for now, and if my internship with the Iowa Review shows anything, it’s that good things can’t always be planned. Sometimes they have to be stumbled upon.
The most comforting thing is seeing that what I did here at Iowa matters, that I’ve left something behind me and made at least a dent of a difference in the flow of the cosmos. I see it in the enthusiasm of my family and friends, my Iowa Review family, my professors, my coworkers. I see it in their reminiscing, the scenes they recall, the moments that they consider important. It’s a perspective we can’t have often, but when we do, we can see for miles. There is no better feeling than when people you admire greatly admire you back. Sometimes I get so focused on the unknown variables ahead that the past fades into obscurity—just checks on a To Do list. It takes a moment when the past and future line up to understand the significance of the journey—what we’ve done and what we will do running side by side. A river, so to speak. A moment in the present poised between nostalgia and uncertainty reveals just how much we’ve already done, which helps to counter that fearful open-endedness of the future, at least enough that we can continue to plunge ahead.
And with that, I guess I’ve come to the part where I have to say goodbye. Goodbye, Iowa Review! Goodbye, student-hood! Goodbye, goodbye and thank you.