Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Fall 2007  Vol. 6 No. 2
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A joint venture of the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and New Virginia Review, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 by Blackbird and the individual writers and artists

ISSN 1540-3068


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Arts Fund

Virginia Commission for the Arts


  Larry Levis
   Larry Levis
  Jill McCorkle
   Jill McCorkle
  Charles Wright
   Charles Wright
  Chris Abani
   Chris Abani
  Beth Ann Fennelly
   Beth Ann Fennelly
  Sruthi Thekkiam
   Sruthi Thekkiam
  Donato painting
   Gerald Donato

To whoever is reading us, this journal arrives in a burst of light. Yet, as Stevens observed, “We live in an old chaos of the sun, / Or old dependency of day and night . . . . ” That constant struggle of eros and thanatos makes it natural, then, that this light-borne issue includes an exchange of letters between poets William Olsen and David Wojahn titled “In Praise of Darkness,” beginning with a quotation of the Borges poem “To Whoever is Reading Me,” which comprehends the death of the reader even as it purrs, “You are invulnerable.” 

Alternations of light and dark carry on here with a delirious self-examination story by Laura Madeline Wiseman, “How to Measure Your Breast Size,” as well as in the meditations of a woman burdened with a long-dying mother as both women prepare to put on their “Going Away Shoes” in fiction by Jill McCorkle. The poems of Charles Wright offer stringent comforts in the face of fear, for “If you don’t shine you are darkness.” Beth Ann Fennelly takes on the tragicomic stance of John Berryman in her own cycle of Dream Songs, “Say You Waved.”

Chris Abani calls out to the spirit of Larry Levis to help him face the “Lord of the encroaching light,” and Levis himself appears here in audio and text with his well-known reconciliation of love and death, “Winter Stars.” These poems are a part of our annual Levis Reading Loop which celebrates his work as well as the recipient of the Levis Reading Prize, which this year went to Joshua Weiner.

Yasmine Rana offers “Kabul Revisited,” one act from her longer play, The War Zone is My Bed, an evocation of the dark heart of violence that haunts us all. She begins, “What do I remember?  I remember . . . black. Black walls . . . no
light . . . no sunlight.” These alternations of sun and shadow continue in poetry by Victoria Chang, Khaled Mattawa, Michael Chitwood, Raza Ali Hasan, and in the fiction of Zane Kotker, Amey Miller, and Sruthi Thekkiam, along with many more light-bringing, dark-daring writers.

John Ravenal examines the “Light-Based Art” of Spencer Finch and Ivan Navarro. We also have an interview with a person from the land of extreme light and dark, Icelandic artist Margrét Blöndal, as well as a survey of the life’s work of painter Gerald Donato. Donato’s work demonstrates a clarity of color and joyful spirit that can dispel the heaviness of even the shortest, most overcast days of a waning year.

We have interviews with poets Michael Collier and Rebecca Black discussing recent publications, and a memoir by poet Margaret Gibson. Our reviewers examine work by Ellen Bryant Voigt, Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, Jane Gentry, Diane Gilliam Fisher, and more.

As we read this work coming to us in light, we do well to remember our partnership with its makers, who often toil on the other side of the dichotomy. As David Wojahn notes, “perhaps the ‘long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses,’ which Rimbaud insists the poet must enact, is unlikely to take place in the daylight.”  

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Tenth Annual Levis Prize Reading  audio icon

A Conversation with Joshua Weiner

A Reading Loop featuring poetry, essays, and audio by and about Larry Levis  audio icon

Fisher, Gentry, Greenstreet, Morgan, Van Prooyen, Voigt, Weiner

Black, Blöndal, Collier, Mattawa, Peery & Weiner

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