Fact or art? We'll index the world for you.

Encyclopedia Britannica


Vol.55 Issue 02

Buy the ebook
I affirm that the library is interminable.
—Jorge Luis Borges

 

EDITOR’S NOTE
Minna Proctor

One recent afternoon, I was driving my children to gymnastics class in Bay Ridge and bumbling with considerable difficulty through an explanation of the difference between pop and classical music. With The White Stripes hammering irrestistably in the background, I couldn’t for the life of me think of something sensical or even useful to say—”That drum beat, there. You know it’s coming, and that makes you happy. In classical music you wouldn’t know there was a drum beat there…”

The song clanged to a perfect resolution and the iPod shuffled right on to the first haunting twangs of a Dolly Parton song. A roar of protest rose up from the back seat, “Mommy! This is a slow song! We don’t like slow songs!” The mood in the car was so anti-intellectual and I suddenly felt defiant. “No,” I corrected. “This is a sad song. It’s entirely different.” The music swelled and Dolly’s voice tumbled, And then I felt the lonely …coming down. “You don’t even have to understand the words,” I said. “You can hear from the music that it’s sad.” I had a keen memory of my own mother trying to teach me that even when Tristan and Isolde thought they were mortal enemies, they were lovers. “The words are irrelevant,” she told me. “It doesn’t matter what they think they’re saying; they’re singing a love song.”

“Mommy!” my daughter persisted. “We don’t like sad songs!”

“No Anna,” said Isaac. “Actually, I do like sad songs. I want to hear this.”

And in the rear view mirror I could see him turning his serious little face away from his sister to look out the window, his brow knit in concentration as he tried to hear in the music what I was saying. I realized that unlike my mother, who actually knew musicology and could have demonstrated the specific tonal progression that proved the love song buried in the first Tristan and Isolde duet, I was shooting wildly with my lesson. But at least I had sabotaged the rash rejection, the automatic response, and Isaac was trying to understand something (anything) new. The road curved out further to the west and the sun broke over the Verazano, flooding the car with light.

*

This issue is titled Encyclopedia Britannica, and when I first started thinking about it—long before I knew that the real Encyclopedia Britannica would be announcing the end of its print version this very spring—the aspects that most interested me had to do with filtering information. We’re deep into the Information Age. Not only is information vastly available, but it is vast—plentiful, multiple, undiscriminating. Knowledge is increasingly a matter of discernment rather than an accumulation of facts. The sacred act of codifying information doesn’t belong to an authoritative body, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, but rather to a community, a wiki. It isn’t frozen in time; it doesn’t even plateau for the year in between editions. Information is constantly moving. Which means that the pursuit of knowledge itself has changed shape. the pursuit is broad, diligent, nimble, skeptical—a rigorous freestyle. Curiosity and open-mindedness are critically important. Sad, slow love song or war cry—what’s important is the ability to listen.

I am not a gatherer of facts—I prefer to work from a gestural understanding of matter. It’s a kind of disability. And yet, information today cooperates. It is voluble, filtered, impressionistic, and subordinate to a vast spectrum of unquantifiables: Why does the burping kitten video go viral? Why does that family have a four-story town house on the park? Why does this family have a predisposition to suicide? How big does the print on a map need to be in order to cause the least frustration across the 30-to-75-year-old demographic? When to deploy the destructive impulse hardwired in every single human being—young, old, brilliant, disabled. Murder, hunting, divorce, beheading dolls. Is there a good destruction? Who is setting that meter? And why can’t you reprogram a cat to scratch somewhere besides the arm of the couch? Who programmed the cat to scratch there in the first place? Why can you reprogram a dog? God is in our DNA. Happiness is chemistry. Happiness is circumstantial.

Information changes too quickly and too cheaply to be bound. And yet there is still a tangible value to those physical books of the Britannica series: Compare the 1943 entry on INFORMATION to the 2007 entry. Hold two real paper entries next to each other and quantify the difference that time made in its meaning. Those entries are now a kind of fossil, a moment stilled that reflects its context and environment. The printed encyclopedia is a semantic tar pit. Knowledge is a process, an observation, a fleeting intimacy that gets shed and reveals data. And data, the information, now will be banked in a cloud and updated in real time. It’s a loop. Welcome to information as gesture.

Happy reading.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

POETRY
Albert Goldbarth
Encyclopedia Brittany

Ukraine
Andrei Krasnyashykh
Translated by Tanya Paperny
From the Series “Machinations of the Genre”

Ian Stone
TransArctic Rail Road; Halifrigin; Radcliff IV, Broadsly Waldorff

David Georgi
New Translations from François Villon’s Testament

Mary Jo Bang
Dante’s Inferno Canto XXX

Russia
Polina Barskova
Translated by Kathryn Farris and Ilya Kaminsky
Evening in Tsarskoe Selo; Summer Physiological Essay: Wanderers; From Mad Vatslav’s Diary

Simon Perchik
“It must be new here”; “This tree still wet”; “The blood this bandaid vaguely wrings”

Cynthia Cruz
Coco; Death: The Project; Coco

Poland
Miron Białoszewski
Translated by Translated by Anatoly Kudryavitsky
Even If They Take Away My Stove; Girl from the Sticks; The Ballad Of Descending to the Shop; From “Directions to Suspension”

John Hoppenthaler
Fable with Pekin Ducks; Chiaroscuro

C.J. Sage
The Gone Is Back; Self Portrait as a Bluebird’s Open Beak; Two Tones

Michael Bazzett
Report from Beyond; Everywhen; The Body; Thought Grenade

Turkey
Ahmet Ada
Translated by Ken Fifer and Nesrin Eruysal
The Deer; Land; The Sea Once Again; Past the Shore; After the Rain

Micah Jon Heatwole
November Renderings; Hallelujah; Stop Signs; What Is Game?
Renée Ashley
On the Humanness of the Humanities

Christian Barter
Secret Evidence

 

FICTION
Slovenia
Aleš Šteger
Translated by Brian Henry
Bakeries and Pharmacies

Martha Witt
The Visit

Germany
Utz Rachowski
Translated by Michael Ritterson
The Wild Huntsman

Syria
Osama Alomar
Selections from All Rights Not Reserved, Tongue Tie, and O Man

Hilary Steinitz
The Foundations of Social Research

Joseph Levens
Leaving Paradise

C.E. Cardiff
The Wayward Daughter

Douglas J. Ogurek
Felled Evergreens

Barret Baumgart
Exciting New Opportunities for Tourists

Mark Budman
Odnoklassniki

 

ESSAY
Bryon MacWilliams
The Banya Is Holy

 

INTERVIEW
Craig Morgan Teicher Interview with Mary Jo Bang

 

BOOKS
Mahmoud Darwish
In the Presence of Absence
By Manu Samriti Chander

Milen Ruskov
Thrown into Nature
By Daniel Reid

Martha Collins
White Papers
By Renée Ashley

Bernard Noël
The Rest of the Voyage
By F. Daniel Rzicznek

Pico Iyer
The Man Within My Head
By Franklin Freeman

Kate Northrop
Clean
By Ryan Romine

Kristin Ómarsdóttir
Children in Reindeer Woods
By Jena Salon

Mira Rosenthal
The Local World
By Callista Buchen

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
The Colonel
By Matt McGregor

The Shortlist

 

CONTRIBUTORS

Ahmet Ada (poetry), winner of the 2011 Cemal Süreya Poetry Award, first achieved prominence in Turkey in the 1980s. Since Let the Sun Dawn on Roses was published in 1980, he has published more than twenty books of poetry, including his latest, Maybe the Man Called Ahmet Ada Doesn’t Exist. His poems have been translated into German, French Kurdish, and English.

Osama Alomar (selections) is a Syrian poet and short story writer. He has published three collections of short stories in Arabic: Ayuha al-insaan (O Man), Rabtat Lisaan (Tongue Tie), and Jami’ al-huquq ghayr mahfuza (All Rights Not Reserved); and one volume of poetry, qaala insaan al’ asir al hadith (Man Said the Modern World). He is a regular contributor to various newspapers and journals in Syria and the Arab world. A prominent practitioner of the Arabic “very short story” (al-qisa al-qasira jiddan), he was the 2007 winner of the Najlaa Muharam Short Story Contest in Egypt. He was born in Damascus in 1968 and now lives in Chicago, where he drives a cab.

Gloria Beth Amodeo (books) is a graduate of The New School’s MFA creative writing program and the winner of the 2011 H.O.W. Journal Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in H.O.W. NOW, NY _____., and is forthcoming in Carrier Pigeon and H.O.W. Journal Issue #9. She currently acts as cofounder/contributing writer for Mantaster.com.

Renée Ashley (poetry, books) is the poetry editor of The Literary Review.

Mary Jo Bang (poetry, interview) is the author of six collections of poetry, including Louise in Love, Elegy—which received the National Book Critics Circle Award—and The Bride of E. She is a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. Her translation of Dante’s Inferno, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in August 2012.

Sarah Barber’s (books) poems have appeared in Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, The Journal, Fugue, Malahat, and FIELD, among other places. Her book, The Kissing Party, was published in 2010 by the National Poetry Review Press.

Polina Barskova (poetry) is generally considered the best Russian poet under the age 40. She is the author of several poetry collections in Russian, and her work has appeared in multiple literary publications. Last year, she was the finalist for the prestigious Andrei Beloy Prize in St. Petersburg.

Christian Barter’s (poetry) first book, The Singers I Prefer, was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize; his second book, In Someone Else’s House, will be forthcoming in 2012 from BkMk Press; the selection here is from a new book-length poem, just completed. He has been a resident fellow at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony and a Hodder Fellow in poetry at Princeton. He is a trail crew supervisor at Acadia National Park and an editor for The Beloit Poetry Journal.

Barret Baumgart (“Exciting New Opportunities for Tourists”) is the 2011 recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship and will begin working toward an MFA in Nonfiction at the University of Iowa in the fall. His fiction has appeared in Camera Obscura.

Michael Bazzett’s poems have appeared in West Branch, Beloit Poetry Journal, Best New Poets, Green Mountains Review, DIAGRAM, and Guernica, among others, and his work was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. New poems are forthcoming in Carolina Quarterly, Pleiades, Smartish Pace, and The Windsor Review. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.

Miron Białoszewski (1922–1983) (poetry) was a Polish poet, novelist, playwright and actor from Warsaw. He was a survivor of Nazi labor camps. During his lifetime he published eleven collections of his poems. His book titled A Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising is still in print.

Callista Buchen’s (books) poetry and prose have appeared in Gigantic, Gargoyle, jmww, >kill author, and others. Her reviews have been published in Mid-American Review, The Collagist, and Prick of the Spindle. She lives and teaches in Kansas.

Mark Budman (“Odnoklassniki”) was born in the former Soviet Union. He is the publisher of Vestal Review, the longest-running flash fiction magazine in print. His novel My Life at First Try was published to wide critical acclaim, and he co-edited the anthologies You Have Time for This and Sudden Flash Youth. He is at work at another anthology and two new novels.

C.E. Cardiff (“The Wayward Daughter”) teaches for the English Department at the University of Kentucky. She was born in Manila and grew up in Northern California.

Manu Samriti Chander (books) teaches in the English Department at Rutgers University-Newark, where he specializes in British Romanticism and global literatures. His reviews have appeared in American Book Review and New Formations.

Cynthia Cruz (poetry) is the author of Ruin, and forthcoming, The Glimmering Room. She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and a Hodder Fellowship. Her poems have been published in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Boston Review, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, and others.

Nesrin Eruysal (translation) is a literary scholar and translator, and editor of Söyleşi Üç Aylık Şiir Dergisi, part of The Conversation International Poetry Project. Her translations of contemporary Turkish poetry (with Ken Fifer) have appeared in The Wolf, Visions International, Qarrtsiluni, and Söyleşi Üç Aylık Şiir Dergisi, and in the current issue of Silk Road.

Kathryn Farris (translation) is the author of BOYSGIRLS and her fiction, poetry, and translations appear in Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, The Journal, Verse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and numerous other publications.

Ken Fifer’s (translation) most recent poetry collection is After Fire. His poem/collage collaborations from Architectural Conditions (with Larry Mitnick) are featured in the current issue of Grey Sparrow.

Franklin Freeman (books) is a freelance writer living in Saco, Maine, with his wife and four children.

David Georgi (poetry) has been studying, teaching, and writing about François Villon for sixteen years. His translation of the complete poems of Villon will be out in December 2012 from Northwestern University Press.

Albert Goldbarth (poetry) is the author of more than twenty-five books of poetry, including To Be Read in 500 Years and The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972–2007. He lives in Wichita, Kansas. His newest collection, Everyday People: Poems, has just been released by Graywolf Press.

Micah Jon Heatwole (poetry) is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas. He is happy to have his first publication be with The Literary Review.

Brian Henry (translation) has published eight books, most recently, Doppelganger.

John Hoppenthaler’s (poetry) books of poetry are Lives of Water and Anticipate the Coming Reservoir. With Kazim Ali, he has co-edited a volume of essays and interviews on the poetry of Jean Valentine. For twelve years he served as poetry editor for Kestrel: A Journal of Literature and Arts, and he currently edits “A Poetry Congeries” and curates a guest poetry editor feature for the cultural journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact.

Ilya Kaminsky (translation) is the author of Dancing in Odessa and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry.

Andrei Krasnyashykh (poetry) is a writer of short stories, essays, experimental prose, and criticism. Born in 1970 in Poltava, Ukraine, Krasnyashykh is the co-editor of the literary journal Soyuz Pisatelei. In 2008, his short collection The Park of Culture and Relaxation was short-listed for the Andrei Bely Prize, the oldest independent literary prize in Russia.

Anatoly Kudryavitsky (translation) is a Russian/Irish poet and novelist of Polish/Irish descent living in Dublin, Ireland. He has published a novel, three novellas, a number of short stories, three collections of his English poems, and seven collections of his poetry in Russian, as well as an anthology of contemporary Russian poetry in his translations into English, A Night in the Nabokov Hotel. He also published his English translations of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems.

Joseph Levens’ (“Leaving Paradise”) short story collection was a finalist in the 2010 Bakeless Fiction Prize. His work has appeared in many literary magazines. He is editor of The Summerset Review.

Bryon MacWilliams (“The Banya Is Holy”) recently returned to the States after more than a decade in Moscow, where he reported for a variety of publications, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nature, and Science. “The Banya Is Holy” is an excerpt from a book he just completed, a work of memoir and journalism about Russia through the filter of its steam bath.

Matt McGregor (books) is a teacher and writer currently living in Wellington, New Zealand.  You can find other reviews and essays of his in Bookslut, The Rumpus, Warscapes, The Monthly Review, and The Millions.

Douglas J. Ogurek (“Felled Evergreens”) lives in Gurnee, Illinois with his wife and their five pets. His fiction appears in the British Fantasy Society Journal and several anthologies, and he has written many articles about architecture and interior design. He is the communications manager of a Chicago-based architecture firm.

Tanya Paperny (translation) is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Bitch, The Prose-Poem Project, and LitDrift. The pieces she chose to translate for this issue are excerpted from a series on the Russian literary website Babylon. They are quirky, opaque, and odd, maybe even a bit flat. Much of the humor relies on pun and wordplay.

Simon Perchik (poetry) is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The New Yorker, and elsewhere.

Utz Rachowski (“The Wild Huntsman”), jailed as a dissident in the former East Germany and expatriated to the West in 1980, now resides in his native Vogtland region. He has authored ten collections of poetry, stories, and essays.

Daniel Reid (books) lives in Dallas. He’s currently working on Dolphin Hunter, a graphic novel, and playing rock ‘n’ roll in his band Long Sword Spectacular.

Michael Ritterson’s (translation) translations have appeared in International Poetry Review, New European Poets, and Foreign Policy magazine online. He was runner-up for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize in 2002.

Ryan Romine (books) formerly served as assistant editor of The Literary Review. His poems have appeared in Commonweal and Tiferet. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Ann.

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s (books) collections and chapbooks of poetry include Vine River Hermitage, Divination Machine, Neck of the World, and Cloud Tablets. Also coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice, Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

C. J. Sage (poetry) edits The National Poetry Review and press. Her poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Barrow Street, Boston Review, The Journal, Orion, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Threepenny Review, and more, and her most recent book is The San Simeon Zebras. She works as a Realtor in California.

Jena Salon (books) is the books editor for The Literary Review. Her short story “The Glass Cow” was recently published in Annalemma.

Aleš Šteger (“Bakeries and Pharmacies”) has published six books of poetry, a novel, and two books of essays in Slovenian. His book Berlin received the 2007 Rožančena Award for the best book of essays written in Slovenian. The Book of Things, a volume of poetry translated by Brian Henry, was a Lannan Foundation selection and won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award.

Hilary Steinitz (“The Foundations of Social Research”) has published fiction in the New England Review, the Southwest Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she is completing her novel The Fitting Room.

Ian Stone (poems) currently lives in New Jersey.

Charlotte Wilder (books) is a blogger, freelance writer, and photographer in Boston. She blogs for The Huffington Post, was a photographer for Colby Magazine, has written for the Departures Magazine blog, and interned in the fall at the Kneerim & Williams Literary Agency.

Martha Witt (The Visit”) is the author of the novel Broken As Things Are. Her translations and short fiction are included in several national journals and anthologies. She is currently associate professor of creative writing at William Paterson University.