blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Our culture seems particularly focused on memory at the moment, memory and the reality that it supposedly represents. Perhaps we fondly hope that reality and truth might actually be the same things. The pieces gathered in this loop may run the gamut from the comic absurd to the seriously documentary, but they are all thoughtful and poignant. They make it clear that since the days Homer first sat down at a fireside as the after-dinner entertainer, literature—whether we call it memoir or poem or story—has always wrestled with how we recognize who and where we are. For the most part, if memory has provided the raw material, the fires of imagination have acted as the refinery. If you look closely, you can probably discern this process worrying out its answers in almost everything we publish. However, for the moment, we suggest that you spend time hearkening back with these seven particular writers: Rick Barot, Pam Durban, George Garrett, Wesley Gibson, Clara Silverstein, Chase Twichell, and Charles Wright.

Pam Durban and Chase Twichell both treat the decline of a parent, a decline where memory itself is shrinking. Durban chooses to do so in a memoir essay, Twichell in a poem. The shapely, developed arc of one and the intensely compressed brevity of the other require equally intense responses from a reader.

George Garrett begins his story with the phrase "As he remembers it now," a phrase that conveys a certain authenticity to the enterprise of fiction even as it questions it. Wesley Gibson (whose memoir, You Are Here, is reviewed by J. Randy Marshall) tosses his readers directly into a narrative that uses the flavor of fiction to convince you that what he is relating actually happened. Clara Silverstein's four-year-old daughter asks her, "Could you tell me a story from when you were little?" And in the excerpt that follows, Silverstein struggles to bring forth the difficult story waiting and demanding to be told.

Rick Barot and Charles Wright speak to us directly, in verbs identifying an active present. Barot sings a hymn to the details that, when we recall them, shape all our moments. Wright, in "Inland Sea," tackles the spiritual landscape of nostalgia head-on. Watch out, this poet tells us, "Bitter the waters of memory, / Bitter their teeth and cold lips."

Rick Barot
   Psalm with a Phrase from Beckett

Pam Durban
   The Old King

George Garrett
   Gator Bait

Randy Marshall
  Review | You Are Here: A Memoir of Arrival,
     by Wesley Gibson

Clara Silverstein
   From White Girl: A Story of School

Chase Twichell
   Dangerous Playgrounds

Charles Wright
   Images from the Kingdom of Things
   Inland Sea
   Saturday Morning Satori

"Memory & Memoir" texts appear in different sections of Blackbird but are organized in this alternative menu as a featured Reading Loop to allow easy navigation of the material.

A "Memory & Memoir" menu link may be found on every "Memory & Memoir"-related page. You may also return to this menu at any time by visiting Features.