blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1
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A joint venture of the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and New Virginia Review, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 by Blackbird and the individual writers and artists

ISSN 1540-3068

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  spacer image
   Sylvia Plath
  Ron Slate
   Ron Slate
  spacer image
   Rebecca Black
  Robert Richardson
   Robert Richardson
  Peter Orner
   Peter Orner 
  Laura Lark
   Laura Lark

The surgical insights and stunning music of Ariel have their roots in the digging Sylvia Plath did with her pen and the grounding she acquired with her reading when she was a young woman. As a student at Smith she found the rhythmic language and penetrating observation of a writer such as F. Scott Fitzgerald to be a source of nourishment she would tap for her lifelong project, making herself a poet to be remembered. Her mature poetry is a triumph over ennui and the pitch toward madness, not a product of it, and the strength to turn such white-hot materials into poetry came from her early commitment to forging an artist’s crucible—fashioned with craft and knowledge—that could endure.

In addition to Plath’s “Ennui,” a poem published here for the first time, this issue celebrates the memory of Larry Levis with the annual Levis Reading Loop. Included are new poems by Ron Slate, the 2006 winner of the Levis Reading Prize, and a sampling from his award-winning collection The Incentive of the Maggot, as well as a memoir from Stephen Dunn, and an essay by David Baker, who points out that Levis, by way of irony, can be in two places at once—both here and now as well as there and then.

As it was for Plath, the look back is necessarily part of a look forward, and so you’ll also find here fresh new work from Paisley Rekdal, Jake Adam York, Terese Svoboda, Robert Lopez, as well as 2004 Juniper Prize-winner Rebecca Black, and 2005 Anhinga Prize-winner Sandy Longhorn, among others, that take you swiftly far and deeply near.

Peter Orner’s The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo is also a look forward and back—here you’ll find excerpts from the recently issued novel as well as additional chapters previously unpublished. More fiction comes from here and from there, with Mexican writer Liliana V. Blum, Canadian writer Ahmad Saidullah, and Croatian-American writer Josip Novakovich, while “It Looks Like This” by Caitlin Horrocks really does look like the fictional term paper from Ohio it purports to be.

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is the setting for Robert Richardson’s “Prologue” to his intellectual biography of William James, which places James at the center of American thought as it transforms from a 19th century transcendentalism into the cacophony of modern experience. 

A new Blackbird project is the omnibus collection of reviews by Susan Settlemyre Williams and Anna Journey of recently published chapbooks that notice both established and emerging poets. Reviews that examine this short form of the poetry collection will assume a semi-regular role in future issues. Other reviews consider new books by Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Jeannine Savard, Joshua Poteat and Ron Rindo.

In Gallery, Shigeo Kawashima, a master of the art of Japanese bamboo basketry, uses traditional craftsmanship to explore spatial abstraction in a documented installation, and Laura Lark maneuvers scenes from her past into staged memory plays that run in ten short videos. John Ravenal, curator for 20th Century and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, introduces the painting S4M53 by Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri; the artist uses monumental calligraphy to transform a script associated with Eastern religion into an aesthetic statement resembling Western abstraction. Liza Lentini’s spare play set in the world of the circus rounds out the section.

The look back prepares the look forward. As Jeff Baker notes in “Exodus,” his poem for this volume, “To read the words of the dead aloud is transubstantiation.”  end of text

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Sylvia Plath's “Ennui”
Written during her undergraduate years at Smith College, this previously unpublished poem appears here for the first time.

Larry Levis Remembered
Poetry, essays, images and audio by, about, or honoring the memory and work of Larry Levis.
New Content for 2007—a found image of Levis posted on a door in the 800 block of Richmond's West Cary Street.

In Memoriam
William Styron

Goldberg, Orner,
Poteat, Rindo, Savard
& Fifteen Chapbooks

New awards for Blackbird
New books by Blackbird

Natasha Trethewey
Norman Dubie
Claudia Emerson
Johh Bresland