The estate of Harper Lee has sued the producers of Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, claiming that Atticus Finch is treated in a less than sympathetic manner. Ironically, Lee herself went a similar direction in Go Set a Watchman.
Over at Culture Trip, Matthew Janney reviews The Long Hangover from Shaun Walker. In it, Walker seeks to examine how Putin managed to wrest Russia from its post-Soviet hangover and into the driving force it is today.
The Paris Review’s Ben Shields sat down for a lively talk with poet Wayne Koestenbaum to discuss Koestenbaum’s new collection, entitled Camp Marmalade. The book is the second in the writer’s “trance” series.
Gish Jen, whom Junot Díaz once called the “Great American Novelist,” contributed a short story this week to the New Yorker. Here, Jen discusses the inspiration behind the story, which tells of Chinese immigrants in the United States and the parents who come to visit from back home.
Naomi Foyle (naomifoyle.com/wp), editor of A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry, discusses curating the project, her battle with cancer, and the power of poetry. She teaches creative writing at Chichester University, and has edited thirteen full-length poetry collections. An activist for a just peace in the Middle East, Foyle participated in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009. Her many publications include five novels, two poetry collections, and a short theatrical piece produced by the Bush Theatre in 2011.
Valentina Viene: How did you conceive the idea of a Palestinian poetry collection?
Naomi Foyle: The idea came from Andy Croft of Smokestack Books, whose dedicated commitment to radical internationalist poetry I admire enormously. I met Andy four years ago at the launch of Judith Kazantzis’s collection, Sister Invention, which he’d published in part for its sharp-eyed poems on Palestine. Judith and I, along with her late husband, Irving Weinman, co-founded British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP) in 2010 and had worked together on letter-writing campaigns in support of the cultural and academic boycott of Israel.
Knowing of this political activity, Andy asked me if I’d like to edit a bilingual anthology of Palestinian poetry in translation. I jumped at the chance, on condition I could do the job after my science fiction novel writing contract was finished and that Smokestack Books—which receives no public subsidy and was not able to pay me or contributors—would help me run a crowdfunding campaign in order to pay the poets and translators a small fee. Andy was very happy with this plan, as we both were in 2015 when the project got a boost in the form of a research development award from the University of Chichester, funding that ensured I could guarantee a base payment to the contributors.
In 2016 things took a desperately uncertain turn when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but after ten months of highly successful treatment, thankfully ,I ended up editing the anthology and finishing the last novel in my SF series simultaneously—not the plan, and a rather hectic autumn, but also a great, roaring return to life.
Writing poetry is a lifeline, and the poetry I love the best has a sense of absolute necessity about it.
Viene: Where does the title come from?
Foyle: Again, all credit to Andy Croft. A Blade of Grass is a phrase from a Mahmoud Darwish quote, which Andy came across in an interview with the great Palestinian poet conducted by Nathalie Handal in 2006. Handal presented Darwish with one of his own sayings: “Against barbarity, poetry can only resist by cultivating an attachment to human fragility, like a blade of grass growing on a wall while armies march by.” When asked if he still believed that, Darwish responded: “I thought poetry could change everything, could change history and could humanize, and I think that the illusion is very necessary to push poets to be involved and to believe . . . but now I think that poetry changes only the poet.”
I think he was being too modest, though. As Darwish’s own phenomenal popularity demonstrates, readers too need poetry to refresh, restore, and reinvent ourselves. His quote, to me, speaks of poetry’s inexhaustible strength—a distillation of the human spirit, poetry is at once as humble, frail, and perennial as the grass. To authoritarian regimes, it’s a poisonous weed to be rooted out: as is well known, two of the poets in the book—Ashraf Fayadh, in Saudi Arabia, and Dareen Tatour, in Israel—are currently in jail on charges relating to their work. Both are currently awaiting court decisions, and I was very glad that the crowdfunding enabled the anthology to make donations of £240 each to their legal funds.
Viene: How did you choose the poems included in the book?
Foyle: About half were solicited or commissioned, and the rest arrived in my inbox as a response to a call for submissions, which were translated into Arabic by Rewa’ Attieh and circulated via various blogs, including Arabic Literature (in English) and BWISP. The call was heard around the world—as well as from the UK and Palestine, I received work from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, America, and Australia. Most of this work was by men, and though I was thrilled to be sent work by major voices like Marwan Makhoul and, unexpectedly, new translations of Darwish, being determined to achieve a gender balance in the book, I actively sought out women poets. I found Fatena Al Ghorra on the website of the Poetry Translation Centre. The ground-breaking Scottish-Palestinian anthology A Bird Is Not a Stone (Freight Books, 2015) was another inspiring resource. Through the book’s editor, Sarah Irving, I invited Maya Abu Al-Hayyat to submit new work.
I also drew on my anti-Zionist and Palestinian friendship and cultural networks. Fellow cultural boycott activists Haim Bresheeth and Yosefa Loshitsky brought Dareen Tatour’s plight to my attention and connected me with her friend and supporter Yoav Haifawi, who is allowed to visit her during her house arrest. And thanks to my work for the Al Ma’mal Foundation in Jerusalem, co-translating the collection Wounds of the Cloud by Yasser Khanger of the Occupied Golan, I was in communication with American poet and translator Marilyn Hacker, who recommended Deema K. Shehabi, with whom Marilyn had previously collaborated. Maya, meanwhile, put me in touch with Fady Joudah, and I received permission to publish some of Ashraf Fayadh’s new poems from one of his previous translators, Mona Kareem, whom I found on Facebook, as I recall.
In the case of the anthology, I wanted to showcase poems that present the Palestinian narrative, in all its terrible complexity, straight from the heart.
Viene: What were the challenges you had to face, whether they be finding a publisher or translating from Arabic or disagreements between you and the authors?
Foyle: The fundamental challenge, of course, was the fact that I don’t speak Arabic. Looking back, if I could do one thing differently it would be to appoint an Arabic-speaking editor right from the start. The main reason I didn’t do this was because I didn’t have the funding to pay such a person the sum they deserved. I wasn’t being paid myself—the research grant covered only my expenses—which I didn’t mind, but I didn’t feel it was fair to approach someone I didn’t know and ask them to do an enormous amount of work for free, or a pittance.
Whether through naïveté or foolish pride, I initially didn’t see this lack as an insurmountable problem. I was imagining that I would publish English translations of Arabic poems that had previously appeared in print and would not need further editing. But as I began receiving submissions from diasporic poets, my vision for the anthology changed: I realized that in order to truly reflect the global nature of Palestinian poetry, I needed to include work originally composed in English, regardless of whether or not the exilic poets also wrote in Arabic. Although painfully aware that I would be unable to assess this new work, I decided to commission translations into Arabic.
Fortunately, all the contributors shared my ambition and, with infinite grace, did everything they could to help me achieve it. Fady Joudah generously translated his own poems for the anthology, while, thanks to the crowdfunding, I was able to pay a token extra fee to the small core team of Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Waleed Al Bazoon, Josh Calvo, and Raphael Cohen, who together ensured that all the Arabic texts were professionally edited and proofread.
Even with all hands on deck, though, this was no easy task. In fact, thanks to a perfect storm of Eurocentric software problems, it felt at times like bailing out a sinking ship. As I started to compile the master document from all the submissions, I discovered that I couldn’t cut and paste the Arabic texts in Microsoft Word without the text and/or the punctuation flipping into mirror-image. “Flippin’ Word,” I called it, though it wasn’t funny, the errors taking hours to correct with the cross-time-zone help of the translators and their Arabic-enabled software.
And worse nightmares were to come: having finally got the Word document afloat, I was aghast to realize that the resultant Arabic PDF was not only terribly fuzzy but largely illegible—many of the texts had disintegrated into isolated lettering. Apart from spending £1000 we didn’t have on new software that the Smokestack designer didn’t know how to use, there didn’t seem to be a way to fix that problem: two days before the printing deadline the designer confirmed that the only way he could create a viable Arabic PDF was by inserting screenshots from the Word document—a process that would result in unprintable low-res images.
Faced with the unthinkable prospect of having to abandon the Arabic texts, I went into a kind of state of shock. I didn’t have time to break down, though. Thanks to the crowdfunding, able to afford to hire someone to do an emergency job, I issued a plea for help on Facebook. “Don’t worry,” a Saudi friend reassured me over email, “Allah will make it easy for you,” and she was right. Within half an hour the book’s savior had arrived; and fittingly, she was a Palestinian. Although not a professional designer, Merna Azzeh in Ramallah, the daughter of an Arabic teacher and a self-described pedant, did a superlative job on the book. She and I worked round the clock perfecting the Word document, Merna catching outstanding errors and tweaking translations, while I, standardizing line spacings and page numbers, at last learned how to read Arabic, noticing a translator’s credit that had been accidentally cut and pasted into a poem. Finally, we were done, and Merna’s Arabic software created the beautiful, crisp final PDF in a matter of moments.
But though it was a practically vertical learning curve, editing the anthology has been an amazing, humbling experience. I feel I have made friends for life, bonded by our powerful twin commitment to poetry and justice for Palestine.
There’s a great thirst now to hear the Palestinian side of the story: the last ten years have seen an international flowering of Palestinian writers and filmmakers and artists.
Viene: Was there any poet or poem that you would have liked to include but couldn’t? And why?
Foyle: Palestinian poetry is an extremely rich field, and there are so many poets I would have been honored to include: Mourid Barghouti, Tamim al-Barghouti, Zakaria Mohammad, Nathalie Handal, Suheir Hammad, Rafeef Ziadah, and Remi Kanazi all spring to mind. But I also wanted to discover poets, and so I am consoled by the fact that, in not approaching everyone on my wish list, I created room for brilliant young writers like Sara Saleh and Mustafa Abu Sneineh.
Still, it was very hard to draw the line: I took two more poets than I’d originally intended, and my hope is that a larger English-language publisher will see the potential for a doorstopper anthology of Palestinian poetry in translation. I will just add that I did want to include new work by Yasser Khanger, as a show of solidarity, but although Golanese Syrians suffer parallel oppression from the Israeli Occupation, Andy felt the book should be limited to Palestinian poets, which I think, in the end, is a fair stipulation for the publisher to make.
Viene: How did you meet Mustafa and Fareed?
Foyle: Mustafa Abu Sneineh emailed me early on, and, as he lives in London, when I accepted his work it made sense to meet him to go through his translations together. We met up first at the South Bank Centre, where Mustafa was nearly ejected by the security guard for bringing his bicycle into the café, and later on, as the family feeling of the translation team grew, at Mustafa’s flat with his partner and baby son, who was so utterly captivating that I decided the book should be dedicated to him and the other contributors’ children and grandchildren.
I met Farid Bitar briefly in Egypt in December 2009, where we were both participating in the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo, an international demonstration to mark the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. Farid and I had become Facebook friends, but we didn’t properly communicate until he submitted some of his work for the book and sent me his CDs, which I loved. I was absolutely thrilled that Farid made it over to London for the launch, where he read with Mustafa, me, and two of the translators, Katharine Halls and Waleed Al-Bazoon and spoke movingly of his experiences as a poet-in-exile.
Viene: What was the reception of the book like?
Foyle: The reception so far has been incredibly encouraging. The crowdfunding raised £1100 from generous donors in seven different countries. Between the crowdfunding reward copies and bookshop preorders, the book sold 250 copies before it was even published. The University of Chichester sent out a press release to the national media and promoted the book with a banner story on their website. And the London launch, at P21 Gallery, attracted sixty people, a sell-out crowd of whom only a handful were my friends! Most wonderfully of all, the Educational Bookshop in Jerusalem has ordered copies. For at least one of my poets, that is a dream come true.
Viene: What’s poetry for you?
Foyle: To me, personally, writing poetry is a lifeline, and the poetry I love the best has a sense of absolute necessity about it.
Viene: How do you think a poem, or writing in general, can change the world?
Foyle: I would never argue that literature alone can change the world. I firmly believe that artists need to recognize their responsibilities as citizens and develop an activist mind-set in order to achieve structural change in the world. But I do believe that culture has a profound role to play in altering mind-sets, especially those that underlie entrenched conflicts. By representing complex human responses to conflict, fiction and poetry challenge stereotypes and influence people’s perceptions, not just of others but also of history.
Through its rootedness in the sensual world, literature also generates a sense of shared experience, and as a vehicle for dreams, it can create inspiring images of a better common future. Literature is also a place where marginalized voices can build influence—so often still, women and people of color have to fight to be heard in the public sphere, but in poetry and fiction their voices sing in their concentrated essence. In the case of the anthology, I wanted to showcase poems that present the Palestinian narrative, in all its terrible complexity, straight from the heart. I hope the book will reach people who don’t know the story of the Nakba and reveal to them the remarkable spirit of a people who, with passion, humor, and aching tenderness, continue to resist nigh on seventy years of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and military occupation.
I’m not the first to note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a battle of narratives, and in that battle I do believe that the tide is turning. Due in large part to media coverage of Israeli atrocities in Gaza, more and more people all over the world, and especially younger people, do not accept Israeli aggression or Israeli impunity. There’s a great thirst now to hear the Palestinian side of the story: the last ten years have seen an international flowering of Palestinian writers and filmmakers and artists. The story they are telling is a grievous one, of course, but thanks in large part to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, people who wish to help change it can channel their anger constructively. As it did for black South Africans, from this global grassroots movement and its cultural expressions, justice for Palestine must surely follow.
This week would have marked the ninety-first birthday of Neustadt Prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez. Sherif Abdel Samad at Mada Masr provides a wonderfully rendered look at the life of a legend.
Two prestigious literary awards are in the news this week. Yale University has announced the winners of the Windham-Campbell Prizes. Among them are Lorna Goodison, who was a 2002 Neustadt Prize juror. Also, the Lambda Literary Awards revealed their finalists for 2018. Lambda honors LGBTQ-themed books.
Canada Reads! The CBC’s annual Battle of the Books pits celebrities and their favorite books against one another. They’ve even provided a toolkit for using the books in school. Whoever wins, we all read!
One the of most high-profile releases of the year dropped this week. The Atlantic reviews Children of Blood and Bone. The author, Tomi Adeyemi, made headlines after she received an unprecedented seven-figure advance and movie deal for her debut book.
True translators take to their craft so intensely that they tend to hurtle toward invisibility, and in Britain, the land of the Anonymous Translator, nobody paid a greater price for their devotion to world poetry than Sarah Maguire (1957–2017), who died in November 2017 following a protracted battle with cancer. Maguire’s final work, Almost the Equinox: Selected Poems (Chatto & Windus, 2016), featuring excerpts from her three collections, is nothing shy of a monument to one of London’s most unabashedly cosmopolitan voices. The book opens in the English capital, where Maguire has brought back three oranges from the Moroccan village of Taliouine. Not long later the scene has shifted to the United States, with Maguire “Traveling Northward” through icy Connecticut, where “only the restless and the homeless / risk the streets tonight.” A few poems later, we find her in Baltimore, in a room across from “The Maryland State Penitentiary,” which she portrays as a “huge cathedral of punishment” with “one gothic window tall enough for prayer.” Next, she’s in Tangiers, where young African men yearning for Europe’s promised land, “an idea bruising / the far horizon,” “climb these crumbling ramparts / and face north / like true believers.”
A restless chronicler of our planet’s cities, Maguire’s postcard-poems from Palestine, Greece, Afghanistan, and Kazakhstan—to name only a few of her destinations—exemplify her firm grasp of the historical contexts around her as well as her penchant for hard-edged descriptive detail. Almost the Equinox is studded with gorgeously condensed miniatures like “Petersburg,” where “infinite vistas master the Neva / in a hard embrace—its bedrock / the countless hands of slaves, / impossibly gilded, furnishing the swamp”; or “Ramallah,” which Maguire describes as “a provisional city / a concatenation / of loose roundabouts / building sites / and razor wire—scars of forced demolitions.”
At a time when an entire people were being demonized to suit geopolitical interests and corporate balance sheets, silence was no longer an option, and translation, Maguire believed, was the “opposite of war,” and she waged that fight just as ruthlessly as the merchants of death she so deeply detested.
Maguire’s fervent antiprovincialism, which swung between hope and despair, is prominently on display. In “May Day, 1986,” dedicated and addressed to the Polish poet Tadeusz Sławek, she elegizes the difficulties of distance and the stultifying effects of the twenty-four-hour news cycle—then still in its infancy—against the backdrop of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster: “I think of your letter / in my drawer with the handkerchiefs, / one page torn by an earlier reader. Socrates / distrusted writing, its distance from / the grain of the voice. I come indoors / to write you all the things I couldn’t say / a year ago. Later, on the news, they will show / gallons of contaminated Polish milk / swilled into sewage, a boy crying / at the sting of iodine he must swallow / against the uncertain air.” Another remarkable example in this vein is “From Dublin to Ramallah,” which is dedicated to the Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan:
Closer to home and to exile: I seek for this greeting the modesty of rainwater, the wet from ordinary clouds that darkens the soil, swells reservoirs, curls back
the leaves of open books on a damp day into rows of tsunami. And, once in a while, calls for song. I ask for a liquid dissolution: let borders dissolve, let words dissolve,
let English absorb the fluency of Arabic, with ease, let us speak in wet tongues. Look, the Liffey is full of itself. So I post it to Ramallah, to meet up with the Jordan.
While some of Maguire’s coevals in the New Generation list (1994) nursed a fascination and engagement with non-English cultures and languages—Jamie McKendrick, Michael Hofmann, and W. N. Herbert perhaps being the most notable examples—no British poet of her time ever came close to making such a similarly radical statement: that is, that English would be well served by incorporating the fluency of Arabic. In all honesty, I cannot picture any British poet of my generation making such a proclamation, let alone hers.
Nevertheless, “From Dublin to Ramallah” was merely the poetic summation of Maguire’s lifelong dedication to non-English poetry—and Arabic poetry in particular—a dedication whose origins can be traced to one of her earliest trips to the Middle East. As she related in her StAnza Festival lecture, “Singing about the Dark Times: Poetry and Conflict,” in 2008:
When, in 1996, I was the first writer sent to Palestine by the British Council, I decided that I was going to use my position in the British poetry establishment to encourage and promote the translation of Palestinian and Arabic poetry. I wanted people to recognise that the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in general have an extraordinarily rich and complex culture, culture that is most importantly expressed in their poetry since, in Islamic societies, poetry is regarded as the highest art form and is accorded great importance. . . . Our, peculiarly Western, anxiety that “poetry makes nothing happen” is greeted with hilarity, bafflement, and incredulity by the poets I’ve been privileged to make friends with, many of whom come from the most conflict-scarred places on earth such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somaliland, Palestine, and Sudan. They can’t understand why anyone could possibly think that poetry could be irrelevant since, to them, poetry is de facto the most important—and relevant—art form of their cultures. [. . .] It is striking how the poetry and cultures of non-European, and specifically Islamic, countries have been largely greeted with ignorance and smug indifference.
* * *
Inspired by a residency at the School of African and Oriental Studies in the early 2000s, then as now home to a wonderfully varied crowd of polyglots, Maguire decided to concretize her views on translation into an organization that would aim to inject artistic engagements with non-European cultures into the heart of the British poetry establishment.
As the interminable War on Terror began to swing into full gear, Maguire founded the Poetry Translation Centre in 2004 on a simple but necessary premise: assemble small groups of linguists, poets, and impassioned readers to produce readable and enjoyable English renditions of poems written in non-English languages. The intended result was equally simple: at a time when an entire people were being demonized to suit geopolitical interests and corporate balance sheets, silence was no longer an option, and translation, Maguire believed, was the “opposite of war,” and she waged that fight just as ruthlessly as the merchants of death she so deeply detested.
The results, for anyone who attended one of her workshops, were mesmerizing. A poet whom almost nobody in the room had ever heard of before would be introduced, their work would be read out in both the original language and its literal crib, and their life and cultural context would be discussed. A collaborative translation involving everyone present would then slowly, but surely, take shape over the course of the subsequent hour and a half—the proceedings held together by Maguire’s prickly yet earnest charm. Maguire further thought it necessary to ensure that the PTC’s translation efforts wouldn’t be restricted to white-only audiences, as is so frequently the case, and as many will attest, her insistence on connecting the UK’s expatriate diasporas to the PTC’s poets and translators through her series of nationwide tours and readings enabled the invited artists to truly connect with their own people as much as with their host culture.
The method of translation Maguire pioneered at the PTC was thus both publicly accessible—even lay readers could show up and through the strength of their suggestions see a word or line seep into the final translation—and yet highly attuned to Maguire’s scholarly resolve to see as much of the original poem’s so-called otherness transferred into English. Its success was reflected in its popularity among PTC workshop attendees, and only fourteen years after its establishment, the PTC’s current roster includes over 120 poets from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, including Masoud Ahmadi (Iran), Frankétienne (Haiti), Hilda Hilst (Brazil), David Huerta (Mexico), Euphrase Kezilahabi (Tanzania), Farzaneh Khojandi (Tajikistan), Abdellatif Laâbi (Morocco), Partaw Naderi (Afghanistan), Ribka Sibhatu (Eritrea), and one of Somalia’s greatest modern poets, Maxamed Ibraahin Warsame, aka “Hadraawi.”
Maguire’s true north as a translator was her commitment to undermining what she termed the “Imperial method” of translation as routinely practiced by many Western universities and literary establishments.
As far as Maguire was concerned, the PTC’s collaborative approach kept most workshop participants firmly rooted in modesty, a quality she believed was otherwise absent in most Western translation circles, whether academic or literary. Reflecting on her first five years as head of the PTC, Maguire plainly laid out her concerns in her StAnza lecture:
Translating poetry, especially if, like me, you don’t speak the language of your poet, demands patience and humility. What I’ve never wanted to produce are those show-off translations, so beloved of some of my colleagues, who use a distinguished poet’s work to further their own careers and who have a cavalier attitude (at best) to the original poet’s genius. [. . .] Translation always involves the translator taking a position—an aesthetic position and an ethical position. Does the translator wish to negotiate with, or to dominate, the poet they’re translating? Is their main aim to enhance their own reputation, or do they want to introduce a new voice into English poetry by attempting to render the original poet’s own work as vividly and vitally as possible? Plundering another poet’s work to produce yet another riff on your own anomie is child’s play.
As such, Maguire’s true north as a translator was her commitment to undermining what she termed the “Imperial method” of translation as routinely practiced by many Western universities and literary establishments. As far as she was concerned, this “method” utterly disregards the aforementioned aesthetic and ethical positions a translator should take and instead turns the translated poem into a commodity, which is then traded—or not—according to said university or press’s own interests. While Maguire believed translation could constitute an alternative to war, she also knew that it could be turned to nefarious ends. Bad translations, she often noted, especially the ones that reeked of foreignese—broken English utterly divorced from the poem’s original language or context—could be held up by jingoists as proof of the English language’s uncontested supremacy and the worthlessness of other, “shithole” cultures. On other hand, the same bad translations could also be employed by liberals to amplify their virtue signaling, a disingenuous way to prove one’s engagement with the wider world. In this second instance, translation is deprived of all its transformative artistic and social potential and turns into a hollow gesture: like buying a charity bracelet secondhand.
* * *
I owe much of what I am as a translator to Sarah Maguire, and I led a series of workshops for her at the Poetry Translation Centre for five years, from late 2010 to mid-2016, not long before I left London to relocate to the United States. By the time the news of Sarah’s death reached me in late 2017, I hadn’t seen her in over a year. Although her illness had debilitated her to the point she could no longer keep up with any social engagements, she always poured whatever little energy she had left into the PTC’s work. This was why I felt very fortunate to have been able to attend the launch of the PTC’s landmark anthology, My Voice: A Decade of Poems from the Poetry Translation Centre (Bloodaxe) in the summer of 2014 at the Southbank Centre. Featuring poems written in twenty-three languages with the originals en face, all of the forty-five poets included in its pages, I like to think, carried a bit of Sarah inside them: all are politically engaged poets who managed to cling to their lyricism and to their belief in themselves as citizens of the world through the worst of these dark, xenophobic times. While it was no doubt heartwarming to see such a fitting testament to Sarah’s work see the light of day, the launch of My Voice was also a very melancholy occasion, given that Sarah had recently been diagnosed with the cancer that would ultimately claim her life.
A vital, almost unconsciously necessary presence on the British poetry scene for three decades, the final years of Sarah Maguire’s life brought her a little acclaim, albeit not nearly enough as she deserved. “Passages,” a tribute to a stowaway who died after falling from an airplane at Heathrow airport, printed in her last full-length collection, The Pomegranates of Kandahar (Chatto & Windus, 2007), was shortlisted in the best poem category of the Forward prizes in 2005. Two years later, her co-translation of Atiq Rahimi’s novel A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear (Chatto & Windus) was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Nevertheless, despite these laurels, success never rested easily on her shoulders. Sarah preferred the outsider’s stance, a viewpoint she likely sharpened after dropping out of school at sixteen in the mid-1970s to become a gardener with the council in Ealing, becoming the first woman to do so.
Translation has become distinctly fashionable, and translation-focused presses and organizations proliferate like mushrooms, led by young impresarios flush with arts grants and donations. Unfortunately, most of them seem incapable of doing anything except pumping out a stream of ill-conceived titles that merely anthropologize other cultures: recent titles such as Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic: Words and Pictures on How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Alien Next Door, Refugee Tales, and Banthology: Stories from Unwanted Nations spring to mind as good examples of what Sarah meant when she talked about disingenuous so-called translators plundering other cultures to produce yet another riff on their own anomie. Sarah was right: it is child’s play, and as such it would behoove the incoming hordes of white, middle-class practitioners of translation to take a page out of Sarah Maguire’s manual on the ethical responsibilities attached to the job. When James Byrne asked her in an interview whether poets could be trusted, Sarah’s characteristically barbed reply was: “Some of us can be. Others you know are fakes from the beginning. There are some poets who have an uncanny knack of tapping into the zeitgeist, producing what the age wants to hear. Though it may suit in the time it was written, it may not be trusted to breathe so well outside its era.”
I was glad to hear Sarah’s room in the hospice where she breathed her last was filled with flowers, only natural given her lifelong love of botany and horticulture. Sarah’s anthology, Flora Poetica: Poems about Flowers, Trees and Plants (2001), remains essential reading and I’m sure will be treasured for years to come. Nevertheless, like a true Londoner, Sarah never lived in a house with a garden, and that, perhaps, might be an apt metaphor for the frustration she experienced at being a cosmopolitan trapped in a British body, looking out of a stuffy flat at the wider world beyond.
In her latest blog post, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman shares the PEN International Women’s Manifesto, which was ratified at PEN’s 2017 Congress in Lviv, Ukraine, last September and, in many respects, foretold the explosion of the #MeToo movement. Leedom-Ackerman also looks back on the world’s first National Woman’s Day, which occurred on February 28, 1909, in New York. For more, WLT’s November 2016 issue featured women writers, translators, and reviewers from cover to cover.
Over at the New Yorker, Meena Alexander and Kevin Young consider 2006 Neustadt Prize nominee Gerald Stern’s poem “Adonis.” Meena, who was a Neustadt juror in 1998, also reads her own poem, “Kochi by the Sea.”
Trending this week on McSweeney’s is Kimberly Harrington’s haunting piece from 2016, in which she imagines a conversation with her young daughter about the existential crisis around school shootings. On Wednesday, major retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would pull assault rifles and high-capacity magazines from all of its stores.
PEN America has announced the recipients of the 2018 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants. One of the honorees, Brian Sneeden, has been featured several times in WLT, including four of his Phoebe Giannisi translations.
As we enter March, the New York Times provides us with “A Coda to Black History Month” by showcasing the work of Amanda Gorman, who holds the distinction of National Youth Poet Laureate. Amanda crafted original poetry for Black History Month, the Times animated them, and then Amanda provided the backstory for each.
Also from the Times, Hilary Clinton will give the closing talk at this year’s PEN World Voices Festival, which runs April 16–22. The festival, which seeks to be a world stage for international literature and solidarity, was founded in 2005 when Salman Rushdie served as PEN’s president.
In the New York Review of Books, Nathaniel Rich gives his take on Philip Roth: Why Write?, a rare volume of nonfiction that spans the full breadth of the author’s career. As always, Roth’s larger-than-life aura is on full display.
Fun Finds and Inspiration
Book Riot’s Jen Sherman shares one of her favorite hobbies, “stickybeaking” at bookshelves during open house tours. One takeaway: it’s not easy to find your book twin.
Lit Hub has assembled the top 50 one-star reviews of Gravity’s Rainbow on Amazon.
The March issue of World Literature Today is my first foray into my new role as art director at WLT, and I could not have asked for a better inaugural experience working on our Philippine-American literature section with guest editor Joseph O. Legaspi. Joseph introduced me to fantastic artists whose works span photography, painting, mixed media, and more, and I’m delighted to now share their works with all of you. Check out their recent artwork online—or for our readers in New York City, several of the artists below have their work in both solo and group exhibitions that you can see in person right now.
Jason Reblando is an artist and photographer based in Chicago and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, and one of his most recent projects, New Deal Utopias, is a stunning hardcover book that explores—through Reblando’s lens—the Greenbelt Towns designed and built by the United States government to be model cities in the 1930s as part of the New Deal program. Reblando is the recipient of a US Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines, an Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council, and a Community Arts Assistance Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, Camera Austria, Slate, Bloomberg Businessweek, Marketplace, Real Simple, Places Journal, Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader, and now World Literature Today. His photographs are part of the collections in the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Midwest Photographers Project of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He teaches photography at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University.
Camille Hoffman’s work takes inspiration from the Philippine weaving and the Jewish folk traditions of her ancestors, and her works have a gorgeous textural depth and a complex, compelling narrative with the incorporation of mixed-media. Hoffman received her BFA in community arts and painting from California College of the Arts and her MFA in painting and printmaking from Yale School of Art in 2015. She has worked for over a decade as an arts educator and community organizer in Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, New Haven, Brooklyn, and Queens. She was a recipient of the Carol Schlosberg Memorial Prize for excellence in Painting from Yale University, a National Endowment for the Arts scholarship, and a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Hoffman has shown throughout the US and in Europe, and her first solo New York exhibition, Pieceable Kingdom, is open now through April 8 at the Museum of Arts and Design.
Born in the Philippines and currently residing in Brooklyn, Francis Estrada is a visual artist, museum educator at the Museum of Modern Art, and freelance educator of Filipino art and culture. His art featured in our issue is an untitled work on charcoal and paper that is part of his Umihi series. Estrada has a fine arts degree in painting and drawing from San Jose State University, and he has taught in a variety of studio, classroom, and museum settings to diverse audiences, including programs for adults with disabilities, cultural institutions, and after-school programs. He was also an administrator and educator at the Museum for African Art, where he enjoyed teaching about the amalgamation of art and culture through objects. Francis exhibits his work nationally, including online publications. His work focuses on culture, history, and perception.
Maia Cruz Palileo is a multidisciplinary, Brooklyn-based artist. Migration and the permeable concept of home are constant themes in her paintings, installations, sculptures, and drawings, and her work appears with three of the pieces in our special section. Influenced by the oral history of her family’s arrival in United States from the Philippines, as well as the history between the two countries, Palileo infuses these narratives using both memory and imagination. When stories and memories are subjected to time and constant retelling, the narratives become questionable, bordering the line between fact and fiction, while remaining cloaked in the convincingly familiar.
Palileo is a recipient of the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Program Grant, Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, NYFA Painting Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Award and the Astraea Visual Arts Fund Award. She received an MFA in sculpture from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a BA in studio art at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. Maia has participated in residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, Lower East Side Print Shop, New York, Millay Colony, New York, and the Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans. She is also part of a group exhibition at the Rubin Museum in New York City, and the exhibition, titled Face of the Future, will be open now through November 4.
Sara Jimenez is a multidisciplinary Filipina-Canadian artist currently living and working in New York. Jimenez works both collaboratively and individually, and through performance, installation, sculpture, and drawing, she investigates relationships between material impermanence and transcultural memory. Throughout her projects, she is interested in complicating and reimagining existing narratives around concepts of home, absence, and origins.
She received her BA from the University of Toronto (2008) and her MFA from Parsons the New School for Design (2013). Residencies include Brooklyn Art Space (2014), Wave Hill’s Winter Workspace (2015), a full artist fellowship to The Vermont Studio Center (2016), and the Bronx Museum’s AIM program (2016). Jimenez has exhibited at the Pinto Art Museum (Philippines), Rush Arts Gallery (NY), the Brooklyn Museum (NY), FiveMyles Gallery, and Wayfarers Gallery (NY). She has performed numerous venues including the Noguchi Museum, Dixon Place, and Smack Mellon. Her work is on display now through March 24 as part of the Historical Amnesia group exhibition curated by Gabriel de Guzman at Bronx Art Space in New York City.
Janna Añonuevo Langholz is a photo-based, interdisciplinary artist born and based in St. Louis, Missouri, and her work is on display now through March 2 at the Truman State University Art Gallery in Missouri. She received a BFA in Fibers from Truman State University in 2011 and received a full fellowship to attend graduate school at SMU Meadows School of the Arts in 2013. She received her MFA in 2015 with a concentration in photography. Her work explores her Filipino-American identity and relationship to place through photography and site-responsive interactions with architecture and the land.
Her work has been shown throughout the US in solo and group shows in St. Louis, Dallas, San Francisco, Portland, Taos (New Mexico), and Hilo (Hawaii). She received a fellowship from the artist program Signal Fire to participate in “unwalking” the Lewis & Clark trail from Oregon to eastern Montana during summer 2016. She is also the founder and editor of the Filipino American Artist Directory, an initiative to connect and promote Philippine-American artists in the US and beyond. In addition to her piece Burdock Needlepoint featured in our special section, we’ve also included her map from the artist directory, which illustrates Philippine/American transnational relations in arching, intermingling threads.
Kathleen Rooney creates a playlist for largehearted boy’s Book Notes series based on her new novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, which features a woman in her eighties who takes a 10.4-mile walk around Manhattan on New Year’s Eve in 1984. The accompanying playlist includes music by Michael Jackson, New Order, and Richard Hawley. Look for an interview with Rooney in the March issue of
Literary Hub speaks with Sofia Samatar about her novel, Monster Portraits, out February 22, in a casual back-and-forth. Samatar tells about “going too far in writing” as well as longing, intensity, and refusal.
Among other winners, Edmund White, whom PEN America calls “a trailblazing chronicler of modern gay life,” brought home the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. Irish novelist Edna O’Brien received the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Congratulations to poet Layli Long Soldier for claiming the coveted PEN/Jean Stein Book Award.
The Guardian reveals Like a Woman, a popup bookstore open in East London March 5–9, will only sell books by female authors to celebrate International Women’s Day. Books will be grouped by impact on culture, history, and society.
In the New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates reviews J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, which debuted on January 2. Finn examines the stereotype of “unreliable” female protagonists through staccato, cinematic prose that keeps readers turning pages.
According to The Guardian, copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein manuscript have been found and will be published. Shelley wrote the first draft in two large notebooks after being challenged by Lord Byron to write a ghost story.
As the New Yorker celebrates its ninety-third birthday, Literary Hub remembers twenty of the most iconic covers.
Jiayang Fan reviews To Walk Invisible, a two-hour period drama centered on the rise of the Brontë sisters.
Major Jackson / Photo courtesy of the author. Kehinde Wiley’s Morpheus (2008) appears on the cover of Roll Deep
Major Jackson’s latest book of poetry, Roll Deep (Norton, 2015), has landed well with America’s major critical outlets, from the New York Times and the Washington Post to the Rumpus and beyond. Reviewers point to the mastery with which Jackson undertakes a veritable odyssey, venturing out into foreign locales as a way of understanding and returning home. Through the epigraphs interspersed between the sections of the book, rolling deep takes on two connotations: one laden with images of waves, water, and movement, the other with a city, a family, a people. We hear Byron’s Childe Harold calling out, “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean—Roll!” and Mobb Deep rapping, “When worst comes to worst, / My peoples come first.” We also see diaspora and kinship meet in Langston Hughes intoning, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” This is the saddle in which the two metaphors slope into each other—a reminder that neither the seaborne pilgrimage nor the city can be navigated without a “crew.” Yet for all the insightful criticism of Jackson’s poems and the ways they pay homage to those he makes his crew, from the kids on the block and the cousin on bottom bunk to poets like Gwendolyn Brooks who paved the way, not enough has been said about the way Jackson laces together the rhythms and language of the Philadelphia street (or more often, the basketball court) with that of old-world boulevards and coves—not holding them in tension, but rather intentionally drawing them together to shatter presuppositions about style.
The dynamic rhythms and pacing of Hoops (2006), one of Jackson’s earlier collections with which Roll Deep demands comparison, demonstrate Jackson’s poetic project as well as his capacity. The title poem of Hoops is a study in movement and prosody. Set amidst a pickup game on the local court, the rhythm of the first two sections is the irregular bounce and dribble of the ball—now a steady end-rhyme every other line, now two, three quick alliterative consonants punctuating the phrase. The effect of repeated sounds, of any kind, is to unite the larger parts, tugging the words together across space, quickening the pace as it shortens the lull between lines. Feel the quick dribble of the fourth and fifth stanza, punching on b’s, p’s, and g’s as Radar drives the pill (ball), and hitting bonus midline rhymes as the ball makes the hoop:
. . . split-second lobs
past a squad of sweat-backed
post, pivot away, look
then dish: follow through,—
Swish! Radar backpedals
as the net strings flap & swing to
rest. The blacktop ripples.
Jackson is always attentive to form, but the slack predictability of regular rhythm is busted up by repetition in moments of action, keeping the reader’s ear attentive. That Jackson draws on the rules of hip-hop, using the full range of assonance and consonance rather than only whole rhymes to direct the reader’s attention, is no surprise when one sees the high significance he seems to ascribe to the genre in some of the other poems in Hoops and Roll Deep. Jackson’s ability to work in different rhythms and even rules of rhythm within and between works is what so much of his poetry hinges on. Here on the court, the unpredictable patter of the sound pattern not only dictates the pace of action, it also designates uniqueness of place. Like an accent, it colors the space, forcing the reader to reconcile the audible contrast as he moves to other locales in Roll Deep. Thus “The Cyclades Blues Suite / i.” begins,
On the Aegean Speed Line, hightailing a fast ferry
away from Perseus’s birthplace, away from those beaches
with names like Ganema, Sykamia, Megalo Livadi,
whose scythe-like coves left us speechless
and shockingly bold as we unpeeled our bathing suits
like human wrappers,
working with epithets, allusions, and blatant similes almost impossible to picture in Hoops.
That Jackson draws on the rules of hip-hop, using the full range of assonance and consonance rather than only whole rhymes to direct the reader’s attention, is no surprise when one sees the high significance he seems to ascribe to the genre in some of the other poems in Hoops and Roll Deep.
What prevents the reader from simply regarding these poems on Greece, Spain, Kenya, and Italy as disconnected or even distant from Jackson’s work in Hoops—an option that might be tempting, considering the differences in place, prosody, allusive material, and overall style—is the fact that Jackson explicitly stages this “Urban Renewal” section in Roll Deep as a continuation of the identically titled section in Hoops. The first part of “XXI. Greece” picks up with the speaker “hightailing a fast ferry” following the despair-driven suicide at the end of “XX”—a flight from “the shapes of the trees” by which the speaker is previously “haunted.” The unsettling image of the trees’ lifelike “arms” in the earlier poem is echoed and altered in the second part of “Greece”:
Never get used to this:
yucca leaves lifting like a chorus of arms,
the garnishing blue of the Aegean Sea splitting
your eyes into a million sparking charms.
Focusing our attention with the twice-repeated imperative, “Never get used to this,” Jackson challenges us to hold in our mind’s eye both images at once, the haunting and the charming, just as he forces us to flex with his fluid rhythms. What the collusion between Hoops and Roll Deep calls for is a kind of layered looking, the ability to see differences stacking rather than crowding each other out. The speaker in the first part of “XXII. Spain” is captivated by exactly that quality of compilation and contrast, of layered juxtaposition—by the “light lancing through leaves of madrone trees” and how the “Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly / then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate.” While feeling moved to “cherish the wizened reserve of old world manners” and the “grand edifices along this boulevard,” the speaker is also mindful of a layer of unrest, present and historical: “Yet Guernica is down the street, and some windshields / wear a sinister face, sometimes two. Think Goya.”
In the next section, “ii. Salobreña,” any separation between layers dissolves, so that “The firing squad’s gun pops are that Flamencan / dancer’s heel stomps.” The same unparadoxical duplicity, the same simultaneous doubleness that Jackson depicts in Spain is played out on a larger screen in his “Urban Renewal” project, driving home the essence of the “Reverse Journey” with which he prefaces the book. The effect, I would suggest, is not simply incidental and descriptive but sharply intentional and political: for Jackson, “All seeing is an act of war.”
What the collusion between Hoops and Roll Deep calls for is a kind of layered looking, the ability to see differences stacking rather than crowding each other out.
Embedded in Jackson’s poetics is a heteroglossic array of rhythm, speech, and style that declare war on what the twentieth-century Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin calls the “official style,” language conceived as singular and thus controlled. Heteroglossic discourse draws on the diverse kinds of language and style found in daily life and forces them into close contact with each other. In his essay on “Discourse in the Novel,” Bakhtin pushes against the notion that style is about “private craftsmanship,” arguing instead that it is about “the social life of discourse outside the artist’s study, discourse in the open spaces of public squares, streets, cities and villages.” Writing in the 1930s, Bakhtin thought that this kind of discourse was only found in the novel and did not fit into the poetic mode as it then existed. But Jackson, writing seventy years later, does see heteroglossia in verse—in the music of hip-hop artists, for instance. In “Hunting Park,” he claims that “Hip-hop’s current genius loci / Believes the cut, scratch, and spin / Amends heteroglossia & situates Bakhtin.”
Clearly Jackson takes on heteroglossia in his own poetry, too. Open, social spaces are precisely where Jackson takes his style; the marrow of his poems, their sound, rhythm, and pace, comes from the where of his verse, which differs from the ball court to the café. In these spaces one finds what Bakhtin describes as the “internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects, characteristic group behavior . . . languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour.” This kind of language—the kind you pick up on the court or the web and put down when you enter the classroom—is what we hear in poems like “Moose”: “If the ball sank / If the net strings snapped / Then coiled, Butter Baby.” One of the points Bakhtin is making in his essay is that, when we understand “language conceived as ideologically saturated, language as a worldview,” we know this is never “just” slang. Jackson takes this idea a step further in “Hunting Park,” bringing it to bear on the most elemental level of language: “To wit, sounds are political.”
By layering not only language, settings, and allusions but also his pace and prosody, he introduces a poetic heteroglossia that ultimately “amends” and re-“situates” Bakhtin.
In “Hunting Park,” Jackson gets explicit about the politics of style and the project he sees unfolding across a whole community of artists, tipping his hand enough to clue us in on how Roll Deep not only follows but furthers the stylistic work of Hoops. After calling out
Those who would revoke my poet card,
Who would charge me with class ascension,
Who would banish me to the stockyard
Of single-raced anthologies or mention
Such asinine folly as, “His attention
To rhyme?”—weak shot to procure a public
he goes on to flaunt his style- (and thus race- and class-) crossing verse, invoking the classical Orpheus alongside “Kanye mixing music with fire / Spitting souls through wires.” But truly heteroglossic texts do more than just reference different styles of discourse; they voice them, giving each an undeniable presence that cannot be subsumed into or subjugated by another. It is because of this that Bakhtin thought heteroglossic verse impossible, for “everywhere there is only one face—the linguistic face of the author, answering for every word as if it were his own.” Furthermore, he accuses rhythm of contributing only to linguistic uniformity, which “destroys in embryo those social worlds of speech.” Rhythm is fundamental; it is the basis, the “embryo,” of any voice. That’s why Jackson’s lyrical work is so important to the social and political force of Hoops and Roll Deep. By layering not only language, settings, and allusions but also his pace and prosody, he introduces a poetic heteroglossia that ultimately “amends” and re-“situates” Bakhtin.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Jackson’s brief reference to heteroglossia in “Hunting Park” is how he inverts the normal (“proper” or “official”) chain of interpretation, giving top priority to the work still happening today. Bakhtin cannot reach forward to shape hip-hop and poetry, but hip-hop and poetry can reach back and reshape his theory, all while going about their own business. Roll Deep is not “about” heteroglossia. It is about how home dwells deep in a place where it cannot be plucked out and how kinship rolls through one’s veins however far one roams. But in paying homage to Brooks and Byron and Earl the street-hard chess champ, in pulling in the voices of so many people and places, Jackson achieves a stylistic feat, and in the process a political one, breaking some of language’s internalized boundaries. Liberating on the most elemental levels, his poems leave in us a modicum of his own “surfeit of ambition”: “to roam / like decomposing clouds rolling deep, / re-forming constantly and away, above.”
“Gleam of ice, and glint of steel, / Jolly, snappy weather; / Glide on ice and joy of zeal, / All, alone, together.” E. E. Cummings, “Skating”
The 2018 Winter Olympics is here, and it’s time you got to know the largely undiscovered host. South Korea’s PyeongChang is the rugged, cold, beautiful neighbor 100 miles to the east of capital city, Seoul, just a 90-minute ride by bullet train. PyeongChang is located in the Taebaek Mountain region of the Gangwon Province. Known for its luxurious ski resorts, scenic views, and mountainous landscape, PyeongChang is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Catch your dinner at the PyeongChang Trout Festival where you can ice-fish for trout, join in some traditional folk games, and take your catch of the day to the nearest restaurant to be prepared Korean style. If you’d rather buy your fish instead of sticking your bare hand into an ice hole to catch it, head over to the Jumunjin Seafood Market where the vendors sell red snow crab, octopus, and much more.
If you’re visiting PyeongChang during the Olympics, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about South Korean culture by attending the Cultural Olympiad events held in the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza. Displays of art, as well as live music and dance performances will feature both traditional and modern aspects of Korean culture.
Get to know South Korean culture through the words of these award-wining Korean writers!
Kyung-sook Shin is one of South Korea’s most popular authors and was the first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011 for Please Look After Mom, the first of her books to be translated into English. Shin draws from her experience as a student living in Seoul during a time of political turmoil and “disappearances” in her novel I’ll Be Right There.
Han Kang Human Acts Trans. Deborah Smith (Hogarth, 2017)
South Korean poet and novelist Han Kang won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian. In Human Acts, she examines both the light and dark sides of humanity present in the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. Kang lives in Seoul and works as a creative writing instructor at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. She is featured in WLT’s May 2016 issue.
Han Yujoo, author and translator, is recognized as a “major new voice from South Korea” and was awarded the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award, likened to the National Book Award, in 2009. The Impossible Fairytale is her first book translated into English and was named one of WLT’s 75 Notable Translations of 2017. Yujoo is a member of an experimental group, Rue, and runs Oulipo Press, an independent publisher.
Winter Olympics Inspired Reading
Here are a few moments in literature that beautifully illustrate sports from the winter Olympics!
In this lament for a dead curler, Scottish poet Robert Burns writes of the way the “rock” roars across the ice “When Winter muffles up his cloak.” There is speculation whether Burns himself partook in curling.
Tolstoy describes an outing at the skating-grounds on a Russian winter’s day. Among members of the leisurely elite class, Kitty and Levin shake off their timidity and indulge in a high-speed skate. “They set off side by side, going faster and faster, and the more rapidly they moved the more tightly she grasped his hand."
Considered one of the most important poems of the twentieth century, “The Waste Land” opens with a reminiscence of the thrilling sensation of sledding down a mountain: “he took me out on a sled, / And I was frightened. He said, Marie, / Marie, hold on tight. And down we / went.”
Dickens’ characters, both expert and inexperienced, take to the ice-skating rink. While some of the skaters carve the ice with figure eights and elegant circles, others partake in “knocking at the cobbler’s door,” a skate-less slide across the rink.
“LitFilm” is a film festival put on by the Brooklyn Public Library that features films exploring the lives and works of influential writers such as James Baldwin, Gabriel García Márquez, Joan Didion, and Yukio Mishima, to name a few. The event spans six days, during which actors, filmmakers, and writers will make appearances and documentaries and films will be screened for free with reservations.
In light of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the National Museum of Korea is collaborating with the Tokyo National Museum of Japan and the National Museum of China to present an exhibition based on the tradition of the image of the tiger in East Asian art. The exhibition features forty works from Korea, thirty works from Japan, and thirty-five works from China.
The Arab American National Museum currently has an exhibition displaying the mixed-media work of Atlanta-based artist Nabil Mousa. Born in Syria and raised in a conservative Christian home in the United States, Mousa draws on his experiences, exploring oppression based on gender identity and sexual identity in both of these countries, while always retaining a sense of hopefulness for the future.
This exhibition at Turner Contemporary is both an ode to and exploration of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” The product of a three-year project, the exhibition features over 60 artists and almost 100 objects intended to inspire reflection upon the impact of poetry and the role that art plays in that process.
The Institute of Contemporary Arts is hosting a solo exhibition of Australian artist Helen Johnson in collaboration with Artspace, Sydney. Johnson’s work tackles the colonial history between Britain and Australia, bringing the national relationships down to the level of the individual body. The work seeks to restructure understandings of the colonization of Australia and push back against legitimizing narratives.
SYRIA.ART is featuring Syrian artist Tammam Azzam in an online exhibition. His work incorporates a variety of mediums that allow him to explore the political upheavals in Syria in a unique manner. He frequently contrasts Western imagery with the stark reality of the violence in Syria.
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