New Ohio Review Issue 13 (Originally printed Spring 2013) is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.

Issue 13 compiled by Will Bower.

Not Ready for Our Close-Up

By Elton Glaser

Featured Art: Portrait of Jeanne Wenz by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

So here we are, helpless among the infinities,
Like noonday devils with the midnight blues.

It’s no use looking for clues in the cradle or the cave.
They’re having none of it down at the U, the cranky professors

And the poets won’t tuck us in with milk and macaroons,
With the sleepy rise and fall of blanket verse.

The mind makes its way among the mazes, inconsolable, quick,
The cross-eyed love child of amnesia fucked by adrenaline.

We might as well steal some Etruscan tear jars for the soulwater.
We might as well scrape a pig’s ear to flavor the beans.

It’s going to be a long night of gossip among the isolatoes,
Candles writhing their light against the slippery walls.

Read More


By George Bilgere

Featured Art: Madame François Buron by Jacques-Louis David

The slender, balding fellow
walking out of the yoga center
with his neatly rolled up yoga mat
and seraphic, post-yoga glow
probably thinks he is superior to me
as I clump down the sidewalk with my poor posture
and relatively limited spinal flexibility, my failure
to think deeply, if at all, about my breathing.

Which is fine. He’s entitled to his opinion.

However, what he doesn’t realize
is that I live on the same street as he does
and I happen to know, from walking past his house
on garbage day, that he makes no effort whatsoever
to recycle. Newspapers, bottles, plastic containers—
the things you’re supposed to put in the blue bag—
he just sticks in the white bag, along with the coffee grounds
and cantaloupe halves and the rest of the so-called “wet” trash.
Even beer cans are in there (a cheap, off-brand beer, I might add).

I guess saving the planet isn’t that important to him,
compared with mastering Down Dog or Up Dog or whatever.

So here he is feeling superior to me,
whereas in fact I am the more evolved being,
and I give him a glance of cool, skeptical appraisal
which I hope conveys this.

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By Allison Funk

Featured Art: Solar Effect in the Clouds-Ocean by Gustave Le Gray

What if, late in my life,
an old love returned?
I might get carried away

as I did my first time in that otherworld
ablaze with coney
and neon blue tang,

soundless except for the resonance
of my breath, a hypnotic
one-two, now/then, why not

me, you. I must have seen
the stoplight parrotfish
beam red from a grotto,

but, heedless, sped up,
flippers propelling me over coral
resembling Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia

still unfinished after a hundred years.
Remembering my past,
I circled the remains

of countless marine animals.
Fragile memorials, yes,
but not harmless I’d learn:

the thousand mouths of the reef
that open out of hunger,
alive to the careless swimmer

who comes too close.
One who, succumbing to the pull
of the beautiful, swims out

so far she finds herself at the mercy
of surf that flings her
against the stinging ridge.

Cells meeting cells, tentacles, flesh,
she’s left with the mark
of a fiery ring that burns longer

than a slap. Weeks. Months.
A tattoo that may never fade
from the soft underside of her arm.

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By Michael Bazzett

Featured Art: The Sick Child I by Edvard Munch

Stray hair is pulled from the lapel of her favorite
wool coat years later in a secondhand shop, drawn
free in a quick, definitive gesture that could only
be called thoughtless. It settles on the worn carpet
while another woman’s hand holds the hanger and
drapes the coat across her chest—she eyes it

in the mirror with an air of cold appraisal, breath
rising and falling, her chest plumbed with valves
pulsing mindlessly, the forgotten hair underfoot
still holding the map and code of everything
another woman was: the face with the furrowed brow
that could fold and break into a lightning smile,
a woman with a knack for contentment and
quick anger that dispersed as clouds over hills.

An arm slips in and she feels the cool silk lining
on her bare skin. It is June. She does not need a coat
but her mind craves autumn and being wrapped
in well-wrought layers. She slips the other arm in
and hugs herself, snugging the coat to her waist,
wrapping it like a kimono, Yes, she thinks, seeing
an older version of herself walking through a park—
the image comes suddenly, like rain from nowhere.

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By Lawrence Raab

Featured Art: Georgia O’Keeffe—Hands and Thimble by Alfred Stieglitz

Why not believe death is also nothing?
—Dean Young

Sometimes nothing’s a glass
waiting to be filled, and sometimes

it’s sleep without dreams, a blank slate
no one gets to leave a message on,

that sheet of water boys skip stones across
to watch them vanish. And sometimes

nothing’s only a word that can hide
what it means inside what it means.

But when I’ve seen death it’s looked
like betrayal, like life taking back

what it promised, slowly picking
our friends apart until nothing

must feel like an answer, and death
slips into the room pretending to care.

Did it brush by me just now,
did it mean to touch my hand?

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The Nod

By Kenneth Hart

Featured Art: Bar-room Scene by William Sidney Mount

Guys like us, we nod to each other
when we pass on the street at night.
We get that things are okay at the moment.
The Nod says, you-don’t-mess-with-me,
I-don’t-mess-with-you. That’s how it is
with guys like us, because the world is a bad place—
that we get—and we get that guys like us
have something to do with it.
But not tonight: you’re black, I’m white, we’re both
black or white, whatever, we’re cool,
nobody’s going to throw hands,
—who said anything about throwing hands?
Because it’s not a look, nobody says
“What are you lookin’ at, dipshit?”
No. The Nod reflects and respects
and steers clear of trouble. It says
we acknowledge our mutual suspicion,
which masks our fear
(we both get that The Nod is part mask).
The Nod: Okay bud, I’d drag you out
of a burning building, you’d pick me up
if I fell off a barstool, cool, we know that,
just don’t ask anything of me right now
unless it’s some kind of fucking emergency.
I’m on my way somewhere.

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By Kenneth Hart

Featured Art: Underworld Scene with a Man and Woman Enthroned and Death Standing Guard by Robert Caney

Couples who fight in front of you.
Couples who call each other every hour.
Couples who show up early.
Couples who are business partners.

Couples who say “Absolutely.”
Couples who met in rehab.
Couples who sleep with other couples.
Couples who make out in front of you.

Couples who have been divorced more than twice.
Couples who should get divorced.
Couples who say they are not a couple.
Cocaine couples.

Couples who stop having sex.
Couples who tell you they stopped having sex.
Couples who think you don’t already know.
Couples who say “Absolutely.”

Couples you’re related to.
Couples who leave the television on.
Couples who wear matching t-shirts.
Football couples.

Couples who have “an arrangement.”
Couples who finish each other’s sentences.
Couples who have no one else to argue with.
Couples who never argue.

Couples who cancel each other’s vote.
Couples who speak the language of couples.
Couples with nicknames for each other.
Dog show couples.

Couples who stop calling now that they’re a couple.
Couples who start calling.
Couples who die within a month of each other.
Oh look, honey, at ourselves.

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Never Better

By Mark Kraushaar

Featured Art: Kalaat el Hosn (Castle of the Knights, Syria) by Louis De Clercq

On the phone tonight
it’s my ex-wife asking how I am.
I’m fine, thanks, you?
Well, she’s fine too: new place,
friends, job, cousin, pet: perfect.
But now she’s back on her friends again,
friends, food, movies, books and I think,
She sat where I’m sitting now,
I remember, looked out
at the back yard, the neighbor’s car,
the sapling maple at the curb.
She’d have used this plate,
that glass, this chair.
She’s still talking and I like her voice—
politics, work, winter weather—except
there’s this private inside silence going on
and maybe it’s mine but I think it’s hers, or,
it’s a kind of leaning forward through the phone
meaning if we could talk the way we
used to talk we’d know better
where to go and what to do
when we arrive.
We’re quiet
and I can hear her
hear me hear this silence
fill with implication and we’re still.

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Earning a Title

By Jaclyn Dwyer

Featured Art: Bouquet of Spring Flowers in a Terracotta Vase by Jan van Huysum

Your ex is a skinny girl. Skinny like sex-
starved cats, like tigers in Thailand teased
with soccer balls in plastic wrap. Your ex
is a crushed mustard seed. She stains our sheets,
cowers in soft earth, and runs from every room
I enter, wind teasing a tail. Your ex is a sieve,
a fallen kite, Cyrillic G, a flattened hook. You
ask if I love you. I answer, I do. Do you forgive
me? I do. Do you forgive her? I say I do, practicing
for what comes next, for the question she never got
asked. Will you? Do you take? The path to proving
my nubility is through humility. When she mocks
me on the Internet, pokes fun in posts, I laugh too.
Did I say nubile? I mean nobility. Really, I do.

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The Rules of the Game

By Simon Barker

Featured Art: Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy (Asnières) by Vincent van Gogh

I was eating tagliatelle napolitana and drinking imitation Chablis when I remembered that I was supposed to be looking at a house. I said to the others,  “I have to go and look at a house.” “We’ll order veal scaloppine,” they said. “We’ll wait for you.” Veal scaloppine was what you ordered at the Mussolini after tagliatelle napoli. The only other thing was grilled liver but Wendy didn’t like the blood so we never ordered it when she was there. Wendy and David had been married for about a year. Wendy was dark-eyed and beautiful and I was in love with her because she was utterly vivacious and she put up with me even though I was an idiot.

I was carrying a map of Sydney but I still got lost on my way to the house. That was one of the habits that made Wendy say, affectionately, “Richard! You’re an idiot!” The house turned out to be across the road from a vacant television factory. When I knocked on the red front door I could hear a cat miaowing. Julie answered in the big, nerdy glasses she wore for studying. She said, “Hi, come in. Watch out for the cat shit, don’t step in it.” But it was too late and I had to leave my sandshoes on top of the steps. The reason there was cat shit was that everyone thought it was Drew’s job to pick it up seeing as the cat belonged to him but Drew was always out. He played the recorder in a medieval band. Julie began by showing me Drew’s room, which was the one at the front. She said, “This’s quite a good room, except when you’re fucking because then people in the lounge can hear everything,” and I thought well, that wouldn’t bother me since I’m not doing any fucking, but I didn’t say so. In any case Drew wasn’t the one moving out so Julie took me to Toby’s room, which was upstairs at the back and not much bigger than the double bed that was covered in Toby’s black satin sheets. Toby’s girlfriend was the sort who was used to black satin. She was the reason he was moving, along with the disco up the street.

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Sweet Spot

By Ange Mlinko

“Sweet Spot” is not available online, but is available for purchase as a part of New Ohio Review Issue 13, which can be purchased here.


By Ann Harleman

Featured Art: Car 2F-77-77 by Alfred Stieglitz

1961: ’61 Chevy Impala Convertible

Eddie was the only Catholic boy I knew with a car of his own. It was black with a red top and a sweeping red stripe along each side—a car that swaggered. My mother, impressed in spite of herself (she drove an old Ford coupe the color of cement), made me promise to stay off the Schuylkill Expressway and never to ride with the top down. I agreed, but only because it was December.

Mercy Girls—I was a scholarship student at an all-girls high school, the Academy of the Sisters of Mercy—weren’t allowed to have boys pick us up at school. Not that we would’ve wanted to, since we also weren’t allowed to wear lipstick or jewelry or nail polish, and our uniforms remained deeply dowdy even after we’d rolled up the navy-blue pleated skirts at the waist and unbuttoned the top two buttons on the white cotton blouses. So my first chance to show off Eddie’s car to my friends was at the Junior Class formal, just before Christmas.

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Short Lists on a Diagnosis

By Aran Donovan

Featured Art: A City Park by William Merritt Chase

Ever so rare: the robin’s egg that’s fallen
at the doorstep, as yet untouched by ants
or useless knowledge. A letter mailed from France,
its certain words predestined. New snow, appalling
last spring on cars, mailboxes. Quite rare: the pollen
of narcissus but more rare the bees that dance
their distance. The choreography of plants,
shadow of leaves. St. Francis granting pardon.
More common: construction on the way to work,
the broken earth and open pipe. The trite
condolence of a friend. Misunderstandings
on the phone. The removal of your blouse and skirt
for the new doctor. How it’s come back in spite
of all you’d hoped, your vain and human plannings.

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A Simple Request

By Patricia Corbus

Featured Art: Threatening Sky, Bay of New York by Thomas Chambers

                                                                                                —for Wes

Here I am, still drowning in the world,
   while you are opening Dame Simplicity’s closet—

   and I say, Be good to him, Simple Goodness,
Air and water, expand for him! Moon, be a smiling
              china plate for him to leap over!

       In the cupboard where cups wait quietly
and beautiful old words are folded in flannel cloths:

Mother, Father, Long-suffering, Beloved, Forgiveness—

Lay him down in simple peace, homely pleasures,
       between jars filled with feathers and shells—
near Grandmother’s broom that sweeps so clean.

What aromatic, wild poultice crushed to the breast
                         soothes and heals all?—

                        It is the essence of Brother
overpowering me with some stinging nettle of sweetness—

Whatever sunset door you go through, hold open for me.

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Fault Line

By Margot Singer

Featured Art: Rain Sculpture, Salt Creek Cañon, Utah by William H. Bell

It’s the end of summer and the neighbors have gathered in Evan’s yard, young mothers with babies lounging in the shade on the front porch, older kids racing around the lawn, the men clustered by the grill in back. It is dry and hot, not yet Labor Day, but across the street the upper leaves on the maple in front of Natalie’s house, that precocious tree, are already tinged with red. Natalie wishes it were May again, not August. She longs for the promise of summer rippling outward like the surface of a pool.

Inside, another group of women has pulled up chairs around the kitchen table, mothers Natalie recognizes from around the neighborhood but doesn’t really know, the wives of Evan’s friends. Natalie is still the newcomer, the outsider, Evan’s new girlfriend. The women are bent forward in conversation, a closed set.

“Oh my heck,” one of them is saying. “Here? Really?” She has dark hair with bangs and long-lashed eyes, like a doll’s.

Another woman waves her hand. “It’s public information. Just Google Megan’s Law, you’ll see.”

Read More

Night Party

By Fay Dillof

“Night Party” is not available online, but is available for purchase as a part of New Ohio Review Issue 13, which can be purchased here.

The Difference Between Us

By Jill Osier

Featured Art: St. Paul’s Choir by Wenceslaus Hollar

Some of my favorite memories of us never even happened.

Like when we sang the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I’m alto, you’re baritone, and it’s
a community choir, maybe a department Christmas party. Maybe we’re at your
alma mater for the holiday concert and can’t help but join in from our seats.

Wherever it is, we know our parts, every word, not realizing we’ve learned them
over the years, overhearing the song in stores and restaurants, doing dishes,
driving home.

And the reason I know this is a memory, that this is not just a fantasy, is because
what I remember most is not the music, not even the sound of our voices. Harmony,
surprisingly, has nothing to do with this.

What I remember and see again and again as they keep playing the song these
weeks of December, is how just your eyes turn, your gaze sliding slowly to the
side to meet my eyes, which are above my mouth, which is singing the exact
words you’re forming with yours—

and this is where memory turns on me, where nostalgia bares its blade: you look
forward again, a motion of such care, such carefulness, like when one’s trying
not to spill. Pure recovery.

Read More


By Maura Stanton

Featured Art: And I Saw an Angel Come Down from Heaven, Having the Key of the Bottomless Pit and a Great Chain in His Hand, plate 8 of 12 by Odilon Redon

The keys that disappeared opened what locks?
Upturning every drawer in my old desk,

crawling about the floor with a flashlight,
searching the front walk and the ruined garden,

retracing my steps, retracing my thoughts,
I understand I’ve lost more keys than just

the useful ones that opened my front door.
I’ve lost a set of phantom keys to things

I meant to keep, return to at my leisure.
A demon out of the void snatched them up

so now I’ll never open my lost diary,
or turn the tumbler in my London flat

with a practiced flick, a lock I couldn’t work
without help from the bear-like landlord.

“It’s a Yale lock!” he’d roar. Wasn’t I a Yank?
And now they’ve all vanished, keys to padlocks

clamped on lockers, keys to rusted stick-shifts,
answer keys to the questions I got wrong,

keys to smoky rooms of sex and wine,
keys to old friends’ doors that shall never

open again, and the spare set of keys
to my mother’s house in another state,

empty now except for the pacing cat
waiting for paramedics to bring her back.

Read More


By Maura Stanton

Featured Art: Stowing Sail by Winslow Homer

Whoops! He was afraid this was going to happen. He’s been sucked up. The strong wind pulls him in against the stiff fringe of the brush attachment, where he gasps and tangles with bits of debris, strands of hair, crumbs, dust bunnies, specks, soot, and flecks of dander. The brush is swiped across the carpet, freeing him from the tough indifferent bristles. He flies up the silver tube, but since he’s heavier than the rest of the grime, he gets to catch his breath at the bend, pinned against the cold metal until he’s slapped free by a dancing paper clip. Swoop! Suck! Up he goes into the flexible plastic hose. Now and then he catches on the accordion folds, but the air is warmer now, and he feels himself being pulled closer and closer to the engine thrumming in the center. Why, this isn’t so bad. He almost feels excited as he approaches his destination, the special paper bag fitted inside the machine where all the dirt in the house congregates. And then he’s in! He’s dragged through the opening. It’s all over. There’s nothing to do but make a cozy nest in the mound of familiar filth.

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2 Fuzzy Bees

By Maura Stanton

Featured Art: A Gentleman Who Wanted to Study the Habits of Bees too Closely, plate 6 from Pastorales by Honoré Victorin Daumier

“La créateur est pessimiste, la création ambitieuse,
donc optimiste.” —René Char

Because I feared I’d only make a mess
Sticking yellow pom-poms onto black ones,
Or bungle wings as I tried to shape the white
Pipe-cleaners into an outline of flight,
I never opened this kit I got one Christmas
In my stocking—a joke from my sister:
Create A Critter. Since I’m cleaning house
I could throw it away. But all I need
To make 2 Fuzzy Bees are glue and scissors.
Everything’s here—the velvet-tipped feelers,
Button noses, and eyes with moving pupils.
Ages 6 and Up—well, that’s me, isn’t it?
And as an Adult, too, I can Supervise
Myself. So why do I still hesitate?
If I make a bad bee I can toss it out.
Look at this package. The cellophane’s intact,
Directions printed on the cardboard backing.
Even the little loose eyes seem to twinkle
Inviting me to stick them to the heads
Where they belong. Yes, they’re Choking Hazards,
But I’m alone right now, no cats or babies,
And the dining room table is cleared of junk.
And so I do it. Soon my Fuzzy Bees
Are finished, bouncing on their wire legs,
Looking up at me, cute as their photos,
Ready to begin their lives as . . . what?
What have I done? I’ve given them existence.
Their wings will never lift them to the sky,
Their red noses will never scent a rose,
But look at them! Ambitious, optimistic.

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The Lady from TV Is Coming

By Sabrina Jaszi

Featured Art: Dance of the Trojans by Henri Fantin-Latour

Every Sunday my daughter calls from California. “Church today, Mom,” she says, not a question: a truth. Every Sunday I mimic her tone. “DanceCraze at the Lautner Center,” I say, and every Sunday Angelie lets out a tunnel of sigh, long, and black at the edges. Today is like every Sunday. At Messler High this week, I’m teaching orbits: the sun, the moon, and the Earth all moving around each other in perfectly predictable ways. I feel like telling my daughter about it, but I don’t have time. DanceCraze starts at eleven. Usually it’s free, except for next week, when the lady from TV is coming.

Today, as always, Robert snorts as I pass him in my tights and sneakers. I walk the six blocks to the Lautner Center and push through its double doors just a couple minutes early, in time to get my spot in the back but after the chitchat. The clock on the wall is ticking toward eleven and everyone starts marching in place. Lila C. is up on stage between the two droopy flags, with the emergency exit behind her. The crowd today is about one-half oldies, one-quarter hoochies, and the rest children and miscellaneous. Miscellaneous, that’s me.

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1974: The Raspberries

By Campbell McGrath

Featured Art: Jung You (Chu Yu), from the series “Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety in China (Morokoshi nijushiko)” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

If it’s true, as they teach in elementary school,
that ours is a secular republic, not gods but men
do our temples and sacred monuments adorn,
then how to explain the immediacy with which I recall
my baptism into the cult of American identity,
my consecration as a democratic individual,
the very first things I bought at a store by myself—
a cherry Slurpee in a collectible plastic superhero cup
and a pack of baseball cards, hoping to find Bob Gibson.
This was at the 7-Eleven on Porter Street,
and soon the five-and-dime on Wisconsin Avenue
cycled into orbit, musty aisles of G.C. Murphy & Co.
where I might spend my allowance on plastic soldiers,
a balsa wood airplane, a rabbit’s foot keychain,
trinkets of no intrinsic worth ennobled by commerce,
aglimmer with the foxfire of mercantile significance,
toys of thought that blazed in the imagination
every step walking home. Not to jingle pocket change,
not to carry a crumpled dollar bill was to drift untethered
from the enormous comfort and safety of the system,
like the astronaut who crosses Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey,
like a Stone Age tribe wandering into civilization
from some last unmapped Amazonian tributary.

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By J. Estanislao Lopez

Featured Art: The Petite Creuse River by Claude Monet

  1. The Mountain Recites a Poem

     The enunciation of one syllable
     lasts two thousand years.

     The only mode it knows:
     confessional. All it has witnessed,

     condensed into a single line.
     We’ve compiled the research,

     and can say with some certainty
     that the first word is Above.

     2. The River Recites a Poem

     Obsessed with revision, the river
     never completes a line. No one

     attends its readings anymore
     as they go on for months.

     Each phrase spills out, then
     is sucked back in and altered. This

     continues until, by the merciful
     winter, the river is shushed.

     3. The Sky Recites a Poem

     The first experimentalist, the sky
     reduces every image to abstraction.

     Soap dispenser becomes Absolution.
     Mandolin string becomes Disquietude.

     Its diction of emptiness surrounds the reader
     until he is extinguished—This isn’t murder.

     This is nothing but the semblance
     of control.

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The Call

By Michael Chitwood

Featured Art: Destruction of Hood’s Ordinance Train by George N. Barnard

There was the rumor
of a deep night/early morning
secret train that a crew
had to be called in for
and they got double time
for their trouble. Big money.
They cleared the tracks for it,
put everything on the side rails,
even the coal cars that were priority.
And when it left the yard
it was only three cars
with a puller and a pusher
so it was jimmy-john scooting
before it was out of sight.
Everyone had a theory.
Some millionaire had a coupe
shipped to Norfolk from Europe
and wanted it in New York by the weekend.
Or the government needed a rocket
pronto to Fort Meade. Or gold—
gold was always a good bet.
No one ever knew for sure
or knew anyone who had been on the crew,
but when the call came,
and it would come, it would,
why sure, sure, you’d go,
that kind of money and all.

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But it Moves

By D.J. Thielke

Featured Art: Ely Cathedral: Galilee Porch from Nave by Frederick H. Evans

Science is nothing to be scared of, I promise my eighth-graders. Science, I say, is what gives us words for what the earth, the universe, already know in a language of cells and change.

They are busy copying my name off the board.

I tell them to think about time, think about how we talk about the abstract idea of it like something physical: a road we’re traveling on. The road of life, we say. Moving past something, leaving it behind; or stepping into the future, looking forward to something. The future is ahead, the past behind, this is how we place ourselves.

But, I say, earlier cultures spoke about time as a road that you walked backwards on. They faced the past, its landscape visible and familiar, while taking tentative, shaky steps into the unknown behind them. The future, a darkness over the shoulder they had to carefully, fearfully move toward.

My students are quiet for a moment.

Then one says, So, life is a highway?

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Title Search for the Italian Ashbery Book

By Damiano Abeni

Featured Art: Tetards (Pollards) by Vincent van Gogh

[The following poem (and its Italian translation) reflect the actual search for the title of a selection of poems by John Ashbery published in a bilingual edition in Italy, and it reproduces the structure of Ashbery’s “Title Search,” from And the Stars Were Shining. The book was eventually published under the title Un mondo che non può essere migliore (A World that Cannot Be Better), translated by Damiano Abeni and Moira Egan, with an introduction by Joseph Harrison (Luca Sossella Editore: Rome, Italy, 2008). The translators thought it was aptly Ashberian that the final book title had not been considered in this search, and that it was derived from a poem not included in the Italian selection: “…while you, in this nether world that could not be better / Waken each morning to the exact value of what you did and said, which remains” (“Definition of Blue,” in The Double Dream of Spring).]

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Feature: Translation Cruxes

Featured Art: Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

We asked the distinguished translators listed below to
write about any particularly thorny passages they had
wrestled with, as well as the solutions they came up
with. Their responses follow.

David Ferry
Lydia Davis
Damiano Abeni
Moira Egan
Rosamund Bartlett
George Kalogeris
Joanna Trzeciak
Geoffrey Brock

On Translating Strand and Ashbery

By Damiano Abeni and Moira Egan

Featured Art: Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower by Thomas Cole

A few years ago Damiano published the Italian version of 89 Clouds by Mark Strand (ACA Galleries, New York, 1999; 89 Nuvole, Edizioni L’Obliquo, Brescia, Italy, 2003). Some of these one-liners are quite straightforward, but some are really tough to translate. For instance, Cloud # 25 reads: “A cloud without you is only a clod.” Damiano’s main inspiration when translating comes from the approach Glenn Gould had when interpreting a musical score. Rather than focusing on the literal meaning of each word, he tried to play the same game the author was playing, to imitate his wittiness and to leave a trace of the strong cloud/clod alliteration. What came out, when back-translated, would sound something like “A cloud without part of you is almost nothing,” and here is how it looks in Italian: Una nuvola senza parte di voi è quasi nulla.

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On Translating Tolstoy

By Rosamund Bartlett

Featured Art: Spring by Eduard Willmann, after Eduard Marak

In chapter fourteen of the eighth and final part of Anna Karenina, some five thousand words before the end of the novel, Tolstoy produces one of his inimitable, participle-laden, congested sentences about the behaviour of bees in Levin’s apiary:

                 In front of the entrances to the hives sparkling bees and drones danced
                 before his eyes as they circled and bumped into each other on one spot,
                  and amongst them, continually plying the same route to the blossoming
                 lime trees in the wood and back towards the hives, flew worker bees with
                 their spoils and in pursuit of their spoils.

                 Перед летками ульев рябили в глазах кружащиеся и толкущиеся
                 на одном месте, играющие пчелы и трутни, и среди их, все в
                 одном направлении, туда, в лес на цветущую липу, и назад, к
                 ульям, пролетали рабочие пчелы с взяткой и за взяткой.

It is one of those sentences which exemplifies the challenges posed by Tolstoy’s often tortuous but majestic prose in Anna Karenina—a novel he found hard to write due to profound spiritual crisis welling up inside him in the 1870s.

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On Translating Cavafy

By George Kalogeris

Featured Art: The Trojans pulling the wooden horse into the city by Giulio Bonasone

          THE TROJANS

          As long as our efforts, no matter how hard we try,
          Are doomed to fail, we’re like the people of Troy.

          Just when the tide is finally turning for us
          And our confidence swells, as if we were ready to face

          Whatever comes our way, Achilles turns up
          Shouting bloody murder, and crushes our hope

          With one swift leap from the trench. We’re like the Trojans.
          No matter what we do, this always happens–

          Though right till the very end we still believe
          We still might win, if only by being brave

          And not giving in. But once we go out to meet
          Our fate, behind our back it bolts the gate.

          Even at the eleventh hour, we truly
          Believe the gods are with us, defending Troy.

          But as soon as we resolve to make a stand
          That daring spirit dissolves, like a phantom friend.

          Now it’s our worst nightmare, but there we are,
          Outside the city walls, running for dear

          Life as the sweat pours down, though our legs feel frozen.
          Already it’s time to start the lamentation.

          And then, high up on the ancient parapets,
          Priam and Hecuba weep, weeping for us.

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On Translating Szymborska

By Joanna Trzeciak

Featured Art: New York Sky Line, Dark Buildings by Childe Hassam

I got into translation early in life, but instead of playing the field I have tended to go steady and stay with one poet for a long time. My first was Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish poet whom I have translated since the early nineties. Szymborska’s poetry, rife with wit, graceful and deeply humane, has earned her the Nobel Prize, a permanent place in the pantheon of poetry, and admirers such as Woody Allen. Her response to the world is rendered in one of her poems as one of “rapture and despair.”

In the 2002 collection Miracle Fair, I intimated six themes under which her poems might be clustered. One of them is our relation as human beings to animate and inanimate nature. Our attitudes toward other sentient beings is central to poems such as “Tarsier,” “Monkey,” “Seen from Above,” and “Birds Returning.” When it comes to the inanimate world she has devoted entire poems to the contemplation of water, rock, clouds, and sky. Or if not “sky” then perhaps “heavens”? Or maybe “heaven”? The Polish word is niebo [pronounced NYEH boh]. Here we start.

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On Translating Eco

By Geoffrey Brock

Featured Art: Handkerchief by Oriental Print Works

Despite the Italian adage traduttore/traditore, which equates translation with betrayal, nearly all translators I know claim fidelity as their goal (while also admitting the impossibility of perfect fidelity); it was certainly my goal as I set out to translate Umberto Eco’s 2005 novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. But what does “fidelity” mean to literary translators? Faithful to whom or what? There is less agreement on that score. The question is complex even with regard to what might be called vanilla prose; it’s deeply vexed with regard to most poetry or any prose that features puns or other word-play, or that contrasts its language with that of one of its dialects, or that relies on allusions that would be clear to source-language readers but opaque or even misleading to others—and so on. In such cases, liberties will often be taken at the expense of semantic fidelity but in the service of broader and arguably more important fidelities. In this piece, I will look at three such cases from Eco’s novel.

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