Given the cultural climate of our time, it is important to remember that literary matters can transcend borders, both spatial and temporal. The literary imagination humanizes us to each other, and to ourselves, by leading us, however briefly and however imperfectly, beyond our everyday lives and into the lives of other people, people sometimes separated by thousands of miles or years, sometimes by only a few steps. My personal belief—one that need not be shared by others—is that serious study of the best literature, both of the past and of the present, teaches us quickly the radical insufficiency of our individual experiences, whatever they may be, and perpetually encourages us to be more humble, more open, more receptive, more courageously empathic, more merciful, and more loving. There is no end to learning these virtues.
Over the past few months, I have purposely set about creating an “International Issue” of Literary Matters. While every issue of Literary Matters is receptive to work from all peoples and from nations around the world, reflecting the values of the ALSCW itself, and while I’m pleased to be able to say that this issue represents some fourteen countries and four continents in various ways, in future issues Literary Matters will continue striving to expand and to embrace fine writing from all across the globe.
For now, I hope that our readers will enjoy the contents of the present issue. Assembling the issue has been a distinct pleasure for me, and I hope reading it will provide a similar pleasure for you. We have three translations from the contemporary Italian poet Eugenio Baroncelli’s Mosche d’inverno (2010), winner of the Premio Supermondello and Premio Piero Chiara, rendered beautifully by Chenxin Jiang, and I would note that these are the first translations of Baroncelli’s work to appear in English. Gabrielle Piedad Ponce-Hegenauer offers a fine, scholarly translation of a verse epistle by Miguel Cervantes—yes, that Miguel Cervantes— which has never before been rendered into English. Esther Allen, whose translation of the Argentinian master Antonio Di Benedetto’s Zama has recently appeared in the New York Review of Books Classics series, provides an exquisite translation of a powerful section from Di Benedetto’s follow-up, The Silentiary. Rosanna Warren offers a splendid translation of a previously un-translated poem by legendary French Surrealist Max Jacob, and Bill Coyle does the same for the contemporary Swedish poet, Håkan Sandell, while Adelaide Russo translates for us an exceptional essay on translation itself by the renowned contemporary French poet, Nicolas Pesques.
We have excellent reviews of new poetry books from the U.S., a critical memoir by David Havird focusing on Archibald MacLeish and James Dickey that supplements a previous essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review, a trenchant essay by Meg Lamont on teaching Ovid’s Ars Amatoria to contemporary students, and a fine “Neglected Authors Feature” on the contemporary Italian master, Patrizia Cavalli, by Mary DiSalvo. What’s more, we have two winners of the 2016 Meringoff Prizes—two tantalizing chapters from a novel by Helen Storey, and a formidable essay from the winner of the 2016 High School Essay Contest, Nicole Woch—as well as our customary “Double-Take,” featuring essays by the great Marjorie Perloff and Matthew Buckley Smith. Additionally, we have terrific poems by Kelly Cherry, Maryann Corbett, Ernest Hilbert, Riche Hofmann, Jee Leong Koh, and Matthew Buckley Smith, as well David Yezzi’s delightful poem responding to the (in)famous Patrick Swayze picture, Roadhouse.
Finally, we are fortunate enough to be publishing a piece of lyrical prose, Las Muchachas, by Judith Ortiz Cofer. It would be difficult for me to overstate Judith’s influence on me. She was a close colleague of my mother’s in the mid-80s, and she was the first real writer I knew when I was a young boy. Later, she was my professor and hero. Later still, she was a friend. It is with profound sorrow that I note Judith passed away on December 30th, 2016. I am so grateful to her for so many things that my feeling is ineffable, but I am deeply pleased to be able to share one of the final pieces she completed—perhaps the final piece she completed—with the readers of Literary Matters. Her life was dedicated to breaking down prejudices and borders and glass ceilings with the power of her love and the power of her art, and, as she wrote in the final sentence of The Year of Our Revolution (1998), “El olvido is a dangerous thing.” Lest we forget what Judith and other trailblazers have done to open our hearts and our minds with their words, this issue is dedicated to her memory.
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