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Carrie Shipers’s haunting poem on the Jonestown massacre presents a shockingly intimate view of the event. Reimagining the violence within the context of a father-son relationship, the poem begins casually, its language only slowly laying bare the layers of fear. Starting with a basketball game and ending with implications almost more frightening than even the massacre itself, the poem builds and recedes, leaving the reader unharmed but anxiously braced, unsure if the danger has passed.
Fiction by the 2014 Nobel laureate, Patrick Modiano
In the first publication of Patrick Modiano’s work in English, in AGNI 10/11 (1979), the 2014 Nobel Prize winner brings readers into a confused dream, blending identities and languages in a way that belies and unsettles the solid-seeming truths of the post–World War II era. Anti-semitism, Judaism, martyrdom, self-loathing, self-knowledge, loyalty, sacrifice—the mix is heady, and as we read we feel our convictions shift until we find we have completely lost our footing. Left trying to fit our puzzle scraps of certainty into some picture of sense, readers of this piece will recognize Modiano’s exceptional talent, already clearly evident thirty-five years ago.
Cassie Pruyn plays with rhyme, lacing hipsters and fish with jazzy rhythms. The start of “Maine Morning, Age 5” feels almost mythical, calling up intimations of selkies and lost souls. “Lost Love Lounge” takes us into a jaded bar scene of cigarettes, alcohol, and easy women. Enticing, unexpected sounds weave through both, culminating in sharp, perfect rhymes that bring the reader up short, suggesting that she’s been seduced, urging that she return to try again.
Video, with an introduction by Erin Trahan
AGNI celebrates the life of filmmaker and photographer Robert Gardner, a longtime contributor and generous supporter of the magazine. This short film of his conversation with Peter Matthiessen, legendary writer and naturalist, was his final gift to us. Both Gardener and Matthiessen passed away this year, leaving behind this invaluable glimpse into their experience as witnesses to the Dani tribe, a nearly extinct neolithic culture in Papua New Guinea. This career-launching project would shape their view of modernity and its drawbacks. Introduced by our poetry reader Erin Trahan, the 1996 interview is now available exclusively through AGNI.
The word “visceral” comes to mind when reading Averill Curdy’s poem on Baffin Island, a failed expedition for gold. While the events of the poem take place in 1578, Curdy explores the timeless tension between human beings’ ambition and nature’s implacability. Poet Jacqueline Kolosov uses the phrase “intense musicality” to describe Curdy’s style and, indeed, a haunting lyricism underlies the harsh subject matter: “Imagine: / our lungs freezing / like sails, the intricate rigging of bronchioles / and alveoli singed in hoarfrost.”
Kolosov and Curdy have a moving conversation about what drove Curdy to poetry—“I think I was sort of ‘wounded’ into poetry, as many are”—who influenced her work—“I think my desire to give words the heft of objects comes from Hopkins”—and what themes compel her—“So many of poems in the book are interested in change, in transformation.”
“Padraic is singing, as he is always singing, and his voice is trying to do that Christy Moore sort of justice he can do to anything he sings. That such a deep voice can come from Padraic amazes most people because he is chinless and thin as a tin whistle, a long-necked man who looks like he should be pipping. Today, he sounds like he is pipping:
Where is the ring I gave to Mrs. C.?
No matter where I roam
It’s with her I want to be.
Padraic stops singing when he enters Rory’s shop and says, “Morn-ing Rory,” drawing out his first syllable as if to start another song.”
“A veil’s tiny
black diamonds touch
your lashes, your cheeks.
ringing from your wrist,
sideways on the stair.”
“We visited my grandparents in Raleigh one August when I was four or five. The first night, after I had been put to bed, I got up. I had heard the uncles, drinking and talking, and I didn’t want to miss out. I was hungry, I said, and my grandmother gave me a bowl of cereal. I ate it in the kitchen, listening. Everyone was around a yellow-lit table in the dining room, their tumble of Carolina accents rising and falling above the ticking of a fan stuck in the open window, holding the humid night at bay. I remember the music of the stories more than their substance. I sensed their pull and power. I wanted, suddenly, nothing more than to have stories to tell, and to sit at that table and tell them.”
translated from the Arabic by Andrew Leber
A dispatch from the Gaza Strip, brought to AGNI by Comma Press
“On August 1, my sister managed to visit us during the first morning hour of the announced truce. Before we even had the time to wish her well, she described what she’d seen on the way in a single sentence: “They have destroyed everything.”
I deeply want to see the sky above me, and I deeply want to see the full length of the road before me. Yet when I’ve ventured out during these days of war, worry has clouded my vision and dulled my perception. I came and went on the road without noting the time or feeling the air permeate the pores of my skin. I don’t deny that fear has perhaps taken up a large part of my diary entries, but not the fear of death. No, it is a fear of theft, of having life stolen from me before I know when this war will end. Whether an identical war will break out in two years, or whether those intent on this repetition will think of new ways to kill people on the ground.”
“As a kind of work-around, I ask them what keeps them awake at night, what worries them. ‘The maintenance of a tradition,’ Tarek replies. But they find it hard to describe what that tradition is. It is supposed to predate the modern city of Abu Dhabi, but most of their day-to-day custom is fundamentally based on routines of modern luxury. The two timeframes—pre-oil and post-oil—demand two conceptions of space that are so incongruous with each other that some degree of cognitive dissonance is inevitable. One dream’s fulfillment is another’s deferment.”
“In the other memory the severed arm speaks.
In the other memory it is as silent as snow.
In the transient form
everything subject to question.”
“Your parents could be crazy if they had half a chance. Oh, how your mother wants to check everything a thousand times—the doorknobs, the shoelaces, even the electric stove. She wants to stand at the window and tap the frame, tap the frame, tap the glass, tap the frame. And your father wants to dig a hole in the center of the bed and bury himself alive in it, up to his neck. He wants to be unable to move. In the exhausted night the two of them hold hands and stare straight up and imagine retiring into crazy, the way some people buy houses in the woods or at the beach.”
translated from the German by the author
“In my office, there is no bright daylight anymore. There has not been night either, not for a long time. The hands of the clock have stopped at quarter past seven, though I don't know whether in the morning or the evening. I've pushed the tables together in the middle of the room, it does not look very tidy. There is a heap of journals, books, and files, with a little hollow in the center where I sleep.”
A review of Lit From Inside: 40 Years of Poetry From Alice James Books, edited by Anne Marie Macari and Carey Salerno, by Abby Minor
“Anthology editors Anne Marie Macari and Carey Salerno have selected poems from every title published by the press through 2012, creating a thick, diverse chronology of voices that speak from a range of identities and cultural moments (notable authors anthologized include Jane Kenyon, Jean Valentine, Timothy Liu, Richard McCann, Laura Kasischke, and Reginald Dwayne Betts). Because the press’s fledgling years corresponded with the height of second-wave feminism, the aftermath of the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and the burgeoning of independent publishing (AGNI was founded the year before, in New Jersey), readers can track the shifts inaugurated by that period of foment throughout the anthology.”
“In those days the cities were full of mutilated young soldiers. The absence of organs and limbs filled the air. Some of the young men, with the encouragement of their mothers, and even their wives and paramours, came to seek one kind of mutilation to avoid another. And with it, they gained reverence and a new calling. They would give their lives to prayer, for the rest of us. This would be their sacrifice, elevating themselves and all of us. Their submission allowed them to live what they professed, and furnished us with freedom—and safety from their instincts and incitements. They had long been given to some devotion, but many had looked outward, making mischief with their machinations in our country and beyond; they were imperiling adventurers, indistinguishable from their enemies. Gradually they turned, and we turned them, inward, until they concerned themselves only as far as they can reach and touch.”
the village children
into the Vivonne for minnows ”
“Train stops are a routine,
except for the boy hiding behind the pole,
the collar of his school uniform askew.
He is not the firstborn, but the prodigal son,
the chosen one for adventure and the parable of return.”
“I need distance and solitude to sort through the recovered debris of memory and recapture what I can of my lost past. It’s when I’m gone that the details, like segments of a mosaic, come together and turn into images, scenes, narratives. Being away, I can smell the smoke from fall fires and the wet odor of the soil in the fields, and conjure up in their totality the days when my school went to a collective farm to dig potatoes. I can feel the frosty air biting my cheeks when I pull my sled up the hill and keep riding it down until it gets dark, and my toes feel cold and numb in the thick woolen red and blue socks my grandmother knitted whose tops stuck out of my ungainly dark brown boots polished each Sunday morning by my father.”
“You were right, I said. I had gotten turned around. My sense of direction had always been terrible. When we got to the train station, I carried the stroller down the steps. Anya walked next to me. My heart filled with tenderness as I watched her taking the steps so carefully. The train was waiting for us in the station with the doors open. It was that kind of day. We had a whole bench to ourselves. At Canal Street, a man with a leathery face and a Superman shirt got on. Speaking into a microphone attached to his head, he said he was a magician with a few magic tricks to do. He stuffed something into a little plastic ball and pulled something else out of the ball. It wasn’t very impressive.”
“Close your eyes—
God is the circling buzzards,
the mangled furry thing in the clearing
too beaten to stand:
something you’ve chanced upon
on the sunny path down the mountain.”
“As soon as I acquired my hearing aid around the age of four, I found books to be the place that I might live. It was as if three little streams, lip-reading, book reading, and sound converged to row me into the flowing world. In my determination to hear, I chose to be part of that world. While I am sure there were many misinterpretations along the way, there was never a time, when either my parents or I had second thoughts about how I would hear and communicate. In retrospect, it wasn’t easy but it became the only way.”
M and V
“Amnesia. You are what you forget
Still, the mother of all muses has a name hard to set
Mnemiopsis, mnemonist, mnemonic, Mnemosyne— such elegance
I should be able to recall: these words all begin with silence”
A review of GwenaŽlle Aubry’s No One: A Novel by Max Vanderhyden
“No One illustrates many of the theoretical pretexts that undergird French autofiction. But the book should also appeal to those unversed in such experimental modes. Aubry’s most significant achievement lies less in the theoretical concerns her novel raises than in the way those concerns emerge organically, in deeply moving moments, from the subject of her examination.”
“a bucket seat that fits
His lazy ass so perfectly, like a throne does the king’s—
In his hippie town in Vermont, his crab town in Maryland,
His lumber town in Oregon, or his lobster port
In Maine. . . .”
Anna Journey’s essay “An Arrangement of Skin” (AGNI 79) is reprinted in the Winter 2014 issue of Utne Reader!
On December 6th, Poetry Daily will feature Mark Kraushaar’s “Matinee” from AGNI 80.
Rebecca Hazelton’s poem “Book of Forget” (AGNI 75) has won a Pushcart Prize and appears in the 2015 anthology. Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s essay “You Gotta Have Heart” (AGNI 77), Paul Christensen’s story “My Beautiful Life” (AGNI 77), and Selena Anderson’s story “Grief Bacon” (AGNI 78) receive Special Mention.
Two recent AGNI essays are cited as notable in The Best American Essays 2014: Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough’s “Europe, Europa” and Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s “You Gotta Have Heart,” both from AGNI 77.
We’re proud to add Patrick Modiano to the list of AGNI writers who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize! He joins Seamus Heaney (1995), Derek Walcott (1992), Wisława Szymborska (1996), and Tomas Tranströmer (2011). AGNI was the first to publish Modiano in English.
On June 4th, Poetry Daily featured Sarah Rose Nordgren’s “Mother, Pressed” from AGNI 79
On Elephant magazine’s Walk the Talk Show, Waylon Lewis talked with AGNI founder Askold Melnyczuk.
Congratulations to AGNI poet Charles Wright, named the new Poet Laureate of the United States!
We’re proud of our partnership with the audio magazine The Drum. Listen to Tiphanie Yanique’s story “Oakland Gomorrah” from AGNI 77.
On December 2nd, 2013, Poetry Daily featured AGNI 78 and Gail Mazur’s poem “Où Sont les Neiges d’Antan.”
Five of the fourteen new recipients of 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants are AGNI translators. Congratulations to Isabel Fargo Cole, Sean Cotter, Edward Gauvin, Marilyn Hacker, and Elizabeth Harris.
On June 4th, 2013, Poetry Daily featured Melissa Green’s “Leda, Later,” a poem first published in AGNI 77.
Robert Long Foreman has won a Pushcart Prize for his story “Cadiz, Missouri,” which first appeared in AGNI 75. It appears in the 2014 anthology.
Two more strong votes of confidence in what we’re up to! Harper’s Magazine, in its February 2013 issue, reprinted Robert Leonard Reid’s short story “That Doubling Is Always Observed,” from AGNI 76, and The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog is reprinting Jamie Quatro’s story “Relatives of God” (AGNI 73). That story and two others from AGNI are part of her debut collection, I Want To Show You More, which James Wood reviews in the March 11th New Yorker: “The best stories are passionate, sensuous, savagely intense, and remarkable for their brave dualism. . . .”
Poetry Daily featured David Wojahn’s “My Father’s Soul Departing” (AGNI 76) on Thursday, November 15th, 2012.
Jen Percy’s essay “Azeroth” (AGNI 74) won a Pushcart Prize and appears in the 2013 anthology.