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. . . .”
“Winking, the young man stuffed
the thing into the denim pouch strapped across his chest
then with two slim fingers tweezed a phone from the purse
gaping at a girl's shoulder. What? you sputtered. . . .”
“Who has the metronome? This is not the first time I’ve wondered: Didn’t I ask about it when Eliza started taking lessons? Didn’t I look for one just like it? I did. But so expensive. So instead we got a plastic mechanical ticker, threw it away the minute she quit. It was no work of art after all, not like my mother’s. Hers, the one I grew up with, was a solid wooden pyramid with a coded brass strip—not a matter of flicking a switch, no. You wound it first, then released the wand from its clip, moved the tiny trapezoid up or down depending, and the pendulum swung of its own accord, as pendulums do.”
“some will mind an awful
smell to pose the dead with props—a cigarette, a MetroCard, an open can
of Red Bull—the images posted to Instagram before a transit officer
can carry out the shark in a garbage bag.”
“One night, the room heaves, and we think perhaps this is the beginning of the story. We try to remember the rules of fairy tales: if you see beauty or ugliness, it may be a disguise; proclamations, pleas, and invocations will be repeated three times; and the ending is always known at the beginning. Perhaps one day we’ll go up on deck, take in this storied ocean. But what can we do? We are at sea. We are in a tale. Warnings and predictions will go unheeded despite the certainty of their coming true.”
“there must be some way out of here,
a direction home, answers to be found somewhere downwind
and a howling for the lot of us. . . .”
“Were it to breathe fire on my finger
I would feel it as the pinch
of someone who wants
to believe he is dreaming.”
“The cherry blossoms are falling (another snow rehearsal). The birch leaves have darkened to a deep green: winter is approaching. Have you ever noticed that in central Russia the sky is white for the most part . . . ?”
“MN: This form was intriguing to me because it leads to interesting readings like the one you’re doing here. Many of the four-of-a-kind poems have an element of collage because they take four often disparate sections and place them on the same canvas. One reason the sections are left and right justified, and of equal length, is so they have the shape of a painter’s canvas. ”
“the glassy trees
reminded us of us,
in their misery.”
“The words ‘wool’ and ‘grease’ connote a reality that is oppressive and un-enchanting, though the speaker persists in her power to transform her reality suggested by the simile in the final line. The phrase “test in my hands” strengthens the speaker’s resolve to pursue the belief that the individual imagination can invent an authentic, convincing reality—or to draw again upon Stevens’s philosophy—that the imagination can convince us ‘to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction. . . . The exquisite truth is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe it willingly.’”
“Basically, the problem is this: we feel chronically unfulfilled because we want literature to do more for us than our culture’s attitude towards it will allow. We want to read a novel that does the impossible — that captures something essential about the daily struggle of contemporary life (which means finding the symbolic cross-section between cultural absurdities and private indignities), and at the same time offers us joy in believable ways (which means, as Wallace once put it in an interview, applying ‘CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness.’)”
“The envelope we slice our lips on when
We try to lick it, as if it could remain
Glued forever, as if inside it were
A key we are mailing to something
We still can’t imagine opening”
Join Elephant magazine’s Walk the Talk Show, on Tuesday, July 22nd, at 12 pm MDT (2 p.m. Eastern), as Waylon Lewis talks with AGNI founder Askold Melnyczuk. This live video series is archived for viewing anytime after the show runs.
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.