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Join our conversation in progress, curated by the award-winning story-writer and poet David Ebenbach.

 

Womandream and Hartford Circus Fire (Post-Elegy for Light)

Two poems by Caroline Chavatel

Caroline Chavatal offers two versions of fire in these poems.  In “Hartford Circus Fire” the expression is urgent and specific, flame taking one thing and another with indiscriminate intensity—“three purses full / of photographs, a wrinkled glove”—while “Womandream” locates the fire inside intimacy, the “lovers feeding / off the skin heat.” Destruction, and the endless transformations it makes possible.

Donut Man

A story by David E. Yee

Fathers and sons, errant fathers and their abetting sons—the bonds are never easily calculated. Sometimes it seems that the more irregular the family circumstance, the stronger the compensating urge. “Donut Man” is a road story, a look at a chancy hustle from a less-familiar angle.

Prose Suite, from Declarations and Observations

Fiction by Angela Woodward

It’s a fascinating paradox, how a narrow frame—a topical constraint—can enlarge our sense of the world encompassed. In her “Prose Suite,” Angela Woodward trains her focus on quiet places, ranging from a sperm bank to the “page under my pen,” until we are persuaded that every silence is unique unto itself. As unique as are the various kinds of locomotion that living creatures use; as are the ways that insects eat, and are, in all kinds of contexts, eaten.

Taking My Turn at Seventy-Eight

An essay by Kathryn Starbuck

An AGNI poet steps forward, surely not the first, to say #metoo. It started with Lucky the jeweler. It continued with politicians, psychiatrists, and family friends. In the retirement home where she now lives, the count has reached eight.

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Bells for the Dead and [The mown field]

Two poems by Federico García Lorca

Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Arvio

Lorca wrote poems that strike us first with their storybook simplicity, but the common nouns and straightforward but strangely suggestive analogies build an incantatory otherness, not unlike what a gifted painter can achieve using the vibrations of proximate colors. In these new translations, Arvio works with tact and ingenuity, creating just such a vibration, as she does with her near placement of “mown” and “moon.”

Catch & Release: An Apology

Fiction by Tori Malcangio

“Serotonin is a fickle thing,” writes Malcangio, reminding us that the merest shift in the body’s chemical balance can determine whether there’s “sleep with dreams, eating without gorging. . . .” A mother and son walk the wavery high-wire of their day together—the pharmacy, a fishing trip—worrying the literal and metaphorical issue of “catch & release.”

The Country Western Poem

by Jeffrey Thomson

Thompson’s own phrasing describes the effect he produces, that of “the grainy/ retrospective of the split rail/ and the water tower. . . .” His “country western” images, and the feeling they draw on—and engender—are as relevant to the state of our Union as they have ever been.

In Memoriam Bohdan Boychuk, 1927–2017

An appreciation by Askold Melnyczuk

Our founding editor considers the work and life of one of Ukraine’s vital contemporary poets and, along the way, finds a model for how to handle displacement and how to insist on and bring about resurgence.

from Sister Zero

Excerpts from an essay by Nance Van Winckel

Rather than following the well-known Kübler-Ross “stages,” grief can express itself across a unique associative gamut. Nance Van Winkel’s four titled excerpts—featuring, among other things, a trout to be gutted and an hour at the hairdresser’s—can be seen in this light, as fragments of an exploded view of one psyche in distress.

Obit [“Control. . . .”] and Obit [“Optimism. . . .”]

Two poems by Victoria Chang

These poems, evoking loss as an ongoing experience that can only be absorbed in pieces, offer obituaries of former givens: it is control that has died; it is optimism. The metaphor-making impulse is relentless. Watching another family’s celebration, for instance—seeing children in a bouncy house going up and up—the speaker is pulled to counterpoint. She finds herself imagining the pieces of candy that will soon be falling from a shattered piñata.

The Story of Ö

Fiction by Bronwyn Mills

Opening out through association and memory, then hovering over what seem the fussiest nuances of verbal expression, this vignette gets us to note and then ponder what might be called the feather markings of linguistic (and cultural) authenticity.

And Who Can Say It Will Not?

An essay by Marilyn Abildskov

The episodic structure, the pacing and the alternation of first- and third-person voice may give Marilyn Abildskov’s essay a fictional tinge, but the closely woven exploration of the Mormon ethos—the rules and expectations—and the particulars of the narrator’s coming of age, confirm its status as a memoiristic essay, one that fills us with the tension of competing claims and conflicting impulses.

Glossolalia and Twister

Two poems by Ciaran Berry

Berry sifts the moment—its tropes and memes and figures of popular reference—and extracts from it a kind of annotated paranoia. We may think of the prose of DeLillo or Pynchon, or the lyrics of David Byrne, but the poetic syncopations are his very own: “A glock / in the glove box and / a console in the hand, / as, through the goggles / of our night vision, / we save the world with/our opposable thumbs.”

I Looked Up to See and Having Forgotten to Put Out Fresh Towels, I Run Naked and Wet to the Bedroom

Two poems by Jason Tandon

Tandon practices the aesthetics of the afterthought—placing the solitary “I” (though “eye” seems just as apt here) in a moment, finding the exact point at which a recognition or delayed perception enacts a shift and the seeming ordinary suddenly feels numinous.

Check out these two new AGNI-related shows: senior editor William Pierce talks about the magazine
on the 167th episode of The How The Why, a half-hour podcast about “the evolution of the literary arts,”
and AGNI founder Askold Melnyczuk joins this episode of the radio hour On Point
to discuss the life and poetry of his friend Derek Walcott.

 

The Bad Photographer

A story by Juan Villoro

Translated from the Spanish by Jorge Luis Flores Hernández

Overwhelmed though we are by images and words, the right words in the right order still claim a power of reclamation, establishing narrative context, underscoring significance, and centering our emotional responses. Consider these photographs—the fact of them, the fact of their long absence, and the strange impact of their recovery . . .

Daisies: An Observation

An essay by Leslie Brody

The anarchic dissidence of 1960s Prague as rendered in Vera Chyilovna’s film Daisies gets a memoiristic second life as Leslie Brody recounts how the film and its ethos made its way into her fraying marriage circa 1981. As tempting as it is to cite Marx’s aphorism about history repeating itself, it might be more accurate to see it here as a set of variations playing out around a familiar theme.

Where I Came From

A poem by Mark Melnicove

The dark undercurrents of a family story turn anxiously antic—the piano leg “crumbles in a crescendo of sharps and flats,” while the father “is plastered to the liquor cabinet”—and of course we smile, even as we absorb the delayed reaction of import. Which leads, as it must, to the clincher of the last two lines.

Walcott, Pissarro, and the Search for Tiepolo’s Hound

A review by Diane Mehta, reprinted from AGNI 52

Reviewing Derek Walcott’s collection Tiepolo’s Hound seventeen years before the laureate’s death, Mehta examines his relationship to ordinariness, the Caribbean, and Camille Pissarro, landing on Walcott’s description of “idiosyncratic symmetry” as an apt self-portrait.

 

Horses Explain Things to Me

A Poem by Brett Elizabeth Jenkins

It’s hard not to think of James Wright’s famous poem “A Blessing” when reading this poem by Jenkins. Wright’s speaker feels, in the presence of two grazing ponies, that he might “break into blossom.”  Here, too—though differently—horses stand at the boundary between the immediate and the ineffable, and possess a power of transformation.

O, Hurricane, and Departure

Three poems by Richard Hoffman

Conveying moral gravitas with a light touch is no easy thing. These poems use short lines to set us up for double-take recognitions. Their subjects may be memory and loss, but Hoffman’s nimble aesthetics are captured—almost, not quite—in the elusive movements of “Departure”’s “tiny gnat.”


AGNI is mourning the loss of Derek Walcott, an advisor to the magazine for twenty-seven years.
He died on March 17th in his home country of St. Lucia.

 

Breakup Tips

An essay by Amanda Niehaus

Whatever the circumstances of two people breaking up, however complicated the psychological causes, the effects can be expressed with the finest visceral nuances. Niehaus gives “tips,” and narrates the sensations: “dead cells swirl off your arms, lipids grip the sides of your arteries.” The second-person captures with precision how hard we work to convince ourselves of things.

Popcorn

A poem by Sandra McPherson

The peculiar compressions of memory: what details withstand the passing of time, and what they then transmit when we meet them again, our attention moving like a stylus through grooves of vinyl—though in this instance the grooves belong to a scallop shell saved in a box of “beach-combings.”

The Problem at Hand

A story by Alan Rossi

Mind-bending, really, to consider the scales of mattering, what a universe is spanned between. At one end, a couple’s determined parsing of the implications of a decision to be taken, and at the other, what’s sometimes casually invoked as “the grand scheme of things”—which in Rossi’s slow pulling-back of the lens feels anything but casual.

 

AGNI News

and

AGNI Events

On November 22nd, Poetry Daily will feature David Wojahn’s poem “Still Life: Stevens’s Wallet on a Key West Hotel Dresser” (AGNI 86) and, as its prose feature for the week of December 18, Sven Birkerts’s introduction to AGNI 86, “Derek Walcott at BU: A Sorting.”

On November 22nd, Literary Hub will feature Sven Birkerts’s introduction to AGNI 86, “Derek Walcott at BU: A Sorting.”

Carmen Maria Machado is a finalist for the National Book Award for her collection The Body and Other Parties! Her story “California Statutes Concerning Defrauding an Innkeeper” appeared in AGNI 79.

Brian Morton’s story “Tolstoy and God” (AGNI 84) and Steve Stern’s story “The Plate-Spinner” (AGNI 83) have won Pushcart Prizes and appear in the 2017 anthology. This year’s edition gives Special Mention to James Cummins’s poem “Ode to a Mockingbird” (AGNI 83) and three AGNI stories: Emma Duffy-Comparone’s “Sacrifice” (AGNI 84), Tamas Dobozy’s “Four by Kline Caro” (AGNI 84), and Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s “The Children of New Orleans” (AGNI 83).

On May 25th, Poetry Daily featured Kathleen Winter’s “Parthenon Marbles” from AGNI 85.

On May 11th our partner Literary Hub will reprint Qais Akbar Omar’s essay “In the Ring,” which appears in the new spring issue, AGNI 85.

We’re proud to announce that E. C. Osondu is our newest contributing editor, joining the likes of Dana Levin, Lia Purpura, and Tom Sleigh. E. C.’s first and second published stories appeared in AGNI in 2006. Three years later he won the Caine Prize for African Writing. He has gone on to publish the collection Voice of America and the novel This House Is Not for Sale, and in 2010 he coedited, with William Pierce, the AGNI Portfolio of African Fiction.

Our founder, Askold Melnyczuk, joins a conversation on the radio show On Point about the life and poetry of his friend, the late Derek Walcott.

Senior editor William Pierce talks about the magazine on the 167th episode of The How The Why, a half-hour podcast about “the evolution of the literary arts.”

Natasha Trethewey has chosen Cyrus Cassells’s poem “Elegy with a Gold Cradle” (AGNI 83) for The Best American Poetry 2017.

On November 23rd, Poetry Daily featured Steve Kronen’s “Maker of Bowls” from AGNI 84, and on December 7th, Joseph J. Capista’s “The Telescope,” also from the new fall issue.

Stephen Kessler has won the 2016 PEN Center USA Translation Award for Luis Cernuda’s Forbidden Pleasures: New Selected Poems (Black Widow Press). The collection includes “The Family,” first published in AGNI 79.

Congratulations to Peter Balakian, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry! The winning collection, Ozone Journal, includes two poems first published in AGNI, “Near the Border” and “Slum Drummers.” Balakian’s work has appeared in the magazine more than a dozen times, starting in 1977.

Heather Abel’s story “Desire and Other Isms” (AGNI 82) is cited as distinguished in The Best American Short Stories 2016.

Shruti Swamy’s story “A Simple Composition” (AGNI 81) has won an O. Henry Prize and will be reprinted in the 2016 anthology The O. Henry Prize Stories.

On May 30th, AGNI author and former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser featured Arden Levine’s poem “Offering” (AGNI Online) in his newspaper and online column “American Life in Poetry.”

On May 17th, Three Quarks Daily featured Tyler Mills’s entry at the AGNI blog “Designing Time: The Idea of Plot in the Lyric Essay.” Visit the AGNI blog to read this essay and others.

On May 15th, Poetry Daily featured Kara van de Graaf’s “The Doubles” from AGNI 83.

On the last Thursday in April, the Bay Area bookstore Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts will feature Edgar Kunz’s “Window Washers” (AGNI 81) in its National Poem in Your Pocket Day celebration. A warm thanks to Mrs. Dalloway’s!

Kirun Kapur’s poem “Girls Girls Girls” (AGNI Online) has been selected for the 2015 Best of the Net anthology!

A new interview by our Sumita Chakraborty at LARB shows sides of AGNI poet Melissa Green that no one else has captured, with a sound and shape rare for author interviews. Five stars!

AGNI Magazine :: published at Boston University ©2008 AGNI