June 11, 2013
I’m sitting in my Beijing shoebox apartment, recalling a conversation I had last night over kebabs and beer with Li, a 19-year-old hairdresser from Anhui province. He works at a shop down the way and comes from Chizhou, a third-tier city. He spun a simple yarn about being poor, moving to the big city to connect with something larger than himself and what he had. It took him about 5 sentences, start to finish, to connect everyone at the table to him and each other. In a similar—and yet very different—way, Drunken Boat 17 is a nexus of conversation.
Conversations can be problematic. There is always the question of who is being heard. We are quite proud to have been recognized by Vida for our attention to this and remain committed to presenting a diverse range of voices in each quarterly installment.
Conversations can be confusing. In Alex Czaja’s story “Views of My Bicycle Being Stolen,” a shoe-stealing love interest admits being perplexed, “I’m not sure what you mean by dead or belonging . . . [T]he best shoes are the shoes we have lost.” Meaning and clarity are also questioned in Jennifer MacKenzie’s “The Dead Girl”: “Government, state, power, forces, security: refer to what? A game of chess?” C.A. Schaefer shows us that even the certainty of math is opened by a wide range of variables.
Eric LeMay invites readers to become collaborative co-authors with his Montaigne Machine, creating a conversation that traverses both time and space, between you, Montaigne and someone else somewhere in the world sharing images online. Works such as the Montaigne Machine, Quintan Ana Wikswo’s video “Cap Arcona” and Mita Mahato’s graphic essay “Cancer” presented alongside essays like Eleanor Stanford’s “Beans and Seeds” invite a discussion about what “genre” may actually mean.
Daniel Rehn utilizes John Coates’ quote to remind us, “When you log into an online service, you use new tools for an ancient activity . . . The immense potential of this partnership of computer technology and human language is in this blending of the old and the new,” as is whimsically witnessed by Rehn’s video. Sabrina Ratté shows us the effects of machines “conversing” with each other, via feedback, in her “Station Balnéaire”. Mitsuko Brooks’ "Atopic Dermatitis" lays bare the inner thoughts of an afflicted patient.
Sally Ashton’s narrator may not “recognize the myth, but [she] knows the story.” There are connections that are important, yet tenuous, like “a memory stolen from another language / you find you are unable to speak.” Courtney Kampa’s “Cartography” guides us from a seemingly mundane barroom conversation between buddies to an interior monologue exploring the end of a relationship and the realizations and rationalizations that go with it. Poetry’s power to connect is evidenced in Matt Sumpter’s elegy, which directly addresses a departed father.
Why is poetry relevant in contemporary life? Perpetually in need of a defense or an apology, the oldest of human art forms still has resonant life in the mind, which is why Drunken Boat has published its second book, Lisa Russ Spaar’s Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry. This prescient collection of micro-essays presents a poem by a poet—audio from whom we include in this issue—as well as her close reading of the poem. And by close reading we don’t mean anything pedantic or dry, but a lively conversation between the textual artifact and the allusive world of literature that came before it, contemporary society and pop culture, and the universal world of emotional connection that we all, like it or not, participate in by virtue of being human. This book is perfect for the novice and the expert alike, and will work wonders in the classroom at reenergizing students about the possibilities of poetic expression, so we are so glad to have a folio dedicated to this remarkable book.
The critical voice has a home at Drunken Boat. The 39 reviews presented here discuss 45 books and are in conversation with ongoing conversations both within and without the literary community at-large, such as those connected to boundaries, race and gender. The books discussed cover a wide aesthetic range, coming from both emerging and well-established authors. We are quite pleased to have our Reviews Editor, award winning poet Shira Dentz, in conversation with renowned poet Cole Swenson.
Our front page invites you to connect with our Art Editor, Rob Ray. Send him a letter or postcard and he will reply with a postcard of the cover for Drunken Boat 17.
We hope that you find much to connect to during your visit(s) to Drunken Boat 17. You can stay in touch with our goings-on via Facebook and Twitter. And as always, you can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Harrison Horton
(Ravi Shankar is on leave.)