Fiona Sampson was first a concert violinist, then studied at the Universities of Oxford, where she won the Newdigate Prize, and Nijmegen, where she received a PhD in the philosophy of language. This research arose from her pioneering residencies in health care.  She has published seventeen books, including Rough Music (short-listed for the Forward Prize and T.S. Eliot Prize 2010) and A Century of Poetry Review (PBS Special Commendation, 2009).  She was the founding editor of Orient Express, a journal of contemporary writing from post-communist Europe, and her other translations include books by Amir Or and Jaan Kaplinski. Published in more than thirty languages, she has eleven books in translation including Patuvachki Dnevnik, awarded the Zlaten Prsten (Macedonia). She has received Writer’s Awards from the Arts Councils of England and Wales and the Society of Authors, the US Literary Review’s Charles Angoff Award, and was AHRC Research Fellow at Oxford Brookes University 2002-5 and CAPITAL Fellow in Creativity at the University of Warwick 2007-8. Fiona Sampson is the editor of Poetry Review, the UK’s oldest and most influential poetry journal, and contributes regularly to The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Independent and the TLS. In 2009, she received a Cholmondeley Award and became a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature. She is Distinguished Writer at the University of Kingston, and her books forthcoming in May 2011 are Music Lessons: the Newcastle Poetry Lectures, and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Faber poet-to-poet series.


Zeus to Juno

He –


You saw the way her body looked at me

OOOOOall address

OOOOOOOOOOcalling me down

She was so


OOOOOOOOOcurve and volume

her body presented itself


OOOOOOOOOOI could mould it


She –


You were taboo

not totem –

covered her

though your wing gave no shelter

your pale plumage

becoming shadow

your beak caught

in the net of her hair


He –


When I entered her

OOOOOher death became my life

in her death swoon

OOOOOshe fell away from me

the more she fell

OOOOOthe deeper I pursued her

the deeper I went                                                             

OOOOOthe more lost she became

her body

OOOOObecame a forest of echoes

hills and valleys

OOOOOechoing each other, a language

I didn’t know


She –


The discarded body

lies in long grass,

flies and wasps

fumble there

On a summer day

the lost girl hums –

Kelly, Sarah, Jo, changed

into parable

prodigal hair

flung out

OOOOOObody agape

like a question

The scavenging crow

knows she’s beautiful,

outgrowing her name

in the noon heat

Continue Reading »


Molossus is proud to present an exclusive new poem by Mathew Timmons, to accompany his most recent book, The New Poetics (Les Figues Press, $15). Read our most recent conversation with Timmons here, and our older conversation here.

The New Craft

Hello, I’m the author: Robert David Steele. I write books about Robert David Steele by Robert David Steele on The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public and Political.

I’m here to present a paper where the author, Robert M. Steele, examines books by Robert David Steele as well as two paradigm shifts—one in relation to the threat and a second in relation to intelligence methods for The New Craft and The Future of Voices, at the International Conference, University of Dundee, Scotland, 04-06 July 2007.

I’m here to talk about Intelligence and The New Craft. I am a recovering spy. I’m here to talk about Robert David Steele’s forthcoming book, The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public & Political (The Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide and Disease). Ethics are The New Craft and I’m a recovering spy. Although I was good at it, I was stunned to learn, while creating the Marines, that intelligence and The New Craft is not the operational manifestation of the typical American. The New Craft of intelligence does not burn up its analysts with routine. Its focus would be on teaching policy-makers, acquisition managers, operators, and logisticians the intelligence of The New Craft, and in passing help revive traditional crafts & games with supplies & kits from the Eastern Woodlands and encourage custom Native American style dance regalia, with costumes of porcupine quill & beadwork.

Right out of school and grown over time, The New Craft of intelligence emphasizes hiring analysts with a clean-sheet start on the technical side of The New Craft. The New Craft emphasizes Engineering Skills and the Impact of Innovative Technology on Engineering Practice. Alvin currently lingers for about 5 hours at 2500 meters, for instance. The New Craft will be able to last up to 7 hours at that depth. With The New Craft of intelligence well in hand will come The New Strategy that understands the continuum of personnel skills needed for true homeland defense. Alvin currently lingers for about 5 hours at 2500 meters. The New Craft will last up to 7 hours and The New Buoyancy System will allow his sub to hover in midwater.

Technology Is The New Craft. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this glass-and-steel house was. Technology may be The New Craft, but it’s not the only one. Ethics are The New Craft.

Boing Boing! Cory Doctorow has written a fantastic editorial for Edinburgh University’s law department on how the tech companies influence The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political. This monograph is the third in the Strategic Studies Institute’s series. Through The New Craft and the Future Voices’ conference, the PPFCP research seeks to: Identify emergent forms of craft practice. Cory Doctorow wrote a nice editorial in The University of Edinburgh’s SCRIPT-ed online journal. This excerpt will give you a vision of The New Craft from the Future Voices International Conference, including a research exhibition designed to encourage debate surrounding the future of craft.

In The New Craft of Intelligence: Susan Beal, author of The New Night of The New Craft, a freelance writer and jewelry designer in Los Angeles, goes out to Craft Night as often as she can. While The New Craft shared the same, beautiful show facility, she felt it did not attain the instant success that the RV Show had enjoyed back in 1984. Personally, I think the RV Show embodies the direction that The New Craft show should take, at least in our area. Fortunately for us, we happen to have one of the most unique bears from the amazon here at home, an amazonian bear.

Ethics are The New Craft.

The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public & Political. The Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease and Toxic Bombs. Achieving asymmetric advantage in the face of nontraditional threats (studies in asymmetry).

Ethics are The New Craft.

The truth helps, but only when you listen. With over thirty years of history as its foundation, The New Craft of film production is a research work that deals with the phenomenon of the use of desktop computer technology in film production. The New Craft of Australia, with the support of the tech sector, is poised to write The New Tradition of The New Craft of Intelligence: How “The State” Should Lead. A Nation’s best defense is an educated citizenry.


Mathew Timmons’ latest book, The New Poetics ($15), published by Les Figues Press as part of their TrenchArt Maneuvers Series, topped the Small Press Distribution bestseller list for poetry in December. As an admirer both of Les Figues’ TrenchArt Series and Timmons’ work, I was excited to read The New Poetics, and because of its unique nature decided an interview might best showcase the work. Following the publication of our below conversation, Molossus will print an exclusive addition to Timmon’s New Poetics, titled “The New Craft.”


What is The New Poetics? How did the project come about, and how does it fit into Les Figues current series?

I began writing The New Poetics in the summer of 2006. At the time it seemed like I was often talking about the new narrative and the new sentence with various writing friends, Harold Abramowitz being one person in particular. It was a very warm summer in L.A., which tends to push me towards insomnia, and that summer I was in the bad habit of driving around downtown Los Angeles in the middle of the night, between say 3 and 5 AM, roughly. I wasn’t sleeping all that much and would come home from driving around and work on various projects in the early hours of the morning. At some point I thought I’d google “The New Narrative” and see what the internet could tell me about the subject. I liked the odd repetition and rephrasing of what came up, so I took the first three pages of google results, put them in a Word document and started moving things around until I liked what I saw on the page. I did the same thing with “The New Sentence” and afterwards I felt like I had actually learned something about both The New Sentence and The New Narrative that normal research wouldn’t offer. Then I started keeping a list of News, things that would come up in conversation or I would overhear, The New Something-or-Other phrases in people’s work. For example, “The New Debility” is dedicated to Will Alexander, because in his play Conduction in the Catacombs—which I worked on for Betalevel here in Los Angeles, ATA in San Francisco, and 21 Grand in Oakland a few years ago—one of the characters uses the phrase “The New Debility.” In the case of “The New Motherfuckers,” I was at Amoeba Music in Hollywood and on one of the end-caps there was a CD by the band The New Motherfuckers. I listened to it and really liked it, so I wrote “The New Motherfuckers” for them, and most of the material is actually about them, which means they had great google presence back in 2006 when I was working on the book.

I sense a sort of poking fun at schools and movements in The New Poetics. Can you comment on that?

It’s true, I’m not so much into writing schools and movements, or I have a healthy skepticism for them. Kurt Schwitters, one of my favorite artists and writers, created his own movement, Merz, after he wasn’t accepted by the Berlin Dadaists. Schwitters was closer to the Zurich Dadaists and dabbled a little with the surrealists. He wasn’t easy to pin down. I myself don’t like to be easy to pin down, and I don’t need to follow the marching orders of the movement at whatever moment some movement wants to get on the move. I also find that movements and schools should be left to the 20th century avant-garde. Movements and schools require a solid identification and tend towards an Us vs. Them mentality. I’d prefer to recognize mutual affinities between artists and writers around me. I’d prefer not to be limited by what may or may not fit into a perceived or constructed regimen of any school or movement. Yet I love manifestos, the typical founding documents of any movement. I love the didactic voice of a manifesto, always ridiculously self-assured. In my aesthetic statement for Les Figues TrenchArt: Maneuvers Series, which I very appropriately titled, “The Old Poetics,” I bloviated on and on for about 5,000 words about the old poetics. It read like a manifesto for the old poetics, while I am of course, obviously all about the new.

What’s happened with the PARROT series and Insert Press since we last talked?

PARROT 4, 5 & 6 came out: But on Geometric by Joseph Mosconi, Loquela by Allyssa Wolf and Viva Miscegenation by Brian Kim Stefans. We sold out of the first three issues during that time and we ran into a bit of a printing snag that caused a few months delay. I’m happy to say that the printing snag has been dealt with and PARROT 7 On the Substance of Disorder by Will Alexander will be out for the new year and we should get back to getting them out in quick succession again after that. In the meantime we published a booklet in collaboration with MATERIAL about artists’ communities, The Futility of Making Salad. The publication includes texts from Harold Abramowitz, Stan Apps,
 Marcus Civin,
 Ginny Cook,
 Dorit Cypis,
 Robin Dicker, Bradney Evans, Nicholas Grider, Dan Hockenson, 
Peter Kirby,
 Elana Mann, Melanie Nakaue, Julie Orser,
 Adam Overton, 
Putting On, 
Declan Rooney,
 Kim Schoen,
 Charlotte Smith, 
Jesper List Thompsen, Mathew Timmons, and
 Jason Underhill.

Looking ahead to 2011 we’ll be continuing with the PARROT series and working on two books, Bruna Mori’s Poetry for Corporations and The Ups & Downs exhibitions catalog as well as issuing the last two volumes of Vanessa Place’s trilogy, Tragodía through our print-on-demand wing, Blanc Press.

Carol Moldaw’s most recent book is So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems (Etruscan Press, 2010). She is the author of four other books of poetry, The Lightning Field, which won the 2002 FIELD Poetry Prize, Through the Window, Chalkmarks on Stone, and Taken from the River, as well as a novel, The Widening (2008). Through the Window was translated into Turkish and published in a bi-lingual edition in Istanbul as Penceredon/Through the Window; her work also has been translated into Chinese and Portuguese. Moldaw is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Marfa Writer’s Residency, an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize, and her work is published widely in journals, including AGNI, Antioch Review, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, FIELD, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Parnassus, Threepenny Review, and Triquarterly and has been anthologized in many venues, including Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, and Under 35: A New Generation of American Poets. As noted in The New Yorker, Moldaw’s work “repeatedly achieves lyric junctures of shivering beauty.” About The Lightning Field, Frieda Gardner wrote in The Women’s Review of Books: “She courts revelation . . . in a voice variously curious, passionate, surprised, meditative, and sensual. On the surface of her work are rich sound and variation of rhythm and line. A few steps deeper in lie wells of feeling and complexities of thought.” From 2005-2008 Moldaw was on the faculty of Stonecoast, the University of Southern Maine’s low-residency M.F.A. program, and she has conducted residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, taught at the College of Santa Fe and in the MFA program at Naropa University. Moldaw lives outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband and daughter.  In the spring of 2011 she will be the Louis D. Rubin, Jr., Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University.


Out of the West

Out of the west, unexpected, lyric,

a stand of yellow irises

rises from the pond muck.

Two horses graze the field,

one limping from the fire they fled.

Matter and spirit meet, love,

argue, wherever you rest your eyes,

on microscopic midges, horseflies.


Matter and Spirit

1. In the Beginning

Mortified by their attraction,

whoever introduced them long forgotten,

Matter and Spirit meet

on the sly,

their affair an open secret.


2. Upstairs to the Left

Matter turns down the sheets,

Spirit closes the blinds.

An itinerant composer

hearing the creaking bedsprings

fills a page with half-notes,

quarter-notes, melissima.

The desk clerk drowsing

in front of a deck of cards

dreams of palm fronds,

asphalt blistering in the sun.

Continue Reading »

Featuring Molossus editor David Shook, alongside Molossus-featured writers Aaron Kunin, Mathew Timmons, Douglas Kearney, Harold Abramowitz, and others, as well as 2010 Pulitzer winner Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian, and many others!

Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including The Ginkgo Light (2009), Quipu (2005), The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (1998), Archipelago (1995), and The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (2001) from Copper Canyon Press. He is also the editor of Chinese Writers on Writing (Trinity University Press, Texas, 2010). A professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he taught for twenty years, Mr. Sze was Poet Laureate of Santa Fe from 2006-2008. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a PEN Southwest Book Award, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, an American Book Award, and two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowships. His poems have been translated into Albanian, Burmese, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Portugese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish, and he has read his poetry at such international festivals as the XIX International Poetry Festival of Medellín (2009), the Delhi International Literary Festival (2008), the Yellow Mountain Poetry Festival in England (2008), the Yellow Mountain Poetry Festival in China (2007), the Pacific International Poetry Festival (Taiwan, 2008), Poetry International (Rotterdam, 2007), and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival (2002).


After Completion


Mayans charted the motion of Venus across the sky,

poured chocolate into jars and interred them

with the dead. A woman dips three bowls into

hare’s fur glaze, places them in a kiln, anticipates

removing them, red-hot, to a shelf to cool.

When samba melodies have dissipated into air,

when lights wrapped around a willow have vanished,

what pattern of shifting lines leads to Duration?

He encloses a section of garden in wire mesh

so that raccoons cannot strip ears in the dark,

picks cucumbers, moves cantaloupes out of furrows–

the yellow corn tassels before the white.

In this warm room, he slides his tongue along

her nipples, she runs her hair across his face;

they dip in the opaque, iron glaze of the day,

fire each emotion so that it becomes itself;

and, as the locus of the visible shrinks,

waves of red-capped boletes rise beneath conifers.



A sunfish strikes the fly

as soon as

it hits the water;

OOOOOOOOOOthe time of your life

OOOOOOOOOOis the line extending;



OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOshifts in his left eye;

OOOOOOOOOOwhen is joy

OOOOOOOOOOkindling to greater joy?

this nylon filament

is transparent in water

yet blue in air;


OOOOOOOOOOrest in the tall grass.

Continue Reading »

I was introduced to Travis Elborough by poet and translator Sarah Maguire, of the Poetry Translation Centre, with a simple sentence: “Travis Elborough is a cult.” Though I didn’t know what it meant at the time, I was happy to be spoiled by the tour manager of our Mexican Poets’ Tour through the UK. Travis was more than mere manager; he combined the best aspects of tour guide, curatorial critic, and lomography photographer. During that time, in April 2010, Travis was working on the final edits of his latest book, Wish You Were Here (Sceptre, £14.99), which followed his critically acclaimed social histories of the vinyl record—The Longplayer Goodbye—and the iconic double-decker buses of London—The Bus We Loved. We corresponded informally about his latest book over the course of a couple months before the following exchange, conducted by email. Travis generously supplied his own photographs of the British seaside, featured throughout the interview.



© David X. Green


I’ve been to Dover Beach, and suffice it to say I was not impressed. I mean, where are the piña coladas? So maybe this is a strange question to start with, but because your book has so much to do with the English relationship to the sea, I wonder if you could present a sort of thumbnail portrait of your own relationship with the sea, and open that up to explore how the nation engages or interacts with the sea. (Basically, re-write your whole book in a few sentences.

In Dover’s defence (or defense, in US spelling), what it lacks in piña coladas it more than makes up for with plenty of chances to get caught in the rain.

I grew up on the coast.  And most of my family still live by the sea, where they have engaged with varying degree of success (and sanity) over the years, in such time-honoured seaside professions as novelty trinket vendors, guest house proprietors, restaurateurs, publicans, café owners and windsurfing instructors. So I suppose my blood must be about 40 per cent saline or something.

Arguably, though, few other elements of the English landscape are experienced quite as universally or viscerally here. Almost everyone has visited the coast at one time or another. Like the weather, there is a lot of it—some 11,0272.76 miles and none of it further than 72 miles away from any point inland.  And while its range and character varies wildly, it equally boils down to similarly inescapable combinations of predictably unpredictable dampness.

And that coastline and the weather are the things that define the nation above all else. As Jonathan Raban once observed, to leave these isles is always to go overseas.

Similarly images of deckchairs, promenades, ice creams and slot machines and the taste of sand in a sandwich and slosh of rain on an esplanade are such familiar parts of our collective consciousness, our folk memory, they almost feel implanted in our brains from birth.

But its recent history is much more troubled. From the 1960s onwards, you increasingly see in films like Tony Richardson’s adaptation of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, fading seaside resorts being deployed as metaphors for the nation’s imperial decline.

And I was keen to unpick some of that. Or at least try to in the book.

What do you think about On Chesil Beach? Do British people like the book simply because of their messed up sea-complex?

I have to confess I haven’t read Chesil Beach. I love his stories and some of the early novels (or novellas), The Cement Garden is a wonderful book, but can’t feign any great enthusiasm for his recent output. Which is probably more of a failure on my part than his. Time is finite and there always seem to be else that I’d rather be reading than the new Ian McEwan. Even typing those words I feel slightly weary. I can immediately picture an iceberg-sized display of shiny, just-off-the-press Ian McEwan hardbacks, stickered at a special discount price, in the front of almost every bookstore in England.

But that’s envy really, isn’t it? Where’s my iceberg of hardbacks?

To go back to the question, though, since the novel, from what I remember hearing about it at the time, is about frigidity, perhaps it is British people’s messed-up sexual complexes that explains its appeal. Though as I discuss in my book, traditionally the seaside was where newly weds honeymooned and consummated their marriages. (Mathew Arnold went to Dover for his, while less successfully T. S. Eliot went to Eastbourne with Vivienne Haigh-Wood). It is also where couples sneak off to have so-called ‘dirty weekends’, so the two are rather inextricably linked in the national psyche. Which I imagine is why McEwan used Chesil for his setting.

How did you get from vinyls and buses to the sea, a much vaster and wetter protagonist?

What I think they have in common is that they are all slightly everyday things that we can rather take for granted. We may forget or simply be unaware, for example, that before the arrival of the vinyl LP in 1948, recorded music could only really be heard in four minute chunks.

Similarly before the Romantics there was no such thing as a sea view, per se. And the seaside as a realm for relaxing was a distinctly British and largely Victorian invention.

So in each of my books what I like to do is simply turn back the clock to the moment when each of these ‘subjects’ was ‘new’ and move on from there.

The singer Cliff Richard, once regarded as England’s answer to Elvis, appears in all three books, so he could be seen as the component that binds them all together. Or perhaps not.

I’ve seen you read excerpts from this book at London’s Horse Hospital, and you accompanied them with records from your impressive collection. Why the integration?

I started reading with records when I was doing events for my book on vinyl. It seemed quite natural to do a little bit of a show and tell on that one. Or show and play Mantovani and triple-disc Emerson, Lake and Palmer LPs at people, as it were.

I was booked to do quite a few of the big festivals over here in the summer that book came out, Green Man and Latitude among them. And I felt that my readings would need to be more of a performance. Otherwise any audience I got would simply wander off in search of the cider tent or someone strumming a lute elsewhere. For these festival readings, I roped my wife Emily into the act. She span the records while I read, which made life much easier for me on stage. It was also a slight ruse. As a performer Emily would also be entitled to a free pass to the festival, so we could both go along.

When Wish You Were Here was published and I was asked to do some readings for it I found myself reluctant to give up on the records. Not only had I written parts of the book with certain songs in mind but the portable record player I used had become a good stage prop and something of a comfort blanket combined.

Essentially, I write cultural history, and if I can introduce a few sonic or visual elements that help entertain as well as inform in a live setting that is all to the good in my opinion.

Mine too. I’m very much a fan.

Does America have a George Formby? Hell, does America have its own sea-complex? What, off the top of your head, would this book have been about if we replaced England with America?

For their mastery of double entendre perhaps either Little Richard or Chuck Berry (particularly with his “My Ding-a-Ling”) could be your George Formby.

If it is down to uke playing, then maybe Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields is your man.

But it’s interesting you should raise this issue of American equivalents and what a stateside version of the book might have been like. My original starting point for Wish You Were Here was actually two movies set in Atlantic City. The first was Bob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens, starring Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern and the magnificent Scatman Crothers. And the other was Louis Malle’s Atlantic City with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. I’d seen both of these films on TV a couple of times over the years but in about 2007 there was a scheme to build a huge super casino in Blackpool, one of the biggest and best known seaside resorts in Britain. The aim was to make Blackpool a kind of Las Vegas of the Lancashire coast—and the town faces out toward the Atlantic ocean and historically its Pleasure Beach was the nearest thing to Coney Island in England. (Back in the early 1930s, the playwright J. B. Priestley wrote somewhat witheringly about the Americanization of Blackpool in his famous travelogue, English Journey.)

In the end, that scheme didn’t pan out.  But I had started to see some interesting parallels between what was planned for Blackpool and the way casinos and gambling had been licensed in Atlantic City in the late 1970s.

Also the other big thing with seaside towns over here recently has been the whole question of gentrification. As house prices in London, especially, have continued to rise, so many formerly unprepossessing southern coastal towns have become increasingly attractive places for aspiring Bobos types to buy property. Now, while the game of Monopoly was conceived around Atlantic City, the British version uses the streets of London. And again I had some foggy notions about drawing an analogy or three here too.

A lot of English seaside resorts were developed in the late 18th century and early 19th century as the result of some fairly wild property speculation. Several leading coastal developers went bankrupt before their resorts turned a profit and/or had to flee to France to avoid their creditors. The area called Kemp Town in Brighton, is a prime example of this. Places like St Leonards were built as exclusive new towns—not unlike somewhere like Seaside in Florida, say, in the 1970s. So, I guess what I am trying to say is that I had far more transatlantic book in mind to begin with.

Will you please move to Los Angeles so we can work on some collaborations?

I’d be delighted to move to LA and even more delighted to work on some collaborations with your good self but London is still calling at the moment. There is however, always Skype.

December 2010


Beautiful Signals

It is uncommon for Molossus to feature magazines but I am always happy when we do, as I so admire their succinctness and digestibility. That said, I can be quite harsh in my opinions, as so few magazines maintain their quality from beginning to end, much less from issue to issue. The few we do feature here are the best of the best, discoveries we’re excited to share.

Two Lines World Writing in Translation XVII: Some Kind of Beautiful Signal, ed. Natasha Wimmer & Jeffrey Yang (Center for the Art of Translation) $14.95

The San Francisco-based Center for the Art of Translation publishes Two Lines each year, its contents selected quite curatorially by a tandem of guest editors. The newest edition was assembled by notable Bolaño translator Natasha Wimmers and New Directions editor Jeffrey Yang. Still published in its strange horizontal format, the book-style magazine collects the best work of working translators. Highlights of this issue include Bolaño’s short note on the importance of translation, which perfectly accompanies his advice on the writing of short stories, bilingual poetry by Xi Chuan, translated by Lucas Klein, the cleverly translated “Tropes” of Oliverio Girondo, by Heather Cleary Wolfgang, and the nimble transfer of Carlito Azevedo’s concrete poem “Traduzir” into the equally effective English-language “Translation,” by Sarah Rebecca Kersley. As always, a translator’s note accompanies each translation; these alone are worth more than the volume’s purchase price. The book ends with a special section dedicated to Uyghur poetry, including both contemporary and classical work translated by Dolkun Kamberi and Jeffrey Yang. More on that impressive survey is forthcoming on Molossus in February, when our interview with Yang is scheduled to appear.

In his essay “Translation is a Testing Ground,” which appears toward the end of Beautiful Signal, Bolaño writes

How to recognize a work of art? How to separate it, even if just for a moment, from its critical apparatus, its exegetes, its tireless plagiarizers, its belittlers, its final lonely fate? Easy. Let it be translated.

That’s exactly what Two Lines does: the graceful legwork required for recognizing works of art. Without fail, the poetry and prose within stands the test of translation.

Signal: 01: A Journal of International Political Graphics & Culture, ed. Alec Icky Dunn & Josh MacPhee (PM Press) $14.95

Like Two Lines, Signal culls the best and most interesting material from around the world. Using interview as their primary method, the editors allow practitioners to speak for themselves, be they the Xicana printmakers of Taller Tupac Amaru, Johannes van de Weert, the Dutch creator of Red Rat, an influential comic during the rise of the Dutch punk scene in the 1980s, Felipe Hernandez Moreno, a printmaker in his 70s who participated in the Mexican Student Movement of 1968, or Rufus Segar, who designed almost every cover of the 1960s magazine Anarchy.

The first issue also includes a photo-essay of work by Midwestern graffiti artist IMPEACH, who tags boxcars with Wild West-styled lettering of simple messages like “IMPEACH,” “TORTURE,” “BAILOUT,” and “POVERTY,” in a rolling commentary on contemporary political buzzwords and the larger policies they represent. The most unexpected article in :01 is about adventure playgrounds, first organized by Danish landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen during World War II. Also known as junk playgrounds, the projects offer children the opportunity to reflect their own vision of creative space.

In the introduction to the first volume of their new book-style magazine, Dunn and MacPhee write,

The production of art and culture does not happen in a vacuum; it is not a neutral process. We don’t ask the question of whether culture should be instrumentalized towards political goals, the economic and social conditions we exist under marshal all material culture towards the maintenance of the way things are.

Their wide-ranging interviews examine those economic and social conditions with a lens that is political but not politicized. Unsurprisingly, Signal is beautifully designed, with a surplus of graphic material that would be difficult to find elsewhere. My favorite images are the Mexican prints from 1968, especially interesting when compared to the contemporary print-work of Taller Tupac Amaru, but the wide range of covers of Anarchy come in a close second. I look forward to Signal:02.


I first encountered Tom Pow’s dying villages work at the Edinburgh Poetry Library, on a tour with the Poetry Translation Centre. I was fascinated by the Cornell-like collections of simple objects, small shrines to the lives once lived in the villages in which they were found. Very curious about his project, I bought two small books, the letterpress-printed Songs from a Dying Village and the equally beautiful Cean Loch Reasort and Other Dead Village Walks, both printed in limited editions. Shortly thereafter, Tom and I began the email correspondence that eventually led to this conversation.

Tom Pow is very much a multidisciplinary poet and artist, as he explains below, and the photographs that accompany this interview were taken on his travels through the dying villages of Europe, as part of his series “Signs of a Dying Village.”



Tell me, briefly, about dying villages. What are they?

It is estimated that by 2030 Europe will lose roughly one third of its population, the greatest demographic change since the Black Death. The effects of depopulation will be felt most acutely in rural areas, as a result of high levels of emigration to cities and low birth rates. Europe is home to 22 of the world’s 25 lowest birthrate countries, so there are many areas where villages are dying. I travelled to northern Spain, central France, southern Italy, eastern Germany, Bulgaria and central Russia. In Russia, for example, according to recent statistics, 11,000 villages and 290 cities have disappeared from the map of the Russian Federation. 13,000 villages remain on the map, but have no inhabitants. I came across a village there with one surviving inhabitant. This is not unusual.

How did you hear of them? How did that initial impulse—the spark of interest in the dying villages—evolve into the project it now is?

I was in Edmonton for the 30th anniversary of the University of Alberta’s Writing Program for which I’d been a visiting fellow in the early 90s. There was an article in the Edmonton Journal, with the title Withering Heights. It was about a village in northern Spain called Villabandin which had a handful of inhabitants all in their 60s and older. I learned that the phenomenon of the dying village is widespread in Europe and the subject gripped me—history, memory, loss, identity: very Scottish themes, I think! I was given a Creative Scotland Award, which funded my research trips and I began at Villabandin.


What do we stand to lose with the death of so many villages? Do you think dying villages contribute to a larger cultural attrition?
I’ve just read that 84% of people in Sweden live on 1.3% of the land. That is a sign of the increasing urbanisation that exists throughout the world. Villages die. Villages have always died, when they can no longer find reasons to exist. What  is undoubtedly lost with the deaths of so many villages is a myriad of ways of looking at the world. But what is perhaps more  concerning is the future of our relationship with the natural world—a world more and more people are distanced from and with which fewer and fewer have an intimate relationship.

You do more than just write poems, right? You also take photographs, collect artefacts, and more. How does your poetry interact with those other forms or disciplines of remembrance?

The photographs and the sound recordings were part of the research—they are a kind of noticing. But they also reflect my interests: for example, there are many photographs of doors and windows (thresholds), of what is worn and decayed; the recordings reflect an interest in the texture/the impossibility of silence. The website makes much of this material available. The artefacts grow from the poetry. I see them as physical embodiments of the poems. For example, one of the signs of a dying village is fruit lying unpicked. I came across an arrangement of apples that reminded me of the French game of boules. I showed the photograph to a sculptor and she made three apples on the edge of decay which were then cast in foundry bronze. I call then Boules from a Dying Village. They are beautiful to handle. After they were made, I discovered Gustave Courbet’s still lifes of apples which he painted while in prison. They are acknowledged as rustic memories of the village where he was born and spent his childhood. Each of the artefacts has similarly rich resonances.

People love to bemoan the state of poetry; I hate listening to them. Tell me about how the medium of poetry worked (or didn’t) for this project?

John Berger writes, in And Our Faces, My heart, Brief as Photos, that prose is a battle and that poetry moves through the battlefield tending the wounds. Poetry can still the narrative, so that something can be looked at and considered—given due attention. Some of the pieces I wrote were very short—poems of three or four lines. They are sequences with, I hope, a cumulative power. But each of them offers a threshold into the world of the dying village:

She’s sitting on the old green bench
by the side of the lilac tree.
Oh, the songs she once sung here!
The thought of them still makes her blush.

OOOO(from Songs from a Dying Village)

Did the project—and especially the travel portion of it, actually visiting these communities—affect your writing? What did you learn?

Of course. The small poem above is part of a sequence that drew on the Russian folk poem, the chastushka, a short lyric that was sung and that reflected village life. So common was it that the Soviets high-jacked it and used it as a way of spreading propaganda. My poems drew on what I read, but also on field work in Russia, listening to old women singing these songs.

What’s the future of the dying villages project?

I have begun a series of intimate engagements, using my Suitcase of the Dying Village. These are events/presentations round a table of 12-15 people. I share photographs, artefacts, recordings, read poems and tell stories relating to the project. There is always time to engage with others’ experiences and memories and  there is opportunity for them to write very briefly about their connection with a (dying) village. At one of these events, after the presentation, we served soup, bread and cheese. I like to think I am creating a space for people to engage with the subject in their own ways. And I suppose there is something about the intimacy that fits the subject. On the other hand, I have also given talks/lectures to fairly large audiences about the subject. I am working on a book about dying villages in Europe, which will be published in 2011. The book will contain travel essays, poems and short stories. But I’d like to go on one further dying villages trip.

What do you take with you on the road? Any specific books or albums? Have you picked up anything great recently?

Travelling can be a good time to read things you’ve been meaning to read for some time and never got round to. On one of the trips I took Gaston Bachelar’s The Poetics of Space. It started me writing a sequence of short poems about nests. I’d thought they were an escape from the enormity of the dying villages project. But I came to realise that nests are intimately connected to the themes of home and of abandonment that are at the heart of dying villages.

A nest is a blessing
for a tree and a prayer
upon the water.

December 2010

Tunnel People, Teun Voeten (PM Press) $24.95

Teun Voeten is not the first to document the lives of the people living in the tunnel systems of New York City. His newly updated account, Tunnel People, is unique, however, because of Voeten’s commitment not only to his craft, but also to the people. Articles and books have been written about the tunnel people and Mark Singer’s award winning documentary, Dark Days, introduced the world to this underground society in what Voeten himself calls a “shockingly honest portrayal.” But Voeten went a step further, living in the Amtrak tunnel on Manhattan’s west side for five months over two years, digging beneath the surface of the tunnel people’s lives as well as their complex and diverse social environment. “To add something new to the earlier studies,” Voeten writes in the introduction to his book, “I decided to take the anthropological approach, using its favorite research method of participant observation” (3).

During Voeten’s time living in the tunnel, Amtrak closed the tunnel, evicting all the residents. City and federal agencies made valiant efforts to place the tunnel people in permanent housing. Now, thirteen years later, Voeten has reestablished communication with as many of the former tunnel people as he can find. In a brand new Part 4, Voeten describes where his friends are and how they are faring. Some have successfully integrated into life up top while other have not. Some have returned to the streets, others have died, a few have overcome some remarkable challenges.

Voeten is no stranger to dangerous situations having covered more than a dozen conflict zones as a photo journalist, he brings all his unique talent and experience to bear upon this subject.

There is no shortage of people who want to help the homeless, serve the homeless, even study the homeless. There are federal and local programs to end homelessness in ten years. These efforts have a range of motivations, from sparing the rest of us the visual obstacle of people living on our streets to moral outrage over the inhumanity of allowing widespread suffering to continue unchecked. Those in a position to help others don’t often stop to consider how those on the receiving end experience that help. Many of the tunnel people didn’t consider themselves homeless at all. Indeed, the tunnel was their home. Voeten’s account gives us a window into this complexity

Yesterday, Frankie was also approached by an outreach worker. He holds the same kind of grudge as Bernard toward the do-gooders that try to intervene in his life. This time it was a friendly man who gave him a baloney sandwich and offered him a place to stay, that is to say, a city-operated shelter. Of course, Frankie was deeply offended.

“What the fuck do they think they’re talking about?” Frankie says angrily. “A shelter and a lousy sandwich! I told the guy, ‘Come to my place, I’ll make coffee and cook burgers and we gonna watch the ballgame on TV.’ But this asshole, he didn’t dare to come down.” It sounds like it was Do-Gooder Galindez again. “Something wrong with the system,” Frankie ponders, “when you got those guys making thirty grand a year driving fancy cars and handing out baloney sandwiches” (105).

Still, life on the streets—or in a tunnel—is difficult and dangerous. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that people are not meant to live this way, even when so many willingly chose it. The tension between respect for people’s choices and the outrage over a society that structures life in such a away that so many get left behind is not easily resolved. Handing out baloney sandwiches is not the answer.

As someone who regularly encounters homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles and interacts with half a dozen social service agencies working among the homeless, I found Voeten’s book deeply insightful and helpfully frustrating. Tunnel People offers a penetrating vision of a slice of life that is uniquely American, recounted by a uniquely qualified Dutch writer.


Ryan Bell is senior pastor of Hollywood Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was awarded the North American Division’s Award for Most Innovative Church in 2010. Bell writes for a wide range of publications, including the Huffington Post, and works very closely with many LA-based and national organizations to promote social justice.