Monday, March 31, 2014

NEW! Poem by Emari DiGiorgio

Emari DiGiorgio


Your daughter is out in the world. Not quite lost,
though the stretch of cerebral highway she’s been driving along 

has been washed out in a storm. Sudden rain, flash blood 
pressure. You’re on your knees now. Every surface is a map: 
the Berber carpet, your husband’s face. If you could find
the trail of crumbs, a strand of hair. But the brain is forest, 

desert, glacier, gorge. You stumble in the new moon dark. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

NEW! Poem by Eric Komosa

Eric Komosa

It doesn’t mean I don’t still and won’t always

Goodbye Mom. I’ll paint that room yellow rose 
when the Maple tree you will not cut down
has let down its branches even further.

Erin will be fine when she stops having 
ideas of what life is supposed to be like 
or when she joins a cult.
Either way,

Friday, March 14, 2014

NEW! Review of Minae Mizumura

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura. Translated by Juliet Winters. Other Press, $29.95.

Reviewed by Tina Liu

Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel is like a Matryoshka doll: each skillfully crafted and gorgeously painted doll represents a different narrator from the novel. This reminds the reader that there is no doubt that the story each narrator tells could be a stunning piece of craftsmanship on its own; but the reader must keep in mind that a doll separate from the set is hollow, filled with nothing.

A True Novel is set in postwar Japan as a remake of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The novel focuses on three main narrators: the author, Yusuke Kato, and Fumiko Tsuchiya. All three have relationships with the protagonist Taro Azuma but do not know one another directly. Yusuke has the least intimate relationship with Taro but serves as a crucial link to Taro’s story. Taro was raised by his uncle’s family and often abused by his uncle's wife and two sons. Yoko's grandmother, the widow Mrs. Utagawa, could not stand to see this treatment so she took Taro under her wing. After she passed away, Tara moved to the U.S. in his late teens. The author presents the story of Taro’s time in the U.S. while Fumiko presents the story of when he was in Japan. Yusuke only met Taro twice, but is the one who listened to Fumiko’s narration and later seeks out the author and shares it with her. The reader soon learns that Taro grew up with Yoko from the Saegusa family, a family whose women are known for their Hirano faces (breathtaking looks). The Saegusa family is also the employer of Taro’s grandfather, a rickshaw driver and handyman. The gap in social status does not stop Yoko and Taro from becoming inseparable playmates and falling in love, but this gap foreshadows their devastating fate.

The novel begins with a first-person prologue written from the perspective of the author. She talks about her family’s move from Japan to Long Island and how the culture shock she experiences makes her more appreciative of Japanese traditions such as calligraphy. After her move she meets the protagonist, Taro, a Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune in New York. Because the author felt lonely and friendless, she naturally found Taro intriguing because he was the only one from Japan close to her age. Taro is only a chauffeur when Mizumura first meets him, but he quickly moves up in society and eventually makes his fortune as an entrepreneur in the field of medical equipment.

Mizumura’s presence lasts for nearly a fifth of the 850-page novel. Mizumura takes such a large proportion of the novel for two reasons: to introduce the protagonist and to explain a form of Japanese literature, the I-novel:

In an “I-novel,” readers expect the writer to figure in the work in one way or another. Whether the work is in fact based on the writer’s life or is a contrivance is ultimately irrelevant. The author-protagonist of an “I-novel” is perceived as an actual, specific individual … The work is necessarily assumed to be truthful about that individual’s life. Moreover, readers tend to favor works that have no beginning or ending, and are fragmentary, finding them true to life, as life also has no opening or closure as such and is nothing but an accumulation of fragmentary experiences.

This also explains Mizumura’s presence in the novel.

Juliet Winters’ skilled translation enables the language to flow naturally, presenting no barriers to this exciting journey into the heart of the Japanese culture, which is important because the novel is not only a devastating love story, but also a reflection of history and society through the lives of each narrator. There is the westernization of Japan, culture shock, class and race prejudice, etc. Although the narrations are fragmented, Mizumura is able to present a dimensional version of a story that endures through time because of how she chooses to present the obvious differences in western culture and eastern culture. Mizumura does not imply that these two cultures clash and fight. Nor does she claim that it is merely a case of choosing one or the other. The interaction of citizens from different cultures affects their cultures as well.

Near the end of the novel, Yusuke learns that Fumiko’s relationship with Taro was more intimate than she suggested in her narration, so he wonders: “Was he too naïve a listener or was Fumiko too discreet a narrator? He couldn’t be sure.” At this point, the reader has already completed the task of taking apart doll after doll, or narration after narration. Everything is neatly lined up when the reader suddenly feels no joy or closure. Mizumura creates a story that feels effortlessly real through different layers of narration that offer specific details on the cultural and historical background as well. But then she forces the reader to realize that the story, though finished, will never be complete. All the characters offer narratives in an emotional tone, but no matter how specifically they approach the story, they still present a version that is biased, fragmented, and distant. But because of this, the novel offers truth in the sense that in reality stories are passed on by spectators or close relations of the protagonist(s).

A True Novel is filled with characters connected through a series of events that stretch across time and space. Representatives from multiple generations and social classes come together to act out a behind-the-scenes love story between two cultures: when the cultures enter into relationships, they no longer remain independent identities. Mizumura’s novel shows these lines and borders being redefined through this interaction between cultures, but never to the point that they disappear completely. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NEW! Poem by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon


I couldn’t stand my ground. My foot snagged, landed in the mud. The river took me on a wild ride. No branches to save me. I’m sprawled half off the plinth, as if I just fell moments ago.

The truth is this has been coming for years.   

I won’t lie. There were moments when I liked the pedestal. But I’d had premonitions: half off, head angled, breasts defying gravity. In puris naturalibus.

I am a rock.  

Just a minute ago, I was checking my hair in the mirror, just a minute ago I was gaping at the scale, just a minute ago I was planning to move on, move forward, change track, make something of myself. It was the time right before the flood, the intruder, the runaway car, the diagnosis, the lightning strike. 

When I heard the river rushing I didn’t run. What does that say about the pedestal? What does that say about its tenuous allure? 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

NEW! Poem by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon


Well, you are a very small monster. I have to give you that. It’s a big 
world and I wish I had a little rhinestone suitcase. Then I could carry 
you around like a miniature poodle. Of course, you are much smaller 
than that. You could hide behind two books on my shelf, you could 
fox trot with the dust bunny under the couch, quiver in anticipation 
of the broom. There! Over there! You could dart underneath the tea 
set. You could nestle into that score in the wood. Once, long ago, 
when you lived in the crib, I believe I remember you larger. I saw you 
shaking the slats. Escaping must have been scary! That may be when 
you shrank a la Alice, crawled underneath the wall-to-wall carpet. Set 
up camp there. Later, in the hospital, your size saved you, scurrying 
as you did up the IV pole and into your own vein. You made sure the 
infusion took. I will put you in an eggshell, in a locket, in a coin purse, 
under my tongue. Never mind what they say about you. You are not 
alone. Look in the woodpile, on the evergreen leaf, in the finch feeder, 
there are hundreds riding in the paramecium parade. Stick to the glue 
on the envelope and I will lick you. Someone will post you. 

You can pretend that wherever you are, there you aren’t.