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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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Some poems are more or less elaborate enactments of feeling, or Yeatsian arguments between self and soul. Certain others, like these five, are swift, decisive flashes of recognition, letter shapes that seem to evaporate at the moment their import registers.
As the sick are taken for walks around the hospital, accumulating laps, sax uses the idea of circuits as occasions for transformation—of images and, adventurously, of registers ranging from grim to lyrical to comic to, finally, what can only be called cosmic.
Voicing the inner negotiation she carries out with her idea of luck, Gewanter’s speaker creates precisely the sensation of options narrowing—how what had been “a room of desires” has shrunk down to the size of a “little coin purse.” The final verb tells us everything.
On the occasion of the publication of Magpiety, comprising her new and selected work, David Rivard offers a long-wanted overview of Melissa Green’s poetic career, tracing the stages of evolution of this singular poet, who, as he writes, “still seems as much of an outlier as she did when her first book, The Squanicook Eclogues, first appeared in 1987.” Rivard reads the work by way of a fellow poet’s magnifications, while at the same time establishing the different contexts that clarify the terms of her singularity.
In these two short poems, Yi Tal (1561-1618), an important promulgator of the T’ang style in Korean poetry, creates what feels like the lost thrill of wandering—evoking with a minimalist precision the lone self moving through landscape, all senses alive and all possibilities open.
Darling locates the eruptions from an unsettling marriage of form and fury—what Nietzsche framed long ago as the Apollonian and Dionysian principles—in the work of Kara Candito. The familiar conception is assessed here in the friction between gender assumptions and metrical effects, how everything comes together in “the moments of rupture that let the light through.”
A review of Don DeLillo’s Zero K by Woody Lewis
Though focused on Don DeLillo’s most recent novel, Zero K—one of the writer’s shorter works—Woody Lewis finds a signifying design, a kind of ratio of inner and outer, that illuminates the larger trajectory of the writer’s work. DeLillo seems to be contracting his surfaces as he deepens his probe of first and last things.
Barbie Chang, the indeterminate possible author stand-in (the indeterminacy itself part of the presentation), hurries us to the heart of a turbulent family drama. Longstanding loyalties and grievances are registered through the child’s dramatic, if not necessarily skewed, understanding of what is happening around her.
Voice initiates, and voice carries through—a melding of cultures and idioms, tradition and novelty, authenticity and the ersatz, all under the strange numerical rubric of 250. And what is 250? Not to know would make you, in the faux-hip figuration of the ’60s, L 7. Straighten the leg of that 7 and you’ll see it means “square.”
A town built on a mine, a present moment literally still warm with history, every least action backlit by this strange living posterity—the larger resonance rings out clearly. As does Stanford’s almost telescopic collapsing of the most indeterminate of questions into a single humble emblematic artifact.
No poet compressed so much so lyrically into such a small space as Mandelstam. Maybe it was because his poems had to circulate on the Stalin express, often transmitted without paper, from one memory bank to another. The effects still dazzle—“as if an airy anthill banquet/sped in high gear in somber green” or “There is a land inside my eyelids”—as these fresh renderings attest.
Freud wrote: “The unconscious of one human being can react upon that of another without passing through the conscious.” An idea worth pondering. Could he have been thinking of a mother and her obstinate child? Certainly Teicher was, and he has found a way to bring the truth of that observation hyper-consciously to life.
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!
On November 26th, 2015, Poetry Daily will feature Kathleen Graber’s “New Year” from AGNI 82.
Megan Mayhew Bergman’s story “Romaine Remains” (AGNI 79) is cited as distinguished (we knew that!) in The Best American Short Stories 2015. In The Best American Essays 2015, K. E. Duffin’s “Castle Hill” (AGNI 80) and Carol Ann Davis’s “On Practice, School Buses, Hummingbirds, Rumi, and Being Led” (AGNI 79) are cited as notable (they’re distinguished too, not to mention anguished).
On September 1st, 2015, David Ebenbach became the founder, curator, and primum mobile of the AGNI blog. Visit it, write for it, and add your comments. The conversation is just beginning.